1 The Black Fire Incident
Leaving the knights did not mean retiring from his duty to protect Mond. This was something Diluc knew to be true, especially if the Knights were always this terrible at their job. One of the few people Diluc could say he trusted to do his job right, begrudgingly, was Kaeya.
“If we don’t get on this case soon… Mond might not look so good,” Kaeya finishes detailing the black fire incident, smiling knowingly, smugly. “What do you suggest we do?”
“We return the favor,” he says simply. Those Fatui bastards… the Ursa incident that got his father killed was bad enough, it was another thing if they thought they could use the same tricks and make another victim out of an innocent.
“What a great answer, as expected!” Kaeya’s grin widens, clapping his hands in glee. “So! I came up with a plan to counter them actually.”
“Really.” Diluc deadpans. Of course the only times Kaeya tells him anything of the knights business is to lure him into doing his bidding.
“Unless you have a better plan?”
“Tch.” Truth be told, Diluc’s plan had been to simply storm the place. Probably drop a few threats carefully told so they were veiled as diplomatic suggestions but held their hint of hostility. Then, if that didn’t work, he would just take it upon himself to be the girl’s bodyguard from the shadows and dispatch of them when convenient.
“Brute force won’t work here, Diluc,” Kaeya tuts, waving a finger condescendingly. “This is a matter of politics, we have to be more delicate than that.”
“I think you just want to play your games,” He bites back.
“Oh don’t be like that, humor me a little.” Diluc wants to say that he’s humored him enough but if Kaeya happens to have a better plan, so be it. He had always been the strategist out of the two of them after all, even if Diluc thinks that his plan works just fine.
“Regarding your connection to the Delusions… I think you’re the first person I’ve seen who’s wielded it without experiencing negative side effects.”
Kaeya never says it simply. Diluc’s mind runs to catch up in the 3 steps Kaeya took ahead of him. “You want me to take the blame.”
“I want you to act as a red herring,” he clarifies. “A strong delusion user, masked in black, with the power to wield those characteristic black flames. We can even pin the Ursa attack on you too. Two birds in one stone. Not a bad plan, huh?”
It wasn’t a bad plan. But there were still flaws in it. Mainly, it required Diluc’s trust. “How do I know you won’t just leave me in jail when all of this blows over? A vigilante who the knights have no control over… you would take me as your third bird.”
“I think you can break a pair of handcuffs on your own,” Kaeya says easily, glossing over the distrust they still haven’t smoothed over the past four years. “And if not, I will hand you the key to those cuffs. And if that fails, I swear I will break you out personally.”
“...Fine.” Kaeya’s swears mean little to him, but at the moment, it’s the only option he has, if he wants to save the girl and Mond.
“Great!” Kaeya claps once more. “Here, we should practice your arrest, extend your hands out for me.”
Confused, Diluc holds out his hands into Kaeya’s waiting palms. Cold, biting ice surrounds his wrists in a vice grip, solid and unyielding before he can jerk back. He had put a pair of makeshift ice handcuffs on him.
“Kaeya…” he growls.
“There, now practice walking to the back of the room with a sullen, miserable look dearest brother!” Kaeya smiles, clearly trying to hold back his amusement. “Remember, it’s for Mondstadt!”
“Watch out!” He hears Kaeya shout, flinging his arms performatively to alert the other knights. What a great actor. “It’s the black fire user!”
I’ll show you black fire, Diluc thinks a bit sadistically, chains reaching out from his back to shoot out directly towards his brother.
Clearly, Kaeya hadn’t expected such a savage attack with no warning, putting up an ice wall at the last second to shield himself. Sweat drips down the side of his face and Diluc feels vindictive.
“Is everyone alright?” Kaeya shouts, voice slightly strained from exertion. Diluc, he frantically catches his eyes. You’re coming on a little strong!
Diluc simply tightens the chains around his fist, pulling chunks of ice out, repeatedly smashing against the barrier. He has to be a convincing villain of course, and Kaeya did a great job of sewing seeds of annoyance and frustration last night.
“You guys leave, I can handle it from here!” Kaeya orders in accordance with the plan. “The Fatui diplomat needs protection!”
“Go!” Kaeya’s voice strains, and it wasn’t acting. Diluc’s face was stormy. He was actually trying to kill him it seems. Perhaps this is the price of seeing his cute grumpy brother in cuffs.
