Chapter 1: Ningguang
She’s daydreaming again.
A scribble on the document in a moment of absent mindedness, the name appears without a second thought—Beidou.
A furtive glance around her quarters, Ningguang squashes down a rather undignified squeak as she realizes what she has done. Sickeningly sweet, my thoughts of her consume me to a point where I can no longer think straight. She looks down at the scroll of parchment and the light etchings that stare back at her. Accusatory, unrelenting. Almost as stalwart as that gaze from the night of the Lantern Rite.
She brings her quill back down to the paper—Captain Beidou. Captain Beidou, accompanied by a heart. Captain Beidou, light and fluffy scribbles around the edges. Beidou—superfluous script. Ningguang covers her mouth with her hand, her quill falling to the desk with a noisy clatter.
Fuck. That was the third document she had messed up today.
Another council meeting, she wishes she could return to her bed. Her subconscious eludes her, keeping dreams from another lonely night.
Keqing is yelling—passionately, strongly worded persuasion—from her place in the room about the building permits that Ningguang had signed off on regarding a special something something Alcor something something budget something something—Beidou.
Ningguang, caught in another fit of daydreaming once more. She’s drawing Beidou’s face this time. Should she draw her smiling? Laughing? She pauses in thought as Keqing’s voice fades into the background and Ningguang’s thoughts cycle through the various expressions of a certain Caption that she has imprinted into her mind. What about… what about that sultry look—smouldering—from the sight of Ningguang in that dress on the night of the Lantern Rite?
Ningguang inhales shakily. Mmm. That look… that look that said—she needed to give Keqing her attention.
She lays in her bed at night, staring at the ceiling overhead.
Ningguang can’t sleep. The silk sheets that cover her slide and shift, creasing with her discontent. Where is her mind again—oh, Beidou.
It had been but a simple round around the docks—checking on imports, quelling the arguments over tariffs. There, Ningguang sees her in the distance. She’s minding her own business, unlike Ningguang. Talking to the more unsavory looking sailors, perhaps dabbling in affairs that are less than legal in the light of day. Yet, Ningguang turns a blind eye to these dealings. Pretends she doesn’t know about Beidou’s work within the black market.
Why are you so soft on her?
She’d rather have the softness of another body beside her instead.
Hasty scrawling on a scrap of paper from this morning—N+B—a heart, with an arrow through the center.
Ningguang watches Beidou as they sit in her office, a game of chess laid out before them.
Ningguang—lovesick, desperate, pining—pretending she isn't salivating behind her steely gaze. Beidou, shoulders slouched, hunched over and biting on her lower lip as she contemplates her next move. She looks so relaxed when the two of them are alone like this. Like she actually enjoys Ningguang’s company, rather than having everyone else believe the opposite.
It’s almost as if she’s trying to hide their relationship from the whole of Liyue. Their relationship… what is their relationship? Surely, they are nothing more than business partners? Long term associates? Acquaintances from a distant past? Ningguang depended on Beidou, trusted Beidou. And yet, the pirate captain always seemed to act as if she were above Ningguang in some way whenever the two of them were in the public eye.
As Beidou scratches the back of her head, Ningguang leans over to grab her pipe and pack it with fresh tobacco. Your move… Captain.
Her heart skips a beat.
Like a schoolgirl doodling their names in the margins of important documents. Sometimes she draws Beidou. Some pieces carry more intention than others. Beidou with her characteristic grin, Beidou indulging Ningguang’s wit and actually laughing at something that she says. She draws them holding hands, crude stick figures befitting the art skills of a child. Hearts in the deepest shades of red.
…As she stares at the mess of documents that she’s ruined today, Ningguang simply sighs to herself and massages her forehead. She should really invest in a diary or a journal at this point.
The snow that falls over Liyue only carries one secret—a name—for the desperate and clamoring merchants below—the Tianquan is in love.
Aboard the Alcor, she finds herself alone in Beidou’s quarters.
