How long is a thousand years?
To Ganyu, it isn’t very long at all. It passes by her in a blink of an eye, yesterday’s glaze lilies that sprouted all over the marshes were now drowning in the earth, seldom rising to the surface to greet the sun. She watches every building rise and every building fall, renewed with something brighter and promising beneath Rex Lapis’ vision for Liyue. Through her travels, behind her eyelids, she could see the once wondrous ruins standing to history and time, only to crumble and wither away. The mortals she had met, their voices long gone to the wind and the sea.
She lays quiet on the peak on Mt. Tianheng with the constellations above and the busy, sparkling streets below. In some ways, she took comfort that the galaxies, the earth’s breath, and it’s heartbeat, never changed.
But even after thousands of years, she still didn’t find who she was. To say she was half-human and half-adeptus was easy. But truthfully, she’s none of these things. The clouds slip through her grasp, the mountains remain firm beneath her feet, and the moon shines whole above them all. She is nothing like them, she could only hold a fraction of their power in her bow and quiver. She would never belong there.
She doesn’t belong with humans either. No matter how many problems she fixes, no matter how many numbers she calculates, no matter how many documents she signs, she would never be one of them. She sighs as the grass brushes over the bare skin of her shoulders - maybe that’s why she was so willing to take on the work in the first place.
That it wasn’t all just earnest, hard work, it’s just an escape from the one singular truth of the world. She was alone.
“I thought I’d find you up here.”
Ganyu blinks out of her stupor and rises upright only to greet the Yuheng in all her noble glory, looking rather unimpressed with her hand on her hip.
“Lady Yuheng, is there something amiss? I was sure that I had finished all my work for the day,” Ganyu says as quickly as she stands, brushing her skirt. Her eyes meet jeweled violet and for a moment, Ganyu remembers when they met. Years ago, a bare fraction of time of her life on earth, but in that small space, Keqing struck like lightning in her memory.
The single mortal in Liyue that didn’t believe in gods. The only human that hadn’t blinked once when Rex Lapis would descend directly in front of her and the only human who had the gall to speak back to him in such steel-edged words. That even herself who had been blessed with a Vision, full knowing it was an Archon that granted her one, would not take any charity on her own hard work. Such a prideful fool.
At first, it makes Ganyu’s blood run colder than the ice at her fingertips. It didn’t make sense. When she spoke with Rex Lapis in private, he only chuckled at her frustrations.
“Ganyu, in this day and age, everyone will need someone like her.”
Ganyu sighed and nodded as he left, muttering under her breath that she’d need another thousand years just to understand that infuriating woman.
But even the Keqing before her now is different and Ganyu supposes she’s different too.
“No, everyone’s been sent home for the day,” Keqing replies, dropping her hands by her side. Ganyu tilts her head and rocks on her heels, uncertain.
“Then what did you need me for?”
“Nothing in particular.”
Ganyu doesn’t know why those words weigh heavier. “I… see,” she says unevenly, her fingers flexing in her gloves.
Keqing breaks the silence once again. “I just wanted to make sure you were alright.”
That makes Ganyu’s head snap up. For once, Keqing’s eyes aren’t calculating, they aren’t sharp, waiting to strike. The violet petals of her eyes are soft, shimmering underneath the stars. In truth, Ganyu had seen that look on her face before. She saw it when Keqing was out on Liyue Harbor, greeting the citizens in earnest, asking questions about this and that, anything that would improve their lives and the city itself. It was the only time she had seen Keqing smile, a genuine one.
Keqing cares about others, that much is clear. Ganyu is convinced she is the one human that Keqing didn’t care about. They stand worlds apart and Keqing barely looks her way. Her fingers brush against her horns. Or maybe, she was convinced that Keqing could never care for a god, even if it was human.
“I’m perfectly fine, why do you ask?” Ganyu says as brightly as she can muster.
If Keqing picks up on her lie, she doesn’t say anything. She only grants her a shrug as she flips her hair over her shoulder.
“The battle was hard on everyone. It’s not everyday we fight a god, let alone fight beside them as well,” she muses, skimming a thumb on her jaw. “Everyone in Liyue is a bit shaken. That’s why I came to find you.”
“As the Yuheng does,” Ganyu says before she realizes that it sounds the slightest bit bitter. That Keqing wasn’t here out of care, she was here out of duty. As the Qixing, they all had a duty to the people of Liyue, Ganyu in that aspect is no different, no exception. There was no other reason to greet her this way when they had been standing opposed for so long.
Keqing raises a brow. “I’m not here as the Yuheng, Ganyu.”
