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The Last Glaive

Chapter Text

Your father died when you were 10 years old. They never found his body. Or rather, they couldn't retrieve his body before the Niflheim Empire burned down the entire town where the company he was working for had sent him to for a temporary assignment.

Your mother never recovered afterwards. She took a break from work which extended to 6 months, then a year. The company called in every other week to ask when she would come back. By the sixth month, they never rang again.

When people heard this story, there is usually a certain expression that washed over their faces. Beyond the pity, there is also understanding. "So that's how you became like this," their faces seem to say. But with their mouths, they will instead say, "It must have been hard growing up that way."

Then you will say, "It's not as hard as it sounds, really," and you will not be lying. Learning how to cook when you were 11 was not as bad since you knew already how to order food online on your mother's credit card account. There were also tutorials online. Not only to cook but also on how to clean and fix things up around the house, often complemented with videos.

What was difficult was dealing with the social workers that were knocking on the door of your family's apartment in Insomnia. It was already difficult to get your mother up for breakfast; when she discovered two strangers stood outside the door, she blatantly refused to leave her bed. Thankfully, the news of the incident reached the ears of your father's brother, who works in the Crownsguard. He came to visit the next day, apologizing profusely for being unaware how bad the situation was with your mother.

He went to your mother's (previously your parents') bedroom and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon. Whispered conversations spilled out from the closed door, and once or twice you could hear your mother's sobs. When it had started to become dark outside, you made your way to the kitchen to start preparing dinner. By the time your uncle got out, he was greeted with the sight of you standing on a wooden stool by the kitchen counter, chopping vegetables next to a pot filled with boiling water.

"Are you going to stay for dinner, Uncle?" you asked, and saw him blinked as if he had not expected you to ask him such questions.

"Uh... Sure." Thirty seconds ago, he thought he'd be the one having to make dinner. Not his brother's 11-year-old. His hand went to scratch sheepishly behind his head. "Is there anything that I can help?"

"Mhm. Could you please watch the pot while I bring in dinner for Mom?"

With his confirmation, you put the chopped vegetables inside the pot and hopped off the stool towards the fridge to grab a tupperware filled with curry that you ordered the previous evening. You heated the tupperware in the microwave and served some rice on a plate. You hadn't noticed it then, but your uncle's eyes followed your every movement until your small form disappeared behind the door of the bedroom. They lingered for a few seconds before he remembered what it was that you asked of him, and panickly went to the stove to lower the fire before the bubbling water could spill over the pot.

After you have returned from your mother's bedroom, both you and your uncle had dinner together in the dining room. At the end, before picking up the dishes to be washed, he told you, "You're taking care of the house surprisingly well."

You thanked him, plain and simple. He continued, "I might... not be able to stay around very much. My... work at the Crownsguard may not accommodate that... Especially with how the war has turned out. But... I promise... I will do my best to help you and your mother out."

He looked at you with all sincerity that you had not seen before in an adult. You licked your lips - a little tick that you do whenever you feel nervous. You never felt more grown up than you were then, under your uncle's watchful eyes.

"Don't worry, Uncle," you assured him. "I would never dream of taking away your responsibilities from the Crown."

Then, your uncle's serious expression melted away into a smile. You braced yourself to hear his laugh, which so many adults tend to do whenever you say something that they never expected. But the laugh never came. "Thank you," he said. "That's all that I could ever ask for."

Seven years later, you realized that your uncle had never smiled so warm, or thanked anyone so sincerely, than when he was sitting there with you in the dining room of your parents' apartment in Insomnia. Especially when you saw him this time around, standing proud in his military uniform on a raised platform. His sword sheathed on his hip, and in his hands, a paper containing the names of the military academy graduates from that year.

"Cadet Leonis!" he called out, and in a short moment you presented yourself in front of him, at attention. "Congratulations on passing your final examination. Based on your results, the board of committee has decided to appoint you into the newest batch of Kingsglaive, effective immediately."

There was a small pause in his speech where he looked directly to your eyes. He didn't smile, but you did notice the glint of pride in his eyes. Being a Kingsglaive means that you are recognized as one of the most accomplished soldiers of Lucis, proficient in both combat and magic. "Are you in agreement to this assignment, Cadet Leonis?"

You replied with a military salute, and as you did, you realized for the first time just how hard your heart had been beating with excitement, pride, and everything else in between.

"Yes, Marshal Leonis, sir!"

Chapter Text

While people in Insomnia mostly thought of your family's story as a tragic one, you soon discovered during military academy that there are others with far more tragic story. In fact, there were so many cadets you met with such stories that you started to think of yourself as one of the lucky ones.

We are at war. This simple fact flew over people's heads sometimes, back in Insomnia. But on the frontline - or even back in the academy, in the downtrodden eyes of your Galahdian classmates - the four small words hit you over and over like a brick bouncing around inside the hollow of your skull.

"Incoming!!"

You ducked as quickly as you could and as close as possible to the ground. Somewhere on your right, a wall exploded from either a crash or contact with explosive. From how your ears were free from deafening ringing afterwards, though, it was probably the former.

You turned on your heel and immediately saw little flashes of light. Your fellow Glaives' curved daggers stabbed right at the target - a monstrous mass covered in scales of definitive daemonic origin - before their own figures materialized in a warp strike. You got to your feet as fast as you could, a quick chant leaving your lips at the same time. Then you raised your arm, letting go of scorching blue streaks which sent the daemon into a screeching howl.

"Leonis! We got this!" shouted none other than Luche Lazarus, the de facto leader of the Glaives, as he pulled his dagger back from the daemon. "Go to the tower and help the other mages!"

"Copy that!"

You turned your sight to the sky above the daemon, your hand gripping at the hilt of your dagger. You made your dash, threw your dagger, and in a blink of an eye you were floating in the air, the dagger safely back in your hand. The daemon's roar under you was loud and full of anger. You threw your dagger again, barely missing a scaly appendage shooting at your direction. The weapon found itself buried on the side wall of the tower, from which you found yourself bracing against.

"By the Six..." From that higher angle, you could see much more of the battlefield. The Magitek Troops were flooding the ground. Above in the sky, the boxy airships of Niflheim's military were droning. A few of them dropped metallic containers down, irrespective of whether they would hit an entire squad of MTs upon landing (why would they care about the life of empty robotic soldiers anyway?). Wherever those containers cracked open, daemons burst out.

With a renewed determination, you jumped off the wall and threw up your dagger. A blink of an eye later, you appeared in the air above the tower and almost crashed into the circle of mages already formed there. Crowe Altius barely blinked at your literal crash landing before stating, "We'll cast a fiery tornado to keep the airships off. Stand your ground, Glaives!"

You scrambled up to stand and joined in the formation. Hums of chants filled the space, and soon you felt magic hung in the air like static. Taut and crackling. You couldn't help but picture the crystal back in Insomnia, nestled high on top of the Citadel. Its light shone in the dawn and pulsed through your blood and those of the other Glaives, like electricity that ran through cables around the city of Lestallum. Conduits that protected the Kingdom of Lucis.

"Ugh..." The mage on your right fell on her knees. Without thinking, you bent over to catch her. There was whizzing in the air the moment you dropped your form - the pressure of magic changing and becoming volatile.

"Leonis!" someone balked, maybe Altius. You haphazardly replied, "Sorry!" but your attention never left the fallen mage. "You okay? Can you stand? Here, hold onto my shoulders. Come on. You can cast the last half of the spell."

With one arm supporting your colleague, you followed in the chants of the other Glaives. Your other arm raised up, adding one open palm to the formation. The pressure in the air turned into warmth, then heat, and above the battlefield, a tornado started forming. Small at first, but then it grew, sucking in the dust and debris around it into its blazing center.

Slowly but surely, you saw the female mage that you were supporting raising up her hand, too. Then her chant came in a whisper, low but unbroken. The tornado grew and grew, and by the time the spell reached its end, you felt your own hold on the magic thinned. The fiery tornado roared, thrashing airships in the sky and the MTs and demons on the ground. Flashes of lights caught your sight as the Glaives on the frontline made their escape. You and the other mages mentally severed that thin hold of magic with a well-trained, synchronized timing, setting the fiery tornado free to rampage on the battlefield.

The exhaustion from the magic leaving your body, added with the weight of your colleague on your shoulders, left you feeling weak on your knees. Before any part of your body could touch the ground, however, someone grabbed and pulled at the front of your collar. Crowe Altius's face came to view soon afterwards, uncovered by her uniform's hood. Her long ebony hair was disheveled and her anger was palpable.

"I don't care even if you're related to the gods themselves. If you dare pull that hero shit on me again, I swear..."

Crowe's words were cut short by a loud shriek that echoed from the battlefield. A large daemon in the shape of a three-headed deformed whale was taking the hit from the tornado head on.

"Wha...? Since when did that daemon...?" Just as quickly as your attention was diverted from Crowe to the giant daemon, it was soon distracted again by the sights of the airships hovering away from the monsters. You furrowed your brows. "Are they... Stalling?"

"Huh."

Just as Crowe's hold on you went slack, radio static began to crackle in your earpiece. "We can't fight that daemon. All units, fall back to the extraction point. That's an order." Captain Titus Drautos's voice was loud and clear in your ears. "Repeat. All units..."

The rest of the announcement was hardly audible, with the daemon opening one of its gigantic mouths and letting out a booming shriek. Soon enough, the shriek was replaced by strings of lava bombs dispatching off the daemon's mouth and shooting past the defense wall. The jutting structure above the fortress were hit by some of them, sending rocks raining down.

Cursing, you and the other mages raised your hands to cast a protective shield. However, it could only give so much cover. Some hundreds of meters away, a particularly big rock formation fell not far from a fleeing Glaive, causing him to stumble right in front of a roaring dog-like daemon. Flashes of light approached the fallen soldier shortly after - one single reinforcement amid the retreating waves of Glaives.

"Nyx!!" Crowe shouted. Whether it was the name of the Glaive that fell or the one that had come to the rescue was unclear to you. Before the mage could move further, however, another Glaive took hold of her upper arm. His other hand similarly grabbed your arm as well.

"We have order," he yelled. "Fall back. There's nothing you two can do."

You held your gaze with him even as he tried to drag you and Crowe away. Then, with one swift move with your free arm, you unsheathed your dagger and flicked it off the fortress wall. Both the Glaive and Crowe shouted something, but it all became a vague blur as the rush from the warp enveloped your senses. As your hand found the hilt of your weapon again, you found yourself floating on the air, the three-headed dog daemon roaring and preparing to pounce at two Glaives scrambling on the ground. You whispered a quick chant and jagged tips of ice spurted out of your open palm, striking the daemon right on one of its head and sending it off the chasm that was forming behind its hind legs.

You landed on the ground with a thud, and braced yourself by forming into a ball. It occurred to you that you might fall off the cliff after the daemon, but as soon as the thought formed, you felt a firm tug on your hand that stopped you from rolling. You looked up, dazed, and saw two intense blue eyes stared back. The Glaive's hairstyle - dark and shaven short on both sides of his head - and the blue patch of fur on his uniform's upper sleeve screamed that he was the Galahdian hero of the war, Nyx Ulric.

"Damn, Nyx. Once again, I owe you one."

Nyx turned his attention to the Glaive lying flat on the ground. "I'll put that on your tab, Libertus." He let go of your hand to lay a curved dagger on the other man's chest. "Think you can walk?"

Libertus shook his head, sighing. "Ah." You got up to your feet as soon as Nyx bent to help him up. "I'll help you out." Then circled your arm around his back and placed his arm across your shoulders for support.

"Guess I owe you one too, huh?" Libertus chuckled. "Thanks... Wouldn't have dreamed that the Marshal's niece herself would come to my rescue."

Despite the sarcastic words, you realized there was something sincere in his tone. So you held back from replying and focused on getting the three of you out of no-man's land, blasting thunderbolts every once in a while with Nyx to ward away stray daemons and MTs. Once you reached close to the rendezvous point, however, and the medics and Glaives alike rushed close to check on Libertus and about to take him away on the ambulance, you finally opened your mouth. Your lips and throat felt dry and cracked in the dusty air. "We're all here fighting to protect Lucis. There's nothing wrong about rushing in to aid your comrade."

"There is if it is a blatant violation of your Captain's order, Leonis."

The booming voice of Captain Titus Drautos reverberated behind you, way more menacing than on the radio. You turned quickly, barely able to hide that you were startled.

"I have given direct order to retreat. Yet you and Ulric here decided to play heroes."

You lowered your eyes. Apology was starting to form on your tongue, but Nyx beat you to it. "'For hearth and home,' right, sir?" he blurted, referring to the oath that you and all other Kingsglaives had taken on the day you were sworn in. "As long as I got strength in my body, I obey that order."

You glanced up at Nyx from under the hood of your uniform, mouth agape. Not even your uncle would answer back so directly to his superior - which, to be fair, would be King Regis himself. Perhaps because he's an outsider...? No, no. You closed your eyes and mentally shook your head. Stop that. Don't be one of those people.

Captain Drautos let out a huff, obviously not impressed by Nyx's retort. "Don't fool yourself, Nyx Ulric. Whatever strength you have is on loan from the king. You are nothing without him." He turned to you. "Same to you, Leonis. Last time I checked, 'The Immortal' isn't exactly a nickname you can inherit in the family."

That... was a low blow. You looked up to glare at the Captain, but lasted only three seconds before lowering your gaze again. Your uncle would hear of this disobedience. That much you could read from the Captain's hardened expression. The thought filled you instantaneously with so much dejection that you barely could say, "No, sir..." without a shaking voice.

Captain Drautos let out another, more satisfied huff before turning around. "Await details for reassignment, both of you. And report to my office directly once you reach Insomnia."

Chapter Text

"Thank you for saving my life, by the way."

"Hm?"

You let out a sigh. The hum of the military van that you were riding in was usually comforting because it signaled safety. Especially when you know the vehicle's direction is fixed for Insomnia. However, sometimes it doesn't exactly accommodate serious talk.

"Outside the fortress, just today," you reminded. With the hood of your uniform down, you could deliberately look straight into the eyes of Nyx Ulric, half-self-proclaimed hero of the Kingsglaive. "You stopped me from rolling off to my death in the chasm."

"Ah, that." He shrugged. "Don't worry about it. Like you said, just helping my fellow comrade."

He flashed a grin, which caught you off guard enough to look aside. And as if the Astrals had decided to give divine intervention, the vehicle's wheels rolled over something big enough on the road to bump up everyone inside, taking any attention away from your burning cheeks.

"Must be hard, isn't it? Being a Galahdian in the military."

Now everyone in the car really looked at you. You simply looked back at them, neither threatening nor cowering. It's animal instinct, your uncle had told you, only blink slowly, and don't break eye contact, then wait until they yield. Eventually, a red haired Glaive by the name of Tredd Furia turned away first, and one by one the rest looked at all different directions not excluding the tips of their boots. Except Nyx, who stared at you with a surprised, but approving expression.

"Eh, not so much. I feel more lucky, actually. I doubt there are many things that I can do aside from being in the military."

Nyx couldn't sound even more nonchalant with both his hands behind his head and his back leaning against the side of the van. When he glanced aside at you, a small smile formed at a corner of his lips, which you couldn't help but smile back at.

"Is fighting really all that you can do, Nyx Ulric?" you asked.

"Well, I sure hope not."

There was something in his tone that made your heart skipped a beat. And the fact that he said it out loud in a car full of your colleagues... It made all the more sense now how no one else but this guy would stand up to Captain Drautos.

"Anyway, who's asking?"

You blinked. "Who? Me?"

"Yeah. What's your name?" he asked. "I mean, I know your last name. Everyone in our squad does, I think. But what's your first name?"

You told him. Just as you closed your mouth again, you realized just how seldom you've actually told anyone your first name in the last several years. Ever since the military academy, everyone had been calling you with your last name. It had started off from the teachers and the officers, which makes sense because they have to call everyone with their last names. But then your classmates started calling only your last name, too. Maybe the connection with your uncle made it that much easier to remember.

Nyx repeated your name. Icy blue eyes wandered up as if tasting how each syllable rolled on his tongue. Then they turned back to you, and you wondered just how much more warm could your cheeks get before you pass out from heatstroke.

"Say, since you are originally from Insomnia... Have you ever had real, authentic Semur skewers?"

 


 

The answer was no, never. Semur skewers are part of Galahdian cuisine, so it can never be correctly replicated in Insomnia. There is no way anyone can get the proper ingredients.

"Ah, but except for one place. Which I - a Galahdian - happen to know of and endorse."

It was all that Nyx had to say to convince you to go out that night, standing on a pedestrian street in the one area of Insomnia that was virtually unknown to you. Ten years ago, there was barely anything here, just grassy fields next to criss-crossing flyovers near the outskirts of the city. Now, it's populated with makeshift houses, hanging electricity cables, street hawkers selling fragrant spices and trinkets. Refugees from Galahd and other regions of Lucis that had been taken over by the Niflheim Empire have brought with them their music, memories, and built houses in this foreign city using all that they have left in the world. Houses that can never be homes.

"Heya."

You turned to your right and there was Nyx. He didn't look much different outside his uniform like some people do - his unique hairstyle probably had a lot to do with it. This realization brought a smile to your lips as you waved to greet him.

"Good that you managed to find this place," he said. You caught his blue eyes scanning you from top to bottom. Subtle enough, but not beyond your detection. It made you wonder if you also did something similar earlier, and whether he'd noticed it as well.

"Yeah, I also wasn't sure whether I could find where it is." Your smile widened. "But, hey, thank the Six for the navigation app, right?"

"Tell me about it. It was almost like my lifeline back when I just arrived in Insomnia." He tilted his head towards one direction. "The skewers're down this way. Let's go."

There was nothing else to do but to follow Nyx down a set of stairs that went off the side of the road. The smell of BBQ hung sweetly in the air, reminding you just how many hours ago you had lunch. At the end of the stairs, a shop stood in one corner, while one table was set up in the middle of the area. It was covered with beer cans and plates of Semur skewers. A distinctly non-Insomnian music was playing from a boombox somewhere, singing happily but also longingly of home and rain.

Around the table, you could recognize familiar faces of the Glaives. One of them belonged to Crowe, who rolled her eyes in exasperated annoyance.

"I thought we had an agreement about bringing dates," she complained specifically to Nyx, who shrugged.

"We're comrades, not dates." He turned to you, a glint of mischief flashed in his eyes. "Right, Leonis?"

"Of course." You decided to play along. "It's also a comrade's duty to share one's knowledge about delicious foods. That's how you know we can work well together."

Crowe rolled her eyes, sighed, then, "Fine, whatever. Grab a chair."

You sat down on one of the rickety plastic chairs surrounding the table. Libertus offered you a plate of skewers as soon as you settled down. You thanked him and took one. "How's your leg doing? The hospital sent you off already?"

"It's seen better days," he replied, slapping gently at the cast on his leg. "But I'd rather be out here than sitting around in there. I hate hospital wards. They give me the creeps."

"I see."

You turned your attention to the skewer in your hand and bit off a piece of roasted meat. Immediately, you had to take a couple of seconds to hold back a delighted moan. "Damn. This is really, really, really good."

Laughter exploded, booming and loud. It was Libertus's. "Of course you think that way! They've changed the recipe to suit you Insomnians' taste. This place is really becoming more and more a sellout lately."

"Hey! I heard that," came a sound from inside the shop.

"Fuck off, Yamachang," Libertus shouted back. "You know you're a sellout. Don't you dare deny it."

As interesting as the exchange was, you weren't paying attention. Instead, you were glaring daggers at Nyx. "I thought this was supposed to be an authentic, endorsed-by-Galahdian place?"

A smirk was given for your answer. "I still endorse it."

Dejected, you shook your head and sighed into your Semur skewer. Authentic or not, it was still good food, so it's not like you would throw it away, anyway.

"For hearth!"

You heard Pelna Khara cheered and placed a chilled, opened beer can on the table in front of you. You grabbed it, chanted, "And home!" in tandem with the other Glaives, and took a few swigs. The fresh tickle of alcohol in your throat was a welcomed sensation after standing up in the sun all day.

"So, Nyx and Leonis the gatekeepers, huh." Pelna leaned in to rest one elbow on the table. "How's your new posts treating you?"

"Oh, it's amazing." Once again, Nyx didn't wait for you to shoot his answer. "You guys would have loved it. The gate guards are real sweethearts."

"Ha-ha-ha. Yeah, right." Pelna added to Nyx's sarcasm as he took a sip from his beer. "We all know they hate us outsiders more than anything. So bored they got nothing better to do." He turned to you. "No offense, by the way."

"None taken," you said, shrugging. "They made fun of me, too. Said it's funny someone with the Marshal's name is manning the toll gate. I should sue them for sexism."

"Boredom's not so bad, though. Means there's peace, at least."

You glanced at Nyx while chomping down skewered meat and taking gulpfuls of beer, and immediately found that his expression had turned pensive. Almost soulful. "I'd fight a hundred more wars for Galahdians to know boredom."

It was one of those times where you felt like shoving a boot down your mouth. Here you are, moaning your sad little life of discrimination based on your privileged lineage. In the mean time, people out there are literally fleeing their homes with only the clothes on their backs.

Thankfully, Pelna came to rescue all of you from the heavy pressure in the air. "Fight all you want, Nyx," he said with a light chuckle. "Just don't go dying yet. I still owe you. A lot."

"And what will the Glaives be without their hero?" Libertus joined in.

"Really, guys? We're talking about this now? We're not at work." Crowe scoffed. "We will all be fine. Besides, didn't we just send the Niffs running back with their tail between their legs?"

"Do you really believe the Niffs are running away, Crowe?" Luche weighed in, having been quiet all this time. "I heard they sent an envoy to Insomnia shortly after the battle. Looks like they deliberately pulled away and are prepared to make demands."

"Demands!? For what?" Libertus moved to stand but was hindered by his cast. It caused the table to shake and beer cans were unceremoniously spilt. However, no one was moving their attention away from Luche.

"For anything," replied Luche, shrugging. "Lucis is disadvantaged in every single way. It will be difficult not to surrender to their whims."

"I'd rather die than surrender to the Niffs!" roared Libertus. Out of everyone in the table, though, he was the only one making noise. The others, you included, were staring somberly at their beer cans or skewers.

"But we don't know yet if that's gonna happen, right?" you said, locking your eyes with Luche's. "All this talk about Lucis surrendering… It's all still speculation. I don't think the King will give up so easily."

"Perhaps." Luche smiled in that smug way of his that you'd seen so often. "But, being an Insomnian… how much do you really know what your king is ready to give up?"

You glared at him in silence before mouthing, "He is your king, too, Luche Lazarus. Unless you have forgotten to whom you have given your oath to?"