The knights flee the scene and Diluc releases one more chain to wrap around Kaeya’s ankle, bringing him on the ground before stopping.
“Diluc…” Kaeya starts, laughing helplessly on the ground. “Actually, nevermind.”
“Hm,” Diluc says, unwrapping his chains. He stands unfrazzled next to Kaeya, face as impassive as always but the air around him smug. “I’ll be off then. They should have exorcised the thing out of her by now. The villain needs to be present at the scene of crime afterall.”
“Yes, yes,” Kaeya stands, “I’ll meet you there.”
“There he is! That’s the fiend right there!” Diluc whips around, just in time to watch Kaeya point at him furiously, before a large glacier forms from the ground to trap him in an icy cage.
“As expected of Captain Kaeya!” The knights cheer. “He apprehended the culprit so quickly!”
“And now you’re powerless.” He plucks Diluc’s delusion right from his glove and pockets it. “Have anything to say now that we’ve caught you, villain?” Kaeya smirks, leaning against the ice. Annoyance strikes through his body. He looks at the trembling girl on the ground, and back at Kaeya, who smiles at him challengingly, daring him to break role.
“No-- mmph!” Kaeya doesn’t even let him speak, coming from behind just as he let the ice melt, using one large hand to cover his mouth and the other to keep both of his wrists in a tight grip.
Metal touches his lips, he tries to crane his neck to glare at Kaeya in disbelief. They did not discuss this. “Open wide,” Kaeya whispers. Diluc glances at the knights, still far away, tending to Amber and the girl. Begrudgingly, his lips parted and Kaeya slips the key to his handcuffs in his mouth, cool metal sitting heavily on his tongue.
“Handcuff him,” Kaeya orders easily, and the knights scramble to obey, tightening cuffs around him.
“Poor villain of Mond, we finally caught you,” Kaeya coos as Diluc’s shoved towards the carriage, one knight on each side. Diluc’s face burns with anger and humiliation, grateful that his mask and hood covers it. He doesn’t even have to act. The hours they spent last night with him dejectedly walking towards the back of the bar in ice cuffs was useless training done at his expense. He can’t even talk back with the key inside his mouth.
“Bye bye now!” Kaeya laughs, waving at him as he’s taken away, looking very pleased with himself.
Sitting in the back of the carriage, Diluc fumes.
Next time , Diluc tongues over the key, bringing his bound wrists up to slowly slip it out of his mouth. I’ll be the one making the plans, and he won’t be laughing so hard then.
2 The Ludi Harpastum Alleyway Incident
“Who sent you here,” Diluc demands, knife held steadily on the Fatui’s throat. He had seen him wandering around the streets, a Fatui spy disguised as a fish seller, making his way to the Ord. “What were your orders.”
It’s a calculated risk to confront the fatui tonight, on the night of Ludi Harpastum, where everyone is out on the streets, but too busy with the festivities to pay attention to anything else.
“Well?” Diluc summons a bit of pyro magic, heating the blade up ever so slightly, eyes glinting. “Scared because your superiors will kill you? I can easily arrange that tonight.” The fatui glances nervously from his face to the opening of the alley.
“G-” he stutters, and Diluc loosens his grip a little for him to speak.
“Guards!” he screams as he sees the shadows of the knights on duty passing by. Diluc whips around just in time to see two of them brandishing their swords.
“Fiend! How dare you use Ludi Harpastum to carry out your foul crimes!”
Diluc curses under his breath. The hand holding his knife shakes, contemplating. He could kill the fatui right now, but the information-- no, no time. He pushes the fatui away, kicking up against the wall to leap over the knights’ heads and break out into a sprint.
“Hey!” they call behind him. Diluc uses the festival to his advantage, weaving through crowds of happy drunks and screaming children to lose them.
“Chicken skewer?” a stall merchant shoves it in front of him. “What are you running from son? You act like you’re running from the knights!”
“There he is!” Diluc turns to see the two guards pointing in his direction frantically. “There’s the culprit!”
He knocks the skewer out of his way, ignoring the protests of the merchant, and running towards the more isolated part of the city. If he gets enough distance, he could escape in the dark--
“Guh--” His center of gravity is jerked suddenly towards the right, veering into one of the dark, narrow alleys of Mond. Instinctively, he flails, the arms around him are strong, and whoever kidnapped him is taller too, so he can’t dig his elbow into their eyes.
