The silence stretched on. Further and further. So long, in fact, that it was still ongoing.
Okay, so, maybe that was a question that had such an obvious answer that they didn’t want to bother their breaths to answer.
That was probably true. Since, well, as Zhongli’s lifelong partner, Childe should at least have an idea of his best friend’s spouse and their living status.
“Oh- uh- cool- they’re, hopefully?” Childe probably shouldn’t have phrased ‘hopefully’ like that. “Alive?”
The last word should’ve had multiple question marks, to truly highlight Childe’s utter confusion at the status of Zhongli’s spouse.
Which probably makes him a really bad lifelong friend, but what can he say, he was also the sexy mistress.
The animal posse turn to stare at Zhongli. Their glances spoke volumes, but it was all volumes of nothing to Childe’s uninformed ears.
“I also hope.” Zhongli was the first one to break the adepti pact of silence, mirth lining his voice. “That they are alive, and will continue to be so.”
What? Childe thought. Was it the new hip, cool thing to well wish your spouse in front of your sexy mistress?
Childe almost wanted to put his hands between his hands and maybe cry. Or laugh. Or laugh cry.
“Yeah, same,” Childe choked out.
What the fuck am I? Childe thought- the sexy one night stand?
It was an abrupt demotion, but it was not one without cause. But, well, you don’t kiss your sexy one night stand after the one night stand, do you? That was for sexy mistresses and sexy spouses.
“Uh- what does your… spouse.” The last word was choked out but hey, Childe will take that over a sob. “Think of me?” Y’know, the sexy mistress.
Man, what was with adepti and silence.
“What does Zhongli’s spouse… think of you?” the blue bird asked, almost bemused.
“Yeah.” Childe let out a laugh that was tethering a bit too close to a ‘oh god, please’. He gestured at himself in some semblance motion, hoping to distract himself. “Me.”
The adepti exchange glances, again. One that meant everything and nothing at once.
Which was not cool, since Childe didn’t know what they were thinking. But also cool, since Childe didn’t know what the fuck they were thinking aout this mess of a conversation.
The adepti all began nudging each other at once. As though trying to push each other into deciding who the fuck was about to deliver Childe the knews that he was an absolute fucking idiot for asking.
Man, Childe thought. Wanting to drown himself in the teacup.
At last, it was once again Zhongli who broke the silence.
“I would hope that.” Zhongli’s words were chosen carefully, as though he were just as bemused by the question. And yeah, that was probably a terrible question. “My spouse would hold you in high regards.”
Hope, as in, he wasn’t sure.
Which was not good news since, well- Childe was the sexy mistress.
Oh god, were we gonna have to fight to the death for Zhongli’s hand, Childe thought with a certain degree of horror but also twisted excitement. Zhongli’s spouse would certainly be strong, because, Zhongli. And the thought was almost tempting, in a way. But also, not ethical.
How exactly does he get out of being a sexy mistress into sexy lover ethically?
It was then, that Childe looked down at his own hands, and realized that-
I have two hands.
He looked at Zhongli’s hand.
Zhongli, too, has two hands.
An idea was forming inside Childe’s head. And as he scrunched his brows in concentration, there was another exchange of glances over his head.
“Uh-” Childe began. Clearing his throat. Glancing back up at his audience. His words freezing in his throat as he does so. “I- I’ll talk to you later.”
With that said, Childe quickly pulled him and Lumine outside. Leaving Zhongli and his animal posse to talk.
“That was… certainly something,” Cloud Retainer said dryly.
“He’s quite something, isn’t he,” Zhongli said fondly.
“One thinks we have different definitions of.” The sneer was obvious in Cloud Retainer’s voice. “Something.”
Zhongli only titled his head quizzically.
“Okay, team meeting,” Childe said in a hushed voice. Quite a ways away from Zhongli’s room. And hopefully outside of adeptal hearing.
“The energy in there was absolutely horrendous,” Lumine said bluntly.
Childe cringed. “I know, I know. But-” Childe grinned in what hopefully wasn’t desperation. “I have a solution, comrade.”
Lumine didn’t look very pleased over being his comrade, but hey, she didn’t protest against the labelling.
“Okay, so, I have two hands,” Childe revealed excitedly. Showing his two hands in front of Lumine.
They stared at each other.
“You’re about to have just one real soon,” Lumine hissed quietly.
“Not- not physically,” Childe stressed. “Okay, well, maybe physically, but also spiritually.”
“You and spirituality?” Lumine asked. Her eyebrows raised in disbelief.
“Hey,” Childe said, aggrieved.
“Okay, well, two hands, physically and spiritually,” Childe stressed, again. Wiggling his fingers. “Zhongli also has two hands. Physically and spiritually.”
Lumine continued to stare.
“Okay, so, Zhongli’s spouse also has two hands.” Childe felt like he was making a breakthrough here, spiritually. “Maybe not physically, but spiritually.”
Lumine, it seemed, were not versed with spirituality.
“So spiritually, we can work to all hold hands.” Childe clasped his own hand, as a visual aide. “Like this.”
Lumine stared at the visual aide, her brain working. And god, Childe had never felt more smart in his entire love life.
“So your point is-” Lumine started. “You want to be the concubine?”
Childe cringed. “I prefer the term sexy second spouse, thanks.”
Lumine raised her eyebrows again. “You know what concubines are?”
Childe felt strangely proud, at that.
“Hey, I read on customs,” Childe pointed out, unclasping his hands. A weird smug aura overcoming him.
Lumine grunted. Seemingly still thinking over the solution. “... it works, I suppose.”
Childe nodded, glad for the approval.
“... but how exactly are you going to get the approval of the spouse?” Lumine asked.
“I’m going to beat it out of them,” Childe said. “Through an ethical fight.”
As if driven by a civilian's common sense, Lumine seemed to spiritually cringe.
Childe, however, was not about to let his smart moment die because of common sense.
With that resolution, Childe marched back to Zhongli’s room.
This time, he opened it with bravado that he did have.
“Hey, uh, Zhongli,” Childe faltered somewhat at seeing that the animal posse were still here. “So how exactly would I go about- uh-”
Okay, maybe trying to start a fight with the spouse isn’t a good idea in front of all these adepti.
Instead, all Childe could say was, “You me, two hands, spouse, fight.”
Zhongli stared at him quizzically before standing up. Moving to hold Childe's hand. Then he smiled, it was kinda really cute.
I am going to beat his spouse so hard, Childe thought.
Ah, two hands, Zhongli thought before holding Childe’s other hand.
Ah, good Qingxing, Moon Carver thought, taking a bite.