When a Knight crashes Jean’s office and screams that a Harbinger has her ward, Jean’s heart stops.
A thousand thoughts raced through her frantic mind, each of them more dreaded than the last, because a lone Harbinger is violent and vicious and merciless and just… how? Their little Spark Knight should’ve been safe, should’ve been tucked inside Mondsadt’s walls and oh, Archons please, not Klee—
Kaeya enters her office with a frown, his gait steady, bringing Jean’s spiral of panic into a halt.
“They’re heading towards Angel’s Share.” Kaeya said, and the firm look in his eye made Jean slump into her chair. Kaeya was calm. Kaeya looked grim but unbothered, and that alone brought her relief. “Funny enough, our little Klee’s tucked into his hip like a tiny barrel of wine. She looks…safe. Ish.”
Jean shook her head and stood up, getting rid of her dark thoughts. “They’re heading towards Angel’s Share? So the patrol just reported it to me, right now, as the undocumented Harbinger is already inside Mondstadt’s walls?”
The young Knight who delivered the message trembled as he was met with Kaeya’s cool glare and Jean’s infuriated expression.
“And no thoughts of evacuation either. Or any sort of warning.” Kaeya said silkily, a smile creeping on his face. “I suppose the Knights need another bout of tortu—I mean, training from me. About the importance of getting communication on time. A month in Dragonspine might curb these sorts of incidents, won’t you agree, Acting Grand Master?”
“I’ll inform Albedo.” Jean said crisply before leaving the Knight to Kaeya’s tender mercies.
“Says a lot about her mood that she’s agreed for me to supervise.” Kaeya said airily, reaching for the Master’s stamp of approval. “I should file the necessary papers before she changes her mind.”
Klee had a bad habit of attaching herself to the most dangerous beings around. She wasn’t the least bit terrified when Stormterror wrecked havoc over Mondstadt, she made frequent field trips with that wolf boy to take a peek at a volatile Boreas, and she thought Abyss Mages were fluffy floating beings that needed a good hug.
So when Albedo spied her tiny red form heading to Mondstadt with a Harbinger in tow, he simply sighed and followed, bracing himself for the ensuing chaos.
(He was worried, of course. The Fatui were merciless. But the auburn-haired man with startling blue eyes was Tartaglia, the Eleventh, who—according to their information and a belligerent Lumine—was far more… palatable than the rest of the Harbingers.)
To Albedo’s mild surprise, the Harbinger headed for Angel’s Share, now carrying Klee like a sack of flour. The door barely closed on them when he crossed paths with a harried Master Jean and a smirking Captain Kaeya. He nodded at them both in greeting, before pushing the door open, silently readying his catalyst lest it led to a fight.
Master Diluc’s bar was replaceable. Klee was not.
“I have your kid.” Albedo heard the Harbinger said in a flat voice. “Take her back and I grind Mondstadt to dust.”
A sudden hush.
“Er… Isn’t that supposed to be ‘or’—”
“Fine. Take her, or I grind Mondstadt to dust. Just… take her.” The Harbinger snapped, holding a giggling Klee by the scruff of her dress and shaking her like a misbehaving kitten. “You. You’re wearing red. You must be related to the menace.”
“This is the oddest hostage situation.” Amber said out loud, taking a perfectly happy Klee from the enemy.
“I’m not here to fight. Hell, I don’t even want to move. Bartender. A drink.” Childe said, all but slumping on a bar stool. The patrons all held their breaths, for it was Master Diluc who was hosting today.
Sure enough, Diluc was looking at the Harbinger like he was something he scraped off the bottom of his shoe.
“I don’t serve scum. Leave, or I’ll make you.”
Childe gave him a flat stare. “You owe me. I babysat your terror spawn for half a day. I should charge you.”
“She’s not mine.”
Childe blinked. “No? Huh. Well, she’s described you to me enough on our way here. It was Diluc this, and Diluc that, and he’s a weird grown-up who doesn’t smile but he’s okay—”
Diluc twitched. “I’m leaving.”
Everyone was silent as Master Diluc slinked away, although nobody missed how his eyes inspected Klee for injuries before the door shut behind him.
