It was an absolutely ordinary day, one of the most common days in history when during lunch at Wanmin Restaurant, Xingqiu leaned over and placed a chaste kiss directly on Chongyun’s mouth.
Chopsticks fell from Chongyun’s loose grip and clattered on the floor. Distantly, Chongyun hears the sound of a plate shattering but it might’ve just been his imagination.
After a moment, Xingqiu pulled away and sat back down primly, picking up his chopsticks and picking at the small dishes still left on the table, humming slightly. Chongyun, still in shock, did the first thing any normal person would think of which was to pick up the chopsticks off the floor and wave a waiter over for a new pair. Even after the waiter placed the new chopsticks into his hands, he still sat there, staring at Xingqiu and gaping like a fish. Xingqiu didn’t even seem to notice and continued to eat his fill like nothing out of the ordinary happened. It was making Chongyun’s mind reel that Xingqiu, Xingqiu!, would do something so brazen like that, in the middle of Wanmin Restaurant too! It made it all seem like a hallucination, but no, the warm caress of Xingqiu’s lips had been beyond Chongyun’s wildest imaginations. Xingqiu had definitely kissed Chongyun.
Chongyun cleared his throat awkwardly to get Xingqiu’s attention. Xingqiu popped one last pickled cucumber into his mouth before looking up at Chongyun, a smile tugging at the corner of his lips.
“What’s up, my dearest Chongyun?” Xingqiu teased.
Chongyun felt his cheeks flush, but he barreled forward. “Xingqiu, why did you kiss me just now?” He asked. Tension hung in the air between them as he apprehensively waited for Xingqiu’s answer.
“Kiss?” Xingqiu frowned adorably as he thought about it. “Oh, Chongyun!” Xingqiu poked the bewildered Chongyun’s shoulder as he realized what the other was talking about.
“Don’t worry about it, Chongyun,” Xingqiu continued. “Something like that isn’t a kiss.”
“It isn’t?” Chongyun echoed.
Xingqiu rested his finger atop his lip, thinking about the best way to explain. “Think about it like this. Lips, after all, are only skin. It’s much like the clashing of elbows or a brush of a hand. Kissing is all about intention, no? So don’t worry, I didn’t steal your first kiss, if you are the type to care about that tradition.”
Chongyun did, in fact, care about those things. He was a bit disappointed that the “kiss” they shared hadn’t actually been a kiss; he would have preferred Xingqiu to be his first kiss anyway if… if Xingqiu also thought of him in that way. It seemed as if Chongyun had misunderstood.
“Mn. I see.” Chongyun said.
Seeing as the discussion was over and that the both of them had eaten their fill, Xingqiu waved at the waiter to put the meal on their tab and led the both of them out of the Restaurant and onto the busy midday street. Chongyun, however, wasn’t quite done thinking about the “kiss”. Fake kiss? Kiss without meaning? There was still one thing about it that Chongyun didn’t understand.
“Xingqiu?” He asked. Xingqiu turned around and smiled at him expectantly. “Well, if it wasn’t an actual kiss, why did you…” Chongyun, at a loss of words for how to describe the kiss vaguely gestured to his lips.
Xingqiu bent over laughing, trying and failing to stifle his laughter behind his hand. Chongyun pouted; it really hadn’t been that funny. He crossed his arms and waited for Xingqiu to be over his laughing fit and explain it to him.
“Apologies, Chongyun.” Xingqiu said between fits of giggles. “It’s just that you’re too cute.”
Chongyun made a show of frowning at this, but he couldn’t stop the redness from creeping up his ears. Xingqiu smirked at him anyways, so he doubted he had been convincing.
Xingqiu straightened back up and smoothed his clothing back in place before turning to Chongyun and responding.
“I just wanted to taste a bit of the shaved ice that you had ordered.” He pouted. “You finished it off before I could even ask for a bite. Of course, it would be way too improper and wasteful to order another one just so I can have a taste; it would be such a waste of mora if I didn’t like it! But,” he continued, “There was a little bit of the syrup left on the corner of your mouth so I just leaned over and…” He pointed to his mouth sweetly, mimicking Chongyun from earlier. “I do think I’m brilliant this way, no wasted Mora, not even a utensil has to be sacrificed for my curiosity. It was really the most effective way of going about it, after all. By the way, the syrup was quite tasty. Maybe that shaved ice was good after all.”
