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The Art of Firewalking

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He thought he heard wrong.


“Excuse me?” Diluc said faintly.


“I know it must be hard for you,” Inspector Eroch said patiently. “But think of the greater good.”


“The greater good.” He repeated.


“You’re Diluc Ragnvindr. Pride of the Ragnvindr Clan and rising star of the wizarding world! Everyone knows you’re on the fast track to becoming an Auror in the Ministry of Magic - this will only help to further boost your standings in the eyes of the public. Tomorrow’s headlines will read, ‘Ministry of Magic and Future Star Recruit Slays Rogue Dragon, Saves Hundreds’!” 


“And what about my father?” Diluc demanded. His grip tightened on father’s wand. “The Ministry didn’t save that village of innocents. Neither did I. He did. My father saved lives that you were responsible for, and this is how you repay him?” 


But Eroch remained unfazed. “Oh, but he will be honoured - as a proud wizard who gave his life to hold off the dragon long enough for reinforcements to arrive.” 


“But you weren’t reinforcements.” Diluc sneered. “You were too late.”


“Well, if the public knew that the one who slew the mighty Ursa wasn’t the Ministry but a mere wandmaker, it would cripple the Ministry’s standings in the eyes of the public, wouldn’t it?” 


“A mere wandmaker?” Diluc growled. “My father looked up to you all. He believed in you. Supported you. He trusted that the Ministry would do right by the people they protected, but now you’re trampling over his faith like it was nothing!” 


Eroch tutted. “The dead has no use for feelings, Diluc. Neither does it have need for fame and glory.” 


Diluc recoiled. “You can’t be saying that for real.” 


Eroch’s tone was calm and measured - as if he was talking to a small child throwing a tantrum. “It was unfortunate that your father did not show the potential to be an Auror until he died. This is the best he can do for the Ministry. In fact, if it makes you feel better, this is something only he can do for the Ministry. The Minister for Magic has already agreed to it. We have the papers ready. All that’s left is my signature as Head Inspector on it.” 


Diluc felt himself grow cold. “You’re traitors. All of you. You’ll never get what you want! I won’t let you!” 


“It’s for the best, Diluc.” Varka said gently. He put a hand on Diluc’s shoulder. “If your father was alive, I’m sure he would have been proud to give the honours to you. If it’s for his son’s future career prospects and prestige.”


Diluc shook Varka’s hand off roughly. “‘Career prospects’? ‘Prestige’?” He laughed hysterically. “Is this how all adults think?”


“You’ll understand when you’re older, Diluc.” Varka - no, Headmaster Varka said. 


“With all respect, sir, I don’t think I ever will.” Diluc said coldly. 


Eroch sighed and shook his head. “That way of thinking is why you’re still a child.” 


“A child that knows better than you the difference between right and wrong.” Diluc snarled. “You come to me in the middle of my father’s funeral, present me with this - this ridiculous proposal of yours, intending to disrespect my father while the soil over his grave is still fresh, and you expect me to bow my head and go along with it? Shame on you, Eroch Jormungandr. Shame on you.” 


Eroch grinned. “Oh, but it’s not a proposal, Master Ragnvindr. It’s already been approved.” 


“Then leave.” Diluc said. He pointed at the exit. “And know that from now on, the Ragnvindr clan refuses to be a part of anything the Ministry does.” 


Eroch didn’t look shocked. Instead, he looked even happier. “Keep saying that to yourself, young Diluc. You won’t be able to keep that stance for long. Everything points to the Ministry. One way or another, eventually, you’ll find yourself at our doorstep. And when that time comes, I hope you’ll make the right choice. Farewell… for now.” 


He put a hand to his hat and bowed. Then he took a step back, and with the sound of a crack, Apparated away. 


Diluc’s mouth twisted in disgust. Eroch had vanished without so much as a nod towards his father’s grave. 


He turned away and flung a fireball into the distance, screaming. The ball of fire landed on a piece of grass and sat there, slowly burning itself out. 


