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Easy as a Wink

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Having been the cavalry captain of the Knights of Favonius for many years now, Kaeya likes to think of himself as a great problem solver.

The key to becoming a great problem solver, in his humble opinion, is to become an equally great trouble maker. Having a duality of experiences gives you an alternative perspective to the issue at hand, and often lends itself to creative ways of concocting fun (and occasionally dangerous) solutions. Versatility and adaptability are especially important, and he likes to think that he has those in spades.

As such, Kaeya is no stranger to Monstadt citizens coming to him for help when difficult situations arise. He takes pride in that fact, even if the root cause of the problem may or may not occasionally have been orchestrated by him.

But even with all of his years of experience in military tactics and sneaky underhanded manoeuvres, Kaeya still finds himself stumped by the request of one adventurer whose gaze is a shining beacon full of misguided hope.

By his side, Rosaria snorts as she takes another languid sip of wine. "Think you might be asking the wrong person there, kid."

Bennett turns to her in confusion. "What do you mean? Sir Kaeya is one of the most capable people I know!"

Well, there goes his escape route. Kaeya can’t back out now that his reputation is at stake.

"Why don’t you bring your friends over?" he suggests. "We can at least hear you out."

After the boy excitedly darts off towards the other side of the crowded tavern, Rosaria sends Kaeya a pointed glare. " 'We'? Don’t drag me into the hole that you’re digging yourself into."

He laughs at that. "C'mon, don't count me out so early. The good name of the Knights of Favonius is riding on my shoulders, after all."

Rosaria shoots him another incredulous look, but before she can voice her retort, Bennett is already energetically bounding back with his unusual group of friends in tow.

"Ah my loyal companion, is this the veritable master of the lost art? The sole living retainer who practices the forbidden technique of the alternative path of the Auge der Verurteilung? He who bends the reality of the universe and spins the threads of fate with no words but the bat of a single eyelid?"

Fischl strolls forward primly, giving him an assessing look. Unfortunately, her translator is not with her today, likely due to the lack of space in a crowded tavern for a bird to fly freely without electrocuting half of its occupants.

Following close behind her is Razor, who looks confused but is earnestly watching the proceedings with interest.

"Yup, the master of winking. That's me," Kaeya says cheerfully. His one visible eye not covered by an eyepatch is gleaming with bright amusement.

Beside him, Rosaria just sighs and goes to order another drink.

There are many fascinating wonders in this world, over half of which comes in the forms of uniquely dangerous mechanisms stumbled upon by foolhardy adventurers in domains.

As luck would have it, Bennett's latest iteration of his adventure team is one such group, and earlier this week, they had found themselves in a domain whose traps were activated solely through human voices. To compensate for the lack of verbal communication, they had collectively decided to use visual signals to communicate with each other instead.

Now why they ended up choosing a gesture that less than half of the members on their team could properly perform to be the signal, Kaeya doesn't know. But he will always commend young adventurers who push the boundaries of imagination with their forward ways of thinking. The sky's the limit - especially when it provides harmless forms of entertainment upon failure.

Case in point: Razor. He blinks, and then blinks again. His one eyelid stubbornly refuses to close without the other one flapping shut on reflex, like two conjoined lovebirds that refuse to part for even a second. It renders him near tears with the sheer amount of concentration he expends on attempting to squeeze only one eye shut.

Bennett can at least wink properly. Though some specks of sand always manage to get into his eye during the process, even when he is indoors at a well-cleaned tavern where sand is not commonly found. Like Razor, his eyes are also watery by the end of it, but for an entirely different reason.

And Fischl, well, has the exact same problem as Kaeya when it comes to winking.

"But is it really a problem, or merely a blessing in disguise?" Kaeya argues, never one to sit out on any opportunity of promoting eyepatches as a superior form of fashion statement. "The allure is in not knowing for sure. 'Did I wink at you, or am I merely blinking?' That's what makes it powerful."

"That sounds stupid as hell," Rosaria says, ever the contradictorian. (Or the sole voice of reason; it really depends on who you ask.)

"Too much words. Head hurts," Razor complains.

Unexpectedly, Fischl is the one who appears the most convinced by his argument. It must be due to their shared pirate ancestry as fellow eyepatch wearers.

