Mondstadt was well known for its lively atmosphere, especially during the day. Talent bloomed in the city of song, as tunes carried by the wind never stopped. It was hard not to feel at home here. After all the years the place spent drowned in suffering, with blood still smearing its history, tainted by corruption and greed, Mondstadt stood proudly as the city of freedom.
Venti was proud of this place and its people. For him, as the God of Mondstadt it was only natural to feel like this. The city was everything he had after all. He couldn't even remember the time before he settled here, before he met a certain bard whose song will forever echo in his heart, before he even took the name of Venti.
Maybe that was why on certain days he felt like he didn’t belong. There was something about the people singing and going around, buying drinks at the tavern or spending their time near the fountain, sometimes throwing a single Mora in the water for good luck. Venti felt like he was there, singing about all the stories that took place while being praised by those that passed. Every so often, he felt like he watched the days unfold before him, stuck behind an invisible wall, not being able to ever feel the joy of humans.
He wasn't actually a citizen. He didn't have a house here. He spoke to many people without actually having a relationship with any of them. Really, apart from the godly knowledge, did Venti actually know his people? Were they even his ?
Archons were supposed to be mighty and powerful. Gods . Venti never felt the name Barbatos represented him. Truth be told, fate had a funny way of working things out as his place in Celestia wasn't even supposed to be his. Venti wasn’t a powerful being when the War broke out. During that time, he wouldn’t have stood a chance against a real god, especially in his original form. He was born just a small and useless spirit.
There were many times Venti looked at his statues, his thoughts travelling back to a young boy who should have been the one standing in his place. Destiny is cruel. The young boy had to pay with his life for Venti’s place in Celestia. All he could do now was make sure that the image of the brave youth would not be forgotten by the people.
During nights like these, when the stars seem to shine a little too brightly inside the walls of Mondstadt, Venti leaves all his regrets behind and walks out of the gates. He does so as Venti. He is no God. He never was. And neither is he a bard, it’s all a lie. Truth is, he doesn't even remember if he enjoys singing or if that is a lie as well.
Venti walked along the pathway, taking in the silence. There was no trace of slimes along the way or angry yells of Hilichurls. The only thing he felt was the breeze softly brushing through his hair.
What, he wondered, might the Traveler be up to tonight? Was he camping outside near a cozy fire looking at the stars from Liyue? Was he safe? Did he get to see the Lantern Festival? Venti knew it was around this time. In certain years, when the sky was clear enough, some red lights appeared on the sky of Mond too, making the children point up in awe.
Without really knowing why, Venti ended up at Windrise, beneath the tree. There was no one else in sight: no adventurer, no scientist, not even a bird to keep him company. It was pretty normal for Venti to spend most of his time alone. He enjoyed the presence of people, however he didn’t know if they really enjoyed his company. Sometimes he would stay late at the tavern, wondering about trivial things, staring into space. Diluc took his job to kick him out very seriously. He would make an exception now and then though, when there weren't too many clients to serve, and sit down with Venti drinking his grape juice alongside the boy.
Jean, the acting grandmaster too made sure to visit Venti sometimes. She made a habit of getting lost in her words and ending up telling him about all the matters she had to attend to. When she realised she took half an hour to talk about Kaeya slacking off again, she would apologize deeply, her face growing red from embarrassment. She was such a gentle soul. Venti would almost always dedicate her a song.
All these considered, being a God in name still meant no one really wanted to be around him for too long. He understood very well why. However, he couldn't shake off the thought that it had been quite a long time since he last called someone a friend.
Leaning his head on the tree, Venti closed his eyes. It was warm and peaceful, a perfect time for a nap. A few minutes passed and just as he was dozing off, the sound of steps woke him up. Startled, he jumped and looked around, checking his surroundings and making sure there was no danger. In the darkness however, he could only see a faint greenish glow.
A short silhouette approached him without a word. Venti watched as the person came closer, amber eyes looking at him with something he couldn't quite name.
“It’s been some time, Barbatos.” Xiao spoke, making Venti visibly cringe at the sound of the name.
“How many times do I have to tell you? Please, call me Venti, Alatus.” His tone was cheerful, trying to hide the melancholy that had been haunting him.
Xiao glared at him as he sat down near the bard. It had to have been years since they last saw each other. The last time must have been when Venti got bored and decided annoying his favourite adeptus was better than spending all of his time begging people to buy him alcohol.
“What brings you here? Isn't the festival happening soon?” Venti asked as he studied the other's face, finding his tired gaze.
