his regrets and lost time
genre: angst (a bit of fluff too i guess)
characters: Zhongli, You, and Childe ( and maybe Damien from my Childe’s series)
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warnings: just some light cursing.
《 part ii
Zhongli was left stunned in Liuli Pavillion after you showed your anger towards him. And sure enough, that won’t be the last of them. He watched you storm off, Childe looking for you when he returned, and immediately set off to look for you outside.
Again, he doesn’t know how you two became friends without him knowing. Zhongli has been a long time associate of the Fatui and is fairly close with Childe. He would surely know how you two go acquainted. As soon as you left, Childe a second later, Zhongli decided to leave as well. Thinking that Childe would be kind enough to give him answers, he decided to head to the Northland Bank and wait for Childe there.
Zhongli was at the bottom of the stairs going up the bank when he looked up and caught sight of you two…fairly close to each other. He was quiet, not much emotion shown on his calm face but his mind was reeling. It was strange for him to see you with someone else, especially since you were always with him before and today was the first time you two met again after your break up.
He didn’t bother with that unfamiliar feeling and simply walked up the stairs, hearing the door of the bank shut. He was about to open the door wide when he heard you….talk about him.
“I don’t like him. I don’t like him at all. In fact, I hate him.”
Childe looked at you and cocked his head to the side. “Why not? What’s not to like about Mr. Zhongli?”
You groaned and clasped your hands together. “Alright, I should probably tell you my history with that old man. He probably never even have told you about me when you were here a few months back.”
“If you’re ready to share, I’m here to listen.” Childe gently urged you. You breathed in and out, ready to spill your guts and maybe a few tears. You told him about how Zhongli became unfaitjful to you throughout your relationship. How he would make small comments about his past partner and would often times subtly compare you to Guizhong.
How you would even dare to change yourself and appearance just to fit his standards. And how he didn’t even feel an ounce of regret or remorse of how he treated you.
All the while you were rambling, Childe’s expression went dark. For he knew exactly what this was. For he had experienced the same. For he had cheated on his past lover and suffered greatly afterwards, even if they reconciled.
“He cheated, huh?”
“Yes! Ugh…I swear. Argh!” you just couldn’t even comprehend your anger. “But you should also need to talk to him sooner.” Childe added and you were left in shock. Didn’t he just heard your rambling?! What did he not understand?
“What are you going on about?! I’m not gonna go out there and talk to him. I can’t stand hi—”
“I didn’t mean it like that. You can always scream and say all the nasty things you’ve always wanted to say to him. Punch him once or twice even, if that’ll help you. A little anger talking might help you move on.” Childe said, patting a reassuring hand on your head, and you calmed down.
His argument has a good point. At least all of your bottled up emotions would be let out. Negative or not, it should be let out and be heard or else it’ll eat you up inside. You sighed and chewed the inside of your cheek. “Alright, fine. But not now, I am too bothered.”
“Sure thing. Run along now, I still have work for the afternoon. Same place later? Don’t be late now.”
“Pfff, of course I won’t. When have I ever been late?”
“Uh..just earlier?” he teased with a quirked eyebrow. “Oh yeah, right.” you’ve exit the building, leaving Childe perplexed. He never would’ve thought that his good friend Zhongli could ever do such a thing. Still, there’s a lot to not know about him, considering he was an ex-Archon and thousands of years old adeptus.
It’s not hisplace to poke his nose into, but he sure hopes he could at least hear about this from the man himself. Zhongli, however, stepped aside from the doorway to let you out.
Of course, you hate him. Loathed him for what he had done. He never knew how much damage he had caused. Its getting harder to face you now and talk things out. Usually, he wouldn’t care as much of what his acquaintances or close friends think of him. For time will only pass and make those memories fade from their minds. But with you, he’s having a hard time.
Zhongli asked Childe if he could assist him on befriending you, using the lie that you had conjured up yesterday at the pavilion.
Childe, who had learnt everything from you, was quite reluctant. He doesn’t want to let Zhongli know that he knew about your history with the ex-Archon. In fact, Childe doesn’t think its right for him to meddle too, but as a friend of you both, he’d also want you and Zhongli to make amends and move on, especially when he could see that you’re still somehow stuck in the past.