She’s here to play chess of course. What else would she be doing? Not envisioning doing anything more with Beidou, of course. Preposterous. Ningguang was above such uncouth behavior. …No, I’m not.
Ningguang twiddles her fingers, ignoring the anxious clicking of her nail guards as they clack against one another. She’s been in Beidou’s room before; there was no reason to be anxious or nervous. She was simply here to play chess. Play chess, hm?
Her eyes drift to Beidou’s bed. She’d rather be playing something else.
Should she send Beidou gifts? Surely… that would convey her interest in some way. After all, Beidou seems oblivious to everything else that Ningguang has done to convey her attraction. Her yearning. Her pining. Her longing. Her desperation. Rex Lapis, help her.
Beidou wouldn’t care for flowers, would she? Does she even like flowers? What about glaze lilies, the most sapphic flower in all of Liyue?
She draws Beidou with a glaze lily tucked behind her ear.
There’s always alcohol, Ningguang supposes. Beidou’s penchant for it and all that nonsense. Perhaps she can gift Beidou one of the finer bottles she’s been saving for a special occasion. Or, they could share it together. Ningguang would invite her to the Jade Chamber to talk business—the business of wanting them to be together.
Ningguang would pour a glass, press it to Beidou’s lips. Lean forward, catching the remnants of the liquid on her tongue.
She begins a diary.
Beidou, Beidou, Beidou. Ningguang, Ningguang, Ningguang.
Beidou and Ningguang. The Tianquan and the Captain. The Jade Chamber and the Alcor. Heaven and Earth.
N+B, B+N. Ningbei. Beiguang.
Cheeks burning with shame, she shoves it under her pillow. Cursing herself for her neediness and desperation for something that will never be.
They’re in Mondstadt and Beidou is being rough with her words again.
Ningguang crosses her arms over her chest and the poker face drops before she can control herself—which she never can when it comes to Beidou. She pouts. Ningguang actually pouts as she stares Beidou down from the other side of the table.
Shit. Beidou backtracks, laughing amicably and offers to pay. She doesn’t like that look that Ningguang’s giving her. She looks like a pissed off cat that’s ready to tear her to shreds. Her eyes lower to Ningguang’s nail guards—and with claws. Very sharp claws.
They drink. Engage in nostalgic and easy-going conversation, the previous gaff already forgotten. Ningguang waxes poetic once more, speaking of Beidou with the adulation that seems to always go over the pirate captain’s head. Beidou just stares blankly at her and asks—You’re not mocking me, are you?
For all of Beidou’s ability to read people… Ningguang, somehow, remains illegible.
A hike into the mountains in the light of the moon.
She trails three paces behind Beidou, not accustomed to such rigorous activity. Beidou patiently waits for her however, hands on her hips and a soft look in her eyes.
There’s quiet, silence as they traverse through the forests of a foreign land. Nothing save for the chirping of insects and the grumbling of hilichurls sleeping in their camps in the distance. They pass through, undisturbed. There’s no need to incite violence when they seek calm.
Ningguang finds herself faltering as they near the precipice and Beidou extends a hand to pull her along. Her hand closes over Ningguang’s own, firm and warm. Ningguang feels as if she’s forgotten how to breathe, her world descends into warm hues of pink and opaque bubbles as she stares at Beidou pulling her forward. We’re only holding hands for fucks sake.
As they stand side by side at the precipice, Beidou leaves her side for a moment and returns, a cheeky grin on her face. Ningguang looks down at the offering Beidou has in her hand—a Cecilia.
She scribbles in her diary by the light of candle on the Alcor at night. The Cecilia rests within the binding, waiting to be pressed into the blank pages it rests on. Ningguang brings the flower to her nose, sniffing gently before resisting the urge to squeal in undignified girlish glee. She presses the flower into the pages of her diary, snapping the book shut.
Beidou. Beidou. Beidou. Captain Beidou. Beidou.
Beidou, my love. No.
…Beidou, my Captain—one singular heart.
Chapter 2: Beidou
There was a comment asking if I could continue this from Beidou's point of view ... and well, here it is a couple of months later, haha.
