Actions

Work Header

Rusty Daggers

Work Text:

“You will be initiated, and thus find the constellation of your heart. Bound by magic, you will join our brotherhood—you, dear children of the fallen, you will join us, and find family anew.”

Kaeya stared at the robed man in front of him. Mentally, he told himself he understood nothing. Lies. He understood it all. His parents were dead, he was an orphan, and now he had been taken in by these… people.

“The magic binds you, young ones.”

Kaeya was six years old, wearing torn clothes with red splotches staining them. His mother’s blood. He looked at his hands, and eyed the little snowflakes that swirled around him in this dark, damp room.

“The two of you—”

Kaeya looked over to the boy at his side.

Flame red hair, same age – probably. His eyes looked dead as he stared at the robed man.

Kaeya stared for a long time.

The robed man turned, stepping away to gather some reagents, going on and on. 

Kaeya eyed the robed man before his blue eyes shifted to the redhead beside him. “Are… yours dead too?”

The boy blinked, turning, as if noticing Kaeya for the first time. “Oh.” The boy only stared at him, lifeless cold eyes that told Kaeya all he needed to know: Another orphan, just like Kaeya. “You’re the boy that won’t stop crying.”

Kaeya breathed sharply.

The boy only stared at him.

Kaeya eyed him, carefully, swallowing hard.

The robed man turned and offered two small blades, silver with a wooden hilt. “The initiation begins. You will be one of us now.”


✧⊱ ━━━━ • ※ ※ • ━━━━ ⊰✧

“You hold a knife better than you hold a pen, little Kaeya.” Il Dottore—the robed man who initiated them two years ago—now smiled at him. His face mostly hidden behind his mask, the smile made Kaeya shiver. If Il Dottore noticed, he did not let it show. “But you must learn both. Forgery will be a part of your future.”

Kaeya breathed carefully. The uncomfortable wooden desk and chair of this damp room made his arm go stiff.

“Why, Kaeya, is forgery necessary for your future?”

“An assassin will need to frame others.”

Il Dottore pondered the answer and nodded half-heartedly. “Diluc?”

“To correct the wrongs of society.”

Kaeya glanced at the redhead.

Diluc stared intently at Il Dottore, as if studying him.

If Il Dottore noticed, he did not let it show.

Kaeya bit his lip.

“Precisely, Diluc. Your partner could learn something from you.”

Diluc did not respond, only stared.

Kaeya sank back in his chair, lips growing a bruise from how hard he bit down that day.


✧⊱ ━━━━ • ※ ※ • ━━━━ ⊰✧

“We are a brotherhood,” Il Dottore explained, for the hundredth time. “Each blade is your brother.”

Kaeya was ten now. Four years he had been training, and still there was so much to learn. Yet, unlike Diluc who never seemed neither interested nor disinterested, Kaeya was having a hard time feigning attention to Il Dottore’s rants. Four years he had known this man, and every day was the same endless test of endurance.

“Kaeya, would you die for Diluc?”

Kaeya’s eyes widened. “I…”

Il Dottore stared at him, like a lion licking his lips before eating his prey, as if Kaeya’s shiver of uncertainty was a scrumptious meal. He turned, suddenly, on his heel. “Diluc – would you die for Kaeya?”

“With pride.”

Kaeya’s head snapped.

Diluc only stared at their master. 

“Good boy.” Il Dottore lowered a hand, patting Diluc’s head, ruffling his hair.

Diluc said nothing during this exchange.

Kaeya hung his head in shame.

It was later that evening—hours later—that Kaeya was sitting on his bed. Their two small beds were stuffed in a tiny room, each one near the end with a small space between them. Kaeya had his back against the wall, staring at Diluc. “Thanks…”

Diluc turned to him.

Kaeya stiffened. “Um.” He scratched the back of his neck. “For earlier—”

“I won’t die for you.” Diluc looked away, a little too fast. He sighed, shivering. “I’m just telling Il Dottore what he wants to hear… You would do a lot better if you did the same thing, Kaeya.”

Kaeya only blinked.

“My parents were slaughtered… and I have nothing. My father had debts, so slavers took me in. The assassin’s guild decided I have more purpose as one of them… I disagree—but I’ll take it.” He eyed Kaeya. “Smarten up, or you’ll be thrown to the side. Every year, the older the kids get, the less of them there are. They kill people for a living, and we’re not safe either.”

Kaeya swallowed hard.


✧⊱ ━━━━ • ※ ※ • ━━━━ ⊰✧

Thirteen was when Kaeya wove water into ice. The dark magics that the assassin guild practiced—from tomes so ancient the paper smelled of trees extinct—were relatively easy for Kaeya to master. Diluc did not struggle either, but Kaeya was for once better than him at something. He created the crystalline sphere of ice and held its shape, holding it up, letting it illuminate the dark, damp room.

Diluc stood across from him upon the magic rings that they were studying in. In his hand, flames swirled into a perfect sphere. So smooth were the curves of this sphere that one might foolishly think it unmoving bright rock.

Kaeya had no restrictions of magic. His crystalline ice cracked and spidered into hundreds of spikes, and the very air around him swirled with snowflakes.

