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Lessons on Carnal Pleasures

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A Lesson In Carnal Pleasures

by Tartaglia

 

Childe had since known, after finding out from that stilted conversation between La Signora and one Master Zhongli at Northland Bank, that the man (read: target) he had been acquainted with for several hardworking and financially-costly months, wasn’t at all what he made himself out to be.

Namely, common folk. Regular citizen of Liyue. Funeral Parlor Man.

No, Master Zhongli was not your typical Liyue Funeral Parlor Citizen.

No, Master Zhongli was an Archon. A 6000+ years old Archon, the oldest out of the Seven, at that.

How very quaint.

Childe couldn’t believe after all those months trying to trick the unusually-airheaded man to divulge all of Liyue’s secrets (that is, their Archon’s secrets), that he had been the one to be tricked all along. Childe, the Eleventh of the Fatui Harbinger—deceived. Surely it must have been a joke; a terrible joke from La Signora or even from Zhongli himself, even though the man can’t make a period-appropriate joke to save his life.

But it was true: Childe had indeed been tricked, merely a pawn for those two mischievous miscreants all along, and Childe was furious and offended and he didn’t know why he was having dinner with Zhongli right now.

At Liuli Pavilion, no less. With the money coming from his own pocket instead of Zhongli’s, despite the eat-out being the older (much, much older) man’s request in the first place.

Certainly, Childe couldn’t understand why he is here right now. He should be out there in the field doing something more productive, like throwing a temper tantrum and taking it out on the Traveler, perhaps. Not here, treating the man who had deceived him for dinner.

Well, technically, Childe had been the one who was intentionally deceiving Zhongli with his friendship to gather intel on Liyue. The man was his target after all. But whatever! In the end the plan hadn’t worked out, had it? Zhongli had the upper hand and Childe would like to know why. How. Right about now, please.

But Zhongli wasn’t aware of the internal crisis brewing up a storm in Childe’s head. He was too busy looking at the seafood with distaste so palpable it was bleeding out of his pores. His weapon of the day, The Chopsticks, are poised in the air, calculating the angle of attack.

It had been like this for the past five minutes.

“Master Zhongli,” Childe dared to speak, breaking the (sexual?) tension between the former Archon and the octopus soup, “are the meals not up to your taste?”

Now that I know you’re an Archon with probably high, remarkable taste, remained unspoken. Childe eyed him distastefully as he arranged his chopsticks back on the table, smoothing out his features.

“It is not the taste,” said Zhongli simply. “I simply found myself thinking about the War.”

Childe cringed. Oh, boy. Is this going to be a thing now? Childe, the info dump for Zhongli’s autobiography as an Archon? “Uh... the War? What’s octopi have to do with it?”

Zhongli looked heavenward, as if recalling some key details from the part of the War that dealt with violent monstrous octopi. He probably was, if there was such a thing. “The War birthed an unstable land. With it, the elements too were driven unstable. Then came the infestation of hydro slimes which I had to deal with, myself. Since then, I have grown to dislike seafood.”

Oh wow. What high tales. So Childe had withdrawn 120000 Mora from his personal bank account to treat a man with seafood complex derived from his experiences with pesky blobs of water millennia ago to some seafood. What a waste of money this was. Come to think of it, why was Childe even here? He still didn’t have the answer to that.

He’d thought, after La Signora’s devious plan came to fruition and his own mission was technically done, that he and Zhongli wouldn’t see each other again. Up to that point they had pretty regular eat-outs together, as part of Childe’s plan to lower his inhibitions (and perhaps to fatten him up; the man was obnoxiously slender, and, like, fit, probably, if Childe was more honest with himself). He hadn’t thought that they were going to continue now that everything had been uncovered and swiftly resolved.

But then Zhongli came up to him, again, and asked, again, with that overly-polite demeanour of his, if Childe fancied some Li cuisine together. And Childe had been speechless enough from confusion and raw anger that he blindly followed the man to the restaurant.

And now Childe was listening to an unsolicited retelling of Rex Incognito (Volume I) as he ate his marvellous seafood in his lonesome. Zhongli stuck to the greens and some Tianshu meat, taking bites between solemn tales of old. When he was finished telling his story about the pet he had created but had subsequently turned into his greatest mortal enemy, he looked at Childe’s hands and quirked a brow.

Then there was a small smile on his face.

Was he laughing at Childe?

Childe drew back, frowning. “What?”

“You’re still handling your chopsticks wrong, xiansheng,” Zhongli replied with an air of fondness.

Well, fuck you, oldest Archon, hydro slime feller, terrible pet-owner and chopsticks expert. Childe may not be on the same plane as you, but he is trying. Legitimately.

He wrestled the chopsticks back to where Zhongli had taught the rightful place was. There was probably a pout on his face, a bad habit he developed from appeasing Teucer all the time. Zhongli looked on in amusement.

“I’m still practicing.”

“I could see.”

Childe resisted the otherworldly grunt that wanted to come out. They resumed eating, Childe to his octopus soup, Zhongli to his greens.

It wasn’t a while before Zhongli was opening his mouth again, though.

“Tartaglia,” he started, and wow, Childe was never going to admit this but it took him aback just a little, hearing his Harbinger code name uttered with Zhongli’s natural, distinct way of speech and accent. “Now that there are no secrets between us regarding the matter of our respective identities, I would like to ask a few questions. Assistance, if you will.”

Hm? Whatever could the All-Powerful Geo Archon need that required Childe’s assistance? He let down his chopsticks for a moment, feeling oddly smug as he wiped his mouth with a napkin. “Please,” he urged the other man on.

“I’ve lived for six millennia watching over the people of Liyue, guarding it with my utmost care. Now that I’ve stepped down, it occurs to me that despite all my years of vigilance, I haven’t at all grasped what it means to be human. I find myself stared at in the streets sometimes, and I hear the town talk of my strange behaviours. The Traveler has brought it to my attention that my exposure as non, ah, common folk, would lead to complications.” Never once, as he spoke, did he break the eye contact with Childe. He looked solemn, utterly earnest. “Tartaglia,” Zhongli said again, “would you be so kind as to enlighten me to humanly customs?”