He flicks out his knife from his wrist, but it’s slapped away instantly. Only one more choice, he raises his knee, aiming it towards the offender’s crotch--
“Wait, wait, Diluc, it’s me!”
“Mmph?” he says, muffled, and the hand on his mouth finally pulls away. “Kaeya?” he turns around, half surprised, half furious.
“What are you doing?” He hisses, looking up to see Kaeya’s infuriating smile, made just a little bit more nervous after narrowly escaping death.
“Running from the knights again?” Kaeya says instead, sighing. “I told you brute force won’t work all the time,”
“I had it under control,” he says, trying to pull away, but Kaeya held tight, crowding him against the wall. “Kaeya, let go.”
Kaeya’s eye flicks to where Diluc’s hand is clenching and unclenching. If he really wanted to, he could fling him off in a blink. “The knights are close,” he lowers his head to murmur into Diluc’s neck. “If you take off now you’ll be hard pressed to escape, especially if you bring any more attention to yourself.”
“And who’s fault is that?”
“They’re coming,” Kaeya shushes, the footsteps growing louder. “Kiss me.”
Diluc chokes. “ I refuse--”
Kaeya’s mouth is on him in an instant. He licks at Diluc’s closed lips desperately, before huffing a breath that sounded annoyingly like a sigh of exasperation. With one hand, he pinches the firm flesh of Diluc’s side, making him yelp so he could slip in his tongue, a faint taste of wine on his lips. Involuntarily, Diluc lets out a quiet moan into the kiss, and instantly regrets it when he feels Kaeya’s lips curl into a smirk.
“Where did he go?” he hears one of the knights say.
“In an alleyway maybe?” the other responds. He peers over to where Kaeya has him up against the wall of the alley.
“Hello?” the knight calls. “Captain Kaeya is that you?”
Kaeya ups the antic in response, moaning performatively and sucking on Diluc’s tongue. His knee finds his way between Diluc’s legs and grinds ever so slightly, forcing Diluc to join in.
The knight instantly blushes. “C-captain?”
Kaeya pulls off, a string of saliva between them. “Yes? Huffman is that you?”
Huffman shuffles around awkwardly before composing himself. “Captain, did you happen to see a cloaked man running around here? We found him with a knife to a merchant’s throat. We believe he might be the same delusion-user who escaped from before.”
“Hmm?” Kaeya hums, making sure to put a bit of a drawl into his voice. “No, I didn’t. I commend you for being so proactive though, Huffman. I’ll put in good word for you.”
“Captain, I’m not saying this for a promotion--”
“You’re overworked,” Kaeya sighs. “Have some fun, will you? It’s Ludi Harpastum. I sure am.”
At the reminder, Huffman’s eyes glance over to Diluc, who’s hidden against Kaeya’s body well enough that no distinctive features can be shown. “But--”
“Bomb goes KA-BOOM!” A shrill voice shrieks from the background, small explosions sounding.
“Looks like there are more pressing matters at hand,” Kaeya smiles as Huffman rushes to the scene.
He waits until Huffman’s footsteps have disappeared completely, then relaxes his hold slowly.
“That was so unnecessary,” Diluc mumbles, wiping off the residue of the rather aggressive open mouth kiss with his thumb.
The sky lights up suddenly in flashes of reds, greens, blues. Diluc’s flushed cheeks, which he hoped would be concealed by the dark, are now on full display in the flickering light of the fireworks.
“First kiss since we were teens?” Kaeya teases.
“Don’t be so smug about it,” Diluc crosses his arms, looking off to the side, suddenly unable to face him. “I just don’t have time to engage in these activities.”
“Right,” Kaeya hums, breath puffing on Diluc’s cheek. They were close enough to touch. If he wanted to, he could go for another one--
Kaeya pulls off suddenly, leaving Diluc blinking in his wake. “Well, looks like Mond’s personal vigilante successfully eluded the knights again,” he says, voice strained.
Distantly, the crowd breaks out into cheers as the last of the fireworks explode in the sky, the song from the band suddenly changing to a more swing-like beat as the feet of everyone in Mond stomped in a dance. Free of their worries, ignorant of any dangers. Just like how it should be.