“The runes you step on were carved with the black blood of an ancient frost dragon,” Il Dottore explained. “From his flesh, we ate and gave us knowledge. From his blood, we wove the magics to master them. From his bones, we forged sacred weapons. One day, you may have the honour to wield one.”

Kaeya tuned him out. 

Diluc did the same. 

“How odd.” Il Dottore smiled behind his timeless mask. “Usually fire is wild and ice is calm… I knew the two of you were special.” He put a hand on his chin then waved it away. “Enough for today. Rest.”

Diluc extinguished his flame. He gasped, dropping to his knees, sweat dripping from his brow.

Kaeya waved away the ice, letting it turn to mist in the room. He also felt a wave of gravity almost drop him to the floor, but stayed up. He walked over to Diluc, offering his hand.

Diluc took it, helping himself up.

They showered in the communal room—an experience that was becoming more awkward as they aged, a hurried affair now—and soon dressed. It was almost mealtime when a group approached them.

“We’re gonna grab some grub,” one of the girls said, gesturing to the dining hall with her thumb. “Wanna come?”

“Uh.” Diluc took the smallest step back.

It was the smallest movement.

Kaeya noted it, and assumed it was his training—but noted no one else did. He closed his eyes for a moment and hummed. “Sorry.” He opened his eyes and scratched the back of his head. “We’ve got something to do. We might stop by later.”

“Okay, cool!”

Diluc watched them leave then sharply glanced away.

Kaeya made sure they were gone before turning towards their room.

“I—”

Kaeya paused.

Diluc stared at the floor again. “I… dislike people.”

Kaeya eyed him carefully. “Do you want me to leave you alone?”

“No.” Diluc looked up. “You’re fine.”

Kaeya smiled.


✧⊱ ━━━━ • ※ ※ • ━━━━ ⊰✧

Sixteen—they sparred.

Kaeya swung his blade in his right hand, dagger in his left. He danced, rather quickly, in a furry of blows. Each slash left icicles in the air, and each move was wild and untamed.

He had the advantage.

A miss-step early in their spar had given Kaeya an edge: Diluc had been blocking when his foot had slipped in a puddle of water—a common occurrence when flame meets ice. That single move had landed a deep blow of Kaeya’s hilt into Diluc’s rib, and—for once—Kaeya held the advantage.

And he revelled in it.

“What’s wrong, Fireball?”

“Don’t.” Diluc blocked with his claymore, and swiped hard. “Call me that.”

Kaeya skipped away, grinning.

Diluc held his claymore even. An unfitting blade for an assassin, even Il Dottore seemed to despise it at first, but seeing the sharp precision Diluc wove with it, like perfect lines of death itself, he was allowed to keep using it. He had daggers on his belt of course, along with a few other tools such as needles, but he was fiercest with his claymore.

Kaeya moved in with a spin, gaining momentum as he slammed his blade down.

And then Diluc blocked, holding Kaeya in a bladelock.

Kaeya raised an eyebrow at this, such an easy opening, as the hilt of his dagger moved but—

Diluc shifted a knee between Kaeya’s legs.

Kaeya’s eyes widened, cheeks darkening with a line of heat, and the dagger stumbled out of his hand.

Diluc wore a smirk that only made Kaeya’s problem worse. He swiped his foot under Kaeya’s leg, sending him down onto the floor.

“Wh—”

Diluc pressed the tip of his claymore under Kaeya’s chin. “Yield.”

Kaeya, using his bare hand, slapped the claymore out of his face. “What the hell was that!?”

“I use all the moves at my disposal,” Diluc said with a suggestive movement of his eyebrow.

“Seduction,” Il Dottore said in a plain voice, “Is not something we teach until the adult years. It’s a final lesson.”

“Morality, here?” Diluc pulled his claymore away. “You taught us how to kill at seven.”

“No, it’s just that youth tend to be rather bad at it, and it’s hard to watch for the instructors.” Il Dottore had a hand on his hip as he tilted his head. “Nevertheless, it was a decent move, Diluc. Kaeya was indeed flustered like a baboon.”

“I wasn’t!—”

Diluc just smirked.

Kaeya felt the heat return to his face. “I didn’t!—I wasn’t! I—”


✧⊱ ━━━━ • ※ ※ • ━━━━ ⊰✧

At eighteen, their dance was impossibly fast.

Il Dottore watched with glee behind his mask.

Sparks flew every time their blades connected.

They were fast—faster than humans had the right to be.

The dark blood of that ancient dragon he’d been feeding them was working. 

Kaeya spun with daggers in hand. His own blade had been tossed aside and he was fighting at a disadvantage. He wove ice around him, three icicles swirling dangerously, as he threw himself forward. “No cheap moves this time, Diluc!”

“There are no cheap moves.” Diluc kept an even look on his face despite the rage of the fight pounding blood in his ear. He eyed those three icicles and slipped inside them, using his elbow to slam Kaeya’s chest.

Kaeya grunted, and the icicles fell to the floor, shattering.

Diluc sighed. “Yield.”

Kaeya fell to his knees, biting his lip. “I—”

“Heart.” Diluc poked Kaeya’s chest with the tip of his blade. “Lungs.” He dragged the tip to just below Kaeya’s chest. “And brain—three points that are fatal. Yield, Kaeya.”

