We are a panfandom featuring canon characters from nearly any live action, animated, video game,
drawn, or authored media. The Gods are fickle, toying with those deemed interesting
enough to be plucked from the world they once knew. Pandora's Box shall be your new home,
as they command.
Shops were not news to him. Strips of shop weren't even new to him, but this wasn't just a strip filled with shops. This was a mall, where the ceiling towered tall above him in much the same way Mondstadt's cathedral once had. It wasn't daunting by any means, and to be perfectly fair, nothing could have been after experiencing the Cosmic Wilderness, which was still a daunting concept to him even now after everything. The mall, however, was phenomenal a structure and Diluc found himself standing near the fountain in the center of the ground floor, his red locks falling far down his back despite how high he had tied them as he stared up at the floors above and the stores that lined them. That red mane was a stark contrast to the black button down he was wearing.
Gadgets R Us. E&A. Moviestop. Speedy Panda.
"Everything you could ever need right at your fingertips," Diluc muses as he takes a step backward, reaching out with his hand to brush his fingertips against his boyfriend's. "I think I could get used to that." Vividly aware of Akechi's special day tomorrow, Diluc was almost disappointed that he hadn't started the birthday shopping here.
"I'm assuming VisionTech carries the ocular variety rather than the god-given," he adds with faint amusement as his finger gently taps the surface of the red glass bauble hanging from his belt.
The high ponytail Diluc dons lends to a handsomeness that is both exotic and elegant, and it seems everyone is aware of this fact but him. Eyes gravitate and linger as the two make down the bustling mall, Akechi noting his boyfriend's boyish wonder with inward amusement. That is Pandora for you. It's going to always have the one feature that will throw you off your keel when you think you've seen everything. And maybe there's something inherently poetic about this, too, where Diluc gets a glance into Akechi's world (not for the first time since they've started dating).
As they speak, he's already lining up all the places they'll visit. As per his refined tastes in both food and apparel, of course.
"Oh, you didn't know? They do actually install specialized elemental visions directly into the cornea," he says straight-faced while checking the central map, "That's where the idea of heat vision comes. What do you feel like having? I know a nice place that makes artisanal crepes, but I could also go for curry buns...the bread off-sets the spices...I think. Anyway, thoughts?" Just as he says this, he nearly runs into a girl coming the opposite direction. His surprise doesn't stem from that fact, so much as the recognizing of said girl.
"Damn it, damn it, damn it!" She exclaimed, jumping between couples and ever-so-politely squeezing through crowds. Ann was horribly late. Not just a little late. Really late. She knew she wouldn't get into too much trouble; Ann was normally pretty punctual, and there was no way San Lang would fire her and contend with Justin all by himself, but that wasn't the point.
San Lang had taken a chance on Ann and given her a way to pay the rent, which had been a very strange and daunting task. Sure, she'd always had money with her modelling jobs, but the house she'd lived in was her parents. She'd never had the responsibility of keep a roof over her own head. She owed a lot to San Lang, and she hated the thought of disappointing him.
She'd been so wrapped up in trying to get her friends home, and thoughts of Frey had been occuping her mind, and before she knew it, it was 2 o'clock in the morning and she was still awake. Which, of course, had led her to this very moment. Tying her pigtails up as she ran up the escalator and skidding around the corner, almost knocking into somebody as she went.
Oh wait. That wasn't anybody. That was Akechi. And he wasn't alone.
"Oh," she said, the word falling out of her mouth before she could stop it, and coming to an abrupt halt. "Akechi-san," she added hastily, giving him an awkward sort of nod. Her eyes lingered on his companion. Who was he?
"I was joking," Diluc was quick to remark, a look somewhere between puzzlement and awe on his face as he turned his head to look back to Goro. Was he joking? Given Pandora and it's nature in possibilities, it was admittedly genuinely hard to tell sometimes.
"Mm ... Goro, I'm not sure the bread does that." There's a look of mildly amusement on his face that's quick to fall away as he watches the recognition on Goro's, following his gaze to a blonde he'd never seen before in his life. It took just a moment of study to realize that they both very clearly knew one another and hadn't expected to run into one another.
Whether or not it's a happy reunion is uncertain, but with the lack of smiles and the stiffness, Diluc thought he could guess. For his part, he kept silent, although with the blonde's eyes slipping toward him, Diluc turned fully toward her and took a step forward to stand by Goro's side, although not quite in line with him as he kept back just enough. Politely, he dipped his head in a silent greeting.
It's not as if he didn't expect a variation of this scenario. Pandora is a small world, and that's a poetic way of saying a whole lot with very little. It's just that moments like these don't get easier to anticipate, for anybody involved.
Diluc would obviously not know of the significance behind this encounter, but just being here, with Akechi, makes it inevitable that he will. That's not a bad thing in itself, but there are some pages in the book that aren't supposed to come in contact with each other.
He sees her line of sight, sees the question she doesn't pose. Akechi takes hold of the conversation first. "You seem to be in a hurry. Is something the matter?"
Akechi composed himself well, but there had been a flicker of surprise in his eyes. He'd always been very... Ann didn't want to say calculated, but being in the public eye had made him extremely well trained when it came to hiding his true feelings. Ann, on the other hand, found hiding anything difficult, and could not keep the emotion from her face.