He felt Varka’s eyes on him. Silent. Reproaching. He patted Diluc’s shoulder, laid a flower on his father’s grave, and left. 


Diluc stood there alone, in front of his father’s grave. His frame was trembling, feet unsteady as he walked forward, and fell to his feet at his father’s gravestone. 


The burial was long over. The crowd had slowly petered out while he was talking to Varka and Eroch, and his aunts and uncles and cousins were probably back in the mansion, gorging themselves on the guest banquet and pilfering the silverware. Maybe Zernias and Elzer were trying to chase them out, while Adelinde bade them goodbye with a knife behind her back. He didn’t know. And he didn’t care. 


The Ministry had betrayed them. The Ragnvindr branch families would soon follow, once they smelled weakness in him. And he still had his younger brother to take care of. 


“I don’t know what to do, Father.” He whispered. 


The remnants of the Death Curse still lingered on his lips, foul and astringent. If he cut out his tongue, would it absolve him from the sin it had committed? 


“I swear I’ll avenge you,” he begged, “So please - tell me what to do.”


The gravestone said nothing. 


A hot tear slid down his cheek. Then another, and another. And then the skies must have heard him and decided to share in his misery, because it started to rain. 


Diluc Ragnvindr sat there on his knees, watching as the rain battered the flower offerings over the place where his father was buried. The rain carried a scent of frost, crisp and fresh, but with it, also came the memories. 


Blood splattered onto his face. Torn limbs dangled from the dragon’s jaw. A crunch, a demonic scream of pain, and then it was gone. 


Diluc clutched his father’s hand, watching his fingertips flake and crumble into dust. So this was the price for using such a powerful and ancient relic. Was it contagious? Would the darkness consume him too, if he continued to hold his father’s hand?


But what terrified him the most was his father’s voice, weak and trembling, like a bird with broken wings.


Diluc, where are you, Diluc, son, please, I- I need you to-




He jolted out of his trance. Someone was approaching. 


He wiped his tears hurriedly, even though no one would be able to see it in the rain. The head of the Ragnvindr family wasn’t allowed to show any weakness. Practised a few smiles, with his father’s headstone as witness. Fuck, he felt so hollow inside.


“Diluc,” Kaeya said. 


Diluc turned around. 


Kaeya’s clothes were rumpled and torn. His eyepatch was plastered crookedly to his forehead, and his hair was thoroughly drenched by the rain. He had run all the way here without his umbrella.


He stood there in the rain, letting the rain soak into his clothes as he stared at Diluc with a wretched look on his face. The sound of his ragged breathing filled the space between them, barely heard over the rain. 


Then his gaze slid over Diluc to their father’s grave behind him, and Diluc’s breath hitched. 


And he had wondered why Kaeya was taking such a long time to return. The loss of a father had scarred his brother deeply. The loss of a second, by Diluc’s hand no less… 


He shook those thoughts aside. Kaeya was the only family he had left. If he even thought about Kaeya hating him… he was sure to break.


He took a deep breath, and he stood up. 


“What, did you get into a fight with our cousins again?” He said with a smile. “You know you’re above that.”


At that time, Diluc had mistaken the expression on Kaeya’s face for grief. And then, he had felt relief. Relief that their grief was something they, as brothers, shared between them. 


If Kaeya was here, he had thought, they could figure something out. They could make something out of their family that the world had broken into pieces. If Kaeya was willing to be his reason for living, then Diluc would gladly burn down the world for him. 


After all, there was nothing the two of them couldn’t accomplish together.


And so, Diluc said to him, “Kaeya, I have something I want to ask you.”


But then Kaeya’s gaze focused in on Diluc, a cold flame burning in his eye, and Diluc knew that something was wrong. 


“What a coincidence.” Kaeya said sadly. “So do I.”



This was the most humiliating day of his life.