Kaeya sighed. “I yield…”


✧⊱ ━━━━ • ※ ※ • ━━━━ ⊰✧

“Formidable.” Il Dottore clasped his hands together as they walked. “Well done, Diluc. I didn’t think the magistrate would be so easily tricked, but you made the assassination look like such a lovely little accident. I am so pleased with your… existence.”

Diluc stared at Il Dottore, even now, like he was studying him.

If Il Dottore noticed, he did not let it show.

Nineteen, now, Kaeya followed Diluc and Il Dottore. Unlike Diluc, who had almost thirty successful missions under his belt, Kaeya only had nine. It was still remarkably high for his age, but he swallowed the comparison down with every breath he took.

“Now,” Il Dottore went on, “I wanted to introduce someone to you. He should be, ah—There you are.”

Maybe a year or two younger, a male with orange hair and a careful smile walked towards them.

“This is Childe.” Il Dottore turned to Diluc and Kaeya. “The two of you have pushed each other very much, but with Diluc having such a lead lately… we decided to borrow the top assassin from another branch. Pitting the two of you against each other might be good for you, Diluc.”

Diluc said nothing.

Kaeya stared at Childe, then Il Dottore.

Il Dottore motioned for Childe to talk to Diluc, then stepped aside, putting an arm around Kaeya, leading him aside. “Consider this your warning,” his voice was low, “You are a splendid assassin… but you live in Diluc’s shadow.”

Kaeya said nothing, only staring at a nonexistent point at the floor, eyes so wide they almost bulged out of his head.

“Kaeya…” Il Dottore smiled behind his timeless mask. “I raised you from when you were a little dirty gremlin… this is for your benefit too, my child. All are loved by the brotherhood. I do this to keep the constellation in your heart wild.”

“I understand,” Kaeya said mechanically.

“Good.” Il Dottore turned away.

Kaeya, almost robotically, turned to Diluc and Childe.

“You don’t think I could give you a run for your money?” Childe had stepped forward, crossing the distance between them. He took his time, looking into Diluc’s right eye then left. “My.” He reached a hand up, the softest touch to Diluc’s cheek. “You really are pretty…”

Diluc’s eyes widened, cheeks tinting a rouge that Kaeya had never seen before.

Kaeya felt the damp air around him begin to freeze and he took a quiet but long, even breath to ease himself.

“Let’s see,” Childe went on, still grinning, “Which one of us is better, ne?”

Diluc smacked Childe’s hand away from his face.

“Feisty.” Childe’s smile turned into a grin. “Alright, Kingpin, we can settle this the old fashioned way.”

And they did—

Kaeya watched from the stands of the damp arena. Il Dottore sat next to him. Kaeya glared into the pit as the two moved.

“I’ve disarmed you seventeen times!” Diluc shouted, “And you have more knives!?”

“Losing your cool!?” Childe laughed as he dodged streaks of fire.

Diluc roared as he threw himself forward, sweeps of fire spinning in a tunnel around him.

Kaeya whispered, “No.”

Childe, though fighting at a disadvantage without it, had yet to reveal his element. With a flick of his hand, water surged from different points in the room.

Diluc twisted his stance, kicking off the ground in a flawless backflip. His arc was smooth, and his stance was studied. His landing, however—

Childe grinned ferally.

Water—

Diluc slipped.

Kaeya stood up.

Diluc landed bad on his knee, claymore flinging out of his hand.

Childe lunged, daggers in hand.

Diluc kept his eyes down until the last moment. Kaeya realised only a second before—he must have been using the reflection of the water to see. Diluc swiped his hand into the puddle of water and raged flame—steam erupted in a flash under Childe.

“Agh!”

Diluc slammed his hand on the ground and spun in a kick, swiping into Childe’s legs.

Childe hit the ground hard.

Pulling a thin dagger from his hair, Diluc climbed atop Childe and pressed it to his throat. “Yield.”

Childe just stared up, blankly at Diluc.

“No tricks. Yield!”

Childe sighed. “Yeah, yeah…” He chuckled. “It’s just nice to see your face all close up. You really are gorgeous…”

Diluc sputtered something and stood. He threw his dagger to the ground, didn’t bother picking up his claymore, and left the arena from one of the pits. The water had him soaked, and he dripped as he disappeared into that dark den.

Kaeya moved quickly. He picked up the weapons, ignored Childe, and chased after Diluc.

By the time Kaeya caught up, Diluc had already made it to their room.

Kaeya closed the door behind him and put the weapons down. “Good fight.”

Diluc huffed.

Kaeya stared at him, eyes wide.

Diluc turned and shoved his forehead against Kaeya’s shoulder. “Never—”

Kaeya stiffened.

“Never do what he did.” Diluc glared at the floor. “Promise me.”

“Eh—” Kaeya shivered. “Do? What?”

“Never… throw me off guard, just for your own enjoyment.”

“Diluc, I would n—”

“Promise me.”

Kaeya breathed evenly. “I promise.”

Diluc’s posture softened into Kaeya.

Kaeya thought back—thirteen years ago now—to his past life, his simpler life. None of his assassin training taught him what to do, but back then… He moved his arms, carefully, around Diluc.

Diluc tensed at the touch, but softened.