Soft gay Beiguang for soft gays.
Beidou wasn’t dumb, she was oblivious—two very different things.
Dumb, lacking in intelligence or sense. Stupid. Brainless. Mindless.
Oblivious, unaware or wholly unconcerned by what is happening in one’s general vicinity. Head in the clouds, not paying attention to what’s so plain to see and right in front of your eyes.
And in her dealings with Ningguang, Beidou wasn’t dumb.
Beidou held the Tianquan at arm’s length, knowing full well that Ningguang played her cards only in a manner that suited her and no one else. Beidou was her business partner and nothing else. Intel was shared; the prosperity of Liyue was the only thing that mattered. Ningguang had conveyed that explicitly every time she had summoned Beidou to the Jade Chamber.
…However, Beidou was oblivious when it came to Ningguang.
Very oblivious indeed.
There is a part of Beidou that few people will ever know.
One who shies away from compliments or flirtatious advances of any kind. Strange, for her admirers reach far and wide, competing for her attention as much as those who seek Ningguang’s insight in regards to business matters.
The people of Liyue love her as much as their beloved Tianquan, yet Beidou can only see herself as a person of the people and for the people. There was no way she could get involved with someone romantically when her chosen path in life was constantly throwing her into enough peril that she barely fathomed seeing the light of day. How could someone choose her? Why would they choose her?
Perhaps it was the thrill of a life at sea that allured them? Or was it the mystery of Beidou herself? So forthright and yet, a cunning smile belied more than she let on. Every woman had her secrets after all. Secrets… women with secrets.
And here she was, oblivious to the one secret that was so glaringly obvious—about the Tianquan and what she felt about that pirate captain—to everyone in Liyue, but her.
The Traveler leaves Beidou flustered as they stand with a sly smile on their face and the Kamera in hand—How about something a little flirtatious? Flirtatious? Flirtatious? Just what did this kid think they were doing?
The tiny machine goes off with a flash before Beidou can stop them, spitting out her shame to be forever immortalized on film. She lunges for the picture, seeking to grab it and file it away into some place that no one will ever find it. Yet, it eludes Beidou and the Traveler, flying higher into the sky and being whisked away by the tempest of the winds that blow toward Liyue.
Beidou’s hidden shame blows higher and higher, up into the heavens, up to a little star with a singular wish that burns brighter than most.
Ningguang sits alone, basking in the dusk that falls over Yujing Terrace. She tilts her parasol back as she looks up to the sky, her eyes narrowing slightly in confusion as something tumbles softly into her lap.
Where did this come from? And why does she look so angry?
She discreetly tucks it into the sleeve of her dress and rises to her feet to return to the Jade Chamber.
Please come by when you are free for a game of chess, Beidou.
They’re sitting in Ningguang’s office again playing the same old games that they always do.
Beidou rubs at her chin and leans over, her eyes scrutinizing the board and looking to see where her next move lies. Ningguang needs her help in testing out some new rules or something that she’s created for the next edition of Liyue Millennial and Beidou finds herself with some free time on her hands.
She’s not really looking at Ningguang; she’s more focused on the battle occurring on the polished wooden table in front of her. But, if she had looked at Ningguang, maybe she would have noticed a few things.
Like how Ningguang was using the tea set that Beidou had brought her. Or the way in which Ningguang kept biting her bottom lip and running her tongue over her teeth as she stared at Beidou with an unwavering gaze. The quickening of her breath, the way in which in didn’t appear as though she was blinking at all. A woman possessed.
Ningguang reaches for her pipe after setting her cup of tea down on the table and clears her throat. She would sit here staring at Beidou all day if she could… but that would arise suspicion of some kind, wouldn’t it?
No, not at all. She’s oblivious, Ningguang. Completely and utterly, oblivious.
A week later, Beidou arrives at the Jade Chamber, unannounced in the dead of night.
The woman that never sleeps scrawls her name across her desk.