Diluc coughs pointedly, then adjusts his cloak tighter around him. “I should get back to the bar, it must be crowded tonight.”
“Yes, can’t leave Charles waiting,” Kaeya agrees. His shoulder bumps against Kaeya’s as he pushes past him, and he leaves without sparing a glance, face cooling against the evening chill.
“Master Diluc,” Charles greets him as he shrugs off his cloak to don his bartender outfit. “Have you been drinking? Your face is quite red.”
“Just a little hot in here is all,” Diluc mutters. “Too many bodies packed together.”
Charles glances dubiously at him, thankfully not mentioning that most of the crowd wouldn’t be here until another hour when the festivities ended. “Of course,” he acquiesces instead, and Diluc spends the rest of the night occupying himself with bartending. Anything to take the heat off of his face.
3 The Recruitment Incident
Diluc is in the midst of asking Wagner for an enhancement for his claymore when he hears Donna and Flora talking.
“Oh, that Mister Darknight Hero is so romantic!” Donna sighs dreamily, absentmindedly tending to the flowers at her stall.
“Huh?” Flora asks. “Don’t you like Master Diluc?”
“Oh, don’t remind me! I’m so conflicted… they’re both so handsome!”
“Don’t let the knights hear you,” Flora chastises. “He’s a vigilante that’s still sought out by them.”
“Maybe they want to recruit him!” Donna says. “You know, ever since Master Diluc quit…”
“Pardon the interruption, who’s this Darknight Hero?” Diluc chooses this moment to appear.
“Oh! Master Diluc!” Donna exclaims. “I, um, he’s just a vigilante! My heart still belongs to you!”
“I see,” Diluc grimaces. Of all the names he could have… they chose to call him something as ridiculous as that? “Thank you for the information.”
“Not a problem at all! Feel free to come by any time, Diluc!”
Diluc nods, “Have a good day, Miss Donna, Miss Flora.”
“Oh Archons! Diluc is such a gentleman, how could I ever love the Darknight Hero over him--” Donna’s voice sounded in the distance as he walked away. Right now, he had other matters to attend to.
“Diluc,” his brother greets from his seat at Angel’s Tavern. No doubt already gotten a head start in drinking whatever alcohol he could before Diluc took over and only served him grape juice.
“What’s this about the knights wanting to recruit me?” Diluc says instead. “Get out, the bar’s closed.” He adds, perfunctory, as if he didn’t just ask Kaeya a question.
Kaeya, used to their everyday routine, smirks into his glass. “Ah, busted,” he mutters. “Or rather, the Knights of Ordo Favonius would like to recruit the Darknight Hero, not Master Diluc.”
“I will not be joining the knights.” Diluc slams a glass down resolutely.
“I think that’s for the Darknight Hero to say, don’t you?” Kaeya smiles infuriatingly as Diluc scoffs.
“Diluc,” his voice turns serious and Diluc turns around at the change in tone. “The knights are not what you once knew. The root of the wickedness, and their seeds, the new order was sure to pluck them out.” Kaeya doesn’t mention that it was he who had snuffed out Eroch as soon as Diluc had left, had meticulously dug out all of his allies and drowned them under the icy punishment he had dealt as his first act as Cavalry Captain.
Diluc is quiet. “Why do you assume that’s the reason I don’t want to join,” Diluc huffs. “Perhaps I just don’t like the methods the knights use. I prefer to be more efficient.”
Kaeya smiles tiredly. “Ah yes, burning everything that poses a danger to the ground?”
“Dealing with them with a swift hand instead of loitering around,” Diluc corrects.
Kaeya shrugs, already used to Diluc’s stubbornness. “Either way, I think you’ll find it that the knights are not one to give up after one try.”
Diluc scoffs. “Then I’ll make my rejection equally as swift.”
The next night, Diluc is walking back to Mond, after dispatching a sweep of seven hilichurl nests that were being trained by Abyss Mages. Not his usual job, he admits. Even stranger, the information came from a random source, not one of his regular informants, and she was just speaking of it out loud in public, not even acknowledging him. Perhaps she didn’t know of her mark? He was usually told of who was put in his network of intel, but he supposes that with the urgency of some information, there’s bound to be times wehn he can’t afford to fact check his new informant and needs to just take the chance.
