Venti’s typical schedule had always been the following:
Wake up. Morning routine. Get breakfast in Mondstadt. Perform around town. Break time, relax. Give in to his whims, whatever they were that day. Stop in for a drink to end the evening and begin the night. More performing, this time with booze. Get kicked out eventually. Go sleep somewhere.
Of course, this schedule had changed somewhat since meeting and absolutely wooing one Diluc Ragnvindr. His schedule had then become as so:
Wake up, but in the warm arms of his beloved. Protest at the removal of said beloved. Sleep a liiiitle bit longer. Wake up enough to drag himself downstairs for breakfast. Get dressed and head out. Perform around town. Break time, relax. Give in to his whims, whatever they were that day. Stop in for a drink to end the evening and begin the night. More performing, this time with booze. Get walked home by a certain beloved. Sleep with beloved. (The meaning often changed.)
But today Venti discovers- very groggily- that his usual schedule will be thrown to the wind. And it’s not a wind he controls.
The bed sheets ruffle softly as Diluc comes to consciousness. Venti is keen to ignore this and keep on sleeping... until he feels a hand on his upper arm rocking him slightly.
“Wake up,” comes Diluc’s voice, gruff with sleep.
Venti “mmmrhhh”s at the contact, shuffling closer to capture Diluc’s warmth. He reaches his hands out to catch any part of Diluc, anything to anchor himself to like a Wolfhook on a pants legs.
Diluc’s response is to brush away Venti’s bangs and place a tiny kiss on his forehead. “Now.”
One of Venti’s eyes peeks open, a frown on his lips. To his surprise the sun isn’t even streaming through the window in rays of soft light. Worrisome. “Why,” Venti monotones.
“You’ll see,” is Diluc’s only cryptic answer. And then he has the audacity to pull the covers off of the both of them, getting up and out of bed as Venti groans at the sudden change in temperature.
Oh the inhumanity… To be awoken so suddenly in the dead of morning… and for what? To be forcibly removed from the comfort of a loved one? Venti waxes poetic as he finally sits up in bed and rubs his eyes. He gets a quick peek of a shirtless Diluc rummaging in his dresser for today’s outfit. Truly the only ray of light in Venti’s dark morning.
As Diluc pulls a modest shirt on Venti slides off the plush bed, mourns its absence once last time, and reaches for his own clothes, neatly washed and folded by one of the maids. Today is his usual look: garb fit for Mondstadt’s Most Popular Bard. No matter what Venti’s day may bring, at least he will look dashing.
“I wouldn’t wear that today,” Diluc says.
Venti stops in the middle of pulling up his white stockings. Closes his eyes. Then opens them to give his beloved Diluc a cold and tired stare.
“You’re better off with something you wouldn’t mind getting dirty,” Diluc only says.
Venti sighs and peels off the stockings. He doesn’t really like the sound of that. But then this is his lot in life now… (as if he hadn’t willingly chosen it.) He ends up settling for a very plain- alarmingly plebian in fact- ensemble: a simple beige work shirt, a pair of shorts borrowed from somebody a few sizes larger, a belt to hold those very shorts up, and a very old pair of loafers stained with dirt to finish the look.
Venti almost wants to cry. Almost. Diluc just pats his head. He’s wearing his aforementioned modest shirt, some trousers, and work boots. Despite the lack of elegance he still looks handsome, the bastard.
Minutes pass and the pair finally make their way down to the manor’s foyer. Despite the god-awful time of morning there is a certain energy in the house. The foyer is empty but a cacophony of kitchen sounds reach Venti’s ears.
Diluc leads them through the kitchen to head towards the back of the manor. It is a battle zone along the way. A number of chefs rush every which way, cooking up a storm. Venti only catches glimpses of some dishes as he is ushered past and out the door onto the patio.
The scene set up before Venti can only be described as delightful. The back of the manor usually holds a few tables and chairs for the winery staff to relax at during their breaks. Now these tables and chairs have doubled, perhaps tripled as some sets seem to have spilled out from the back of the manor to the sides as well. In the center of the patio stands a long table covered with a pure white tablecloth and platters upon platters of breakfast food.
