Chapter 1: The Retired Dragon
Far far away in the land of Teyvat, ruled a powerful, menacing, and cunning queen. Known as The Tsaritsa, the name of her majesty alone brings fear and terror to all people.
Her majesty way of ruling is ruthless, unforgiving, wicked, and corrupted. She demands many unnecessary things such as taxes in all sorts of fields in which result in poverty, families separated, children lost home, farmers lost their fields to grow crops, monarchs despise their role hold nothing to count against her.
Her wanting of rare ancient treasures, jewelry, gold, and beautiful gemstones makes her unique.
And as far as the story goes, the only real hope left for them is for a new, kinder, more righteous ruler to free them from this misery. But unfortunately, that wouldn't be very easy, The Tsarista is always guarded of her throne and will go to unimaginable lengths to feed to the power-hungry demon that lays inside of her. Is there truly someone out there who is most fitted to bring down The Tsaritsa?-
An orange leaf fell from the tree as its signal the autumn has come, the sound of winds drift through the forest, the trees dancing with the flow of the winds, silence became a norm on such a day, no sound could rival the song of the forest singing its habitual tune. Maybe until-
"Zhongli! Zhongli!" "Wake up! It's noon already!" The scolding sound of an unusual green bird awakened the dragon from its slumber. The dragon purred and stretched its claws, its fluffy golden tail wagged all over the ground as if to signal that the dragon has woken up. The yawning sound came out from the dragon's mouth hold a deep rumbling. As it opened its eyes, the darker shade glow tint of golden of its pupil moving around to observe the surroundings.
"Ah, it's you Xiao..., thank you for waking me up. I apologize, but it seems that I have once again overslept" The dragon paused to think then speak again " How about in favor you and I go find something to eat, yes? I'm a bit hungry". Its movements slowly went from limping to standing on four legs.
"It's not a big deal Zhongli-daren, it is my duty to make sure you don't starve to death because of sleeping too much." The green bird answered and went flying out of the dark cave " Let's go, Ganyu must have cooked up something by now, and it would be rude to lets her wait."
The dragon only hummed in return, and after that, it started to move in steady and slow steps. Its long body heaving lightly, scales moving in and out to show that it is breathing. Very lightly at that.
Its horns and eyes are golden shine in the dark. There are geo symbols, lines, and traces all over the dragon's body, they glow brightly but start to dissipate, more so blending into the light of the day as the dragon moves out of the cave, and it's greeted by the sound of birds chirping, calming melodies of the water splashing in the river, and the old humming of the forest. In a time as peaceful as this, the air is warm, the winds are strong, and it's a perfect time for lunches. And it is best to enjoy with a company.
.....Or some company.
" Zhongli-daren! Xiao! You two are here come, come sit, I found a lot of food for us!" The familiar cheerful tone from the qilin is enough to bring a smile to Zhongli's face as the dragon came to sit at the soft patch of grass.
The qilin has always woke up earlier than him or Xiao. Ganyu usually would nag him for getting up late, for she is a very healthy person. Today though, she seems oddly different than other days.
" I couldn't find any qingxin today, but I picked up some ores from the nearby river, and I think you would like them, Zhongli-daren. Xiao and I can eat these calla lilies that I have found, also from that same river..." Ganyu said, trying to sound enthusiastic about it.
Knowing the qilin, Zhongli could tell Ganyu has tried her best at finding food. She is usually too shy to go to the town alone. Although their diet does not need to consist of much nutrition as a human body does.
Zhongli still sometimes find pleasure in trying human gastronomy. The taste, the smell, the aroma, it is very pleasant to try out human food.
Though Xiao sometimes criticizes him for spending too much mora on food alone. But he is always capable of making more mora, so why would he need to understand such a concept?
" Ah...Thank you, Ganyu." The dragon hummed. " It must be hard work getting these."
Hearing that the qilin's smile fades " Haha....yes.....no...I'm sorry, lately because of the crowds I haven't able to travel far from here, they are surrounding this area for something in which I don't know of, but I overheard something about a competition host by the queen." And at that Xiao tsk.
"Human nonsense." scolded Xiao " I could never understand them and their weird and stupid system."
" Isn't it that beings such as adepti and god already deem as over-watchers of the world? Why would they need some unworthy human to have such power in their hands? Such nonsense that humans come up with. The Tsaritsa is but a monster hiding in human skin. They are letting a demon ruling over them without any bits of knowledge."
The dragon frowned in response." You don't need to say sorry Ganyu. I can assure you that it is not your fault." Zhongli then turned attention to Xiao, who is nibbling on some calla lilies.
" I can't help but disagree with you, Xiao. Nothing can be accomplished without rules or standards. No matter if it is mortals or adepti, everyone has their place. This rule keeps Teyvat in peace. And so a ruler is needed, one such as The Tsaritsa. Humanity would be a mess otherwise." With a bemused face, Zhongli continued." Even so, I can only hope for a fairer ruler."
The table ended their discussion and grew tense when the conversation was cut short by a loud sound.
Well, that was unexpected.
The sound of a shotgun in the distance caught the attention of the trio. The rustling sound of a person or two stomping their boots on the crackling ground nature floor full of fallen leaves, pair with chopping noises like they are using an axe to cut down all the trees branches, and vines in their way as they made a move through the forest.
Xiao was the first to make a move. "There are humans, but why are they here? They have promised not to invade our living space."
" Maybe they are lost? Humans don't come here often." Ganyu shrieked.
The sound of the humans is coming closer and closer to them. " This is no good. We have to transform into our human disguises." Zhongli said as they all nodded.
"Are you sure this is where we can find the dragon?" Osial asked. Walking non-stop from the early morning on this sunny day would be a bad idea. Or so he thought. Until he heard Azhdaha's bizarre tale, and he just has to get into it.
Apparently, the queen has announced to be retiring and giving up on her throne. Crazy right?
Sadly she doesn't have an heir. So, she gave out and ordered all the bravest, most diligent warriors to go and find the dragon of the geo, one name Morax and steal the dragon heart, as she called it a 'Gnosis', and bring it back to her.
And only then that she be willing to be dethroned and give the title to someone else.
" Yes, the locals say they don't particularly go to this area often because beasts and monsters are usually lurking in these parts of the forest." Azhdaha said as he held up a map. " Though I'm not very confident if that said the same about the dragon we are finding..."
Osial laughed in a mocking voice. " Seriously? I thought you done some searching beforehand. If you are like this, I wonder if I may get eaten by some wild beasts today." Looking up through the forest of trees, layer stack layer of branches. Untouched. Unbothered. Probably for a long, long time.
As if people haven't here for such a long time, that green just started to grow naturally, trees grew so tall that they can reach on top of a church! It's also making it harder to navigate, of course. Because why wouldn't it?
" Don't fret yourself over it, I have read a lot of books about dragons already, I should know they will not eat human meat, and more highly living dragons tend to eat veggies more than young ones."
Azhdaha looked down into his book. " And this one is going to be very old, and an ancient dragon, who has the longevity of 6000 years of living. "
" Great great, so basically what are you saying is that if we were to kill it first, that it would beat all the other's competition, huh?"
" Well, I mean, it is hard to fake such a victory. So yes." Azhdaha pointed in a direction. " We should check over there. There is a cave in this forest. I think it would be useful for finding that dragon."
Suddenly they were stopped by a person standing in the path. Who seemingly appeared from thin air and prevented them from going any further." Hello gentlemen, may I know of which reasons are you here? Are you two gentlemen searching for something?" The mysterious person spoke in a deep baritone voice in a very polite manner.
They stood staring at this new person. They have a slender build,( but curvy at some part) and they stand a little shorter than both of them. What captivating about their appearance is that they have shining gold eyes that are sharp and glowing, but the movement of the pupil makes it look like a liquid of some sort. Brown amber hair flown down by their hip, with tip dipped in blood orange. Their face is....beautiful, and their skin looks soft and delicate. Their body movements is a bit calculated of such of a person knowing martial arts. They were clothed in old scratch cloth though neat and clean but not the most polished outfit for such a person. They were ethereal nonetheless.
" Umm..hello.. we are here for a searching of a dragon." At that, Osial smacked Azhdaha's arm." Ouch! hey!".
"Shhhhhhh, why did you tell a stranger about that? What if he is hunting the dragon too!" Osial whispered in an angry tone.
Azhdaha retaliated. " You didn't have to hit me, though. Besides, he seems like he knows this area, and around, he could help us."
" Yes?" The person's gaze was right at them. " You asking about me, right?". The person replied." Hmm..I see. It is rude of me not to introduce myself."
"My name is Zhongli, and I am the owner of this plot of land you see. I was wondering why there strangers in my own home. It is only reasonable."
"Ah yes, we are deeply sorry for invading your home, but this area has been open out lately, have you not known?" Azhdaha said as he gave Zhongli a piece of paper." Some locals say that a dragon is living in this forest, you know the one? 'Morax' or how the locals live here called it 'Rex Lapis'"
" The queen has promised to give the person who brought back a valuable heart of a dragon." " Or a gnosis, if you will." Osial cough." As the next ruler of Teyvat. People have been pretty lively about it. Saying prayers for the queen's kindness for letting go of the throne. I don't know how you haven't noticed it yet." Osial said.
" Ah, I see" Zhongli's expression was hard to read, it was stoic, yet Osial can feel a very strong emotion being conveyed. " Very well, you gentlemen can do your finding for the queen if that what she wanted. Good luck to you then."
" Thank you, Mr.Zhongli. We are very grateful for your blessing. I am Azhdaha, by the way, and this man is name Osial." Azhdaha bowed and stood up straight. " We should get going, goodbye Mr.Zhongli."
" Yes, have a wonderful day to you, too" Zhongli tilted his head down. Seeing the man, Osial decided to test his luck.
" No need to be so serious, Mr.Zhongli. You should relax, after all, we are now acquaintances, right?" Osial joked.
Zhongli nodded and smiled. "Well then, see you too soon." That was worth it, earning a scoff from Azhdaha.
As the duo walked away, Zhongli stood there motionless. Deep in his thoughts. Silence starting filled the air. The cold wind of the afternoon hit him. Yet Zhongli is still unmoving. His facial expressions shifted. A mix of disappointment and sadness appeared on his face. As his long hair flown lightly by the wind, he said.
" You have broken our contract, Tsaritsa."
" I can't believe those fools! How dare they invade our living space? This is blasphemous!" Xiao retorted.
Now in a different form, as a short human man with green teal hair and lighter hair tip, sharp yellow eyes like a cat, wearing a short dark teal hanfu with lighter- trims on the outside, baggy dark training pants, carrying a mask on the side of the belt-tightening by his waist.
" After all the blessings we gave to the villages, and they still won't leave us alone." He kicked a rock as he walked side by side with Ganyu.
" I'm afraid we have to say something to talk this out with The Tsaritsa, and maybe the people won't bother us adeptis anymore. For I do not wish for bloodshed." Ganyu said, as she also in a different form similar to a human but with horns and wearing a light blue hanfu with small trickle details, her hair a blue shade flew down by her hip tie in a low ponytail, her eyes are a sparkling violet colour.
Then she spotted Zhongli. Who is standing alone and murmuring about something.
"Ah! Zhongli-daren!" Ganyu shouted. Xiao looked up and saw Zhongli now donning a black and golden hanfu, with dragon details on the flips of the hanfu, Zhongli's hair is freely flowing, his hand on his chin, and he is doing that thing where he is to focus on his thoughts to notice the surroundings.
"Zhongli-daren," Xiao called as he lightly shook Zhongli's shoulder.
"Ah..sorry, I have lost focus again." Zhongli bemusedly said. "Thank you for reminding me, Xiao. It seems that my age has finally caught up with me."
" We were looking for you," Ganyu said in a worrying tone. " When those humans came, I didn't think you would go and talk to them."
"Hm..yes. Though through that, I have learned something new. It's The Tsaritsa. She is taking back her end of the bargain."
"Hmm? She broke the contract?"
" It seems like it. Though, I'm not sure. I have heard that The Tsaritsa is giving up the throne for anyone who can bring back the heart of the dragon." Zhongli remembered his conversation with those two odd human gentlemen on the pathway.
" In short, she wants to eliminate you." Xiao brood.
"Yes, that is correct. However, we should not assume this matter quickly." Zhongli does the thing where he pauses to think mid-sentence again." hmm...I should go and talk with her majesty tomorrow first to assure."
" Zhongli-daren, with all due respect I have for you. I can't help but think that this could be a grave decision." Ganyu retorted
"Zhongli-daren, I think you should let us go with you to ensure nothing will happen," As Ganyu raised to protest, Xiao said. " As our duty to follow you and protect you, my lord."
"Hmm...very well, you may accompany me in my journey." Xiao and Ganyu noded. Zhongli continued." You have my gratitude then." "Well, now that we are finished. We should go back, I think those gentlemen must have left by now. The sun is going down. Let's go home, yes?"
" Right behind you, my lord," Xiao said. A tap on his shoulder." Yes? Ganyu?"
" Why didn't you talk back to him about the idea? I see it's still pretty dangerous to go there. The Tsaritsa still has a lot of power. She could be scheming something. " Ganyu retorted.
" I know my lord, he can be.....dense sometimes, and it's hard to convince him because he is a bit of a rock head. But trust me, most of his ideas always turn out fine, on the battlefield......and if we trust him, we should go, just to make sure he is safe." Xiao explained in a small voice.
" If you insist so, then I will believe you. I am still hesitant, though. But I don't want Zhongli-daren to be in danger, so I think I will go. Speaking of him, you always very protective of him, you know." Ganyu smiled
Xiao's face shifted suddenly, looking at the ground. 'He's brooding again.' Ganyu thought. It's fun to poke Xiao about sometimes, and he is pretty easy to get riled up too. Ganyu has always seen him as an older brother of some sort.
While Zhongli is someone that she has always been looking up to. From saving her life to taking her in. She admired him as a parental figure, but Xiao has always struck her as a closer companion.
Ganyu wants to be like a sister to Xiao too. She likes to listen to Rex Lapis lecture on and on about geology and literature together with Xiao. She to have sparred with Xiao, and she learned a lot from training with him. Having meals together every day with Xiao and Zhongli.
Ganyu couldn't be happier. A happy and warm family. One that can't be separated no matter at what cost. And Ganyu swears on her name that she will protect it.
" He helped me a lot, you know....". Xiao said, breaking the silence." He saved me from my old abusive master and gave me this name, this purpose, and this home.....If anyone were to harm him, I would spare no mercy." Xiao paused and looked away before adding. " As the same for you.....".
Xiao's small smile couldn't be more genuine. " It seems that those lectures about expressing feelings Zhongli gave you finally sink in, huh?" And at that, Xiao's face heated up, the tip of his ear pink, his face turn in other directions, not looking at her. Ganyu laughed heartedly at the man. Ganyu remember those lectures very well, and they are pretty generic things said in children's books.
Honestly, Ganyu is surprised by how much he can convince Xiao about it despise not knowing much himself, a true talent. Ganyu can tell that Zhongli struggles with these emotions as well, but at least he is trying and that what matters. Emotions tend to be more common in creatures like humans, for they express their emotions daily. But something as so is not good nor useful for merciless gods, powerful deities, elemental beings like dragons and fairies.
Qilins are kind and harmonious creatures, who get along with every species and only eat flowers, grass, whole grains, and drink spring water, and qilins like her are very adept with emotions for they can sympathize easier with others.
But emotions are hard to tell, and they are even more difficult for people like Rex Lapis, an ancient dragon of geo, for Xiao, who is an adeptus and who was abused and enslaved as a killing machine for centuries. For that, Ganyu sympathizes with them. Ganyu hopes even just a little bit, that they can find their inner peace.
Rex Lapis may not show it, but Ganyu knows he has grief and negative emotions too. For as long as she has lived with the dragon, he never talks about his problems a lot, either. Ganyu hopes one day she can help Rex Lapis with his emotional baggage, too, as he has helped her.
And so as the wind flew through her hair. The sound of owls hooting. The silence emerged the night. The sound of creatures slowly drifted into a deep slumber in the bushes of the forest. The moon is finally here, and its light shines brightly tonight, lurking through the arms of the trees grew shadow. Hopefully, tomorrow nothing bad will happen.
Clock tick one, tick twice, tick the third time,...
'Well, Osial is taking his time.' Azhdaha thought. Osial couldn't stop drinking during the day, and now he is complaining? Such an idiot.
"Hey, you don't have to stand there, you know?" Osial said behind the bushes. Azhdaha sighed ' Let's just get this over with'
Azhdaha responded. " If you have gone sooner, maybe we will be home by now." Osial made a grunting sound and zipped up his pant
." Not answering my question, you pervert."
" Also, you were getting lost in your dragon speeches again. And I'm not here to listen to all of that all day. Who do you I am? A nerd? Or a guy who collected rocks for fun?" Osial retorted. Azhdaha is a
little offended even though those statements are not entirely wrong.
" Obviously worse, since you been drinking all day without taking a break," Azhdaha said blatantly.
"It's hot outside today. I am not like you, who can just absorb the fucking heat and use it for reading or something." Osial grabbed his bag from Azhdaha's hand and started walking.
Azhdaha followed. "It called a sun battery for your information."
"Yea, yea. Whatever." Osial responded bluntly." Anyway, about that plan of yours." Osial paused to recollect himself.
"Hmm...well, Let's analyze." Azhdaha continued." We have found the brown scales of the dragon. Just have to make sure that it is the right one."
" Don't you say the dragon is half-qilin or something?"
"Yea, well, there are some traces of fur. But I am not for sure it belonged to the dragon. There are rumors about a qilin living here, too."-" There just aren't enough pieces of evidence to back up the claim that the all-mighty Rex Lapis is living here." Azhdaha sounded a little down than usual.
Osial turned to him and smirked. " Hehe.."- " What do you mean 'hehe'?!"
Osial wiggled his finger in front of Azhdaha's face. " It seems that I have beaten you in this."-"What?" Replied Azhdaha bluntly
"You see, I also found something...."-".....What is it that you found?" Osial devilish smirked appeared again." Only if you promised to buy me a new skin pouch(1), the old one smelled only of sweat and dry blood now."
Azhdaha stared at him with utmost annoyance." Fine, fine. I'll buy you a new skin pouch. What it is?" Azhdaha nagged.
" This is what I've found." Osial opened his palm to Azhdaha. It....It's a...rock? An abnormally shaped ore, to be exact. This.....thing.
Azhdaha stared at the ore." What am I supposed to know about this ore?" Osial sighed." Geez, and you praised yourself for being smart about dragons. This! this is a half-eaten ore."-"Half-eaten?"-" Yes, I supposed its meal was interrupted by something?"
Osial bounced back. "As you already know, geo dragons eat rocks and inspecting this rock. This is cor lapis ore, correct?"
"That..is true."-"Then that means the dragon we looking for is here after all." Azhdaha said.
Osial continued. " So? What are we going to do now? Princey?"-"We have the evidence to show that Rex Lapis is living here
"The queen."-"The queen?."
"Yes, the queen. We should report it to the queen before anything else. If we didn't, then if someone gets the gnosis before us, they would take all the credits, no?" Osial hmmed at that.
"Isn't that a bit excessive? I mean..."Osial trailed.
"And I could get you that skin pouch on the way," Azhdaha said.
"Deal." Osial coughed." I mean."
"You could be onto something, I guess. But how are we going to get to the queen?"
"If we announce our reasoning, I'm sure the queen wouldn't mind seeing us. After all, the entire reason why she retired is because of that very important gnosis, isn't it?. And don't worry she will listen to me. If not, the guard will."
"Ahhhh." Osial paused, then started to move ahead." Right, forgot that you the queen step-son." Osial started to walk faster."Then what are you waiting for, c'mon! Let's get going," Osial said.
The sun is high up today. Wave and wave of fluffy white clouds soaring through the blue sky. The bustling of the people at the market. The sound of merchants calling out to their favorite customers for good fish and crops, dried meat, for new books and toys, for good wine, for expensive trinkets from all around Teyvat. Traders come from all different places gather here in the morning for their businesses.
The sound of children laughing and shouting spread through the entire market. People are loading their cargo onto the stall. Cows and pigs are guided into cages. No matter where you go, you can find at least one big sale deal! 'This is too crowded.' Xiao thought as he turned his attention to Zhongli.
"So what you are saying is that these cor lapis colours are from natural impacts only?"
"Yes, I kept these good ones for you, Mr.Zhongli."
"Zhongli-daren. We are running out of time. Let's go. You can go buy them later." Xiao nagged. Now in their human disguises wearing hoods, they are heading to the Zapolyarny Palace. Ah...right. The Tsaritsa.
Zhongli turned his head to the merchant." My apologies. I am not in time for purchasing your fine gems right now. Thank you for your offers, Ms. Changsun. I must leave now. Have a good day."
"No worries, guess I'll just sell these to someone else." The merchant said in a disappointed tone.
" Zhongli-daren! Xiao!" Ganyu ran toward them.
" Ganyu?" Xiao replied.
"I gave the permissions to the guards. We can go see the queen now." Ganyu said.
"Right, thank you, Ganyu. Let's us go, then."
The garden was quiet. The sound of the waterfall splash down into the large fountain. The queen does have an exquisite taste in gardening. Silk flowers and Qingxins, indeed refined. The woman who is donning a royal gown of red and black. Who is sitting at the table usually uses to host fancy tea parties. Sadly today, there won't be a party. A knock on the gates turned the emotionless expression on the woman's face into an icy smile.
"Your Majesty, your guests have arrived." The guard announced.
"Let them in."
"Yes, Your Majesty."
The woman took one last sip of the tea she was drinking. Before, the gates opened up again, and this time.
"Tsaritsa." Called by a deep voice.
" What a surprise, Morax" The Tsaritsa sat up. " It's good to see you, old friend."
"You should have told me sooner than at the last minutes, you know. I could have prepared. Who knew that Morax would come crawling at my doorstep."
Morax took a few steps inside. Trailing behind him is a young blue-haired woman with horns that have red patterns also wearing a cloak. A qilin, perhaps?. And inside the garden, there is an unwelcoming tense from somewhere. As if it is tearing a hole in her skull. 'Ahh.....yes, of course.' ' It's that adeptus.'
" I am here not to converse with you," Morax spoke.
"Hmm...How sad. I was going to offer you some of my snezhnaya-imported fine tea." The qilin woman seems to be glaring at her as well.
Morax spoke calmly." I have heard of a sudden claim. That you are looking to kill me, yes?" Morax's face turned from a stoic to a more serious expression.
"How cruel, Morax. After so much that I have given you. Yet, you still don't understand?". At that, The Tsaritsa giggle maniacally." Oh! naive Morax. After living for so long, have your brain cease to function and finally return to 'dust'?"
Morax tensed at that.
" I supposed that what the saying goes.' What-alike do alike'. Guizhong wouldn't even recognize you now, Morax. You are too pathetic, too dusty. You have grown too soft and mushy, which that became nothing but dirty mud under my foot."The Tsaritsa smirked. She clasped her hand together in a mocking gesture.
"Don't you dare slander the name of Rex Lapis like that!" The qilin retorted. The Tsaritsa ignored her words.
"You who lives in a forest and does nothing all day but frolicking with birds and flowers. I could have excused it, but for a god to fall so low. You are disgraceful. Your power is now nothing but memories of the earth. That adeptus you took under your wings showed me just how incredibly disgusting you are to play with such a monstrosity of a creature left behind by another god. Your days in Celestia are bygone now, Morax. Your friend and their gnosis all belong to me. Even those who dare to fight failed. This isn't a game, Morax. I have given you enough time to prove yourself. After all, you're always has been the oldest and wisest of us all. But I can't even consider you as an equal now."
"Mountains will someday fall." " That fateful day of yours is today, my dear friend. Your hiding game is inevitable to fail. You are different now, Morax. One who does not deserve the title of a once-powerful god of warriors. And as a queen, my job is to eliminate those who are useless to me."
"I hope you would understand the pressures that are being put on me, Morax."
Morax stood still through the entire speech without lifting even a finger. His face stern. His body tense. His eyes are sharp and calm.
The Tsaritsa extended her arm with open palm toward the still man.
"What do you say, old friend?" "Accept your fate, and gave the gnosis to me. I promised to be gentle."
Morax stood there unmoving. Face as hard as bedrock
The old god squinted his brows. " Our contract did not state such trade."
And that's when the queen broke. She started to laugh manically in Morax's face. " Oh! HAHAHAHAHA........" " You're a clown. A clown!
just like that idiot Barbatos, who failed to protect even his own gnosis, just pathetic." At that, earning a growling sound from certain adeptus.
"I can't believe you are the one I used to look up to, Morax. How ridiculous!" " But don't worry, I will make sure they bury your rotting corpse near Guizhong. That the least I can do, yes?" The queen said in a disgusting mocking tone.
"You!-" The qilin argued before it was interrupted.
A knock on the gate. All attention went straight to it.
A guard enter. He looks rather nervous and won't stop fidgeting. "Ahhh...Your Majesty, you other guests are here. Should I bring them in?" The guard bowed and asked.
The Tsaritsa sighed. "How dare you interrupted me. Can't you see we are busy negotiating here?" The Tsaritsa turn to glare at Morax and the qilin woman." Isn't that right, my dear friend?"
The guard fidgeted some more."Of course, I don't want to bother you, my queen. But they are very persistent. And I-"
" YOUR MAJESTY!!"
Coming from the outside. The shout was soon followed by two tall grown men busting down the garden gate, one of the men has long blue hair, navy eyes, wearing hunter attire, and skinnier than the other one. The other has glasses and seems to be wearing quite noble clothing, with messy dark brown hair mixed with goldenrod yellow-ish colours. Ahh right, it's her late husband's offspring. What his name again? Ash? Azh. Azhdaha.
"What is this indecency?!" The queen shouted. Those men scrunched up before explaining." My queen, we are informed that your meeting with us is at this hours as we discussed yesterday. There couldn't be any reason more important than the location of the gnosis after all." Azhdaha coughed mid-sentence, sweat pouring from his face like an ice cream stick melting on a hot summer day.
" We would be sorry to interrupt your tea party, but this is very urgent." Azhdaha finished. The Tsaritsa look at him with a bemused face. " Really? That idle chatter that we made does not mean you can crash into MY palace and disturb MY party. "
Osial plead. " Yes, but Rex Lapis is gone! We came to check on the scene this morning and all traces were gone. We thought he has figured that we would come again to get him!"
The Tsaritsa turn amused." Oh? Well, what a surprising coincidence! It seems that the person you were rambling on about is also here." The Tsaritsa turned her face and glared at the figure in the hood.
"Here?" Azhdaha asked. Turn to the mysterious figure standing still in the middle of the room, the person with a white hood covering their head. They turned around and-
"Mr.Zhongli?!" Osial shocked voice echo in the garden." Mr.Zhongli! You are Rex Lapis?!"
"Ahh, it's good to see you, two gentlemen, again, but sadly, I can not converse with you today. " Morax said in a stern voice.
" Now who is tricking who, Morax. I didn't know you would deceive people as such."-" Now!, hand over the gnosis, Morax. Resistance is useless."
Morax now surrounded Azhdaha, Osial, and the queen herself. The menacing smile on The Tsaritsa's face known full well that he could never hurt those humans. Suddenly a strong wisp of wind surged through, blew all the flowers in the garden, a dark figure instantly knocked down Azhdaha and Osial.
"Agh!" Osial yelped before falling on his back.
" Don't you dare lay finger on him, you witch!" The green adeptus shouted.
"Xiao," Morax said
"Sorry, Zhongli-daren. I can't watch them push you into a corner like this." Xiao now replied.
" Haven't you commit enough karma for your lifetime, little adeptus. I see you haven't learned a thing under Morax's guidance, for you to be so rude to your own lord's friends."
"You better shut that dam hole! Before I rip it off your face." Xiao pointed his spear against the face of the queen.
"Language! Xiao." Morax said." Sorry, my lord."
"You think that only you have pets, Morax?" The queen's smile faded before she turned to her 'dear' stepson. "You wanted the throne, don't you? then get him."
Azhdaha was shocked at the request of the queen. " I-" His eyes went wide, and a disgusted look on his face.
"What is it? Aren't you the son that I love so dearly? Make me proud, then. Claim the throne as yours." The queen said.
" You can't-, my queen." Azhdaha stuttered. Osial watched him in confusion, not knowing what to do. Osial never heard of someone who the queen loved dearly, and if there is someone, they are probably the queen herself.
"My queen, I w-" Before he could finish. "Stop this nonsense, Tsaritsa."
It was Morax.
" Your selfishness has truly lead you into delusion. You're hungry for power as much as a mortal would to a god. What little left of you is no divine, Tsaritsa. You are more than corrupted." Morax said.
" If you truly wish for a fight, then I shall give you one."
Tsaritsa giggle in her usual devilish tone. " I see. I will accept your request, then. A battle with you would be a fun distraction from my work. After all, beating the warrior god would be pretty enticing, don't you think so, Morax?"
Morax replied." A title meant nothing until you have proven yourself that you are worth it."
"Humbleness and arrogance don't mix well, Morax. Especially with you."
The Tsaritsa laughed before sending waves of cryo attack toward Morax, striking the god.
The shield was about to break before sending Zhongli tumbled backward. He hasn't fought ever since the archon war ended. The Tsaritsa was right about one thing is that he is dusty. He can barely catch up with the rhythm of the battle. Being near the humans wasn't helping, either.
Xiao felt like he is about to combust. Seeing his lord fighting without helping him is so frustrating. The handle on his spear was going to break with how much force he is using to hold it right now. His eyes glued to the scene, making sure his lord is ok. He can't believe this. His lord has specifically asked him not to intervene. But how can't he not! His lord is practically being beaten by that monster of a god.
Ganyu can't seem to find any words to describe the strange occurrence that is currently happening. Xiao and the two humans were so focus on watching the fight between the two gods. She caught glimpses of the two humans babble with each other about something. Xiao is silently ripping his throat out with how much internal screaming he is doing.
The hand on her elbow grips tighter. She didn't even realize that she was gripping it in the first place. Rex Lapis may be the god of warriors, his ways of fighting are suited for the battlefield, unyielding, unexpected, and his ways of fighting are so powerful yet performed with so much grace and elegance. It's almost like he is dancing with his spear.
Ganyu is not biased whatsoever. However, she can tell that this is not a type of fight that would serve Zhongli the upper hand. It feels so unfair somehow. Zhongli hasn't fought in a long time, he said that violence shouldn't be an answer, and after the war, he has given up on fighting entirely. Remains to be peaceful with nature and humans. He said that it is simply the qilin part inside of him.
The sound of the spear hit the ground 'clanks'. Xiao's eyes widen witnessing his lord fell to the brick tiles. Without a blink of an eye, he teleported right in front of Zhongli, shielding him with his spear.
" Xiao." His lord breathed.
" Are you letting your subordinate protecting you, Morax?"-" How sad. Though I still have a job to finish." The Tsaritsa let out a deep grunt before striking down with a blast of ice. Xiao sent the anemo energy mixed with the cryo to create a blizzard freezing the garden. Ganyu manipulated the ice storm to cool down before it hit all of them. In the process, making the ground that they are standing on entirely iced. The garden they were standing before, right now, is nothing but a floor of ice.
Zhongli moved to grab Xiao's shoulders. " This is the contract between me and The Tsaritsa, please let me handle this, Xiao."
Xiao wrinkled his eyebrows. " My lord, I can't let you do this. You are far too weak right now." Xiao retorted before picking up his spear. " Please let me handle this, Zhongli."
Zhongli stared at him. " So what? Are you not going to put up with your end of the contract, Morax? I never would have thought the upholder of the contract would go against his words." The Tsaritsa mocked.
" I-" Zhongli's face finally showed some emotions. They all scrunch up, and it looks like Zhongli is in a lot of pain.
At that Ganyu said. " You also have not upheld your promise to Rex Lapis, about leaving the forest alone!" Ganyu argued.
The Tsaritsa laughed. " Is that so? The last time I checked that this land belongs solely to me!" The queen sent a crash of ice spike toward them.
Before Zhongli could react, Xiao carried him out of the way by teleporting. But unfortunately, The Tsaritsa quickly summoned cryo knives that dropped from the ceilings onto their heads.
Ganyu reacted faster than she has ever before, running to cover Xiao, blocking the attacks by creating a qilin out of ice to deal with all the damage.
" Look at you, shivering in the corner. What? Has the cold get to you yet?" The queen glared at them with her devilish grin. " If not, then get ready for I'll show what a real god can do." The Tsaritsa stomped her heel to the ground of ice. The ground started to shake violently, ice fragments started to break apart, those that were under their feet were breaking as well, revealing that they been standing on the deep hole of the water source coming from the fountain of the garden before they know it-
Screams were coming from them. They fell headfirst into the deep tunnel, surrounded by water, the shaking was so violent that Xiao couldn't teleport before he passed out completely along with Ganyu and Zhongli.
Their fall seems to have alerted the queen. The queen surprised expression said it all. Osial and Azhdaha can only hold on to each other for dear life. Then when the ground has stopped shaking.
Azhdaha realized that Osial been holding on to him. Very tight might he added. " um...Osial?" Osial quickly drew himself from Azhdaha, promptly spoke." Uh..uh yea?"
They withdrew from their awkwardness to turn their attention to the queen. There footsteps coming from outside, and it seems that the guards have caught up to their mess. The queen turned her head, looking to the gates and then to Azhdaha.
A tight grip on Azhdaha's neck before he realized it, the queen was talking to him. " You. Go and get that dragon heart." It was a simple request, yet it still felt like a thousand weights have been put on him all of a sudden. The queen turned around.
With a fake smile on her face, she dismissed the alert that the guards have. She told them that it was ok. Then turned to him and Osial. " And don't disappoint me this time." She was up and gone before he knew it.
Osial wide eyes would indicate the horrible things that they went through today. " Welp, shit."
Azhdaha took a deep breath before turning to Osial. " We have to go and get that gnosis."- "Woah! Woah! hey now. Since when are 'we'." Osial made a gesture toward himself and Azhdaha.
" Well, if you haven't suggested that we bust into the meeting, then it probably wouldn't involve us in the first place. Secondly, I can't do this alone, so you are coming with me. "
"You- Ugh! fine," Osial said grumpily.
It was all white. There so a buzz that won't stop ringing in his ear. The foggy image of something. He can't tell. He was falling a second earlier. Has he died? Where Ganyu and Xiao? His body tingling, but his fingertips feel like they have been through electro waves. Has The Tsaritsa won? He....
He remembered ice-cold feelings and hearing screams coming from his friends. He-
He can hear again now. But there are so many sounds he doesn't know what he is hearing. Sounds that can only be described as 'honk' and 'beep'?
He opened his eyes. His body is currently laying somewhere cold. This....this place is....not Teyvat. Sounds are coming from the flooding of black and grey, sometimes red colours that he sees, his vision...so blurry.
"Ugh......Zhongli-daren...?" Asked tiredly, a voice close to him. Is that Ganyu?- "Ga...Ganyu?..."
"..I can't see...." The voice 'Ganyu' said.
