A story, a tale, an epic, a myth, a fable, a novel, an account…
Fine literature is an art. It is refined and sublime and able to evoke so many complex emotions from an individual when done right. It also acts as a storage of memories, recording events that the feeble human mind is so prone to forgetting. Every stroke of the brush, every drop of ink is a testimony to the very real effort that was spent penning each word down.
To Morax, they are like a gateway to another world, an opportunity to learn more about the species he watches over.
He sees them, but they do not touch. The humans welcome him, but they do not truly interact. There is always an underlying veil of something that separates them.
Morax hopes – wants to understand. Not necessarily be like them but at the very least…
Morax closes the book he has been leafing through, setting it aside as he makes sure his preparations are in place.
A pot of osmanthus tea and a plate of Lotus Flower Crisps sit by the lonesome on the stone table. He picks one of the golden-hued snacks up and takes a small bite out of it. To his relief, it tastes good and free of imperfections, a familiar sweetness spreading through his mouth. Everything is perfect and in place as according to his standards.
After all, he is expecting a very important guest.
What is time? To humans at least, it is a concept to track the changes and passage of time, from past to present to future. It is a common notion shared by most, if not all living beings on earth. It is just humanity that decides to create such a detailed system to measure it.
To a near ageless being that has existed for far longer than any human can possibly imagine… What even is time?
The moment he opens his eyes, Zhongli knows something is wrong.
He is still on Teyvat, that much is certain. The feel of the ground and the overall atmosphere is the same. However, there is an unmistakable difference that is noticeable almost immediately as well. Everything feels too bare and empty, like a yawning void that has sucked up all traces of life. The powers of old, the elements that usually caress his skin around every turn, are stretched thin and barely present.
But first, he should get out of this confined space he finds himself in.
Zhongli appears to be in a stone coffin of sorts. What feels like various trinkets made of jade and bronze are scattered around his body which is in turn wrapped in fine silken robes. Pressing his fingers along the sides of the coffin reveals words carved into the hard stone, all wishing him a safe journey and a good rest.
Fascinated, Zhongli spends a moment admiring the interior of the coffin while pondering over his strange situation. The last memory he has is of him telling some of his subjects and friends that he would be hibernating for a while, only to awake in the distant future when the time is right. He doesn't remember going to sleep in such a place, leading him to assume someone must have moved him into such a position. As for the reason for doing so, he would need to get out of here first and find a familiar face, if he can find one, that is.
There is a sinking feeling in his gut, telling him that he has remained dormant for a long, long time.
Gathering his Geo powers to push the heavy lid of his prison off, Zhongli is startled when nothing happens. He tries again, more forcefully this time, tugging within himself and the earth for the familiar draw of power.
Panic rises, hot and awful, holding his heart in a vice grip as it beats uncontrollably in his chest. His power is an essential part of himself, an integral portion of his being. To wake up all alone in an unfamiliar place with such a core thing missing throws him out of sync, disorienting him in the most fundamental of ways. Since his conception, his Geo powers have always been there, thrumming underneath his skin and running through his body. More than just being an extension of himself, they have also shaped him into who he is today, from his thoughts to his approach to life.
Without them, would he even still be who he is?
Out of sheer desperation and denial, Zhongli does everything he can, fingers clawing against the stone coffin as he clenches his teeth. He pulls and flails, searching for more Geo, shifting the earth, summoning his meteor. He prays and hopes, closing his eyes as emotions run high. A flash of memory glances by, reminding him why he is even in this predicament in the first place, sparking just a hint of hope within him—
The ground rumbles and groans, shifting beneath him. Something intangible and distinctively heavy leaves him, making him feel drained of energy. Zhongli lets out a gasp, exhaustion slamming into him like a crushing blow.
The air shifts and bends, stretching thin before breaking with a crisp snap he can almost hear. The recoil sends him reeling for a minute before the sting subsides.
Belatedly, he realises that his struggles have not been in vain. Whether through sheer force of will or something else, Zhongli somehow managed to reclaim his power, albeit a very weak version of it. Teyvat feels right once more, the once absent thrum of elemental energy trickling through the land once more albeit rather sluggish.
But that is alright. He has been sleeping for such a long time after all. It’s only normal to be a little rusty and things to have changed.
With that assurance in place, the fatigue for exerting himself in such a reckless manner quickly catches up to him. It tempts him to sleep, lulls him with that sweet promise of rest.
Zhongli doesn't resist. He allows himself to fall back asleep, hoping to dream of a hint of blue eyes and orange hair.
This time when Zhongli wakes again, he is far calmer than before.
Again, more time has passed. Although far less than his previous nap, it is substantial all the same.
His surroundings remain the same, the only difference being how his power comes to him far more easily. It feels faded, diminished, but enough for him to slide the stone coffin lid off with ease. Pushing himself out with a little effort thanks to stiff joints, Zhongli gets a good view of his resting place for the first time.
He is in a cave of sorts with several glowing rocks scattered around, illuminating the otherwise dark area. His coffin is elevated on a gentle hill with a rocky path leading up to the altar he is on. What might have once been a moat filled with water surrounds him, making it feel like a small island in the middle of nowhere.
Gingerly, Zhongli steps out of his coffin, bending down to inspect the dried plants scattered around. The long dead silk flowers crumble to dust upon the first touch, startling him slightly. In contrast, the pottery and bronze vessels filled with ash are mostly intact, merely tarnished from years of disuse. Most disturbing, however, is the abundance of talismans scattered about, their ink long faded but surprisingly intact for their age. That is when he notices the red lines drawn all over the ground, running over his coffin to form unknown seals. Zhongli isn't sure how to feel, half convinced of their malicious intent.
Out of the corner of his eye, he spies a human figure and flinches, nearly flinging a spear of rock at it in defence. Upon closer look, the person turns out to be nothing more than a clay statue. The lifelike figure is fashioned in the position of standing guard over his coffin, a recurring theme he realises upon discovering many more. It explains why he was surprised by its appearance, having mistaken it for a human yet not sensing its approach.
Scrolls of text lie in a small pile near him. Unfortunately, their words have long faded with time, ending his only hope for clues in this place.
Zhongli is all alone in this tomb of his with only the hundreds of terracotta statues sculpted in varying positions for company. Not a hint of life is to be found.
He sighs, brushing dust off his robes as he stands.
If he wants answers, it appears that he would have to leave this place first.
Nothing makes sense.
The world he finds is too bright, too fast – too much.
Structures, taller than he could ever imagine, rise from the ground to block out the sun. The constant blaring of horns and noise fill his ears as metal vehicles on wheels move around. Greenery and nature is a rarity, replaced instead by cool gravel and rock. Even the people look different, from their hair to their clothes. As they stare at him, he too observes them in shock and disbelief.
Just how long has he slept for everything to have changed so much?
His only saving grace is him being able to understand what they say. Their manner of speech might be different and even their accents make it difficult to understand at times, but Zhongli manages after a moment of getting used to things.
Still, he can't help but notice how something feels off in Liyue if he can still call the place Liyue. The people seem too tense, faces wrought with worry and stress. There is an undercurrent of fear that Zhongli can practically taste.
It isn't particularly pleasant.
“Breaking news! Our latest reports show that the meteor is still heading straight to Teyvat, with all attempts to divert its path ending in failure. It is advised that…”
The sudden voice catches Zhongli off guard, causing him to nearly summon his spear in preparation to defend himself. However, he manages to restrain himself at the last minute, having noticed the distinct lack of weapons on any of the humans around him. He is already an oddity sticking out like a sore thumb. The last thing he wants to do is give people more reasons to stare.
It turns out the voice is coming from somewhere above him. Following the gazes of some humans who have stopped to listen as well, Zhongli marvels at the image of a young woman being projected on a rectangle on one of the buildings. She appears to be sharing some important information with everybody, information that makes his blood run cold the more he hears.
A meteor is heading straight towards Teyvat. The end is inevitable when it hits them within a month or so.
Nothing makes sense.
All he knows is that his panic back then is the likely cause of the appearance of the meteor.
Nothing is the same.
He has slept for far too long. Now everything is beyond his comprehension.
Nothing is worth living for.
Why did he even wake up? To curse the world and bring about its doom?
That is when he sees him.
To say the human is surprised when Zhongli flings himself into his arms is an understatement.
The moment Zhongli catches sight of that familiar visage, joy unlike no other rushes forth so violently he nearly collapses. He rushes up to him, throwing himself into the other’s embrace, taking in those brilliant blue eyes, widened and confused but just as charming as ever.
It has been far too long since he felt such happiness, long enough that he almost believed that he is incapable of such emotion anymore.
They had all been wrong. Childe is a stubborn soul that would fight to the bitter end, unheeding of the karma nor sin clinging to him. Even trapped within the cycle of life, he wouldn't let something like the underworld hold him down.
Besides, he had promised to meet Zhongli again.
Zhongli shakes, tears flowing from his eyes unbidden. What a disgusting sight he must make, showing such weakness in front of his lover and crying so openly. As much as he hates to lose his composure like this, especially in a public setting, Zhongli just can't help himself. The days stretch on forever, meaningless and cold without Childe’s presence. Just how long has he waited for this moment to be reunited with him?
For a good while, Zhongli continues to sob into Childe’s chest, inhaling his familiar scent and comforting presence.
Even dressed in these strange new clothes of the future, everything else about Childe remains the same. Zhongli even manages to find that favourite position of his, nuzzling his face into the crook of Childe’s neck.
How long has it been since he has been able to hold onto his beloved like this?
The last he had seen Childe, he had been a cold, mangled corpse, pieced together the best they could. The sheer agony that had gripped his heart as Zhongli slowly lowered Childe into his final resting place nearly made him collapse on the spot. Even then, things were never the same after his lover’s departure.
“I’m sorry but—”
He had lost the will to live, plain and simple. Zhongli no longer took joy in anything he did, not through food, being with friends nor the activities he once enjoyed. Childe’s death simply drained all the colour out of the world, leaving it an endlessly grey husk.
They told him repeatedly that he would get over it.
Instead, Zhongli chose to sleep his sorrows away.
“I think you’ve gotten the wrong person.”
The rest of the messy world suddenly comes back into focus. People are bustling around them furiously, screaming and shouting at times as they all subconsciously avoid the two of them who are lying prone on the ground.
“... Pardon my mistake.”
Humans do not live long.
Rather, in comparison to a near ageless being like himself, human lifespans are pitifully short.
He had buried Childe with his own hands. It is a memory that he would never forget till the day he ceases to be.
Zhongli knows the Childe he loves is gone for good. The one standing in front of him is a mere reincarnation, void of the precious memories and life they shared together.
The soul is the same and yet the body is different; it is Childe and yet it is not.
Zhongli had feared when he thought his powers were gone. A human without their memories… could he even consider them the same person anymore? Without experiences and their time together to shape his lover into the Childe he knows, Zhongli wonders if they would even get along to begin with.
He is lucky Childe’s reincarnation is so understanding, laughing a little and forgiving him immediately when he apologises for his mistake. Although he does correct Zhongli on his name, asking him to call him Ajax instead, ‘Childe’ apparently being a childhood nickname that he has not used for many years.
Surprisingly, Ajax seems to take a liking to him despite his rude behaviour. Had it been Zhongli who received such treatment, he would have long politely excused himself from the situation. The fact that Ajax is currently chatting animatedly away with him is beyond his wildest dreams. In fact, he doesn't even seem fazed by Zhongli’s clothes that draw the gaze of practically every other person in the area.
When the topic of the meteor inevitably comes up, Childe lets out a loud sigh, a look of resignation on his face.
“Who would have thought the end of the world would come like this, squished by some giant rock? Hm, though it probably beats dying of something like old age by a long shot.”
Zhongli averts his eyes guiltily.
“I wish I could do something about it.”
“The heck are you saying? As if you could stop its descent!” Ajax appears flabbergasted by his words. “Although, I’m more worried about the sightings of monsters and mutated beasts popping out everywhere leaving countless victims in their path. The meteor will cause a bit of damage for sure, but nothing in comparison to all those creatures.”
Ajax gapes at him in disbelief.
“Did you not watch the news earlier? I thought that was the reason why you were in the town square to begin with.”
“... I must have missed it.”
“Well, it all started with someone claiming to be attacked by some huge four legged creature with oversized teeth and a frankly terrifying appearance. Everyone wrote him off as crazy initially, but as more evidence and even videos started surfacing, there was no choice but to start believing.”
At least Ajax doesn't seem too bothered by recounting what must be common knowledge to him. Zhongli frowns, an image of some of the monsters he fought in the past comes to mind from the description.
“I actually saw someone get dragged into a dark alley by some huge rat thing so I’m fully convinced all this panic is warranted.” Ajax pauses for a moment before speaking again, looking quizzically at Zhongli’s clothes this time. “I hope you're prepared for the end of the world as well.”
“End of the world?” Zhongli is genuinely taken aback by Aajax’s comment. “If the meteor isn't that big of an issue, then why would those demons be one? Can’t you just kill them and prevent any further victims?”
“Are you even hearing yourself right now?” Ajax says, going silent for several seconds before he even can muster out a response. “Guns and bladed weapons barely work on those creatures and only the more powerful explosives seem to put them down for good. Not to mention their seemingly endless numbers. The military might be doing a good job holding them back for now but it’s only a matter of time before they are overrun.”
A different time; a different era. Zhongli is truly beginning to comprehend the effects of his long hibernation. This whole time, he has yet to sense a single lick of elemental energy from any of the humans he had encountered. Even Ajax, who had been known as one of the best Hydro users back in his time, feels like a completely normal, powerless human.
When he had still been revered by everyone as a martial god and a defender of Liyue against the never-ending horde of demons and monsters threatening to destroy the country any day, Zhongli had been easily recognised upon sight. Together with him were several other gods and adepti, working in tandem to defend the place.
It wasn't a problem unique to Liyue. Rather, the entirety of Teyvat faced a similar problem. Hence the need for raising humans capable of defending themselves became a popular notion, something he had been all too happy to encourage.
Now that every single human seems to be curiously powerless, even the weakest of demons would pose a big threat. Not to mention the unsettling absence of other gods and adepti.
Just what had gone down during his long slumber?
“I can't believe you didn't know all that.” Ajax shakes his head. “It’s almost as if you’ve been living under a rock this whole time.”
Zhongli considers Ajax’s words seriously. Surely sleeping for years in a stone coffin situated in a cave would count as such.
“You are indeed correct.”
“That would explain your ignorance. Then for the sake of your own safety I—”
Ajax suddenly stops, head snapping around to make eye contact with Zhongli.
“... You’re actually being serious.”
Tilting his head to the side, Zhongli wonders what part of himself might have given Ajax the impression that he is joking.
It’s strange how Ajax is so trusting of him.
The human clearly doesn't remember Zhongli. This is clear from the way he interacts with him, barring the whole trust part, for surely the world hasn't changed that much such that allowing a stranger to live with you after just one conversation is the norm, right?
And yet, that is exactly what is happening now.
After finding out that Zhongli has no home to return to, Ajax had offered Zhongli to stay at his apartment, citing that it would be fine since he has a spare bedroom and lives alone. Had it been any other person offering this to him, there is no way Zhongli would accept the suspicious deal. Past or present, such things can only lead to bad ends more often than not.
A month is plenty of time for Zhongli to learn about this soon to be doomed new world. As short lived as its current state would be, discovering all the different devices humans have invented to assist in daily life is eye-opening to him. The lack of the supernatural, gods or powers seems to have pushed humanity in such a direction instead, forcing them to rely on their ability to build and ingenuity. His complete ignorance of the matters of today coupled with his unfamiliarity with any mildly complicated device leads to many awkward conversations. It results in him becoming rather accustomed to Ajax’s exasperated face, though it is one he can feel no negative feelings behind.
For some reason or other, they have become nothing more than myths and stories to be told to children during bedtime or written about in fantasy books. That would explain the lack of them when he first woke up as well as Ajax’s visible confusion when he brings up the topic. Even though his struggle seemed to have brought back some of it into the world, he can feel how sparse the elemental energy is. He can practically feel it slipping away as the days go by, disappearing into nothingness as the day of the meteor crash approaches. In fact, he would go as far as to say judging from its rate of disappearance, they would be completely gone once the month is up.
It is almost too perfect of a coincidence.
Apart from that, the two of them try their best to live as good of a life as they can manage in this chaotic world. The situation outside gets worse by the day with more ferocious beasts springing from the shadows and prowling the streets. All too soon, no one is willing to leave their homes. They all ransack the stores for food and supplies, holed up in their homes or shelters hoping to ride out this disaster. Very soon, the electricity is cut and water stops flowing from taps. Truly, it feels like Teyvat is returning to the past without all these fancy conveniences.
According to Ajax, the world hadn't always been like this. It had been orderly and neat with children going to school to learn before entering the workforce to contribute to the advancement of humanity. The discovery of the meteor and the monsters that seem to come with it is a catastrophe that would no doubt stall progress or even set them back by several decades or more.
Again with the coincidences. Zhongli is beginning to suspect something sinister at play here.
But the most concerning issue for the moment would have to be his current condition.
Sunlight streams in through the blinds, signalling the start of a new day. However, unlike the gentle morning sun he has gotten used to, this is the harsh rays of the afternoon sun, making him blink uncomfortably and shift to get out of its reach.
The space next to him is empty.
It hadn’t taken much convincing to get Ajax to share a bed with him, not when they are in danger of being attacked by demons at any moment. The numerous stories of people being torn to shreds in their homes as well as the unfortunate fate of their neighbour are enough to convince Ajax there is safety in numbers.
As much as the close contact pleases Zhongli, he had been worried about the other’s reaction. While Zhongli might still have some lingering affection for the human, it’s different for Ajax. He practically knows nothing about Zhongli apart from him being a very clueless and rather eccentric male who sticks to him due to his resemblance to a past lover, something that sounds quite creepy once he thinks about it. Really, it is a miracle Ajax puts up with him at all, making Zhongli wonder if he remembers their love on an instinctual level.
That being said, it appears he has once again woken up late, leaving Ajax with the burden of doing their daily routine alone. It makes him feel terrible, knowing that as an Archon, he is far more durable than a mere human. Not to mention he is a guest in this place. If anything, it should be Zhongli doing all the chores and scourging food for them.
It’s just that Zhongli has been feeling far too exhausted as of late to do much at all.
Initially, he had thought it to be a once off thing or his imagination. They had been in the middle of a supply run at a nearby grocery store, grabbing as much canned food as they could. The huge assortment of items on the shelves had fascinated Zhongli, causing him to wander away from Ajax unintentionally. One moment he had been trying to figure out how some of the gardening appliances worked and the next he was on the ground, blinking in confusion as Ajax hovered over him, shaking him vigorously in anxiety.
He later learns that he had passed out abruptly at the store. They had been lucky no monsters were nearby to attack them as Ajax dragged him deeper into the store, hiding them behind the counters as he tried to wake Zhongli up. Thankfully, his fainting episode only lasted for a few minutes, allowing them to leave the store safely once he was conscious.
No matter how hard he tried to argue otherwise, Ajax had remained adamant that Zhongli never leave the house again after that. Eventually, Zhongli had given in, resigned to fortifying their home and sorting out supplies. All had been well for a few days after that, only for Ajax to find him unconscious one day at their doorstep. Needless to say, the human had reacted as badly as before while Zhongli began to hypothesize about his unexplained weakness.
In hindsight, the signs had been there all along.
The elemental energy in the air had never been strong since he woke. The earth barely listens to him and he fails to see any sign of other beings with power. Only crazed monsters and nightmarish fiends roam Teyvat now, crawling right out of the Abyss, hungering for flesh, blood, and most importantly, the elements.
Zhongli can see it in their eyes. They hunger for the familiar thrum of their respective elements, much like he does too. His awakening must have stirred them awake only to find the world inhospitable for them. Every day Zhongli sleeps more and more, finding it harder to claw his way back to consciousness. As the already thin elemental flow of energy from the leylines dwindle even further, so does his strength.
Perhaps Ajax can sense it too, that Zhongli is slowly dying. The young human stops asking questions, his actions now all geared towards keeping comfortable and safe. He doesn't wake Zhongli up in the morning to run errands, doesn't make him cook or clean, doesn't make him do anything really, content to let him stay and do nothing despite the desolate state of Teyvat.
The only solution would be for him to crawl back to that stone coffin and go back to sleep, only this time for good. It is something that looks more and more like his impending fate with every day that passes. The sooner he does it the better, as it would relieve Ajax of his self-imposed task of keeping Zhongli alive despite its futility.
Nearly one month has passed since they started living together. Zhongli should be happy for the second chance. He has with him so many wonderful memories of their time together in this different Teyvat. Going back to sleep should be an easier task now.
He remembers Ajax lamenting about something called a ‘zombie apocalypse’ as he prepares dinner for them one day. Curiosity gets the better of him as he politely inquires on the matter, apologising for his lack of knowledge in advance. That had led to an exciting conversation about the undead beasts, Ajax even offering Zhongli several books and comics to enhance his knowledge.
He remembers being taught how to use a gun for the first time. The loud sound and its capacity for damage had startled him greatly. He remembers driving a car, tasting strange snacks, learning what a television is…
He remembers, and soon he will forget.
But more than anything else, it is the fact that Ajax is still not back yet that worries him.
Glancing at the clock mounted on the wall shows him that it is already well into the afternoon. The five o'clock sun still hangs high in the sky, but it would be a scant few hours before it sets. If the creatures prowling around outside are aggressive enough during the day, then the night is a whole different story. There is a reason the entire city turns into a ghost town the moment the sun sets.
Slightly panicked now, Zhongli drags himself off the bed, wincing when his body protests against all movement. This is by far the weakest he has ever felt, the hollow emptiness and feeling of exhaustion refusing to abate no matter what he tries. Still, he doesn't have much of a choice, not when he scours their entire apartment and finds no sign of Ajax.
Except he does, just in the form of a single, innocuous letter, slid under the doorstep into their home. As ridiculous as it is to imagine a courier service or such a method of communication in an apocalyptic situation like this, the fact that there is a letter sitting before him won't change. Zhongli doesn't remember there being one the day before and the envelope looks new albeit slightly wrinkled. That could either mean Ajax dropped it here by accident or it is meant for him to find.
Hesitating, Zhongli picks up the letter, vision swimming as he bends down. Through his inspection, he only finds a single line of words that indicates its purpose.
To Rex Lapis.
Zhongli rips the envelope open, all previous reservations forgotten.
Given how weak his body is, it is a miracle he manages to find, let alone, reach the designated place stated by the letter at all.
He draws on a reserve of strength he never knew he had, crossing broken roads and still burning cars. The remains of half eaten humans mixed with dead monsters lie scattered on the street like some sort of morbid abstract art. The once orderly country is now little more than rubble, with what remaining survivors hiding deep within fortified shelters or homes.
Several of the abyssal monsters attack him as he passes. Thankfully, they seemed to have weakened as much as he has. A little pulse of Geo and his trusted weapon is more than enough to take them out, a far cry from their ferocious might he remembers facing off in the past.
The sky is a striking orange hue as the sun sets, much like molten cor lapis dripping down from above. By this point, Zhongli doesn't even have to look closely to make out the faint outline of a meteor falling towards Teyvat at great speeds. Now knowing that it would do minimal damage to the earth, he is able to acknowledge the dazzling sight it makes, fiery bright streaks of amber gold licking across its surface and flanked by smaller shooting stars. However, its beauty falls short on him, as preoccupied as he is in finding Ajax.
They have him – took him right under his nose as he slept, blissfully unaware.
And now, if Zhongli ever wants to see Ajax again, he needs to go to them.
Zhongli is sure that this is a trap. The letter had been brief at best, vaguely mentioning how ‘they’ have Ajax captive and if he wants to rescue his beloved, he would need to come down personally to the area marked out on the included map. The fact that the letter had been addressed to Rex Lapis, an old name he had stopped using aeons ago, speaks volumes about what they know. Not only do they know about a seemingly helpless human named Zhongli who suddenly appeared a month ago, they know of his distant past, one so ancient even Childe didn't know the full extent of it back then.
Consulting the map again, Zhongli eyes narrow at the seemingly innocuous building. It looks like just one of the many crumbled ruins he had passed by.
Unfettered by its shoddy appearance, Zhongli enters anyway, suspicions flaring when he notices how one of the entrances is clear and free of debris, in stark contrast to the rest of the place that is in complete disarray. Someone has clearly been coming here rather often. It appears he has found the correct place after all.
His path is long and winding, bringing him deeper underground with every step. He half expects someone to ambush him halfway, but his journey remains eerily silent. No one even appears to lead him to his supposed destination, and yet Zhongli feels compelled to move in a certain direction, guided on by some unseen force.
When he finally arrives in a large room humming with energy and machinery, Zhongli is greeted by the sight of an unknown man clad in white watching over something and Ajax being tied to a chair.
Despite his best efforts to remain discreet, the man notices Zhongli’s arrival immediately. He pulls out a handgun immediately, pointing it at Ajax as he regards his expected guest.
“Let Ajax go. He has no part in what you want from me.”
“Oh but he does, actually.”
“Dottore! Let me go, you bastard! I don't know what sort of sick game you're trying to play but why did you have to involve Zhongli as well? Can't you see how bad he looks?”
A little self-consciously, Zhongli reaches a hand up to touch his cheek. Does he really look that terrible? He certainly feels a little weak in the knees now and out of breath but he is still standing.
“Oh, you silly, ignorant child. It’s precisely because he has something to do with all this that he looks so bad.”
Dottore turns and presses several buttons on his large, alien looking machine. With a deep rumble and groan, a large section of the floor pulls back to reveal shimmering threads of blue, threading through the air in tiny wisps and spilling elemental energy throughout the room.
Zhongli knows what it is even without looking further. That is a ley line, the foundational conduit that supplies elemental energy to the whole of Teyvat. The deceptively thin barrier surrounding it must be the reason why no more gods or beasts walk this plane. It seals in the flow of energy that sustains them, with the hairline crack on its surface being the only reason he is here now. Taking everything into account, it must have been made when he woke up one month ago.
“Our ancestors fought long and hard to rid the world of the supernatural long ago, finally succeeding in sealing up all the ley lines after a bitter battle. We, the Fatui, have been watching over them and their seals for countless years in case of an event like this.”