"You dare question my loyalty, Leonis?"

The quiet standoff continued for a few more seconds before you decided to break eye contact, sighed, and went back to your beer. Something felt hollow inside you, and you imagined the beer was trickling in to fill it. When it wasn't your name, it was your place of birth that became the reason to isolate you within the Glaives. Truthfully, it was getting quite tiring.

"Well, thanks anyway for the invite." You meant this more to Nyx, because he was the one who unilaterally invited you. Just as you stood up from the plastic chair, another one was pushed back as well. It was Nyx's.

"Let me at least accompany you to the subway station," he said.

You almost said no, but then hesitated. It might have been Nyx's way to say sorry for bringing you here in the first place. How could you deny him the small opportunity when you yourself owed your life to him?

"Sure... let me pay for my beer first, though," you ended up saying.

Chapter Text

You and Nyx walked side by side in silence for some time. You were in some sort of nightlife area, where bars lined up both sides of the road with all of their shop lights turned on. Neon colors were blaring into the night. Street vendors peppered the streets as well, selling warm foods to people coming in and out of the bars. In other parts of Insomnia, such vendors were much more heavily regulated, and you wouldn't dream of bringing in warm food to a bar or restaurant.

There were some differences here and there. But you also noticed that, just like everywhere else in Insomnia, the streets were alive and thriving still even when it was late into the night.

"Insomnia, the city that never sleeps." You couldn't help but mutter out an old tourism slogan from years and years ago, back when the Wall still covered a lot of other parts of Lucis and not just the Crown City.

"It really never does, huh?" Nyx agreed. "I remember back when I was younger, seeing Insomnia on TV back in Galahd. Made me wonder how's it like to see it with my own eyes."

"And? Does it fulfill your expectation?"

He turned to look at you, and you looked back into his cornflower blue eyes. Waiting for his answer.

"It does, in some ways," he replied.

"Hm. Is that so?"

You turned your attention back to the street. Before long, the sight of the subway sign standing some hundred meters away caught your attention. An idea formed slowly but surely in your head.

"Say, Nyx."

"Hm?"

"Would you like to see something interesting of Insomnia? One that is endorsed by an actual Insomnian?"

Your eyes locked again with his as you both stood in front of the subway station's entrance. Your heart beat hard and loud in your eardrums as you waited for Nyx to consider his answer.

"... Sure..."

He let out a small chuckle, which you replied in turn with a wide, stupid smile. "Let me text Crowe first so the others know I'm not coming back."

 


 

The door opened with a rusty creak as you pushed it. That had sounded alarming, considering it had been meant as an emergency door.

"This way."

You signaled for Nyx to follow you up a flight of stairs, which were illuminated by dimmed lights. You understood how shady it could look from the point of view of someone who had never been there before. So when Nyx asked a bewildered, "What is this place?" you were already ready with your answer.

"I used to live in this block with my parents. The property company planned to demolish the building and rebuild a new one, so that's why we moved out."

"But they never did demolish it."

Nyx was more making a statement rather than asking a question.

"Nope."

You threw him a grin. "And they never locked anything, which means anyone curious enough can get access to the rooftop."

At the top of the stairs was another emergency door. You pushed it open with a bit more required strength than the other one, and was immediately rewarded with a fresh evening breeze on your face. Beyond the edges of the flat rooftop, Insomnia glittered against the dark night. And at the center of it all, the Citadel stood illuminated. A pillar of light shot up to the sky from its top, where the crystal nestled. The power source for the magical Wall that protected the city from the raging war outside.

Both of you sat on the floor near the edge of the rooftop. Before reaching the place, you had stopped by a supermarket to buy two cans of beer. The sound of the cans cracking open under your hands  was ten times louder with the stillness around. Even the traffic noises sounded far away from this height.

"The result of 100 years of peace," was what Nyx said to finally break the silence.

You hummed in agreement.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" you remarked. "I like to come here sometimes, when I need to be reminded of what is important."

He turned to look at you, but this time, you didn't look back into his blue eyes. Instead, yours were transfixed at the glimmering scenery before you.

"And what is so important that you need to be reminded of sometimes?" he asked.

You thought over the question for a while. There were so many things that came up in your head that could be an answer: your mother, your uncle, your home, the Kingdom. But none of it was exactly the answer.

Why do you keep fighting to be in the Glaives? Why do you persist even when no one in your squad completely accepts your presence there?

"I think…" The answer mulled slowly in your head, patiently taking its time to form.

"I think what's important is… the future."

The future where Insomnians and Galahdians can work together for the greater good. To protect Lucis, and everyone who lives in it. The future where both your mother and uncle can look at you with pride in their eyes.

You turned to look at Nyx, and saw him staring at you with that intense, soul-piercing way that you had not seen again since the battle. Quietly, he put down his can of beer and leaned closer, and you could feel your heart moved up all the way to your throat. It only got worse when you heard him call you with your first name.

"Is it okay if I…?"

You nodded vigorously, temporarily not knowing how words work. You felt his hand cupped at your cheek, his skin radiating warmth. His lips touched yours gently at first, then slowly built up in pressure and urgency. At some point you reached a hand out to the back of his neck, and when you both withdrew from the kiss to gasp for air, your fingers were already entwined in the braids in his hair.

"Nyx Ulric," you muttered between breaths. "Please tell me your place is not too far from here." Because yours require taking the subway for at least another half an hour, not including transits. Your burning fog of a brain couldn't possibly last that long.

His chuckle was low and amused. "My place is not too far from here," he repeated word by word, before leaning in to kiss you again.

Chapter Text

The memories of everything that transpired last night lingered with you until the following morning, when you got ready in your own apartment for the morning assembly. The kiss on the rooftop. The silent, almost awkward trip on the subway that followed afterwards. His warmth and weight pushing you against the door. His low groan when he entered you.

It had all been… so fast. You were fighting on the frontline together one day, and the next evening, you were shuddering and moaning his name out loud in his bed. Even thinking back about it made you blush. If he knew, what would your uncle think?

Not that there is a rule against having a relationship with a fellow Glaive. Although there is definitely a certain social stigma. What would the Galahdians in the squad think of you now, seducing their hero? Or the Insomnians? But most importantly: what would Captain Titus Drautos think?

The questions formed and piled as you went through your commute towards the Kingsglaives headquarters. You were lost enough in them to almost run into someone as soon as you made a turn into a hallway.

"Oh, hey, Crowe," you greeted as soon as you saw who it was. "Good morning."

"Morning, Leonis," she replied with a slight wince. "Ugh... You're a loud one in the morning, aren't you?"

You blinked at her. "You got a hangover? How much did you drink last night?"

"Oh, shut up."

She thought you were teasing her, but you were dead serious. You looked down. "Sorry. I didn't mean to upset you."

"That's fine," she sighed, obviously wanting the conversation to be over already.

"I mean also for the day before yesterday, on the tower."

"Oh."

You both walked in tandem silently for a while. Two soldiers in exact same mage uniform of the Glaives, red cape and all. You thought briefly how a little kid would feel seeing you and Crowe then. Certainly you still remembered feeling awe-struck the first time you saw your uncle leading a large military procession during the Founder's Day. It was perhaps one of the earliest moments where you thought being in the military was a possible career option.

"Do you like Nyx, Leonis?"

Your heart beat so hard it felt like someone must have seen its shape from beneath your uniform. "That's... A very private question to be asking at work, Crowe," you reminded, peering at a guy in cadet uniform that made a turn ahead of you.

"Yeah, I guess. Sorry."

She was quiet again for a moment. Then, "I can't help it, though. Him and Libertus... They're as good as family to me. If any of them gets hurt..."

Your thoughts went back to the battlefield, where you saw Crowe screamed for Nyx's name amid the daemon's shriek. Later on, when the medics carried Libertus on a stretcher, she never left his side until he was safe inside the ambulance. And last night, too, when people talked about Nyx dying and being a hero, she was the first one to try to change the topic of the conversation.

"I can understand," you nodded. "Seeing your family suffering is never fun."

Without meaning to, you wandered back to the days spent cooing your mother in bed, after she figured out that you were enrolling into the military academy instead of going to high school. For months, she was convinced that you were leaving her alone to die in a far away place. Just like your father did.

"Well, I hope you don't think too much into it and get scared off as a result," she added. "If Nyx likes you too, I don't see why I should prevent you both from being together."

"Not that I will let you anyway," you replied calmly.

"Ah, yes, of course. I almost forgot you were a hero-type, too."

You and Crowe exchanged glances while waiting in front of the doors of the assembly hall to open. Then you caught yourself smiling, which was returned in kind. It was not always easy to find a female friend in the military, and whenever such rare occurrence happens, you can't help but feel mighty happy.

"You're not half bad for an Insomnian, Leonis," she remarked, shortly before the doors opened and you both started to enter the hall.

"What an honor. I will cherish this precious acknowledgement for as long as I live."

"Oh, shut up."

 


 

Well, there goes your dream of being not-half-bad-as-an-Insomnian.

The news had come on the TV during the training session. It had been your turn to spar in the arena with Verrum Almecy - the female mage that you had helped out in the last battle. After several clashes of warp strikes and fire spells, you noticed that your sparring opponent was about to warp out of the training arena altogether.

Puzzled, you followed after her towards the gym area. What immediately greeted you there was the sight of the entire squad staring up at the TV hanging from the ceiling, which people usually ignore and treat as a source of white noise.

"Hey… Did I miss anything?" you asked.

"No, not much," replied Verrum. "The Citadel is broadcasting an announcement, apparently. It's about to start now."

You had some more questions in your mind, but then you caught the sight of Nyx entering the room and your brain went into shutdown. You exchanged subtle, small smiles shortly before he, Libertus, and Crowe took a spot close to the corner with the rest of the Galahdians.

The news anchor appeared after a jingle, and then proceeded to announce that Lucis and Niflheim Empire were to sign a peace treaty in a week's time. One of the terms for the peace is for Lucis to surrender all of its territories to the Empire, except for Insomnia. Another term is for the Crown Prince, Noctis Lucis Caelum to be wed with Lady Lunafreya Nox Fleuret, the Oracle and former princess of Tenebrae - a kingdom that had been subjugated by the Niflheim Empire.

Your thoughts went back to the conversation last night with Luche and the other Galhadians. Panic started to slowly, creepingly grow from the pit of your stomach.

"What's the meaning of this?" someone asked out loud.

"All of those fighting… for nothing."

That last one was Crowe's. More murmurings started to spread around the room.

"Why is Insomnia the only one spared?" you overheard someone from the Galahdian crowd said.

"What about our home cities? What's going to happen to our family?"

"Do you think there will really be peace now, after all these years?" you heard Verrum ask. Before you could answer, Captain Drautos made his entrance, shutting down any noise in the room.

"Kingsglaives, meet at the assembly room. Now."

 


 

During the assembly, Captain Drautos confirmed that indeed, the peace treaty was happening. As a result, all missions and bases outside of Insomnia were to be dismantled and relocated to the Crown City within the week. The Kingsglaives - normally the main offensive squad on the frontline - were being reassigned to aid in the relocation process. Afterwards, they were to support the Crownsguard in securing the Citadel before, during, and after the treaty signing.

"Except for you, Altius. You're being assigned to a covert mission to Tenebrae."

"... Tenebrae, sir?" Crowe's voice was thick with confusion.

"Mission details are classified. Report to my office in half an hour for briefing."

"Yes, sir."

"And you, Ulric and Leonis."

You gulped, remembering again all your worries from this morning.

"I'm reassigning you two on guard duty at the Citadel. Report to their security post there first thing in the morning."

"Yes, sir."

"Yes, sir."

"That is all. You are all dismissed."

Chapter Text

A fight erupted shortly after the meeting amongst the Glaives. Mostly between the Galahdians, who were understandably frustrated about the terms of the treaty, and some of the Insomnians, who were trying to convince the other to look at the bright side: no more fighting and losing their comrades on the frontline. The fight was not a very nasty one, objectively speaking. At least no one was punching anyone. Still, it left a bad taste in your mouth.

The fight seemed to affect Nyx in a similar fashion. You had asked him to grab some dinner at your favorite noodle place in the city after work, and he had said yes. However, upon arriving, he'd barely said anything aside from greeting you and giving out his order to the waitress.

Sighing, you put down your chopsticks across your bowl. "A yen for your thoughts, Nyx?"

He blinked, saw you smile across the table, and forced a smile back. "The noodles are good. It's just like you said."

"Heh. Sure."

With a huff, you looked up at the TV mounted in a corner. An evening talk show was playing, and the topic of discussion was none other than the peace treaty. It was the same like back in the HQ - people are either fervently supporting the peace treaty or having none of it.

"At this rate, I wonder if we will really have peace after next week," you thought out loud.

From a corner of your eye, you saw him turned towards the TV as well. "Well, at least the TV will be more interesting until then."

Leaning back on the chair, you took a good, long look at Nyx. He was consciously avoiding telling you everything that he was thinking about the treaty, no matter how much you tried to coax it out of him. Is it because you are an Insomnian? You shook the thought off and made a new attempt.

"You're worried about Libertus, aren't you?"

It was only a guess. But from how the muscles on his jaw tensed upon hearing the question, you figured that it was a bullseye.

"You saw how he was like after the assembly," he said quietly, looking down at his half-empty bowl. "He might do something reckless."

"Do you think he'd quit?" you asked, but Nyx shook his head.

"No. Worse. He might try to go back to Galahd."

"He'd go back? For wha…? Oh."

It occurred to you now that some Galahdians in the Kingsglaive had forgone military academy altogether because they had been recruited from a resistance cell which was fighting a guerilla war against the Niflheim Empire. If Libertus had been one of them, then going back to Galahd would most probably mean reviving the resistance movement. Which could be bad news for the Kingdom after the peace treaty was signed.

"Well, I think I can understand," you thought out loud. "I would probably do something like that too if it was Insomnia that was taken over."

Nyx stared at you for a moment. "I can imagine that you would."

You and Nyx continued eating your respective foods afterwards in silence. Different thoughts were mulling in your head.

"And how about you?" you asked, peering at Nyx for an answer. "If Libertus goes to Galahd, are you also going?"

As soon as the question left your mouth, you felt your chest tightened. You realized that once he's branded a military defector, the next time the two of you would meet each other would be on the battlefield.

Nyx didn't answer your question immediately. He didn't even look at you.

"I swore an oath to King Regis," he said clearly and concisely. When he finally looked straight into your eyes, he didn't waver in the least. "I am never going to break it."

"Good." You felt almost breathless at this point, but you continued on, "Because if you do break that oath, Nyx Ulric, you know for sure that I will come and drag you back. Even from hell itself."

He chuckled and reached out to your hand on the table. It was then that you realized that you had clenched your fist so tight your knuckles were all white.

"I'll never expect you to do it any other way."

 


 

"So how did you and Libertus become friends?"

You tilted your head from where it had been lying on Nyx's chest. Sleep hung heavy on your eyes, which was only getting heavier with his fingers tracing circles on your bare shoulder. Nevertheless, your curiosity still prevailed over your fatigue.

"We went back a long way. He was my childhood friend." His fingers moved up to caress your cheek. You leaned in to kiss the inside of his hand, finding it calloused from battles. "Back in Galahd we used to own a bar together."

You chuckled at this, "You? Bartending? I'd pay to see that," then leaned in to kiss him on his lips.

"Well. You're just gonna. End up. Losing money." His answers came in short sentences between kisses before he took hold of your waist and shifted his position so that he was hovering over you.

"I never tended to the bar. I was in charge of the supply." He kissed down along your jaw and neck, inviting a quiet moan from your lips. "My mother took care of that. I was still too young to serve alcohol."

"That is so bizarre." You looked down just in time to Nyx's mouth wrapped around your right nipple, which caused you to grunt and bite at your lower lip. "How can you own a bar when you can't even… ah!"

Your back arched when you felt his middle finger rubbed against your vagina, which was still moist from your earlier intercourse.

"Nyx, please. I want to know more… about your life."

"Then ask your questions, if you can," he purred before beginning to pump his finger in and out of your opening. You bit at your lower lip, trying to hold back the moans as the tip of his finger brushed against that sweet, warm spot inside of you that sent electric sparks up your spine. Eventually, your hips began bucking to meet his thrusts, hungry for friction. Your knuckles on his shoulders grew white with tension.

"The girl… pictured on your… table. Who's…?" You paused to let out a harsh moan as his thumb pressed on your clit. A few more thrusts of his finger and your back arched once again. Tauter this time, as stars dotted behind your shut eyes. He didn't stop pumping his finger - in and out, in and out - and was determined to watch you ride out your orgasm until its very end.

"You don't need to worry about her. She's… not in this world anymore."

You cracked your eyes half open to see him parting your legs with one hand, while the other was holding his erection and directing it towards your vagina. You felt it inside you before long, your inner walls stretched and expanded to accommodate him. Another moan escaped your lips.

"Also," he continued, all the while lifting your leg to his shoulder and planting kisses on the inside of your thigh. "She was my sister."

"You sick, perverted bastard," you muttered, almost without breath. "Who in their right mind would talk of their sister while… oh!"

Of course, he would start moving his hips while you were talking. Holding your hips with both hands for support, and with the angle given by your lifted leg, he was able to pump deeply in and out of you in a steady, increasingly quick rhythm. Warm pleasure built up slowly beneath your abdomen, turning your moans louder, more erratic. At one point you planted one foot on the bed and lifted up to meet his thrusts, eager for more friction.

He groaned, leaning in to plunge even deeper inside you. Your first name left his mouth as his own movement grew faster and more erratic. With one hand supporting you on the bed, you leaned up to kiss him. In turn, he slipped a thumb to your clit and pressed down, causing you to moan against his lips as your next orgasm reverberated up your spine. Your back arched and your walls pulsed along his girth. He moaned back, riding you for a few more thrusts before he reached his own orgasm with a tortured groan. His back tense and his member pulsing deep inside of you.

Shortly after, you both collapsed on the bed in a tangled mess. All ragged breaths and quick beating hearts. You fluttered open your eyes to look up at the ceiling. A poster was pasted there, calling out for refugees in Insomnia to enlist into the military to help out their homeland. You thought of Nyx waking up every morning to see that poster first thing after waking up before heading to the frontline, and somewhat understood why he had to always be the hero. Closing your eyes again, you turned aside to plant kisses along his bearded jaw.

"Is this going to happen all the time?" you asked drowsily. "Whenever I ask you about your past, we're going to fuck?"

He didn't answer immediately, perhaps still catching his breath. "Hmm. Maybe?" His hand went to caress up and down the side of your hip absently. "I seem to recall you were the one who started the kissing, though."

"Indeed," you admitted, biting gently at the bottom of his lips. "You have to get used to it. I am a kissing type."

"Well, I happen to be a type that gets turned on by kisses." His hand slid up your torso, hovering a thumb over one of your nipples. "I'm afraid you have to get used to that, too."

You chuckled. "That sounds like a promise." And leaned back in to kiss along the thin black line that was tattooed down his neck. That invited his chuckle.

"You're going to be the death of me one day, Leonis."

You hummed. "Not until you tell me more about these tattoos. And that poster on the ceiling…"

Chapter Text

The next morning, you headed out to the Citadel separately from Nyx. With all the buzz generated by the peace treaty, people might not be paying much attention to two Glaives spending nights together. Nevertheless, you would rather avoid attention as much as you could.

You reported at the security post as instructed during yesterday's assembly, watched the guards expectedly looked puzzled at each other at hearing your name, then got escorted to a Crownsguard officer inside the Citadel. The officer took something from inside the drawer of his desk and handed it to you. It was a car key.

"Your assignment today is to deliver His Highness's car from the garages of Citadel to the repair shop for maintenance," announced the officer.

You were left speechless for exactly five seconds.

"I'm sorry, there seems to be some sort of misunderstanding," you tried to explain. "With all due respect, sir, I am from the Kingsglaive. Captain Titus Drautos sent me here for an assignment. I'm not some royal aid."

The officer didn't seem to share your amusement, if his poker face was any indication. "Well, it would seem Captain Titus Drautos has assigned you here to be a 'royal aid' for today, Leonis," he replied. "You can find the address of the shop in the car's documents. If you need help locating the garage or the car, please ask one of the guards. They should be able to help you out.

"That is all, Leonis. Are there any more questions on your side?"

You just stood there in the marble-floored office, feeling dumbstruck. You did have questions, but none of them was an appropriate one to ask from an officer of the Crownsguard. Why would Captain Drautos give you this assignment? Gatekeeping duty was clearly a punishment for disobeying a direct order. Could it be that this is another punishment? Did the Captain figure out what happened between you and Nyx?

"... No, sir. I don't have any question," you replied, gripping tightly at the car key.

"Alright. Then you are dismissed. Report back here once you have the car back in the garage and return the key to me personally."

"Yes, sir."

 


 

When you found out just what is the car that you were supposed to drive to the repair shop, you were almost glad that you got the assignment. Bold emphasis on the almost.

It was a beautiful sports car. Black, of course, the color of Lucian royals. Sleek and compact, but as soon as you press on the gas, you could feel its power singing beneath your hands on the steering wheel. Especially as you zigzagged through traffic on the highway leading to the outskirts of Insomnia.

The car came with a navigation system, too, so all you had to do was typed in the address of the repair shop via the touchscreen interface. It even has a built-in phone. You were tempted to call Nyx to show off what you were doing while he was standing guard at the Citadel, being bored out of his wits. But your better judgement decided that calling him with the Prince's private car's number was probably a bad idea.

Once you pulled off at the repair shop, a tall man approached you upon exiting the car. You looked up to a familiar face and felt your jaw fell towards the ground.

"Uncle…?" you asked, bewildered. "What are you doing out here?"

In his t-shirt and black jeans, Cor Leonis looked just like any middle aged man. Perhaps a bit more built on the muscles, and slightly towering above the rest. But with neither his sword nor his uniform, it was difficult to picture him as the Marshal of the Crownsguard - and to an extent, the commander of the entire Lucian military.

Suddenly remembering that your uncle was your superior, and that you were officially on duty, you immediately made a salute at him. What you immediately got back was a disapproving huff and an overwhelming hug.

"I'm not here on official duty. Well, not really official anyway... So cut it with the protocols." He straightened back to take a good look at you, and curved a small smile. "Nice to see you doing so well in the Glaives, little niece."

"Well, I hate to break your bubble, but apparently I just got assigned to be a royal aid for the day, so…"

"Yes, I know of it. I'm the one who gave the order."

You thought your jaw might have actually fallen all the way to the floor this time. "Excuse me?"

"Come and grab some coffee with me in the manager's office, after you're done with the shop. I'll tell you everything."

 


 

"The Prince has departed quietly to Altissia this morning."

