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And The Seraphim Cry, 'Holy, Holy, Holy'

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Chains rattled in the darkness, clinging desperately to the creature that they kept constricted. Their purpose, long rusted away across the years, was waning and every demon knew it.

The fallen one took a breath. He exhaled pure corruption, energised flecks of malice that brightened the dungeon with magenta. The spikes lodged in hands would have been enough to make him howl in agony if not for the fact he had been rotting in his crypt for far too long. After millennia of endless suspension in limbo, it was going to take more than that to affect him. A twisted grin unknowingly curled his lips as he then yanked his hands forward.

The demons surrounding him shrieked in joy as he slowly began to free himself. One in particular, wrapped in red and gold armour, laughed the loudest.

“Yes, come forth, Adagium,” he said in a deep voice, drunk on the pollution in the air.

The being before him gave one final heave before toppling to the floor, his chains now shattered. He collapsed gracelessly in a heap of pale skin and miasma.

He coughed. His lungs were thick with black fluid, the very physical incarnation of the contamination within him. It had been awful at first. It still was, in a way, but time had eased the discomfort. After several gruelling moments of hacking it all out, Adagium peered up. Tens of the fallen ones circled him. Some were beyond ghastly, a mangled mess of creature parts and gods knew what else. Others were comely in appearance, the one just having spoken being a good example. The one that seemed the most interested in him. Adagium held eye contact for a long time. Gold eyes met blue, curiosity clashing with pure awe.

“How wonderful that you’ve returned to us,” the armoured demon muttered.

“...What?” the Adagium rasped. He had been in a dormant state for too long. He had not seen another living being in eons

“Adagium,” the demon knelt down to his level, “you have awoken on this day for a reason. Regain your power. Take back what is ours by reaching beyond the heavens and crushing those that cast us out.”

What… what was he talking about? The words floated around his mind like the tail ends of dying embers, not present for long enough to grasp at. He considered the fact he could be hallucinating, but the touch of the demon’s hand on his knee was all too real. Adagium had to think for a minute. His memories were hazy, filled with flashes of raging fire and the feeling of feathers burning away. He squeezed his eyes shut as he recalled the pain, hot and merciless , mauling the wings on his back—

Then it hit him. He cried out as he felt his shoulder blades, only to find stumps of what were once everything that made him him . Some feathers clung on to the bone, yet what remained was drenched in the thick liquid of demonification. It dripped down his back like acid.

“What have I become?” he wailed to the gods above. He received no reply except from the cackling devil that had encouraged him to break free.

“Our saviour!” he hissed, gripping on to Adagium’s shoulders and jostling him. “You are the one to lead our kind to salvation !”

Salvation, was it? He hung his head as he mulled over the word. Had he not given that to those who needed it, only to be cast out? To be trapped in limbo for a crime he did not commit? Adagium began to chuckle to himself. The chuckle grew until it dominated the room, morphing into a maniacal screeching that made everyone present cower. Yes, salvation .

He raised his tattered wings. They were so large that they touched the ceiling, dark feathers rotting and regenerating over and over again. He then gripped the armoured demon’s throat, ignoring his delighted laughter as he indulged in his memory.

He took all of the demons’ knowledge and made it his own.

And instantly regretted it.

Howling, Adagium stumbled backwards into the back end of his crypt, trying to scratch out the burning in his eyes with his fingernails. He saw and felt the falling of every demon in the room. Every single one, tossed over the edge of the Holy Land and landing like comets into pools of magma. Wings, once made of the most gorgeous of colours, now stained with greys and blacks. Halos were snuffed out and replaced with a constant tingling of pain over the skin. Screams of agony echoed together to form a demented chorus—one that refused to quiet in Adagium’s mind.

It burned, it burned IT BURNED

“Get a hold of yourself.”

It was the armoured demon again. Adagium peered up to take in the sights of his golden hair and sharp features. Pretty, for a fallen one. He must have once been a magnificent angel. Adagium bit back a sob at the thought of such creatures, his memories flooding him in violent pulses. It was still so incomprehensible, though he remembered lying under the trees in Heaven, feeling nothing but bliss. How he had absorbed the pain and suffering of others, and how such feelings made him who he was. He was a healer, a saviour. What had happened ? Why was he here, now?

It hurts it hurts it hurts it hurts—

“Wake up, Adagium. You are no longer in Heaven. You are here, with us.”

Had he been speaking out loud? Adagium hadn’t realised. His eyelashes fluttered as he adjusted his lenses. The voices had dimmed, and he was now finally beginning to regain his vision. He saw the blond demon, and then the ground below him. It reeked of dried blood.

“How… how long has it been?” he whispered.

“Who can say? A million years? Ten million? Time runs a little differently in Hell, after all.”

Hell . Adagium shuddered at the word. Despite his mind trying to repel such a thought, he could believe he was truly there. It looked like Hell, smelled like it, felt like it. He really had fallen all those years ago. Not a hallucination, then. A shame.

“And who are you?” he said in a low sneer. 

The demon placed a hand to his chest proudly. “I am Verstael. I once reigned as a virtue, but that was a long time ago.”

He let out a crazed laugh. Adagium turned to see that the other demons had retreated to a safer distance, though many remained to silently watch on. Let them. See if he cared. May everyone in the universe gawk at the beast he was now. Still… Verstael sounded familiar. Had they known each other in their heavenly days? Adagium’s memories remained obscure. Surely, he must have had some friends, but who, exactly? It hurt to recall. He groaned.

“Well, I suppose it isn’t a shock you’re so disorientated. You would be, after what the gods did to you,” said Verstael.

Ah, yes. If Adagium concentrated, he vaguely saw six—no, five enormous figures. One had been cast out. Their names and purpose remained a mystery, yet it was so familiar. Was it only the gods that had done this? Had he displeased them? From what little he could salvage from his decaying mind, he didn’t remember committing treason. He… he knew he had been a healer, but surely that couldn’t be the reason the gods threw him down here. There had to be something he was missing. A piece of the puzzle, stored away in the folds of his soul. If only he could just reach out and grasp it.

He found himself walking before too long. Verstael was beside him, but around them laid an empty stretch of nothing. Nothing besides darkness and flames of the damned. Maybe, if he squinted, he could make out a city, yet no lights illuminated it. Had Hell always been this depressing? 

He supposed that was a silly question.

“Still can’t remember?”

Verstael was smiling, and it made Adagium angry. “Not particularly.”

“In due time, you will. I do have to ask, however… why do your wings remain?”

Agadium peered behind him. His wings were bloody and mangled. He would have tucked them away, except it hurt too much, so he left them alone. He frowned at Verstael’s odd question.

“What do you mean? Do you not have yours?”

The demon shook his head. “We lose our wings upon falling. Perhaps… you are a rare case, dear Adagium.”

In all honestly, Adagium couldn’t care less. Wings or no wings, he was doomed either way. Oh, Somnus would probably laugh—

Somnus. Somnus ? Adagium shuddered and slowed to a halt. His head spun at the mere thought of the name, a name so familiar as well as so distant at the same time. He fell to his knees. Tearing at his hair, Adagium almost vomited at the memory. Dark hair, dark eyes, a malicious smile— Somnus .

“He was the one!” he suddenly yelled. Verstael flinched. Adagium bent over and dug his fingers into the blood-soaked earth, clawing up clumps of old flesh in his fit of rage. “It was him! He cursed me! He blamed me! HE was the one who cast me down here!”

He couldn’t quite remember everything about this Somnus, although he knew for certain that whoever he was, he was the culprit. The villain. The bane of his existence, a jealous ‘brother’ that had blamed whatever sin on him. Adagium didn’t care as Verstael looked on in horror as his teeth gnashed together, spitting out a mixture of blood and dark liquid. He ended up throwing up again, but it felt good. Getting this awful corruption out of his body felt good. Somnus had planted it there.

Not to mention there was the matter of his name. Adagium was not a name! It was an ugly title, a title that meant ‘the ignored one’. Well, it might have been suitable for the situation he was in, but why should he adorn it? Why should he strut around arrogantly with such a derogatory name? He had a name! A proper name that everyone else might have abandoned, yet he hadn’t.

Yes, his name… 

Ardyn.

He smiled wickedly. He leapt for Verstael, the fallen virtue, and ignored his screams as he drank the very essence of his demonic aura. It tasted of death. His tongue protested, and the texture made his teeth ache as if one was chewing bones, but the power. The power it gave. No feeling compared.

Curse the angels, curse the demons and curse the gods. Ardyn was going to find his brother and rip Heaven to shreds at the same time, and he would use every pathetic being down here to help him do so.


 

“Be careful they do not attack the dominion!”

"I can watch out for myself, Iggy!"

Two demons, snarling and snapping at anything that came anywhere near their vicinity, were encircled by four figures. They were already in pain from the light emitted from the weapons lodged in their flesh, but it wasn’t enough to banish them back to where they had been sentenced. Their scales burned and their horns had been torn off, but they ploughed on. Vile beings.

Four angels, each more impressive than the last, struck the corrupted creatures until they were too weak to move. They writhed like flies despite having their energy sapped by the holy light. The first angel, the one to have just spoken, raised his twin daggers and unleashed a string of their divine language to send the demons back to Hell. He did not even flinch as they screamed in his face, hissing obscenities as they were dragged below the earth.

“Damn you, seedy fucking angel!” one snarled as its body disappeared in a portal of death. “May you burn in Ifrit’s fire!”

Empty threats, all of them. It would be laughable if not for the disturbing echo of their voices. It sounded out like church bells over a dead town, haunting and loud yet somehow hollow.

The group exhaled in relief as the fight was over. “Nice one, Ignis.”

The one that had banished the demons, folding his beige wings behind him neatly, nodded in response. Prim and proper as always. “I thank you, Gladiolus.”

“I swear, these demons are getting stronger!” a blond angel piped up.

“Told you we shouldn’t have brought him with us,” Gladiolus said.

Ignis tutted the larger built angel, making his daggers vanish within his hands. They faded in a tracing of blue light. “Now, now, I'm sure Prompto is just as capable as the rest of us. Otherwise, the dominion would not have invited him.”