He scowls at Zhongli, anger clear in his eyes.
“And now all because of one dying god, all our efforts could very well be undone.”
“The meteorite,” Zhongli says, a chilling realisation striking him. “It will hit this location, breaking the barrier and starting a chain reaction all across Teyvat.”
“So you are aware,” Dottore scoffs, never once loosening his grip on his gun. “The meteorite signifies a collective cry from you forgotten gods and beasts of the past, all clamouring to walk Teyvat again. Humanity has no need for gods and magic and never will. As diminished as you are, there is only one part of you strong enough that can possibly dissolve the meteorite before it destroys the seal.”
That would explain why he feels little to no control over the plummeting rock despite it being made of his element. As for the certain part Dottore is speaking of, he does indeed know what the man is referring to.
“Zhongli! Don't let this guy’s crazy words get to you. I know him very well and while he might be pointing a gun at me, I know he won't dare to shoot. Just go back home for now. I’ll find a way out of this myself.”
“He won't, you fool. How could the mighty Rex Lapis bear to lose the mortal he holds so dear for a second time?”
The conflict of emotions that slam into him is so powerful it nearly makes him stagger.
“You are the reincarnation of his past lover, Ajax. In fact, when you were born, an order was sent to kill you immediately in fear of you waking Rex Lapis from his slumber. It was only through your parent’s relentless begging and many years of loyal service that you were allowed to live.”
Apart from their first meeting where Zhongli had forgotten and treated Ajax as his past lover, he never once brought up that subject again.
“But clearly, that was a mistake. After all, he stands before us now. And with his awakening comes an untold amount of horror ready to rain down on Teyvat once more.”
Would Ajax hate him for never telling him the truth? Would he hate Zhongli for ending the civilisation he knows?
Would he think he was merely using him as a replacement for a long dead man?
“Rex Lapis, if you have any love for humanity left and want to see your lover live”—Dottore presses the gun even harder against the back of Ajax’s head“—then hand over your Gnosis.”
At some point during the conversation, Ajax had gone awfully quiet. His expression, once frantic with worry on behalf of Zhongli’s welfare, is now vastly different. There is a sort of muted sombreness about him, from the way he slumps slightly in his seat and the edges of his mouth turn down.
Clearly, the revelation has shocked him.
Zhongli rests his hand over his chest.
He thinks about all the time he has spent awake.
Drawing on his power such that it is consolidated into one single point, the tip of his Gnosis begins to peak out of his chest, accompanied by a dazzling shower of light. It causes Ajax’s eyes to snap up, his gaze meeting Zhongli for the first time in a while.
A sudden burst of Hydro appears out of nowhere, slamming into Dottore and flinging the man off to the side. Two blades of water form by Ajax’s side and slice into the ropes binding him. Although stunned by their sudden appearance, Ajax doesn't let the opportunity go to waste, springing up from his chair and rushing towards Zhongli. The familiar sight causes another figure to overlap with the human before him and for a frightening second, a longing so powerful strikes him that it nearly overwhelms his psyche. Before Zhongli can even get a word in, the human is tugging him along, dragging them out of the place in a sprint.
Their trip back to Ajax’s apartment is miraculously encounter free. The sky is near dark by the time they finally reach it, the howls and calls of monsters lurking in the shadows accompanying their every step. However, he barely gets a moment of rest even as they crash inside, for Ajax begins packing immediately, stuffing supplies and other equipment into bags.
He is ignored as Ajax grabs more canned food from the kitchen shelves.
Chil— Ajax picks up one of his favourite books, frowning at it before tossing it aside.
“Did… Did you know?”
Ajax finally turns to face him.
“I was aware my parents worked for a secret organisation that managed matters involving national secrets, but I had no idea what they entailed.”
So this whole time, he truly didn't know and yet…
Zhongli’s mouth opens but no words come out.
Does Ajax even know what the Gnosis means to him?
He looks the human straight in the face. Those eyes are as blue as ever; Zhongli would always lose himself in them.
Ajax deserves to know it all.
“Come with me.”
He brings Ajax to his tomb.
The place is exactly as he remembers, lit with glowing crystal and the hundreds of clay figurines standing guard or bowing reverently to him. They walk up the winding path to the summit where his coffin on the altar lies. The only difference this time is that Zhongli recognises some of the seals and patterns drawn on the ground here now, having seen them used to seal the ley lines before.
Zhongli had gone to sleep, never to awaken.
So why is he now here then?
“So when you found me that day a month ago, clinging and crying on my shoulder, you did find the right person after all.”
The truth is out. Ajax knows everything now for better or for worse. At the very least, he now has a full picture of everything from the past to present.
Zhongli clenches his fists, lips pressing into a thin line.
What the man had said back there is true. The time for gods and magical beasts have long passed. Humanity no longer requires them, appearing to be much better off without their existence. It is a cold, hard fact Zhongli is forced to admit. He had only seen a pale shadow of what humans are capable of during his time here and yet they have already gone beyond his wildest dreams.
One meteor would decide the future of Teyvat. If he gives his everything, ruining himself for good, Zhongli could stop its descent.
Or perhaps he could be selfish, allowing the age of gods to return and walk the earth of Teyvat once more. His powers would return in full force. Rebuilding Liyue and protecting a select few humans precious to him wouldn't be too much of a hassle. In time, they would return to what they once had, the only sacrifice being the current humans who inhabit the land.
Could he really bear to commit such a cruel act, putting humanity through so much hardship? He thinks about the wonderful time he has had staying by Ajax’s side and can't help feeling greedy for more.
Two paths, one choice.
Who is he kidding?
“Ajax,” he begins. “In this past month, you have brought me more happiness than I could have ever imagined.”
In this deep, underground tomb where no light reaches, the terracotta army bears witness to his confession.
“Living with you, enjoying your presence without having to worry about responsibilities was a dream come true,” he says. “Back then, we were both too caught up in our work, fighting never ending battles to keep our people safe. We never took any breaks, never spent time together, never truly got to know each other beyond our initial courtship.”
He pauses for a moment, taking a moment to compose himself before he can continue.
“And then you died, leaving me all alone.”
Even now, it hurts to admit the truth, that Childe had died a long time ago leaving Zhongli all alone.
“Till this day, that is my biggest regret. I understand now what it means to not know the worth of something until you lose it. Human lives are already so short. I kept postponing, telling myself I would spend time with you tomorrow, the next day and then the next. We were together for years back then.”
His words slow, emotions creeping into his voice and making it waver.
“And yet, all that time can't compare to this measly month I spent with you. You didn't even know me then, of my feelings and love. Still, I’ve come to realise that all that doesn't matter, not when I could be around you all the time.”
Zhongli smiles sardonically. He already knew his answer long ago.
“Which is why I’m happy. I’ve experienced the happiness I’ve always craved. To stop the revival of the elements or to let the world as you know it crash and burn – I’ll be happy with whichever option you choose.”
It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off his chest. The unease that has been clinging to his heart, causing it to spasm in uncontrollable bouts as of late finally ceases.
Zhongli doesn't expect Ajax to make a choice immediately. After all, he has quite literally handed the fate of the world to him. No being, let alone a mere mortal, would be able to make such a choice lightly. From the shifting energy in the atmosphere, Zhongli can sense that the meteor is gradually approaching, but still far enough for Ajax to have ample time to make his decision.
What he does not expect, however, is the confession he gets in return.
“Ever since I was a child, I would have these dreams,” Ajax speaks up suddenly, beginning his recount in a soft voice.
“I would dream of riding a dragon, soaring in the sky and touching the clouds. It wasn't the dragons I was used to back in Snezhnaya, but rather the mythical dragons of Liyue. It made no sense to me, these constant dreams of a culture I didn't even know of. It’s what drove me to move to Liyue to stay in hope of being able to figure out the mystery behind this enigmatic dragon.”
Ajax pauses, looking Zhongli straight in the eyes.
“The dragon would always tell me it loved me, nuzzling into my face with its snout. I enjoyed the constant attention while taking in its elegant form. With brown scales and glowing amber eyes, long, cor lapis coloured horns and a flowing mane, it was the most majestic thing I had ever seen.”
The implication is clear. Zhongli trembles, heart pounding with a myriad of tangled emotions he can't hope to sort out.
“Till this day, I still dream of the dragon occasionally. It seemed to grow sad and distant as I grew up, lamenting how I had changed and no longer wanted to associate with it.”
He takes Zhongli’s hand, threads their fingers together and squeezes down gently.
“So roughly one month and a week ago, I sat the dragon down.”
“I kissed it on the snout, telling it I loved it too.”
“How could I ever bear to leave my beloved Morax, my precious dragon who had kept me company and comforted me throughout the years?”
“‘I want to meet you. I wish you were real. If only we could be together with you in the real world.’”
“‘With you by my side, anything is possible. If we can't meet in this life, then let's meet in the next.’”
Zhongli trembles, finishing the conversation for Ajax. His half-forgotten dreams come back to him in fragments the moment Ajax begins to speak.
A dragon, distant memories, a promise and an oath.
Zhongli finally knows why he woke up in the first place, smiling bitterly at the enlightenment.
“Zhongli, Morax, whichever name you prefer, I might never be the Childe you know. The memories you two shared in the past will never be a part of me. You can tell me all you want but that won't change who I am.”
It is something Zhongli has come to terms with a long time ago. And yet, he can't help but still be satisfied with the Ajax he has come to know. At their core, they are still the same person. Zhongli is confident even with his previous affection absent, he would still fall in love with Ajax all the same.
“The Childe I once knew will forever remain in my heart. However, that doesn't mean I don't love you too. In this short month I’ve come to know you, the person I’ve fallen in love with is not Childe, the Hydro wielding warrior, but Ajax, the ordinary human who enjoys zombie movies and likes to eat seafood.”
“Is that the truth?”
Doubt is clear in Ajax’s eyes.
Zhongli sits on top of his stone coffin, running his fingers over the long dried red ink. The remains of burnt paper and faded talismans flutter to the ground as he brushes them aside.
The reality is that they have only met for a month. Could love really be fostered in such a short time?
He lets out a shaky breath as he clamps down on their intertwined hands. Pulling the other close, Zhongli studies the human's face for a long minute, drinking in his features for the last time.
Perhaps the world would say otherwise. Perhaps it is all a matter of his lingering affection for a mortal long gone. Perhaps it is some misplaced obligation to save the world.
But despite that, Zhongli decides to listen to his heart just this once.
“You should do what is right.”
He guides Ajax’s hand to his chest, soft, golden light beginning to spill out. The tip of his gnosis makes itself known, nestling comfortably into Ajax’s palm.
“Take it and go—”
Ajax stumbles back, eyes wide and clutching the chess-like piece of himself.
“— and don't look back.”
Liyue is a beautiful place.
There is a constant saturation of earthly hues in everything present, a feature unique to the place. In a way, it is reflective of its ruler Morax, the Lord of Geo. No doubt the place has been affected by the cataclysm as well, the scorched marks of corruption all over the place and the general death and destruction palpable in the air. The people are in mourning yet they stay strong, struggling to move on much like their Archon.
She sits in a simple abode, nothing too fancy despite it being the private quarters of the Geo Archon. Perhaps due to simpler times or a simple preference, Morax’s home is quiet and humble with few servants and even lesser companions.
“You are quite the storyteller. I was entranced throughout your tale.”
“I wouldn't dare to take any credit. If anything, praise your other self for living such an exciting life.”
Sitting opposite her at the round stone table is Morax. Unlike his usual battle ready appearance, he now looks far more relaxed in his own home, with his long hair falling softly over his shoulders and flowing robes around his body. A pot of refreshing osmanthus tea sits between them, steaming hot and going wonderfully well with the fresh Lotus Flower Crips laid out for her to try.
“This ‘Zhongli’ you mentioned is meant to be me?”
“And he was in love with a human?”
Gold eyes bore into her own, pinning her down with their frightening intensity. Despite that, she doesn't feel perturbed in the slightest. More than confidence in her own power, she is confident in Morax’s character. The Lord of Geo has never been one to strike one down for telling the truth or something unpleasant.
“Tell me then, Traveller. How does the story end?”
“End?” Lumine says, repeating the word in befuddlement. “Was the end I gave you not satisfactory? Through the story I told, I helped you understand the meaning of ‘happiness’. What more is there to say?”
The atmosphere between them turns into something uneasy. Morax’s brows furrow as if struggling to voice something. Watching the Geo Archon with great interest, Lumine takes a sip of her tea, relishing in the light yet fragrant taste.
“Ajax… What choice did he make?”
So the Lord of Geo is interested in such a thing.
“Wouldn't you like to know?”
Lumine smiles, feeling rather amused all of a sudden.
“Well, I won't answer your question directly, but I can tell you I met him in a desolate Liyue ravaged by monsters and fighting. He was all alone when he told me about his life, though he did say he wouldn't go to sleep this time, opting to take responsibility to rebuild humanity and wait patiently for Ajax to return to him through reincarnation.”
She watches Morax intently, hoping for a more telling response about his true feelings on the matter. Unfortunately, Rex Lapis turns out to be much more composed than she can handle, his poker face giving not a hint of his thoughts.
Disappointed, she places her cup down on the table with a soft clink.
“Shall we get on with the next story then?”
Morax doesn't reply for several seconds. Just as Lumine is about to repeat her question, he suddenly speaks up.
Red hot rage.
It burns with an intensity that threatens to consume his entire being, shattering rational thoughts and forcing him to act on emotions alone.
Anger is not an emotion that Zhongli is accustomed to feeling.
In general, Zhongli likes to pride himself for largely being calm and composed, appearing all mighty and wise to his subjects. The few instances he remembers feeling anything close to what he feels now consists of that one time he sent Guizhong’s killer to his death, the senseless killing of innocent citizens due to war and how Retuo had been set up and driven to madness.
Zhongli is a rather mild tempered individual. He rules with a firm yet reasonable hand, something that allowed him to be the most beloved emperor of Liyue to date.
These days, however, it is becoming more difficult to put up such a strong front.
He might be loved by the people but even that cannot fix what is already broken. Long before Zhongli ascended to the throne, Liyue had already been struggling. Decades of terrible, tyrannical past rulers have led to its current dysfunctional state. As it is, Liyue is struggling to hold itself as a country. Forget outside interference and threats of invasion from foreign countries, even if no one is to interfere, Liyue is likely to just collapse all on its own.
Liyue is in a bad shape and the whole of Teyvat knows that.
That is why he needed to take a gamble.
Out of all the other nations he could turn to, Sneznahya had been the only one willing to help. Mondstadt was currently locked in a civil war of their own, their ruler Venti way too preoccupied to help his friend.
It was a gamble he had taken and lost.
Things had seemed decent at first. Food and aid had been sent their way with many of their people flocking over to set up embassies and other business. Zhongli even got to know one of their ambassadors pretty well, sharing food and drink over witty banter about the state of the country.
Childe was a delight to know. The ideas he brought were fresh and insightful, not to mention how he managed to stay respectful of Liyue’s culture at the same time. He seemed eager to learn more about not just Zhongli’s country, but also himself, something that had touched him unexpectedly.
Zhongli had prayed that things would stay this way for just a while longer while he consolidated enough power for Liyue to stand on her own feet. It always felt like there was a loosely tied noose around his neck, tightening with every passing day. Relying on another country was never a good idea, not when they had nothing much to offer in return.
He had practically invited wolves into his home.
However, not all hope is lost. Having long expected something to go awry during their treaty with the other country, Zhongli had prepared multiple contingency plans. It involves great patience and sacrifice in the process, but would ultimately ensure the legacy of Liyue would live on no matter who was to take over.
The sudden betrayal and take over of the royal palace does not come as a surprise. What does shock him instead is the person who leads the charge.
They greet each other stiffly using titles rather than names like usual. There is no hint of previous friendliness to be found. While Zhongli grips the sides of his throne harshly, Childe looks at ease, almost bored in contrast.
The once orderly central hall is now a mass of overturned tables and chairs, the red carpet soaked in blood from the various slain guards. The few surviving people are all restrained and forced to kneel on the ground, the Fatui, the elite army of Snezhnaya, holding them at swordpoint.
Zhongli does his best to tune out the gory sight of the dead, many familiar faces littering the pile of corpses.
“Of all the things I prepared myself for, your betrayal was not one of them.”
The Snezhnayian ambassador remains mum.
“I must applaud your acting then. To think you managed to fool us all for all these months. To think we welcomed you with open arms. To think I ever regarded you as a friend .”
His declaration seems to stir up something in Childe. The indifferent expression on his face wavers for a second before settling back down.
When one begins to hope, disappointment is imminent. It is an instinctual response to do so perhaps, to help tide you through with something to look forward to in life. Hope is a beautiful thing. It is also a fool's errand. How long has it been since he vowed to manage himself properly, managing his expectations reasonably to never be let down again?
Zhongli had hoped for too much. Zhongli had longed for too much.
… He just wanted a friend who could understand him.
The royal palace is strife with power struggles and infighting. Betrayal is practically an everyday occurrence. Zhongli too has experienced them countless times, but none had hit quite as hard as this one.
Staring into those pools of blue, Zhongli finds himself entranced and unable to look away from Childe even as he approaches where he sits. His mouth parts slightly, lips trembling as though he wants to say something. That is enough to send his heart aflutter, stupid, pathetic hope clawing its way back to the surface from where he had viciously buried it before. Loathe as he is to admit, the matters of the heart is something few have ever mastered.
Zhongli is not one of them.
“Well done Tartaglia.”
All heads in the central hall snap to stare at the new arrival.
“Now just deal the finishing blow and we can leave to report our success back to the Tsaritsa.” The tall woman saunters her way into the room, her long dress trailing behind her. “You don't need me to remind you again how you’re supposed to crush him for good, right?”
Heedless of the severed head in her path, the Eighth Harbinger of the Fatui simply kicks it out of her way, turning her nose up at the bloodstains scattered around. Somehow she manages to navigate her way further in without getting a single splotch of red on her white dress. Tossing her platinum blonde hair over her shoulder, Signora taps her foot on the ground, staring at Childe impatiently.
A finishing blow? Zhongli reels in the urge to laugh hollowly, wondering just what more the Fatui can do to his ruined country. They have already killed so many and thrashed the palace. Is there even anything left for them to desecrate?
However, the atmosphere makes him uncomfortable. It feels as if all the Fatui soldiers are staring at him for some reason. In their fervent gazes is an unsettling emotion he can't quite place. It is one that makes him want to back away unconsciously, an involuntary shudder running down his spine.
“Tartaglia, have you gone senile? Why are you just standing there?”
The shrill sound of Signora’s voice reminds him of Childe’s existence. Like she complained, Childe has yet to make a move beyond standing in front of him this whole time. He didn't even take part in the massacre, opting to stand guard over Zhongli at his throne, preventing his escape, rather than dirtying his hands.
“Signora,” Childe suddenly says. “Don’t you have things to do? Take our men and go. It will be far more efficient for me to handle this alone while you go carry out the rest of her majesty’s orders.”
“Don't be silly. What's the point of doing it if there's not one to witness Morax’s fall?” Signora refutes him at once, spreading her arms to gesture to all the other people in the room. “Just look at this wonderful audience we have here right now! Morax’s pride will never recover from this.”
From their exchange, Zhongli has an inkling of what the Fatui have planned for him. It has to be something devastating to him and his country, something that would cripple him as implied. Something like death is too quick and permanent. While a lasting injury seems plausible, Signora’s words seem to imply a more psychological approach. And considering the person who is to deal out the blow, it all makes perfect sense.
Dear, sweet Ajax, so charming and inquisitive, soaking up every single bit of information Zhongli told him about Liyue. From their traditions to their culture and the significance of everything in this very room… Ajax knows them all. He knows the importance of the central hall, the sanctity of The Dragon Throne and how revered Zhongli is.
Zhongli is the Son of Heavens, having received divine protection from the heavens themselves. Dragons are his symbol of power and he is elevated to a near deity-like position by the common folk.
There is no Ajax now, only Childe, the Eleventh Harbinger of the Fatui, foreign ambassador from Sneznahya and the betrayer of Zhongli’s trust. He takes a step closer to Zhongli who is stuck sitting on his throne, muscles tensed in anticipation and back ramrod straight.
A hand is placed gently on his lap, sliding down as it caresses his inner thigh.
Amber eyes slip shut, a shaky breath leaving his lips.
So this was what they meant.
Zhongli is no stranger to betrayal. It is something impossible to be for anyone embroiled so deeply within court affairs and the daily power struggles happening under his nose. Families fight for dominance over one another as fiercely as the soldiers fight on the battlefield. Shocking scandals are revealed on a daily basis and dying from poison by a spouse or child is not uncommon.
He, too, has suffered his fair share of back stabbings. The only difference is none of them had ever affected him quite like this before. His feelings are usually limited to resignation and mild disappointment, having been prepared for them. When it comes to Childe, however, the sheer intensity of emotions that bubble up within him form a chaotic mix, with the most prominent of them all being anger.
He feels anger at Childe for the betrayal, anger at the current circumstances that led him to this state. But most importantly, he feels anger at himself for falling for the charming diplomat, allowing him into his heart and actually treating him like a friend.
Zhongli's eyes open slowly. He looks up at Childe daringly, staring defiantly at the other. In the face of such a wretched fate, he refuses to back down. He has no other choice but to sit here obediently and take the defilement, lest the Harbinger issues a causal order for his men to slaughter whoever is left.
Childe refuses to meet his eyes, looking anywhere but his face even as he starts to pull off Zhongli's golden robes. Gritting his teeth in indignation and barely suppressed rage, Zhongli resists the urge to simply bat Childe’s hands away. The air is cool on his skin, shocking him as his usually covered body is exposed for the first time.
Suddenly, Childe stops, a look of pensive concentration painting his face.
“The Liyuean guards at the border have yet to be informed of the takeover. You should go tell them of their emperor’s capture unless you want a full blown war to erupt once they notice our presence.”
“What?” the other Harbinger says, eyes widening in disbelief. “Weren’t you supposed to have taken care of that?”
“I forgot,” Childe answers flippantly. “Besides, their northern army is led by general Xiao who can't stand the sight of me. Why would I want to torture myself by visiting that brat and hearing him whine about how disrespectful I’m being to his beloved emperor?”
“Yes, yes, her majesty is going to be hearing of this oversight. But you better get going if you don't want trouble for us in the future.”
The rapid changing of emotions on Signora’s face would have been hilarious if not for the situation he is in now. Understanding the gravity of Childe’s words, she walks towards the wooden doors in preparation to leave, not before sneering nastily at her fellow Harbinger.
“You better do as you said you would. After all, you’re the one who insisted on this being a better alternative than just outright beheading Morax.” Then she stops abruptly in his tracks. “Or did you suddenly grow a conscience or something? Regretting your bold proposition and trying to protect him instead? It's not too late to just slit his throat now you know.”
Ah. For some reason, the knowledge that Childe is the one who suggested it makes his stomach clench painfully, something ugly working its way up his throat nauseatingly.
“Don't be ridiculous.”
Without warning, Zhongli is slammed backwards, head smacking against the metal throne so hard he momentarily sees stars. The top half of his robes are pulled off his shoulders, his sash coming loose as Childe struggles with the many layers of fabric. Zhongli puts up resistance instinctively only for a leg to be slammed between his thighs, forcing them open as his crown is yanked from his head. It goes skidding across the room as Childe flings it away, the many beads from its tassels clicking noisily against the ground.
“Isn’t he quite the sight like this, all dishevelled and roughed up? A far cry from the mighty emperor the people in Liyue pray to, eh?”
Childe yanks him forward, making him fall onto his hands and knees for the world to see. Zhongli can imagine what he looks like now. With his hair hanging free over his bare shoulders, clothes mostly undone and barely covering his bare form, he probably looks like a common whore practically begging a man to come and ravish.
“Go have your fun.” She makes eye contact with Zhongli and laughs mockingly. “Oh, and be sure to let your men have a turn at him too. After all, sharing is caring.”
With those final parting words, she steps over the wooden threshold, bringing around half of the Fatui with her. The wooden doors close with a bang, slamming shut ominously.
“Get on with it then.” Zhongli spits out at Childe.
“Do what you must, Fatui. ”
Since Childe has stopped touching him for some reason, Zhongli decides to take matters into his own hands, relishing this little bit of control he has left. He crawls back to the throne and undresses, allowing his robes to pool around him like a puddle of liquid gold. Taking in a shuddering breath, he sits with as much composure as he can muster even while wrecked with burning shame and an undercurrent of fear.
The thought of so many watching as he is about to be taken chills him to the bone. Even worse is who those people are. The leering gazes of Childe’s men bore into his soul while his retainers and other officials are as still as rocks, heads bowed and eyes averted out of respect. They probably can guess what is about to happen to their leader and are merely pretending to be blind. Whether it is done for their own peace of mind or to spare what little dignity he has left is an answer he doesn't need.
Now that’s come to this point, what else is there to say? Zhongli straightens his spine, trying to appear composed despite his desire to curl up into a ball away from his harrowing fate. He desperately wishes Childe would stop calling his name in such a soft voice, stop looking at him with that concerned gaze, stop…
“Stop it. Stop pretending you care. Just… stop.”
Why must he be so cruel to give him hope only to smash it into the ground, grinding it into the dust along with his heart? Frustrated at his lack of control, he grabs Childe’s arm, pressing his palm onto his chest.
“Just get over with it, you coward. Didn't you want this?”
Despite the situation, he finds it within himself to chide the other mockingly. Spotting the hilt of a dagger hanging from Childe’s belt, he draws the short blade, causing a reaction from the Fatui soldiers all at once.
“Or if you can't do it, why not just end me right now?'' He makes Childe hold the blade with him, bringing it up to his neck where his throat bobs as he speaks. “You already have so much blood on your hands. What difference will one more make?”
Finally, Childe designs to respond to his one-sided conversation.
“I’m so sorry Zhongli. It was the only alternative I could think of.”
The Harbinger pries the dagger from their shared hold and sheaths it back into place. He gently arranges Zhongli such that he is lying half sprawled on his throne, legs spread wide and hanging over the armrests of the chair. The mortifying position makes him fight Childe valiantly, trying to keep his legs shut to preserve what pitiful remains of his modesty are left.