Oh wow. Childe blinked, once, twice. Suddenly, it was clear why Zhongli had sought him out today. There was no other need for them to be acquainted, now that the dam had broken, but since Childe was among the only ones who knew of Zhongli’s divinity, it made sense. Finally, Childe knew why he was here.

But, “why me? Surely, the Traveler can help you, too. I’m sure you are on much better terms with them than you are with me, Master Zhongli.”

Zhongli stared at him with an undecipherable look on his face. He stared for long enough that Childe began obsessing over whether he had some food stuck on his face. Finally, Zhongli moved his hand, placing it on top of Childe’s gloved hand on the table.

Childe then began obsessing over whether his hand was sweaty under Zhongli’s palm.

“You mustn’t sell yourself short, Tartaglia.” He had that earnest look about him again. He was so blatantly honest that Childe had to double back sometimes, shocked with how much honesty Zhongli was laying out for the taking. Come to think of it, it was probably not the best course of action for the man, if he did indeed want to be subtle about his real identity. “The friendship you lent me these past few months, real or otherwise on your part, was always real for me. I don’t perceive you as anything lesser than a friend. With your willingness, I trust you to assist me well.”

His hand was still on top of Childe’s hand. Was it getting hot in here? He felt sweat trickle under his clothes, and that was not a pleasant feeling.

“And, besides, the Traveler is hardly ever in town. I’ll be lucky to spot them for a second or two at the Guild before they’re off on another commission. I can’t possibly bother them with this.”

Childe felt his throat dry up like the deserts of Sumeru. A request from the Archon himself? He wasn’t even trusted enough by the Tsaritsa to handle the gnosis hunt decree, instead tossed aside as merely a pawn in her game, yet here he was, being trusted enough by the former Geo Archon to bless him with whatever shred of human knowledge he has. Who was to say Childe wasn’t going to trick him to do weird things? He wasn’t loathe to admit it; he was petty and he held grudges like no other.

But still, Zhongli was gazing earnestly into his eyes; those amber, hawk-like eyes laced with such openness, that Childe crumbled underneath its wants no longer than a few seconds later. “Fine!” Childe proclaimed, his tone a bit too shrill. He cleared his throat once, for appearance’s sake, then resumed. “Fine. I will assist you in whatever you seek to know.” He pulled upon one of his charming smiles, quirking an eyebrow up. “After all, I’m the most knowledgeable guy around. You can’t possibly find another one as remarkable as myself around.”

Zhongli laughed, lowly, and it was a lovely thing. Childe mayhaps stared at his smiling face for a bit too long before shaking himself out of his stupor with a bodily jerk. “Quite. I thank you for your generosity.”

“Now,” Childe said, chest puffed out, “when do our lessons start?”

 

***

 

Lessons started almost immediately. After clearing out their meals, they strode out of Liuli Pavilion and into the dusking streets of Liyue Harbor. Street lights hang overhead in brilliant orange, a bright beacon against the darkening hues of the sky. Childe walked with his arms behind him, a bounce to his step. Zhongli walked with refined poise, like always, preferring to keep his steps sure and heavy with his arms only slightly swaying by his sides. His spine was rod stiff.

Childe burst out laughing.

Zhongli looked to him, puzzled. “I beg your pardon? Is there lint on my clothes?”

“No,” Childe said, snuffing out his rude laughter. “You’re just. Very. Stiff.”

“Is that strange?”

“No. I don’t know. I think so. It’s just very you.” Childe shook his head, looking back ahead of them. The streets were bustling with night vendors, citizens milling about trading. “Let loose a little. You’re trying to fit in, not trying to alienate yourself more.”

“Are you telling me to... slouch?” He was gazing critically at the way Childe was walking, for some reason. The look on his face told of his immense distaste at the possibility of slouching his spine, like it was something he had never done before and never will.

“No, not slouching!” Childe appeased. The look on his face smoothed a tad. “All I’m saying is to relax your body a bit. It looks like you’re intentionally making yourself look taller than everyone. I get not wanting to slouch, but you’re on another level here.”

Zhongli appeared thoughtful for a second. Then, little by little, he loosened his body. From rigid stiff, to a little less stiff. Less like he had a metal  rod alongside his spine. “Hah,” he exhaled, smiling slightly. “I see. Forgive me. I haven’t quite gotten used to my human form.”

Childe laughed. “I know. Your Exuvia is... not the most humanly shape out there.” Then he winced. Oh, right. He did stick his hand in Zhongli’s Exuvia once to try to steal the gnosis. A dark patch in history, that was. Perhaps he ought to apologise one of these days, you know, like a normal human being with remorse.

He did nothing of the sort.

Instead, he levelled his eyes at the ground as they walked. Zhongli came to a sudden halt, forcing Childe to stop beside him.

He was staring very comically at a pair of citizens up ahead, talking animatedly as they shake their hands.

“They’re shaking hands,” Childe explained, answering the unspoken question. “It symbolizes good greetings. People do it to say hi. Sometimes, it’s to show gratitude.”

Zhongli nodded slowly. With another lingering glance, they moved on. Childe side-eyed him.

“Your Archon friends aren’t a fan of handshaking?” the Shneznayan man asked, making sure his voice was low enough so only they can hear. “How do you greet each other then?”

“Ah.” Zhongli crinkled his nose momentarily. “We don’t greet each other. We state our business as soon as we materialize in front of each other.”

“That...” Childe fought for words. Materialize in front each other. Okay, maybe he thought he was prepared for all kinds of weird Archon customs Zhongli did with his posse upon finding out who he truly was, but sometimes when he says things like that Childe is still shocked that this man was not the normal Funeral Parlor Man that he thought he was. A bit rich, coming from Childe, Tartaglia, himself, who does pretty weird things as a Vision and Delusion wielder.

It’s just that Zhongli is not the man he thought he was, and he was still processing this other side of him. He didn’t know if he liked the change, honestly.

In the end, Childe gave up on words. They proved to be inconsequential, anyway, because Zhongli was taking one of his hands and palming it with it his own, testing the grip, and words promptly left his brain. Childe indulged him in a fit of confusion. Zhongli had on a look of wonder as his fingers walked in Childe’s hand, roaming, before finally settling in a firm handshake.

