Lisa was well aware that she would walk to the ends of Teyvat for Jean, but she never expected to find herself half a mile above sea level on a floating piece of plaustrite.
Customs in Liyue were a stark contrast to customs back home in Mondstadt. For starters, the strange passcode that Jean recited to the guide disoriented Lisa, though not as much as the surge of adrenaline that charged throughout her body when she peered down from the Jade Chamber. How did the Qixing get used to this? She spent most of her time with her feet securely planted on the ground, if not up on the desk of her library when she was sneaking in a nap during late night shifts.
Secondly, the existence of a passcode itself,- with something about sales and moons and business-related Kairos and what not,- astonished Lisa. If the citizens of Mondstadt wanted something, they would simply waltz into the Knights of Favonius headquarters and request it. Should they establish a system similar to Liyue’s, the tight security would be a barrier to such casual disrespect for the Knights of Favonius’ time, particularly Jean’s, Kaeya’s and hers. If the password was not an issue, then the altitude certainly would be.
Perhaps that is why Ningguang has the most Mora in all of Teyvat, and as for Jean, the most stress, Lisa quipped internally, as she tailed the women in question into the golden halls of the illustrious Jade Chamber.
Ningguang slid past two of her secretaries down the staircase, an elegant hand gently placed on the handrails, gliding along with her smooth, fluid motion. The two parted sections of her hair were flowing, and accentuated her movements. She was indeed the Tianquan of the Liyue Qixing, and she owned every inch of this airborne mansion.
The librarian was overawed and almost halted herself from stepping further. Almost, meaning that she didn’t, but Jean stopped her anyway, reminding her that political meetings always bored her to the point of unendurable drowsiness.
“And I,” Jean added, then paused to presumably summon courage, “would like you to be awake for tonight.” Her voice was low yet firm and determined as usual, but her speech was rushed, like her following dash downstairs to Ningguang’s workroom. Lisa had a keen eye though; she managed to spot the faint glow of a blush on Jean’s cheeks.
Lisa internally enthused about how adorable Jean was and how thoughtful she was, to prioritize their relationship over work for once and prepare a surprise getaway date during this diplomatic trip in Liyue, even though she discovered her secret plan one night when Jean accidentally fell asleep on her desk, her hair strewn over documents containing information about Liyue. One caught Lisa’s attention whilst she was draping her coat over Jean’s shoulders, as it was clearly titled “Top 10 Romantic Scenic Spots in Liyue”. It was difficult for Lisa to feign unawareness for Jean’s sake with all her pent-up excitement for the night time scenery of Qingce Village. She could barely contain herself in front of Jean when she fantasized about the glimmering moonlight reflected on the streams they will sit beside, with Jean’s head resting on her-
“Are you the famous right-hand woman of Mondstadt’s Grand Master?” A fruity voice boomed from beside her. Lisa was grateful honestly, that her musings were interrupted before they could colour her face scarlet. She spun and was met with someone who was most unquestionably a pirate. Though she donned an eyepatch, her laser-like stare was no less intimidating. However, she wore an authentic grin that was stretched across her face that exuded both confidence and warmth. She lolled on a chair that was probably worth enough Mora to bring a beggar out of poverty; this told Lisa she was a regular at the Jade Chamber.
“I’m just the librarian, actually. My name is Lisa,” she responded, plopping herself down onto the chair beside her. Why does everyone expect her to be someone extremely important position yet disappoint themselves when they uncover the truth? Copartner, more like Jean’s personal coffeemaker, a job she completely cherished nevertheless. “And, Acting Grand Master,” she corrected.
“But Varka’s been gone so long, I think she might as well be, eh?”
Lisa chuckled, “That makes two of us.” The Dandelion Knight worked the hardest in Mondstadt, this is a fact. She worked even harder than the actual Grand Master, who regarded his duties with seriousness, but went about them in a lackadaisical manner, much like Lisa.
There was silence for a beat or two, until the sailor extended her hand cordially, “Beidou, Captain of the Crux Fleet.”
