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How To Finish Your Bucket List Before You Die- A Guide From Kaeya Alberich

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It all starts, and ends, with a mistake. Kaeya, usually so lithe on his feet, pushes himself just a little, tiny bit too hard, his legs far too tired to dash that extra moment and when he sees the last Mitachurl’s heavy axe, glowing red with heat, swing down he knows he’s finished.

It burns his flesh, searing pain bursts his nerves as Kaeya feels the blade tear through his shoulder, hears the cracking of his collarbone, the rip of sinew, his sternum being sliced through and he collapses. It hurts so much, it hurts to breathe, his body so heavy and he gasps for breath, trying to reach for his dropped sword with a barely twitching hand.

The Mitachurl, satisfied with it’s kill, turns away from Kaeya and slings the axe over its shoulder. It lumbers away as Kaeya slowly fades, staring at the night sky and the single moon.

A corpse.

 

 

 

“Kaeya,” his mother says as she cradles him in her lap, “the three moons, Aria, Sonnet and Canon, how they grieved when they turned on each other. They loved and loved until their love became war, and now all that is left is that corpse up there, watching over us, cold and weeping.”

“I wonder, Kaeya, can she see beyond the borders of our forsaken lands? Does she weep for the blessed souls too?” His mother is thin, everyone in Khaenri’ah is, with how ravaged the lands are, the soil is barren and crops barely ever take. Kaeya looks up at the white moon, the pale light that seems to tint ever so slightly red from the constant smoke and fires, “Mama, do the gods really exist?”

She strokes his hair gently, “not for us now, not for us that have been left behind, not for those who were born here and managed to leave, never for us, not anymore.”

A land eternally trapped, forsaken by the old gods, far from the sights of the new ones, stuck in a single moment in time, starving, burning, in ruins. Unable to die, unable to live, unable to dream. Kaeya, for one moment, wonders what Khaenri’ah could be called.

Later, he learns the word.

Hell.

 


 

His parents bring him to what once was a large hall, a crumbling altar before a stone throne. From an age when we were blessed, his mother once told him with a faraway look, when we would worship and celebrate and prosper.

Kaeya looks at the man seated on the throne, “Uncle Dainsleif,” he says. Kaeya doesn’t believe that he’s his uncle, his hair is too light, but that is what he calls him.

“Kaeya,” Dainsleif replies, “we will be sending you away.”

Ice crawls up Kaeya’s stomach, he doesn’t want to, being sent away means leaving everyone behind. Khaenri’ah is a suffering to survive in, but his family, everyone, is here, and this suffering is all he knows. His mother’s slips her hand into his, she looks relieved, “Kaeya, isn’t that great?”

He doesn’t feel great.

“You can escape,” she says, her smile makes her look like she’s crying, “you don’t need to be trapped here anymore. You can live a better, happier life.”

“What about you?” Kaeya feels his fingers going numb, “what about Papa? And Uncle Dainsleif? And everybody else?”

Dainsleif rises from his seat and moves to stand towering over Kaeya. He places a heavy hand on his head, “Kaeya, when you were born, everyone celebrated. The first life was created in this cursed world. You are our hope, when you dream, we dream.”

“Please Kaeya,” his mother’s grip tightens on his palm, her fingers bony, “this is for the best. For you.”

Kaeya swallows, and his throat is sandpaper and smoke as usual. I don’t want to go, but instead he says, “how do I leave?”

His mother cries, deep, chesty wails when he is to leave, she clings to him and caresses his cheeks and sobs out, “stay safe, please, be safe.” His father lays a hand on his shoulders and says, “you know what you need to do. You know what is to happen. I can only take you so far. As a sinner, I can only remain out there for so long before I get smited by the gods.”

Dainsleif ruffles his hair and says, “dream well, Kaeya Alberich.”

He wants to stay.

 


 

She shines bright, white and pale, her corpse looks down over the blessed souls, Kaeya learns, but the moon no longer weeps. She hangs, heavy and swollen and longing, but no longer weeping. The clouds are fluffy and soft and high in the sky, nothing like the oppressive smog that crept over Khaenri’ah like a miasma and the rain that comes pouring down is wet and cold and absolutely nothing like the ash flakes that stung at his eyes when they fluttered into his face.

Kaeya wants to slow down, wants to feel the green, green grass between his toes and crouch down to look at the little worms that crawled from the damp soil, but his father’s hand on his shoulder is tense and heavy.

They stop at the side of a dirt road and Kaeya’s father ducks down to his height, looks him in the eyes with a tired, relieved smile.

“Kaeya,” he says and wraps his arms around his son. Kaeya knows that his time is up.

His father was never overly affectionate, his mother was the one who would hug him, kiss his face, pet his hair. Kaeya stands there, frozen, as his father tightens the hug.

“Kaeya,” his father breathes in, out, and then says, “my boy.

 

He’s never going to see him again.

 

 

 

His father lets go, gives Kaeya one last look and then walks away. Kaeya stares after him as his tall figure melts into the darkness of the woods and then.

Boom.

Lightning.

Trees burn and burn and then the fire fizzles out in the downpour. Thunder reverberates in Kaeya’s ears as he screams, Papa.

He doesn’t want this, never wanted this. The rain is cold and stings his skin, the grass pokes at the soles of his feet and his soaked clothes stick to him like a second, heavy skin. There, at the side of the dirt-packed road he stands, in the dark, in the cold, alone. He stands there until his legs ache, stick-still, waiting for the moment the gods realise he, too, is a sinner that’s escaped his prison, deserving to be smited as well, his feet hurt, bare toes going slowly numb, but he stands. Suffering is all he knows, after all.

 

And then a carriage rumbles by, it stops, and a man with red, red fire hair steps out.

“Hello, boy,” the man says, “What are you doing out here in such a storm? Where are your parents?”

Kaeya knows what he needs to do. He opens his mouth and lets lies spill from his lips like poison seeping from teeth. He says, “I’m waiting. My dad will be back soon. He said he’d come back.”

“Come with me, boy,” the fire man says, warm and soft, “just until the storm lets up. After, we can look for your father.”

My father is dead, he wants to say. Kaeya can feel arms around him, the very first and last hug from his father.

My boy.

 


 

Face pressed to the soil, Kaeya’s last breaths are pain wheezes as he thinks to himself, ah, I still haven’t finished that report on the attempted Hilichurl invasion, and, I said I’d help Klee teach her wild, wolf friend how to read and write, and then finally, Mama, Papa, Uncle Dansleif… Were my dreams enough?

There’s a voice, booming and drawled, it says, the you who has yet to conclude your worldly affairs, Kaeya Alberich, the you who’s grown up in a war-torn, godless land, the you who’s entire life has been a battle, do you wish to make a contract?

“Kaeya,” His mother once said, pressing a kiss to his forehead, “our people once danced before the sacrificial altar, we once were able to hear revelations from Celestia, is it not a pity we will never again hear the voice of divinity?”

The earth itself, slow and patient and ever present, rumbles and shifts.

Kaeya Alberich walks through the front gates of Mondstadt, gives a tired, jovial greeting to the guards manning the walls, “You’re back late, Captain Kaeya.” Lawrence says. Kaeya grins, “It can’t be helped, the main character is always fashionably late.” And they laugh.

 

 

It all ends in seven days.