"..Me either..." Another voice, probably 'Xiao' said.
After a few minutes of them recollecting their senses. Xiao finally sat up, leaning against a brick wall. " Ugh...What happened to us?" He said out of breath.
" This place doesn't look like any regions of Teyvat," Ganyu replied.
What Ganyu said was right. The place they ended up in is so much more different than Teyvat. As if they have transported themself to another world. This place is noisy and bustling with things. Tall blue and grey towers emerged from the ground reaching the sky. There were sounds of people walking by them without batting them a look. The fashion of the people in this world is also very strange and different from their attires.
Xiao sighed. " My headache..." Scratching the back of his head. Xiao looked up at Zhongli.
" Zhongli-daren, you alright?" Xiao asked
That caught Zhongli off guard. " It seems..... that I have been fairly injured in some places......" Zhongli said in a timid voice as if he too shy to admit it.
Zhongli's body has given out. Bruises and broken bones from the war have been way worse. But Zhongli can't help but grunt in pain as his magical adepti healing do the work. Why wasn't it working? He usually heals very quickly. The aching of his body is still there, and it is only getting worse.
A voice called out. " HEY!" It was a man dressed weirdly in a green shirt and pants? He has a name written on a card on his chest. He seems to be angry at them.
" Who are you, people? And why are you sitting in this alleyway, this belongs to our cafe. Please go away. You guys are scaring the guests." The man said.
" Ah yes, we did not realize this was your property, good sir. We will leave right away." Ganyu responded nicely to the man. If it was Xiao, he was seriously going knock some senses into that man's head.
" Fucking weird cosplayers..." He murmured as he walked away into the door and closed it behind his back. Xiao sighed. " It seems that the people here are not so friendly. We should keep an eye out on them."
"C'mon. let's get going then," Ganyu said while holding out a hand for Zhongli to grab. Xiao also stood up. Though still a bit dizzy. Zhongli's head is spinning. Ganyu is trying to walks still.
The trio walked right out of the alleyway into the street and was immediately greeted by a large iron box with wheels.
"What the heck!?! Watch where you are going!!" The man inside the box angrily yelled. Seeing that, Xiao kicked the head of the weird vehicle thingy. Xiao, who already can't hold back his frustration any longer, lashed out. " You better watch your words, human!" As Xiao brought out his spear to point at the thing." Or I can slice your throat off, you dickhead!"
The man exited the vehicle and bickered at Xiao. " Hey! what did you just called me? And stop pointing that thing at me!" The man doesn't seem to be threatened by the spear that is pointing at him.
" I said you step back, you orange mop head!"
"Xiao" Ganyu tried to stop him.
" You are getting in my way first! you short gremlin. " The redhead sighed and continued." Do you want me to call the cops on you?!"
The sounds were too much for Zhongli. His body isn't in the best state, and his vision hasn't fully recovered yet. All the yellings were making his head spin. He just wished it to stop. But it kept going and going. His legs started to feel weak, his joint almost knitted together.
His hands are trembling non-stop.
And then Zhongli collapsed on top of the vehicle. ' Zhongli-daren!!' was all that he could hear before passing out completely. He hoped Xiao and Ganyu forgave him for being so selfish. For leaving them behind to deal with all these troubles. But he couldn't hold on to it much longer.
The darkness enveloped him, and he felt safe again. Maybe this could be his break before he woke up again and having to face with whatever this new crazy world has to throw on him.
But for now, he closed his eyes and hoped for everything to turned out okay.
Chapter 2: Mall Shenanigans
Childe is trying to have a good summer with his siblings, but a bunch of people stepped in their life and changed the plan entirely.
The sound of the alarm awaked Childe from his sleep. His eyes half-lidded, his mouth dry from all the drooling he been doing all night. His brain still hasn't functioned at this time of the day yet. But his own body knows what to do without orders, for he does the same routine every single day.
Today is a normal day. This day is like yesterday, like every other day of the year. It is going to fine and dandy. He just going to wash, eat then go to work and try to deal with his colleague's shenanigans, and then he can go home turned on his favorite TV show while binging some snacks.
Yet Childe couldn't shake off this uneasy feeling of his. This kind of feeling always signals something bad that happened. Could it be that he got too drunk last night and did something? Could it be that Scaramouche stole something from him when he was high on alcohol? His memory was still recovering from yesterday. He tried to jog his head a few times, but it didn't seem to work. Childe hoped that he hasn't forgotten anything important about today.
Slowly, Childe sat up in his bed, reflecting yesterday's bad decisions isn't the best way to start the day out. He thought as he stood up and rubbed his eyes a few times. Childe took a slow walk to the bathroom, his legs each slowly limping to the sink. He picked the tube of toothpaste and started to apply it onto his toothbrush.
He stared at the image reflecting himself in the mirror while brushing his teeth. And then his memory hit him. "BLURGGHHHH." He aggressively spat the toothpaste out as a restrained water fountain would. The water hit his face harshly, and his eyes opened wide as they could. Childe's face is an expression of remorse. How could he possibly forget this? What a stupid dumb-dumb man was!
Today was Anthon, Tonia, and Teucer's visiting day.
They were supposed to meet him at the airport with his parents! Teucer and Tonia usually visit him a lot during their summer vacation. However, this year, there will be Anthon joined. Since he is not in summer school this year.
'What time is it!?' Childe thought. Childe made a quick dash to the clock on his bedroom dresser. '8:34' He is not late. Not yet. Childe could make it on time if he were driving there now.
Childe, in the speed of light, put on his trousers and a shirt. He grabbed his key and frantically dashed out of the door.
'Fuck, fuck fuck fuck'.Childe's thought repeated itself over and over as he made his way downstairs. 'As he ran to the elevator, ' Out of service.' The sign said. 'Damn it!' Childe made quick steps to the stairs after that.
His parent was going to kill him, and cremated him for archon sake! Childe checked his watch.' 3 minutes late. it alright, it alright. I can make it.' He said to assured himself.
God, why was he so drunk last night? He vaguely remembered someone got a taxi for him. He didn't drink that much, did he? It definitely because of Dottore's fault and not his.
If only that mother fucker Dottore hasn't asked him out to drink and then said that he would 'pay' for it! Childe swears on his name that he is going to punch that bitch in the face once he met him again. He will make sure that Dottore's face is so fucked up that he couldn't drink any beverages anymore. And when his parents slice him up for it, he will make sure Dottore gets a part as well.
It might even be good business for that director girl who kept giving out her funeral service bonus sale at the office. She would love to hear what Childe has conducted up in his mind. He might even buy an extra one for Scaramouche for all the shit he put on him! And as she called it, 'A wonderful gift for those who are facing a dead-end.'
He will make note of that.
The journey of traveling from his apartment on the top floor of the complex he is currently living in. To the garage was a long and difficult one. But when he finally got to the car, he checked his watch again ' 10 minutes isn't too bad...Is it?'. He thought as he started the engine.
'Ugh! Why is morning traffic always so bad." He swore to archon if he sees another car trying to hustle with him. Childe is going to snap on whatever kind of adrenaline he is on. And he hasn't even had his morning coffee yet. That damn bastard Dottore is going to pay for this. He is going to put a ton of salt in the coffee when he delivered it to that damn fuck-face. Childe just hoped that this traffic started to loosen up soon.
When the traffic is finally starting to move again, and he breathed out a large sigh. Childe checked his watch the third time. ' 25 minutes whole.' He is going through all stages of grief right now.
This isn't about his parents anymore. He knows his parents could be very busy. What if Teucer, Tonia, and Anthon were left there alone then? He would be a horrible brother! His siblings matter to him more than anything. What will this affect his image upon his young and impressionable siblings?! That you have to be unorganized and an alcoholic when you grow up?!
God, he hoped not.
Teucer is his little sunshine and the happy gem of a smile in his life. He even made Mr. Cyclops just for him! To keep him happy and safe. Teucer valued that toy like treasure. He always holds it with him everywhere he goes. It was nice to hear until he received a phone call from his parents stating that he was taking it to the bathroom and sneaking it to school.
Tonia is his little princess, his cheery and strong little sister. Tonia always is caring and sensitive to details. He and Tonia casually exchanging letters all the time. She isn't old enough to own a phone to text yet. But he did promise to buy her a phone sometime this year because the letters thing were cute, but it was starting to get a bit inconvenient. He sometimes busy with work and doesn't have time to read letters. And Tonia said it difficult to go and asked for mom phone every time she wants to talk with him.
And Anthon is his sweet and timid brother. Anthon is a very studious kid, and whenever it's his birthday, the only thing he asked him to gift him is books. Books about natural science, astrology, history, cooking,....., He doesn't even know why Anthon would want a compilation of famous musicians' life in the 90s in a book, regardless Anthon was joyous when he gave him that.
He felt a rush of blood drifting through his veins, some kind of adrenaline boost in his body. Thinking about his siblings must have given him some newfound strength. So he sped up. His focus is purely on the road. The road only, it is moving faster than ever, the image in his mind. All he sees is the colours of the street. He sure he could hear some people yelled at him for almost crashing into them.
It took him by surprise when a bunch of moving colors moving into his view. And so he panicked and in instinct, instantly pushed the brakes of the car.
Faster than the car reacted itself. The sound of wheels screeching on the asphalt concrete. Childe heartbeats are going crazy by this point. Times seem to stop for a moment. His heart jumped at the sight and held on tight to his seat.
And then the car stopped.
Childe quickly checks again through his windows. His vision now no longer blurry. People. It was not colours that he saw. It was a bunch of people. Three specifically. One with green hair, one with blue hair, and the other with brown hair? Childe can't tell, it looked like an ombre or something, but he doesn't care. They are all wearing hanfu with weird attachments. Two of them are holding spears? And the other one is holding a bow. Are they cosplayers or something? Is there an anime con here that he doesn't know?
"What the heck!?! Watch where you are going!!" He yelled in irritation.
The green one snapped back at him. " You better watch your words, human!"
They sure are playing their role well, if that is being absolutely ruthless. The green one is now pointing the stick-thingy directly at Childe's face. Is that made plastic? It looked pretty high effort for a costume, and the stick he is holding to look like a spear.
" Or I can slice your throat off, you dickhead!" He threatened. But his breath seems cut and almost like he is really exhausted. He seems to be quite beaten up too.
What is a little guy like that going to do to him? Childe maybe looked cute and charming all, but these muscles don't just build by themselves! He sure he can take on that dude or at least ten dudes like that with ease. He took on a bigger dude before, Ekaterina wasn't happy, but at least he won! This short little cheese-eater isn't going to scratch him a bit!
" Hey! what did you just called me? And stop pointing that thing at me!" Childe argued at him. Childe is trying his best to be civil right now. He doesn't want to draw things out by a fight because that would only be wasting his time. Childe is trying, but these idiots are standing in his way of getting his siblings!
" I said you step back, you orange mop head!" His head was not a mop! His hair colours are naturally bright, for your information. Saved for that two lighter strands of hair, Signora said it was for a fashion trend. "Xiao." The blue-haired one said, holding the guy back.
" You are getting in my way first! you short gremlin. " Childe snapped back at him. He looked at his watch one last time. ' 48 minutes late...' That brought a bemused expression onto Childe's face.
" Ugh! Do you want me to call the cops on you?!" Childe snapped back. " I don't have time for this! You and your weird cosplaying friends get out of my way! Or else!" He threatened the weird guy.
The guy seems to be taken back as he gasped and started to retort. " You human! Man-thing! How could you say to the face of Rex Lapi-...."
His hearing fazed out after that. He does not need to hear this guy rants or his status about being an 'adeptus' or whatever he is talking about right now.
His siblings, his dear precious, siblings are waiting for him at the airport, and yet he got stuck with these troublesome people. Tonia might have cried at some point. At least Teucer has Mr. Cyclops, and Anthon must be so scared and confused, and it's his first time visiting! What kind of horrible big brother is just going to leave his siblings like that at the airport?!?
Nothing is more important than his siblings. How could anything rival them in this situation right now? Why does he need to argue with these rock heads again? He should just leave and go. He really should.
That what he thought until a man-body was practically fell 'thunk' unconscious on the top of his car, the said man's limps go numb, and his dull eyes closed. As the two others yelled out in remorse. " Zhongli-daren!!"
Childe knew this was going to be a long day. But little did he know that this isn't going to be as he expected.
The sound of the fan is blowing in the busy office. The smell of medical cleanliness enveloped the room. As people go in and out of their respective doors. Doctors are talking with their subordinates. There are frequent announcements on the speaker. Childe looked around as he returned his attention to what the nurse has to say.
" Patient name?" The nurse asked him, holding a paper clipboard.
"Uh...ugh." Looking back at the pair babbling behind him.
They haven't stopped talking with each other since they arrived here. When they were in the car, the pair were basically leeching onto the unconscious man. It was as if they were protecting him from any danger. Even Childe couldn't even see his face with how much they were wrapping around his body.
Childe sighed and answered. " Umm...Zhongli. Yes, his name is Zhongli." Finding himself unsure of the name as well. Childe has only heard it once, but somehow it remained inside of his head.
The nurse seems to be searching through files of patients. "Hmm...Sorry, I am not very good with names. But I am sure that there was no patient named 'Zhongli' here before. I suppose he is just new to our hospital."
" What about his injuries?" The green gremlins asked, stepping in the way of Childe and the nurse. " Is it healable?" The blue girl asked.
"Heal? Well, he IS going to heal eventually. He has some pretty bad bruises and cuts, but it is not something too dangerous. It seems that he suffered from hypothermia and heat shock. He also has a slight fever." The nurse stared at them. " Although you two seem to require to check up too."
The nurse was not entirely wrong. Childe looked at the pair. The green-hair guy is looking a little dazed, not to mention he has a nosebleed with scratches on his abdomen area. The blue girl has purples on her knees and arms.
"What are you talking about?" The green one said. Face puzzling.
"I see that you and your friends are all in very bad condition right now. That girl there looks like she just fought in a wrestler match. And you look awfully sick as well." The nurse continued to recommend. " Maybe you two should come with me."
The pair looked at each other and whispered something." Fine..." Childe heard something come from the green guy. And then, they nodded and obediently followed the nurse.
As they walked away, Childe breathed out a sigh. 'Well, now that this is settled.' Childe checked his watch ' 1h 30' late.' Childe wasn't going to give up there. After leaving the hospital. He immediately jumped in his car and drive as fast as he could to the airport.
"Big brother!!" The sound of Teucer happily greeted Childe. Tonia turned her attention to him as well as he ran toward them.
" Teucer! Tonia!" Childe yelled. His arms opened wide, and then he scooped both of them into a big tight family hug. Teucer and Tonia buried their face in his arms. Tonia smiled. " You're here! You're here! Brother Anthon has been pretty mad at you for being so late to get us..., but it's okay, I was mad too before you came."
"Pshh! Liar! You were crying so hard because you were scared!" Teucer knocked in.
"You cried too!!" Tonia retorted at Teucer.
"Ahh, speaking of him? Where is Anthon?" Childe asked. Tonia pointed at the nearby benches. There it sat one lonely boy, facing the other side. Anthon must be pretty angry at Childe for him to be like that.
Childe approached him gently and said in a soft tone. " Anthon...I'm sorry that I didn't get here sooner. It just that umm...well." How does he say that again? Maybe he can just use the usual excuse.
" It's...It's business, it's about my job. I couldn't miss out on them. I'm so sorry." Tapping lightly on Anthon's shoulder to alert him.
The boy still not facing his way. " Hey...Buddy?" Childe coughed. And then suddenly, Teucer jumped in.
"Brother Anthon! Brother! Look! it's Mr. Cyclops!" He said as he raised his hand out, holding the toy figure. Teucer grin and said. " Doesn't Mr. Cyclops always cheer you up!" Teucer wiggled the figure around as its limps are jumping all sorts of places.
Then, finally, Anthon turned around and said. " Mr. Cyclops only fun when brother Ajax played with it....., But brother Ajax broke a promise, I don't want to play with it anymore....."
"BOooo! Brother Ajax made Anthon cried!! Brother Ajax will pay!" Tonia whined as she hit and tugged on his shirt. " Hey! Hey! I didn't want to be late!" Childe sighed and said." Anthon, I know how important that is a promise to you and our family. And I have broken our promise. As so, you should punish me! Any favor you want! I will do it for you!" Anthon seems to lighten up at that. " Only one favor?"
"Um...Well, any favors! More than one, until you are no longer mad at me anymore." Anthon sniffled and said. " You have a great debt to pay, brother Ajax." and then he gave him a small smile.
" Anything for my little siblings! Your brother didn't work in the Fatui Corporation for nothing! I have enough money to buy you guys all of the toys in the world if you want!" Childe confidently claimed.
"Hehe! Good job, brother Anthon. We can have all the new toys now!" Teucer cheerfully said. Tonia knocked his head. " Hey! That debt is from brother Ajax to brother Anthon. You can't make a wish for him!" Tonia retorted.
"Hahaha...Alright, in the means time let's get you guys home first, ok? You guys can discuss what you want with each other later. Are you hungry, Teucer?" Childe said.
" I'm not hungry at all! Sister Tonia gave me all of her treats before you came. I ate it all!" Teucer answered.
" Oh really? I was thinking about bringing you guys to eat at someplace really nice and have really good food." Childe said. At that, Tonia gasped. " Really? Yay! I always wanted to try the city cuisines! Are we going to a restaurant?"
" Yea., sort of,...I already made the reservation! You guys would love the place! My friend also worked there tonight." Childe said. Teucer clapped his hands. " Yay! Brother Ajax is the best!"
" We get to meet your friend? Ohhhhhhh, Is it your girlfriend? Do you have a girlfriend yet, brother Ajax? I want to know! Mother and father have been asking about it too." Tonia jumped up and down, holding her head in her hand and grinning non-stop.
"Hahaha, wait, they were asking about it?" Childe asked. Tonia nodded. " Yea, brother Ajax! You've been single for too long! Mom and dad say it's time to find someone. They complained to me, you know." Tonia folded her arms and pouted.
"To-..to you?" Childe stuttered. 'Did everyone at home actually said that?'. "Yea! So they send me on a mission as well!" Tonia happily said. " A mission?!"-" Yea! I'm going to be your matchmaker! Hmph! Don't you underestimated me! With me on your side, all the ladies will fall for you! Don't worry, brother Ajax, Tonia is here to save the day!"
"Tonia, I don't think I need a matchmaker. Besides, your brother is already a charmer to all the ladies." Tonia looked at him weirdly at that. " I don't believe you, if that was true, then why don't you have a girlfriend by now?"
"I just not into finding anyone right now, ok? Now, c'mon Teucer and Anthon must be tired. Let's go home and get you guys washed." Childe said.
" Ok! The last one who gets to the car is a rotten egg!" Teucer said before running ahead of them. " Hey!" Tonia ran behind him.
" C'mon Anthon! We can't lose to them!" Childe said. Anthon nodded and started to follow him to the car.
It was all black. Then, suddenly it was white. Everything was so blurry that he couldn't make out what was happening. The sound of Xiao and Ganyu talking, a feeling of being carried somewhere. Where were they going?
The sound of arguing and rustling, and at a moment's notice, he was somewhere else. The warm feeling wasn't there anymore, replace with a hard and cold surface, one that he is currently laying on. What was happening? Someone was touching him and doing something to him, but he can't tell. He laid unbothered, letting them do what they want. He is too tired, too stressed out to care.
What they were doing was surprisingly good, he felt relaxing, and his body is healing again. In his mind, all he could think of is how Xiao and Ganyu must be very worried about him. Zhongli knows that they would be alright, they are strong enough on their own, but he can't help but rely on them on so many things that he felt shameful. So shameful. The least he can do is to be there for them, yet he is now laying here as just a body. He never felt so helpless before.
His consciousness is coming back, it seems. Zhongli could sense it. His mind finally returned to his body once more. His eyes lids were heavy as he tried to stir himself up.
As he opened his eyes, he was greeted by the bright light of the room. This room..., It's strange. It is a lot different from those rooms they have in Teyvat. Where was he? Zhongli sat upright and leaned against the headboard of the bed. He sighed and looked around the room.
On the right of him were windows. Next to him, there was a dresser with a flower vase on it. The bed...he is sitting on is very stiff, a lot harder than the softness of the nest in his cave. Everything was white. He wondered why that is?
The door opened then Zhongli turned his attention to it. " Ah, you are awake now?" The person asked him.
"Ah yes. May I asked where am I?". Zhongli responded. " Ah, that. You are in the City General Hospital. You passed out in the middle of the street. You have a slight fever and also experienced hypothermia and heat shock. You must have felt really tired, but I do have some forms for you to file, and your friends are in really bad shape, as well." She said.
" Xiao? Ganyu? Are they alright?!" Zhongli panicked and grabbed onto the woman's arm. "Do not worry, mister. They are still healthy, just some injuries here and there. They are getting treatments in a different room." The woman reassured him. Zhongli's shoulders droop at that. He glad that Ganyu and Xiao were ok and are being treated.
"Oh, alright. I'm very sorry for grabbing you." Zhongli let go of her arm. The woman laughed whole-heartedly." It's okay. A lot of patients when they woke up, do that as well." The woman gave him some paper. Zhongli looked at the words that were written on the papers.
He didn't realize what languages this is? Is this Liyuen? Inazumese? Snezhnayan, even? No, this is very different. Zhongli despises living 6000 years' worth of life and is able to read and write all of the languages that are in Teyvat, Zhongli couldn't understand a single word on this piece of paper that the woman handed to him. He felt like a young god again, as if it was his first days picking up a brush to practice calligraphy on rag paper.
Zhongli coughed and responded to the woman.
"Um...Sorry but I do not understand the contents of the paper." Zhongli gave the piles of forms back to the woman. She stared at him and asked. " Oh? You can't read? Are you a foreigner?"
"Yes.....I supposed you could say that." He said.
" I guess so. I didn't mean to be rude. It just that I looked through files and couldn't find anyone your name before here, and I figure that you just moved here?" The woman reassured him.
"Yes, I am..., new to this.....place," Zhongli replied. It was true that he was indeed 'move' here by accident.
"That's nice. I hoped your experiences here are pleasant. Our city is big and expanded, so it would take a while for you to remember how to get around. But I think you would manage." The woman encouraged him. The woman seems to be very friendly and well-spoken. Zhongli was glad to see a human helping him and his friends in this predicament.
" Yes, thank you for your advice. It is much appreciated." Zhongli said and smiled at the woman.
"How about I ask you about your information, and I will file this for you?" The woman offered."Yes, I would love it if you could do that. To not waste your time, my friends can't understand your language as well. I can provide the information you need for them as well." 'This is the least he can do for Ganyu and Xiao.' Zhongli thought.
"That would be great." The woman smiled and started writing as she asked Zhongli many things. Zhongli nodded and answered the woman's questions with his earnest ability.
Xiao was getting bandaged for his arms. The doctor told him to hold very still and relax his body. But how can he relax when everything is going terribly wrong.
First, they fought with The Tsaritsa and then got injured and sent to a different world. They almost got hit by a strange man with a weird accent, and he got into a fight with the said man. Then his lord fell unconscious to the ground. And now his lord is nowhere to be seen, and that orange-haired guy is gone, and Ganyu is now somewhere else.
That brought him back to reality, where he has finished his treatments and is standing in front of Ganyu healing room. His bandage is tight, and they keep giving medicines for him to drink as if he needs those. He's a warrior who has defeated countless monsters and slain thousands of demons before. He is not a weak human like they are. He folded his arms and leaned against the wall. Let out a sigh.
It has been a long day. It should be evening by now in his world. As a deity, time usually flows by a lot faster than you think. But in this world that they landed in, the time is so slow. It made him felt almost human with how little time has changed since they came here. It's only noon by now.
He used to stay awake days after days, nights after nights hunting demons and protecting the villages. He used to watch decades and decades pass by as if it was nothing. Human life is like a few minutes to him.
They are born and died so quickly, so soon. But standing right here, right now, he could practically feel the human around him. Not just standing from afar and watch them but feeling the life coming from them. Xiao can see and talk to them, watch them so closely and intimately.
Maybe all of those isolations were a bad idea, for he doesn't know how to talk to these humans like Zhongli or Ganyu does. Ganyu may be shy, but she isn't someone that people afraid or hate of but him. He isn't someone that humans as fragile as them trust. He doesn't know them and their intentions. Humans are unpredictable creatures, and that why a human can be both bad and good.
Xiao doesn't care about the human as much as protecting them. It was his duty, after all. Zhongli said that he is free of his duty when he has saved from his old master but did he? Has he done something? Unlike Zhongli, who was a god, who has won many wars and battles, he guided his people into peacefulness and is proud of what he created.
He lived for so long to realize that he has done all that he could do, now that he can retire. He gave the world orders and contracts, binding and shaping Teyvat into a land of fairness and justice.
But for Xiao, a deity who was created for one purpose, that is to kill. His sole purpose is to destroy and eliminate all of those that his master told him to. But his mission now is to defeat evils, but evils never rest, and they never stop. Evils and corruption will always be lurking around the corner.
Now, as the last yaksha. His only goal is to protect the people that his lord loved and cherished so much. Too much that as to give them his plot of land to live on and to grow on. This evilness grows like fungus, and as The Tsaritsa is the ruler of Teyvat. He can never be sure of the safeness of his home.
What if one day, he can no longer fight? Will there be those who will replace him? Will Teyvat able to survive for another thousand centuries? He doesn't know.
He wondered if one day, only if he lived long enough will he be able to....., meet that person again. Hear the melodies play by the harp of his delicate fingertips and hear his sweet voice once again. He who help Xiao countless of times, maybe his debt with that person isn't as granted as with his lord, but there something about that person that felt a lot more.....special to him.
"Xiao!" The sound of Ganyu's voice snapped him out of his thoughts. No, he was not daydreaming.
" Are you finished with the bruises?" Xiao asked. Ganyu got small bandages on some of her fingers, which must be from the ice qilin she summoned when she was blocking The Tsaritsa ice knives.
" Yes! I drank some medicine, and I feel a lot better now. How about you?" Ganyu said.
" Tsk, human medicines don't work on me. My adeptus power will heal on of itself. This is just simply a faster way to do it." Xiao answered.
"Hello." The nurse from earlier came into the conversation. "Your friend from this morning has awake."
"Zhongli-daren has awake?" Xiao asked.
" Can we go and see him?" Ganyu said.
" Yes, you can. We were making procedures to discharge him from the hospital. Come with me." The nurse instructed.
Xiao and Ganyu looked at each other, then both nodded. They followed the nurse to Zhongli's room.
Once they stepped into the room, they were greeted with the sight of Zhongli sitting up in bed and a nurse sitting beside him on a stool. Zhongli noticed them and looked up.
"Zhongli-daren," Ganyu called.
" Ah...Ganyu, Xiao. How are you two? I have heard from this lady that you two have been injured quite badly." Zhongli replied.
" Do not worry for us. You are the one that got injured the most." Xiao said. At that, Zhongli hummed. " It is not as serious as you think. I have been in way worse condition than this before. It is not that easy to knock me down. But I must apologize for leaving you two worry about me."
"Zhongli-daren said that, but you got knocked out pretty quickly." Ganyu teased.
"...It-Its but a matter of strength. I suppose I'm not as strong as I used to be. But do not worry about me. I will be just fine, I promised." Zhongli said to assure them.
"We are almost done with the papers. You guys can leave the hospital soon enough." The nurse who is standing said. The woman who has been sitting on the stool this whole time finally stood up and handed the nurse the files that she has been writing.
"I should take my leave, then. We are going to leave you alone for a while. I will come back to announce when you can leave." The said woman told them. Before heading out, the other nurse is gone as well.
"Ganyu, you should sit," Xiao said, now seeing that there an empty stool. Ganyu replied. " Oh no, I'm not that tired. You should."
At that, Zhongli said. "Hmm...How about you two just sit on my bed. It is rather large, is it?" Hearing so. Xiao and Ganyu sat on the bedside facing Zhongli. " Can you walk now, Zhongli-daren?"
"Yes, I feel much better now. Walking shouldn't be a problem. Though it has come to my attention that my adeptus healing ability doesn't seem to work in this world." Zhongli said.
"I see. I felt so too. My healing has been slowing down a lot." Xiao said.
" Could it be that it's an after-effect of going through that portal?" Ganyu questioned.
Xiao put his index finger and thumb on his chin, pondered. " It's could very well be. About that, we still haven't found a way to get back to Teyvat yet. The Tsaritsa could still be on the hunt for your heart, my lord."
"The Tsaritsa has never step that far. But now I fear for the people of Teyvat a lot more, knowing this side of her. " Zhongli said in a concerning tone.
"You can never give her the gnosis! Zhongli-daren. I would never let The Tsaritsa put her filthy hands on it. Who knows what she will do with the power of all the gnosis! " Ganuy claimed.
" We are far too weak right now. I wouldn't be afraid of getting in a fight with that monster, but it wouldn't be a good decision regardless." Xiao said.
" I agree with you, Xiao. The Tsaritsa has always been merciless and dictatorial. I suggested that we should look for support and made out a plan before anything else." Zhongli said.
Xiao sighed." How are we going to look for any support in this place? This place is riddled with rude and unforgiving people. They are unexpected, and how are we supposed to trust a bunch of humans?"
Zhongli shook his head. " Xiao, humans are just like us. Though they are fragile and small compared to gods, they are very diligent. They know that they are weak that why they work hard and contributed so much. People like them have a lot of qualities and emotions that are far more complicated than ours."
" But in the end, there are still kind and generous people who will help us. Like those nurses. As we are in a weaker position than The Tsaritsa, we think it would be a good idea to learn from these humans."
Ganyu and Xiao looked at Zhongli. " I'm still not sure about this, Zhongli-daren. I mean, would the humans trust us? If we do tell them?" Ganyu asked.
"We just have to find a way then," Zhongli answered.
Xiao sighed. " I think you do have a point, my lord. Then we shall follow your idea."
" Do not worry. We will find a way. I will make sure of that." Zhongli assured them.
A knock on the door alerted them. The nurse from earlier walked in, a hand is holding a paper clipboard. " Mr. Zhongli, I have got the messages that you are now able to discharge from the hospital. We also recommended you to get health insurance, as well as your friends. I hope your good health."
" Ahh, thank you... Ms...?"
"My name is Rosaria. I'll be taking my leave now, thank you." The nurse said.
"Yes, I gave you my gratitude for all that you've done. "
" You don't need to thanks me. Thank the guy who paid for your cost here. Anyway, bye." The nurse turned to her back and left the room.
"The man? Is that the person we bumped into earlier?" Zhongli turned to Xiao and Ganyu.
" Ah yes, he helped us get you here by his vehicle," Ganyu replied.
" He is still off-putting, though. I don't trust him." Xiao said.
" Something about him infuriated me." Xiao continued." Anyway, let's go. The nurse said that you can leave now, right, Zhongli-daren?"
"But where can we go? We don't know anyone from this world? " Ganyu said in a soft tone.
" Maybe we could go back to that alleyway to find some clues on how we get here first," Zhongli said.
Ganyu continued. " Where will we stay then?" Zhongli sighed at that.
" We will have to find someplace to stay, and we can ask some humans to help us."
Xiao is already at the door. " Are you two coming?"
Ganyu nodded and helped Zhongli get up. " Let's go then," Ganyu said.
The street is filled with people. Crowds gather at the buskers, giving money and praises. The ambiance of vehicles and pedestrians created a busy and moving non-stop atmosphere.
Ganyu can sense all of the smell from the taste of the loaves of bread that are fresh from the oven that is coming from the bakeries downtown to the awful smell of smoke and waste lingering lightly almost everywhere. These humans are so dirty! How can they live in such a horrible environment?
From here, Ganyu can see all of the tallest towers that she has ever seen in her life. Those sky towers could definitely rival against the thousand of ages trees in Teyvat, similar to those that grow in the forest where Ganyu lived.
Occasionally, Ganyu could hear sounds of something emanating from the sky. There are flying creatures with wings like pinwheels dashing through the sky. The nature of this world is truly fascinating.
"Are you sure that this is the correct way?" Ganyu asked Xiao. They have been walking for a while. This world direction sure is confusing, combining with the large crowd of people. It is hard to get around.
Back in Teyvat, people would use the sun, moon, and stars to take directions. The northern star always shines the brightest in the sky, and even in daylight, you could see the imprint of the clouds. It helps so that people won't get lost in the forest and the wild.
But here, no matter how much Ganyu tries to squint, she can't see even a single difference in the sky. The sky in this world is like a blank paper scroll. With the towers blocking her views is harder to look at the clouds. How can people get around in this world?
"Yes, I am sure. I memorized the directions of the road when we left with that guy." Xiao replied.
" The roads are truly busy at this hours. It will be harder to identify the correct directions." Zhongli said. Adding to the agreement that this place is like a confusing maze.
Ganyu looked around. This place is quite similar to where they have been before. Living in a forest gave her a good sense of direction, though her memory might not be as good as Zhongli or Xiao, she could remember important details that make a place stand out.
"Huh." Ganyu made a noise. "Did you say something?" Xiao asked.
" Look at that." Ganyu ignored Xiao's question and pointed upward to a sign. Ganyu couldn't make out the words of the sign, but there is a familiar picture of two angels drinking from one cup of coffee.
It must be the place that they landed in when they fell down that portal. Ganyu has a slight memory of smell around this part. It oozes with heavily roasted coffee beans smell that made it easy to recognize.
"I remember this scent. It comes from this coffee store! It must be the one." Ganyu claimed.
"Hmm...I think you're right. I recognized this smell as well." Zhongli said. " There must such a place where we landed at here."
"I don't think there is any doorway besides that backdoor," Xiao said as he stepped into the alleyway and took a good look at the surroundings. "There must be away. Unless..." At that, Xiao looks down at a circle of an iron plate on the ground.
"Do you think we come through this passageway?" Ganyu said. Xiao pulled open the lid, revealing a deep black hole underground. " It could very well be how we get up here. Ugh..., this reeks smell of rats."
"I see, this passage must somehow be connected to the pipe system of the Zapolyarny Palace. It is connected to the fountain drain. There must be some magical wormhole that sucked our body into this world." Zhongli said.
"Hey! " The trio looked up. Only to be greeted by an irritated person. Who dressed similarly to the first person they met when they got here.
"What are you three doing? Opening up the sewer cover?!" The person yelled at them. Ganyu shrieked at the person's loud voice.
"Ah...we are terribly sorry for intruding. We are simply investigating something." Zhongli politely replied.
"Investigating? There no investigation going around these parts, if so, I would know! I work here! Can you guys please leave if you don't want to buy anything? and quit bothering our staff."
"No but, leave!" The person pointed his finger outside as if to demand them to go.
"We are sorry for causing such a ruckus for you. We will be leaving now." Zhongli bows his head to apologize. "Zhongli-daren!" Xiao retorted in his effort.
"Let's go, Xiao. We shouldn't make any more enemies than we already have." At that, Xiao glare deathly into the eyes of the staff person. And then they took their leave.
