His arms wrapped around the figure that looked so delicate that it could disappear with the wind that swayed its wings and braids. He was panting as tears streamed down his face; however, no words were heard, not a sound except the wind and their breathing,
Xiao was late, he knew that. He felt it as soon as he looked into the eyes that had once been such a penetrating turquoise, that it looked like he could dive into that unique color, but now they were purple, looking corrupted by the dark magic that darkened the sky and the wings that covered his body, protecting him from the strong wind.
''Alatus.'' the voice he heard in his dreams seemed so distant and strange to his ears now, a void he hadn't felt for decades hit him in the chest.
''Barbatos ... Venti, you are stronger than that, you can fight it! You- '' the yaksha interrupted his own words, seeming to have lost his breath and courage he had gathered on the way there.
Within weeks he realized something was wrong. The wind whispered his name in one direction, but he wasn't sure what it was, because it wasn't Xiao they called ... They called Alatus .
"Alatus, I cannot fight this.” The same emotionless voice answered and chills ran down his spine. Xiao dared to lift his face, still refusing to let go of the being he held tightly, even looking like he was begging the god's blessing.
Venti then looked back at him, the sensation being so unique that he remembered Morax saying the following phrase "If you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you".
The beating wind, the breathlessness, the emptiness, the weight of years of suffering and death, the battles, the blood that stained his past and he carried it in his hands ... Everything seemed to disappear. The weather changed, around them was as dark as the sky of a thousand nights, but in his head, it was as clear as if you were in the middle of a huge constellation. Stars seemed to dance at the meeting of his eyes, but the faint smile that appeared on the corrupted archon broke his trance, finally coming back to reality.
His wings seemed to decompose in the darkness that broke and ripped his silhouette. Black and purple marks with the writing of the abyss adorned his skin and, what once appeared to be the figure of an angel, became the complete opposite.
Xiao trembled at the sight of the smile on that face so delicate and destroyed with the marks that proliferated all over his body. Finally having strength on his knees he got to his feet and came face to face with the god of freedom, who had his freedom taken from him.
"You look so good, Xiao.'' a voice different from the previous one said, and, as a lapse of memory, he was back to Dihua Marsh where he heard the sound of a flute that brought him back to consciousness, the sound which gave him hope. "I got it, we can fix it. I can ... I can talk to the Adeptus we can look for a way, something, someone must know. I promise, for Morax, I- ''
With ease, the god broke free from his touch that he had loosened and a hand touched his face, breaking his line of reasoning.
"You were always one of my favorites." turquoise replaced the purple eyes and a sigh paralyzed the adeptus who did not expect to see a part of the archon still alive, bravely resisting what was destroying him.
He still remembered the moment he decided to follow the wind, afraid of what he might find. He heard rumors along the way that part of Mondstadt was destroyed by a huge whirlwind that arose in the Stormterror Lair.
All descriptions were enough for Xiao to know what he was dealing with, or rather, who he was dealing with. A nervousness filled his belly, thinking that perhaps it was, at last, his last mission to protect Liyue, since the whirlwind changed course with the trajectory of the winds. He supposed that it was the change of course that made him hear his real name being called, as a warning or a cry for help, an emergency.
"You shouldn't have come," Venti said after a pause and the turquoise was disappearing again. Desperate to see that blue light again, Xiao grabbed the face in front of him and approached. The shock to the god of having been touched so intimately seemed to have an effect on the winds and even on the control that magic exercised over him because even the blush that the traveler always said Venti had on his cheeks was present on his face.
"That doesn't stop me from staying neither you staying with me. If you can't fight, at least let me share your pain, I have suffered enough, I ... I got used to it.'' Venti took steps back after this confession as if to keep Xiao from the impending suffering, however, the Adeptus reached his hands, preventing him. ''I must protect Liyue by debt, and you saved me in a way, I-I owe you a debt, too. Let me take it for you, even if only half. Please, Barbatos.'' Tears streamed down his face again, and purple eyes found amber, the pupils that looked like felines stared back at the abyss that contaminated the divine being.
"It would destroy you, Xiao. Not completely, but half, just like half of me has already been taken.'' Venti explained, in his emotionless voice as he pointed to the wreckage that flew to the top of their heads, the whirlwind still happened in the skies, after all ''The abyss hijacked and abused a statue with my image, images have power, you see. I am connected to them and part of me is found in each one. The magic, however, is different from what I'm used to, I can't fight mine, just accept it as a foreign body. ''
For a brief moment, there was a silence between the two again and those little minutes when Venti wiped away tears that streamed from Xiao's face, he noticed 3 things.
1) He didn't care about himself as long as he did his duty
2) He had a contract with Morax to protect Liyue and would do whatever it took
3) He would help Barbatos, no matter what, he would help him
Slowly, Xiao handed his vision over to the archon who gladly accepted it and the same scriptures from his body appeared briefly in his Vision. The adept's skin started to burn and the emptiness that always seemed to be there grew, it was as if he, Xiao, was falling into an abyss of years of the past, as if he were again covered in blood and without food, with only snow on his hands and foot.
Pain confused all of his senses, tearing at his chest and burning his mouth. His speech, however, seemed to have been taken away, as if his expression had also been stolen, all of his freedom was gone.
Venti was released from such effects now, he made it look like it was a lot less painful. However, the god bent down and stayed at his height, only then Xiao realized that he was in such pain that he fell to his knees again.
"Let it go and it will be fine, I promise." The Adeptus raised his frown, irritated thinking he had been deceived until he saw a wink and felt two arms wrapping him in a hug. In shock, he didn't know what to do so he let him continue. Over time, the wind was not so much more aggressive, as was Xiao's pain, everything disappeared with a breeze and debris fell around him, but none hit them.
Part of his body felt sore and the letter from the creatures of the abyss adorned his arm, which before was clear from any mark. Barbatos was in the same shape, the marked arm being opposite from his.
None of them dared to leave the embrace, they just took advantage of the moment that together they seemed complete, because that day, both donated their halves so that they could continue a journey that was imposed on them. Responsibilities that could not be passed on to someone else, not until they were faithfully fulfilled and resolved.
"Call my name, if you need to. Just as I will call yours if I need to.'' Venti said and laughed as soon as he saw the face of the adeptus, as frowning as any other ''You have two archons protecting you, you're not bad. Ehe. "
''You could have died. You would let yourself be corrupted like that.'' Xiao spoke seriously and the laugh disappeared from the face of the archon, who looked away.
"Nobody deserves to be taken away from themselves. If I needed to assume the role of consuming the dark power of the statue in place of another being, then let it be me. You have your duties with Liyue, I have duties with myself. ''
And Xiao just sighed with that answer, he knew, better than anyone, that Barbatos did what he wanted, and what he thought was best for him and everyone around him. So that was the burden that the god of freedom carried, although free, he valued the freedom of the majority, no matter the state of his.
"You called my name by the winds because you trusted that if you were corrupted, I would understand better than anyone that your last wish would be to be freed from something that would control you." He said aloud, like a realization.
The absence of a verbal response was enough for both sides to understand, and Xiao reached out a hand to Venti.
''What is it? Why?''
"You called my name, so I shall call yours, Venti. I may not be able to dance freely to the sound of a flute, but that doesn't mean that for a moment, one day, I can't try." A glow that was absent in the god's eyes finally appeared again, and, smiling, he took the adeptus's hand, who guided him to lands with dreams and stories in stone.