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The Wind Will Set Me Racing

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The Wind Will Set Me Racing 

 

“A message for your highness,” Luna reached out and took the envelope from the courtier’s tray, gifting the woman with a smile as she gave a shallow bow and exited the room. It was clearly from Lucis, the gold crest of the royal house embossed onto the rear flap of the fine black linen envelope, and Luna smiled again as she flipped the envelope and inspected the lettering on the front. It was addressed to both her and Ravus, but as all correspondence from Lucis was unofficially routed through her (her brother would never like King Regis, although time and distance from the influence of Niflheim had helped him find a little perspective,) she had received the letter. Walking over to her writing desk, she sat down and picked up her letter opener, carefully slicing open the top. Pulling out the equally luxurious white linen paper, she read down the page once mechanically, then froze. Luna looked again at the thick paper in shock, her fingers tracing the raised lettering on the invitation. A year. It had almost been a year since everything had happened; a year since the Scourge was fought back, a year since Izunia and Ifrit had been defeated, a year since the crystal had been destroyed, and a year since she had...died. Had it truly been so long?

“You look deep in thought, sister. What does Lucis send us now?” Ravus said from behind her, and she turned and raised the letter.

“I cannot believe it has been almost a year! Time seems to pass by so quickly sometimes, doesn’t it, Ravus?” Luna said, her brother reaching out and taking the letter from her hand, reading it over.

“Yes, it does. So they are holding a celebration of that day...I suppose it isn’t a surprise. Will you attend, Luna?” Ravus asked, his tone bland, and Luna restrained an eyeroll. It took a little effort.

“Yes, you know I’ve been wanting to go back, considering my last trip there was rather...eventful. A celebration sounds lovely. I’m assuming you will stay here?” she asked her brother, and to absolutely no surprise, he nodded.

“Yes, there is no reason for me to go. I would not be particularly welcomed anyway, and you are well aware of that,” Ravus replied, and she tilted her head in acknowledgement. He had been invited, but she had no doubt that they expected him not to show. Not only due to mutual distrust, Regis was certainly well-aware that they wouldn’t leave Tenebrae without at least one representative of the family present, the borders were still too unstable. The invitation was for propriety’s sake. Luna nodded, taking the letter back from her brother and carefully replacing it back in its envelope. “I assume you will write them back soon?” Ravus asked, and Luna nodded once more.

“It will be nice to see everyone again, I know you really didn’t have the chance to know them better, but the situation wasn’t exactly ideal, either. Perhaps in the future?” she said to Ravus, again refraining from an eyeroll when his mouth twisted in barely concealed disdain. “You know, you didn’t even have a chance to meet many of them beyond seeing them fight in the battle, so you shouldn’t judge them so,” Luna finally stated, her irritation finally leaking out, and Ravus sighed, taking a few steps back, a frown on his face.

“I...suppose you are right. I must admit, the contents of that book were quite jarring, especially when I remember that the Immortal is one of the people it is referring to. The boy...Argentum- I only saw him the night before at the party, then of course the day of during the battle. The book and the media makes him, well, both of them, sound like they are both some sort of sexual sorcerer, seducing and enchanting all in their path. But from what I heard from you, they are very much not like that,” Ravus said hesitantly, and Luna couldn’t help but laugh.

“You remember what I told you about Cor, correct? Incredibly honorable, skilled, everything his public reputation said he was? Also a sweetheart that can be incredibly awkward?” she said, and Ravus crossed his arms and nodded. “He and his partner are exclusive and utterly devoted to each other, from everything I have heard. I am looking forward to seeing them again. As for Prompto, he is also in a dedicated relationship. As much as the tabloid news that reaches us now makes them sound like...what’s the old word...incubi, that couldn’t be farther from the truth. You shouldn’t take such nonsense so seriously, Ravus. You know how foolish most of that sort of thing is.” Ravus finally cracked a tiny smile, and Luna got to her feet and clasped his arm.

“I suppose it all is rather ridiculous, isn’t it? Do you think all that is true? I honestly didn’t know what to think,” Ravus mused, and Luna shrugged.

“If it is, it is, however, I think we can safely say that the majority of the... rituals have been consigned to history,” Luna replied, and Ravus huffed and patted her hand with his own.

“Fair enough,” Ravus agreed, and he dropped his arms, his expression returning to its usual stern appearance. Luna’s spine stiffened at the change, and she waited for him to speak. She was still far too used to these conversations ending in him ordering her around, even if it had been almost a year since that had last truly happened. After the moment dragged on, she finally spoke up.

“Yes, Ravus?” Her brother sighed, and scratched at the back of his neck, an uncharacteristic move for him; Luna blinked, and waited once more.

“I would have Aranea accompany you, sister. While I do not wish to be that person who kept you locked away any further, things are still unstable enough that I am not comfortable sending you alone across the sea. The empire may still be recovering, but they do have forces and airships at their disposal which they would happily use to kidnap or kill you,” Ravus paused, bringing up a hand to her cheek. “Would you do this for me?” Luna’s back relaxed as soon as he was done speaking. He had asked, well, mostly asked, and was not trying to institute anything unreasonable. Luna kept herself from grinning, instead giving her brother an agreeable smile and a nod in response.

She had been planning to take Lady Highwind with her anyway.

Her response went out with the general correspondence to Lucis in the morning, and she set about preparing for her departure. They had given her almost a month to do so, but she wanted to be there at least a week before the actual day of the event so she could properly see everyone once again, and she felt a little badly about volunteering Aranea without so much as asking if she wished to go. After she had a light lunch, she adjourned back to her study and finally just called the woman.

“Highwind.” Luna smiled.

“Madame Highwind! This is Lunafreya, I was wondering if I could have a word with you,” she said, and she could hear the intake of breath on the other end of the line.

“Princess? Please don’t tell me I forgot a meeting or something. Rav-er, the prince will never let me hear the end of it-” Aranea started, but Luna laughed lightly to cut her off.

“No no, if you have, he certainly hasn’t said anything. I was calling to ask if you would be willing to travel with me to Insomnia for a few weeks, there is an event being held to commemorate a year since the battle at the Citadel. We would leave in perhaps two and a half weeks?” she asked, and there was an awkward beat of silence before she heard the older woman clear her throat.