"Hmm, thy words do bear the conviction of truth, as one ought to expect from the eminent instructor of the sacred craft," she says, nodding her head in graceful agreement. "Alas, one would like to ask thee to perform such a technique in front of one's royal retinue. It is difficult for those lacking the Mystical Sight to understand that which is evident to us without a visual exhibition."

"She wants to see an example," Bennett, the temporary Oz replacement, says. "Um, I think."

Kaeya feels his smile freeze in place as all eyes turn to him expectantly. Maybe he shouldn't have dug himself into a hole so deep that it might as well be his own grave, but what's life without a little bit of accidentally self-imposed predicament?

"Alright, alright. Allow me to demonstrate."

He looks around, taking in the size of his audience. Apart from his table, everyone else appears to be engaged in their own business. Unwittingly, his gaze wanders over the sea of dull colours and lands on the lone glimpse of red hair that he had been staring at before the interruption.

Diluc is standing behind the bar counter, too preoccupied with handling a tray of liquor to pay him any heed. It irks Kaeya a little - makes him want to needle Diluc until he's looking his way again. Given his current situation, that would raise the stakes by quite a bit, but he's always found risky plays to be far more exciting than anything else. 

But maybe not now. Glancing back at the waiting crowd, he decides to hold that thought for later.

No point in stalling. Time to go out with a bang.

"The first step - is the intent," Kaeya begins slowly. Makes eye contact with each of his listeners. Gauges their expression. "That's the only thing separating a blink from a wink: not whether or not you close two eyes, but the mentality. And in order to convince others, the first person you have to convince is yourself."

He pauses to feed the suspense and tension, though it's really to give himself time to think up some more bullshit to sprout. It earns him a bunch of "oooh"s and "ahhh"s (and an eye-roll) from his attentive (and exasperated) audience.

"The second step is the approach. It's important to convey a story to your recipient with each subtle gesture that you make. The key is to not make it too obvious - just give the slightest hint, and that's it." He leans forward slightly. Well aware of his best angles and willing to exploit them as much as possible, he tilts his head to peer at the faces around him from beneath his eyelashes. "Leave a little mystery for that person's imagination to fill out. Let them second-guess themselves."

Another dramatic pause leaves his entranced listeners hanging onto his every word; he basks under the attention, savouring the tiny thrill that comes from being able to captivate their minds with the tale that he weaves.

"And finally, the third and most crucial step: the execution."

Kaeya winks.

"That just looks like you're blinking," Rosaria says, ruthlessly cleaving his carefully crafted narrative into pieces.

Kaeya tries again.

"Nope. Still doesn't work."

And again.

"You're blinking too much. Now it looks like you got something stuck in your eye."

Resisting the urge to scowl at the lack of appreciation towards his magnificent performance, Kaeya leans back on his seat and decides to make a strategic retreat for now. "The recipient isn't right," he insists. "If I had a more receptive audience, I could've done it."

And to demonstrate his point - or rather, to gamble away the last shred of his credibility on a wild shot - he turns to Diluc, who just happens to be walking by with a tray of drinks, and winks at him.

The entire tray clatters to the floor, sending glass shards and liquor flying everywhere in a cacophony of ear-splitting noises.

Drunken conversations break off midway; silence descends upon the tavern as everyone turns to witness the sight of the typically elegant owner of Angel's Share, who is now sprawled in an undignified manner on the floor beside the mess of spilled drinks.

The tavern is so quiet that a pin drop could have been heard as Diluc gingerly sits up. The frozen expression on his face shows that even he appears to be shocked by what had transpired.

It takes several seconds before Kaeya stops gaping at the scene, and his brain kicks in.

"That was my bad, my bad. Didn't mean to trip you with my leg," he lies smoothly, leaning down to give him a hand. "Here, let me help."

Diluc stiffens at that, but doesn't contradict the lie. However, he pointedly ignores the hand offered to him as he stands up by himself, stubbornly refusing to look in Kaeya's direction.

"No. Leave it." He turns to address the people seated in the surrounding few tables. "I apologize for the inconvenience. Please find a seat somewhere else while I clean up this mess."

"Let us give you a hand!" Bennett offers, but backs off meekly at the blank stare he receives in return.

Diluc clears his throat, and lets out a soft sigh. He still appears ruffled, but the look he gives the boy is softer this time. "Thank you for the offer. But please, let me take care of it."

Chair legs squeak against the wooden floor as the customers start to relocate in response to the politely worded command, murmuring to each other softly as they do so. Kaeya and his group also stand up to move to another empty table nearby.