“It’s today actually.” Xiao responded without looking at Venti. Something was troubling the boy and Venti was rightfully worried. This was the first time Xiao ever visited him. He had always thought of their friendship as being one-sided. That was why he was reluctant to even think of what they had as a friendship. He knew the adeptus didn't exactly hate him but he would also go out of his way to not have to deal with the anemo god. “A traveler came to Liyue. I'm sure you know him already.” Venti nodded with a smile. “He kept insisting I go watch the lanterns.”
“Did you go then?” Venti really hoped he did. He knew what this night meant for Xiao. He knew his pain and sorrow. It was something they shared.
“I did from just close enough to not step inside the city.”
“Xiao-” Venti started to say before the boy turned his eyes to look at him, for the first time since they knew each other, giving him a smile. What a cruel thing. The first smile Venti got from the adeptus was filled with so much sadness.
“It made me think.” He sighed, stopping to find his words. “Rex Lapis has chosen to live as a mortal. I heard about your gnosis too.” He paused again. “Everything is changing. It's the first time in thousands of years I really think I’m being left behind.”
Venti understood the feeling. He tried to find something to say in order to comfort the other but before doing so, he felt a weight. Xiao leaned his head on him. Confused, Venti froze, afraid to move. The adeptus’ hand grabbed Venti’s shirt, while burying his head into Venti’s shoulder.
For a while, they stood just like that, without a single word being spoken again. It took some time but Venti managed to relax. He took the hand clutching his shirt and made the boy let go.
“They don't need me anymore.” Xiao said, breaking the silence. His voice was weak and unsteady. For a second, Venti was sure he was holding his breath.
The world was never going to stop needing Xiao. His war with evil had no end. Venti wished he could set the boy free from everything. Instead, he had to fight alone and suffer in silence. Indeed, the world was changing. The age of gods was slowly coming to an end. But what about the young adeptus?
Venti shifted in place. Feeling this, Xiao tried to back away, thinking his action was improper and probably made the god uncomfortable. He overstepped his boundary again. He quickly retracted his hand from the archon’s hold.
“It’s ok.” Venti smiled. The light of the moon made his green eyes shine like jades. One hand searched for Xiao’s, intertwining their fingers when he found it, as the other gently led his head back to his shoulder. “If you ever think people will have forgotten you and you feel alone-” Venti squeezed his hand, smiling as he saw a tint of red at the top of the other’s ears. “-just remember, no matter how many thousands of years pass, I will always come find you.”
The red only grew stronger. Xiao gave away an embarrassed laugh. He was used to Venti’s cheesy lines. Still, he couldn’t help but think this one sounded especially sincere. He nodded, taking note of how warm Venti was as his cheek could feel his breath.
“I expected to find you in the city. How come you aren’t drinking on a rooftop at this hour? Or is that something you only do when you visit me in Liyue?” Xiao tried to change the subject in order to save himself some face.
“Ehe, not quite. I have to say though, it’s much easier getting a bottle of wine in Liyue than it is in my own city. I’m starting to think the people here despise me.” Venti made a sour face, remembering just how many times he was chased away by angry elders with brooms and sometimes even swords, angry at his late singing on their rooftops. He sighed at the memory. “Although tonight, I think I just needed some time away.”
Xiao nodded, understanding the feeling all too well.
“So you mentioned the traveler, eh?” Venti remembered. “Are they well?”
Well was one way to put it, Xiao thought of the last image he had of him, fading into the crowd of the festival as his small companion, the pixie girl, made a serious matter of dragging him to every single food stall at the festival.
He ended up just nodding. “He is a very persistent person. He went out of his way to make sure I had a good time during the festival. I don’t think I’ve ever met such an annoying person.” Although he said that, he sounded fond of the memory. “No mortal I mean.” He clarified, earning a small nudge in his ribs as Venti tried to act hurt.
They laughed and stayed like that, together in the emptiness surrounding them. There was something peculiar about having each other’s company. Suddenly, neither felt alone anymore.
Xiao sighed. Maybe even after the world will have completely forgotten him, he will be able to come here and stay with Venti. A stupid dream, but a dream nonetheless.
The two didn’t even feel the time passing. Out of nowhere, the sky grew lighter and lighter, until the sun shone brightly over them.
After what felt like forever, Venti got up, stretching as his body went numb from sitting for so long. He extended his hand, smiling as Xiao gripped it tightly and pulled himself up gracefully. His eyes no longer held those traces of sadness. Even the tiredness he saw not so long ago seemed to have vanished.
“Well, if you are here today, I say we find something better to do than just sit around. After all, it’s not every day I can give you a tour of Mondstadt!”
The archon’s cheerfulness was extremely contagious. Without knowing why, Xiao felt a smile sneaking up on his lips.