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a mirage of love

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“You’ve made me like this,” her voice cold as the dagger was sharp pointing at his neck, strands of lilac filled his sights, unable to turn his head to face her. Quick breaths were heard as she infused her dagger with lightning. “I’ve lied. I have never once loved you,” His heart felt like it was ripped to shreds until he felt drops of tears at his cheek.      

 

He opened his eyes, meeting the bright magenta that was clouded with tears as she still pinned him to the ground, the dagger slightly shakes in her hold “Then is the tears a lie too? You don’t shed any tears if you think I’m insignificant to you.” He watches as she bit the bottom of her lips, trying hard to keep her tears at bay, her cheeks were tainted with blood that was not hers.    

 

Her arms gave her up as she plopped down to his chest, her dagger discarded at his hands, their cheeks touching as he felt the warm tears slid to his cheek. She inhaled a sharp breath whispering to him, “Kill me Alatus, end my suffering and bear it for me.” His breath hitched; the dagger was now in his hands; thus, the future was in his. Yet all he could think about was the moonlit night filled with lanterns.     

     


 

Liyue was not a small nation; it was one of the biggest with its vast peak of mountains. Their emperor, Rex Lapis, was not a mere mortal. Rex Lapis was bestowed by the Celestia to be one of them; hence he was a god living amongst mortals. His powers were divine, and the people of Liyue respect and feared him at the same time. The respect naturally came for all he has done, but the fear is greater since how could one be sure that Rex Lapis won’t go berserk?    

She’s a lady who hailed from among the noblest family in Liyue. Her father was none other than a minister among the seven ministers that aide the emperor. Her amethyst eyes along with her bright lilac hair were her prominent featured, well known to the people of the kingdom as she was also nicknamed as ’a Qingxin at the peak of Qingyun,” unattainable yet most desirable by the bachelors.    

He was just a general. Gaining the title Xiao and had long since become one of the Yakshas for Emperor Rex Lapis as they battle for Liyue. There was nothing notable about him when he was in gears, he was just like any general. His tattooed right sleeve was covered, and his black hair with teal undertones was neat in a tight ponytail yet the ladies of Liyue would whisper among one another as he patrolled the streets.    

 

It had happened when it was time for the first full moon of the year to make their appearances. As per tradition, the people of Liyue will lit lanterns as a way to remember the passing and the warriors that had a battle for Liyue. What he didn’t comprehend was the emperor taking him off from his duties. “Alatus rise,” his eyes finally meet the emperor as they all gathered in the throne room. “I will retire you— “    

“Your excellency, to what have I done for this grave sin?” Xiao continues to bow before his emperor, but all he heard was soft chuckled coming from Zhongli. “Alatus, it’s only temporarily resting, only two weeks. The other yakshas and I have agreed to let you rest your spears for now,” Xiao looked up to meet the emperor’s eye to see any kind of resentment, but there was none. Only eyes laced with concern was visible.     

Thus naturally, his orders are absolute, and Xiao is loyal to his master. This was a new experience for him and even being out the streets without his lamellar armour was making his skin itch. Each time he passed by the stall that sold trinkets, the patrons and seller would overwhelm him with various questions, and he didn’t have the heart to reject them.    

 

“My lord! There you are! Please, I require your assistance,” a swirl of lilac covered his vision as he felt he was being tugged to some back alleyway. His feet followed and only stopped after the person in front of him stop. She turned abruptly, causing her to lose her balance as her head hits his. “Ah,” she scowled, glared and pouted in that order at him.     

“I suppose a thank you is in order as you have saved me Lady Keqing of the Yuheng.” Xiao nodded his head as he watched the female in front of him, bright magenta eyes staring back at him with a small smile of satisfaction played on her pink lips. Xiao gulped as he can practically see her gears twisted and running as she thinks of her next move. Xiao could only pray silently that her request isn’t too demanding.    

“Since you are thankful to me, it’s only natural that you repay the debt, yes?” She smiled again, “thus hereby I appointed you my personal knight,” she happily smiled, dragging him to someplace where it wasn’t at all familiar to him. Xiao kept his silence since he was indebted to the Yuheng and wasn’t doing anything important instead, he was looking for some tasks to be done. At least that was the first case. Soon it was him that sought her instead, and Keqing never turned him down.    