The spread is truly amazing. Pancakes are piled up into towers, topped with berries and cream. There are jams and preserves to be spread onto toast, toast that is made from fresh bread. The bread that wasn’t as fresh is cooked in an egg wash and topped with sweet syrup and powdered sugar. Potatoes appear to come in two forms: cut and roasted in herbs and spices with their skins intact, or shredded and fried into the popular hash brown. Eggs and omelets of all kinds are prepared as well. There are sunny-side up, scrambled, fried, and the omelets have vegetables, cheese, and Venti can even smell some mushrooms. There are even tiny toasted sandwiches with poached eggs and ham, the steam still wafting off of them. Pitchers of ice cold milk and orange juice sit at the edge of the buffet.
Venti’s eyes sweep over the delicacies in front of him and he forgets all about his terrible morning. He looks back up at Diluc.
“What is all this?”
“Fuel for the work later.”
Venti gives a questioning look towards Diluc.
“We’re going to harvest a lot of our grapes today. The season will be changing soon and that means new plants for our new products. In order to harvest such a large amount in a short time we ask for volunteers, and as an incentive we make an entire event of it. I suppose you could think of it as a Harvest Festival, though on a smaller scale.”
Venti listens intently, nodding. “What a lovely idea…!” he beams.
“And you will be joining, naturally,” Diluc says.
Ah, Venti should have guessed this would be today’s trial. He sighs over-dramatically and places a hand on his chest.
“You would have your own Archon work the fields? That’s… sacrilege!”
Diluc smirks. “Archon? As far as I know Mondstadt hasn’t seen its Archon for years. All I see before me is a bard off the clock.”
Venti frowns at that one.
“Though if Mondstadt did have an Archon,” Diluc goes on, “I would think picking a few grapes would hardly be a challenge to him.”
Venti places his hands on his hips.
“I suppose I could give up my day to help the people of Mondstadt. As the deity of their land it is only right and proper that I give them the blessing of a good harvest at the very least.” He smiles proudly.
Diluc does not dignify Venti’s speech with an answer and instead makes his way over to a couple of employees finishing up their table décor. Devoid of an audience, Venti follows after.
As the finishing touches are done the sun finally begins to peek from the horizon. Groups of townsfolk begin to gather at the winery grounds; some are winery employees but Venti spies many familiar city folk in the mix too. They all say their hello’s and good morning’s and find spots to sit down.
With the tables now filled to the brim with hungry workers a lone man stands at the buffet and clinks a utensil against a wine glass. “Attention!” he says loudly. The crowd quiets down to listen.
The man is Elzer, Executive Chairman. He thanks his audience for attending, gives a quick history of the Dawn Winery, expounds upon the importance of wine in Mondstadt’s culture and economy, and outlines a schedule for the day. As he finishes to express his thanks once again he urges his guests to enjoy their complimentary breakfast. They comply and absolutely descend upon the buffet.
Venti is somehow able to slip through the crowd and not only heap his own plate with some goodies but also grab a plate for Diluc who wanted to keep his distance. He returns to their shared table, which also houses Elzer and Connor the winemaker for company. The three winery men make polite business conversation, estimating their profits for the day’s yield. Venti has nothing substantial to add save “as long as it tastes good!” and focuses on his breakfast. It is one of the best meals he’s had in a long time and for a brief moment he wishes he’d taken a page from Morax’s book by requesting offerings every year or so if it meant getting to eat this much good food.
As much as Venti would love for breakfast to go on for longer, reality begins to set in. There are grapes waiting to be plucked and not nearly enough hours in the day. The field hands begin to stand and stretch before their day of labor; Elzer takes this as an opportunity to guide some groups over to the area of the vineyard intended for harvest. Connor disappears as well, leaving Diluc and Venti to finish up.
“Let’s get to it,” Diluc says as he stands up from his chair.
Venti licks one last smear of jam from his plate and stands up as well. He follows Diluc out onto the vineyard grounds.