Lisa was so nonplussed her mouth was gaping open. She forgot to shake her hand in return. She recomposed herself in the blink of an eye, though it could not hide her initial amazement. She was talking with theUncrowned Lord of the Ocean. Finally, she remembered to greet back with a handshake and a flattering yet honest response, “Oh! I’ve heard about many of your heroic battles on sea. They’re very fascinating.”
What else could she have said? Lisa was knowledgeable about a wide range of stories, from tales you read to tales you hear. Although the claim of someone and their crew slaying a sea monster without assistance from a single Vision did seem dubious, she no longer doubted it beholding the natural fearlessness in Beidou’s countenance now. She absolutely admired this woman she met only a few minutes ago.
Beidou heartily guffawed, “Didn’t expect you to be a fan of mine, Librarian! If you’d like, I can take you on one of our journeys.”
“No thanks. I think I’ve embarked on enough journeys to…”, Lisa contemplates her wording, “unfamiliar places for a while.”
“Still not used to the whole floating castle in the sky thing I see. You get used to it.” Lisa doesn’t think she will. Moreover, Beidou’s tone was colloquial and flippant, considering she was a notorious criminal in a prestigious government palace. It was also a buoyant prestigious government palace. If Lisa can’t get used to it, how did she?
Lisa inquired, with genuine interest, “What brings you here, anyway? Are you employed under the Tianquan?”
“We’re partners.” was Beidou’s extremely concise answer, it raised more questions than it answered.
Lisa did not speak promptly. She was pretty sure that the Tianquan denied any connection to the Crux Fleet. To add, she was perplexed about the correct interpretation of her brief explanation.
She also did not realize she was taking so long to process the information in her head. By the time she snapped out of her trance, Beidou was patiently awaiting her arrival to reality, having opened a flask and chugging it fiercely. Lisa was unsure about her upcoming accusation. Nonetheless, she would never pass up the opportunity to tease an unsuspecting stranger.
“Congratulations.” The cheeky wink she appended to her congratulatory statement did not help at all.
Beidou spat out her drink. None of it was sprayed on Lisa but she could still tell it was alcohol. “Business partners,” she did not appear very flustered, yet she was very adamant. However, her words lacked the usual Beidou flair and charisma, causing Lisa to feel that Beidou was talking as if bound by the sanctity of a Liyuen contract, and not by truth. “Colleagues, like you and Master Jean.”
And again, there was silence. This time, it was an awfully uncomfortable silence. In this silence, Lisa has settled on the conclusion that Lady of the Jade Chamber and the Captain of the Crux Fleet were having an affair like her and Jean, and she maintained her silence.
Beidou had a talent for reading in between the lines. She widened her eyes, astounded. She prioritized correcting herself first though, “Wait. Me and Ning are not like you and Jean at all.”
“Ning?” Lisa raised an eyebrow and formed a smirk.
“…Guang.” With how stupidly Beidou’s argument has been handled so far, Lisa deemed it a miracle that no Liyuean suspects of an affair between Ningguang and Beidou. Maybe, she read too many books, or people were just as stupid. The pirate continued though, unable to restrain her curiosity, “You’re with Jean?”
Lisa ignored the absence of a title when she referred to Mondstadt’s Acting Grand Master and cut to the chase. “…Yes. Don’t tell anyone,” She confessed, albeit with reluctance. Nevertheless, the cat was out of the bag whether or not she conceded.
“An eye for an eye.” Beidou leered, mischievous yet not malicious. Lisa did not take it as an actual threat or indication of bad blood between them, evidenced by her instinct to jest that the buccaneer only had one eye left, but ultimately, she shut her mouth and let nothing escape.
Jean wanted to keep their relationship more or less confidential. Lisa personally did not comprehend as to why love should be concealed, but she would comply with her girlfriend’s preferences. She would tell herself she’s just the librarian, meanwhile Jean held the most significant position in the City of Freedom. That’s what Jean’s specialty was, right? Jean juggled the aspects of her life like a professional juggler. As spectacular as she was at it, Lisa would sometimes wish that Jean would quit tossing her heart up to the air every five seconds to catch her responsibilities, and just hold it to hers for just five minutes. But sometimes, no matter how much you wish, you never get what you want.