Somewhere, the moon shines on a blooming glaze lily as Ganyu just stares back at Keqing. The noble woman meets her head on and Ganyu wonders if she imagines the subtle smirk on her face. Were all women of the Qixing so mysterious?
“Then, on what grounds are you here for?” Ganyu asks carefully.
Keqing turns and raises her head towards the sky where the Jade Chamber used to hover. Once so high in the heavens only to sink to the depths, the stars of Liyue to live on the land where a new future would be paved. Once untouched now within reach.
“I’ll call it a new beginning,” the Yuheng says simply and she doesn’t wait for Ganyu’s response as she descends down the mountain, her figure disappearing into the mosaic of lantern lights below. Ganyu watches after her with a stunned expression, mouth agape with surprise.
Keqing walks as though her days aren’t numbered. Despite that in the lifespan of the world, she’s just a brush stroke on a canvas, only to fade with a memory’s breath. She wasn’t a god that would live on in the tall tales and legends, she was like every other human that would eventually wash away with the sea.
In a thousand years, Keqing would exist in a fraction of a second in Ganyu’s lifetime. Yet, the Qilin still trails after her. She can hear Rex Lapis laughing in her ears because he had always been right, one way or another. It wasn’t that she needed her, she barely understood her to begin with. They lived in completely different worlds and to ignore such a fact would be reckless.
Ganyu would blame the human part of her for this decision. If Keqing had come without her title, Ganyu would meet her without expectations. In the end, in the future, Ganyu would remember it as a moment less lonely that lasted a second longer.
When Ganyu signed her contract with Rex Lapis and a Vision appeared at her side, she knew it meant that she would be the bridge between humanity to the heavens. Three thousand years later, when the sun barely peeks over the horizon of the Yujing Terrace, she looks to the streets below as the city slowly rises. Aside from confrontation with Osial, the lives this age leads is a peaceful one. She wonders if that’s what makes most people human, to live mostly peaceful lives and if they didn’t, at the very least, they wouldn't have to live with their suffering for very long.
But Ganyu remembers the Archon War and everything after that. She wondered if there was anyone that could truly understand her, an existence that resides in the ocean sky and the sea of people below all at once.
Logically speaking, it’s good to keep her distance and let her handiwork reflect in the ordinances and meticulous decisions of the Qixing speak for her instead. But even so, her annual reviews didn’t fully encapsulate who she was. When Lumine had looked at her strangely when she asked to know more about Ganyu, the secretary knew how inadequate an explanation it would be.
Where would she even begin? Truthfully, Lumine, I don’t belong anywhere.
No one’s heart thrums quite like her own, there’s no one else alive or dead that’s like her. It was always meant to be this way and at first she was resigned to her fate, trusting in Rex Lapis’ word and his belief in her. She asks for his forgiveness from time to time, in the moments that she didn’t quite believe in herself.
In those moments, she wishes she was just whole, not a piece, not shattered.
The sun is higher in the sky now and the tea in her hands is cold. Keqing stands beside her on the balcony of the Yuehai Pavilion, in her elegant robes of silken purple and white, her signature hairpin glinting under the sunrise.
“Oh, Lady Yuheng. I was lost in thought, my apologies,” Ganyu says immediately, bowing at her waist.
“It’s nothing, don’t worry about it,” Keqing dismisses and places a gentle hand on the wooden railing. “It’s unlike you to be so distracted. You’re sure you’re alright?”
There was the question again and Ganyu decides on a whim to maybe not keep it from Keqing. Perhaps, she will call upon this new beginning she seems to believe in.
“I was just thinking, what the new Liyue will be like with Rex Lapis gone and the kind of lives we will lead from this point on,” she replies honestly, omitting the deeper sentiments that tug at her heart. She watches Keqing’s eyes narrow minutely, out of curiosity instead of the usual scrutiny. Ganyu catches herself and attempts to hide her uneasiness with her smile that was shakier than the one she had practiced for thousands of lifetimes. “But don’t mind my troubles, I was just speaking freely. I won’t allow it to interfere with my work.”
“You and I are more similar than I thought,” Keqing says aloud, slowly, as if it were a revelation. Ganyu blinks at her and Keqing looks away to the horizon. There’s a sparkle of life that dances on her eyes, a soul that’s undaunted by a blind path. Where she grasps on unearthed hope, Ganyu doesn’t know.
“In what way?”
Keqing’s head tilts in her direction. “I, too, wonder what the new Liyue will look like. I’ve come to realize just how naive I was, thinking I could be on par with Rex Lapis. I still have a lot more to learn.” Keqing then turns fully to Ganyu with a rather serious expression on her face. “I would like to apologize, Ganyu.”