“I’m guessing Ravus is staying here?” Aranea asked, no longer bothering with titles, and Luna nodded out of habit.

“Yes, he would remain here. What do you think? I thought that perhaps you might like a change of pace for a little while, and if something drastic were to happen, we could just speed back on your airship,” she stated, and was gladdened to hear an amused snort from the other end of the line.

“Sounds like fun, princess; sign me up. When did you want to leave again?”

“Perhaps around the sixth or so? I wanted to get there ahead of time to see my friends, and I’m certain you would enjoy exploring and meeting everyone,” she said, and Aranea laughed freely.

“Gotcha. Bring regular clothes, right? Probably best to not parade around the whole time in armor-” Luna began to laugh, and Aranea trailed off.

“Madame, if we are to adventure together, I would ask you to call me Luna. Would you do that for me?” Luna asked, and Aranea snorted.

“Then none of this madame bullshit, Aranea is just fine. You all are way too formal around here sometimes.” Luna was still laughing when they hung up a few minutes later. Aranea had a point, Fenestala was a den of formality, one that could get incredibly oppressive sometimes. It would be nice to get away from it for a little while.

Also, she and Ravus could stand some proper time away from each other. Ever since the empire had seized the manor, Ravus had been gone far more than he was present, and they had grown used to not having each other around most of the time. But Tenebrae was theirs once more, and their distant relationship had shifted rapidly in a matter of days the previous May; they had spent nearly a year uninterrupted with each other as they worked to restore their homeland, and they still had not entirely grown accustomed to it. It would be good for the two of them to have a little break.

Luna got to her feet and looked out the window, smiling at the sight of the sylleblossoms peeking through the bases of the trees in the distance. For the first time in a very long time, she felt that she could truly enjoy looking upon them without regret, without the bitterness that always seemed to follow in the remembrance of her situation, and she had not felt so content in years.

“Your mother would have been cross to hear that you felt such sadness whilst looking upon your favorite flowers, oracle.” Luna clasped her hand to her breast as she spun around, grinning at the sight of the elegant woman she cared for so much.

“Gentiana!” she exclaimed, and the astral smiled gently as she walked up to her, reaching out and taking her hands.

“So you return to Lucis soon. Your friends look forward to seeing you once more, oracle,” Gentiana stated, and Luna nodded.

“And I them,” she said, then paused, a thought coming to mind. “Would you like to come with me, Gentiana? Perhaps you might enjoy the change of pace?” Not to her surprise, the woman gave a tiny shake of her head, and she sighed. “It’s not because of the Dawn Mother, is it?” Gentiana turned and walked up to the window as well, her eyes open as she smiled.

“While the others have varying opinions on the Dawn Mother making her presence known, the Draconian most of all, I enjoy feeling her warmth throughout the land once more. Her chosen are still coming into their power, and there is more they must learn before they reach their full potential. It is best that their journey be achieved without my presence.” Luna’s brows furrowed as Gentiana spoke. That sounded-

“Do you suspect that my trip will come to something more?” she asked, and was awarded with the astral closing her eyes as she turned and walked back towards the center of the room.

“I suspect nothing, oracle. I wish you safe travels, my lady, and I will come again.” Gentiana bowed and vanished before Luna could inquire further, and she gave an amused huff before returning her gaze to the window. She missed having Gentiana around.

She and Ravus chose not to make it widely known that she was leaving, although they knew it would be pointless to hide it completely. Tenebrae had come together after Niflheim was driven out quickly under their influence, and Luna knew she would be wise to discount it. She had been concerned that the country outside the grounds of the manor would not be so easily swayed back to their side, but minus the occasional issue, it had gone far more smoothly than she had ever expected. It was astounding how much trust was placed in her family, but especially in her, and she would not let the people down. She may not have the blessing of Bahamut and her trident anymore, but she still had her healing magic, and Gentiana still blessed her with her presence, which was always a great relief to her. She had firmly told herself that she needed no other confirmation of her suitability (how well it stuck, well-) The issue of titles still remained, but that was something that she and Ravus would speak about at some point in the future. There was no rush.

The next few weeks were spent in preparation of her trip; proper luggage this time, as she would be taking Aranea’s airship instead of doing a clandestine overland trip, gifts for everyone, both personal and symbolic, in the case of the royal twosome, and making sure she and Aranea had proper clothing. Her brother gifted her with an elegant knife as a sidearm, but had apparently forgotten that she had very little training in anything but polearms, and even that had been mostly symbolic. But she hung the blade from her waist with pride as she watched the luggage being loaded onto Aranea’s red airship, the woman herself going through preflight checks as Ravus walked up to join Luna at her side.

“Ready to depart, Luna?” Ravus asked, his eyes soft and fond, and Luna nodded as she turned towards her brother, bringing up her hand to his cheek; Ravus raised his own hand to cover hers, and they stood there silently for a long moment as the soldiers and servants bustled about them.

“Do try to stay out of trouble while I’m gone, Ravus, I know you’ve probably got all sorts of parties planned-” Luna began, but she couldn’t even finish the sentence without laughing; Ravus rolled his eyes, but responded with a genuine smile that reached his eyes, and she leaned in and wrapped her arms around her big brother. “Take care of yourself, Ravus. I don’t know how long we will be gone, but I will keep in regular contact. Also, if we are needed here, please let me know at any time, yes?” Luna stood on her toes and kissed Ravus on the cheek, the man turning his head and responding with the same before taking a step back.

“Please just promise me that you won’t run off with anyone you meet out in Lucis, especially not your dear Noctis, and I’ll be content,” Ravus replied, humor in his eyes, and Luna affected an insulted huff and crossed her arms.

“How could you? I was hoping that I could convince Cor and Nyx that they also needed a woman in their life-”

“Luna.” Ravus growled, and Luna reached out and patted his arm, mischievous smile still firmly in place.

“Going to deny me my one...or perhaps two? true loves, I see how things are between us, brother-” Ravus finally broke, letting out a rather blustery groan while she giggled next to him. “Don’t worry, Ravus, I have no plans to run off with anyone at this point. We still have too much work to do for me to seriously consider anything for now. I’ll at least give you some advance warning when I run off with one of the Glaives or something-” Ravus groaned once more, but he seemed entirely amused instead of irritated, and Luna considered it a win.