Your uncle's words resounded in your head as you pressed further at the gas, swishing between cars on the main highway of Insomnia.

"He's gone already?" you had asked, bewildered at his statement. "But why? Shouldn't he be present at the peace treaty?"

A car was about to switch lanes in front of you, and you honked out loud. It quickly swerved back to its previous lane. Outside, you imagined the engine of the car you were driving on roared with a throttle as it sped past.

"The King… has his plans," was your uncle's reply. "It might not be safe for the Prince to be in Insomnia during the treaty."

"What do you mean it might not be safe? What's going to happen in Insomnia?"

Outside the windshield, you saw flashes of light. Lightning was forming among the rolling clouds. If you hadn't looked twice, you could have mistaken it as Glaives performing warps on the frontline.

"Is Niflheim going to…?"

"There's certainly a possibility. We don't know for sure what will happen and what the Empire is going to do, but we're preparing for the worst."

"The worst?"

It started with droplets first, then at one point the drizzle turned into a shower. You switched on the windshield wipers and slowed down. The traffic became more condensed as you reached the edge of the inner city, no thanks to the sudden appearance of rain.

"What about the residents of Insomnia? We have to warn them, get them out of the city!"

"That won't be wise. If five million Insomnians evacuate the city all at once, the Empire will certainly notice that something is off."

"Yes, but… are you saying we're not going to do anything?!"

You were stuck in rush hour traffic. With the rain came the fog from the sea, and the only thing that you could see beyond the windshield was the blaring red brake lights of the sedan in front of you. You saw that there was a sticker pasted on the back windshield, illuminated by the headlight. "Baby on board," it said, followed by two big stick figures and one small one.

"... There is one thing that could possibly be done. And that's why I arranged you to be brought in here."

You looked to your right. Amid the droplets of rain, you could make out the shape of someone's face by the steering wheel. You couldn't see their expression, though, not in this fog. The same goes on your left. But they were all headed somewhere, these people. To a home and a family somewhere beyond the jammed traffic.

"... There might be a spy among us."

"A spy?"

"Yes. It had happened before, twenty years ago. During Founders' Day, a guard went rogue and took down several amplifiers of the Wall around Insomnia. He also attempted to smuggle some MTs and daemons into the city."

As your uncle chronicled the story, the memory of that haunting day came back to you. Insomnia is under attack, said the big bold news headlines on the TV. You were in elementary school when it all went down, and all students were to be sent home. You remembered the day well because for the first and last time in your life, your father had picked you up from school. His entire office had evacuated, too, and he had offered to pick you up on the way home so your mother didn't have to leave the house.

"Do we know who…?"

"Unfortunately, no, but we're keeping vigilant. I have trusted agents keeping an eye for me at all units in the military, even within the gatekeepers. But not in the Glaives."

"... Oh."

The traffic picked up again after passing the toll gate. However, the rain and fog prevented you from speeding up. Eventually, you found yourself cruising along a spacious avenue leading up to the Citadel, amid rows of tall skyscrapers.

"I… had not wanted to involve you, initially." You remembered your uncle's confession. For a brief couple of seconds he had not sounded like the Marshal of the Crownsguard, but someone that had pretty much raised you up since you were 11. "But we have no other choice. The agent that we had picked was being sent on a covert mission to Tenebrae."

"Crowe Altius? She's working for you?"

"Yes. The King has issued an order to escort the Oracle to Altissia and regroup with Prince Noctis's retinue there. That order was assigned to Crowe."

"I see. That's why you need me to be your eyes and ears in the Glaives."

"Yes. It's… risky, since many people know of our familial relations. But I have my full trust in you."

You parked the car in the garage and turned off the ignition. However, you didn't immediately stepped out. You lingered in the driver's seat for a moment, head leaning up against the headrest. Trying to process all the information that your uncle had relayed to you.

"I won't let you down, Uncle."

His smile then had been accompanied by the same proud glint in his ocean-blue eyes as on the day you graduated from the military academy. In the garage of the Citadel, you closed your eyes, trying to burn that image of your uncle as much as possible into your memory.

"I know you won't."

 


 

Nyx texted you that evening, asking if you'd like to grab some drinks after work with Libertus and the others. You declined the invitation, not really feeling like socializing with all the thoughts in your head that were weighing you down.

There might be a spy among us. That entire sentence felt unreal to you. In the years that you've served in the Lucian military, you've been put in so many dangerous situations where your life was on the line. And for each of those times, your fellow Glaives were always on your side. Thinking that any one of them was scheming to wreak havoc in Insomnia during the treaty signing was just… too much to process.

You could barely get a wink of sleep that night. Thanks to that, you were almost late reporting to your post. The Crownsguard officer made no complain of it, however, and directly briefed you on your duties of the day. Aside from standing guard, you were also to advise the security team - who mostly had never encountered an operational MT in the past decade - on what measures to take in case the worst scenario happens and Niflheim launches an attack on the Citadel. A big yawn threatened to escape you during the entire meeting, twice, but you managed to prevent them by tightening your jaw.

"Oh, one last thing, Leonis."

You blinked, slightly panicking. Did the officer found out that you were not completely listening? "Yes, sir?"

The officer pulled at his drawer and took out the same car key that you had returned to him the day before. He handed it to you.

"The Marshal asked to give you this," he explained. "He assured me you would know when is the right time to use it."

You blinked several times more as you accepted the key. You took a few seconds to observe it, lying haplessly on your open palm, then looked up again to face the Crownsguard officer. "But... I thought the car belonged to the Prince?"

"His Highness does not have much use of it at this point," replied the officer calmly. "So we took some… liberties."

"Ah. Copy that."

You placed the key in one of your uniform's pockets and latched it safely.

"Is there anything else, sir?"

"No, that is all. You are dismissed, Leonis, see you tomorrow morning."

"Yes, sir."

 


 

The next morning, since you still had trouble sleeping and ended up waking up way too early, you decided to visit the training hall at the Kingsglaive headquarters before reporting in to the Citadel. Once there, you headed straight to the gym, finding it mostly empty. Even the TV at a corner of the wall was not turned on.

Quite unexpectedly, you ran into Verrum there. "Leonis? That really you?" She carefully put down the weight she had been lifting and greeted you. "I thought you were assigned at the Citadel until the day of the treaty?"

"Well, you're not wrong," you replied. "I'm going to head there after this. Was thinking of letting off some steam first."

"Ah, yeah. I can understand," she remarked. "Must be quite frustrating, huh? Having to deal with all the posh people there. I wouldn't know how to behave around them."

You shrugged. "It's okay. The people I have to talk with aren't actually that posh.

"And how're things here? Anything interesting happening while tearing down the bases?"

As you asked the question, you busied yourself with setting up the treadmill that was standing next to the machine Verrum was using. From a corner of your eye, you saw the other mage rolling her grey eyes.

"I wish we could just tear everything down," she replied. "We were at a base in Duscae yesterday, and it was crazy just how many Top Secret documents were being piled there. We ended up spending the entire day sorting them out before hauling them all back to Insomnia."

You would have laughed louder if you weren't already running at 10 km per hour on the treadmill. "Kingsglaives, the hooded secretaries of the realm," you joked.

"Tell me about it..."

The conversation eventually died down as you and Verrum resumed working out. Eventually you switched to a machine for lifting. One hour before your shift at the Citadel started, you waved goodbye at Verrum and thought of using the training arena to round up your visit.

As you arrived at the arena, you heard laughter coming from a slightly closed off corner. "They will never see it coming," you heard one voice said. "Insomnia will pay."

"Insomnia will pay for what?"

Three pairs of eyes looked startled at you, clearly not expecting your presence. They belonged to Luche Lazarus, Tredd Furia, and Sonitus Bellum. All of them Galahdians.

"Leonis. Didn't expect to see you here," said Luche. From his tone alone, it didn't sound like he was ever surprised. "I thought you were assigned at the Citadel."

"Were you looking for Nyx?" added Tredd, the one with the red-brown hair, which Sonitus immediately reacted to with a snicker. "Well, sorry to disappoint you, but he's not here."

You narrowed your eyes at them. "Well, I came here looking for someone that just said 'Insomnia will pay' just now," you said, crossing your arms in front of your chest. "Sounds like something someone in the Citadel might be interested to know."

"Oh, they might be interested, alright," replied Luche. His smile widened. "We were talking about opening an authentic Galahdian restaurant after we're done at the military."

You looked suspiciously at Luche - his pretty boy smirk gave you nothing away. Then you turned your attention to the other two. Their expressions were similarly unreadable. "And Insomnia will pay for that?"

"Of course," Sonitus chimed in. You realized it was his voice that you had heard earlier. "With how diverse Insomnia is becoming, pretty sure we can find customers easily here in a few years. And peace is just about to begin, which means there will be more visitors coming to the city."

"... Right."

At this point, you realized there was nothing you could do to make them tell you the truth. However, your sleep-deprived brain absolutely refused to leave it alone, even if you had nothing else to say. So you just stood there, arms crossed, glaring at the three men.

"Aren't you going to use the arena, Leonis?" Helpfully, Luche brought up a topic and approached closer. "Good timing. I'm in need of a sparring partner."

"Well, sad to disappoint you, but I only have 15 minutes," you lied while glancing at your watch. At least you found little satisfaction in the rejection.

"Well, all the more reason to beat you in 15 minutes, then," said Luche, smirking.

"Hah." You smirked back in kind. "I'd like you to try."

Chapter Text

You inhaled and then exhaled air before stepping into the training arena. The hilt of your curved dagger rested comfortably in the grasp of your hand - not too tight and not too loose. On top of one of the structures of jutting rocks and woods in the middle of the arena, Luche Lazarus sat leisurely with one leg dangling from the edge. His own dagger was playfully tossed from one hand to another before he used it to warp to the ground below. He then reappeared with a graceful three-point landing before walking up to meet you.

Show off , you thought. As much as you'd like to say it out loud, though, you instead asked him a more professional-sounding, "Ready?"

"As ready as you could ever be, Leonis," he drawled, smirking.

You narrowed your eyes, but put up a fighting stance anyway. As soon as you looked up, however, you couldn't find Luche anymore - instead, there were trails of scattered lights that zigzagged between where he had stood and yourself. Gritting your teeth, you raised up your arms in a guarding position to your left side. Just in time to block a kick that Luche meant to send to the side of your head while he materialized from the warp.

With a smirk, he slashed up with one hand that was holding his dagger towards your right side, which was left unguarded. You ducked to evade the blade, then swept your leg at Luche's balancing one. He, in turn, dodged your leg by throwing his dagger further up towards the structure, after which he warped away.

"Not bad, Leonis," he remarked after dropping down again. "Was quite sure you wouldn't be able to dodge that one."

"I'm not a freshman cadet that falls easily for your dirty tricks, Luche," you spat while moving to approach him from the side, careful of any more surprise attack. He did the same, but in the opposite direction, causing you two to form a circle on the arena. "Why didn't you start from a stance like any regular training spar?"

You saw Luche shrug. "You said you only had 15 minutes, right? The quicker this is over, the better."

Then he disappeared again in a flurry of crystals and lights. Seconds later you found yourself clashing blades with him, dagger against dagger.

You pulled away and swung a kick to his side, which did hit. However, his arm quickly wrapped around your leg before he pulled, his smirk obvious. You gasped as your balance tipped and tossed your dagger up for a warp. Reappearing midair, you swung your outstretched leg down, which hit him square in the shoulder.

Luche bowed down inadvertently from the blow, cursing under his breath. When he looked up again, a lightning bolt shot up from his hand. Wide-eyed, you warped aside, then up the structure in the middle of the arena. One hand holding the hilt of your dagger as you perched against a rocky wall.

"Are you out of your mind?!" you shouted. "Lightning spells are forbidden in spars! It can actually kill someone!"

"Well, you do share blood with Cor 'The Immortal', don't you?"

You cursed when another bolt came at you. Then another. All along the structure, you tossed your dagger and warped multiple times. Rubbles fell all over the arena from where Luche's lightning struck. You could feel the air started to get heavy as it was charged with electricity.

This can't continue, you thought. Glancing at Luche, you saw an opening when he paused between spells. So you took the chance and tossed your dagger at his general direction. When you reappeared after the warp, both your hands were grabbing at his collar. Both you and Luche stumbled on the ground shortly after, insistently wrestling each other to submission. He managed to hit you up your jaw. In return, you lodged a punch down his chiselled cheek.

"Cut this crap, now!"

Both you and Luche stopped when a magical shield suddenly appeared between you two, effectively preventing any more physical contact. The separation was even more complete when someone pulled you both to your feet. In your case, that someone was Verrum. For Luche, it was Captain Titus Drautos.

"You two are Glaives. Not some drunks fighting in the pub. Have some dignity, for gods' sake." The Captain delivered the point further by shoving Luche upon releasing his hold on the Galahdian's shoulders.

"And you, Leonis. You're expected at the Citadel in less than an hour," warned Captain Drautos next.

"I'm on my way, sir," you replied coldly, your glances never leaving Luche's while you spoke. You broke free of Verrum's hold shortly after and picked up your own dagger before heading straight to the showers.

"That was actually quite cool what you two did," Verrum commented after the Captain was well beyond the earshot. "Until you two started rolling around on the ground trying to choke one another, that is."

"Thanks," you replied gruffly. "Luche's an asshat."

Verrum shrugged at that. "Part of his charm, I suppose. There's a reason why he keeps getting all those fan letters."

It took all that you had not to roll your eyes at Verrum's last sentence.

 


 

The day after the spar with Luche, you ran into Nyx during lunch.

You had not expected to see him there, at the cafeteria in the Citadel of all places. As soon as there was a slight chance that your eyes met, you darted away to the other part of the cafeteria.

Eventually, you found a long table where servants, cooks, and other workers that were employed at the Citadel were having their lunch and settled there with your lunch tray. They stared at you in the beginning, probably wondering what was a Glaive doing there. You sent them a sheepish smile before turning your focus to the food in front of you. You had only taken a couple of bites when the woman sitting across from you took off with her colleague - and was quickly replaced by Nyx.

"You know, if you want to avoid people, probably best to mingle in a place where the others are wearing the same uniform as yours." He paused to take a big bite from his sandwich. "Just a piece of friendly advice."

That had stung a little bit. You placed the cutlery back on your tray. "I didn't mean to avoid you."

"Oh. Sure." He was clearly having none of it. "You didn't answer any of my calls, didn't reply to my texts. And when we finally run into each other you fled. I can see how you didn't mean any of it."

You scoffed. "Give me a break... I didn't respond to you for two days."

"Yeah? And for how long do you think we had been fucking?"

That silenced you. You did a quick scan of your surroundings. No one seemed to be surprised or bothered, just continued on eating their lunches. You were quite aware that they could all be putting up a facade, though.

You sighed, looking down at your own plate in defeat. "... I'm sorry. I should have at least sent you a message."

"Yeah. At least."

He continued on eating. You opened your mouth to say something but then closed it again. Eventually, you started to quietly eat your own lunch, too. The tension between you was enough to make newly-arriving people who had wanted to sit close to both of you scampered away at the last second.

"... I can actually understand, you know," he eventually said, when you both were close to finishing your respective lunches. "People in our line of work, there's no way we can make any commitment. We don't even know if we will actually survive every mission.

"So if you're done with it, I totally get it. Just…" He paused to exhale audibly, and you felt a little part of your heart broke. "Just tell me. Don't just suddenly ignore me. It sucked. It made me feel... used."

There was real hurt in his eyes, and seeing it then made your insides so wrung up with guilt. You licked your lips and stared down, then eventually reached out to carefully place your hand on his. You expected him to flinch away, but he didn't.

"I'm sorry for making you think that way," you said carefully. "I took you for granted, and you don't deserve to be treated that way."

You traced along his finger gently, one that had a thin line tattooed on it. It was a Galahdian tradition, he had told you. Each tattoo symbolizes a deed that had helped the community in a positive way. Hunted wild game for the winter supply. Helped rebuild a bridge that was overrun by an overflowing river. Taught kids which berries they could eat in the forest.

"I... do want to keep meeting you, Nyx, and... I truly, really didn't mean to make you think otherwise." You licked your lips again. The beat of your own heart was loud in your ears. "If you would let me, I… I can explain. And... I'm sorry I didn't do it earlier. I really am."

You looked at him expectantly. He looked sideways, contemplating. Eventually, he let out a tired sigh and shut his eyes.

"Alright. Let's talk tonight," he decided.

"Great," you said, trying to control your voice from sounding too glad about his agreement. "I'll get dinner."

Chapter Text

You arrived that night in front of his door at around 7pm. When Nyx opened the door, he was wearing his black jeans but was naked upwards from his waist, which showed off his toned, tattooed arm and broad chest. The sight made you blush and lower your eyes.

"Hey," you greeted in a cheerful tone after composing yourself. "I brought sushi."

You showed him the black lacquered box that you had been carrying. The box was luxurious-looking, tied in place with delicate red strings. It was also embossed with the golden symbol of a renowned sushi restaurant in Insomnia, which was said to be a favorite of the royal family's. A peace offering that had cost you half your salary for that month.

You stared at his face, awaiting his reaction. However, his expression remained neutral as he opened the door to let you in. You smiled wider, trying to hide your dejection, and stepped inside.

"So," he said, taking a seat next to you on the sofa while you were busy unboxing the sushi. "You have something to say to me."

You sighed. He really wanted to just get it over and done with, it would seem.

After handing Nyx his portion of sushi, you leaned back on the sofa. As you opened your mouth, hesitation creeped up from the pit of your stomach, so you closed it again. You expected Nyx to react to your silence somehow, with an exasperated sigh or impatient huff, but he did none of it. In the silence that hung thick in the room, he waited for you to begin, patient and unmoving. Cornflower blue eyes trained solely on you. You realized then that he was giving you all the time that you need to explain yourself. That he trusted that you had the answer that he was looking for.

But can you provide him with that answer? You couldn't help but wonder. Implicitly, your uncle had requested you to be discreet. To observe quietly, and report to him when you find something that may lead to the discovery of the spy network within Glaives. What if Nyx was affiliated with that network? And even if he wasn't, what assurance do you have that he wouldn't spill the information by accident?

You took a good, long look back at him. The hero of Kingsglaives who put the safety of his colleagues above himself on the battlefield. A Galahdian warrior with the reminders of his selfless deeds tattooed on his own body. You tried to imagine him getting involved in a scheme that would endanger millions of innocent civilians in Insomnia. It was as easy as trying to imagine an entirely new color that no one has ever seen before.

So you told him everything. The secret meeting with your uncle, the departure of the Prince, the reason why Crowe was sent to Tenebrae. You told Nyx how difficult it was to behave around him, with the kind of task that you were given. So you took the easiest - though the least responsible - option to stay away. And that you know how difficult it is to believe in this kind of story. "But I hope you believe that I am sorry, from the bottom of my heart. That I caused you any pain."

When there was nothing else that you could say, you found yourself staring down at your untouched dinner. From a corner of your eye, you noticed Nyx placed his dinner on the table and stood up from the sofa, sighing. Then you saw him headed straight for the fridge.

"I need a beer to digest all this," he said, and you innately got that he wasn't talking about the sushi. "Do you want some?"

"Eh? Sure…"

When he returned shortly after, Nyx handed you an opened, chilled bottle of beer. He clicked his own bottle with yours before taking big gulps out of the content, then sat back down on the sofa with a heavy sigh.

"I do believe you, you know," he said quietly after a moment of silence. "Crowe told me and Libertus that she was going to meet the Princess in Tenebrae. No one else is supposed to know. Yet, here you are."

You quietly thanked the Astrals, and felt your chest warmed up with gratefulness. "So does that mean… everything's okay with us?"

Nyx looked at you with a contemplative expression at first. "I guess…," he said. A small smile was forming reluctantly on the corners of his lips. "It's quite a shitty situation you're in. Can't really blame you for taking the shortcut."

At this point, you took several gulps of your own beer to celebrate. Then, after reminding yourself to show your gratitude, you slid closer on the sofa to kiss him on his stubbled cheek. "Thank you for taking the time to listen."

He chuckled. "Well, thank you for bringing this feast." He gestured to the sushi which were still untouched from when you took them out of the box. "When you said you'd bring dinner, I thought I'd get a pizza with 'I'm sorry' written on it with toppings. I didn't expect you to show up with something so fancy."

You laughed. "Well, I had a feeling I needed more than pizza before you could accept my apology," you confessed.

"Ah, so you were intimidated by my anger," he said, grinning.

"Yes, very much so. It's like not knowing what to give to a child that's crying and screaming in the middle of a packed cafeteria during lunch time."

"Ouch." He placed his hand over his heart, feigning hurt. "Yeah… That wasn't really discreet of me, was it?"

"As discreet as a bull in a crystal shop."

As you put your beer on the coffee table, you felt lightness in your head. The alcohol must have spread faster in your system on an empty stomach, so you instinctively reached for a salmon nigiri from your own dinner portion. The clean, umami taste of the fresh salmon immediately exploded on your tongue.

Just as you began to appreciate why the royals preferred these sushi so much, your moment was stopped by the sight of Nyx looking at you with a gentle pair of eyes.

"Thank you for telling me the truth," he said. "I really appreciate it."

You felt your heart skipped a beat, yet again. "Well…" You swallowed the nigiri and licked your lips, feeling the pressure to say something back. "Anything for our hero."

Nyx chuckled. There was something rough on the edges in his laugh, as if your sentence had rubbed him the wrong way. "Right," he said, before reaching out to his own share of sushi. "I hope someday I can be more than just your hero, Leonis."

Oh, but you already are. You thought of replying, but hesitated at the last second.

"Damn," remarked Nyx as soon as he tried his own first nigiri. "Do the royals really eat like this every day? I've never been so jealous of them until now."

"Right?? Although maybe if I get to eat them every day, I won't be able to appreciate them as much anymore..."

"True. I guess being a commoner allows you to enjoy simpler pleasures in life."

"Hear, hear."

At one point, maybe sometime after your third can of beer, you found yourself lying flat on the sofa's seat - hands pinned above your head, his tongue tasting like the sea in your mouth. You lifted a leg up and Nyx captured it, battle-calloused fingers brushing against smooth thigh before he slid in effortlessly into your warm, damp folds.

Later that night, curled up naked against Nyx, you were finally able to sleep uninterruptedly until the morning comes. The first since the day you last saw your uncle and was told of the possible presence of a spy in the Glaives.

Chapter Text

The next morning, both you and Nyx watched TV in tense silence as the news anchor announced that Lady Lunafreya had just arrived in Insomnia, together with the Niflheim delegations for the peace treaty.

"What's the meaning of this?" you asked more to yourself than to Nyx, who was walking next to you on the pedestrian path a little less than an hour after you saw the news. "How can the Oracle be here when she's supposed to be halfway around the world heading to Altissia?"