After the tavern is once more filled with chatter and drunken ruckus, Rosaria turns to Kaeya and whispers: "What did you really do?"

"I like how much confidence you have in me, dear Sister Rosaria, but it was really an accident this time," Kaeya says innocently, like the perfectly upstanding and law-abiding citizen of Monstadt that he is.

"Ugh. Spare me that crap."

"Ah, such little faith in me. Whatever have I done to make you so doubtful?" Kaeya chides, but his mind is elsewhere. His gaze follows a certain bartender who has returned with a broom and a mop, armed and ready to tackle the spillage with an intensity more suitable for a battle against a Ruin Hunter.

Diluc is still resolutely ignoring Kaeya's existence. But from the volume of fluffy hair, Kaeya can see the slightest glimpse of an ear peeking out, almost camouflaging into the surrounding red with the onset of a persistent flush.

Huh. How very interesting.

Making Diluc Ragnvindr, the so-called uncrowded king of Monstadt, trip on thin air through the sheer force of a single wink isn't the kind of superpower that Kaeya has ever envisioned having. But now that he has it, he can't imagine ever living his life without it again.

Power, he decides, really is addicting.

It's no wonder that Lisa has been so wary about seeking it, as she had once confided in him about how the pursuit of power has corrupted the academics in Sumeru into twisted shells of their former selves. But unlike their extremely smart and sensible librarian, Kaeya is not one to deny himself of his new favourite indulgence - which is to abuse his newfound ability at any possible opportunity.

It’s an alluring show to watch - the way those crimson pupils dilate before quickly glancing away, flustered. It’s a fascinating experiment to conduct - the way that it only takes effect when Kaeya intentionally closes his eye in a wink. It’s almost awe-inspiring, in a way - to be known so thoroughly that his gesture can be so easily recognized for what it is, when no one else is able to see through him in the same manner.

It’s intoxicating. It’s exhilarating. It’s an addiction of the worst kind. And it may just result in his eventual funeral pyre at the hands of a certain gentleman with a hidden proclivity towards burning people alive, but what a way to go that would be.

Though at this rate, Kaeya might just die from withdrawal from his favourite drink first.

"Grape juice again?" He sighs as he plops the partially filled cup down onto the counter. "Have some mercy, Master Diluc."

"No," Diluc says serenely, like the cruel and heartless Death-After-Noon withholder that he is. "Finish your drink."

"Whatever it is that made you do this, I'm sure that we can talk this out. Please, I haven't had a drop of the good stuff in ages!" Kaeya slumps onto the bartop, theatrically hiding his face behind his arms.

It has technically only been five days, twenty hours, and seventeen minutes, but the fact that he has been diligently counting should give a clear picture as to how dire the drought is.

"What has Sir Kaeya done this time?" Paimon asks. She's floating beside the Traveler, who has just returned from a commission to enjoy a glass of wolfhook juice at the tavern.

"Oh yes, do tell. What have I done to deserve such treatment?" Peering from underneath his arm, he makes eye contact with a pair of exasperated red eyes, and then he winks again.

Diluc stiffens visibly, though he manages to keep a firm hold on the glass that he is wiping this time. In fact, so firm is his hold that the glass cracks a little beneath his fingers.

Paimon pales. "Uh, that cup looks like it’s gonna break!"

"My apologies." Diluc's expression is carefully neutral as he sets the glass aside. "Pay it no mind."

In spite of his unflappable composure, he is clearly reluctant to answer the Traveler and their companion's inquisition, perhaps out of embarrassment at how easily affected he really is. The faint flush on his cheeks says everything.

Kaeya doesn't know what saintly deeds he has done in his past lives to be gifted with the funniest possible way to torment the man without anyone else noticing it, but he is eternally grateful for it.

Of course, that won't stop him from rubbing it in at every opportunity. "Well? Tell us about what's been bothering you so much. Is it something that I did?"

Diluc ignores him and speaks directly to the Traveler. "I'm afraid Sir Kaeya knows exactly what he is doing. Please knock him out. I will reward you generously for it."

"Sorry, we'd love to, but we already did four commissions today." The Traveler doesn't even bat an eyelash at the violent request. "Katherine has started limiting us from taking additional requests because of- ... reasons ."