“Look, it’s him! The Darknight Hero!” He hears a shout. What . He had made sure to come back at the prime hour of the night when everyone was asleep, even the guards. How was it that a group of them were now waiting for him inside Mond’s gates?
“We meet again, Mister Darknight Hero.” A voice drawls, stepping out of the shadows. “Tell me, did you pick that name yourself? It’s quite… well, I don’t want to judge...”
He felt his eyebrow twitch instinctively to the smug voice. Ah, of course it was Kaeya.
“I’m going to have to ask you to come with me, Mister Hero,” Kaeya smiles, arms relaxed and to his side in a show of openness, but Diluc can see how he’s tensed for a battle, a physical trap to mirror the one in his words.
Diluc’s exhausted after around five hours of constant traveling and fighting. Not to mention, running on only two hours of sleep. He’s not sure if he can take Kaeya, who looks well rested and well fed, in a full fight and win.
The only other option is to run. Diluc takes a step back, but the floor gives way beneath him, ice that wasn’t there before making him slip. Before he can fall, cold crawls up his form and freezes him in a glacier. A standard maneuver, one Kaeya’s used against him before, and one that only works when Diluc doesn’t have his vision, or is too tired to melt the ice.
Diluc grits his teeth, trying to squeeze the last of his energy into escaping from the ice, but Kaeya puts an end to that quick. “I wouldn’t try it if I were you,” he warns patronizingly. “The second you melt it off, I’ll just create more ice until you’re all burnt out. With your feet not even touching the floor, it’ll be hard to move right after you melt off the first layer.”
“Wow! That’s the Darknight Hero! He looks so cool!” one of the knights, probably a new recruit, gushes.
“Huh, he got taken out so easily, guess Captain Kaeya’s plan worked.”
“Captain Kaeya’s just that amazing!”
Kaeya smiles knowingly, then turns to the knights on his squad. “Have we all learned something new today?” He glances over to catch Diluc’s eye, as if to tell him to pay attention too. “The best way to defeat a particularly tough opponent is with a plan. Never rush in headfirst.”
He pats the ice. “Thanks for taking some of the workload, Hero.”
Diluc’s head spins. The intel. The informant he’s never seen before. The strangely exhausting odd job. The interception at Mond. It was all Kaeya’s doing. He had an inkling of it, but it was all made clear now.
And he had made Diluc do what must’ve been his job for the next coming weeks all in one night, the bastard.
“Speechless, huh?” Diluc grits his teeth but can’t even find the right words to use as weapons. As it is, his normally sharp arsenal of verbal jabs was dull in the face of Kaeya’s. Kaeya fastens a pair of cuffs around his wrists. “Let’s get you to the Headquarters.”
Diluc sits in the cell, glaring at the ground and at Kaeya, who’s situated just outside the bars of his cell, in turns.
“I already told you I’m not joining the knights,” Diluc grits.
“Hm?” Kaeya tilts his head. “I’m not sure what you mean, this is my first time talking to the Darknight Hero.”
Diluc sighs heavily. “Alright, alright, you look like you’re about to bite my head off,” Kaeya says, gestures to him to come closer. “Come here.”
Diluc raises a brow. “What’s the meaning of this. You come up with an elaborate plan to capture me and now you’re just letting me go?”
“Would you rather I not?”
He shakes his head, resigned. “I just don’t understand what’s going on inside your head.”
Kaeya smiles, but it doesn’t reach his eyes. “Maybe I just wanted to see my cute older brother pouting in jail.” He slips the keys to the cell and his handcuffs through the bars. “You were always such a sore loser.”
Diluc knows better than to take such obvious bait. “Just handing it off this time?”
Kaeya chuckles. “Would you rather a mouth to mouth?”
Diluc scowls. “Stop messing around and leave before they find you helped me.” He rubs his raw wrists, annoyed to have his time wasted.
Just as he’s leaving, he pauses to say one last thing.
“Kaeya,” he calls and Kaeya turns to watch him. I appreciate your care but… he bites down those words. “I can take care of myself.” He says instead.
Kaeya’s face takes on an indiscernible emotion. Not wanting to dwell on it any longer, Diluc kicks over the metal trash can and slams the door to his cell loudly, making enough noise to alert all the knights at guard. He hears Kaeya squawking behind him as he flees the scene.