Chongyun nodded at Xingqiu and Xingqiu smiled brightly back at him, taking his arm and dragging him through the busy crowd as they went around the city. After all, they had some other plans for today: to buy a gift for Xinyan’s birthday and to repair a tear in Chongyun’s belt. And throughout all this, while quietly holding Xingqius hand, it completely slipped Chongyun’s mind that since Xingqiu was the Feiyun Commerce Guild leader’s son, money was never a problem and that he had ordered the shaved ice last time they ate there as well. Xingqiu had cringed at the infused slime syrup, saying that he would never let something like that get within a meter of him.
The second time something like this happened was when Chongyun returned after exorcising a spirit in Qingce Village. He said exorcising, but the entire time he never sensed any negative energy. Chongyun felt a bit guilty, that Xingqiu had gotten the intel for him like this but he had wasted it again; however, the entire journey was not a complete waste of time. He beat up some Treasure Hoarders on the way back and was given a pair of daikon by the nearby village for his trouble. (He planned to hand these off to Wanmin Restaurant as he passed by.) They had been very grateful for his work, since the Treasure Hoarders camp had been blocking one of the major trading routes that the village used, causing them to go around and double the traveling time.
As he crossed the bridge back into the city, he saw a familiar blue bob in the crowd.
“Xingqiu!” He called out, a flutter in his stomach and in much better spirits already.
The boy turned around and catching sight of him, started running over.
“Chongyun! You’re back!” He exclaimed right before he kissed Chongyun on the lips.
Chongyun was shocked speechless. He was sure that his entire face was as red as a Flaming Flower, and he closed his eyes, trying to block out the visual of Xingqiu’s lashes, fluttering close to his face. He couldn’t block out the feeling though—warm and soft, something that still haunted his dreams.
It ended all too quickly and Chongyun teetered a bit forward, chasing after the feeling before he realized what he was doing.
“Xingqiu!” He said this time, aghast. “Wh- what are you?”
The other boy smiled cheekily back at him.
“I wanted to surprise you!” Chongyun could not possibly get any redder, i-is this what he thought it was? “What do you think of the new greeting I learned from Snezhnaya?”
“When have you been to Snezhnaya?” Chongyun asked, confused but curious.
“Oh I haven’t been, silly you!” Xingqiu said as he walked with Chongyun back into the city bustle. “Father went on a diplomatic trip there recently, trying to set up a new trade deal in that region. When he came back, he couldn’t stop talking about how odd it was there, how every person kissed another on the lips when they saw each other! Personally, I thought it was quite interesting. Do you know where the custom originated from? It’s so cold in Snezhnaya, nothing like the pleasant weather over here; it’s common to die by frostbite or at least lose a few fingers that way. So, they would kiss the people who were entering their houses, to check that their temperature were not too low so that their fingers would be in danger. After a few centuries with better heaters, this customary checking of temperatures was no longer really needed, but it stuck around due to its history.”
Chongyun furrowed his brow, thinking. “Snezhnaya must’ve been really dangerous back then.”
“I assume so!” Xingqiu chirped.
Some part of Chongyun wanted to boldly tell Xingqiu to never go to some dangerous place like that without him, but he kept his mouth shut for propriety’s sake. How embarrassing! But Xingqiu prattled along, blissfully unaware of Chongyun’s desires.
“Let’s get you settled in! How long are you going to stay in the city, Chongyun?” Chongyun shrugged in response. “Well anyways, there’s so many new things that happened when you were away; I have to tell you all about it!”
Xingqiu grabbed Chongyun’s hand, swinging it between the two of them as he prattled away about the newest chaos he had caused while Chongyun was away, or about how he had tricked the old man that gambled with Cor Lapis, sending him into a panic. Chongyun was happy to let his best friend rant about his misfortunes and lament his troubles, his mind focused on the one steady source of warmth—the hand held so easily between his like it’s where it’s always belonged.
