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Cracked

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In the shadow of Altissia’s towering arches, the rain bled through Ignis's coeurl-print shirt. The gauntleted hands of MTs pinched his biceps where they held him down… and in front of him, Ardyn crouched over Noctis. When the knife came out, Ignis threw off the MTs that held him down and took the Ring from the ground. He would protect Noctis, no matter what…

Ardyn’s eyes flashed. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he said, with his slimy smile.

Ignis didn’t care. But before he could thrust the Ring of the Lucii onto his finger, the air froze around him. He was held motionless, the Ring poised at his fingertip.

In the next moment, darkness shot out from around Ardyn and engulfed the two of them, blocking out the light and all sight of Altissia. When it dissipated, he and Ardyn stood alone, facing each other at the edge of the yawning gash of Taelpar Crag. Noctis was gone, the troops surrounding them were gone… He was no longer frozen, but he no longer held the Ring. He whirled wildy about, and then faced Ardyn again.

“Where is Noctis?” He demanded. “What have you done?”

“I’ve done nothing,” Ardyn said. “I'm only giving you a moment to consider some possibilities.”

Possibilities?  What can you possibly--”

“Ah,” said Ardyn, holding up a finger. “but you are about to do something incredibly rash that will have serious repercussions for you and your friends, and before you do it, I think you should reconsider.”

“I don’t know what game you’re playing at,” Ignis said, “but I insist you return me to Noctis at once!”

“Temper, temper!” Ardyn cooed, and Ignis had to stifle the urge to stuff one of his gaudy scarves down his throat and shove him off the cliff.

“So,” Ardyn continued, “you think I’m playing a game, hmm?” Then he smiled and held his arms wide. “Just consider, my dear chamberlain. What if you are just playing a role in someone else’s story? What if the story’s creator had chosen to… take a different path with you. With all the options available, don’t you think there are much more interesting endings than the one you are about to embark upon? Don’t you think there could be more possibilities than the one the Astrals ordained for your… King of Light?”

“Noct has more nobility in his little finger than you have in your entire--”

That remains to be seen,” Ardyn interjected. Fury flashed briefly across his face, but he smoothed it and smiled his cruel grin. He took slow swaggering steps towards Ignis. “Hmmm, let’s do this, shall we?” he said. “I will show you what could be . A plethora of choices the universe would give you if anything was possible. Each of these alternatives is its own version of your story -- adding to aspects of it in ways that change your nature. Your history. Or adding elements of fantasy, even.” He chuckled, and spread his arms wide. “Just imagine how many different worlds there might be. And what might change about you.” He gestured at Ignis.

“What are you getting at?” Ignis asked.

“Just this,” Ardyn said. “I will let you visit these different realities -- and then you will see which of those realities you might prefer… or you could return to your own, where your course is set.” Ardyn stopped, leaving a bare meter between them.

Ignis struggled against the impulse to back away. “You babble nonsense,” he said, glad that his voice remained steady.

“Do I?”

And then Ardyn… shifted. He closed the distance between them in a blink and sneered down at Ignis. “We shall see,” he said. He grabbed Ignis by the front of his shirt and lifted him off his feet. Ignis choked and struggled and grasped at Ardyn’s clenched fist to no avail. And then Ardyn swung his arm to hold Ignis out over the void of the Crag. His feet flailed helplessly over empty space.

Ardyn grinned. “You shall have to decide for yourself, I suppose.”

Ardyn let go.