“What are you doing.” Finally, Childe found his voice, though a bit flat from surprise.

“Showing my gratitude,” Zhongli swiftly replied, eyes lifting to hold Childe’s gaze. The vermillion eyeliner on his bottom lashes glowed with the lanterns overhead, emphasizing. “Am I doing it right, xiansheng?”

Childe swallowed. For some reason, his heart was starting to pump erratically. Oh, no, was he dying? He had never had heart complications before. This is very alarming. He blinked and coughed and shrugged his hand out of Zhongli’s, eyes roaming elsewhere.

“You did. Good.” God damn. Stop with the wrong placement of punctuation! It is very alarming!

Zhongli smiled easily, and turned back around to continue their walk. Eventually, after just a few seconds of stilted awkwardness on Childe’s part, they reached the bridge and thus the intersection to Wangsheng Funeral Parlor.

“Well,” he began, waving vague motions in the air, “I’ll say good night. Here.”

“This has been enjoyable, as always.” Zhongli smiled at him again. “Will I be seeing you tomorrow?”

God, no, his wallet cried.

“Of course,” he said instead, even though he was only hearing this just now. He had no idea they were going to hang out tomorrow again, like old times. Then again, he should have expected it. Zhongli never stopped at just one chance at trying to bleed his wallet dry. And yet Childe indulged, for some unknown reason.

“I’ll come to you,” Zhongli said, vaguely. Then, he took Childe’s hand again, a gentle grasp, the barest brush of their palms and fingers, letting go only when he bowed his head before he took his due leave. Childe watched his retreating back with a festering heat in the apples of his cheeks.

No. Bad! Bad Childe!

He slapped himself out of it. Literally. Hey, it didn’t make his face any less redder, perhaps it even provoked it, but it was needed.

Because he shouldn’t go around taking men out on dinners and paying for them and walking them to their place afterwards and shaking their hands gently and watching their back with a blush on his face. Especially not the man he was telling himself to dislike for having deceived him.

Suddenly mortally upset with himself, he pulled his mask down over his face and went on his nightly patrols near the Chasm.

He was itching for a fight.

 

***

 

It rained the next day. Zhongli came to him, as he’d said he would, soaking wet like a cat in the middle of a bath.

“Did you forget to bathe this morning?” Childe said, forgoing a formal greeting, because what the fuck. He was really out here witnessing the oldest and possibly the strongest Archon, being defeated by the forces of nature.

“I beg your pardon?” Zhongli looked at his sopping wet form, puzzled. “Do I not look clean?”

“If you did not forget to bathe this morning,” Childe exhaled, “then why are you showering in the rain. Where is your umbrella.”

“Ah.” Zhongli crossed his arms, still standing in the rain on the stairs to Northland Bank. “I thought the elements were rather lovely today. I felt like basking in it. You should try it sometime; it’s extremely therapeutic.”

“I’m sure,” Childe uttered disdainfully, wanting nothing less. He ushered the former Archon under the roof with a hand on the back of his wet coat, which dripped water like a waterfall on the red wood floor. He sighed, defeated.

Making sure they were well out of Vlad’s earshot, who always guarded the Northland Bank entrance like his life depended on it, Childe then started chiding the older man. “Xiansheng, people will look at you oddly.”

“Have I done something wrong?” Zhongli looked to him with wide, bewildered eyes.

Really, Childe felt bad about ruining that childlike ignorance (though Zhongli was the farthest from being a child) but as Zhongli’s ‘teacher’, Childe was legally bound to explain why certain things are just odd for some reasons—and sometimes for no reason at all—time and time again. This is one of those times.

“Humans don’t really prefer walking in the rain, xiansheng,” Childe explained. “That’s why they made umbrellas. So they don’t get wet. Have you not got one?”

Zhongli had the gall to look the slightest bit sheepish. “Ah. Do forgive me. I am used to being with the elements, for I am one of them. I used to be, at least.” He let out a tentative breath. It steamed in the cold air. “It seems I have more to learn than expected.”

Childe offered a placating smile. “So you see. Come now. I’ll buy you an umbrella.”

They walked in the rain together under Childe’s umbrella. It was a tight fit; their sides kept brushing against one another as they walked, leading to frequent apologies from Zhongli for having wetted Childe’s uniform with his wet coat, and shoddy ‘no worries, xiansheng’ from Childe.

They eventually made it to the wanted street vendor and Childe waited as Zhongli picked a parasol for himself. Once he found one up to his taste (comically, it was a parasol of the exact same shade of his clothes—Vandyke brown—which showed he really had no variation in his tastes), Childe fished his wallet and paid dutifully.

Yet again he was a few thousand Mora poorer because of a man. Upon a quick glance at Zhongli and the small, appreciative smile on his face, though, Childe realized he didn’t mind one bit.

“Ah,” Zhongli uttered as soon as they resume their walk under different umbrellas, “I suppose I ought to remember to bring Mora around with me now. I can’t expect you to keep paying for me like an irresponsible man.”

“So you see!” Childe said with a laugh. Though he really didn’t mind much, as he’d said. Complaining was just fun; it wasn’t as if Zhongli made significant dents in his bank account anyway. Though he had come pretty close to that point before...

“I shall remember to bring my wallet tomorrow.”

 

***

 

He brought his wallet the next day.

Childe almost teared up like a father watching his child get married when he saw Zhongli pulling out his wallet to pay for their food, until the wallet was opened and it was completely empty. Childe’s tear immediately backtracked into his tear duct.

“My,” Zhongli admonished his empty wallet, “it appears I only remembered to bring my wallet, not the money itself.”

The Tsaritsa’s tits, Childe sighed woefully, already pulling out his own (filled with money) wallet.

 

***

 

And so the lessons continued in the same manner: Zhongli does weird shit, and Childe comes to the rescue to explain why that shit is weird.

How eloquently put. It really conveyed the true dynamic of their strange companionship.