That's not really surprising, if the stories that Kaeya has heard about them are even remotely true. The Traveller and Paimon can put the word addiction to shame with how much wanton destruction they are willing to inflict in the name of beautiful but seemingly useless gems.

(It was enough that Jean had once pulled Kaeya aside to ask him to keep an eye on the flow of Primogem supplies in Monstadt, lest their honorary knight be lured to the dark side.)

Interesting tidbits aside, he still has an act to play. "Ah, so violent, ganging up on me like that. Should I take that as a threat?"

"You can take it however you want," Diluc says evenly, and crosses his arms. "Either way, you’re still not getting any alcohol."

Kaeya’s face falls, and this time the series of complaints and grievances that comes out of his mouth is genuine.

As the night goes on, customers gradually begin to spill out one by one. Though interestingly enough, the Traveller and their companion have decided to stay put on the bar stools this whole time. They are chatting among themselves, and occasionally glancing at Diluc and Kaeya meaningfully like they want to say something but cannot in the presence of others.

So Kaeya decides to stay put as well, interest piqued by the odd behaviour. (But also because a certain bartender has been glaring at him for the past few hours like a particularly ruffled cat, and such cuteness deserves to be poked fun at.)

By the time that Diluc has washed and put away all the glassware, the room has already emptied itself of all occupants save for four. It's telling that Kaeya hasn't been kicked out yet, though for what reason, he can't say.

"Is Charles out sick today? It's rather unusual for you to take the shift on a Thursday night."

"Since you're here, you should know the answer to that question already. Stop prodding." After thinking it over, Diluc adds: "And stop stalking my schedule."

It's flattering that people tend to expect Kaeya to know more than he actually does. Furthermore, for whatever reason, three out of four occupants of the room seem to be under the impression that he belongs here - long after the closing hours of Angel's Share. Who is he to argue otherwise?

"You're no fun. Couldn't you have at least played along?" he says, even though he isn’t actually sure why he's there himself. Or what exactly it is that can be played along with.

Kaeya barely manages to hide his bewilderment when the Acting Grandmaster of the Knights of Favonius walks into the tavern a few minutes later.

What has he accidentally stumbled upon?

To Jean's credit, she is wearing a cloak in an attempt to conceal her identity, though it would not have fooled anyone who knows her well. Her eyes widen as she sees Kaeya lounging on the barstool, but she only gives him a resigned look and doesn't comment on his presence.

It must be due to his dashingly good looks as well as the general merriment he brings to the place, and not at all because the Knights have mostly given up on preventing him from sneaking into secret meetings that he doesn't belong in, accidentally or not.

"Master Jean!" The Traveler stands up to greet her.

"Thank you all for coming here tonight." As everyone gathers around, Jean clears her throat. "And thank you, Master Diluc, for allowing us to use your tavern to host this conversation. I promise you that this is of utmost importance."

"My grudge towards the knights aside, protecting Monstadt is our shared duty," Diluc replies evenly, though his crossed arms suggest that his patience is running thinner than normal. "I trust that there is a good reason behind this meeting, or you would not have asked this of me. Only… is it truly necessary to invite a certain individual to this? I was under the impression that this was meant to be more secretive."

Kaeya perks up at that. He turns to Diluc, blinking in faux surprise before lowering his eyelid with a devious smirk. "Oh, secrets? How exciting. Do tell."

"I am just as surprised as you are," Jean says cautiously. "Sir Kaeya, how did you find out about this meeting? I was so sure that I had managed to keep it under wraps."

"Find out-!" If Kaeya were a lesser man, he likely would have crumbled to dust under the weight of Diluc’s incensed glares by now. But being who he is, he just preens under the attention. "You told me that Jean invited you here."

"Did I?" Kaeya leans against the bartop, making a good show of pondering. "Nope, don’t think I did. Couldn’t have been me."

"You implied-"

"You assumed . I just stayed to enjoy the taste of fine wine and good company. Why, I had no idea that all of you were going to have a midnight rendez-vous without me."

Diluc glowers at him. "Then get out."

"Hm? But the meeting’s just gotten started. I haven’t gotten to hear anything juicy yet. You wouldn’t be so cruel as to kick me out before I even finish my drink, would you?"

To demonstrate his point, Kaeya takes a long sip of his drink, making sure to not to give away a grimace as he does so. Grape juice. Blegh. But it's well worth the look on the other's face.

When their eyes meet, he winks again, causing the other to do another delightful full-body twitch, much to the rest of the room's confusion.