They turned to the fourth member. The dominion was wiping demon blood from his glowing sword. He turned, his wings contrasting his fair skin. 

“Course he is. Prom’s a good fighter.”

The blond punched the air enthusiastically. The other two sighed, but didn’t argue. They had to abide by the dominion’s rules while they were out of Heaven lest they experience the wrath of the higher ones.

Noctis allowed his weapon to be flashed away for safekeeping. Prompto was right. The demons were indeed getting more difficult to deal with. In the past year alone they had encountered almost a thousand of the wretched things. They were all of the lower rank, far too weak to deal any real damage to angels of their standing, though it was still a worry. The demons had not been this riled in centuries. What was causing this mass outbreak that had forced them to fight them off themselves? He supposed he wouldn’t know unless he dug around for information. One could hardly interpret the demons’ behaviour as anything logical without deeper knowledge. The dominion turned to his aides. They had fought well despite the demons’ savagery.

“Suppose we should head back now?” said Noctis. They had hardly been out a day, but the fighting was taking their toll. Especially seeing as three of them were designed for other matters.

The aides agreed. Spreading their wings, the angels raised themselves from the ground and made for the sky. A flurry of multi-coloured feathers were left in their wake. 

Heaven was always a delight to return to. They burst through the clouds to gates of silver. It was already open for them, of course. Always ready to serve the revered dominion, rumoured to be a personal favourite of the Astrals’ themselves. Noctis nonchalantly made his way through in a much more casual state than the ones behind him. Despite the grand title he held, he couldn’t care less.

Upon arriving to Lucis, a region made entirely of crystal, they headed for the palace. A building more glorious than the structures that surrounded it, it sparkled in the permanent sunlight, scattering thousands of colours across the land.

“I think you should tell your guardian, Your Highness,” said Ignis.

Noctis only waved a hand. “I’m sure he already knows.”

“Well, he is a throne , after all. I’m sure he would like to be informed by you regardless.”

Ranks, ranks, ranks. Was that all anyone cared about? Noctis didn’t reply, wanting to get to the citadel as soon as possible. He loved Ignis to pieces, but gods, his dutiful personality was beginning to get grating with the day of Noctis’ ascendance looming upon them.

He was no ordinary angel. Born at the top of the second sphere, Noctis was a rare dominion, one of few glorious beings that commanded fleets with grace and beauty. With their glowing swords and crowns, they brought the angels beneath them to great levels of power. Noctis was created for this very purpose, yet he spent too much time not adhering to his duties. He scoffed at every rule, dismissed each commandment and kicked his feet up at the mere mention of work. Ignis would find him many a day spent in the garden with Prompto or gazing upon the world’s seas.

Ignis himself was a virtue. Ranked directly below him, it was his life’s purpose to serve and help him ascend to where he should be. He knew he bothered the young angel, yet he couldn’t stop his concern from showing. If Noctis did not start showing responsibility soon, then the higher ups would become involved. Nobody wanted that.

“Want to hang out in the garden after you tell your guardian?” Prompto suggested as he bounded alongside Noctis. To Ignis’ dismay, he agreed.

He almost didn’t notice Gladio grumbling besides him. 

“They’re spending too much time together. Don’t get me wrong, I like the kid, but these days Noct really doesn’t have the time.”

“If things do not change then I will inform his guardian myself,” replied Ignis.

As Gladio nodded, his armour caught the light of the crystal citadel. It would have blinded a mere mortal, but to angels, it was a radiant sight to behold. He was a power. An angel built for strength and energy, designed to crush his opponents like glass. Gladio was the perfect rendition of that, with wings like razor blades, deep brown tinged in red. He often did the lion’s share of demon banishing thanks to his unlimited abilities. 

Poor Prompto did not even come close with his ranking. Hanging at the bottom of the third sphere, he was just a regular angel, tasked with guarding humankind. He’d somehow made friends with Noctis, and while that was fine, bringing him along on their hunts was becoming a concern. He wasn’t designed for war. A mere child in angels’ standings, what one would imagine when they are told of soft ones playing harps upon clouds. Not that Prompto actually played a harp. Though Ignis didn’t doubt he would try if given the offer. 

They watched the two converse as they entered the grand entrance of the citadel. The city around it was dubbed Insomnia, the capital of Lucis. Perhaps it got its name from the never-ending sunlight? Or the light of the geode walls? 

Heaven consisted of many rulers, though in Lucis, Noctis’ guardian was in charge.

It seemed he had been waiting for them. Regis sat patiently for their arrival.

They all bowed except for Noctis, who nodded casually. Regis nodded back, the golden wheels spinning around him gleaming. There were even wheels propping up his grand chair.

“Welcome back, my son,” greeted the throne.

“We banished some demons,” said Noctis.

Ignis took the moment to step forward, bowing again on one knee. One could never be too formal in the presence of an angel of the first sphere, closest the Astrals. “We have a concern, Your Majesty. The demons are rapidly growing in strength. In the past month alone we have encountered 100 at least.”

Regis hummed and pressed his knuckles to the side of his face as he leant on his chair. His wheels of light never ceased to turn around him, decorated with a thousand eyes each. Could he see through them? Probably. They even blinked.

“I have heard the rumours. The seraphim have apparently had a discussion about it.”

“The seraphim are getting involved?” Noctis almost yelled.

Regis stood as he approached his ‘son’. He placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m afraid so. They believe a more dangerous force is behind the demons’ hostility… a being that we have long forgotten.”

They looked nervously at each other. Gladio, Prompto and Noctis just seemed confused more than anything, but Ignis was already pondering ideas in his head. Was the wall of Heaven breaking? Was Hell becoming more unstable? The possibilities became more worrying than the last, swirling around his righteous mind like a tornado. Noctis had always told him he worried too much.

Suddenly, before any of them could speak, horns sounded.

“The seminar!” Prompto squeaked.

“Hurry, get to the garden.” Regis raised an arm as he encouraged the four to get going. They bowed quickly and complied. No angel could ignore the trumpets of the seraphim.

The garden was Heaven’s centre, sometimes called Eden. Encased by a wall of rainbow, the trees were made of spun gold and the flowers had been crystalised to preserve their unending beauty. The waters could turn any human immortal if they ever got a taste, and it was undoubtedly the most sacred place in their universe. No wonder it was Prompto’s favourite hang out spot. If he wasn’t trailing after Noctis, then he was there.

Even though Heaven was endless, it did not take long for them to arrive thanks to their wings. They were not merely for decoration. Noctis arrived first, slamming down on the grass in a midst of a crowd. They yelped in surprise and moved out of the way for him. His wings, black as night while holding the stars, stood out in the horde of white and gold. That made him easy to find, at least.

He ignored the shouts of his aides as he hurried for the gates. The cherubim gave him a once over before opening them for him. Noctis was already long used to their intimidating glares.

Standing before them all was an open temple. Words could not describe its artistry, with its pillars wrapped in gold and the neverending fine artwork. Jewels of every kind encrusted the foundation and the podiums the speaker would stand at. Already waiting for the masses to arrive, the lower class angels blew on their trumpets to signal the presence of the highest of them all. Most of the crowd had arranged according to rank, lining up from the lowest to the highest. Noctis and his aides simply stood in the middle of them, uncaring.

The seraphim flew in like magnificent birds, six wings each. Just one was enough to wipe out everyone present. One seraph in particular arrived at the centre of the temple. Noctis gasped when he set his eyes on him. He touched his feet to the tile and the stones lining the hem of his robe jingled softly.

“Brothers and sisters,” the seraph began, voice ringing like a deep bell, “I am Somnus, eternal servant of the Astrals. I gather you here for the announcement of grave news.”

The crowd murmured amongst themselves. Noctis was too busy staring at Somnus to take in what he was saying. The seraph had wings as black as he did, four raised high above his head and two tucked behind his legs. A robe of starlight adorned his body and diamonds hung from his wrists. His hair was a lovely raven and his eyes as clear as Heaven’s oceans. Not even Regis had that kind of aura. It was glorious, wondrous, magnificent . What Noctis felt when he gazed upon that angel was a mixture of amazement, and absolute terror .

“While we are still investigating, we fear that the Devil himself has made a return. I am speaking, of course, of Adagium.”

Horrified gasps erupted from the masses. 

“The what?” Prompto whispered in Noctis’ ear. The dominion shrugged. He’d never heard of such a thing.

Somnus ignored the crowd’s murmuring and turned to pace. He moved with such grace, such poise. If only the seraphim could bless them with their presence more often! He looked so much like Noctis, too. 

“The respecting rulers of each legion will inform you with more information.”

With that, he was gone. 

Noctis blinked. Somnus vanished, leaving glittering trails of smoke to linger in the air. As most of the crowds left to wherever they had been residing before the meeting, Noctis turned to see Regis standing not too far away. Well, he was the respected ruler of Lucis, and just so happened to be his guardian.

He had a lot of explaining to do.

Chapter Text

Regis ended up leading them away from the gardens and back to Insomnia’s citadel. He remained silent until they arrived, vigilantly ignoring Noctis’ pestering. Ignis had to tried to stop him but to no avail.

“You can’t just not say anything after that!” Noctis snapped, spinning around in front of his guardian. The room which he had been seated previously was as how they left it, decorated with black and gold pillars and tapestries.

The throne glowered. “Calm yourself. Impatience is not a befitting feature of a dominion.”

Scowling, Noctis clenched his fists at his sides and waited until Regis climbed back onto his chair. The old angel sighed as he allowed himself to rest. Angels never aged, per se, though Regis had lived a very long life. All of his heavy memories were beginning to catch up to him. The ones standing before him could not compare their lifespans to his. It would be like correlating a second to a century. Not that they were by any means newborns themselves, their lives were only just beginning.

When Regis was settled, he only then began to speak again. Ignis was already on one knee in respect. He signalled for the virtue to rise with a motion of the hand.

