When Albedo strode through the gates of Mondstadt, something was wrong.
The streets were quieter than usual, for one. The various vendors and shopkeepers that usually stood around the city were nowhere to be found, sans Katheryne, and even she was uncharacteristically quiet. No one roamed the roads, or peeked out the windows, or seemed to exist at all. And all of the usual Knights on guard or patrol seemed to be missing.
The other… he couldn't prove it, but he swore there was the subtle smell of decay in the air. It wasn't obvious, and it could easily have been some spoiled meat or abandoned trash, but it seemed to permeate the city.
Regardless, he needed to get to the Knights' headquarters. Perhaps he'd see someone there, at which point he could see if they felt it as well.
But the moment he stepped into the square, the world swirled around him, and he barely managed to stop himself from landing face-first on the concrete. Regardless, he had to lower himself to avoid further collapse, and-
This wasn't good. He couldn't move, couldn't call for help, he could barely even think-
I have to stay conscious.
He fought the dizziness and encroaching darkness as long as he could, occasionally managing a whine or garbled shout. Regardless, within a few minutes, he succumbed to the drug.
He woke leaning forward on a table, arms pillowing his head.
Albedo had no idea how he got there, if he was tied up, if he was being watched… so he simply held still. Better to make them think he was still asleep while he got his bearings.
Fear wasn't a completely foreign emotion to him, but it had been quite a while since anything had upset him this much. In fact, the last time was-
Static ran through his mind. Amnesia? Interesting.
He was Albedo. Kreidprinz. He-
He worked as-
Klee was his little sister. Aunt Alice took him in after -
When he was younger, he'd explore domains with-
His parents were-
He never knew his father, if he had one at all. His mother-
Aunt Alice knew his mother. She didn't know his father, either, though.
Did he even have one?
Partners. Friends. He wasn't much for either of them, but he'd entertained the occasional lover, and he had a few people he kept close. Sucrose, Timaeus, Xingqui, Klee, a couple of the Knights' captains… Most of them he knew through Aunt Alice, but a couple he'd met when-
A bit frustrated with the amount of mental blocks and headache from the static, he decided it was best to assess his immediate surroundings more. He didn't seem to be tied down, and briefly blowing on his limbs or subtly shifting indicated no paralysis or nerve damage. Always good things.
Someone shifted near him, and he froze. Even breathing, perfectly timed to-
Just pretending to be asleep.
A quiet groan, and, "Mr. Albedo?"
… Ah, it was just Sucrose. Regardless, he kept up the facade.
She moved around a bit more, then shouted, "Mr. Albedo!"
The air shifted near his face as she reached over, and he shot up, slapping away her hand.
"Oh, good, you're awake." She smiled softly. "Ah, seems we're at the lab."
"And… they've taken our Visions. And our weapons."
The Vision was of no consequence to Albedo, but he wasn't a fan of being unarmed. Trying to summon his sword turned no results.
Luckily, he could-
The lab. Something sat just inside the static, and he couldn't reach it.
A glance around didn't reveal much, but a gut feeling had him reaching for some ingredients.
"What are you doing?"
Without looking up, he asked, "What's your name?"
"... Don't you recognize me?"
"I do. Please answer the question."
"Do you have any family?"
"Not in particular."
"What do you do for work?"
"I'm an alchemist. Specifically bio-alchemy."
"Interesting. Now… Do I have any family?"
She hesitated. "You have your sister, Klee. And… Alice, I believe?"
"Yes. I'm adopted. Anyone else you know of?"
"No. I… I didn't know you were adopted."
He glanced up from his material-collecting to raise an eyebrow at her. "Interesting. I didn't realize I'd kept it secret."
"It never came up."
He nodded, then asked, "What did I do for work?"
She opened her mouth, then closed it. "I don't know."
"Yet you treat me as your senior."
Sucrose glanced away. "You had ties to the Knights of Favonius, I think?"