"Something must have happened to Crowe," answered Nyx. "Maybe the mole had something to do with it."

You cursed under your breath. "If only I could figure out who it was…"

"Hey, don't beat yourself up too much," he said. "If the Marshal has trouble finding them, there must be a reason why you're having a hard time, too."

"Yeah, but…"

Your words were cut abruptly after a van honked and made a sharp turn around the bend to pull over next to you and Nyx. Beyond the rolled down passenger's window, the face of Captain Drautos could be seen behind the steering wheel.

"Huh. Didn't expect to find you here too, Leonis," remarked the Captain before turning his attention to Nyx. "There's a change in your assignment for today. Hop on."

Nyx looked at you briefly before moving to open the passenger's door. When he saw that you were still saluting, Captain Drautos added impatiently, "You're going too, Leonis. Get in the car before you jam the traffic."

"Yes, sir."

As soon as the van began to drive, Nyx asked, "What's the new assignment, sir?"

The Captain answered simply, "We're going to pick up a princess."

 


 

After reaching the inner city, there was barely any room for the van to move. So many people were on the street - many of them holding up protest signs against the peace treaty. Both refugees and Insomnians alike were there in a show of solidarity. Up ahead, beyond the road blockade that barricaded the crowd, a silver sedan appeared to be stranded. The last remainder from Niflheim's vehicles procession.

As soon as the van passed the crowd, a guard came over to move the barricade. "We're getting off here," explained the Captain before exiting the van.

You and Nyx followed suit. Next to the sedan, a man in a white robe of a Niflheim official was trying to convince a Lucian guard to let the car pass and join the rest of the Niflheim retinue. However, it was to no avail.

"What seems to be a problem, Ambassador?"

"Ah, Captain Titus Drautos. I was just trying to convince this fine young man here to let us through," said the Niflheim official. "Admittedly, we arrived a little late, but…"

"Very interesting story, Ambassador. Rest assured, we will take it from here."

"But, Captain…!"

With one gesture from Captain Drautos, you and Nyx proceeded to enter the car according to how you both were briefed on the way here. While Nyx headed to the driver's seat, you rode shotgun.

"Afternoon, Your Highness," you greeted Lady Lunafreya, who was sitting in the backseat. "I understand you must be exhausted, considering your long trip from Tenebrae. Sorry for this further delay. After we're done, we will escort you directly to Hotel Caelum Via."

"There is no need for an apology." Lady Lunafreya's tone was unfazed as if she had been expecting this interaction. Blonde and blue-eyed, she looked like the epitome of a regal foreign monarch in her white lace dress - so much different from Lucian royal black.

You glanced at the rear mirror, where you could better see Lady Lunafreya's calm, neutral expression in the reflection. It was as if she was used to people driving her to places without giving her any explanation. As the Oracle, she was allowed to go out every once in a while to fulfil her duty, preaching about the words of the gods and healing people that were inflicted by the Starscourge - a disease caused by a violent encounter with daemon. But aside from that, she was pretty much a political prisoner.

As Nyx drove the car further towards the direction of the Citadel, you remembered your earlier talk with Nyx about Crowe. You bit at your lower lip. If the Empire had known about the plans for spiriting Lady Lunafreya away from Tenebrae, her independence may further be at risk.

You took a good, long look at the former princess's reflection on the rear mirror. Then you whipped out your phone to send a quick text to your uncle's private number.

 


 

"Do you think she knows what happened?"

In the main hallway of the Citadel where you stood guard, right in front of the doors leading to the throne room, you heard Nyx's quiet question being echoed by the marble walls. You understood that he was talking of Lady Lunafreya, and whether she was aware that Crowe was coming for her.

"Maybe not this morning. But I'm pretty sure they're telling her all about it now," you said, referring to the meeting that was happening inside the throne room between King Regis and the former princess of Tenebrae. There was no way to listen in on the conversation - the wood used to construct the doors was of too high quality to allow that. But you could imagine what was happening on the other side.

"King Regis and Prince Noctis… they were in Tenebrae when the Empire invaded, weren't they?" you recalled out loud, remembering the news that you saw way back when you were still at the military academy. You also remembered barely seeing your uncle for the next three weekends. And when you finally saw him afterwards, he gave you a somber lecture about how, in civilian and military life, you sometimes have to accept an utter and humiliating defeat.

"Could be. I wouldn't know for sure," Nyx answered. "I was still in Galahd, then. News doesn't travel as fast there as in the Crown City."

"Ah."

You both fell back to being perfect, silent guards. Your thoughts couldn't help but wonder at what might have transpired on the other side of the doors. Did the King try to apologize for not being able to take the Princess while he escaped with Prince Noctis? Is that why he sent Crowe to take her out to Altissia? But why now, after all these years?

Your stream of thoughts was stopped abruptly when a butler passed by with a silver tray and stopped right in front of you.

"Miss Leonis, I take it?" The butler bobbed his head, which you weren't sure if you should reply with a curtsy or a salute. In the end, you decided to stand at attention. "This has been requested to be delivered to you."

The butler offered his tray to you, which had a black velvet bag on it that was hardly bigger than your palm. You took it and stuffed the bag into one of your uniform's pockets.

"Thank you for delivering this," you said, to which the butler replied with another bob of his head. He threw a kind smile at you and Nyx before walking away.

From a corner of your eyes, you could see the question on Nyx's expression. But you said nothing, and resumed standing guard as if nothing had happened.

 


 

Later on, in the car heading to Hotel Caelum Via you took out the velvet bag and handed it to the Oracle. She accepted it with a question in her big blue eyes, but otherwise, her expression barely changed.

"Your Highness, you can call me Leonis. I'm a member of the Kingsglaive, an offensive unit in the Lucian army," you began. "When you're in trouble, you can use what's in the bag to contact me."

You saw Nyx glanced at the rear mirror, where the sight of the former princess taking out an old-model cellphone - one that still had buttons and no touchscreen - was reflected.

"I hope you know how to use a mobile phone, Highness?" you asked, just to be sure.

"I have some knowledge of it, yes." There was a slight shiver in her formal speech that could have been gratitude.

"That's good," you replied. "The last dialled number on that phone is mine. If you need to be quick, just press the green call button."

"I see. Thank you very much. I will keep that in mind."

As Lady Lunafreya placed the phone carefully in her own purse, you could feel Nyx's burning stares even as he looked straight at the road ahead. You sighed, preparing yourself mentally to be lectured later.

 


 

"Did the Marshal specifically order you to do what you just did?"

"No. But I did suggest it to him, and he followed through. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to do it."

Nyx let out an exasperated sigh as he almost blasted open the rotating door that led into the subway station. You tried not to wince too obviously. An office worker that happened to pass you by looked shocked out of her wits. You threw her an apologetic smile.

"I wish we could do more than just wait around," he muttered. "I can't believe we let her be a prisoner all these 12 years."

You looked at Nyx in surprise. It had not crossed your mind that he didn't think helping out the Oracle was something mind-blowingly reckless. However, you were reminded of the last time you two were fighting on the frontline and felt slightly stupid for ever thinking Nyx out of all people would lecture you about strictly following given orders.

"I think we're already doing the best we can," you replied. "Our order from the Captain is to keep guard - not to make contact with the Oracle."

"Yeah… let's regroup with Crowe once she's back, discuss all of our options."

You nodded at Nyx's suggestion. Shortly after, you saw Libertus limping around a corner with his cast and crutches. His eyes lit up as soon as he saw Nyx.

"Hey, Nyx! Have you heard?" he called out with a big grin. "Crowe is back!"

You exchanged looks with Nyx, who then approached Libertus with a sincerely big smile. "That's great news! How's she doing?"

"Dunno, haven't asked her yet. I'm going to see her now at the HQ. You should come, too."

"Eh, yeah, sure."

Nyx looked back again at you hesitantly and was about to open his mouth to say something. You waved your hand nonchalantly.

"Hey, guys, don't worry about me. Don't let me be a crasher in your family reunion," you said, smiling. "I'll meet Crowe later in the training hall or whatever."

You caught the look of gratitude in Nyx's and Libertus's eyes before they headed off. "Alright, then. I'll see you around."

"See ya, Leonis!" Libertus made a big waving movement with one of his hands. "Let's grab some drinks again one of these days!"

"Yes! We definitely have to!"

You waved back, smiling wide, then made your way towards the subway line that went on the direction of your own apartment.

Chapter Text

That evening, you were back in your own bathroom, soaking yourself in a tubful of hot, fragrant bathwater. You let out a happy sigh. With everything that had happened the past several days, you had not been able to properly enjoy some time alone by yourself.

It was good, in a way. You were never really good at connecting with your fellow Glaives outside of work, yet you increasingly did a lot of that these past several days. So the change in your pace was unexpected, but hardly unwelcome.

Your thoughts inevitably wandered to Lady Lunafreya, then. What was it like, being under house arrest for so many years? It must have been really lonely, you deduced. The Empire would have limited her from connecting with others socially, and from the way she answered your question about using the phone, it would seem her access to technology is severely limited, too. You couldn't help but imagine the Oracle as a sitting canary in a golden cage, singing praises to the six gods of Eos as a coping mechanism.

At one point, your daydreaming was interrupted abruptly at the sound of your phone vibrating against the sink. You grappled with a towel and grabbed the phone before it could plunge into the bathwater.

"Hello? Who's this?" you asked upon accepting the call, having no time to look at the caller id.

"Hey. It's me." It was Nyx on the other end. He sounded serious, almost glum. "Where are you at? Can we meet up somewhere in fifteen?"

"Um…"

You looked down at the foam all around your upper torso. "I'm at home now, so I might need some more time than that. Shall we meet at your place or…?"

"Crowe's in a coma," blurted Nyx, and you were immediately quiet for a couple of seconds.

"Shit," was all that you could manage immediately afterwards. "I'm so sorry, Nyx…"

"Thanks… but that's not entirely why we need to meet up," he said. "It's more about..."

He paused to let out a sigh, and then carried on, "I managed to get some of her stuff. Thought they might be interesting for you to look through."

"Um. Okay. Sure." You didn't know what else to say. Was it a good time to ask why and what happened to Crowe? Somehow your gut feelings said no, so you just let Nyx continue on.

"Is it maybe easier if I just drop by?" he suggested. "If you give me your address, I'll head there ASAP."

"Uhh…" You hesitated, but eventually relented. "Sure. I'll text you my address in a sec."

"Great. See you in a bit."

"See you."

After the call ended, you stared quietly at the phone in your hand for what felt like forever. Crisis aside, you don't normally give out where you live to people that you have been dating for only a few days - just as a rule of thumb. Now, in several minutes, Nyx Ulric was coming to knock at your front door.

"In several minutes… Shit."

You scrambled out of the bathtub and hurriedly dried yourself off with a towel.

 


 

Nyx arrived exactly 20 minutes after you texted him your address. He was carrying a cardboard box with him, filled with Crowe's belongings that he had managed to salvage from the Kingsglaive headquarters. He told you of a lengthy argument that he had with Captain Drautos to convince him that he could take them home. You patiently listened to his obviously panic-riddled rambling until you could finally slip in the question about what actually happened to Crowe.

"I just… I really don't know…," he started, looking as lost as he was upset. "Lib and I saw her in the infirmary. She had some wounds and bruises that needed treating - one of which needed stitches. But those are quite normal, right, after coming back from a mission?

"We asked her what happened, and she said she'd tell us more after she reported to the Captain. Then she never showed up at Yamachang's, and right after dinner, we got this call from the hospital..."

There was a pause where Nyx inhaled a big puff of air, exhaled it, then closed his eyes shut for a moment. From where you saw him, it looked like he was either meditating or getting ready to murder someone.

After opening his eyes again, he looked straight at you. His tone was much calmer when he continued, "The doctor said she caught the Scourge."

A heavy silence filled in the spaces of your apartment after Nyx closed his mouth.

"That's very strange," you remarked, finally breaking the silence with a hint of alarm. "I never knew a Glaive could be infected by the Scourge."

Glaives normally could just kill daemons outright with magic, or knew enough when to warp away when things got too tough before they could catch the disease from them. Also, it helped that daemons just didn't spawn in Insomnia - thanks to the Wall.

"Yeah… everything about this is... just fucked up." Nyx's eyes were cast down again.

"Do you think we can ask the Oracle to..."

"I thought that, too. But I don't think the Niffs will let her heal an enemy's soldier. At least not until the peace treaty."

Silence hung between you again. At one point, you decided to start moving around so the stillness didn't feel so stifling. You started with opening the cardboard box and looked at the assortment of things inside. Crowe's phone, wallet, watch… then a golden hairpin. You raised it up to Nyx with questioning eyes. Crowe didn't seem like the type who wore jewelry.

"Ah. Crowe said the hairpin was for the Princess," he explained. "A wedding gift from the King."

"I see." You nodded understandingly, then handed the hairpin back to Nyx. "You better hold onto it, then. Give it to Lady Lunafreya the next time you have a chance."

He accepted the hairpin tentatively. You tried to have a look at Crowe's phone. The battery was not yet completely empty, but it was locked. The lock screen showed a picture of Crowe, Nyx, and Libertus smiling while holding a can of beer. Probably taken at Yamachang's.

"... So how's Libertus taking in the news?" you asked, and saw Nyx immediately let out a tired huff.

"Not good at all. He was… he's really upset. Said things like it was Lucis's fault that Crowe ended up like she was."

"Damn…" You remembered the night when Nyx told you about the possibility that Libertus would defect and return to Galahd. "Do you think he's going to leave soon?"

"I don't know when, but I'm pretty sure he will, at this point," replied Nyx. "I'll keep an eye on him, just in case."

You nodded. Then, after some contemplation, you began to put everything except the phone back into the box before handing it to Nyx.

"I think… you should hold onto these more than me," you said. "You and Libertus are her only family."

Nyx didn't immediately reply. His blue eyes looked lost and defeated as he stared at the box.

"... Thank you," he finally said, smiling sadly at you. "Well, I better leave now. Gotta find Lib and try to talk some sense into him before it's too late."

"Yeah, you do that. And say hello from me, and that I'm sorry."

"I will."

You escorted him out of the door. There was a little slump in his usually straight posture, which you attributed to his grief. Seeing it made your heart ache a little.

"Hey… Nyx."

He turned at your calling. You threw a small smile at him.

"I know it may be a cool thing for a hero to brood alone, but if you do want to have some company..." You hesitated a bit, but after a sigh, decided to just go through with it. "Just come here directly. Whenever you want, even after midnight. I'm here for you."

You saw him smile, warm and grateful. "Thanks," he said. "I'll keep that in mind. Goodnight, Leonis."

"Goodnight, Nyx."

Chapter Text

Nyx woke up abruptly with a gasp. Beads of sweat clung to his forehead while his eyes looked wildly around. The street light from outside trickled in from the window shutter above his bed, past the laundry line and clothes that he had left hanging there to dry. There were sounds of siren blaring and then driving away in the distance - most probably from a cop's car than an ambulance, considering where he was living.

He was at his apartment in Insomnia, not in Galahd. Not anymore. Nyx sat up slowly, sighing as the realization began to sink in. While his nightmare gradually detached itself from reality, he noticed how hard his heart was beating inside his chest. In the dimness of the apartment, his eyes trailed towards the scrap board on his desk - specifically on the part where he knew by heart held the photograph of his late sister, Selena. He remembered hearing her voice again, in the dreams, but it was mangled with the voice of Crowe yelling his name out loud on the battlefield.

Crowe… damn. What horrible luck she had.

Libertus said that it was Lucis's fault that Crowe was in a coma. Nyx wondered if there was actually some truth in it. Not in the way that Libertus fervently believed, but in connection with what he had heard the night before. That there may be a spy among the Glaives, and that they may be responsible for what happened to Crowe.

Nyx's eyes searched semi-consciously to the other side of the bed. Finding it empty, he felt a little hole forming inside him somewhere. Then he remembered you seeing him off hours ago, offering him to come over if he needed a company for the night.

Does he need company?

He mulled over the question for a moment. From past experiences, he learned that showing a woman this state of himself so early into the relationship was not a wise thing to do. But he also knew that you were different. You were also a Glaive. You would understand what it must feel like to escape the horrors of battle, only to figure out that you had failed those you were supposed to protect.

Or could you, really? Despite the years served on the frontline, you were still hailing from Insomnia. The home you knew and the culture of your people hadn't been reduced to ashes and memories and nightmares that kept you wide awake at night.

In the end, he decided to take the gamble. He dressed up, grabbed a bag, and stuffed everything that he would need in the morning before heading out for the long subway ride to your place. The routine of packing and riding the subway train felt mundane compared to the rumbling in his head, yet it also felt oddly therapeutic. Little touches of normalcy that brought him a little closer to reality.

However, when he arrived at your door, his anxiety returned in full force. What if you had given the offer out of sheer pity? A sense of duty for a comrade serving on the same squad? Or worse: for the hero of the Glaives? He thought of going home, but he had come all this way. The only sensible thing left to do was ring the bell.

 


 

You emerged from behind the door with sleep hanging heavy in your eyes. But the moment you saw who it was standing in front of you, they were wide open. Wordlessly, you circled your arms around Nyx’s figure. He returned your embrace tightly, his face buried in the tuft of your hair.

At one point, you looked up to search for his eyes. You wanted to say how sorry you were about Crowe, how you couldn't imagine being in his position. However, no words could escape you. He touched his forehead with yours instead, his breath caressing your skin. There was pain hanging on his furrowed brows, and you wanted so bad to rid him of it.

The kiss was initiated at some point by either one of you. You couldn't remember who it was anymore. But you kissed and kissed, and stumbled inside your apartment and kicked the door close somehow. Hands were on your neck, his braids, your chest, his bottom. You slipped your hand under his t-shirt, feeling his muscles rippling under your touch. In turn, he lifted your top past your head and tossed it to the floor before doing the same with his own.

The next time he touched you again, he cupped gently at one of your breasts. His battle-calloused thumb ghosted over your taut nipple. When you moaned out, he kissed you, drinking in your voice. His kisses trailed down later: to your chin, along your jaw, and down your neck towards your collarbone.

You busied yourself with his pants, struggling to unbuckle his belt. He helped you out with one hand, while his other hand circled down your back and past your waistband to squeeze one of your buttocks. Once you unbuttoned his pants, you did something similar, cupping your hand on the bulk just beyond his zipper. You were rewarded with a low moan against your neck.

"Nyx…" You lifted his face with a hand on his chin. His ice-blue eyes looked at you with clear lust. "I want to make you feel good."

Before he could answer, you kissed him again. As you did, you directed him towards the bedroom, your hand caressing and massaging his hardening cock over his underwear. His moans, breathy and low, were music in your ears. You eventually reached the edge of your bed, and you pushed him down on it gently.

You straddled him next, kissing along his stubbled jaw and the tattoo on his neck. His hands went under the waistband of your sleeping shorts before slipping it down the length of your thighs. You kicked the piece of clothing off before busying yourself with pulling off his pants and underwear, kissing along the crisscross of scars that were scattered all over his torso.

You continued down his navel and heard him inhaled sharply as you moved away from his straining erection towards his iliac crest, then peppered kisses down his adonis belt. At one point, you glanced up at his face and saw that his eyes were looking intensely at you with slightly open mouth. Slowly, without breaking eye contact, you placed a tender kiss at the base of his cock - then licked his entire length up. By the time you placed his head between your lips, you felt his hand gripped at the back of your head. The kind of moans that he let out then sent a delicious shiver down your spine.

Suddenly Nyx called out your first name, causing you to pause what you were doing and once again search for his eyes. "You're so beautiful," he said. There was something in his tone - finality or pain or sadness - that made your heart ache and guided you to crawl forward and kiss him urgently on his lips. He returned the kiss with equal fervor, his hand gliding up and down your naked back, waist, thighs, and breasts.

Eventually, you pulled away and straddled him on his hips. Your hand reached down to massage his erection before directing it to your moist vagina. You were aware of his eyes following your every move, every centimeter of his girth that entered you. When his entire length was finally inside you, you couldn't help but let out a moan. This seemed to trigger him to sit up and kiss you.

You returned his kiss but eventually pushed him back to the bed. Your hands remained on his chest and your eyes locked with his as you began moving your hips up and down his cock. Slowly at first, before gradually increasing your pace. After a moment, he moved his hips along your rhythm, meeting to thrust you up as you crashed down. His calloused fingers gripped firmly on both sides of your hips for support.

You moaned out his name, feeling pleasure began pooling below your abdomen. Underneath you, you saw his muscles strained, either from keeping up the rhythm or holding back his own pleasures - or both. You leaned in to capture a spot between his neck and collarbone, kissing and sucking at the sensitive spot. His moaning reverberated along his throat before he gave in, his hips thrust up into you with abandon until he suddenly stopped. His entire body tensed and you moaned against his skin, sensing him pulsing and filling your insides.

Nyx tilted his head to find your face nestled against the hollow of his neck. You quickly captured his lips with yours, tongue slipping into his mouth and exploring. He groaned and turned aside, switching your positions so that you were the one lying on the bed. His hands left your hips and went up to your breasts, cradling them gently. His mouth followed shortly after, sucking on one while massaging the other alternately. You moaned out loud and felt a twitch as his cock grew harder inside of you.

He breathed out your name almost desperately. One hand grappled to lift your leg up, and you automatically hooked them around his hips. He began to thrust again, in and out of you. His pace was quick and frantic. You rocked your hips in kind to meet him, similarly desperate for your own release. Your fingers dug deep into his back, enough to leave marks. His lips and teeth scraped along around your collarbone while his fingers slipped down to press on your clit.

"Nyx…" You managed to breathe out his name seconds before your orgasm swarmed your senses and let you see the stars. His grunt followed shortly after, and you felt more of his warmth gushing inside of you.

Nyx collapsed on you immediately afterwards, breaths ragged and eyes shut from the world. You wrapped your arms around him protectively. In your dazed mind, you prayed to the powers that be that nothing should ever hurt him again. Not the past, and not the future, either. You promised yourself that you would make sure of that.

Chapter Text

Later on, gods know what time, you were woken up from your sleep with the sound of your phone vibrating. Again. You grabbed it from the nightstand and tapped at the receive button without bothering to open your eyes. "Hello?"

"Good evening." Your uncle's voice resounded from the other end. "I read your message. I take it the phone is still at your apartment?"

"Yes, last time I checked, it hasn't moved from the perimeter for more than 6 hours," you replied, feeling the sudden need to use sarcasm to express your agony at being woken up at an ungodly hour.

"Good. Send it in when you report at the Citadel in the morning. I'll have someone look at it."

