A hiss slips past my chapped lips as my eyes slit open. I see the remainder of the embers singe along the lining of my uniform before I open my clenched fist to watch the final glimmer of the phoenix feather fade out of existence, leaving behind the broken glass on my glove.
“Noct!” Gladiolus roars over the clashes of continuing battle beside me, but I still take a moment to allow my consciousness to return. Life burning back into my body, scorching the edges of death away and heating my heart up once more will never get easy to deal with, no matter how many training sessions I endure.
“Where am I?”
An ear-piercing screech shatters all surrounding chaos and is abruptly followed by a moment of silence. The ground spasms beneath my back as the monster my group and I were battling falls down beside me, its eye lining up with my own and I witness the last flicker of life drain out of the iris.
“Noctis!” Ignis yells out as he sprints over to stand between the fallen creature and myself, his boot blocking my view of death. I twist my head upwards and catch the glint of sun reflecting off of his glasses before our eyes meet. Relief washes over the man’s gentle features as he slowly blinks and outstretches his own gloved hand. “Are you alright?”he calmly inquires when I hesitate before accepting his help in returning to my feet. I sigh my reply, gripping my fingers along the side of my neck and craning my head in the opposite direction to stretch out the remaining discomfort of renewed life. My body shrugs itself down onto a toppled tree trunk as I blink a few more times to adjust. No, you really don’t ever get used to this feeling.
“Who the hell are these guys?”
My fingers trail up my cheek and come to rest on my temple, slowly circling to aid in releasing tension. It seems to be taking longer than usual for me to realign, so-to-speak. Another sigh slips out when I drop my hand away from my face and glance at the movement coming towards me to my right. Squinting at the sun’s descent towards darkness now bringing the light to my own eye level and accosting my vision, I see Prompto hopping over a fallen tree trunk and heading towards me. After stepping over the creature, he stands a few feet in front of me beside Gladiolus, but I lower my vision to avoid further blindness. A hand covered by a fingerless glove raises above him as he uses its shadow to block the sun from my eyes.
“Hey man, you ok?” The blonde asks through his typical smirk. He knows the answer already since I am moving instead of stiff on the ground at his feet, but a flicker of fear appears for a moment behind his sapphire eyes. With the sun shielded behind his hand, I can clearly see his entire form outlined by it while still being able to see his features, bringing an almost holy glow to the man. Gladio wore the same holiness, I assume, but my eyes refuse to leave the sight of Prompto.
The heel of my hand aggressively rubs the side of my head out of reflex at the sudden onslaught of fuzzy static in my mind. What the hell is that? Is this some side effect of the phoenix down? I don’t remember this happening before.
“Hey,” the deep gruff of Gladio’s voice grates its way through my wandering thoughts, snapping my focus back up to him. His thick arms, tree trunks on their own, are crossed over his chest in his usual intimidation stance, eyes burning a bright orangish red to match the setting sun behind him.
“Say something before I make you say something,” the brunette demands after noticing his own worry strewn across everyone else’s faces. Prompto abruptly turns towards the man and shoots him an irritated glare, obviously telling the man to ease off the recently deceased, but Gladio ignores the wordless argument and continues to glare at me.
“Ell? Are you dreaming?”
“Who’s Ell?” I whisper, resting my hand on top of my eyes. A light shuffle next to me causes my hand to drop away. Ignis, signature smirk in place, slowly lowers himself down onto the trunk next to me. Gently placing one of his white-gloved hands on my knee, he sighs himself before speaking.
“You can’t blame us for worrying about you, your highness.” the man mentions before a chuckle rings out across from us. We both glance up to see the cheerful blonde shifting his hand that was blocking the sun a few different ways. It took me a minute to notice the shadows crossing over Ignis’ face were changing out of the corner of my eye. Without being too obvious, I peer at the brunette beside me and see some sort of X shape crisscrossing along the bridge of his nose, the shading now above and below each of his eyes. A chuckle of my own escapes before I could stifle it but it couldn’t be helped; he looks like he has some kind of war paint on his cheeks.
“See? He’s fiiiine,” Prompto whines, shuffling towards me. He places both hands on my shoulders and tugs me back to my feet, beaming his brightest smile at me. “Aren’t you Noct?”
“Wake Up Ellone!”
The initial threat of an enemy approaching has always been and will always be my internal alarm clock. I prove that theory now as my eyes snap open and my fingers tighten over Lionheart. Without thought or hesitation, I react. The reflection of my eyes glare down at me on the gunblade surface, now directly in front of my face and threatening whatever foe I felt was before me; a foe that, same as any other day, doesn’t exist.
“Damn it,” I mumble while returning Lionheart to her case beneath my bed. Thank Hyne nobody has been stupid enough to attempt to physically wake me yet. Swinging my legs over the edge of my mattress, I rub my face a few times as I try to recall what had happened to set me so much more on edge than usual. Not saying this little morning routine wasn’t normal, because it is, but something extra seems to be hanging in the air of my room, like a whisper. Banging rings between my walls before that whisper can be deciphered. Once more my hands are gripping Lionheart, facial expression of death firmly staring back at me before I realize it is someone at my door.
“Yes,” I yell, irritation biting at the drawn out ‘s’ before I sigh at my own reflexes and reactions. Old habits, I suppose.
“Sir, just checking on you Sir,” A youthful voice announces from the other side. Standing to my feet, I tug on my black jeans and tuck in my white t-shirt before I push the button to open the door. I turn away to face the window. What time is it anyway? Dark and heavy cloth covers the window completely. It is meant to block out sunlight when I return after difficult missions and need sleep almost immediately, regardless of the time of day. My shoulders droop at the memories of missions, knowing those days are long past. A faint rustling behind me tells me the young SeeD was saluting me before he continues.
“Sir, you were absent from your morning training sessions with Officer Dincht and Officer Trepe,” I hear his saluting hand lower when I wave my hand at him to ease. “I was instructed by them to check your dorm room, Sir.” I nod at the window, accepting his reasoning for being here. I overslept? Before my subconscious could answer me, it clicks with my sharp exhale.
“Inform them I will be in my office in ten minutes.” I turn to face the SeeD youth with a bit more intimidation than necessary. A flash of worry crosses his face before nodding, eating up every detail of our exchange for later stories to friends, I’m sure. I shift to stand at ease before him. “Instruct them to retrieve Officer Kinneas and Officer Tilmitt for a meeting.” We salute each other before the young man agrees and scurries down the hall on his mission.
I never oversleep, I remind myself unnecessarily as I shuffle towards the bathroom. This thought keeps repeating itself in my mind over and over as I hastily brush my teeth and run my comb through my milk chocolate colored hair. A light groan escapes me when I return to my mattress and grip the hanging jacket beside it. I adjust the collar after putting it on, keeping the fur-lining away from my ears and neck while I shove my wallet into my pocket. With a frown, I glance over to my nightstand and realize my cell phone is missing. A quick running of my hands down my thighs and across my stomach reveals the device never made it out of my jacket pocket last night when I feel the lump. Great, I internally scold myself as I tug the charger out of the wall and quickly turn to leave, stepping into my boots as I go. With a quick glance at the door panel to ensure the lock was armed upon my exit, my unbuckled boots clomp out into the hallway and start to make their way to my office. Gritting my teeth at the unusual feeling of being unkempt, my mind continues on with its song: I never oversleep.