With his task finally underway Diluc ties up his hair and dawns a pair of gardening gloves. He hands a pair to Venti too, as well as a wide-brimmed straw hat “to keep the sun off of you”. Venti teases him about trying to protect his lover’s gorgeous complexion; Diluc only turns his head, not wanting to give anything away.
The “rules” of the day’s event are simple: grab a basket, fill it with grapes, place the basket on a cart, grab a new basket, repeat. Swaths of employees and volunteers disperse throughout the vineyard. Some gather together in their own little groups; others are intent on working alone in peace. The winery owner and his bard begin together at a row of vines on the southern edge of the estate. Their unspoken plan: work side-by-side moving down the row. The collecting begins.
The weather is warm, a surprising end-of-summer heat bearing down on the winery. The sky is mostly clear with some mottled clouds and there is no breeze to rustle any leaves. Even so, the grape vines are just as noisy with the plucking of grapes by dozens of deft hands. Venti listens carefully to these sounds, noting them, hearing their song. They are Mondstadt’s heart, beating. These people coming together to help their fellow man, to create something that brings joy, something they made all by themselves- they are Mondstadt’s soul. Venti feels pride well up in his entire body. He wonders if Diluc feels the same way.
Beside him, Diluc is focused, driven. Even a simple task such as grape picking is treated with intense diligence. Though it isn’t anything like fighting off monsters it is still something that needs doing for Mondstadt’s continued prosperity. He will always do his utmost for the city he loves so dearly.
Lost in their own thoughts the pair continue plucking grapes, moving down the row of vines.
There are two women on the other side of the next row of vines, chatting away as they pick grapes together.
“Urrgh… It’s so hot out now with the sun beatin’ down. This suuucks,” one of the women sighs.
“A little bit, yeah,” the other woman says as she wipes sweat from her brow.
Venti picks off a large stem of grapes and then promptly drops it.
He crouches down to look for his lost prize.
Low to the ground and hidden by rows of foliage, nobody sees the tips of his hair begin to glow.
In the next moment a southern wind begins to blow. It carries a hint of frost from the neighboring Dragonspine Mountain and creates a cooling breeze that travels through the fields of the winery.
When the breeze reaches the two women they both sigh contentedly. “Thank god,” one says as she fans her skirt.
Venti grabs his dropped grapes and stands back up to continue his work. Diluc glances at him from the side, saying nothing. He resumes his work as well, maybe with a small smile.
Lunchtime finally arrives. Rather than another buffet the winery offers to hand out portioned lunchboxes and jugs of water and other cold drinks to those who did not pack a lunch. The Dawn Winery estate becomes a giant picnic area as friends, family and coworkers take their breaks together on the patio, in the fields, and wherever someone could conceivably sit and eat.
Venti’s spot of choice is the front steps leading to the manor. From here he can see the vineyard spread out before him; field hands relax on the winding road while butlers and maids scurry around dishing out food and drink. A group of children run around playing a game, dashing between the vines.
Diluc returns from acquiring two lunches- repaying the kindness from breakfast. He sits down beside Venti and holds out a box.
“Why thank you,” Venti smiles. Diluc nods.
The lunch is a simple but delicious one: A large slice of Fisherman’s Toast, a side of fresh green salad featuring apple slices, potatoes, a hardboiled egg, and a vinaigrette dressing, some slices of honeyed ham and cold sausage, cubes of a variety of cheeses (which Venti carefully picks out and gives to Diluc), and a selection of fruits and berries to finish. Venti chooses an iced apple cider to wash it all down; Diluc is content with water. He is also content to listen to Venti chatter on about things as they eat, occasionally adding his own thoughts.
A hawk spends some time circling around the winery on a current of wind.
After lunch is another round of harvesting. It is uneventful, peaceful in fact. Venti strikes up a conversation with another field hand as they reach the end of a row. He tells a story about a traveler and a missing cat.
The lowering sun begins to cast an orange hue on the winery. Shadows grow longer by the minute. The volunteers begin to finish up their collecting, eager to return home for supper. Baskets filled to the brim with grapes are hoisted up onto carts to be moved to storage and processing. Elzer stands nearby with a clipboard, tallying baskets and weights. He also keeps record of who filled the most baskets: it is a young lady with brown hair and a bright smile. Her prize is a month’s worth of complimentary drinks at Angel’s Share.