From your uncle's tone alone, you were unsure if he actually got that you were being sarcastic. It irritated you all the more. At the same time, you could feel Nyx stirred next to you on the bed, his light snoring telling you that he was deep in sleep. It reminded you to keep your voice low.

"What's the size of your clothes, by the way?" your uncle asked.

Having been dumbed down from sleep, you told him. Then you asked afterwards, "Why?"

"I'm ordering an evening dress for you. You're going to the treaty's gala party at Caelum Via tomorrow night, to keep an eye on the Princess."

"But why?" you asked, still in your dumb, sleepy voice.

"Because Emperor Iedolas Aldercapt is going to be there, and we don't want to show any ill will towards the Empire by having the party crowded with fully-geared Glaives."

"Ah." You were quiet for a moment. "Wait, Uncle, did you just assume that I didn't have an evening dress?"

"Goodnight, little niece."

Your uncle ended the call, and you dropped your phone from your ear immediately after. Sleep took over your consciousness again swiftly and effectively. The next morning, as you both were getting ready for work, Nyx told you that you had been talking in your sleep.

"And what did I say?" you asked.

"Something about your uncle not knowing you had an evening dress," he replied, which invited an amused laugh from your side.

"Must have been a real wacky dream."

However, it wasn't a dream.

At the end of your work day at the Citadel, the same butler that had delivered the phone to you yesterday was waiting for you in the hallway. He didn't have his silver tray this time, but instead he was holding a lengthy black velvet hanging from a clothes hanger, protected by plastic wrapping.

"The gala officially starts at 8pm, but you are requested to be there one hour earlier, Miss Leonis," said the butler.

"Copy... that." You reached out for the dress tentatively. Once the item had changed hands, the butler bobbed his head. This time, you knew better than overthinking it and made an attempt to replicate what he did.

 


 

Caelum Via Hotels & Resort was the first ever hotel in Lucis that was awarded with six stars. The name was a tribute to the royal family, whose last names are Lucis Caelum. It was often mistaken that the hotel was owned by the royal family, with the name and close proximity to the Citadel. Additionally, its generous use of certain naming patterns like 'Royal Aquarium' didn't help with clearing up the misunderstanding.

Or so you learned from a chatty hostess that was showing you around before the party officially started. It had meant to be a security check - finding out all possible ways anyone unsavory could get in and out of the perimeter. You were not bothered much by it, though. At least the hostess was friendly enough and was willing to show you to parts of the hotel that you requested.

At the end of the tour, you went to the maids' changing area to change into your dress. Although you had guessed that it was made of velvet, you were still surprised to find how soft the fabric felt as it glided on your skin. There was no sleeve on the dress, instead it was supported by thin straps that hang delicately from your shoulders and expose the entirety of your arms. The hem of the skirt fell all the way to your ankles, to which you were helpfully told to wear high heels to prevent yourself from tripping on the fabric.

Once the hostess left you alone in the maids' changing room, which was totally empty, you wasted no time to call your uncle. You went straight to the voicemail three times in a row - which was unsurprising, considering he must have been busy with preparing the security team in anticipation of the treaty signing - but you persevered until he eventually picked up.

"Hey, Uncle. I'm at Caelum Via, like you requested," you greeted.

"I know that already," your uncle blurted. "What do you want?"

You inhaled, and then exhaled air before asking him back, "What happened to Crowe Altius actually?"

If your uncle wasn't going to beat around the bush, then neither were you. "She's your agent, right? So you must know what caused her to return to Insomnia - and why and how did she get infected with a Scourge."

There was silence from the other end of the line. You attempted nothing to break the stillness, no matter how long, and instead listened and waited. Your uncle eventually relented and let out a huff.

"She was supposed to report to me yesterday, but it was a no-show. So I know as much as you do," he said. "That's also why I'm requesting you to keep an eye on the Oracle, in case the Niffs are planning anything funny."

"Yeah? And what about Crowe, then? She got nothing at all for her troubles?" Without meaning to, your tone was rising higher. "Can't we arrange for the Oracle to heal her, at least? That's her job anyway, right?"

"No." Your uncle's tone was final and firm. "It's too risky."

"So you're just going to let a loyal soldier die, just like that."

Your uncle called out your full name, then. It was the first time he did such thing ever since he officially presented you on the day of your appointment as a Glaive. That startled you enough to shut up and listen to what he had to say next,

"You are to serve your country by attempting no reckless action that can risk the Crown City falling into the Empire's hands. Understood?" 

You didn't immediately answer him. In the meantime, the memory of your uncle's proud smile returned back to you in full force. You gritted your teeth and tightened your fist until your knuckles turned white against your black dress.

"Yes, sir."

 


 

At 8:15pm, you slipped into the party quietly via a servants' entrance. There were a few guests around already, having arrived at the hotel's rooftop from chartered helicopters or - in the case of the Niflheim delegation - the elevators connecting to their hotel suites downstairs. You tried to mingle around, grabbing a glass of champagne, and peeled your eyes open for the signs of the Oracle.

At one point during your round, you took a moment to stand in front of the Royal Aquarium. Various saltwater fish in assortiment of bright colors swam around inside the clear glass that towered two floors upwards, like a scene in a dream. At the center of it all, a painting of a goddess hovered in the middle of the aquarium, seemingly untouched by the water and everything around it.

"Fascinating, isn't it?"

You turned aside to find none other than the Chancellor of Niflheim, Ardyn Izunia, throwing you an amused smile. "The figure of a goddess, drowned in the sea for eternity. Her beauty and youth never fading."

He leaned forward to clink his champagne glass at yours. "Ardyn Izunia, Chancellor of Niflheim. At your service."

"Yes, I'm quite aware of who you are, Your Excellency," you replied, making your best effort to smile sincerely. Inside your chest, however, your heart was beating erratically. This was the man who invented a way to produce the MTs in industrial scale and manipulate daemons into weapons on the frontline. You and so many other Glaives had either died or put into life-threatening situations because of him.

"What a peculiar thing," remarked the Chancellor. His golden eyes glinting with amusement. "Someone as lovely as you knows who I am, but I don't know who you are."

"You're flattering me, Chancellor," you said, chuckling. "My name is of no importance compared to yours."

"Hmm is that so?" Chancellor Izunia paused to adjust the fedora hat on his chin-length auburn hair. "Very well. I will play your game, stranger. Before this party comes to an end, I will discover your identity."

The only thing louder in your ears than your own beating heart was the sound of a trilling gong that resounded all around the rooftop, announcing the arrival of King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII.

"Ah, saved by the bell." The Chancellor chuckled. "I'm afraid I have to leave you now to pay my respect to our sovereign host. And I expect you will do your best to elude me from then on.

"But not to worry." He took off his hat and made a dramatic, theatrical bow. "We shall meet again, dark stranger."

You smiled so wide until your cheeks hurt and bobbed your head - like you did to the butler this afternoon - to reply to his gesture. "Goodbye, Chancellor," you said, wishing hard that it would be the last time you ever had to say it.

You hurried away from the aquarium as quick as your high-heeled feet could, cursing to yourself and the Six mentally. At one point you ran into Nyx, who was in his full Glaive attire and just exiting the servants' door. His blue eyes were as wide as saucers when he saw you.

"What are you…?"

Before he could say your name, you pulled him back to the other side of the door.

"My uncle sent me," you blurted, pausing only to make way for a maid that was carrying out a tray full of caviar-based finger foods. "He said he needed someone to look after the Oracle."

"Well, the Captain sent me to do the exact same thing," he replied.

"Really?" You furrowed your brows. Secret operations aside, you had expected your uncle to have aligned with your direct superior at the very least. "Are we supposed to work together?"

Nyx answered your question with a shrug. "If we are, I didn't get the memo," he said, shortly before you noticed his eyes scanning you down. "Didn't get the memo about the dress code, either."

You couldn't help but chuckle at his distracted tone. "Nyx Ulric, get yourself together," you joked, gently slapping at his upper arm. "We got a princess to guard."

He let out a chuckle. "Aye, aye, ma'am."

As you were turning around to head back to the party, you felt Nyx's hand grabbing yours. "We need to talk later, by the way…," he said. His tone was much more serious this time. "It's about Lib."

You nodded. "Alright. Let's meet up at the laundry area after the party's over."

After a moment's pause, you added, "I also… have an idea on how we might possibly help Crowe."

Nyx's ice-blue eyes looked at you almost as intense as they did on the battlefield. "And how risky is this idea?"

You gazed back at him without blinking. "Very risky."

That brought a smirk up the side of his mouth. "Sounds like you're in need of a hero."

Chapter Text

Hours later, past midnight, you found yourself in the maid's changing room of Caelum Via, dressed in your full Kingsglaive gears. You were all alone - the rest of the maids had gone home once the rooftop was cleaned spotless from any reminiscent of the gala party. Without doubt, you knew that Nyx had left as well.

Not long after, you felt your phone vibrate in your uniform's pocket. You picked it up and saw there was a new text from Nyx. "Be there in 15," it said. You put your phone back to your pocket and pulled up the hood of your uniform. In the mirror, you could have been anyone. That had been the original idea behind the formation of Kingsglaive: no matter who you were, you were one of the many swords that served the King in striking down the enemies of Lucis. Just like the Draconian god Bahamut with his many swords.

With the more years you spent serving in the military, however, you became acutely aware that this was not always the case. Where you come from and who you are related to do matter - just like with anything else in this world.

Taking out your curved dagger from its sheath, you muttered a string of spell under your breath. Flickers of light began to form in the air before you, which concentrated around your figure the moment you placed the hilt of your dagger on your forehead. In the mirror of the maid's changing room, you could see your reflection gradually thinned before it disappeared completely.

Your plan for Crowe relied on the fact that the rooftop of Caelum Via would be left mostly unguarded due to the gala. Even after the party was over, it would take a while for the guards to be posted back after escorting all the guests and letting the hotel crew clean the place up. If they could somehow sneak Crowe in from the rooftop, you could open a way from the inside and let her have an audience with the Oracle.

When you finished telling Nyx your plan - back when you were meeting up with him in the laundry room - his jaw had fallen so much you had thought he was actually going to say something to interrupt you. However, before you could resume explaining yourself, he had pulled you into a very tight hug, whispering, "That is brilliant, Leonis! Oh, gods. You have no idea how much this means to me."

Your cheeks must have been as red as tomatoes then. It wasn't like your idea was stellar or even close to anything that someone like Luche could come up with. "Um, yeah. But that's just the idea. There are some… details to figure out still," you stammered. "Like, who's going to bring Crowe here? And how are they going to bring her?"

"Of course that would be me, you dummy." He had laughed, then. "And Lib, too. He would be so angry if he figured out he was missing all the action. The 'how' part you can leave to us."

"Oh, yes... You said you wanted to talk about him earlier?" you remembered asking Nyx, but he merely smiled and shook his head.

Back in the changing room, you opened the door carefully and slipped out. Quietly, you headed for the emergency door at the end of the hallway. You paused when a shadow of a figure showed up around a corner - it was the hostess that was showing you around earlier. You held your breath until she had passed you by. In the smaller hallway where guests were not allowed to go, her shoulder almost brushed with yours.

"There's no need to," was Nyx's answer. "He's gonna come back to his senses with this."

"Are you sure?"

"110 percent."

You hadn't had a clue on what to say to his answer, and you had definitely not expected him to suddenly lean in and kiss you full on your lips - right in front of all the hotel workers that were carrying laundry in and out of the room.

You remembered holding your breath then just as you did in the hallway. The hostess might not have seen you, but she could still hear or smell you. The best course of action, at this point, was to get away as soon as possible.

Once the hostess was a couple of steps away, you immediately flicked your dagger forward. The woman turned around at the sound of a blade singing in the air, but you were already warped to the other side of the emergency door, taking in a long, relieved breath.

Tilting your head up allowed you to see the spiral of stairs, twisting up as far as the eyes can see. Each floor was marked by large print indicating the floor number. You focused your attention on the one five floors ahead from where you were, and threw your dagger.

You warped again and again a few more times, climbing up Caelum Via in flashes of warps. Then your phone suddenly vibrated in one of your pockets, causing you to miss one of your aims and let gravity tugging you three floors down.

 


 

In one of the suites of Caelum Via Hotels & Resorts, Lady Lunafreya, the Oracle chosen by the six gods of Eos and former princess of Tenebrae, looked on at the golden hairpin in her hand. It was given by one of the Lucian Kingsglaives that had stood guard at the gala party, Nyx Ulric. He told her that she had meant to receive it from his fellow Glaive, one that King Regis had sent to meet her in Tenebrae. She told him that she'd keep it with her always, to remember those who had sacrificed their safety in her name.

She wondered just how many more memorabilia she would have to keep on her journey ahead.

Her attention shifted to her purse, where she had hidden the cellphone given by another Glaive. Leonis, she had introduced herself. Why she hadn't given her first name was a question that Lunafreya couldn't answer. She had intended to ask it to the Glaive herself when she saw her at the gala, mingling among the guests. However, after concluding her talk with Nyx Ulric, she turned around to find that Leonis had gone.

Placing the hairpin on the dresser, Lunafreya reached for the purse and put one hand inside to touch the phone. To feel its smooth edges and soft rubber buttons. She dared not take it out, even when she was alone in her room. However, she knew that she was never really alone - never had been for the last 12 years. That's why she didn't want to risk the Empire finding out about her little treasure and confiscating it.

That reminded her of another thing: she had not seen Umbra ever since arriving in Insomnia. At first, Lunafreya had chalked it to the fact that Noctis had been difficult to locate, or that he had been slower to reply during his travel. But it had been more than a week now since she sent the spirit hound off with her notebook from Tenebrae. Could it be that Umbra had difficulties getting through the Empire's tight security around Caelum Via?

That would not be the first time it happened.

So Lunafreya took the hairpin and - after some consideration - the cellphone, wearing the former on her updo and stuffing the latter into the narrow pocket of her dress. The phone barely fit inside the fabric without much notice. With the gala just recently concluded, Lunafreya had expected the security to be lax around the rooftop. So she headed there with the elevator in the hope that Umbra would find the spot easier to sneak into.

On the rooftop, the second thing that she saw after the infamous Royal Aquarium was the full moon, hanging low and alone on the night sky of Lucis. There was barely a star that accompanied it - a far cry from the sight of the night sky from the Fenestala Manor.

Lunafreya had read a poem which describes Insomnia as 'a sparkling jewel of wonder, inviting the stars above to hide in envy'. It surprised and saddened her at the same time to find some semblance of truth in such a statement. After all, this was the night sky that he grew up watching.

"Oh, Noctis." The name escaped her lips like a spell. "Wherever he is, please keep him safe."

"To what god do you pray? You, the slave of fate and destiny."

Before the words were heard, they were first felt. As something cold and hard yanked at her upper arm, Lunafreya turned and looked up to find a man towering above her. The soft light of the moon was reflected on his full-body magitek armor, which masked his voice into a guttural echo.

"Abandon your prayers," said the armored man. "The gods do not listen."

"General Glauca." Putting a name on an enemy helps to reduce their fearful effect. Lunafreya was told this. But the fear remained in the hollow of her chest regardless. "Why are you here?"

"You are far too clever to have ever believed in this peace. Pity you couldn't see your beloved Noctis," spat the General. "You have another purpose."

"I'm not here for Niflheim," she retorted.

"No. You are here for me."

"You? I do not understand…"

"Come tomorrow, you will."

Lunafreya tried not to wince as the grip on her upper arm tightened. Skin against steel. Warmth against cold. It would leave a bruising mark later. She knew this from experience.

The second the general turned around, she grappled with her free hand to the phone in her pocket and pressed on what she remembered was the wide, green button. She tried to stand her ground, too, to buy some time, but General Glauca was too powerful for her.

"I will not let myself be an instrument of your war," she spat.

"And how would you achieve that? By killing yourself and abandoning your duties?" The General sneered as he dragged the Oracle on her feet with ease. "I don't think so either."

After a few steps, however, his grip was suddenly loosened. The event was preceded by a loud voice of metals clanging. To her astonishment, Lunafreya saw the helmed head of General Glauca swayed aside from being hit by a curved dagger, which appearance was preceded by a scattering of light and crystals.

A split second later, a figure in black and red appeared holding the dagger. Meanwhile, the figure's free hand was opened wide against Glauca's face, shooting a roaring blast of fire.

Chapter Text

"Shit!"

You could barely hold your tongue as the sight of General Glauca's broadsword entered your peripheral view, causing you to drop the fire spell and hold your dagger up with both hands to block the incoming blow. Nevertheless, the force still managed to send you off in the air. You compensated by finding your bearing quickly enough to land on both your hands and feet. You stood on your feet as quick as possible, with your curved dagger pointed at the enemy and your free hand crackling with lightning spell - ready to strike.

"Release the Princess!" you shouted.

General Glauca's answer came in the form of deep, fractured chuckles from behind his magitek armor. "Do you know how many years this princess has been dancing to the strings of the Empire? A lone Glaive like you stands no chance."

At the very least, he let go of Lady Lunafreya's arm. One task down, another big one to go, you thought. The General raised his sword in a mock military salute, then took a fighting stance. You threw a bolt of lightning at him before warping towards the Princess. General Glauca seemed to anticipate this, as his blade was right in your face the moment you reappeared. This time, you managed to block it at least, with the help of a quickly-cast protective spell.

"Foolish girl," the distorted voice behind Glauca's helmet muttered. "Do you really think you can stand alone against Niflheim Empire's military commander and live to tell the tale?"

"Maybe," you spat back, muscles shivering from holding back a mere push from the General. Gods, you wished you could have lifted more at the gym at this point. "I just thought I had to try."

After the spell was broken, you ducked and smashed the ground with both hands charged with magic. A wall of fire shot up in an instant, allowing you the distraction to grab at Lady Lunafreya's hand and made a dash towards the edge of the rooftop.

"Do you trust me, Your Highness?!" you screamed as you turned to your side. What a thing to ask from someone whose face was concealed under a hood, you later realized.

Lady Lunafreya's answer was a calm and solid, "With all of my heart."

"Good! Because now you have to jump!"

And she did, with you following after, never letting go of her hand. The glittering lights of Insomnia were beneath your feet, inspiring both awe and fear. Suddenly, from seemingly out of nowhere, a small airship of Niflheim origin flew up right in front of you - its guns were trained forward and ready to fire.

You cursed yet again, and was forced to use both your hands to conjure a protective wall before rounds of high caliber bullets were fired directly at you. Before long, both you and Lady Lunafreya began to fall towards the ground. Her descent was faster, unfortunately, and from a corner of your eye you could see a military drone being dispatched from the side of the airship to catch up with the Princess.

"Oh, no, you don't," you muttered. You shot down a lightning bolt at the drone, which caused it to jitter back slightly, but it soon recovered and snatched the Oracle with its gangly mechanical arms.

"No!"

There was no time to retaliate - the drone was flying away and you were dangerously close to the ground at this point. You threw your dagger down. The blade stabbed a grassy patch and you appeared a split second afterwards on all four, heaving as if you had survived a drowning. It was not a pleasant experience for the weak-stomached, landing from a fall with a warp like that. Especially from more than ten stories high.

You were just about to get on your feet when you heard steel blade being swung nearby. You raised your weapon just in time, instantly finding yourself pitting blades against General Glauca. How he could get there so quickly was an interesting, but a moot point to ponder on as he kept swinging and thrusting his broadsword at you with scarily precise aims.

Being the one with no armor, you had a little gain for speed. But it was not for long as you felt exhaustion slowly creeping  up. Probably shouldn't have drunk that glass of champagne, you thought regretfully. In the meantime, General Glauca showed no sign of slowing, effectively reducing you to conjuring protective shield sustainably against his flurry of attacks.

"Hiding behind your Wall, I see?" was the comment given by the Niflheim general. "How typical of your weak nation - and your weak King."

"Well, fuck you and your imperialistic dictator, too!"

With a clap, you placed both your hands together, then ducked to evade the thrusting sword slicing through the non-material magical shield. You pushed ahead, sending concentrated bolt of lightning at General Glauca. It managed to stagger him off, and you would have pushed further if it wasn't because of a rain of bullets that was suddenly aimed at your general direction.

You cursed and raised your arms to conjure a shield against the airship's assault. However, before a syllable of the spell could escape your mouth, the General's ironclad fist had crashed against your temple, hard. Then there was a particularly strong kick delivered to your stomach that threw you off and ended with your back smashing into the wall of the hotel.

You keeled over in an instant, your vision was spinning and your ears were ringing. The last thing you saw was the armored heel of General Glauca as he walked away, and the last thing you heard was the sound of the airship's engine as it was flying away.

You thought that you might have cried. From the defeat, from the humiliation - but never, ever from the pain. However, you ended up just losing your consciousness on the grass, which was mowed to just the perfect height in order to welcome the contingents from the Niflheim Empire.

Chapter Text

Nyx woke up and found himself in a strange room and in a strange bed. It alarmed him at first, but as memories from the previous night started to come back to him, he relaxed more into the down pillow and blanket. Everything around him smelled sweet and soft and clean - typical of a woman's bed, he thought - and there was that distinct scent that he knew belonged only to you.

At the thought of you, he scooted closer to the side of the bed where you were sleeping on, using the warmth emanating from your naked skin as a guide. Then he reached out both arms to gather you towards his torso - your back against his chest, his nose against the hairline at the back of your neck - before resting his hand comfortably on one of your breasts. He closed his eyes, and breathed in your scent, before letting it out as a content sigh.

That sigh, in turn, woke you up. Nyx could feel your muscles jerked lightly in his hold, and a little part of him felt sorry for it. A bigger part of him, however, was more interested in peppering kisses along the smooth curve of your neck and shoulder, while his hand was gently massaging the soft mound of your breast.

"Good morning, Leonis," he greeted in a whisper, to which you replied with a sleepy, "Mornin'," before turning around and draping both arms around his neck. "How did you sleep, Nyx? Any nightmare?"

Nyx hummed in reply. For a moment there, he had forgotten that he'd told you all about his nightmares - of Selena's last moments screaming for him to get their mother, and most recently, of Crowe calling out his name in the midst of the noises of the battlefield. He buried his face in the crook of your collarbone, trying to see if more of your scent would drown out the visions and voices in his head. To his surprise - it did.

"No, I didn't have a nightmare," he answered, finding himself being honest about it for once. Sneaking one battle-calloused hand to squeeze one of your buttocks, he whispered to the shell of your ear, "And how about you?"

"Don't think I had any either. Though it didn't feel like I had enough sleep either…" You paused to let out a hiss as Nyx's index finger trailed gently along the slit of your vagina. The action led to your barely open eyes shutting completely. "Mm. What are you doing down there, Nyx?"