Sometimes, it went differently, with Zhongli staring in deep thought at some humanly interactions he saw in the streets of Liyue, and Childe immediately explaining what the this and that of it meant. Some other times, Zhongli would seek him out at his workplace on random hours of the day, a book in his hand—often of the romance genre—and he’d point at a paragraph he didn’t understand, and Childe would take to explaining, again.

Sometimes those romantic interactions happen right in front of them, though. When that happens, Childe never missed a chance to mess with the quaint Master Zhongli (just a little).

They were down on the harbour, the brilliant orange of the sky darkening with nightfall. Lanterns began to be lit, lighting their path. Quite romantic, if Childe was to say so. Perfect for dating. Which explained the multitude of couples all around them in varying levels of PDA.

Zhongli went pinch-faced at the sight of a particular couple making out by the dock. A couple of hormonal youngsters, it seemed, which explained the more adventurous display of affection, uncaring of other people. Childe observed Zhongli observing them and had to stifle raucous laughter.

 “Surely it hurts when you’re going that roughly?” the former Archon wondered aloud.

“C’mon!” Childe proclaimed, bemused. “It’s kissing. Of course you have to do it with passion. Otherwise it’s just a peck. A smooch, though that word sounds horridly corny.”

Zhongli looked away from the couple of girls with a tinge of red near his cheekbones. Childe barely resisted the urge to coo at it. “Kissing,” he uttered, face going slightly pinched. He looked to Childe inquisitively. “It’s a symbol of love, is it not? Such is why it has been...” He looked around once again at the couples around them kissing each other. “...Widely domesticated?”

Childe allowed himself a laugh. A small one. So he didn’t offend Zhongli’s innocent virtues, which he felt was so ironic. “You are thousands of years old. Don’t tell me kissing throws you off guard? Haven’t you seen much worse things?”

“Oh. Yes. Much worse.” He went into deep thinking, probably getting war flashbacks to the (no doubt spicy) scenes he’d seen while watching over Liyue. “Kissing has only come into tradition in Liyue in the recent 200 years. Before that, the people of Liyue took no part in it. If I remember correctly, it was imported here by Snezhnayan travellers.”

God, look at him talking about the history of kissing in Liyue and alluding to it being imported here like it’s a beauty product or something. Childe began to feel a newfound bemused fondness for the not so normal Funeral Parlor Man.

“Regardless.” Zhongli spoke again upon clearing his throat. “I’m sure it is lovely, though I still don’t quite understand. Whatever makes my people happy.”

“Well, I’m no kissing expert,” Childe said, “but I’m sure it’s not as complicated as you dredge it up to be, Master Zhongli. There is nothing to understand, nothing to misunderstand. Like you said, it’s just something to make the people happy.”

“Hm.” Zhongli nodded wisely, arms crossed behind his back like how a grandpa normally would. “Humanly displays of affection are yet another chapter for me to understand. I shall read more, ah, intense romance literature. I heard there are ones with diagrams to help with visualization.”

Childe was truly laughing now. The Tsaritsa’s tits, help him, Zhongli was going to be the death of him with his casual admittances to wanting to read explicit literature (with illustrations!).

“You ought to,” Childe said once he was finished laughing his ass off. Carelessly he wiped off a stray tear from his lashes. “They’re all the hype nowadays. You’re missing out, honestly.”

“I will be sure to review them once I find some to read.”

“I’ll look forward to them.”

Zhongli did eventually find some to read, but not without scandalizing the librarian when he came in demanding explicit fiction. He told Childe about it looking confused, completely oblivious as to why he had scared the lady off.

Suffice to say, the next few days as he lugged the book around with him to read, Childe received enough comedy material to laugh at and tease mercilessly. Namely, the insistent red on the tips of Zhongli’s ears and bulged-out eyes as he received an eyeful of the explicit illustration.

He refused to talk about it when Childe asked for honest reviews, complete with wiggly eyebrows. And so Childe laughed it off, and eventually brushed it under the rug. He didn’t expect the book to be brought up again.

 

***

 

It was a sunny day; the sun was beating down warmly on Childe’s form, his skin caressed by the gentle evening draught. He and Zhongli were yet again filling their stomachs with desserts for evening tea, seated outside Wanmin Restaurant. It was delightful, except Zhongli wouldn’t stop glancing at him since they sat down.

“Something is bothering you,” Childe said, mid-bite of his Almond Tofu. Zhongli didn’t startle; he immediately smoothed out his expression to one of passiveness, exuding contempt and blasé. It was a tad scary how well Childe knew him, honestly, because he knew from the slight pinch of Zhongli’s eyebrow that the other man was in a Crisis.

He was obviously trying to hide it, though.

Hmm... whatever could it be? Childe was already itching to pry. (Yes, he is childish, so suck it.)

“Hiding things from me again?” Childe baited, sighing woefully. “It’s okay. I don’t have to know everything about your life.” He stabbed his Almond Tofu for extra drama. “I’m not important, anyway... Just a pawn for far more powerful people.” He finished it off with another long sigh.

“You are cornering me,” Zhongli responded, clearly detecting the bait.

“You are hiding things from me.”

“I am being cautious. This topic is not easy to broach.”

“You are being secretive.”

Zhongli sighed, and it was the first time Childe had seen him looking so anguished and defeated. It almost made him feel guilty for prying. Almost, because Childe wasn’t a nice man. It was just in his nature to pry.

And it worked.

“I... have been wallowing in a certain quandary lately,” Zhongli admitted, and wow, was he wordy. God of Literature, everybody. “I find myself intrigued by the, ah, explicit stories I have been reading as of late.”

Ah. So they were bringing up the books now. Childe began to feel the vestiges of a devilish grin on his face, already armed with teasing sufficient enough to incapacitate his Archon counterpart.

“Ooh, have you?” he wiggled his eyebrows, to which Zhongli looked unimpressed.

“I am being genuine.”

“So you are. Go on.” He urged him on with sweet blinks of his eyes.

“To be honest, I’m rather concerned of my people,” Zhongli continued. True to his word, he did look quite troubled. Setting down his spoon, he crossed his arms seriously. “I’m sure the act of... copulating is harmless in its essence.” (Childe nearly spilled the tea he was drinking.) “After all, it’s just another display of affection. However, it has come to my attention that some of them look quite hazardous.”