It was true that the Ragnvindr name had helped to shield Kaeya from the worst of the discrimination he had faced in Hogwarts. Even the pureblood elitist kids whose families belonged to the upper echelons of the wizarding society didn’t dare to do anything more than throw insults and jabs behind Diluc’s back. Now that pretty much everyone knew he was disowned by the family, Kaeya had prepared for this inevitability. 


What he didn’t prepare for, was Diluc seeing him like this. Hanging in the air with his shirt all hiked up, vomit on the floor and his stuff strewn on the ground in ruins all around him. 


Flustered, Kaeya tugged down his shirt. Normally he would be shameless about exposing skin, but there was something about letting Diluc see him this vulnerable, especially after the fight they had a week ago, that made him uncomfortable. The portraits tittering on the corridor walls didn’t exactly help either. 


He gave an awkward wave. “Hey.”


Diluc crossed his arms. “Kaeya. What are you doing?” 


“Oh, just wondering what it felt like to be a piñata. What the hell does it look like I’m doing?” He snapped. 


“Who knows. You’re probably up to one of your tricks again.” Diluc looked on coldly. 


Kaeya’s heart dropped into his stomach. That’s right. Diluc… didn’t love him any more. 


He laughed dryly. “You’re right. The school has a lake of monsters, a giant hedge maze, and a castle with moving staircases and never-ending corridors. Certainly, I’ve tested out many of the castle’s gimmicks and used them to prank others later. Of course you would think this is just another one of those occasions.” 


Diluc scoffed. “That’s right. Don’t you think it’s time to stop these childish actions of yours?” 


Kaeya shot him a look of disbelief. “‘Childish’? Diluc, I’m only fifteen. You’re sixteen.” 


“Exactly.” Diluc said. “Now are you going to get down from there?”


He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, sure, just give me a minute. Or two. Or three. Might as well give me forever, because it’s so comfy up here I might even fall asleep. I can get down on my own just fine.” 


Diluc just stood there and raised an eyebrow. 


Kaeya sighed. “Okay, I lied. Someone jinxed me up here and now I can’t get down. Happy now?”


“Wow. I wonder why anyone would do such a thing.” 


“And people think you don’t know the meaning of sarcasm. You’ve made your point. Now leave me alone so I can wallow in my deserved misery.” Kaeya turned away and flapped his hands. “Now shoo.” 


“Or, you could ask me nicely to help you down.” Diluc pointed out dryly.


Kaeya whipped his head to look at him. Was Diluc doing this on purpose? “Why would you?” He said incredulously. “We’re not related. We’re not friends. We’re not from the same year and we’re not even in the same House. In case you haven’t noticed, we have no connection to each other.” 


Diluc widened his eyes. Conversely, Kaeya frowned. Why was he angry at that? He had no right to be surprised. 


He quickly recovered, though, and said stiffly, “Well... that’s... true. But that doesn’t mean I’d stand by and do nothing. Now close your eyes and shut your mouth.” He took out his wand.


Kaeya paled. “Wait, hold-“






Before Kaeya had time to react, Diluc waved his wand. 


With the spell gone, Kaeya plummeted to the ground, limbs flailing. Oh come on, Diluc! Cursing Diluc in his mind, he shielded his head and braced for impact. 


But instead of hitting the ground, he landed on something soft and… warm?


And when he opened his eye, this time he saw Diluc staring down at him.


Diluc was carrying him. 


Oh gods, Diluc was carrying him.


Suddenly, he felt hyperaware of everything. The sweat clinging to the back of his shirt, where Diluc’s arm was pressing into it. Diluc’s piercing gaze. His cherry red lips, pinched together in concentration as he held Kaeya aloft in bridal style.


“Are you okay?” Diluc murmured. 


Kaeya felt his breath graze his cheek and flushed, feeling slightly giddy under the attention. 


Since we’re at this point, we might as well get this out of the way: Kaeya has the biggest, fattest, crush ever in the existence of mankind on his ex-brother. 


