“Брат! Tell us a story!”
A story? I sat by my siblings’ bed, my brows arched, a laugh ready on my lips. It had been a while since they demanded a tale out of me. Should I tell them as Ajax, or Tartaglia? My youngest siblings do not know of my work. I shall be Ajax then. The door creaked. Our house was still old, despite the money brought in by my work. Mama insisted one must not fall to the desires mora brought, and one should always use mora for the correct purpose. The roof should be fixed at least, or we must replace all the old doors. My mother instead took the mora I sent last year to buy a herd of sheep.
“Investment, my dear Ajax,” she showed off her sheep proudly to me, “When you’re older, you’ll know how important investment is."
Sometimes I wonder if my mother knew what I did when I was in Liyue.
“A story? Is big brother telling a story?”
Glasses of warm milk shared, Tonia hastily handed me my mug and settled down on the edge of Anthon’s bed.
“A story, a story!”
Teucer clapped his hands, nearly spilled his own cup.
“Ahh...a story, it is,” I said, noticing the old chip on the rim of my mug. “A story about the old gods of Liyue…”
Zhongli told me this tale some time back, while we were walking through Guyun. He has been very forthcoming with his stories as we spent time together in my last few days in his city. I set my mug on the bedside table and began my story.
“Once upon a time in Liyue, there lived two gods. A god who was gentle, and a god of dolphins and whales. Hmm... the gentle god loved flowers and she gave her people crowns of flowers every day! But yet, flowers could not thrive upon the gentle god’s lands for it was full of salt and each day, the tides brought in more and more salt.”
Tonia’s face was sad, and she exclaimed, “That’s so unfair!”
Anthon was puzzled, and he exclaimed, “She can always like rocks!”
Teucer smacked Anthon’s shoulder, and he exclaimed, “I want to hear about the god of dolphins and whales!”
I laughed again in spite of my own knowledge. Dolphins and whales. Teucer saw a whale when he was stowed on the boat to Liyue.
Thus, I held a finger to my lips and shook my head.
“The god of dolphins and whales lived on an island shrouded in fog and rainbows. No one visited him for the waters around his island were surrounded by whirlpools and scary things.”
“S-scary things?” Anthon pulled up his pillow and his eyes blinked.
“Scary things like that big monster crab Брат caught last Christmas!” Tonia reared up in a threatening manner. Anthon screamed and dived into the blankets. I chuckled and ruffled Tonia’s hair.
Settling back into my chair, I continued my tale.
“The god of dolphins and whales was often lonely, and from the highest reaches of his abode in the Sea of Clouds, he could see the gentle god toil away on her lands, trying to plant her beloved flowers.”
“In the quiet of the night, sometimes he would visit and see her flowers wilt before dawn broke over their petals. There was too much salt in the land and he was too far away from his island to help the gentle god.”
“The god returned to his rainbow island, and he spoke to the dolphins and whales.
‘Help the gentle god’ he said.
‘Bring my power to her lands, reduce the tides, prevent the salt from entering the soil. For a hundred years, just a hundred, let Havria have her flowers.’”
“The dolphins and whales could not deny their master although they knew it will weaken him against their enemies which they and the island sought to protect against. Yet, they carried out his decree. And for a hundred years, her lands enjoyed bounty and harvest, and flowers of all kinds grew in her lands. The gentle god was finally happy.”
Anthon and Teucer had fallen asleep, clutching their pillows.
Tonia collected the mugs, and her face turned thoughtfully to me.
I stood up to leave. Zhongli will arrive tomorrow. I should sleep as well.
“What happened to the god of dolphins and whales?”
“He eventually died. But it was a peaceful death.”
Tonia just smiled and nodded. She understood, somehow, and left to the kitchen. I closed the door of my youngest brothers’ room and leaned against it.
My heart stilled to a calmness that was foreign to me.
Zhongli, forgive me for changing your tale. If only I could then, and I knew why Osial died, I would not have summoned him from those depths once more.
The ship from Liyue arrived early. Zhongli was waiting at the place we agreed to meet - the old clocktower building that was formerly a pier office. He was dressed in the clothes I’ve sent him a week ago. I smiled. It really suited him.
There was genuine surprise in his amber eyes, as I took one of his bags, placing my hand on the small of his back to lead him away from the crowd.
“Sheep.” A sigh petered my lips. “My mother bought a herd for sheep for us.”
“I see. Ah, that is very generous of your mother.” He said, nary a frown.
“Are you not asking why she bought us a herd of sheep?” I sighed. But secretly, I was happy, and I slipped my hand from his back, to hold his in mine.
“In Liyue, the giving of animals like cows and goats are customary when it comes to weddings in ancient times. It is representative of good fortune and fertility and having mora for years to come. Your mother has given us her blessings. Moreover—”
I pulled his hand, dragging Zhongli close.
“xiansheng, that’s enough,” I said, with kisses on his lips, and with that he fell unwittingly quiet, his hand placed lightly on mine.