The elf watches the members of the revolt from afar as they take up swords, bows and pointy spears. They speak amongst each other in hushed, serious whispers, brows furrowed and mouths in thin lines.
He observes them curiously, always fascinated by mortal actions and culture. He understands well what they are fighting for; it is for freedom, for the birds in flight, the sun in the sky, and the wonders of the world outside. That said, he’s rather new to the foreign and tense atmosphere lingering in the air.
There must be a name for their current heavy emotions, but the elf is unsure which word would best describe it. Could it be anger, sadness or possibly fear?
Out of all their emotions he easily liked when humans showed joy and happiness the best. Oh, how wonderful it was when his dear friend's mouth formed a pleasant upward crescent, his blue eyes sparkling with light. Hmm… maybe he could mirror such an expression himself!
Amongst the current bustle the elf spots a discarded shield lying against a wall. He floats over to observe his own face in its reflection, attempting to mimic his friend's joyous expression somehow.
"Hehe, what are you doing, friend?"
The wind sprite looks to the side, finding his friend standing a few steps away with a smile on his face.
He floats over excitedly. "I was attempting to mimic the face you make when you’re happy! Although, it's not so easy."
His friend's smile softens considerably. "I quite like the faces you make already."
"Huh? You said when people are happy they smile, and when they're sad they frown. But I can't frown or smile."
"That doesn't mean you don't show your feelings with your face at all. Right now, I can tell you are very happy. Hehe!"
He’s a tad surprised to hear such a thing, after all he wasn't of the mortal world, he'd only just begun to experience what it meant to be joyful, sad or angry. Even now he still couldn’t recognize the achy emotion that had once lingered in his chest when he drifted amongst the winds as a lone wisp long ago.
“Everyone’s almost ready.” Amos moves to stand to their left, a bow strapped to her back. “Come join Ragnvindr and I. It would be best to go over our plan one more time.”
The wisp keeps his eyes on her as she strides away confidently toward the red haired man.
His friend takes a shaky breath and the wisp hurriedly gives him his attention. The bard looks… different, his eyes darker than usual and his mouth in a small frown.
There have been many nights where his dear friend’s eyes will cloud in a similar manner. On these nights he reaches for the wind wisp in the dark to cling to him tightly, tiny drops of water falling from his eyes.
“Forgive me.” He’d said one night, wiping at his face. “Sometimes I just… feel alone.”
“But you’re not alone.” The elf had responded easily, snuggling more in his arms. “I’m here.”
His dear friend had sighed softly, pulling him closer. “...You’re right, friend. We have each other.”
The wisp moves right away to comfort him, rubbing their cheeks together. “It’s alright. I’m here.”
The bard nods a little, sending the elf a tiny smile. He begins to walk after Amos, the sprite at his side when something stops him in his tracks.
The elf halts as well, tilting his head at his friend's behavior.
The young bard looks towards him then, his eyes fond and soft in a way the elf is entirely mesmerized by.
“Dear friend, well… I love you.”
The wisp blinks at him perplexed by the obvious weight behind the words. He’d heard mortals say the phrase before, but to a being new to their customs the exact meaning was quite vague; he'd overheard a man and a woman say it to each other once, an elderly woman had spoken the words to her child, two rebel men not moments ago had spoken the words. It couldn't possibly mean the same thing everytime, could it?
…Mortals were so confusing sometimes.
His friend's smile turns almost sad as he reaches a hand out for the elf to float above. “I want you to know that because… because I was so very lonely until I met you. And now without you, I don’t know what I’d do.”
“Hmm…” The wisp hums to himself, not too sure of what to do or say. His chest feels rather funny all of a sudden though.
“Hey.” Ragnvindr interrupts. “We need to hurry. Come on.”
The bard's face shifts considerably, his determination evident. He takes one final steadying breath before joining Ragnvindr and Amos.
“Dear friend, well… I love you. I want you to know that because… because I was so very lonely until I met you. And now without you, I don’t know what I’d do.”
"You're quiet tonight."
Venti glances over at Diluc on the other side of the bar, his fingers continuing to dance across the strings of his lyre even as he gives the man his attention.
"Heh, well, even bard's need a moment of composure every once in a while, Master Diluc."
"You looked sad." The man states bluntly, picking up a nearby mug and washing it with a cloth. "Not that you haven't acted wistful before, but you're usually not this uncharacteristically silent."
Venti forces his best smile. "Aw, how kind of you to worry about me."
Diluc scrunches up his face slightly. "Anyone in Mondstadt would find this behavior from their 'best bard' odd. It’s only natural to wonder what could possibly be troubling you so much."
Venti peers down at his half full mug of apple cider, his expression growing just a tad melancholic.
Softly under his breath he recites, "Sometimes even the lissome wind grows heavy in its grief… But not that mortals could ever see a moment oh so brief."
Diluc frowns. "Sorry, I didn't catch that."
Venti downs the rest of his mug, pulling it away with a pleased smile once he's done.
"Ah! Think you could spare maybe just one free drink for an uncharacteristically silent bard?"
The edge of Diluc’s mouth twitches upward in amusement. "Nice try, but you're out of luck."
He pulls Venti’s mug away, as per their usual daily tradition, and the bard climbs from his seat with a playful pout. "Awww, always so stubborn. Ehehe, well then, I'll be taking my leave for the evening. Until tomorrow, Master Diluc!"