It started with the scandalous thoughts of what it would feel like to have his brother’s lips on his skin. Then it led to frequent fantasies of what his brother would look like unclothed, which carried on to certain lewd dreams at night which made him unable to ever share a bed with his brother ever again. 


He’d hid it all from Diluc, of course. Nothing would ever bloom from being attracted to someone who would never think of him as more than a younger sibling - or even less, now that Diluc had cast him out of his life. Kaeya’s love was doomed from the very start. 


And Diluc must never know. 


“I have spit and vomit on my robes.” Kaeya blurted out. “Also, that’s pretty gay.” 


Diluc let him drop.


Kaeya smashed butt-first onto the floor. “Ow,” he said, rubbing his butt. 


Diluc scowled. “It’s your fault for saying such weird things.”


“But that’s part of my charm!” Kaeya exclaimed reflexively. 


Then, in a quieter voice: “Um… Sorry. That you had to save me like that.” 


Diluc probably hated touching him. He probably hated seeing Kaeya breathe.  


Diluc scoffed. “You, need saving? I know if you really wanted to, you could find whoever jinxed you and take care of them. Permanently.”


“Yeah, and historically, when has killing someone ever solved my problems?” Kaeya snapped. “The basilisk doesn’t count, by the way. That thing deserved to die after it tried to target my cute juniors.” 


So, your father deserved to die too? 


Kaeya froze. 


Poor Crepus must be rolling in his grave, looking at his two sons right now. Both of them-


“Sorry.” He said hurriedly. “I… didn’t mean to say that. Forget what I said.” 


Diluc himself looked as if he had tasted something bitter. He turned away with a ‘hmph’. “So. Who did this to you?”


Kaeya blinked. Was Diluc…? No, that was preposterous. 


“Who knows?” He said glibly. “Could it possibly be, that it was done by a bunch of people who, perhaps, just perhaps, hate me?”


Now Diluc looked like he wanted to punch him. “Stop deflecting. I asked for a name, Kaeya.”


“Hey, cut me some slack. I barely escaped with my life as it is!” He said in a piteous voice. “By the way, do you happen to have any water on you? My throat is pa-AARGH!” 


He got up with a yelp and scrambled to his belongings. His hands hovered over the mess for a few moments, before he let out a groan. 


His textbooks were all soggy and warped beyond comprehension. Most of his potions were kept in glass bottles, and had broken when he had dropped his bag. Even his plastic bottles didn’t make it out untouched - they didn’t break, but they did melt, in the puddle of whatever concoction was produced from his potions mixing together. His ballpoint pens were… Yeah, he didn’t dare touch whatever the hell was that amalgamation of melted plastic and magical concoction. A small blessing was that they only looked half-melted, which meant hopefully his potions inside were intact. 


In fact, the only thing that had survived the catastrophe and come out unscathed was... the pouch of Exploding Powder Klee had given him during breakfast? 


Kaeya picked it up and frowned. It felt dry and clean to the touch. What the heck did Klee spell her stuff with? He shuddered and put the pouch in his pocket, intending to lock it away in his Extremely-Shielded Safety Deposit Trunk. 


Klee’s Exploding Powder aside, he was screwed. He’ll have to borrow a copy of all his textbooks from a senior because he didn’t have enough money to buy new ones. Most of his potions were done as part of his hobby, so they didn’t need to be replaced immediately, but one bottle alone took a month and a full moon to brew. Not to mention the expensive ingredients some of them used… Kaeya growled in frustration. 


“Curse you, Sourprune… May you sleep with a thousand frogs in your bed tonight…” He muttered and picked up a broken shard. 


He felt Diluc grab his wrist. “What are you doing?” Diluc demanded.


The heat of Diluc’s palm on the sliver of skin between his sleeve and his gloves made him feel slightly dizzy. Kaeya snatched away his wrist like he’d been burnt. “Uh, cleaning up? I’m not just going to leave my stuff here - that’s littering. And I have gloves on, so the glass can’t cut me.”


“You could just ask- Ugh, never mind.” Diluc broke off with an annoyed expression. “Move.”