“If you are done riling your brother up, princess, it’s time for us to go,” Aranea cut in as she walked up to them, and Luna nodded and stepped away.

“Be safe, sister, and do not hesitate to call if needed,” her brother said quietly, and Luna nodded once more.

“Keep our home safe,” she responded, then turned and walked away with Aranea, who had a rather impressive smirk on her face.

“Looking into a threesome, huh? Scandalous,” the dragoon teased, and Luna’s gleeful laughter followed them into the ship as Ravus’s sigh echoed rather impressively behind her.

The airship made for slightly bumpy but far faster travel than teleporting all over the planet with the Marshal of the Crownsguard, but as much as she liked Aranea, and looked forward to spending more time with her, she found herself missing the man. He had been an ideal companion for a clandestine flight from virtual confinement, his alternating moods of both stoic and friendly, to almost shy and a bit grumpy never ceasing to amuse her, but he had never been anything but a gentleman...even when he had dyed her hair.

Ugh. She was never dying her hair again.

She was just happy Noctis and Regis hadn’t seen it. Her phone suddenly chimed, and she plucked it out of her pocket to see a message from Noctis. Perfect timing.

N: Hey Luna! We just got the word that your airship has reached the western coast! How much longer until you reach Insomnia?

Luna frowned thoughtfully, then got to her feet. She had no idea, actually. A short walk to the small bridge later, she found Aranea chatting with her pilots, the older one in a peaked cap, the younger one in a classic Niflheim-esque pickelhaube, whose names quite escaped her. The dragoon saw her approach and straightened, giving her a friendly smile.

“Hey Luna! Did you need something?” Aranea asked, and Luna nodded.

“Prince Noctis is asking how long we might be to the city, I would like to give him an estimate if possible.” Aranea immediately turned to the two men at the controls, raising an eyebrow.

“Biggs?” The man in the peaked cap looked down at his instruments for a moment, muttering a few things under his breath before looking up.

“At our current speed and barring any deviations, our ETA is around eight hours to the outskirts of Insomnia. I’ll keep you informed if that changes, princess,” Biggs stated, and Luna tilted her head.

“Thank you, sir.” Biggs nodded and faced forward again, and Luna gave a polite bow to Aranea and began to depart.

“Why don’t you take a nap, Luna? Long trips always are tiring, and I’m sure you want to be fresh when we get there,” Aranea spoke up, and Luna paused. She had a point.

“That sounds like an excellent idea, Aranea, my thanks. I’ll answer the prince and lie down for a few hours,” she responded, Aranea giving her a wave before returning to her previous conversation. Luna returned to her small room, laying down on the bunk and quickly typing a response to Noctis.

L: The pilot believes we will reach the edge of the city in approximately eight hours. I will take a short rest and update you further when I awake.

N: Sounds good, I’ll let my father know. Enjoy your nap!

Taking everyone’s advice, Luna put her phone on the tiny table next to the bunk and closed her eyes. She was asleep within minutes.

“-incess! Are you awake?” Luna shot up in bed, her head swimming from the sudden movement as someone knocked on the door. After a moment of closing her eyes and letting her equilibrium settle, she finally spoke up.

“Yes, I’m awake, you may enter,” she said, the door opening to reveal Biggs’s copilot, the young man smiling politely and gesturing vaguely to the ceiling.

“I’m afraid you may have taken Lady A’s advice a bit too much to heart, princess, we’ve already been granted landing clearance, we’ll be in Insomnia in less than an hour.” The man was gone before she could even reply, her door closing softly in his wake, and Luna gasped. Less than an hour? She slept for so long? A quick look at her phone showed the man’s statement to be complete truth, and after cringing at the collection of texts teasing her about being still asleep (thank you Noctis, truly,) she got to her feet and began to get changed. She was not seeing everyone for the first time in ten months in an wrinkled outfit and bedraggled hair.

Perhaps twenty minutes later, just as she was brushing her hair into some semblance of decency, there was another knock at her door.

“Enter.” In the mirror, she could see Aranea opening her door and stepping in, closing it behind her. The former commodore was dressed in a variation on her usual armor, but with a white overcoat and sash bearing the crest of Tenebrae. It made for a somewhat more formal appearance than her usual look, perfect for meeting royalty. The older woman sized her up, Luna could describe it no other way, then smirked.

“Slept the whole trip away, huh?” Aranea teased, and Luna sighed a bit.

“It certainly wasn’t my intention, but perhaps the sound of the engines was more soothing than I thought it was,” she replied, and the dragoon barked out a short laugh.

“Eh, not a big surprise. I can fall asleep within seconds on this boat if I let myself, so don’t feel bad,” Aranea chuckled, and Luna gave the older woman a smile before returning to the tiny mirror to finish her hair. She almost forgot Aranea was there as she continued to primp, and only when the dragoon cleared her throat did she realize that she was still in the room.

“Oh, my apologies! Did you want to speak to me?” Luna said, a bit embarrassed, but Aranea waved her concerns away.

“No, don’t worry about it. I was just curious,” Aranea began, and Luna flicked at her bangs one more time before calling it a day. She looked as good as she was going to get.

“Curious about what?” she asked, and the dragoon actually shuffled a bit in place before finally crossing her arms.

“You seem to be so fond of the prince and his friends, but I’ve heard various things and I was curious what they were like,” Aranea finally asked, and Luna covered her smile with a hand.

“I’m assuming what you heard was my dear brother griping about Noctis, am I correct?” Luna asked, and Aranea gave an amused shrug. “Well, I won’t tell you too much, but unlike whatever Ravus may have said, Noctis is a noble and wonderful young man who I am honored to know, and he will make a wonderful king someday. My brother has rather illogical reasons for his dislike, and I doubt that will change any time soon. Prompto- the voice, as they call him now, is incredibly kindhearted and sweet; very energetic, with the sort of personality that just draws you in. Noctis’s advisor is named Ignis, he’s of Tenebraen heritage, at least partially, and is perhaps a bit more formal, but is a practical and considerate man who is of excellent character. The prince’s shield, as they call him, is a large man named Gladiolus; he’s from an aristocratic family that has served the royal house for generations, and is a fun and capable person who I am happy to know,” Luna explained, and Aranea crossed her arms.