An errant kick lands, delivering a hefty blow on Childe’s chest. Zhongli freezes up at once, terrified of the consequences. His surviving retainers are one step away from having their heads separated from their necks. Would this be the tipping point to cause the Harbinger to issue the order?
Much to his disbelief, instead of physical harm or even harsh words, all Zhongli gets is some quiet soothing as Childe strokes his cheeks and rubs his sides. Then he is pulling down his pants, revealing his cock which is surprisingly still flaccid.
Averting his eyes, Zhongli refuses to acknowledge the fact that Childe is currently jerking himself off in front of him. It is hard to do so, however, due to their close proximity and Childe’s increasingly heavy breathing. All too soon, the sound of Childe's masturbation takes on a distinctively wet quality, signalling his impending doom.
The intensity of his growing mortification and shame is so great he can feel his body shaking. His heart beats irregularly, breath catching in his chest as he craves and stares at Childe, watching as he spits into his hand, coating his fingers liberally with saliva. Knowing where those fingers will eventually go, Zhongli can't help but track their movements with growing dread.
The shock of those fingers touching his rear nearly makes Zhongli jump off the throne. Even if he really did so, with Childe currently caging him in with his body, it wouldn't have amounted to much anyway. Being restrained both physically and through the threat hanging over his people, Zhongli is truly cornered like an animal with no way out. He may bare his teeth and growl menacingly, but in the end, he is all bark and no bite. Childe would simply pat his head condescendingly before proceeding with his ways regardless.
At least there isn't any pain for now. Thanks to the sticky mixture of precum and spit, the slide of Childe’s fingers into him is relatively smooth. Still, the sensation is highly unnerving, making him want to hurl every time they shift inside him.
This bit of respite doesn't last too long. All too soon, Childe is feeding in more fingers into his ass, scissoring them open and stretching him open wide enough that the discomfort now verges into pain.
“Try to relax. Don't make this harder for either of us.”
That's easier said than done when Zhongli’s inexperienced body is rightfully fighting the intrusion every step of the way. It takes all his self control to forcefully kill his instincts, trying to relax as much as he can to allow Childe to do his thing.
“Pardon my inexperience. It’s not like I had any opportunity to practice before,” Zhongli gnashes his teeth, biting the words out through his turbulent feelings.
He hears Childe take a sharp inhale.
“I’m… I’m so sorry.”
“Forget it. Your apologies are meaningless.”
Something akin to sorrow flashes across Childe’s face. The sight only makes Zhongli grow angrier. Who is he to be feeling sorry in this situation? Be it for himself or Zhongli, the nerve of that man—!
“I’m going to put it in, alright?”
“Wait!” Zhongli cries out on reflex, heart trembling at the thought of what is about to happen to him.
“Zhongli, I can’t delay much longer. I already spent too long preparing you. They’re going to get suspicious.”
Of course. This is not meant to be an enjoyable act between two lovers or even strangers who simply wish to partake in the pleasures of the flesh. This is meant to be a statement, a power move, an assertion of dominance over the losing party. This is about his humiliation and his downfall.
Upon hearing his words, Childe presses the tip of his dick against Zhongli, causing his breath to hitch at the touch of hot flesh. The… thing hasn’t even entered him yet and already it feels like a heated lump of iron, glowing hot and ready to brand his skin permanently. Then it begins to push in and all rational thought flees him.
Zhongli panics, plain and simple. He tenses up, thrashing violently as a hand grabs him to hold him down. It crushes his wrist painfully, making him moan in pain as he bucks his body, trying to throw Childe off him.
“Zhongli!” Childe whispers harshly into his ear. “Stop moving! I don’t want to hurt you!”
The threat of bodily harm cuts through the hysteria somewhat, allowing a trickle of rational thought to get through. Although he manages to still himself, for the most part, Zhongli fails to relax his body in time when the dick finally breaches him.
Zhongli knows nothing but pain.
He screams silently, mouth opening but no sound coming out. Back arched off his throne, the overwhelming agony stuns him long enough that Childe manages to push into him fully by the time he regains control of his body.
“Zhongli… are you alright?”
He doesn’t answer, face still scrunched up in pain as he struggles to breathe. Once his red tinged vision finally clears somewhat, he musters the courage to look down. Hesitantly, his eyes first notice how his legs are spread wide open like a common whore. Next is his own soft cock lying in the messy pile of cloth from his hastily removed robe. The final thing is the sight of Childe’s groin pressed against his ass, his considerable length already lodged deep inside him. There is a small trickle of blood running down the cheeks of his backside, soiling his once pristine outfit.
At once, the stabbing pain emanating from the base of his spine registers. His bowels convulse in agony as they are forcefully pried open by something far too large. Nausea surges through him in a powerful wave, making Zhongli want to retch on the spot.
If this is his wretched state when Childe has yet to move, Zhongli doesn’t dare to imagine how it will be like once he does.
But eventually, things must continue. Childe gives him a minute or so to adjust to his new reality of being impaled by his cock before gently rocking his hips in and out.
No amount of preparation could have prepared him for this. The stretch is simply unbearable, and each time Childe pulls out only to slam back in feels like a blunt knife being stabbed into his gut. What feels like coarse sand rubbing against his insides eventually becomes a much smoother slide. The sensation perplexes him until he looks down once more and realises how Childe’s dick is now covered in blood.
Sickened to the core, Zhongli closes his eyes, fighting to hold back the vomit that he can feel rising up the back of his throat.
An endless torment. Zhongli feels small, so, so small as he clutches at his discarded robes, hugging them to himself as Childe continues to thrust into him. The grip on his hips feels like they are burning a mark of ownership onto his skin. He wouldn’t be surprised if he found actual branding on his skin once Childe removes his hands.
He had once broken his ribs in a fall from his horse when they were out riding. The sensation of breathlessness and sheer agony tearing him apart is quite similar to his situation now. Every breath never feels like enough. Zhongli can’t seem to draw in enough air and even when he does, it gets punched out of him every time Childe’s dick forces its way back inside.
For some reason, Childe suddenly decides to speak, a decision Zhongli is secretly grateful for as it helps the fill the awful silence of the Central Hall where only the obscene sound of slapping flesh can be heard.
“I had no choice. My family lives back in Snezhnaya, constantly under surveillance to ensure I never betray the Tsaritsa,” he begins quietly. “As Signora said, it was either kill you outright or come up with another equally crippling solution.”
“And so, you chose to rape me.”
Childe winces at the word.
“Believe me, I get no pleasure out of doing this either.” Perhaps out of guilt, he tries to hold Zhongli’s hand only to be met with harsh rejection. “I told her Majesty I wanted you as a spoil of war for myself. Who would have known she would demand I ‘break you in’ through any means possible before agreeing to my request?”
He hears what sounds like a wistful sigh from Childe.
“I imagined our first time to be more… tame. Maybe out in the glaze lily gardens in the dark at most since you like them so much.”
Their first time. Had Childe dreamed of laying with Zhongli back then just like he did?
Zhongli dispels the thoughts before they can fully realise, the pain they bring him now being too painful to bear.
Just when he thinks things can't possibly get worse, Childe speaks up, informing him about how wrong he is.
“They can't see you like this,” he says while thrusting wetly against him. “I'm currently blocking their view with my body.”
“In order to legitimise my claim over you, they will have to see something more explicit eventually.”
Zhongli craves and begs. He can't stand the thought of being further exposed. As it stands, he is barely surviving the humiliation. Any more and he would really die for good, losing his mind from the sheer pressure and trauma of the situation.
“Please… I don't, I don't want to…”
Childe’s expression looks pained.
“A compromise then.”
Before Zhongli can say anything else, he finds himself being dragged around as easily as a rag doll. The whole time, Childe’s dick remains lodged in his ass as he is lifted and spun around. The next thing he knows, Childe is one now sitting on his throne while Zhongli is seated in his lap, legs twitching from pain and dangling awkwardly in the air as he is placed facing their audience.
In this new position, the dick inside him seems to reach even deeper than before. It forces a whimper out of him as he trembles around it, feeling as more blood dribbles out. Then once he grows accustomed to the pain, realisation kicks him. Zhongli’s eyes grow wide as mortification sets in.
All eyes in the room are on his debauched form. They range from lusty looks of arousal to timid gazes from his officials and retainers, dragged up and forced to watch him by the Fatui.
He wants to die.
He needs to die .
Zhongli moves fast, hand darting out to reach for Childe’s dagger. His mind is set; his resolve is steady. He would end his miserable existence rather than experience this humiliation.
But he is too slow. Childe is one step ahead of him even in this. His wrist is grabbed and held in place. No matter how hard he struggles, Childe is somehow still stronger, refusing to budge even an inch.
Tears of frustration gather in his eyes. Zhongli wants to scream, shout, beat Childe and everyone else who wronged him to the ground. But most of all, Zhongli just doesn’t want to be here in this pathetic body that’s ruined beyond all hope, his shame exposed to the world and brought down so low. He wants to curl up into a tiny ball and be left all alone, never to be disturbed ever again.
“Zhongli, look at me.”
Calloused hands are turning him around such that he is facing Childe’s face and pressed into his broad chest.
“This… isn’t as bad now, is it?”
Childe pulls Zhongli close to himself, thrusting upwards slowly.
“I know it’s not the best but at least they can’t see your face anymore now.”
It’s true. All that’s visible of himself is his back, robes hanging loosely off his frame and his long, brown hair that spills down his back. Still, that doesn’t change the fact that they can clearly see Childe’s cock slamming into him over and over even as more blood dribbles out.
Whether because he has already hit rock bottom, or the emotional strain has completely shut down his higher functions, Zhongli’s mind starts to wander off. He grows numb to the pain stemming from his ass, only giving the occasional wince when Childe makes a particularly harsh thrust. The gazes from others fail to matter as he stares blankly at the dragon motif on his throne.
Either way, he is simply helpless in this situation. He can’t stop this neither can he kill himself. Zhongli has no agency over himself and in a way, it is strangely liberating. He can just shut down and pretend he doesn’t exist, allowing himself to be used as pleased. Yes, the emotional shock and recoil will come back with a vengeance later, but Zhongli simply can’t bring himself to care at this point.
And if he is crazy enough to fantasise, he can imagine he is making sweet love with his lover, his dear Ajax in a sea of glaze lilies that bloom in the night.
He can tell Childe is staring intently at his face. Zhongli couldn’t care less, though it does make him wonder what sort of expression he is making. He half expects Childe to start talking again, maybe to apologise again or make more excuses for himself. Instead, Childe merely continues fucking him, moving his hips while keeping a tight grip on his waist.
All things, whether good or bad, will come to an eventual end. His defilement is no different, with the harsh pants Childe makes and the stuttering of his hips tipping him off. It takes a few more powerful strokes before the ambassador finally stills, dick throbbing within Zhongli as he feels liquid heat spray deep inside him. In response, Zhongli claws at Childe’s shoulders, digging his nails into flesh through the fabric of his clothes. Childe’s face twists but he doesn’t say anything.
With agonising slowness, Childe lifts him slowly as his spent dick slips out from his hole. Zhongli’s entire lower half is alight with pain rendering him completely paralyzed for the moment. Even the slightest twitch of his legs sends pain rocketing through him, nearly making him collapse onto the ground as he tries to push himself away. Thankfully, Childe catches him in time, saving him from disgracing himself further.
The realisation slams into him with all the force of a landslide. The emotions that bubble forth now that his ordeal is over are too convoluted to make out, leaving Zhongli in a sort of odd limbo where he feels too much and too little at the same time.
Distantly, he can tell Childe is fussing over him, placing him back on his throne and gathering his clothes that are scattered all around. Zhongli can only sit there slumped over in a daze as his empty eyes track the Harbinger’s movements.
“You should have just killed me.”
He speaks the first words that come to mind, not really understanding why he bothers to say them in the first place.
“My reputation is ruined for good. You expect me to be able to face anyone now that I’ve been defiled by the enemy, essentially reduced to being someone’s woman?”
His words might sound emotional, but Zhongli currently feels nothing but blank emptiness. He hates the feeling, hates how it makes him lose the desire to carry on and live.
Zhongli is the emperor of Liyue. He has a duty to serve the people and make the place better for them all. No matter what, he needs to live through this to fix their country that is now ever more fragmented than before.
He misses the powerful anger he had felt earlier. It might not be the healthiest of emotions, but anything is better than this hollow void that threatens to swallow him whole.
“You underestimate your people’s love for you. Death is permanent. While this… harrowing experience will no doubt haunt you for a long time, it is something you can overcome with time. The most important thing is staying alive. As long as you live, you can eventually set things right.”
“And you’re no mere woman. You’re the great emperor of Liyue”—Childe wipes the beginning of a tear from the corner of Zhongli’s eyes—“and the person I love.”
“So, live, Zhongli. Live, struggle and grow. Breed your resentment against me, against Sneznahya, against the heavens for allowing this to happen.”
Before he can even answer, Zhongli finds himself being lifted by the other’s arms. Still too drained from a combination of their activities and his emotions, there is little he can do to resist. His legs feel like jelly and his arms are practically boneless, cradled awkwardly into his chest. The constant throbbing pain in his lower half takes up half his attention while the rest is divided between all the lecherous gazes on him and how close he is to Childe.
At least the Harbinger had the decency to cover him haphazardly with his own soiled robes, providing some sort of protection against his overly eager subordinates.
As Childe begins to carry him out of the central hall to somewhere else, he is stopped in place by several of his men.
“Sir.” One of them salutes him out of respect. “When will we be getting our turn?”
The question sends chills running down Zhongli’s spine. His body tenses up at once, fight or flight instincts kicking in as he recalls the absolute agony of penetration from earlier. It had been just Childe earlier, someone who he knew to an extent and had been extremely considerate of him given the circumstances, and he was already barely hanging onto his self worth and sanity. If Childe were to really throw him to his men…
Tremors begin to wreck his body uncontrollably. Desperately, he digs his nails harshly into his own flesh, willing his body to stay still and not show any sign of weakness.
“Oh, next time perhaps,” Childe says to them in a rather pleasant manner as though they are merely discussing the weather. “I’m not quite done with him yet and since I’ve done my job in this mission for now, I was thinking of finding a nice and snug little location to enjoy him more.”
Suddenly, a wave of drowsiness strikes him. Zhongli feels his eyes grow heavy, sleep threatening to overtake him at any moment. It's ridiculous considering he barely did anything today. Not to mention how dangerous it is to leave himself so vulnerable to his enemy.
But Zhongli finds himself unable to care. He couldn't care less about what more Childe plans to do to him, be it bringing him back to his room to rape him again or to torture him, gloating about his glorious downfall.
He is just so tired.
“... Whatever it is, for better or for worse, we’ll be in this together in the future.”
Those are the last words he hears before slipping into unconsciousness.
Unlike the first story she told, this one appears to have a stronger effect on Morax, maybe due to the nature of the scene she described. After all, whether to yourself or someone else, hearing the gruesome details of such a sordid act would never be a pleasant thing.
“It's a pity.”
“It’s a pity things had to end up that way.”
There is a look of deep contemplation reflected in Morax’s golden eyes, looking off into the distance.
“From what you implied, they had been getting along so well too. Unfortunately, circumstances beyond their control resulted in their falling out.”
“Is that what you got out of it?”
Morax blinks slowly.
“The human known as Tartaglia betrayed the emperor Rex Lapis, causing his downfall before defiling him on his throne. That can hardly be considered a humane act.” He rests his head on long fingers, expression troubled. “If not a cause for a breakdown of their relationship, how else should it be interpreted?”
Therein lies the problem. Morax is taking the tale a little too much at face value and fails to see the nuance in the character’s words and actions. Their true intentions are lost on him and he doesn't understand the complexities of the human heart.
“This Zhongli was level-headed and wise, choosing not to act on impulse despite his raging emotions. What Tartaglia did was horrible, but he had his reasons for doing so as well,” Lumine says, taking great heed in choosing her words wisely given the sensitivity of the matter. “You underestimate a human’s capacity for empathy and forgiveness. Zhongli managed to pull himself together after that, working together with Tartaglia to gather their forces in secret. It might have been difficult to face the man that did such a terrible thing to him at first, but he managed it in the end.”
“They maintained a good relationship after that?”
The shock is evident on Morax’s face.
“More than good actually. Eventually, after Tartaglia usurped the throne and became king of his country, he issued an official decree to Rex Lapis, who had since regained control of his own country, asking for his hand in marriage.”
Lumine smiles at the fond memory, remembering how happy the two of them had looked as they welcomed her into their summer palace brimming with exotic foliage and animals. Against the backdrop of sunlight streaming through a swaying willow tree, they had looked like the epitome of peace snuggled against each other.
“Rex Lapis channeled his anger into defending his country and setting things right instead of taking it out on the person who loved him most. When used correctly, it can be a powerful emotion that drives one to accomplish a great many feats. Other times, it can be the downfall of many, morphing into a blind desire for vengeance.”
“He was wise then,” Morax begins in a soft voice. “Did they…”
He looks uncertain for a moment, pursing his lips as his arms come to rest elegantly on his lap.
“Did the other me accept?”
Having learnt from the first story, Lumine is less caught off guard by Morax’s curiosity regarding this.
She gives a half chuckle, “Oh he accepted alright, very readily in fact.”
Staring at Morax’s face that has settled back into a look of calm indifference again, Lumine feels irritation rise up within her. After going through all the effort of telling him such a touching tale of enemies to lovers, public humiliation, dead dovey dubcon stuff and that is all the reaction she is getting?!
“Oh, and apparently once things settled down, they ended up doing it again on the throne.”
“They fucked on The Dragon Throne.” Lumine drags out each word slowly, enunciating them with agonising slowness. “Went at it for hours too apparently. Who would have known that unfortunate event would unlock such a kink in them?”
Now she is just confusing Morax more than ever, evident from his furrowed brows and the lost look in his eyes. She drinks it in gleefully, proud to be able to get the stone-faced Morax to do more than just sitting there and looking pretty.
It also gives her newfound respect for a certain Anemo Archon who has apparently mastered the art of getting on Morax’s nerves.
“That’s not important— No actually, it’ll appear quite a bit in my last story. I’ll be sure to explain it to you then.”
Although Morax looks unsatisfied with her answer, he doesn't press her further, the knowledge of receiving an explanation in the future probably appeases him somewhat. Deciding not to push her luck any further, Lumine begins to recall her next story.
“So for the next story…”
“I miss you.”
The tides wash in and out, bringing with it his love.
Gentle rays from the sun shine down on him from above, dying the sea a lovely russet red. It fails to shake the persistent chill wrecking his body. The lack of life doesn't help. In this ungodly hour of the morning, where the sky is still mostly dark, it would be surprising to bump into anyone.
The beach is lonely and cold, dry sand tickling his bare feet, slipping past his toes. The thick scent of salt hangs in the air, the wispy winds blowing it through his hair. Holding his shoes in one hand, Zhongli steps forward until he reaches a familiar rock. Loose sand gradually turns wet, clinging to his feet in uncomfortable clumps.
“I miss you, Ajax.”
A seagull cries out in the distance. Several circle around overhead, searching for food or a place to land.
“When will I get to see you again?”
He receives no answer.
A particularly harsh gale rushes past, ruffling his hair and sending his clothes billowing. Leaves from a nearby coconut tree rustle noisily. A small crab scuttles out of its hole. Waves lap at the shore gently. Something hits the water in the distance, making a loud splash.
Even the beautiful scenery of the morning seaside doesn't alleviate the sorrow in his heart.
He waits at the seashore till the sun grows stronger. People come and go. More seagulls cry, accompanied by the boisterous laughter of children and lovers alike. When the sun becomes too hot to bear, Zhongli takes cover under the large rock he has been waiting by. A little hermit crab bumps into his foot, scuttling around in search of a shell.
He ignores it.
The sun is beginning to set, families packing up their mats and beach chairs as they prepare to leave. For once, no one comes to bother him during his solitary watch, staring out into the sea like a man possessed. It gladdens him, the thought of having to explain himself too awkward to bear. The hermit crab from earlier is still searching for a new home, running across the beach and back.
Zhongli takes pity on the poor thing, dropping a shell lodged up high on some rocks well in front of it. The ungrateful creature merely gives it a single prod before scampering off.
The sun sets. People leave the beach. The wildlife return to their homes to take shelter for the night.
Yet Zhongli alone remains.
He waits and waits and waits.
Darkness falls, all encompassing and thick enough that he can barely see his hands in front of him. The street lamps by the sea are faulty, making his trek back up the beach twice as difficult.
It's time to leave.
Zhongli leaves the beach, tripping over a sandcastle someone constructed during the day. It is a silent, cold walk back to his apartment not too far away. The absence of his lover makes the days and nights stretch on forever.
Reluctantly, he takes one last look at the sea.
Ajax didn't appear again today.
Zhongli arrives home to an empty apartment, void of warmth and colour. He pulls off his sandy shoes, placing them on the shoe rack by the door. Aimlessly, he hums a soft tune to himself. The notes are random and without much rhythm.
A quick shower and dinner later and Zhongli finds himself lying on his bed, an echoing conch shell by his side. Ajax would always tell him how echoing shells are special, holding an inherent power of their own. They are mostly found on the misty shores of far off islands, too precarious for mortals to reach. Lying on those beaches imbued with Hyrdo energy transforms them from normal shells to suitable vessels to contain a seafolk’s voice.
Typically used as tools to convey messages for official matters, Ajax abuses them for his own pleasure. Besides, he had claimed, he is a celebrated warrior of his homeland. Hogging a few more shells to whisper sweet messages into shouldn't be too much of an issue.
And oh does he use them indeed. Zhongli might only have one by his side right now, but he actually has a whole box full of them in his closet, each containing a different song or message. Ajax is a surprisingly clumsy singer despite being a merman, which would lead one to assume a natural proficiency in the art. Despite that, Zhongli still listens to his song, drinking in every note and tone like it is the most wonderful thing in the world.
Because it is.
Zhongli wraps his blankets around himself and presses the echoing conch to his ear. A soft melody, starting off rather strained and hesitant begins to play. His eyes slip shut as he begins to hum along as well, having long memorised the tune.
It is not just this shell. He has listened to them all enough that he can recount what each and every one of them plays.
Such is his loneliness; such is his pain.
The next day arrives without much fanfare.
Zhongli wakes like usual, prepares to go to work like usual. He brushes his teeth, eats his breakfast, dresses up nicely and takes the bus down several streets to reach the library he works at. It is all very mundane, mind numbingly so in fact.
Before, he had been content with his life, this routine that barely changed at all. He doesn't even remember how long he has stuck to it for.
It must have been years since they left him. Either way, the repetition helps ground him and with that comes the numbness that makes it easier to forget. In fact, he takes to it so easily that it's almost as though he was born into the world, simply programmed to follow such a fixed lifestyle where nothing progresses and nothing differs.
At least, that had been the case until he went down to the beach one day and met a certain someone.
It would be accurate to say that Zhongli is a solitary person. It is a conscious choice on his part, rather than having been isolated through circumstances. He enjoys his time alone and thrives off it. There might have been a time where he found happiness in the company of others, but that time has long since passed.
That day had been unremarkable. Whether it was a whim or something else that called out to him, Zhongli couldn't be sure. All he knows is that he brought his sketchbook down to the shore, a recent hobby he had just picked up, and decided he could use some real life spots of nature for inspiration.
Zhongli certainly did find some inspiration that day, though not the kind he thought he would get.
Can he be blamed for being surprised to see a merman sitting by the rocks in the wee hours of the morning? Nothing about his life so far had ever suggested that the supernatural existed in Teyvat till this day.
And so he had sketched the beautiful creature, pouring his soul into that work. Afterwards, when he was done, something unexplainable had possessed him to walk up to the mermaid and show him his art.
Past the initial shock and trepidation upon realising he had been spotted by a human, the merman had accepted the sketchbook from Zhongli, curiously wondering what was within.
Zhongli still remembers the first thing Ajax ever said to him.
“You’re… not very good at this, are you?”
Their relationship processes comfortably from there. Despite being a mythical creature, one that would probably be captured by scientists to be dissected and studied, Ajax remains unfazed in returning to meet up with Zhongli. He in turn doesn't tell anyone else about the encounter. Zhongli isn't interested in progressing mankind or establishing official connections with other species. All he wants to do is spend more time with his precious Ajax.
Had it been a gradual thing, or had Zhongli plunged headfirst into love, freefalling with no pause in sight? He doesn't quite remember the little details that don't matter anymore. Ask him about the days and times he spends with Ajax, however, and that is a different story. He would easily be able to recount the first time they held hands, swam in the ocean together and kissed. He even remembers the most insignificant details, like how the right fins on Ajax’s tail are slightly larger than the left and how he has taken a liking to a particular brand of alcohol.
But alas, much like many other things, happy times are not meant to last. Their meetings become more sparse, first turning to every other day then weeks and eventually even months. Ajax apologises frantically, explaining how abyssal monsters have once again broken out of their prison, leaking into the sea and endangering the whole of Teyvat. As the people living closest to the breach, it fell upon the merfolk to do something about it.
And considering how Ajax is such a highly ranked warrior, there is no doubt that he would be called to join the battle.
Just because Zhongli understands, doesn't mean he can accept it. The yearning inside his chest towards his love makes him feel like a hollow shell. He goes through the motions of living with practised ease, flashing smiles that are off kilter and offering reading advice with no real intent behind it. Every day that he fails to see Ajax just makes the void grow larger. It comes to a point where it is beginning to affect his work. He spaces out randomly when speaking to others, is unable to keep up his smile during conversations, is beginning to withdraw from society more and more…
It’s ridiculous. Zhongli knows he should be better than this. He has always been fine alone before, so why now? Why Ajax? It has only been two months so… why?
The echoing conches aren't enough anymore. He yearns for more of them, more of Ajax’s voice – more of Ajax.
“Are… Are you alright?”
Zhongli looks up from his book. It has been so long since anyone approached him at the librarian’s desk that he almost forgot he is currently working.
“I’m fine.” He plasters a pleasant expression on his face. “Is there something you need from me?”
Oh. It is a face he knows rather well. From their occasional conversations, Zhongli knows that Xiao studies at a nearby school. As for why the young boy comes to this library every day to do his school work without fail instead of using the one within his campus instead, he has no idea. Xiao might have mentioned something about the atmosphere here being a lot more conducive. While it is a frankly ridiculous reason in his opinion, Zhongli is not rude nor nosey enough to dig.
