Tartaglia was... a peculiar one. Goes by Childe, and roams around Liyue in somewhat of a carefree manner. He seemed like the type of person Zhongli wouldn't approach under normal circumstances, but under the conditions they were put under, an unlikely friendship was formed.
Often would they have dinners at Liuli Pavilion, which as per usual, Childe would pay for all the expenses. The conversations between the two proved to be light-hearted, with Zhongli sharing little facts he had come to know during his long time of existence. He'd talk about Liyue and its wide horizon of traditions or the different local specialties and how they came to be. Although, as much as Zhongli enjoyed sharing his vast knowledge regarding many things, he had also come to enjoy it whenever it was Childe doing the talking. The harbinger's smooth and charming voice was like music to his ears- whether it was stories about his little siblings, Teucer and Tonia, to straight up ranting about La Signora.
Once, he suggested meeting the harbinger's family.
"You tend to speak so fondly of them, though I understand I may be overstepping quite a few boundaries..." Childe brightens up, his vibrant azure orbs widen.
"Ah-" Childe averts his gaze as a pink hue dusted on his cheeks, "I suppose you could tag along the next time I visit home"
A feeling of giddiness threatened the archon, the side of his lips slowly being tugged upwards. A smile danced on his lips and a soft chuckle slips out. "Is that so? I look forward to it, then"
Zhongli began to notice the little things. How Childe's nose would scrunch up at the sight of chopsticks, how his hands fumbled around with the utensil. For someone with such a flexible range of weapon handling, knowing his hands were no match for chopsticks was a welcomed surprise.
On the topic of the harbinger's hands- they always looked so... soft. Zhongli had imagined them to be rough and calloused, due to the many fights Chidle subjects himself into, but it turned out to be the opposite. They appeared soft and smooth to the touch, fair and radiant skin that almost felt straight out of a fairytale. His hands looked small, well, compared to his.
The archon wondered if it would fit in his own, like two puzzle pieces being put together. Would they feel as soft as he envisioned it to be, or if his own hand would start to smell like Childe's- with whiffs of the beach, the fresh scent of the wet sand and salty water mixed with perfume extracted from a Valley Weaver silk flower. Refined and yet refreshing, just like him.
"Mr. Zhongli, are you alright?" Childe waved his hand in front of the other's face. And suddenly he gets pulled back into reality. Today was another normal day for the two, walking around Liyue, exchanging polite conversation with each other. Or, at least, minus how dangerously close both their faces were.
"I'm alright, thank you for your concern" Zhongli coughed, answering as calmly as he could. He averts his gaze from the harbinger's curious orbs, taking steps forward, towards Shitou's stall. He planned to purchase some Noctilucous Jade, as a request from one of his clients at the Funeral Parlor.
"Ah! My favourite customer, what can I get you this time?" Shitou enthusiastically spoke. Zhongli had become a regular of his, and was someone who tends to spend way too much than planned. In short, Zhongli was very good for business.
"A box of your finest Noctilucous Jades for today, boss"
The merchant gives a nod of approval, turns his heel, and starts skimming through today's batch.
Childe approaches him from behind, peeping a look at the archon's face. "How are you so sure you'll be getting your- ah erm, correction- my money's worth on these jades?"
"The answer is simple- I'm not."
"Elaborate for me?"
"I recall having a conversation regarding this matter with the traveler and Paimon once... Nevertheless, I shall attempt to summarise my point. Noctilucous Jade is indeed difficult to evaluate, for results can only be seen once your item has been crafted. Returning it will do you no good either, and your complaints would easily be countered. Do you understand where I'm going with this?"
Childe huffs, "Not quite..." He looks over to the horizon, then at the harbor. Walking over to the stone railing, he leans over, azure eyes glistening in the moonlight.
Zhongli finds himself staring at the man. That small, often mischievous grin, the few bits of hair that stuck out- oh, he was a sight to behold.
"Excuse me but it seems there's been a mix-up with a few of my goods. I hope it's not too much to ask for you to wait" Shitou seemed to be in a hurry, holding what appeared to be a clipboard.
"It's no problem at all" He calmly answered. And with that, the merchant excuses himself and rushes to the docks.
Zhongli returns his attention to Childe, whose face was gentler than ever. A peaceful look had settled on the Snezhnayan's face- something you don't get to see everyday. He takes a few steps forward, then a few more, until he was right beside Childe.
"There's a saying," The archon started, "A fool would see the pointer and miss the moon."
Silence engulfs the atmosphere.
And then, laughter. A soft, charming, melodic chuckle escaped Childe. Azure orbs meet golden, then another hushed giggle. "Is that so? Well, then that would mean a fool in love would see the fellow pointing at the moon, right?"
Zhongli thought about it for a moment, tearing his gaze away and setting it on the bright full moon above them. "I suppose so"
He returns his attention to Childe, who looked at him with a fond expression. Zhongli couldn't exactly describe it, for in the thousands of years he's been around, he had never been met with such an expression. An expression that was like a tornado of emotions- happiness, admiration, affection, melancholy, anger- he didn't understand it at all. It was doing things to his heart that not even he could begin to comprehend.
"Then I guess you can call me a fool" Childe lovingly smiles.
Zhongli stares at Childe, his mouth was slightly agape. Was that... a confession?
His cheeks flush into a red hue and he looks away. "I was attempting to make my point regarding the Noctilucous Jade"
"Oh?" Another chuckle escapes Childe's lips, "And I was attempting to make a heartfelt confession."
The archon could feel his heart start racing once more. Knocking at the door to his heart once more were feelings he couldn't accept. And yet, why can't he push him away? Nevertheless, he kept a straight face.
Before he could even open his mouth to reply, Childe was quick to shush him. "You don't have to give me an answer now. Take as long as you need, you know where to find me"
The harbinger took a few steps back, hands behind him. He looks at Zhongli, then very quickly plants a kiss on his cheek, before immediately dashing away. "I'll be awaiting your reply!"
Zhongli could only stand still, mind in a daze and heart still beating out of his chest. His hand makes its way to the spot the kiss had been planted on, and he couldn't help but smile.
His eyes gloss over the large rock in the sky, lips still glued into a smile of adoration and affection.
That's right, a fool.
He too, the Archon of Geo, Rex Lapis, Morax- and most importantly, Zhongli- is a fool like many others.
One can only guess what Venti's reaction was when he found out, and the bard was quick to know. After all, if in Liyue, the walls have ears, then in Mondstadt, the wind carries gossip.
"PFFT- BWAHAHA! I didn't know you had it in you old man!" Venti wheezed, half drunk and on his second bottle of dandelion wine.
"...Do save the pleasantries for when you're sober."