Paimon sighs, shaking her head.

"These two have been going for each other’s throat since before we got here," she explains. "We're not sure what’s up with them today. Master Diluc seems to be in a really really foul mood though. Earlier, he almost threw a washcloth at Sir Kaeya’s face!"

"In front of customers too," the Traveller adds, looking equally perplexed.

"Has Sir Kaeya done anything strange?" Jean asks, and then amends. "Even more than usual?"

The Traveller and Paimon glance at each other, before shaking their heads. "He's been the same as always, as far as we can tell. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that Master Diluc is angrier today."

Diluc's expression darkens while Kaeya's smirk only grows.

Jean shakes her head. "Gentlemen, please save your disagreements for later. This is important. It’s about the Fatui."

That at least catches Diluc’s attention, and he turns around to face her almost immediately.

Kaeya keeps his gaze focused on the man, confident that he already has a good idea of what Jean wants to talk about. After all, there are only a few reasons that the Acting Grandmaster would require the aid of their honorary knight and the former captain, and that happens to be whenever the Knights' hands are tied by Snezhnaya diplomacy. He himself had written the report, though it seems that Jean has decided to proactively take the urgent matter into her own hands instead.

As Jean explains the situation, Kaeya watches Diluc, who is frowning and nodding accordingly in a way that's far too attentive to be completely genuine.

Undeterred, Kaeya readjusts his position, leaning forward just a little more into the other's personal bubble.

There's no discernible reaction, apart from the slightest twitch of fingers.

Satisfied for now, Kaeya decides to stay put.

For the rest of the night, Diluc practically bores a hole into Jean with how intensely he is trying to not look at Kaeya. The rest of the group attributes the fierceness of his gaze to his burning hatred towards the Fatui, but only the two of them know the truth.

When the meeting is over, Diluc shoots a heated glare at him. "You’ll pay for this."

"I have no idea what you’re talking about," Kaeya says. But on the inside, he’s pleased.

The morning after, Kaeya sends a letter containing a detailed summary of Jean's briefing from last night to the Dawn Winery. Given the way that he doesn't receive an envelope containing the ashes of a burnt letter in response, he considers his gift sorely-needed and well-appreciated.

Revenge from Diluc doesn't come until two weeks later, when they are neck-deep in battle against waves of Hilichurls and slimes that are trying to invade Monstadt.

Due to the emergency, Diluc has set aside his grievances toward the Order for once and is actively working together with them to defend the gates of Monstadt. Though that doesn't stop the two from sniping at each other at any opportunity, much to the dismay of their only other companion who has been relegated to supporting them from afar.

"Was that meant to be a parry?" Diluc says in between breaths as he blocks a Mitachurl's shield bash with his claymore, shattering the shield under the impact. "I do believe even the enemy is confused by its ineffectiveness."

Snowflakes dance around them as Kaeya effortlessly switches places with him and pierces an ice shard through the monster’s skull. "Not everyone likes to depend on brute force as the sole answer to both offense and defense, you know. Variety is a spice in life."

Diluc frowns. "You think you're so clever."

Kaeya steps forward until they're staring each other down with only inches of space between them. "Oh I think I'm very clever."

From close by, Amber shouts at them. "Guys, focus! There's a group of slimes coming your way!"

Neither of them pay her any heed.

"I wonder how clever you'll be," Diluc breathes. "Once you have your own bag of tricks turned against you."

Then he smirks - a treat so devastatingly beautiful that something in Kaeya's chest lurches at the dawning sight of it - and flames sear into existence as his claymore is pulled upwards in preparation for a swing.

Several slimes are approaching Kaeya. He half-heartedly slashes at them, his focus long gone as his attention is enraptured elsewhere.

A field of flames surrounds the area, obscuring the rest of the world from their vision until it is only the two of them. As red eyes meet his own, Diluc winks before swinging his claymore down and sending out a blazing phoenix that obliterates everything along its path, which apparently includes Kaeya's own heart.

After the fire dies down, Amber runs over to them. "Wow, good job! You killed all the Hilichurls in one- uh, Sir Kaeya?"


"An Electro slime is chomping on your boots."

Oh. That explains the tingling and slow onset of numbness. Kaeya just thought that it's a side-effect of having his fucking heart die on him.

