Keqing made her way through the crowded streets of Liyue Harbor. The Moonchase festival had so far been a success, the newly invigorated energy running through the streets was extremely refreshing from the mood that had been hanging over the Harbor since the Right of Descension.
All Keqing had intended to do today was drop off the bits and pieces of her grandfather’s recipe to Xiangling, not get roped into a conversation with an ancient adepti.
“Has anyone seen Ganyu?” Cloud Retainer asked, standing atop the building across from Wanmin, having appeared out of thin air. Keqing briefly wondered if all buildings in the Harbor would need to have code changes to be able to handle the weight of an adeptus standing on top of it.
“Recently? No.” Keqing answered. She hadn’t really seen Ganyu all day now that she thought about it.
Cloud Retainer honed in on Keqing at her voice, it was almost unsettling.
“You are…Oh yes! The Yuheng! Ganyu talks to this one all the time about yourself. She greatly admires your work ethic. ‘Always working tirelessly for the better of Liyue’ she says.”
Keqing shifted back and forth on her feet, did Cloud Retainer not remember her from when they fought side by side? She wasn’t really sure what to say to any of that either. She admired Ganyu’s work ethic as well, but hadn’t ever really thought about the secretary thinking the same.
“But that’s not all!” Cloud Retainer continued, her booming voice shaking Keqing from her thoughts. “She thinks your appearance is quite admirable as well and dislikes when you are out on surveys and cannot look at you during meetings.”
Keqing was sure her face had never been more red in her life, Cloud Retainer's words coming completely out of left field. She became immediately aware of just how many people were around her, and those close enough to hear off in the distance from how loud Clouder Retainer was talking. Some people had stopped to gawk while others none too discretely listened in.
“One thinks this is strange as Ganyu used to not talk about you in such a way. It seems the tides have turned however, and now you are the topic of most discussions.”
“I don’t mean to interrupt you,” Keqing cut in, very well meaning to do exactly that. “But I think we’ve gone a little off topic.”
Cloud Retainer hummed before going off about what she was there for to begin with, some supreme something or other, nothing that involved Keqing and so she tuned out, carefully filtering through each word the adeptus had said about herself.
Did Ganyu really feel that way?
Of course Keqing had harbored feelings of her own over the years for Ganyu, but the fact that Ganyu’s were being spilled all over the streets of Liyue Harbor made her extremely embarrassed, and if not for Ganyu, then at least for herself seeing as how she was the hot topic.
She stood there in silence, completely red in the face even after Cloud Retainer made her departure. Just when she thought she was in the clear, Keqing looked up to see Ganyu herself making her way across the cobblestone.
“I saw Cloud Retainer.” Ganyu commented when she reached them. “Keqing, she didn’t say anything about my childhood did she?”
Keqing blinked. Why was she in the hot seat once again? “She didn’t really mention you at all.”
“Paimon thought Cloud Retainer said-“
There was a reason the Traveler was one of the heroes of Liyue, but right now they were Keqing’s personal savior as they slapped their hand over Paimon’s mouth.
“I assure you, she didn’t regale any old tales about yourself.”
Ganyu hesitated but breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank goodness. She always goes off on tangents and I’m afraid she was telling people boring stories about myself again.”
“I would not have listened unsolicited. I know you like to keep that private.”
“Keqing,” Ganyu gave her a benevolent smile. “Thank you. You are always so kind and considerate.”
Keqing had just managed to get rid of the flush upon her cheeks only for it to rise once more as she fumbled out her next words. “D-don’t you have somewhere else you should be right now.”
Ganyu tilted her head in thought, a look of panic quickly crossing her face. “The meeting! I’m going to be late!”
They watched Ganyu run off and disappear into the crowd, Paimon speaking up when she was well out of earshot.
“Paimon doesn’t understand. Cloud Retainer did talk about Ganyu.”
“Yes but what she said was obviously something private. Please do not tell anyone else of this.” Keqing crossed her arms, still deeply embarrassed by everything the adeptus had said.
She parted ways with them and over the following week, Keqing paid more attention to Ganyu. She caught everything; from the way Ganyu would look at her during meetings when she thought Keqing wasn’t watching, to discussing her with other coworkers when Ganyu thought she was out of earshot.
There were other times as well when Ganyu would enter her office with an innocent inquiry and would find herself behind Keqing’s desk, asking questions about a survey she was already aware of. Leaning close to her so their faces were side by side with a hand on her shoulder.
Apparently she was too dense to see all of this until she had decided to seek it out for herself. She walked to Ganyu’s office at the end of the week with a simple dinner plan in mind, giving a soft knock on the door but not waiting for a response as she entered. Ganyu was dutifully working as she stepped inside, glancing up and giving her a smile.
Ganyu set her papers down upon her desk, showing that Keqing had her undivided attention. “How may I be of assistance?”
“I had dinner reservations for tonight but unfortunately my friend won’t be able to make it. I would hate to cancel. Would you like to join me instead?” This was only a half truth. Keqing did make the reservation but it was completely with the intent of Ganyu joining her.
“I would love to.” Ganyu’s smile lit up the whole room and Keqing felt her heart clench.