Kaeya smiled and pulled him closer.

Carefully, unsure hands reached up and wrapped themselves around Kaeya in return.

Kaeya smiled, pressing his head against the side of Diluc’s.

“What are you so happy about?”

“It’s kinda dumb, all things considered.” Kaeya couldn’t help but grin. “It’s not something an assassin should worry about…”

Diluc squeezed him. “Tell me.”

“Well… I guess, I’m probably still your favourite person to spar with? Even if that new kid gave you more of a fight.”

Diluc huffed, as if laughing.

“What?”

“Yeah. It’s you.” Diluc closed his eyes and pressed himself even more against Kaeya. “Of course it’s you: It’s always been you…”

Kaeya felt a shiver and a warmth – the shiver down his spine, the warmth bloom in his chest.


✧⊱ ━━━━ • ※ ※ • ━━━━ ⊰✧

Kaeya sat on the edge of a long tower overlooking a city below. He flicked a coin into the air. He had a mission – this was nothing new. As much as he hated admitting Il Dottore was right, Childe’s presence had motivated him in a way he never expected.

He was sure he was still third compared to Diluc and Childe, but his progress was so much so that the higher ups only held praise for him.

Now he stood, high atop a brick tower, waiting until the right time to throw himself off the building and dive into the city.

One more hour.

Kaeya flipped the coin.

But it did not fall in his hand.

Another hand reached out, snatching it.

Kaeya was about to grab his blade—

“Easy.” Childe looked down at him. “Just me.”

Kaeya tensed.

Childe’s hand drifted to Kaeya’s shoulder.

Kaeya breathed unevenly.

“You’re so uncomfortable,” Childe murmured, almost as if pissed, “Especially when I’m the one… taking care of you.”

Kaeya felt a flash of shame as he looked away.

“If you don’t want me,” Childe purred as he lowered his lips to Kaeya’s ear, “You can always stop coming to my room at night.”

“We’re miles away from the guild,” Kaeya pointed out.

“I finished my mission, on my way back. This city’s got the only transport back, so I was told to meet up with you. I won’t interfere with your mission.”

“Good.”

Childe moved to sit next to him, feet hanging off a hundred-meter drop. “I’ve told you, if you don’t want this – I’ll leave you alone.”

“I didn’t say that.” Kaeya shivered. “I’m just…”

“Not used to intimacy…” Childe’s hand danced on Kaeya’s thigh. “I thought we agreed we’d help each other… study, seduction.”

“You’re better than I am,” Kaeya said in an honest laugh.

Childe rolled his eyes. “I feel so unloved.”

“There is no love. It’s just physical. That’s what we agreed.”

“Oh, of course.” Childe rolled his eyes. “As if I don’t know you’re thinking of Diluc when you touch me.”

Kaeya stiffened.

“Diluc’s what I wanted to talk to you about.” His eyes shifted, staring into the horizon. No, not his eyes: Everything about him shifted.

Kaeya had learned this of Childe. Like streams of water shifting directions, at times Childe would shift from pleasure to business abruptly.

“I’m guessing you heard the news.” Childe pursed his lip. “I want to say I’m happy, as his rival, but honestly it’s kind of unsettling. Diluc failed his first mission.”

“I’ve known him since we were six.” Kaeya looked at the endless drop beneath them. “Fourteen years… He has a flawless record, so don’t go badmouthing him.”

“Flawless until now.” Childe didn’t smile. “The higher ups said he was given bad info, that it wasn’t his fault.”

“As it should be.”

“Kaeya, your ‘Diluc can do no wrong’ attitude is a little much sometimes.”

“He’s the best of us.”

“Is he?” Childe stared at nothing. “He’s got a sharp knife. I would hate if the arc of his swing was thrown off, somehow.”

Kaeya looked at him.

“Ever notice the way he stares at Il Dottore?” Childe met Kaeya’s eyes. “When I first met him, it was like a baby kitten trying to pounce on his mama… Now it looks more like a red-maned lion going for a kill.”

Kaeya frowned. “Watch your tongue.”

“Aether.”

Kaeya tilted his head. “What?”

“Aether,” Childe repeated. “It’s the name of the new prince. That was Diluc’s target. They say the prince holds sway over people…”

Kaeya rubbed his jaw. “What are you saying? Get to the point.”

“It’s all rather political.” Childe waved his hand. “I don’t pay too much attention… but if the prince unifies his grandfather’s lands, and becomes the High King… it’ll be a great problem for us. He dislikes shadow organisations… Our guild, our home, would be the first to be eliminated. If he could get a rat from the inside—”

An icicle appeared and pressed into Childe’s throat.

A tiny drop of red poured from where the tip met skin.

“Kaeya—”

“Heart. Lungs. Brain.” Kaeya forced a smile as he glared. “My ice can grow and spear any of these right now. Leave.”

“This is cold, even for you.”

“Get out of my face. Don’t ever speak of Diluc like that. Do you understand me?”

Childe said nothing.

Kaeya pulled his weapon away. He let it dissolve into mist and he stood. “I have no feelings for you. I have no trust for you. I have no esteem of your opinion. I didn’t put in a request for your assistance, or your thoughts!”

