There are few things more impressive than towering piles of paperwork. Methodically divided into stacks, each to be thoroughly read and debated before an official stamp could come within the vicinity of the bottom margin, before a pen can engrave a flourished signature onto it to mark its fate — being stashed away into an archive, never to be opened again probably. Cavalry Captain Kaeya Alberich, nursing a headache, takes one look at the mountain on his desk, one look at Huffman sitting on the opposite side of the room, and, with his unwaveringly sharp wit, makes a quick decision.

He slaps a hand over his forehead — ouch, the tension on his temples! — and winces. "Ah, I completely forgot."

Looking up from his own considerable pile of paperwork, Huffman turns to him with a puzzled frown. "About what, sir, if may I ask?"

"About the thing," Kaeya says, standing up and making his way to the door. "You know the one."

"Sir, I don't think I do."

Kaeya smiles amicably. "Then you should pay more attention to your duties."

Then, without waiting for a reply, he takes his leave.


After a long day, there is no better place to be than Angel's Share.

Today, however, seems so long it is not even midday yet, and Kaeya can be the most patient man when needed but even he can only take so much. Inside his head is an incessant thudding, a nail trying to breach his skull from inside out, and every twitch of his facial muscles strikes sharp pain across his forehead. The truth is simple to grasp: he is tired. Earlier, there were hilichurls lurking around Springvale, and now he is supposed to deal with the third petty thief of the week when all he wants to do is—


The Archons grant Kaeya the grace of having Patton nowhere in sight; it would be no issue to chat the man into letting him in when the tavern is closed, but the ache he feels is already mind-numbing enough. Smiling and talking, it all sounds like a chore. To his luck, the front door is unlocked — he is not in the mood for surprising the owner from behind.

Morning is the tavern's cleaning time — the chairs are propped up on the tables, the windows are open to air the place, and Charles has a mop and a bucket. The interior is fresh, a balm against the sweltering summer sun. Kaeya sighs and immediately regrets it, as the movement rattles the curse lodged in his head and he winces.

"Sir Kaeya!" greets Charles', from somewhere to his left. "Is everything all rig—"

"Shouldn't you be working at this hour?"

Diluc's voice, even when coated with reprehension, sounds like the crackling of a fireplace.

And Diluc looks like... Diluc. Except he ditched the coat due to the heat, and his sleeves are rolled up, and his ponytail is slightly higher, slightly crooked. He is sitting on a bench by the counter, scribbling on a piece of paper with gloveless hands exposing the burn-marred skin of his fingers. Kaeya wants to kiss him until he wipes that scowl off his face. But he is in too much discomfort for such strenuous activities for now, so, instead, he waves politely at the two other occupants of the room.

"Good morning, Master Diluc, Charles." His smile wavers as his head throbs. "What a lovely summer day, isn't it?"