“I had hoped never to have to hear that name again,” said Regis. “You must not speak of this topic so broadly, for fear it causes panic and confusion. I will visit the seraphim to discuss the situation in more detail, but for now, I will tell you the basics of who Adagium is.”

“Wasn’t he… particularly close to Somnus?” said Ignis.

“Indeed. Many eons ago they were brothers. Unfortunately, Somnus was forced to cast Adagium out for tainting himself with evil. We were given no reason. He holds great power if he can control demons so easily. He has been suspended in chains up until recently, and, I’m afraid, that is where you will come in.”

The group glanced at each other. What did they have to do with this? If this Adagium was so fearsome, what were they expected to do about it? Noctis turned his eyes to the floor. While the seraphim were no warriors like they were, they should have enough power to eradicate him. Unless, there was more behind Adagium than Regis let on, or even knew

Still, they awaited the throne’s guidance before asking anymore questions. Regis seemed tired. He rubbed his temples as he considered his next words.

“Of course, we still need to locate him, though you three shall continue to battle demons where ever they might appear.”

“Three?” Noctis echoed. He turned to Prompto, who was wringing his hands nervously. “What about Prompto? He’s part of my group, too.”

“He is of the third sphere,” Regis said sternly. “If the Adagium ever found him, he would destroy him. If you wish to risk his wellbeing, Noctis, then so be it, but do not blame anyone else for your poor decisions.”

Huh. What an ass. Noctis had to stop himself from rolling his eyes. Third sphere or not, lowest ranked or not, Prompto was his friend. He was a damn good fighter, too. While he preferred modern weapons such as firearms (which most angels found weird), he did his fair share of demon hunting along their travels. He was a valuable asset, and Noctis wasn’t going to let everyone dictate who he brought with him. If he wanted to bring Prompto, then he was going to. He ended up shrugging in response to his guardian along with an impolite grunt. He could feel Ignis and Gladio’s eyes burn into his back. Let them be mad. Not his problem.

Prompto looked far more uncomfortable than anyone else, but he said nothing.

Regis leant back in his chair and sighed. “Regardless… if we have anymore information, we will relay it onto you. Take care in your travels.”

They were dismissed shortly afterwards. Noctis sped out of the crystal citadel and into the bright streets of Insomnia, his aides racing to keep up to him. He was about to leap up into the air, wings spread wide, before Gladio tackled him. The two went sprawling to the floor with an oof

“And where do you think you’re going?”

“Get off me!” Noctis barked angrily. He twisted around, trying to wriggle out from Gladio’s grip, yet he was easily the strongest of the group. “I’m doing as Regis said! I’m off to find some demons to crush. Got a problem with that?”

“We all know that’s not what you’re planning on doing. You cannot expect to be able to skulk off and mope, Noctis.” Ignis folded his arms. 

Noctis huffed when Gladio finally released him. He staggered to his feet, brushing down the flecks of gemstone that had stuck to him after his fall. Both Gladio and Ignis were glaring at him. Prompto still hung back, probably feeling too out of place to butt in. Really, Noctis was jealous of him. Angels of the lower rankings were the most free out of all of them, tasked with assisting mankind every now and again. He wasn’t sure why Prompto wasted his time here instead of relaxing in the garden or exploring the astral realm of Earth. Something about loyalty , maybe.

The dominion relaxed when he realised he wasn’t going to go anywhere with his aides pinning him down like this. He rolled his shoulders back before he began speaking again.

“Look, sorry, okay? My ascension’s coming up and it’s stressing me the fuck out. I don’t know who this Adagium is, Regis is being vague as all hell, and the only way I’m going to get this tension out is by hunting demons. Will you guys let me do that ?”

Yikes, that sounded far more pitiful and whiny than he had intended. Noctis kept his steady expression despite the embarrassment burning his chest and watched his aides’ reactions carefully. Gladio seemed deep in thought, and Ignis was studying him. Were they angry? Doubtful of what he had just said? It was difficult to tell.

Ignis was the first to speak after the awkward silence. “Well, if hunting demons will keep you out of trouble, then we’ll assist you.

He clapped Ignis on the back, right below his armour plate. “Thanks, Ig.”


 

“So what do you guys think Adagium is?” Prompto’s voice rang clearly across the astral plane.

They had descended to Earth shortly after their conversation. Somewhere in a vast meadow, the four angels were in search of demonic activity. It was always fairly obvious if they were present; the blighted things would appear in black and purple portals, often leaving fire or orbs of darkness behind. It had taken both Prompto and Noctis a long time before they were able to track demons as easily as Ignis and Gladio could. Once their scent had been memorised, it was impossible to forget. It was an awful combination of sulphur and dry blood.

The meadow was tinged a deep blue, bathed in the afterglow of the ether running across it. No humans were present, but if one concentrated, they could catch a glimpse of their activities from a hundred years past. Perhaps this had been a village once. Or a battle ground, considering the demons had found it a suitable place to nest.

Gladio grunted at Prompto’s constant questions. “Only the big fellas know about him. Best keep away from the finer details.”

“I mean, they’re sending us out to hunt demons, right? Can’t they give us a little bit more information?”

“That seraph—Somnus—called him the Devil, right?” Noctis piped up. “I thought Ifrit was the Devil? Y’know, as in ruler of Hell?”

“Not quite.” Ignis kept his emerald eyes sharp as they scanned the area. “Ifrit is a fallen god, sentenced to spend the rest of his immortal life trapped within Hell. He does not rule it as far as I’m concerned. While Adagium suffers a similar fate, he has been commanding fleets of demons rather than remaining idle.”

Oh, so Adagium acted like a sort of general. Since the demon attacks had been going on for about a year, he must have only been busy in that short amount of time. Noctis hummed in thought. Whatever kind of demon he was, he surely must be powerful to have Hell wrapped around his finger like that. Even Ifrit himself couldn’t do such a thing! Noctis stopped to shudder for a moment. Would the seraphim be able to fight him if he had such strength? The seraphim were small in number, and Hell’s demons were almost unlimitless. If things got worse, maybe all of Heaven would have to fight, including the lower class angels.

Despite how much Noctis wanted to crush the demons between his hands, he hoped he wouldn’t have to meet anything like that. Not with his current power.

A howling snarl made the angels stop in their tracks. 

“They’re nearby,” said Gladio. He lashed out his enormous broadsword at the ready.

Right on cue, a hoard of demons sprung out from the rifts, fangs and claws bared. Most of them were of the lowest class, beastly and hideous, though Noctis spotted one or two humanoid demons. Still nothing to be scared of, yet they should have higher intelligence than their salivating counterparts.

With Gladio and Noctis’ swords, the majority of the lesser demons were disposed of with ease. Demons could not be killed, but a blow from an angelic weapon would exorcise them back to Hell. Some only needed one strike. The humanoid ones struggled, but with Prompto shooting from afar and Ignis zipping around to flank them with his daggers, it wasn’t long before only one remained.

It wore flimsy armour and flailed on the floor under Gladio’s foot. Its claws were gnarled and elongated, and the scourge of evil spewed from its mouth. When it was done vomiting, it trailed its eyes upwards.

“I hate you!” it snarled. “I hate you, I hate you! I hate all of you!”

It repeated the three offending words several times as it thrashed violently. It was a disturbing sight to behold, the demon tearing at the ground and kicking its legs. 

“Why? What did we ever do to you?” Gladio hissed, pressing his boot in deeper against its shoulder blades.

“Because…” the demon’s screeches tamed into warbles, broken up by coughing and spluttering, “because you get to stay in heaven and I don’t!”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have taken the opportunity to fall, then,” said Ignis. 

The demon stuck out its forked tongue. “ Fuck you.”

As Gladio raised his sword, ready to pierce the demon’s skull to sent it back to where it had come from, Noctis had a thought. If Adagium was controlling the demons and forcing them to wreak havoc, then shouldn’t this be a learning opportunity? It was no powerful being, but that’s why such creatures were easy to control. Maybe this one had met Adagium first hand.

Noctis stuck out his hand and gripped Gladio’s wrist, preventing him from moving.

“Uh, wanna try letting go?” 

“Wait, I need to ask it something.”

They looked at him as if he was mad. Even the demon was confused, flashing its angry eyes between them and running its tongue across its teeth. They were so sharp Noctis was surprised the end of its tongue wasn’t sliced off. He ignored the demon’s disturbing features and crouched down to its level. It attempted to claw at him, so he jumped back to a safer distance. 

“Can you tell me about Adagium?”

The demon immediately recoiled and let out a piercing shriek. It thrashed ever harder under Gladio’s hold. “No! Don’t say that name! Not him !”

Ah, so it did know something! And judging from the horror on its face, Adagium really was as fearful as they had imagined. Fearful enough for a seraph to announce his return, at least.

“Who is he?” Noctis demanded. He added a little more force to his voice.

The demon whimpered. “The Accursed… he awoke... he awoke and Verstael said it was a good thing! He said to all of us that it would be great! That we’d become greater! And I listened! WHY DID I LISTEN ?”

Prompto had to cover his ears at the horrific screaming. Noctis flinched away, startled. Sobs wracked the demon’s body as it wailed and blubbered. It was not fighting as hard, although it continued to kick out now and again. That was a good thing because Gladio appeared as stunned as the rest of them. Why had it gone from so hateful to so desperate at just the mere mention of a name? How terrible was Adagium really so terrible that he could cause a demon to cower like that?

Since it was speaking so easily, Ignis had flashed away his daggers, and Prompto had shuffled closer to listen to it once its shrieks had died down once more. Noctis took the opportunity to press further.

“What is Adagium doing? Is he making you fight like this?”

“Yes! Yes, he makes us do it! He makes us do bad things! I have to do it! He’ll torture me if I don’t do it, I HAVE TO! He’ll throw me into the fires of Hell if I don’t do it!”

“What’s Hell like?” said Ignis. Noctis glanced up at him, surprised he had even bothered to ask a question considering he looked so disapproving moments ago. Perhaps he realised this was a good learning opportunity just as Noctis had suggested. 

Again, the demon wailed. Its yelling had turned into full on crying, tears streaming down its monstrous face. It squeezed its eyes shut and turned its head away, pressing into the grass beneath it.