It was a humid, hot, and generally unpleasant day in Liyue, one of those days where one just wanted to jump in the harbor to escape the thick unmoving air. Of course, one couldn’t actually go about doing that without getting in the way of the many ships passing through, and it was all together too unsanitary, so the two of them settled for resting under the shade of a tree next to a waterfall, where the misting spray gave them a brief respite.
Xingqiu had a book on top of his face as he laid in the shade, having already given up on reading it in the mind-numbing heat. Chongyun, as always, was licking one of the many popsicles he kept on hand, but even so one single drop of sweat rolled down his neck. It felt a bit like a waste, to spend a day sitting around like this, but it was much too hot for fighting or adventuring, especially with a delicate constitution like Chongyun’s. Chongyun couldn’t even count how many days he overestimated his abilities and got heatstroke. But today, he had learned his lesson and was resting.
He wished he was the carp swimming lazily in the water and observed the mist drifting according to the whims of the wind. Xingqiu had shirked his duties today, sick of reading budgets and tax reforms through a heat filled haze to spend some time with his trusted best friend, but it had ended up being too hot to go through with the boy’s planned antics.
Not that Chongyun minded; most of the time he just helplessly went along with Xingqiu’s whims (or was the victim of his mischievous plans). He looked over at his friend, wreathed in a circle of grass, so still and peaceful he might be asleep. At a glance, it didn’t seem like Xingqiu was capable of those traits, but Chongyun knew more than to take things at face value.
Only the barest hint of Xingqiu’s navy hair peeked out from the corner of his book, and a glimmer to the side denoted his earring. He was still wearing his normal ensemble of a coat and a stuffy, aristocratic undershirt. Chongyun felt hot just looking at all those layers of silk and the intricate embroidery on top of it. Come to think of it, that was probably why Xingqiu didn’t wear long pants, leaving his long, pale, legs exposed half of the time…
Chongyun’s eyes traitorously moved down Xingqiu’s body, eyeing the relaxed legs, dappled with sunlight. And just as if the Xingqiu knew what Chongyun was doing, he suddenly spoke up, breaking their peaceful silence.
“It’s so hot!” He bemoaned, tilting his head till the suffocating book fell uselessly to the side. He looked imploringly at Chongyun who met his eyes, feeling as if he’d been caught staring at Xingqiu’s legs. Of course, the other boy couldn’t possibly know but it felt really improper! Maybe this was karma for having indecent thoughts.
“Mn.” Chongyun replied around his popsicle. Unfortunately, he was almost done with this one and he licked at the pathetically small ice chunk, clinging to dear life on the wooden stick. Sorry. He thought to himself, as he crunched down on it, ending its misery.
“No, like, it’s really really hot!” Xingqiu exclaimed. “I swear, this is the hottest day in Liyue history!”
“It was pretty hot last week.”
“Well then, today is hotter.”
Chongyun nodded in agreement and Xingqiu pursed his lips at him. Was that not the response that Xingqiu wanted?
Xingqiu rolled over on his side so he was completely facing Chongyun.
“Chongyun, it’s so hot. I think if I stay like this for even a few more moments I’m going to die. If only I had something cool and refreshing to let me relax.” He said, looking at Chongyun expectantly.
Chongyun looked down at the bare popsicle stick in his hand and felt a little guilty. If only he hadn’t crunched down on the last bit of ice on it, he could’ve saved Xingqiu from this awful heat! It must be because he’s wearing all those layers, he must be even hotter than how Chongyun feels now…
Xingqiu continued to look at Chongyun expectantly and after catching Chongyun’s eyes, slowly looked down, his gaze resting on Chongyun’s lips.
Well, it was Chongyun’s fault for impatiently finishing off popsicle all by himself. But, he had only finished the popsicle a few moments ago and his lips still had a tingly cool feeling on it, so it might temporarily help alleviate Xingqiu’s heatstroke. And Chongyun supposed that anything to combat the simmering heat helped.
I have to take responsibility, he thought to himself as he leaned in to kiss Xingqiu, his face aflame.
It was pouring so hard that Chongyun could barely see in front of him as he stumbled down the empty Liyue streets, dodging the few pedestrians braving the awful weather. He dragged himself up to the second floor of the city, using his one good arm as a support while the other flopped uselessly at his side. Even with rivers of water blurring his vision, he could still see the bloom of red on his shoulder, the blood tracing patterns down his arms and dripping from his fingertips.