Childe stood as well and took several steps away from Kaeya. He paused. “You can pretend I’m doing this to piss you off. You can pretend I’m trying to ruin your life.” He turned and faced Kaeya. “But I’m giving you information I risked my life to get, because I was hoping you could do something about it.” He took a step forward and yanked Kaeya’s collar. “Open your fucking eyes.” He thrust his hand aside, almost throwing Kaeya off the tower.

But Kaeya took careful steps and righted himself at the very edge of the abyss.

“I’m sorry I tried to look out for you and your lover boy.”

“I—”

Childe glared. “Whatever…” He rolled his eyes. “I’m used to this, people like you expecting the worst from me. Go live in your delusions if you want. Guess our little studies are over.”

Kaeya turned, reaching for Childe, but—

Gone.

Kaeya bit down, lips growing a bruise from how hard he bit down that day.


✧⊱ ━━━━ • ※ ※ • ━━━━ ⊰✧

Kaeya swallowed hard as he made his way back to his room. He didn’t expect Childe to give him such a cold shoulder on the trip back. Kaeya had apologised, and Childe had eased off, but still made it clear there were no positive vibes between them.

That unbearable trip made him want his bed and nothing else.

He opened the door and stepped in, pausing. “Diluc?”

Diluc was sitting on his bed, holding two laughably small silver daggers with wooden hilts. He looked up at Kaeya.

Kaeya eyed the blades, knowing their worn and cracked frames. “Those…”

“They were ours. When we were six.”

“You kept them?” Kaeya frowned. “We gave them back.”

“I stole them back.” Diluc looked down. “The night after we gave them to Il Dottore.”

“You… stole them from Il Dottore?”

“If Il Dottore noticed, he did not let it show.”

Kaeya blinked.

“Looking back, though… I’m sure he knew.” Diluc smiled. “Maybe he was trying to encourage me by letting me keep these.”

Kaeya closed the door behind him and sat opposite him. “You… kept those hidden from me, in this room, for fourteen years?”

“For fourteen years.” Diluc eyed him. “You’re too generous to check where I hid my underwear.”

“Diluc.”

“It was brilliant.” Diluc cracked a smile. “Admit it.”

Kaeya just sighed.

Diluc’s smile softened. “What’s wrong?”

Kaeya opened his eyes and looked at him.

Diluc sighed, shaking his head. “You too, huh?” He stood up, carelessly tossing the daggers on their bedside table. “Going to give me another pep talk, like everyone else?”

“Diluc.” Kaeya reached, taking Diluc’s hand in his.

Diluc stared at where their hands met, and then stared at Kaeya.

His eyes though—

The most vulnerable look Kaeya had ever seen.

Kaeya sighed. “You… are the strongest person I know. I care about you, Diluc.” His eyes were firm. “Strong people slip up too. You’re allowed to make mistakes too. You don’t have to be perfect. But. If. If there’s anything… Whatever you need, Diluc… tell me.” He stood, moving his face close to Diluc’s.

Diluc breathed and pulled away. “His magic has a foul smell to it.”

Kaeya blinked. “Huh? What? Who? The prince?”

Diluc shot him a glare. “My target is a secret. You could be killed for just knowing that.”

Kaeya’s eyes widened.

“Childe.” Diluc crinkled his nose. “For someone who practices water… his sigils burn like acid.”

“It does not.” Kaeya gave him a look. “You just don’t like him.”

“It has a foul smell, and you wreak of it.” He yanked his hand away from Kaeya and looked away. “You wear him like a cologne most nights…” His eyes drifted along the floor. “What… is he, to you?”

“I…” Kaeya sighed. He shut his eyes. “I don’t know…” He put a hand to his forehead. “Honestly? A distraction, I guess… He’s not. It’s not. It’s not like that, Diluc.”

Diluc crinkled his nose.

“What?” Kaeya shrugged. “You want me to take a shower or something?”

Diluc shot him a glare. “You don’t need him. I’m—”

Kaeya’s eyes widened.

Diluc burned, a streak of red from one cheek to the other.

“I told you it’s not like that.” Kaeya stepped forward. Even after all those years, it was hard to reach out and touch Diluc. Or, no. Kaeya knew that wasn’t it. To Kaeya, who had spent so many years without touch, trying to introduce it seemed alien, foreign, strange. He shivered. “I… care about you, Diluc. Forget about this, just… My original point was, are you okay?”

“The mission?” Diluc eyed him. “Don’t worry, I’m fine. Honest.” He offered a small smile. “Thank you, though… um…”

Kaeya nodded awkwardly.

Diluc returned the gesture. “Listen, Kaeya…”

“Yeah?”

“You know how this place works. Every year there’s less and less assassins our age… Some die during missions, but not that many. You can piece it together. We all can.”

“It’s still our family.” Kaeya eyed him carefully. “It’s still… our home, right?”

Sunlight hit Diluc’s red hair as he whispered, “Where else would I go?”

“I don’t know…”

Diluc offered a sad smile. “What I’m trying to say, Kaeya… is… Failure will not be tolerated here. We both know that. I’ll keep us both safe.” The tips of sunlight hit the corner of his lips. “That’s been my only goal from the start. To keep us both safe…”


✧⊱ ━━━━ • ※ ※ • ━━━━ ⊰✧

Diluc went missing.