Exhausted and hungry, the volunteers begin to slowly file out from the winery. Their hard work is applauded by employees of the estate and Elzer takes the time to shake hands with as many as possible. The atmosphere is full of gratitude and a job well done.
With the only people left being Dawn Winery employees it was time for the final phase of the day: a celebratory banquet.
The energy around the manor changes significantly. A collective weight seems to lift from the staff, exhausted from their cooking and cleaning and harvesting. As a reward they are to be treated to a generous dinner where they can let loose.
Although this dinner is on private grounds for a small number of personnel, thus having no need to show off, the menu is no less extravagant. There is the typical salad and vegetable soup, but the real star is the entrees. Skewers are filled with chicken, fish, vegetables, and anything you could roast on a stick. A Bolognese glistens with butter and oil, topped with a hearty meat sauce. A crab and ham bake sits in a ceramic pot, no doubt having been slowly cooked in it all day. A large pizza is topped with melted cheese and mushrooms. There is also an entire roasted bird to tear white meat from. Towering over that is a stack of steaks with cheese and potatoes; it is almost grotesque in its decadence. And, surprisingly, there is also a simple chowder named after a certain wind deity. Venti smiles and raises his brows at its inclusion. Near the end of the table sits a collection of desserts as well: a giant frosted cake, several different fruit pies, and a strange jiggling pudding that is hopefully not made of any slime.
Most importantly however is the drinks. The winery’s finest concoctions are out for pouring, free of charge. Venti eyes them as a cat eyes its prey.
Just as before everybody finds themselves a seat and waits for a go-ahead signal. It comes in the form of Elzer once again standing up at the buffet and clinking his glass.
Elzer’s speech this time is a little less stiff, only having to address people he sees most every day. He expresses his gratitude towards his fellow winery employees for their time today and promises overtime pay for all. This causes an uproar of cheers from the group. Elzer laughs. He then raises his glass and offers a toast to the Dawn Winery and its Master Diluc for their continued success. Everyone applauds and Diluc avoids any eye contact out of embarrassment. Finally, Elzer steps aside and dinner officially begins. The journey to the buffet is much less chaotic this time around; everybody subconsciously forms a line.
Just as before the meal is incredible. Everything is cooked to perfection and the wines pair wonderfully as always. Venti must look like an animal with the way he devours his food and gulps down his wine, but he couldn’t care less. He’s in heaven, plain and simple.
As his grand meal reaches an end Venti notices a small group of people appear at the edge of the patio against the brick railing. They all carry instruments and begin to tune them, plucking and humming.
Venti swallows his last bite of pizza and then turns to Diluc.
“Wait a minute... You hired performers? And you didn’t ask me first?!”
“I thought you’d be too tired,” is Diluc’s only mouth-stuffed-with-steak answer.
“Too tired to perform? Who do you think I am?”
Diluc only shrugs.
Venti huffs indignantly. “Tell them to wait a few minutes. I’ll be right back.” And before Diluc can stop him Venti dashes off into the manor. Diluc swallows and sighs as he gets up and walks over to the band to slow their practice. They easily oblige, seeing as the request comes from the man paying them.
Venti reappears a little while later looking the part of a bard. He is much more put together, tied up in his corset and cape, hat sitting upon his head, loafers polished, and lyre in hand. He walks over to the patio’s edge and chats with the other musicians, no doubt asking what they can play. They’re pleasantly surprised at his presence but even more surprised at his catalogue of memorized songs.
Diluc watches this all unfold from a table seated near the manor’s back door. It’s secluded enough to not be bothered but still close enough to watch the show. He can also scan the area for any suspicious activity, a habit he’s picked up over the years.
To his left he sees head housemaid Adelinde standing prim and proper as she too watches the musicians prepare.
“Adelinde,” Diluc calls out and waves her over to join him. She turns and looks surprised at the gesture, but nonetheless accepts. She takes a seat.
“Do you need anything Master Diluc?” she asks, all business.
Diluc shakes his head. “You looked like you needed a better place to enjoy the show.”