Ganyu sputters, “Uh, what? W-Whatever for?”
Keqing lets out a dry chuckle as if it were obvious. “All these years, you’ve carried out all my requests to the finest detail without a single complaint - despite the fact that I openly spoke down upon him, someone you are devoted to. But never once did you argue with me, you just… smiled anyway.” Keqing looks wistful now and the slightest frown tugs on her lips. “I’m sorry, Ganyu, if it hurt you in any way. You’re the Secretary of the Qixing but first and foremost, you’re an individual of Liyue and I shouldn’t have treated you so unkindly. I hope you can forgive me.”
The porcelain mug of tea falls from her hands and the cool liquid splashes at her heels. The tiniest shriek escapes her lips as she hurriedly tries to grasp at the pieces. A gentle hand reaches out to help her and steadies her with the barest touch on the back of her hand. Ganyu looks up at her and she’s never been this close to Keqing, there’s a whole palette of a violet garden in her eyes that if Ganyu weren’t so startled, she could lay in the calmness of them.
The morning is still around them, the cusp of a new beginning.
“You’re sure you’re okay? Here, let me help,” Keqing says, carefully picking up the shards.
“I forgive you!” Ganyu squeaks as she rises quickly, the blush on her face burning hotly on her cheeks. Keqing doesn’t rise after her and just holds an amused expression on her face with the remains of the tea cup in her hands. Ganyu bows to her quickly and turns away briskly. Once she turns the corner, out of sight, she dashes for her office and closes the door with her back.
She breathes slowly and raises a cool hand to her cheek, in disbelief, shock, and mild embarrassment. Oh, I shouldn’t have run off like that, now I just look insincere!
The morning’s moment would replay in her head throughout the rest of the day, the documents and other Jade Chamber secretaries floating by in a blur. She remembers Lady Ningguang looking at her empathetically, her amber eyes peeking over her fan.
“If you think any more today, Ganyu, I fear you may combust. Perhaps you should take a break?”
Ganyu only nods, her smile coming out as a grimace but Ningguang lets it go as to not make matters worse. The secretary wonders if Ningguang had ever been stopped in her tracks by the mere weight of words. She imagines that she probably hasn’t, the Tianquan’s head is always turned skyward while Ganyu only hovers in the space between sky and sea.
Then there’s Keqing, pulling her down to the earth among the crowd of humans she never understood, with a voice so sure that Ganyu was one of them. But she knew Keqing wasn’t blind, they fought beside one another to defend Liyue, there wasn’t a chance Keqing didn’t know that she was different.
It occurs to Ganyu that maybe, Keqing didn’t care about any of that at all. That as long as the idea was her own and that she was confident in it, she wouldn’t have any regrets.
That’s just like her, she muses as she signs the final report of the day.
It’s then she sees a letter addressed to her in a neat cursive script at the bottom of the pile atop her desk. She opens it carefully and is once again stunned at the contents.
Come meet me at Xinyue Kiosk tonight. I would like your help with something, if you’re willing.
It wasn’t an order and it’s hardly a call to work overtime. It was a favor she could refuse. Humans were such interesting creatures. How naive for her to think that Ganyu would be able to deny anything asked of her, despite any reluctance or reservation she might have at the time.
This time around, however, she decides to agree because she wants to.
When she meets Keqing at the kiosk, the Yuheng is already waiting for her, quietly sipping on her tea as she pages through documents that are spread on the table, circled by different types of dishes. Most of them vegetarian, Ganyu notes with surprise, save for the small plate of golden shrimp balls that Keqing keeps a good distance away from the rest of the food.
She clears her throat and Keqing looks up and smiles gently, waving her over to take a seat.
“We meet again,” Keqing says as the half-adeptus takes her place.
“You’re the one who called me here,” Ganyu says with the smallest bit of amusement.
“You could’ve said no.”
Ganyu shakes her head. “No, I really couldn’t have.”
Keqing hums and dismisses it. She pushes a bowl of jewelry soup towards Ganyu. “You should eat.”
“How did you know?” Ganyu asks instead, undeniably curious about the decisions that led to Keqing’s menu order.
“I may or may not have heard about the incident at Wanmin Restaurant. Captain Beidou tells me it was quite the scene,” Keqing chuckles and Ganyu looks horribly flustered. She was going to have a stern talk with Beidou when she returned home. It wasn’t like it was her fault, anyone in Liyue could practically smell the delicious aroma that flooded through the streets once the Wanmin kitchen was fired up. You’d have to be a full-fledged adeptus to resist!