“You make them all sound perfect,” the older woman mused, and Luna laughed and shook her head.

“Hardly, but I’ll leave that for you to decide. You’ve seen many of them, at least for a moment when you came to fetch Ravus in the days following, but I suppose that was almost a year ago,” she said, laughing. “The king is honorable and firm, but fair and kind, his shield, Gladiolus’s father, is very similar. The marshal, or the herald, as he is getting called by both titles these days, is an expert warrior, but also a sweetheart...not that he would admit to that,” Luna didn’t bother hiding her regard on Cor’s behalf, and Aranea gave her a suspicious squint.

“Isn’t this one of the people who you joked about joining a threesome with?” Aranea questioned, her suspicion transforming to glee, and Luna colored, covering her face with her hands.

“Please don’t mention that in front of any of them. I was just trying to tease Ravus, Cor is a very handsome man, but I don’t truly see him in that light. Well, at least in regards to me, at any rate-” she trailed off, then remembered something. “Also, Aranea? It’s not public that the marshal is in a relationship, although I’m given to understand they aren’t hiding it that well anymore-” Aranea nodded, and Luna smiled. “Thank you. Well, I suppose it’s time to prepare for landing, yes?”

“Should be any time now-” The intercom crackled to life, cutting Aranea off, and Luna grinned as the woman gestured matter-of-factly to the ceiling.

“We have been cleared to land in the side courtyard by the king himself, where we will offload the princess, Lady A, and the luggage, then we will move the ship to a better berth for the duration of our stay. Please stand by for landing.” Biggs’s voice cut off with a burst of static, and the dragoon nodded, then gestured to the room. Luna grimaced at the sight of her exploded bag, and scrambled to clean up.

“Need any help packing?”

A few minutes later, just as the cargo bay doors were about to open, Aranea turned to Luna and grinned. “So his name was Cor, right?”

“Aranea!”

The next few minutes were spent in a flurry of greetings and introductions, at first strictly formal, but then Prompto pulled Luna into a hug and it all went downhill from there. The members of the council who had come out to meet the princess looked a bit aggrieved at the breach of etiquette, but they held their tongues and smiled politely as she worked her way around the group, Aranea walking quietly in her wake. When they reached Cor, Aranea’s expression took on a barely restrained twinkle, but to Luna’s relief, she held her tongue. After walking the circle, Regis clasped her hand and gave it a light squeeze, the smile on his face warm and welcoming.

“It’s good to have you back, Luna. It truly is,” Regis said, and Luna covered his hand with her free one, finding herself having to blink back a happy tear as she returned his smile.

“I’m happy to be here, your majesty.” Regis squeezed her hand one more time before letting go, signalling to all assembled with a wave of his hand.

“I know your travels have been long, princess, but we have planned a dinner,” the king stated, and Luna glanced towards Aranea for a moment before tilting her head in agreement.

“That sounds lovely, your majesty. A meal sounds quite-”

“Go home, foreign bitch!” Luna froze at the distant voice, the entire assembled crowd tensing around her. What in the world-

“I think it would be best to go inside, princess,” Gladio cut in, and Noctis came up on her right side and offered her his arm; Luna met his serious eyes with a question, but he shook his head so finely that only she could have possibly noticed, and she reached out and wrapped her fingers around his forearm.

“Then let us go, my lord.” All assembled turned and headed towards the Citadel proper, except the king, Lord Amicitia, and Cor, who all stayed behind, all but Regis talking into their phones. Once they were inside and heading towards what she assumed was either a dining room or banquet hall, she leaned in slightly towards Noctis. “What in the world is going on?” she hissed under her breath, and Noctis’s mouth twisted.

“It’s nothing major, but it’s best we talk after the meal, I think,” Noctis replied, with Gladio and Ignis nodding in agreement. Luna raised her eyebrows, but nodded as well. Very well, then. Luna knew there had been some problems with xenophobia surging after the battle, but Cor and the others had told her things had calmed down, and she hadn’t heard anything about a resurgence. Hm. There was no more talking as she was led into a large dining room, Noctis skillfully escorting her to a seat before sitting down to her left, next to his father’s seat at the head of the table. Prompto directed Aranea to the spot across from her, then sat down next to the dragoon. Gladio took the spot to her right, Ignis next to him, and the table filled in from there. The spots to the king’s left and Prompto’s left remained empty for several minutes until Regis, Cor, and Lord Amicitia arrived, the room rising to its feet as the king walked to the head of the table, Gladio’s father and Cor taking the empty positions near the front of the table.

“My apologies for the delay, but let us enjoy a nice dinner!” Regis stated, and Luna settled in as servants poured into the room with trays and drinks, watching Aranea’s dubious expression as a colorful salad of some sort was placed in front of all of them. Conversation was stilted at first as everyone started in on their dinner, but Luna managed to summon up some energy and talk about general topics as they worked their way through their meals. Aranea had immediately started chatting with Prompto and Lord Amicitia, mainly about the border incursions with the empire with the shield, and about Niflheimian and Tenebraen culture, from her point of view. Luna found herself inexplicably a little jealous; she was used to crowds and people around her, but she had never had the former commodore’s ease with just inserting herself into conversations. She was glad the older woman was there.

About an hour later saw a much reduced gathering in an attached parlor room, where they were joined by Captain Ulric, who gave her a friendly smirk and a slight bow before sitting down with Cor on the loveseat that the marshal had already claimed. She and Aranea claimed another loveseat, while the foursome had taken up a whole table's worth of chairs. The king sat down on a settee, Lord Amicitia at his side, and looked at the lot of them with a slight smile.

“It’s good to have you back, Luna. I’m sorry that your arrival was spoiled somewhat by a...heckler. How was your trip?” Regis asked, and Luna smiled.

“Rather pleasant, actually. I suppose it doesn’t quite compare to the time the marshal snuck me out of Fenestala Manor last year, but I do appreciate being clean upon arrival this time,” she said cheekily, smiling wider as Cor rolled his eyes and crossed his arms with an exaggerated huff. Nyx looked between the two of them and raised an eyebrow.

“I’ve heard a bit of how that went down, but I’d love to hear more,” Nyx stated, and Cor rolled his eyes again while Luna turned to face the Glaive, happy to chat about something silly.