Childe fanned himself as his tongue burned from the hot tea. “...Hazardous how?”

“The positions.”

Right. Yeah. No doubt about it now, Childe was definitely talking about sexual positions with the Geo Archon. “What about them, xiansheng?”

“I saw the body was like this.” He folded his fingers in two. Then made a slapping motion with his other hand. “And the other person was like this. Do they not realize how dangerous it is to bend your body so? The human body is frail, no?”

Oh no. Calm down, Childe. Don’t laugh. You have to be mature about this, it seems like Zhongli is truly concerned. “Ye...Yes,” Childe panted, breathless from stifling his laughter. He felt constipated with it. “Frail. Very.”

“Such is why I’m concerned,” Zhongli said seriously, a glimmer of determination in his eyes. “If the people of Liyue continue to subject themselves to this method of self-torture, I will have no choice but to intervene. Prohibit the practice of unsafe sexual intercourse. I’m sure there is a way... Do you think the Traveler is up for a commission?”

“No! Not the Traveler!” Childe said, looking oddly constipated. He was sure of it. He was going to die stifling his laughter. Written on his tombstone would be, RIP Tartaglia also known as Childe also known as Ajax, death by accidental asphyxiation from stifling his laughter. Zhongli would kneel there crying knowing he was the one to have sent Childe to his demise.

Because what the fuck. Zhongli had gone through a very meticulous and dramatic plan to step down as Liyue’s Archon, but now was seriously considering stepping in again just to protest against unsafe sex positions. Does his love run that deep for his people? Childe couldn’t stop laughing at how funny it was.

“Xiansheng, please,” Childe begged, tears in his eyes, “don’t commission the Traveler to somehow stop people from having sex.”

“But it is unsafe!”

“It is safe. I assure you.”

“How are you certain?”

“Because I have done it that way. And it was harmless.”

Zhongli finally went quiet at that. He stared off into space, looking entirely too solemn for a man who was definitely just thinking about sex stuff. Today chalked up to be the most chaotic day of Childe’s life, and that was saying a lot.

“Normally I would believe your words to a fault, xiansheng,” Zhongli spoke up, “but since this is a matter concerning my people... I am reluctant to let the matter go indefinitely. I must be certain that no one is harmed.”

“Look, if you aren’t convinced, I can show you how it doesn’t hurt. Then you can be certain and stop worrying. Okay?” Oh, but. But. Showing him... how it doesn’t hurt... Childe’s cheeks reddened, only just now realizing the weight of his offer. Zhongli wouldn’t... you know, do that with him. He’s an Archon. Childe was already prepared to call it off until he looked up, witnessing a brilliant red coating Zhongli’s ears and neck and down to his chest, covered by his clothes.

And oh wow.

Childe might have awakened something. He didn’t know what exactly—but there was something.

“You are willing... to show me?” Zhongli questioned, back suddenly straighter.

How lovely it was, the red on the skin of Zhongli’s neck. Childe’s thoughts took a detour to Nastyland and began wondering how it would look littered with love bites.

The image he supplied himself afterwards was, suffice to say, detrimental to his health judging by how hot it made him feel.

“Tartaglia?”

“Hm? Oh.” Yes. Yes yes yes. “Absolutely,” Childe answered, and oh, the way Zhongli pretended it didn’t faze him made Childe a little hotter underneath his clothes. It had been a while since he found someone to challenge, to provoke. And he was starved. “If you’ll have me, xiansheng. I’ll gladly ease your worries.”

His wide, hungry grin only met a tentative smile from Zhongli.

“If only to ease my concerns... then there should not be a reason for me to decline.” He took his cup of tea in hand, and, corny as it is, toasted in Childe’s direction. Childe did the same, smirking in satisfaction.

From that point on, Childe knew what exactly the conversation had awoken.

Obsession.

 

***

 

The walk to Zhongli’s abode was charged. Tension drifted in the space between them like a phantom. Childe made sure to keep his eyes ahead, even though every fibre of his being was itching to reach out and taste.

Amber eyes, dainty fingers.

Childe felt dizzy with the yearning to touch.

Eventually after their, ah, uneventful, silent walk, the door to Zhongli’s home greeted them like a looming disaster. Childe knew the second he was to step inside, he was going to be in so much trouble. He and Zhongli were already treading on dangerous waters. Whatever lied behind that door was going to be the endgame for Childe.

Childe did what he knew best: he shut the nagging part of his brain out and turned to his companion with a brazen smirk—challenging.

“Are you sure about this, xiansheng?” He stepped closer, face nearing Zhongli’s, close enough to see the individual specks of amber in his eyes. “You can still back down while you have the chance.”

Or I can, Childe thought rationally. But gods be damned, he wasn’t going back down. Even though it was probably wiser to do so.

Zhongli blinked, once, questioning. “I see no reason why we should cancel now that we’re already here.”

“You are sure,” Childe repeated lowly. He had to be sure. Less of a chance something would end up biting him in the ass later.

Zhongli nodded. The red on the tips of his ears have now but disappeared.

Now, now, Childe thought deliriously as he pushed open the gate to Zhongli’s open-air courtyard, we can’t have that, can we.

Grabbing Zhongli’s prim collar, he yanked the other man inside. The wooden gate thumped to a loud close behind them, enclosing them in privacy at last. Zhongli startled, hands coming up to Childe’s chest to steady himself.

“You are, er, eager.”

Childe laughed in amusement. “Well, it isn’t everyday I get the privilege to debauch an Archon.”

“The things you do for my comfort,” Zhongli responded kindly.

“Oh, believe me, when I’m through with you you’ll have more than just comfort.”

Zhongli squinted. “...I’ll have assurance that my subjects aren’t endangering themselves by manner of intercourse?”

Ah, enough of this talk.

Childe took him by the collar again and yanked him in for a kiss. Zhongli lagged from shock, his eyelashes brushing against Childe’s cheekbone as they blinked furiously. Childe laughed against his mouth, bringing his free hand to the back of his neck, fingers carding into his silken hair. Zhongli relaxed, a sigh escaping him as he kissed back.