“Horrible… it’s so dark, it’s so dark… it’s so hot, so hot , it burns! All the time! We’re always burning, burning, BURNING! Demons, people, all of us, on fire! Adagium tortures us! He tortures us all! I can’t get away. He has too much power over me!”

“And what does Adagium want?” asked Ignis.

“He…” the demon paused as it choked on its own saliva, “he wants to kill you! Kill all angels, kill them all for betraying him! You’re next! YOU’RE NEXT! Oh…” It then broke off into a low whine. Prompto, horrified, covered his mouth with his hand as he listened to the demon cry. It ceased its fighting to fall limp. Its limbs sprawled out around it as it wept. “What happened? Why didn’t I stay with the others?! Why did I fall, why did Adagium have to wake up? Oh, he was such a beautiful angel!”

“Was he?” grunted Gladio, clearly unamused.

“Yes! Yes, so beautiful once! He glowed like the sun! His wings touched the sky! He was so beautiful, I didn’t know !”

“Alright, this isn’t getting us anywhere.”

Noctis peered up to look at Gladio. His fingers were twitching around his sword impatiently, just itching to drive it into the demon’s back. It didn’t seem to care anymore. It had gone completely still, the only sounds coming from it were its quiet sobs. Honestly, Noctis felt sorry for it. Was it wrong? To feel sorry for a demon? It had once been his brother, a long time ago. It had to be a very old demon if it knew who Adagium was before his fall. While Noctis was many thousands of years old, Adagium, according to Regis, had been cast out before time began. This demon had been rotting in Hell, probably longing for the Adagium to come back, only to be tortured by him. That was the gist of what Noctis understood.

He looked at the cursed being. It wasn’t lying about the fire, at least. Its entire body was caked in burns and soot. As if it had ran through a burning building ten times over.

The power tightened his grip. “I’ve heard enough. Adagium’s a big scary demon, we get it, but I’m not going to go and feel pity for this piece of trash.”

“Noooo,” the demon moaned, “no, he’s not a demon! He’s worse! HE’S WORSE!”

Just as Noctis was about to ask what it meant, his eyes witnessed Gladio’s broadsword stab it in the back. Its mouth hung open in a silent gasp as its body melted into fuschia shards. Gone.

“Why’d you go and do that?” Noctis shouted as he jumped up. Gladio said nothing as he slung his sword over his back. “I wasn’t done talking to it!”

“It doesn’t matter, Noct.” Ignis put a hand on his shoulder. “We shouldn’t have been talking to it, anyway.”

“What I’d like to know is who the fuck is this Verstael it was rambling about,” said Gladio.

“Another demon, no doubt.”

Gods, it was unbelievable. Noctis sulked as the older angels began to speak of the day’s events, counting in their minds how many demons they had banished. It was a number between 20 and 40, though Noctis didn’t care. He was about to find out more about this oh-so mysterious Adagium when Gladio had ruined it. So what if it was a demon? Demons weren’t stupid, and that one hadn’t seemed like it was lying. In fact, Noctis had never witnessed a demon cry before. He didn’t think they were capable. The way it described Hell, in so little detail but with a torrent of agony behind its words… a shiver ran down his spine. May he never have to experience it.

In the midst of his angry thoughts, he saw Prompto shuffle over. The angel had his wings lying flat. A sign of nervousness or uncertainty. Noctis knew him well enough by now. He forced a smile.

“That was, uh… intense, wasn’t it?” Prompto laughed weakly.

“Yeah,” replied Noctis. 

“I, um… is it bad that I felt kinda sorry for it?”

Noctis’ eyebrows raised in surprise. Prompto rubbed the back of his neck as he avoided eye contact.

“Nah. I did, too.”

Really, he had. Demons did inexcusable things, which ranged from murder to rape, yet this one looked so pathetic it was difficult not to feel his heart ache at the sight of it. The pain in its voice was almost unbearable, even if it probably had done something to deserve being cast out.

Another matter was… what had Adagium done? Regis had been very vague, saying only that he had been ‘tainted with evil’. That could mean virtually anything. Had he rebelled against the gods? Had he harmed others, or caused destruction on Earth? Really, Noctis wished his guardian would be more open. Regis had raised him since his creation. They had shared many moons together, learning of the universe and Regis showing Noctis how a good ruler behaves. He appreciated it, however… he never considered that he had a free will of his own. Then again, did any angel really have free will? They all had roles, ranks, expectations. Even someone as ignored as Prompto.

Should he tell Regis about this? Would his guardian disapprove of the interrogation of demons? It wasn’t an outraw law to never interact with them, but… who knew how he would react?

Noctis was jostled by Gladio’s strong arm giving him a push. “Wakey wakey, Noct. We’ve still got demons to hunt.”

They were going to continue hunting after that? Not that he was physically drained, but that interrogation made him want to relax for a while before he did anything else. The anger from earlier had long gone. However, his friends were already getting ready to continue, so he didn’t say anything. 

Upon leaving the meadow, they took to the skies.

Perhaps he should have gone flying instead of hunting. Of all the benefits of being an angel, flying was hands down the best one. Noctis loved it. Nothing compared to the feeling of air under his feathers, blowing his hair back and how weightless he became. That was still miniscule in comparison to the sights he was able to witness at such a height. While the astral realm was often empty as it spread across the entire universe, Earth held some amazing landscapes to gaze upon. Across the blue meadow were rolling fields that seemed to stretch on to the horizon.

Given that they were angels and not birds, they didn’t actually need to travel. If they so wished, they could hop to the other side of the planet in the blink of an eye, but Noctis knew the others enjoyed flying just as much as he did. He could hear the soft clanking of Gladio’s wing armour to his right, and then saw the tips of Ignis’ honey-coloured feathers to his left. Prompto was somewhere behind them, experimenting with dips and twirls as he often did. His shorter wings allowed him to be far more aerodynamic.

“Do keep up, Prompto,” Ignis chided. The gold angel swerved in front of him playfully. After laughing at Ignis’ shouting, he settled a few metres under Noctis, lying back and resting his head on his arms as if he was sunbathing.

“Just having some fun, Iggy.”

“You can have fun when we are done hunting.”

Prompto feigned a pout, and Noctis chuckled. He always found ways to be cheerful even if the circumstances were serious. It was probably what he needed after listening to that demon earlier.

As Prompto wasn’t paying attention to where he was going, he was oblivious to the sudden explosion of fire ahead. He screamed as he dove headfirst into it.

“Whoa, the fuck?” Gladio yelled, coming to a screeching halt. 

“Prompto!” Noctis called out as the sparks from the explosion faded. Prompto’s wings were flapping wildly, obviously confused. He looked as if he was about to speak before there was another burst of dark matter above him. It morphed rapidly into a long shape, and then back to an orb, before then reaching out and grabbing Prompto by the neck.

It was no shapeless being. A wingless humanoid figure, with red and gold armour adorning him, grinned cruelly at the angel in his claws. 

“Ah, so sorry to drop in .”

“Noct!” Prompto cried as the demon forced him to cease moving, plummeting them both from the sky like rocks. The demon had shifted back into a wispy cloud, but Prompto’s shining wings were still visible amongst it. His screams of terror were heard as they had dropped half a mile towards the surface.

Noctis didn’t hesitate to go after them. His wings folded, he allowed his shape to form into a mist exactly like the demon had. If there was no physical body to hit the ground, then he wouldn’t be hurt. Unfortunately, he could not say the same for Prompto, who struck the ground like a meteor. A crater was left behind, swallowing the area up in dust. Noctis landed nearby, assuming his humanoid form again and racing to his injured friend. Ignis and Gladio were close behind him. 

Who would dare to attack an angel midair like that?! Did this demon have a wish to be tortured?

As the smoke cleared, Noctis caught sight of him properly. His eyes narrowed.

He dragged a hand through his slicked back blond hair in a casual manner. His armour was extremely regal, a metal collar wrapped around his neck and a red velvet cloak hanging from his shoulders. Unlike the demons from before, he held an aura of grace, of power . He gazed at the group with a confident smile.

“I’m shocked, really,” he began. His arm dropped back to his side. “I never expected one of our servants to return in a fit of hysteria, claiming you had interrogated him. Now, would you care to tell me why?”

“Maybe we’d be more willing to talk if you’d tell us who the hell you are,” Gladio snarled. He had drawn his sword. Ignis was also brandishing his daggers, so Noctis took the chance to summon his own weapon. This was no ordinary demon.

He let out a throaty chuckle. “My, angels have become quite rude in recent years. You may address me as Verstael.”

“You’re the one that demon mentioned,” Ignis said.

“That’s right. He was so very upset when he came back to Hell. Whatever did you do?”

Noctis let out a relieved sigh when he caught sight of Prompto. He was injured, but didn’t seem in too bad of a condition. The main reason he laid there, crumpled up like a wrapper, was because of shock. Noctis couldn’t blame him. If a demon had dropped on him like that, he’d probably be frozen too.

“Does it matter?” Noctis said. “Why don’t you tell us about Adagium since you’ve decided to show your face?”

“What is it with you and asking demon questions today?” he heard Gladio say.

Verstael’s eyes gleamed. They were a deep blue, an odd colour choice for a demon. How had he regained his former beauty so well? It was clear he was higher ranked than the usual hoards, though he really did not look like a demon. Besides from the cocky attitude, anyway.

“So you’ve seen his influence? It is magnificent, is it not? The Accursed is doing a fine job of spreading the darkness of Hell right across the astral realm, and in due time, Heaven will be next.” His expression grew cold and dark as his fists tightened. “You angels will regret the day you made us fall. I was once a virtue, you know. Like your friend over there.”

He nodded to Ignis. Well, that explained his powerful presence. A virtue was not something to be taken lightly. It was a surprise that such a high ranked angel had fallen in the first place, considering most demons were simply regular angels in their past lives. It was rare for anything above an archangel to become corrupted. Rumours had it that no seraphim had fallen even once.

“We don’t care what you are, or were. We’re going to crush you for hurting Prompto.” Gladio’s voice was hoarse from how angry he sounded, and he brought his sword forward.