Perhaps he can at least shave away a bit of Kaeya’s pride as payment with a flashy escape at his expense.
4 The Darknight Hero’s Alibi Incident
Ever since the failed recruitment, the knights have pretty much given up on him. The Darknight Hero doesn’t cause harm (as far as they could tell), doesn’t commit crimes, and mainly keeps to himself.
The night guard had grown a bit lazy themselves because they know they have the vigilante around to pick up their slack, and while Diluc despises it, he’s also relaxed enough so that he just does his nightly activities in his usual outfit. By the time someone rushes over to see what the commotion’s about, the threat is usually already eliminated.
This time, he was a bit reckless. The traveler, Lumine, had caught him fighting in his usual garb and her companion immediately exclaimed that he was the Darknight Hero. For a stranger, she proved to be quite trustworthy, and with the knights strangely keen on figuring out his identity, he figured he could use a bit of assistance.
Which led to where they were now, with an Abyss Mage lying at his feet, scorched beyond recognition from the interrogation.
“What is the Abyss Order planning?” he asks.
The mage, lips already loose, spat out details furiously. “A-at 10pm, there will be a frontline attack at Mond’s east gates, and then--AGHH!”
“I already know that,” Diluc says, palm igniting. “I meant, what are the Abyss Order’s plans in the future. The big plans. Who is your boss. Where is he. And how do you receive orders.”
At this, the mage quiets. Diluc pauses. He thought he had tortured him enough for him to be compliant. “Our prince is much closer than you think…” the mage wobbles on his feet, delirious from the pain but the mention of his master suddenly gave him the confidence to talk in riddles again. “One might say you are intimately acquainted with him, Diluc Ragnvindr.”
“Master Diluc?” Lumine questions softly. “You’re shaking.”
“I’m fine,” he grits. “What is his role in all of this.”
“The prince is not involved with such small incidents such as these,” he garbles. “But when the time comes, he will have no choice, fate always catches--AAAHH!!”
Where the abyss mage once stood is now a pile of ashes. Paimon looks deeply disturbed, shocked to silence. Perhaps she had thought Diluc would let the abyss mage go instead of killing him off, but Diluc couldn’t bother to care how he looked right now.
Kaeya… in the last year when he returned to Mond, something of a fragile trust had formed between the two of them. More often than not, he had played directly into Kaeya’s hands. He had the makings of a mastermind. It wasn’t too far of a stretch to say he could be behind the Abyss Order.
And yet. The strained smiles. The regret. The plans Kaeya made that only succeeded because he had trusted him. The abyss mage said that Kaeya had no choice, but that just wasn’t true. Knowing Kaeya, there was always a choice.
“Master Diluc?” Lumine touches his arm gently.
“Don’t touch him, Lumine! He looks scary right now!” Paimon whispers.
Diluc shakes his head. “Sorry,” he says gruffly, “Thank you for the help. The abyss mage said 10pm on the east gate? We should get moving then.”
“Everyone’s in on it?!” Paimon exclaims. They had made it just in time for Huffman’s questioning, and things had all gone according to plan.
“Yes,” Diluc says. “I had taken several measures to ensure this.” Granted, this is not the usual plan he would come up with, more elaborate and delicate and screamed of a certain influence from the past year. But with Huffman keeping an eye on him, it was a necessary precaution.
“Or rather,” A figure steps out of the corner of the tavern, a slow clap and an easy stroll. “Everyone’s in on it, except me.”
“Kaeya!” Paimon gasps. “You were here the whole time?”
“Correct,” he smiles, then turns to Diluc. “The Darknight Hero’s Alibi, I think it’s my favorite chapter so far. More intriguing than fine wine.”
“Hmph,” Diluc crosses his arms. “Going to report this to the knights?”
“Come now, Diluc, you know me better than that, especially with this past year.” Kaeya says. “I was just curious to see how far Mondstadt’s Darknight would really go, and you did not disappoint.”
The final test, huh? “I always could handle things on my own.” Diluc looks away. “Sorry, we’re closing. Please see yourself out.”
“Alright, alright,” Kaeya shrugs. “But one last thing, Diluc,”
“This had better be the last thing.”
