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Both Xiao and Zhongli have been around ever since before the Archon War, making them more than two-thousand and six-thousand years old respectively. One day Xiao encountered Morax (Zhongli), the Geo Archon on the battle field during the Archon War. Before their meeting, another god took advantage of Xiao's weakness and enslaved Xiao. During that time, Xiao wasn't his true name. The god had forcefully made Xiao commit horrible acts until he was finally freed by Morax. He was finally given his current name, Xiao, by Morax as a means to protect his identity.
In order to show his gratitude to the god who freed him, Xiao shouldered the burden of protecting Liyue during the following years. Eventually fighting during the Archon War years at Zhongli's command as one of his generals under the title General Alatus, and continues to guard the land millennias afterwards and until present times. As an adeptus, he protects the people of Liyue from danger and continues to serve Zhongli.
During the 'death' of Rex Lapis (another name for Morax), Xiao is dismissive of the news when he hears it from the Traveler, mentioning that though times have now changed, he never thought of a Liyue without Rex Lapis. Afterwards, Xiao goes and informs the other adepti about the death of the Archon and continues to carry out his duties.
It is implied that Xiao knows of Rex Lapis' mortal form with evidence from his voiceline "About Zhongli", referring to Zhongli as 'Zhongli-daren' and 'Zhongli-sama' in the Chinese voice and Japanese dub respectively. He also seems curious and perplexed on Zhongli's decision to live his remaining life as a mortal.
In a voice line, Zhongli asks the Traveler to give Xiao medicine to help with his karmic debt which shows that he cares for Xiao's wellbeing.
During the second Lantern Rite festival Fleeting Colors in Flight, Zhongli can be found at Wangshu Inn. If spoken to, he will state he visited to provide Xiao with comfort, but he wasn't able to find him at his usual spot at the top of the Inn.
In the 2.7 questline Perilous Trail, Zhongli and Xiao are seen in their first on screen interaction. Xiao takes the task of maintaining the energy flow of the Fantastic Compass so that the group can make it out of the chaotic domain they've been trapped in. As he is struggling to maintain the energy flow, we get a flashback from his point of view some time ago when Zhongli visited him at Wangshuu Inn to warn Xiao that entering the Chasm might be dangerous. Xiao replied that he had stood guardian at his post for several years and only now does he ask for Zhongli's blessing to explore the Chasm in search of the nameless yaksha, and Zhongli hesitantly agrees.
Later, at the end of the Perilous Trail quest, Zhongli rescues Xiao from certain death, as the other self sacrificed himself to save the others, but leaves before Xiao sees him. Xiao can be seen looking towards the spot Zhongli stood shortly after that. Xiao later comments to the Traveler that he feels he was a burden to Zhongli, but seems to reconsider when Paimon challenges the notion by arguing how many times he's helped Zhongli as well and that's how it's supposed to be. Xiao also mentions to the Traveler that Zhongli had told him they are a "witness", providing another example of off screen interaction. Upon returning to Liyue Harbor, the Traveler encounters Zhongli and speaks to him. Zhongli denies having been to the Chasm, but he finds it interesting that Xiao is finally opening up to others.
- “Can I ask... Zhongli — what does he do with his days? Huh? Birds, antiques, flowers... Hmm... What deeper meaning do they hold?”
- — Xiao about Zhongli
- “Morax...? What do you know of that name!? He gave me the name Xiao, and released me from the endless pain I endured. I will not forgive those that dare to speak against him, even you.”
- — Xiao about Morax
- “Being constantly on the move must be tiring for him. My purpose in coming here was to give him a few words of comfort, but to my surprise, I did not find him on the roof... [...] Nevertheless, this trip was by no means a waste. Besides, there will be no shortage of opportunities to meet in the future.”