“Um, but you’ve been staring at the same page of your book for over an hour…”
Xiao slaps his hands over his mouth as he realises his blunder.
“It’s just some personal issues I have to sort out.” He smiles kindly at the young man, turning a blind eye to the admission of watching Zhongli for so long. “I must have been thinking so hard about it that I didn't even notice how time flew.”
“Oh,” Xiao says in what sounds like relief. “You know if you ever have issues, I’ll be around to listen, right? Not that I’m trying to pry or anything!”
It’s odd how Xiao always seems to be so confident and even slightly cold when he is with the rest of his friends, and yet when he speaks to Zhongli, all that seems to melt away. The young boy turns into something of a nervous mess, eyes darting away when they make prolonged eye contact and always seeming so eager to please him.
Zhongli studies the young man carefully, making Xiao avert his eyes. A hint of red appears on his cheeks, something Xiao immediately blames on the hot weather today. Experimentally, he places a hand on Xiao’s shoulder in what should be a reassuring gesture. However, the young boy practically jumps at the touch, looking torn between leaning into it and tearing away at the same time.
“I appreciate the concern Xiao, but I’ll be fine.”
His suspicions were always there. Now that he tests Xiao for the first time and is actively looking out for signs, the fact that the young boy has developed some sort of puppy love for him becomes evident.
“Y-you know you can trust me, right? We are friends after all.”
“Friends,” Zhongli repeats the word that leaves a bitter feeling in his mouth. “Of course we are.”
What a joke.
The cordial expression he forces onto his face feels twisted, wrong and yet Xiao never once drops that bright eyed look of adoration, practically bursting with joy at gaining the attention of the person he likes.
Zhongli hates that look, hates what Xiao stands for, hates how he can see himself in the other.
A love that will never be fully reciprocated. A love that you try to hold close yet still flees so far.
“Of course… we are.”
Close to two months have passed.
Zhongli finally saw Ajax again.
The young merman looks as vibrant as ever, smiling at him with the same boyish smile he always greets Zhongli with. His ginger hair is mostly wet and glistens with moisture under the morning sun, signifying his arrival not too long ago. The moment he hears the tell-tale crunch of sand under Zhongli’s shoes, his entire body seems to perk up.
“Zhongli!” Ajax drags himself further up to shore, a feat only possible due to the numerous rock formations blocking him from the view of most. “look what I brought you!”
Zhongli’s returning smile is strained. Ajax never notices as he pushes the bundle of items towards him. Deciding to humour his lover, Zhongli unwraps the finely woven net and shakes out the items within.
Out falls several more echoing conches, a large, shimmering fish scale, several rocks embedded with multicoloured ore within and many other colourful trinkets.
“I know you always wanted to see the shiny rocks I talked about back in my hometown of Morespoke, so I decided to snag a few for you this time! I’m not sure what the rest of the humans will think of it though. Maybe you shouldn’t—”
“Ajax.” He cuts the merman off abruptly. “I missed you.”
Ajax cocks his head and blinks several times.
“I missed you too Zhongli.” Sorting through the pile of items, Ajax fishes out one conch in particular. “Which is why I recorded a special message for you this time!”
He scratches his cheek, appearing a little sheepish as he hands it to Zhongli.
“I know I missed your birthday this year, so I tried my best to sing that ‘happy birthday’ song you sang for me during mine.”
Zhongli accepts the gift, placing the echoing conch to his ear. It starts off soft and shaky but eventually evolves into something more confident. Ajax has clearly improved on his singing in the past two years he has come to know him. More than anything else, however, it is the sheer earnestness in which he sings that stands out the most to Zhongli.
And yet, he isn't moved.
He sets the conch shell down gently.
“Do you like it?”
Bright blue eyes are looking at him expectantly.
Instead, Zhongli answers with another question.
“Ajax.” He looks up at the barely bright sky. “Would you like to come to my place for a few days?”
“Eh?” Ajax pushes himself further out of the water. “Come to your place to stay? So you mean like, going up on land?”
“It won't be as bad as you think,” Zhongli hurries to explain. “I’ll sneak you back in a big tank of water and you can stay in my bathtub. It’s rather huge and definitely has enough space for you to stretch your body.”
“But the war.” Ajax looks incredibly reluctant. “Trust me Zhongli, I’ve been dying to stay with you for a while. If not for the abyssal breach, I would be the one requesting it instead.”
His fists clench, fingers digging into his palm.
“Please, Ajax. Just for a few days,” he begs, praying that his haggard appearance and wet eyes would be enough to convince Ajax. “I felt so empty waiting for you on the beach every day. Sometimes I worry you might never return. I fear the worst. It visits me in my dreams. The nightmares are endless.”
The first of many tears splash onto the craggy rocks.
“I-I…” A pathetic sounding sob leaves his mouth. “I have no one else left.”
Perhaps for the first time, Ajax actually sees Zhongli. He sees his dark eyebags, his pallid skin, sees how unkempt his clothes and hair are as his hands are wrecked with minute tremors. He sees what his absence has done to Zhongli. He sees how Zhongli has fallen apart over and over, never to be fixed and repaired without the company of the one he loves.
Ajax always has a way of viewing Zhongli through rose tinted glasses. But judging from the way his eyes are widened and his mouth slightly agape, he sees reality right now.
“I’m… I’m so sorry. I know it must have been hard on you all this time alone. I didn't think I would be gone for so long. It’s just, the situation on the battlefield is never stable. I want to do my best to send all those monsters back to keep everyone safe. After all, if they get past us, it means they will be free to cause havoc among humanity.”
So all his persuasion has been for nought then. No matter what he says or does, his love will forever be destined to fail. A love he holds so dearly to his heart yet slips out of his grasp every time. Ajax speaks of empty words and lies. Zhongli knows that if he doesn't tie him down to himself now, Ajax too will tire of him and leave one day.
Just as he is about to give up and allow himself to fall into complete despair, the next words Ajax utters revitalise him.
“I suppose a few days off can't hurt though. Besides, it’s not like the troops will fall apart if I’m not there.”
He tugs on a stand of Zhongli’s hair that hangs low over his shoulder, dragging down to meet his lips. The kiss they share is chaste and short lived, more akin to a press of lips than anything else.
“Come to think of it, I’ve barely had any time to myself these past two months! It is about time I took a break.”
Hearing Ajax go on and on about how being a warrior feels like slavery sometimes, forced to work so hard with minimal pay and rest is as endearing as ever. However, it is not the harmless chatter that causes Zhongli to smile his first real smile in the longest time, but the knowledge that Ajax had agreed to come and stay with him.
Smuggling Ajax back to his home turns out to be much easier than he anticipated. With enough planning and money, people are willing to overlook many slightly odd things. The truck driver he hires barely even bats an eye at the large tank of water he loads onto the vehicle let alone speak to him at all, the moment Zhongli tosses him a sufficient amount of hush money.
For the most part, Ajax appears highly excited about the arrangement. Zhongli had always described to him in vivid detail what the human world looks like with all its technology and land animals. He even brought books and pictures to illustrate his point, but nothing ever quite beats seeing the real deal for yourself. His apartment is one such example. They already spend several hours together going through the tiny place despite Zhongli having shown Ajax pictures of it on his phone multiple times. The merman also takes a liking to his bathroom quite readily, seemingly fascinated by the white porcelain and various soap bottles lying about.
The only thing he really complains about would be how strange it feels to be away from the sea, to be a literal fish out of water. Zhongli manages to soothe those worries away for the most part, knowing how disoriented Ajax must be to leave the sea.
It is his home domain after all, where his powers work and his kind thrives. Bringing Ajax up to land is akin to forcing a human to live in the water. Needless to say, the fact that Ajax allows him to take him out of the water speaks volumes about the trust between them. He smiles up at Zhongli from the bathtub, the porcelain tub being a perfect fit for a creature of Ajax’s size. Water spills from the sides of the bathtub whenever he shifts a little. He even uses his tail to fling some at Zhongli whenever he comes to visit, smirking playfully at him.
Zhongli joins Ajax in his game, returning fire with a spray of water from the shower head. The fight that ensues is petty and short lived, drenching the entire place and Zhongli in the process. His water bills might be high for the next month or so but the pearls of laughter that fill the room make it absolutely worth it.
So when Ajax pulls Zhongli close and blows some sparkling bubbles to entertain them with, there is only the faintest trickle of guilt in his heart.
“Zhongli, it’s been five days.”
That is the first thing Zhongli is greeted with when he wakes up to start the day.
“I need to go back. My family is going to worry and my men will—”
“Ajax.” Zhongli sets his bowl of cereal aside. “Surely you can stay for another day or two?”
“But I only told them I would be gone for three days. I need to return to my duties and ensure everything is well and good.”
His expression is troubled, tail swishing absently from time to time. Some water inevitably spills onto the floor, pooling into little puddles.
The very knowledge that Ajax wants to leave sends Zhongli into a mindless panic. Through sheer force of will, he somehow manages to bite back the urge to start screaming accusations and his greatest fears, instead focusing his efforts to try dissuading Ajax instead.
“Please, Ajax. I missed you so much. Can't you grant me just this? Just stay for a while longer”—he rushes up to his lover, gripping his hands tightly as he falls to his knees—“please?”
Water from the damp bathroom floor soaks into his pants. His knees are beginning to sting now from how hard he slammed down on them earlier. His hands might be trembling in fear of what Ajax will say but he doesn't dare to look up and see. Zhongli is scared to see the merman’s expression, to see his rejection.
Cold fingers caress his cheeks. Gently, they turn his face up such that Zhongli is staring into Ajax’s eyes.
“I’m not just fighting for my people and myself. I’m fighting for you too.” He pulls Zhongli into a hug, the bathtub walls between them making the gesture slightly awkward to pull off. “I want to keep you safe. If my people fall, it will be humans who have to bear the brunt of the abyssal monster attacks. I don’t want you to have to face that.”
Zhongli understands, he really does. He sees reason and knows what he is doing is irrational and yet…
“Please,” he finds himself still begging. “Just one more day.”
There is a beat of silence before he hears a heavy sigh.
“Fine.” Ajax’s expression is tight. “Just one more day.”
More days pass. He goes to see Ajax every day in the bathroom. Ajax never fails to greet him with a great amount of cheer, although Zhongli can't help but feel that his smiles feel forced these days.
So he tries to fix the problem between them. Zhongli asks if there is anything he can do for Ajax and yet the merman simply avoids the topic. They watch some movies together and even snuggle in the bathtub together, Zhongli only leaving when the prolonged soaking becomes too much for him to bear.
As he climbs out of the water, still dripping and skin all wrinkly, Ajax calls out to him.
“It’s been more than one week Zhongli.” He averts his eyes, not daring to look at Zhongli. “I need to go.”
“You want to leave.”
Zhongli takes deep breaths in and out. He tries to be rational, knows he has to be rational, but the emotions he has been repressing all this time slip out unbidden. They leak into his words, his face, his body language.
“You’re going to leave me too just like them.”
“Wha— You know that's not true!” In his fluster, Ajax reaches out for him from the bathtub. “I won't ever leave you, you know that!”
It’s like a dam has burst. Zhongli can't control himself any longer. The words just won't stop. An endless flow of misery and sorrow pours from him at this one moment. It cumulates and consulates into a single focal point, like a star ready to pop, sparking a luminous supernova that would destroy all in its wake.
“Guizhong, Retuo, Osial… They all left, leaving me all alone. And now you’re going to abandon me too!”
“I’m not going to leave you!” Now Ajax is shouting as well. “I love you Zhongli! I would never think of leaving you!”
He takes several deep breaths.
“Look, I explained it to you before, right? I need to go back to the battlefield. Once the problem has been solved, I’ll be able to be with you every day.” By this point, Ajax is almost completely out of the bathtub, water sloshing over the edges as he hauls himself out. “But more than that, I need to return to the sea. It’s in a way, an integral part of all us merfolk.”
“Staying away from it for too long is bound not to end well,” he says softly.
Zhongli knows; he understands. This is not the first time the topic has come up in their conversations.
He pushes that issue to the back of his mind.
“Look me in the eyes and answer this, Ajax.” He is unwavering, gazing down at Ajax crawling along the ground as he struggles to reach him. “If I bring you back now, will you swim off to go fight, leaving me for Celestia knows how long again?”
Ajax’s lips move, the beginning of an excuse forming. Zhongli doesn't let him finish, continuing with his next question instead.
“War is an unpredictable thing. You always tell me how ferocious those monsters are. So tell me, what are your chances of surviving it if I let you go now?”
Ajax is rendered silent. He can't answer.
Zhongli had a feeling he wouldn't be able to.
Staring at Ajax despondently for several seconds, Zhongli eventually turns around, opening the bathroom door and getting ready to leave.
“Fine! I’ll—! I’ll… stay for a few more days.”
“... I will.”
Work today at the library was rather troublesome.
A rather unreasonable woman kept harassing him because he wouldn't let her extend the renewal date of her book. The hardest part was trying to explain to her why she couldn't do so when she technically wasn't breaking any official rules. Rather, it was more of an unspoken agreement between everyone working at the library. Since she has a terrible track record of never returning books on time, losing them at times, refusing to pay fines and making their lives rather difficult in general, no one really wants to entertain her any longer.
In fact, Zhongli hears rumours of how there are plans to ban her from the premises altogether, something that he supports with all his heart.
That is why he is a little cranky when he reaches home that day. The fact that he had waited in line for over an hour to buy this famous dish called Calla Lily Seafood Soup or something only adds to his bad mood. But Ajax had always been wondering about the dish ever since he saw it on the television a few days back. As long as he gets to see his lover enjoying the meal, everything would be worth it.
“Ajax, I’m back.”
He greets his lover like usual, dropping the plastic bag containing their dinner off at the dining table. Though it is rather strange how Ajax doesn't respond at all, Zhongli figures he could just be preoccupied with something at the moment. He could be watching some videos or playing games on the tablet he left him with. Maybe he was taking a nap, something he probably needs considering how Ajax has been looking rather exhausted as of late.
Brushing off the faint worry, Zhongli busies himself in the kitchen, transferring the soup into a proper bowl instead of the plastic tupperware. Just the fishy smell of the soup alone makes him gag, much less the sight of slimy squid and other seafood within. Holding the bowl at arm's length, he carries it towards the bathroom, figuring he could probably whip up something else for himself later.
The bathroom door is slightly ajar. Unless Ajax is using headphones or sleeping, it’s quite odd for him to not reply by this point.
“I brought you the soup you always wanted to try—”
Zhongli drops the bowl in his hands. It lands on the ground with a loud crash, the ceramic bowl breaking into pieces and the soup spilling all over.
Ajax is ripping into his tail in a methodical fashion, tugging out scale by scale before checking the empty spots left by them. Blood leaks from the tears in his flesh made by the forceful removal of his scales, seeping into the water and turning it a light pink. The look of absolute concentration on his face as he tears himself apart only makes the sight more morbid.
“Stop it!” Zhongli yells in panic, running over and yanking Ajax’s hands away from himself before he can cause more damage. “What are you doing?!”
For several seconds, Ajax doesn't respond. He merely continues to stare at his bloody lower half in a daze, hands freezing in the process of ripping out yet another scale only due to Zhongli’s restraint.
“Oh.” He blinks slowly as though having just woken up from a dream. “My tail was itching so I thought there was sand or something trapped under my scales. I checked my skin too but there wasn't anything under it either.”
The skin on his stomach and arms are littered with scratches and lacerations. It is a ghastly sight that fills Zhongli with horror. His hands shake as he gingerly moves Ajax’s hands to rest by his side, reaching out to touch his face once he is sure his lover isn't about to hurt himself again. Cradling his cheeks tenderly, he tries to get Ajax to focus on him.
“Ajax, there is no sand. We haven't been to the beach in weeks!”
“We haven't?” Ajax looks appalled. “Let’s go back to the sea then!”
“You’re going to leave me again.”
“I’m not going to leave you,” Ajax insists, sounding indigent.
“If I bring you back to the beach, you’ll swim back to your kind, off to fight your war.” He wipes an errant streak of blood off Ajax’s cheek. “Is that not leaving me?”
They stare at each other in silence for several seconds. Growing tired of the heavy atmosphere and the sight of an injured Ajax, Zhongli decides to make the first move.
“Let’s get you cleaned up, yeah?” Zhongli stands and puts a bit of distance between them, backing off to grab a towel and some bandages. “And promise me you won't hurt yourself again.”
His words seem to shake some sense into Ajax. The merman looks down abruptly, eyes going wide as he stares at his torso and tail.
“I-I… did this?”
“You weren’t in your right mind.”
Zhongli brings over his first aid box and several towels only to realise how useless they would be on a being that spends all his time submerged in water.
“Ow, ow! Man, some of this stuff really hurts,” Ajax says, complaining while Zhongli begins to clean the scratches on his arms. “That's kinda strange. I don't remember doing all this though.”
“It’s alright,” Zhongli reassures his lover. “Also, I’m sorry I dropped your dinner earlier. It was the soup you really wanted to try.”
Of course, sweet, loving Ajax simply laughs it off. He playfully demands that Zhongli buy it for him again tomorrow as they settle down for a simple meal of stir-fried noodles instead.
Zhongli recounts the day's events to Ajax, relishing in the way his lover follows along with his every word. Even the residual smell of cloying blood isn't enough to bring down his great mood from spending time with Ajax.
It would be a smell Zhongli soon becomes accustomed to.
No matter how he tries, the persistent red staining the tiles refuses to wash out.
“I need to get back home soon.”
“... When can I go back?”
“Can I go back now?”
“... Please don't leave me.”
“Would you like to watch a movie tonight Ajax?”
His nightmare comes true.
Zhongli returns home one day only to realise his front door is ajar. A trail of water stretches across the corridor running along the direction to the stairs.
Ajax left. He promised he wouldn't leave and yet he still did.
The fresh shock is too much to process, blocking out his stronger emotions of sorrow and grief. In a trance, he walks drunkenly along the path of water. He dreads what he will see at the end, wondering if he will ever see a hint of Ajax again. Maybe his lover is long gone. Maybe he is dead or dying on the steps. Maybe he should just turn around and pretend this all doesn't exist.
“Ajax!” he shrieks as an edge of hysteria tinges his voice.
Ajax is lying by the steps that lead down to the lower floors of the apartment complex. He could have made his way down long ago despite his lack of mobility. And yet he simply sits there, water quickly drying off his tousled hair and his tail curled snugly around himself.
Expecting to be ignored like usual when Ajax sinks into one of his moods, the direct addressal startles Zhongli greatly.
“Zhongli, the sea… it calls to me.”
How no one has come across him yet is nothing short of a miracle and one he does not plan to question.
“I can hear it! The crashing waves, the cry of seagulls, the song of my people…”
He checks Ajax over carefully for more wounds, relieved when there aren't any new significant wounds. Sure, that patch of scaleless skin on his tail might have grown a little, but it isn't much of a surprise at this point.
“You can hear it too, right?”
Zhongli stays silent.
Picking Ajax up is quite the challenge considering how he is a fully grown merman. Even with the weight he has lost over the past few weeks, Zhongli still struggles to carry him home. He slips Ajax back into the bathtub, frowning when he notices how murky the water has become. With a heavy heart, he allows the water to drain out, turning the tap on to refill the bathtub once old water had all flowed out.
Ajax doesn't say much else after that.
“Shall we go to the sea?”
“I said I wouldn't leave you.”
“... I love you, Ajax.”
“I love you too… Zhongli.”
He hasn't gone to work in days.
All Zhongli ever does now is lie in the bathroom next to his bathtub, staying by his beloved’s side.
What else even matters now to him? With Ajax here by his side, his life is complete. The world could raze and burn for all he cares. It never cared for him to begin with, so why should he in turn?
Ajax hasn't looked good for a while now. His scales have lost their lustre and his skin is becoming paler by the day. There is a listless look in his eyes all the time that Zhongli fails to rid him of no matter what he tries. He doesn't eat or do much at all really. All he seems to want to do is curl in on himself in a corner of the bathtub, mumbling in a different language to himself.
Zhongli figures it’s just a phase. Ajax has always been strong and healthy. Surely he would get better if given enough time.
He doesn't speak to Zhongli, much less talk to him. It all leaves him feeling absolutely heartbroken and weighed down by crushing despair. His only saving grace is the fact that Ajax is here, in the flesh, lying there next to him. Even if the merman refuses to talk to him, Zhongli can still hold his hand, reassuring himself that someone he loves has not left him.
Sometimes when he leaves to get food or do anything at all, he would come back to find Ajax clawing at his tail again. Sometimes he hits his head against the wall, sometimes he scratches against the tiled floor until his nails have all been ripped out. Ajax never does try to leave again, something that brings much relief to Zhongli.
The water in the bathtub never stays clean. It is always tinged a pinkish red, the air stale with the scent of tangy iron.
Eventually, it becomes too much effort to leave the bathroom altogether. Zhongli just stays with Ajax all the time, sitting by the bathtub and staring at nothing in particular. The silence is deafening. The stillness is unnerving. But that doesn't matter, for Ajax is by his side.
Time has no meaning in the white bathroom. It’s just two of them in an endless white white white. Zhongli doesn't even know if he is here anymore. Sometimes he looks down and he swears he sees nothing. Then he reaches over and finds Ajax and reality pieces itself back together. It’s beginning to happen more frequently. But what is frequent? What is even—
What is even?
Where is he?
It’s a sound.
He hears a sound.
How much time has passed?
Zhongli is aware again. He knows nothing about the date nor what is going on around him. All he knows is that he finally hears a sound after the seemingly endless silence. It comes from his side, the side where the bathtub is – where Ajax lies.
Stiffly, he turns his head.
Ajax is crying.
His eyes are wide and unblinking, now a dull blue-grey rather than the bright blue he remembers. They stare at nothing in particular on the blood splattered wall.
He looks lost, so, so lost.
And suddenly, Zhongli is crying too—
The sound of crashing waves reaches his ears. A wonderful sunset is in full bloom, liquid amber leaking down the toilet walls and pooling on the floor. The sea breeze ruffles through their hair bringing with it a familiar salty scent tinged with rust. A hermit crab scuttles around looking for a home, prompting Zhongli to place a shell in front of it.
But the shell is too small. No matter how the crab tries and strains, it fails to fit inside. Not one to give up, it forces itself in, shaving off flesh and legs until it finally fits. Blood stains the sandy tiles, streaming down from the bloody echoing conch and the bathtub.
Zhongli smiles a broken smile.
—for he knows how this will end.
Uneasiness is written all over Morax’s face. It is clear from the way his eyes move shiftily to the side, fingers gripping his teacup just a tad harder.
Lumine does not expect that in the least. To think the stone-faced Lord of Geo would be affected by such a thing… It appears that the kind words of glowing praise that Barbatos speaks of him are not as empty as she initially thought.
“Cruel.” Lumine traces the blue floral patterns on her tea cup. “What Zhongli did certainly was cruel but understandable to a degree.”
“Are you saying you agree with what he did?”
She can't quite tell what Morax is trying to get out of the question. True to his reputation, the previous sliver of emotion she managed to glimpse from his face is now gone. The stone-faced Lord of Geo, with his unyielding and rigid views, denser than the meteors he flings at his enemies when it comes to the matters of the heart, sits in front of Lumine once more.
Is this an honest question out of curiosity, wondering why she has a different opinion? Or could it be a test of her character? It could also very well be a veiled warning, asking her to tread carefully with her next words that might upset him.
“You misunderstand me. Just because I say I understand why he did such a thing, doesn't mean I agree with his actions.”
This marks the third tale she has told Morax involving this human and other versions of himself. It is reasonable to believe that the male, be it going by the name of Childe, Tartaglia or Ajax, has grown on Morax. For all she knows, Morax might just be curious about how he could possibly be involved with another being in such an intimate way even if it is not actually him.
How far can mere fascination take him? How long would it be before it turns into something else?
Whatever his reasons might be, Lumine knows it is best to exercise caution when forming her reply.
“It’s only because our desires are less selfish that we don't come across as cruel.”
Lumine points to herself.
“I simply wish to travel the many universes, taking down notes on all the wonderful sights I come across. It is a harmless wish, one that would rarely, if ever, harm anyone at all.”
She points at Morax.
“You wish to protect Liyue and guide its people. It is a noble wish, one that greatly benefits the lives of many,” she says. “For both of us, we do these to give ourselves self satisfaction. Since they are either benign or good causes, our desires are looked at in a positive light.”
“As for that other you, he simply wanted to be with the one he loved for once,” she sighs, the truth of the matter making her recall unpleasant memories. “Someone as old as you should be no stranger to loss and regret like this. Just imagine, if you had a little less self control, a little less rationality, maybe you could have ended up like him.”
Morax appears to be giving her words some serious thought. He stares out of the nearby window, looking at something out in the distance. Following his gaze, Lumine tries to spot what he is looking at.
Apart from some aimlessly floating clouds in the blue sky, there isn't much else of note. That is until she looks a little lower and spots the numerous ginkgo trees growing close to Zhongli’s home. A few sparrows are perched on the gangly bark, chirping merrily to each other.
“Some things should be allowed to roam free. When forcibly caged and made to change what they are, it ends up killing them in the process.”
“I think I understand.” The heavy atmosphere around them lifts somewhat. “His methods might have been deplorable but also sympathetic to a degree.”
How fitting, comparing the Ajax of the last story to that of a caged bird. If Morax keeps up this open mindedness, he might just get more out of this session than he anticipated.
“Well, that’s just one way of looking at things. You don't necessarily have to agree with me on this.”
She continues to share with Morax more insightful thoughts, eager to see how far she can get with him.
“It's possible to empathise with someone and disagree with their actions at the same time. However, it’s also possible to never understand and simply learn to accept and accommodate.
“Is that not a contradictory act?” Morax shifts in his chair as he crosses his legs. “Is the goal then to understand or not?”
“I have lived beside humans for many years. I have observed their actions to a large extent. Humans themselves are often contradictory creatures that cause harm when trying to do good and vice versa.”
