“Alright, are you planning to tell me what we’re doing in Mondstadt?” Kaeya asks as he settles into the plush chair. His father - pursed lips as he inhales a deep breath, not a fantastic sign - puts his hands flat on the table, sits slowly opposite him.
“And why,” Kaeya adds with a glance toward the rather expensive bottle of Mondstadt wine between them, “we’ve been given such an extravagant gift?”
From what Kaeya can tell, it’s of the very highest quality, likely taken from the castle’s own private cellars. His stomach sinks as he waits, as his father glances at the wine and back to Kaeya. His lips curl up, but it is a dishearteningly false smile that he plasters on his face.
“We are celebrating, son!” So forced, so painfully forced, and Kaeya shores up his emotions behind a well-constructed wall in his chest. Quirks a brow, waits for his father to grace him with this news.
“And what, pray tell, are we celebrating?” he prompts after his father’s silence has stretched for too long - he is so clearly loath to tell Kaeya, meaning it must involve him, somehow. Very suddenly, the oppressive walls of Mondstadt’s castle close in around him. He reaches for a glass, for the bottle. His father watches with a tight smile as he pours wine near to the brim.
“King Crepus has agreed to send twenty thousand men to the aid of Khaenri’ah.” The glass touches Kaeya’s lips, and he is quite glad he hasn’t yet taken a sip - that is no small number. He watches hope rise in his father’s gaze over the rim of his glass.
That is no small number, and he has not yet heard the cost of such a promise. He takes a very long drink, then - it is good wine, of that he cannot argue. Whether it’s worth the bad news his father intends to tell him, he’s not yet certain.
“Twenty thousand men,” his father repeats, as though he’s mistaken Kaeya’s silence for deafness. “That could turn the tides of the war!” He leans forward, and that hope sparks bright. Kaeya does not feel it, not entirely - in a sense, he does, but the other shoe has yet to drop.
“Twenty thousand,” Kaeya says with a hum, and he takes another slow sip. “And what did dear King Crepus ask in return?”
Ah, there it is. His father’s hope flickers out like a dying candle, and he blinks back his sudden discomfort with a soft ‘ah’. Leans back in his chair. Does not reach for the wine, so Kaeya fills his own glass again. He suspects he will need it far more than his father.
“Well?” Kaeya prompts again - like pulling teeth, and he grits his as he waits. “Out with it.” He can hear the hard edge that sharpens his voice, but he does not care. It affects him, no doubt, or his father wouldn’t have bothered to bring him here. Wouldn’t tell him in this way, wouldn’t be so terrified of his reaction.
“He asked for your hand in marriage to his son.”
Kaeya blinks, hand frozen where it holds his glass to his lips.
“Diluc?” he asks, as though the king has any other sons to which his father might be referring. In his mind’s eye, he sees the fire-red hair of the prince, the quiet demeanor and distant gaze. Kaeya’s eyes narrow, failing to piece together the reasoning behind such a request.
“The very same.” His father nods, leans forward as though this topic bears less potential for hostility. “It seems,” he starts, then glances around - Kaeya blows out a breath. They’re holed up in private rooms, and it’s rather doubtful that anyone would care much for Khaenri’ahn gossip anyway. What would they listen for? News of how many of his people have died as of late?
Kaeya takes another long sip, does not bother with prompting his father again. He’s sick of the game, sick of it all.
“It seems,” he starts again, finally, “that the king finds an alliance between Mondstadt and Khaenri’ah to be a middle ground of sorts.” Kaeya quirks a brow, and his father nods adamantly. “He wishes to avoid allying himself with another...strong kingdom, and by virtue of that, avoid setting Mondstadt at odds with the other kingdoms.”
Kaeya huffs out an amused breath at this - other strong kingdoms. Khaenri’ah may not be populous, but they are certainly strong. Though he supposes in a game of politics, they are hardly more than pawns among kings.
Kings, as though Kaeya’s father is not one such king. He drains the rest of his glass, fills it again. His father avoids the wine, and he wonders at whether it’s a bribe for him entirely.
“And the other kingdoms, they won’t view such an alliance as an insult?” He can see it both ways - perhaps some would, but others might see it as an escape. Either way, he can’t imagine it a beneficial move, politically speaking.
“His son will claim infatuation with you, or some such nonsense.” His father waves a hand in dismissal even as Kaeya coughs an amused breath into his wine - Diluc, infatuated? He can hardly picture it. “In any event, nobody will view our alliance as a threat.”
Kaeya takes a long sip, lets his vision glaze over for a moment as he considers it. The prospect of marrying a man he’s met only a handful of times, most of which when they were still children.
“Twenty thousand men, huh,” he muses as he sits back in the chair, glances absently at the walls around him - his future home, he supposes with a detached sort of amusement. “Well, at least now I know my value…”
He takes another sip of his wine and finds it suddenly bitter on his tongue. Would that it were poison that changed the flavor, at least that would be an interesting development.
As it stands, a future with Diluc as his husband promises eons of boredom and chess and books...he'll need more than just this bottle of wine, he supposes.
The arrangements are made with lightning speed, and Kaeya wonders at just how urgently this is all being thrown together - granted, he and his father have been rather wrapped up in their own machinations, but he wonders very suddenly if he’s missed some large, impending political scheme that Crepus intends to bow out of with grace.
At least, he supposes, he is given every comfort he could ask for - including unlimited wine from Mondstadt’s cellars - as he waits for the ceremony.