"Interesting." He snatched one last handful of ingredients from a shelf and stuffed a couple cecilias into the pocket dimension usually reserved for his weapon. He then retrieved them with no issue and deemed it safe to store the rest of the ingredients. "I remember nothing of my birth mother nor my occupation, and very little of my life before I was taken in by Aunt Alice."
Silence met his statement, and he clapped. "Since we're awake, we may as well go check for others?"
Luckily, it seemed most people had the same idea and gathered in the large foyer outside.
Most of the Knights clustered in one area, and a couple youngsters from the Adventurer's Guild gathered near… the wild boy from Wolvendom. Diluc, Kaeya, Rosaria, a boy clad in green that Albedo thought was a local bard, and an unfamiliar blonde in strange clothes clustered near the center.
Albedo decided that any situation where Diluc and Kaeya weren't bickering incessantly was a situation that was likely to turn mischievous and approached that group to supervise. (Definitely not to interrogate the probably-outlander.) Sucrose dutifully followed.
"Ah, look who's finally awake!" Kaeya casually tossed an arm around Albedo. "This is Albedo, and that's Sucrose behind him. Albedo, Sucrose, meet Lumine."
The blonde waved, rocking back on her heels and stretching as though she had no idea what to do with her hands. Albedo was suddenly aware of his own hands awkwardly hanging by his sides, and he tucked them behind himself.
She carried the same smell that had permeated the city when he'd passed out, or was he simply being overly suspicious? Did he imagine the smell earlier, perhaps?
No, he was smarter than that… Or was he? He'd forgotten most of his life, after all, and let himself be drugged.
He trusted his instincts, though, and his instincts warned him to be wary of the girl.
"And… I don't know if either of you have formally met, but Venti, meet Albedo."
"A pleasure to make your acquaintances," he finally murmured, trying to shake off the sudden spike of anxiety. The blonde man cleared his throat and continued, "I suppose you have all been stripped of Visions and weapons as well?"
They all nodded except Lumine, who shrugged. "I don't have a Vision, but I've been… disarmed, and my powers are extremely limited."
This piqued his interest. "Powers?"
She nodded. "I… seem to be able to wield the elements much like your Vision holders." She sent a small breeze from one palm, then sparks of electricity from her other.
Without thinking, he'd stepped closer, evaluating her. She seemed small, but muscular. Calluses lined her hands, and she was built like a swordswoman. "Interesting…" Her hands both sparked this time, fizzing out not far from his clothing. She stepped back into a defensive stance, clearly from years of practice that someone who appeared her age should not have had. Some form of slowed aging or immortality, then?
"Albedo," Kaeya murmured, "Personal space."
"Hm?" It took him a moment to realize he was almost touching her despite her step back, and he flushed as he backed up, running right into Sucrose. "Ah- Apologies. Both of you."
Sucrose waved him off and elaborated, "He gets excited sometimes. He really likes learning new things."
"That's our resident genius," Kaeya joined in, winking (probably) at them.
… Was he? "Ah, about that. Kaeya, would you mind if I spoke to you?"
Kaeya raised an eyebrow and gestured openly.
He nodded in understanding and led them to an unoccupied corner of the room. "What is it?"
"I seem to be missing some of my memories. I believe you should be able to fill in the gaps."
"Depends on what?"
Albedo hummed. "What do you know of my past?"
"Ah… You were recommended to the Knights of Favonius as-" The Cavalry Captain cut off suddenly, wincing. "As… You were inducted as a Captain to the Knights of Favonius… On Alice's recommendation. I can't remember what division."
"And before that?"
He winced again. "I don't know."
"Do you not know, or is something stopping you?" Albedo leaned against the wall and twisted a lock of hair. "When I try to think of it, my mind fills with static. It's been repressed. I can't figure out why."
"... I get that as well, when I try to think of it. I think you were some sort of adventurer? But I can't think of why you came to Mond, or what you do here."
"Seems par for the course." He strode back to the old group, and the bits of idle chatter were interrupted by a small fairy popping up.
"Hey!" she chirped, waving them over. "Looks like everyone's here!"