There are so many examples she can think of. The stern mother who tries to push her son to do his best only to force him to madness, the friend who tells white lie after lie to spare another some misery only for them to cumulate and backfire one day, or even a critic to tries to give advice but words it too harshly and kills the passion of the artist for good.
“I never said that they all understand themselves either. I never said it was easy. Being a human is hard and when humans can't even understand each other to begin with, what hope do you have, oh Lord of Geo?”
“I still try despite that. That’s the reason why you’re here in the first place, right?”
“Indeed so.” Lumine feels comforted by the knowledge, grinning at him. “Understanding isn't always possible, in which case you then have to come to a compromise. It might not be intuitive or make much sense, but once you reach that point, only then will you truly begin to comprehend the human condition.”
“You speak in riddles, much like the shamans of old.” The words might sound a little peeved, but if the soft smile on his face is anything to go by, Morax isn't actually upset at all. “What are you trying to get at?”
“Just a little brain exercise really.” Still a little stunned silly by the breathtaking image of the smiling Geo Archon, it takes several seconds before Lumine can respond to his question. “I just thought someone like you would appreciate a little something like that, you know?”
“I do appreciate it.”
Morax is such a great listener. It’s not often that she comes across individuals willing to give her the time of their day to discuss such topics in great depth. Even better is how he actively participates as well, offering his, although limited, viewpoints and extremely accepting of what she has to say.
Realising she has been getting a little too fired up from her philosophical blabbering, Lumine leans back in her seat and attempts to assume a more casual position.
“I hope these wildly different versions of yourself I’ve seen don't bother you too much.”
Morax waves off her concern nonchalantly.
“I have long suspected the existence of other worlds beyond my own. Your arrival merely proved my suspicions to be true. It would be rather foolish of me to ignore the facts sitting right in front of me. I admit, as much as learning about them disquieted me at first, I have come to terms with the matter.”
Such wise words from a wise man. Lumine finds herself nodding along, agreeing with everything Morax says.
“On a brighter note, we have just one last story to go through and I can guarantee you this one’s much happier.”
“Is that so?”
“It’s a very joyous one indeed, pleasurable even if I must say so myself.”
The way Morax’s eyes light up at that gives her the urge to cackle wickedly like an evil old witch.
Poor fool. He’s so clearly not in the know.
Water is dripping in the bathroom.
It is such a soft and innocuous sound, one that would hardly be noticed by him on any other day. However, as he is now, all tied up and blindfolded with nothing he can do, his other senses are amplified tenfold.
A wave of pleasure ripples through his body, making him writhe on the bed and moan into his gag.
Zhongli hates wasting water. He wants to get up right this moment and turn the tap off, berating his partner for not closing it properly again. This has happened frequently enough that Zhongli is considering renovating the place, switching the tap to an automatic one that cuts off the flow of water after a few seconds—
The vibration of the dildo in his ass abruptly cranks up in intensity, making him see white as he screams silently.
By the time he comes down from the intense high, Zhongli is a disorientated mess, vision fuzzy as he whimpers brokenly. He can barely recall his own name, let alone the time and where he is. Even worse is the constant trickle of pleasure thrumming underneath his skin, an ever present sensation that makes vision blur.
He is lying on their bed, limbs bound and eyes covered with a blindfold. The gag in his mouth is thoroughly soaked with his spit and muffling the screams he is unable to contain. What feels like an entire day has passed since he was left squirming on the bed, but he knows that realistically it’s probably closer to two hours at most.
Besides, Ajax had said that he would be back for him after running a quick errand.
Ajax would never lie to him.
The vibrators taped to his nipples and dick buzz away furiously and Zhongli crests again on a new high. Wetness seeps into the bunny suit he wears as the vibrator in his ass brushes up against that spot in him, making his whole body twitch as his dick throbs and leaks out more precum.
Unfortunately for him, with the sound stuck firmly in his urethra, Zhongli is left unable to come this entire time, ruined orgasm after orgasm building up in him. It makes his dick ache, burning with unspent need and painfully hard. The constant vibrations from the vibrators and the friction of his leotard as his cock jumps and bounces around only serves to drive him further to the point of insanity.
His outfit is damp with sweat and his own secretions, long hair splayed messily on the white sheets like some sort of abstract art. The bunny ears once attached to him have probably long fallen off due to his constant thrashing, now lying discarded somewhere off to the side. Drool keeps leaking from his mouth and down his chin, something that would have irritated him had he been in the right mind to care. As for now, all Zhongli can think of is the maddening pleasure stemming from his dick and ass and how badly he wants his release.
Panting harshly, Zhongli tries to flip himself over, the thought of turning off the bathroom tap running briefly through his mind again. But in his pleasure drunk haze, he completely forgets that his hands are tied behind his back and his legs are held in place with a spreader bar. The result is him falling back onto the bed with a soft thump, body feeling like jelly as a particularly harsh wave of pure bliss rolls over him. His eyes roll back, limbs twitching uselessly as what feels like multiple small orgasms go off in his head.
But at the end of the day, the fact that he can't find his release continues to plague him. Zhongli sobs, wishing desperately for Ajax to come home. All thoughts on anything else cease to be. He can only think of Ajax, his gentle, kind words and soothing hands that would make things better. He wants to nuzzle his face against the other’s large cock, feeling it stiffen and grow, signifying it is ready to plough into him and rearrange his guts. He wants to feel as Ajax’s dick fucks him open, reducing him to an unintelligible pile of quivering flesh as he finds the release he so craves.
Whining pitifully, he ruts against the pillows like some sort of animal in heat. He simultaneously feels too sensitive and numb, wishing for more stimulation to bring him over the edge yet also hating it at the same time. All sensations feel so agonisingly good yet painful, driving him towards a release he can never achieve.
Just as he feels his mind about to break down into nothingness, Zhongli hears the distinct sound of a lock turning.
Nearly hysterical from want and need by this point, his voice comes out as a muffled whine as he tries to attract Ajax’s attention. The constant sound of buzzing and vibrations against his skin is pushed to the back of his mind for the moment as Zhongli focuses all his efforts on calling out to Ajax.
His love, his one and only – his salvation.
Their front door opens loudly as Ajax curses, most likely knocking over the photo frame sitting by the entrance again. An annoyed complaint and some shuffling sounds later and Zhongli hears him moving around the house, likely putting away any items he had bought. It takes what seems like an eternity for those footsteps to gradually approach their bedroom, the anticipation of Ajax’s arrival making Zhongli’s heart pound even harder than before.
“Hm? What’s this?”
The wooden door swings open with a soft creak as Ajax arrives at the doorway, getting a free view to study Zhongli’s twitching body.
“Oh Zhongli, you don't look too good.” Heavy footsteps approach and Zhongli nearly sobs in relief as Ajax runs a hand through his sweat-drenched bangs. “I kinda forgot I left you tied up like this when I left. Well, you had fun at least, right?”
Torn between saying yes and no, the choice ends up being taken from him as a full body shudder runs through him, rendering him incapable of doing little more than jerking his head weakly from side to side.
“Look at the mess you made!” Ajax’s fingers press against his stomach where his dick is trapped between two vibrators and his leotard. “I can even feel how much you leaked over yourself. Did it really feel that good?”
The sensation is almost too much for Zhongli to bear as oversensitive his skin currently is. He squirms on the sheets, trying to draw away yet longing to feel more of Ajax’s touch at the same time.
More importantly, however, he needs to convey to Ajax how desperate he currently is, how badly he needs the other’s dick to stuff him full at once, how lonely he has been, having to weather onslaught after onslaught of merciless pleasure all alone.
By some miracle, Zhongli manages to push himself up slightly on his shoulders, trying to rub his cheek against Ajax’s thigh. As much as he would love to nuzzle against Ajax’s crotch instead to get him into the mood, he would probably fall short of reaching it. He fails to find it on his first attempt, face smacking into the bed once more. That doesn't deter him in the least as he tries again, succeeding in locating the silken material of Ajax’s suit pants this time.
“Are you that desperate?” Ajax’s voice is slightly condescending, making Zhongli revel at how small it makes him feel. “Why don't you ask me nicely then?”
It’s unfair how Ajax sets him up like this, knowing how it’s an impossible task for Zhongli to say anything past the gag. Still, he tries his best, begging over and over in a garbled voice for Ajax to please fuck him already and remove the sound.
“Eh, you don't really sound that enthusiastic. Maybe I should leave you be for a while longer?”
The thought of having to bear this torture for any longer makes his eyes grow wide in despair. Zhongli tries to shake his head vigorously and do anything to tell Ajax otherwise. It all dissolves into incoherent babbling, however, his body bucking against the bed as Ajax thrusts the dildo in and out of him a few times.
“I’ll go take a shower first then. See you in a while, Zhongli.”
Zhongli cries out pitifully as the warmth beside him moves away. He nearly throws himself off the bed in his fierce longing to chase after Ajax only to be pressed back onto the bed.
“Behave and I’ll do something fun with you later, alright?”
Unable to show his agreement, all Zhongli can do is flop back down desolately as his body trembles. So close yet so far. He had been about to get the relief he needed only for Ajax to cruelly turn away, leaving Zhongli to plunge into the abyss of despair. As if to spite him even further, the vibrations crank up a notch, sending him into a fit of pleasure as he drools mindlessly. He hits peak after peak, each one edging him on but never reaching high enough to send him over the edge. Zhongli weeps, his sobs swallowed up by his gag and the buzzing in his ears.
The bedroom door shuts with a soft click, leaving him alone to wonder how long more he can put up with this pleasure hell before his mind gives out on him.
Tears soak his blindfold as his eyes glaze over. His body is still, apart from the occasional quiver, and too exhausted to do much more than that. His crotch is absolutely drenched by this point from all his ruined orgasms. Even then, every time the vibrating dildo meshes against his prostate, he finds his hips twitching uncontrollably, humping the air like some depraved animal. The sheets are slick with his sweat as his body is trapped in this never-ending loop of intense pleasure, heating up from all his efforts to chase his release. Surely the entire room must smell of his desperation by this point, the potent scent of sex filling the air.
Zhongli is near his wit's end. Any more of this and he is sure his mind will be broken irreversibly by pleasure, forever doomed to be a drooling idiot whose only purpose is to seek out Ajax’s dick and keep it lodged inside himself.
On second thought, that might not be such a bad thing after all.
“Phew. I’m done, Zhongli!”
The sound of the door opening barely fazes him. Even the removal of his blindfold barely elicits any reaction from him apart from slow blinks as he struggles to adjust to the change in light.
Zhongli hears a sigh from above him as he is rolled over gently. The vibrations come to a halt as Ajax flicks their switches off and pulls the dildo out of his ass. Still, he remains largely unresponsive and sluggish, unseeing eyes staring off into the distance.
“Zhongli-xian sheng, come back to me~”
Gradually, the combination of Ajax’s patient coaxing and comforting touches wakes Zhongli from the trance he is in.
He is slow to take in his surroundings. The first thing he notices is how his limbs are now free and the vibrators taped to him are gone. Weakly, he attempts to move but the only response he gets from his sore body is a weak spasm. Shuddering, he tries once more, the sudden pressure on the small of his back making him go limp once more.
“Shhh. Just lie down and relax, okay?”
The smooth cadence of Ajax’s voice placates Zhongli for the moment. Then he goes still, eyes widening slightly as he suddenly realises the position he is in.
Zhongli is still wearing his bunny suit and is lying face first against a pile of fluffy pillows. His ass sticks up slightly in the air as it is placed over Ajax’s lap, thankfully free of the vibrator that had been tormenting him for so long. When he tries to shift himself to get more comfortable, the stockings he wears cause him to slip against the cotton sheets, rendering his efforts useless. To his dismay, the sound is still stuck firmly in his cock, the friction against his sensitive flesh verging on painful when he shifts.
Whatever Ajax has in store for him, it clearly involves him not finding release.
Then Ajax begins to caress his flesh, parting the cheeks of his butt and kneading them as he hums a merry tune. A premonition of what is in store for him strikes Zhongli with the force of a truck, acting as a shot of adrenaline that wakes him from his lethargic state.
“Now for the fun thing I mentioned.”
Ajax pulls open their bedside drawer and brings out a butt plug with a fluffy rabbit tail attached to the end, which is also the missing piece to his bunny costume. After retrieving the bunny ears that had fallen off the bed at some point and placing them back on Zhongli’s head, he slides the plug into his hole with relative ease, Zhongli having already been well stretched by the vibrating dildo from before.
“If you manage to hold in the plug as I spank you, I’ll make sweet love to you tonight, alright? Or you can ride me if you prefer, though I doubt those legs of yours will hold out for long.”
Zhongli shakes, his hands clutching the sheets as he turns to look at Ajax, his nervousness probably written all over his face.
“And well, if you fail…” Ajax gives him a little reassuring pat on the head. “I’ll think of something later.”
The normally comforting gesture does little to calm his frayed nerves.
“Hm, how many should we do today?” Ajax rubs his chin with his fingers in thought. “We did twenty last time so how about thirty today?”
Zhongli baulks at the huge number, tears leaking from his eyes as he shakes his head in denial. He had barely survived twenty the last time, not to mention how he is already so aroused at the moment. The worst part is how his dick is still hard and leaking, trapped between his stomach and Ajax’s legs. The impact from the slaps would no doubt jostle the poor thing, sending him into a fit of oversensitive pleasure that could very well see him expelling the plug.
“Aw, c’mon Zhongli. I know you can do it.”
“Please Zhongli? Do it for me, won't you?”
Ajax clearly knows the effect using such a pleading tone has on Zhongli and uses it to his full advantage. The soft words uttered in such a pitiful tone melt his heart in no time at all. Zhongli craves, smashing his head into the soft pillows after giving a quick nod of consent.
“As thanks, I think I’ll keep count for us today.”
The news relieves him. That would be one less thing to mess up at the very least.
“Now,” Ajax gives his butt a small pat, the sensation making Zhongli jump in anticipation. “I’m going to start, alright?”
Zhongli makes a muffled sound of agreement. When he realises how tense his body is, Zhongli does his utmost to relax, forcing his muscles to unclench and soften. Being all rigid in preparation for the hits will do him no favours, something he learnt a long time ago the hard way.
Even then, his heart can't help but speed up from anxiety. He lists out a whole list of chemical structures in his mind, going through each side chain in great detail in an attempt to brace himself for the first slap.
One moment he is still trying to map out the isomer Levocetirizine and in the next, a resounding smack rings out in the room, the sting on his ass only registering several seconds after.
His body jerks, legs jolting as his body is introduced to the sudden pain.
No matter how many times he does this with Ajax, he is never able to predict how things will go.
Zhongli can imagine his lover smirking down at him, admiring the way his flesh jiggles as he raises his hand to prepare for the next blow.
Squeezing his eyes shut, Zhongli bites down on his lips and buries his face into his arms, knowing he would need this to stifle the cries that will eventually leak from his mouth.
Time seems to blur together, each second flowing into the next as Ajax continues his relentless assault. No one slap is the same, his flesh bouncing each time it makes contact with his lover’s palm.
Ajax mastered this little game of theirs flawlessly a long time ago. He knows precisely which areas to strike, causing just enough pain to jar Zhongli’s system into overdrive while never hurting him for real. Even through the fabric of his bunny suit, he seems to know which areas are most sore without seeing the state of his flesh. He alternates his blows masterfully, at times softer, teasing, only to come down hard in the next. Sometimes he drags out the time between his slaps, letting the mounting anticipation build up in Zhongli until it reaches a breaking point, capitalising on the moment he lets his guard down to strike.
Zhongli quickly loses track of the number of slaps he has endured. The fact that Ajax doesn't count them out loud makes things worse. For all he knows, the slap count could have reached fifty and Zhongli would be none the wiser.
Suddenly, he deeply regrets not insisting on counting them earlier like he usually does.
The sound turns out to be a blessing in disguise, the prevention of him coming resulting in one less factor in losing grip on the butt plug to worry about. Although, he does go through hell for that. The incessant friction against his straining dick as he trembles in Ajax’s lap brings him to the tip so many times only to fail. Had it not been there, Zhongli is sure he would have long since blown his load messily all over himself and probably lost the game in the process.
Several times the butt plug nearly falls out of him as he tenses up violently, the repeated slapping over a sore spot making him tremble and lose control over his muscles for a moment. He cries and thrashes, tears and snot leaking into the pillows. His senses fail him as everything is reduced to a fuzzy mess of static and colours. Everything fails to matter except for the throbbing flesh of his butt, burning hot and irritated.
But despite everything, not once does he move actively to get off Ajax’s lap.
Zhongli nearly sobs in relief, his ears choosing this moment to work again.
“Just one more, Zhongli,” Ajax coos at him, running a finger down his spine.
Shuddering, Zhongli can do little more than just lie there, too overwhelmed with sensation and pent up need.
The last slap feels exceptionally hard and hits a certain spot on him, one that causes his body to spasm for a moment before his eyes roll back. His dick strains in vain, twitching valiantly against his stomach as the world blanks out for a moment.
When he finally regains consciousness, the remains of his ruined orgasm is leaking down his cock, the fabric of his clothes too soaked to absorb much more. His body is still locked in an uncomfortable position, back arched and fingers digging violently into the sheets with his toes curled. Heart hammering in his chest madly, Zhongli strains to breathe but all his air seems trapped in his lungs as his throat closes up.
“You did well.”
Those three simple words act like a trigger. Immediately, Zhongli exhales deeply, choking slightly from the sudden rush of air. Tears prickle at the edge of his eyes and all too soon, they are streaming down his face. He doesn't even know why he is crying. Maybe it is because he can breathe again. Maybe it is because of how overwhelmed with sensations he is. Maybe it is because he most definitely lost the game, the butt plug having fallen out of him during the intense rush he experienced earlier.
“Hey hey, don't cry. See, you managed to do it!”
To prove his point Ajax wriggles the butt plug that is by some miracle still inside his ass, making Zhongli squirm and moan softly.
“I-I… kept it in…?”
“Mmhm!” Ajax confirms with a cheerful voice.
Half-dazed with disbelief and pleasure-pain, Zhongli barely reacts as Ajax gathers him up into his arms, rocking them back and forth slowly. The pressure on his ass as he is sat down makes him hiss with pain, something that is quickly forgotten when Ajax begins to peel aside the sticky material at his crotch.
He gets no verbal response, but what Ajax is trying to do quickly becomes clear.
Zhongli shudders as Ajax pulls his throbbing dick out from his stockings and leotard, hips jerking as he is fondled with warm palms. He whines in discomfort as Ajax begins to toy with the sound in his dick, stirring it around and pulling it up only to slide it back in.
“Relax, Zhongli. See? I’m going to take it out now.”
Ajax gives him a sly smile as he gradually draws the sound up, making sure to rub its ridges against Zhongli’s walls. His breath hitches as his hips continue to twitch uncontrollably, moving in time to Ajax’s playful teasing.
Finally, the entire thing comes out. Zhongli trembles hard, half expecting to see white, hot semen rushing out at once. Instead, all that comes out is a few spurts of semi translucent liquid mixed with runny white. Then Ajax is pulling his clothes back in place, the squelching sensation of soggy cloth back on his sensitive dick nearly making him blow his load on the spot.
“And of course, it’s now time for your reward.”
Something hard brushes against his thigh and Zhongli swallows, already having a good idea of what it might be.
For the first time, Zhongli notices what Ajax is wearing, not that he is wearing much at all. Having just finished his shower, the younger male is naked save for the white towel around his waist which is tented lewdly at the moment.
Quickly realising what Zhongli’s gaze is directed at, Ajax smirks, pulling off his towel and revealing a length that would make most turn green with envy.
“Here’s the dick you wanted so much right?”
Ajax gives it a few pumps, making it bob in the air. He nudges Zhongli to the floor with his fingers, spreading his legs wider in a manner that makes his intentions unmistakable.
“Time to get it all nice and slick before I put it in you.”
As fast as his abused body can manage, Zhongli climbs off the bed on shaky limbs and sinks to his knees between Ajax’s parted legs. He stares at the dick in front of him, speechless at its size and mind drawing blank on what he is supposed to do. No matter how many times he sees Ajax’s bountiful endowment, Zhongli would still be in awe at the sight.
His admiration is cut short as Ajax begins to rub his length against Zhongli’s cheek impatiently.
Hastily now, Zhongli parts his lips, pressing kisses to the crown of Ajax’s cock. His tongue darts out as he licks the entire tip, focusing on the underside where he knows a particular throbbing vein lies, something that always seems to please Ajax to no end. He is rewarded for his efforts with a long groan from above, his lover not bothering to hide his pleasure in the slightest.
As his task involves getting this dick all nice and slathered in his saliva, Zhongli eventually takes more of the heated flesh into his mouth. Using his lips to cover his teeth, he soon manages to establish a rhythmic pattern, bobbing his head back and forth. He doesn't forget to make use of his tongue, coiling and squeezing it around the thick shaft as much as possible. There is the slightest of a tremble from Ajax’s thighs, something he relishes with all his might.
Fingers thread through his hair, more for encouragement than control from their light grip that occasionally turns to soothing strokes as Ajax pats his head. Zhongli feels his eyes slip shut, bliss filling him as Ajax whispers appreciative remarks.
“You’re doing so well.”
The salty taste of precum spreads across his tongue as he continues his work. He revels in the constant praise, drowning in a whole new world of euphoria as Ajax tucks a strand of his hair behind his ear lovingly.
“Aren’t you the best at sucking dick, Zhongli?”
The exhaustion from earlier becomes a distant memory the more he gets into the blowjob. Every little spasm and throb is a victory in its own right, the leaking fluid from the tip a delicacy to be savoured. His own needs have long been forgotten even as his cock jumps pitifully within its confines, drooling all over himself and becoming mere background noise. All that matters to him now is pleasing his beloved Ajax, making sure he gets all the love and affection he deserves.
The little noises and sighs of contentment Ajax makes are music to Zhongli’s ears. He pushes forward, taking the entire dick down to the base, eager to bring Ajax more pleasure.
Although his throat spasms painfully from the sudden strike, Zhongli knows his discomfort is not in vain as Ajax shudders in delight.
Zhongli practically preens, chest growing warm with overwhelming love. He brings his hands up to brace himself against Ajax’s legs and take his dick even deeper, practically gagging himself with every thrust.
Then he makes the mistake of looking directly into Ajax’s eyes.
“Gods, Zhongli, I love you so much.”
At once, something inside his brain snaps.
Zhongli twitches, choking on Ajax’s cock. His vision fades in and out as he runs low on oxygen, suffocating himself from how much he pushes his body to take in more dick. All strength flees his limbs as he suddenly goes limp, convulsing around the cock still stuffing his mouth. His eyes glaze over, unseeing as he floats amidst clouds of foggy pleasure.
He barely feels the pair of hands gently pulling him off the dick, drool leaking from his lips in long, thin streams. They carefully shift the bottom half of his black leotard aside, revealing his cock that is still hard and throbbing, his thick load drenching his groin and turning the whole place into a sticky mess.
“Wow, Zhongli. Did you just cum from me calling you a good boy and petting your head?”
A soft noise leaks out of his mouth as Ajax prods his dick a little, still oversensitive from its recent release.
“Zhongli, oh Zhongli. Did I ever tell you how cute you are?”
Cum covered fingers are pressed against his lips. Still too blissed out to register much, Zhongli parts his mouth obediently, sucking the fingers off as they plunge into him. He licks them clean on autopilot, only belatedly realising that it is his own cum once he is done.
His eyes start to slip shut, his body beginning to shut down now that he has reached completion. The fingers he is suckling on pull away, causing him to let out a soft whine of protest.
“Tsk tsk, Zhongli. I haven't had my release yet. You’re not going to fall asleep on me now, are you?
The thought of leaving Ajax hanging pierces through the lethargic haze in his mind, a jolt of fleeting energy waking him slightly.
Pushing past his exhaustion, Zhongli looks up to see that Ajax has scooted further back onto the bed. His impressive length stands at full mast as he reclines leisurely on his back propped up by several pillows. Ajax pats his thighs suggestively, a clear invitation for Zhongli to come and ride him.
Wordlessly, Zhongli somehow manages to peel himself off the floor. He crawls forward meekly, swinging his legs over Ajax’s body with great difficulty as he straddles his torso.
It looks like he is going to be in for a very long night.
Lumine absolutely regrets not trying the Lotus Flower Crisps earlier.
The pastry is soft and crisp in her mouth, the outer crust melting away to reveal a light sweetness that makes her swoon. Unable to help herself, Lumine helps herself to one more, another and yet another.
“... Why did you tell me this?”
“This.” Morax hesitates, realising how uninformative his words are. “This… intercourse between my alternate self and his human lover.”
Far too soon, all the tasty snacks have been devoured by her. Sighing in disappointment, Lumine wonders if it would be rude to ask Morax for more. Though, she probably needs to help the very confused Archon sitting across from her first. If she leaves him to mull over the meaning of her story any longer, his eyebrows might just achieve new heights.
“Morax, you don't have to think so hard. It is what it is, a simple story of sex between two young and loving men.”
Poor, poor Morax, struggling so hard to understand the nuance of human emotions. It is a common theme she has come to notice among some of the older beings she has encountered along her travels. In fact, it is something of an oddity for someone as ancient and powerful as the Geo Archon to bother with such a thing. It makes her feel just a tad bit more compassion and increases her willingness to explain things to him.
Seeing how stiff and emotionless Morax seems to be, she sure does hope her efforts in relaying all these wonderful stories to him are not in vain. They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but surely an exception can be made for beings as mighty as Archons despite being the epitome of old.
Morax might be a little slow in the relationship department, but at least he has infinitely more years than most to figure it out. Besides, many spend their whole lives never quite understanding their own emotions. With that taken into consideration, Lumine should probably cut him some slack.
“I was under the impression that humans prefer keeping private affairs such as sex under wraps.”
“That’s true for most cases. However, for this one, the only reason I know of it is because those two kindly decided to inform me of their kinky nightly activities.” Lumine rolls her eyes a little. “‘Something, something, Zhongli enjoys the humiliation’, as Ajax puts it. And considering how Zhongli never once stopped him as he recounted an entire hour's worth of material, I don't think he minds it as much as you would think.”
She can practically see as Morax’s brain short circuits, restarts and fails to work once more.
“... Is this the ‘kink’ thing you mentioned earlier?”