Damn it. It was just supposed to be a Fatui agent; who would have thought that he would get bested like this? Every time he had aimed his weapon at the agent, it seemed as though it disappeared, only to appear right behind him. Every swing felt clumsy, too slow, like it would miss the mark before he even finished swinging.
Chongyun was fine. Probably. Arm wounds bled a lot right? He couldn’t tell how deep it was since he numbed it immediately after getting cut. That probably explained why his head was spinning so much and why he was breathing so heavily after only walking up a flight of stairs, but it’d be fine. It wasn’t even his dominant arm so it wouldn’t even impede his daily activities; it just needed time to heal.
He reached the top of the stairs and almost collapsed right then and there, but there was something inside him that insisted he keep going. He didn’t even really know where to or the reason why until he stumbled through the ornate doors of the central Feiyun Guild building.
Oh, Xingqiu. He blearily thought to himself. I need tell him that I’m in town.
“I need to see Xingqiu.” He rasped. “Where’s he?” He asked, looking around dumbly.
In the distance, he heard a high pitched shriek before everything went black.
Chongyun came to in a fluffy bed he knew couldn’t be his own. Not that he would ever complain, but the beds at the inn were far from comfortable, and the places he slept while off adventuring… well, let’s just say the standards were low.
He blinked up at the ceiling before checking the state of his wounds. At a glance, the injury on his shoulder seemed to have been cleaned and dressed, wrapped in a layer of white gauze. It throbbed when Chongyun tried to move it around, but other than that it seemed fine. The grime had been cleaned off his body and he was warm in a new set of clothes. Someone had obviously taken care of him while he was unconscious. Retracing his steps, the last place he remembered being was at the entrance of the Feiyun Guild building, but after that he couldn’t remember anything. He grimaced. Later, he should go apologize for making such a ruckus there; he hadn’t really been thinking clearly at the time. The only thing on his mind had been to find Xingqiu. Speaking of…?
Using his good arm, Chongyun gingerly propped himself up and surveyed the space. The fancy room was absent of the other boy, but a chair had been pulled up next to the bed with Xingqiu’s coat hung over the back. Xingqiu was probably somewhere nearby so Chongyun settled down to wait.
He didn’t have to wait long. It had only been a few minutes when Xingqiu opened the door. Chongyun raised his other hand to wave at the boy but winced in pain. It seemed like for now, the mobility on that arm was limited.
Xingqiu immediately rushed over.
“Chongyun, you’re awake! Are you alright? Don’t move! The doctor said that you shouldn’t be putting strain on that arm for the next two weeks while it heals!” He scolded.
Chongyun nodded obediently and Xingqiu busied himself with checking Chongyun over, putting their foreheads together to take his temperature, and reapplying a medicinal salve to some of the small scrapes on Chongyun’s hands and cheek.
“Seriously,” He grumbled while working. “I can’t believe you came all the way here like this. Looking for me in this condition!” He exclaimed. “I won’t hear of it!”
“Sorry?” Chongyun said, somewhat amused.
“You’re sorry? Sorry?” Xingqiu repeated, offended. “And going through that rain too! Get an umbrella! You know what your constitution is like, yet you decided to come all the way to Liyue and then all the way to the Feiyun Guild in the middle of the pouring rain. To find me! You didn’t even know where I am, how did you think you could-“
Xingqiu continued to berate him until after he finished applying all of the salve and after he finished giving all the reasons that Chongyun was an idiot and didn’t have critical thinking skills. Chongyun wasn’t particularly upset by it; even while Xingqiu’s words were sharp, he was still gently applying the salve and had taken care of him like this. He waited till Xingqiu sat back in his chair and capped the salve before speaking up again.
“Did I make you worry?” Chongyun asked.
“There’s no way I would worry when my best friend showed up at my door dripping wet and bleeding out.” Xingqiu replied, monotone. “OF COURSE I WAS WORRIED TO DEATH!”
“Sorry, sorry.” Xingqiu huffed. “You keep saying that, but I don’t even know what you’re apologizing for. For getting injured?”
“I’m sorry for upsetting you.” Chongyun said. “And for making you worry like this.”
