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this feeling i have

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It started as a simple peck on cheek.

On a fine afternoon, a certain Outlander came to visit him in Wangshu Inn, bringing a plate of freshly made Almond Tofu. Though confused, Xiao accepted the food while inquired what brought this on. He was startled when soft lips landed on his cool skin, lingering for a while before it retreated. Wide-eyed, he stared at the girl who only gave him a smile.

She gazed at him with tenderness he was sure didn’t deserve. Lumine spoke softly,

“Xiao, thank you for not letting me fall when the Jade Chamber destroyed.”

-

The Guardian Yaksha thought the kiss was a one-time occurrence and so he tried to forget it.

(He couldn’t.)

The next time he met the Outlander, it was during Lantern Rite. Somehow she was still taking commission from Wangshu Inn despite the holiday cheer, even helping around to prepare for the festival. On the roof, he stared silently as Lumine climbed up the fence in front of the inn to put a lantern on the tree. But then she slipped and lost her footing. Before he knew it, Xiao had already dashed and grabbed that slender waist, preventing her from falling straight to the stairs below.

Big golden eyes blinked at him owlishly.

“Be careful now,” Xiao said, frowning at the girl in his arms.

(No, he wasn’t worried. Not at all.)

“Ah, yes,” the Outlander stuttered a bit. But then a smile grew across her face and she beamed at him. “Thank you, Xiao.”

She kissed his jawline.

-

“That went well,” Lumine remarked as Starsnatcher’s spirit faded from sight. Beside her, Paimon pumped her small fist to air.

“He seemed very earnest when he was making that oath there. Guess he won't be tricking anyone anymore,” the little elf said cheerfully. “Come, Lumi. Let’s go back to Wangshu Inn. Tomorrow we can ask for Sigil of Permission back from him.”

The golden-eyed girl nodded in agreement. Xiao himself was about to head back before slender hand reached to hold his arm.

“Wait, Xiao…”

He paused. What happened next was something he should’ve expected, yet when Lumine tiptoed to kiss his cheek, once again the Adeptus found himself lost for words.

“What—”

“Thank you for helping us, Xiao. It certainly wouldn’t go as smoothly without your assistance.”

“... It’s nothing,” Xiao responded, glancing away. The spot where her lips touch him felt hot and heat started to creep up on his face. Hurriedly, the Adeptus said his goodbye and retreated.

Lumine stared at the figure who slowly disappeared into the night. A small smile playing on her lips.

-

After escorting the Outlander and her companion back on the outskirts of the city, Xiao hadn’t taken his leave as he planned. No, he was frozen in spot, bewitched by the sight that greeted him when he rest his eyes on Liyue Harbor.

No wonder the mortals love it so much.

There was no noises nor crowds, and so the Guardian Yaksha let himself lost by the glimpse of Lantern Rite festival.

Until the sound of footsteps alerted him of someone’s approach.

Xiao tilted his head when his eyes caught the figure of Outlander walking toward him.

“What’s the matter?” he inquired, thinking the girl probably forgot or lost something on their way back here. But Lumine only shook her head and the corner of her lips pulled in a smile.

“I just wanted to spend the festival with you,” she said, taking seat beside him without hesitation. Their shoulders nearly touching, and her sweet and somewhat fruity scent washed over him. Xiao's fingers twitched, and she continued cheerily, “You’re right about the crowds. It was certainly noisy and I can’t fully enjoy the festival like that.”

“What about the floating elf?”

Lumine laughed lightly. “Oh, Paimon is currently enjoying herself with the food stalls.”

The Adeptus let out a noncommittal hum. His eyes fell on her pink lips, and his thought wandered.

“Kiss…”

“Hm?”

“Why did you kiss me? That time when we were in Wangshu Inn, and yesterday…” he trailed off, a little embarrassed as he caught himself counting the time he received kisses from the golden-eyed Outlander.

His companion blinked slowly. “Because I wanted to thank you,” she replied simply.

“You didn’t kiss me when I escorted you back just now.”

It slipped past his lips without his permission. And when he realized what he had said, Xiao wanted Rex Lapis to bury him whole. Feeling embarrassed once again, he opened his mouth to apologize—only to have nimble fingers cupped his chin and soft lips landed on the corner of his own.

His breath stuttered in halt.

“Xiao,” Lumine began to speak softly. Her luminous orbs were staring at him, in tenderness, in fondness. “Thank you for escorting me to safety.”

“… Do you kiss other people as a thank you too?” Xiao blurted out instead while his heart racing uncomfortably.

He didn’t know why but the thought of Lumine kissing other people somewhat irritated him.

But Lumine only laughed and the Adeptus was about to flick her forehead when the girl gave him a sweet smile. It left him breathless, more so when he heard what she said next.

“Xiao, I only kiss people that I like.”

-

The Lantern Rite was beautiful, but Xiao was more captivated by the Outlander who gazed at him as if he was the only one matter in the world.