“Three against one? That’s hardly fair,” Verstael drawled as he checked his fingernails.

Gladio raced to attack him anyway. His sword clashed with Verstael’s own, a longsword made of obsidian and gold. He sneered. He really must be some demon if he could counter Gladio like that. 

As he leapt away, he stabbed his sword into the ground and raised his arms. All around the crater that Prompto had formed, the same corrupt dark mist began to appear again. Great, more fucking demons.

As the smoke curled and twisted into human-shaped figures, Verstael turned back to grin at them. 

“There, now it’s an even match.”

Chapter Text

The demon that Verstael summoned turned out to be shockingly familiar. To his right was an elderly humanoid demon with the same authority-striking appearance, silver hair and a white and red robe. Noctis gasped when his identity suddenly struck him.

“You!” he cried. “You, you knew my guardian! You were a throne!”

The throne demon laughed, voice throaty and hoarse. “So, Regis has been raising you in my absence, has he?”

While Noctis had never met him personally, Iedolas was well known in Heaven’s history archives. A powerful angel at some point, he had been a trusted individual of the Astrals. A throne’s main duty was to be the foundation of the first sphere, working closely with the cherubim to keep Heaven well structured and organised. Whatever Iedolas had done specifically was unknown, but his vice had always been greed. A thirst for power, judging from the look on his face.

“Iedolas?” Ignis said, brows raised. “It has been some time since you’ve appeared in the flesh.”

“We’re not here for reunions,” warned Verstael lowly.

“There is no need to rush this meeting,” said Iedolas. “Such behaviour is not befitting of a Duke, Verstael. Personally, I’d like to get to know Regis’ apprentice.” His eyes lidded. He turned away from his companion (though the two seemed to share a mutual dislike of each other going by the disdain on their faces) and back to Noctis. “By the looks of your weapon, you must be a dominion. How intriguing .”

Gladio cut in, huffing. “Gotta agree with the red one. I’m not interested in chatter.”

As usual, the power did not hesitate to swing his sword down. Iedolas materialised away into dirty smoke as the blade touched his skin. Verstael was quick to move around him, though Ignis dove forwards and stopped his sword from cutting into Gladio’s back by catching it between his daggers. He was easily the fastest of them, zipping through midair just short of the speed of sound. An angel could teleport if he so wished, but fighting was too delicate a task. One had to stop and think about the location, and even then it took a moment to adjust. 

Whipping around, Gladio aided Ignis by flanking Verstael from behind. A blow from his sword sent the demon flying, though Iedolas, despite his aged appearance, morphed back into reality and struck him down.

Noctis was forced to leave them to fend for themselves as he turned to Verstael. That demon knew something, and if he couldn’t ask someone else, then he’d have to do. The smirk on his lips was evident of that. The dominion brought out his sword, glowing at the pommel, and pointed it at him.

“Back to Adagium, then.”

Verstael chuckled, hardly fazed by the blade so close to his throat. “You angels have the wrong idea entirely.”

“What do you mean?”

“You believe he is the Devil of the underworld, do you not?” Verstael’s sword rang loudly as it struck Noctis’ in a flurry of crimson sparks. “There is no doubt you were fed lies about his existence and what he does is wrong. How can you be so sure that he is committing evil deeds via his demons?”

A load of nonsense right off the bad. Demons weren’t incapable of telling the truth, especially if they knew it would screw with your head. However, it was difficult to tell what this one intended. Noctis had always been a dreamer. He knew when to put his foot down when needed, but there was always that leak in his brain that he could never seal. If one used the right words, the right way of expressing them, then he was as vulnerable to propaganda as a human. Lower classed demons wouldn’t stand a chance, yet Verstael was nothing of the sort.

Shaking his head to steel himself against his words of persuasion, Noctis backed up a bit. Nearby, Gladio and Ignis were doing a fair number on Iedolas, while Prompto was still too dazed to fight.

“Your lackey told us he tortures you,” growled Noctis. “Is that true?”

Verstael let out a maniacal laugh. “We are demons, dear boy. Our existence means to suffer, whether by the hands of the gods or by our own.”

What, so they all tortured each other? Noctis supposed he could believe that. They had a hierarchy system just as angels did. He knew for a fact it wasn’t so clean cut as theirs. Angels had a fixed rank and that was that, but demons were chaotic. The most powerful clawed their way to the top and kept others down if so possible. He felt it was fairly obvious that such feral creatures would operate on a power-based order.

“Alright, and what about infiltrating Heaven?”

“You say that as if that isn’t a goal we’ve had since the beginning,” Verstael scoffed, pulling himself away from Noctis’ deadly weapon. It curved in a perfect arch as it left blue trails behind it. “Adagium is merely a means of propelling us forward!”

This conversation wasn’t getting him anywhere, and the others weren’t succeeding in driving Iedolas back. The fucker was fast and never stayed fully formed for long enough. And while Noctis was powerful, he knew he was far younger than the demon before him. He only had a few centuries of fighting knowledge under his belt while Verstael would have millions of years worth. He wasn’t going to defeat him on his own.

“Children like you should have stayed in Heaven. I’ll make you regret stepping foot out of your safe little—”

—CRACK

A sudden gunshot rang through the clearing. Everyone turned to the source of the noise.

Prompto had crawled out of the crater and summon his firearm, pointing it directly at Verstael’s back. The magical bullet had gone straight through his armour and left a gaping hole in his chest that oozed black blood.

He slowly turned, baring his fangs at the angel, “ You —”

It was too late. The demon failed to keep his grasp on the astral realm stable as his body began to disintegrate. When he disappeared in an explosion of thistles and rust, the smell of chemicals poisoning the air, Iedolas made his escape. They were too slow to stop him, leaving them in an empty glade. The grass hardly moved as they processed their situation.

Ignis and Gladio might have been confused, though Noctis made a beeline for his friend and helped pull him up. He wasn’t too badly injured. Angels could heal, except wounds from a demon took a little longer than other sources. The scourge of evil caked Prompto’s wings and head like dark syrup. By the Astrals, nobody would be happy to see the state of him upon returning. Noctis cringed as his fingers sank into the liquid that dissolved slowly upon touching his holy skin. In due time it wear away on its own, but the amount that covered Prompto would take weeks.

“Are you alright, Prom?” Noctis asked, slinging his friend’s arm over his shoulder.

“Oh, sure, don’t worry about me. Just a scratch!”

“You look pretty banged up to me,” said Gladio.

They sat him down on the soft grass. Ignis knelt beside him, examining the amount of miasma stuck to him. Amethyst embers flickered from it. While it could have been worse, none of them were healers.

“We’ll have to take him back to Heaven.”

Prompto let out a whine. “But they’re gonna yell at me!”

He wasn’t the only one to complain. Noctis shuddered at the thought of Regis shouting him at him considering his lecture earlier about recklessness. He had warned not to bring Prompto due to his weaker abilities, but how could he leave his friend behind? It wouldn’t have been fair, and yet, Regis now had the perfect opportunity given Prompto’s state.

“Can’t we just… wait until it goes away?” he murmured. Both Ignis and Gladio shot him a glare. “Y’know… ‘cus my guardian and all…”

“We’d end up waiting here for weeks. You and I both know Regis will have noticed our absence long before them.”

“Yeah, alright, I got it…” Noctis sulked. He was forced to follow the other three as they took off and made for the gates once again. Prompto could fly, though they had to slow down to keep an eye on him. When they eventually arrived, he almost collapsed. 

The guards at the gates rushed over to assist. A pair of surly archangels. They threw sharp looks at the group as they escorted them inside. Nothing was said seeing as they were of higher rank, yet they knew exactly where they were going to bring Prompto. 

To the seraphim.

However, to contact them, one had to go through another angel of the first sphere. That narrowed it down to the cherubim and the thrones. The cherubim were brutes, so realistically, thrones were the best choice, and the only throne in Lucis was Regis. Noctis mentally slapped his forehead. Gods , he was going to get the biggest chewing out. The dominion said nothing as he dragged his feet behind them, hands in pockets and a frown tarnishing his perfect face. He didn’t care. He knew appearance was important when it came to good impressions on the lower ranks, but Noctis was young himself. He was no elder.

Regis, as expected, wasn’t pleased.

He scowled at the sight of Prompto’s sorry form, folding his arms and immediately directing his gaze at Noctis. He shrank back. Prompto also avoided Regis’ fixed stare, too embarrassed that he’d been struck down by a demon when in the air. They should have been untouchable up there.

“And just what did I tell you?” snapped the throne. Here we go .

“Look, in my defense, we didn’t know we were going to get attacked,” Noctis began before Regis held up a hand, silencing him. 

“I warned you, Noctis. Angels of the third sphere are not built for combat. You are lucky he was not more seriously harmed!”

That wasn’t true. Noctis had seen plenty of archangels and principalities throwing swords around. Sure, they weren’t as resilient as powers, perhaps, but they were capable of holding their own. That’s why angels were built; to be warriors of the Astrals. If they were confined to Heaven, then what use would they be to those in need?

“Permission to speak, Your Majesty?” Ignis asked respectfully. Noctis had no idea why they spoke to each other with human forms of address. Thrones were called ‘Your Majesty’ while dominions were called ‘Your Highness’, so on and so forth. It made him feel pretentious, though Ignis insisted on it. Regis nodded. Ignis cleared his throat. “We encountered two powerful demons on our journey, one calling himself Verstael and the other Iedolas.” Eyebrows raising at the mention of the former, Regis leaned forward in his seat in interest. “They attacked us from the air without warning, explaining Prompto’s unfortunate injury. Our encounter did not last long, yet they stated they were working under the Accursed in order to infiltrate Heaven.”

Ah, so he’d been listening to their conversation after all. Noctis remained quiet as he observed the virtue speak fluidly. It amazed him how he never stuttered in Regis’ presence.

“I see,” was all Regis said at last. “I will report this to the seraphim. Prompto, remain seated.”