Xingqiu’s eyes flitted to his for a second before he looked down again. His shoulders slumped and he clasped his hands tightly together, bracing them on his knees. It was a while before he spoke again.
“You were bleeding so much.” His voice was trembling. “When I first saw you, I thought you were already dead.”
Chongyun reached over with his uninjured arm and pulled Xingqiu in, letting him bury his face on his chest and pretending he didn’t hear the quite sniffles coming from the other boy.
“Stupid.” Xingqiu said wetly, his words muffled against Chongyun’s shirt.
Xingqiu snorted and dug his fingers deeper into Chongyuns shirt, breathing in the smell of Chongyun and listening to his even heartbeat.
“I didn’t catch that.”
“I said,” Xingqiu huffed. “Don’t ever do something like that again.”
“I’ll try my best.”
Xingqiu let himself hold Chongyun for a second longer before he sat up, scrubbing at his eyes roughly.
“Is there something I can do to make it up to you?” Chongyun asked. He could count on his fingers the amount of times he’s seen Xingqiu cry in front of them. Even when things upset Xingqiu, he would normally brush them off as a joke, playing it off so the other person wouldn’t feel pressured. If Chongyun didn’t know better, he would think that nothing ever bothered him.
“I-” Xingqiu looked up, met his eyes, and paused, his mouth slightly parted in the middle of speaking. His amber eyes darkened like oversteeped tea, and his tongue flitted out to wet his lips unconsciously. As the silence grew, Chongyun raised an eyebrow at him and Xingqiu’s face flushed as he looked away, hiding his face behind his hands.
“Close your eyes!” Xingqiu commanded and Chongyun obediently did so. Internally he sighed, the other boy was probably upset at being seen in such a vulnerable state, even though Chongyun didn’t care one bit. He was resigning himself to never seeing Xingqiu be so open about his feelings ever again when he felt the faint gust of a warm breath on his face. And that was all the warning he got before Xingqiu kissed him.
It was only the barest brush of lips. A soft touch and then the aftertaste of salt from Xingqiu’s tears. Chongyun stayed absolutely still throughout the entire thing, afraid of scaring Xingqiu off, and let out a soft breath after he felt the boy move away from him.
“Just now,” Chongyun asked. “Why?”
“I-it’s a blessing,” Xingqiu rushed to explain, “to make your wounds heal faster.”
Chongyun hummed in response. Xingqiu had really thought of it all, knowing exactly what Chongyun would wish for at his current state.
“Well, do you need anything?” Xingqiu asked, hesitantly. “I’m going to head out now, I still have some work I need to do, but I’ll come back later to keep you company. You should nap in the meantime, but do you need anything? Food? Water? Something to entertain yourself with?”
Hm. “Food sounds good.” Chongyun said, eyes still closed. His uninjured hand fiddled with the silky bed sheets, sliding around on the glossy surface.
“Alright. I’ll have the maids bring you a bowl of cold noodles.” Chongyun heard Xingqiu get up and walk across the room. “Anything else?”
“Uh,” Chongyun said awkwardly, “Can I open my eyes now?”
Xingqiu laughed. With his eyes closed, it sounded more warm than usual and Chongyun felt his face lean in that direction, like a flower to the sun.
“Of course.” He said. “Bye Chongyun, see you soon.”
Chongyun opened his eyes just in time to catch a glimpse of Xingqiu’s back before he walked out the door.
A month flew by as Chongyun recovered in Liyue. After the first few days, he had been allowed to move about as long as he didn’t strain his shoulder, so he frequently walked the streets, visiting friends, and finding other ways to occupy his time. However, it was a little painful to see Xiangling easily flit in and out of the city on when he himself was restricted to the city boundaries till after his injuries healed. Although Liyue was home, it was a familiar place to come back to, not a place to stay. As the month passed, Chongyun became more and more anxious to be back outside, discovering new puzzles and adventures outside of the comforting, but monotonous life of Liyue.