“Yeap! Think of kinks like”—she wrecks her vocabulary to think of a suitable word—“tools to make sex more exciting and give more pleasure?”
“Pleasure.” Morax latches onto that word. “That’s the final emotion you mentioned, right?”
“Yeap.” She pops the ‘p’ of the word, pulling some clothes out of her storage bag. “Of course, sex isn't the only way to experience pleasure and joy, it’s just one of the most obvious ways to find it.”
No, Morax most certainly does not understand, not with how his face stays stuck on that expression of quiet consternation.
That is also why she prepared a more practical demonstration for him.
Lumine slides the black leotard, fishnet stockings, fluffy rabbit ears and tail across the stone table.
“A bunny suit.”
“A bunny suit,” Morax parrots after her, lifting the skin tight material up to inspect it.
Thankfully, he doesn't ask Lumine where she got the thing from. He runs his fingers along the silken material of the stockings and pinches the thick fluff of the bunny ears and tail, tugging on it to test its resilience. Although he appears to be quite lost on what to make out of the gift, he seems to appreciate its craftsmanship at the very least. Giving the butt plug one last inquisitive prod, Morax waves his hand and the entire apparel disappears, probably now stored securely in a safe place.
In all honesty, Lumine doesn't expect Morax to understand even with all that. She can tell him many things, give him many more examples and spend days analysing the emotional response of every single action and it would still be for nought. His greatest friend is time and the curiosity to experiment, two things the Geo Archon has in spades.
She has utmost confidence that Morax would find his way, no matter how long it would take.
“Traveller, no, Lumine.” Morax addresses her by her name for the first time, making her sit straighter in her chair. “I must thank you for taking the time to share with me such wonderful stories.”
“Although we never made a formal contract, I trust you expect something in return for this favour, one that I am all willing to grant as long as it is within my power.”
As the ever honourable God of Contracts, this is why Morax would always be the easiest and most difficult being to strike a deal with. He is as stiff and unyielding as the principles he stands for, a fine trait to have as a higher being watching the mortal plane from afar, but a terrible one as a human.
Nevertheless, the time has come for her to rake in her rewards.
“As you know, I am a traveller of many worlds. The role of a traveller is to see the many things out there, traversing worlds, dimensions, universes and more. We record and acknowledge what we see, but never interact with the local population, never interfering with the course of fate laid out for them.”
All this reminiscing is beginning to make her feel terribly old, unlike what her appearance might suggest.
“I didn't always travel alone. I used to have a twin brother by my side until he was imprisoned by an unknown god. Our powers were taken the moment we entered Teyvat, leaving us stranded in this world. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him. Unfortunately, my powers are lacking and thus, I am unable to reach him.”
Lumine smiles bitterly to herself, the small teacup of quickly cooling tea in her palms offering her a modicum of comfort.
“Now that I’ve spent so much time in Teyvat already, I’m beginning to feel like a traveller less and less. Our practice of non-interference has been long broken. It makes me wonder when the time comes, will I even want to leave?”
Unwilling to dwell further on that question, she raises her drink and downs it all in one gulp.
“But enough about me. I still have yet to ask you for my favour.” Thankfully, despite her rather off topic rambling, Morax is still patiently listening and indulging in her. “In the far future, you will meet my brother when he wakes. He will be disorientated, lost and greatly diminished. He will definitely come looking for me and you will guide him on his journey, pointing him down the path of truth that will greatly shake the foundations of Teyvat.”
“Shaking the foundations of Teyvat?” Morax’s brows furrow, gaze contemplative. “You speak rather ominous words.”
“You’re not wrong,” she says. “That future is too uncertain and far away. Perhaps we will get a repeat of The Cataclysm, perhaps we will not.”
“At some point, you might begin to doubt, questioning the way things are. You might see things in a new light, having to come to terms with your own shortcomings. After all, no contract lasts forever. Even mountains crumble in the face of time.”
She can feel the atmosphere grow thick with tension. The god opposite her has his eyes glued to her with stony seriousness. For the first time, Lumine can feel the full might of the Geo Archon’s power, his might surrounding them in a palpable manner.
Yet, she continues bravely, knowing the words must be said.
“And like any other, your contract with Liyue is bound not to last.”
Pride is a universal concept that exists everywhere, be it the innocent child playing on the streets or a six thousand year old god. The only difference lies in the extent of their ego.
Lumine can feel golden eyes boring into her being. Fearlessly, she stares back, unwilling to back down when she knows she is merely stating a reasonable point.
The air grows thick and saturated with Geo energy. It presses against her, warningly, not quite moving to hurt yet clearly poised to do so. Breathing becomes difficult as Lumine does her best to calm her rapidly beating heart, trying to appear as confident as she can.
As pretty and amiable as Morax appears to be, this subtle display of power reminds her of just what is sitting across her.
“Who are you, a mere outsider, to tell me what is wrong and right for Liyue?”
The words are spoken in a soft and seemingly polite manner, belying the indignation and simmering displeasure hidden underneath.
Lumine knows she has to tread carefully. Morax’s rage is understandable. After all, she is a nobody to him with nothing to her name. The fact that he has welcomed her into his home and entertained her bold claims so far is already more than most would be willing to do.
“I offer not a certainty, but a suggestion. I won't claim to know your world or your country better than you. But what I do know is many other worlds. Some have similar situations to yours, some don’t. Not all of it is applicable and what works for another version of yourself might not for you.
I make up for my lack of depth with breadth, presenting you with countless examples to learn from. Just because something is old and has been around for as long as you can remember doesn't make it right. Khaenri’ah was old, but it still fell. Celestia is old, but you can see its faults.”
After a moment of hesitation, she cautiously adds one last statement to hammer home her point.
“Morax, the Archon of Geo is old, but what exactly does his future entail?”
All she can do now is pray and wait. Only Celestia knows how Morax will process her words. Whether he chooses to accept them in good grace or reject it with all the subtlety of a rampaging dragon is totally out of her control.
A bird call rings out in the distance, startling Lumine out of the intense stare off she is engaged in.
Like a spell has been broken, the suffocating atmosphere abruptly disappears, allowing her to breathe freely once more. Lumine gulps in the fresh air in glee, happy that the situation had not escalated well beyond her means. Despite knowing Morax’s reasonable and mild disposition beforehand, uttering such words had still been a gamble.
Morax appears to have aged visibly, his eyes darkening a shade and staring far off into the distance.
“Your words hold great merit.” His hand moves to pour himself more tea, frowning when he realises that the teapot is empty. “I apologise for my earlier conduct.”
Lumine can only wonder what he is thinking of to make him show such an expression.
Whatever the cause, it isn't her business to pry. Instead, Lumine gracefully accepts his apology, offering to tell more tales to lighten the mood. It is a suggestion that Morax quickly accepts, eyes visibly brightening as she begins to recount more interesting sights she has seen on her journey.
She makes sure to keep them lighthearted, telling him of wondrous worlds where there is only an eternal night with no sun to be found. She tells him of seemingly endless desserts, of creatures, plants and animals in worlds where humans never existed.
These stories that have nothing to do with himself and can be taken as simple entertainment seem to revitalise Morax. It pulls him out of the slump he had fallen into before, the expression of eager wonder back on his face.
Finally, when Lumine judges him to be well and truly in a good mood again, she decides to ask the last question she has been longing to ask.
“Oh also, if it’s not too much trouble, can I get more of these wonderful snacks?”
Taking a moment to register the request, Morax’s gaze rests on the empty plate between them. His eyes narrow slightly and Lumine belatedly realises that she might have eaten them all alone.
Now she just feels like a glutton. But in her defence, the Lotus Flower Crisps were absolutely mouth watering in both smell and taste. You had to be an abstinent monk to be able to resist such goodness!
To her great relief, Morax doesn't seem too offended by her request. He stands from his seat gracefully, long robes of gold and brown trailing after him. As the Geo Archon is about to wander off to make more tea for them, he materialises a sheet of paper in his hands. He slides it over to Lumine as he picks up the teapot and heads towards a row of cabinets off to the side.
Morax opens them all one by one, studying their contents carefully. After much deliberation, he finally selects an ornate jar, opening it to reveal fragrant tea leaves which he carefully scoops into the empty teapot.
He busies himself with refilling the teapot with more hot water, floating a boiling kettle over and pouring out its contents with precise accuracy.
“... What’s this?”
“This.” Lumine waves the piece of paper up and down agitatedly. “This… paper! What’s it even supposed to do? Looking at what’s written on it, it’s kind of like a recipe of sorts—”
Completely uncaring of how worked up she is, Morax begins to prepare his new batch of tea. He pours away the first round of water, adding more before finally having a pot full ready to drink from.
Morax breathes in deeply, savouring the rich aroma of his tea. Then his gaze slides up, a hint of a smirk in his expression as he addresses Lumine, “I hope you enjoy your Lotus Flower Crisps.”
Ah. It appears the Lord of Geo does have a sense of humour after all, as wicked as it might be.
The world is hard and cold; Zhongli’s ass body is soft and warm.
Ah, he really doesn't want to get up.
Unfortunately for him, the morning sun is already high in the sky, snickering at him as it slaps him awake with its light. Grumbling a little, he buries his face into the lean back in front of him, sighing in bliss as he inhales Zhongli’s wonderful scent.
He swears the sun shines just a touch brighter and a notch harsher as he refuses to wake up and start the day. Stubbornly, Childe hugs Zhongli tighter, nuzzling his face into the other’s neck and soft hair sprawled over his shoulders. Somehow, it eventually transitions to him pressing gentle kisses to Zhongli’s nape, nipping lightly at the soft, pale skin. The soft globes of Zhongli’s ass serve as a perfect cushion as they press against his dick that is beginning to stiffen in arousal. Sighing happily, he unconsciously begins to grind against Zhongli, sucking a bruising mark onto the other’s shoulder.
Something gets into his eye causing him to cry out in pain as he begins to tear up immediately. He rubs at them furiously, trying to clear his vision and escape the prickling pain.
“Well, fuck you too, sun!”
“Mm… Childe? What time is it?”
“Uh,” he says, wiping away the last of his tears so that he can stare at Zhongli’s beautiful face. “It's not that late yet. You think we can go one round before we get up?”
Zhongli rises from his sleep slowly, blinking blearily as the covers slide off his shoulders in a tantalising manner. His long, brown hair is slightly ruffled from slumber and hangs loosely over his bare body. The alluring image forces Childe wide awake at once as he drinks in the sight.
“One more round?” Zhongli turns to look at the clock, shattering Childe’s hopes and dreams with a stern shake of his head. “It's far too late already. We both need to go to work.”
“But… but!” Childe whines in protest. “I’ll be quick, I promise.”
“We did it last night.”
“You seemed happy to do it just the other day.”
“It wasn't as late then.”
“It’s only five minutes later!”
His quick rebuttal doesn't even faze Zhongli in the slightest.
“When you come back after dinner today, I have something planned for you.”
The word slips out of his mouth before he can fully process them. It’s only once his brain regains its higher functions that he realises the potential pitfall he had walked into. Zhongli never did say what the surprise would be, though his horny mind had jumped straight to the gutter due to the nature of their conversation.
Moping in despair, he watches as Zhongli slides off the bed and stretches, back making a graceful arc like how a cat would. That slender waist and plump ass that is flashed to him makes him want to go back on his word and ravish the other right now. However, he knows that as the God of Contracts, Zhongli takes any form of agreement, as trivial as it might be, with utmost seriousness. Besides, as eager as he is to lie with the once Archon, the thought of forcing the other to do so leaves a bad taste in his mouth. Childe really does want this relationship to work, as ludicrous as it might be.
Which is how he finds himself early for work, much to Ekaterina’s delight and his despair. Childe rests his head on his desk, the pile of paperwork at the side mercifully cleared for now. The rare lull in activity gives Childe ample time to consider the one thing that has been constantly on his mind these days.
Zhongli. But more importantly, his relationship with Zhongli.
As much as he would like to think otherwise, the fact that Zhongli is not human would never change. He is a higher being, fundamentally different from himself no matter how much he tries to associate with humans. Childe finds the effort endearing, the look of bewilderment clear on his face as he nods along to someone’s outlandish reasoning for their actions. While he doesn't understand a lot of things the people around him do, Zhongli has always been more than willing to accept it as long as it is within his limits.
And Childe has come to realise that Zhongli’s limits are seemingly boundless while restrictive beyond reason at the same time.
Childe loves every small quirk and thing about Zhongli. He likes the way the god holds his chopsticks and picks apart his food, pulling the fat and skin away from his braised pork and only eating the lean meat. Zhongli is frighteningly wise and perceptive, but even six thousand years of knowledge fails him at times. When something he doesn't understand happens, his eyes would blink extra slowly as he struggles to come up with an appropriate response. And when he thinks Childe is asleep in the morning, he would open the windows and speak to the large gathering of birds on the windowsill at times, pulling feed from somewhere and murmuring to them in a soft voice.
It all feels incredibly human.
Then Zhongli would turn around and show him a colder side.
Their first time having sex is a great example of this. As he had laid Zhongli down on the bed, all fired up to make tender love to him, his lover had looked up at him with glowing amber eyes, questioning him in a completely innocent manner about the purpose of their intercourse. Childe had gaped openly as Zhongli elaborated, explaining how their coupling wouldn't result in any children or much else. When he finally mustered the strength to reply that they would do it for the pleasure, that had sent Zhongli into deep contemplation before agreeing with a new curiosity alight in his eyes.
The results were… interesting to say the least. Zhongli is a great bed partner whether he is aware of it or not. There is just something mesmerising about the way he moves his body, endlessly elegant and composed despite taking Childe’s dick deep inside him. In fact, he barely seems to feel anything at all, maintaining that mild look of affable neutrality that just feels so unflappable. It's almost as if Childe is the only one who feels something out of their relationship despite Zhongli’s constant denial.
Then there are the instances where he would pass remarks about a poor lady who had just lost her cheating husband, wondering what is there to mourn for. He would comfort a young couple who lost their newborn son while asking Childe why they are so attached to a baby they barely know. He comforts his weeping patrons at his workplace as he encourages them to live on despite the loss of their loved ones, only to ask Childe at night whether he said the right thing when death is inevitable for them all.
The knowledge is there but the heart is not.
It shocks him at first, wondering where the mild natured and amiable consultant of the Wangsheng Funeral Palor went. Further questioning helps him better understand just what goes through Zhongli’s head.
The dissonance runs much deeper than he could have imagined. Zhongli’s true thoughts and opinions are so radically different, harsh even. Every day, Childe begins to see new parts of the once Archon that have never been revealed to him before. Maybe it’s because Zhongli feels comfortable sharing these inhuman parts of himself with Childe now that they are closer. Whatever it is, Childe isn't too sure what to make of it.
He had thought that practical mindset to be a rather unique way of thinking, but as he had begun to comprehend what a god truly means, he understands it is a more of a natural progression of thought.
Humans simply aren't equals to Zhongli. He treats them with so much care and respect and yet he is also painfully aware of their differences that can't be helped. Much like humans can come to love cats and dogs, few would ever consider them on the same level as another person.
It is a strange paradox that comes with a god trying to play human, appearing charmingly relatable yet so alien at times. With that comes the constant concern of just what Zhongli feels towards him.
The Geo Archon’s love for his people and country runs frighteningly deep. He doesn't hide it in the least, practically flaunting it for all who care to see. Zhongli’s heart is large and wide, endless and deep. How is he to know that the ‘love’ he claims to feel towards Childe is actually love ?
Zhongli is a person who sees the forest and not the individual tree. He knows of duty and responsibilities and contracts. What is love to Zhongli in the first place? Is it a promise, an obligation, a right – a curiosity?
… Is it even possible for a god to love?
He sighs, leaning back in his chair with a hand across his eyes.
All these deep, philosophical thoughts are going to drive him crazy one day. At this rate, he will end up doubting his own worldview and sanity very soon. Childe likes simple; he does simple. Anything that can't be chopped up and beaten into submission is a pain in the ass to deal with.
Unfortunately, anything involving Zhongli is doomed to be complicated. Past Archon or not, Zhongli has lived for far longer than Childe and has seen and experienced things far beyond what he can imagine.
The saddest thing is that Childe understands it all perfectly and yet he can't help but still want to stay.
Well, he supposes there is a silver lining in all this turmoil clouding their relationship. Almost as if Zhongli can sense the discontent in his heart, he has been more liberal with their sex, even initiating it himself on several occasions. It had come as a surprise to Childe, but a welcome one for sure. And from the earnest way Zhongli seems to apply himself to all the things they do, spending more time together and learning from past mistakes, Childe can't help but be charmed by the honest effort.
It's just, Zhongli seems to have found the most curious way in expressing his newfound desire to bond.
For instance, Childe had barely gotten permission to sleep over at Zhongli’s home the week before when it suddenly changes to near nightly demands that quickly turn into long sessions of sex. Then the morning quickies started, with him waking up to Zhongli riding him or sucking him off on several occasions as well. There was even one outrageous occasion where he woke up and found, to his horror (delight?), that Zhongli had kept his dick inside his ass the entire night, only allowing it to slip out once he had coaxed out a load from his half awake self, head still too muddled with sleep to properly process what was happening.
All these thoughts of the filthy things he and Zhongli do in the bedroom shows in the way his pants are currently tented rather obscenely. Groaning, Childe shifts in his chair, adjusting himself such that his work desk casually hides the entire lower half of his body from anyone that walks in.
Unfortunately, that only reminds him of more occasions of their escalating shenanigans, like that one time Zhongli had sat under his desk for hours, alternating between sucking him off and nuzzling his head into his crotch as he struggled desperately to keep up a presentable front when speaking to his subordinates. There was also the memorable event as Zhongli invited him to watch a performance by the Yun-Han Opera Troupe only to pull him into a dark corner halfway, bending over in invitation while people bustled about busily not even three meters away.
The only problem is that no matter how adventurous or arousing an act Zhongli performs in theory, everything falls flat with that calm look of stony indifference he wears when they do it. The way things are, it feels as if he is the only one enjoying their sex with Zhongli merely allowing it out of some odd sense of duty.
Sighing, he suddenly remembers the deal they struck this morning.
Perhaps his immediate assumption of it pertaining to sex of some sort isn't as unreasonable as he thought.
A loud bang rings out in the room as he allows his face to smash into his desk. Even that fails to quell his raging boner now that he has gotten his imagination all fired up.
Childe glances at the clock and wishes he never left the bed this morning.
This is going to be a long, long afternoon.
It’s a good thing Zhongli eats his dinner so early and punctually every day, as that gives him a good estimate of when to visit. Along his merry way to Zhongli’s home, he ends up being side-tracked by an absolutely heavenly smell. His feet grow a mind of their own as he does a sharp detour, nose leading him to a stall where the wonderful scent is coming from.
It turns out to be a new stall selling all sorts of freshly cooked duck. Since he practically walks by this street every day and has not seen this place before, he figures it wouldn't hurt to try some of their products and hopefully impress Zhongli too while he is at it. Childe ends his little side mission walking away with a full smoked duck bundled neatly in a swathe of cloth, eager to present this gift to his lover.
And now for the moment of truth.
With slight trepidation, Childe knocks sharply on Zhongli’s door, shifting on his feet as multiple possibilities of what the past Archon could have possibly planned for him. Maybe it would be a new recipe he wants Childe to try? Or perhaps a long lost artefact he wishes for them to appraise together. But if he is to take Zhongli’s voracious appetite for… certain activities as of late into account, maybe they would end up fucking on the roof or something?
The door swings open.
“Hey, hey! Look what I’ve brought back for you Zhongli—”
He gets a good look at the person who is currently holding the door open.
Childe drops the duck.
Standing in front of him is a gorgeous young woman with long brown hair tumbling over her shoulders. Her golden eyes seem to pin him in place, intimidating him greatly despite the great difference in their height. But what stuns him even more are the clothes she wears.
She is wearing an outfit reminiscent of the outfits worn by performing tropes in Fontaine, consisting of a skintight leotard and fishnet stockings. The whole thing does wonders to complement her slender figure and the plunging neckline gives him a good view of her ample bosoms. The oddest part of her outfit, however, would have to be the pair of rabbit ears on her head and the very familiar, single earring on her left ear.
In fact, she does look a little too much like Zhongli to be a mere sister. Besides, Zhongli never mentioned having one either. Do gods even have siblings? It’s almost as though the woman in front of him is Zhongli just… female?
It takes the long haired beauty bending down to retrieve his dropped package to shake Childe out of his reverie. Then it occurs to him that he dropped his food on the ground.
“Duck. I mean fuck.” He blanches, realising how rude he sounds. “Wait no, I mean duck—”
“You bought me some duck?”
Oh, her voice is as beautiful as she looks, smooth and calm, verging on indifference at times like he has come to expect. And yet it doesn't take away from his enjoyment of their conversations at all. Childe would always sigh dreamily, staring longingly into Zhongli’s cor lapis coloured eyes like some sort of lovesick puppy as he begins to recount some obscure tale from a hundred years before.
Hold on a second.
The young woman blinks at him slowly.
“Yes, Childe?” Zhongli appraises the bag of smoked duck in his (her??) hands. “Is this from the new stall that opened down the street a few days ago?”
Unwrapping the cloth with dainty fingers, he inspects the meat inside with a critical eye before nodding.
“You should be more careful with food next time. Though I must say, it certainly looks as good as it smells.”
Zhongli certainly seems to be quite taken by the gift, humming a soft tune of contentment as he brings the bundle back in with him to the kitchen. Meanwhile, Childe is torn between several questions and half considering taking a walk around the city before coming back to a hopefully more normal situation.
“Are you not coming in?”
There goes his choice.
Meekly, he takes off his boots, leaving them on the rack by the door. He sits himself down gingerly on a nearby couch, watching as Zhongli sets to work putting the food away for tomorrow, his long hair swaying hypnotically as he moves. It takes a bit of skilful pep talking, but Childe eventually manages to convince himself to ask the first of many questions.
“So uh, where did this come from?”
“It was a gift from a past acquaintance.” Zhongli pauses for a moment. “She called it a bunny suit.”
“No, more like”—he gestures up and down wildly to Zhongli’s entire body—“what exactly is this supposed to mean?”
“Oh.” Unlike how flustered Childe is, Zhongli doesn't seem to be perturbed in the slightest. “I thought you might want to try something new.”
Is he referring to his clothes or the change in gender?!
Alright. He takes a deep calming breath. If his time in the Fatui taught him anything, it would be to take the unknown one step at a time. As such, Childe mentally flips a coin to decide which jarring subject he should tackle first.
“So you can change your form at will?”
“Yes.” Zhongli tilts his head slightly. “Would you like another demonstration?”
“Huh? Uh, sure?” he says before really processing the words.
In the blink of an eye, Zhongli is visibly morphing into someone else. What he imagined to be a rather disturbing process of watching flesh melt and shift around ends up being not as bad as he thought. Then again, Zhongli does have a way of making everything he does seem effortlessly elegant and pretty.
All too soon, Childe is staring at an exact replica of himself.
Startled by the uncanniness of seeing a copy of himself outside a mirror, Childe takes a cautionary step back.
“I think I got most of the details right apart from my eyes that can't be changed.”
Wow, he even sounds like Childe. Unfortunately, Zhongli fails to copy his usual manner of speech as well as his body language, leading to a very odd dissonance as he looks at the golden-eyed version of himself who behaves exactly like his lover. Seeing Zhongli’s signature thoughtful look and way of speaking on his own body is rather unsettling.
“Would you like to do it like this then? Or is my female form more to your liking?”
Zhongli’s proposition renders Childe speechless for a moment. At once, his brain conjures up the ridiculous image of him fucking himself, or not so ridiculous now that Zhongli has shown him what he is capable of.
Childe wisely decides not to go down that rabbit hole.
“I uh, how about we just stick to whatever you’re most comfortable with? I don't mind either way.” Then he realises what he is implying and hurries to correct himself. “Except for the selfcest thing. I think I’m not quite prepared for that step yet…”
To his relief, Zhongli gives a small nod of understanding, once again glowing with amber light as he returns to his male form. His hair lengthens and cascades back down, the bunny suit stretching and shifting slightly to accommodate for the change in structure. Clearly, the suit is meant to complement the female figure more. However, with Zhongli’s naturally slender build and pretty face, Childe finds the outfit extremely fitting as well. Not to mention how the fishnet shows off Zhongli’s long legs and the leotard is cut outrageously high, barely covering his crotch but also giving Childe a great view of his plump ass. His question on Zhongli’s new outfit dies in his throat as he decides that some questions just aren't worth asking.
Still, seeing Zhongli in something so revealing is a shock to his system. Childe has only seen the other completely covered up in his usual work clothes or completely naked when they are about to have sex. He never thought he would see the day where Zhongli would willingly wear something so scandalous on his own.
Though, having come to understand Zhongli’s train of thought better, Childe finally realises that the concept of ‘shame’ is rather foreign to the adeptus. While he would certainly avoid doing things that hurt his reputation, at the end of the day, it is the human ‘Zhongli’ who would receive the backlash. All he has to do is take on another form and start anew. Rather than a social death sentence, it is more akin to an inconvenience. With how different their worldviews are, what a puny human would consider shameful might very well be mere entertainment in a god’s eye.
And besides, his human form isn't even what he truly is. Why would Zhongli even be bothered by what others thought of it?
A glowing ball of bright light is pressed into his palm, breaking Childe out of his thoughts. He stares at it owlishly, watching in shock as it morphs into a familiar shape.
Eyes widening in disbelief, Childe stares at the Gnosis in his palm, to Zhongli’s chest and then back again.
“Didn't you give up your Gnosis to Signora?”
“This is not a Gnosis but a manifestation of my power. I merely moulded it into a shape that you would be most familiar with.” The cylindrical like object glows softly in his palm as if in response to Zhongli’s words, bringing with it a slight warmth. “The Gnosis was more of a badge signifying my status of an Archon. It boosted my powers to a degree but is by no means the sole source of my power.”
Childe prods the object in his hands. It doesn't look or feel all that different from the real one he had gotten a glimpse of back then before Signora had left the country with it for good. He hopes the disappointment on his face doesn’t show when Zhongli floats the ‘Gnosis’ back into his chest.
That's when Zhongli spins around and begins walking towards his bedroom, giving Childe a nice long look at his rear.