Keqing continues, “I mean I could hardly blame you, Xiangling is a renowned chef after all. I just figured you didn’t want a repeat of another-”
Ganyu groans, slouching in her chair. “Keqing, I’m begging you, please don’t speak of it again. I’ll never live it down.”
It’s Keqing’s turn to stare at her and Ganyu perks up, wondering if it was something she had said.
“No title?” Keqing says, smug and teasing.
“Uh, I, w-well that’s- uhm,” Ganyu splutters, sitting rigid in her seat. Keqing’s eyes are alight with mischief and Ganyu finds herself puffing her cheeks. She wouldn’t be so easily messed with. She points an accusing finger at Keqing. “Well it was you that said this was a new beginning, didn’t you?”
Keqing hums on the edge of laughter and shakes her head, then resting it in her palm. “I did, didn’t I? Well, in light of new beginnings Ganyu, I would like your second opinion on something.” She slides a map towards Ganyu and the secretary peers over it, recognizing it to be the Bishui trade route, or rather the proposition to reopen it. “I seem to be at an impasse with what to do about this matter.”
“That’s unlike you,” Ganyu comments and is relieved to see that Keqing doesn’t seem to take any offense to it.
“As I said this morning, I’m learning that there are things I still don’t know and need guidance with,” Keqing says quietly. “Which is why I’ve come to you - what would you do? What do you think Rex Lapis would do, in this case?”
“Why are you concerned with what he might do in this situation if he will no longer be a part of the new Liyue?” Ganyu knows that Rex Lapis isn’t dead, he only left the reins to humanity. It’s something that Keqing should be ecstatic over, to finally be rid of gods hovering over human affairs. She had heard plenty of the sentiment over the years, so why now?
“I won’t give him any reason to be disappointed in me. In fact, I plan to catch up to him!”
“Catch… up to him?” Ganyu parrots with a raised brow.
“Yeah, that’s right,” Keqing says proudly. “If he wanted me to have the power beyond the average mortal to lead Liyue, then I will rise to meet his challenge.”
Ganyu chuckles at her bravado and Keqing has the sense to look a little awkward at her outburst. The conversation fades into the task at hand as they take bites of their meals in between. They discuss different ideas and different approaches, united under the purpose of improving Liyue. It takes several hours and there’s several pieces of parchment that Keqing writes on and then scraps, refusing to take anything but perfection. The Yuheng doesn’t mind starting from scratch if it meant her plans would go exactly as she intended. Ganyu watches her in fascination.
Rex Lapis was right to choose her and bit by bit, Ganyu begins to understand his words even more. She actually finds it to be quite endearing, how decisive she can be.
The plan they come up with is hardly on par with what the Geo Archon would come up with. Ganyu knows it and Keqing knows it.
They’re satisfied regardless because it’s theirs.
From then on, Keqing would come to Ganyu and seek her advice. They fall easily into the routine, the strife of their past long forgotten, and instead resolved to create a future together. Ganyu can’t pinpoint a moment in time when it happens but simply accepts it, because after all, it’s a nice feeling; a fresh life breathing into a melting lotus.
It starts with business related things.
“Huixin has come to me with a concern and I’d like your thoughts about it,” Keqing says as she enters Ganyu’s office unannounced. Ganyu heard her heels against the floor long before she entered and simply looks up at her with interest.
“She’s my junior after all, I’m happy to help! What is it?”
“There’s suspicion that Bolai and Dongsheng may be evading taxes but with all the documentation presented, it’s difficult to prove how. Any suggestions?”
Ganyu leans back in her chair and hums to herself, holding her chin between her forefinger and thumb. A lightbulb goes off in her head and she snaps her fingers. Keqing looks at her for an answer.
Ganyu smiles. “Your enemy knows you best. They sell similar wares, what do you say we ask Bolai? Under the guise that Dongsheng has information about him, he may tell us what he knows to get back at him.”
“Huh,” Keqing says aloud as she crosses her arms over her chest. “I never knew you to be the type for such methods.”
Ganyu smiles innocently and rises from her seat, heading for the door as her shoulder brushes past Keqing’s own.
“There’s a lot you don’t know about me, yet. But new beginnings, as you say,” she says sweetly and then she’s off to her destination. The hall is quiet for a moment before she hears Keqing’s heels click after her, not one to be left behind.
Her idea works, flawlessly. Keqing is nothing but impressed as they enjoy another meal together after the fact, laughing over the unfortunate Fatui that crossed paths with them.
“Who knew they were capable of such mundane tasks as picking berries for free time?” Keqing chuckles as she pops a golden shrimp ball in her mouth.