Finally, after a long wait, a final checkup was arranged and the gauze was removed. Chongyun was able to have the full range of motions in his arm again and he swung it around, testing it. He was pleased to feel no tinge of pain from his earlier days with his injury. Clenching his fist to test his strength, he found that he’d lost a bit of muscle weight, but after he made up all the training he missed out on for the month, he would be back to normal. It was an inconvenience, but it was only temporary, and he eagerly awaited the burn of swinging his sword to work himself up to his normal strength.
Xingqiu had accompanied him to this last appointment, but throughout the entire trip back he had been strangely quiet. Chongyun was planning to leave straight away; he’d heard of some monsters hiding in some old abandoned mines in the West and was curious to check it out. But, he was still a bit worried about his friend’s lack of enthusiasm.
Chongyun thought that he actually understood it a bit. The biggest benefit of staying in the city for the entire month was seeing Xingqiu almost daily. When he was away from Liyue, the thing he missed most was Xingqiu’s smile, the relaxing days doing nothing that became precious memories recalled around the fire pit. He always felt his steps quickening as he came closer to the city, as he came closer to the one person who he could call home.
But even so, Chongyun thought that Xingqiu understood him too. To Xingqiu, the city was full of obligations that would pile up more and more as he grew older, trips outside a reprieve from stifling responsibilities. After all, even though he would never be running the business, being the second son meant that his fate would inevitably be tied to the Feiyun Commerce Guild.
So Chongyun let Xingqiu drag his feet all the way to the bridge in silence.
But, when they arrived there, it was impossible for him to delay any longer.
“I’m off, Xingqiu.” Chongyun said, holding both of Xingqiu’s hands in his. “Thank you for coming all the way here.
“It’s nothing.” Xingqiu muttered, looking away and Chongyun couldn’t help but laugh a little at his pout. He could just be so adorable at the weirdest times.
Chongyun squeezed his friend’s hands once, but before he moved to let them go Xingqiu spoke up.
“Lean in a little closer for me.” He said boldly, squaring his shoulders.
Hm? Chongyun, of course obliged and Xingqiu made aggressive eye contact with him as he leaned in and pecked him on the lips.
“It’s a promise to come home safe, ok?” Xingqiu said before Chongyun could even ask. “Now shoo, go adventure or do whatever you do, as long as you make it back in one piece.”
Chongyun smiled widely and pulled Xingqiu in for a hug, the other stiffening in shock. After Chongyun released him, he scurried away, leaving Chongyun watching his retreating back fondly.
Finally, after Chongyun was done smiling at thin air, he turned around and came face to face with Xiangling.
“Er.” He paused. “Hello?”
She was crossing her arms and smirking at him. A bag of Jueyun Chilis was slung over her shoulder; it seems like he had caught her right as she was coming back from another culinary expedition.
“You guys are so gross!” She teased. “I can’t believe you sighed after he left like a love sick idiot even though you two have been dating for so long!”
“Xiangling! You’re misunderstanding!” Chongyun said flabbergasted. “We’re not d-dating.” He was waving his hands around in denial as if trying to smack those wayward thoughts out of the air.
Xiangling froze in shock.
“You’re… not?” She asked tentatively.
“I don’t even think he likes me in that way,” Chongyun answered glumly.
“You. Don’t think he likes you.”
“He just… doesn’t seem interested in me; he probably just thinks of me as his best friend or something.” Chongyun felt more depressed by the minute. “I mean, he keeps kissing me, but it’s always for some other reason, not because he likes me.”
“Chongyun,” Xiangling held her head in her hands. “You are a fucking idiot.”
It looked like Xiangling was losing her patience. “Are you hearing what you’re saying?
“That he doesn’t like me?” Chongyun felt even more confused. He already knew this, but it hurt even more to say it out loud.
“OF COURSE HE LIKES YOU, YOU IDIOT!”
“Xiangling, not so loud!”
“WHAT OTHER REASON COULD SOMEONE HAVE FOR KISSING YOU? I’VE SEEN YOU GUYS KISS AT LEAST TWICE!”
Chongyun had a sinking suspicion. “Xiangling, were you the one who dropped a plate while we were eating at Wanmin House?”
“YES! AND I SAW YOU GUYS KISS THERE TOO!”
“Xiangling. You are really misunderstanding.” Chongyun said, placating. “He said he was tasting a bit of the food since I finished it so quickly.”