“Well, by the time we got back, I looked like I had fallen into a chocobo stable and let the dirt fester, and Cor looked much the same, but with two weeks of wild beard growth. We made quite the pair. Luckily, I don’t believe there are any pictures,” she said, and Nyx pouted theatrically before chuckling and glancing at the marshal.

“And how much did everyone pretend to not see you like that as you two came into the Citadel?” Nyx asked, and Cor snorted, leaning over and bumping his shoulder into Nyx’s.

“The smart ones knew better,” the marshal said drily, and his seatmate barked out a laugh.

“Fair enough.” The silence after Nyx answered was long and awkward, and finally it was Aranea that spoke up, her expression broadcasting the question that was still at the forefront of Luna’s mind.

“I thought things here in Insomnia had largely calmed down after the first month or so following everything? I wasn’t expecting some xenophobe asshole the instant we got off the damn ship, let me be clear. A heads up might have been nice?” Aranea asked, a bit blunter than was polite; Regis frowned, but nodded in agreement.

“My apologies, princess, commodore, the upswing in...tensions happened almost overnight. When the news went out that there was a small celebration planned for the anniversary, it seems to remind the most unfortunate fringe of Insomnian society that I hadn’t inexplicably driven out all but native Insomnians already and sent them home. It’s truly only been a few weeks, but you are correct, I should have mentioned as such ahead of time,” Regis apologized, and Luna waved away his apology.

“It’s quite alright, it was just a bit jarring. Hopefully this doesn’t bode ill for the rest of the trip, I would love to be able to explore the city this time,” she said, and Noctis and Prompto both leaned towards her and nodded.

“No, we are definitely taking you out this time, showing you all the cool stuff. Considering how much of a mess the last trip was…” Noctis trailed off, and Luna nodded in agreement as she met Aranea’s eyes. She had a feeling the dragoon would enjoy the trip too, which was the main reason she had wanted her to accompany her. Give Aranea a break from the skirmishes at the border, and a break from Ravus and his stewing. They all needed a break from Ravus.

...possibly even Ravus himself.

Luna felt a twinge of guilt, barely holding back a sigh. Okay, that was mean. But she longed for a day where Ravus could finally relax for five minutes, she expected him to drop dead of a heart attack by the time he was thirty-five the way he was going.

“Luna?” Prompto’s voice cut into her thoughts, and she blinked and focused back on the blond.

“Ah, sorry, my mind wandered for a moment. What were you saying?” Luna replied, a bit sheepishly, and Prompto laughed.

“We were wondering if you wanted to go with us to downtown, maybe in the next day or two? Show you the sights, drag you to the arcade-” Prompto stopped at the look on Ignis’s face, and even Aranea laughed at the sight of the advisor’s cool expression. “-or, maybe take in a nice museum or two?” Prompto said hesitantly as Ignis nodded sagely in the background, and Luna burst out laughing.

“It all sounds wonderful, Prompto. Thank you, we’ll figure out an appropriate time,” Luna said, then she turned back towards Regis. “Thank you again for inviting me, your majesty. I do appreciate it.” Regis’s eyes crinkled at the edges with his wide smile, and her chest warmed in return. As long as this trip remained far less eventful than the last one, she would be happy.

 

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Cor and Nyx popped back to Cor’s quarters after saying goodnight to Luna and everyone else, and he watched with amusement as Nyx disrobed in record time while he was still pulling off his shirt.

“How did today’s event go?” Cor asked Nyx as he pulled off his undershirt, tossing it into the hamper. Nyx had already stripped down to his underwear and was sitting on the edge of the bed, clearly waiting for him to finish undressing.

“The king schmoozed and chatted with everyone at the community center, bounced babies, shook hands, and steadfastly ignored the shouting idiots outside the gates. A few tried to push through the Glaives I had stationed on the perimeter, but not with any real effort. We got yelled at more than the king, the filthy foreigners that we are,” Nyx sighed, scratching at his nose as Cor threw his pants over towards the hamper, watching them hit the wall and crash to the floor instead. Oh well.

“Those damn fools. You know what’s worse, right? There’s a whole contingent of them whose families only got here a few generations back, who often still have grandparents who talk about the old country, and they all pretend that those family members don’t exist,” Cor grumbled, sitting down next to Nyx on the bed. “Or let me rephrase it, they pretend they don’t exist when their equally close-minded associates are around. Some of them slink home after their bullshit gatherings and say hi to their Duscaean grandmother or their Galahdian grandfather like they hadn’t just been advocating for them to be bodily thrown out of the city. Every time I had to do research into the backgrounds of some of these idiots it made me sick,” he said bluntly, raising a hand and running it through Nyx’s hair, feeling the long strands trail through his fingers. “Don’t listen to them, alright?” The Glaive chuckled next to him, and Cor shifted his hand as Nyx leaned in and rested his head on Cor’s shoulder.

“Oh, I don’t, don’t worry. I’ve heard it since I got to Insomnia, and I’m certainly not going to back down now. The bastards aren’t going to win this one. None of us are going to let them,” Nyx assured him, and he turned his head and kissed the man on the top of his head with a tired sigh. It felt like they were going back to square one, and of course, the poor princess was back right at the height of it. Couldn’t things just go smoothly for a change? It was a naive hope, but Cor would quietly stick to that hope as long as he could manage. After all, maybe it would become true someday . Maybe.

“I hate to say this, Cor, but I think we could both use a shower,” Nyx cut in on his musings, and he blinked as the younger man got to his feet, moving in front of him and leaning over until he was getting a rather up close and personal view of Nyx’s chest, strong arms wrapping around his shoulders. Familiar blue eyes met his for a moment before leaning in further and kissing the side of his neck; Cor sucked in a surprised breath as Nyx worked his way up his neck to his jaw, then continuing up to his ear. “How about we save water, hm?” Cor’s whole body bucked as skilled hands trailed delicately down his arms, but he still felt a laugh bubble to the surface as Nyx’s teeth found his earlobe.

“What-” Cor shuddered as the younger man bit down, but huffed out another laugh. “In what world is the two of us showering together saving water?” Nyx bit at his earlobe again, but Cor could hear the man snort out a laugh as clear as day as Cor grabbed lightly at the man’s hair and pulled him away from his head, then leaned in and kissed him firmly on the lips. “Hmm?” Nyx’s hands cradled his face, and Cor’s eyes slid closed as they exchanged increasingly heated kisses for some time until Nyx pulled away, running his fingertips down Cor’s neck and chest.