He bent down and tapped his wand to the puddle. 


“Evanesco.” The liquid mess vanished. 


“Reparo.” Glass shards skittered together and reassembled like tiny puzzle pieces. Pages dried itself and reknitted together into complete books once again. Quills dried and fluffed themselves up again.


His plastic stuff, however, stayed half-melted. Synthetic material was resistant to magic, after all. In fact, anything too technological would start sparking and melting the moment he stepped into Hogwarts. He still has an iPhone-shaped burn on his ass from the time he stuck one in the back pocket of his jeans and forgot all about it until he stepped into Hogwarts. Diluc had never let him hear the end of it for a month. 


“Scourgify.” Kaeya flinched, but it was just Diluc tapping his robes with his wand. Spittle and soapy vomit on his sleeves disappeared without a trace. 


Diluc did the same to his own robes, and with that, the last traces of Sourprune’s work was gone. 


Kaeya clapped his hands exuberantly. “Ah, yes. Magic solves everything. How wonderful! As expected of Diluc Ragnvindr! How can I ever repay you? May I kiss your shoes? Carry your bag? Tie your shoelaces for you? Mister Prefect?”


“Just keep quiet.” Diluc grumbled. He stowed away his wand. “And I’m not a Prefect anymore. I turned in my badge yesterday.”




Kaeya shot to his feet. “You what?”  


“I said, I turned my badge in.” Diluc repeated. 


Kaeya discreetly pinched himself. Nothing changed, except that his cheek was now throbbing very painfully and Diluc was looking at him like he was an idiot.


“But-“ He waved his hands. “The large Prefect baths! The private study area! The fun of docking points from people you don’t like! Being a Prefect isn’t even that hard- why the heck did you go and do that for? And the professors allowed you to resign?” 


Diluc’s frown turned into an unhappy one. “It doesn’t matter. I told Headmaster Varka if he refused to take it back, I would throw it into the Great Lake.” 


“You would what- Then what about-“ Then it hit him. “Oh my god. That’s why Melly was suddenly appointed as a Prefect. And Amber said you weren’t the Captain anymore. You- Did you fucking quit the Quidditch team??!” 


“Yeah,” Diluc said simply.


What the fuck, Diluc? “Are you having trouble managing the family finances? I thought Zernias said he would manage the household and the family business as a proxy until you graduated.” 


“That wasn’t why I quit.” 


“Then why? A Prefect and Quidditch Captain that suddenly quit during their fifth year? That won’t look good on your record. You’re basically destroying your career prospects at the Ministry of Magic!” 


Diluc turned away. “I’m not going to become an Auror. I’ve given up on that. Besides, I’m not interested in working in a place that’s only interested in looking good for the public.” 


He said that so simply, as if that hadn’t been his dream - and their father’s dream - since he was a kid. 


Kaeya said desperately, “It’s not like you didn’t know the Ministry itself was corrupt. Join the Ministry, and change it from the inside. Wasn’t that what you said?” 


Diluc’s eyes narrowed. “I was wrong. The Ministry is full of old and cowardly fools. They’ve grown fat and complacent in their many years of ruling in peace, and now, they would do anything to keep their seats on their thrones. They’re beyond saving - nothing can be done to fix them now.” 


Nothing short of a total overhaul, Diluc’s expression said. There was clear murder in his eyes, blood red and swirling with unrestrained malice. 


Kaeya stared at Diluc. 


He said, after a moment, “What the hell happened to you?” 


“Me? You know damn well what happened to me,” Diluc snapped. “In fact, I’m the one who should be surprised. You haven’t changed a single bit.”


Kaeya went silent. 


He thought of hands on his neck, a grip tight enough to bruise, the breaking of porcelain, and a poisonous voice in his ear. 


(“Kaeya.” He hissed. “You are our-“) 


He gave Diluc a grin as sharp as cut glass. “Yup. That’s me. Heart so stone-cold, not even Death can faze me. But,” he pressed, “You’re different. You’re… you’re like the sun. You’re everything I’m not. A scowl on your face doesn’t suit you.”