Kaeya wasn’t that surprised, at first. Some missions took extra days, while some took extra weeks when transport between continents was delayed. Months weren’t unheard of… but Kaeya felt the burn in his chest. The wild frigid ice that was his core missed the even, calm flame.

Kaeya was given more and more elite missions, and soon he realised he and Childe were substituting for Diluc’s workload.

Sadly, that meant Kaeya never had a chance to talk to Childe. They were both being overworked. 

He was alone.

Most of the assassins his age had disappeared now.

He thought about the girl that used to invite them to eat with her friends, but he couldn’t remember her face anymore.

Kaeya and Childe would leave little sigils in each other’s rooms, little ways to say I’m still alive.

Kaeya was starting to feel like he could trust no one.

The impossible silence of isolation, breaking into his brain and bleeding inside his chest.

Warped darkness that swallowed stars, and gentle songs that strangled with soft melodies.

Kaeya had been twenty for six months now. The coming of age ceremony was supposed to happen on Diluc’s birthday, but that had come and gone.

Kaeya waited in his room, impossibly alone.

“No one’s saying anything,” Kaeya whispered to himself in the dark, the endless night that frayed his mind and haunted him worse than dreams. “Everyone knows except me… They all know… I know… they know… but I know… I pretend I don’t know, but I know… I know… I know… I know… I know… I know…”


✧⊱ ━━━━ • ※ ※ • ━━━━ ⊰✧

If Il Dottore noticed, he did not let it show.

Kaeya stood in front of him, upon ancient dark runes that once helped Kaeya learn magic. Dark blood from an ancient beast, he had been told. 

“Yes, it’s as you suspected.” Il Dottore turned to him. “Diluc is a turncoat.”

Kaeya wanted to scream, but there was no need. There was no surprise to this, either.

“He has allied himself with that prince…” Il Dottore rubbed his jaw over his timeless mask. “That prince, in turn, has been wanting to eliminate our organisation. You understand, don’t you Kaeya…?” He looked up at Kaeya who now stood taller than him. “It is your duty, as a member of our assassin guild, as a member of the brotherhood, to kill both the prince and to kill Diluc.”

“I can’t.”

“You can.”

Kaeya whispered, “I can’t.”

“You have to…” Il Dottore offered a smile. “Why do you lie to yourself, little Kaeya?”

“Wh—”

“Why do you pretend you did not know this was the final outcome?”

Kaeya eyed him carefully.

“Since you were a child, Diluc felt no love for you or for us. No love for our home, our family, our brotherhood… Surely you of all people must know, no? He told us what we wanted to hear.” Il Dottore offered a gentle smile. “Surely you must realise he did the same to you, no?”

Kaeya stared.

“You say you can’t… and I say you can. How do I know…? I’ve primed you for this your whole life.” Il Dottore stepped forward. “Almost fifteen years you have been under my guidance… fifteen years, I have watched you, crafted you, molded you… You, whose ice flares with the power of a storm… you, whose dagger and blade are best becoming of an assassin… you, my prime pupil… worthy of the ultimate duty.”

“The… ultimate, duty…?”

“The preservation of our brotherhood!” Il Dottore turned and walked towards a far table. “The continuation of our clan!” He grabbed a dark cloth and pulled with a loud swipe. “The next leader of the Assassin’s Guild!”

Kaeya’s eyes widened.

“When you had no one, we provided you family. When you were a child, in your mother’s arms—her spine snapped in half—we came to your rescue. When you were hungry, we fed you. We are your creator, your progenitor, and you will create the next generation.”

“Il Dottore…”

“Ah.” He pulled another cloth and then grabbed something that clicked with steel. “Now this… a sacred blade, worthy of the next in line.”

Kaeya stepped forward, but felt a chill run down his spine.

Il Dottore spun with it in its hand.

The very air in the room froze.

“Forged from the white tooth of an ancient frost dragon… my predecessor named this one, Hoarfrost.” He lowered the blade slightly. “A blade that kills with the ferocity of the mythical beasts… but light, easy in the hand of an assassin. Only you, master of ice, may wield this as my predecessor, my own progenitor, did.”

Kaeya stared at the weapon and fell to one knee.

“You will use this blade.” Il Dottore stepped forward. “You will kill Diluc.” He tapped the blade on Kaeya’s shoulder. “You will kill the Prince’s men.” He knighted Kaeya. “You will them all, for what they did to your Diluc.”

And Kaeya raged.


✧⊱ ━━━━ • ※ ※ • ━━━━ ⊰✧

The storm that ravaged the entire continent raged snow and ice for weeks on end. Kaeya could move effortlessly through the snowflakes, slaughtering the prince’s men, one after another. Some begged for mercy, some roared in defiance, but most never even saw him.

Like those who died in a snowstorm, bodies were not discovered.

Natural causes, some would say.

Kaeya wore an eyepatch now, after his right eye froze over. It let him see into the ice, so he had no reason to expose it. The furred white outfit he wore would not normally be fitting of an assassin, but it helped him blend easily into the endless storm.

Slaughter.

Slaughter.

Slaughter.

Slaughter.

Slaughter.

Slaughter.

Slaughter.