As for Ningguang and Beidou, the librarian could fathom their secrecy with more clarity. After all, the Tianquan was a governmental figure with numerous facets. She was a monster of multiple faces and multiple facades; no one knew what the real creature was like. Except for a lowly pirate, whose morals were as mutable as the seas she sailed. No one knew this either though, and it shall stay that way. People talk, and they talk everywhere. Nonetheless, the talk of Liyue was typically less amiable and tender than Mondstadt’s. Like a citizen, Lisa, too, would be alarmed if the head of their nation was in an entanglement with someone most unexpected, had she not experienced being that someone most unexpected.
At any rate, it shouldn’t be unexpected, Lisa thought, with the way her arms slither flirtatiously over Jean’s desk all the way to her dangling locks or face, whether or not someone else is present in her office. Jean, the Stoic, usually remains stationary anyway, whether or not someone else is there, her motionless eyes fixed on the paper. Lisa’s thoughts were making her a little sad, so she spurned them and surveyed her surroundings again, suddenly remembering that the Captain of the Crux Fleet was beside her.
The air was thick and unmoving like a stone pillar, and it wasn’t because of their proximity to the stratosphere. The two sat with their arms crossed, facing the entrance. It was so quiet that they could somewhat perceive Jean’s and Ningguang’s murmurs from below them.
Despite being the librarian, Lisa was not accustomed to this silence and resolved to break it. The cogs in her head swivelled in search of the perfect icebreaker. She decided on an overkill move that will shatter the ice like a claymore user. Her genius was never used for the right thing, but it never failed.
She started, “So you are.” Her smug aura returned.
Without missing a beat, the foolishly gutsy Beidou retaliated, her voice roaring and provocative. “I am what?”
“Under the Tianquan.”
“I can electrocute you.”
“So can I,” Lisa smirked again, undoubtedly the victor of their verbal sparring. She had taken note of the Electro Vision placed near her left hip earlier, which was why she was unfazed when Beidou issued her threat. She also supposed Beidou was joking, bearing in mind her rough, rowdy nature. However, she definitely was not joking about her ability to easily end her with one graceful swipe of the enormous Rainslasher resting beside her. Then, Lisa considered, maybe she wasn’t joking.
Before Beidou could lift the handle of her greatsword and impulsively challenge Lisa to a duel, Ningguang strode into the area from the spiralling steps, with an intrigued Jean tagging along and peeking from behind her. Lisa can’t blame her for being baffled, she couldn’t wipe the mirth from her face and the swashbuckler next to her looks ready to implode.
“Beidou. No brawling in the Jade Chamber,” amid her admonishment, Ningguang discerned a damp stain on the wooden planks in front of Beidou’s seat and her focus shifted, “Why is the floor wet?”
“That’s not the only thi-“ Beidou forcefully elbowed Lisa, who, regardless, believed that her half-finished remark was worth the gut-wrenching pain.
Ningguang saw this. The jerk of Beidou’s arm was neither subtle nor soft, and the librarian’s smile visibly morphed into a slightly crooked, pained one, though still vexatious. Even Jean raised an eyebrow at the scene.
However, Ningguang was uncommonly familiar with Beidou’s antics, so she didn’t ask. At least that’s what Lisa deduced from the implications of their conversation. The Tianquan narrowed reprehending eyes at Beidou for a fleeting moment; it was a gesture meant for only her to notice, but Lisa was leg deep into whatever forbidden love story they were living and was paying as much intent attention as a ravenous bird ready to peck at the tiniest of breadcrumbs.
Ningguang cleared her throat and the air around the four. “An honour to meet an acclaimed intellectual such as you, Lisa.”
The aforementioned let out a lighthearted laugh at the reference of her prior achievements in the Sumeru Academia, “Oh, that’s in the past, I’m just the librarian now.” Lisa was convinced that if she had a bag of Mora each time she said something to that effect in her lifetime, or even in the last few weeks, she’d be richer than the prosperous businesswoman in front of her right now.