Childe was sure that if his life was a cinematic film, there would be fireworks going off in the distance, all trashy and clichéd, but that was truly how it felt. Kissing Zhongli was like kissing pure elemental energy, electrocuting him from the inside out. Every nerve in his body felt restless with energy, and all he wanted now was to drag Zhongli to his bedroom and strip him down for the taking.

Finally, after what felt like minutes, they separated with rough inhales. Childe cupped the other man’s chin and ran a thumb over his bottom lip, red from being thoroughly kissed. “Your bedchambers,” he uttered, eyes lifting to meet Zhongli’s somewhat dazed ones. “Lead us there.”

He nodded understandingly and pulled Childe by the hand. Childe took a quick, first look around and had half a mind to appreciate the lovely decor of the courtyard. Then Zhongli slid aside the door to his living chambers and all thought promptly vanished from Childe's brain. He allowed himself to be pulled in and another second to slide the door to a close before he was yanking Zhongli in again, mouth latching onto his.

A surprised noise escaped Zhongli and Childe greedily swallowed it in, one hand back in Zhongli’s hair while the other slid around his waist and further down. He grabbed a handful of Zhongli’s ass through his clothing, fulfilling a desire that he realized he had long harboured for the other man. “Just as I expected,” Childe said upon detaching their mouths, slick with spit, “your ass is the stuff of dreams.”

Zhongli’s skin blossomed into a dark red. “Xiansheng. I think the appropriate word would be ‘backside’.”

Childe laughed, still palming his ass. “I think the appropriate words to use cease to matter now that we’re going to do something very inappropriate, xiansheng.”

Zhongli bit down onto his bottom lip, clearly affected. “The bedchamber is through that door.”

Childe kissed him again as he stumbled towards the direction of the door. It slid open unceremoniously under Childe’s fumbling hand, and he didn’t bother to close it again in favour of lifting Zhongli up by the thighs. The former Archon startled and slid his arms around Childe’s neck, eyes wide with surprise.

Probably never in his life had he thought he would be manhandled by a mortal, but here they were.

Childe grinned devilishly, setting the former Archon down on a nearby very antique-looking dresser. He slid between his legs like he belonged there, hands roaming deliriously, tracing his trim waist and squeezing his thighs. His mouth latched onto the side of Zhongli’s neck, biting, sucking. Zhongli made quiet, shocked little noises, facing the ceiling to give Childe more room to work with. One of his hands ventured adventurously into his inner thigh, roaming up, up, until it was crowding there.

“Ah, Tar...Taglia!”

Childe hardly fought off his smug smile as he palmed the bulge in Zhongli’s pants. “So hard already, too. I’m amazed.”

“This... this is my first time at being, ah, fondled so.” Zhongli’s face writhed in both pain and pleasure at the touch, nails digging into Childe’s back. “Please be gentle.”

“Wait.” Childe immediately halted all movement. Pulling back to look earnestly into Zhongli’s eyes, a thousand questions exploded in his brain. “Never? Not once? I’d have thought you would...”

“Being an Archon kept me preoccupied all the time,” Zhongli explained rather embarrassedly. “And as an Archon there was no need for me to... fornicate. It simply hadn’t been important enough.”

There was a lot of information stashed in there, Childe thought. Probably. But all he could zero in on was the fact that Zhongli, Rex Lapis, Morax, was over 6000 years old and had never once gotten off.

Was that even possible?

Perhaps. But that was going to change now. The glint in Childe’s eyes returned at full mast, and Zhongli blinked at it with abashed arousal. “That just means I have to be more careful with you, xiansheng. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to milk you dry.” His eyes raked down Zhongli’s body, checking him out openly from the cut of his shoulder to his waist, to the delicious bulge in his crotch. His mouth watered at the sight. “6000 years worth of cum.” Zhongli hiccupped at the crass word. Whispering in his ear, Childe said, “I’ll make sure to get it all out of you by tonight.”

When he pulled back, Zhongli was looking up at him with huge, lust-ridden pupils. Two spots of red blotched high on his cheeks as he desperately pulled for heavy breaths. Grazing his index finger underneath Zhongli’s chin, Childe delighted in the audible hitch in the Archon’s breath.

“Please.”

He asked so kindly, too. Childe could barely control the inhuman noise that wrenched out of him, hurrying to yank Zhongli’s thighs around his waist before he lifted him again. He dropped him blindly down on the oriental bed in the middle of the room and made haste with ripping off all his fancy clothes. Zhongli blinked furiously up at the ceiling, shy when he felt the cold air hit his bare torso.

Childe ran his hands over the expanse of pale, scarred skin. Zhongli’s wide shoulders tapered down into a perfectly trim waist; a gentle curve that Childe found himself completely obsessed with. He brushed reverent fingers into the dip of his hip, an act that caused a stutter from Zhongli’s mouth. Childe leaned down to kiss him and was astonished when Zhongli returned it with fervour, his scalp burning where Zhongli yanked on the strands.

One of his hands traversed into Zhongli’s trousers. Zhongli parted their lips with a heart-wrenching gasp, his legs trying to close on instinct. Childe grinned down at him, aware that he probably looked maniacal with his messed-up hair. “Now, now. Can’t work if you do that, xiansheng. Spread your legs.”

Zhongli’s complexion went absolutely red from his forehead to his neck. Childe gazed at him, enchanted. “I—It sounds horrendously crude when you say that.”

Childe laughed again. “What else should I say? ‘Please, do me the high favour of parting your nether limbs, my liege!’ Should I say that ins—”

“You will do no such thing,” Zhongli disrupted with a hand to Childe’s lips, and his tone was so grim and solemn it wrenched another peal of laughter from Childe. All of this happened while his hand was still burrowed into Zhongli’s underwear.

Childe shifted a bit and successfully pivoted their focus back onto the matter at hand. Or in Childe’s case, erection at hand. (He was ruining the mood wasn’t he. Well they can’t have that!) Unceremoniously he opened his mouth and allowed three of Zhongli’s fingers inside, wetting them with spit. The Archon’s lips parted on a silent moan, hissing when Childe started palming his cock.