"I'm thinking of having my breakfast right there," he replied before kissing you full on your lips. He felt your moans reverberated inside his mouth before he moved downwards to your chin, your arched neck, and the valley of your breasts.

"Right here on the bed?" you asked sleepily, but also teasingly. Both your thighs spread out to make way for him as his lips and tongue wandered sideways, claiming your unguarded areolas before they moved further down towards your navel.

"Yes, right here..." He lifted your right thigh and kissed down starting from the inside of your knee. The feeling of his rough stubble along your oversensitive skin was enough to invite more moans from your parted lips.

"... On your bed." He whispered against your vulva before gently, carefully placing his lips against the pink opening. He then spent the next several moments there, kissing and licking your nether lips like he would your actual mouth. You reacted with throwing your head back against the pillow, your teeth biting your lip in an effort to not make too much sound. Then Nyx moved up to lick and suck at the hood of your clit, and you couldn't help but let out a harsh moan.

"Oh, Nyx…" You had half-consciously grabbed tightly at the headboard at this point. Your heels dug at his broad, scarred back while his tongue - his wonderful, talented tongue - kept on alternately flicking at your clit and your vulva in a way that made your brain stop thinking of anything else other than how to move your hips to get more out of his ministrations.

At your mention of his name, Nyx let out an approving hum - which you could definitely feel on your clit. Then without much warning, he pressed his index finger into your moist folds, causing your back to arch up from the bed. He continued on licking and sucking while slowly moving his finger in and out of you, eventually introducing a second finger. All pumping in and out of your core while his tongue lapped and sucked at your overstimulated clit.

At one point, you found yourself bucking your hips wildly at his fingers and mouth. His name spilled out freely from your parted lips like a prayer while your fingers gripped at your bedsheets as if your life depended on it. After some time, you felt orgasm struck up along your spine, sending your entire body taut like a bow and away from the surface of the bed. Seeing such a sight of you drove Nyx to get onto his knees, captured your arched hips, then pulled it down against his waiting, dripping erection.

Nyx fucked you hard and fast, with your heels digging into his back, prolonging your orgasm for what felt like forever. The way your inner walls grasped and pulled at his entire length every time he sunk into you was unlike anything he had ever experienced, and it wasn't long until he reached his climax. When he finally did come, Nyx found himself grasping at your hand on the headboard while his other hand held your behind closer to his groin. His muffled cry against your inner thigh was echoed by you, who relished in the feeling of his warm seeds painting your inner walls.

For some moments, neither of you moved. For Nyx, it was partly to catch his breath, but also partly because he couldn't think about much of anything else except how good it felt to be there, at that moment. Tangled up in more ways than one with you.

"A yen for your thought, Nyx?" your voice broke the silence in the room. He didn't immediately answer. Instead, he pulled out of you and letting you drop your legs to properly lie on the bed, with his arms wrapped protectively around your torso.

"I really like making you feel good," he finally said. His ice-blue eyes looked directly into yours. For a split second, he was about to say something more, but then he closed his mouth again. The words of warning from Crowe from days ago resounded again in his ears. She's going to break your heart, you know.

From where he laid on your bed, Nyx saw your eyes soften. "I like making you feel good, too," you replied before scooting closer to kiss him. As he returned your kiss, he couldn't help but wonder whether you could actually taste yourself on his lips. "But unlike some people, I do need actual food for breakfast and not just blow jobs…"

He chuckled. "Breakfast is for losers."

"Last time I checked, the saying is 'breakfast is for the champions', Nyx."

"Fine," he huffed before loosening up his hold on you. "Lead the way, Mistress of the House."

 


 

Nyx never told anyone this - not even Libertus, and maybe to Crowe when he was really, really drunk - but he had always wanted children. A son and a daughter, to be exact. As he sat there in your kitchen/dining room, waiting for you to finish making toast and coffee, he couldn't help but be reminded of that tiny little trivia. Since he left Galahd years ago, he never lived in a space that had true separation between the bedroom and the dining area, so seeing such space in your apartment was enough to start up some daydreaming on his side.

How would it be like if you and him had a son and a daughter, right then and there? How would it feel like to have them run around the dining table, maybe asking you incessantly when the food was ready?

By the time you returned with a pot of freshly brewed coffee, you found him staring through you with a wide smile on his face. You asked him, then, "What is it?"

"Oh, nothing…," he replied reflexively. The domestic images of children with dark hair running around his legs were slowly melting away into the back of his mind. "I just thought your apartment's quite spacious."

You hummed while pouring coffee into his mug. "Thanks. It's a perk of being a life insurance beneficiary," you added.

Nyx raised an eyebrow as you moved to sit on the chair across from him. "Was the insurance arranged by your father before he passed away?" he asked before taking a sip from his own coffee mug (it tasted wonderful). He wasn't quite sure if the death of your father was an actual fact or just yet another gossip that your common colleagues made up - but then he saw you nodding.

"I bought the place immediately after the payout was made," you added. "I didn't feel... very comfortable letting the money sit around in the bank."

"I see. I think I can imagine." Nyx was only half lying. He never had to deal with a lot of money in a short amount of time - be it from a dead father or any other source - so that part of your story was hard to relate to. However, he could imagine feeling totally happy knowing that he could help his hypothetical future daughter buy a house for herself even after his death.

"I'm pretty sure your father must have been happy with your decision."

"Yeah…"

He noticed you stopped bringing up your coffee cup midway to your lips. "He died in a Niflheim attack," you thought out loud. "I don't even remember where anymore."

Nyx didn't say anything back. Instead, he reached out his hand and placed it on yours on the table. A small gesture of solidarity from one person who'd lost a family member in the war to another.

Not long after, the toaster made that distinctive mechanical noise when it tossed the freshly toasted bread slices out of its grill. You moved to get them, but Nyx held your hand from leaving. His ice-blue eyes never left yours while he stood up, moved closer, and then leaned in for a kiss. As the kiss deepened, he eventually found himself pinning you against the wall with his sleeping boxers halfway down his thighs. Your fingers were in his braids and on his shoulder while his hand and arm lifted up the hem of your bathrobe and settled around the curve of your hips for support. It didn't take long until his erection - warm and throbbing - began to enter you again.

After burying himself completely to the hilt inside you, Nyx had to pause for a moment. It felt so good to be inside you, even in such an awkward angle, with his arm gripping tightly at your hips for support. To be completely honest, he was just about ready to ask if you would want to bear his children - but he quickly reigned the thought back in and instead called out,

"Leonis?"

"Yes, Nyx?"

"Will you be my girlfriend?"

"Yes." Your answer came in a low, breathy moan. The wall behind your back made it nigh impossible for you to move your hips, and it was beginning to get frustrating. "Gods, will you please start fucking me already?"

His chuckle was deep and lustful when he bit lightly at your earlobe. "As you wish, babe," he purred before starting to move in and out of you along his hardened cock.

 


 

Nyx knew that once he left your apartment that morning, real-life would start again. You would both go to work, pretend that you had nothing to do with one another and definitely had not been having sex multiple times since the previous night, and then hopefully meet up the next evening to start the cycle all over again. There was a morning meeting with the Captain to attend and different spots of the Citadel to stand guard on and Crowe to visit in the hospital during lunchtime. Lib was alarmingly not there when he visited, and Nyx couldn't help but feel like his best friend was slipping further away from him.

The feeling, however, was changed when you told him of your plan to save Crowe. Nyx had agreed to it blindly, only thinking of how it could help prevent the two remaining families that he had from drifting completely away from his life forever. He never stopped to think about how the plan could affect you - the very person who had suggested the plan and took the riskiest part of it: opening up a way from inside Caelum Via, which was chock-full of Imperial guards and officials.

So when you didn't reply to his text in the longest time, Nyx couldn't help but feel worried - and ashamed. After telling Lib to drive away with Crowe to his own apartment, he put on the hood of his uniform - which he still had on from the guard duty at the peace treaty gala - and warped through the city towards Caelum Via. Nyx was barely arriving on the hotel's property when he saw Captain Drautos standing by the parking lot, and by his feet - there was you lying unconscious on your belly.

Without much thinking, Nyx warped his way into a kneeling position next to you. He didn't even bother to greet the Captain, or even thought for once how odd it was to see him - the leader of the Glaives - out so late in the night by the only hotel in the entire Insomnia that housed all the Imperial officials for the peace treaty signing. All that he could think of and see was you, with the blood and the bruises on your temple, your soft, barely-there breaths, and your incapability of responding to his frantic calling of both your first and last name.

Once his panic slowly subsided, Nyx inhaled deeply and began cradling your form in one of his arms, while his free hand gently cupped at the wound on your head. He dug into the depth of his memory for that one healing spell that Crowe had taught him after she learned of his disregard of his own safety on the battlefield.

For the most part of his adult life, Nyx never prayed. But at that moment, holding your unconscious body under the full moon near the parking lot of Caelum Via, he prayed to each one of the Astrals to make the spell work and bring you back to him.

Chapter Text

When you opened your eyes again, the first thing that you saw was Nyx's face. His lips moved in a quiet utterance of words while one of his arms was cradling you close. There was worry in his furrowed brows, and from the green flickers that surrounded his form and extended to yours, you deduced that he was casting a healing spell on you.

"I didn't know you mastered a healing spell." Your voice came out more like a distracted murmur than a sarcastic jest, with your throat feeling dry and your tongue like sandpaper. He replied with a chuckle.

"I'm actually quite a well-rounded fighter, yeah. It comes with being a hero," replied Nyx before his expression turned serious again. "Who did this to you?"

You felt a throbbing started manifesting inside your skull. So you closed your eyes and inhaled sharply to mitigate the pain. At the same time, you felt Nyx's hold on you tightened ever so slightly upon sensing your discomfort.

"General Glauca," you finally answered. "He took the Oracle on an airship. I tried to stop him."

"And how did you get yourself into the General's way, in the first place?"

That last question was asked not by Nyx. You opened your eyes and immediately saw an imposing figure looking down at you from your peripheral vision.

"Captain Drautos…"

You tried to get up and put some distance away from Nyx. However, the throbbing in your head stopped you in your tracks. In the end, you ended up half-standing on one knee, hissing and holding your temple with one hand.

"Explain it as concisely and as clearly as you can, Leonis," resumed the Captain. "We already have little time as it is."

You opened your mouth to answer, but then closed it again. You suddenly realized that explaining your presence at Caelum Via so late in the night would require telling him about your secret plan with Nyx to get Crowe to meet with the Oracle. Which was something that any officer - as your uncle had shown you an example of - would be vehemently against. And not to mention it was an act of disobedience that was punishable by martial law.

In the absence of your answer, Nyx stood up. The glimmers from his healing spell vanished as his ice-blue glare was directed at the Captain. "Why does that matter? Two of our soldiers have been taken down already, and on top of that the Oracle is now kidnapped by the Empire," he spat. "Aren't we supposed to do something about that first before taking care of the protocol?"

The Captain merely looked back at him. "I am still the captain of Kingsglaive, Ulric. Any Glaive that disobeys my order - or takes an action without requiring one - is not only eligible for punishment, but they are endangering Lucis as well. It is my duty to prioritize taking the necessary response." His attention turned to you. "You are hereby suspended from duty without pay, Leonis. When that shall end, I will consider after all this fiasco is taken care of."

"But, Captain-!"

Nyx was about to protest further, but you had gotten up to your feet and held him back. When you finally got his full attention - with his ice-blue eyes focused completely on you - you shook your head quietly. Don't get involved in this, you tried to say. I will take all the blame. That caused him to relax a bit, but his gritted teeth and furrowed brows showed anything but acceptance.

"My utmost apologies, sir," you told the Captain. Your voice came out shakier than you had expected. "That mistake will not happen again."

"As it should, Leonis," replied Captain Drautos with a huff. "Ulric, try to contact as many Glaives as you can and tell them to report to the HQ in 30 minutes. I will try the same on my side."

"Yes... sir."

Once the Captain turned around and was well out of your earshot, Nyx stole the moment to give you a tight hug - which you reflexively returned in kind.

"Go to my place. Crowe and Lib are there. There should be enough potion bottles in the fridge to cure the rest of your wounds. Good luck," he whispered quickly before hurriedly pulling away and running after Captain Drautos. You simply stood and watched his back moved further away, each of his steps happened in tandem with a throbbing pain hitting against the inside your skull. You closed your eyes and put a hand against your temple. After letting out a sigh, you slowly made your way towards the subway station like a lost drunk.

 

- - -

 

When you arrived at Nyx's apartment, it was Libertus that opened the door for you. He didn't stay for long, however, as he had received a text from Nyx saying that all Glaives were required to report to the HQ. Even him, who still had his leg in a cast.

"He also said that… well, you're suspended." He bit his lower lip empathetically - if not guiltily. "Sorry, Leonis."

You simply shook your head, which was actually becoming quite painful at this point. After taking another gulp from the potion bottle that Libertus had offered you, you told him, "Don't worry about it."

Libertus's smile was forced and small when he squeezed your upper arm gently, shortly before he left the apartment. You were left all alone then, save for Crowe, who was lying unconscious on the bed. You noticed that she wasn't wearing a hospital gown, and you couldn't help but wonder if it was Nyx's or Libertus's decision that initiated the change. If it wasn't for the IV drips, electrocardiogram, and a big black rash that ran from her left temple down to her neck, anyone would have thought that she was simply sleeping in her jeans and t-shirt.

Although there was a sofa, you chose to sit on the floor instead, with your back against the wall. You had taken out several bottles of potion from the fridge and popped open one after another. It helped to fade your bruises and close up your cuts, but you found the throbbing in your head persisted for a much longer time. Although it did get better with the more potions that you ingested.

As you sat there for at least an hour, you hesitated whether to call your uncle or not. If you did call him, you knew that he would definitely not be happy. Doing something reckless was one thing, but getting caught doing it and then slapped with suspension from duty was another level of failing that you just weren't ready to share with him yet.

"I really fucked up this time," you muttered mostly to yourself, but your gaze inevitably drifted to Crowe. "Don't you think so, Crowe?"

You didn't get any answer, of course. Just steady beeps from the machine in an empty dark room. Eventually, you caught yourself yawning and moved to lie down on the sofa. The throbbing was still there, and while you wondered whether you would be able to fall asleep, you thought you heard Crowe said something.

Cor, don't leave.

To this day, you weren't sure if you actually heard it correctly. Or whether it was just a delusion from your internal bleeding that made you hear Crowe - who was supposed to be in a coma from the Scourge - called out to your uncle and asking him not to leave her.

Chapter Text

Early in the morning, you woke up to Pelna and Libertus arriving at the apartment's door bringing breakfast and more potion bottles. Once they settled them down on the coffee table, you immediately went after one potion bottle and gulped it down like it was water. Pelna noticed this and chuckled.

"I've never seen you this beat up before, Leonis... I guess it must be true that you fought Glauca, huh?" he remarked.

"Yeah, well. If it was any other male Glaive and not me that was found unconscious at Caelum Via, I think people would probably believe the story more," you replied before opening another bottle and made a mock-cheer gesture at Pelna with it. "Thanks, by the way, for bringing these."

"No worries. Should be the King you're thanking anyway," replied Pelna with a grin. "Without his magic, those potions would've just been regular soda drinks."

"Sure, but it's not like he's going out of his way from the Citadel to give potion bottles to me," you replied, remembering the sight of King Regis from last night's gala with his cane and knee brace. Grimacing, you began to reach out for a jam-filled bread that was on the coffee table. "Aren't you guys supposed to be at the morning assembly?"

Both Pelna and Libertus looked at one another before looking back at you.

"Well, we just came back from it," Libertus began before further explaining how the assembly went. Apparently, after a search that lasted the entire night, Nyx found out that the hairpin that he had given to Lady Lunafreya was actually a tracker connected to Crowe's watch. When the reconnaissance team was dispatched to scout the location, they ended up finding an entire war fleet standing by just a few kilometers away from Insomnia. Their next mission, then, was to rescue the Oracle and discreetly disable the fleet before it could reach Insomnia.

"Also, Nyx and Luche vouched for you to be freed from suspension," added Pelna. "Their argument is that we need all able-bodied Glaives in order to protect Insomnia. Which makes a lot of sense, if you ask me."

Up until that point, you had been listening quietly to both Pelna and Libertus while eating up the jam-filled bread. However, that last news inevitably caused your eyebrows to furrow. Nyx vouching for you was still believable to you, but... "Luche, too?" After your most recent encounter in the training area with him, you really couldn't fathom how or why he would stand up for you.

Pelna shrugged, but Libertus just laughed and leaned in to pat you on your back. "Eh, who cares what that smug boy did. Welcome back to the squad, Leonis!"

"Thanks… I guess?" You forced a smile upon your lips after Libertus pulled back. "So when are we deployed?"

"Soon... but I'm not going." Libertus smiled and gestured towards the bed, where Crowe was. "Got someone important I need to keep watch over."

You raised an eyebrow at him. "Um. Okay. You do know that failing to show up at a mission is reason for detention, right?" you asked just to make sure.

"Yeah, of course. But I don't really give a damn." Libertus shrugged. "I realize now that life is so much more than just following orders… you gotta fight, too, for what's important. And I never realized what - or who - that is, until now. It's… actually all thanks to you, Leonis."

He scratched at the back of his head while you felt your cheeks warming up. You didn't feel like you deserve such appreciation - after all, you ended up getting suspended, even though only for a few hours. Before you could say anything, however, Pelna placed a hand on one of your shoulders to get your attention. "Shall we go together to the HQ, then? My bike is parked not far from here."

"Okay. Yeah… that would be nice," you replied, smiling for real this time.

You spent the next several minutes finishing up breakfast and drinking up one whole bottle of potion - just in case. The throbbing in your head was pretty much gone by the time you stood up and was about to leave the apartment. You made sure to thank Libertus for his part in that recovery, and while heading to Pelna's motorbike, you turned your attention to the other man, "Thanks, Pelna. You're a hero."

That invited another chuckle from Pelna as he handed you a spare helmet. "I always thought only Nyx gets that nickname."

"Well, everyone is the hero of their own story."

"Wise words, Leonis."

"Thank you. I think I may have a concussion."

"Right. No wonder you're talking way more than usual today…"

 

- - -

 

The entire trip from Nyx's apartment to the Kingsglaive Headquarters was a blur - literally and figuratively. You were sitting at the back of Pelna's motorcycle as he swished past traffic and sped up towards the inner city, in a way that made you held on tightly to his torso and shut your eyes every once in a while. All the while, you couldn't help but think of what Libertus said back at Nyx's apartment.

Despite Libertus's gratitude, you felt like you accomplished nothing. If anything, you actually failed him and Nyx for not being able to deliver your promise of helping Crowe. On top of that, you let the Empire kidnapped the Oracle - the very person that you were duty-bound to protect. With all those failures, you actually thought the suspension from duty was actually a deserving punishment.

Oh, well. Nothing you could do to change the past. All everyone could do was face whatever comes ahead. Your uncle - and to some extent also your mother - had taught you this.

After arriving at the Kingsglaive Headquarters, you thanked Pelna again and went immediately to the training area to prepare. While readying your gears and waiting for transportation with the other mage Glaives in your unit, you steeled your resolve to do whatever you can to make this mission a success. It was the least that you could do, after all the blunders that you had made.

 

- - -

 

Give or take a couple of hours later, you found yourself standing at the edge of a ravine only several kilometers away from Insomnia with your fellow Glaives. Looking downwards, you saw Niflheim's airships that were towed at the bottom, just as described in the report from the recon unit. They were much bigger than the one you were fighting against last night, and were clearly meant to serve as warships.

"All units, we have a go to proceed." Luche's voice resounded loud and clear in your earpiece. "Like the Captain said, do exert caution. One Glaive is already down and out because of this princess."

At the conclusion of the announcement, you and the other Glaives threw your weapons and made warps on various parts of the airships. You reappeared on one side of an airship just as it was taking off. Bracing for the winds and movements, you scaled your way towards the deck using your limbs and dagger. Another Glaive did the same ahead of you, and when he landed on the deck, an MT just happened to turn around a corner and raised its gun.

You tossed a bolt of lightning at the MT, disabling it temporarily, and slipped onto the deck while the other Glaive took the opportunity to quickly and silently toss the MT overboard. When the Glaive turned around to face you, you realized that it was none other than Nyx.

"You made it here," he said, calling you with your first name. He took steps to approach you, and without thinking, you walked forward to meet him. Once he was within an arm's reach, you pulled him towards you into a tight embrace, which was returned by Nyx in kind.

"Pelna and Libertus told me everything. I can't thank you enough for standing up for me," you replied. "And I'm so very sorry about Crowe…"

He chuckled. "It was easy enough. You are one of our best soldiers. Everyone with enough brain cells know that we can't afford to bench you with what we're about to face," he explained while gently stroking down your hair. "And don't worry about Crowe. We'll figure it out somehow."

"Alright." You nodded and was about to pull away, but somehow Nyx embraced you even tighter.

"When I saw you unconscious at Caelum Via... I thought I was going to lose you, too," he resumed in a whisper, and the inside of your chest felt like it was going to burst. Memories from your last night together rushed back to you with little inhibition: the sight of him standing forlorn by your door, the late night pillow talks about how he had dreamed of his dead sister and Crowe, the way he called you beautiful...

"I'm not that easy to get rid of," you replied, smiling as you both were finally pulling away. "Come on, hero. We got a princess to rescue."

Chapter Text

You and Nyx sneaked further into the ship. It was eerily quiet. You didn’t encounter any patrolling MT aside from the one on the deck, which you thought was rather strange for an airship of such size.

"Nyx… this doesn't feel like a war fleet," your voice echoed in the empty hallway.

"Yeah. Something's not right."

Suddenly, Pelna's voice sounded off from your earpiece, sending you jumping in surprise, "I think I might've found her. Got a guarded door here. Two Niffs MTs."

"What's the plan?" asked Nyx to the earpiece.

"Hold position," came Luche's voice.

A few more seconds later, Pelna’s voice returned. "Arrived at destination. High possibility of target in the vicinity."

"Pelna, you are clear to engage." It was Captain Drautos who spoke this time around. "But keep it quiet."

"Copy that. I'm on my way."

Somewhere from your right, you heard footsteps. You followed it, guessing that it might have been Pelna. Not long after, his voice was heard again.

"Target confirmed. She's unha- Ugh…!"

Feeling alarmed, you broke into a run. From the sounds of the steps behind you, you guessed that Nyx was following you close. "Pelna! Get out of there!" he shouted. "It's a trap!"

You made a turn at a corner just in time to see Pelna's limp body being dragged away by gigantic tentacle of a daemon. In the middle of the hallway, Lady Lunafreya was standing by an open door, seemingly unsure of what to do. Cursing, you tossed fireballs at the daemon, which screeched and struck a limb at your direction. You wouldn’t have had the time to evade if it wasn’t because of Nyx, who yanked you flat to the ground.