Ningguang is caught off guard as Beidou calls to her. She slaps a hand into a bottle of ink on her desk in surprise. Black spirals across the rolls of parchment laid out before her and Ningguang’s face burns bright red in embarrassment, the possibility of getting caught.
The picture remains obscured—Beidou smiling as Ningguang kisses her on the cheek—yet she yells at Beidou to get out.
On mornings when the sky resembles the same hue of Ningguang’s eyes—or perhaps Beidou’s, more reminiscent of the rising colors of dawn—and the Crux prepares for the beginning of another voyage, Beidou swears she can see Ningguang standing on the edge of the Jade Chamber to watch her leave.
Or maybe, when reason stands to make her mind right again, she realizes she isn’t.
Beidou amuses herself and reaches into the sky as Ningguang brings snow to the harbor once more. She catches a singular piece of paper between her fingers and twists it to observe what’s written on the parchment.
The first character of her name—北.
The other—斗—floats by, landing in the waters flowing back out into the ocean.
Beidou starts to feel as if someone’s following her … or watching her in some way.
A girl down by the harbor is chatting her up, flirting in a way that Beidou understands and downplays. She can’t get involved—you understand that don’t you?
She turns her attention away as the conversation lapses into a momentary lull and Beidou catches sight of a familiar figure across the harbor. A mere nod of acknowledgment, Beidou doesn’t need the unnecessary attention that people give to her relationship with the Tianquan.
Those red eyes narrow in jealousy, glaring daggers from afar. The girl stammers out that she has something to do and she immediately leaves as quickly as she came.
Beidou is perplexed.
Beidou comes back to the Alcor after a day of running errands out in Liyue and Juza shoves a bottle of fine spirits her way. A gift, he tells her. A gift from whom?
He hands her a note in response. She catches a light floral fragrance on the paper as she unfolds it and proceeds to see just what in the world this is all about.
Now that the world has settled once more, I was wondering if you would you care to join me on a vacation someday?
Beidou realizes that her idea of a vacation is not quite what Ningguang signed up for.
The Tianquan doesn’t want to run about in the forest and bask in the sun all day. She hides herself underneath a parasol and dabs lightly at the sweat that gathers at her temples with a silken handkerchief. She doesn’t complain as Beidou drags her through the countryside, but Beidou can read those eyes better than most and she knows that Ningguang isn’t quite pleased with their little adventure.
They return to town and decide to take a breather. Ningguang suggests a tavern and Beidou is alit with unbridled fervor. What she misses is the satisfied smile that comes to Ningguang’s face in return.
However, as with Liyue, Beidou changes whenever the two of them are out in public. Ningguang doesn’t understand why this always seems to happen. Was Beidou ashamed of their relationship? Or was she harboring similar feelings as well and she was unsure of what they meant?
She catches the anger in Ningguang’s eyes and the subtle pout of her lips—Shit.
Beidou looks into those eyes again and she finally understands.
At night, as the moon shines and all is quiet again, Beidou takes Ningguang on another walk within these strange and foreign lands.
She tells herself to be easy, be gentler than she usually is. The change in their relationship had been so subtle that she had failed to realize it at all up until this point.
Ningguang’s lingering looks, the care that she had taken in considering Beidou’s feelings. The realization makes her feel as if she’s buzzing, like tiny little honeybees are flying around in her heart and coating it with the sweetest nectar they can find. She reaches for Ningguang’s hand and squeezes gently as she pulls them forward.
At the peak, she offers Ningguang a flower. Her smile brightens as Ningguang accepts the small gift and runs her fingers over the petals in idle contemplation.
One tiny gesture, a symbol of something more to come.
…She wore the flower in her hair the next day.
As they sail back to Liyue at night, she passes by Ningguang’s quarters in the midst of her nightcap.
She hears …giggling. Undignified, unrestrained giggling coming from Ningguang of all people. Beidou lingers outside the door for a minute, knowing exactly what the source of that happiness might be.
Beidou closes her eyes, smirking and laughing gently to herself, as she continues on her way.