- — Zhongli about Xiao
- “In the fables of another world, the name Xiao is that of a spirit who encountered great suffering and hardship. He endured much suffering, as you have. Use this name from now on”
- — Rex Lapis' words to Xiao during their first encounter
- “You speak of the young adeptus of Guili Plains... *sigh* Still fulfilling his duty to this very day. Please give these Remedium Tertiorum to him on my behalf. Oh—and be sure to not let Paimon eat them. Nothing of this world can withstand the power of this medicine.”
- — Zhongli about Xiao
- “However feeble people nowdays may be, they are not my concern. I concern myself only with following Rex Lapis' original decree.”
- — Xiao regarding mortals
- “The sole survivor of an endless war, plagued by anguish for eons more. His fleeting figure through Guyun soars, conquering demons in service of his Lord.”
- — Qingzhou, a well-known poet from Liyue found at Wangshu Inn, about Xiao and Zhongli
- “Never once in all the centuries I've been protecting this land have I once left without permission. Only in this case involving the Nameless Yaksha, do I dare to beg for Rex Lapis' approval.”
- — Xiao to Zhongli during Perilous Trial
It's one of the most popular ships in the Genshin Impact fandom, not counting fan written works, particularly among the Chinese and Japanese fanbase. For the most part, fans of ZhongXiao portray Xiao as Zhongli's loyal follower, and Zhongli as a kind and benevolent God who looks out for Xiao's wellbeing.
Many people in the Western part of the Genshin Impact fandom headcanon Zhongli and Xiao's relationship as familial, but fans who ship ZhongXiao don't generally take to this interpretation of the lore. It currently has 800+ fan written works on Archive of Our Own.
- The emojis 🔶👹 are often used to represent ZhongXiao, the diamond representing the geo symbol and the oni representing Xiao's mask.
- In an official interview with Zhongli's Japanese voice actor, Maeno Tomoaki, he chose Xiao as one of his favorite characters. This is due to his "deep connection" to Zhongli. He also states that Zhongli likely feels this connection as well. The voice actor has also voiced the moment where Morax gave Xiao his name.
- Xiao's "developer insights" official article states that Xiao protects Liyue and humanity, carries his duty and honors his contract with Rex Lapis with pride.
- One of the first scenes of Xiao's "Collected Miscellany" trailer, which shows some important parts of Xiao's abilities and backstory, has him silently praying to a Rex Lapis statue after battle.
- In another official interview with Xiao's Japanese voice actor, Matsuoka Yoshitsugu, it is mentioned that Xiao gets really nervous at the mere mention of Rex Lapis' name because of how important he is to him. The interview also highlights the deep respect and adoration Xiao holds for his Lord.
- Xiao's signature weapon, that he has been seen wielding in his official art, his official Character Demo and in Collected Miscellany - "Xiao: Conqueror of Demons", the Primordial Jade Winged-Spear, was forged by Rex Lapis. In fact, Xiao's outfit contains several jewelry made out of jade. In Chinese culture, jade symbolizes prosperity, success, good luck and immortality.
- In one of his voice lines, Zhongli asks the Traveler to bring him back just one bunch of Qingxin flowers (Chinese: 清心 Qīngxīn, "Pure Heart"). Only three characters use this flower for their ascension, one of which is Xiao. Several official artworks also depict Xiao holding said flowers with a ribbon attached to them, again leading some to suggest Zhongli may have gifted them to him.
- Lovers' Oath is a soundtrack from the album The Shimmering Voyage that is first heard when the Traveler first meets Xiao at the top of Wangshu Inn. It's Chinese name 蒲苇如丝 is an idiom roughly meaning that one's love will last forever. More specifically, the full poem refers to a type of pampas grass or reed that is attached to a rock and no matter how fast the water flows the pampas grass stays in it's place, and neither does the rock move by itself. While this song can be, and has been used, to support several pairings, it is worth to note that it is also fitting of Xiao's continuing and unwilding respect and love for his god, as well as Zhongli's similar time-withstanding care towards him.
岩魈 tag on Lofter