The sky is getting darker and darker. The temperature is dropping from the time that they left the hospital. The streets were bustling before, but now there are way more vehicles than it was in the noon. It seems that many people are going to different places simultaneously, making the traffic a lot more crowded than before.
"What should we do now?" Ganyu asked worryingly. Her head drooped down on the sidewalk made of concrete.
Zhongli pondered for a bit before he said. " Maybe it's time for us to find some support and a place to stay first."
"I'm not sure these people are going to let us sleep in their home that easily." Xiao retorted. Ganyu agreed with him. The people here seem to be a lot more uptight than the people in Teyvat. Putting aside the point that no one here knows who they are.
Zhongli put his index finger and thumb on his chin and mused, suddenly his face light up. " We can go to the market. That is where most trades are done, yes? And it would be easier to find help in such a conventional place."
"That idea doesn't sound so bad! Zhongli-daren." Ganyu cheered up and said. " I remember seeing a big market when we were on the way to the hospital," It was true, Ganyu saw a lot of people gathered there, and there are people carrying things in and out of carriage look-alike.
That must be the market! Ganyu was hungry for the lack of food she ate when she was in Teyvat. Instantly she could smell the fresh smell of green crops and flowers emanating from that place.
"We should head there fast then. The sun is going down rather quickly." Zhongli said.
"I remembered the smell very distinctly. It mustn't be far from here."
Ganyu said before sniffed again. "It's must be somewhere over there," Ganyu said as she pointed her finger. Xiao and Zhongli both nodded and followed her.
The sound of water dripping and splashing. 'Those kids are having fun in there.' Childe thought before he put down the last toy on the floor in the toy box. Teucer was playing with Tonia and Anthon on the floor in the living room.
They were roleplaying something Childe couldn't remember, but they were very sad when Childe cut their playtime short upon announcing it's time to shower.
They have to move fast. Because tonight Childe wanted to take them to the mall, before dinner. First, they will go and buy whatever toys Childe owed them for getting to the airport late. Then after that, he will take them to a restaurant inside the mall, it is very fancy and served a lot of delicious foods. There is going to be a special show tonight. Diluc has been expecting this one.
Childe decided to impress them on how their big brother is very knowledgeable about the 'big city' cuisine. Considering how he barely eats in restaurants if it not for his business. He would just eat instant ramens or order take-out. He can cook, but he is too lazy too.
"Tonia! Teucer! Are you two done in there?" Childe called them outside of the bathroom.
"Not now, brother Ajax!" The voice of Tonia could be heard outside coming from the wooden bathroom door. "No! Teucer that my towel!"
Out of nowhere, Teucer jumped out of the shower, wet from head to toes. " Brother Ajax! Look! I have washed Mr. Cyclops clean! Can you dress him up too?" Teucer excitingly jumped.
"Don't jump! Teucer! Or you'll slip and fall." Childe warned him.
He couldn't understand why the toy was cleaner than his brother as he gave Mr. Cyclops to him. The toy was sparkling! And his brother is drenched!
Tonia popping out of the shower, carrying two dresses. " Teucer! Pick for me!" One dress was blue, and the other was yellow.
" I like the yellow one!" Teucer answered was muffled by the towel that Childe is currently trying to dry his brother with. "Stand still, Teucer, let me dry you first," Childe said. "Hehe, thank you, brother."
"Brother Ajax?" Anthon called him out on the chair he was sitting on. " Where are we going?" Anthon asked Childe.
Childe gave Teucer hair the last few scruffs until it dried. Then he turned to Anthon and said. " We're going to the mall!"
" I love the mall!" Teucer butt into the conversation.
"The mall?" Anthon tilted his head.
" Yes, didn't I tell you that I will buy you anything you want? To make up for my late arrival! And we're going to dine at the mall as well! "
'Hits two birds with one stone' that what Childe thought.
"Yay! I want to see the clown at the mall!" Teucer said.-"Pshh, Teucer! Clowns are creepy!" Tonia said behind the changing closet.
"No they're not. They're funny!" Teucer argued back.
"How do I look?" Tonia said while dashing out of the closet in her new dress. It has flowery patterns on the edge of the dress, and the bright colours really suited Tonia's personality.
"You look pretty! Sister Tonia! I want to look like that too!" Teucer answered.
Tonia quickly revealed behind her a yellow t-shirt. " If so! Wear this! Then we can match!"-"But this is not fancy, I want to look cool like you!" Teucer retorted.
"That all that I can find!" Tonia said.
" Now now, no catfight. Teucer, you should get dressed, or you will get a cold." Childe stopped their argument by butting in. "Besides, we can find fancy clothes for you at the mall."
"Ok, brother Ajax," Teucer said in a less exciting tone before he took the clothes from Tonia's hands.
After they all got changed and ready, Childe took them to the car.
" Have you worn your shoes, Anthon?" Childe asked, turning to the back seats facing Tonia, Teucer, and Anthon.
"I have," Anthon answered, pointing his legs upward to show Childe his shoes. Teucer giggled and asked Childe. " Brother Ajax! Sister Tonia said that she won't go to see the clowns with me."
"Of course I'm not! Clowns are creepy!" Tonia said.
" I hate to break it to you, Teucer, but I don't think there're going to clowns here at this hours. They only there on Sunday daily." Childe said.
"No clowns?" Teucer asked in a disappointed tone." I can bring you on Sunday to see them if you'd like." Childe offered.
Teucer face lit up. " Really? You're the best! Brother Ajax!." Then he seems to have gotten back his happy spirit. Childe gave him a bright smile at that. " Of course! What horrible brother I would be if I don't pay back for my siblings?"
The car was filled with laughter and chatters after that. The tension on Childe's shoulders seems to have weighed less. Childe was happy that his siblings are here with him for their whole summer.
Childe couldn't wait for all the things that they would do from now.
Heck, Childe missed all of them so much. Because of his job, he has to works far away in the big city, that he rarely gets to visit them back home.
The way to the mall was filled with bickering and talking. At some point, Tonia and Anthon were playing quizzes while Teucer would butt in their play by shoving Mr. Cyclops in between them.
The ride to the mall was not long. The complex he lived in isn't that far from the mall, and it was a pretty sweet spot. It only took a few turns then they have arrived at the mall.
When they finally got there, it was late afternoon. The sky was a dark blue hue and grey. The traffic was as busy as it was in the morning, but it seems to be less-tighten up.
"And then I said how did you get that duck?!" Teucer said. Tonia was giggling at Teucer's joke.
While Anthon just looked puzzled. " But where did he get the duck?"
"From his parents! His parents owned a farm!." Teucer said. Waving his hands around enthusiastically with Mr. Cyclops on it. He brought it with him to the mall.
"That's really cool!" Tonia said. " I wish I have one. I would raise all of the cute little ducklings on my farm!"
" We're here!" Childe said. Childe closed the car door as he stepped out to opened the backdoor. "Yay!!" The backseat muffled the cheers from the kids.
Teucer jumped out as soon as Childe opened the door. " Woah!"
Tonia went after him." Hey! Don't jump like that!"
Anthon followed behind them.
Childe took Tonia and Anthon's hands while Teucer ran ahead of them. "C'mon! Let's go in to pick your toys! "
"I want to go eat ice cream after dinner! Can't we go? brother Ajax?"
" Sure! I'll take you to the ice cream store after we eat. We can invite my friend as well! We can all go together!" Childe said.
An influx of 'yay!' coming toward him. Childe laughed with them as they walked together to the entrance.
Ganyu wasn't lying when she said there was a market here. Xiao can see crowds of people in this place. At least it is a large, open place, so they won't get suffocated in here. The heavy air made Xiao tensed. This place is surrounded by some sort of air that is not natural at all. It felt artificial, it sometimes felt too cold, sometimes felt too hot. As if there a temperature-changer in this place.
The floor tiles are way too slippery and smooth. It can even be compared to those at the adepti temple that was made of marble. There is a giant chandelier attached on top of the ceiling. Stores and sections are cut clean, and there are windows of glass displaying products on sale.
There are conveyor belts for people to go up and down areas of the so-called 'market'. Xiao failed to believe that this is a market. How can a place sell things such as pig flesh and weeds be so....extravagant?
But in the end, the place does look promising for buying and selling purposes. Xiao wondered if they could really find a person to help them out in here. The people here don't seem to mind their outfits as much as those outsides. Some people they bumped into even asked to take pictures with them, which Xiao refused to. Some asked them if they were someone else, which they are not. Are these normal humans behaviors? Xiao can't tell.
Zhongli and Ganyu don't seem to have minded. Maybe it was normal.
"Hm..., I think we should split to find someone to help us. It would be easier and faster that way, isn't it?" Ganyu said.
"Hmm... You have a point, Ganyu. I think we should split up as well, this place is much larger than I have predicted. Maybe by doing that we will be able to cover more areas?" Zhongli responded.
"Alright, then I'll go up there first." Xiao volunteered, pointing upward to a different floor.
"Zhongli-daren, I will go....um..check some places out. Meet you two back here." Ganyu said quickly before she walked away.
"Oh..." That left Zhongli.
'I supposed I should start searching as well.' Looking around, Zhongli decided to step into an interesting-looking store. It has a book symbol on its name. A book store, then? Or a library.
Right as Zhongli entered the store. He was greeted with the sight of books stacked neatly in line on shelves. There are small chairs for people to sit and read. There are small stacks of boxes in the corner.
Different pictures of animals and flowers are hanging on the wall.
The lady at the counter seems to have noticed Zhongli staring. She made a quick glance over to the man who kept eyeing the comedy sections, or is he staring at the philosophy one?
Concern. The woman stepped out of her booth and went towards him. " Sir? Are you looking for something?" She asked gently.
Zhongli noticed the woman. " Ahh...yes..., This must be a book store, is it not? " The woman face puzzled.
"...Yes sir, this is..a book store. As you can see, many books are displaying here." The woman coughed awkwardly. "How can I help you, sir?"
" Ahh, yes...I would like to find some knowledgeable scholars on the matter of world transportation. There must be some study here." Zhongli answered.
"You meant like sci-fi? We have a lot of sci-fi novels or fiction. Mayhaps, you are looking for a science book about blackholes of some sort. We have those too." The woman said.
"Psyche-fight?" This is new.
Even though Zhongli could understand the languages these humans are speaking. But there are so many different words and slangs being used in this world that Zhongli never heard of before. Truly fascinating.
"Yes, science fiction"-" I could recommend you some good books, please follow me." Zhongli followed the woman to an area with different colours of walls. The painting work done on the wall is a bit immature. The texture and composition are a bit off for such a work of craft. The artist much not have paid much effort.
The decorations are different here as well. The walls are painted blue, and there are stars and moon drawn on it. Children are bickering around on tables and chairs holding pictured books. These chairs are quite small for adults. Figurines displayed on tables and maps are hanging on the wall next to the bookshelves.
The woman stopped at a shelf and put her hand on the cover of some books." This book was written by a famous author. I would highly recommend this book to researchers. There is also this one published recently..., "
"Is this what you are looking for, sir?" The woman finished her speak then turned to Zhongli.
"Ahh yes...Can I take a look at some of the books?" Zhongli said.
"Of course, the sitting area is right there. If you need anything just ask me." The woman said before she headed back to her respective place at the booth.
Zhongli picked up one of the books. Zhongli couldn't make out the words that were written on the cover. Zhongli felt embarrassed that he didn't think about how he couldn't read the languages of this world.
Glancing around, nobody seems to pay him any attention. There were mostly children in this area. Surely, they won't find it weird that he can't read. Suddenly he heard a voice calling to him.
The voice was small and timid. Then, he felt a tugging on his sleeves and glanced down. It was a child. A child was calling him.
"Mister. Can you help me reach that book?" The child pointed to a book on the shelf, that was way higher than his reach. Zhongli glanced at the book and took it off the shelf, and handed it to him.
"Is it this one?" Zhongli asked.
"Yes. Thank you, mister." The child reached his hand out to take the book from Zhongli. The child took a good look at the book. He seems to be hesitant about opening it.
"What the matter? Young one?" Zhongli asked
"It just that, my friend thinks this book is childish. And he said that I would be weird if I read more of books like this."
At that, Zhongli's face puzzled." I do not see why your friend's opinion affects whether or not you should read a book? Books are very efficient for learning new things."
"Well, I don't want him to think I'm weird. What if he doesn't want to play with me anymore? I don't want to lose a friend over a silly book."
Zhongli looked at the child. This is one of the moments where humans comfort each other. Zhongli personally never understand why humans valued other's acceptance so much. But in this child situation, he figured he should bring a few words of experience to help.
"Your friend would do no such thing. If he were a good friend, he should encourage your interests. Friends should complement each other, not bringing each other down. I think you reading the book shouldn't be a problem. Moreover, youths should be encouraged to read."
The child looked at Zhongli then glanced down at the book in his hand. "Thank you, mister. I'll say that to my friend. "
"How about you, mister? You helped me get the book. So are you, my friend, too?" He asked.
"Hmmm...I supposed you can see me as a friend, young one," Zhongli replied. This is but a sweet child, and Zhongli wouldn't be heartless enough to deny such an innocent offer.
"Really? You want to be my friend?" The child repeated excitedly. Then he turned his face to Zhongli and continued. "Woah! I have never had an adult friend before. My siblings would be so jealous."
Then the child looked down at his book. "I really like this book series."
Zhongli tilted his head. " I see. What is it about then?"
The child's face seems to lit up at the question. "Oh! There is a lot of cool things about this book! I like the characters a lot! It's about people! No, wait....., These people are actually aliens, and they fight evils!" The child said.
Zhongli's interest quirked up at that. " What are aliens?" Zhongli has always been a studious soul, and learning the terms and rules of this world may help them a lot more on their journey as well.
"You don't know aliens? Aliens are really cool! Come, Let's me tell you what aliens are." The child excitedly grabbed Zhongli's hand then guided him to a table. Zhongli followed behind the child, dumfounded.
Ganyu's stomach was growling. She hasn't eaten much before leaving to meet with The Tsaritsa. And now stranded here, Ganyu can't help but hold the hunger in, for she doesn't want to bother Xiao or Zhongli.
Qilins are not picky-eaters perse. They only eat whole grains and drink spring water for surviving. But Ganyu has been carving some qingxin lately. It is an essential part of her diet to eat flower petals.
It was when the smell of fresh grass and linger of the smell of sweet flowers reached her nose that her hunger started to act up again. As a child, Ganyu has a habit of eating non-stop. If there is food, then she will devour it immediately.
But she has grown since then. She is no longer a young and impressionable adeptus. She can control her need for binging food. 'She is not hungry.' That what Ganyu told herself to assure her stomach.
But her mouth watered at the sight of flowers being carried into the market. She resisted it then. But now standing inside of the place, the smell is almost unbearable. Her stomach threatened to growl again.
She can sense the smell close. There must be qingxin somewhere in this market. Ganyu questioned whether or not she could buy them. She did bring some mora with her when they got to the Zapolyarny Palace. But the currency in this world could be different from Teyvat.
"Hm..., I think we should split to find someone to help us. It would be easier and faster that way, isn't it?" Ganyu said.
"Hmm... You have a point, Ganyu. I think we should split up as well, this place is much larger than I have predicted. Maybe by doing that we will be able to cover more areas?" Zhongli responded.
"Alright, then I'll go up there first." Then Xiao was gone. Ganyu turned to face Zhongli.
"Zhongli-daren, I will go....um..check some places out. Meet you two back here."
Ganyu had never felt so guilty in her entire life. How could she leave Rex Lapis alone in a marketplace? She knew that Zhongli isn't the best with his money. Ganyu should've stayed there and helped with the search.
But it was simply too embarrassing to admit that she was hungry. And so Ganyu went on her own path of finding food. Ganyu will be fast. After all, the smell isn't that too far away.
Abandoning her responsibility like this felt wrong. But her thought was cut short when the sweet smell appeared once again. She saw it. After a tad bit of walking and sniffing. She found it.
It was a florist shop.
Ganyu's eyes sparkle with happiness. There is it. There countless flowers displayed in front of the store, they were beautiful, yet their smell is a bit iffy. Ganyu can tell that these flowers have been sitting here all week.
The fresh sweet smell didn't come from here. It came from inside the store itself. The sound of the doorbell rang as she stepped through the door. So Ganyu braced herself and walked into the store. Surprisingly there was nobody there at the moment. 'Huh.' a sound came from Ganyu's mouth.
Ganyu turned her head for the smell. And sat there at the counter was a bucket full of fresh qingxin. The earthy and rainy smell made Ganyu feel like it was just plucked from the highest peak of a mountain. Her stomach growled some more.
Hunger took a tole over her, and in a second, she was next to the bucket. Picking up a branch of qingxin and took a bite out of it. It was so sweet and watery. It felt like reuniting with the family Ganyu didn't know she had. The warm feeling swelt up in her chest. Her heart was soaring a love song.
Her mood was instantly ruined when the doorbell rang the second time. Ganyu flinched and turned around to find a woman in a suit standing facing her.
The woman was very pretty. Her eyes are a pinkish purple. Her hair is a violet colour and tied into pigtails with buns. Her aura seems to be very serious. Her hand was holding something tightly. And on top of all that, she was staring straight into the eyes of Ganyu.
Ganyu panicked when she realized that she had been staring at her as well. She didn't want to be perceived as a thief. So she swallowed the petals that she ate, then she quickly and aggressively stabbed the qingxin flower back into the water bucket. Then Ganyu shook her hand furiously and bowed to the woman in panic.
"I-I didn't mean to take the flower without permission!!" Ganyu loudly said. " I-I promised I wasn't stealing the flowers!! "
The woman's face bemused as she stepped back, shocked, and when she opened her mouth to speak.
"Ste-Stealing?!" The woman stuttered.
"No, I promised!" Ganyu retorted quickly. " He-Here!! Let me pay you for the flower!" Ganyu then quickly glanced at her pouch hanging low on her hip. After a bit of digging, she took out some moras on her hand and said to the woman.
" Can I paid with this?!" Ganyu's voice was shivering throughout the entire sentence.
The doorbell ring the third time, and then a person came into their view. " Huh? Who are you guys? You know, you can't just bust in here without anybody working." The man said.
He was wearing a cap that has the florist store logo on it. He must be the one working here.
"Um...I...uh." The pretty woman dragged out.
The person made a quick move into the room and noticed the qingxin flowers in the bucket immediately. He stared at the water drops on the floor near the bucket, and the poorly plucked flowers that looked like it have been stabbed by the qingxin branch that was pulled off. There are some flower petals dropped on the counter as well.
"Did you guys did this to the flowers?" The man asked them, pointing at the mess.
"The mess..., I-I." The woman was speechless.
"No! It-it wasn't her! It was...it was me. I did that. But! I-I wasn't trying to sabotage anything! I was just panicked! And my hand slipped!" Ganyu refuted.
The man seems to believe Ganyu's rebuttal." Well, then you have to pay for the cost of the flowers. These qingxins were just transported this afternoon. We were just going to leave it to rest overnight in the water. It was for a special guest too. It is going to cost a lot to pay for it, especially for the other customer too."
Ganyu gripped tight on her sleeves. "Oh...um." She took out all the moras that she has. " Would this be enough?"
The man looked at the palm of her hand filled with golden coin. He turned to face her and said. "Miss, I don't think we use coins anymore. And this doesn't seem familiar to me here. We take cash or credit cards."
"Ahh...I see. I don't think I have enough money then..." Ganyu doesn't know what 'cash' or 'credit card' is. Her hand crumpled together, wrapping tightly around the moras. There must be some way she can help. They are already in trouble, and now she can't get them into debt as well!
The woman seems to have regained her composure after spacing out a little. The woman coughed and interrupted their trading.
"Ahem. I don't think the Tianquan would mind the small petals falling off. After all, her attention would be much more focused on the ceremony. I am here to take her order." The woman said with sudden confidence.
"Oh? You know the Tianquan?" The man asked.
The woman smirked and answered." Of course. For I am the Yuheng of the Qixing corporation, and miss Tianquan equal. I only let her order me around because, without me, nothing will get done in time. I am here to pick up the flowers."
Ganyu turned pale at that. The customer who ordered the qingxins was the same person that caught her eating their order. How ironic.
"Ahh, then you won't mind taking these flowers now, then?" The man asked.
"Yes, give me the flowers. I am busy, so be quick. And don't worry. The money will be transitioned to you soon, full payment, of course. But the next time we know that you have taken our order so carelessly by leaving the store like that, we will decrease our deal." The woman glared at the man, threatened him to do his job better. She continued." Got it?" Turning to the man.
The man gulped and smiled. " Of course! Of course! We will keep that in mind. Miss..."
"Call me Keqing for future businesses," Keqing said, glancing at her phone then tucking it away with a huff.
"Yes, Miss Keqing. I'll be wrapping the flowers now." The man slowly turned to take the qingxins bucket, then went inside where Ganyu couldn't see him.
Ganyu couldn't even face the pretty woman. She shyly glancing down at the ground. " I'm sorry" Was all that she could come up with before looking away again shamefully.
Keqing sighed. Then she looked at her. " You have owed me a great debt."
"Yes..." Ganyu said in a timid voice.
The man stepped out, in hand a bouquet of qingxins wrapped up. Some looked a bit bend by Ganyu force earlier. "Here are your flowers, Miss Keqing."
"Thank you," Keqing said as she took the large bouquet and waved goodbye to the man. " And you followed me."
Ganyu knew she was talking about her, so she obediently followed Keqing outside, despite the glare that she received from the man behind the counter.
At the hall of the market, Keqing turned to her and said." You can leave now."
Ganyu's expression turned shocked at the other's words.
"Huh? But..., How will I repay you for the debt that I've made?" Ganyu asked.
"No need. I simply asked you to come with me because I know that idiot at the plant shop would demand you to clean up the mess. I do not tolerate someone who can leave their job unfinished then let a stranger interfered with the job." Keqing tsk. "Such unprofessional work ethic, unforgivable. If it were me, I would have packed the flowers as soon as they've arrived." Keqing glanced at Ganyu, then coughed, a slight bit of pink dust on her cheek.
"Ahem. As I was saying, you can go now. I do not fault you for anything. Even though I do wonder what you were doing with the qingxins." Keqing said.
Ganyu face lit up. 'So, she wasn't indebted, at least not in money term. But she definitely owed this woman a lot.' Ganyu thought. At Keqing's question, Ganyu's face turned red.
"Oh! oh...aha. I was overcome with hunger when I arrived here, so I thought to go and buy some qingxins to eat. But there wasn't anybody at the counter so, I couldn't resist it at the moment."
Keqing turned to her, confusion showed on her facial expression.
"Eat?" Keqing asked hesitantly. As if she wasn't sure that what Ganyu had just said.-"Yes, I usually just go for some grass, but qingxins are my favorite." Ganyu replied.
"You eat grass?" Keqing asked.
Ganyu nodded. " It is an important part of my diet, yes."
Keqing just shook her head and said. " Ahem. Anyway. Next time don't be so juvenile. Walking into an empty shop, if anything happened, they'll blame you on it."
At that Ganyu's stomach growled again.
Keqing stopped to stared at her. Ganyu's face has never turn redder than now. Embarrassed, Ganyu tried to save face by explaining her predicament.
"Ah! Ah! Sorry. It's just that I haven't eaten since I left home and-
Keqing interrupted her speech by plucking out a large branch of qingxins and held it in front of her face.
"Here. Take this."
"But-But. What about your ceremony thing?"
"Ningguang won't mind. She hasn't done anything yet. Such irresponsible don't deserve the right to complain. Here. It's yours." Keqing gave the qingxins to her. Ganyu's eyes shined with sparkles. Keqing face heated.
"It's not that I'm trying to-
"Thank you!" Ganyu took the qingxins and smiled happily at Keqing as she devoured the flowers whole.
Keqing eyes went wide. "Um.."
"You're the kindest human that I have ever met here," Ganyu said between chewing.
Something 'doink!' in her pant pocket. Keqing took out a flat brick?
She grunted and turned to Ganyu, and said.
"You know, I gotta go..." Keqing said suddenly as she slowly walked away. Ganyu was chewing her flowers, so she couldn't open her mouth to say 'goodbye'. But then Ganyu swallowed quickly, and before Keqing could leave, Ganyu called out for her.
"Oh right! My name is Ganyu! Remember me so that I can repay your debt!" Ganyu loudly said.
"Ahaha.., yea..., bye." Keqing, who has already turned her back on Ganyu and walked away faster than she ever before.
'I left a bad impression on her.' Ganyu regretted her action as she kept eating.
But then, Ganyu smiled. Knowing that there are so many kind people in this world gave her hope, for finding a human that can help her and her friends.
Oh right! She should go and find them now. Ganyu hoped that Zhongli and Xiao have also met kind and wonderful people like Ganyu has. Ganyu will definitely remember the debt she owed to the pretty woman.
Xiao was jammed in the crowds. He was being squished by multiple human bodies. Why did people all step on the conveyor belt thingy at the same time? How are these humans so dumb? He tried to wiggled his way out of the crowds once he reached the next floor.
'Huff huff.' Xiao breathed out. People were swarming behind him as he walked out of their way. Xiao took a moment to recompose himself. He swore on his name that he would never be so close to a human like that ever again.
That is something too intimate for him. He'd rather jump down from here to the ground floor than take another trip through that conveyor belt. There no way Xiao is going close to another human for the next decade to come. Lifetime even.
Xiao flicked the air off his shoulder with his hand. He continued on his search around the new area. He looked around, shops and stores, and stands, among the range of the hall. Humans in this world seem pretty quiet compared to the loud and noisy merchants in their world.
And so Xiao started to walk. He tried to seek help from any human he could find. By 'find' he meant standing alone conveniently in the hall. He doesn't know how to talk to a human. But for his lord, he will try.
Xiao saw a lady standing looking into a window of store. Xiao took a deep breath and started to approach her.
She doesn't seem to notice him coming. Maybe it just his habit of silent navigating when approaching enemies. But when she turned around he was right at her face.
She shouted. "AGH!" Her purse landed on the side, and Xiao dodged it. But when he looked up, the woman has walked away quicker than he thought. Why do humans always so afraid of him?
Xiao sighed, decided to look for the next human.
He saw a little girl eating a cold treat. Xiao believed humans called it a snow cone, it is minced ice with sweet colourful syrups on top of it. Xiao learned from Ganyu that humans are very chatty creatures. If you talk a lot, then humans will think you are friendly.
Xiao came up to the girl. He held his head low to face the little girl.
" Hello there. I like eating snow too." He tried his best to blurted out the best thing he can come up with.
"Hello." The little girl waved her hand at his face. He doesn't know what to say next. What do humans speak about? The weather?
"The weather is nice today, yes?"- "Yes. Weather nice."
Xiao stared at the girl. The little one looked up at him in curious wonder. Ugh! Why are humans so complicated? What does she want?
Xiao coughed. " Ahem. I am looking for help." He said grunty, unsure as it came out of his mouth. That what he came here for, right? The girl didn't say anything. She just continued to look at him in silence.
"Honey, who are you talking to?" Oh archon, there is another human here. Xiao thought. This must be the child's father.
"Dada! Dada! This man is asking me to help!" The dad glared at Xiao.
" Sorry, mister, I don't think I'll allow my kid to go out anywhere with a stranger. C'mon, it's time to go. Dada will buy you another snow cone on the way."-"Yay!" The man quickly took his kid's hand and walked away without glancing at Xiao.
Xiao is starting to lose hope in finding a person to help them.
Xiao tried to talk to a person wearing a uniform and a cap.
" Uhh...Help? Man, I don't think I can help you. Look at me! I'm working this nine-to-five job. Sorry dude, I gotta go and delivered this." The person in the cap said.
Xiao tried to talk to a salesman.
" Hey! If you're not going to buy anything, then please leave. We don't want you to keep bothering our customers."
Xiao was running out of choices. He huffed out a breath. As he walked toward the water fountain. Looking at it only gives Xiao flashbacks.
He kneeled down and took a good lump of water into the palms of his hands, and splash it onto his face.
The humans walked by the side looked at him weirdly, but he doesn't care what these humans think about him anymore. He just focused on washing his face. He closed his eyes and opened them again. He drowned in the water almost as much as he drowned in his failure.
He decided to rest for a bit. He looked around the area to the people walking and chatting. And he let himself indulged in his thoughts for a bit.
Humans are going together in groups of 3 to 10. There are human people walking in pairs, and humans carried their babies in strollers. Witnessed that, Xiao realized he was the only person aloof in the market.
It wasn't like that back in Teyvat. The market would usually fill with adventurers and travelers from all over the nation. They only went there alone for commission and trading weapons and treasures. Warriors and heroes would usually live a hermit life up in the mountains or forest. Celibate and isolated from the world.
The people in this world are always together somehow. Everywhere Xiao goes, he will see another human. There is no peace and quiet in this place. He wondered how can humans not get tired of seeing each other faces all the time.
But then again, he would not say the same thing for some people that he knows. Xiao will never get tired of seeing his lord's face or Ganyu's face. Xiao doesn't interact with people a lot, but he can tell apart from who heart is true. And who is false. That why Xiao only keeps a few people in his life.
His lord's heart is the most benevolent.
When he was enslaved and used as a weapon to his former god, Rex Lapis, the same god of contract has broken the contract between him and the evil god. He freed Xiao from his chains. Xiao made the first oath to his lord, to protect the people of their nation and defeat all evils that threatened to succumb to the land.
Ganyu's heart is the most forgiving and kind.
She was the daughter of his superior yaksha. Ganyu has the most intelligent mind he has ever seen. Ganyu's peacemaker personality didn't come from the fact that she's a qilin, Ganyu has witnessed wars and deaths before, and no matter what, Ganyu has never wished for bloodshed or revenge. She follows the path of Rex Lapis to ensure peace for mankind.
Xiao made his second oath to her and his lord. To protect Ganyu and Zhongli with his life and fight with them until his last breath. To never leave their side and stand by them in the worse of battle.
He has also made an oath to another god that was not Rex Lapis. The person who has granted him the power of anemo, the god of freedom himself, Barbatos. The oath gave him the control ability of the wind. It made him more efficient as a warrior.
The god has always looked after him. The memories of the sound of the lyre rang in his ears as he sat on top of a tree in Mt. Tianheng. It made all the worry in Xiao's head disappear, and just for a moment, he can just sit there listening to the calm music.
It must have been a long time ago, Barbatos disappeared from Teyvat forever. Xiao has never seen him again. It was said that The Tsaritsa has taken the gnosis from the god and banished him off his own land. Xiao remembered very clearly. Those nights on the terrace, Xiao held his flute to sing a song for the fallen god. He would memorize the same song that the anemo god would usually play on his lyre to him.
But no matter how much he tried. He could never replicate his melodic sing-song voice. The thought made him felt an ache in his heart. Throughout years and years, he wonders if he could still remember the god's face.
The round and cheeky grin he would usually wear on his face. The glowing teal eyes that he once has. The dark blue hair with braided enveloped his side. He can almost imagine his images.
It's so vivid. It feels real.
It feels like he is seeing him again. Is this what humans called daydreaming? Right, he was daydreaming. It is simply because he is tired from walking, and maybe he should sit down for a bit. He was talking to himself for a while now. Because there is no way that could possibly explained how on the archon name he is looking at a human that looked exactly like Barbatos.
Xiao stopped in his track of thought. His body froze up at the sight. The person who is sitting on the bench on the other side of the ring of the fountain looked exactly like Barbatos. It couldn't be him...Barbatos disappeared a long time ago. There is no way that fraud sitting over there is him.
Could it be a coincidence? He thought as he looked up from the position he was kneeling. The person stood up and on their hand was a ukulele with blue and green flower patterns imprinted on the wood surface. The person turned their face to the side.
And at that moment, Xiao's heart exploded into millions of pieces.
That face...No....Those eyes and his presence......Xiao could feel the anemo energy strongly on this human. It couldn't be anybody else. He couldn't be hallucinating this feeling. This swarming in his chest as he looked upon them. The person walked away before he can even mumble a word.
It's really is him.
Xiao stood up, stunted from the realization. The god who he has mourned and commemorated. Is still living and kicking around. Xiao refused to believe it. Where has he been all these past years? How could he be so cruel to say nothing before disappearing?
Has he felt the pain Xiao felt? As of their oath? Or has he completely forgotten his responsibility by giving up the gnosis to The Tsaritsa?
A tapped on his shoulder awaked him from his thought.
"Hey, kid." A man was calling out to him.
Xiao pushed down his feelings and turned to the man. "I'm not a kid." He said bluntly.
"Yeah, sure, kiddo. Compared to me, you are. I'm the mall cop. People are telling me that a weird costume-wearing kid was bothering them on their shopping trip. I need to take you to the waiting room to wait for someone to get you, kiddo, or else we can't just let you wandering around and bothering our guest like this." The man explained, grabbing Xiao on the arm proper.
Xiao reacted unexpectedly upon his fighting instinct. He took out his spear and pointed it right at the man." DON'T YOU TOUCH ME." The man reached for the stick hanging on his belt.
"Woah Woah, calm down, kiddo!" Xiao grunted. The people around were staring at the scene he was causing. Xiao's shoulders dropped, and he put his spear back to its place.
He has already caused enough trouble for his lord. He shouldn't continue to retaliate against the humans. And so his demeanor dropped. "Fine, just don't touch me. "
"Alright, kid." Xiao listened to the man and let him guided the way.
10:07 AM 2/6/2029
Venti: HEY! I'm playing at Angel Share this Sunday. Are you comin'? :)
Yeah, my siblings will come to visit. I will bring them there. You will like them a lot. Especially Tonia. : You
Venti: Yeah, yeah. You have been talking about it all week now. I know. You big soft family man. Just remember to go to my show. Ok? :P
06:30 PM 4/6/2029
Venti: Ne ne. Remember that bracelet I left at your house. Did you find it? I want it back.
Yea, it was under the couch when you were asleep. I'll bring it to you. I'm on my way to the office. And tell that bitch Signora to stop borrowing my stuff. I lost my USB, and I:you can't find it anywhere.
Venti: No can do, man. She scary as fuck, and she's my manager! Remember that time she kicked me in the gut because I was late for the audition?
09:45 PM 5/6/2029
Venti: I head Scaramouche and Dottore invited you to go drinking with them? Did you say yes?
Venti: Last time, Scaramouche hasn't forgiven for that stunt you pulled on him at the meeting last month. Be careful. Or I'll see you tomorrow with a new tattoo on your face.
Venti: Hello? Childe?
03:26 AM 5/6/2029
Venti: Why did Diluc just text me in the middle of the night that you crashed a table at his place?
03:30 AM 5/6/2029
Venti: Holy shiet! [attached picture]
08:23 PM 6/6/2029
Venti: Are you here yet? I don't see you anywhere. It's about time for my performance now.
I'm here, got my whole siblings squad with me tonight.: You
Childe groaned as he looked at his phone. Did he actually do all of that? Childe wondered as he stared deeply into the photo. Scaramouche didn't come to the office today, probably too hungover, so he just took a day off.
Childe didn't have enough energy to deal with that chihuahua of a human anyway. He glanced up at Tonia and Teucer on the arcade machine. They are fighting over something.