“I need to sit down.” Xiangling said, sitting down roughly on the floor. Chongyun, not wanting her to sit by herself, joined her at that eye level.
“Ok.” She said after she collected herself. “What about just now then?”
“You saw that too?”
“Yes.” She sighed. “That was the second time I saw you two kiss.”
“Oh…” Chongyun said and Xiangling looked at him suspiciously.
“Has there been more times than that?” She interrogated.
“Yes… about five times in total?”
“Oh my god.” She held her head in her hands, trying to keep herself together. It was a losing battle.
“Are you okay, Xiangling?” Chongyun had never seen her act like this.
“I’m fine.” Xiangling gritted out. “So, I’m assuming Wanmin Restaurant was the first time.” Chongyun nodded at that. “Then, what was the reason for the second one?”
“He said it was a greeting he learned from Snezhnaya.” Chongyun recalled.
Xiangling did a spit take. “When do you think he ever went to Snezhnaya?” She accused him.
“He said his dad went.”
Xiangling conceded that point. There really was no easy way of confirming or denying that. That bastard…
“Well,” She continued. “That’s obviously all made up.”
“Well obviously.” She sniffed. “You never see that Fatui Harbinger kissing everyone as a greeting, right?”
“Maybe he’s assimilating into Liyue’s culture?” Chongyun suggested. Xiangling looked as if the words he said pained her.
“Urgh…” She scratched her head in frustration. Chongyun patted her shoulder comfortingly.
“Ok.” She finally decided. “Would you let me kiss you?”
“Xiangling… I’m sorry but I can’t.”
“I wasn’t actually offering.” She snorted. “Would you let Xinyan kiss you?”
“Would you let literally anyone else in the city of Liyue, or in all of Tevyat for that matter! Would you let them kiss you?”
“I wouldn’t let a stranger kiss me.” Chongyun said, frowning.
“So that settles it.” Xiangling decided. “You would only want to kiss Xingqiu ever. Because you like him.” Chongyun flushed. “And Xingqiu has already kissed you. Multiple times. Do you think he would do that to anyone else, even if he had some weird reason? Do you think he would give me a Snezhnayan greeting kiss?” She said, piqued.
“So that settles it. He would only give you a kiss. That means he lik-“
“Wait.” Chongyun said, an ominous premonition forming. “Do… do you think Xingqiu is pranking me?” Yes, that mischievous boy had pulled one over Chongyun too many times to count… but to mess with Chongyun’s feelings to this extent?
“What? NO! NO THAT’S THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE OF WHAT I WAS TRYING TO SA-“
“Thank you for your input Xiangling.” Chongyun said seriously. “But, I really need to find Xingqiu now.” He needed to know the truth.
Chongyun got up and left at a sprint, leaving a screeching Xiangling sitting on the bridge behind him.
It didn’t take long to find Xingqiu; Chongyun ran along the path leading back to the Feiyun Guild building and saw him chatting with the kind lady manning the front of the jewelry store. Although he knew it was terribly improper, he grabbed Xingqiu’s hand and pulled him away mid-conversation.
“Hey! Who- Chongyun? What are you doing here?” Xingqiu asked as Chongyun dragged him away to get his answer.
“Sorry.” He huffed. “It’s important. I’ll apologize properly to Linlang later.” Chongyun led them behind the building before he let go and faced Xingqiu, who looked at him curiously, waiting for him to speak.
He clenched his hands tightly together at his side. “All those times,” Chongyun started and gulped. “Were all those kisses just… pranks?” His hands were shaking slightly.
Xingqiu froze. “What spurred this train of thought?”
Chongyun couldn’t bear to meet Xingqiu’s eyes. “At the bridge, Xiangling saw you… kissing me. And she said there’s no such thing as a Snezhnaya greeting kiss, and that friends don’t kiss each other goodbye or kiss the food residue off each other’s lips. So… why?” He thought his eyes might be blurring a bit from looking down too long like this. The answer was… terrifying. He knew internally that Xingqiu wasn’t cruel, but what if he didn’t know Chongyun’s feelings? Maybe he thought that Chongyun would just play along that one time and prank him back, yet Chongyun went ahead and exposed his vulnerabilities. He wanted to melt into a hole and die.