“Tartaglia,” he groaned, spine arching up slightly. “You... You make for a vulgar image.”

“Mmhm?” Childe took his fingers deeper, swirling his tongue around them. They tasted like leather, a residue from the pair of gloves Zhongli had pulled off before they ate at the restaurant. It shouldn’t even be this arousing since they were just, well, fingers, but it was and Childe was positively burning with arousal.

Feeling entirely too overheated, he popped the fingers out of his mouth and made quick work at stripping himself. First was his top and then went his trousers, and the first thing Zhongli’s curious gaze settled on was the swell of his cock underneath his black, skin-tight underwear.

“Like what you see?”

Zhongli blinked as he propped himself up on his elbows, taking a closer, inspective look. As if erect cocks were a foreign concept to him. Knowing his 6000+ years of self-induced celibacy, they probably were. “Well. I’d say it is an advantageous size. Very remarkable.”

Oh, gods, Childe couldn’t believe he was having his cock judged by the Geo Archon.

Then Zhongli put a hand on it and squeezed, and all of Childe’s ire vanished into thin air. “Ah, Zhong—Zhongli.”

He hadn’t even noticed he had closed his eyes until the moment he opened them again, finding Zhongli’s gaze locked on his expression with utmost wonder.

“Curious,” the Archon muttered, sitting up entirely until his breath warmed Childe’s collarbones. He palmed him again and this time Childe went boneless with pleasure, head curving backwards. Zhongli latched his mouth onto his exposed neck, biting sharp stings into the skin—almost as if he was moving on instinct. He learned quick, didn’t he.

As much fun as this was, Childe parted them with a finger to Zhongli’s chest, beckoning him back onto the bed. Down he went, those hungry eyes burning into his like a festering flame. “I believe we came here for a reason.”

“Yes. The lesson.”

“The lesson,” Childe affirmed, grinning from ear to ear. “Now, be good and spread your legs.”

Even though Zhongli positively burned from the vulgarity of his words, he did as he was told without further protest. Childe didn’t forget to strip him of his trousers beforehand, so when he finally spread his legs, all he saw was miles and miles of untouched skin. There were no battle scars on his inner thighs; the skin was unblemished save for little moles here and there. And his cock. His cock was the loveliest shade of rouge, resting on top of fine black hairs that led a trail up to his bellybutton. It was fucking sexy as fuck, and Childe wanted nothing more than to shove it down his throat.

He did as he yearned: crawling down the bed to carelessly yank Zhongli’s thighs onto his shoulders, before he was crowding his face there. Insistent hands heaved at his hair when he licked at the drooling tip of the other man’s cock, swirling his tongue with practiced ease.

He delighted in the deep howl Zhongli emitted at the action and in the way those thighs pressed into either side of his head. He swallowed him down further, fishing for more reactions, laughing when Zhongli tried to cover his moans by burrowing into his forearm.

Childe pulled off with a slick, obscene noise. “Do you like that, xiansheng?”

Zhongli heaved in heavy breaths. “I... I wasn’t aware that there are so many foreplays before the actual intercourse.”

“Aw,” Childe cooed teasingly. “Are you complaining? Want me to fuck you sooner, then?”

“Either way is lovely.” He was still breathing harshly. Childe hoped he could regain his breathing very soon because judging from that answer he was more than welcomed to thoroughly debauch him. A passed out Archon would be extremely bad for his record. 

“All in due time, my lord,” Childe responded smugly. “I would be a bad teacher if I don’t show you the right way properly.”

He lifted himself up and pivoted Zhongli by the hips, pushing his front down into the bed.

Ah—this is, um, necessary?”

“Oh, absolutely.” He yanked his lower body up so his ass perched high in the air. Zhongli made a muffled noise, fingers digging into the mattress as Childe parted his cheeks obscenely. “You see, it only becomes unsafe sex when you don’t prepare the body beforehand.”

“Is... is that so—ah!”

Zhongli groaned deeply into the bed when Childe’s tongue decided at that moment to descend on his hole. He licked around the cinched skin and lapped widely over it, wetting it with spit. The former Archon was trying not to writhe but Childe could feel his thighs quivering where they held him up.

Tartaglia.” Another groan, then a long, broken moan when Childe began to fuck inside with his tongue. The other man was delirious with pleasure, losing control over his legs. Childe felt him slipping down and finally decided to stop torturing him.

He allowed him a moment to relocate his breath while he searched his clothes for the lubricant he had purchased from Ying’er’s dubious store on the way to Zhongli’s home. Upon finding it, he wasted no time before uncorking it and coating his fingers with the liquid.

On the bed, Zhongli was coming back to himself and was looking over his shoulder at Childe with a dilapidated, almost unhinged gaze.

“May I?” Childe asked, if only for polite courtesy. Zhongli swallowed once and nodded, determined. With one hand on his hip, another poised at his entrance, Childe began to work him open.

As Childe's fingers worked in and out trying to stretch the tight furl of his hole, Zhongli kept himself mostly in check, not making nearly as much fuss as was previously. He was probably trying to adjust to the intrusion, making sense of the situation like he would his other duties.

How very stoic of him.

Childe jabbed his fingers in the direction of his prostate and felt like cackling when Zhongli immediately collapsed from sheer pleasure. He didn’t laugh at him this time because a) he was trying to encourage him to feel good, not to feel ashamed and b) he really was not trying to die prematurely but if Zhongli commanded it out of ire then he most definitely would not have a say in it. Best to keep him in his good mood right now.

Eventually, “enough.” Zhongli was panting, shifting his body forward until Childe’s fingers slid out of him wetly. “You will penetrate me now.”

“Please don’t say that,” Childe begged.

“It is the correct term,” Zhongli responded petulantly, turning over so his back reclined on the bed. “I think the position in the book was like this... And you are on top of me.” He arranged himself into position, thighs held up with his own hands, exposing himself to Childe. And oh, was Childe so close to busting a nut because of this man.

Moving quickly, he discarded his underwear and moved on top of him. Zhongli immediately rested his thighs on his shoulders. Still unsatisfied, he frowned. “I think it was a lot more... bent in the illustration.”

“How much more bent could we become than we already are?” Childe joked.