When they first got here, Anthon said he didn't want to go with them to the arcade because he scares of dark places, so in the end, they left Anthon at the Favonius bookstore. Childe knows that place is full of people watching their children anyway. Anthon should be safe with the staff there.
It's almost time for the show now. Maybe he shouldn't let Venti waiting long. He should go and get Anthon, and then they can go get their table ready.
Glancing down at the small tugs of his pant. Childe was holding two cups of sodas and a bag of fruit candies. "Yea? Tonia?"
"Brother Ajax! Brother Ajax! Teucer cheated! He used Mr. Cyclops to hold down the buttons on the machine!" Tonia whined and pointed her finger at Teucer, happily hugging a ton of game tickets from the arcade machines.
"Look! With these tickets, we can go and buy Mr. Cyclops a tiny hat!" Teucer said cheerfully. "So that he'd look nice for dinner!"
"Mr. Cyclops would look nice with them. " Childe commented. A smile appeared on his face as he patted his brother's head. Childe stood up from his seat and stretched.
"Let's go spend the tickets then. After that, let's go get brother Anthon then we can go eat dinner. Are you two hungry?"
Tonia looked up at him. " I am a bit tired from playing."
"Well! C'mon, sister Tonia! Let's go spend these tickets, I'll share mine with you." Teucer offered.
"Really?"-"Yea!" Tonia face lit up, and she nodded and ran with Teucer to the trade tickets stand.
"I want that!" Teucer pointed at the mini-hat hanging on the wall with various other things. The shopkeeper took down the thing and gave it to Teucer. " Here you go, little guy."
"Yay! Sister Tonia, It's your turn." Tonia took a good look at the stand and yelled out."That!" While pointing at a fake golden-paint crown.
Shopkeeper face turned." Sorry but that thing costs more than the number of tickets that you have." Tonia's face drooped down.
"I'll pay for it." Childe stepped up and said to the shopkeeper.
"Oh, sorry, sir, but we don't sell things with cash here. "
Childe slammed a stack of money up on the counter. The shopkeeper's eyes went wide. " Si-Sir, you making it difficult for me." The shopkeeper stuttered.
Childe smiled at the shopkeeper. His smile doesn't seem genuine, it feels like he is plotting to strangle someone with that face. His deathly glares break through the shopkeeper facade.
The shopkeeper looked down. His voice was shaking." Alr-Alright..., But just this one time..., I'll excuse it.."
Childe smiled cheerfully." That's generous of you, good sir." The shopkeeper handed the fake crown over to him.
Childe bent down. "A perfect crown for the best princess." He grinned and gave Tonia the fake crown. Tonia's face is an expression of surprise and happiness.
"Thank you, brother Ajax! I'll treasure it!"
"Look! Sister Tonia, now you are matching with Mr. Cyclops!" Teucer held the toy up to his face and wiggled it around, showing off its new hat.
"Ehe! Yea!" Tonia responded. " If so, then Mr. Cyclops should go with me to dinner instead of you." Tonia teased. Teucer gasped in shock.
"No! no! Mr. Cyclops is my best friend. He will go with me! Right? Mr. Cyclops?" Teucer looked at the toy as if it was a sentient being.
" See?! Mr. Cyclops wants to go with me!" Teucer argued.
Tonia laughed and waved off. " Alright, alright."
"Alright guys, let's go find brother Anthon. Shall we?" Childe said in high spirit, putting his arm on his hip. " He should be on the lower floor. Then we can go to dinner." Childe continued.
"Ok! Brother Ajax." Tonia said.
"Yea, I'm hungry, and Mr. Cyclops is hungry also." Teucer readjusted the hat on top of Mr. Cyclops' head.
They walked their way to the Favonius Bookstore. There were few guests still shopping in the mall. Except those who are probably gathering at Angel Share for the special show that Venti is putting on. As they were walking, there was an announcement on the speaker.
[ ATTENTION- There is a troublesome teenager, age around uh.....16-18. He has green hair and a tattoo of a..., bird?*coughed* He also has a cosplay spear, and a snappy attitude. If there are any family members or friends, please come and get him.-END]
'Huh, what a weird description.' Childe thought as they reached the entrance of the bookstore. Lisa mustn't be here tonight, she probably already at the restaurant with Jean by now. She always works on a tight schedule, so everything must be perfect on time. The same applied to her girlfriend. They're both workaholics, honestly.
When they stepped into the store, the cool air hit them. Childe started to look around for his little brother. Anthon said that he would be at the Sci-fi section.
Childe took a look at the signs stuck on the side of the shelves.
'Sci-Fi/ Fantasy-A-ZEL' This may be it.
"Brother Anthon!" Teucer called. There his little brother was, sitting on the small chair, on the table were a bunch of figurines and a book. There was an adult with him. Who is that?
"Hey! Brother Teucer, Sister Tonia, Brother Ajax!" Anthon waved to them excitedly. Anthon's mood seems to be better when they first got to the mall.
"Brother Anthon! Look! I got Mr. Cyclops a hat. And sister Tonia got that cool crown." Teucer said.
"Woah! That crown is really shiny. Is it real?" Anthon asked.
"Hm..., no it's made of plastic, actually," Tonia answered truthfully. Anthon responded." Awww, too bad, then."
Then Anthon lit up again. " Oh! Right! Guys! Lets me introduce you! I met this really cool man. He knows a bunch of things about rocks, and he's really cool, too."
The said man turned to them." Ahh..., This is your siblings you been talking about, yes? It is an honor to meet your family. My name is Zhongli." The man smiled.
And at that moment, Childe burst. Before his eyes was an angel that has fallen from heaven, halos and lights shine brightly. Was he even allowed to witness this phenomenon?!. If there was a good reason to die that would be admiring this masterpiece of a human.
Heck! Was he even a human?! His beauty couldn't be compared to those who walk this earth. He is ethereal. Like a god. The warm golden smile radiates rivals to the sun itself. His deep smooth buttery voice.
And his eyes, they are so pure. Like honey. The colours are so beautiful, and he couldn't look away from them. Childe was sure that it was glowing a bit too. He was mesmerized.
Childe didn't have time to notice more details like his skin or his nose before he shook himself out of this thought.
What was he doing?! Ogling this man?!
Childe coughed. He can feel the remnant of heat slowly leaving his cheeks as he opened his mouth and said. " Ah, you must have been watching over Anthon. He's my little brother, I must thank you for keeping his fun when I was gone."
"There is no need to thank me. Your brother is a wonderful child. I greatly admired his studious characteristic and wanting to know more. You have a very ambitious brother." The man said in his gentle tone.
The more that he looks at the man again. He realized. How didn't he notice the way he dressed.
The said man dress in an odd fashion. Now Childe hasn't always been the most in trend with styles and all. But he was pretty sure this man's outfit was not the new trendy thing.
What with today and hanfu? Why does Childe keep bumping into these people wearing them?? Is there a festival somewhere that he didn't know?
And the man is wearing hair decorations and even earrings. This isn't a typical outfit to go shopping in.
"Thank you. Anthon has always been a great kid." Childe replied.
Anthon's face heated, and he continued his talk. " Oh! Brother Ajax! Can we bring him with us to dinner? He is my friend!"
"Oh...well I only ordered our own dishes. Since tonight reservations are thicker than usual." Childe said.
"But! Teucer can bring Mr. Cyclops! If Teucer can bring his friend, then why can't I?" Anthon pleaded.
"Anthon.." It wasn't that Childe didn't want to bring a total stranger to dinner but that it is simply impossible to fit him at their table. Tonight is really crowded.
"Ah, I do not want to intrude on your dinner as an outsider. I should leave then." The man said as he stood up and swift off the dust in his lap.
"No! Don't leave! Mr. Zhongli, if you leave, then I can never see you again." Then Anthon jumped and gripped tightly on the man's sleeves.
"Anthon! What do you mean 'never see him again'? I can drive you here if you want to meet him." Childe tried to removed Anthon from the man to no avail.
"No! Brother Ajax! You don't understand! Mr. Zhongli is homeless! What if he can't go back to see me anymore!" At that Childe frozed. The knowledgeable and well-spoken man, who dressed like he just got off from a golden theme fashion gala. Is homeless?
At that Childe looked up at the man. The said man hid his face from Childe's view and looked away without a single protest to his brother's statement. The presence of the man almost feels small somehow. Childe gulped.
"Anthon, please let go of me." The man said timidly.
"Brother Anthon, let's go of him! I will share Mr. Cyclops with you!." Teucer butted in.
"No! You promised to be my friend!" Anthon was crying now." Promises should be fulfilled, not broken!" The tears streamed off his small face fell onto his shirt staining the fabric. He clung tight onto the man sleeves, and tears are staining them as well.
The man's face faltered. As if he has no more strength to refuse or accept. His expression of complexity, of confusion. The man's face turned to remorseful.
Poor Anthon, he got his promises broken once today, and now he was having to break this one too. He felt stupid as a brother for letting this happened. Childe couldn't let his brother like this. Childe opened his mouth to interfere, but before he could.
Anthon pushed the man back, making him stumble on his feet. And headed his heels toward the door, and started to run away as fast as he could. It caught Childe by surprise, he didn't think that his brother would escape from the scene like that.
"Anthon!" That alerted the guests inside of the store. They started to look at him. Childe ignored their presence as he sprinted his way out to the door.
'Huff huff' He couldn't catch up, Anthon ran in front of him too soon. He looked desperately at the long hallway of the mall. His heart beating faster than ever. 'Anthon Anthon. Where are you?!?'
But then it flashed before Childe's eyes, a wisp of wind. All he saw was a long flash of brown and gold. His breath hitched, and he stopped breathing entirely when it crossed him. All that he sees at the moment he noticed it was golden eyes, its pupils moving in focus. It was a giant eye. That same melting golden honey colours. No...way.
It-it...It was the man. He-he was running so fast Childe couldn't even see him. Or rather he was flying?? Childe can't tell. Someone please slapped him, he was getting too many hallucinations to tell what was real and what was fake.
'Childe, think fast.'
Childe looked back at the store and came back to brought Teucer and Tonia with him. He's not leaving anyone behind again.
As he carried them in his arms, trying to search for Anthon. He saw it, Anthon was there crying, and he was walking off of construction where they haven't built the railway yet. 'No no no'
Childe wanted to yell out to him. The sight made him stood still. As the same man earlier flung by his side. His eyes went wide.
Anthon was about to fall, and the same man appeared almost out of thin air and caught him in his arms mid-air. At that very moment, it felt like time has stopped entirely for him.
The man jumped down to where Childe was standing. He was walking toward him. And in his arms was Anthon asleep peacefully. Anthon was smiling, he speculated.
'What on earth just happened?' Childe thought as he put down Tonia and Teucer.
Looking at the man now, he has a new form. He has horns! Golden horns adorned on top of his head. His eyes now shine brightly, and his pupil resembles that of a lizard. His hair has orange blood tips before. But now it has the addition of many golden hair shafts, and it was glowing as well?!? Just who is this man?!?
" Woah!! You have such pretty hair, Mister!!" Tonia complemented.
"But your eyes are a bit scary." Teucer said before Tonia smacked him." Hey! Don't say that to adults! That's rude!"
"But!" Teucer retorted.
Childe's attention never left the man. The brunette quirked up at him and coughed to recomposed himself. He steadied his voice before he said.
"I-I...I'm sorry for causing trouble for you and your family. I do not want to be a problem to you."
The man faltered. "But... I do need you to help me with something..."The man stopped to look away. His face a dusting pink.
Was he shy? After jumping off a railway on the second floor of the mall right in front of Childe?
The man gulped down and looked at Childe right in the eyes, and said. "My companions and I need help.." The man's courage grew strong. Then he grabbed Childe's right hand in the warm palms of his and look right into Childe's eyes.
"I want to make a contract with you."
"Yes, you give me and my companions a place to sleep. And when I finished my journey, I will grant you anything that you want." The mysterious man said. Childe could feel the man's palms squeeze tight his hand desperately.
Think about it, this man is definitely not normal. Everything about him is like from another world. And Childe is pretty sure that he is not human either. So what for him to say he normal or not.
As he said anything that Childe wanted, but he was sure he didn't want anything to do with the strange man. But...he did save Anthon,
and Anthon has grown fond of him.
Childe wanted his little brother to be happy.
Childe coughed, trying to recompose himself, and in his most neutral tone of voice, he offered the man. "Anything that I want you said."-"I would not hold you to that, but regardless, I will help you. How about I give you a place to stay for tonight?"
Childe looked at his asleep brother and continued. "Anthon probably doesn't want you to leave soon. And I want my brother to be with his friend."
The man's face lit up, and he said in the most cheerful tone that Childe has heard him." Thank you for your kindness. This favor I will not forget. I will fulfill this contract of our to the best of my abilities."
"Yeah..." Saying that, Childe realized his hand was still entangled with the man. So he quickly took his hand back and away from the man's hands.
"What did you say your name was again?" Childe asked. He couldn't remember what his brother has said. And if he was going to let someone live with him then he must at least know their name, right?
"I typically go by the name Zhongli."
At that, Childe's face stunned.
"Wait, your name is Zhon-
"YOU!" And there the familiar voice.
Ganyu was waving off the kind lady that has helped her escaped from the florist in the florist shop. Ganyu owed the lady a real big favor, she hoped to meet that lady again to repay her. Then she headed her way to go on the search for help.
Unfortunately, by the time she got out of the store, time seems to has passed by a lot. There were only a few people at the hall of the market. She barely spotted any normal guest besides those people who were already working their jobs.
'I wonder where did everybody go?' Ganyu thought to herself.
Luckily, Ganyu managed to find her way back to where they have appointed to meet again. Ganyu hoped they have better progress than her. After a few minutes, Xiao and Zhongli still haven't shown up. Ganyu started to worry.
[ ATTENTION- There is a troublesome teenager, age around uh.....16-18. He has green hair and a tattoo of a..., bird?*coughed* He also has a cosplay spear, and a snappy attitude. If there are any family members or friends, please come and get him.-END]
'Green hair?' 'Bird?' 'Spear?' Ganyu didn't see anybody dress like that at the mall earlier today. Could it be? It only could have been Xiao!
Ganyu panicked, and quickly she ran around and asked the people who worked there where can she go to get to him. They help her find the direction, and she thanks them wholeheartedly before leaving.
Ganyu arrived at the waiting room a few minutes later. There she found Xiao sitting on a leather bench, hands crossing over his chest, face down, eyes closed.
Ganyu face lit up.
"Xiao!" She alerted Xiao. He looked up from his position, and his face relaxed. He breathed out a sigh. It seems that Xiao had has a rough day. Xiao's lips quirk into a small smile. " Ganyu. You're here."
" I have heard the voice on the speaker. What has happened?" Ganyu asked.
" Just a few humans, saying that I bothered them. " Xiao said. Ganyu could only hum. Ganyu snorted at the statements as she came to sit next to Xiao.
" I see that you're not successful in your searching as well. I mayhaps got distracted by food." Ganyu coughed in embarrassment.
"I do hope that made you feel better." Ganyu continued. "Hmm," Xiao answered bluntly. His face frowned up. His eyes clouded with grey.
Ganyu puzzled. " Hm? What the matter? You have never let humans made you this distress. Even when those human kids at the village usually tease you." Ganyu continued. " Did...something else happened?"
Xiao looked down again. "...No, no it's nothing..." Ganyu grew to worry.
"Well, if there is anything, you can always tell me, alright?" Ganyu said in her gentle voice. She wanted to put a hand on Xiao's shoulder to ease him with comfort, but she wishes not to offend his boundaries.
"Where is Zhongli?" Xiao turned to her to ask.
"Oh! That I don't know. As soon as I got out of my quarrel, I was up to look for you. I waited at the spot we appointed, but no one came." Ganyu replied.
"Hmm...then we should go find him then. You know how easily he gets lost, even in his own land." Xiao said. Ganyu couldn't oppose Xiao's statement. It was simply the truth that the god of geo can't remember the map of his own nation.
As they stood up, a flip of wind flew by, thrashing through their garments and fabric of clothing. The wind was so strong, it was most definitely not a normal flip of wind.
As weird as the wind in this market is, that could never be it. That what Xiao and Ganyu just witnessed is an adepti power. One that can only adeptus as Ganyu or Xiao used.
The ground seems to have shaken a bit. Normal humans wouldn't notice it but living with a geo dragon for centuries left them with great sensories for these kinds of things. Ganyu and Xiao looked at each other, without a word exchanged between them. They knew what to do. And so they chased after the adeptus energy. They moved at the speed of light. The geo energy is getting more and more fated. And so Xiao bust a wind, a flow of anemo power pushing Xiao and Ganyu forward.
When they finally stopped. Before their eyes, was a surprise.
It was Zhongli. Xiao and Ganyu both knew that. That was the reason why they chased after the traces of geo energy.
But there is also someone else at the scene. Actually, there are multiples, other humans, at the scene. And on top of that, Zhongli was revealing his beast form to these humans!!
"YOU!" Ganyu heard Xiao yelled while pointing his spear at a certain person, he ran ahead of her. The said person turned around, face mortified.
Who was that? Wait...
That orange hair, that blue eyes..... it's the man that helped them this morning!
Before Xiao could plunge his spear at the said man. Zhongli stood in to shield him. " Xiao."
Xiao stopped and looked at him. " Zhongli-daren." Face distressed.
"I sensed that you have been having a rough day, it's no reason to struck it out on humans, Xiao. Remember what I have taught you now."
Zhongli said in a gentle tone as he extended his arms and pulled Xiao into a comforting hug. A hand soothing his back. The other patting lightly on top of his head, gently combing his messy hair.
Xiao fell pliant under Zhongli's warmth and buried his head into his lord's chest, all the while the orange-haired man glared at him menacingly. Ganyu looked from afar, wanted to join the hug as well.
" Zhongli-daren! We've been chasing after your traces all this time." Saying that, Ganyu dived headfirst into Zhongli's nurturing arms.
"Hmm...I see. I'm sorry for worrying you all day. It was not my intention to reveal my dragon form in the process."
"But worry not, we have made a contract," Zhongli said as they all let go of the hug. Xiao seems like he doesn't want to let go so soon, so does Ganyu. But they seem to understand what the priority right now is.
"This man has agreed to help us," Zhongli said while raising a hand out towards the said man.
" This is the companions that you've talked about?" The man asked.
"Yes, I want you to house them as well," Zhongli said.
The man looked puzzled for a minute, looked between Ganyu, and then he just stared weirdly at Xiao. The man sighed. "Fine, as long as that green dwarf over there don't break anything."
"What did you said!! Human?!" Xiao raised his voice.
"Uh uh, look who is being kind enough to house you. " The man smirked.
Xiao growled and left it at that. Still, he continued to glare at the man throughout their entire conversation.
"You must be the man from this morning." Ganyu bowed and said.
"Thank you! If it wasn't because of your help that our lord would have passed out in the middle of the street. And the payment for the hospital as well!"
Zhongli looked surprised. "You have helped me?" Zhongli asked, dumbfounded.
"Ah, yes. I did drive you all to the hospital this morning." Childe said.
"Really? Brother Ajax is a hero!" Teucer cheerfully said.
"Is that why you were late?" Tonia asked.
"Yea, I got stuck in traffic and almost hit you. You got knocked out pretty badly on top of my car. The hospital was close, so I thought it should be quick."
"Oh..." It was now Zhongli's turn to be flustered.
The man giggled and said. " It's alright, my car didn't take any damage from the fall. I'm glad that you're ok. "
" I must thank you for the tremendous help that you have been giving us," Zhongli said in his composed self.
"Don't worry, Zhongli. It's no big deal."
Xiao grunted loudly at that. " How dare you use the name of Rex Lapis so freely? I supposed a stupid human man like you can't even fathom the idea of using an honorific."
Zhongli 'hmm'-ed and said. " You can call me Zhongli-xiansheng."
"Xiansheng, alright." Childe tested.
"Oh, must I ask? What is your name?" Zhongli asked.
"You can call me Childe, or Tartaglia if you want," Childe said.
"Childe." Zhongli tested the name on his tongue. " Childe is a unique name," Zhongli commented.
"Oh, haha. It just a nickname. These are my siblings. Teucer, Tonia, and Anthon, who Zhongli has already know." Childe said, looking down at his siblings and in his arms carrying his little brother.
"My name is Ganyu. It's pleasure to meet you, 'Childe'" Ganyu introduced herself.
"Call me Xiao," Xiao said.
A 'dink!' sound coming from Childe's pocket. He took out the similar flat brick to the one of the lady that Ganyu encountered and tapped on it a few times. Then he sighed and turned to them and said.
"It's late now. We missed our reservation spot. They can't wait for us." Childe sighed." We should just go home, and I'll make instant noodles for everyone. We can talk this out tomorrow morning."
Someway, somehow they, despite all their differences agreed to him.
And so with that, they are now stuck tight inside of the car, heading home. With, Teucer and Tonia asking Zhongli about a bunch of things. Zhongli ranting on and on about something. Childe silently drives the car, as he recollects all the events that have transpired throughout today. Anthon asleep peacefully in Childe's lap. Xiao, deep in his thought, looking out of the window and mumbling about something.
And Ganyu, she just wanted to meet that pretty lady again.
Chapter 3: A Helping Hand
The sound of the door opens and closes as the Favonius bookstore continues with its usual day. People were talking quietly and keeping silent, focusing on the book they were reading. Inside the spacious store, the nosiest place was the reading corner for children. Parents were managing their kids, employees try to entertain the group of youngsters by telling them stories through puppets. In that one very specific part of the store, a man and a child were talking with each other alone, pay no attention to what was around them.
"And that strange occurrence is the birth of the star! And that the main hero you see!" Anthon said, pointing and pining furiously on the pages of the cover book. "His name is Mapo! Look! This is the planet where he lives." Zhongli, in his usual thinking posture, leaning in and looked curiously at the pictures. He voiced a 'Hm.'
"I see. So there are multiples places called 'planets' in the universe? And people outside of the said planet we are living on are called 'aliens'. Am I correct?" Zhong said in a gentle tone. "Yea! You get it!" Anthon continued to explain. " My teacher said that there are seven planets!" Anthon said. " There are Neptune, Jupiter, Mars, and...uhh many other!" Anthon brushed off at the end.
"Hmm...That is very interesting. But where can we see aliens?" Zhongli dumbly asked. "Oh...that..." Anthon coughed but quickly regained his confidence act. "My mother said that aliens aren't real. But I believed there must be some out there! There are even many shreds of evidence to prove it!" Anthon said. " Do you think so too? Mr. Zhongli?"
At that, Zhongli's brows furrowed.
This strange child has been showing him many pictures of aliens and characters of the story he has read. Paragraphs and concepts that seem too unfamiliar to Zhongli.
It seems that the study of these creatures must interest him a lot. Zhongli has to admit, he was quite hooked on the subject as well. He had never heard such a creative theory before. Would it hurt to believe in a little child?
"I supposed with how much knowledge we possessed about the universe. It must be possible somehow." Zhongli stated. " But in the matter of the topic, I believed you have more experiences than I am."
Anthon gave him an apologetic smile and scratched the back of his head. "Hehe, don't say that, Mr. Zhongli. I actually don't know that much." Zhongli huffed.
"Nonsense, you shouldn't hold yourself low. The number of information you have given has been very informative and enlightening." Zhongli disagreed.
Anthon replied to Zhongli with nothing but a small smile. They kept going with their discussion. Anthon was ranting on and on about how the said character 'Mapo' got transported to another planet that was not his home planet, and he has to find a way to get home. 'Huh, this seems familiar' Zhongli thought. It was going smoothly and nicely. All of a sudden, Anthon asked him.
"Mr. Zhongli, Where are you from?" Anthon gazed into Zhongli's eyes. "Ah...Would you wish to know?" Zhongli said.
"Mhm! I'm new here! I came to visit my brother!" Anthon answered innocently. " Brother works far away from home, and I miss him a lot. Brother Teucer and Sister Tonia always get to see him every summer break, but I'm not."
Zhongli quirked up at that." May I ask why?"
Anthon was a bit awkward to answer at first. "I usually go to summer school during break. I am always a bit behind on the subject. But this year, I studied really really hard, and I can finally go to visit my brother!"
"I see, that was a very determined goal that you've reached." Zhongli complimented.
"Hehe! This is the first time I have come here! The big city is so cool, too! Brother Ajax would often send us pictures of the place. It must be fun living here right? Mr. Zhongli?" Anthon asked, looking excitedly at Zhongli.
Zhongli seems stuck at the statement.
" Ah...I don't come from here. I'm...new to this as much as you are. But if I have to comment, the people here are indeed very friendly and kind." Zhongli said.
"Oh! That's cool! You can discover the city with me! Hehe, it would be so fun! I'll ask brother Ajax about it." Anthon replied.
"I see that you are very fond of your brother." Zhongli smiled warmly.
"Mhm! He's the best brother in the world! He does so many amazing things. Brother Ajax is so smart that he works in a really BIG company. I want to grow up and be like him. Traveling far away from my home, it must be so fun." Anthon said.
"I would detest that. Sometimes, it can be a bit of yearning for someone to be so far from their own home. Other times, it can be well..., hopeless." Zhongli said.
" I guess so. I mean, I will miss mom and dad. And even brother Teucer and sister Tonia." At that, Anthon rethinks then shakes his head furiously and said." No! When I leave, I will come back so that they won't forget about me." Anthon argued. " Brother Ajax is so brave that he lived in the city all alone. It must have been so hard."
Zhongli giggled lightly. " I see that your brother's achievements have greatly impacted you." Anthon looked up at him and smiled.
"Mhm! I want to be cool like brother Ajax. He is always the coolest of all my siblings! One time, he caught a fish so big that we can't even fit it in our large water bucket!"
Zhongli seems amused at that. " Tell me more." Anthon lit up at that, and then he started to retell him all the great things that his brother has done in the past.
Zhongli only hummed in return. The way his eyes sparkled when he spoke his brother's name must mean that he admired him a lot. It was such an experience to see such child wonder. Zhongli, despites living years among humans, has never been this close in a conversation with such a young soul. Though Zhongli did enjoy the time that he spent talking with this small child. The said child is a very creative human. He spoke in such a way that tickles Zhongli's interest. But what Zhongli noticed the most is his expressions of emotions.
Anthon has so many expressions, and emotions happened on his body and face at all the same times. Sometimes, he would fling his arms and wiggle around in the air excitedly, and his eyes would shine brightly. Other times, he would kick his legs in the air and furrow his brows and pouts. The flexibility of the emotions belongs to this child truly surpassed the human emotional knowledge that Zhongli has acquired over the years of living.
Anthon spoke about his older brother and hometown a lot. He also told many stories about his family and friends. Most of them involved his siblings. He would tell about how they go ice fishing in the winter and hike in the summer.
"And then brother Teucer brought out this large stick to poked at the frogs! But then he accidentally fell down the puddle. After that, sister Tonia has to come and brought us a towel to dry ourselves. It was still fun though." Anthon clamped his hands on the edges of the table and made little a good-hearted laugh.
"Hmm...Amidst the stories of your older brother, you have also mentioned this 'brother Teucer' and 'sister Tonia' many times. You said that they would usually visit your brother in the summer, yes?"
"Oh! Sister Tonia and brother Teucer are really cool! This year I finally get to go with them. I was so excited! Sister Tonia is really serious though, but she is also really smart and kind. Teucer is really funny! You would love them, Mr. Zhongli!" Teucer said.
"Is that so? I would love to meet your family." Zhongli responded with a smile. Hearing that reminded him of Ganyu and Xiao. They are capable and honorable adeptus that Zhongli is personally proud of. They are the longest companions that have walked this road with him. And still, until now, they have always remained by his side.
Speaking of which, Zhongli wondered how much progress have they made in finding help by now? Then he looked back at himself.
And he sighed.
He supposed that speaking with a young child isn't the best way of helping their situation. Looking back at it now, he realized he should have found any adults around the area instead of busting inside of a bookstore. Although he did not regret meeting Anthon, this young child is a great friend of his. But he...
He couldn't help but feel a bit...off. He was supposed to guide them, not to be a burden for them to carry. Therefore he should have been a purposeful assist to them. But he was not.
Agreed with bringing them along on a trip to the Tsaritsa palace? Lost a fight to a corrupted god? Knocked out unconscious and cause worry? He must have been a menace. Zhongli determined that if whatever he was going to do next, it will not be damaging to them.
He will try his best to find help, and he will do it for his adeptus. If this is the last thing that he can do to help their situation. It was, after all, his fault that they were stranded here. And so, it was his responsibility to get them back home.
"Mr. Zhongli? Mr. Zhongli!" Anthon called while touched lightly on Zhongli's arm.
At that, Zhongli got knocked out of his thought immediately. "Oh...yes? Anthon?"
"I was just asking about you!" Anthon said.
"Ah...What would you like to know?" Zhongli replied.
"Tell me about your family. I want to know all the 'tea.'" Anthon said. Zhongli's face was puzzled. "Tea?"-"Yea, tea. I hear my older sister said it a lot over the phone. She lives far away from us too. She said that it means information!"
"I see. I'll remember that." Zhongli pondered. "Family, you said?" Then he continued." Well, I am accompanied by a few of my companions. They are somewhere in this market." Saying that Zhongli looked around. Out of the glass windows of the spacious bookstore.
"They are very close friends of mine. I hope they are doing alright on their paths." Zhongli said.
"Doing alright on what? Mr.Zhongli?" Anthon asked.
'Ah' Zhongli forgot to tell him about their situation. He didn't want to exploit a child in the first place. It would be better for him to find someone else rather than telling this young and helpless child about their state. Perhaps if he should excuse himself to go and find help like Ganyu and Xiao. Sitting here right now wouldn't help to progress anything.
"Ah...It's nothing." Zhongli said.
"Hmm..." Anthon stared hard out of the glass windows." My brother is out there too." Anthon pouted.
"What is the matter?" Zhongli noticed the odd change of expression again, and so he asked.
" It's just that I'm a bit sad that I can't go with them. Brother Teucer and sister Tonia are there too. They are playing at the arcade right now." Anthon said, dejected, fiddling with the book pages with his fingers.
"Why didn't you join them?" Zhongli asked- "I-I...afraid of the dark. I didn't know arcades in the city are so..., unlit. I was scared, so they left me here because I was nothing but a..., cry baby. So, I decided to tell them that I can stay here in the bookstore all on my own because I'm a good and responsible boy. Brother Ajax didn't want to leave me at first, but I want to prove to him that I wasn't a cry baby."
It was at this line that Zhongli's idea of leaving the small boy alone to go and find help has been completely erased from his line of thoughts.
Zhongli looked at the child. He didn't understand what he himself was feeling at the moment. This same feeling is like when Xiao would come home with bruises and scratches on his body after fighting. Or when Ganyu overworked herself and forgot to sleep for days.
It doesn't matter. Zhongli acted on his instinct and put a hand on Anthon's small shoulder blade, soothing him. "I do not believe your siblings left you because you were a, as you said, 'cry baby' to them. It speaks to me that they simply don't want you to have bad experiences here."
"Maybe...But I really want to go and play with Brother Ajax. I missed him a lot. I can only hear his voice through the phone a few times at home. Brother Ajax was late today to get us to the airport. And it was the first time I visited him, I wonder if it was my fault that he arrived later than usual." Anthon said, face down. His happy and dolly aura seems to dissipate real quick. Zhongli pondered for a bit, then he said.
"Hm...If that is the case, I would think that your brother is the one at fault here. Not you. Perhaps he was too distracted by something. Has he made it up to you?" Zhongli pointed out.
"Well, He promised to buy me anything I want at the mall. We did go shopping for a bit, but then Teucer and Tonia saw the arcade, and then well...," Anthon sulked.
Zhongli looked closely at Anthon's expression. Zhongli understands this feeling. The feeling of abandonment. It was sad that such a young child has to subdue such emotions. Zhongli does hope that he gets to have time to play with his brother after this. Sadly, he does not know how to resolve such emotions. He thought of putting a palm soothing Anthon's back, which has always work in the case for Xiao. But he was merely a stranger to the said child, and it would seem very unfit to do so.
"Promises are very serious you know," Anthon said out of the blue. Zhongli quirked up.
Anthon continued." Back in my hometown, we have a saying. You make a pinkie promise, you keep it all your life. You break a pinkie promise, I throw you on the ice. The cold will kill the pinkie that once betrayed your friend, the frost will freeze your tongue off so you never lie again."
That is once gruesome but very catchy saying that what Zhongli thought. And so he concluded. "You think that your brother has broken a promise." Anthon flinched.
"No! No! Brother Ajax didn't break a promise. He did forget to come to the airport.....Bu-but brother Ajax never breaks a promise! Brother Ajax took promise really seriously! And never once has he ever go back to his words!!" Zhongli was surprised at the words of Anthon.
"I see, then what was your verdict?"-" I don't think that brother Ajax broke a promise. I just..., I just wish that I could have tagged along with them..."
Even an emotional-dumb person such as Zhongli can see the small but noticeable tears drops of tempting and dwelling on the corner of Anthon's eyes. "From what I have heard of the stories you've told me. I'm sure your brother would love to tag you along with them. I think you should try to express how you feel to him." That how it usually goes, yes? All the complex human emotions that Zhongli has encountered and learned are from research in books and drunk stories from adventurers.
"Communication is a requirement for a well-developed relationship between people. Talking to him might help you answered a few of your questions, no?" Zhongli advised.
Anthon looked at him, and slowly, he nodded." *sniff* Ok..., I'll try. Thank you, Mr. Zhongli."
He blew his nose and wiped his teary eyes, then continued. "Wow, I didn't know *sniff* that having an adult as a friend would be so nice. I thought it *sniff* would be really boring. *sniff* But you help me out a lot, Mr. Zhongli."
At that, Zhongli chuckled. He handed Anthon his long sleeves to wiped his face. A few sniffles later, Anthon was as good as new.
"Thank you, Mr.Zhongli. I'm glad I have you as a friend. I wish I can do something to pay you back for how much you have to help me today." Anthon said, trying to shut out the remaining sniffles.
"It was no big deal, it hardly cost me anything. Do not think much of it." Zhongli humbly said.
"Oh, do you have a house address? Maybe when I come up with something my brother can drive me to your house to gift to you back." Anthon said.
"Ah...You see...I don't have an address." Zhongli wondered why people of this world make so much notice on address and numbers. Every street, every vehicle, every building,..., has a number attached to it. Back in Teyvat, villages, and towns were predominantly close as to why they don't need addresses. You can just ask the locals around and find anywhere you need to go. Houses weren't a big thing back in Teyvat either. A lot of travelers lived in the forest and blended in with nature. As for Zhongli, in a cave. "I supposed you could say that I'm homeless."
Anthon gasped. "You are homeless?!" The loud shout made a few customers in the store turned their heads look at Zhongli and Anthon weirdly.
"Yes?" Was that an unusual thing here?
Anthon made a gasping sound. " My mom said that if I don't study hard enough, I would be homeless! Mr. Zhongli, did you study hard? You are really smart, Mr.Zhongli." Anthon panicked.