Slaughter.

Kaeya was a storm.

He came back to the brotherhood one day and found it unusually quiet.

And he understood.

Kaeya launched himself forward, moving between rooms until he found himself in the room with magic runes. He soared into the sky with the ferocity of a dragon and slammed down—exploding a ring of ice outward.

“Augh!” the redhead grunted, barely getting out of the way in time. He rolled along the ice, making a pained noise as he stood.

“Welcome home.” Kaeya glared. “Diluc.”

Diluc stood, slowly, eyes wide. “Kaeya… what… what happened to you…?”

Kaeya glanced to the side. “Did I make it in time?”

Il Dottore coughed on the floor. The wound in his chest soaked his white shirt red but he nodded with a smirk. “I’ll live, little Kaeya… I’ll live.”

“No.” Diluc glared. He moved, swiftly—

But Kaeya was a blizzard.

Diluc saw a white fog surround him and almost cried out as the temperature dropped to lethal degrees. “So… you caused this winter, Kaeya?” He looked everywhere. Only the white storm swirled around him. He shivered. Snowflakes and ice everywhere disoriented him. His long ponytail moved with the sharp wind

“Where are the others?”

Diluc’s eyes widened.

Fear was such a good look on Diluc, Kaeya thought.

To Diluc, the voice came from everywhere. He looked left, right, and spun. Repeatedly. “Kaeya…”

“Where are the others, Diluc?”

“Emergency orders asked them to go elsewhere…” Diluc’s eyes shifted left and right. “Forgery is a part of my training, after all.” He searched and searched—

What he didn’t see was the silhouette approaching him from behind amidst the storm.

Diluc’s eyes widened.

Kaeya swung hard.

Diluc stepped back, taking the hit in his left shoulder and screaming as his veins froze.

“Did you forget?” Kaeya stepped out of the storm to greet Diluc inside the blizzard vortex. He twirled Hoarfrost—a spiked blade carved out of a bone-white tooth. “The brotherhood gave us everything… They gave us family. They gave us clothes when we had nothing. They gave us food, and warmth. They gave us a way to survive in this world.”

“Kaeya.” Diluc glared. He clutched his almost frozen shoulder, hand glowing bright as he burned himself to keep the joint from locking. “Are you really so blind…? I thought you of all people would understand what I’m doing! Did you really believe all that like the rest?” 

Kaeya’s face distorted and brilliant light shined behind his eyepatch. He thrust forward and swung.

Diluc poured flame into his steel and parried the hit—sparks flew from metal against ancient bone, and droplets of water splashed from fire against ice.

Kaeya roared, three more strikes.

Diluc blocked and forced forward, using lashes of fire to barely hold his ground.

“Idiot!” Kaeya glared, gritting his teeth. “I worried for you!” He swung hard. “I cared for you!” He pulled his dagger out of his pocket and swung with his left hand. “I begged you to open up to me!” He screamed, “And I! Was! Nothing! To you!”

Diluc winced with each hit. He dodged left and spun around Kaeya to pull three needles from his belt. He infused it with flame before tossing them, aiming for Kaeya’s spine.

But Kaeya shifted his head and widened his right eye—a beam of cold froze the very air that the needles were held in, letting them hit the floor with a metallic ring.

“Kaeya…” Diluc whispered, “What did they do to you…?”

“This.”

And the vortex converged—

Diluc felt his blood freeze and he flared fire all around him, but ice knives were hitting him from all side.

Kaeya heard Diluc scream and felt nothing.

Diluc fell to his knees, in a puddle of water, coughing violently. 

The clear blue water was mixing with red. 

Kaeya walked over, stepping in the puddles and letting them freeze beneath his feet. He raised his blade up, skyward. “Goodbye, Diluc.”

Diluc looked up. “Kaey—”

Kaeya’s eyes widened.

The water glimmered.

“Chil—” Kaeya winced and grabbed his head. “What—”

“Kaeya…” Diluc reached for him. “Listen to me—”

“No!” Kaeya shook his head. “They—The brotherhood—”

“They gave us food, shelter, family… why? Why Kaeya…?” Diluc glared at him. “Because they killed our family.”

Kaeya’s eyes widened.

“I couldn’t do it, no matter how many times they asked…” Diluc breathed hard, eyes fading slightly but he pushed on. “The final task…”

Kaeya grabbed his blade and put it under Diluc’s chin. “The final task!”

“Kill your closest…”

Kaeya raged for a moment—

“I couldn’t do it.”

Kaeya’s jaw loosened and he stared.

“They told me I could… that I didn’t want to… but no matter how many times I stood over your sleeping body…” Diluc shivered as he began to freeze. “I couldn’t do it… Aether offered me a way out. He will take care of all of us.” He looked up. “Not just me. All of us…”

The tip of Kaeya’s blade moved down until it hit the floor.

Diluc’s eyes watered. “I’m sorry, I…” He forced a laugh. “After all this time… I still don’t know how to let people in… I just…”

“I could…” Kaeya’s eyes softened. “I could never kill you.”

“Yes—” came a third voice.

Kaeya tensed and looked to the side.

Holding dark runes, Il Dottore grinned—“Yes you can!”

Kaeya felt his arm pull back for a swing but. He strained his arm back, growling.

