Barbatos stares up at an apple while trying their hardest against the winds. Maybe… They look around before they float over and continuously start to nudge the brightest apple on that tree. Then they heard a chuckle, and Barbatos peeked out from behind the apple to see a familiar flame-red haired man there.
“What is it that you got there, wind spirit?” he asks, walking over to Barbatos as a woman followed in tow. “I usually see you with Venti for the most part.”
Barbatos nods their head before nudging at the apple, going in circles.
“Do you want to try and get the apple to him?” the woman asks, and Barbatos’ pupils became crescents.
“Well then,” She walked over and reached up and was able to pluck the apple from the branch and held it to Barbatos and their eyes sparkling. "Here- wait, how would you deliver this to him, though?” she asks, looking at Barbatos’ small form and then to the man who shrugs. But they both stared in surprise to see the wind spirit squeeze the apple off her hand and carefully balanced it on their head and flew off, leaving the two staring after the spirit.
“I suppose that works.” The man says after a few minutes of silence, the woman nodding his head.
The spirit looked around, the apple tilting every now and then but they were able to regain the center of balance. They soon spot his friend finishing a performance to the people and had caught a young girl’s windblume before it could get lost into the wind. Their voice was mere chimes in the wind as Barbatos flew over to his friend, and Venti turned around and laughed.
“Why, hello Barbatos.” he greets before his eyes shone upon the apple on Barbatos’ head.
“Aw, for me? You shouldn’t have, my friend!” he smiles, and Barbatos just tilts their head forward so that the apple rolls off his head and into the bard’s hand.
“Heh, thanks Barbatos.” he smiles, and Barbatos nods their head and happily snuggled Venti’s cheek, making the young boy laugh and cup his hands around the spirit before an unpleasantly strong gust of wind almost threatened to topple the bard over his feet the Barbatos away into the air with no chance to regain his strength in getting down to the ground.
The boy used his cloak to block most of the winds, holding Barbatos close to his chest and peered down when the gust of winds had stopped. “Are you okay?” he asks, and Barbatos nods their head.
“Come on, we should get inside or you might get blown away.” Venti says, pulling his hood over his head, grinning at the spirit.
Barbatos then happily flew within his hood, safe and warm and he watched as the boy hurried along through the maze of stone streets that is their entrapped city until came a familiar one that belonged to Ragnvindr, allowing the boy and his spirit friend to stay when he had nowhere else to go when it came to living spaces and any other needs a boy at his age would need to grow.
Venti blinked and he glanced around and stared to see Kaeya, Diluc, Jean, Barbara and Aether standing before him, all of them stilling when they realized that Venti was staring back at them.
He stared at them, blinking once more, before feeling the weight his neck was providing to the items on top of his head.
“Oh! Oh! What about this apple?” he heard Paimon ask behind him.
“With all those books? I don’t think he can do that.” Lumine tells her and Aether’s companion, but the pixie ignored her statement and placed it down on the stack of books. It wobbled for a moment but soon went still upon his head.
“May I ask what you all are doing, bothering a bard’s leisure time to think through his thoughts?” Venti asks cheekily, smirking as he heard Paimon squeak from surprise.
“V-Venti! W-We swear we weren’t planning on doing anything.” Paimon nervously laughs, she and Lumine walking back in front.
“You do realize I can balance more things on my head than just a few books and an apple, right?” he laughs, and Paimon stares.
“Wait, Tone-Deaf Bard, you’re back!” she exclaims.
“I’ve been here, yes.” he muses.
“No no! Amber saw you sitting here under Lady Vennessa’s tree, looking as if you weren’t there. We tried different things to get you to come back, even Diluc telling-”
The tavern owner immediately covered her mouth with a gloved hand, earning a nervous smile from the pixie.
“Oh? Please do continue.” Venti grins mischeivously.
“N-Nothing! Paimon said nothing!” she nervously laughs.
“We tried many other things to snap you back here. Clapping, loud noises, literally dragging hilichurls but it seems that your Anemo abilities pushed them away, Barbara actually slapping you-” Kaeya continues.
“I’m sorry!” the healer shouts, bowing and venti just nervously smiles.
“D-Don’t worry, Barbara.” he reassures. “So that’s why my cheek was stinging.” he murmurs.
“We even had to call Xiao over!” Lumine adds.
“Xiao? Why Xiao?” he asks, confused.
“Uh, Paimon doesn’t know, isn’t he your boyfriend? He might’ve seen you space out like that once before right?” Paimon shrugs.
“Wait, he’s Venti’s boyfriend ?!” Amber exclaims.
“I’m surprised that he was able to find a boyfriend.” Diluc retorts, and it makes Venti stare at him for a moment, a look similar to one of confusion and flustered in his gaze before he tries his best to push it away.
“I-If I may, can you all help get these books off my head since you’re the one that thought it was a great idea for that?” he asks, and immediately Amber laughs, checking an imaginary watch on her wrist before leaving, shouting over her shoulder that she had to do some chores. And with that, Venti says that she doesn’t even have any chores.
The travelers quickly held the books, and Venti was able to stretch his head and lean back.
“Guess you’ll be staying here for a while?” Barbara asks, and Venti was quiet for a moment.
“...No. Travelers, by any chance do you know where Xiao went last?” he asks.
“He most likely went to Wangshu Inn.” Lumine answers, and Venti nods his head.
“Then I should head there.” he smiles reassuringly at them.
“You all should go, it’s getting a bit late into the day.” he says, gesturing up to the sky.
“Will you be okay, though? The city to Liyue is a long trek.” Jean says in worry.
“Don’t worry, I’ll be fine.” he grins, holding onto the apple.
“Now go! Go go go.” he grins, shooing them off and waving goodbye to them.
He watches them leave before he heaved out a heavy sigh and stares down at the bright red apple. Come on, don’t cry now. Venti takes to the path quickly, head low and the winds barely noticeable. It may set panic to the townsfolk as to why their windmills aren’t moving, but he wasn’t in the mood to control his emotions and have the winds blow to maintain said windmills.
He looks up and stares to see Xiao there, and realizes that he was at Stone Gate.
“Oh, hey Xiao. I heard from the Travelers that you also were there to see that.” he nervously smiles, scratching his cheek as he holds onto the apple. Xiao raised an eyebrow at that.
“You’re holding on to the apple. Usually you’ll eat them right when you were able to get your hands on one, even if it’s a slice.” Venti just smiles weakly at him with such nervousness that it made the Yaksha stiffen.
“Then it wouldn’t be for me.” Venti smiled quietly, and flinched when Xiao had grabbed his hand, and they had reappeared in his inn.
He looked at Xiao in confusion, but the look he gave him said it all, and Venti let his expression fall.
“I thought about him…” he whispers, and Xiao’s gaze softened alongside a frown, reaching over and holding Venti. “I miss him…” he whimpers, laying his head down on Xiao’s shoulder. “I-I don’t even know what got me to think about the past, and I know I should let it go but I just-...”
Xiao rested a hand on the back of Venti’s head, facing the bard’s crying face and gently wiped the tears away and pressed their foreheads together. Venti closed his eyes, letting Xiao bring them to sit down at the bed.
“I may not have known your friend, but I have a feeling that he would want you to be at peace.” Xiao tells him carefully, Venti glancing at him as he rubs his flow ended sleeves to his eyes. “I know from experience. You know that.” he tells him, leaning over and pressing a kiss on his cheek.
Venti just looks down at the apple in hand. He smiles quietly, and carefully bites into the fruit.