They met up after work at the agreed time, and silently made their way to the restaurant. Keqing’s heart was pounding from what she had planned tonight. It could go wrong, it could be awkward but Keqing had dealt with worse in her field of work.
Their waiter brought them to the reserved table in the back, Keqing pulling Ganyu’s chair out for her and gesturing for her to sit. They placed their orders and filled the silence with idle work talk until their food had arrived. Once they got more comfortable, Keqing finally spoke what was on her mind.
“Ganyu, is there anything you…want to tell me?” Keqing fiddled with the material of her skirt, feeling the fabric run through the silk of her gloves underneath the table. She wasn’t entirely prepared for any sort of confession from either side but the knowledge of Ganyu’s feelings kept eating away at her.
Ganyu opened her mouth to respond but then closed it in thought. Bringing her hand to her chin she hummed. “I believe your estimates on your quarterly summary are wrong.”
“Excuse me?!” Keqing placed a hand on her chest at the offending accusation. “My quarterly estimates are not off! I triple, even quadruple check them before turning it in.”
Ganyu laughed a little at her overreaction, briefly mentioning she might want to look over them one more time before Keqing continued.
“I wasn’t talking about something work related. I meant more personally.”
“Oh.” The smile fell off of Ganyu’s face a little and was replaced with deep concentration. When nothing came to mind she shook her head.
“Maybe this will help jog your memory.” Keqing took a deep breath. “Last week when you asked if Cloud Retainer had said anything…embarrassing about you, I lied. She-she did say something and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since then. I mean, it’s not embarrassing per say but-”
The chopsticks in Ganyu’s hand fell to the table. “She told you about my childhood, didn’t she?”
“It’s so embarrassing! I ask her not to because it’s humiliating - the things she says. When I try to explain it to her she doesn’t understand. Adepti as old as her don’t really have a grasp on human emotions all that well so she’s never been able to wrap her head around why I think it’s so shameful.”
Keqing quietly put another shrimp ball in her mouth while Ganyu rambled on, revealing more about herself than Keqing had even known before.
“-and the time I fell down the mountain! She never lets that one go.”
“Ganyu. I’m sorry I should have cut you off earlier but she didn’t say anything about your childhood.”
Ganyu closed her eyes and took in a deep breath, a flush of embarrassment rising to her cheeks at having outed herself.
Keqing set down her chopsticks and folded her hands together to calm the nerves shaking through her at her next words. “She actually only talked about me. How much you talk about me, and how you hold a particular...fondness?”
The look on the secretary’s face would have been priceless in any other situation, but for this one, Keqing wanted nothing more than to dig themselves a hole together.
“The way it was worded leaves me to believe that you hold certain feelings towards me.” While it may have been a statement, Keqing’s voice cracked and rose, making it seem more like a question.
Ganyu slowly nodded her head, refusing to meet her eyes, picking at her half eaten food.
“If this is the case, I wanted to invite you to dinner today to tell you that I-“ Keqing paused, knowing that her next words could also not be taken back and would have been rather humiliating if she had misinterpreted the whole situation. “I feel the same way.”
Ganyu fidgeted in her seat. “I don’t know what to say.”
“It’s okay not to know what to say.” Keqing wasn’t entirely sure what to say either. She had never confessed to another person before, had never seen a reason to do so.
She poked and prodded at her remaining golden shrimp balls, and unable to stand the awkward silence that befell them, she spoke up. “So...what do we do now?”
Ganyu smiled shyly. “Well, we could start by going for walks together. Inviting each other over for tea on the weekends, maybe starting a new hobby together. At the end of the day, I think even just talking goes a long way.”
Keqing looked down at her now empty plate. It was as easy as just talking? She tried just that, asking Ganyu about her day who was more than happy to gush to her about it from start to finish. It took quite awhile, and they soon found that they were the only two left in the restaurant. Keqing beat Ganyu to the bill, much to the secretary’s complaints, and they made their way out into the humid night.
“Keqing. May I walk you home?”
Keqing wanted to turn her down, their houses were in opposite directions after all. If anything, she would rather walk Ganyu home instead but she relented and they fell in stride, side by side together.
The longer the walk went on, the closer Ganyu got to her, their arms brushing together, and each of them slowing down to draw out the time to their destination. Ganyu kept up the idle talk, pointing to the various flowers and shops along their way as if the two of them hadn’t seen them hundreds of times before already. A strange urge fell over Keqing in that made her want to hold Ganyu’s hand as they walked but briefly thought it was a bit too early for that as they reached the front of her house.
Keqing wanted to invite her in for tea so they could spend more time together, but it was already late, the sun well below the horizon, and they both had work in the morning. Instead, Keqing bid Ganyu farewell and thanks for walking her home and made her way inside.
Her sleep was restless that night, but in a good way. Her heart was pounding at the idea of spending more time with Ganyu in the coming weeks. A new path had opened itself before her; she was more than eager to start walking down it.
Keqing walked into her office the next day only to find a bouquet of roses, lilies and qingxin on the corner of her desk. It sat upon a sealed envelope with her name on the front in neat handwriting all too familiar to her.
The contents of the letter contained a drawn out way of asking Keqing if she wanted to accompany a certain secretary to dinner that night. She breathed in the earthy scent of the flowers and Keqing knew then she wouldn’t miss it for the world.