Ganyu laughs with her and rubs the back of her neck in the slightest bit of shame. “I shouldn’t have judged the scene so quickly but it worked in our favor, luckily.”
“Remind me to not make you upset ever again, those arrows of yours are pretty spot-on. Where’d you train to fight like that?”
Ganyu chokes over a bite of her salad and the feeling of Keqing patting her back isn’t lost on her. She catches her breath and Keqing doesn’t move away.
“Uh, nowhere in particular. Just, uhm, part of the job description is all!”
She thanks Rex Lapis wherever he is that Keqing doesn’t press her further.
Somewhere in the middle, it starts to go outside the boundaries of work. Ganyu recalls the friends she made lifetimes ago and it makes her nostalgic, walking beside someone once again. Even so, they’re wandering all over the city on a rare day off from work which leaves Ganyu’s nerves on end.
“Are you sure it was okay to leave work early? I feel like there’s still a lot left to do,” Ganyu mutters nervously with the bustle of the market around her.
“We can afford a day off once and awhile. Ningguang even mandated us to take the weekend off, we might as well enjoy it, don’t you think?” Keqing replies simply.
“Well, I suppose,” Ganyu says slowly then sighs. The sun is out and the breeze is light, it truly is a perfect day to relax. But the streets are loud and Ganyu doesn’t look like any of them. She follows dutifully with Keqing, sharing her opinions on certain items, and becoming flustered if Keqing would suggest an accessory that would look good on her.
The sentiment is sweet but she can’t find herself to enjoy it fully. It doesn’t go unnoticed and she’s brought back from her stupor when a gloved hand laces with her own. Her eyes are wide as Keqing walks on, unfazed.
“Yeah? What is it?”
“Where are we going? I thought you wanted to go visit Mingxing to order the Lucent Crescents you wanted,” Ganyu asks. Keqing tightens her hold on their joined hands, not giving her a direct answer. She continues to lead them out of the city and Ganyu immediately recognizes the path to Mt. Tianheng.
They both let out a breath as they reach the peak and Keqing sits down on the grass, setting her vast amount of shopping bags beside her. She releases Ganyu’s hand and pats the grass beside her. The Qilin acquiesces and settles down gently.
“I could tell the crowds were getting to be too much for you,” Keqing says after a while, watching the waves roll on the harbor.
“That’s not it,” Ganyu immediately protests, despite Keqing being undeniably right. But how to say it without scaring the woman? “It’s just…” and the words fail at her throat.
Fingers brush on the back of her hand again and hover there, this time asking if this was the kind of comfort she needed. Ganyu blushes and doesn’t look at her and stares straight ahead, relaxing her hand and letting Keqing fill the spaces between her fingers.
“Is it hard, being part adeptus?”
Ganyu doesn’t jump away in fear, she doesn’t shriek or stutter. Instead, Keqing’s words wash over her like the rain in the courtyard that she would listen to. The words aren’t something she loves to listen to like the rain but it feels like she’s renewed - maybe because for once in thousands of years, she didn’t need to be the one to say that she was tired.
Her head tips and a tear falls upon a blade of grass. “It’s hard being alone.”
“Do the adepti not welcome you as one of their own?” Keqing asks, just on the edge of aggression. Like she would protect her halfling existence as if it had mattered.
“They do. Cloud Retainer took care of me when I was very young. But,” Ganyu sighs. “I don’t look like them. I’m not powerful like them. And then,” she chokes on a lump in her throat, the grief in her ribcage clenching around her heart. It festers at her bones, screaming to be let out and at the same time, crying to Rex Lapis on why he had left her with half a human heart that could feel suffering. Her contract both a duty and a curse he willingly subjected her to.
Why, why, why?
“I mean, look at me , Keqing. I don’t look like any of you! I don’t belong in the human world and I don’t belong in their world either!”
The words spill out of her mouth before she can stop them and before she realizes it, the tears are full-blown on her face. She can’t hold back her cries, trying to muffle them in her palm, uselessly wiping at the streams.
“I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to yell at you l-like that,” she apologizes in the moments she can breathe.
Keqing catches her hand and she gasps slightly, the tears being caught in the basin of her palm and her thumb wipes them away. Keqing holds her there and Ganyu is pulled into her gravity, the remains of her tears twinkling like snowflakes melted on the edges of her eyes. Keqing is looking at her softly and Ganyu’s cries die down to small hiccups, her cheeks rosy.