The fairy had short blonde hair, blue eyes, and a white-and-pink outfit, as well as a crown with the-
Diamonds that almost resembled stars and that certainly resembled the mark on his neck and Kaeya's pupil.
"Paimon was going to call you all to the library, but Paimon may as well do it here!" She cleared her throat and continued, "Welcome to the new and improved Mondstadt!"
The entire room was unimpressed.
"Or rather, welcome to the rest of your life!"
Diluc shouted, "What do you mean by that?"
"Ah! Paimon forgot to mention - you're all locked in this building for the time being." She twirled a bit, then continued, "But… There is a way out."
"What is it?" one of the kids from the Adventurer's Guild prompted.
Paimon's (at least, Albedo assumed that was her name) eyes went dark, and she smiled menacingly. "Murder."
The room went silent, and Albedo was suddenly very glad he'd raided the laboratory before he came out.
"Any way you like it! Stabbing, strangling, drowning - just don't get caught!"
"What's the catch?" It took the amnesiac Captain a moment to realize it was he who had spoken.
"The catch?" She smiled, though less menacingly this time. "There is no catch. Get away with murder, and you're free to go."
"And if we don't?"
Paimon shrugged. "Then you aren't."
Fair enough, he supposed.
"You guys should have plenty of supplies available to you. But… there are a few rules in place." She pulled out some odd devices and whisked through the room, handing one to each person. "When you power on these tablets, they should show your name, and they contain all the rules and things you will need to know-"
Eula dashed toward the front and grabbed Paimon by the collar of her shirt. "What kind of a sick joke is this?"
She went limp in Eula's arms and started beeping.
Panic rose in Albedo's gut, and he shouted, "Get rid of it!" Eula turned to him, confused, and he ran toward her. "Throw it away!" He tackled her and managed to tear the fairy (that seemed to be a mechanical doll) from her grip, throwing it far away from the people moments before-
Paimon exploded, and Barbara ran to the slightly-burning staircase before realizing that she didn't have her Vision. Kaeya followed her and snuffed it out with his glove.
"So… That's it?" Amber made the mistake of asking.
Another Paimon appeared in front of them and growled, "Consider that a warning! It's in the rules - any violence against Paimon is strictly forbidden and will be punished!"
After a moment of silence, Jean clarified, "And the punishment for rule violations… is death."
Paimon grinned. "See! You're a quick learner, Master Jean!"
Albedo rose and offered a hand to Eula, who simply glared at him and stood by herself.
"Now! A few other things. Parts of the building will be shut down at night - namely, the library and Grandmaster's office - and electricity will be limited to the emergency lighting. Sleeping outside of the Knights' dorm area will be seen as sleeping on the job and is prohibited. Barring official meetings, you are free to explore as you like.
"Anyway! That's all Paimon has to say for now! Happy murdering!" She twirled and disappeared back where she came from.
The room was silent until the blonde boy from the Adventurer's Guild declared, "This has to be a joke, right? None of us would ever kill each other."
"Can we really believe that?" Kaeya retorted, locking his eye on Diluc.
And… It was true. Albedo didn't particularly care to kill anyone, but if it was between his life and someone else's, well…
Everyone started tossing around suspicious looks, and he feared if they continued, the group would simply implode.
"I propose another rule," he announced. "Since there will be limited light and access at night regardless, there is no point in wandering around and making each other nervous. Perhaps we should try to stay in our dorms during the night."
The group agreed with little fuss and moved onto their next worry: escape routes.
The blonde girl in purple (Fischl?) declared something about the windows and exits all being blocked based on her exploration, which her companions (Bennett and Razor) quickly endorsed. Most of the others came to the same conclusion, but they decided to split up, just in case.
… Rather, Diluc wandered off mid-chat without telling anyone, and the Knights and Adventurer's Guild decided to follow suit and report back around dinner.
Albedo ended up in a group with Sucrose, Kaeya, Rosaria, and Lumine, and realized quickly it would be a very long day.