Prompto smiled weakly, obviously not going anywhere in a hurry. The archangel guards stood by the door. Great, they couldn’t exactly have a casual chat with them hanging around. They fell into an awkward silence, Prompto hunched over in his spot on the floor and the other three looming over him like phantoms.

Surprisingly, Regis returned sooner than expected. Noctis thought he’d be gone quite a while, knowing how fickle the seraphim could be at times. He had also expected Regis to take Prompto to the seraphim, but at his side, another figure appeared.

Brilliant black wings and raven hair. Bejeweled robes that held the cosmos in their fabrics and eyes that could sear through a mortal in less than a second. It was the seraph from before, the one that had spoken at the Garden Temple. Somnus stood before them all like a blinding light. 

By gods, his face up close was beyond flawless. Noctis found himself taken aback by the sheer beauty of such a creature directly in front of him. His jaw angled perfectly and his hair framed it on one side. His robe draped heavily over his body but left his arms free. With how his skin was as pale as the moon and how his wings were as black as coal, he truly was the angel of the night. Somnus’ expression was hard, at first. He raked his eyes over them one by one, gaze softening only when it landed on Noctis.

“Ah, this is your apprentice?” he spoke. 

Regis nodded, giving a little bow of the head at the end. “Indeed, Your Holiness. This is Noctis.”

Noctis was too awkward to give a proper greeting. He bowed clumsily at the waist along with the others. Somnus, if offended, didn’t say anything, only raising a finger to his chin in thought. A smile graced his perfect lips.

“A pleasure.”

“Yours as well, Your… Holiness,” said Noctis. He had hardly ever used formal terms of address, not even to Regis, so he tripped over his words.

Somnus chuckled to himself. He gave a quick nod to Ignis and Gladio, and the archangels at the door. “You say you were attacked by demons? Demons working for Adagium?”

“Oh! Yeah— yes , we were. Our friend was attacked.”

He gestured to Prompto, who had shakily gotten to his feet. He trembled under Somnus’ presence. Noctis could hardly blame him. An angel of the lowest rank faced with one of the highest must have been an intimidating position. Noctis was at the top of the second sphere and even he felt unnerved. Upon setting sights on Prompto, Somnus’ eyes narrowed. He raised his chin slightly as he looked him up and down.

“What are you doing associating with an angel at the bottom rung of the third sphere?”

Yikes. Prompto flinched under his disapproval. Noctis felt anger flare up in his chest, but he couldn’t very well slander a seraph, especially with Regis present. His guardian would throw him into Hell himself. They all watched on, tense and unmoving.

Noctis ended up clearing his throat. “He’s my friend. We went hunting together. Please, Your Holiness, can you heal him?”

Staring for a long time, Somnus did not move until he eventually sighed. He took a step forward and pressed his hand to Prompto’s forehead. The angel gasped as a light shone through his body, banishing the miasma in seconds. The evil was dispersed and evaporated into nothing, as if it hadn’t even existed in the first place. The powers of a seraphim were truly remarkable. Prompto stumbled back, shocked at the energising vigor coursing through him once more. Somnus flexed his hand.

“T-thank you,” Prompto stammered.

The seraph hummed in response. “Noctis, I would like a word with you in the Garden. The rest of you are free to go.”

What did he mean, he wanted a word? Noctis’ throat closed up in fear as his friends, Regis and the guards were made to leave. He saw Prompto give him a worried look from where Gladio was guiding him out of the throne room of the citadel, and Ignis only gave him a nod of encouragement. Regis didn’t even turn around. Great, thanks for the support, guys , Noctis thought bitterly. He peered back up at Somnus, who was waiting expectantly.

They did not exchange any words as they teleported to the Garden. It was night, a blue moon casting a glow over them. They had settled by a flowing river made of liquid silver. The flowers and plants glowed turquoise in the dark, lighting up the scene beautifully. Heaven never ceased to be breathtaking.

Somnus then took a step towards the river. Noctis thought for a moment he would step in, however he stood just before the edge. He had tucked his wings away out of sight.

“Demons are such pitiful beings,” he said. Noctis felt confused. Somnus turned back to him. “What did you think as you saw them, Noctis? How did you feel?”

“Oh, um, scared, I guess?” Noctis responded awkwardly. He didn’t know. He wasn’t scared of lesser demons, but the ones he had encountered today had made him a tad nervous. 

“It is hard to believe they were once our siblings.” Somnus’ expression became one of sadness. Or sympathy. It was hard to tell. 

Noctis was going to think about it, yet he figured, since nobody else had given him much information on Adagium, and Somnus was apparently very close with him at one point… so why not ask him? Maybe it was a dangerous move, though Noctis’ mind burned with curiosity.

“Can you tell me about Adagium?”

Surprise flashed across Somnus’ features before it was replaced with his usual calm. “He was my closest brother, once upon a time. He was formed with such fondness at the hands of the Astrals. We loved him so. He was the perfect angel before he became corrupted with malice and a thirst for power. What kind of power he lusted after, I cannot tell you, as we did not tolerate it long enough to find out. At the first sign of his corruption he was cast out and chained within Hell’s deepest crypt. I foolishly believed that would be enough to keep him there for eternity, but alas.”

So even Somnus didn’t know what Adagium had done specifically? Noctis frowned, desperately trying to think of reasons why the Accursed had fallen. A lust for power was so vague. Did he just suddenly want to rule one day? If he truly was the perfect angel, then why would he change like that? Why had they not interrogated him long enough?

Sadly, those were questions Noctis wouldn’t dare ask. He had already stepped out of line by asking the one, so he refrained.

Somnus gave him a gentle smile before long. “You are a fine angel, Noctis. I am aware your ascension to a full dominion is upon us, yes? I have no doubt you will pass with flying colours. After all, the Astrals created you in accordance to my appearance.”

“Huh?” he blurted out impolitely.

“Indeed! We both share wings of midnight, riddled with stars. Our eyes are the colour of azurite. We may differ when it comes to rank, but believe me, child, you and I are so very similar.”

What a compliment. Noctis couldn’t believe his ears. A seraph was praising him? His skin burned in joy as he felt Somnus place his hand there, right on his shoulder. He supposed what he was saying was true. Their wings were indeed the same, even though Somnus had four more than Noctis did, and his were much larger. They even had the same hair. 

“But… why did the Astrals make me like you?”

“They work in mysterious ways. All I can tell you is that you happen to be a favourite among them. Live up to their expectations and you will shine as brightly as any seraph.”

Somnus then raised his six wings of starlight. They blended in perfectly with the sky, the only thing giving them away was the shimmering of the fine feathers in accordance with the breeze. He then beat them against the ground, taking off like a rocket. Noctis almost fell back at the sheer power behind them and stumbled. One of his feet slipped and landed in the river. Not that it actually got wet. He shook off the water and stood there, dumbfounded.

A personal favourite among the gods. How could that be true? He had never even met one of them, let alone all of them. Why was he a favourite? Why was he better than any other angel?

Noctis shook his head. He’d stand here forever if he was to ponder Somnus’ words to him. He figured he shouldn’t doubt a seraph. They were closest to the gods. They knew better than anyone. 

The angel blew out a sigh, and took off into the night.


 

“This is all your fault.”

Verstael snarled at Iedolas, teeth bared. They had been forced to return to Hell shortly after the blond angel had recovered. A shame. They had come close to wounding the dominion, after all. That would have scored them some brownie points with Adagium, yet here they were, on their way to beg for his forgiveness. How embarrassing .

“My fault?” Iedolas echoed. “ You were the one who got shot, fool.”

“Don’t call me a fool, old man. You could hardly hold out against those other two. I was the one who bought us time!”

“Bought us time? You arrogant imbecile, you lost to a common angel!”

The two demons lunged at each other in a fit of growls and curses. They clawed through their armour, sinking their fangs into whatever skin was visible. It was only a matter of time before they fell against the blood-soaked earth and scrabbled around like a pair of cats.

Must you two act like children?”

They froze at the smooth voice. Scrambling to their feet, Verstael and Iedolas then got on one knee as a sign of respect to the Accursed standing above them. An amused smile broke out on his face, with one eyebrow arched.

“Adagium,” Iedolas muttered. Verstael remained silent, eyes fixed on the ground, clearly ashamed of being caught wrestling with a fellow demon. Not that demons were chummy with each other, but since it was the Accursed himself catching them…

Ardyn then rolled his eyes playfully. “Come, now. We demons are meant to be seen as beings of utmost authority and pride. You’re very much giving the wrong impression.”

He watched carefully as Verstael lifted his head. “We have news for you.”

“Oh?”

“We encountered four angels when in the astral realm. There was a virtue, a power, a common angel and a dominion. While that may not seem of interest, my lord, the dominion… he had the face of Somnus.”

Now, that caught Ardyn’s attention. His smirk disappeared instantly at the sound of that wretched name. He would have pulled his lip up in a sneer, but his curiosity about such a phenomenon overpowered his anger. Why would a dominion look like Somnus?

“He is being raised by Regis as an apprentice,” said Iedolas.

“How, exactly, do you know that?” Ardyn pressed.

“I have seen glimpses of his apprentice in the astral on many occasions. He hunts lesser demons when not frolicking around as if he has no duties.”

Was that why they attacked them? Ardyn frowned in thought. Iedolas had not mentioned that to him before. Perhaps he thought it was of little interest. Ardyn had never met Regis when still an angel, after all. He only knew of him thanks to stealing the memories of various demons during his recent activity. Hm, he would have to steal some more of the newly fallen ones to get some more information on this Somnus clone. If he couldn’t get Somnus for a while, then he would do.

“And his name?”

“I believe it is Noctis, my lord.”

Noctis. A name suitable for a Somnus knock off, Ardyn supposed. His fingers twitched at the thought of seeing this angel. Actually, why shouldn’t he look now ?

He lunged for Iedolas. Verstael’s memories were usually a bit sharper, but Ardyn wanted as much information as possible. The demon choked as Ardyn’s hand wrapped around his neck, sucking the knowledge from his tainted soul. There were visions of him falling, him landing in Hell so many years ago, blah, blah. Where was the good stuff? Ardyn’s forehead wrinkled as he rifled around through millions of years worth of recallations. Torture. A lot of torture. A lot of being tortured and inflicting torture. Gods , Ardyn thought. The man surely liked to linger on the finer details.