“I think feeling alone is a very human thing to feel,” Keqing whispers, her thumb brushing against her cold cheek. “I won’t pretend to know the countless years you’ve endured feeling this way, but let me be the first to tell you. You are not alone. No matter how you look, adeptus or human, or none of those things at all. You’re Ganyu and there are people that value that above all things in the world.”
And Ganyu feels as though she’s standing on top of Jueyun Karst for the first time, with the sea of clouds below, exhilarated at the possibilities the world could hold for her. On the wind through the mountain range, she daringly asks.
Keqing smiles at her and Ganyu’s aged heart beats a little harder against her chest.
“Who else?” Keqing counters instead with a light chuckle that Ganyu matches with a teary one. Months ago, she would be infuriated with Keqing’s mysteriousness that bordered the line of teasing and humor. Months ago, she was resolved to simply accept Keqing’s requests at face value and never look beyond her intentions.
She wonders when it had all changed - when their worlds collided and in the burst of stars, Ganyu found a place where her heart was held.
“You’re sure about this?” Ganyu asks tentatively, her hand reaching up to where Keqing’s still curved over her cheek.
“I think you know very well what my answer is when my mind is made up,” Keqing says confidently. Then a bit of shyness peeks through and it makes Ganyu smile even more. “Of course, you can say no.”
She realizes Keqing has always given her a choice - though Ganyu should refuse. It’s irrational to want to hold onto her because there would be a point in the future where she no longer could. But Ganyu would blame neither her human side or adeptus side for her decision. It needn’t be any of those things. It’s as simple as Keqing being the brightest star she’s seen in all her years and she’s a constellation Ganyu can reach. A guiding light that Ganyu loves.
“No, I really can’t.”
Months pass and Ganyu is happy, the sunlight practically dancing at her heels as she walks all over the Yuehai Pavillion to Liyue Harbor below. Her Jade Chamber counterparts would look at her strangely. Ganyu is always positive but this scale is a whole other level that leaves everyone wondering what could be the source of all her joy.
Ningguang, ever vigilant, simply looks at the situation with a glance and figures it out. She smiles beneath her fan as she spots Keqing with a small gift bag with her sights set on the secretary’s office when she believes no one else has arrived for work that morning. The Tianquan simply can’t help herself.
“What’s the occasion, my dearest Yuheng?” she calls after her, her sultry voice bouncing off the halls.
Keqing practically jumps out of her skin and whirls around to the light chuckle passing through Ningguang’s red lips.
“Don’t scare me like that, Ningguang!” she replies exasperated, a hand pressing firmly on top of her rapid heart.
“You know better than to think you can sneak around my sights, you know,” Ningguang says simply. “I’ll spare our dear secretary but you, I can’t resist teasing just a bit.”
Keqing groans and throws her head back, the Tianquan is always such a pain to her. “What do you want, Ningguang?”
Ningguang smirks and decides to settle on the answer the Yuheng would hardly expect.
“Take care of her, would you?”
As expected, Keqing’s jaw drops and her eyes widen. Ningguang remains unmoving because though she loves pressing the young woman’s buttons, she genuinely meant what she said. Keqing’s eyes narrow suspiciously as if she couldn’t fathom such an idea. Still, whatever the true intention may be, Keqing wouldn’t leave it unanswered.
“Always. You can bet on that,” Keqing retorts firmly. Ningguang regards her up and down then turns swiftly on her heel in her confident swagger.
“I know a winning game when I see one,” she says.
Keqing stares at her retreating back - thinking that was probably one of the nicest things that Ningguang had ever said to her.
When Ganyu arrives in her office, she spots the gift bag on her desk that pairs with a vase of silk flowers. Ever curious, she opens the gift bag and pulls out a small velvet box. Her heart immediately softens when she opens it, a silver chain gleaming beneath the sun and dangling from it, an intricately crafted glaze lily made of gemstones and porcelain that glitters in a million facets like the night sky between her fingers.
She never takes it off and pulls Keqing into a bone crushing hug later on in the day when they meet for a dinner date. Keqing buys out the whole venue and the table is lined with Ganyu’s favorite dishes, lanterns sparkling all around them. The Yuheng blushes and doesn’t mind the breath being squeezed from her lungs.
“Thank you, my heart,” Ganyu whispers into the crook of her neck.
Keqing weaves her hands into the Ganyu’s soft tresses and pulls her closer.
Keqing hears heels rapidly clicking towards the entryway and she greets Ganyu, as beautiful as the first snow, but she has a serious expression on her face that makes Keqing feel uneasy. Has she done something wrong?
“I’m coming with you,” Ganyu declares and that’s when Keqing notices her bow and quiver strapped to her back.