“Oh. I see.” Adelinde answers. Her shoulders seem to loosen the slightest bit. “Thank you, sir.”
Diluc slides her a tall glass of water as though he were behind the counter of Angel’s Share. She takes it gratefully, sitting further back in her chair.
The moon rises gracefully as the bard plucks a few strings to tune. Countless eyes watch, awaiting their reward for a hard day’s work. Orange light shines from the candlelight lamps at each table, illuminating the faces of those seated. With their opening tune chosen the players begin their song. It is a lively thing with guitars and fiddles. Venti sings the verses while his merry band joins in for the chorus. The audience taps and claps along as they down their drinks. The patio of the Dawn Winery becomes its own tavern.
“Such a lovely voice,” Adelinde remarks. “He’s very talented. I can certainly understand the appeal.”
Diluc hums an agreement, a wave of pride rising up in his breast.
The band plays on, song after song, lighting up the night. Couples get up and dance for a few numbers, the free flowing drinks releasing them from their shyness. Laughter floats alongside the music, swirling around the patio, spilling into the fields between the naked vines, reaching the road and even as far as the Statue of the Twelve atop the hill.
Between every song Venti makes sure to take a swig of his own glass of wine, treating it like water. It may as well be to him. Just as quickly as he drinks it a butler is close by to refill it like clockwork.
Venti makes his way up to Diluc’s table afterwards, utterly flushed from singing and drinking.
Adelinde applauds, dainty but sincere. “What a delightful performance! Thank you, Venti.”
Venti bows gracefully, cape floating outwards from the movement. He then breaks the graceful image by scratching the back of his head and sticking a tongue out, embarrassed. “Ehe, it was nothing!”
Adelinde only smiles. She then refills her glass of water and holds it out towards Venti.
“Make sure to rehydrate yourself with something besides wine. You don’t want to feel faint. It should reduce hangover symptoms as well. If you’d like I can also have a cider ready tomorrow morning.”
Venti thanks her and takes a seat at the table to sip at his drink. He sighs contentedly at being able to finally relax.
Diluc silently thanks Adelinde for her humble acceptance of his…. houseguest.
The party slowly dies down. As a final task the members of Dawn Winery come together to clean up. Tables and chairs are wiped down and moved, dinner plates and glasses gathered for washing, and trash tied up in a bag. Diluc does his part and splashes soap and water over the patio to mop up dirt and spills, even after being asked by three separate housekeepers if he’d like them to take over instead. Ever the stubborn man he refuses each time.
Venti meanwhile sticks close to Adelinde and gathers plates. She too suggests Venti take a break, but who is an Archon to bow to the whims of mortals? He stacks a precarious pile of plates and staggers towards the kitchen, maids eyeing him with anxiety as he goes.
Fate works in mysterious ways. Venti knows this. There are things he can control and things he cannot, and the things he cannot are numerous and varied. For instance, meeting people. His decision to walk amongst the people of Mondstadt as though he were one of them is something he can control. But it is the actions of others, the events he finds himself in, and the people he meets and talk with that are uncontrollable. Unpredictable. Nothing is more evident of this than his meeting Diluc. Try as he might, Venti cannot help but concede that their meeting was chance. But is that not the beauty of an unknown fate? Of freedom? A life with chance encounters is surely better than one set in stone.
Venti is reminded of these thoughts as he turns a corner to find Diluc seated on the front steps of the winery where they had eaten lunch together.
“There you are,” Venti says as he plops down next to Diluc. He is still a bit tipsy.
Diluc looks at him, then back out towards the winery grounds, and says:
“The crystalflies are out.”
And indeed they are. Tiny glowing wings float between the now grape-less vines of the winery. Specks of glitter trail behind them like snowflakes.
Venti curls forward and turns to look up at Diluc. Diluc is transfixed. Mesmerized even. His expression looks soft, sentimental, no longer focused on any daunting tasks (for now).
Venti leans back and rests his head against Diluc’s shoulder. He’s… spent. The day’s events have started to catch up with his tiny body. His eyelids feel much too heavy and his limbs feel a bit too stiff. So he lets his head sink a bit deeper onto the warm shoulder beside him and closes his eyes, listening to the sounds of nighttime.