The emotion she was feeling right now, was one of extreme awkwardness.
Deep down, she'd always been a little jealous of Akechi. She'd had a crush on Ren for a long time, but had never had the guts to tell him. When she'd arrived in Pandora, it had been something of a shock to find the two of them engaged, but she'd been happy for them. She'd believed them settled and complimentary. How quickly things changed.
Ren wasn't doing all that well, but Akechi seemed to be doing better. More than better, it seemed.
"Uh," Ann began nervously, looking to the stranger again, who nodded politely at Ann. She did the same in return and gave him a quick smile. "Akechi-san."
"I overslept this morning and I'm running late for work. I work at Books Èlysèes." Did he know that already? She couldn't remember. She laughed a little, not knowing why she was laughing. A tension release, perhaps. "How are you?"
In all of his quiet, Diluc is and always has been perceptive. After all, when he's serving drinks, he's not just serving drinks. He's a people watcher. He hears them, he sees through them, he glimpses those little cracks and crevices, and this encounter has so many of them.
It's awkward. Neither Goro nor his ... friend seem to know how to have a naturally flowing conversation and Diluc is far from oblivious to the way her blue eyes glance his way more than once.
Even Goro, in all of his smoothness and all of his expertise where social etiquette is concerned, seems to be faltering.
And so, finally, he clears his throat, a faint polite smile at his lips as he falls easily into the persona of the Dusk Winery's hospitality. "Apologies. I hope I'm not interrupting," he started and took a small step forward to extend his hand toward her. "I just don't believe we've met. I'm Diluc. Diluc Ragnvindr."
“Oh,” he says, even though he doesn’t where that is. It’s likely in this mall somewhere, which explains what she’d be doing here... Not that stopping for conversation will help her case if she’s late.
Sensing either their awkwardness or some invisible cue, Diluc introduces himself. He’s all social grace when he does, reminding Akechi that he’s coming short of his own. Akechi decides to rectify that.
“Ann Takamaki, an old associate of mine. We worked together on a few projects in the past,” he says, vague but not incorrectly. He’ll have to fill Diluc in on the details later — assuming he hasn’t already gotten the gist.
“… And I’m doing well, thank you. You seem to be in good health yourself.” It had been, what, nine months since she’d first arrived to Pandora? And she’s still here. What do you know. ”Actually, Diluc and I were on our way to the food court, if you were interested in joining us.” she’s late, but courtesy is courtesy.
"Not at all!" Ann replied at once, not wanting to be impolite. It had almost been a knee-jerk reaction, but one that made her pick up her game, a little. She suddenly realised how painfully obvious she was being, and now that the shock was wearing off, she was starting to fall back into her usual social norms.
"It's nice to meet you, Diluc," Ann replied with a smile, while Akechi did the introductions for her. "Yes, projects," she reiterated, deciding that was probably the best way to describe their odd adventures together. Things had got a little complicated, and she wondered how much of that Diluc knew. Not that it was any of her business, but she couldn't help but be curious.
"I am, thank you!" She went on, feeling the flush in her cheeks begin to cool. "Oh, I - uh -" The proposition had taken her by surprise. She hadn't expected the invite, but then that was her mistake; Akechi was an expert at social etiquette. In fact, it had been a little disconcerting to see even him wrong footed.
"I would love to, but I'm late for work." Ann thought quickly on her feet. "How about you walk me there, and I'll see if I can meet you for lunch? If you're still around?"
Projects can mean quite a lot of things and while a part of Diluc tries to read further into that, the rest of him knows better. Because projects can mean quite a lot of things, and some of those things were incredibly far from the common variety where Goro Akechi was concerned. Something to inquire about later, perhaps.
For now, pleasantries.
The fact that she needed to be at work was likely something of a godsend for Akechi. Diluc had been able to sense the discomfort from the very moment they had laid eyes upon one another and while Goro managed to find his footing again, at the very least, some hours to process were probably preferable. And that was if they even stayed at all.
“Well, considering the size of this place,” Diluc began, his gaze sweeping their surroundings briefly just as he had been doing before. “I suspect we may be here for awhile. Unless, of course, Goro has a prior engagement he should be rushing off to,” he said, his crimson gaze returning to his partner. It was an opening. An out for him should he need it.
For whatever it’s worth, Diluc was already aware of the shadier aspects of Akechi’s past, like his unconventional side-job in Shibuya and his lifelong feud with his father (a topic that only came up because they happened to be discussing fathers at the time). His involvement with Takamaki’s friend group was hardly mentioned because it didn’t bear much relevance to their everyday lives. Plus, where would he begin on such a complicated subject? And while he wouldn’t actively try to keep the deaths of their parents a secret, taking that knowledge to the grave seems like the cleaner option for everyone.
He’s brought back from his thoughts to find himself staring directly at Diluc’s face. Akechi blinks, catching the tail-end of the question. It’s a smooth opt out, which is both incredibly thoughtful and testimental of Diluc’s character.
“No, I’ll be here,” he turns to Takamaki, “in any case, we should get moving so we don’t make you any more late. Please lead the way.”
Hi friends I want to apologise for my absentness of late; work is crazy right now and I'm just feeling like poop.
Thank you to everyone I'm plotting for being so patient with me and everyone in general for just being so lovely, you guys are the best