"I do not see why one intelligence would determine whether or not they lived in a house?" Zhongli puzzled.
"My mom also said that homeless people lived really difficult life, especially if you live in the city. Are you living a hard life, Mr. Zhongli?" Anthon continued to ask.
"Well, I am in a bit of a situation right now," Zhongli responded. It was true that he planned not to tell Anthon. But figuring that he already had a heart-fell conversation with the young boy, perhaps telling him about their situation isn't the worse idea.
" It is a bit difficult to explain..."
Anthon's eyes shined bright with ambition. "Mr. Zhongli! if you need help, just tell me!" Zhongli was taken back at the request. How could a child possibly know accurately what he was looking for? Zhongli coughed.
" I do not want to put this responsibility on a young child such as yourself, Anthon. My situation is...how to say this........bizarre."
"Bu-but...You are my friend Mr. Zhongli. Didn't you said that friends suppose to help each other out?"
Despite being bemused at his own words, Zhongli was impressed by Anthon's persuasion tactic. It was working very well, Zhongli must admit. " And you have helped me a lot with your knowledge, and now I promised that I will help you back!" Saying that Anthon pulled out his pinky finger and showed it to Zhongli. " It's a pinky promise!"
Zhongli stared in bewilderment at the finger wiggling in front of his sight. He knows that promise meant a lot to Anthon, so this must be something he is determined to accomplish. The bright smile and stary eyes that Anthon was giving him were like a plead for him to joint finger. Zhongli supposed that this was like a contract between them, despite centuries of making contracts with gods and dragons. Zhongli was never so taken back by a contract that he needed the most.
And so, his hand, slowly gravitating toward the promise. Before he knew it. Their pinky fingers were linked. Zhongli's slender hand outbalance the small hand of Anthon.
" If you insist, then I shall believe in the contract between us." It was ridiculous, they said. Zhongli knows that making a promise with a child was not the most favorable option of solution. But what else can he do? Maybe Anthon did have an answer for them after all. Maybe, someway, somehow he could assist them.
After they have separated their fingers, Zhongli turned to asked Anthon." What are your means to help me then?"
"Oh...well." Anthon played with his finger. "I haven't thought about it yet," Anthon said while scratching his rear forehead. Of course, it wasn't the best reliance strategy, Zhongli figured. Anthon looked at his book and lit up. "I don't think I can help you, but I know who can." Zhongli was intrigued by the statement.
"My brother." Zhongli's head tilted, despite questioning Anthon's idea, he continued to listen. " If we can convince my brother to help you, then you don't have to sleep on the street anymore. And you get to stay with me!"
"I see, your idea was very protruding. But I fail to see how we can convince your brother to help me?" Anthon pondered for a bit.
"Dinner." He blurted out.
"Hmm?"-"Dinner!" Anthon interrupted.
" We will have dinner tonight at this very mall. And if I bring you along with me, you can manage to impress brother Ajax with your charming knowledge." Anthon did a little wiggle movement at that. "And then KABOOM! you tell him about your sad heart-throbbing story, and THEN he will agree to help you!" Anthon explained fully.
"That... is actually quite logical," Zhongli said. Zhongli was impressed by how smart of a child Anthon is.
"Yea! And if Teucer gets to bring Mr. Cyclops, then I will get to bring you. It's only fair, right?"-"Mr. Cyclops?" Zhongli asked.
"Oh, it's a toy that brother Ajax made for Teucer," Anthon said. Coughing, Anthon continued. " Ahem, don't worry, Mr. Zhongli! This is my chance to help you! I will do to the best of my abilities!" Anthon cheered.
In his small victory delight, Zhongli couldn't help but be a little worried about Anthon's unconstructed plan, even so, he smiled at the cheery little boy as he beamed at Zhongli to reassured his trust. At that moment, Zhongli seems to regain his senses. It was the first hope that light up in their unlighted crisis.
That beam of hope was the last thing that was holding him together. Finally, he will be able to make up for his grave mistake as a master. And be a helpful part of their journey. If he was going to impress a human to get a place to sleep tonight, then so be it.
After the talk, they went back into old conversations. As if the promise they have just made weren't enough of an issue to discuss. Anthon assured Zhongli that there was no way his brother would turn a hand to someone who needed help. Anthon was way too confident about his brother, and that was what Zhongli was concerned for the most. But he sighed. Perhaps if he put more effort into this, then maybe somehow it could work.
It was when Anthon turned to face the windows and made a small 'huh' sound. "Hm? Anthon?" Then Anthon faced him, he did look a tad bit nervous.
" Pshh, Mr. Zhongli. My siblings are here. Look!" he whispered as if his siblings could have heard him right from the opposite side of the glass door. Zhongli looked up and saw them walked in, hands linked together.
There was a tall man who was accompanied by two young children walking by his side. A kid was wearing a fancy yellow flowery dress with a crown on top of her head, she pointed at the shelf near the area that they were sitting in. The other one was staring hard at an odd object he held in his hand, and it was almost as if he was talking to it. The grown man was holding tightly onto their hands, guiding them to the door. And then made a quick move to open it and lead them through it without a problem.
Zhongli can tell that he was experienced with taking care of children with how casually he was speaking with the kids and handling things in his hands at the same time. And then-
"Brother Anthon!" It was one of Anthon's brothers. His name was Teucer, Zhongli believed. And then Anthon excitedly stood up and waved them back. "Hey! Brother Teucer, Sister Tonia, Brother Ajax!" Zhongli was lost on what to do at the time, he was thinking about standing up and greet them fully. But would that manner fit in this case? Zhongli couldn't tell. It would be very impolite to interrupt their siblings' usual greetings.
They were exchanging small talks. At that instant, Zhongli managed to catch a clearer glance at his family. Teucer was a bubbly little kid, he has brown hair mixed with ginger, and what he held tight in his hands was a toy, apparently. Tonia was about the same height as Teucer, her hair a bit lighter on ginger, and she seems to be very joyous.
But what interested him the most is the tall ginger man. Zhongli could only assume his identity based on the stories that Anthon told him.
So this is 'Brother Ajax.'
He was a nice-looking young man. He has a more hue of orange to his hair. And a very attentive attitude toward his younger siblings. What captured him was his eyes. His eyes were a dark heavy sea blue color, it doesn't shine that well under the light, but something is compelling about his eyes that captured Zhongli's attention.
" Oh! Right! Guys! Lets me introduce you! I met this really cool man. He knows a bunch of things about rocks, and he's really cool, too." It was then that Anthon turned to him. Anthon pulled lightly on his sleeves as if to signal an action. And so, Zhongli put on his most competent act.
" Ahh..., This is your siblings you been talking about, yes? It is an honor to meet your family. My name is Zhongli." It was very stiff, Zhongli can tell. Though, somehow, they do not seem to mind.
The orange-hair man was standing still as a statue, his gaze piercing at him. Was it his wear that made it unnatural? Perhaps. It could also be that of his voice? Many people usually criticized that his voice was too baritone.
Zhongli eluded those intrusive thoughts out of his head. No, he must act human. Because if he does so, these people will be able to sympathize with him. That's the only way they can help him.
He knows. Zhongli knows.
As the situation he has been put in, he no longer holds any power anymore. And so he can't act as if he was someone above them. In fact, he was far too low from these humans. He mustn't act in such a way that will scare or frighten them away.
A coughing fit came from the man opposite to him. Zhongli looked up. Muffled a little 'sorry.' the man continued. " Ah, you must have been watching over Anthon. He's my little brother, I must thank you for keeping his fun when I was gone."
This is it, Zhongli. He breathed in lightly and in his most un-dispassionate self, he said. "There is no need to thank me. Your brother is a wonderful child. I greatly admired his studious characteristic and wanting to know more. You have a very ambitious brother."
"Thank you. Anthon has always been a great kid." The man's response was almost immediate. It was like he was running for something late. Then Zhongli thought bubble popped.
'Ah right, the dinner.'
Then Anthon brought the destine question. Zhongli can almost feel his breath hitched a bit at the kid's voice. As he held tight on Zhongli's sleeves and turned to his brother. " Oh! Brother Ajax! Can we bring him with us to dinner? He is my friend!"
"Oh...well I only ordered our own dishes. Since tonight reservations are thicker than usual." The man answered casually in a bit of a brush-off tone. As if he hadn't just break Zhongli's last light of hope.
"But! Teucer can bring Mr. Cyclops! If Teucer can bring his friend, then why can't I?"-"Anthon.." The man said in a hesitant tone.
Looking at the two brothers bickering, trying to pick on each other words, bit by bit. It was a bit hard to see. It would be unfortunate if Anthon ended up angry at his own brother. Zhongli didn't want to witness that. Looking at the small frame below, constantly squabbling at his brother, Zhongli felt guilt pooled in his stomach.
How can he? A god? Letting a young child standing up and defended him like this. And so, Zhongli quickly realized this isn't his battle to fight. He decided to give up and stop causing trouble for Anthon's beloved ones.
"Ah, I do not want to intrude on your dinner as an outsider. I should leave then." He said as he stood up, trying to loosen the tension. But little did he know that only made it worse. Anthon, eyes wide, jumped to him. He briskly held tight on Zhongli's sleeves as he stood up as well. "No! Don't leave! Mr. Zhongli, if you leave, then I can never see you again."
Surprised at the sudden action, Zhongli froze up at the sight of Anthon burying his head into his stomach, and his head of almond hair can be felt through the attire that Zhongli was wearing. It was an irrational reaction from a child, yes. But it was understandable. "Anthon! What do you mean 'never see him again? I can drive you here if you want to meet him." The man was trying to remove Anthon from gripping on Zhongli.
"No! Brother Ajax! You don't understand! Mr. Zhongli is homeless! What if he can't go back to see me anymore!" Zhongli visibly winced at the words. He didn't mean to hurt Anthon's feelings by leaving, but it would be quite regretful if he never gets to see the boy again. Despite that, he can't let it got to him. The situation as of now is hard enough already.
Zhongli can feel the gazing eyes of the orange-haired man turning to him, maybe to look down on him, maybe to question his action. He doesn't know. Zhongli tried in his last effort to removed Anthon from leeching onto his body. "Anthon, please let go of me."
"Brother Anthon, let's go of him! I will share Mr. Cyclops with you!." Teucer said while shoving the toy into Anthon sight.
"No! You promised to be my friend!" Zhongli can feel the grip on his clothes tighten as Anthon tried to suppress his voice." Promises should be fulfilled, not broken!"
It was when he turned to look directly at Zhongli. At that very moment, he can see the hurt dampen into the boy's teary eyes. The expression on his face. The cry of pain ringing in Zhongli's ears.
It can't be helped. The fact that he always hurts the person that he swore to protect. Zhongli's face was an expression of remorse. He felt sorry for the small boy.
Then the sound of yelling won't stop. It just gets louder and louder, and eventually, Zhongli has to close his eyes to blackout all the hue and cry. He was still as a rock for a second then suddenly-
"Anthon!!" It was the man's voice. Zhongli was pushed back, his legs stumbled on the wood floor, holding himself steady on the table.
Zhongli was brought back to reality once more. He can feel his nerves twitching, his hands unable to sense the surface of the table that he was holding on to. His legs were shaking a bit, Zhongli speculated.
He looked at the orange-haired man, who was now nowhere to be seen. He was chasing after his brother. He can't let this happened. He has to help them, he has to repay Anthon for breaking his promise to the little boy.
Zhongli quickly regained his senses. As he looked at the two pair of eyes of the shooked kids that was staring at him. "Wait for your brother to come back, ok?" Zhongli said in a soft tone. The two kids just looked at him and nodded astonishly.
And so, Zhongli breathed out a breath and started to channel his power. It was difficult to recall his adeptus ability in another realm and the journey they have been on, drained him off a lot. But despite the predicament, he feels like risking like this is worth the shot. For the first human who decided to lend him a helping hand.
In a moment, Zhongli was gone from the position he was before. Transforming into his dragon form, he swooping out of the hallway leaving wafts of air turning behind his golden tail.
In but a second, he happened to pass by the man who was desperately running looking for his brother only stop and looked up at him, Zhongli couldn't understand how a human can see him, but he did. That's not the problem that he should be worrying about at the moment. What he should be worrying about right now is Anthon.
'Anthon, Anthon, Anthon, where is he?' Trying to resonate with the earth is difficult, for he was currently on a very high floor and distanced from the ground.
But then the sight of the same orange-haired man standing, by his side, his little siblings looking up horrified at what he was looking at, that Zhongli knows. If he were one second later, he would have missed it. The sight of Anthon about to fall on the uninstalled balustraded glass frame on the side of the way.
Zhongli dashing through the air. With his current dragon form, he can't quite catch Anthon with his sharp claws, and so he transformed once more into a more subdued version of himself. It was as if the transformation made a clash in the function of the realm, and it reacted by the fast pace that Zhongli was going.
Everything seems to slow down for that very moment, and time seems to stop entirely. Maybe because somehow it did. Opening a portal into another realm must have cause some distraught into the natural order of this world. Poking and messing with it more will only add to the strange events.
With the boy's head in his right hand, Anthon turned his face to him. "..Mr.Zhongli?" The boy managed to sniffle. "Where are we?"
"It seems that with the weak connection of my power to my vessel, it causes a distraught in the nature of your world." Zhongli's face turned apologetic, he said. " I am sorry for breaking our promise, it is not forgivable for what I have done to you and your brother. However, I would like you to not be mad at your family."
Anthon's face turned down. "I-I...I'm sorry too. I didn't mean to lash out like that, it's just that I don't want you to go yet, Mr. Zhongli. I promised. It wasn't you that failed the promise, it was me..."
"I supposed we are now equal then," Zhongli said.
Anthon looked up at him." Yea...Bu-but you have to ask brother Ajax to help. I know my brother and he would never turn down other people in need. If you can say it to my brother, then I'm sure he will help you. " Anthon pleaded.
"Anthon..."- " No, I'm not pulling words. I'm being serious, Mr. Zhongli. You are an adult and adults are supposed to be braver than children, right?" Zhongli choked at that.
"I am not afraid." Zhongli's voice turned a bit sheepish. "Hmm...It seems like you are, Mr. Zhongli." Anthon said back. Zhongli sighed.
"It is said then, I will fulfill this promise of ours." Zhongli smiled. Anthon cheered up. "Really!? Wow! Oh! You would love brother Ajax's house, and I can show you-" Anthon kept on rambling. Zhongli gave him a wholehearted laugh.
"Anthon, as much as I would like to converse with you. Our time in this intercepted place is almost over. I must apologize for the effect it may take on your body." Anthon quirked up at that. "Mr. Zhongli...?" His eyes lids started to feel heavy, and Zhongli held tight to the boy and drop to the ground in front of the confused-looking man.
Zhongli landed on his feet and stood up to looked as courageous as ever. As he looked down into his arms, there lies Anthon, eyes closed, sleeping in blissful happiness with his body warm against Zhongli. He handed the boy over to his brother.
" Woah!! You have such pretty hair, Mister!!" Tonia said-"But your eyes are a bit scary." Tonia turned to smack him.
" Hey! Don't say that to adults! That's rude!"
The orange-haired man stood in there in shock at the sight. His limp arm went instinctively to quickly removed Anthon from Zhongli's hold. The man's face looked as concerned as ever. Zhongli coughed a few sounds before he recomposed himself. 'Ahem'
"I-I...I'm sorry for causing trouble for you and your family. I do not want to be a problem to you." His voice came out more of a stutter and less of an admission. How disgraceful, Zhongli murmured to himself.
Standing in front of the man now, Zhongli couldn't help but feel a little bashful after his first impression of the man. Although they have only exchanged a few lines of words. Zhongli knows that whatever this human was going to say is going to be impactful to his story. Zhongli sighed. This was his last chance to redeem himself. He has to raise his courage to at least say something. He can't wait around and hoping for people to help him without a word. Zhongli builds up his courage, and he said.
"But... I do need you to help me with something..." Zhongli paused as he unconsciously averted his face away from the man's gaze. Zhongli gulped down.
Reminded himself of the promise he made with Anthon, the little child. His brows furrow in focus together. His eyes were filled with determination again. "My companions and I need help.." His voice is no longer cracking. Zhongli took his courage and reach out to the man's hand falling, motionless in his grip, and get closer to the man's face to assert his confidence. His voice became more dominant as he clear his throat. "I want to make a contract with you."
"C-contract?" Was all that the man could spew out of his mouth.
"Yes, you give me and my companions a place to sleep. And when I finished my journey, I will grant you anything that you want." Zhongli answered the man's unsaid question effortlessly with his newfound confidence.
Being a god of contract, he has done many contracts with humans that involving in granting them wishes, whether it was materialistic or not. That was what they usually want, yes?
"Anything that I want you said."The man seems to has recomposed himself. "I would not hold you to that, but regardless, I will help you. How about I give you a place to stay for tonight?" The man said in a reluctant voice. Regardless, Zhongli was in joy with the answer of the human man.
"Anthon probably doesn't want you to leave soon. And I want my brother to be with his friend." Zhongli understands that it was reasonable. His face turns into the most jocular expression that he has been all day. " Thank you for your kindness. This favor I will not forget. I will fulfill this contract of our to the best of my abilities." Zhongli said in a rush.
"Yeah..." The man retracted his hand from Zhongli's. He coughed and turned to ask him. "What did you say your name was again?"
It was the last grasp, and Zhongli succeeded. Although this small victory isn't going to help them much, but for now it was enough for Zhongli.
The only source of light was coming from the fire pit stationed in the middle of the room. The swirling and changing fire reacts when the wooden creaks open, and two shadow figures could be seen walking in from the corridor into the dim room. The figures were two men, one with brown hair and the other with long blue. As one of them sets a map down onto the table, the other shivers and said.
"Gosh, why is this place always so god damn cold?" Osial complains as he rubs his hand protectively over his elbows to warm up and maintaining what is left of his body heat.
"The queen is a cryo user and is akin to the cold environment," Azhdaha said as he turns around to knock on Osial head. He continued.
"And it is midnight, you dolt. Stop trying to wake everybody in this hallway and lower your voice." Azhdaha replied bluntly.
"Alright, I get it." Osial glares at the man as he pats the side of his head. " You are the one who forces me to wake up. It's not like I volunteer to hunt down a dragon heart before dawn!" Osial retorts.
He knew that Azhdaha has a plan, but even he can't possibly find Morax in the middle of these dark hours. The sky is one inky black color that stains to the extent of the end of the horizon, the sound of the wind drifts through the windmill is probably the loudest that he can hear in the horrified coldness of the night.
Azhdaha sighed at the statement. " You think?! You were the one who said it was a good idea to interfere with the queen businesses."
"Pssh." Osial brushes him off. " But why are you so sure going in the middle of the night would be more of a sufficient plan," Osial asked dumbly and turned to Azhdaha for an answer. At that, Osial cracks his back. He groans loudly. " Couldn't we just go in the morning? And you haven't even told me the plan yet." Osial closed his eyes as his whine continues.
Osial couldn't understand what kind of human Azhdaha was for staying for almost over twenty-four hours and still manages to walk pridefully with his back straight and mind focus. Probably a monarch thing.
"Ahem, so where are we going?" Osial turned his attention back to the problems at hand. " The Chamber of Hortus." Azhdaha pointed at a location on the layout map. Now, what the fuck was that? Osial asked again confusingly.
" I know you are like the prince and all, but like I don't know where that is."
"It's the garden where we use to host parties. The one that The queen used to banish Morax. We are going there." Azhdaha replied with a stone voice.
Banish? Osial remembered that day very clearly, and all she has done to the god was to push him down the garden fountain giant drain. At that, Osial turns to Azhdaha, face puzzled.
" Wait, wait, wait. So you think that Morax is currently stuck inside the castle pipe system or something??"
Azhdaha sighed. "No." Azhdaha drags out. "I don't think that is the case. If so, we wouldn't have to go and find him, won't we?" He said as if mocking Osial.
Osial looked at him bemused. "Yea, but where else could he go?" Azhdaha sighed for the 1389th time. " Just get your thing, and I will handle the rest," Azhdaha said bluntly. That was the least helpful answer that he could have received.
"You are brushing off my question again. What is your plan? Do you even have a plan?" Osial continuously asked him. Azhdaha was as silent as a rock, when he finished looking at the map, he started to tidy up.
"Ugh, why did I even ask you? I don't even get extra money for doing this. I rather stay here licking some rich lady boots than going with someone as uncooperative as you. " Osial put a finger on his forehead to ponder. His brow furrows, his legs seem like they want to leave the room at any moment now.
Azhdaha face scrunchs up. "Osial..." Azhdaha tried to say something, but he stopped himself and sighed one last time. Osial speaks up.
"If you actually feel bad, then explained why you keep putting me off. I mean, just because you are the prince, that doesn't constrain me to go on babysitting you for another day. I can just leave now, the queen isn't awake. Why should I worry?" Osial was mad, rightfully so he thinks. Osial was up on his way to leave.
Azhdaha was never good with his words. But he didn't show any reluctance as he tries to stop Osial from leaving.
"Wait." The stern voice called out.
Osial turned around immediately. "What?" His voice has a slight annoyance to them.
"I...I spoke to the queen."
That was what intrigued Osial to stay.
"She..well. Promised me if I were to get that gnosis, then I can become the next on the throne. When I became a king, then I'll reward you evenly, so please, don't go yet." His explanation was full of pause and cut. That made Osial felt a bit of pity.
"And if I were the king, then I can change everything. Her system, her kingdom, her lies." Azhdaha paused. "I know I didn't pay you enough to the worth of your time or even your life, and the journey might endanger both of us. It's was foolish of me to think that I can trust the queen, but is there anything. This is my only choice."
Osial stared straight into the pupil of Azhdaha's eyes. It was firing with passion and hope, he was practically begging him to stay. Osial sighed deeply.
"Fine." He plainly said.
Azhdaha turned his head to look at him. His face was an expression of surprise. "What? It's not like I'm doing this for you and whatever dream you got going on. I'm doing this for the money afterward. You better became the king. Or I'm going to take all the money that you have as a monarch. And note, you don't have a lot." Osial spewed his words at Azhdaha's face.
Despite his brash words, Azhdaha gives him a hopeful smile. "That would be enough."
The sky looks like it was getting swallow by a black hole, the horizon was barely visible. The air was a brittle cold and send a chill down people's spines if they were walking in the same tunnel that Osial and Azhdaha were walking. The wall almost materialized to ice, as the wet but hard surface of bricks surrounded them created an iffy aroma. Not smelly, just very distinctive. Vines and wild mushrooms grow and flourish upon the stone wall. Their leaves and cord split hard stone and bricks to survive. The cry of agony from previous prisoners could be heard through the thick wall if you listen carefully.
'So this is where I would get send to when I crashed the queen tea party.' Osial thought. To be fully honest, he couldn't get upset at Azhdaha. Because if it wasn't for him being the title that he was. Osial would probably get beheaded for disrespecting the queen. Luckily for him, he still has his body intact, hot blood flowing in his vein, unlike those corpses.
'But would it be better to get beheaded instead?' Osial rethinks as they stumble upon the iron-locked door. It was a miserable-looking door for sure. "Here we are," Azhdaha said. "Anything that drops from above and into the fountains, the drain would lead it straight to here."
"Your mother sure has a pretty elaborative fountain, isn't she?" Azhdaha winced at his words. "Don't call the queen that."- "Ah, sorry." Osial quickly said.
Azhdaha moves to open the door. As the door ajar, they stepped inside, into the darkness of the room.
The room was relatively large, with many pipes and pumpers connects to the wall. In the center of the room was a large crater of a sort. It was difficult to see underneath it. But judging by the air it gives off, it feels like this crater has some type of magic to impel it to exist.
Osial was inspecting the weird-looking hole as Azhdaha speak up. "Let's go." Osial choked out loud. "Go? In there? you mean?"
It never ceases to amaze Osial, to what extent, that this man can say the dumbest shit with the most serious face without a doubt of his own words. He looked over at what the man was doing.
Azhdaha was tightening a rope attached that to his body to a pipe near the crater. 'He can't be serious.' Osial thought.
"What are you doing? Get your rope." Azhdaha asked as he looked at Osial bemusedly.
'Never mind, he was batshit serious.'
"I didn't bring any rope." That was that Osial could blurt out. He cursed the situation he was put into. Why the fuck did he agree to this in the first place?! "You didn't?"
"You didn't tell me anything beforehand, remember?" Osial said as he tried to escape whatever he was about to commit. And also to prove to Azhdaha that, no he was not a coward for not wanting to jump down a mysterious black hole. It's only because he simply doesn't have the equipment to.
"No? I didn't? Hmm." Azhdaha stopped to ponder a bit. "Hmm...I see. It seems that I forgot to inform you about the plan." Azhdaha then rubbed his chin.
Osial was breathing out in relief that he doesn't have to jump down that terrifying place. How wonderful that he doesn't have to cling onto some rope, hanging on some weak pipelines. How unfortunate for Azhdaha to go alone. Ah well, at least-
"I can carry you down then."
Osial face never got heated so fast before. "What? No!!" Osial tried to shout at Azhdaha as he stepped closer. Azhdaha stopped in his track and asked. "Why? I need you to go with me. There is no other option unless you want to share this rope of mine, too. It won't get you too far down, though."
"Bu-but, you can't be serious." Osial stutters. He looked at the dead eyes of the other man.
"I am serious."
"Wait!! Hold on!" Osial tried to reason. But there seems to be no other way down other than accepting Azhdaha's offer. "I-I..." Osial try to think of something to say, but in the end, he gives up. 'It couldn't be so bad, right?' Osial thought.
'Besides, it can't be that weird, right?' It was the unsaid words that bothered him the most. As he gave up and extended his arms for Azhdaha to hold. What was the worse of it? It was an elaborative hug. That is what it is. It will be over in a second, that was what Osial thought.
He couldn't be more wrong.
Soon enough, the darkness enveloped them. Osial mood was lifted by a bit, considering how they couldn't even see each other faces, despite being so close with each other. But after a few minutes, it got worse. With his vision now gone. His ears and nose started to pick up more things than he wanted.
He can hear Azhdaha every breath and sigh. The sound of his heart beating. His eyes, blinking. The sound of the rope stretching to hold both of their body. Occasionally the sound of the tight grip that Azhdaha has on his back, his fist clenching as if they were tired to hold on to such weight, but still, he flexes his muscles and his sweats against Osial. They didn't say anything on the way down.
Suddenly, an earthquake happened. The rumble deep inside of the ground sends waves crumbles the earth. The rope was swinging violently and hit against multiple objects. Osial tucks his body even closer to Azhdaha as they together witnessed the horrifying natural phenomenon. It was such a strong earthquake that it feels, there was no other like it in the history of Teyvat.
Was it because of their location? Or does the people above the ground can feel the same as well? It almost feels like there is a force that was pulling them closer and closer to whatever destination that it planned for them. The force was incredibly strong, Azhdaha was no longer breathing Osial can tell. So does the weight in Osial body feel pressed and tired? The force keeps messing with them until the rope that was hanging them on from the beginning finally broke. And it released them from their chain, tumbling down into the dark and unknown land that was the abyss.
The first thing he woke up to see was the face of Osial looking down on him with a hint of worry expressed on his face. He couldn't be more grateful that the man was willing to go with him on his journey. Wait, the journey...Morax...Rope...Earthquake...
He sits right back up as all the memories suddenly flooded into his mind, and once again, his anxiety was there to taunt him firstly.
Where were they? Did he got separated from Osial? Wait, no, that was already answered for him. Feeling the emptiness sat on his hip, his bag of supplies was now gone. Then something hit him in the forehead.
"Stop overthinking. It's your bag, and I was holding it. Don't worry. Nothing has gone missing." Osial was there. "Yet." He added uncomically.
Taking his bag back, he looked over to Osial. Both of them seem to be barely injured from anything hit or cut, the only thing was the headache, but that will be gone soon enough. Has that crater always been able to do that? Before they come to the crater, Azhdaha did come to look at it to assure its safeties. Nothing was abnormal at the time when he came.
"Hey! You there?" Osial tapped him a few times on the shoulders.
"Don't worry, I'll be fine. What about you?" Azhdaha asked. Osial shrug. "Barely a scratch," Osial said.
"Hmm," Azhdaha replied.
At that, Osial has something to said. "Say." He dragged the words out long to catch Azhdaha's attention. "Hmm, yes?"
Osial took a deep breath. He asked in a high-pitched voice. "Tell me the truth. Is this in any way...a trap?"
"Trap?" Azhdaha puzzled at Osial words.
"Yeah, like, you know, the queen get mad at me so much that instead of beheaded me, she wanted to torture me, so she asked you to bring drop me down into a hole in the middle of an earthquake and send me to a far far away realm where she doesn't have to see my face anymore, like that? You know. Like a trap." Osial said in a monotone voice with an earnest expression on his face as if he genuinely believed whatever that he just blatantly spewed out.
Azhdaha looked at Osial as if he was crazy. All that Osial response was. "I mean, you never know, maybe there is another one here as well." At that, Azhdaha couldn't hold his laughter in anymore. He burst out laughing, and now it was Osial turn to look menacingly at him.
"Wait!? So it was truth!?!" Osial panics. "No!" Azhdaha wheezed and hold his stomach. "Then stop laughing, I'm being serious!!" Azhdaha did not stop.
It was when a voice butt into their conversation. "Ummm?"
They both turned to the woman, who was holding a box. "Hello? Can I help you guys?"
It was then that he finally realized he was in a different place than the castle. It was a large spacy place with many weird-looking mechanic machines sitting out in the open, put into lines. The ground he was sitting on was cement. He can tell, the castle uses a lot of this material for its construction purposes.
Azhdaha coughed into his fist and turned to the woman. "Ah, yes. Can you please tell us where are we?"
"You are in the parking lot of Liuli Pavillion. I'm sorry, but our restaurant opening days starting tomorrow, today was just a staff meeting. Customers are not allowed in here. I would recommend you to leave, we are having a bit of a...situation..." The woman said. An alluring voice comes from behind the door that the woman originally came from.
"Who was that?"
The woman panics and turns around. "Ah, yes! Miss Ningguang. Just some guest, please don't mind them."
"Ah, let me greet them then." The voice replied.
A tall woman with slender built, white-silver hair, she was donning a red fitted dress. It's a type of fabric that Azhdaha has never seen before.
The woman said she glared at Azhdaha and Osial. Although, the hint in her eyes was concerning. She doesn't seem to have any ulterior motives to harm them. Being a prince made Azhdaha took note of these things quite literally.
Azhdaha and Osial looked at each other. Before Osial coughed and stepped in front of him, Osial quickly took the woman's hand in his and said in a flirtatious voice. "Why it is such a lovely day to meet such a beautiful lady like yourself." Azhdaha winced as the woman gently took her hand out of Osial reach and almost smack him square in the face as she pulls back. But something was holding her off.
She smiled at them. Her smile was warm, but her eyes were cold. "What interesting guests we have, don't you think, Yuhua? Can you go put the supplies away? Let me entertain our uninvited visitor."
"Mi-Miss. Ningguang, I'm sure they are just passing by. We shouldn't-"
"Now now, what did I just say?" Ningguang looked at the poor woman. The woman made herself small, looked down onto the box she was holding, and said. "Y-yes, I will go inside now." Then the woman sulkily walked back inside.
Then Ningguang turned to them. "I do not like people who disturb me in my work." Azhdaha can hear Osial gulped. Azhdaha raises his hip to bump against Osial as a reminder. "A-ah...Yes. Ahem, I sincerely apologize for my actions. Miss..."
"Mhm.." The woman calmly hummed a tune. Her brow furrows a little. " It seems that it is fate that we get to meet each other then. And if so, I destined to get to know you. My name is Ningguang." The woman raises her hand out.
Azhdaha and Osial took a turn to shake the woman's hand. "Ahem, let me reintroduce myself. I'm Osial. And this man over here is Azhdaha."
"It is a pleasure to meet you." Azhdaha bowed. Osial tsk at the gesture. The woman giggled. " It's hard to find people with such manner nowadays. What is it that you need in this restaurant?"
Osial looked at Azhdaha as if he knows the answer. "Ah, yes. We are only looking for..., a certain...., person...If it would suffice, we want to ask you if you have seen them here before."
"Hmm, I understand. What is does this person look like?" Ningguang said nonchalantly.
"Umm, he about this tall." Osial made a statement by flatting his palm to a certain degree to illustrate his point. "With long brown hair and amber eyes." The woman's petrifying eyes of pure annoyance pierce through them all the way to the end of Osial explanation.
" How unfortunate, I do not remember seeing anyone who has the appearance that fit your description," She said.
Osial sighed. "Ah, sorry for bothering you then." Looking at Azhdaha. Azhdaha himself couldn't even tell what to do next, he was planning to greet with dark magical power, not transported to an entirely different realm. It would take them days before they find Morax in such a large land. At that, the woman giggles at their predicaments.
Azhdaha looked at the woman. " I see that you two are having a bit of trouble here. I think I can lend you a hand as a friendly gift for us to meet?"
At that, someone interrupted them. "Oi Ning! You done?"
The woman turned to the sound. "Ah yes, I'll be there in just a minute. Wait for me, love." Then she waves gently at the brunette with an eyes patch standing from afar. She turned to them and said.
"It is indeed fate that we get to meet. I believed we will cross paths a lot more in the future, Mr. 'Osial' and Mr. 'Azhdaha'. If you are willing to, I will gladly employ you two to work here as our employees " It was an unexpected and sudden turn.
Azhdaha choked. "Um...Wait, we're not looking for a job." The woman continued. "And mayhaps you are looking for that someone. Working here might help you find that someone, we have large branches in this city. It wouldn't be hard to find that person as long as you are sure that he is still in the city." The woman's offer was tempting. After all, they have nowhere to go after this.
"It would only benefit you, would it not?" The woman reaches her hand out, inside her palm was a small card. Azhdaha was hesitant but after being pressured into accepting the offer. Azhdaha took the card from the woman. Osial then retorts.
"Wait! I'm not getting another job!?"
Then he got tsk off by Azhdaha.
The woman smile. "I'm glad that you accept my offer. Please take this card and give it to the employee. They will understand what you mean."
"It is a pleasure to be working with you. Can I call you Miss Ningguang?"
The woman smile. "No, you will call me your boss." Ningguang then smiles. " Well then, I look forward to our next meeting."
She quickly took her to leave and left them there alone in the parking lot. After making sure she has gone far enough to not overheard them, Osial then turns to Azhdaha. "What were you thinking?!"
"What other plan can you possibly have? We just have to adapt to this. It'll be easier to Morax this way than wandering around with no clues, yes?" Azhdaha defends his choice. "Yea, right 'adapt' my ass. Said the person who never works a day in his life." Osial spits bitterly at the prince.
"I'm sure I'll be fine. Unlike you." Azhdaha added at the end.
"What are you trying to say?" Osial said, glaring at Azhdaha." I mean, our boss doesn't seem too fond of you. If I must say, if it wasn't for me, you would have been dead by now."