“You know what I mean, Tartaglia. I think if you scoot up a bit mo—”

His voice cut off when Childe moved, pressing his thighs tighter into his chest. Upon lining his cock into position, Childe rubbed the head of it over Zhongli’s stretched-out hole, teasing. “Is this quite like how you wanted?”

“Ah. Um, yes.” Zhongli cleared his throat, pretending to look stoic, but his facade broke when Childe began to breach him. His nails dug into Childe’s shoulder blades as he sucked in a hasty gasp.

“I will fuck you now,” Childe announced, searching his face for any sign of unease. Zhongli nodded, muttering a quiet ‘please’, and Childe pushed in past the tight ring with a barely-concealed impatience.

It was only his deep-seated concern for the other man that stopped him from fucking wildly into him from the get-go, to be honest. Because sue him, Zhongli was going to be the death of him one day with the tight furl of his hole, the hot puffs of his breath over Childe’s cheek, and the constellations of bruises littering the otherwise unblemished skin of his neck. And knowing Childe had put them there, had branded him, was enough to get in his head.

He sucked in a ragged breath in an attempt to subdue his needs. Zhongli’s comfort came first and foremost. Caressing the man’s cheek, Childe searched his face once more. “Does it hurt?”

“No.” Zhongli shook his head, blinking. Then, gods strike him down, he started to move his ass, gyrating around Childe’s cock like it was a mere plaything for his pleasure. “Ah—feels quite strange. Nothing painful. I could work with it.” He put on a thoughtful face. “Ah, but position-wise, it is quite straining for my spine. This position has the potential to become hazardous if—”

“Fucking now. Commentary later.”

And with that very eloquently-put saying, Childe began his ruthless ministrations. He fucked into Zhongli with careful precision at first, testing the waters, only to see if it was really not painful for him. But once it was clear he wasn’t hurting him—based on Zhongli’s slack-jawed, pleasured expression at each thrust—then the real fucking began.

Childe was sure he was offending Zhongli’s virtues with this thought, but sometimes fucking was just that: another vessel into one's self-satisfaction, and the haphazard art of pounding in and out of somebody. There was nothing else aside from raw hunger and lust; a desire so deep it ached with his every movement.

Zhongli was making all sorts of noises underneath him, his hair flowing free on the bed like a halo. His lips, kiss-swollen, parted on heavy moans and mindless pleas. Childe had thought once that the day profanities would come out from Zhongli’s prim mouth was the day winter arrived in hell. But now, with his own two eyes, he watched Zhongli’s mouth curling around the words desperately.

Words like, “fuck me,” and “fuck, Tartaglia.”

It all spurred him on. To go harder, faster. So he did. Planting his hands on the bed, he bent Zhongli further, his body now almost folded in half. And even with the straining position, Zhongli still gasped with pleasure, raking his nails down Childe’s back until they left welts.

“I feel odd,” Zhongli uttered, one of his hands dropping to his navel, pressing down hard.

“Yeah?” Childe smirked devilishly, eyeing his cock where it bounced, untouched. “Can you feel me there? Fucking you?”

Zhongli gasped, spine arching like a bow. “I can feel you. Deep inside.” He moaned loudly. “Xiansheng. I think something’s coming. I—”

“You’re gonna come, my lord? Do you like me fucking you that much?”

Zhongli came instantly with a bitten-down groan. Come spurts out of his cock, painting his stomach in thick strands. There was so much of it that it dripped down Zhongli’s waist and onto the bed below, pooling there.

Childe came, too, his orgasm coerced out of him by the sight, spilling deep inside Zhongli. He caught himself from collapsing onto Zhongli, sitting up straight to try and catch his breath.

Zhongli winced when his thighs were finally released.

A minute later, when they’ve both caught their breaths, Childe smiled teasingly at Zhongli’s owlish face. “So? Any of your vertebrae broken yet by that, quote, ‘compromising position’?”

Zhongli had the gall to think deeply into it. “I think it’s not quite as compromising as I made it out to be. Hm, the human body is quite flexible indeed.” He surveyed his own body with pride, as if he was congratulating it. He probably was, Childe thought, completely besotted.

Zhongli’s eyes caught his, and there was a glint in them that took Childe aback a few steps. “I’m not sure, though. I was too distracted to properly discern my body. Perhaps if we try once more...”

Ah, you foxy little bastard. Childe laughed, leaned down to plant a besotted kiss on his lips, then whispered into his ear. “Well, I did promise to milk you completely dry by tonight, didn’t I?”

And so they fucked. Again. And again and again again. Sometimes they went creative with it, opting to do it on top of different furniture in the room, like the dresser, or the carpet, or on the wall painting.

It was a long time into the night before they were truly satisfied, laying side by side on the bed within the heap of strewn, sullied blankets. Both were littered with love bites, looking like they’d been mauled by the Snezhnayan blood-drinking mythical creature.

“So,” Childe spoke into the stuffy air, “how would your rate our Lesson on Carnal Pleasures tonight, Master Zhongli?”

“Ah. Beyond expectations. That position is safe if done with caution. I can stop worrying about my subjects now.”

“So you see! I speak only the truth when I told you it was safe.”

“Not sure about other positions though...”

“Oh?” Childe giggled—unabashedly giggled like a child presented with a candy. He rolled over on top of Zhongli and wiggled his eyebrows suggestively (and very unsexily). “Pray tell, my liege. What positions did you have in mind?”

Zhongli laughed, and it was a lovely thing. Many a day passed without Childe ever hearing the polite man laugh outright; it’d only ever come out in the form of lingering smiles, and amused, crinkled eyes. Hearing it brought forth a fondness so deep within Childe, he doubted it was just fondness.

Or if it was something else, entirely.

“Hm. I have to refer to the illustrations again to be sure.”

Childe smiled, bringing a hand up to twirl Zhongli’s hair. “I’m sure there are plenty. Our Lessons on Carnal Pleasures will have to extend indefinitely.”

Zhongli returned his smile kindly. Softly, with a hand on Childe’s jaw, he kissed him on the lips. When they parted, he whispered between their lips like a promise.

“We have time.”