“Kaeya,” Diluc shouted. “Hold on! You're not alone!”

“Yes you are!” Il Dottore screamed, “You belong to me! You are mine! You have no one! You inspire no one, and you are nothing!”

“I!” Kaeya crushed his eyes closed, holding his arm back, a scream tearing out of him. If he could only hold out a second longer, if he could resist for a moment more—

He opened his eyes. 

Diluc looked at him, eyes soft.

Kaeya grinned.

Whips of water—

Kaeya watched them stream by. “Wha—”

Diluc whispered, “Took your time…”

Il Dottore choked on his breath as the streams of water punctured three holes.

“Heart. Lungs. Brain.” Childe stared at Il Dottore’s body. “Three places that are fatal.”

Kaeya dropped his weapon, stepping away from it.

“Don’t relax now,” Childe chastised. “Diluc will bleed out. We’ll clean up this mess.”

“What are you—”

“I told you,” Childe said with a wink, “He has a way with people.”

A shorter blond with glowing crystals embedded on his clothes stepped forward, ignoring Childe as he turned to Kaeya. “Can you tend to his wounds?”

“Aether?” Kaeya blinked. “I-I mean, y-your h-high—”

“Can you tend to his wounds?”

“Yes!”

“Good.” Aether nodded. “He’s lucky to have you.”

Kaeya softened but lunged at Diluc. “Come on!”


✧⊱ ━━━━ • ※ ※ • ━━━━ ⊰✧

After raiding the infirmary, Kaeya had woven—and changed—Diluc’s bandages. Diligently, he worked silently until every wound was taken care of.

Diluc finally opened his eyes. “Il Dottore tried to make you leader of this place…?”

Kaeya sighed. “Yeah…”

“Hm.” Diluc looked at the ceiling. “Childe and Aether are in the other room, figuring out what to do with the assassins… You’re really going to let others fix your problem?”

“The brotherhood isn’t my problem. Il Dottore was never my problem.” Kaeya finished the last of the bandages. “You are.”

Diluc eyed him cautiously.

“These are bad wounds.”

“You used a cursed weapon on me.”

“Shut up.”

Diluc smiled.

Kaeya stiffened. “What?”

“How many times have I taken care of your wounds…?” Diluc looked out the window. “This is the first time you’ve done mine.”

“Be grateful.”

“Mm.”

“Diluc…” Kaeya sat on the opposite bed. He stared at him. “How long have you been working on this plan of yours…?”

“Well… not really until I met the prince…” Diluc eyed the window still. The beginnings of sunlight were cresting hues of pink and orange into the room. “But I’ve been thinking of how to break this place since day one.”

“You never told me.”

“No… I didn’t.”

“I would’ve—” Kaeya tensed as he almost lunged out of his seat. He relaxed. “I would’ve been yours… I would’ve helped you.”

“You loved the brotherhood.”

“I loved you.”

Diluc snapped his head, eyes widening.

Kaeya felt his eyes brim with tears. “I want to fucking hit you so bad right now…”

“You’ve done enough of that today, I’m sure.”

“God, you’re infuriating.”

Diluc just smiled.

“So…” Kaeya breathed. “What now?”

“You and I have each other…” Diluc glanced out the window again, but this time to hide his blush. “We can leave this… cleanup to Childe. Aether knows the working of politics, so they’ll take it from there.”

“You and I have each other,” Kaeya repeated. “Why can’t you ever give me a fucking clear answer, Diluc?”

“I don’t know how.” Diluc continued to stare into the sunset hues. “I spent my whole life hiding… my whole life being a shadow… an assassin… I don’t know how to be. Kaeya, I don’t know… how to be… normal.” He shook his head. “Maybe I’ll wander the lands. Maybe I’ll work for the prince. Maybe I’ll disappear. What about you?” He turned to Kaeya. “What do you want?”

“You.”

Diluc’s eyes watered.

“We’ll never be… normal.” Kaeya let his head fall into his hands. “But I don’t want to go our own ways… I just… I don’t want to live in the shadows anymore. Do you understand?”

Diluc said nothing.

Kaeya pushed himself out of his seat, moving to sit next to Diluc. “Listen—”

“I get it.” Diluc moved himself closer, their faces drifting closer. “I understand… We’ll figure it out together. Okay?”

Kaeya leaned over, closing the distance.

Diluc breathed in once before their lips met.

Kaeya kissed him, for a moment, and then pulled away. “Diluc… how have you never failed a mission before? That was… the worst kiss I’ve ever had.”

“I—” Diluc’s eyes widened. “I—I a-avoided the s-seduction ones…”

Kaeya kissed him again, and laughed into the kiss.

“Wh-What?” Diluc pulled away. He bit his lip. “Am I really that bad…?”

“You’re.” Kaeya chuckled. “Honestly? You’re terrible. That is not what the tongue does at all.”

“Well, congratulations.” Diluc’s cheeks burned as bright as his hair. “You finally found something you’re better at than me.”

“Don’t be sour about it.” Kaeya smirked. “I’ll just have to teach you…” He leaned over, grinning wickedly. “Come here.”

Diluc sighed. Just before they kissed again, he smiled as he said, “I guess we’ve got time.”