Kaeya looks fond. “I’m strangely comforted by the fact that you now have someone else to rely on.”
Diluc scowls, heat rising, steadfastly ignoring Lumine’s questioning glance.
“Well, I hope you all have a wonderful night.” Kaeya says as a parting gift, and he’s out the doors.
“What was all that about?” Paimon instantly sticks her nose in.
“Don’t mind him,” Diluc sighs. “I’ll treat you for dinner, as thanks. You must be exhausted.” At the mention of food, Paimon’s eyes light up and Diluc’s averted yet another crisis.
As for the matter of Kaeya’s involvement with the Abyss Order… only time will tell.
5 And One Time Diluc Breaks Kaeya Out
Drip, drip, drip.
Kaeya stares listlessly at the stone walls of the prison. Unlike the ones in Mond, Khaenr’iahn prisons were cold and isolated. No windows, no bars, just four solid walls enclosing a small space.
It had been a surprise to see Dainslef and a few others of the Khaenr’iahn special forces at his door. Or rather, Kaeya had always known that his fate was inescapable. He just wanted to bask in the idleness of his simple life at Mond, just for a while longer.
“Prince Kaeya,” Dainslef had hissed in the middle of the night. “It’s time to fulfill your role to Khaenr’iah.”
Kaeya had always promised himself that when the time comes, he would side with his home country. But the definition of home blurred in the past 15 years, had lost its form as a place and instead taken the form, tentatively, of a person.
At Kaeya’s hesitance, Dainself had narrowed his eyes, “It does not matter that you come willingly or not, the only difference is you sleep in your quarters, or you sleep in prison.”
And that’s how he’s laying awake in his prison cell, fashionless, visionless, eyepatch-less, watching drops of water fall onto the floor from the icicles that had frozen on the ceiling of his cell. Tomorrow, he would be forced to do his duty, no matter what.
Drip, drip, dri--
Kaeya’s eyes widen. The temperature in the room suddenly rises by ten degrees. Steam melts the ice from the ceiling and walls, the water droplet he had been watching never makes it to the floor.
The stone bricks tremble, shaking in place, before being blown apart. Heat scorches through the room, waves of it almost burning Kaeya’s face but he doesn’t flinch, staring in awe. Red hair the same color as the rising heat flutters chaotically as his hood is blown back by gusts of wind, face flushed from the difference in temperature.
“Diluc!” Kaeya panics. “What are you doing here?!”
“I followed you,” Diluc says. “I didn’t expect you to give up so easily. No plan this time?”
“Hah,” Kaeya lets out an incredulous laugh. “We can’t all be like you, Luc. The debts we try to avoid always come to pass eventually, and mine was long overdue.”
“Mine is too,” Diluc says, brushing off the dust from his cloak. Of course Diluc’s method was to just force his way into the cell. Concrete and stone walls never meant anything to Diluc, who just burned through all his obstacles.
“Yours? You mean the times I bailed you out--”
“Kaeya,” Diluc’s gaze is hard. “I made a mistake, all those years ago, when I ran away. You’re not allowed to do the same.” His face softens. “You have a choice. You belong to Mond, too.”
Kaeya’s breath catches, the words he so desperately wanted to hear said so suddenly. His eyes stung. “You’re awful, brother. You waited until I was at my most vulnerable to use your strongest attack.”
Distantly, Kaeya can hear the guards in a panic, probably having been woken up by the explosion of fire and cobblestone in the prison. If they were even the slightest bit more efficient than the knights, they should be running to check up on him at any second.
“Kaeya,” Diluc extends his hand, an action mirrored through the decade. Was it really so easy? Kaeya’s mind ran so fast that sometimes he couldn’t even see the simplest path. It was always the one that had the greatest payoff, the one that allowed him to sow the seeds for the next plan he would concoct, the one that allowed him the greatest amusement. He ran like this too, from Khaenr’iah. Was it really so easy?
“Kaeya, stop thinking.” Diluc urges and that’s all Kaeya needs to grasp Diluc’s hand, getting hoisted out of the hole in the wall.
Cool wind buffets his skin, Khaenr'iah’s moonless sky stretched as far as he could see. “What happens now?” He says, looking behind at the wreckage Diluc left in their wake.
“Now?” Diluc scoffs. “We run.”