“Fine. Let’s go have sex in the shower while wasting tons of water. Sound like a plan?” Nyx said bluntly, and Cor barked out a laugh, even as he got to his feet in response.

“Well, since you asked so nicely-”

Their shower lasted over an hour, and they both were exceptionally pruney by the time they got out. Not that they really noticed (nor cared.)

Cor was quite aware that Nyx never got tired of the fact that he conked out so easily after sex, even if it meant that Nyx had to pretty much drag him out of the shower after they were done; Cor barely kept his feet as the younger man dried him off and bundled him into bed with a fond grin, then to the half-awake Cor’s bewilderment immediately turned and walked out of the bedroom, giving him a very nice view.

“Where’ya goin’?” Cor yawned, half-heartedly trying to fight his way out of the sheets, and Nyx laughed.

“Stay in bed, old man, I’ll be back in a few minutes,” Nyx said, and Cor watched blearily as the Glaive headed back into the bathroom.

Oh. Probably just going to straighten up. He curled into Nyx’s pillow with a hazy sigh, his body still tingling with pleasant aches that he still found incredibly novel. He’d never get over the fact Nyx was there, that he had stayed even with all of his ridiculous bullshit; he had long figured he would live the rest of his life the way the Citadel had always assumed he was. He knew his reputation had him labeled as an ascetic, a hermit; he never thought anyone would truly be interested in him. Almost seven months later, however, there they were, and the Glaive showed no sign of leaving. It still blew his mind how quickly he got accustomed to seeing the other man there next to him in bed, how he pretty much expected to be able to cuddle up with him in the evenings-

“You have the soppiest look on your face right now, Cor. What in the hell are you thinking about?” Nyx said, and Cor rolled onto his back as the bed dipped beside him, raising his arm and running a hand down Nyx’s stubbly cheek.

“I’m just...having a moment,” Cor muttered, his cheeks warm, and Nyx leaned in and nuzzled his nose.

“A moment, huh? What’s the moment about?” Nyx pulled away enough to slide under the covers next to him, and Cor ducked his head into the mattress at the younger man’s side, only to be urged back up with a soft tug on his hair. “Cor?”

“It’s stupid. Don’t worry about it. I don’t want to unload on you, you don’t deserve it,” he said, and instantly regretted it when Nyx’s curious smile twisted into a frown, combined with a slightly more pointed tug on his hair.

“Hey, don’t do that. Considering you didn’t actually raise the kid, you two are a little too similar sometimes. Spit it out,” Nyx’s tone had gone sharp, and Cor sighed, letting his head fall back to the pillow.

“I- I guess I’m just having one of those moments where I wonder why you stay,” Cor started, then thought over what he just said before bolting upright, ignoring all the twinges the rapid movement caused. “Oh fuck, no, that’s not what I meant-” Nyx sat up next to him without a word, looking at him somberly with those blue eyes that he loved so much; Cor stared wide-eyed at him as he tried to get his jaw to move, but couldn’t get himself to utter a sound.

“No, I think that’s exactly what you meant, but I don’t think you meant it as harshly as it sounded,” Nyx said quietly, and Cor thought he was going to have a damn heart attack. He had finally said too fucking much- “Let me guess; you’re too old. You think the whole herald thing secretly weirds me out. You wonder when I’m going to figure out that there’s far better fish in the sea. You think you’re too much trouble to be worth it-” Cor hissed through his teeth and looked away, and Nyx cut himself off. A few seconds later, a strong hand cupped his cheek, coaxing his gaze back towards the Glaive. “But I think it’s something else this time. Am I wrong?” Nyx’s thumb swept lightly back and forth on his cheek, and Cor took a deep shuddering breath and swallowed before managing to speak.

“I always figured I’d die alone.” The sharp intake of breath from Nyx was answer enough, and Cor sighed and looked blankly at the sheets pooled in their laps for a moment. “I fully expected to watch my friends and associates get older, have kids or not, then watch them retire or pass away. Then watch their children do much the same. I’d probably be there, helping in some way until I couldn’t, then that would have been it. I’d die, a few people might say a few nice things about how I was reliable and steadfast, a blunt never married, no children, no partner in the obituary, maybe Prompto bringing me up occasionally, or Gladiolus mentioning me once or twice when he used my sword-” Cor lost his train of thought when Nyx closed his eyes, the younger man’s expression strange, and he fumbled for a moment for words. “I had accepted it. It was what it was. But then you started coming around, showing interest, and I really wasn’t sure how to handle that at first, let me tell you-” Cor’s rapidly beating heart calmed a bit as Nyx looked once more at him, too-glossy eyes crinkling at the edges with humor.

“Considering it took me backing you into a literal corner for you to figure it out, I think that’s pretty obvious,” Nyx commented drily, and Cor coughed in embarrassment.

“Every once in awhile, when we’re curled up here in bed or whatever, I just wonder how I got used to this so quickly, how I just expect to be able to be here with you most of the time…” Cor took a deep breath, letting the air out between his teeth with a hiss. “It’s a complete shift on what I always figured my life would be. As I said, it’s stupid,” he sighed, and he knew his face was bright red. Nyx looked at him silently for long enough that he shifted a few times, his heart rate starting to increase once more; the Glaive finally leaned forward and met his lips with his own, giving him a soft kiss before shifting back under the sheets, pulling him down alongside him. Cor laid his head on Nyx’s chest, listening to the strong heartbeat as he tried to calm his own.

“I’m not going anywhere, Cor. Not if I can help it,” Nyx’s voice rumbled lightly against his cheek, and Cor nodded, brushing his lips against the skin under his head. “Hopefully in time, those random thoughts in your brain will realize that.” He nodded again, then shifted into his usual curled position, throwing his leg over the younger man’s and taking a deep, deliberate breath before slowly letting it out.

He really hoped Nyx was right. On all counts.