Though he doesn’t see it, Venti feels an arm wrap around his torso, pulling him closer. A moment later there is a quick pressure on his head. A kiss? Venti smiles.
The two stay like that for some time until Diluc pulls away to stand up. Venti groans at being moved from his spot.
“Let’s go. It’s late.”
Venti yawns, his body agreeing. He stands, legs a bit wobbly from the alcohol and exhaustion. It’s not unlike a newborn deer. Diluc holds out his arm for support; Venti takes it gratefully and is fine being led inside the manor.
The inside of the manor is the same as always. Though there are still sounds coming from the kitchen as the last of the dishes are cleaned the rest of the winery’s staff seem to have called it a night. The fireplace to the right rages on, though there is nobody around to bathe in its warmth.
Venti continues to hold onto a firm arm as he ascends the foyer steps and walks along the hallway to his- no, their- bedroom. The wooden door swings open, and though Venti had been content to use Diluc as a support he chooses now to regain his strength and rush towards the plush bed, practically diving onto it. The blanket puffs up from the pressure and Venti sinks slowly into it. “Ahhh….”
Diluc chuckles. He is all too aware of the bard’s love of a comfortable bed. He avoids thinking about where Venti had been sleeping before, totally unaccustomed to such a comfort.
Face buried in the blanket, Venti toes his loafers off. They hit the floor with a thump. He makes no move to work on any other pieces of clothing, content to lie unmoving.
Diluc reaches over to shake the back of Venti’s shoulder. “Come on, don’t stop there.”
Venti makes a muffled sound, agitated. He then kicks his legs up and down not unlike a petulant child.
Diluc leans closer to speak into Venti’s ear. “Venti. Take off the clothes.”
Venti turns his head to look at Diluc and pouts. “You do it.”
This is certainly not the first time Diluc has undressed him, and will not be the last.
Diluc grabs an upper arm and a thigh and flips Venti over. Venti giggles.
First the tie of his cape. It comes undone easily, though pulling the cape out from under him is challenging. Then the corset. Damned thing. The amount of times Diluc has had to tie and untie it…. He makes quick work this time by turning Venti on his side and pulling it off after a yank at the strings. The shorts are easy, a simple tug and they shift down. The shirt is straightforward if you know where to look, which Diluc does. There are buttons hidden under layers of frill. The sleeves have their own buttons as well; those are not forgotten. And then of course the tights. Pure white with gold accents. The elastic sits at Venti’s tiny waist. Venti looks up at Diluc expectantly, fingers twined together on his chest as though he were grading the performance. Diluc wants to roll his eyes but instead focuses intently on hooking a finger along the elastic and pulling. Maybe he takes a little longer with this particular piece, but he won’t admit that. The tights slide off like the skin of a molting snake (which is a very unromantic image but Diluc can’t help it, he owns a hunting bird that captures the oddest things).
Freed from the constraints of his elaborate clothes Venti stretches and sinks further into the bed. “Thank you~” he chimes.
Diluc wants to mention that a bath would be a good idea after having worked outside all day, but the image of a sleepy Venti and the protesting of his own aching body causes him to reconsider. Perhaps in the morning. He instead slips out of his own clothes and climbs into bed.
Regardless of his exhaustion Venti crawls up the bed and under the covers. His human heater arrives a moment later, shuffling closer and draping an arm over Venti’s small frame.
It’s bliss, pure bliss. To have your body aching and your eyes heavy after a day of hard work, only to be laid on a cloud and held close by the one you love… It’s a pleasure that only humans could understand, and though Venti himself is not human he’s glad to be able to share their experiences. These kinds of moments are precious to the people of Mondstadt, and they are precious to him.
Feeling incredibly generous Venti pushes himself forward to give Diluc a kiss.
“’Night,” he says as he returns to his spot in Diluc’s arms.
Diluc wants to clutch at his own heart, it beats that strongly. “Goodnight,” he says instead.
Venti drifts off to sleep like this, looking forward to what the next day brings. Diluc is not far behind.