Now, we know that something potentially underhanded is afoot - the ruling Qixing seem to be trying to keep a number of elements about the assassination of Rex Lapis under wraps, and seemingly have their own plans in play. That’s the cliffhanger the story has been left on until the 1.1 update in a few days. Until then, mysteries abound and Ningguang’s summons to the Jade Palace remain unresolved.
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But if Rex Lapis is dead, how can Zhongli be the Geo Archon? Is Ningguang and the rest of the Qixing helping him disappear? Is something more nefarious afoot? Sadly we’ll have to wait for 1.1 to find those answers (or at least the start of them), but what we can do is clue you in as to why Zhongli may well be the Geo Archon.
Amber eyes, brown-gold ombre to his hair, long, dark robes and a sombre attitude... Zhongli certainly has suave down. His appearance may well hide a few clues to his true nature as well.
All those design similarities… Zhongli and Venti mirror each other in uncanny ways. (Picture: miHoYo)
The only other person with such a stylish hair fade and luminescent eyes is - you guessed it - Venti, who just so happens to be the Anemo Archon Barbaros incognito. Such a visually intense connection to an element is telling by itself, but moHiYo have already set a precedent of having Archons be playable in-game.
It runs a little deeper than that as well. Reading through Rex Incognito (I) (you can find a copy on a table in Qingce Village square if you haven’t already) you’ll come across an intriguing passage describing a “wealthy young man” well versed in antiques. The description of this amber-eyed gentleman seems uncannily similar to Zhongli. Except, of course, it’s describing Rex Lapis.
A final thought needs to go towards the Statues of the Seven depicting the Geo Archon throughout Liyue. Zhongli’s build matches up to the statue and the symbol embroidered onto his back matches the symbol found on said statue’s waist. Moreover, In Zhongli’s official artwork he can be seen holding a cube, much like the Geo Archon.
The Geo Archon is described throughout the game as a polearm user (check) who skewered his enemies with pillars of stone (check). Zhongli is a Geo/Polearm user who summons meteors and has a unique polearm attack pattern that includes diving skewering moves - just check his gameplay in action and you can see the similarities.
Personality and Interactions
As already stated, Zhongli is exceptionally knowledgeable about nearly anything and everything to do with Liyue or history. His knowledge of jade, perfume and even ancient ballistas sets him apart as far from ordinary. Add in an honour-bound dedication to contracts (a core tenant of the Geo Archon) and a few eyebrows are raised.
But it is his interactions with the likes of the adeptus Madam Ping, who invites Zhongli for tea as a long time friend, and his “friend from Mondstadt” who regularly brings him dandelion wine heavily suggest Zhongli might be Rex Lapis.
The only character who is stated to like dandelion wine is Venti - an archon himself - and Madam Ping is an adeptus. Paimon and the Traveller go so far as to ask Zhongli straight out whether he’s an adeptus himself, which he awkwardly evades answering. A little digging into the background lore will reveal that Rex Lapis was an adeptus himself.
Lastly, a fun (and subtle) hint pulled up by u/Callanthe on Reddit pointed out the lore for the founding of Guili Plains also matches well with the theory. “Guili” is named after two deities, the now-deceased Goddess of Dust Guizhong and the Geo Archon, who we are postulating is Zhongli. Even the “li” in Zhongli uses the “exact same character 离” as the one in Guili, which means “departing.”
Patch 1.1 goes live on 11/11. Whether this theory is true or not may well be proved then: get playing and find out!