The wind whistles through the branches of the enormous oak over Windrise, before playfully dropping an origami crane on Venti’s lap. He opens his eyes and inspects the crane. Hm. Another letter from Kazuha? Some careful unfolding later, he reads slowly through Kazuha’s words.
Anegimi has chosen the Crux fleet’s summer courses. Should the winds guide our passage, we may pass the waters of Sumeru and Snezhnaya. If not, Natlan and the seas of Mondstadt and Liyue. Or so it is said. She husbands our resources.
In honour of the wind that chooses our sea-roads, Venti, a short verse for you.
Summer winds blow
Promising a swift fair tide
Ships wait, sails unfurled
A fair poem, Venti thinks. Ah, what to reply...
He flits over to his favourite grove of apple trees in the Dawn Winery’s valley, filching a crisp early fruit to nibble on while thinking. Then goes to Starsnatch cliff, and savours the sea-winds while considering his words. Finally, Venti sits in the Angel’s Share, and writes his reply over his first and only glass of dandelion wine for the night. Then folds up the parchment into a bird’s tiney shape, and sings coaxingly to his wind-siblings. ‘ For the windblessed child of autumn maple, Kaedehara Kazuha, with the far ranging Crux fleet. Probably still near Liyue’s seas. ’
“Kazuha! Letter for you!” Captain Beidou shouts from the deck. Kazuha looks down from where he’s perched in the crow’s nest. Letter? But they were three days’ sail out of Liyue Harbour. Unless....
He leaps down, the wind cushioning his landing, and looks up at Beidou. “A letter?”
“Yes!” She chuckles as she passes him a tightly folded paper bird. “Your friend must be something special, Kazuha, to send letters on the wind like this.”
“I wouldn’t be able to say for sure.” Kazuha says quietly. “The only identity he would claim was that of a bard of Mondstadt. It was his idea, too, to ask the winds to carry our words to each other, and so far the winds have been pleased to aid us so.”
Beidou pins him with a penetrating look. “And what do you write to each other, Kazuha?”
“Mostly poetry, Anegimi,” Kazuha says politely. “Anything else is only what is common knowledge by the time we set sail.”
Beidou taps him on his shoulder. “That wasn’t my worry. I trust your care and discretion, Kazuha. But this Mondstadt poet... to go to such lengths to remain in contact...”
Kazuha looks down. “He has asked nothing that I do not already give to the wind in verse. Though... perhaps this is only my wild thought. He bears a Vision of Anemo, but it is a fake one – not even a minor focus. The wind comes at his whim, at his passing thought. This Venti... at the very least, he is some kind of wind spirit. Who just wants whatever poetry I care to share with the wind.”
“Hm.” Beidou hums consideringly. “Going to write a reply now?”
“After my watch-shift, captain.”
Later, perched on the relative privacy of the bowsprit to feel the wind and think, Kazuha considers his reply. Poetry, yes, Venti’s hoped for poetry, but the topic... He considers the foaming waves that the Crux fleet sails over. Perhaps...
Later, by moonlight, he pens long and short verses from the inspiration of the waves, then folds them up and asks the wind, softly, “Bear this to Venti, please?”
And without Kazuha’s willing it through his Vision, the wind responds, playfully swirling around him and then lifting the letter up into the air. In moments, the frail sheets of paper are out of sight.
A salt-scented breeze catches Venti at Old Mondstadt, while he’s speaking to Dvalin. “And then he – mmf!”
Dvalin laughs softly at him. “What is it that the wind has brought you with such eagerness today?”
Venti swipes the worst of his saliva off the letter, and slowly flicks through it. “More poetry from Kazuha. They must be at sea today. Ooh, that’s a nice bit of wave imagery he’s got going there.”
“Kazuha? Is that another wind-blessed child of Mondstadt? No?” Dvalin asks him curiously.
“An Inazuman child of the wind,” Venti answers him as he reads Kazuha’s poems. “A remarkably unflappable wind-child with a lovely bent for poetry.”
“Hm. Are you writing back to him now?”
“Should I wait for something?” Venti asks him, already reaching for parchment and pen to reply.
“He’s reusing paper, and the letter smells of the sea.” Dvalin points out. “Why not send him a gift to make continued correspondence easier?”
Over the next week, the winds carry gifts to Kazuha with varying degrees of care. On the first day, a stack of fine writing paper and parchment, carefully wrapped and placed in a worn birchbark box appears in his quarters on the Alcor. No one claims to have gifted it to him – but later Sea Drake tells him quietly that he thought he’d seen the box being carried aloft on the wind.