Osial sighed. "Is there anymore woman in your life that isn't fond of me?" He dragged out. Azhdaha laughed at that. "Hey! Stop laughing! This is serious! Is me suffering that humorous to you?!"
Azhdaha turned to Osial, wiping away tears in his eyes, he said.
As he slowly comes back to his senses, he calms down. "You sure are a strange companion, Osial." Osial's face heated up instantly.
"Who says that I was your companion in the first place?! You blockhead?! Go on your own!!"
The muscle in his body was aching all over. His body was not responding the way it should be. Could it be that he overworks himself by using adepti power yesterday? Or was it just because of the uncomfortable surface he was sleeping on? Zhongli opens his eyes. He was half-lying on the settee, what was it called again? Right, a 'sofa'. He regains his consciousness as he pushes his body to sit up straight. His hair was a mess, his eyes felt heavy, his body felt sticky and dirty, his breath was dry, his back aches terribly.
Is this what humans usually feel like in their own bodies? No wonder they have to have so many necessities.
Zhongli missed the warm and soft nest made of hay in his cozy cave. His eyes now greet with the sunlight piercing through the curtains, squinting, Zhongli tried to cover his eyes with his hand. Zhongli then forces his legs to stand up and swept the dust off his clothes.
Glancing to the side, there he sees Gany and Xiao bundle up, curling around each other sleeping peacefully. Zhongli smiles, the sight was enough to warm his heart.
'They must be very tired.' Zhongli thought.
Zhongli looked around. He must admit the place that these humans live was rather large. It has impressive space. There is a lot of strange decorations. And plenty of odd-looking devices that Zhongli couldn't make out what was the purpose of it. Nevertheless, the place was substantial, even with seven people living in it.
A voice called out to him. Zhongli turned to the sound coming from the doorway. From behind the door, a chestnut head pokes out caught his attention. Then immerge from the side, Anthon holding tight to a pillow, staring at him.
"Good morning, Anthon."
Zhongli greets the small boy. The boy seems shy of him, he takes a long time looking at him. Then Anthon started to approach Zhongli, hand hugging the pillow around him protectively.
"Are you Mr. Zhongli?" The boy asked of him.
"Yes, it is me. Why do you ask?" Anthon peaks his head out of the pillow a little.
"Are you really Mr. Zhongli?" Zhongli only nodded furiously at the boy. Anthon gasp.
"You did keep your promise. Mr. Zhongli, you did ask my brother!" Saying that, Anthon jumps up and down, then he launches forward and hugs tight Zhongli's legs. "Ah! I'm so excited! I have to finish telling you my book story from yesterday!" Zhongli didn't want to ruin the moments by telling him that he was only going to stay by, he has left by the afternoon. After all, Zhongli remembers their contract very clear. As it has stated, he only staying 'for the night.'
"Ah-" Zhongli tries to balance himself with the weight Anthon pulling him down. Anthon then lets go of him, he holds onto the front of Zhongli's long hanfu. This child is a very affectionate one.
" Come! Come! Let me show you something!"
Anthon said enthusiastically, dragging Zhongli's skirt to lure him somewhere. He then proceeds to lead him into a room with many books and shelves.
There is a glass window covered with dark curtains. Anthon then sits down on the sofa and taps lightly on the seat to his right side as if he is telling Zhongli to join him.
Zhongli followed him into the room and sit down next to him. Anthon then said. "This is my second time here. Brother Ajax show me this room yesterday. This is brother Ajax's office! He said that this place is very special to him. Do you know why it is so special? Mr. Zhongli?" At the question, Zhongli took a quick observation around the room. It was smaller than the room they were in before. It was not neatly clean perse, but it did have a lot of personalities. There were a lot of pictures laying out on the floor, perhaps the man's hobby was photography?
Glancing around, Zhongli saw a lot of pictures and photos of people as well. Perhaps it was the man's family that made this place special to him. There were also award and badge stacks in line on top of shelves. Little small trinkets of decorations here and there. Small trees in little pots. Stacks and stacks of paper in random places.
Zhongli finds the place very pleasant. If he could critique, the only problem he had with this room was that there were no windows. These glass windows can't be open, it was stuffy, and it made Zhongli felt a bit cramped.
"Is it because of those pictures?" Zhongli suggested.
Anthon made an 'mhm' sound. "That's right! There's a ton of pictures!!" Anthon reaches out to grab a small picture frame. "Brother Ajax show me this photo yesterday," Zhongli observes the picture.
It was a slightly faded picture showing its old age, but it was impressive to him how clear the picture was. It reminds Zhongli of an invention that a human has created back in Teyvat, the story of a man with a device that can capture moments, he said. He heard that they called them 'Kamera' nowadays.
"See this man?" Anthon said while pointing at the photo. Zhongli looks at the person. "Yes?"
"I wasn't even born when this picture was taken. This small boy here was brother Ajax back then. And this man was uncle Viktor. Brother Ajax told me that he respects uncle Viktor a lot! He would bring him to go on fishing trips with him all the time. Brother Ajax wouldn't be as good as he is now if it wasn't for uncle Viktor!"
"Hmm." Zhongli looks hard at the picture. The small boy was in the locked arm of the taller man, both were grinning at each other playfully. The small boy looked rather mischievous.
"Brother Ajax is really sociable. I wish I can be like that too. I'm not good at talking with my far relatives. Sometimes, I forget their names." Anthon said.
"You are a growing boy, Anthon. I am sure that you will improve a lot in the future with your communication skill." Zhongli advised Anthon.
"I hope so. The last time, at lunch in my school, I accidentally spilled my juice box all over a girl's hair, it was so awkward. I didn't know how to talk to her afterward. I bet that if it was brother Ajax, he would know what to do and say."
"Hm...I see, I suppose human muddle as such is not in my field of expertise." Anthon then sighed, and he looked up.
"Oh! Look." Anthon glances past Zhongli. "Hm?"
He then grabs behind Zhongli, he brought out an even smaller frame. Anthon giggles and said to Zhongli. "Hey, this is my gift for brother Ajax's birthday last year. He still keeps it here, I wonder why?"
"Maybe he enjoys your gift."
"Oh, it's nothing, seeing this just reminds me of something..." Anthon replied.
Zhongli tilts his head. " What does it remind you of?" He said gently.
"I was just remembering when brother Ajax was still at home. I was really young then so I probably don't remember much but what I do remember is that brother Ajax used to laugh at my jokes a lot. Brother Ajax would take me on brothers' bonding trips, we would catch bugs and put them into little jars. Brother Ajax did most of the work, but it was still really fun...I miss it."
Zhongli looks into the boy's eyes filled with a nostalgic sadness. It was a new concept to Zhongli. That a human so young as Anthon could feel the threading of time and reminisce back to the old days. Perhaps it wasn't just something that Zhongli find interesting. It did relate to him in an unexplainable way. Years of living as a god, passing through the eras, building civilization, yet his memories of his once friends and foes have never faded. He has a good memory of the contracts he made, in each of them tell a story that of legends. But little did they know that behind the scene it was the all mighty Rex Lapis that can't seem to let go of the past.
He remembers the names and stories he shares with countless companions of his, yet he can't recall any of their faces. The heavy feeling in his chest whenever he would try to pictures the appearance of his old foes sitting around him when he is drinking tea. When he would curls up inside of his nest and sniff the glaze lillies that he picked up from the forest. When he would sometimes observe humans from afar and his body would stand still, he would try to visualize that person right next to him looking down at the people as well. But whenever he turns to his side, he would face with the reality that there was no one there in the first place.
That was the feeling he keeps inside for thousands of years. He would blame it on erosion and on how he is but an old crone, memories should hurt.
But now listening to the boy confessing his true feelings to him, Zhongli has a hint that maybe, those feelings were real all along. And that it wasn't just an effect it takes on his body due to times. But because of something else. He wonders what it is.
"You and your brother were very close, isn't it?"
"Hm...Brother Ajax was always such a cool person, I'm afraid when I grew up I wouldn't get to play with him anymore. Brother Ajax moved out to the city pretty early, I missed him a lot. Every time I would knock on his bedroom door and no one would reply, I would realize that brother Ajax wasn't there. Mom and dad use that room for the pets we have now. He calls home a lot but it just isn't the same with meeting him, you know?" Anthon looks down.
"We used to play all the time! I thought if I work hard and I get to spend the summer with brother Ajax it would be fun! But now, it wasn't the same anymore. Brother Ajax has a job now, what if he doesn't like playing with me anymore?"-"Why would your brother play with your other siblings but not you?"
"Because they have seen each other more than I do? Teucer and Tonia are cool, I'm not." At that Anthon head down.
Zhongli felt bad for the boy, yet he didn't know how to cheer a child up. "Maybe we can do something about this."-"Hm?"
"You say that your brother would take you out on brother bonding trip then why don't you take the initiative and ask him first? I'm sure your brother wouldn't turn down such an offer." Zhongli said. He doesn't know why he is suddenly so investing in the topic, but regardless if this is the last time he would meet Anthon, perhaps he can do what he can to help.
"Hmm...It's not a bad idea...Maybe..but I don't know how to ask him.." Anthon said.
"I would say my penmanship is not bad perhaps I can write and you can recite the lines?" Zhongli suggests."Hm...hmm" Anthon puts a finger on his chin. "Alright, I'll try my best to shine your words! Thank you, Mr. Zhongli!"
After that, they fall back into conversation again. Anthon continued his unfinished story of yesterday, Zhongli attentively listening and asking. The morning was early, but laughter and voices were filled all out in the slightly dim and quiet apartment.
The sound of snoring and rumbling greets Childe as he was awakened from his peaceful sleep. Childe knows that he was not fully conscious yet. It was the state where his body is half-paralyzed, and he can only move his finger or foot if he jams his brain to do it. But he doesn't try to stir anything up, yet. Because today was Saturday, and there was no paperwork waiting for him at the office. No Scaramouche was trying to steal his lunch or Signora throwing files cases at his face.
Instead, it is just the feeling of silence in his own abode. But his expectation crashes down onto him when something was moving along his side. The sound of something or someone murmuring in their sleep alerted Childe. Childe realized that he was, in fact, not alone in his home today.
He turns to his side, and there it was. Teucer hugging Mr. Cyclops and snoring peacefully in his sleep right next to him. Next to Teucer was Tonia covered in a soft blanket, lying face down, stuff in a pillow, dead asleep.
Wait, he realized. Where is Anthon? Childe glanced to his other side, an empty blanket and pillow left hanging from the bedside dragging down onto the floor tiles. Childe immediately sits up, ignoring the sleepiness that usually pulling him down onto the bed during the weekend. In the darkroom, Childe tries his best to squint around to find his brother. There was no sight of him anywhere in the room. He forced himself out of bed. Childe rubs his eyes and tries his best not to wake Teucer or Tonia up as he extracts himself from their entangled mess of pillows and blankets.
Entering the main living room, the first thing that hit him was the sight of Ganyu and Xiao sleeping peacefully on the couch, in a very uncomfortable position, Childe adds. The green gnome over there actually looks younger when he is asleep and not glaring at Childe.
But if he remembers correctly, there were three of them. Suddenly, the sound of laughter emanating from somewhere in the hallway. Childe looks over, trying to find the source. He heard the voices of people talking.
Childe followed the sounds until they lead him to his office door.
Childe slowly grabs the doorknob and 'clicks.' His eyes widen at what he was seeing.
The sight makes Childe speechless.
A beautiful man sitting on his office couch, his amber reflects the warmth and fluttery atmosphere in the room. His dark brown hair dripping down his shoulder as he leans over to take a look at something. The light of morning through the glass windows was peaking inside of the dark curtains and reflected on the man porcelain face. Childe couldn't describe this peaceful aroma that has never existed in his office before, now suffocating his lungs as he stood slightly near the doorway. It was like a fairy tale, one might say. That Childe just wakes up one day with beauty in his house, sitting on his couch. And the way he was chuckling as well. God...., Childe's grip on the doorknob tightened as he gulped down.
The man seems to notice him as he quirks up and looks at him. The man tilts his head curiously at him.
Childe's weak heart couldn't take this attack first thing in the morning. He then turns his attention to the small frame sitting opposite the man. The small frame notices the sound and turns around.
Anthon excitedly jumps at him as he approaches them. "Anthon, what are you doing so early?" He asked, trying his best to ignore the look the man sitting over there was giving him.
"I was showing Mr. Zhongli a tour of the apartment. Oh, well...I only just got to this room." Anthon paused. "Bu- But maybe later, I'll show him more!"
"That's very generous of you, Anthon." Childe pats Anthon's head. "But it's a little early don't you think? How about you gave Mr.Zhongli a tour later?"
"Ok.." Anthon replied. Childe coughs, he didn't mean to sound like his mother but after yesterday maybe he just gets a little more cautious. "It's almost breakfast. I'm making pancake today, how about you go and wake Teucer and Tonia up?"
"Ok, brother Ajax." Anthon pouts, turning to Zhongli. "I'll be back, Mr. Zhongli." Then he quickly waves and runs out of the room.
Childe looks over at the man. "Good morning, Zhongli um..xiansheng."
"Good morning, Childe. I must thank you for housing me and my companion last night. I am very grateful for what you have done for us yesterday." Zhongli said.
The man looks at him with wonder, not to mention the light coming from behind Zhongli's back makes his aura glow. Although the man is now out of horns and scaly features, yet he still somehow looks out of the ordinary. Childe still couldn't tell whether or not what he has witnessed yesterday was real or was just a weird dream that he had. Nevertheless, he shouldn't be disrespectful to someone as his guest.
"Don't mind that, I don't want you to sleep out in some alleyway. Anyway, I hope that you have gotten a good rest?" Childe asks. "I did, though I must start to pack up. As our contract has stated, I can only stay for one night. I do not want to bother you any longer, we will be leaving as soon as possible." Childe realized what he has said yesterday.
"Um...You know you don't have to take it so literally. We just help each other out, right? You can stay until you find a good place." Childe said. "I can't break the contract that we have set out. As I have said, I will fulfill the contract to the best of my abilities. Your generosity is a blessing, but I can not take it." It seems that the man refuses to go back on his words. "I see..."
Maybe it was for the better, the man has stated that he can take care of himself. He needs no help. Childe shouldn't stick his nose into it. It's not important, besides now he can finally have a peaceful summer with his siblings. Somehow..It just didn't feel right...
"Well, would you like to join us for breakfast? Then you can leave."
The man's face reacts slightly. The man's face was always stoic so it was hard not to see the difference when it happens. "If you would have us then, yes, it would be an honor to join your family meal." The 'us' makes Childe internally slaps himself in the head when he realizes that he had to feed more than just Zhongli but also that green snot.
The sizzling sound on the stove alerts Anthon as he steps out of the bathroom doorway, now with different clothing.
Childe skillfully flips the pan as the pancake turns over. Teucer and Tonia are sitting at the table, chatting with each other. The warmth of the morning atmosphere, with the sound of the stove clash with the utensil, the voices talking loudly in the kitchen make the apartment more lively than before.
It was a big change from the usual days. Childe would hardly have anyone over to his house. Most of the time, he would spend at his friend's or colleague's house. Either that, or he was at the office. Of course, he wouldn't want any of Scaramouche's dirty hands on his furniture or Sandrone to know where he lives. Only some of Childe's closest friends were allowed at his house.
"Brother Anthon, you already shower?" Teucer asked. Anthon jumps on the chair that was way too high for him. "Mhm!"
"You wake up really early today. Momma would be proud if she were here." Tonia turns to them, her hands holding a glass of orange juice. "Hehe, I sleep early yesterday, so it's not that impressive."
Teucer, then quick to hold Mr. Cyclops to Anthon's face. "Huh?"
"Here!" Teucer said. "What do you mean?" Anthon replied.
Teucer then teared up. "Yesterday I want to go to the arcade, but I didn't know you scares of arcades, so I'm sorry!!" Teucer yells out the last part.
"I'm sorry too, Anthon." Tonia apologetically said. "I want you to take Mr. Cyclops, if you are scares of something, you will have Mr. Cyclops to protect you!! I don't want you to be scared! I love you a lot!! Brother Anthon!!" Teucer was drenched in tears at a moment's notice.
"Brother Teucer...I'm not scared of the arcade, you silly goose. Don't worry, your apology is accepted! You don't have to give Mr. Cyclops to me!" Anthon holds out his hand, palm facing Teucer as if to refuse his offer.
"But-" Teucer in his teary eyes, holding tight on the toy. Tonia butts in.
"Anthon, are you afraid of the dark, then?"-"NO!" Anthon tries to dispuse his sister.
Childe couldn't hold back a couple of chuckles at his sibling's discourse. "Now now, no fighting at the table. Plus, I'm making pancake today." Teucer immediately stops tearing and looks up at him.
Teucer's eyes sparkle with interest. "Is it the fluffy one? Brother Ajax?" He asked with a pouty voice.
"Yes, the one that you like, Teucer," Childe responds. Teucer gasp in awe. "Can we have strawberry too, brother Ajax?"-"Sure, it's in the fridge."
"I'll go get it!!" Teucer jumps and frantically runs to open the fridge. Teucer's smile drops as he turns to say. " There aren't much left, only two in the box."-"Huh, I'll have to go grocery shopping later then."
Childe flips the pancake once more and skillfully puts it onto the plate. 'plat' The pancake fell. As he turned around, Zhongli has walked into the kitchen area. Behind him were Ganyu smiling at him and Xiao sending a death frown to his face.
"The smell is exquisite. I must ask, what kind of dish are you preparing?" Zhongli asked in his usual polite manner.
"Oh, I'm making pancakes."
"I think I have heard of it before, though I have never tried it. A dish of the far land of Mondstadt. I bet that it would be delicious." Ganyu said.
"I think I'll pass. I don't think I can digest whatever that human is cooking." Xiao replied.
As much as Childe want to throw the pan in his hand at the stuck-up face of the ever insufferable kid, he held back. After all, his siblings are here, and the people who lived near him wouldn't want to hear any more commotion than yesterday. Childe finds out that it was extremely difficult, trying to pass three toddlers and three adults into your apartment without weird looks. Especially with his apartment usually empty of presence except for himself.
Speaking about yesterday, the guilt of abandoning his little brother hasn't completely gone out of Childe yet. He still felt pretty bad leaving Anthon in the lurch like that and came back only to cause his brother more distress. Besides the point that Anthon cries because of his idiocy. Maybe he can make up with him later, he doesn't know he would do that. Considering Anthon would probably start to tear up again once Zhongli says that he was going to leave the place.
"Hey, Anthon. Would you like to go grocery shopping with me today? I have to go out and buy some more milk as well."
"Yes! I want to go!"
"Can I go, too?" Teucer asked. "Sorry Teucer, I want to make it up for brother Anthon. Tomorrow is Sunday, I can take you to go see the clowns then." "Ok. You promise!"
"Oh! Can Mr. Zhongli go with us?" At that, Zhongli coughed. "Ah..." He seems hesitant, probably unsure from yesterday's events.
"Of course. He can join. Zhongli xiansheng?" Childe turns to ask. Zhongli looks at him. He can already feel the tension behind his ear, Xiao is staring hard at him for some reason. Such a weird kid. "Well, I don't see why not..."
"Mr. Zhongli, don't be a worry. My brother is a big city connoisseur, you are in good hands!" Tonia said. Behind her, Teucer with a fork in his hand and his face stuffed full of pancake agrees. "Hwea!"
"Brother Anthon would love it!" Then he continues to devour the entire plate of pancake. "Hey! Save some for me!" Tonia turns around her chair to stop him.
"I think it would be a great idea, Zhongli-daren." Ganyu tries to encourage him. "I will pay further attention then," Zhongli said.
The man smiles. Childe didn't really think he would say yes, but in the end, maybe learning from Zhongli could help him be a better brother. Childe doesn't mind a fun little challenge. At the end of today, Childe would definitely be better at looking after Anthon than Zhongli.
Not just that. He might just find out who and what is this strange man and his strange friends. What are their motives? What happened at the mall yesterday? So many unanswered questions make Childe's brain squirm.
In the meantime, as he turns around, he was met with the sight of Ganyu talking with Tonia. The lady with blue hair already seemed to be acquainted with his sister. These people sure know how to get to Childe's most affected weakness, his family.
And the entire breakfast went by, with Anthon and Childe chatting away, Ganyu and Zhongli and Tonia get along quite well. While Xiao is just sitting there, staring menacingly at the plate of pancakes as if Childe has personally put rat poison into his dish.
It was a nightmare, to say the least. That Xiao has to stay in the most irritating human that he had ever meet residence, while also stucks inside of this 'living space' he called home. Xiao doesn't know much about the human culture or how they live. But this is certainly not one in any of them. This place is completely airless. The rooms are always shut tight. There are no windows in this place, no outlet. It felt suffocating. The wall made of glass surrounding them. Is this what humans called luxuries? Then Xiao would gladly not indulge in any of it.
The human, Childe. Xiao can sense that he has ill intention toward them staying here. Whether it is that they are strangers or that he holds a kind of resentment for them, Xiao does not know. All he knows is that the said human dislikes him the most. Xiao believed it is quite mutual.
But the plate he served him this morning, smells reeks of ailment. Xiao almost throws up at the sight of the food being served on the plate. Xiao barely eats anything in centuries, he recalls the last time he digests something that is considered humans food would be the time when Rex Lapis won the Archon war and his people celebrated by having a festival. Xiao would not be disrespectful to his lord, and so to please his lord request of 'having fun' He crams down two large dishes of grilled tiger fish.
He could not understand how Ganyu can eat human food so frequently. It is a torment for him. However, Xiao almost throws up from the foods that he has left cold when the human asks his lord to join them with their human mingling session.
And his lord accepted their request!
Xiao knows that if he were to step up to the stupid request, then Zhongli would have tried to stop him. Xiao acknowledged that his lord simply wanted to have a good impression on these humans. But he is unable to avoid the paradox in the foolish human flowery words and the intention that he had with Zhongli. That man is up to no good. Nevertheless, he is now stuck here in this place, with his lord nowhere on sight. Probably hand in hand with those humans heading onto town.
Xiao heaved out a heavy sigh.
"Xiao...Do not be so dismissive. I find Zhongli-daren idea to be quite helpful." Ganyu said as she stands in front of him, Xiao was sitting in the wooden chair, his arms crossed protectively over his chest.
"I just don't have a good feeling about that man," Xiao said.
Ganyu sighed, her shoulders bend. " I know your instinct has never failed us. But so far, he is the only human who was kind enough to help us. And besides, Childe is not a god, he is but a fragile human. If anything happens, Zhongli-daren would know how to handle it better than us."
"What is it that you are trying to do now?" Xiao asked Ganyu. Ganyu put a hand on her chin. "Well, I was thinking, I want to volunteer to find the next shelter to stay at! If the people here are at friendly as Childe then it would be no problem." Ganyu said.
"You are going out?" Xiao asked. "Yes, as of yesterday, it is because of me and my reckless and incautious eating habits that have slowed us down quite a scale. "
"I see," Xiao said in a correspondence voice.
"Hmm, I will take my leave now. And maybe you should try to trust Childe a bit. I do believe he is a nice person with how much he has helped us." Saying that Ganyu then goes her own way. Her footsteps fade as she went to the door and 'clinks'
Xiao is now alone in his own space.
His mind wanders. 'Trust him?' He thought. How can he possibly put his full faith into someone untrustworthy? Some who have the power over something so important to him. Xiao won't make that mistake of trusting someone so foolishly ever again. Not when it is something that even he didn't have enough time to digest. He just wants to get out of this place as soon as possible.
Since yesterday, his mind has been on cloud high lately. His thoughts jump from place to place, and no matter how must effort he tried to conceal it, it will always lead to one place. And that one place of his brain was rotting all night trying to come up with excuses to hide the worry that he had, that one singular part of his brain can seem to think of anything else other than-
The spirit, the song, the wind. How could he forget? Hearing the name alone makes Xiao's stomach churns. His throat felt dry all of the sudden.
How? How could someone he once relies on, left him as if he was nothing but unnecessary to him? His songs, those songs that soothe him in nights of pain and agony. Now those songs like a knife stab through his heart every time he hears them. Were the mourning and suffering not enough? What was it that he wants? He left him. And for what? For these humans? These garbage of humans?! Regardless, no matter how much he tries to deny it. It is him, it is the god he once mourned for sitting there on the ring of the fountain looking at him, laughing at his mistakes, his wrongdoings, and he left in the end. He left him.
Xiao couldn't tell at the moment if the fountain water hasn't dried out from him washing his face, or perhaps it was just his tears of joy to see the man once again. But why would he be happy?
Glad that he is not deceased? It is complicated. Xiao wants to understand it, but he simply can't.
Xiao was so deep into his thoughts that he almost didn't flinch when a loud beeping noise came up right next to him. Xiao jumps in surprise. Holding his spear in his arms in a ready-ing position.
The noise was close to him, but Xiao can't see anyone. Then he glanced down to the red signal glowing in beat. Xiao sighed. It was not an attack.
Xiao looks at the thing again. It was a strange device, put on the table right next to the chair Xiao was sitting at. There was a small button, and it was glowing red light. Xiao tried to inspect it carefully, but he accidentally pushes the button, and it [clicks]
A cheery voice came out from the device.
[Yaho! It's me! Your best friend! Remember me? Your miserable friend that keeps on reminded you to come to their show for an entire WEEK. Did you come, did you come? No, no you didn't. Anyways, just wanna check to see if you are still alive! Or else, I'll have to take custody of your siblings after your death and became their new brother. Call me back when you are sober, byeeeee~] [clicks]
The button no longer glowing red anymore, it beeps a few time then stop completely. Xiao stood there in bewilderment, his hand grips tight on the spear.
There was going back now. There is no more excuse to hide, no more lies to comfort, no more beginning to go back to, nothing to conceal the ugly and harsh truth. If Xiao didn't believe that the person at the fountain wasn't Barbatos, then this person here was. Perhaps, it was the same person, how can Xiao tell?
He continued to stand there, staring straight at the device. Confused? Angry? Of course, he was.
It was his voice. It was the anemo god voice through the speakers. Xiao almost feels like time reverts to a century, to a time when Barbatos was still alive. Even though it was a long time ago, how could Xiao ever forget that voice? That very loud and bright one. It never changed.
Xiao's heartthrob at the disgusting feeling of adoration he held for the god. The god who has left him many years ago, only to thrust back into his life in the most painful way possible. He hates him.
He despises him. He doesn't want to know what Barbatos has to do with these humans, what he living for now..., Xiao just wishes that he doesn't have to see him ever again, never hear his voice, he can't even stand the sight of him anymore.
'If you are still alive.' The voice in the strange device said. Xiao laughs mockingly at the words. He should be the one asking him that, not the opposite.
Barbatos is dead. And it should just stay that way. This fraud isn't the god he once adored, but the one he should feel aversion towards. This isn't him. Xiao reminded himself.
The silence lingers in the air were thick, Xiao sits there on the floor, next to the device. His head was heavy, his eyes closed to try and ease his temper.
The door opened.
Xiao looks up, expecting to see Ganyu to come back from her 'expedition.' Only to be greeted with two small humans bickering at each other.
"It was your fault that we lost Anthon and brother Ajax!!" The small human with a crown on her head said.
"Well, I didn't mean to!" The one next to her said.
" Who is going to play your sidekick now?" The other small human held up a toy in his hand and enthusiastically said.
"Mr. Cyclops! He can be my sidekick! Together! We will defeat all evil monsters!! Don't worry, sister Tonia!"
"But what about the evil monster? There isn't anyone to defeat." The two humans continue to bicker back and forth at each other. Until they stop at the door, they seem to have noticed Xiao was sitting there. He looks at them, trying to make himself look as small as possible.
The small human stares at him and shrieks up, he pointed at his yaksha mask hanging by his waist. "That mask!" Xiao physically flinches as the humans approach him, he quickly held on to his spear. 'No, these are children. They meant no harm.' He has to remind himself.
Xiao tries to relax as the little humans look up at him. "This is perfect!" The small one cheers. Xiao was at lost on what the human was trying to convey. "Brother! Brother! Can I see your mask?" What do these humans want from his yaksha mask? It is primarily useless to humans usage. His palm hovering protectively over the mask. The humans were determined on seeing the mask, they look at him with their big twinkle eyes and their manner almost pleading.
Xiao gulped. Humans are too hard to understand.
He gives up and detaches the mask from his waistband, then he hands it over to the kids to gawked at. They were touching the mask like it was just another toy and not an ancient, powerful totem. The kid then looks up at him in wonder. "Brother! What is your name?"
"Brother Xiao! Do you want to play rescue the princess?!" The human squeals.
"Rescue who?"- "Me! I'm the princess. And Teucer the knights in shining armor, and Mr.Cyclops is his bard sidekick, who does funny stuff sometimes. You can be the evil ogre!"
"Yea! Please! Please! Please!" The small kid claps his hand together.
Xiao tried to recall what Ganyu told him. 'Make friend with them, not enemies.' Right, as much as he despises the orange human. He can't apply the same reasoning for these children.
"Yay! Thanks, Brother Xiao!" The kid 'Teucer', Xiao places, cheers in bliss. "Where do we play, sister Tonia?"
"Let's go play in the living room! I keep the stuff from yesterday there!" The other one 'Tonia' said.
"Alright! Lead the way! Mr. Cyclops!" Teucer held up a toy in his hand and starts to parade down the hall. Tonia giggles and turns to Xiao.
"Hehe, Teucer is like that. Thank you for joining our playdate, brother Xiao. Usually, at home, Anthon would be the sidekick to Teucer, and brother Ajax would be the evil monster!" Tonia adds.
The last part seems pretty accurate to Xiao.
Xiao was dragged into the large open room. There it was Teucer, laying out all of the toys on the floor, and Tonia held Xiao's hand, telling him to come in.
Xiao must confess that these children's hospitality was way far better than their brother's. Xiao would usually found humans annoying due to their tendencies of talking too much. But these kids were an exception. Xiao can actually tolerate their noisiness.
"Brother Xiao! To play, you have to put on the mask!"
"Yea! Put on the mask! Brother Xiao!"
Xiao looks at his mask in hesitant. He couldn't just put on his mask so naturally, it's not a toy. It's a totem given to him by Rex Lapis. Xiao only uses it when it is needed in battles. It extends the limit of his power. But if he doesn't wear it, would these humans kids gain suspicion on him?
"What the matter, brother Xiao? I already lay out the map!"
He can't let these human know that. He sighed and put on the mask. As long as he focuses, then he will not lose control of his primal instinct. Xiao figured that it was just human children and they are not dangerous enemies, his thrill for killing wouldn't be triggered as much.
Behind the cardboard wall, Tonia yells out. "Get in character, Teucer!"
"Oh! oh, right. Hpm!" Teucer coughed. "Evil ogre! You shall suffer the wrath of my sword if you don't release the princess!" Teucer then switches to the toy in his hand and makes a little squealing voice. "Yea! Teucer is going to get ya!"
Xiao stands there looks at these ridiculous acts of the humans. Then the human turns to him and whispers. "Brother Xiao! Say something threatening!"
"Uhh..um. ." Xiao hesitates.
"I will not show any mercy," Xiao said bluntly, embarrassed at his own words.
The kids cheer. Xiao shrinks himself down, he wants to lay face down on the floor and screams into the tiles. This day could not go by faster.
As soon as Ganyu closes the door behind her back, she knows that her biggest goal today was to complete her search and not get distracted by food. Ganyu has prepared before going out, she ate food that Childe has kindly cooked for them and drank a lot of water. Ganyu has a gut of steel now, there is no temptation worth enough to distract Ganyu. She huffs out proudly.
With her mind clear, she is full of faith in finding new humans who can help them. She enters the metal closet box, Ganyu finds this machinery very interesting. Ganyu thinks they have these in Teyvat as well, just with different materials and looks. 'Elevator' Ganyu thinks that is what people usually called them. She askes the people in the elevator on how to use it. Some of them look at her weirdly, some just walk away. But, luckily, in the end, she makes it to the ground floor of the building, by stairs, of course.
Ganyu starts to walk out to the familiar street. If it wasn't for the kind man who took them in, Ganyu would have been sleeping out on those long benches. She observed the place. The place that Childe lives was rather lively.
The neighborhood looks clean, unlike those streets that Ganyu saw yesterday, this must be a privileged community. Ganyu could find a single small building. Every store and shop is overly elaborated. Humans in this world must enjoy shopping a lot, Zhongli-daren would fit right in. Ganyu giggles at her thought.
Then, Ganyu spot a warm smell coming from somewhere. As she looks around, someone taps lightly on her shoulder. "BLERGGH"
"Ahh!" Ganyu screams out at the sudden jump. She fell to the ground as she loses her balance, the voice continues to laugh hysterically.
"Ahaha.." Then the person extends their arm to help Ganyu stand up. "That was the best reaction I get all days.." The girl's laugh dies down a bit as she said.
The girl then turns serious, she coughs. "Ahem. You must be my new neighbor! I've been in this neighborhood for a long time, and I have never met you before!" The girl smirks. "Or could it be that you are not so new here? Maybe you are visiting your old house when you were still alive?" The girl's face darks and her smile sharp.
"Uh..No! no! I'm new here!" Ganyu said in a panic. The girl then turns jolly and smiley all of a sudden. "Welcome then! Our community is quite close! And I always hope to gain more visits for business for that reason. Goodbye should be more personal and special don't you think?"
Ganyu couldn't make out what the girl was saying. "Hehe! My name is Hutao! The 77th director of the Wangsheng Funeral Parlour! Hope we can look out for each other from now on!"
"You can call me Ganyu." She replied politely.
"So, where do you live? Just asking to know if you are my new next-door neighbor!" Hutao asked.
"Oh! No! You misunderstand. A kind man has allowed us to stay in his home for the night. I do not think we will be neighbors." Ganyu replied. Hutao replied. "Oh? Pray tell, which room are you in?"
Ganyu couldn't understand what she what saying, she instead points to the top floor of the building." We're at the end of the hall."
Hutao's face scrunches up in annoyance.
"Wait, you mean that stinky fatui dude who lives in that high-end complex? He let you in his house?" Hutao said.
"Fatui?"-"Yea, that's what people usually call him. He works in some big entertainment company or something called the Fatui, I tried to reach out to him once because you never know when a singer suddenly falls off a stage, or a model wig gets caught on fire. But he keeps shooing me away." Hutao sighed, making various gestures to signal someone dying from stage fright.
" That guy never interacts with anyone in here, he thinks he too good or something. Besides the point, It doesn't matter, getting to know new people is good for business, don't you think?" Hutao laughs. "Hehe, just kidding, don't look at me like that. If you need help, just ask me!" She smiles at Ganyu as she reaches a hand out to offer a handshake.
Ganyu took her hand. "Thank you for welcoming me. It is a pleasure to meet such an energetic-" Ganyu was about to say 'human.' She rethinks her word.
Hutao ignored her hesitant, she shrugs off. "There are plenty of things here. Oh! I'm about to go meet with my friend. You should join me, to get to know the neighborhood and all."