The next day saw Cor heading out with the king and Luna on a small tour near the border of the southwestern forest. In an attempt to keep the security team smaller, they convinced the prince and the others to wait for another day to go out with the princess, which went over better with Ignis and Gladiolus than with the younger two. They would survive. In a rare case, Clarus was not present, but was handling something else, making Cor his effective replacement for the day. For her part, Luna seemed to be legitimately enjoying herself as they strolled with a park ranger on the well-marked trail, listening intently as the various types of flora and fauna were pointed out to her as they passed by them. The trip had already been scheduled before the princess had even been invited back to the city, but the king thought it would be pleasant to bring her along. Cor enjoyed the scenery, but he couldn’t let himself get distracted by it. There was too much at stake, too many threats against the king and foreigners in general swirling around the capital, and he needed to be at his best. When they passed two Guards stationed on the path as they continued on, he signalled for them to do a sweep of the area, all the while listening to Luna as she compared the trees of Insomnia to the great forest around Fenestala Manor.

While the king was traditionally accompanied by the Crownsguard when he was away from the Citadel, the Kingsglaive was being fielded within the city more often as time went on; partially to keep them busy, but mostly so the citizens of Insomnia could see them. Cor and Nyx had decided to swap back and forth as the king increased his public appearances, one day with the Guard, one day with the Glaive. A few of the more open events had seen a combined group, but there hadn’t been much call for it yet. If the threats started coalescing into something substantial, however, that would change.

“Marshal, there’s a small group gathering near the ranger station, currently around thirty.” He barely refrained from jerking in surprise from the sudden noise in his ear, but only just. Cor would never get used to the communications earbuds, but after about the third time he had grumbled about it to Nyx, the captain had finally just told him to suck it up and use the damn things. Fine. He still didn’t like them.

“Are we talking average citizens or protesters?” he responded, and the return answer came immediately.

“They’ve kept relatively quiet so far, but I see a few signs being held at their feet. I’m going to go with protester, sir.” Cor scowled, leading to a questioning look from Luna. Of course. No one even vaguely affiliated with the Citadel could go out without tripping over one of them the last few weeks, and even the relative seclusion of their location hadn’t kept them away.

“We will reach the station in approximately ten minutes, keep eyes on the group and set up a subtle perimeter; I’ll notify you when our ETA is less than two minutes out. Do not engage with anyone unless necessary,” he ordered, receiving their confirmation before cutting the line. He moved forward, flanking Regis and leaning in to speak in his ear; the king slowed but did not stop, tilting his head towards Cor in a practiced move the two of them had done many a time over the years. “Small group of protesters near the ranger’s station. The Guard is setting up a loose perimeter until we can gauge the situation better,” he said quietly, and Regis nodded.

“Keep me informed,” the king replied, tilting his head towards Luna. Cor bowed his head slightly, then moved to the princess's side.

“Luna, there’s a group of protesters up ahead. We are keeping an eye on them, but we wanted to make sure you knew before we arrived.” Luna’s answering smile was understandably a bit thin, but she nodded.

“Thank you for telling me,” Luna said, and Cor bowed once more before returning to his previous position behind them. When they emerged into the open a short time later, he could see the signs going up, the mouths opening to start yelling; it took all that was in him to not step over to the lot of them and slap the back of their damn heads.

“Get the foreigners out of Insomnia!” Okay, standard material. Cor could see Luna tense slightly, but she managed to maintain a distant smile along with a spine of steel as they walked past the group. He knew damn good and well she had over a decade of experience in smiling at people who would dance on her grave, and it showed.

“Dismantle the Kingsglaive!” More getting rid of the foreigners bullshit. He was pretty sure he could hear Nyx scoffing from the other side of the city.

“Step down Regis!” That was new, at least in a public protest; there had been some radical newspapers calling for the king to abdicate to allow Noctis, purged of all unfortunate influences (read, pretty much all of his friends and associates) to rule in what they figured would be a return to some mythical good old days that never existed.

“Bring back the wall!” Cor could see Regis’s eyebrow arch at that one. Good luck with that, he was pretty sure that they needed a crystal for that to happen.

“Remove the corrupted and the whore!” Ah fuck. He had known it was only a matter of time until he and Prompto were insulted during the protests, and that time had come. Luna had actually dropped her frozen expression for a split second in complete confusion, and Cor sped to keep the princess moving. He would explain later. A few people tried to throw things, but the projectiles were easily intercepted by the Guards on the perimeter. Once inside the ranger station, the employees were clearly rattled by the intruders, but they all powered on, finishing their tour and presenting both the king and the oracle with a token. Luckily, the crowd was held firmly back as they all climbed back into their vehicle, and they left without further incident.

“What in the world was that last sign about?” Luna asked, and Cor and Regis looked at each other with a grimace before Regis sighed and deferred to Cor.

“It’s referencing Prompto and I, I’m afraid. We’ve been hearing this sort of rhetoric pretty often in the more xenophobic rags, but after the release of the Book, it’s been a madhouse. We are pretty sure some of them legitimately believe every damn word in that thing is being followed to the letter, I’ve been called some nasty things, even whore, as that sign stated, but poor Prompto, being of obviously foreign stock, has been the target of far more vitriol. Some groups hesitate to go that far with me, for better or worse; my Insomnian ancestry can be traced back some five hundred years reliably, and while I don’t give a shit, they do on occasion. So they’ve taken to calling me the corrupted instead. One person actually approached me a few weeks back and offered to re-educate me about my origins, my heritage, and how it made me superior somehow; the worst part of the whole non-conversation was that they seriously meant it,” Cor said, his mouth twisting in disgust before he shook his head. “The craziest part about the whole thing was that a month or so ago, almost none of this was happening. It’s all exploded pretty much overnight.” Luna leaned forward, resting a finger against her lips.

“Have you considered that there might be Niflheimian infiltrators?” the princess questioned, and Cor and Regis looked at each other once more before Regis spoke up.

“We are quite sure there are, actually, but we haven’t identified any as of yet. It’s currently being worked on.” Cor could see when Regis thought of something specific, and watched carefully as the monarch leaned back in towards Luna. “Have you seen anything similar in Tenebrae? Any imperial sympathizers? People espousing a little too much about the good old days under the empire?” Luna sat back in her seat with her arms loosely crossed, a look of concentration on her face.