“I still want my drink though.” Childe grumbled to no one in particular.
“Klee!” Jean finally burst out. Kaeya sidestepped away as Jean all but lunged towards her ward, fussing and scolding. Albedo smiled faintly before leaving as well, confident that the Grand Master would give Klee a thorough dressing down.
He’d cheer her up with a harmless explosion or two, later.
The patrons of the tavern spent a few minutes listening to the Grand Master’s scolding and Klee’s squeaks of apology, seemingly uncaring of the Harbinger all but draped over the bar counter, before the doors burst open again.
“Childe!” Lumine yelled, body angled in a fighting stance, sword held aloft and clearly ready to throw hands.
“Drop the explosive child and nobody gets hurt!” Paimon screamed beside her.
“She’s all yours, girlie.” Childe grumbled from where he was still slumped, waving a hand at a very repentant-looking Klee. “Now what do I get as reward? How about a drink? I still don’t have my drink.”
“What happened to you?” Lumine said, peering at the Harbinger. He looked all… droopy. There were shadows under his eyes and he looked slightly singed. “What did you do to Klee?”
A snort. “Really.”
“Printsessa, you should be asking what she did to me instead—”
“We heard you had Klee hostage, so we ran all the way from Liyue Harbor back to Mondstadt in a jiffy.” Paimon said before dashing towards Klee. “Klee! Did the bad bad evil Harbinger man hurt you?!”
“Hey, I resemble that comment.”
“Yes. You do.” Lumine said flatly.
“It seems that Klee followed you to a teleport waypoint, Lumine.” Jean said, having finished scolding the now-sulking girl.
“Wait, what? But I thought only Lumine and Paimon could use teleport waypoints?” Paimon said, eyes wide.
“Yes. You and anyone you bring along with you.” Jean said, exhaling deeply. “Apparently, Klee saw you at the town square about to teleport away, and decided to tag along. She took a hold of your sleeve and was caught up in your way to Liyue.”
“Very resourceful.” Kaeya chuckled.
“Please don’t encourage her, Captain.” Amber sighed.
“So that’s how she got to Liyue! But… how did she end up in the Golden House?” Paimon wondered.
“A very nice man told Klee to look for Mister Carrot-head.” Klee piped up, seemingly having gotten over her sulk. “He had long tied-up dark hair and glowy yellow eyes and talked in a funny old man way.”
Lumine’s eye twitched. So did Childe’s.
Dark hair, yellow eyes, old man language...
Zhongli was going to answer for this.
“Klee asked for help because Klee was trying to go home. He said Klee needed Mora to go home. But Klee had no Mora, and he didn’t have Mora either.” The little girl giggled. “So he said Klee should go the big gold house where all the Mora was being hidden and that if Klee couldn't get any, Klee could still ask Mister Carrot-head for Mora to go home!”
“Once again, Zhongli not having Mora seems to bring us trouble.” Lumine sighed. “Even when we’re not around him too.”
“That thrice be damned rocks for brains.” Childe seethed. “Leading the brat to me and using me as a bank account. I’ll show him.”
“Your threats would sound more menacing if you didn’t look like you’re about to drool all over Diluc’s counter.” Lumine said drily, poking Childe’s forehead. “Try to at least lift your head before declaring murder.”
“What exactly did the nasty Harbinger do to you, Klee?” Paimon asked, floating around Klee with narrowed eyes.
“Hey. I did nothing to her. She’s a kid and I don’t harm kids.” Childe said. “I have siblings too, you know.”
Kaeya rose a brow. The Harbinger must really be tired if he’s sharing that sort of information.
“So Klee reminded you of Teucer?” Lumine rose a brow. Her lips twitched. “Makes sense. She can get as naughty as Teucer.”
“Hey!” Childe protested. Then he slumped. “Yeah, my brother’s a little bratty.”
“But if you only herded Klee back to Mondstadt, why do you look so bad?” Paimon said, hands on her hips. “You look both burned and half-wet. Your hair’s singed. Your scarf’s soaked. And you smell like… like damp smoke.”
“Oh.” Kaeya smiled innocently, sniffing the air. “So the smell of wet wood burning was you.”