So Childe just lets Zhongli know the basics of you. What you like and don’t like, when’s your birthday, your age, your favorite food, color, you know the general stuff. Zhongli thought that these informations were quite mediocre and wouldn’t satisfy his questions. Childe frowned and shrugged, saying that he should find the rest of the answers himself, he is a good listener after all. In time, Zhongli learnt about what you really liked and who you really are. A headstrong person with a lot of dedication and determination to achieve one’s ambition. A perfect candidate to be given a Geo Vision, honestly.
He learnt that you wouldn’t take any bullshit from others and would fight them if the situation calls for it. He saw you fight with Childe in mock battles, you were almost rivaling him in strength. You were loud on your beliefs and opinion. Insights and intellect oozing out of you. You would also consider others thoughts about a matter and negotiate to get a result that would satisfy and benefit you and the opposing party.
You were different. So different.
He wasn’t used to this side of yours. Only, he never did met this side at all. He only knew of the “quiet, elegant, and peaceful” (Name) that he had dated a few months prior.
And he realized that, he never even gave you a chance to be who you are for him. With him.
He was so hung up on the idea of a perfect lover. Who could resemble Guizhong in every way. She was, indeed, perfect for him. But when he is starting to “meet” the real you, he’s starting to waver. He wants to know more of you and be with you more. Until slowly, without him knowing, he wants to be part of your life again.
Childe would often let Zhongli tag along with your small adventures into the wilderness of Liyue. At first you were reluctant and were almost screaming at Childe to say no. But with him there by your side, you honestly don’t mind the extra company Zhongli provides.
Over time, Zhongli tries to strike up conversations with you along the way. You would give half-hearted answers or short, vague ones instead.
Now, Zhongli is a patient man and he could spend a thousand years to earn your trust again. But seeing how close you and Childe were, he couldn’t help but feel an unbearable ache within his chest. He couldn’t help but think that there must be something already going on between you too.
He notices how Childe would act ahead of time whether its getting something you’d like to eat or drink, or finish a thought you voiced out. You two were loud and proud and chaotic, but the other would sometimes be the anchor to ground and calm the other one down.
In other words, you two were perfect for each other. And Zhongli felt so out of place even though you and Childe were making him feel included. Yes, you’re starting to warm up to him, taking Childe’s advice in mind, you would talk to him when you feel like you’re ready.
One day, the three of you were strolling throught the busy streets of Liyue, and just in time for the Lantern Rite festival! There were a lot of stalls that sell food, lanterns, fireworks, and other stuff you would find in a festival stall.
Childe had led you and Zhongli to a shop that sells jewelries with intricate designs embedded with beautiful gems. This piqued Zhonglis attention, for he wants to gift you something. You three looked through the shop until Childe scurried towards the counter where Zhiqiao was. Childe, whisperng something to the young lady, making her giggle and nod at something he had said.
You narrowed your eyes a bit and looked down at the beautiful hair pin in hand. Somehow, that exchange irked you. Hurt you maybe, made your vision go all wavy and blurry. Your mind immediately going to an area where vouces are telling you that men really preferred elegant and mature people. You chewed on your bottom lip, gripping the poor hair pin.
You were pulled out of your trance when a gentle hand touched your shoulder. It was Zhongli.
“Are you feeling alright (Name)?” he asked softly. You looked up at his dazzling golden eyes, the very same eyes you fell in love with before. You sighed and shook your head, looking back down at the jewelries in display. “Oh, it’s nothing. I’m alright.” you replied.
Zhongli nodded slowly, feeling as if it wasn’t enough. “If there is anything that troubles you, you could always count on me—” he stopped when he saw you just staring at him with half lidded eyes. It was like telling him that you don’t even take him seriously.
But you smiled and huffed out. “Of course, thanks Zhongli, I’ll keep that in mind.”
It was soft yet the smile didn’t reach your eyes, but he could feel the genuinity in it. Its small, yet it had a large impact in him. You may not show it, but you do appreciate his concern and is very hapoy with him lending his help. Although a bitter side of you wished that he showed this much kindness when you two were still dating.
“(Name)! Would you come here over for a second?” Childe called out, making you and Zhongli turn your heads towards him.
