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There was immense clarity. It was certainly daylight, but he couldn’t make out any color in that gap. All that existed was white. His eyes hurt. In the background, notes echoed in the void, creating a melody. He recognized the music.

Xiao opened his eyes suddenly. To his surprise, he had fallen asleep. He uncomfortably rolled over on the roof of the Wangshu Inn, his back aching from the clear inappropriate place. Looking to the side, he noticed his spear in the same place - surprisingly, it hadn’t slipped on the tiles and fallen off. Placing one hand behind his lying head, he noticed a soft fabric there. He stood up abruptly, and reached for the cloth in hand, immediately recognizing that lime green color.

“You finally woke up.” The familiar voice spoke, but Xiao still didn't dare to face the person. Instead, he continued to stare into nothingness. “You must have been really tired to sleep so heavy like you just did.”

“Has it been long since you arrived?”

“About an hour, I guess. And you were already asleep…” Venti’s words were a bit slurred, the adeptus deduced that he had been drinking that day. (And after all, when was Venti not drinking?)

Over his shoulder, Xiao reached for the green cloth, still not facing its owner. His ears burnt at the thought that the god had personally come to visit him, and not only that, but also tried to bring comfort in his rare moment of sleep. He pressed his lips together before sighing, ridding himself of these intrusive thoughts. Don’t be silly, Xiao.

“What did you come here for?” Xiao asked unpretentiously, but then realized that he sounded a bit rude.

“Passing time, a little. Things are pretty calm in Mondstat, nothing that needs my supervision. They never needed it.” Xiao didn’t stare at him, but he could feel that the archon was smiling. Suddenly, the sound of tiles being pressed broke into echo, and by the time the adeptus realized it, Venti was sitting with his back against his own. Soon, his weight was also on his back, and the god’s blue threads were rubbing against his neck. “You know… this contract of yours with Morax is almost slavery.”

“Ah. Well, that took a while.” Xiao said wryly, grasping his spear in hand. Every time he met Venti, the god appeared with the - to say the least - indecent offer of freedom. “Look… This contract is what keeps my sense of duty to Liyue, and to Rex Lapis as well. Without it I don’t know what I would do.”

“That’s the problem: you only know the life of duty. Answer me, Xiao, how many times have you left Liyue?” Venti asked, expecting that answer: silence. “You don’t know this world. Your memory is steeped with the Liyue of the war, and Teyvat has changed a lot since then.” The archon reached for Xiao’s hand, clutched in his spear, and entwined it in his own. “I would like you to see the beauties of this world…”

Xiao didn’t answer, just letting his hand be taken in the gentle stroke of Venti’s thumb. In that tone, speaking so softly, the adepti could even believe it. Believe that he deserved freedom.