Childe gave them the finger.
Klee decided to answer instead. “Klee played with Mister Carrot-head. It was fun!”
That alarmed everyone in hearing range. Klee’s version of playtime was a hazard at best and a collateral nightmare at worst, and they wouldn’t be surprised if the highly dangerous, highly volatile Harbinger interpreted Klee’s playthings as a threat.
The only consolation they had was that Klee was clearly whole and unharmed, but still…
Childe clearly knew what they were thinking because he snorted. “Yeah, she chucked bombs at me. You stupid cloud huggers should feel lucky that she decided to have a go at me and not the other Harbingers.”
“Cloud huggers.” Lumine mouthed.
To everyone’s surprise, a smile crept on Jean’s lips. “I’m surprised you still see as us cloud huggers, considering all the welts and burns you try to keep hidden.”
Lumine’s eyes widened and swiveled back to Childe, inspecting him more closely. Sure enough, there were three, four, five… several burn marks on his arms, the nape of his neck, his hands that were hidden by his gloves. They looked raw, a slightly dark pink color blending on his skin, bubbling and protruding at the edges.
How could she not notice?
Childe glared weakly. “I was trying to keep them hidden.”
“That must hurt.” Paimon hissed. “Looks painful.”
Kaeya whistled. “Impressive. Go Klee.”
Jean gave Kaeya a look, although silently she did agree. It was impressive of Klee. To hit and scorch a Fatui Harbinger, and one carrying a Hydro vision no less. The Harbinger may have gone easy on her, true, but that didn’t explain why he had so many burns.
“She’s a maniac.” Childe finally blurted out, eye twitching. “She’s like a tiny, overpowered Ruin Guard. And her attacks hurt. You know I purposely took her first bomb to the face because I thought it was a dud—”
“That explains the welt on your jaw.” Lumine said, but Childe wasn’t done ranting.
“Who gives a child the ability to make bombs?! I saw her ran out of explosives to chuck and thought it was over, until she crouched over her backpack and made some more. And speaking of her backpack, why is it filled with legendary artifacts?! I saw a Witch’s Scorching Hat peeking out of a tiny pouch! What’s up with that?!”
“Klee sat on Mister Carrot-head’s back. He was really tired after playing dodge.” Klee said, a touch of smugness in her voice. “After that, he turned purple and floated around, trying to hit Klee.” She shrugged. “He wasn’t very good.”
Lumine grew outraged. “You used your Delusion on her?!”
Childe squinted and looked away. “It was Foul Legacy.”
“She blew me up, alright?! In my Foul Legacy form and everything!”
“Pfft…” Paimon snorted, triggering everyone else’s snickers. Even Jean hid a smile behind her hand.
“Seriously though, what is up with those bombs.” Childe muttered. “Could weaponize a whole country.”
Lumine was still upset, however. “You said you didn’t fight children.”
Childe blew an annoyed breath. “I was just trying to intimidate her so she’d run away, printsessa. How was I supposed to know she’d try to climb all over me, calling me a weird purple Whopperflower? I don’t have the best control over my transformation, you know. I was triggered. I’m the victim here. I didn’t wake up this morning to be attacked by a little girl wielding disturbingly cute bombs.”
Thoughtful hums floated over the bar.
“There must be something funky in my drink. For a moment I thought I felt sorry for the Harbinger.” Kayea said, squinting at his wine dubiously.
“Well, put it this way, Captain. We’re bound to feel sorry for anyone who has to handle a restless Klee for more than six hours.” Amber said.
“Yes, that’s why we always feel sorry for Master Jean and Albedo.” Lumine muttered under her breath.
“Still doesn’t explain the freakishly strong little girl.” Childe muttered. “Nor the abnormally large amount of precious artifacts she keeps in her bag like toys.”
“Well, Klee… may have had the habit of domain-diving.” Jean admitted with a sigh.
“Like… dumpster diving.” Amber clarified.
“Only instead of trash cans, she raids the Cecilia Garden and pesters Regisvines and Hypostases.” Kaeya said, clearly enjoying the look on Childe’s face. “It’s one way to keep her busy, you see.”
