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Xiangling couldn’t bear one more day with Chongyun and Xingqiu’s awkwardness. It took some time for her to understand that their actions weren’t deliberated. They were that oblivious, really.

The young chef sighed loud and clear, most to herself than to her two friends chatting.

Chongyun’s cheeks were slightly flushed, due to his hand intertwined to Xingqiu’s, the latter continuously talking about this new book he was reading. In truth, the light-blue-haired boy had a very dense view of books - Chongyun couldn’t grasp in the slightest that all the words written were simply fiction. But seeing Xingqiu that excited while talking was a rare sight, so he let his friend indulge in explaining the book.

Xiangling stood up quietly to not interrupt them. (Although, she thinks, even the loudest sound couldn’t grab their attention that moment). Back to the kitchen, she had more work to do, and where to place her focus. But still, the situation was bothering her. How and why Chongyun and Xingqiu weren’t dating?

The first silly problem that crossed her mind: they were two boys. Obviously many people would see the problem in this, but Xiangling did not believe that that was the main problem. On the contrary, any skinship shared by the two was as common as that of an assumed couple. Xingqiu was more uninhibited than Chongyun, and was almost always the first to offer such intimate touches, but they were both positive to physical touch. For example, taking Chongyun's arm as they walked, hugging Xingqiu's shoulders to show excitement, legs intertwined while sitting on a mountain in Juyeun Karst and admiring the view in silence. Too many situations for Xiangling to list, many that she had the (un)happiness to witness. She felt less lonely when Hu Tao got along with them, even if rarely. She had someone to talk to and distract her thoughts from these two loving birds.

Another problem would be obliviousness. Those acts were so intimate in both boys' routines that they probably wouldn't realize how suspicious it was. 

"Xiangling, the flow has slowed down now. Go get some rest honey, I'll hold things around here." Chef Mao said, taking his daughter out of her own thoughts. 

"Oh, okay dad. Don't overwork yourself! I'll be right back!" Xiangling answered in her natural bubbly tone. Guoba waved goodbye to her, which made her smile. Leaving the Wanmin Restaurant, she didn't see her two friends anymore. She assumed they were gone.

"Wake up airhead!" Hu Tao screamed in Xiangling's ears, who immediately yelled in fright, attracting the attention of some pedestrians. Others didn't even bother since it was just Hu Tao being Hu Tao. 

"Hu Tao! Don't do that!" Xiangling quarreled. 

"Sorry~! But you were so caught in your thoughts… A penny for them?"

"Hm, I was thinking about Xingqiu and Chongyun." Xiangling grabbed Hu Tao's arm and engaged in a conversation, speaking softly and walking slowly, as if stating a state secret. "Don't you think they're stupidly in love?"

"Of course I think so. Me and the whole Liyue." Hu Tao answered promptly. "But, but~ You know Xiangling, there's a lot of obstacles for these two." The brunette spoke as soft as Xiangling. "First of all, Xingqiu's family. They even complain because he'd rather read books than anything else, not even recognizing his efforts, imagine if he appears dating... especially Chongyun. Archons, I hope he doesn't listen to me saying that, but the fact that he's an exorcist who doesn't exorcize is kind of throwing his name in the mud."

"Maybe you're right… But when I think about it, I'm sure they don't care, Tao. If they did, they wouldn't be as intimate as they are today!" Xiangling stated. "How about this: let's set these two up. I'm pretty sure it's gonna end in a lovey-dovey relationship!"

"And what could we both do?” Hu Tao was genuinely curious.

"Chongyun has pure Yang energy right? And you have pure Yin energy! Put some spirit you know to lure Chongyun! I'm pretty sure Xingqiu would follow him."

"Wow wow wow, that's not how spirits work!" The brunette claimed. "But I get your point. Maybe that will work."

"What will work?!" Another scream, and once again Xiangling screamed. Hu Tao jumped, but tried to act cool. Yanfei promptly laughed, both hands on her waist. 

"Argh, Yanfei! You're spending way too much time with Hu Tao!" 

"Hey, don't drag me on this!" Hu Tao defended herself. "But that was unexpected, Yanfei. Though you came at a good time."

"Yeah, maybe you can help us!" Xiangling said. "We're trying to set Chongyun and Xingqiu up."

"Ooh, now things are getting good. Even though it's in the law that invasion of privacy is kinda wrong, I'm looking forward to what you intend to do. If it doesn't work, maybe I'll be your lawyer!"

"Don't bring up negative energies onto this, hopefully it will work!" Xiangling replied.

"Okay then, what do we have to do?" Hu Tao asked.

"Let's say you found traces of spirits in..." Xiangling broke off her thought after some time. "What place'll be good?"

"Wuwang Hill. There are a lot of lost spirits there." Yanfei added.

"Great! Let's say there's a trail of them there and convince Chongyun to go. We'll say we will go and on the day the three of us will say we can't."

"But actually we'll be following them all the way to Wuwang." Hu Tao proclaimed. Yanfei and Xiangling nodded, both loving the idea.

"Okay, we have everything set up!" The young chef cheered. Looking at the horizon, she saw Xingqiu and Chongyun walking towards them. "There they come!" She exclaimed, approaching the two boys.

"Oh hello there, Xiangling." Xingqiu said softly.

"Hi Xingqiu, hi Chongyun!" The girl said excitedly. "Chongyun, you won't believe it! Hu Tao said she saw spirits wandering in Wuwang Hill!"

"Really?" The exorcist's eyes gleamed, looking curiously at the aforementioned. 

"Yeah, Chongs! I was with Yanfei and she can confirm it!" Yanfei just nodded. "You should go there!"