Xingqiu sighed and Chongyun watched him step closer till his feet were in view. A gentle hand lifted his chin up and tilted it to the side.
His face was a mere inch from Chongyun’s and Chongyun’s breath stuttered as he met the other’s eyes. Chongyun felt too open, too raw, like a gemstone cracked open in front of Xingqiu’s searching eyes, but as much as he wanted to shy away from them, he couldn’t bear to move.
“Oh Chongyun, you’re such an idiot.” Xingqiu breathed before he captured Chongyun’s lips in a kiss.
“And then after that I said, ‘Just in case you didn’t know, I meant that one.’” Xingqiu recalled as he picked up another crystal shrimp dumpling and delicately bit into it. He savored the flavor of the broth before popping the rest in his mouth.
“You’re awful. Both of you.” Xiangling bemoaned, holding her head in her hands. “Was that the end of it all?” She couldn’t help asking.
“Yes, that’s the end. All’s well that ends well.” Xingqiu sneakily reached for the last dumpling but Xiangling knocked his chopsticks out of the way and snatched it from under his grasp, grinning at his shocked face. She tossed it in her mouth and chirped happily while Xingqiu sat back in his chair and crossed his arms.
“It’s divine retribution.” Xiangling taunted, sticking her tongue out at the other boy.
“I did nothing to deserve that!” Xingqiu pouted and Xiangling laughed, smacking the table.
“I just think that if you didn’t start making up all this crud after you kissed Chongyun at Wanmin, you wouldn’t have had all this trouble in the first place.” She put down her chopsticks and started gathering up all the dishes. Xingqiu stacked the rest of the empty plates together and took half of them with him as he followed her into the kitchen.
“I…” Xingqiu bit his lip. Xiangling turned around, looking at him questioningly. “I honestly just could not tell him that I liked him in the middle of Wanmin Restaurant!” He finished, putting the plates firmly into the sink. Xiangling was shocked speechless.
“Then why did you kiss him there!”
“Did you see his face! How could I not kiss him when he looked like that!”
Xiangling carefully put the dishes down on the counter and then whacked Xingqiu’s head.
Xiangling was so over this! Why did she have to listen to these two stupid boys deal with their problems in the most obtuse way possible! They were so ridiculous!
“You’re! So!” Xiangling shouted. It hurts! Their idiocy was physically paining her!
“Why are you still hitting me!”
“Stop teasing Chongyun like this!” She scolded him. “If you make him too gullible he’ll be easily preyed on by scammers like you!”
“Xiangling, you’re being too mean today!” Xingqiu cried, raising his arms up to block the onslaught of blows.
Xiangling, in an attempt to prove that she was more mature, walked to the other side of the room to keep herself from hitting him.
“What if he started kissing everyone as a greeting because you told him to!” She yelled, borderline hysterically. “Did you ever think of that?”
Xingqiu seriously thought about it, rubbing his chin with his forefinger and thumb.
“Do you think he would actually have done that?” He asked her.
Xiangling had just said it as a joke! How come when Chongyun became involved, Xingqiu became just as gullible as he was?
At this time Chongyun finally arrived, saving Xiangling from the trouble of having to reason with Xingqiu and saving Xingqiu from any more beatings.
“Xiangling jiejie, I’m here to walk Xingqiu home.” Chongyun said, peeking under the cloth flap that partially obscured the kitchen from view.
“Perfect timing, Chongyun.” Xingqiu clapped. “Well, I must really be off then; thank you for the meal Xiangling!” He hightailed it out of there, escaping before Xiangling could make himwash the dishes.
He was in high spirits as they walked until he remembered what Xiangling had told him right before Chongyun had arrived.
“Say, Chongyun,” He asked, suddenly nervous. “After I told you about that Snezhnaya greeting, did you do it on anyone else?”
Chongyun smiled teasingly. “Should I have?”
“No!” Xingqiu yelped, quickly to stop him from such further notions.
Chongyun couldn’t help but laugh, and Xingqiu looked sufficiently wronged, causing him to laugh harder.
“I’m sorry Xingqiu.” He replied, pulling on the other hand. “It’s just that you can be so cute at the strangest times.” He drew Xingqiu closer and leaned in for a kiss.