It was then, there , he saw it.

An angel with wings as black as night. There was the glowing sword, signature accessory of the dominions. He soared through the astral and stuck that sword through the chests of many, many demons. The memories flitted by until Ardyn found the most recent one. He then saw Noctis up close. He would have gasped if he were not used to seeing shocking things whilst ransacking the minds of others. They were right. He had the same jawline, the same blue eyes, the same hair. If Ardyn was not in his right mind he would have easily mistaken the two.

Interestingly enough, this silly angel put himself in vulnerable positions quite often. He practically dangled himself above the jaws of higher demons should they find him appealing enough to eat. He was young and foolish. Ardyn’s lips curled into a smirk. Perfect .

It had been quite some time, though he supposed he would have to make a trip to the astral realm. Memories just weren’t satisfying enough.

He was going to have to meet Noctis in person.

Chapter Text

Waves gently lapped at the white shoreline, leaving glitter to shimmer for a brief moment. Above the endless see, a moon hung in the sky. It glowed like a lantern.

Upon the silky sands, an angel stood.

Blonde hair in a high ponytail cascaded down her back. Adorning her body, a cream dress. Precious stones of the sea lined her neck and wrists in the shape of crescent moons. In her hand, a trident was firmly held. It absorbed the lunar energies as if it were a copper rod absorbing lightning. It was a strange sight to see such enormous power radiating from such a fair being. As she drew her trident and dragged it across the water’s surface, liquid light was left in its wake. It clashed with the ocean as oil would with water.

Despite the peaceful scene, the angel was disturbed. She had, of course, heard the grave news that Somnus had relayed. The fateful Accursed had return to wreak havoc. However, it was not necessarily the Accursed that sent shivers down her spine. There was indeed evil among them, but she could not pinpoint it to him. If not him, then who?

She did not dwell on it too much. While she kept it at the back of her mind, she was expecting to see her dear friend soon. It had been quite some time since she had seen him last. 

Grasping the fur of her black dog spirit in her fingers, she gave him a kiss on the forehead. Umbra blinked slowly before racing into the ocean to the lower angelic realms. While she had the pleasure of living so close to the Astrals, it often got lonely. The angel smiled softly.

“See you soon, Noctis.”


 

“Ugh, this one’s useless .”

Tossing the book aside, Noctis climbed higher upon the shelves in Insomnia’s library. A pile of discarded books lay in a pile far below. Noctis had brushed many others off the shelves when flying too carelessly, but he was in here for one reason, and one reason only.

Since both Somnus and Regis had been so vague in their descriptions of Adagium, Noctis couldn’t help himself except research further. He did not try to ask anyone else. The library would have to do, and so far, he had found nothing. There were countless books on Somnus and the other seraphim, yet hardly any mentioned Adagium at all, and if they did, it was stuff he already knew. There had to be something worth reading! If Adagium was so dangerous, then why was there so little information? Either they truly didn’t know much, or they were hiding something.

Unfortunately for them, Noctis was the king of discovering secrets. He knew all the dirt on everyone. He knew about how Regis had sucked at flying for hundreds of years, and how Gladio still got scared of heights. Either he would find information on Adagium here, or he would find it elsewhere.

The dominion spread his wings open with a loud groan and allowed himself to drift to the floor. He landed gracelessly on the heap of books. His limbs sprawled across the discarded paper, he took a moment to recollect himself.

Somnus’ words had echoed in his mind since the night they had shared a talk together. It had been such an honour for a seraph to compliment him so. His words of praise made Noctis’ cheeks blush. His friends had been so jealous upon him telling them. Perhaps not so much jealous as simply awed, but it was a satisfying feeling. Maybe, if a seraph was that impressed with him, perhaps his ascension wouldn’t be so difficult after all. 

Someone clearing their throat snapped him from his thoughts.

The librarian, a moody principality, ushered him out upon seeing the mess he’d made of the library. Noctis huffed. Well, he was done in there, anyway. He was going to have to turn his sights to somewhere else.

Insomnia was quiet today. Most angels had been sent out demon hunting thanks to the sudden rise in demonic activity. As a punishment for his recklessness, Regis had confined Noctis to the walls of Insomnia to keep an eye on him. He was not banned from hunting altogether, though he still scowled. It was boring without his friends around. Prompto was too scared to visit seeing as Somnus had given him such a dirty look, yet Noctis couldn’t blame him. 

He kicked at the crystal floor. Insomnia was a magnificent sight to most, but by now, Noctis was long bored of it. His wings ached with the need to explore.

Just as he was about to go back to the citadel, a dark shadow caught his eye.

When he turned, there was nothing. Strange. He could have sworn he had saw something. Noctis blew out a sigh as he slowly trudged home before the dark shadow reappeared in front of him.

“Umbra!” he said happily, stooping down to the dog spirit’s level. Umbra gave his hand a lick. Since the spirit was often elsewhere, Noctis hadn’t seen him in quite some time. The feeling of the Umbra’s fur was pleasant under his palm. He would have conjured a toy for him to tug on before he saw a slip of paper tucked under his jewel collar.

It was a letter. Written in beautiful golden writing, Noctis beamed when he laid eyes upon it.

My dear friend,

Please meet me at our usual location. I would love to see you.

Sincerely, Lunafreya

He could always count on her to cheer him up. While he was technically forbidden from leaving Insomnia for the time being, Noctis used the excuse that this visit didn’t count, as it was within Heaven. He would be completely safe.

Their usual place was within Eden. Even the garden was quiet, so Noctis had the pleasure of strolling through the magnificent meadows by himself. Not that the garden was ever crowded. Even if every angel in existence gathered, the grounds would simply stretch out so that everyone was comfortable. Heaven had no limits.

Noctis hummed when he came upon a group of trees. Their branches were heavy with blossoms ready to fall. Some petals danced towards him in the light breeze, landing in his hair and shoulders. A clear pond lay off to the side, reflecting the rainbow clouds above it. At first, he was seemingly alone, but he knew better. Umbra scampered off to the pond’s edge, sniffing at the water before the surface began to ripple.

Saint Lunafreya rose from the water with a magnificence that only a seraph could possess. Every time Noctis saw her, he was blown back by her beauty. No other angel compared. Her face looked as if it were sculpted by the world’s finest artists, her robes so pure that a mortal would have grasped at them mindlessly. She was glorious, wonderful, heavenly, other-worldly. Her six wings, all as white as the moon that her name symbolised, tucked neatly behind her as she glided to the ground. Her bare feet touched the grass, and she smiled at him.

“Noctis,” she said, voice as soft as a sleigh bell, “a pleasure to see you again.”

As customary, Noctis knelt on one knee and took her hand in his. He planted a kiss on her knuckles. It was a formal greeting, one they should have done away with by now, but he felt awkward if he didn’t greet her properly. She was a seraph. They deserved the utmost respect.

“How are you, Luna?”

“Wonderful. Heaven is operating smoothly. The Astrals are at peace, and so is Earth. I could not be happier.”

Despite her words, Noctis sensed the uncertainty behind them. She was not necessarily lying, though she was not telling the entire truth. He got to his feet and frowned.

“But haven’t you heard of Adagium returning?”

Ah, there it was. Luna’s face fell. “I have.”

“What do you think about it?”

She walked to stand next to one of the trees, placing a hand on the bark. She gazed off into the horizon, taking in the view of endless forests and mountains in the shape of the gods. Still, the landscape did not compare to her.

“Well, I am conflicted. I admit I do sense evil afoot, but I can’t pin it on the Accursed.” She hummed to herself. “Perhaps his aura is exceptionally strong.”

“What do you know about him?” the dominion pressed. 

Luna glanced back at him. “You are interested?”

Noctis nodded. “Of course. We’ve been tasked with hunting his demons, right? I asked Somnus, though he didn’t know much. I know it’s an old topic but it just… bothers me, I guess.”

“I hate to say this,” Luna said, chest expanding as she sighed, “but I am as clueless as you. I am young as seraphim go. The Accursed fell long before I was born. If Somnus himself does not know, then I’m afraid no one will. I apologise for the poor answer, Noctis.”

So she didn’t know, either. He supposed he shouldn’t be disappointed. Luna was one of the youngest seraphim. Not much older than himself, in fact. They had been friends since his birth, and Luna had been the one to teach him so much about life. He remembered listening to her stories about humans for hours, about their wars and how they’d rebuild themselves after it. Noctis had mixed feelings on humans, yet Luna always saw the best in them despite the atrocities they committed. He admired that.

She placed a hand on his shoulder as she came away from the tree. Her touch was so gentle it almost lulled him to sleep on the spot.

“So, if you can sense evil,” Noctis said eventually, “then where are you sensing it from?”

Surprise flashed across her features for a brief moment. “It is hard to say. It is in Heaven itself, and in the astral realm. It hangs in the air like a poisonous gas. I will do my best to track down the source, although for now, that is all I can tell you.”

While that wasn’t the answer he was expecting, Noctis felt intrigued. Luna sensed evil even in Heaven? Surely, the Accursed could not reach here. He hadn’t even broken the seal between Hell and the astral realm to their knowledge. Commanding demons to do his bidding was one thing, but crawling out of the pit he was banished to was something else entirely. It took immense strength to pull off such a feat. If the evil was in Heaven, then perhaps it came from another source.

The pair spoke no more of Adagium afterwards. Wanting to brush the topic aside, Noctis joined Luna in the skies as they exchanged news.

He told her of his ascension. With her, he was able to freely complain and let out his true feelings. His other friends knew some of it, but it was difficult to be entirely truthful with them. Especially as Ignis and Gladio were overseeing his development as a dominion. Luna never judged; just listened with a smile. Noctis loved her for that. Together, with wings of black and wings of white, they truly were the night and the moon. Luna’s wings held the expanse vastness of the moon and Noctis’ held the endless void of the universe. While they differed in ranks, their hearts could not have meshed together any better.