Ganyu hesitated, but she decided in the end that she should be a little bolder in her moves, so she accepts the girl's offer to show her the neighborhood. Hutao was thrilled, she kept pointing at buildings and explaining their purposes and owners.
"You sure know a lot of people around here. That is quite impressive. " Ganyu said.
"Hehe, I greet them every day, of course, I have to know them. Although not all of them welcome me as much I would prefer but you know business is business." Hutao shrugs, then she lets out a weak laugh.
They arrived at a small but cozy restaurant near the apartment complex. Ganyu noticed tables and chairs stacked with utensils and strange appliances for cooking. The contrast of the warm place with the cold outdoor made Ganyu shivers slightly. Ganyu loves the fragrant aroma in this place, very evocative. The smell hit her square in the face as they walk past the kitchen area into a backroom.
"Haiya, you guys are playing cards? Why didn't you wait for me?" Hutao dragged out.
Two boys similar to Hutao ages were sitting at the table. One with light blue hair, the other with dark blue one. "You always cheat."
"No, I'm not. Just because I always win doesn't mean I cheated."
"Yes, you do." The light blue hair boy said.
"Haiya, you never let me go." Hutao sighed.
"Who's that?" The dark blue hair boy points to Ganyu. "This is my new friend. She just moved to the neighborhood, I just want to show her around a bit." They all then turn to Ganyu. She panics and bows. She clears her throat and loudly said.
"Hello! My name is Ganyu!"
The boy with dark blue hair chuckles and turns to her. "Hello! My name is Xingqiu! Nice to meet you!" He smiles.
"I'm Chongyun, professional exorcist. Don't let Hutao say weird things to you." The boy with light blue hair said in a monotone voice. "Hehe." Hutao giggles.
From behind them, the door closes. Ganyu can hear footsteps behind her back. A loud groan. "Chongyun, I got your popsicle."
A girl with dark blue hair ties into loops, holding two popsicles. "Hutao?" She notices Hutao and Ganyu standing in the way.
"Yaho! I'm bringing my new friend on a tour around town. I thought a quick visit to your restaurant would be convenient." Hutao said. The girl then smiles at Ganyu. 'She seems friendly.' Ganyu thoughts.
"Hello there! You are new here?! Welcome! My name is Xiangling!" The girl greets Ganyu cheerfully.
"Ah, hello, I'm Ganyu." She bows slightly. "Ah! No need to be so formal! We're all next-door with each other here, am I right?!" Xiangling said.
" Come sit!" Xingqiu said, tapping lightly on the seat next to him.
Xiangling then turns to Ganyu. "Do you want to join us?" These humans want her to join them? Ganyu never thought she would be welcome to quickly and warmly. She nods.
They all sat around the round metal table. Chongyun and Xingqiu were playing cards. Hutao was busy talking business with Xiangling. Ganyu was being interrogated thoroughly by them.
"So! You just moved in this part?" Xingqiu asks while placing down a card. "Yes, I am trying to learn new things about the place."
"You met the right person. Hutao knows the place like the back of her hand." Hutao smiles. " Of course, what kind of business owner am I if I can't even provide good services for my neighbors."
Ganyu giggles. The funeral director is a rather strange person, but Ganyu must thank her for the knowledge that she provided, it helped try to blend into the social structure of this world.
A cough. It was from Chongyun. "Must I ask? Why are you wearing that?" He points at Ganyu's clothing. "Ah, I was wondering about that as well?" Hutao said.
"Didn't you say that you were staying with that Fatui guy? Are you a performer? Like a singer?" Hutao continues. Xiangling gasp. "Woah! A singer? In my restaurant?"
"Ah, no. I am simply staying for the night. I am not a performer." Gany humbly said. Xiangling then drops down onto her chair. "Awee, man." She sighed.
"What's wrong?" Xingqiu asks. "You are a little down today." Xiangling lay on top of the table. "My business is ruined. I'm about to be like Hutao."
"Hey!" Hutao retorts. "My parlor is running great, thank you very much." Chongyun ignores her. "Why do you think that? Wanmin is still as crowded with customers as ever." Xiangling sighed.
"Didn't you know? There is a new restaurant in town. And it is stationed right down the road!!" Xiangling said. "That's it? I thought it would take more than that to takes down Wanmin? I mean your restaurant has been here like forever? People lives around these part love your food."
Hutao sighed. " I think I know what she is talking about."-"You do?"
"That restaurant downtown was built by the Qixing corporation. A new installment into the Liyue branches runs by The Tianquan. It's a pretty famous restaurant brand." Hutao explained.
Xiangling cries. "I'm doomed! How else can Wanmin compete with such a thing? Our menus have been pretty losing score lately. I was running out of ideas for new exotic foods to cook." Xingqiu ponders.
"Don't you have any other recipes you can try?" Xiangling looks up.
"Well, I do, but they haven't been tested yet. And I don't want to serve customers un-tested food. Remember that one accident with the spicy candy stick? Egh." Xiangling groaned." Haizz. If only there would be someone who is willing to try out my food..." All the others seem hesitant. And so she speaks up.
The table shockingly turns to face Ganyu. Hutao panics. "Ganyu?!" Xingqiu adds." I don't that is a good idea, my liege." And Chongyun is trying to avoid eyes contact with her. Xiangling eyes sparkle with glee.
Ganyu wasn't as sure based on the reaction of others. Looking at Xingqiu shaking his head, Hutao putting an X with her arms. Ganyu turns to Xiangling. "Ye-yes...?" Xiangling squeal with joy.
"Eeeeeeeeekkkk! Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou." Xiangling blurts out in a rush. "You are my life-saver!! Discount on Wanmin from now on out!! Just wait for me! I'll go prepare the food!!! Be right back!" She embraces Ganyu tightly, and lets go of her. Ganyu couldn't do anything but nod.
As she leaves the room, the others just look at Ganyu, concerned and worried. "You know, you don't have to do this if you don't want to. Xiangling cooking can be peculiar sometimes." Ganyu couldn't take back what she said. Ganyu is an adepti, human food couldn't possibly physically hurt her. "Do not worry for me, I can assure you that I will be fine. I simply want to help."
"If you are so sure..." Besides, Ganyu has witnessed and participated in thousand of unbelievable historical events. She couldn't let some cooked fish on a plate get to her. If she helps them then maybe they can return the favor! The only problem though, it's that she is starting to regret eating so much food before leaving.
The grocery store was working in its usual schedule. Opening time is always the crowdest, that's why Childe prefers to go in the afternoon but seeing his brother not ready to say goodbye to his friend yet, Childe has to make a choice.
'Red strawberries and white strawberries. What the difference?'
Childe was contemplating between two boxes of berries while trying to sneak some glances here and there to the man behind him, chatting away with his little brother. Going grocery shopping was something between family, bringing a total stranger with him and brother on their venture was definitely something a normal person wouldn't do. He was doing his best studying the man and watching him on every move he makes.
"My momma said bananas are very good for your health," Anthon said while looking at the bananas on sale. "Indeed, bananas are very good for your digestive system and help with sleeping problems. Many experts would say that-." Zhongli keeps rambling on and on. He never stops once he started his talk. Childe looks at the small Anthon tugging at the sleeves of the man outfit only for Zhongli to realized he was going on a tangent again, cover his mouth and cough, and apologize for his long rambling.
Childe has to admit that it was a funny gap between the man's usual stone-cold demeanor versus when he talking to Anthon.
"I think I got everything in the list, except for milk. Zhongli xiansheng? Can you help me get the milk?" Zhongli opens his mouth to replied before Anthon jumps in and interrupts. "Don't worry, brother Ajax! I know where the milk is! I will go get it!" Then he quickly scurries away to get milk. Childe was taken back at his brother's action.
Anthon was a good kid, but he wouldn't just do things for people out of the blue like that. That was unusual. He looks over to Zhongli odd expression of concern. Perhaps he knows something that Childe doesn't? A few minutes later, Anthon came back with a jug of milk in his arms panting. "I got it, here!" Childe grabbed the bottle and put it into the shopping cart. "Alright, we can go now."
They leave the store as quickly as they came, Childe was a bit disappointed as to how much his brother and he have time together. Knowing Anthon would only stick with Zhongli at all times. It was frustrating. What does Zhongli have that he doesn't? Maybe this conquest of his isn't so simple after all. Now they have to return home to the shit-eating face of that green gnome again. Childe sighed. He couldn't believe he can even let Teucer and Tonia alone with that guy for even an hour.
"Um...Brother Ajax?" A small timid voice calls to him. "Yes? Anthon."
"Since this is the first time I have been to the city, I want you to show me around! I-I mean, I want to spend today with you!" Childe's heart explodes with his brother's adorableness. "Of course, I'll show you around! There are a lot of things you would love. We can bring Teucer and Tonia with us tomorrow!" Anthon's face turns.
"No! N-no, that is not what I mean! I want to go without brother Teucer or sister Tonia!" Childe hesitated. "But Anthon, wouldn't they be mad if we left them at home?" Anthon shakes his head furiously. "Mhp-mhp! We can go now! Today! They don't have to know! It's my brother's adventure! Like back home!"
"Now?" Anthon nods. "Well-uh.." Childe's mind wanders back to Teucer and Tonia at home. "You promised me yesterday right? Brother Ajax?" But Anthon's pleading was too much for him and so Childe gives up. "Ok...We can drive around for a bit then back home, alright?" Anthon cheers. "Yea!" That was when Childe realized there was also another person sitting in the car right behind them.
"Mr. Zhongli! Do you want to go with me?!" The man behind them answers by giving a small nod that Childe can only see reflecting off the car windows. He didn't want to look back. "Don't you think that we should give Mr. Zhongli a ride home and lets him pack his thing? Maybe it would be impolite to drag him on this." Anthon shakes his head.
"But Mr. Zhongli don't mind! Right? Mr. Zhongli?" Despise hearing no confirmation, he hears no refusal either and with that hopeful look on his brother's eyes. Childe continues driving. "I think there's a park near here where it would be great for a spot, what do you think, Anthon?"
"I like that! Let's go!"
With that, Childe drove them to the nearest park. It was still noon, the sun was on high. Childe has to squint as he steps outside of the car and opens Anthon's door. There were a lot of people at the park, there were food stalls, long benches get taken by couples, and many people playing sport in the vicinity. The green grass plots were filled with family on their usual weekend picnic. And in the center of it all was the giant Ferris wheel they installed last year, Childe remembers it being one of the projects of the Qixing corporation. The paint on the thing was still shiny and polished, the Tianquan always pooled her money out on her favorite project, you can still see it on this one.
"Woahh!" Anthon was admiring the incredible thing in front of him. Zhongli was taken back as well. Childe laughs. "Like what you see? It's the biggest one around here."
"The city is so cool! I have never seen a thing like that before! Anthon said. " We can go on it if you want?" Childe said. Anthon turns to him.
"CAN I?" Childe nods. "Yea! Yea! I want to go! " Anthon paused to think. "Wait! No! I-I changed my mind. I want that to be the last." Childe laughs. "Alright, there are a lot of things we can do here, what do you think, Zhongli xiansheng?"
"Hm...the place is indeed very spacious. It would be good for a nice walk." Anthon groans. "I like a walk!"
"Maybe we can just go around and see what is there to offer," Childe said. They start around the rims of the park, looking at trees and people on their usual weekend plans. There were multiple food stalls and balloons. This is the ideal place to take your kids to. There were carnival games as well, Childe remembers that one time when he was drunk with his colleagues and they came to this park to compete in water guns shooting. He beat Scaramouche on that one, he never fails to bring it up. But in the end, they were arrest for the destruction of property. Luckily there were some famous celebrities there with them and they make it up for the scene.
Thank god that his parents never heard about any of that.
Anthon suddenly grabs Childe's arm. It seems like something has caught his eyes. "Brother Ajax! Look! They have a fishing pond!"
Childe looks over to the small pool, it was a small game of catching fish. Most of the fishes in the pool were toys made of plastic and children were gathering around it holding small metal rods trying to hit the fish to catch them. The water level is quite low and the pond depth is even shallower. Childe laughs. Back in his hometown, he used to catch the biggest fish in river and lake, these small little plastic doll isn't anything compared to what he has caught.
"Heh, Anthon, you want to play that?" Anthon nods. "Alright, I'll buy us a ticket. Zhongli xiansheng can you hold our stuff?" Zhongli agrees to hold the bags for them, he ended up holding them while sitting on the nearby benches.
"Here, brother Ajax!" Anthon gives him a tiny rod that was made too small for him. "Thank you, Anthon."
"Now, you see, it's finally time that your brother teaches you how to fish," Childe said. Anthon claps his hands. "Yay! I will know how to fish before brother Teucer and sister Tonia! They will be so jealous." Childe pats his back. "Fishing is fierce art, Anthon. To know how to fish you must not look down on others and always humble yourself. If not you can never catch a big fish."
"Now grabs your rod and resonate with it. You have to make the fish submit to your bait!"
"But didn't uncle Viktor says to be patient?" Childe smiles. "Uncle Viktor and I have different methods, although different. They are equally effective!" He said as he pulls up the third plastic fish from the pool.
"Wow! Your bucket is almost full! How do you do that, brother Ajax?" Anthon gasps at the small bucket filled with fake fish. "Alright, I'll take your advice! Resonate with my rod!" Anthon said, releasing his fishing rod. It hit a 'thunk' with the water. "Hgnn." Anthon tries his best to swirl around the bait, his effort was paid when the fishing line feels heavy and he pulls it out of the water surface. "I caught it!"
"Great job! Anthon!" Childe cheers for his brother. They were the loudest pair in the entire pool area, the people standing by were shooting them weird looks.
Anthon clumsily pulls the toy fish off the hook and claims to Childe. "Look!" It was medium-sized fish with its scale painted with bright rainbow colors. Of course, as realistic as it is, it is still a toy and it was a whole lot lighter than it looks. It has a few scratches here and there showing it rough players, how the children on the play park probably just throw it around on the sand or something.
"That a good fish that you caught there, Anthon." Childe complements. "I want to name him Owe! Owe the rainbow fish!"- "Wait, Anthon, you can't keep him. It's the park property." Anthon's face saddens. "Oh right...I forgot it's not like back home..." Childe looks at the sudden disappointment in Anthon's eyes, he regrets his words. Agh, he changes for the destruction of the property before, what will steal a little toy fish going to do.
"Well, if you want, then we can take it home," Childe says. Anthon looks up at him.
" We can?"
"Yes, but you have to promise me to be very secretive, ok?" Anthon looks around, then he quickly nods. "Alright."
As quick as he can, he grabs the now dry fish and puts it into his shirt. "Ok Anthon, let's go."
They walk in silence to the benches that Zhongli was sitting at. Zhongli glances up at their sudden arrival, the man seems to have been thinking about something. Childe takes the grocery off the man's hold and turns around so that he wouldn't see what he was doing. He plucks the fish out of his shirt and puts it into the grocery bag as if it was just another item that they have bought. Anthon gives him a thumb up and smiles. Oh, how Childe misses that smile.
"Mission success." He said to Anthon. Anthon laughs. "Hehe, we have a fish now! Owe is going to be great! Maybe even cooler than Mr. Cyclops!"
"Teucer wouldn't like to hear that," Childe said. "Hehe, Mr. Zhongli! Looks!" Anthon points into the grocery bag. Zhongli tilts his head. "Hmm? That is indeed an odd-looking fish."
"It's a special fish! It's Owe, I named it! It has rainbow scales! Cool, right?"
"Hm, I must say that I have never encountered such a fish before. You have yourself a one of a kind." Zhongli said. "Thank you, Mr. Zhongli! Brother Ajax help me catch it! It's my first fish!"
"I see, you have a talent for fishing then," Zhongli replied. "Hehe!" Childe never sees his brother so happy before. He is glad he gets to be a part of it.
They spend the entire day at the park. At noon, they stop by some food stall and Childe bought some drinks for them. They all sat on the benches under a tree, it shade bring wind to cool their sweating body down. Childe heaves out a large sigh. He was sitting beside Anthon, separating him from Zhongli, who was sitting on the other side. The small child is placed in between two adults, they almost look like one of those families that visit the park.
he punches down the straw onto the cup. "Here." He gives it to Anthon, who reaches out and leech onto the straw and starts sipping. "Ahh! So refreshing."
"It's good, right? They called it milk tea." Childe said. Anthon nods. "It's really sweet, like honey! I like it."
"It is good, but I would much prefer the taste of warm tea more," Zhongli said.
"Oh! Brother Ajax, they sell corn dogs. I want to eat that!" Childe was too exhausted to walk, he gives Anthon some money and tells him to pick what he wants.
Anthon quickly leaves and the benches are now him and Zhongli alone. In a way, he doesn't mind the man's company, it was calming, he didn't pay much attention to him anyway. He turns his head over to the man, he definitely didn't notice him.
He takes his time to looks closer at his features. Zhongli has a nice face.
Childe won't deny it. The man has a calming aura. Despise having no bath or shower, the man didn't seem like he was dirty at all. He just looks... more ...human somehow. Childe imagined if Zhongli actually cleans himself properly then what will he look like? He shook off the thoughts. Laid his back against the wooden frame of the bench, Childe tries to release the tension in his shoulders.
He wonders what Venti is doing now. After yesterday, he was expecting calls to explode his phone. And so he turns it off, he doesn't need to hear him lecturing him about the importance of 'friendship' or how much that he had missed out on. He already got things on his plate. But he does hope to clear things up soon to respond back to him, if he starts slacking off at work with Childe, he wouldn't know what to do. As a famous artist, Venti has power over people at the office, well...everyone except his manager. But who would be stupid enough to start a beef with Signora?
Hearing his tiring sighs, Zhongli taps him on his right shoulder.
"Hmm? Zhongli xiansheng?" Childe responds. "It seems to me that you have been having rough days lately? It would be better to let it all out wouldn't it?" Childe looks at the man, then he turns away. "Haha...Just some works and deadlines to catch up with. Ever since my promotion, my colleagues haven't been the easiest on me." Zhongli looks as confused as a deer in headlight. Childe sighed.
"You probably don't get it. It's alright." He said.
"I may not able to understand the meaning of your words. However, maybe if you can share it with this small friend, he would be able to ease a bit of discomfort that you have." Zhongli said. Childe puzzled. "What small friend?" He turns around, only to find Zhongli holding up his palms, inside of it was a small chubby finch, chirping happily and jumping around looking at him.
"Oh..Hello there..." Where on earth did this man pull the bird from? Did he just call the bird to his side? The bird surprisingly relaxed, it wasn't scared, it didn't fly away. The man's calm aura has also affected the bird it seems. Meanwhile, Childe was dumbfounded at the man holding the bird to him. "Zhongli xiansheng?"
"Please do not be afraid, this small bird will not attack you." He definitely didn't think of that. "He wants to be your friend."
He stares at the chunky bird. "He does?" He gently put his finger on the bird's head and gingerly pet it, it was soft. The bird chirps. "Hey there buddy." He raises his voice.
"He likes you."-"You think?" Childe asks.
"Yes, you have a very warm and friendly spirit." Childe chuckles. "You flatter me, Zhongli xiansheng."-"Would you like to hold him?"
"Can I do it?" Zhongli nods.
He gently transfers the bird to Childe's hands. The small fuzzy feeling slowly envelopes his palms. It was nice. Childe's worry and doubts were just like a bead in the wide ocean of happiness. He didn't think holding a bird would make him so relax, but apparently, it did. It making him considering having a pet. A warm small little fuzzy things that he can hold in his hands. But regrettably, he already has three toddlers to feed over the span of three months so pets are not the best option.
Money isn't the problem but he doesn't think he can handle taking care of the pets while also looking out to his young siblings. Another wasted dream, Childe presumes.
"He's cute."-"Hmm." Zhongli replied.
His eyes lids slowly blinking, the way his eyes lashes flutter so beautifully. His eyes were a melting gold staring at the small creature in Childe's hands. His skin, so smooth and unblemished. It was like staring straight at an art piece. Childe, working in a big industry. He has encountered multiple actors, models, singers, but none of them can outshine the man sitting opposite to him right now. 'He would make a good model, with his stoic face and those serene eyes.' Childe thoughts. Brands would kill to have him as a representative model.
Childe startles. "Agh-" He realizes that he has been staring straight at Zhongli the whole time. The bird in his hand panics then quickly fly away from the sudden commotion. Zhongli looks after the bird path as he escapes from Childe's palms. "Ah, sorry. Not good at keeping steady for too long." Childe said, rubbing his head apologetically.
"It's ok. Have you feel better?" Zhongli responds. " A little. Thank you for your help, xiansheng." Zhongli nods, looking satisfied with himself. "I am only repaying for my debt."
"Heh, I told you. It's nothing." Childe said.
"Although you have said that, it still matters a lot to me." And Zhongli smiles in all of his glory, Childe's heart almost stops entirely. "Ye-yea."
"I... have something to say to you." Zhongli turns to him, his tone serious. "Is it about your living space?" Zhongli coughs. "Not quite.."
"It's about something more important," Zhongli said. "I see, go on."
"Lately, Anthon has been expressing distress about a certain topic..." Childe's interest has been caught. "He misses you a lot. He constantly going on and on about stories of you. You must know that he idolized and look up to you to a very high degree. Even though I do not think it is bad for him to do so, it is not entirely brotherly love. You see...I can somewhat....understand what he was going through. It is a sadness that only deepens over time, I can't fully explain to you what it is. But for a child like him, looking up to adults and feeling like his own brother wasn't there for him, it just isn't right. I wish not to be impolite with my words but this is coming from the bottom of my heart."
Zhongli breath hitches. "Wounds can be healed but memories can't be recreated. I do not think badly of you as a brother, Childe. But even someone with little to no knowledge about the muddle topic of intimacies, I can tell that Anthon deserves better. You are a respectful and capable man, Childe, and I hope you can talk things out with Anthon to rekindle your relationship. That is all I have to say." Zhongli silent.
"I see... I didn't know about that.....Don't worry, I will talk to him. I love Anthon and if there is any way I can fix my wrongs of being a bad brother to him then I would do it." Childe replied. "I hope I have not to stress you further." Childe takes in a deep breath.
"No, I kinda deserve it. I was an inattentive role model to my brother." Zhongli turns him. "I don't think so, you are a very caring and loving brother. I can see the actions you make to attend to your family." Childe replied. "Of course, I love my family. They're everything to me."
"I hope for you and your brother will be able to uncover things that you need," Zhongli said. "Thanks for the support, xiansheng. It means a lot." Childe said, looking over to the small boy running at them, holding three corn dogs, waving and smiling at him. Childe waves back at the figure.
"I won't fail him this time." Childe can hear Zhongli hmm-ed behind his back.
Then finally make their way to the last destination, the giant Ferris wheel. Upon closer look, the thing looks as if it was just built yesterday, polishing paint shining with the reflecting of the sun, the smooth movements and quiet transition of spinning make it a perfect spot for sightseeing. On the high ride, you can see the whole city in a new light, especially at night, when the streets are busy and the usual dusty and fume-filled air suddenly turn into a more romantic and mystical way.
"Woah! It's even bigger now that I see it the second time!" Anthon said out loud. "Are you ready, Anthon?" Childe smiles, he walks up behind Anthon, the back of his hand graces on the boy's shoulder. Anthon looks up at him and he gives him an exciting nod. "Hmph! Let's go!"
They step onto the carrier, the weight of theirs bodies creates a light den in the physics of the heavy metal box. As soon as they are settled, the ride keeps on moving. It was a journey going up, though it was slow, but Anthon didn't find it boring at all! He jumps up and down inside the thing, causing it to shake a little. Childe didn't mind any of the commotions, the whole he was just staring at his brother laughing and even join in with his sightseeing.
"What is that?!" Anthon presses his finger hard against the glass window. He was pointing to a building from afar. "That building is so big!" Childe next to him, he was kneeling to support both his weight and the fact that he was face to face with a somewhat 4 foot eleven toddler. "That is the Qixing head company, they stationed in this city. And that's the General Hospital. I've been there a few times."
"The company? Or the hospital? Brother Ajax?" Anthon asks. Childe grimaces.
Anthon laughs at his joke, Childe was happy Anthon likes it. Although, if he was being serious, it wasn't really a joke. Ninnguang has the ability to send him straight to the hospital that day but he glads she didn't. And he still kept his job. What a lucky man he was.
"Mr. Zhongli! Look! That is our apartment!!
"Ah-" Zhongli stutters. If Childe was drinking something, he would spit it at this moment. His grips on the balance pole grow tighter. Of course, how can he forget? He didn't tell his little brother about how his new strange best friend is going to leave their residence. "Um...About that..." Anthon looks over. "Hm?" He tilts his head innocently and Zhongli looks like he was about to commit an unforgivable crime.
"Anthon, I deeply appreciate the strong fellowship that we had, but sadly,.." Anthon was glued onto Zhongli. Childe was also nervous about the man's choice of words. "..I-I, According to the contract, it has stated that I the promisee can only stay for one night at the residence of the 'Childe' your brother, the promise. And so, I am obligated to leave." He said with a concise voice without missing any beats, Zhongli continues. "I hope you could understand, I highly value the time we have together. But I'm afraid this is the end of our journey..."
Childe was silent. He didn't know why but his inside felt hollow at the statement of the man. He knows Anthon should have been the one crying and throwing fits about it. But in some kind of ways, Childe felt a little sad at the missing presence of the man now on out. He holds his fit tighter. Childe doesn't know, but to easier to explain, maybe in one way or another he didn't want the man to leave so early.
Anthon was the same as him. Anthon head down, he couldn't see his face. Childe was surprised at the boy's sudden stone demeanor. Did he somehow break him? Childe realized it was not the case when a drop of tear left Anthon's face and hit on his knuckle. He wasn't full-on sobbing, but he was also trying to hold back a part of it. Anthon holds tight to his shirt, unlike when he was dragging Zhongli hanfu up and down like it was a rag doll. It was a subtle but maturing-ly change.
"Ok," Anthon said, accepting the fact that Zhongli was leaving.
"Anthon...You don't have to hold back." Anthon shakes his head. "No, I'm..I'm not holding back. I'm a big boy now and I need to understand that people don't always have to be there for me..." Anthon wipes away his heavy tears. "A big boy don't cry." He sniffles. As he calms down, he snots up his once last tear and looks Zhongli straight in the eyes.
"Mr. Zhongli...You are a good friend. You are always there to help me with everything..., you always encourage and talk to me... Now, as a friend, I will do the same to you..." Anthon said. "My momma always said if I love something I have to let it go, like Scruffy. He is a really mean cat that I have. He always goes into the wild and it takes him days to come back." Anthon sidetracks.
"A-anyway, Scruffy always comes back to me when I need him the most, so I don't mind you leaving. As long as you will come back to talk to me, I will be happy." Anthon said his final words before a tear left his eyes again. Zhongli looks at the small boy, he nods. "I will." Anthon jumps into Zhongli and hugs him as tight as he can with his small frame and little to no arms strength. Zhongli was stunned at the action at first then he gradually turns to hugs him back.
Childe was there to witness the scene, he didn't want to ruin the moment by butting into it, instead, he stands and watches as it plays out. They hug for a long while, then finally release each other. "Mr. Zhongli! I wish you the best of luck!" Anthon shouts on top of his lungs. "I also wish you the same." In the contrast with Zhongli's calming voice. Anthon reaches out for a pinky promise and Zhongli accepts it.
"It was nice to have met you, Anthon."-"Hmph!"
The pot was returning to the ground again, the high sight of the city slowly dimming in their eyes. And soon enough, they were greeted with a wide-open door. "Next!" They left their spot to give way to other passengers. With the influx of people filling in the cart, Anthon was running ahead of them. Slowly Childe and Zhongli started to follow behind him. But before Zhongli could make a move and handgrip onto his shoulder. He turns around to the sheepish orange-haired man. Childe sighed, he makes the first move to say.
"Listen, I don't know who you are, what your intentions and where do you come from, but.....to say I hate you would be a stretch." Childe paused to release Zhongli's shoulder. "I don't really mind if you, Ganyu, and that green gnome stay inside of my house until you got your things together. It's your choice, of course. I'm not trying to be some savior or anything."-"But if you do want help..."
Zhongli stares at him. The man looks like he was considering it for a moment, but then. "I can't. The contract has been set in stone. And I am not one to go back on my words. Besides, I would not enjoy pestering you and your family. Thank you." His reply was husky. The man didn't say anything more, he left to run after Anthon. Childe runs a hand over his head and sighs. He then walks after him.
As they walk away in silence. Childe holding Anthon's hand, Zhongli walk in a distance beside them.
They stop to take a break at the nearby benches area. Childe put the grocery bags down onto the hard wooden bench, he wasn't too sure if any of the food was spoiled. They went all day playing and running around under the sun, the strawberries could survive somewhat, but the meat pack and the dairy products. Childe suspects that he does have to go grocery shopping again after this trip. The bags weren't too heavy, but there was something hard keep hitting the side of his leg as he carries it.
'Oh, right. The toy fish. That fish must smell terrible by now.' Childe makes a remark.
Glancing around, there were still few people at the park. In the middle of it the sitting area, they have a giant artwork displayed for visitors to take pictures with. It was a shiny marble statue. It was of two mermaids holding each other hands while swimming in the shape of a heart. It was a nice decoration adding in along with the palm trees, the swirly details of the ocean waves, and the scales on the mermaids' bodies were sculpted quite skillfully. The beautiful curly seaweed at the bottom of the artwork with the title imprinted on the statue. 'Mermaids love.' It said.
Childe sees people posing and taking pictures in front of the statue. He looks over to the sulking boy, who was ruffling through their grocery to find something. Childe turns to ask him. "Hey Anthon, do you want to take a picture over there? We can take one with Mr. Zhongli?"
The boy looks up. "Yes! That is a great idea!" Childe pulls out his phone to check its battery. 'Huh? No message from Venti. That was surprising. Wonder where he called him? He hopes Venti is not blowing up his home telephone right now.' Childe forgets about it and focuses on the matter at hand.
"Come, Anthon! Go in front of the statue, I will take the picture!"-"Ok!" Anthon runs towards the statue, he raises two fingers up, and smiles adorably. " Zhongli xiansheng, come join Anthon!" Childe calls out to him.
Zhongli startles. "Oh-" He slowly walks towards Anthon. "I'm afraid that I'm not familiar with this kind of gesture. What are we doing exactly?"-"Taking a picture! Mr. Zhongli! Pose like this!" Anthon instructs the man by showing him the peace sign. "Like this?" Zhongli raises two fingers up, his eyes fixating on his hand.
"Am I doing it right?" Anthon tries to lectures. "No! You suppose to smile, Mr. Zhongli." Anthon demonstrates the actions for him. Zhongli was a bit confused at the boy's teachings. Childe felt sorry for the poor man, he looks like he was trying his best yet he can't understand the simplest of instructions. Childe decided to step in.
"Here, Mr. Zhongli, you have to stand in the frame, or else we can't take a picture of you." Childe put his hand on Zhongli's and pushing his body closer to him. "Pose like this, ok?" Childe was adjusting Zhongli's movement, the man is just so stiff, he won't budge an inch. Now that Childe thinks about it, maybe he wouldn't be as easy as a model as he thinks he would. But as someone who works in the entertainment industry, Childe knows how to handle these things smoothly without embarrassing the model.
As Childe slowly steps back to admire his handy work, he realizes this is the closest he had been to the man. "Ah- Sorry...My business thrill just kicks in all of the sudden." The man looks at him. "It's ok." He replied. Childe returns to his position, he holds up the phone. Usually, he would deal with paper works and managing things in the office, but once in a while when Dottore isn't in, Childe also got send always on commission work. He grew to enjoy photography, he isn't good as professionals but at least he knows what he's doing.
The sound of the phone shuttering every time Childe takes a picture. They take a long session of switching out poses and Childe tries to teach Zhongli how to hold a smartphone, in the end, he should have known that teaching a man who doesn't know what a bath is is how to use a technological device is proven to be useless. They ended up only taking none of the photos that Zhongli takes, it was all blurry but Childe did have a good time witnessing the man's unfortunate talent at photography.
"I like this photo the most," Anthon said, pointing at the picture of him and Zhongli smiling. To be honest, Childe also likes that one a lot, the lighting was great plus Anthon and Zhongli expressions felt so natural in it. "Can I give this to Mr. Zhongli? I want him to never forget that we're friends!"
"Printing takes a lot of time. I don't think we can make it in today." Childe replied. "Oh, ok. I have something else to give, then! Mr. Zhongli!" Anthon calls him.
"Yes? Anthon?" Zhongli replied.
"I want to give you this as a token of our friendship! I want you to take it with you so that you will be reminded that I will always support you, Mr. Zhongli!" Anthon said. He takes his time searching for something in the grocery bag, he then plucks it out and presents it to Zhongli. It was that damn fish! Zhongli looks surprised, it was a reasonable response.
"Ah, thank you, Anthon..."
"This is the first fish that I caught! It's a lucky fish too! His name is Owe, I want you to take him with you!" Anthon said. Zhongli looks at the toy fish, he then holds it in his hand. "I have never received such a gift before, I promise I will take good care of it. I accept your token of our friendship."
"To accept it! You have to give it an affectionate act. I have already hugged it! Now it's your turn!" So that is what Anthon was doing! Childe didn't know his brother has creative way of thinking. Zhongli looks at the fish then he slowly raises it to his eyes level. Childe didn't understand what the man was doing at first but then he gently places his soft-looking lips onto the fish. He was kissing it. Childe frozen.
Now that he thinks about it, hasn't that fish been on the inside of his shirt when he stole it? Did Zhongli just give an unintentional indirect kiss to his abdomen? Childe was sweating bullets, as the man places the fish down. "Thank you again for your gift, Anthon."
"Now we're friends forever!" The wholesome and lovely conversation that was going on did not match the worried and mortified looks on Childe's face, his face was turning white. "Childe? Are you alright?" -"Yeah! Brother Ajax, you looking a bit pale."
"Haha.....It's nothing to worry about..."
Teucer yells out. "Already? But we just took a break?" Tonia asks him. Teucer shakes his head. "Mh-mh."
"You don't understand. I gotta go pee," Teucer whispers the last part. Tonia looks at him bemusedly, and then she sighed. "Okay. I'll go get something from the fridge then." Tonia turns to the drain-out tired adepti who were laying on the floor carpet. " Brother Xiao! We are taking a break! Again! Because Teucer gotta go pee!"
"Hey! Don't say that out loud!" Teucer tries to say. "Just go, Teucer. You are holding it in." Tonia said to him. Teucer pouts in response.
On the floor, Xiao was taking his sweet breathing in and out like he has just been suffocated. His chest was heaving up down, up down. Xiao was doing his best to fight back the urge to punch something. His primal fighting instinct was raging when he put on the mask. All Xiao can do to hold back was to restrain himself from any emotional outbursts and keep his head calm and collected. So far, it wasn't going too well. As Teucer and Tonia left the room, Xiao immediately tried to find a release for his reserving to destroy everything near his sight.