“Oh, what’s the matter?” you asked, now standing beside him. Zhiqiao—the young lady behind the counter— had procured a box of special design. Of which it seemed to be crafted by Snezhnayan standards. You were astonished when she handed it over to you. “Master Childe had commissioned us to make these for you. Luckily I have a partner who is very famliar of Snezhnayan designs.”
Hearing her explanation, Childe nudged you by the arm. “Come on, open it.”
You nodded slowly, still confused and surprised at the arrangement. Is it a gift for you? Obviously but, what did you do to have this privilege?
Your hands then skimmed through the surface, the glossy mahogany wood is smooth to the touch. Then you opened it, and all you could is are sparkles. In front of you was a brooch in a shape of what seems to be a flower. The casing were gold and the gems used were of the color blue that when light reflects, it would turn to violet.
Your eyes widened with such admiration of how beautiful the brooch was. The flower was very beautiful yet unfamiliar, maybe a Snezhnayan flower you’ve never heard of.
“Oh Childe, it’s very beautiful. It really is and I’m honestly at a loss for words. For once.” you joked, making the people around you chuckle at your remark.
“But, this flower. I haven’t seen it before.”
Childe inhaled a large intake of air and exhaled it in a short breath. He knew of this flower oh so well. He knew it from when it was discovered and shown to the public. He knew how popular this flower became back home. For he knew oh so well who found this wonderful specimen.
His best friend. And their lover, Damien.
Remembering the origin of this flower and how it came to be was bittersweet, that had now turned into a very happy one. He learnt a lot during those times. Felt a lot of emotions and let go of certain things in a good way. Just remembering this brought a soft smile to his face.
His gloved hands slowly reached for the accessory and admired its beauty. “I say, Mr. Krosl did a magnificent job on this piece. Makes me want to commission in this shop again in the future.” he smirked playfully, directing it towards the oblivious you.
“This is a flower that could only live through the cold. My best friend discovered it along with another person when they were exploring the Snezhnayan Alps. And they named it Irelia.”
You watched as Childe explained to you and Zhongli about the origins of this flower. The two were talking, Zhongli asking questions while Childe answer. All you could think about was how Childe looked at the pin fondly, as if remembering a distant memory. A bittersweet look in his eyes tells you a lot, of how you also looked at certain things that would remind you of your past love with Zhongli.
Could Childe also had a past lover and still couldn’t get over them? Best friend….could it be them? When he mentioned them, he seemed to deflate. These were the thoughts running through your head.
You were always a keen observer. Its handy during these times but would also plant numerous questions in your mind.
Zhongli in the other hand was very fascinated at the flower. Never in his thousands of years roaming through Teyvat and living a number of lifetimes has he ever seen such a beautiful flora.
“What did they intend for the meaning behind this flower?” Zhongli asked, making Childe fluster for a bit, not really expecting for him to ask. He really intended for only you to know, but with his curious friend over here who is eager to know, who was he to turn him down?
Everyone, most especially you, were struck with surprise at his answer (minus Zhiqiao, for she was very giddy at the scene taking place). Your mind was running beyond through normal speeds of thinking and overthinking. What does he mean?! Wh-what?! First love????
Zhongli, however, stood frozen. As if his feet turned to literal rocks that had grounded him to the floor. What….does he mean by first love? Is this his confession to (Name)?
Luckily, Childe composed himself and quickly added “Well, at least that’s what my friend told me the meaning was. I only made Miss Zhiqiao and Mr. Krosl make this pin for (Name) because I thought it would be neat to gift them something my very own best friend discovered.”
Yes, smooth Childe.
You blinked and later on giggled at his response, making Childe feel light inside, Zhongli sighing in relief in secret. Nevertheless, you loved his gift and appreciated the thought of him gifting you something precious to him.
“Would you look at that, I gave you a pin from Liyue and you gave me a brooch from your home country. It really is lovely, thank you Childe.” you said, while putting it on your shirt. You smiled at him happily, feeling your own cheeks burn in delight.
It definitely looked good on you.
Childe smiled back, adoring how you looked. That is until he remembered of one person who was with them this whole time.
“Oh shoot! I’m sorry Mr. Zhongli, I forgot to make one for you too. Ah! how about you pick something from the store and I’ll pay for it. How’s that deal?” Childe said, trying not to feel guilty.