Diluc utters a short grunt of acknowledgement as Venti gathers his lyre and moves towards the door, footsteps light and jubilant.
It's not until the wind shuts the door behind him with a heavy and final click that Venti stops in his tracks, his grief returning now that he's alone. In moments like this his eyes are always drawn to the sky, where birds soar freely overhead illuminated by the moon's light.
For so long his friend's words had stayed with him, ever present in the back of his mind. How he wished he'd understood what he'd meant then.
It'd taken many years and experiences for Venti to learn that the meaning behind love could never truly be explained. Love was similar to Windblumes — a flower that’s meaning was up to interpretation, but worthy of recognition no matter the form. He'd slowly learned this from people like Gunnhildr when she'd smiled so brightly and placed a laurel crown on his head. Or creatures like Dvalin when he'd lay at Venti's side and hum softly along with his songs. He'd learned it from Vennessa, Zhongli, Jean, Diluc, the Traveler…
He'd learned what it meant to love from so many, and yet he couldn’t say he loved them all in quite the same way as his dear friend. That too he had discovered overtime, a steady and slow realization that with his dear friend he had felt an affection so deep it was often overwhelming. Romantic wasn't quite the word for it either though, rather he thinks now that their meeting was simply meant to be. There was no other way to describe the feelings of belonging and comfort his friend had brought him when he'd laugh so fondly at Venti’s antics or when he'd gaze at him with such endearment whenever he found Venti curled up in the hood of his cloak… With him Venti had always felt so wholly loved and free… he just desperately wished there was someway he could've told him how much that love meant to him.
"Tone-Deaf Bard! There you are!" He's abruptly pulled from his thoughts at Paimon's high voice, turning away from the sky to face her and the Traveler approaching from further down the street. "Should've guessed you'd be near the tavern. Anyway, it’s a long story, but we ran into this weird cloaked guy earlier who needed our help with a few things. Once everything was taken care of he started asking all these questions about you. We thought it would just be best if we took you to see him."
Venti tilts his head and crosses his arms in thought. "Weird cloaked guy? Hehe, sounds like another interesting tale starring Mondstadt's very own Honorary Knight."
"Ugh, focus Tone-Deaf Bard! This guy really really wants to see you so you have to come with us, got it?"
"Huh? But do you even know why he wants to see me so bad?"
"Who knows? Paimon thought he seemed pretty sad until we mentioned you though. That's why you have to come with us! We're curious!"
The Traveler nods eagerly at her words.
Venti takes a moment to consider who this "weird cloaked guy" could be, but can't seem to recall ever meeting anyone like that recently. His old friend comes to mind again, recalling the many times he'd donned his cloak fully to conceal himself and hide Venti from Decarabian's loyal guards. Ah… how he wished he could curl up in his cloak just once more…
"Venti." He returns to reality, the Traveler peering at him gently, Paimon nowhere to be seen.
"Paimon went ahead. Is there anything you need to talk about?"
He blinks, and then a sheepish smile pulls at his lips. "Ehe… I can't hide anything from you, can I? Nights like this take me back is all."
The Traveler's own gentle smile falls a little, so Venti quickly hops into his usual bright stature. "Well, let's go see about this 'weird cloaked guy' then!"
The Traveler and Paimon lead him to the plaza where a lone figure stands gazing up at the Anemo Archon statue. With every step Venti becomes more and more puzzled, something vaguely familiar about this person. Once they’re nearly at the figures' side it suddenly dawns on him why and Venti’s feet stop of their own accord. The Traveler and Paimon continue walking even as everything seems to stand still for Venti, unable to tear his focus away from the boy at the foot of the statue.
Paimon notices eventually, tilting her head as she looks back at him.
“Tone-Deaf Bard?... Hey! Earth to Tone-Deaf Bard!” She turns to the Traveler. “Jeez! He’s acting as if he’s seen a ghost.”
Her voice is lost on Venti though as he takes a careful and shaky step forward. “You’re… I-I’m dreaming, aren’t I?”
That gets the figure's attention, his head turning in a second to gaze at Venti with just barely recognizable wide blue eyes under the shadow of his hood. They stare at each other for what feels like an eternity, leaving the Traveler and Paimon to look between them questioningly.
Finally the figure's eyes sparkle as that wondrous smile Venti loved so much lights up his face. “Friend? Is that you?”
Venti’s already moving before he’s even finished speaking, wrapping his arms around him in a desperate hug, tears coming to his eyes and obscuring his vision. The cloak feels palpable when he clings to it, and the comforting and familiar scent of Cecilia’s lingers in the air. This was real, r-right? It felt so...
His old friend only falls back a little at the sudden weight, but tenses as Venti starts to cry. Around the tears Venti fights to speak, to say the words he’s wanted to return for so long.
“I… I love you too.”
Silence settles around them briefly and Venti cries harder, expecting to wake soon from yet another 500 year sleep only to remember his dearest friend is long gone from this world.
Instead, his friend takes a soft breath, and then chuckles affectionately, wrapping his own arms around Venti.
“Even after all this time you…” He sniffles. “…Forgive me for leaving you, little elf.”
Venti smiles around his tears. “Hehe… that’s quite alright. Just… don’t leave me again, okay?”
The desperation in his own voice is so very foreign to him.
His dear friend tugs him closer and Venti settles into the warmth instinctively, nuzzling into his neck and shoulder just like old times.
“I won’t. I promise.”