“And you let her go there? A child? A baby even?” The sudden anger in the Harbinger’s voice made Jean consider that he wasn’t completely wretched.
So she shrugged, pulling a sleepy-looking Klee close to her. “Her mother is a member of the Hexenzirkel.”
Childe blinked. “Oh. It makes fucking sense now. I feel much better.”
“Do you really?”
“No. I got beaten by a child that’s as tall as my waist. But now I can at least reclaim a scrap of my pride by assuring myself that I got beaten up by the child of someone who makes cause field trips to the fucking Irminsul. Who allowed those people to breed anyway?”
“You’re being rude.” Paimon scolded.
“And you’re funny.” Childe said with a fake smile. “I bet even you think those crazy researchers should be supervised if they even think of having a child.”
Paimon kicked at air, sheepish. “Well…”
“What is the Hexenzirkel?” Lumine asked out loud.
“They’re an organization of mages from Mondstadt. They conduct… highly intensive research, specifically on the Irminsul, which is the tree of the Abyss.” Jean replied hesitantly, stroking Klee’s hair. “Theirs is an… exclusive society. Klee’s mother Alice, is an Elder.”
Childe whistled. “An elder. Ha… alright. Another comforting thought.”
“You might have seen Albedo in his most intense, but you have never seen an enlightened Hexenzirkel member, Lumine.” Kaeya winked. “Trust me when I say that Albedo is tame with his research.”
Childe snorted. “The Hexenzirkel. Might as well be Mondstadt’s version of the Harbingers, except they’re less organized, more scatter-brained and neutral, and are too into research instead of actual combat. They’re still crazy powerful from what I heard. Although unlike the Harbingers, I doubt they’d care if their country gets razed to the ground. They didn’t even show up when Stormterror almost flattened Mondstadt a while ago.”
He was immediately leveled with glares from all directions.
“Aaaand, finally. The hostility I was waiting for.” Childe said, rolling his eyes. “Well, I don’t care. Don’t have any plans of returning to this boring, backwater place. And I am clearly lacking any sleep, what with all the things I blabbed today. No matter. I got as much information out of you as you did to me.” Childe stretched, throwing a glance at a sleeping Klee. “Don’t worry about that one, though. I don’t drag children into my mess, not if I can help it.”
“Because you have a brother.” Kaeya said softly, throwing away all former pretense of civility.
Childe grinned, showing teeth. “Precisely.”
“Enough.” Lumine pulled Childe away with a frown. “I’m taking you back to Liyue.”
“That would be for the best,” Jean nodded tersely, gathering Klee into her arms. The little girl woke up however, rubbing her eyes and blinking at Childe.
“We’re leaving?” she pouted.
“Mister Carrot-head has to go, Klee.” Kaeya said pleasantly, still keeping his eyes on Childe, one hand resting on his sword.
“Oh. Okay.” Klee said, waving as Jean carried her out of the tavern. “Bye, Mister Carrot-head! See you soon!”
“Yeah, no.” Childe said, waving at her with a straight face. “Not in a few more years, little menace.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Lumine said, tilting her head at Childe. “Pointing Klee towards your direction seems to keep your hands busy. I wonder what would happen if I turn this into a weekly thing.”
Childe smiled at her. “Try it, printsessa. I’ll sic Teucer at you.”
“Huh. Good point.”
Paimon snorted. “And here I thought you’d rather torment Zhongli than each other. You know, for starting this whole thing? Guess Paimon was wrong.”
A slow smile spread over Lumine and Childe’s face.
“Dibs on his hair. I always wanted to yank it.”
“Fine. After you, printsessa.”
“Huh. I never did get my drink from that bar.”
“Tartaglia. I heard you got beaten up by a little girl.”
“Scaramouche... Electro. And… bombs. Huh…” A snicker.
“Why are you laughing?!”
Klee: *after domain-diving* Klee got this for Master Jean, and this for Amber, and Kaeya, and big brothers Albedo and Razor, and, and—
Everyone from Mondstadt: *is maxed out and outfitted with 5 star legendary artifacts*
Venti: poggers. :D