Ningguang did not acknowledge her comment and resumed formalities. “Lisa, Master Jean, this is,” she paused. As always, the expression on the Tianquan’s face was utterly indecipherable. “Captai-“
“Captain Beidou, Queen of the Crux Fleet!” She grinned that ear-to-ear grin again, all her pearly whites were showing. Jean was unaccustomed to a unashamed display of conviviality and eagerness but she welcomed the hand the captain put forward. Beidou had an unbending and solid grasp and shook her hand with superhuman strength. The knight was able to keep up though. Due to that, a gush of pride washed over Lisa for some weird reason.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Captain,” Jean addressed, sluggish and shaken and super confused, “What brings you here?”
The pirate parted her lips to reply but the voice of the Tianquan instantly interjected instead. Ningguang said “Fines.” However, the librarian heard All due respect but it’s none of your business, drop this topic before I drop you from this height. Jean tensed at the immediateness of her reaction so Lisa figured she wasn’t the only one who heard that. Ningguang continued, “My sincerest apologies, but please excuse me. I must take Beidou into my office for a meeting. Thank you for today’s discussion, Master Jean. If anything new arises, you may write to me and I will gladly provide my assistance.”
Before Jean could convey her own gratitude and Lisa could crack a joke about Beidou being ‘taken’ by Ningguang, her back was already turned and she was already leading her down the stairs. Offhandedly, Lisa waves and tells them to “Have fun!”
Lisa clearly wasn’t thinking. Beidou shot her a glare. Ningguang fortunately did not hear. Jean pretended not to, which, again, Lisa could understand.
Oddly, the room felt duller and less stimulating without the presence of the captain and the Tianquan. The ethereal light that spilled out from the windows lost its heavenly quality and merely became a blinding annoyance now that its goddess, Ningguang, was not around to complement it. Without Captain Beidou, the atmosphere was akin to that of a typical afternoon in a lifeless workplace instead of a lively pub. Shockingly, Lisa missed them already.
Jean wordlessly invited Lisa to leave the Jade Chamber by offering her armoured hand and twinkling like a star-studded morning. A swift glance to her relocated Lisa into an ocean of swaying dandelions, with nothing but cloudless horizons for miles. She accepted her invitation and exited the doors of the august Jade Chamber.
There was a light wind when they sauntered outside, and all of Liyue was before them. The sky above them was now orange, countless puny flames from lamps dotted the view below them. The entire landscape exuded a tranquility that could never be acquired during the daytime hustle and bustle of the harbour. The afternoon breeze kept swishing and sweeping Jean’s ponytail, besides dancing beneath her coat that now resembled beating butterfly wings, and Lisa almost forgot they were not in Mondstadt.
As the two Mondstadtians descended from the grand Jade Chamber on a plaustrite elevator, Jean whispered about a rendezvous she arranged for the night at Qingce Village.
Lisa chortled, “It’s a date, then?” It was not unlike Jean to beat around the bush with puzzling words instead of diving straight to the point when it came to matters about their relationship, but Lisa was ecstatic nonetheless.
Jean didn’t communicate with words, - she never did on the rare occurrences when she was truly off duty, - her face only flushed, but this time, she did not shy away from Lisa’s observance. Her grip on Lisa’s gloved hand tightened, yes, I love you.
Lisa beamed, you too, as always. Then, they got off the floating pedestal and bid farewell to the guide, with a beeline to Qingce Village and the shadow of the Jade Chamber looming over their heads. Whilst passing the pier, Lisa caught sight of a majestic, monstrous ship, the infamous Alcor, whose gaze was as intense as that of the two sui generis ladies she encountered today.
Despite having departed from her chamber, the librarian still sensed the Tianquan’s eyes and ears on her, and by extension, the Uncrowned Lord of the Ocean’s too. Perhaps, the eminent leader was having a clandestine tryst with an extraordinary electro-user too. Perhaps, Liyue isn’t too different from Mondstadt.