To his mild surprise, he does not encounter Diluc during the three days set aside for preparations. Not wandering the halls, nor in any of the few meetings he’s been asked to attend. His father makes no mention of the prince, and Kaeya wonders at whether he’s even in the castle. Wonders then if he has any actual duties to attend to that would take him away from his home.
With only the mildest parts of his energy, Kaeya allows himself to think of his home. Of the dark, glittering palace of Khaenri’ah, the one long abandoned by him and his father as they dragged themselves from kingdom to kingdom in search of aid.
At the end of this charade, his father will return to rule what’s left of the lands, twenty thousand Mondstadt soldiers in tow. They will bolster the ranks of what remains of Khaenri’ah’s army, the ones that stand in a futile fight against the Abyss Order.
As he’s wont to do when thoughts of Khaenri’ah’s battle comes to the forefront of his mind, Kaeya thinks in alternating moods: first, hatred for the ancestors who’d started this war for their arrogance and ignorance. Then, despair for his people, who stand and fight and die every day to protect those they love. Then disgust - at himself, this time, and his father. They both possess strong magic, and both play diplomat instead of fighting alongside their people.
But we must, his father’s voice echoes in his head, and he drowns it with another long sip of wine.
“Must we,” he deadpans to nobody in the safety of his temporary room. Come tomorrow evening, he will be housed with Diluc in his royal bedchambers, a prince married off to secure them more warriors against a terrible force that threatens Kaeya’s people.
And so he must, he must play the diplomat and the prince and the newly-wedded husband, he must play any and every part to ensure the safety of his people.
“And I must get another bottle of wine,” he says aloud as he tips the final drops into his glass.
The suit is tailor-made with exceptional speed and even more exceptional skill: white, with pale blue lapels that contrast brilliantly against a vest of dark navy silk the color of the night sky. He’s given a simple white dress shirt to go beneath it all, white pants to match, and he’ll admit, he looks like quite a catch.
His reflection stares back from the full-length mirror, and he exhales a short breath. Of course, he can’t say he didn’t anticipate this day to come sooner rather than later - literally, with this most recent arrangement, but figuratively as well.
His father has not been subtle in his attempts to marry him off into some kingdom or another for this exact purpose. Kaeya admittedly did not expect it to be Mondstadt that ultimately made the first - or perhaps most agreeable - offer.
And he most certainly did not expect himself to be married off to Diluc-
The door creaks open, then, and he watches the reflection as a black glove curls around the wood, inches it open a bit further. He’s assaulted quite suddenly with the sight of a mess of bright flame-red hair, and his brows lift as the very prince he’d just been thinking of slips inside the room.
“I’ve heard it’s quite bad luck to see the groom right before the wedding,” Kaeya says with as much humor as he can muster. Diluc’s head whips around, and orange-red eyes fix on his reflection.
For a brief - very brief - moment, Kaeya allows himself to be captivated. For Diluc Ragnvindr, Crown Prince of Mondstadt, is certainly captivating. Red hair falls wild as fire around his head, tamed only slightly by the ponytail he’s pulled it back into. Delicate features, objectively attractive, composed and refined in all black. His white vest is a notable exception, his attire the perfect opposite to Kaeya’s suit, and his lip ticks up at the corner - gods, if nothing else, they will certainly be a stunning couple.
“Prince Kaeya.” Ah, the formality. Kaeya quirks a brow, hums. Adjusts the buttons of his suit jacket. In the mirror, in the corner of Kaeya’s vision, Diluc shifts his weight from one foot to another. Interesting that he would be nervous, Kaeya considers - did he have no say in this matter either?
“Titles feel rather superfluous given the circumstances, wouldn’t you agree?” he prompts, and Diluc presses his lips into a line. “Did you require something of me, or simply here to break all pre-marital rules prior to the ceremony?” He grins into the reflection at the momentary furrow of Diluc’s brows.
“I have heard one about...hm, what was it…” Kaeya taps absently at his chin, knows this is perhaps not the most effective way to build some semblance of an allyship with his future husband. Does not care. “Ah, right. Something to do with pre-marital sex?”
Oh, Diluc’s cheeks turn the loveliest shade of pink, and his jaw ticks with obvious tension. If nothing else, Kaeya suspects this will be somewhat more entertaining than he’d initially been worried it might be.
“I am sure you understand the specifications of this arrangement,” Diluc grits out, and Kaeya’s brows lift in interest. “As such, we are to pretend to be...infatuated with each other.” Kaeya bites back a laugh at the clear tension in his tone.
He considers, for all of two seconds, whether to probe a little further, see how red he can turn Diluc’s cheeks. Then decides better of it - Khaenri’ah is in no fit state for Kaeya to intentionally fuck over their best bet at his people’s survival.
The thought sobers him far more than he’d prefer, though the room he’s been sequestered in is rather frustratingly devoid of any wine. The celebration afterward, however, should be overflowing with it.
“I understand the parameters of this arrangement, yes,” he says to Diluc’s reflection. Keeps his tone even, though he can’t quite bring himself to put any humor into it.
Diluc nods sharply, his gaze anywhere but on Kaeya. Interesting indeed, and Kaeya holds graciously onto the image of Diluc’s flushed expression.
“Good,” he says flatly, lifts his gaze to meet Kaeya’s in the mirror. “There will be many eyes on us during the ceremony.” A pause, and Kaeya blinks as he waits for the yet-unspoken words. “Kiss me like you mean it.”
With that, Diluc spins on a heel and marches out the door, and Kaeya watches with raised brows. A smile spreads across his lips, slow and sweet and perhaps a bit devious at the idea of giving Diluc precisely what he’s asked for.