Keqing sighs and sheaths her own sword. “I’m just going to scout the ruins, you have nothing to worry about. Just a quick peek.”
Ganyu crosses her arms and gives her the most stern look she can muster. Keqing only thinks it’s cute.
“You don’t know how many Fatui that fled after Osial, it’s dangerous! What if they’re not just out for a stroll picking berries?”
Keqing laughs at the memory and Ganyu pouts. The swordswoman approaches her lover, gentle hands prying at her crossed arms and smoothing over them once Ganyu gives in. Her palms are warm against her skin, even through her gloves, and the tension leaves for a moment.
“If there’s two of us, we could start a fight we’re not prepared for. I just want you to be safe, I promise I’ll be careful.”
“I’ll bring you back a bunch of Qingxin flowers?” Keqing offers hopefully, her fingers skimming over her collarbone to pick up the pendant of the glaze lily between her fingertips. Ganyu’s twitches beneath her touch and eyes brighten. Keqing knows she’s hit her mark.
“Just be safe,” Ganyu pleads. “Please. ”
Ganyu knows Keqing’s strength, she witnessed it first hand. She knows she is more than capable, the speed of her swordsmanship and her dance amongst the shadows was unmatched. But Ganyu can hardly stand the possibility of losing her so soon, not when she had just found her. She’s probably overreacting but she’s inexplicably nervous.
Keqing tries to placate her with kisses on her cheek and whispers in her ear, “I’ll be back. Wait for me.”
Ganyu chooses to believe in her and sends a prayer to Rex Lapis to protect her.
Keqing then departs Liyue in the early hours of the morning to the Dunyun Ruins. All is quiet on her path, not even a hilichurl in sight. She comes upon the cliff that hangs over the expanse of the ruins as she crouches low. She spots the several groups of agents and skirmishers wandering about and curses beneath her breath. There’s a lot more of them then she thought there would be.
“I should report back quickly.”
She feels her Electro Vision prickle on the back of her neck and she groans to herself. She’ll have to beg for Ganyu’s forgiveness after this one. She rolls swiftly out of the way and flips back, narrowly dodging the overhead strike of a charged hammer. The red of his eyes glint behind his pale mask as he hears his smug voice beneath it.
“I will end you,” he threatens as the silhouette of a shield comes around him.
“I’d like to see you try it,” Keqing tosses back and charges at him with her bare sword. Her blade meets his body several times, in flashes and quick strikes, but he’s unfazed beneath her blows. His swings are heavy and while she’s fast, she’s withering faster than his armor is. In one horizontal arc, he clips her with the edge of the hammer and it sends her skidding to the grass and she hears a rib crack.
The commotion on the cliff alerts the Fatui below and Keqing rises with another curse, unable to stand straight with the strain in her chest and her breaths shallow.
“Damn it,” she mutters and her fingers reach up to her head where it stings, noting that there’s blood where she scraped the ground.
She sees agents encroaching on her position and the grip on her sword tightens. If she can just release one Starward Sword at the right moment, maybe she could disappear in the shadows and make a break for it. Ganyu would kill her twice for this but she was waiting for her.
It’s then that she sees it, a snowflake drifting gently to the ground in the middle of a sunny day. Keqing feels an arctic breeze fly just past her head as she watches an arrow hit its mark in the skirmisher’s mask and ice bursting in all directions. Keqing blinks and the vanguard falls.
The winter’s rage descends upon the earth in a sphere, angry shards of ice raining down that immediately halts their enemies and encases them. Keqing clenches her jaw and tosses out a lightning stiletto into the storm, blinking like driving thunder all over the battlefield in a fatal steel song. The Fatui fall, the winter evaporates, and Keqing sinks to her knees using her sword as a crutch.
She smiles through her pain and raises her head just as Ganyu wraps her arms around her neck. Through a wince, Keqing wraps an arm around her waist in return, taking comfort in the familiar scent of spring.
Ganyu jabs a finger into Keqing’s shoulder and scolds her, “Don’t ‘hey, you’, me! You said you’d be careful! What were you thinking?!”
Keqing knows she should feel guilty for making her worry like this but in all honesty, she’s just relieved to see her. She probably looks horrible, slightly tattered with a bloody forehead and bruised ribs, but Ganyu is gorgeous and she kisses her square on the mouth. She makes a muffled noise of surprise in her throat then melts like the snow on Keqing’s warm lips.
They pull away and Keqing shudders a breath. “Thanks for saving me.”
Ganyu is baffled at the sheer nerve of her. She caresses her face, holding her dearly despite how initially frustrated she was with her moments ago. She sighs and sinks into relief instead.