Wordlessly, he dispatches the slime with a quick strike of Cryo magic, and then picks up the sword that he dropped to the ground in his stupor. Rising to his feet, he sees Diluc looking at him with a triumphant twitch on his lips.

"What's the matter, Kaeya?" Diluc says, mimicking the mock concern that he himself has been subjected to for the past few weeks. "You don't seem so well."

"Maybe you should go see the healers," Amber adds, oblivious to the separate conversation going on beneath the surface. "You're looking a little heated there."

Kaeya shoots Diluc a glare and then sighs, relaxing his stance. Turnabout's fair play, after all. But he hasn't lost yet.

"Ha, don't worry about me. Something just caught me by surprise, that's all." He looks over at the next approaching group of monsters in the distance. "Though Diluc, I think you should use that move again. The next wave is coming."

Upon hearing that, Amber hurriedly rushes back to the high ground, bow at the ready once more. But neither of them notice, too embroiled in their own personal dispute.

Red eyes glare at him in suspicion. It’s expected; they know each other too well, after all. "Should I?"

"Not up for the challenge?" Kaeya shoots back.

"Hm." Diluc concentrates Pyro energy into his claymore again, causing the surrounding air to distort with the rising temperature. "I know what you are up to."

"Do you?"

"It won't work. You've used it too many times on me. It has lost its effectiveness already. I’m immune to it now."

Kaeya taunts, "Wanna bet on that?"

"I won't even blink," Diluc vows before brandishing his claymore so that a field of flames separates them from the rest of the world once again. The energy of the phoenix is still trapped in his weapon, ready to be unleashed in the next swing.

As he sweeps around confidently, his gaze meets Kaeya’s, no doubt bracing himself for the impact of another wink. But instead, his eyes widen as a hand roughly latches onto his lapel and pulls him close for a devastating kiss that leaves the both of them breathless in the aftermath of it all.

The phoenix ends up getting fired off lopsided, but luckily it still eliminates three-quarters of the enemies with the tip of its wing. Being an excellent marksman, Amber manages to pick off the rest with her arrows. As she leaps down from her perch and approaches her allies, she stops midway.

It is certainly a strange sight to behold: the two men, chests heaving slightly, one with an extremely self-satisfied expression on his face as he wipes his mouth, and the other whose cheeks are threatening to give his crimson hair a run for its money. But Amber's not looking at any of that.

"Master Diluc, your coat is on fire!"

Diluc jumps slightly upon hearing his name, looking down to see that the fluff on the bottom of his coat has somehow been caught in his flame's path, and a hole is steadily eating through the fabric.

With a swift flick of his wrist, Kaeya buries the ember under a layer of frost - but mostly as an afterthought; he hasn’t stopped looking at the other’s lips.

For a moment, all of them are silent.

"O-okay," Amber says, slowly backing away. "It seems that you guys are busy with some weird… stuff that needs to be worked out. I kinda feel like. Um. I shouldn't be here. So. I'm just gonna. Y'know. Leave you guys alone and-check-on-the-other-gate-bye !"

As the outrider skedaddles off into the distance, Kaeya makes eye contact with Diluc and winks again. "Third time's the charm?"

Contrary to Diluc's self-assured declaration from before, he very much isn't immune to it still - as his cheeks glow in an even deeper shade of red after having been caught off guard by the sneak attack. It’s a nice colour on him, Kaeya decides. He desperately wants to see how far below the neck it goes.

"You," Diluc fumes. A gloved hand clutches at the fur on Kaeya’s uniform, and drags him closer until they can feel the heat of each other's breaths on their lips. "That was cheating."

"All’s fair in love and war?"

He lets his words hang - watches as the other slowly takes in the implication behind them, lips parting to savour the taste of each syllable. He doesn’t retract it, even though a significant portion of him desperately wants to veil the meaning behind something else - to fashion a pretty blanket over his confession until the truth twists into a falsehood. But no, not this time.

"You heard me," he says, almost defiantly at himself.

Kaeya’s heart is pounding, but at the same time it feels lighter than a feather in the wind - freer than it has ever been. It’s thrilling. It’s addicting. It’s easier than a wink. And he thinks it might all be worth it, laying out all his cards for this one final gamble.

"So that’s what this is," Diluc murmurs, and then narrows his eyes. Tightens his grip. "Don't count me out yet. I'm not losing so easily."

"Don't worry, I like the challenge," Kaeya gloats before being shut up in a way that he very much cannot complain about.