There is a hole cut into the bunny suit right where Zhongli’s asshole is.
“Are you coming?”
Childe nods numbly, steps stiff as he makes his way towards his lover.
Looks like his earlier hunch about Zhongli’s surprise is right after all.
“I’m sorry. I think I must have heard you wrong.”
Zhongli shifts in his position, turning his head back to look at Childe.
“As I said before, I would like you to spank me hard until I am a crying wreck, face dripping with tears and body quivering, dick stiff, throbbing and leaking messily all over the place as I do my utmost to hold in the butt plug in my ass.”
Zhongli nods to himself, seemingly very proud of having listed out that entire string of raunchy descriptions. Then he cocks his head to the side, adding on like an afterthought, “Daddy.”
Hm. It appears that his ears are still functional after all. Though, he might have to wash them out after this. Childe can feel the melted remains of his brain from the outrageous words Zhongli is spouting leaking out through them.
“... Please don't call me that.”
“Would you like to call me that instead?”
“Nononono! That’s even worse!” Childe blurts out the first silly response his brain thinks of before he can help himself. “If anything, I should be calling you ancestor or something! What, you were probably alive to see my great great great great great great great grandparents and more being brought into Teyvat, right?”
“Ancestor.” For Celestia’s sake, Zhongli actually looks like he is considering the suggestion. “That’s not a bad idea.”
“Forget I said anything!” Childe practically screeches while covering his face with his hands.
Ahhhh, does the universe hate him or something? He swears he didn't mean it when he cursed at the sun this morning!
“I shall do my best then.” Zhongli looks so serious Childe could cry. “Would you like to get on with the spanking then, An– Childe?”
Childe squints suspiciously at the past Archon lying in his lap.
“You were about to call me Ancestor, right?”
All he gets in response is Zhongli’s pretty face staring at him innocently, wide eyed and seeming appalled that he would accuse him of such a thing.
“Forget it,” Childe grumbles while considering his next move. “So what was I supposed to do again? Ah, right. I am to… spank you…”
Zhongli makes a noncommittal sound as he looks ahead once more in a more comfortable position.
The current situation goes as such: Zhongli is lying down over Childe on the bed, still in his very sexy bunny suit with his butt placed conveniently on his lap in a perfect position to be hit. With his bunny ears lying askew from his constant movement, Childe had been sure to prop Zhongli’s upper body up with plenty of pillows to ensure his comfort. Long legs covered in silky fishnets lie limply on the other side of the bed, in plain view for Childe to admire. He half wishes he had taken his clothes off first so that he can feel them rubbing against him. In his defence, his higher functions had pretty much shut down the moment Zhongli started strutting around in his bunny outfit.
Somehow, he can't help but feel that he is the only one feeling flustered despite technically being in control. Even lying in such a vulnerable position, Zhongli looks more like he is lying down to read a book in leisure rather than to be spanked.
Shaking his head to dispel such discouraging thoughts, Childe runs his hands over the soft flesh of Zhongli’s backside, admiring the way he can pull them apart to reveal the other’s rosebud, a tender pink and looking oh so appealing.
A sudden thought strikes him.
“Aren't you supposed to be holding in a butt plug?”
It appears they both simultaneously came to the realisation of the glaring problem in their plans.
“I didn't see one when wearing the suit earlier. I must have lost it at some point,” Zhongli says softly, sounding rather mournful over the loss.
“... Let’s not cry over spilt milk, yeah?” Childe wrecks his brain, drawing from all experiences in his short life to think up a suitable replacement. “We just need to use something else instead, something sufficiently long and round in shape. Something like your Gnosis actually.”
Eyes scanning the room, Childe is just about to gently remove Zhongli off his lap to search the room when he is passed something sufficiently long and round in shape.
“This is perfect!” he says happily, bringing the object to his face to get a better look. “This is— This is your Gnosis.”
Zhongli doesn't even look at him, resting his head comfortably on the pillows while kicking his legs, as though impatient for Childe to just get on with it.
Well, the fake Gnosis does look a lot like a butt plug and if its owner doesn't seem to mind, who is he to question?
“I’ll be putting it in then.”
Fumbling around the bedding for the bottle of lube he is very sure he prepared in advance, the errant bottle is eventually discovered by Zhongli, who shoots it over with a small surge of Geo. If not for his fast reflexes and above average strength, Childe is sure the slender object would have embedded itself into the wall from the force.
Ignoring the very real possibility of having been almost accidentally killed by his lover during sex, Childe coats his fingers with a liberal amount of oil and the Gnosis too for good measure. Besides, the silk flower scent of it is one of Zhongli’s favourites and has grown on him due to repeated use.
Childe spends around three minutes working Zhongli open, prior experience in doing so only makes the process easier. While Zhongli has initially been incredibly still and reluctant to relax his muscles, now he is something of a veteran himself, allowing Childe to finger him with ease all while snuggling deeper into the pillows.
And now for the finishing touch.
Picking up the oil-coated Gnosis, Childe utters a quick prayer for all the other Archons out there in hindsight of what they are about to do with this very important object. Then he is sliding the thin Gnosis in, pushing it as deep as he can while leaving only the tip out. Interestingly enough, he feels Zhongli twitch slightly as he does so, a reaction he rarely sees even when fucking the living daylights out of him. The train of thought is quickly forgotten as Zhongli tries to reposition himself, only to end up shaking his ass in Childe’s face in a mesmerising way. The round globes of flesh jiggle while the Gnosis plugging his hole acts as a beacon of sorts, tantalising Childe with how it moves along.
Suddenly, Childe begins to understand the appeal of this whole spanking thing.
“I’m going to start on the count of three.”
He hears a muffled ‘yes’ coming from the direction of Zhongli’s head. Gleefully, he begins to count down, anticipation thrumming under his skin.
While he appreciates Zhongli for all his quirks and his fascinating personality, it is undoubtable that physical appearance plays a part in his attraction as well.
Zhongli is beautiful from head to toe. But one huge draw for him has always been the other’s ass. He knows he is not alone in this opinion, as he has heard a fair number of people remark on how gorgeous the Wangsheng Funeral Parlour consultant is. They all agree that while his sender body and remarkable face are like a goddess incarnate, his ass is still one of his greatest strengths.
He imagines how it would feel, how it would look once he sinks his hand into Zhongli’s ass.
Would they jiggle as much as they do when he fucks Zhongli on the bed, legs raised and nearly folded in half? Would Zhongli cry out and moan sweetly for him as he is struck, flesh stinging Childe as he soothes him and rubs the pain away only to hit him once more?
Would Zhongli beg prettily, pleading with Childe to stop and fuck him with his fat cock instead?
His hand has already long been raised. Childe brings it down, palm colliding with Zhongli’s ass.
“@$$%##@%! Пиздец! Иди на хуй!! сука блять!!!”
Childe screams, cursing and swearing as he is hit with a world of pain.
Even with tears prickling at the edge of his eyes, blurring his vision and making it a challenge to see, Childe can tell Zhongli is getting up, worry evident in his voice as he tries to check up on him.
“I-I’m,” he swallows, gritting his teeth in pain and choking out his words. “I’m fine.”
He is met with silence for a long moment before he hears the rustling of sheets, the pressure of Zhongli lying back down appearing once more on his lap.
“... The spanking wasn’t that bad, was it?”
Yes, it was , Childe wants to say, but manages to hold his tongue.
His hand feels like it is about to drop off from how hard he slammed it against Zhongli’s behind. It is throbbing in agony, flesh already turning an angry red from the impact. In fact, if not for the fact that he needs his hand for the rest of his life, Childe would consider chopping the damn thing off to stop the maddening pain. Then again, the crux of the issue lies with Zhongli’s ass.
How is it possible for an ass to be so soft yet paradoxically hard at the same time?!
“Xiansheng, your flesh, how is it so hard all of a sudden?”
“Oh.” Zhongli has the audacity to sound sheepish. “It must have been an unconscious reflex in response to being hit. When battling, I usually harden my body whenever an attack draws near since my shields are not infallible. It helps mitigate a lot of damage that way.”
Childe wants to cry.
“Can I get a contract to stop you from hardening whenever I spank you?”
“... Of course.”
Ugly cries and sobs fill the air.
“P-please… enough already. No more please!”
The poor male lies on his side, crying into the bed with all his heart. His flesh has been spanked well and hard, burning in agony and red like fire. Face dripping with tears and body a quivering wreck, his dick is, however, not stiff, not throbbing and most certainly not leaking all over the place.
Oh. He supposes Zhongli did manage to hold in his Gnosis though.
On a side note, his entire line of ancestors would be rolling in their graves if ever saw Childe crying in such a pathetic manner from such a pathetic cause.
Zhongli is staring helplessly at him as he hovers beside Childe’s prone body.
“I didn't harden my skin this time.”
“Is your hand alright then?”
Or as the Inazumians put it, things are not daijoubu .
Childe sulks as he curls up in a corner, cradling his poor hand that has gone through so much abuse. He dries his crocodile tears, refusing to back down on this one having felt incredibly wrong.
“I’m sorry Ajax. I didn't mean to hurt you.” Zhongli looks genuinely crestfallen for once, expression open and easy for him to read. “It’s just, you never seemed entirely satisfied when you are with me. Our sex aside, even when we go out for dinner or simply spend time together, I always sense a growing rift between us.”
“I thought that through more sex or varying our activities, it would help things. But now I see the problem runs much deeper.”
Now Childe just feels bad. He pulls himself together at once, shedding the dramatic facade he had been putting up till now.
“It’s not your fault my hand ended up hurting. You’re an Adeptus while I’m a mere human. It only makes sense that our pain tolerance will be different.”
His explanation seems to placate Zhongli somewhat. But then his expression turns sorrowful again.
“Does the problem lie with me then?”
Instinctively, Childe rushes to say no. Something, however, causes him to pause as he takes a moment to mull over his answer.
“I won't sugar coat things. I think the problem does lie with you—”
He watches as Zhongli jerks his head to stare at Childe, a painful expression he has never seen before twisting his features.
“—because of what you are.”
“And of course, part of the blame is on me too. After all, I never did voice my feelings till this point, content to let them simply fester between us. If anything, you should be proud to have brought the issue up at all.”
The atmosphere between them becomes tense, uneasy, charged with so many conflicting emotions it ends up feeling like a thick, suffocating smog. Zhongli looks absolutely crushed, the expression of abstract misery on his face nearly unbearable to look at.
“What can I do to make things right? What do I need to change?”
Childe pushes himself up from the bed, scoots over and drags his lover into a hug, soothing him by stroking his hair.
“You don't need to do anything. Actually, I think it’s my fault after all. I should have asked you this a long time ago.”
Running his fingers through long locks of brown, Childe tries to muster the courage to proceed with the questioning. For better or for worse, their relationship is likely to change irreversibly after it.
“Do you love me?”
“Do you love Liyue?”
“Do you love your fellow adepti, family and friends?”
“Then tell me, is your love for them the same as mine?”
Zhongli doesn't finish his reply, probably realising how it would make him sound. But it is enough for Childe to piece together what he wanted to say.
The past Archon goes very still in his arms.
“I like being with you, Ajax. I enjoy our time together.”
“And that goes for other people as well,” Childe explains patiently. “In all honesty, do you stay with me because I’m truly that different, or is it because I chased you the hardest?”
“I like you more than anyone else,” Zhongli says weakly.
“What does love mean to gods?” Childe muses, brushing Zhongli’s hair aside so that he can rest his head on the crook of his neck. “What does love mean to you, Zhongli?”
“... I don't know.”
“It’s alright to not have an answer. I knew what I was getting into the moment I decided to pursue this relationship.”
Therein lies their problem. They are, after all, fundamentally different beings. It’s only normal that they see the world in a different light as well.
However, both of them are independent adults able to think logically and decide what is best for themselves. Just because they might not fully understand, it doesn't mean they can’t accept and learn to accommodate each other. To think otherwise would be doing both Zhongli and himself a disservice.
“You’re an immortal being, the Prime Adeptus and past Archon of Geo. What am I, but a pitiful little mortal appearing in a fraction of your lifespan? All too soon, you will forget me and move on.”
“I won't forget you Ajax,” Zhongli says quietly. “I won't.”
“Maybe you won't. But the fact that you’re not human will never change.”
“I can change.” The beginnings of a frightening look appear in Zhongli’s eyes. “I’ll try harder, learn more from the people around us. I’ll stop using my powers, letting my body turn mortal. I’ll be a better lover, I promise.”
“No, Zhongli. You don't need to do that.”
“Is it bad that you’re not human? Human beings are flawed creatures you know? For all your desire to become more like us, how many humans do you think long to be more like you?”
Bringing his hands around Zhongli’s waist, he leans back, making them tumble into the soft mattress. He grabs Zhongli’s arms and circles them around his waist, doing the same with his own until they are lying in a comfortable embrace.
“This inhumanity of yours is different but not bad. In a way, it makes you who you are and I wouldn't dream of asking you to change it. Though, I suppose if there is one thing that you could do is to try showing me how much you enjoy our time together?”
“Have I not done that already?” Zhongli’s eyes are staring right into his own, almost seeming to glow in the rapidly darkening room. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“Relationships are all about a mutual give and take. Part of the pleasure comes not just from receiving affection from your partner, but also from witnessing how happy you can make them. As much as I find joy in our interactions, part of that joy is diminished when I see your lack of response.”
Feelings and relationships are always such a hard matter to tackle. It probably explains the beginning of a headache pounding into his head and why he feels so drained. Even worse is how he is unsure if Zhongli understands what he means.
Deciding to throw all caution to the wind, Childe soldiers on anyway, figuring that he might as well continue since he is already on such a roll.
“It might sound selfish, but seeing you show the same expression when we go out on our dinner dates compared to you receiving a great book recommendation from Xingqiu does upset me sometimes. It makes me feel that you stay with me out of some weird moral obligation rather than anything else.”
To be honest, Childe is mostly just rambling by this point. So to see the profound enlightenment in Zhongli’s eyes is something he does not expect.
“I will admit, the fact that you might take pleasure in my own enjoyment did not cross my mind.”
“Precisely!” Childe pounds the bed with his fist to emphasize his point. “That’s why I can't ever fully enjoy our sex! It’s hard to do so when your reactions are literally comparable to a rock. I keep thinking my technique is inadequate or something, or that maybe my dick isn't big enough…”
“It’s not about size, Childe. I’ve taken many dicks before. Yours is one of the largest I’ve had.”
He chokes on air, nearly embarrassing himself with his uncontrollable coughs. Trust Zhongli to be able to say something like that completely deadpan despite their previously serious conversation.
“Alright, so it’s not my dick. Great.” He lets out a sigh of relief. “Then is it your body? Does it not register pleasure or something?”
“I might just not be sensitive.” Zhongli snuggles in closer to Childe, eyes looking elsewhere as he sinks deep into thought. “I feel the sensations but am unsure how to act on them. With enough experimentation, I might be able to rectify the issue.”
“Eh, that does sound tricky.”
Childe begins to get up, ready to leave the bed only for Zhongli to stop him.
“Are we not going to have sex anymore?”
“I think it’s safe to say the mood’s been ruined. Besides, I can wait till you figure something out before we try again. I'm not that much of a degenerate that I think about having sex with you every day.”
Except he is. He just so happens to have an impressive amount of self control and a great poker face to bullshit his way out of situations.
“Oh.” Whether Zhongli sounds vaguely disappointed or is simply affirming his statement, Childe can't quite tell. “Will you help me remove my Gnosis before you go?”
Ah yes, the Gnosis butt plug. The poor thing has been sitting in Zhongli’s ass the whole time they had this serious conversation.
Not seeing the harm in it, Childe rolls Zhongli over and is once again presented with a great view of that exquisite ass. He pinches the tip of the golden object, pulling it up slightly before letting go. Regret weighs heavily on him, causing him to let out a little huff of sorrow. Shame on him and his big mouth, spouting off such noble words earlier. Now he can't go back on them and will have to suffer going without Zhongli’s wonderful ass tonight.
His musing is broken by a muffled sound. Startled, he looks down to where Zhongli’s ass is nestled snugly by his side. At some point in time, his fingers must have grown a mind of their own, pulling the Gnosis in and out of Zhongli’s hole, using the object like a dildo to fuck him with.
Appalled at his own boldness, Childe chastises his naughty fingers as he quickly pulls the Gnosis out in one go. Whether by sheer luck or a subconscious act, he must have rubbed the slender object against a sensitive spot inside Zhongli for the next thing he knows, the past Archon is letting out a cut-off gasp, body twitching slightly.
Baffled, he stares at Zhongli’s ass for several seconds.
Then he does it again.
There's no mistaking it. The moment he pushes the Gnosis in again, Zhongli shudders as his muscles tense.
“You still want to have sex right?
“And you do want to make me happy, right?”
That’s a good enough confirmation in his books. Grinning, Childe makes sure he has a firm hold on the fake Gnosis before he starts moving it around. He alternates between whatever creative motions his brain conjures up, swirling, grinding and even making rather crude stabbing motions. Considering how slender the object is compared to the other… phallic like objects they had tested on Zhongli in the past, the exaggerated motions Childe makes to fuck Zhongli feels justified on his part at least.
And it certainly seems to be working. He would even go as far as to say that it’s working a little too well. Childe soon comes to realise that he really doesn’t have to spend too much effort at all to get Zhongli to feel something. Just the slightest nudge with the Gnosis against his walls sends Zhongli shuddering and thrusting motions actually makes his hips jump.
The sight makes Childe want to purr in delight, relishing in the way Zhongli seems to be so sensitive all of a sudden. He has absolutely no clue on the science of how being fucked with your own powers feels extra good, but he’s not one to question such things.
“C-Childe I—” Zhongli’s voice is uncharacteristically breathy. “It… It feels weird like I’m going to—”
His sentence is cut off halfway by the soft moan that leaves his mouth.
“Hm?” Childe grins down at Zhongli’s arched back. “Were you saying something, Zhongli?”
Zhongli tries to reply to him. He can see it from the way the past Archon attempts to prop himself up on his arms and turn to face him. Unfortunately, Childe also chooses that exact moment to drive the Gnosis deep into him, shoving the whole thing inside together with a few of his fingers.
The reaction he gets is immediate. Zhongli practically face plants onto the mattress in a rather undignified manner while his body shakes visibly. His tight hole spasms around his fingers and sucks at them as though trying to draw Childe deeper into himself. For good measure, he makes a scissoring motion with his fingers, causing the Gnosis to shift around within Zhongli. It causes the past Archon to claw at the sheets, fists bunching them up until they are a wrinkled mess in his grip.
Unable to resist any longer, Childe grabs Zhongli by the hips and drags him back onto his lap. Soon they are in the same position as earlier when Childe had unsuccessfully tried to spank Zhongli, with his lover’s plump ass nestled snugly over his legs for him to enjoy. Zhongli barely puts up any resistance the whole time, allowing himself to be dragged around like a ragdoll. Pushing the traumatic experience to the back of his mind, Childe is rather surprised to feel something hard and damp pressing against his thighs.
Grinning devilishly, Childe shakes his leg, using the inside of his thigh to massage that hard thing sensually. The muffled keens coming from Zhongli tells him all he needs to know. He briefly considers flipping Zhongli over so that he can see his face and expose the other’s erection to the world but figuring there would be plenty more opportunities to do so, he decides to focus on getting Zhongli off first. It is his first time showing such a strong reaction to sex or foreplay, making Childe want to do his utmost to make the experience a great one.
As for how to escalate things further, there is only one idea in his mind at the moment. Childe uses one hand to grip Zhongli on the waist. The other, which is still stretching out his lover’s insides, presses the entire length of Zhongli’s Gnosis against where he thinks his prostate might be. Zhongli certainly feels something, panting harshly into the air as his shoulders draw together and shake, but is nowhere as intense as Childe envisioned it to be. Knowing how Zhongli actively shapeshifts whenever he pleases, Childe sure hopes that he didn’t decide to form his human body without certain organs to enhance his functionality or something ridiculous like that.
Undeterred, he drags the cylindrical thing up and down, rubbing it against Zhongli until he locates that little bump inside him that would surely drive Zhongli into an uncontrolled fit of pleasure.
As he finally strikes home on his target, what greets him is a glorious sight. Zhongli nearly jerks off his lap, letting out a choked off cry before managing to stifle it with his hands. The feeling of wetness soaking into his pants only grows, making Childe wish they took off their clothes before they started. Well, for himself at least. He has to admit that whoever designed the bunny suit that Zhongli is wearing certainly knows what they were doing. The overall sexy look with the silken fishnets and high cut of the leotard had his head in the gutter since the beginning, but watching how Zhongli slowly unravels in it while he stains the inside of his clothes with precome must be one of the hottest things he could ever imagine.
Childe doesn’t plan to give Zhongli any time to recover from the sudden surge of pleasure. If he truly wants to make the stoic adeptus fall, he would have to hit him hard and fast, like how guerilla warfare is conducted. It might be a little odd to compare sex and pleasure to fighting but it makes perfect sense to him at least.
In a way, sex is just like a battle of its own, certainly a warranting different kind of techniques but a battle all the same. That would also mean that Zhongli is his toughest opponent to date, unflinching no matter how he usually pounds him into the bed at night.
Now, however, with the glimmer of a promised victory in sight, Childe feels his heart pumping and his desire to win running at full blast, fueled on by a healthy dose of arousal as well.
He rubs the Gnosis aggressively against Zhongli’s prostate over and over, grinning like a madman when Zhongli’s cries fill the room. The once stoic adeptus is now a mess of sensitive flesh, vocalising his pleasure for the world to hear. His limbs thrash wildly, legs licking against the bed and rocking his hips up and down sporadically. His back is in a near perfect arch by this point and has yet to unarch itself for a while. Brown hair spills messily against the white sheets as Zhongli pants harshly into his pillow, clinging onto the bed sheets so hard Childe half expects to hear ripping any moment now.
The final straw that sends Zhongli tipping over is the fraction against his straining dick as Childe grinds his leg against it. Zhongli goes still for a moment before letting out a sound that sounds like a surprised moan and shout all at once. His body pulled taut like a bowstring set to release, Zhongli’s tense muscles quiver and shake as he rides out his orgasm, something that becomes evident when Childe feels the wetness on his leg turns into something thicker and hot.
As the very helpful lover he is, Childe hums as he fucks Zhongli throughout his release, continuing to mesh the Gnosis against his prostate relentlessly. He continues to do so even as Zhongli is reduced to a twitching wreck, collapsing against him while weakly trying to pull away at the same time.
“Ngh ah! Chidle! S-stop—”
Deciding to have mercy on him, Childe slowly drags the Gnosis out of his hole, making sure that the ridges catch against Zhongli’s sensitive spots along the way. The slow, sensual act makes Zhongli keen, thighs and ass tensing up as his toes curl. He helps Zhongli sit up when the entire slender object is out of him, allowing him to sit on his lap.
Zhongli is practically boneless at the moment, a dazed look plastered all over his face. The only thing holding him up at the moment are Childe’s arms. He is sure the moment he releases his lover, Zhongli would immediately flop back onto the bed into a messy heap.
For the first time, Childe gets to fully appreciate the results of his hard work at riling up the past Geo Archon. Normally sharp amber eyes are misty and a pretty blush dusts Zhongli’s cheeks. There is the faintest hint of drool on his lips that make them look shiny and kissable while his once immaculate hair is all mussed up and falling haphazardly over his shoulders and arms. The bunny suit is all rumpled with the large wet stain down the front being the biggest offender.
Mischievously, Childe prods the spot, causing Zhongli to slap his hand away weakly.
“Stop it, Childe. It’s…” His face scrunches up as he searches for the right word. “Sensitive?”
“Sensitive sounds about right,” Childe agrees as he reluctantly stops his assault. “How was that, Zhongli? I’ve never seen you react so strongly before! Surely it felt amazing, right?”
Living up to his name as the prime adeptus, Zhongli is quick to regain his composure despite having just orgasmed in such a flashy manner. His breaths mostly even now and that faint blush has disappeared entirely. Really, if not for the soiled bunny suit, it would be difficult to convince anyone that he just had sex.
“It was different, acceptable even.” Zhongli frowns as though unhappy with his own explanation. “No, it was good. I liked it.”
The admission seems to surprise him somewhat as enlightenment spreads across his face, eyes flicking up to look at Childe.
“I did not know sex could feel this way. If you are agreeable to it, I would like to try it again.”
Excited that Zhongli seems truly enthused about having sex for once, Childe notices for the first time how hard he currently is. It’s as though most of the blood in his body has rushed down to concentrate at his groin making his dick feel engorged beyond a reasonable amount. The light-headedness that follows nearly makes him swoon, dick straining in his pants as it longs to be set free from its tight confines. Clearly, Zhongli isn’t the only one who has made a mess of his clothes, if the sticky feeling in his underwear is anything to go by.
However, a sudden thought cuts through his haze of lust like a bucket of cold water.
“Zhongli, if we’re going to do it again, does that mean that we have to use your fake Gnosis again?”
Okay, he will admit that he would like to get his dick wet inside Zhongli’s cushiony ass, but for the sake of his lover’s enjoyment, Childe is willing to pay the ultimate price: abstinence. Besides, he could probably have Zhongli suck him off or something later. Zhongli does give some really impressive blowjobs too, especially when he can hold his breath for what feels like forever and take in the entirety of his impressive length.
“That would be the only way to replicate that earlier experience,” Zhongli says, his expression making it clear that he knows what Childe is thinking. “Although, we can try something that might yield similar results.”
Learning from their earlier mistake, they shrug off their clothes first before attempting anything. Zhongli looks upset at the soiled state of the bunny suit and for a moment, Childe is so sure that he would suggest they do some laundry before continuing with their sex. To his relief, Zhongli merely sighs before gathering their clothes up and placing them neatly in a corner.
Once they are settled back on the bed once more, the Gnosis floats over from where Childe had left it earlier to rest on Zhongli’s palm. He studies it closely before closing his eyes in concentration. A bright glow surrounds the object as it begins to float once more before shooting towards Childe.
The sudden action makes Childe try to dodge the projectile out of reflex, failing to do so as the ball of light chases him no matter where he rolls around to. It is only once his brain decides to engage in critical thinking once more does he halt, realising that there is no way it is harmful.