“Dummy,” she murmurs as she helps Keqing rise, supporting her by wrapping one of her arms around her shoulders.
Keqing’s response is a cheeky smile and Ganyu rolls her eyes as they make the trek back home. Weeks later, when Keqing’s ribs heal from her injury, she disappears again only to come back with a handful of Qingxin flowers that she promised.
Barely a day off from her full recovery and Keqing climbs mountains for Ganyu to see her smile, even if the Qilin is a bit exasperated.
Keqing is so infuriating and Ganyu loves her.
Another year passes and Liyue changes rapidly. The market is still bustling with prosperity and the Qixing are as busy as ever. The adepti have kept their distance and only gaze upon their lands beneath a new age created by human hands.
There are things that haven't changed, however. Ganyu still falls asleep like clockwork at noon and still has piles and piles of paperwork on her desk to delegate and check off her list. Keqing’s assistant’s are still pushed to their limits, given tasks that weren’t due for years in advance, but the Yuheng remains proactive.
Ganyu has led a long life of building and rebuilding Liyue but this time around feels different. Though the galaxies remained, the earth’s breath giving into new life, she feels as though her memories of this time will shine like gold when the day comes. Time felt a little more meaningful now.
A lot more meaningful now.
Ganyu blinks and sees the sky swim into her vision and Keqing above her with an amused expression. She reaches for her with a hand and Keqing sighs dramatically, letting herself be pulled down onto the grass beneath the tree Ganyu had chosen to overlook the city. Keqing settles with her back against the wood and Ganyu settles into her lap, still holding onto her hand as she feels gentle fingers comb through her hair. The breeze is cool and Keqing is warmer than the sun, a feeling Ganyu sinks into.
“Is something amiss, Lady Yuheng?” Ganyu echoes and Keqing laughs knowingly.
“Just seeing if you’re alright,” Keqing supplies as her fingers skim down to brush against her cheeks.
“I’m more than alright, my heart,” Ganyu answers honestly with a sleepy undertone. “How could I not be with the world you’ve given me?”
It’s the singular truth of the new world. Ganyu knows she can’t deny her adeptus or human nature, but she no longer feels as though she had to split her heart between the two seas, the clouds and the earth. Keqing had come to her like a thundering storm that quelled her heart with the rain, with promises of a world they could create.
She remembers that promise as clear as day at the lantern festival - stars and wishes between their palms that float up to the skies, hoping to sit beside the Archons above to grant their blessings. She remembers the amber glow that dances on Keqing’s eyes as she holds her own paper lantern in one hand and Ganyu’s in the other.
“What are you going to wish for?” Ganyu whispers to her.
Keqing mock gasps at her, feigning incredulity on her face. “Don’t you know our wishes won’t come true if we tell one another? You should be ashamed, Ganyu!”
Ganyu giggles at the lighthearted antic and kisses Keqing’s cheek that glows with a blush beneath all the lights.
“Well if the Archons don’t grant our wish, I’d imagine you’d take it into your own hands to make it come true anyway.”
Keqing seems to consider the statement and a satisfied smile curves over her pink lips as she squeezes their joined hands. “You know me too well, my love.”
“It’s part of the job.”
Keqing bumps her shoulder playfully and Ganyu is smiling innocently. Keqing’s head turns skyward to where a few lanterns have been released, the trail of them hovering by with constellations of prayers. Keqing raises her paper lantern into the air and lets go, the pattern of lilac and white fading to the night sky before she speaks again.
“I was thinking, that if there isn’t a place where you belong as an adeptus or human - I would just wish for a world where you and I could both belong, as just ourselves,” Keqing professed, turning to look at Ganyu with sincerity laced in every word. “I wasn’t planning on waiting on the gods to grant my wish though.”
Ganyu stares back at her like the day Rex Lapis had descended before her for the very first time. A goddess that was entirely human that loved every time-worn layer of her. Despite the bustling crowd of people around them, Ganyu lets her lantern go and immediately pulls Keqing into a firm kiss. The swordswoman smiles against her lips and lifts Ganyu off her feet and spins her around, chuckling at the light sound of surprise from her throat. She’s barely off the ground but Ganyu feels like she’s soaring, her heart beating strongly.
When Keqing sets her down, Ganyu breathes against her lips.
“I love you.”
The woman who doesn’t believe in gods, believes in her instead. Keqing pecks her lips softly and then another to the crown of her hair near her horns. She whispers in return and Ganyu can hear Keqing’s heartbeat loud in her ears, the sound of her entire world.
“I love you too.”