Liyue is busier than the last time Beidou set foot on the harbor now that everyone has been anticipating for the annual Lantern Rite Festival. But she really doesn’t give a damn, she’s far too busy eating a plate of amazing food in Xiangling’s place. She hasn’t eaten the chef’s food since she beat that water snake’s wife, after all.
“I heard about the rumors,” Xiangling sits in front of her, fingers interlocked and face brimming with curiosity.
Beidou assumes it’s about the battle. A big-ass tsunami isn’t particularly considered a day-to-day thing in Liyue. “Yeah, it was huge and terrifying. Heck, if it wasn’t for that ice girl—“
“Oh, that— yes, that,” Xiangling reluctantly nodded. “Yes, the big monster, that one. Terrifying.”
Disoriented, Beidou stops chewing her food and looks at Xiangling with suspicion and puzzlement. “You were thinking of something else.”
Guilty, Xiangling purses her lips, suddenly interested in the plane of the table.
“Spill it out, Xiangling.”
“Fine,” the girl mewled. “There’s just been a rumor going around the Tianquan—“
“Nothing out of the ordinary,” Beidou says, unimpressed as she continues her business with her food. It’s not unusual to hear gossip about her girlfriend, who coincidentally is the Tianquan of Liyue.
“— and she’s been walking around with that new dress,” Xiangling sighs. “It possibly costs ten times more than this restaurant.”
“Dress?” Beidou perks up, slowly chewing the piece of meat in her mouth. “What does it look like?”
“It’s blue, and it shows off a lot of skin—“
Strange, Beidou thinks. She didn’t tell me anything about that.
“— and she’s been walking around Liyue with the traveler!”
“Didn’t know the Tianquan was capable of making friends,” Beidou snickered, half-lying, and half-honest. Ningguang would probably throw a pebble at her for saying such distasteful things about her.
“The thing is,” Xiangling’s eyes glowed in interest, though Beidou pays little mind. “The traveler is said to be the only one in Ningguang’s inner circle and—“
“Eh. That’s debatable, I—“
“— there’s been a rumor going around that they’re actually lovers!”
Beidou chokes on her food, almost burying her face in a plate of spicy hot sauce as she takes the information in. For a second, she almost thinks she’s dying. And somehow, it’s indirectly Ningguang’s fault.
“Oh, my gods, Beidou!” Xiangling practically screams, earning everyone’s attention. The chef waves her hands in panic, not knowing what to do. “Do you need water? Wait, I’ll get water—“
“I-I’m—“ Beidou croaks out, forcing the food to come out of her throat. She waves her hand dismissively. “I’m fine. You just surprised me.”
“Are you sure? I can get some water if you want.”
“No, no, I’m okay,” Beidou grabs Xiangling’s wrist to stop her from moving. “Where’d that rumor even come from?”
“I’m surprised you haven’t heard. Everyone’s talking about it,” Xiangling pauses. “Ah, right. You both aren’t exactly, erm — best friends.”
I’m her fucking girlfriend, Beidou wants to say. She and Ningguang have both agreed about keeping their relationship entirely private, and she’s almost completely unbothered as to such rumors around the Tianquan’s love life. But it’s really weird to hear about her partner of over a year dating a close friend they share.
“That’s…” Beidou tries not to sound mopey. “Those are just rumors. Don’t believe anything so quickly.”
“I know, I know,” Xiangling sighs dejectedly, shoulder dropping. “They just looked cute together. And the traveler’s really nice.”
“I’m nice too, y’know,” Beidou rolls her eye. The plate of food doesn’t seem so interesting anymore.
Xiangling ignores her comment and continues. “Ah, but I also heard that Ningguang shut down the rumors. The traveler did too. But that alone is a rumor too, so…”
Beidou inwardly smirks as a boost of confidence overpowers whatever she’d been feeling. She finishes her meal, slurping every piece of food there is.
“I heard that she mentioned you, though.”
“Yeah, she said, “Whenever Beidou returns to Liyue Harbor, all she does is bring me a headache,’” Xiangling imitates Ningguang, which honestly doesn’t sound like her at all. “Something like that.”
Beidou chuckles. Ningguang wasn’t lying, but she wasn’t telling the whole truth either, which is fine. “I guess I should pay her a visit now.”
Xiangling looks at her with horror. “Please don’t kill the Tianquan.”
A grin and a pouch of mora are only what Beidou gives to her friend slash personal chef. “Thanks, Xiangling. I’ll catch up with you later.”
Beidou skips her way through Ningguang’s personal secretaries, the three of them giving her strange looks. Baishi especially seems to be wary of her. But they let her stand in front of Ningguang’s unnecessarily gigantic doors.
“Yes?” A feminine voice says out from the other side.
“It’s me,” Beidou announces, and she doesn’t wait for a response as she slides the doors open without permission, revealing Ningguang in her casual outfit, buried in stacks of paperwork on her desk.
“You’re still as mannerless as ever,” Ningguang sighs.