"Go!" he shouted, herding both you and Lady Lunafreya back to where you came from. Behind you, a loud thud echoed - the corpse of Pelna smashed against the wall and crumpled on the floor like a lifeless doll. You grimaced at the sight while continuing on running.

"There is a daemon below the deck," you reported into the radio. "Avoid going under the deck. I repeat, avoid going under the deck. Target is already secured."

Just after you closed your mouth, a tentacle struck from a pathway to your left. Nyx, thankfully, managed to block and parry it. You grabbed at Lady Lunafreya’s hand and ran the other way, while keeping an eye on Nyx to make sure he was still following.

"How is it possible that this daemon is so active this early in the day?!" you asked in frustration as soon as Nyx caught up with you and the Oracle.

"Why don't you ask that question to an MT?" he asked back. "They probably can answer it better than I do!"

"This is all my fault," the Oracle suddenly said. "General Glauca brought me here as a bait."

"Us coming here is part of their plan," concluded Nyx. The realization brought out chill from the pit of your stomach.

"They are attacking Insomnia now, and we are not there to defend it."

"Unit one, secure the perimeter. Unit two, stand your ground," came the gruff voice of Captain Drautos from your earpiece. "Leonis and Ulric, you are permitted to withdraw."

"Yes, sir."

"Copy that, sir."

The three of you made it to the deck, which was already populated by a few other Glaives. One of them was Tredd Furia, who you spotted brandishing his dagger - and then stabbing at another Glaive from the back before tossing him off the deck.

"You..."

You felt anger rising to the top of your head. You could have apprehended that bastard traitor back at the training area. None of this would have happened otherwise. Pelna wouldn't have had to die.

As you were about to unsheathe your dagger, a large tremor could be felt beneath your feet. You held on tight to the Princess and grabbed onto a railing, just in time for the floor to collapse and reveal the gigantic, octopus-like daemon underneath, screeching whatever its breathing organ out. Its humongous tentacles whipped around in anger.

"We need to move! This airship’s not gonna make it!" shouted Nyx, who had already started crawling up the railing towards one of the smaller airships parked just outside the deck. It was the same model as the one that had attacked you last night. Perhaps even the exact same one.

You led Lady Lunafreya up the railing before following after her. The climb was treacherous, with the daemon raging underneath. You conjured up a protective shield to prevent it from striking down the brittle railing which you were clambering on. It gave some protection, but not enough to protect against all the tremors.

Nevertheless, all three of you made it to the small airship. You stood guard at the entrance, maintaining the magical wall around the vehicle while Lady Lunafreya and Nyx rushed towards the helm.

"They teach piloting back at the royal academy?" you heard Nyx ask mockingly. "Give me that."

"By Shiva, can the mansplaining wait? We're kind of in a hurry here!" you warned, having seen a crack began to form on your wall.

Then, without warning, the airship began to lurch forward. You almost got yourself thrown out if you hadn’t unconsciously been holding onto the handle of the door. Beneath your feet, the daemon screamed deafeningly, having been blasted by the hot jet stream of the small airship.

You muttered a long string of spell, concentrating your magic at your two outstretched fingers. A powerful blast of lightning shot out from them, aimed directly at the daemon. Its last, drawn out shriek was eventually overtaken by sounds of explosions as its airship host began to detonate.

The first thing that you did next, after closing the airship’s door and latching it safely, was to punch at Nyx’s upper arm. It caused the airship to wobble a bit in the air, but you could hardly care.

"Jerk," you said. "I could have fallen and died."

"Well, you’re the one who said that you’re hard to get rid of," he laughed out loud. "I guess you weren’t lying."

You ignored his comment and looked on through the windshield. The fog that usually came in from the sea in the morning had dissipated, revealing the skyline of Insomnia ahead. There were trails of smoke scattered around the city. However, the most staggering sight was the hollow space on top of the Citadel, where the crystal used to nestle.

"The Wall and the crystal are gone," you remarked, horrified. "Also we’re kind of flying low here, aren’t we?"

"Yeah, kinda difficult piloting this thing," replied Nyx. "I think the daemon might have hit it too hard."

"Shame. It was functioning very well last night when it fired rounds at me."

"Well, in that case I hope this piece of garbage will crash and burn."

The protective tone in his voice was unexpected, but not unwelcome. You caught yourself smiling because of it, up to the point where you saw Lady Lunafreya’s big blue eyes staring at you. Feeling embarrassed, as if you were caught red-handed stealing candy from a store, you looked away. Warmth began to spread on your cheeks.

"You need to take me to King Regis." The Oracle announced next, to which you had to interject.

"You can’t, Your Highness. With the Wall down, the Niflheim’s forces must have infiltrated the city. It’s a war zone down there."

She looked at you straight in the eye with those bright, wide blue orbs of hers. "I have a duty," she said. "I cannot neglect it."

Something in her eyes stirred something in you. It reminded you of your uncle, and the glint of pride that he had in his own eyes when he looked at you in your Glaive uniform.

With a newly-found determination, you replied to her, "No, I’ll go instead."

Nyx turned around to you at this. "Leonis, are you out of your fucking mind?!"

"No, I’m actually being very logical now. You should take Lady Lunafreya to safety, and I will get the King," you said. "We have been ordered to guard the Oracle, but we also swore an oath to King Regis. I can't just leave him."

"If that's your argument, then I'm coming, too," he retorted. "I'm a Glaive, too, for gods' sakes!"

"And leaving Lady Lunafreya defending for herself? I don't think so," you retorted. "We can meet up somewhere safe later. Maybe Lestallum? I'll give you a call."

Before Nyx could argue back, you had turned and unlatched the exit door of the airship. The winds greeted you immediately, blowing the hood of your uniform off your face. The Citadel was passing you by. You brandished your curved dagger, aimed it at one of the palace’s numerous balconies, and was preparing to warp - until the hand of the Oracle herself yanked at your wrist.

Chapter Text

The next few seconds saw you warping, falling in the air, feeling yanked around your chest, warping again, and then falling on your back with a thud on the granite stone balcony that you had originally aimed your dagger at. For a moment, all you could do was stare at the blue, Wall-less sky above, trying to stop it from moving. And also to try to make sense of what was happening. Your answer made its appearance by way of Nyx's face hovering in your field of vision.

"You alright, Leonis?" he asked, which you replied with a nod before moving with his help to get to your feet. The hero of the Glaives. Of course he was going to prevent you falling to your death for the second time.

You saw him turned towards Lady Lunafreya, who was similarly getting up to her feet as well. "Cut the dutiful princess crap already," he chided - almost yelled, really. "If you want to die so badly, at least do it on your own and don't drag anyone else with you."

The Oracle, still the paragon of grace as you had first seen her upon her arrival in Insomnia, made no change in her expression as she had a stare-down with Nyx.

"I have no fear of death," she said, simply and calmly. Then, turning to you, she resumed, "The Empire has 'protected' me all these 12 years. It never stopped me from fulfilling my duty."

You chose to accept the royal scolding quietly and valiantly before turning your attention to the interior of the palace. As wrecked as it was, you realized that you had been to this area before, back when you were briefing the Citadel's security team. The Council hall - which was repurposed to accommodate treaty signing for the day - shouldn't be too far away from here.

"This way," you said, gesturing for the other two to follow after you.

 

- - -

 

You arrived at the Council hall which had been turned into a room of massacre.

The Lucian delegates' corpses were strewn across the floor, while broken MTs were scattered among them. On the far end, you saw the lifeless body of Clarus Amicitia - the Shield of the King - impaled to the wall with a sword. Soon you found yourself trying to zoom out of the grisly scene by focusing to the middle of the room. Three people were standing off there: King Regis with blood spattered on his face, General Glauca in his notorious magitek armor, and a pale-haired man in Nifleheim's white robe that you recognized from the news as Ravus Nox Fleuret: deputy high commander of Niflheim army - and the older brother of the Oracle.

When you entered the Council hall, Ravus was holding up a ring in his hand. "At last, the Ring of Lucii," he muttered, before raising his voice into a shout, "Hear me, Lucian kings of old! For I am Ravus Nox Fleuret and none is more worthy of your power than I."

He put on the ring. The jewelry lit up immediately, and within seconds his entire arm was engulfed in fire. His screams of pain were echoed by the marble walls.

"Ravus!"

Lady Lunafreya called out and rushed over, just in time to catch her brother's limp body before he fell. The ring slipped out of his burned finger and rolled off. The tinkling sound that the ring made as it hit the stone floor woke up any murderous intent in the room that was previously halted by Ravus's grand announcement - and you watched General Glauca made a move to raise his broadsword.

Both you and the King intercepted quickly, firing off lightning bolts at the General before he could strike down at the Oracle. Nyx followed up shortly after, gathering the Princess to her feet and bringing her behind King Regis. Then, just as soon as your lightning bolt was withdrawn, he struck at General Glauca with not one, but two warp strikes. The steel of his two blades clashed against the General's armor over and over, sending sparks on the blood-stained floor.

Nyx's elaborate attacks provided you with an opportunity to warp closer to the two royals. "Your Majesty! We need to get you and the Oracle to safety."

"Yes, I know a way. Follow me."

King Regis turned away, limping. Lady Lunafreya followed him close, carrying his cane. You joined them without delay, holding the King's arm against your shoulders to help him walk faster. This allowed you to notice his heaving breaths and light body, and not to mention the blood that kept trickling from his severed hand. It was alarming to see how frail he had become.

At the end of the room, King Regis opened a hidden passageway. You led him and Lady Lunafreya past the door first before turning around.

"Nyx!! Over here!" you shouted as loud as your throat allowed, to make sure you were heard amid the sounds of clashing steels. Raising your arm, you conjured a protective shield between him and General Glauca, allowing the Galahdian Glaive some room to flee.

"Coming!" he shouted back, tossing one of his blades past your shoulder before warping. Following flashes of scattered lights, Nyx reappeared right in your waiting arms, mere seconds before the hidden door closed on General Glauca.

 

- - -

 

"What the hell was that about?" was the first thing that Nyx asked out loud once you were all in relative safety of the Citadel's secret passage. "What did the ring do to him?"

King Regis opened his unwounded hand - his other hand was being tended to by the Oracle - and revealed the ring that Ravus was wearing. He must have picked it up from the floor before you helped him to the hidden door.

"The Ring of Lucii grants unimaginable powers to those of the royal blood," he explained. "But shall refuse those that the Kings of Yore deem unworthy."

He handed the ring to Lady Lunafreya. "Here. Take this. It is time it's passed for another's safekeeping."

"Your Majesty..."

You watched the Oracle receive the ring tentatively before examining the passageway ahead of you. "Do you know where this way leads to, Your Majesty?"

"Yes, we're heading for the west side of the Citadel, close to the servants' quarters," he answered. "Once you are out, make for Altissia. Noctis and his retainers await you there."

From your peripheral view, you noticed Nyx looking at the King in disbelief and sudden realization. "You knew this was coming…"

"Yes. It was the only way to avert the wrath of the Empire from Noctis."

"Is that the way of our King? Sacrifice the sons of Lucis to save his own?"

It was not King Regis's fault, you wanted to tell him. There were Imperial collaborators in the Glaives that you had failed to apprehend, which allowed all of this to happen in the first place. But Lady Lunafreya had stepped up first, staring at Nyx square in his ice blue eyes.

"He did it to save the future."

And that silenced everyone, up until King Regis stood up straight on his cane and began to talk.

"See Lunafreya safely to Altissia. This is not an order from a king to his Glaive. This is a plea from one man to another." The King's tone was almost tired. "Please, Nyx Ulric, keep her safe."

You saw Nyx's tense stature relaxed slightly before turning away. "The future, huh?" he muttered.

The four of you began to walk shortly after. Nyx was leading the way, followed by Lady Lunafreya, who was holding onto King Regis's healthy hand to assist him, and you walked just behind their heels. No one talked until, at one point, the King turned his attention towards you. "You are the daughter of Cor Leonis's late brother, are you not?"

"Yes, Your Majesty."

"Cor talks often about you. Well, as often as Cor tends to talk about his family, in any case," resumed the King with a kind smile. "He saved my life so many times in the past. It appears that this time, I owe his niece one as well."

"You owe me nothing, Your Majesty," you replied humbly. "I'm merely fulfilling my duty."

"Ah, yes... The duty." His voice turned somber. "You may want to be careful in throwing that word around in the future, my dear. The older you get, the more pain it may bring you."

The King's gaze slowly trailed towards Lady Lunafreya. You pretended not to notice it. "I will keep that in mind, Your Majesty."

Eventually, the four of you reached a circular room that led to another passageway. You gasped upon realizing how familiar the room was.

"The garage is just up this way! We can use one of the cars parked there," you suggested, your tone thrilled. For once after all these days, you noticed the small weight of the car key inside a sealed pocket on your uniform.

In your excitement, you paced ahead of King Regis, Lady Lunafreya, and even Nyx. You turned around seconds later after noticing the lack of footsteps following yours. What you immediately saw was King Regis standing back, his healthy hand raised and glowing, conjuring a Wall that separated himself from the rest of you.

Dumbfounded, you stared at the King. Then you started to hear, vaguely, the sound of steels clanging from the passage where you had come from. Your confusion quickly turned into horror. "Your Majesty…?"

"I must apologize that we could only meet under these circumstances, my young Glaive. I wish Cor had been sensible enough to formally introduce us to each other." He smiled at you. "Please extend my greetings and gratitude to your uncle."

Then he turned to Lady Lunafreya. "I know your mother would wish the same as me: that you and Noctis live happily," he said. "All those years captive because I failed you. Not again. Locked doors will seal your fate no longer."

"No, please!" Lady Lunafreya tried to hit at the magical Wall with her fist. It didn't even make any sound. "King Regis… don't leave us."

The King turned away from the pleading Oracle. Not without difficulty, you noticed. He addressed both you and Nyx next. "Our hope goes with you now, Glaives. Godspeed."

At the end of his sentence, the entrance to the room burst open behind King Regis. General Glauca made his appearance from beyond the rubble and performed a mock military salute.

"Behold the king of Lucis, who hoarded tranquility within his precious walls," announced the General in his distorted voice. "Where is your tranquility now, King?"

Chapter Text

The journey to the garages of the Citadel was mostly quiet. Only the sound of your steps was echoed by the stone walls - especially Lady Lunafreya's, as she was still wearing her high heels from the gala. Nobody spoke to one another about what just happened. Personally, you were still processing it. Or rather, you were compartmentalizing it to be processed later so you could focus on the more urgent task at hand.

The King was dead. Insomnia had truly fallen now, and all of you had to get out of the city before the Empire put up a total blockade.

"This way," you muttered, opening a door that led to the underground parking of royal vehicles. The spot reserved for Regalia - the car strictly used to transport the King - was empty. You knew that Prince Noctis and his retainers must have taken it for their travels, but after the recent events, the absence felt rather striking and somber.

You beeped the locks of the Prince's car open, allowing Lady Lunafreya to slip into the back and Nyx to ride shotgun. The car's engine growled as it lurched out of the garage and onto the chaotic, battle-torn streets of Insomnia.

"Nice ride," was Nyx's first comment, said out loud only shortly after you had departed the inner city.

"It's the Prince's," you explained. "My uncle said I could borrow it."

"Why, of course."

Nyx was going to quip some more but ended up grabbing the side of the wheel to turn the car sharply - and evade a grenade that was detonating right where you would have been if you had driven straight ahead.

Sounds of bullet rounds being fired followed afterwards. You cursed and kicked deeper on the gas. On the side mirror, you saw that a Niflheim airship was about to catch up to you. As much as you'd like to avoid it, the road that you had taken eventually led the car up a flyover, allowing the airship to have a clearer view of your position.

"It's them," Nyx said. "The traitors."

At one point, the airship was close enough that you could see people in Kingsglaive uniform on the airship with just a side glance. When they started shooting again, Nyx slipped out from the passenger's window to attempt a warp into the airship. All he did was losing one of his kukris. With the King gone, so was the magic wielded by his Glaives.

That explained why the traitors had resorted to airship and guns, you thought grimly.

"Please tell me you at least hit one of those bastards in the face," you said as soon as Nyx returned to the passenger's seat. A side-eye was all that you were given as an answer.

Which turned out to be a good thing, because the side-glancing allowed him to see what they were preparing on the airship. "More grenade coming right up."

"Shiva, Titan, and Ramuh."

You pulled at the brake and made a sharp turnaround. The wheels screeched against the asphalt before the car lurched forward, back to the direction of the inner city, just shortly before the grenade detonated on the part of the flyover behind it. One unfortunate side effect from your escape was that it allowed a Glaive to jump over from the airship onto the car. It was Sonitus Bellum. Nyx wasted no time in getting rid of him by slamming the passenger's door open on his face.

"We need to find a way out of the city that's hidden from the airship!" Nyx stated after slamming the passenger's door close again.

"Sure, Lieutenant Obvious," you replied, before glancing at the rear mirror. "Your Highness, do you have your seat belt on?"

Lady Lunafreya calmly patted at the nylon belt strapped diagonally across her torso. "Already since we departed the palace," she answered.

"Good," you said. "Hold on tight to something, everyone!"

You turned the wheel sharply before reaching the end of the flyover, sending the car lurching through a broken road barrier - and directly onto an empty pedestrian street. At one point, you made a turn to the left, which brought you to enter an enclosed shopping strip that descended into a tunnel under rows of skyscrapers.

"Watch out! Daemons!" shouted Nyx as soon as you were deep inside the tunnel. The warning was too late, however, as the bat-like creatures began swarming all over the windshield.

You cursed while pressing on the gas, trying to shake off the daemons. Regardless, they still hovered around the car like a cloud of oversized mosquitoes. You narrowly crashed headfirst into a wall because of them but was spared thanks to the car's wonderful ability to swerve. Quietly, you thanked the mechanics from the shop for having tuned it well.

"How the hell did they always end up finding us?!" you remarked. "I swear the Niffs are tracking us somehow."

"Tracking… Of course!"

Nyx reached a hand out to the backseat. "Highness, your hairpin, please?"

You almost snorted with how polite Nyx was being. He clearly made an effort to ignore you, keeping a poker face while Lady Lunafreya took her wedding gift off her hairdo and handed it to the male Glaive. Nyx followed it up by opening the passenger door's window - which alarmed you - and then tossed it as far as he could behind the car. The swarm of daemons actually followed the hairpin, and seemingly stayed there.

"Nice deduction," you remarked, genuinely impressed.

"Yeah, I know. Despite my good looks, I'm actually quite smart. It's mind-blowing, really," he replied nonchalantly while rolling up the window.

You were about to open your mouth to retort, but was interrupted when radio static began to sound out from your earpieces. "Leonis and Ulric, do you copy?"

It was Captain Drautos. Nyx was the one to reply, as usual, "Yessir, we're still alive and kicking."

"Good," replied the Captain. "I take it the Oracle's with you too?"

"She's here, alright, sir. The plan's to smuggle her out of Insomnia before the Empire puts up a blockade."

"The blockade has started already. All exits from Insomnia are closed," he explained. "You and Leonis are to rendezvous and regroup. Head for Section D as soon as you can."

"Can we not just meet you at the gate, sir?"

You smacked Nyx on the back of his head without taking your eyes off the road. Or, in the current case, the hallway of the mall, which was thankfully empty at this point. As much as you like the guy (you did agree to become his girlfriend, after all), his waywardness can get to your nerves sometimes.

"Ouch." He glared at you. "I'd very much like to get the hell out of this city, alright?"

"There's no way through. I'll meet you at Section D," replied the Captain. "Cut all radio contact until then. And make sure you two get there."

"It's a date, sir."

"Copy that, sir."

You turned off the earpiece as per the Captain's instruction. Then you began to fiddle with the navigation system to find out the best route to Section D. It wasn't so easy, of course, since you were not driving on a regular road for a car. You and Nyx had some more additional bickering about which route to go, but both of you eventually figured out a way.

Amid your bickering about the route, you suddenly heard Lady Lunafreya's voice from the backseat asking, "So, I take it that I am also to participate in the date?"

You both looked in confusion at the Oracle - you from the rear mirror, while Nyx turned from the passenger's seat, mouthing a rude, "Huh?"

You saw a streak of blush began to spread on the former princess's cheeks before she turned away timidly. "That was supposed to be a jest… following from your conversation over the radio."

Bless her pure heart, you couldn't help but think. Maybe you and Nyx should tone down the sass a little bit, just for her sake.

 

- - -

 

You pulled over the car at a square in the middle of Section D and turned off the engine. Captain Drautos had not mentioned a specific spot, but the fountain in the middle of the square was a quite well-known landmark of the area. So you and Nyx figured it was a perfect spot for rendezvous.

As you turned off the engine, you caught Nyx looking intently at you from the passenger's seat. You raised an eyebrow at him. "What is it?"

"Well, I'm just thinking… when I first found you at Caelum Via, the Captain was already there ahead of me," he started. "I just assumed that you contacted him first thing after having confronted Glauca. But something feels odd about it..."

"Huh. That is odd." You furrowed your brows and was suddenly very conscious of the two pairs of blue eyes that were focusing on you. "I never called Captain Drautos."

"Do you think the Captain might be…?"

"... I never thought of that, but yeah. It is a possibility."

You both exchanged long looks. There was no need to say out loud now what you and Nyx both were already thinking: that Captain Titus Drautos may have been a spy as well. No wonder your uncle had so much difficulty tracking down the network within the Glaives.

And on top of it, he knew exactly where to find you, Nyx, and Lady Lunafreya.

After some moments, you stepped out of the car and looked around cautiously. Dusk was setting in the sky, bathing the cityscape in purple and pink lights. There was not a single person in the square, as far as you could see. And from a far distance, you could hear guns being fired. From another direction, a scream, and then an explosion.

If the fact had not registered completely to you before, it finally did then with a sudden bang of realization: Insomnia - your home city - had been turned into a war zone.

You had done well so far, treating the sights of destruction that you had encountered one after another as yet another day on the job. However, seeing the empty square at dusk like this somehow made you feel gutted inside. Perhaps because of how familiar it seemed, and how it had all looked so… normal. Yet, you were also acutely aware that nothing would ever stay the same anymore.

At one point, you felt a hand resting on your shoulder. One black line was tattooed along its middle finger. You grasped at it with your own hand, and Nyx pulled you closer to his chest. "You okay?" he asked softly, calling you with your first name. There was no pity in his tone, just warm understanding.

You nodded, forcing up a smile. In all honesty, you had wanted to ask him if this was what it had felt like for him when he watched Galahd burned. But that would have to be a question for another time.

"Your Highness, is everything alright with you?"