He allows Zhongli’s powers to hit him. Contrary to his expectations, there is no pain or any sensation at all as the glowing ball starts to sink into his chest before disappearing completely. Feeling around the area it impacted, there is nothing to be felt except for skin and his usual scars. Confused, he turns to Zhongli for an explanation for the bizarre act.
“With my powers coursing through your body, you should, by extension, register as a ‘Gnosis’ to my body.”
That… He’s not sure how much sense that actually makes. But nevertheless, he has another more pressing concern about this whole experiment.
“Won’t I like, implode from your power or something?”
After all, he is just a puny little mortal, a very powerful and tenacious mortal mind you but mortal all the same.
“You won’t,” Zhongli assures him. “I made sure of it when sending my powers into you.”
“Cool, so I won’t be randomly exploding during our intercourse or something.” Happy with the current arrangements, Childe pulls Zhongli closer to himself and begins to engage in some light foreplay, nibbling on his neck and pressing kisses to pale skin. “So, how do you wanna start?”
Zhongli doesn’t answer him with a verbal response, instead opting to push him onto his back.
Childe allows himself to fall, anticipation churning in his gut as he patiently awaits what Zhongli has in store for him. It turns out that the past Archon intends to ride him if his hips being straddled means anything.
Zhongli’s face is slightly cold as he gives Childe’s dick several strokes, licking the tip and massaging his balls in a well practised manner. It takes all his willpower to not grab Zhongli by the hair and simply start face fucking his lover. Instead, Childe reaches for the previously discarded bottle of lube and tosses it to Zhongli. The bottle is accepted graciously as Zhongli empties the remaining liquid onto his dick.
The cool oil is a shock to his system and serves to clear his lust-addled mind somewhat. The wonderful scent of silk flowers fills the room as Zhongli massages all the lube onto his length evenly, treating it with utmost care and tender love. Since Zhongli has already been well stretched and lubricated from before, it is only a matter of time before he is positioning himself over Childe’s cock, angling the head such that it catches against the rim of his hole. He teases Childe a little, shaking his hips and only providing the slightest of friction to his aching dick. Childe whines in protest, pawing at Zhongli’s thighs in an attempt to get him to put it in faster. In response to that, he merely gets an amused smile from Zhongli, making him huff in annoyance.
Finally, after what feels like ages of teasing, Zhongli begins to lower himself down onto Childe’s dick. However, Zhongli only goes slow for the first centimetre or so. One moment his tip has barely entered Zhongli and next, his lover is sitting on his groin, his entire length sheathed inside Zhongli.
The smile is wiped off Zhongli’s face.
First, it is an expression of astonishment that Childe sees. A split second later and Zhongli’s eyes are rolling back, mouth parted in a whorish moan that makes Childe’s ears burn. His entire body goes still for a long moment before it suddenly begins to shake, his slick walls squeezing down on Childe’s dick so hard it feels like it’s going to be crushed. Zhongli’s cock isn’t even fully hard, but it jumps nonetheless, squirting out a clear fluid that splashes onto their stomachs. Then he is falling forward, barely catching himself with his arms that are trembling uncontrollably.
He gets no response. Zhongli is still breathing hard, tight cavern fluttering around his dick with his head facing down and covered by a curtain of his long hair.
“Holy shit.” He tries to stay as still as possible despite the urge to rock his hips up and fuck into Zhongli. “Did you just come from putting it in?”
This is a miracle, an absolute, fucking phenomenal occurrence that he doubts he will ever have the privilege to witness again.
No, in fact, this might just be his new religion.
“C-Childe, you’re so… big. Ngh!”
Fuck. Childe can feel himself swell and grow even harder if that’s even possible. And from the way Zhongli whimpers and clutches at him even harder, he probably feels it as well.
“You can’t just say that kind of thing, Zhongli! Well, unless you’re asking to be pounded into the ground until you can’t walk straight for the next few days.”
“Are you going to do that then?”
If this is a challenge Zhongli is issuing to him, he is sure as hell going to accept it.
Peak human performance is reached that night, as Childe utilises roughly ninety nine per cent of his brain to think of all the possible different ways he can fuck Zhongli.
After the first time where Zhongli tried to ride Childe’s dick, his poor legs ended up being too wobbly to continue any further. Taking pity on the past Archon that kept trying to get up only to fall back down every time he rolls his hips slightly, Childe had taken things into his own hand and ended up fucking Zhongli from the bottom, swinging his hips up to drag his length against Zhongli’s prostate each time. It resulted in Zhongli having to hold onto him for his dear life, managing to climax another two more times before his body gives out for good.
From there, it’s essentially just Childe fucking Zhongli in every different position imaginable.
It’s crazy how incredibly sensitive Zhongli becomes the moment his power is inside Childe. Even the slightest bit of stimulation is enough to make him cry out. A pinch of his nipples has him sobbing let alone Childe giving them his full attention, licking and sucking on them until Zhongli spams and shoots pearly white all over himself. Even kissing seems to send Zhongli into some sort of drunken stupor, hips twitching as Childe plunders his mouth with his tongue.
He’s not sure if it’s a result of the Gnosis inside him, but Zhongli feels even more amazing than before. The constant wet heat engulfing him is enough to make him see white several times and his eyelids flutter. It’s a sensation he can never get enough of as he bounces Zhongli on his lap, tugging on his hair to make him tighten up.
Zhongli claws at his back, keening out his pleasure as he orgasms yet again, painting their stomachs with pearly white. The pain from his nails is barely noticeable against the overwhelming pleasure as Zhongli’s hole does its best to milk him for all its worth, contracting and rippling around his throbbing dick in waves. With a groan, Childe feels the pressure building up in him explode as trembles from his orgasm. His release seems to drag on forever and he imagines an obscene amount of cum flooding into Zhongli at the moment.
Perhaps the most surprising thing of all is how Zhongli manages to climax so easily while he has barely done so at all. In fact, this would only be his second time tonight while Zhongli has… Ah well, he lost count a long time ago.
Zhongli falls to the bed, body still twitching from the aftershocks of his release. Childe takes one look at Zhongli’s well fucked body, reddened hole that has his seed dripping out of it and feels all ready for another round. He rolls Zhongli onto his back so that he can see his face and pushes in once more. His lover throws his head back, back arching as his legs spasms out of control, kicking Childe in the process.
Well, Childe is not complaining in the slightest. Zhongli is a sight to behold, all dishevelled and out of his mind with pleasure. The way he drowns in it, thrashing on the bed as Childe thrusts into him at a breakneck pace is delightful. His hair spills out around him like ink, pink lips parting as he gasps for breath and his eyes actually glow a bright amber in the darkness of the room.
Childe notices with a start that it is not just Zhongli’s eyes that glow, but his body and hair as well. Sometime around the point where he had fucked Zhongli on his side with one leg hitched into the air, he notices that the room is much brighter than before. Then he sees the glowing markings on Zhongli’s arms and the way the tips of his hair shine like stars, illuminating their surroundings.
So, he simply flips Zhongli over, making him go down on all fours and takes him from behind. He praises Zhongli for how beautiful he looks in the dark, grabbing a lock of his hair and pressing a kiss to the tip. Once he manages to coax his lover into yet another full body orgasm, he changes the pace from all the constant fucking and begins to worship the other’s body, mouthing over the enigmatic marks on his skin and sucking on them lightly. He fingers Zhongli at the same time too, rubbing insistently over his prostate as Zhongli trembles in his hold.
It’s almost as if Zhongli is trying to make up for all the lack of pleasure he couldn’t feel in the past with the way he is acting. Even though he starts coming dry halfway through their nightly activities, he is still insatiable. Whenever Childe suggests they stop or take a break at least, he would be declined with a breathless ‘no’ followed by Zhongli climbing back onto his dick.
Had it been any other person as his partner, Childe would have put his foot down long ago. But this is Rex Lapis he is talking about, the past Archon of Geo and the prime adeptus. If said being wants to stay impaled on his dick and drool over it while cumming, who is Childe to deny him that right?
At some point, just as Zhongli manages to orgasm yet again as Childe drops him down on his dick while carrying him around the house, he lets out a deep, rumbling growl, startling Childe. He watches in amazement as his lover squirms while still being impaled on his cock and suspended in the air, the beginnings of something starting to grow from his head. Within seconds, they have sprouted into fully formed golden horns, greatly resembling the antlers of the deers he sees back in Sneznahya. Due to their position of Zhongli facing him and hugging him from the front, it takes a while longer for him to notice the tail emerging from his lover. By the time it is fully grown, it is as long as a fully grown adult with a tuft of golden fur at the end.
Before when Zhongli has started to glow like crystalfies in the dead of the night, it had still been possible to overlook that abnormality and pretend he is still banging a human. Now, however, the fact that Zhongli is not human stares at him in the face so blatantly that it is impossible to ignore.
Ignoring the way he goes still for a moment, Zhongli lets out an animalistic sound as he lifts his face from where he has been biting into Childe’s shoulders. A smattering of brownish-gold scales appear on Zhongli’s skin and his eyes dilate and change, pupils sharpening till they are mere slits. Then he parts his lips and lets out a needy whine, revealing pointed teeth that are slightly bloody.
That answers Childe’s question on whether Zhongli’s mind has left together with human guise.
In response, he sets Zhongli back down on his feet, catching him before his knees buckle and he can fall. Bending him over the kitchen counter, Childe reaches out to fondle Zhongli’s newly revealed tail, quickly learning how sensitive the base is. Had this been any other situation, he would have probably been in awe of Zhongli’s majestic half dragon form. Now, however, all his perverted mind can think of is how sexy he looks and how bad he wants to fuck Zhongli to oblivion.
His dick quickly slides back into Zhongli’s well used hole as he grabs his tail, pulling it out of the way as he begins to thrust. Wet slaps ring out in the kitchen as Zhongli babbles incoherently, at times almost managing to speak only to lapse back into moans and growling. He then switches to having Zhongli blow him, his newly grown horns turning out to be very convenient handles for him to grip onto as he drives his dick into Zhongli’s waiting mouth over and over.
Throughout the entire rough handling, Zhongli never once complains. He even seems to like it from the way he climaxes multiple more times and even manages to get off when Childe forces his face into his groin, exploding messily into his mouth.
He sprays long and hard and when he finally pulls away, his lover’s face is splattered in white even as he swallows and licks the cum off his lips.
Childe decides it’s a good look on him.
Then Zhongli is nuzzling his face against his dick, trying to bring it back to hardness with kittenish licks. The adorable sight sends Childe reeling and his blood to boil with lust. All too soon, he is throwing Zhongli onto the dining table and sliding back into him.
He loses track of the number of times he comes inside Zhongli. All he knows is that the next time he pulls out, a significant amount of his cum leaks out of Zhongli’s hole, dripping down his thighs that are already thoroughly stained to join the growing puddle on the ground. Not to mention how his lover’s stomach looks a little rounded… Just how much did he shoot out his whole time?!
Now he is beginning to worry a little. Surely this couldn’t be a normal occurrence. In the past when they had sex before, even after they went at it for several hours into the night, Childe has never been this productive either.
Gathering a completely fucked silly Zhongli into his arms, Childe carries him away from the kitchen top back to the bed where he can rest properly. Hopefully, Zhongli would be able to sober up quickly this time as well, despite the blissed out look on his face and vacant eyes. Childe doesn’t think he can stomach another round of sex unless he gets some answers despite what his quickly hardening dick might think.
Shaking his lover a little, he brushes his sweaty bangs out of his face, trying to get Zhongli’s pretty eyes to focus on him.
“Zhongli, I need to ask you something.”
It takes a few minutes before Zhongli starts to show signs of waking up from whatever trance he had fallen into, blinking when he realises how close Childe’s face is to his own.
“I know you’re tired now but I really have to ask, where's all this extra stamina of mine coming from?”
Zhongli looks at him uncertainly, seeming unsure about his admittedly, rather contrived question.
“Like,”—he scratches his head—“I’m not shooting out all my life force or something, right? I mean this feels great and all, but I do kinda want to live a nice, long life to be with you for as long as I can…”
He is not lying in the least. Their sex feels even more euphoric than usual and Zhongli’s honest, near helpless reactions just make it all the better. But surely something so amazing must come with a price, right? After all, free lunches don't really have the habit of falling on his head and especially so in the Land of Contracts.
The first thing to catch his attention is the soft sound Zhongli lets out. It could very well be a cough or exhale of anger, as muffled as it is. But then Zhongli makes the sound again and this time, he is sure.
It's a laugh.
It takes a moment for him to realise what is happening.
Zhongli is laughing; he is honest to god, laughing.
And it isn't one of his usual mild smiles or small chuckles. This is full blown laughter, one that sends Zhongli doubling over and holding his sides, eyes crinkled into half moons as he rolls on the bed. It is the most beautiful sound he has ever heard, one that makes him gape like a fool while Zhongli covers his mouth to try lowering his volume. There is even a hint of wetness on the edges of his eyes that seems to sparkle against the bright amber of his eyes and red eyeliner.
Even if it is the extent of his pride, Childe finds himself unable to stay angry at his lover. In fact, he finds himself joining in, his lips twitching upwards.
It’s really not fair how Zhongli makes him fall in love all over again so easily.
Still, he has a reputation of being an evil Harbinger to keep up.
“Zhongli!” he whines in protest, tackling his lover to the bed. “Why are you laughing? You’re laughing at me, right? Right?”
Zhongli doesn't struggle against him, lying docilely on his back as Childe straddles him. The wide smile still stretches across his face, elevating his already gorgeous visage to something otherworldly. Childe feels as something brushes against his back, bleakly realising that it’s Zhongli’s tail that is wagging in happiness.
“I didn't ask that stupid of a question, did I? I mean, it’s not like I understand how adepti powers work…”
“I apologise for the outburst.” Zhongli wipes his tears, smudging the remains of his eyeliner in the process. “Your question simply caught me off guard. I wasn't quite expecting something as… innocent as that.”
“Innocent.” The word replays in his mind several times and he repeats it again for good measure. “I’m literally worrying about ejaculating my life away like out of some badly written erotica and you’re calling it innocent?!”
He gives up. So much for starting to know the Adeptus better. Clearly, he doesn't understand Zhongli in the least.
“Silly Childe. Do you think I would ever have you do something that will outright harm you?”
Zhongli does have a point. Just like how Childe would never intentionally hurt Zhongli, he likes to believe, no, he believes that Zhongli would never hurt him either.
“I’ll give you two choices. You can either choose to hear a few hours long lecture on the intricacies of adeptal powers or continue what we were doing before.”
Given Childe’s still horny state now that his worries have alleviated, which choice he makes is obvious. Zhongli laughs again at his response, making Childe want to kiss him on the spot to shut him up.
“I can give you a quick summary if you want.” Zhongli traces a finger over his hard dick, nail flicking the sensitive tip that causes Childe to shudder. “My powers are currently supplying you with enhanced energy and stamina, or virility if you will. It’s nothing harmful. Everything is covered by my powers alone.”
Damn. Adeptal powers really are something. Not only does it allow you to be an absolute beast in fights, dropping literal meteors on your enemies and flinging people around like trash with casual pillars of rock, it also acts as the ultimate aphrodisiac. Is there anything these powers can't do then?
“You seem to be quite unsatisfied with my answer.” Something scaly and smooth wraps itself around his dick. Childe looks down and finds, with mixed feelings, Zhongli’s dragon tails sliding over his length in a teasing manner, alternating between a loose and tight grip that makes his hips shiver. “Were you hoping for it to be able to do more, like increasing the size of your dick perhaps?”
“Ye— No! Nonono! What the fuck Zhongli?!”
Zhongli gazes up at him, clearly unimpressed.
“Hmpf. I thought you of all people would have jumped at the chance to impress me.”
Childe is seriously beginning to warm up to this tailjob(?). It might have weirded him out a little at first, but now he is beginning to see the benefits of having something so smooth and flexible stimulating you from all angles.
“Wait, so you can actually increase my di—”
“You… You—” Childe’s eyes widen abruptly. “You’re making fun of me!”
Zhongli’s response is to squeeze down tighter on his dick with his tail. For some reason, the cool slide of scales against his flesh makes him feel hypersensitive. Then there is a burn of something sublime as Zhongli strokes him again and Childe is coming with a shout, shooting thick ropes of white all over his lover. To his credit, Zhongli doesn’t flinch in the slightest as it splatters all over him. He moves to scoop up some of the sticky liquid, bringing it to his mouth to taste.
The way he slowly licks it off his fingers is so seductively alluring that Childe can’t help but curse the unfairness of this world. Combined with Zhongli laughing at his ignorance earlier, it all cumulates in the form of a peeved protest.
“T-this is illegal!” Childe cries indignantly. “You’re bullying me, Zhongli! My fragile feelings, my bleeding heart, how can I ever recover?”
He huffs in mock anger, “I think I preferred your obedient state earlier when you were too busy coming on my dick to do anything else.”
“So, are you going to do anything to fix that? Or shall I continue to ‘bully’ you, as you put it.”
Of course, his answer is obvious. Dragging Zhongli up by the arm, Childe slides the door to the balcony open, allowing a gust of fresh air to enter the room that absolutely reeks of sex by this point. Zhongli gets the hint immediately, his brains having somehow not turned into complete mush from the intense sex, placing his hands on the railings and sticking his ass out. His hair tumbles down his back in a captivating manner as his tail lifts itself, revealing his cum stained thighs and a pinkish hole that is still dripping with leftover seed from their previous rounds. Looking back over his shoulders, Zhongli shoots him an inviting look, daring Childe to come over and fuck him.
Childe charges head first into the challenge, gripping Zhongli’s slender waist and lining his dick up to Zhongli’s entrance.
Just as he is about to thrust in and bury himself back into Zhongli’s tight heat, this act of semi-public sex they are about to engage in takes him back to his earlier hypothesis about Zhongli’s surprise for him.
Hm, maybe he could convince Zhongli to have sex on the roof after all after this.
Soft moonlight is eventually replaced by the morning rays of dawn. It paints Liyue in a beautiful orange hue, bringing out the natural wonder of the quickly waking city. From the vantage point of his home, Zhongli is able to admire the place he had worked so hard to build up. With it comes a swell of pride not for his own efforts, but for the people who live honest lives.
His thin robe flutters in the gentle breeze, hanging loosely off his shoulders. Feet dangling off the rails of the balcony as he balances precariously on them, it would have been an alarming sight had he been a normal person. Such a height is hardly noticeable to an adeptus like himself, however, much less dangerous at all. His only cause of concern would be his horns and tail that have yet to recede after the intense night of sex he had with Childe before.
However, Zhongli is in no hurry to return to his fully human form. He knows his home is located at a fairly remote location. Coupled with the ungodly time, the chances that anyone would catch sight of him like this is rather low.
Rather, it was how Childe would take the sight that had him fretting the most. Contrary to Zhongli’s expectations, Childe had seemed incredibly enthused about his inhuman features, staring at and running his fingers over them throughout their lovemaking. What Zhongli initially thought would frighten or at least repulse the human ends up becoming yet another reason for Childe to cling to him.
Zhongli finds his fondness towards the exuberant human growing even more, something he didn't think was possible.
Though, waking up abruptly on the roof had been a bit of a shock. The fact that they were both naked, Childe’s softening dick still inside him as he slept soundly, was just the icing on the cake. Thankfully, with his abilities, it wasn't too difficult to tuck the human away safely on their bed and retrieve his Gnosis from him.
Soft honks and chirps fill his ears as his friends come to join him. Within seconds, the modestly sized balcony is filled with sparrows and cranes, tittering excitedly and all vying for his affection. They are completely unbothered by his state of undress, rubbing themselves against his legs, arms or any body part they can.
Smiling softly at the feathery creatures, Zhongli summons a bowl of grain and seeds with a flourish of his hands and begins to feed them.
“I kept my promise as agreed.”
He feels the sudden urge to speak out loud, relaying his thoughts to the birds that do not understand.
“Your brother is a polite young man. Although missing some of the headstrong and daring attitude you have, he is nonetheless a joy to be around.” “I guided him the best I can without breaking any of my contracts. As for what he chooses to do with that information, the rest will be up to him.”
Maybe she would hear him somehow. Zhongli never did see her after that day, as she left as quickly as she appeared, remaining an enigmatic figure full of wisdom and tales in his mind.
“And like you predicted, my contract with Liyue has come to an end,” he sighs, lowering his palm for a small sparrow to eat out of. “‘A contract to end all contracts’. I made my choice. It wasn't easy but I’ve come to better understand your words now.”
He closes his eyes, enjoying the cool air on his skin and the sound of cheerful birds eating their fill. The events of the past few years play in his head, from the contract the Tsaritsa had offered him to the words of the humans he has been watching over. His rigid and unwavering perspective is challenged day by day until he is forced to acknowledge that he has quickly become a relic of the past.
“Just because something is old and has been around for as long as you can remember doesn't make it right,” Zhongli chuckles as he recalls the words. “Just like how I am old and not immune to mistakes.”
One of the cranes honks loudly enough to startle him, pushing its head into his hand. Bewildered, he begins to stroke its head out of instinct, surprised when the bird seems to like it and actively seeks out more.
Is this a crane or a dog he is patting?
“I also met him, but you probably knew that I would from the beginning, right?”
Evidently jealous of the treatment that one crane is getting, the rest of the flock begins to honk angrily, attempting to force themselves into a position to be patted as well. Meanwhile, the smaller sparrows attack the bowl of birdseed with renewed vigour, capitalising on the cranes being distracted to eat more.
Amused by their actions, Zhongli does his best to spread the love, wisely deciding not to show favouritism even for something as trivial as head pats.
“I have watched over Liyue for a millennium and more. But how long can that continue? Everything will reach its end, even the seemingly untouchable gods like myself. I simply lasted longer than most.
Nothing is sacred; nothing is eternal. We all crave under the persistence of time eventually, reduced to ashes, reduced to dust.
The age of Archons and higher beings has come to an end. Who better to herald the future then, than the tenacious humans? With their constant ability to adapt to change, I have confidence that they’ll go far. After all, unlike ageless beings of old, they have the ability to forget. They won't be weighed down by the past nor shackled by outdated ideas.”
Now finished with their meal, the sparrows decide to join in on the fun, flying over and perching on his shoulders and head. Zhongli laughs a little at the ticklish sensation of tiny feet walking across his skin and scalp.
“You know, I used to foolishly believe that I would be here, looking after Liyue forever and protecting it from harm. But like a baby bird that grows up far too quickly, it eventually needs to leave the nest. As much as I long to, continuing to try sheltering Liyue will only do more harm than good.
The need for Rex Lapis has ceased to be. Before I can crumble away and fall from grace, turning into the very thing I swore to protect Liyue from, I decided to step down on my own. I thought I could spend a little time trying to see things from the perspective of the beings I spent so much time protecting, before finding a remote location to sleep forever.
Human memory is fleeting. Give them a few hundred years and soon the figure known as Rex Lapis will fade into obscurity before disappearing entirely. It will be a gradual process as I slowly distance myself to make the process easier for all. And then maybe I would get some rest, find the peace I always wanted, assured that Liyue is in good hands even as I leave.”
Brushing the fluffy feathers of a tiny sparrow that decided to perch on his finger, its vaguely orange colouration reminds him of a certain human currently sleeping on his bed.
“Then he appeared. He made me realise that perhaps things didn't need to be so. A heart made of stone is a heart nonetheless. It might take a thousand times the effort, but even water can wear away at hard rock,” he says, musing to himself. “The time for Rex Lapis might have reached its logical conclusion, but the time for Zhongli has just begun.”
His thoughts turn fondly to the members of the Liyue Qixing and other outstanding citizens.
“Humanity will be the ones leading the charge into the uncertain future ahead, but did anyone ever say that gods couldn't join them along in their venture forward?”
There is a slight pressure on his hair. Turning down to find the cause of it, Zhongli ends up having to spend a good five minutes trying to coax a sulking crane to give up its hold on his hair. The problem is only resolved when he brings it more food, even throwing in some freshly harvested corn for good measure.
“Happiness, anger, sadness and joy. He showed me happiness through our first meeting, anger at how he was willing to put Liyue at harm for the sake of his goals, sadness when he refused to meet me after learning of my hand in his affairs and now joy.”
His thoughts turn bitter for a moment.
“Perhaps he is right; I might never fully understand the concept of love.”
Then he recalls Childe’s encouraging words, his endless understanding, patience and love.
The edges of his lips curl up.
“But that's fine as well. We are content with what we have now. There's no need to put a name to everything.”
Inside his room, he can hear the faint shifting of sheets as Childe stirs in his sleep. He gently shoos away all the birds, bidding them farewell as they eventually leave with sorrowful chirps and squawks. Taking one last look at the rising sun, Zhongli steps back indoors as he returns to bed, figuring he could afford another hour of sleep with his lover.
Staring at the peaceful face of his lover who is fast asleep, Zhongli finds himself smiling. It is a small but genuine smile, straight from the heart, unlike the ones he makes after thinking through an appropriate response.
Ajax is wrong. There is something special about him after all.
For all his bloodthirstiness and killing, he is kind when others are not, understanding when others fail. He looks at Zhongli and sees the conflicted being underneath and not the stoic, immovable god. He understands Zhongli might never be able to give him back the same amount of love and devotion and yet he stays.
So what if the love he feels is the same for everyone? That wouldn't change the fact that he loves Childe more than anything.
Zhongli lies down on the bed, curling into the other’s warmth as he presses his face to Childe’s bare chest. He is careful to not let his horns get in the way of anything, while he curls his long tail around Childe’s waist possessively.
The beat of his human’s heart thumps steadily in his ears. It acts as a reliable rhythm, forming the foundation of his composition and the following melodies he cares to weave in.
His eyes slip shut.
Sleep soon takes him.
Zhongli: It appears that my powers have increased.
Childe: OMG. Congratulations Xiansheng!!!
Zhongli: Looks like the sayings are right after all. I always knew dual cultivation was an effective way of improving yourself, but I never knew just how effective it was.
Childe: Dual cultivation?
Zhongli: Mm. *pulls out ‘Gnosis’ from his chest again and slaps it back into Childe*
Zhongli: The night is young. I don't have work tomorrow.
Childe: ( ͡°( ͡° ͜ʖ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)ʖ ͡°) ͡°)