“There was some early on, but it was almost exclusively focused in the small villages along the border. Much of it faded away as soon as it became clear to those who exclaimed such things that the empire cared nothing for them; when a few villages received serious damage through border incursions, they mostly quieted down. I still hear things here and there, but not enough to be of any consequence,” Luna said, and Regis nodded.

“Then they are focusing such efforts on us, as it were. I’ve not heard of any serious issues at all from Altissia either, so this appears to be our battle to fight for now,” Regis stated, and Cor nodded.

“We’ll figure it out. We just need a little more time.”

The prince and his posse took Luna out for a far more casual adventure in downtown the next day; neither Nyx or Cor accompanied them, but the small combined group of Glaives and Guards that went reported the usual protesters, but no serious actual threats against any of them. At least for small mercies. They increased surveillance of the biggest anti-government and traditionalist groups as the days crept towards the anniversary, but no matter how much they searched, they had still not identified any Niffs among the sheep, as it were, and Cor, Regis, and Clarus were all increasingly tense as time went on. At least they were largely leaving the princess alone; there had been a few comments, a few shouts here and there, but the vast majority of the population still respected the oracle, and they hadn’t gained much ground. Surprisingly, there had been almost no mention of the fact that she was the reason the crystal was gone, which he had figured would have been mentioned first and foremost. He honestly didn’t understand people sometimes.

On the third day before the anniversary, Cor woke up in a cold sweat, surging upright in bed gasping for breath as Nyx sleepily sat up as well, placing a hand on his back as his stomach churned ominously.

“Cor? What’s wrong?” Nyx asked, and Cor sat there trying to regulate his breathing while he evaluated himself; this didn’t feel like anything specific, he considered food poisoning, but he knew what that felt like. He just had an overwhelming feeling that something was going to happen. “Cor?” He swallowed heavily as he tried to respond, Nyx’s hand sliding up his back to the cup the base of his neck.

“I-” he swallowed again, then shook his head to clear it. “-I don’t know. It’s nothing specific, it’s just a bad...feeling,” he whispered, bringing his hands up to his face and wiping roughly at his eyes. Nyx’s warm hand was grounding, and Cor leaned back into his arms. “It’s probably nothing. I probably just had a bad dream I don’t remember.” Nyx’s hand stroked his stomach soothingly as he sighed. “Sorry for waking you.”

“Don’t apologize, you dipshit. What’s going on today?” Nyx asked, and Cor pinched the bridge of his nose as he thought. What was going on today? After a moment, he remembered.

“The king has a public appearance at the old Julii palace, followed by a short walkabout around the square. I’ll be his escort, along with Clarus,” he said, then he remembered something else and sighed. “Do you think you’d be willing to lend me a few Glaives who can warp? I meant to ask during more...appropriate hours, but I got occupied with something else and it slipped my mind. I wanted them for aerial support.” Nyx hummed behind him.

“That’s not an issue. I’ll be nice and not send Libertus, he’ll gripe at you the first time he’s gotta warp,” Nyx chuckled, and Cor snorted.

“I appreciate that,” he replied, settling back into the Glaive’s arms; after a few minutes of a nice bit of snoozing, a finger poked him in the stomach.

“I hate to say this, sleepyhead, but we’ve gotta get ready for work,” Nyx commented, and Cor groaned, but pulled away and slid out of bed, staggering off to the shower. Right before they headed out the door, Nyx pulled him into a firm hug and a searing kiss that made him want to ditch the whole affair and go right back to bed, but sadly, it wasn’t a possibility today. “Keep your eyes open, Cor. Don’t ignore that feeling from earlier,” Nyx said firmly before pushing him out the door. It was good advice.

They had considered bringing Luna on this tour, as they all thought she would enjoy the historic architecture, but this event was far more out in the open, and Regis had decided that for safety’s sake, she would not be included. Perhaps another time. The weather was warm and overcast, the right kind of overcast that made for excellent photos (according to Prompto, anyway,) and Cor settled in for the ride. The old mid-classical period Lucian palace, a near-thousand year old building that still stood proudly near the center of town, was lovely and well preserved; Cor would have normally found it interesting, but the sense of foreboding from the morning had stuck around, and it was keeping him hyperfocused on his surroundings. He could always do a tour another day. Fortunately, a few hours later saw them leaving the palace without incident, heading to the nearby square on foot.

Cor dropped back as they entered the grounds of the square, glancing around and visually identifying where the Guards and the Glaives were, signalling silently for several adjustments as they continued along. Clarus was up with Regis, and Cor could hear him chatting with the king quietly about the timetable as they headed towards the ancient statue erected in the center, an enormous marble sculpture depicting the first king and oracle. He thought it was gaudy and overwrought, but no one gave a shit about his opinion, which, when it came to art, was probably a good thing. The sunlight broke through the clouds and suddenly gleamed off the metal highlights on the statue king’s crown, and Cor turned towards the sun out of habit, only to barely catch another reflective flicker that was coming from too low to be the sun-

Cor didn’t even remember moving as he stepped in front of Regis, pushing him behind him as something slammed into the right side of his chest, followed immediately by several more somethings, and he found himself on the ground gasping for air as the familiar hexagonal prismatic glow of the king’s barrier spell covered them; he could not catch his breath, and his vision was getting hazy as he choked around the fluid that was in his throat. He tried to get up, but Regis and Clarus both kept him from moving more than rolling onto his left side, allowing him to breathe somewhat as he was able to spit out whatever was in his throat, even as the sky seemed to be getting dark once more-

“Cor, stay with us, the Glaives have already confronted the shooter, I don’t even know how in the hell you saw that, not with the sun in our eyes…” Clarus’s voice seemed like it was coming from far away, and Cor struggled to understand the words as he stared at his old friend.

“Shoot...er?” he gargled out, and Regis appeared above him, holding a torn piece of what looked like his suit coat, although he was having problems seeing it clearly, his eyes wouldn’t focus right-

“You saved my life, Cor-” Cor’s vision went dark for a moment, and when it cleared enough for him to see, he was on his back again, staring blankly at Clarus and Regis’s faces. They looked so worried for some reason-

“This is going to hurt, Cor, but we need to stop the bleeding,” Clarus’s voice was a million miles away, and he really didn’t understand what the man meant; then Regis’s hands descended on his shoulder and the last thing he remembered was the sound of someone screaming as everything went black.