Zhongli shook his head and just smiled at his friend. “Oh, it’s quite alright. Thank you for the offer Childe.” and with this, Childe breathed out in relief. “So! Mr. Zhongli, what would you like to buy? A brooch? A pin? Or maybe a necklace or a pair of earrings for a special woman, ehhh?” he teased.
“That’s not quite necessary Childe, a brooch would just suffi—”
“Oh, here. I found the perfect one.” you suddenly spoke up, making the two men look at your way.
You held up a hair pin. Its metal in the color gold with a glaze lily on the top as its primary design. It was very beautiful and elegant looking, you thought that this must be quite a popular item in this shop and among the ladies.
“This is perfect for him. A glaze lily hair pin. I’m sure he could gift this to someone he adores as well. It’s beautiful, elegant yet simple. Besides, this is his favorite flower.” you said without missing a beat.
Childe perked up at what you said, definitely a perfect sudden gift for his good friend. However, Zhongli felt like his stomach dropped. Yes, glaze lilies were important to him and is definitely a precious flower to him.
It was Guizhongs symbol.
One, he definitely worshipped and praised all day, everyday in your relationship. He made you wear clothes that resembles its colors, like Guizhongs. He made you wear it on your hair as well, like Guizhong.
He couldn’t help but feel rather hurt that you would suggest that for him as a gift with such a monotonous voice and cold eyes directed towards him. Should he be happy? For you know his tastes? Should be happy from the adjectives you used to describe it along with him?
Normally, he should. But now, he is sure it would only remind him of how much he had hurt you before. “Here you are Mr. Zhongli, our gift to you.” Childe said with a smile, handing the rectangular case that boxed the pin inside.
“Yes, please take it. I hope you like it.” it was your turn to speak.
Zhongli looked at Childe and back at you, his vision lingered on yours. He felt horrible every passing moment he’s in that store, all he wants is to reject the hair pin and pick something else. Maybe something that closely resemble to yours or your favorite flower. Childe noticed Zhongli wavering, so he nudged his hand to get his attention, making the man jump in surprise.
“Won’t you take it? (Name) especially picked it up for you.” he asked innocently. Zhongli looked back at you. You were just staring at him, and not saying anything at all. In defeat he just sighed and took the gift, putting on a practiced smile. “Thank you (Name), Childe. I would treasure this gift.”
“Nice, well—” fireworks interrupted Childes sentence, and you immediately ran outside. “Ah! theres a fireworks demonstration by the pier, lets go check it out!”
“Alright, coming! Come on Zhongli, wouldn’t want to miss the fireworks.” Childe hyped up, clearly excited for the fireworks, it is his first Lantern Rite after all. “It isn’t the day for the main event yet, you’ll see more small firework demonstrations in the following days.”
“Oh, so what? It would still be exciting to see one, even if its small.”
“Hurry up you two! it’s almost over!” you bellowed outside.
“Uh, you two go on ahead. I still want to look at the displays here.” Zhongli said, trying to excuse himself because at first, he felt as if he was interrupting something between you two. “Well, if you say so. Just look for us at the pier if you’re done here. Oh and if you do want to buy something else, just put it under my tab.”
“Yes, of course.”
With a heavy heart, he watched you and Childe run, hand in hand, towards the pier. “Ahh, those two are quite something.” he heard Zhiqiao speak, basically cooing.
Zhongli trodded through the shop slowly, looking at difderent displays of jewelry, while trying to tune out what Zhiqiao said and what happened earlier. He should’ve seen this one coming, of course you would still be bitter of the last, what was he thinking?! That he thought that everything between you two is good and he could try and wriggle his way back into your life?
“Hello again Mr. Zhongli, have you seen something that might interest you?”
“Yes, I’d like to purchase this.”
Zhiqiao looked at the item and smiled at him. “I’ll pack it right away. Would you like me to put under Master Childes tab?”
“Ah yes, if you please.” he replied curtly. Zhiqiao got into work and wrapped tge item delicately on its own box. She wrote a receipt and gave it to Zhongli, together wth the box he purchased.
“One purple hyacinth necklace for Zhongli. Thank you for shopping.”
last part 》
a/n: •Damien is a character from mu previous Childe fic.
• Zhiqiao and Mr. Krosl are characters from Yanfei’s story quest.