Xiao finds a pillow laying on the floor, he imagined that was the face of the orange human. And so, he threw his punches over and over again aggressively at the pillow, crushing it on the floor until it flattens and Xiao sighed. 'Stupid human, stupid house.' The more Xiao tries to come back to his calm mind, the more reminded himself of all the things that made him outrage. Xiao sucks in the air through the mask. Hopefully, Teucer and Tonia won't return soon enough.
Xiao turns his face to the beaten pillow again to find another way to let out his emotion. This time, the pillow wasn't the orange human but instead the face of Barbatos looking back at him, smiling in his all glory. Xiao grits his teeth as he throws a fist down onto the pillow, the air around it flews away fast as the pillow hit the floor and fly forcefully onto the nearby wall. Xiao wasn't done.
He took out his spear and thrust it through the pillow making a scene of cotton sent flying all over the place. Barbatos is dead. Xiao tumbles down onto his knees at the sight, regret starts to pool in his gut as he looks at the mess he created. The heavy thoughts haven't disappeared, they only dwell on for a few seconds and continued to torment him.
In that vulnerable moment of silence, a sound rings on. Xiao flinches at the sudden intruding noise. It was a familiar sound, Xiao thinks he has heard it before. He turns his head back onto the hallway. And there it sit the strange device ringing one more time, the red button flashing makes Xiao want to puke. It keeps ringing and ringing, Xiao wants it to stops but he doesn't know how. Until he can't stand it anymore, Xiao takes out his spear to destroy that annoying piece of machine. Xiao doesn't want to hear that voice again.
"Brother Xiao?" Teucer walking into the room finding Xiao in his worst state and holding a spear upon the house telephone. Teucer gasp. "No! Brother Xiao!" Teucer tries to stop him by standing in the direction of his spear. Xiao stops. His whole body was raging before now as still as lake water. He looks upon Teucer helplessly. "Don't break the telephone! Brother Xiao! Or brother Ajax will get mad."
Xiao fell onto his back against the wall, body curl up defensively. He can't do anything. He was useless. He almost kills a child. What kind of monster was he. Maybe Barbatos was right-
"Oh! The telephone! Sister Tonia! Sister Tonia! Don't worry, brother Xiao. Sister Tonia is experienced with these kinds of stuff." Teucer said, turning to Xiao curling up into a ball.
Tonia, behind the corridor. "What?"-"The telephone is ringing!" Tonia sighed.
She steps out of the kitchen with a juice box in her hand. "Teucer, how many times do I have to teach you?" Tonia climb on the chair to stand face to face with the ringing telephone. "You just have to push this button and this-"
"And then you pickup this!" As soon as Tonia picks up the phone the line was cut off. "Huh? The call was missed." Tonia said. Tonia sighed. " Seriously Teucer, you have to learn how to use this in the future! When brother Ajax buys me a phone then I won't pick up calls for you anymore! You are a growing boy now!"
"Hehe, sorry. But you so smart, sister Tonia." Tonia looks at him dead in the eyes. "It's a telephone, Teucer." The siblings stop their usual bickering and turn to the body curling up in the corner. Refusing to looks up from his position. " Brother Xiao? Are you ok?" Xiao didn't respond.
He was unable to. His mask has fallen off a long time ago, he doesn't feel the need to pick it back up. Xiao closes his eyes and tries to wrap his arms around his body to create some kind of warmth. Until he felt a sudden soft hand landing on his cheeks. It was Teucer. "Brother Xiao? Are you afraid of the telephone?" Tonia standing next to him, looking down at Xiao with a concerned expression. "Brother Xiao, are we upsetting you?"
Xiao couldn't say it in words. He just nods slightly. Teucer pleads at that. "I'm sorry..." Tonia pats his back. "I'm sorry, too. See, I told you that he was uncomfortable." Glancing over at Teucer. Teucer brow fuses.
"Well, I didn't know..." Teucer looks at Xiao. "Will you forgive me and sister Tonia, brother Xiao?"
"It's ok..." Xiao said breathily.
Tonia continued. "You know what mom always about making up, right?" Teucer bright up. "Yea! It always ends with a HUG!" Then he throws himself and wrapping his arms around Xiao. "I'm sorry!" Tonia did the same. Both of them crushing their small weight onto Xiao. Although, they were just children and their body was fairly easy to handle. But at that moment, Xiao can feel a thousand weights of affection pouring onto him as if it was something free and are so easy to get. His burden was lifted lightly as Xiao hugs them back. Their small giggles and laughter as they part off made Xiao realize for the first time that these humans, don't entirely despise him. They welcomed him with their love and respect.
"Brother Xiao, it's ok if you don't like the telephone. I don't like them too. That's why I'm asking brother Ajax to buy me a smartphone instead! I will share it with you once I have it!" Tonia said. "Hey! What about me?!" Tonia shooting a look at Teucer. "Learn how to use a telephone first then we'll talk."-"Hey! Not fair!" The siblings are back at it with their bickering. It was quite endearing for Xiao. He was still recovering from the sudden outburst that he had previously. "Here, brother Xiao. My mom said that orange juice will make your day brighter." Tonia gives her juice box to Xiao.
Looking at the strange container, Xiao said. "I...am not well acquainted with ...' orange juice'.." Teucer brightens up. "Ha! I know just how to make you cheer up! TV! Dad always turns on the TV for me to watch when I'm bored. Come!" Teucer grabbed Xiao's hand and leads him back to the living room. He turns on the black surface in front of Xiao and it starts to display colors and people. Xiao was intrigued by the strange object. "I'll turn on my favorite show! After that, we can return to play Saving the princess again!"
"I like that idea! Do you want to join us, brother Xiao?"
Tonia turns to him. Xiao was unsure of the offer but he wasn't entirely against the idea. He hasn't fully accepted the fact that the fake Barbatos was still living somewhere in this realm. But regardless, he found himself at a grey spot, deciding whether or not he would want to see his face again. Perhaps if he does as Ganyu has said, make friends not enemies, then this journey would be easier to digest. He turns to the TV flashing and the two toddlers sitting next to him, watching it attentively. Finally, he opens his mouth and said.
Ganyu stuff another spoonful of vegetables in her mouth as she slowly chewing the remaining food. Another plate hit down the metal table. Ganyu glances up from the piles of food that were gradually stacking up around her.
"And this is our special broccoli and pumpkin stir fry!" Xiangling giggles as she put down another two or three more paper plate. "I make a special sauce just for this dish!" Then she takes out her small pocket notebook. "So? What do you think?"
Ganyu coughs. "It's a bit too salty." Hutao glances over at them. "Hmm? Let me try." Xiangling's brows fuse. "I thought you said that my cooking was too 'obtrusive' for your taste." Hutao sighed. "Well, I have nothing to do. Maybe it's because of my 'friends' that won't let me join their card game." She glares at the couple who were minding their business.
"We would let you join if you weren't a little cheater," Xingqiu said. "It was one time! And you told me you like that prank!" Ganyu tilts her head. Despise having her mouth stuff full of food, Ganyu manages to word out her thought.
"Prank?" Hutao chuckles. " Let just say I manage to steal some jueyun chilis from Uncle Bao on the third floor." At that, Chongyun coughs, his face turns green at the mention of the word 'chili.'
"Haha, don't look at me like that, Ganyu. It was just a fun experiment!" Hutao cheers. The table was silent as if to detest her idea of 'fun.'
"What?" Hutao said. "Haiya, people nowadays so serious. The last time, I tried to sneak some coupons onto Aunt Fang's doorstep, she was furious and immediately complained about the parlor. Luckily, the ferry lady had taken care of it before I came back."
"I must compliment the ferry lady on keeping you on the lock, or else this neighborhood won't be able to withstand your power of piquing people." Hutao laughs. "I do appreciate her a lot. That's why I pay her the most." Xiangling sighed. "And stop trying to sneak your poster into the restaurant mailbox! My dad is completely fine!"
"It's just my way of caring for others. Beside Chef Mao been coughing a lot lately."
"Well! then I won't let you taste my dish. This is for Ganyu only." Ganyu chokes on her food at that. "Wait.."
"Don't worry, I have plenty more dishes for you to try. I'll be riiiight back!" Xiangling pats Ganyu lightly on the back and left with the food tray. "Hehe." Hutao quickly takes a spoon from the rack drying it on the table. She takes a spoonful of the pumpkin stir fry. "Hmm, this is actually pretty plain."
"Hm..plain? It tastes very salty to me." Ganyu questions. Hutao sighed. "Xiangling is trying too hard. This isn't what she would usually cook up."-"You think?" Xingqiu asks.
"I mean, I don't really understand her concern. Liuli Pavillion and Wanmin have two completely different styles of food. Liuli is more formal and fancy while Wanmin is the usual family dinner restaurant. I don't see why Wanmin would lose customers due to the popularity of the other restaurant. Besides, wouldn't this make Wanmin stands out a lot more?" Hutao said between chewing.
"It's understandable. I supposed Liuli with its name alone will attract a lot more customers than Wanmin but in the end, people will still go to Wanmin. Not everybody has enough money to eat in such a high-status restaurant every day." Xingqiu said.
Hutao hmm-ed. "You know what I've learned? I'm hearing about the rumors that this specific restaurant is going to be one of the special ones. The Qixing is going all out for this restaurant." Hutao said. At that Ganyu looks up from the plate of food displayed in front of her. "Qixing?" Ganyu does remember the woman from yesterday say something about it.
"Yea, It's a construction company owned by The Tianquan. They are responsible for many important buildings that lays in this very city. And they also built a lot of residential areas. They actually own a lot of houses in this neighborhood. The apartment complex that we lived in is under their name."
"I see..." Ganyu said. She couldn't exactly grasp what Hutao was saying but she does know one thing that is the woman she met yesterday must be an important figure of some sort.
"I still couldn't see why they would make the ceremony so big? Don't they have bigger projects to focus on? Like the stadium in the center of the city?" Chongyun adds.
"You see, I did my investigation and through my inspection. This is more of a personal event." Hutao said, smirking. "Personal?"
"Mhm! Have you heard the rumors that The Tianquan is currently dating someone?" Hutao said.
"I mean The Tianquan is a successful and powerful woman. A lot of people have tried to court her in the past only to fail miserably. I don't see why that will change now? Considering how her life is always in the spotlight." Xingqiu questions.
Hutao chuckles. "You don't understand, do you? Love is everyone's most unexpected aggressor and the most affective weakness. You never know what will come from love. Romantic, isn't it?" Xingqiu asks." Then who do you think she is dating?"
Hutao smirks. Seems like Xingqiu has hit the right nail on the board for her. "Why of course! The one and only infamous Haishan Slayer herself!" The table was silent.
"Who?" Chongyun asks. "The wrestler! You remember watching her fight with me?" Hutao said.
"Hutao, I didn't know you were into wrestling," Xingqiu said with an added smirk.
Hutao sighed. "The wrestler is more well know upon her fans as Beidou. She used to toy around with people on stage as if they were just rag dolls compares to her! She has other names like The fighter of Liyue Harbour or Captian of the endless sea!" Hutao eyes sparkle with glee as she describes the person. "She now just a retired wrestler, but she does occasionally host fighting games on her fishing boat and live stream it."
"You think that The Tianquan is in a romantic relationship with the wrestler?" Chongyun asks. "Duh, isn't it obvious? With the newspaper and all and how close the two are. I don't doubt it a bit." Hutao sighed. "Beidou would also post regularly on her social media that she was on a date with the Tianquan." Hutao coughs." She would also sometimes post muscle and work out pics on there." Hutao briefly mentions and then she swallows, her cheeks a bit flush.
"Hutao... You sure know a lot more about Beidou than you do The Tianquan?" Chongyun said. Hutao laughs it off. "Hehe. You know, to understand businesses you have to know to navigate in the market."
"And thirsting over the Tianquan girlfriend is your first thought when thinking of marketing?" Hutao coughs."H-hey, let's just switch topic." Ganyu chuckles at the sudden flustered expression on the funeral director's face.
The door got kicks down. "I got the spicy tofu!" Xiangling yells in. Chongyun returns to his card game, Xingqiu takes a sip of water. Hutao sighs out in relief as the new presence rescues her from her inevitable downfall. And Ganyu's stomach starts to rumble real bad.
The bustling of the coffee shop is understandable at these hours. There were students and office workers who if now off work entering the coffee to chat and hang out with their peers. Childe likes this coffee shop a lot, he would usually recover from a hard day at work by stopping by this coffee shop. And their coffee is phenomenal, Childe can go home and works until 4 AM with like three of these cups. He takes a slow sip of the hot coffee cup in his hand and places it down onto the glass table.
Childe looks down onto his phone, he was staring at a picture of Zhongli and Anthon holding hands, smiling at the camera. He glances up at the said two deep in a conversation.
"You tell me that you have never tried a smoothie before?!" Anthon asks. "That is a very strange name for a drink," Zhongli replied.
Childe felt bad.
He felt really bad. If you ask him why he would answer it's because his brother wouldn't be happy when he finally says goodbye to the strange man he has gained a friendship with. But in reality, Childe is as much as baffled by the idea of Zhongli leaving as his brother would be. He clearly has promised for the man to just stay for one night. But then he ended up dragging him along on an entire day field trip with his brother. Childe doesn't know what to think of Zhongli anymore. He is a strange man, that is true.
But Zhongli and his friends never done anything suspicious or do cause harm to him and his siblings. Childe doesn't usually get his head around the idea of letting strangers into his house so easily.
"They have chocolate and strawberry and vanilla! And they come in cones! Very sweet!" Anthon tries his best to explain the concept of ice cream to Zhongli while the man is just looking confused. Childe laughs. "Zhongli xiansheng, I can get you an ice cream cone if you want to try some for yourself." Zhongli shakes his head.
"That wouldn't be necessary, I have no desire to experience such a ..cold..treat. But thank you for your recommendation." Zhongli said.
"Ah, Mister, here is your smoothie."-"Smoothie!" Anthon yells. The waiter puts down the fancy glass and left their table. Anthon immediately leeching onto the straw and slurp loudly. Childs looks at Zhongli, the man was looking at the drink intensely. "Zhongli xiansheng, are you sure you don't want to order anything?" Zhongli looks at him.
"I'm sure." The man said, looking far away from Childe. He is now staring out onto the streets. Childe copied his action.
The view from the coffee shop was one of the things that Childe enjoys the most. It just gives him this modern city vibe from those films that his big sister watches. It is calming and relaxing, especially when it's rain. Some might say it's too and there are bare covers in the coffee shop but Childe would say otherwise. The coldness and chill give him the feeling of his old hometown. Lonely days, he will come here to look through the view, just watch the people walk by the sidewalk, and shop open and close base when he comes and goes. He would sometimes remember which shop opens first and in which schedules.
Scaramouche said that is what a serial killer would do if they were trying to get a routine of their victims. Childe ignored him, of course.
By the nature of his habits, Childe remembers each of the different details on the road. It was easier to observe now that they are sitting outside not indoors. The obvious stand-out was the big restaurant that lies on the opposite side of the street. 'That wasn't there before.' Childe thought.
He has been catching up on works lately at the office so he didn't have that much time to visit the coffee. Perhaps this was the unfinished building from before he took a break from going here. 'Liuli Pavillion' It read. He didn't know that they wanted to have branches in these places as well, The Tianquan must be on the clock lately. Haven't heard a lot of news from her since the 'accident.'
"Ah, I must excuse myself. I need..to go...handle my..." Zhongli said, standing up. He gestures vaguely to Childe. "Ahem." Right, he almost forgot this part of their plan. "Oh, You can find the bathroom over there. The backside of the wall." Childe said, pointing in the direction of the restroom.
Zhongli takes his leave quietly. Childe looks after the man, Zhongli then turns to gives him a trusting look before he disappears behind the back wall. Childe returns that look. He then looks over to the small boy that was leeching onto his smoothie straw sitting opposite to him. His little ones have grown up a lot since the last time they've met. When he left to go to the city, he was just a small kid, and now look at him, still a kid but taller and so much more mature than before. To say Childe didn't miss back home would be a stretch but he constantly gets distracted by his works, the sensational of the big city. Sometimes, he is glad he moves away, there are pros and cons of it still.
Pro is that he can work the job that he wants. The con is that he has to be far away from his family. Childe didn't regret his decision of moving away but he did regret his decision as a brother. He should have done better for Anthon. And for that Childe blames himself, but from now on, Childe would make sure that all of his little siblings would get the same amount of attention and no one would get left behind.
"I love it here! So much more fun than at home! I love the Ferris wheel and the big tower. The city is so much more than I've imagined."-"It's great that you like it, I can ask mom to allow you to come to visit during holidays more often."
"But brother Ajax...What about your job?..." Anthon said. "Agh, don't worry about it. I'm in a better position now. Besides, I want to see my siblings more than just one time a year. No idols are going to be worth the time more than my own siblings!"
"Are you really going to tell mom that? What if I didn't get enough grades, will I be able to go?" Anthon asks. "I can make do. I want to bring you on more trips, too. It can be fun, like when we were younger." Anthon gives him a nod and a hopeful look. "Ok." He continues to stir his drink around with the silver spoon.
"Hey,... Anthon," Childe said.
Anthon looks at him while messing with his drink. "Yes? Brother Ajax?"
"I just wanted to say that...I'm sorry for yesterday's incident... I should have paid more attention to you. I didn't know that you felt a certain way about my action and as a big brother, I shouldn't have ignored the signs. I'm sorry, Anthon. From now on I won't make any more promises that I can't finish. I don't want you to think that your big bro doesn't care about you. Anthon, can you forgive your stupid older brother for his mistakes?" Childe said. Anthon looks up at him and smiles. "It's ok, brother Ajax. I forgive you."
"Heh, you really did grow up a lot when I was gone, huh?" Childe said. "I won't let you regret your decision. I'm going to be the best older brother from now on!" Childe exclaims. "Yea! Do I get to go on more holiday trips?" Anthon excitedly asks.
" I'm going to tell mom to allow you to go on trips with me! We can spend spring break here! Teucer and Tonia usually come around that time as well." Childe said. "Yay! No more spring homework!" Anthon cheers. "You still have to bring the homework with you, Anthon." -"Awee..."
"But I can help you with the homework."-"Yea!"
"And we can go on a hiking trip!"-"Yea!" Anthon raises his hand up in excitement. "It would be so fun! I will remember to bring sun cream this time!"
They spend the next hour talk about vacations and the perfect place to go to. Childe as a person who travels a lot before, tells Anthon about his experiences, the places he had been to, the things he had done there. "There is this one time, there was a debut of a singer that takes place on a stage in the middle of an island. It took about a month to prepare, we had to-" -"Woah! That is awesome!"
"Yea! One of the lights on the stage almost fell out! Good things we notice ruckus or else it would have gone down bad."- "So cool! I wish I can meet your incredible friends, brother Ajax!"
"Yea...I wouldn't call them 'incredible.' " That bitch Signora stole that one discount souvenir at the gift shop that Childe likes and he had never forgotten about it since. And Scaramouche sleeps up until noon to start checking up with the team. That pompous prick snores loud as hell, he couldn't stand sharing a hotel room with him for at least one week before he has to move out and paid for his own hotel room.
"Brother Ajax, I just read this book that I really like."-"Really? What is it about?"
"Oh! It's about this Mapo character and he goes and saves the galaxy! My friend says it was childish but I still find it fun to read." Childe nods to show he was following."I see, tell me more." The pair ended up talking a bunch about a good portion of the fictional story. It has been a long time since they get to sit together and just talk like this, Childe realizes he kinda misses it. He sits there in solemn as his brother tries to explain to him how aliens have magical abilities.
An hour and a half pass by, Childe still hasn't see Zhongli return to his seat. Their conversation was dying down, Childe didn't want Anthon to notice the disappearance of his friend but his weird sneaky glance from here and there gives it away. "Mr. Zhongli? Where is he?" Anthon looks back, he asks. The man couldn't have just left, could he? They did agree to say goodbye when they finally return back to his apartment. He can't just walk out on it right now. Anthon was a worry for the man.
So Childe calls over an employee to looks over his brother when he was gone, he paid them extra tips. The waitress sat there with his brother, while he is up and goes to find Zhongli.
"Let me go check on him, Anthon, be good and stay here with the waitress lady ok?"-"Ok! I'll wait." Anthon nods.
"Zhongli?" Childe calls out as he steps inside the men's restroom. "Are you here?" No one reply back to him. As Childe stroll to take a good look at all of the stalls, no one was in here in the first place. That makes Childe's suspicion grew stronger. Something was clearly wrong here. Zhongli did promise him that he was going to leave the table to let Childe have a talk with Anthon. But he shouldn't have been in here for that long, or anywhere else for that matter. Childe quickly left the restroom, tension slowly grows in between the steps he takes.
'Where could have Zhongli go?" Childe thought. Before he can step out of the restroom, he heard through the windows a rustling sound. It wasn't easy to catch but Childe swears he heard something. It was coming from behind the coffee shop! He, in a hurry, make his way to the back door, the staffs were too busy at this hour to ask Childe what he was doing, and the bathroom is located quite close to the back of the shop.
"Zhongli?" He wasn't too sure it was him, but he tries to call his name anyway. No response. The alley was dark and quiet, Childe tries to use his phone screen to light the way. There is a good chance he can get mugged, but Childe is ready. He knows the city has these kinds of thieves everywhere, he didn't take self-defense classes for fun, didn't he? So Childe stands square, in a position where the person can't possibly knock him down. He slowly navigates his way through the piles of trash. The silence break when he heard somebody talking, more like whispering.
"No, put him like this." Another person argued back. "Then how are we going to get him back?" Sound of them rummaging through trash bags. They start moving, Childe could hear the footsteps.
The first person yells out. "Ouch! Be careful!" Childe doesn't think that they notice him walking closer and closer. Childe left his hiding place and start to walk towards the sound of their voices. He was greeted with two tall figures, it was two men. One with long silky blue hair, the other with shorter brown hair. They seem to be bothered with something. Suddenly, a body drops from their hand. Childe grimaces at the scene. "Stop bickering with me and pick up the body."
"I'm tired, ok? Give these arms a break. I have been cleaning tables all morning." Childe decided to but in their conversation.
"Good evening." He said. The men stand in shock at the new presence. "Um...Hello, sir."
"Can I ask what are you two doing?" Childe said. They look at him, only to glance down one more time at the lying body. "We're...helping a friend of ours..."
Now that Childe looks closer, he realized that the 'friend.' was in fact 'Zhongli.' There couldn't be any other person wearing that very same golden hanfu with the same rat-tail. He was probably the noticeable thing in the dim alley. "Really? I think might know your 'friend.' here." Childe was worried about the man, why was he unconscious? He didn't even drink anything before going to the bathroom, did these two did something to him? Not going to lie, he was scared. But he couldn't let Zhongli got kidnapped by these two bozos.
"We are helping him get to his home. Our friend is usually a bit air-headed. Don't worry, we won't bother you further." The brown-haired man said. Childe didn't want to believe these people, they were acting really suspicious. But Childe couldn't rule out the fact that he knows almost nothing about Zhongli, could these people related to him somehow? He didn't want to accuse people without evidence, of course, the evidence being beside the fact that they carrying an unconscious body of Zhongli.
"Why is he unconscious?" Childe points to Zhongli. They look at each other. Each of them steps over the other words to explain the situation."Well, you see-"
Childe stands there, he didn't know how to dispute the other words. He was sweating as the other two try to consult him about the events that transpire. He doesn't know if they are lying or telling the truth, but Childe has a distinct feeling telling him not to trust these two strangers. His suspicion was proven to be correct when he felt a tug on his leg and a small voice calling out.
"C-childe?" It was Zhongli. "H-hurt."
That was all he need to know.
As he glances up the other two men were already in a fighting position. One of them swings a forceful fist towards Childe, he jumps back to avoid getting hit, the wind blew on his face. These guys definitely know how to fight. "Hey!"-"RUN!" They start to grab Zhongli's body and run as fast as they can, one of them stomp the ground and the earth surrounded Childe start to rumbling, he falls down. How on earth is he doing that? Childe manages to grab a nearby stick and throw it at them to no avail.
He hops on his feet and runs towards them. "Zhongli!" He calls out. Zhongli seems to have caught his voice, the limping man looks up from being carried. "C-childe..." Zhongli then hitch in a breath, he kicks the guy who was carrying him in his abdomen, the brown-haired guy drops him from the strong impact. The other blue hair guy who was running in front of them stops, he comes back to help his friend. At that moment, all that Childe see was blue, before a slash of water hit him in the face.
Childe falls down on his knees. It-it can't be, the man standing in front of him was yielding a blade made purely of water, its energy flowing through the veins of the weapons. The thing looks like it can cut Childe's head off with a few slashes. These people,..they are not normal, they are not just street thieves, they here for something. And that something was Zhongli. Childe hears the waters splashes everywhere, the sound of rocks being thrown. He looks up to the scene he never gets to see in his entire life.
It was Zhongli, he dodging the attacks of the other two, he quickly recovers and he twirls his hand and a spear came out of his chest?! He summoned a little stone dagger thrusting through the air and direct at the enemies, the brown-haired one quickly build a rock wall to tank his attack. The water coming from every direction, it beautifully with Zhongli smooth movements. As still as a stone but as liquidity as water, that is what Zhongli is. He fights so skillfully, he was dancing with the spear on his side, his body reacts as it goes. It was like he was born to do this. Zhongli was putting up a show for him to see. How can a man wheezing in pain a moment then starts to yield spear gracefully the next?!
Childe tries to moves his body, he launches forwards only to be met with an invisible barrier. 'What is this?' Its warmness spread through Childe's palms, Zhongli did this. Childe speculated it was a shield to protect him from the fight that was going on. His palm lays out flat upon the surface, how fascinating. As Childe stands up from his position, he saw a water tentacle coming from behind Zhongli, a sneak attack.
"ZHONGLI! BEHIND YOU!"
Childe yells out, his fist against the shield. Zhongli turns around, and there it was a drill of water coming right at him, he managed to dodge in time. Zhongli then sends one final wave of his power, he collapses right after that. It sends the other two flying away. The smoke from the crashing of the dirt makes Childe squints his eyes, his clothes damping the remains of dust and mud. Childe coughs out a fit. When the smoke is finally clear, the other two were nowhere to be found. Only Childe and Zhongli lying upon the dirt, breathing like a dead dog.
"Zhongli." The man looks up to him. "Childe. I'm terribly sorry for the inconvenience." Childe swears this man is going to be the death of him. "Sorry?! Zhongli, those guys were after you! And they almost kill me?!" The man's face then saddens with guilt. "No, I-I'm not mad at you!" Childe rips his hair. He sighed. "Zhongli, what is this about? Are you...on a run from something? "
"I-I..." Zhongli hesitates. "It not necessary for you to know, after all, I'm leaving tonight, yes? It shouldn't concern you, Childe." Childe was baffled by how much this man think of him. "How am I not suppose to be concerned? Zhongli, I'm worried about you! Do you think I run after those two just to get my ass kick for nothing?!" Childe said, he holds both his hands over Zhongli's shoulders. "Tell me the truth, xiansheng." He looks straight into those golden eyes of his, his expression softens. Zhongli sighs in defeat.
"Childe...I... I'm sorry to have deceived you but I am not one of your kind....." He said seriously. Yeah, no shit. Never anyone walking down the street pulling the glowing spear out of their body and create magic invisible barriers. "I and my companion are not from of this world that you live in. We are trying to find our way back home. Although, on the way, we encounter you and your family. Your help has got us out of tough situations before. I'm sorry if I have lost your trust by saying this. But...all the things I say were real even if you choose to not believe so, I would understand." He said in a sincere tone. Childe listens to the man's story, at the end he still trying to process the entire thing in his head.
Some of it does make a lot of sense to him, but other were just lost details. They stay like that for a while, their breath almost becomes unison with one another. The silence filled the space, the only sound was the 'plip.' 'plop.' of the water pipes and their staining clothes. A minute passes, Childe speaks up.
"You're not leaving." - Zhongli was taken back. "What?"
"I said you're not leaving," Childe holds onto Zhongli's arm. "If you leave now, those jerks are still out there. You can't just wandering around not knowing the roads. It's dangerous! Who knows when they can get you?" Zhongli tries to put up a fight by saying. "But about the contract-"
"I don't care about the stupid contract! Besides, it's already night now, shouldn't you have left by the afternoon? Why are you still here? You insist to go drink coffee with us." Zhongli hesitates. "It-it's.. because I want you to talk to Anthon...You did say that you find it unsettling for strangers to stay in your house isn't it?"
"Well yes...but no..." Childe sighs. "I-I don't mind if you stay a little longer."
Zhongli stutters. "I must admit, I-I didn't want to leave at first..."
"Then why leave?" That was probably the most concise sentence Childe could have said at that moment. He looks at Zhongli straight in the eyes.
"Stay with me."
Childe wants to dunk an entire frying oil pantry on his head after that sentence left his mouth. He physically cringes at his words. Why did he say that? Zhongli didn't seem to mind though. The man silently processing his words. Childe was afraid he did something wrong, he definitely couldn't fight back against Zhongli if he did get upset at him and his intrusive wordings. But instead, all he received was an 'ok.'
"You...fine with it?"
"I don't see why not, if you do not mind us staying in your residence then perhaps we can extend the contract. Both sides do get to make changes from here and there."
"Right. So the contract isn't broken."-"Of course not, I will never break a contract." Childe still can't understand the man's obsession with contract but at least he is happy with the decision he makes. "Alright. We should go back to get Anthon, that poor waitress must have wait for so long."
Zhongli put on his usual pondering face. "What are you thinking about?" Childe glances over at the man. "I am thinking how can those two gentlemen find me here? This place is very large, yes? It must have been a wonder to find me."
Childe grimaces. "I wouldn't call myself 'gentlemen' if I were them. And I think I know why they found you."
Come to think of it, Zhongli was probably the easiest to find. Considering he is wearing a three-layer golden hanfu, while everyone else was wearing normal everyday clothes, it's not that hard to spot the differences. Zhongli was a breathing and walking red flag everywhere he goes. Perhaps, he should buy some new clothes for him, Ganyu and Xiao so that they can fit in a little bit better. Childe figures he should stop by the drift store later.
From the table, Anthon calls out. "Brother Ajax! Mr. Zhongli!" He was holding an ice cream cone the waitress paid for, she looks drained out of energy. Childe thanks the waitress for her work and paid her for babysitting Anthon when they were gone.
"Are you ready to go, Anthon?"
"Yea! Oh! Mr. Zhongli, where have you been?"
"I got distracted by a few things. Now, let's go home, shall we?"
Ganyu was tired. She finishes all of the dishes that Xiangling gives her and gives specific reviews on each of them, now her stomach feels numb. But at least, she earned a good amount of respect from her. Hutao, Xingqiu, and Chongyun have already gone home, Xiangling tells her to stay because she has something for her, Ganyu was glad at her offer, she hopes that means she will let them stay in her house. Xiangling appears behind the door to surprise her. "Hehe! I got something for you! Ganyu." Xiangling gives her two heavy bags full of boxes. Ganyu was confused at the gift.
"Food! I want to give this as a gift to you for your hard work! Now I can try my recipes out for real! Hehe! Thank you for that! Remember to come here sometime, I would love to introduce you to my dad! You can leave now, sorry for keeping you behind." Ganyu looks down at the bags. "Oh..." Xiangling left to clean the tables and chairs, Ganyu continues to sit there awkwardly.
"Hmm? Ganyu? You have to leave now, I had to close the shop for the night and go home."-"Oh, about that...Can you...give me a place to stay for the night?" Ganyu said. Xiangling was surprised at her request. "But what about the big apartment that you have?"
Ganyu didn't know how to explain her situation. "I can't live there now..."
"Oh..." Xiangling said. "Well...I don't think my dad would allow you into our house... My house isn't a big one...My dad and I were enough to fit it. I'm sorry but, I can't help you with that..." Ganyu was a bit crushed at her statement. "I..see." Xiangling did look concerned. "Hey...if you having a tough situation you should tell me, I might not be able to help but I know a lot of people who would!" She then turns to search for something in her cook apron.
"Don't tell my dad about it, our restaurant is running a bit slow lately. But, here." She spread out her palm, inside were little green paper and a few nickels. Ganyu suspects that it was the currency being used in this world. Xiangling takes her hands and gives them to her. "Take this and go find a place to stay for the night, ok? This is the best I can do for you." Ganyu's fist curls around the cold coins and wrinkly cash. This human despises it all, still, try to help her.
Maybe this world was kinder than Ganyu though. She smiles. "Thank you." Xiangling grins. "It's ok! You don't have to pay me back!"
"Now, go! It's late and my dad is worried when I don't come home on time." Ganyu nods, she takes her leave.
Walking out of the warm and cozy restaurant, Ganyu was hit with the cold and harsh air. She didn't shiver. Ganyu tries to think of something to do next, she fails at finding a place for them to stay, now what? Looking at the money in her hand, she doesn't even know how to use the currency. Ganyu sighs. At least, she meets some really great people and makes some new friends today. That was good. Ganyu didn't regret that.
Unsure of what to do, she stumbles back to the place she left this morning. Expecting to see Zhongli and Xiao waiting for her at the entrance. When she arrives, there was no one there. And so Ganyu continues to steps onto the elevator, this time there were people in it and she did manage to get to the right floor without using the stair. She walks her way to the door she has only seen one or two times. She knocks on it. The door creaks open.
"Ah, Ganyu, you're back."-"Childe?"
"Come on in." As she steps inside, the sound of people talking immediately takes over."You bought food?"-"I was actually given them." Childe inspects the bags. "Huh, I guess, I don't have to go grocery shopping after all. Thank you, Ganyu. Let me put this away."
Ganyu steps inside of the living room. Sitting on the couch was Zhongli, Xiao was playing with the two kids on the floor. "Zhongli-daren? Xiao?"
"Welcome back, Ganyu. Would you like some tea?" Rex Lapis turns to her and offers. "But, I thought we were leaving."
"Childe and I had had a discussion about the matter of the contract. We can stay here for longer." He said.
"Is that so?" Ganyu replied. "Mhhm!" Anthon behind the couch answers.
Ganyu sits down on the couch. She looks at the play that was going on.
"But then! The princess appears! She uses her knowledge of technology to save the ogre from danger! The ogre pain was eased with the magical hug they all share. Then the ogre thanks the princess and the knights for saving him! They became the best of friends!! They move into a cottage in the forest where they would occasionally hang out and drink orange juice and live happily ever after!"
Tonia interrupts Teucer. "Booooo, the ending was too rush!" Childe comes from behind the couch."That was a...creative story."
Teucer huffs. "Hey! It's a good story! Brother Xiao likes it! Right, brother Xiao?" Xiao nods wholeheartedly.
Ganyu has never seen Xiao get along with children this well. She is quite impressed.
They spend that night together for the first time. Ganyu realized maybe they are more of a fit than they thought. Childe decided to use the spare room that he has for them, Ganyu loves it, this room actually has a windows. Xiao did find it more appealing to sleeping in their own personal space. Overall, Ganyu thinks that maybe living with these humans wasn't such of a bad idea.