Diluc looked at him and sighed. And the look that he gave Kaeya sent a chill down his spine. 


“Kaeya. Why do you think I worked so hard to be ‘me’? To be the Diluc Ragnvindr that everyone loves?”


Kaeya frowned. “What kind of question is that? You’re Diluc Ragnvindr. Of course it comes naturally for you.” Unlike me, he wanted to say.


Diluc gave a sad smile. “That’s what I made you think. That’s what I made everyone think. To fool the only person I ever wanted to fool. My father.” 


He looked off into the distance. “Every day, I put on a smile to greet everyone. Even if they’re the most disgusting scum of the earth, I have to act like a saint. I solve everyone’s problems for them, even the professors, because they know Diluc Ragnvindr doesn’t refuse people. They probably think that Diluc Ragnvindr laughs, cries, and gets angry for their sake.” 


“That’s… not true.” Kaeya said weakly. 


“Don’t lie to me. In truth, you thought so too, didn’t you? That ‘Diluc Ragnvindr is a perfect person.’” He gave a derisive laugh. “You’ve seen for yourself the flaws inside me, Kaeya. I thought you of all people would understand. That ‘a perfect person’ does not exist anywhere in this world.


“But I tried so hard to be one. No matter how painful it was, I endured, and endured, and endured until my throat was hoarse from practising spells and my tongue was bleeding from having to hold it in while smiling all day… All I did, I did to please that man. And now that he’s gone… What’s left for me? What do I have left?” 


He turned to Kaeya. “That’s what I wanted to ask you, on that rainy night. And you gave me your answer.” 


Kaeya… couldn’t say anything to that. How could he? 


Diluc closed his eyes. “I never thought that you could have been so cold-hearted. It scared me. And I thought to myself, if even the world can turn you into a monster, then it truly isn’t worth living in it.” 


So, Kaeya thought with a sinking feeling. It was his fault Diluc had become like this. As always, he’d managed to mess things up. 


He touched his upper arm gingerly, where the burn scars lay under his clothes. “I’m sorry.”


Diluc scoffed. “What are you sorry for?”




“If you don’t know, then don’t say it in the first place.”




“I just said…!” Diluc broke off and wrung a hand through his fringe. “Argh, never mind. When you’re done throwing your tantrum, come get your stuff from my dorm. How did you get into Hogwarts without any identification?” 


“What? I brought my wand with me, that should be enough.” Kaeya scowled. “Besides, it’s not like I was allowed to take my stuff with me when I left. It was a good thing I had my wand and wallet with me, otherwise I would have been screwed.” 


“When you ‘left’?” Diluc frowned. “That’s a funny way of saying you ran away.” 


“Ran away? Ran away?? ” Kaeya said incredulously. “You chased me out of the house!”


“And I was expecting you to come back, not throw a tantrum and run away to Hogwarts!” Diluc shot back. 




He saw Diluc’s eyes widen in shock. Kaeya was almost too angry to notice it, but when he did, he saw a look of genuine surprise on Diluc’s face.  


Wait. Genuine surprise?


“Diluc,” Kaeya said slowly, “You do know that I’m not a Ragnvindr, right?” 


“What are you talking about?” Diluc said, annoyed.


“I’m an Alberich.” 


His scowl deepened. “Ha ha. Very funny. Is that what you’re calling yourself these days?” 


“It’s my family name. I chose to reclaim it after I was struck out of the family register.” 


“What?” Diluc paused. His face slowly turned pale. “I never did that. Who told you that?” 


Ah, Kaeya thought. So that’s how it was.


“Zernias did.” Kaeya said. “The Ragnvindr family’s head butler.”