Then, on the third day of the week, a bamboo tube sealed in red wax with a Liyuen chop, containing a roll of fine rice paper. This one literally falls onto Kazuha’s head while he’s on watch, when the breeze that had carried it all the way to him dropped it. He rubs the bruise on his head as he considers it. Where had Venti gotten this? Or the funds for it? And what was he to do with so much material for writing – A fresh breeze whistles through the porthole, and Kazuha blinks. That didn’t sound like – the wind howls through with greater fury, and pages upon pages of parchment whistle in to twirl around Kazuha before settling in eerie precision on his desk. “Venti... this really is too much...”
The wind doesn’t reply. Kazuha doesn’t know why he expected it to.
The gifts, fine as they are, at least make correspondence easier, and Kazuha writes longer poems, adds little observations and stories about the Crux fleet’s travels, about shipboard life.
A particular day, and the fleet encounters a particularly vicious series of storms, and Kazuha has no opportunity to write for three days for the work of helping to keep everyone alive and afloat. He writes a long letter to Venti after that ruminating at length on the storm’s wild beauty, on life’s brevity, and for his own humour folds the pages into butterflies when the ink is dry. Kazuha then casts the butterfly-letters out into the wind, to reach Venti or not as the wind wills.
It makes it to Venti, because the next letter the wind-spirit bard writes back to him references Kazuha’s long poetic monologue on the storm. And perhaps also because soothing, strong winds blow the fleet to their next destination, and perfume the air with the scents of Mondstadt flowers. After that, Beidou comes up next to Kazuha one day. “Hm... are you sure he’s just a wind spirit?”
Kazuha shrugs. If Venti isn’t about to say, Kazuha isn’t about to insult him by guessing unnecessarily.
It becomes something that he really should talk to Venti about, when they’re in the middle of a fraught sea battle with privateers beyond Mondstadt’s waters, when Venti’s poetry letters arrive again.
The wind tugs against Kazuha, beseeching, but he ignores it. If he lets up his efforts to keep the Crux fleet’s sails filled exactly as needed, so that they’re just out of range of their opponents... the wind tugs against his patient coaxing again, then yields to his will. The fleet’s sails remain full, and Kazuha is able to spare a little awareness of the rest of the situation.
.... the situation being that Venti’s poetry letters are being insistently pushed into his chest by the wind – Kazuha quickly grabs them from the air – and the wind is swirling rapidly into an Eye of the Storm. One which is moving with conscious intention over to the opposing privateers, swirling up water from the ocean and lightning from the skies as it goes. Beidou swiftly signals the fleet to withdraw, to avoid being drawn in by the swirling miniature storm, and they retreat with haste. Letters swiftly stashed in his robes, Kazuha watches in disbelief as the Eye of the Storm swirls larger once they are out of range, and utterly annihilates the opposing fleet.
“Kazuha....” Beidou starts.
“I don’t think he asked the wind to do this.” Kazuha quickly says. “That doesn’t mean the... the wind spirits that willingly carry our letters can’t decide to... to do things.”
“.... what does your friend like, besides poetry? Something like this should have recompense.”
Venti is surprised to find Kazuha at Windrise the next month. “Kazuha? Weren’t you –”
“Anegimi decided that once our other... journeys were done, it would be no bad thing to have shore leave for a time at Mondstadt before making harbour at Liyue.” Kazuha tells him politely. “We’re a little ways off shore in the river delta near Windrise. Mondstadt has many surprising sea currents, apparently, to make docking in the shadow of the cliffs a bad idea.”
He looks at Venti consideringly. “But you knew that. Lord Barbatos.”
Venti flinches. “There’s no need to... to use that name with me. Anyway, I much prefer Venti...”
“Venti, then.” Kazuha bows respectfully to him – Venti has to suppress a flinch again – before indicating the bundle wrapped in cloth beside him. “The Mondstadters say that you like this place, when you are not at the Winery or the taverns. Is this a good place and time to speak?”
Venti sighs, softly. “I... suppose. What exactly did you want to speak about...”
Kazuha brings the bundle at his side to Venti, and unwraps it, pushing the revealed bottles of strong Liyuen wine at Venti. “Earlier, the Crux fleet was engaged in battle when the wind brought your letters to me again. Once delivery was accomplished, an Eye of the Storm formed, immediately and specifically laying waste to our opponents. Anegimi thought that under the circumstances, some thanks were most definitely appropriate.”
Venti reaches cautiously for the wine. “.... You do know that I didn’t... ask them – the winds, that is – to do anything like that...”
Kazuha shrugs at him. “But you asked them to keep a lookout for us, and they then chose to help. So please accept our thanks, and let the winds know our gratefulness as well.”
“..... are you going to stop sending me poetry, Kazuha?” Venti asks quietly, uncertain why he’s saying it. Poets come and poets go, bards as well – why is Venti so concerned?
Kazuha smiles slowly at him. “All the more, shouldn’t I share poetry with you and the winds too?”