You turned around, fully expecting to see the Oracle exiting the car when you heard the sound of a car door swinging open. Suddenly, the sound of a gunshot could be heard - loud and deafening as it was echoed by the empty square.

Chapter Text

On your right, you heard Nyx grunted and saw him staggering down to his knee. Blood trickled down to the pavement from the side of his abdomen. On your front, a van was parked not far behind the Prince's car, and Luche was standing by its open driver's door, chuckling. With both of his hands, he was holding a semi-automatic gun normally used by Imperial infantry.

"Not much of a hero now without your king's magic, huh?" you heard him sneer.

"You traitorous son of a…"

You were seeing red at this point. Drawing out your curved dagger, you made a dash towards Luche. He aimed his gun at you, and you tossed your dagger at his face. He dodged it, causing him to miss and instead shot at the pavement a couple of meters away from you. Once you caught up to him, you sent a roundhouse kick aimed to disarm him. It worked halfway - the hand that was on the trigger was forced away from your kick. You grabbed at his gun and aimed it up to the sky. In turn, Luche lunged forward with a punch, which you managed to capture with both hands before it could reach your solar plexus.

"Not so fast now without your king's magic, huh?" you mocked back.

The dark eyes that looked back at you were full of contempt and hatred. "Shut the fuck up! He was never king of mine!"

With one hand, Luche aimed the gun at you. You pulled at his arm and struck up his jaw, temporarily distracting him and allowing you to snatch at the gun. Then you trained the muzzle in between his wide-open eyes and pulled the trigger.

You winced and turned away, your stomach roiling at the idea that you just killed a fellow Glaive. You quickly shoved the thought aside, picked up your tossed dagger, and focused on Nyx instead, who was still kneeling on the pavement. The difference this time was that Lady Lunafreya was kneeling beside him, tending to his wound.

"How's he doing?" you asked. Your voice came out shakier than you had expected.

"The bullet went clean through," explained the Oracle. Her hand glowed a soft golden light above Nyx's gaping abdomen. "I have done everything in my power to stop the bleeding. But he requires proper medical care."

"To hell with it," Nyx spat. "I've been through worse. It'll be fine. Go back to the car - we need to get the hell out of here."

He moved up to his feet, which he did with a lot of groans and straining. Lady Lunafreya helped him up, and you supported him with his arm on your shoulders. Just seconds later, you saw the large, imposing figure of Captain Drautos approaching the square from a corner of your eyes.

You thought of your earlier conversation with Nyx and reflexively held up the gun with both your hands. If the Captain really was a spy, you expected that the confrontation with him wouldn't be a peaceful one. What you definitely didn't expect to see was Lady Lunafreya running ahead of you before stopping midway through. Her slim arms opened wide to both sides as if protecting you and Nyx.

"I am the only one that you are seeking, General Glauca," she said. "Leave them out of this."

… What did she just call him?

"The hell?" Nyx was similarly confused, but he was way more vocal in his expression that you were. "You're General Glauca?!"

The Captain didn't immediately answer. He didn't even look at you or Nyx - his attention was entirely on the Oracle.

"Where is the Ring of Lucii?" he demanded.

Hesitation flitted by on Lady Lunafreya's expression before she answered, "I have it right here."

"Show me."

He stretched out an open hand at the Oracle. His tone demanding. Lady Lunafreya lowered her hands slowly, then turned her head around to meet your eyes. You made a small movement of shaking your head. Don't do this, you tried to say.

Nevertheless, she turned back around to Captain Drautos - or General Glauca - before reaching into a hidden pocket on her white dress. When her hand opened again, it held the ring that the King had given to her in the hidden passageway of the Citadel.

The moment he saw the ring, the General moved to close the distance with the Oracle. However, after only taking a few steps, his attention was diverted by the sound of tires screeching. He turned aside, just to see the same van that Luche had emerged from closing in and crashing into Glauca heads on against the fountain.

Lady Lunafreya fell on her knees, either from surprise or relief - or both. You would have done the same, you thought, if more than one decade of military training and experience hadn't taught you to train the Niflheim-issued gun in your hand at the van instead. From behind the driver's door, Libertus limped out with his cast and civilian clothing. Both you and Nyx were much too surprised to see him that you didn't move a centimeter, even as he was helping up the Oracle to her feet.

"Guys! We need to get away fast!" he said. "That man is not Captain Drautos. Well, actually he is… but he's also General Glauca. It's complicated! But we have to go! That sort of crash is just gonna scratch him. He's gonna-"

Right in the middle of Libertus's rambling, the van was tossed away in the air with ease. From the fountain which he had crashed into, General Glauca emerged in his complete armor, brandishing his broadsword.

Libertus cursed. "Hurry up, guys!"

"Lib! The swanky car's our ride." Nyx gestured towards the Prince's car as both you and he limped after Libertus and Lady Lunafreya. "Drive Leonis and the Princess out of here. I'll keep Glauca busy."

You looked at Nyx with incredulous disbelief. "Did you really just ask a guy with a broken leg to spirit away a soldier that is literally holding a gun?"

He laughed out loud, then hissed as the act irritated the wound on his side.

"That's only because you're more worthy to save than my sorry ass, babe," he said before winking, then turning and dashing forward to face General Glauca. His one remaining kukri was unsheathed in his hand.

"That idiot…!"

You trained your gun at Glauca and fired one, two, then three rounds ahead of Nyx. The bullets were simply deflected by his armor as he charged forward, eventually clashing blades with the male Glaive. You cursed under your breath, dropped the gun, and charged forward with an unsheathed dagger. It did occur to you that without magic, neither of you could probably deal much damage on the General. But at least it'd give a little bit of time for Libertus and the Oracle to flee.

As you charged and swung your dagger, Glauca deflected your attack by jumping high. You watched with combined horror and awe at how a man so big and wearing such heavy armor could make such a high jump. Then, he landed in the space between Lady Lunafreya and the car, and all your mixed admiration quickly turned into panic.

"Your Highness!!"

You dashed after them with Nyx. You saw Libertus charged at Glauca, but he was easily and quickly tossed aside.

"Give me the ring, now!" he demanded, his voice was echoed and distorted behind his helmet.

"I will never hand it to you," retorted Lady Lunafreya, her hand gripping tightly at the ring.

"Pity. Then I suppose Eos needs to learn to survive an existence devoid of its Oracle."

The General brought his broadsword up high, then swung it down. You and Nyx managed to catch it on time, teeth gritted as you held up your daggers against his blade.

"Foolish Glaives. You are nothing without your king," he mocked.

Shortly after, his armored leg shot up and landed square in your stomach. Right on the spot where he'd hit you in the previous night and sent you caving in the sidewall of Caelum Via. You gasped as pain exploded all over your torso, red and raw, and was immediately reduced to your knees.

"Leonis!!"

By the time Nyx called out to your name, you were already flat on the floor. You saw him almost losing his footing against the General. Blood trickled down from his wound and fell as droplets close to your face. Next to him, Lady Lunafreya's eyes concentrated on the ring in her hand. It hovered just centimeters from her finger.

"No…," you whispered weakly, remembering the sight of his brother burning in the Council room. You reached a hand out to stop her - but another hand was faster.

In a sequence that felt to you like a dream, Nyx kicked back at Glauca and, in a brief moment where his hands were free, snatched the ring away from the Princess and put it on. The jewellery flared up and soon did Nyx's entire body, so bright like a burning star. Inadvertently, you closed your eyes, only opening it again after you heard harsh sound of metal clashing against something solid. A magical transparent shield appeared to protect you and Lady Lunafreya from Glauca's incoming sword. Then that shield disappeared, and Nyx rose to send out a powerful thunderbolt from his open palm, sending Glauca a couple of hundred meters away with an audible grunt.

"How…?"

You could barely process what you saw. Nyx was using magic. How was this possible? And how did he move so smoothly - did his gunshot wound just magically heal?

Just as soon as all these questions popped up in your mind, Nyx pulled you up to your feet and leaned in to kiss you full on your lips. You returned the kiss in kind, like a reflex. Your fingers slipped up to his hair and braids just as his arms circled you and pulled you into a tight embrace. He felt so warm as if he was burning with fever, while his kisses were urgent, almost desperate. You couldn't shake the sense that it had all rooted from something that had gone terribly, terribly wrong.

"Nyx…" You breathed out his name as soon as you could breathe again. Your hand cupped at his face while your eyes searched for his ice blue ones. There was a tint of red in there, just a little outside of the irises. "... What have you done?"

He was quiet for a moment. Then, a hollow chuckle escaped his lips. "I made a deal with the past Lucian Kings. They agreed to lend me their powers so their ring can be brought to safety."

He then slipped the Ring of Lucii out of his tattooed finger and placed it on your open hand, before closing your fingers gently around it. "Deliver this to the new King, and make sure that the Oracle is safe. It's your duty now," he said. Then, after a pause, he added, "Also... could you please also take Crowe and Libertus on your way out of the city?"

There was something in his smile then that broke your heart into tiny little pieces. You opened your mouth to say something - to ask if you will ever see him again. But the brittle possibility of a positive answer made you shut your mouth again.

"I won't let you down," you muttered instead. "Good luck… my hero."

You sensed him stiffened slightly at the title, but then he relaxed again to a smile before leaning back in. His lips were almost hot when they gently touched your right cheek. From not too far away, the rustling of steel could be heard as General Glauca began to rise again to his feet. Nyx pulled away and you could feel the warmth of his skin lingered on yours.

"Damn right, I'm the hero around here!" he yelled after turning around. The last image that you saw of him was his back going further away, his hand brandishing his kukri before he disappeared in a flurry of lights and shattered crystals.

You turned around quickly, grabbed at the Oracle's hand, then gathered Libertus up to his feet. Once they were all heading for the car, you picked up the Niff's gun from the ground before tossing it into the trunk.

"W-what happened?" Libertus asked dazedly. "Where's Nyx?"

"He's going to distract General Glauca while we run. He'll follow us right after." As soon as you finished your sentences, you weren't sure if you were lying or hoping.

After plopping Libertus down on the backseat, you went straight for the steering wheel and switched your attention to Lady Lunafreya, who had taken Nyx's place in riding shotgun. "Your Highness, did you put on your safety belt already?"

"It has been fastened and secured," she confirmed.

"That's a good girl."

You turned on the ignition and within seconds, the car's engine growled and roared across the empty square, before speeding through one of its exits.

Chapter Text


"Baby, I love you, but that's not enough.

And pulling away has been unbearably buff."

 

The drive out of the inner city took much longer than the first time around because some roads had been blocked by rubble or caved in, or in some cases by daemons. After the Old Wall had been raised, more and more of these deterrents were present on the road. The rubble was easily the most annoying since it caused the most detours, while most of the daemons were less of a problem because they could simply be outrun by the Prince's sports car. Again, you found yourself feeling grateful that your uncle had sent you to get it tuned up.

The inside of the car itself was mostly quiet. For the most part, Libertus looked thoughtfully out the window from where he was sprawled in the backseat - no thanks to his cast. Lady Lunafreya mostly looked either straight through the windshield or at you. It was a bit awkward, in the beginning, because you kept asking whether she had anything she wanted to say. Yet, the Oracle replied every time that it was nothing - that her thoughts were simply wandering away and it made her eyes stray. So you learned to just let her be, observing you in silence.

It was not until you reached the highway that a ringtone suddenly went off. It turned out to belong to the car. You tapped on the car's touchscreen interface and the voice of your uncle was clearly calling your name.

"Good that you picked up. I wasn't sure if I should call your mobile - I didn't want to risk giving your position away to the enemy," he explained upon hearing your response. "Where are you now? Is the Oracle with you?"

You told him and was answered with a low humming sound that your uncle made whenever he nodded in understanding. "You are on a good path. Keep moving, and stay away from the inner city. It's not safe there at the moment."

Your thoughts immediately went to Nyx. Part of you wanted to ask your uncle about him, but another part of you also dreaded the answer. You let out a sigh.

"Hey, Uncle?"

"Yes?"

"Did you… manage to get Mom out of the city in time?"

There was a slight pause before he answered, "Yes, don't worry about it. She should be on her way to Lestallum at this point."

"Okay, that's good."

"Is there anything else that you'd also like to ask or tell me?"

You were silent for a moment. In the corner of your eye, you saw Lady Lunafreya's big blue eyes staring at you inquisitively. You inhaled a breath and exhaled it again. There were so many things you wanted to ask and tell your uncle, but it was probably better to save them until you could talk with him face to face.

"No. That is all."

"Very well. I'm going to send you a GPS location on the ring-wall where some Crownsguards are arranging evacuation by boat," he said finally. "Exit by the causeway bridge is unfortunately not possible yet… we are still working on it."

"Alright, Uncle. Thanks a lot."

"You're welcome. Godspeed, little niece."

The call was ended. You leaned back on the car seat, only to catch a glimpse of Libertus also staring at you from the rear mirror. You tried to hold yourself back from sighing. Why did people suddenly prefer staring much more than talking?

"We'll first make a detour through Little Galahd. So we can pick Crowe up on the way." Your glance went to Lady Lunafreya for a moment before it went back to the road ahead. "And we got the Oracle here that can heal her Scourge."

"Yeah? Awesome." 

Despite Libertus' cheerful exclamation, the face of the man reflected on the rear mirror looked lost and defeated.

 

"Sooner or later, the story gets told.

To tell it myself would be unbearably bold."

 

Retrieving Crowe from Nyx's apartment turned out to be easier than you had expected. The area often referred to as Little Galahd - the exact same area where you and the Galahdians had eaten Semur skewers before - was mostly neglected. People had either fled or been driven away, while most troops and daemons at that moment were concentrated mainly in the inner city. All thanks to the rising of the Old Wall.

While the Oracle performed the healing rite on Crowe, you stood guard in front of the door with your salvaged Niff gun. Libertus originally wanted to witness the rite, but eventually, his nerves got the better of him, and he joined you. Or so he told you after you noticed him slipping out behind the apartment's door, bringing with him a wooden chair so he could sit down with his cast next to you.

"I know that he was following me that night."

You glanced aside to Libertus briefly before continuing to observe your surroundings. Since the night had replaced the dusk, you had to be more careful about the increased activity of daemons. Although the more dangerous ones were mostly flocking to the inner city at that point, you still couldn't afford to let your guard down. Especially since you and Libertus had lost the ability to wield magic.

"What do you mean, Libertus?"

"I was talking about Nyx."

You felt something clench in your throat. So you said nothing and let Libertus continue, "I... had a meeting with an underground movement one night, working to stop the treaty. But we ended up being convenient scapegoats for the Niffs...

"Anyway. When I left that meeting late at night, I saw a glimpse of him in an alley walking the other way."

There was a pause, and you could imagine Libertus casting his eyes down in shame. "He could have turned me in."

But you know he wouldn't . The words hung heavy on your tongue, but you decided not to say them out loud. You were not ready yet to reminisce about Nyx as if he was already dead. Instead, you asked, "What made you change your mind, Libertus?"

"I guess… I just wanted to do the right thing, in the end." Libertus paused, seemingly searching for the right word. "Not only for Crowe's sake… but also for Lucis."

This time, you turned your head to properly look at him and maintained your gaze for a few seconds. Eventually, you reached into one of your uniform's pockets and quietly handed its content to Libertus. It was a photograph of him and Nyx on their first day as Glaives. You had taken it from the scrap board in Nyx's apartment shortly before taking guard position outside the door, originally thinking that you could keep it as a souvenir to remember him by after leaving the city.

"He would've wanted you to have it more than me," you said quietly.

Libertus accepted your small gift with equal quietness in his gratitude. Neither of you spoke again until the Oracle called the both of you up to inform that the healing rite had been successfully performed.

 

"Presented with darkness, we turned to the light.

Could have been smart, we're just unbearably bright."

 

In another hour, Crowe opened up her eyes to find out that she was sitting cramped up in the narrow backseat of a sports car, complete with a snoring Libertus and his cast. Confused, she looked around and saw a large snake-like daemon slithering around on the pedestrian walk from the side window. She rubbed her eyes several times, thinking that she was still dreaming. The scenery that she saw was full of destruction - demolished buildings, cracked roads, and fire and smoke somewhere beyond the battered cityscape that she recognized as Insomnia.

Wait a second. Is this really Insomnia?

"Good morning, Crowe."

She had hoped that the greeting had come from Nyx. However, the clearly feminine voice shattered that hope. She closed her eyes.

"Good evening, Leonis," she replied. "What the fuck happened while I was out?"

"Well, Insomnia fell to the Niffs, for one."

Behind the wheel of the car, you paused to take a long breath. Saying that one sentence with a dash of nonchalance turned out to be much more effort than you had expected.

From behind your seat, you could hear Crowe mutter a curse word. Perhaps out of consideration for the other passengers, who were fast asleep.

"What happened to my Scourge?" Crowe asked next, and you told her about the detour to pick her up and let Lady Lunafreya perform the healing rite on her. She let out a sigh.

"You guys should have just left me and escaped," she remarked somberly, and the first thing that came up on your mind was Nyx's gratitude when you suggested the plan to smuggle Crowe into Caelum Via. You felt the back of your eyes began to warm up from that, so you quickly put your focus back on the road.

"I take it Nyx is buying some time for us?" Crowe guessed next. When you gave a confirmation, she let out a sigh, followed by, "That idiot…"

There was the sound of fabric rustling, which you guessed come from Crowe shifting around in the small space of the backseat. You decided to ask her, "So what happened to you? How did you get the Scourge?"

The silence was your immediate reply.

"... To be completely honest, I don't know," Crowe eventually said. "I can't seem to remember anything that happened to me in the past seven days or so."

"Not even anything from your escort mission?"

"Nope."

That made you wonder how it was possible. Was she perhaps hiding the fact that she was working for your uncle? But if she was, she should have come up with another lie instead. Saying outright that she didn't know anything that happened in the past several days did not feel like a really good cover-up to you.

Your thought process was effectively interrupted when Crowe added, "I heard that… some people who recover from the Scourge may lose parts of their memories. Sometimes it's temporary, sometimes not."

"Really?"

You wished Luna was awake so she could confirm this. As it was, you made a mental note to ask her later.

After several more moments of silence, Crowe asked you back, "So what are you gonna do now? What's your next duty call?"

You didn't answer immediately. The weight of the Ring of Lucii - latched safely in the innermost pocket of your uniform - was suddenly becoming more noticeable.

"I have something important to deliver to the new King," you eventually answered. It invited a snicker from Crowe.

"Of course. I wouldn't have expected otherwise," she remarked. Then, after yet another moment of pause, "Nyx is not going to wait around forever for you, you know?"

"Yeah… I know."

You didn't want to answer more than this, and quietly in your heart hoped that Crowe would stop questioning you further about this. You didn't particularly want to talk about what Nyx would do if he made it out of Insomnia alive.

If, you couldn't help but notice. And not even when.

And by the grace of the Astrals, Crowe did not push the question further. Perhaps she sensed your hesitance, or perhaps she was also feeling the same way as you. Regardless, none of you spoke again, and the car was filled with silence for the rest of the trip to the ring-wall.

 

"There's an avalanche coming; don't cover your eyes.

It's what you thought that you wanted; it's still a surprise."

 

When you finally arrived at the evacuation point indicated by your uncle, you noticed that there were already many people lining up. They were civilians, mostly, and many of them were either women or young children. Some of them stared intently at the headlights with a mix of suspicion and curiosity. You turned off the engine and the lights, and those eyes disappeared in the dark of the night.

Before exiting the car, you took off your uniform jacket and handed it to the Oracle. "I know it may not be so clean at this point, but please put this on, Your Highness. We can't risk someone recognizing you."

She stared at you again before accepting your jacket. It almost felt like you could see her eyes clearly, even with only the stars and the moon as light sources. "Thank you very much, Leonis."

"Not a problem."

You both got out. Lady Lunafreya stood by, wearing your uniform jacket with its hood up, while you helped Crowe and Libertus out of the backseat of the car before moving to the trunk. You picked up the gun, but also searched around for anything that could perhaps help with your journey ahead. You ended up finding a rucksack full of camping equipment, and another smaller bag filled with fishing accessories.

Jackpot, you thought, attaching the gun to the rucksack and then slinging it to your back. Who would have guessed that the Crown Prince liked to take his sports car out for fishing trips?

When you had your attention back to Lady Lunafreya, you noticed her running her hand gently on the hood of the car.

"You said this car belonged to Prince Noctis, did you not?" she asked.

You confirmed that it did, and saw a small smile forming on her lips. "I see," was all that she said out loud. But you could see that the Oracle was muttering something quietly as she cast her eyes down on the car - something that looked like a 'thank you'.

"We must part ways here," she announced next. "I can hardly travel in secrecy alongside so great heroes."

You tilted your head at that. Was that another one of her attempts at a joke?

"I… agree, actually." Libertus beat you to replying. His eyes were cast to the ground. "I have a promise to keep to Nyx."

"Yeah, same. I'm also gonna stay," Crowe added, crossing her arms in front of her chest. "Someone needs to kick the hero-bullshit out of his senses once in a while."

You couldn't say anything to that, so you let Lady Lunafreya continue, "I pray you two see him again soon."

Libertus nodded. "... Yeah. Me too."

"Thank you for your assistance, Libertus. And I wish you a speedy recovery of your memories, Crowe."

"Yeah. Thanks for the healing, Highness."

Then the Oracle turned to you.

"My duty is to protect you, and see that the ring is delivered safely to the King," you blurted before Lady Lunafreya could say a word. "Please don't send me away."

The begging had not been part of the plan. It just… came out of your mouth that way, somehow. In turn, the Oracle took a good, long look at you. You tried to read what she might have been thinking but ended up lost in those pools of ocean blue.

"Very well," she said eventually. "Everything is ordained. If that is to be your fate, then you must follow through with it."

"Thank you, Your Highness."

You took off beside her towards the crowd, with the rucksack and gun in tow. After several steps, you heard Crowe calling out, "Hey, Queen! You and the King are always welcome in Galahd!"

"And you, too, Leonis!" Libertus added. "We still need to grab that drink that we were talking about!"

You turned to see Libertus standing on one cast-free leg and waving next to a smiling Crowe. You waved back at them, forcing a smile. Behind them, the silhouette of Insomnia's skyline was pitch black, with some parts blazing red and orange. The city that never sleeps was finally entering its slumber.

You turned around and paced forward before either Lady Lunafreya, Crowe, or Libertus could see tears welling up in your eyes. Not that they were easy to see in the dim light of the approaching dawn, anyway.

From behind you, Libertus's promise rang loud and clear and true, "Me, Crowe, and Nyx will be waiting for you!"

 

"It's hard on the body, it's hard on the mind.

To learn what kept us together, darling - is what kept us alive."