 

She had him do various sorts of tasks that could’ve been done by anyone, and he wasn’t sure what made her approach him in the first place. He watched as the light blue hanfu sprawled around her as she was meticulously worked her hands around the lantern. “General Xiao, if you have the spare time to indulged in staring at my face, I believe you can help me with lanterns, right?”     

A tint of red filled his face as he didn’t purposely stare, nor did he meant to stare until she notices. He cleared her throat to retort back but soon caught the exact reasons she had approached him in the first place, few male onlookers were glaring at him, and soon he would hear the gossip that Bosacius would humour him. The words that followed would indeed be ‘General Xiao has captured the heart of the qingxin at Qingyun Peak.’     

At first, it was because he was indebted, but soon he craved for her presence. He sought solace from her bright magenta filled with love and genuine happiness a stark contrast to his amber eyes that had already been darkened due to the countless lives he had taken from the war. Just as quickly, the solace turns into affection. He wonders how it would be if her bright magenta’s were directed to him solely. 

 

The serene of the gazebo surrounded the koi was enough for Xiao to feel the same thing he once felt with Keqing by his side. And thus, the mere mentioned of her was enough for him to spat his tea in front of Emperor Zhongli and Empress Guizhong. "You should ask Lady Yuheng to the lantern rite, Xiao," Guizhong had beamed looking at the young general.  His coughing continued as he watched the approving nod from Zhongli. 

"Perhaps when she comes by to discuss the lantern rite, shall I invite her on your behalf, Xiao?" Xiao watched as Guizhong's eyes filled with anticipation and he didn't have the heart to refuse neither did he had the courage to ask now that even the empress has noticed his endeavours. What he didn't perceive if Guizhong hadn't humoured him was that Keqing had also wanted to ask him out, thus he was worrying over nothing.  

 

“Say, General Xiao, it is your biggest honour that I decided to spend this year lantern rite with you,” Xiao watched as her usual blue-toned hanfu was replaced with a teal with lilac flowers. Xiao looked down at his hanfu and realise that his hanfu was grey with teal. Xiao let out a hearty laugh, getting used to Keqing’s demeanour. He holds out his sleeve for her to take as they stroll the lantern rite market.    

“My Yuheng, you should start addressing me  Alatus from now,” Xiao smirked, caressing her cheek with the back of his hands as the ever-so confident  Keqing was now at a loss of words. " Alatus, try this--,  Alatus  look at that---,  Alatus  here!" Xiao watched as the female was happily conversing with various patrons as she picked lanterns for both of them.    

"Oh archons, is Alatus smiling and at the lantern rite nonetheless," Xiao smile dropped immediately as he heard Bosacious and Indarias peals of laughter next to him. "Alatus, you should secure the qingxin in your garden before a pigeon takes an interest." Xiao slapped their hands from his shoulders, scowling at them both. "--Alatus?" His scowl was quickly replaced as he ran towards her side, taking the lanterns in his hand, finding the perfect spot to release theirs.  

  

"Thank you for all the company that you gave me these past weeks, it is truly enjoyable spending time with you," Xiao frowned looking at her, were his feelings for her unclear or was she as dense as he was. Xiao opted to flick her forehead and her reaction was just as he expected. She closed her eyes, grumbling and it was a perfect time.

“They say that you are a qingxin atop of peak Qingyun but standing here amongst the light of the lanterns, I believe that your beauty is far greater than a qingxin. Even the light of the lanterns is dimmed compared to your bright magenta’s.”     

The qingxin flowers that he had delicately picked himself at Qingyun were in her hair alongside the thousands of lanterns now that had adorned the sky, yet he would rather stare at the bashful Yuheng that hid her face behind her teal hanfu’s sleeve.

Thus his heart warms when she hugged him, the bright magenta's eyes that look at him was crinkled in a smile. A smile directed for him. Maybe he wishes had come true, despite the rage and karma in his eyes, hers bring him solace. And Xiao had hoped that the solace would stay forever.