"It sounds like a good idea! What do you think, Xingqiu?" Chongyun asked his friend, who promptly smiled.

"I think it's great. Go for it!"

"We can all go together. I'm pretty sure it's going to be fun." Yanfei added.

"That's nice. Thank you all so much. I'm looking forward to it!" Chongyun smiled excitedly, and all five cheered.

 

 

When the day came, the three girls put on the best mask to lie to Chongyun. Xiangling claimed to be busy at the restaurant, Hu Tao said she had documents to sign, and Yanfei had a customer to meet. Still, she handed over a map with the marked area. Chongyun was so excited that he almost ripped it, Xingqiu helping his anxious demeanor with light giggles. 

As soon as the two walked through Liyue's gate towards the nearest teleport point, the three girls were already on their heels.

"That's so thrilling! I feel like a spy!" Xiangling claimed, smiling from ear to ear.

"I feel like breaking the law. It feels right but so wrong at the same time." Yanfei spoke.

"Yeah yeah you two, just be careful. Some spirits can be hostile with Chongyun's yang energy there." Hu Tao said softly, using the waypoint to teleport the three of them to Wuwang Hill.

In a matter of minutes, the trio was there. Xiangling lost track of the two, but Hu Tao, as naturally as possible, asked one of the spirits there where Xingqiu and Chongyun had gone. "What a heavy energy one of them had," replied the spirit, clearly referring to the congenital positivity energy Chongyun had.

Within a few minutes, the trio found both boys. Chongyun dismantled all of his exorcist gear, while Xingqiu was quietly reading, sitting on a rock.

" Now we just wait." Yanfei said, and hid alongside Hu Tao and Xiangling.

And then time began to pass. Minutes, hours... Until Chongyun abruptly stood up, face puffed with rage.

"Yun-Yun, you alright?" Xingqiu asked, looking out of his book.

" That's cheesy, oh my archons ." Yanfei expressed herself first, and Hu Tao held back a laugh.

"Xingqiu, I honestly think I'll never be able to exorcize a spirit. It's depressing!" Chongyun blurted out.

"There there, be careful with your Yang energy." The book was already closed beside the nobleman, his attention now completely on Chongyun. 

"I can't even think about it right now! Because it's so frustrating, everyday not practicing what I really like to do! This brings problems for my family, and for everyone around me. They are friends with a fraud." Chongyun stopped for a moment. "That includes you too."

"Oh, my dear Chongyun. I couldn't care less." Xingqiu said calmly. Slowly, the dark blue haired boy walked towards Chongyun, joining the exorcist's cold hands on his own. He noticed that they were sweating as a result of his outburst. "We've already talked about it...."

" They what now?!" Hu Tao said shrilly, although low. Yanfei's eyes were wide open and Xiangling was biting her own hand.

"X-Xingqiu, we talked, but I still-"

Chongyun's words were interrupted by Xingqiu's lips against his own.

Hu Tao and Yanfei stared at each other in shock, while Xiangling grinned. But, at the first sign of a french kiss, the three turned to the side, trying to avoid further embarrassment. 

" Oh archons… " Hu Tao was the first to speak, and Xiangling couldn't help noticing how red the girl's face was. This was certainly the closest the chef would ever see of shyness in Hu Tao's face.

"That's so sweet but at the same time I wanna die." Yanfei stated, while smiling. She clearly wasn't as embarrassed as the other two, but regardless, she found it awkward.

"X-Xingqiu!" Chongyun interrupted the kiss, clearly flustered. His whole face was pure red. "Y-You surprised me!"

"It's not the first time we've done this, Chongyun. You should be used to this point."

" Those rascals… And here I thought they hadn't left the hand-holding stage… " Hu Tao smiled angrily, clenching her fist. Xiangling looked away, suppressing the laugh that crossed her mind as she looked up into Yanfei's equally giggling face.

"I know it's not the first time, but it's still embarrassing!" Chongyun exclaimed. 

"What I want to tell you is that I do not care for any of these comments. You have your qualities beyond all that. You just need to acknowledge it." Xingqiu hugged Chongyun, resting his face on the cryo user's shoulder.

" They're so cute I think I might explode. " Xiangling said, tearing up.

"Don't be like that, hm? Let's go to the Wanmin restaurant, how's that?" Xingqiu asked Chongyun, who nodded slowly. "I'm pretty sure Xiangling will love to cook you something cold." The way Xingqiu shouted the chef's name made the three girls shiver in fear, further followed by the cynical smile that appeared on his face.

Oh, he knew.

"Yeah, let's try that." Chongyun said, gathering his tools. Xingqiu used the book to cover his face while directly looking at the three girls' hide spot, narrowed eyes showing not a bit of annoyance, only amusement. Hu Tao suppressed a laugh onto her hands, Yanfei pretended to look at the walls, and Xiangling had an awkward smile plastered on her face.

As soon as Chongyun ended uniting his tools, he and Xingqiu started to walk side by side again. But before they left the spot, the light-haired boy asked, "Xingqiu, can we hold hands?"

"Why of course we can, my dear." And then they left, hands intertwined, like two lovebirds.

When no one else was there anymore, Hu Tao finally let out the laugh she was holding, Yanfei following her. Xiangling hid her face in her hands, red as a tomato. 

"Oh, Xingqiu… I will never underestimate you again." Yanfei spoke breathy, looking for breath in the midst of her laughter.

"I'm pretty sure that kiss wasn't necessary! He did that to mess with us!" Hu Tao exclaimed.

"That was… an experience." Xiangling finally said. "At least they are together! I feel a bit stupid by trying to set them up when they were already hooking up, but I'm relieved!" She added. "Ok, let's go back to the harbor! I need to prepare cold noodles for Chongyun!"