Zernias was Crepus’s cousin. He had helped out their father in the past, and their father had thanked him by granting him the position of the head butler in their household. He did his job faultlessly as the head butler. That wasn’t a problem. The problem was that he was part of the branch family of the Ragnvindrs, which meant he held a large amount of hostility towards Kaeya who was easily adopted into the main family. Call it an inferiority complex, or a vicious jealousy towards someone who was simply gifted a status he could never achieve from birth. Zernias was polite under the gaze of Crepus and Diluc, but behind their backs he’d hit Kaeya or punish him by making him hold buckets of water for hours or clean the family armory under the guise of ‘discipline’. 


So it wasn’t surprising to discover that Zernias had been the one manipulating the strings behind the scenes. Or rather, should he be thankful that it wasn’t Diluc? 


“So it was him.” Kaeya said. “I checked it myself when I returned to Hogwarts - I’m officially gone from the family register. Did you really not do that?”


“Of course not!” Diluc shouted. He clutched the front of his robes, his breath quickening. “No... Zernias...? He was the one who told me you ran away. And since Father died, the amount of paperwork piled up, so I gave him my seal and told him he could do as he saw fit…” His face turned dark. “So he lied. He lied to me!” 


“It looks like Zernias has been doing things behind your back.” Kaeya said blithely. “I know you and dear old dad liked him, and I held my tongue in respect of that, but now that I’m out of the Ragnvindr family I can tell you now, that for the record? I hate him. That guy is a dick.” 


“So he’s a traitor too.” Diluc growled. He turned around and strode towards the exit. “I’ll kill him.” 


“H-hey, wait up!” Kaeya hurriedly swept his stuff into his bag and slung it over his shoulder. He ran up the stairs after Diluc. “So… What are you going to do about him?” 


“What else?” Diluc demanded. “I’m going to drag him to Hogwarts and make him explain himself. And if he proves guilty, I’ll strip him of his titles and banish him. He will never step on Ragnvindr soil again.”


Kaeya felt a sick sort of satisfaction from that. What can he say? He’s always been twisted. “And his family?” 


“What about his family?” Diluc said angrily. “I’ll chase them out of the mansion. They can die in a ditch for all I care. I don’t want to give the bastard the chance of getting close to the household and causing further damage. Who knows how many people in the household he’s got on his side. Ugh… I need to do a thorough re-examination of all our servants. All of them could be traitors for all I know.” 


Traitor. There was that word again.


“And what will you do with if they are?” Kaeya asked warily.


Diluc showed a dark look on his face. “Then I’ll deal with them. Personally.”


Kaeya frowned. There it was, that look in his eyes again. Something about Diluc, even with his mood change, felt wrong. It felt as if he was being gripped by some kind of obsession. Something beyond just being jaded. Something… darker.


Just like his father. 


Was it the Elder Wand’s doing? He had seen Diluc use it this morning, unleashing dark arts to destroy a Howler, an enchanted object that’s supposed to be indestructible. It looked like Diluc was somewhat capable of using it, unlike Crepus, who had died from the backlash of using such a powerful relic of the dark arts without proper handling. But that didn’t deny the possibility that he was being controlled by the wand. 


After all, this was the same wand that was once used by the Dark Lord. 


Was it warping his emotions and leading him down the path of no return? Or was it Diluc who had lost himself in his anger and righteous  ideals of justice?


“Diluc.” Kaeya said urgently. “Diluc! I need you to show me the wand that your dear old dad left you.”


“What for?” Diluc snapped. “I have use for it. It’s not like you use yours anyway. And you’ve never let me touch yours, so why should I let you touch mine?” 


“Because it’s important! Can’t you trust-” he paused. Diluc had already shown that he didn’t trust Kaeya, so that was wrong. “Look, I’m your-“ he paused again. They weren’t anything anymore, he supposed, so that was wrong too. “Listen, I won’t do anything to it, so just let me- oof!” 


He crashed into Diluc, who had stopped suddenly. 


Kaeya rubbed his nose. “Hey, why did you stop in the middle of nowhere?” He looked past Diluc and froze.


Lying on the floor of the duelling arena, were the bodies of Sourprune and her two cronies.