“Hey, I knocked,” Beidou snickers. She throws herself on Ningguang’s bed to which earns her a red-eyed glare. “Or do you want me to go outside and do the whole thing again?”
“Why are you here?”
“To see Liyue’s beautiful Tianquan, of course.”
“People would kill to have the privilege to walk in here the way that you do.”
“And for that, I’m flattered,” Beidou rolls over and props herself up on elbows.
“Your boots are getting dirt all over my bed,” Ningguang points her pen at Beidou, a warning.
“Jeez,” Beidou rolls her eye before sitting up to take off her shoes. “So strict.”
“Well, Captain, I’m sorry if I want to keep the mattress where we have sex clean.” Ningguang’s face wrinkles in displeasure.
“Please, bits of dust is nothing compared to the amount of filth we do here,” Beidou counters.
Ningguang inhales sharply and— exhales, her expression suddenly soft and understanding. “Fair point.”
Then, she goes back to work, leaving Beidou alone with the ceiling to stare at.
She throws herself back onto the bed and considers taking a nap for a while until Ningguang abruptly speaks. “You’ve received the letter I’ve sent you, yes?”
“Yeah,” Beidou remembers spitting her drink out when she found a bank check of 5 million mora in the envelope as compensation for the damages brought by Beisht. “I was planning on returning it tomorrow, and I didn’t think I’d be visiting today.”
“Beidou,” Ningguang sighs, placing her pen down. “There is no need for you to return it. It’s a gift from me, not as the Tianquan, but as your lover.”
“And I appreciate it, really,” Beidou turns her head to face the woman. “But helping you was a decision made of my own will. As well as the Crux’s.”
“I know, I know,” Ningguang removes herself from her workplace and sits on the mattress. “I was just worried. That wave was terrifyingly huge and I don’t know if I could forgive myself if anything happened to you, or the Crux.”
Beidou’s heart melts, a regular occurance whenever Ningguang isn’t insulting her. She adores it all, either way.
“Then, I guess we should be thanking the ice princess.”
Speaking of, she hasn’t been able to catch up with Ningguang since then. After all, she’s been entertaining guests now that her Jade Chamber is up again, and that includes her… hangout with the traveler. Which reminds her—
“Ning, ” Beidou whines, opening her arms and making grabby motions. “Let’s cuddle.”
Bewilderment takes place first on Ningguang’s face, then horror, then curiosity, and finally consideration. “You’re so clingy,” she says before laying on the bed and wrapping her arms around Beidou.
Beidou’s the one who asked for a hug, but Ningguang’s holding on to her for dear life. Her girlfriend’s leg is over her body, pale slender arms are locking her in place and Beidou’s face is (perfectly) pressed against her chest.
“And you say I’m the clingy one,” Beidou complains, but relishes the embrace nonetheless.
“Shh,” Ningguang hugs her even tighter. “I have a meeting tomorrow, and I am so, so tired.”
“Aw, you never have the time for me,” Beidou whines.
“Baby,” Ningguang says before pressing her lips against Beidou’s, and pulling away shortly. “You’re my girlfriend, and also probably one of my only three friends. Almost all my free time is spent with you.”
“That’s not what I heard when you hung out with the traveler.”
And then Ningguang pulls away to observe Beidou’s face, noticing the unintentional pout before smirking in amusement. “Oh? Are you jealous, my captain?”
“Go to sleep, good night.”
“You are,” Ningguang taunts. “And over the traveler, too.”
“Are you going to sleep if I say yes?”
“My, you are awfully cute,” Ningguang leans down and bites Beidou’s cheek, which makes the great Lord of the Ocean jump in surprise.
“That hurts!” Beidou mewls, rubbing her cheek, which is slightly wet with Ningguang’s saliva. “Disgusting.”
“You eat me out all the time and you’re complaining about that?”
“Well, someone’s pussy ain’t getting eaten if you keep showing off your expensive-ass blue dress without me knowing.”
“Ah. So, you’ve heard,” Ningguang says. “It doesn’t matter.”
“I wanna see it.”
“No fair, the rest of Liyue has seen it, and I haven’t.”
“What’s the use of seeing it if you’re going to be ripping it off anyway?” Ningguang muses, her tone suggestive as she traces the line of Beidou’s jaw.
“C’mon, they said you looked stunning in it. I want to judge.” Beidou argues, and she desperately tries not to sound defeated by Ningguang’s touch.
“So, you mean that I’m not stunning right now?”
“No, no, you look immaculate, beautiful and gorgeous in anything but—“ Beidou stops, realizing that Ningguang is just messing with her. “Stop that. That’s not nice.”
Amused, Ningguang rolls them over so that she's leaning over Beidou with dark eyes. The pirate looks at her with greed and want, and somehow, she feels so small under Ningguang.
Ningguang’s breath feels warm against Beidou’s skin. “Why do you desire to see me in a dress that’s not even here when you can see me without it?”