As a seraph, Luna aided the goddess Leviathan. Each god had their own platoon of seraphim, and as Leviathan oversaw Luna, she was gifted with complete control of water. Every sea and ocean belonged to her. Where there was water, there was Luna, under Leviathan’s guidance. She told Noctis of the state of Earth’s oceans once he was done ranting. There was much pollution tarnishing it thanks to the humans’ ways, though Luna remained so positive.

“Maybe you should have been born human,” Noctis half joked. They were high above Heaven’s floor by now, embedded into the very fabric of space.

Luna laughed. “I would not say no to the experience.”

“You should ask Leviathan,” said Noctis, wings directly parallel to hers. “She might say yes. You’d be a great human. I can see you now, spreading all your love and light to the world. Maybe they need someone like you to set them straight.”

In reality, Noctis would hate to see her go. There was no doubt Luna would make a fine human, but confining her magnificent holy body to a bag of flesh seemed like an insult. She deserved to remain at the very top of Heaven, seated by the Astrals. However, no angel had ever become human, so he didn’t worry.

“You flatter me, Noct. I’m sure you would make the better human.”

“What? You know how lazy I am.” Noctis turned upside down to get a better view of the many planets and galaxies around them. He caught sight of Mars and Saturn, and beyond the main solar system they watched over, he saw the rest of the Milky Way’s wonders. His most favourite had to be the centre of the galaxy. The supermassive black hole stole his breath every time he gazed upon it. The humongous orb of nothingness, the very weight of which could crush him into fine dust, both amazed and scared him to death. When he was very young, he was convinced that was where demons were born.

He blinked when he saw Luna dip in front of him, the right way up. Then again, there was no right way up in space, yet she appeared upside down to him nevertheless.

“Lazy, perhaps, but your soul shines brighter than any of ours.”

A furious blush spread across his face. He scratched the back of his neck. “Uh, I mean…”

The seraph giggled at his bashfulness and pulled him back down to Heaven. “I’ve kept you here long enough. You should probably head back before your guardian notices you’re missing.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Noctis muttered. He’d lost track of time. He plummeted back down like a comet, Luna close behind. They landed back at their meeting place in Eden, Luna touching gracefully upon the pond’s water while Noctis skidded across the ground, tossing up grass and dirt. He was never any good at landings.

Luna helped him brush off the mud on his shoes by dousing it with her gentle water. She gave him a quick peck on the cheek before sending him on his way.

“I’ll see you again shortly,” she said.

Noctis smiled. “Yeah. See you soon, Luna.”

Thankfully, Regis had not noticed his absence. He was still in his throne room in the citadel, though not seated. He was standing to the side, reading a book that he had taken from one of the many shelves scattered around. He snapped it shut upon Noctis entering.

The dominion bowed. He hadn’t been all that nice to his guardian as of late, so he tried to be respectful. Regis gave him a nod.

“Noctis. Faring well?”

"Yeah— I mean, uh, yes. Yes, I’m fine.”

“Good. If you so wish, you can return to demon hunting now.”

“Wait, really?”

Turning his back, Regis murmured, “Yes, providing you behave.”

Today was his lucky day! Noctis eagerly thanked his guardian and sped out of the citadel. Despite the fact he’d just been flying with Luna, he wanted to dive back down to the astral again. Heaven was great, but the astral was so vast and full of secrets that he could never resist visiting. His friends were already busy down there, and he didn’t know where Prompto was, though for now he’d go exploring on his own.

Except, demon hunting was not on his mind.

He’d learned enough from them. After having asked two seraphim, a throne and two demons for information on Adagium, he resigned to finding out by himself. The astral was filled with libraries that Heaven could not dream of owning. There were libraries of Earth, libraries of the occult and libraries written by creatures that were neither angels or demons. There were skinwalkers, succubi, witches, and so much more that had access to knowledge he would never understand. Noctis had no shame in asking any of them for help.


 

Giving a grin to the archangel guards, Noctis dropped backwards into the astral at Heaven’s gates. Exiting with style, as he called it. Ignis had said he was being silly, but to Noctis, he imagined he looked cool as all hell. 

The place where he had landed was quiet, yet Noctis knew better. All across the expanse of the spiritual realm, many angels and demons were clashing. He could sense them. 

The question now, however, was where would he start? Here, there was nothing for him, so he took off in search for a human city. Since demons usually emerged in quieter areas (something about the rifts being easier to open if no other lifeforms were present), the city was empty of demonic and angelic activity. Noctis could sense some skinwalkers prowling nearby though he was careful to avoid them as he flitted in and out of buildings.

He was looking for a library. Most libraries had an occult section, and while Noctis knew how faulty the humans’ occult work was, anything was better than what he had already found. When he couldn’t find anything relevant in this place, he flew to the next landmark, and the next, and the next.

While he didn’t know which city he was in now, he paused when he came across a building covered in skinwalkers. The same ones he had sensed just before.

Hideous creatures with the ability to shapeshift, they gnashed their fangs as Noctis came closer. Usually, they took the forms of animals, but these ones looked more like deformed gargoyles than anything else. They were no threat to him. He could kill them with a mere snap of the fingers, and the skinwalkers knew this. They scampered off once Noctis approached the building.

What do you know, a library .

Noctis laughed to himself. It didn’t look like anything special, so why were those skinwalkers crawling all over it? Naturally, it had to have some sort of spiritual energy. The dominion shifted through the doors and found himself in a dark, looming hall.

It was closed, therefore that meant it was night time in this particular city.

Most of the library’s books were incredibly old. As Noctis couldn’t go through all of them, he skimmed his eyes over the markers on the wall until he found something that could work for him: Occultism.

Humans were very gullible creatures. Their knowledge of the occult was skewed, but Noctis couldn’t entirely pin the blame on them. Time and false information passed down orally had distorted the original knowledge. Most modern occultism focused on sigils and arranging physical offerings before an altar, most of which just made him laugh. Neither angels nor demons appreciated such offerings. He had witnessed animal bones being laid out for them, or food which only ended up going stale, and sometimes even blood. Humans would happily throw anything on their altars, and it baffled him.

Why would they crave such things when the physical world was beneath them? What angels did appreciate, however, was the sharing of their magickal results they manifested. Should a human wish for money, and ask for the request to be shared to their friends, then that greatly pleased the angel in summoning. Noctis couldn’t say he had the first hand experience, seeing as dominions never revealed themselves to the lower realms. It was the third sphere angels who had such honours.

He didn’t think even demons liked weird sacrificial offerings. It was odd and ultimately provided nothing for either party. Noctis was aware demons fed on energy, more often the powerful effects of anger or pain, but sometimes they were so restricted they received no reward at all.

In this case, that didn’t work out so well for him. Noctis flipped through book after book, tossing aside the ones he knew to be useless. Summoning demons via chanting, via weird languages or via altering oneself into a trance was all warped nonsense. Some sigils could have been useful, yet none mentioned Adagium.

It was only until he found one book, named Grimoire Verum , which mentioned invocation keys that the information inside spoke to him.

In the spiritual world, a key referred to a state of being that an angel or demon would present themselves in. They all had them. Some had several, others only had two or three. For example, Noctis’ keys involved imagining a scene of a starry night sky looming above a crystal lake. Then, one would shift to the sight of a silver sword piercing the waters, shattering the liquid itself into shards of the kings of the past. To finish off the invocation, they would lastly fill their minds with the scent of blue roses. If a human had access to such knowledge, then they could possibly summon him.

Not that one ever had. Noctis had never understood his own invocation keys, only knowing that they existed. It was the scene that he had been born from, forged from the fingers and molten blood of the Astrals.

He didn’t know that demons had their own keys. Upon falling, Noctis assumed all of their angelic properties disappeared along with their wings. According to this book, this was not the case. He only paid attention to it since he recognised two very relevant names.

Verstael and Iedolas.

Both demons had been highly ranked, a rare sight to see outside of Hell. To summon Verstael, there were three main keys. Noctis’ eyes scanned the words carefully, a chill running down his spine. He did not try and imagine the scene in his head lest he accidentally call forth a demon he did not wish to interact with.

An enormous stone covered in ivy stands in the forest.

A full moon looms over a field of gravel and thistles.

On the edge of a stagnant lake lies a rusted spear.

As for Iedolas, his keys were far more sinister.

A white river runs between black mountains.

A pale boy offers a shining dagger.

A three-way crossroads is set in the forest, a storm overhead.

Noctis snapped the book shut. This was dangerous information. If those skinwalkers outside got a hold of it, then the damage they could cause would be terrible. He could see them scratching at the windows, their drawling hisses drowned out by the glass. They would not dare intrude on a dominion’s space, but the cocky little bastards would get as close as they could. Ugly things.

The thought of getting to a safer location crossed his mind. The Grimoire Verum clutched tightly to his chest, Noctis burst out of the library, shaking off the bolder skinwalkers that snapped at his heels. He left them behind in the dark city and flew aimlessly to an open plain.

He thanked the fact he was alone and not with his friends today. They would have beaten him over the head if they knew he was messing with creepy human grimoires. Noctis still didn’t know if this one was legitimate, though so far it made the most sense. Invocation keys were real, and Verstael and Iedolas were real. If they were in here, then there was a small chance—

Adagium.

The word was written in black ink, bleeding into the corners of the page. Noctis almost fell over in surprise as he found it.

What were the chances! He did have to rifle through quite a few books to find this, but by the gods, he hoped this one had something he could use for more information.

Adagium was the only demon listed in the book that did not have a description accompanying him. There was no sigil, either. Just his own list of invocation keys. 

A chain hangs between two broken thrones.

The scene was clear before the young angel. Two thrones thrust out of the ground, the stone grey and cracked. Nailed into their sides was a rusted chain that was pulled so tightly it looked like it might snap. Noctis felt a cold breeze rustle his hair and wing feathers as he gazed upon them.

The sky flashes with silent lightning.

Right on cue, a bolt of electricity crackled between the two trees. It made no noise. It soundlessly pelted the ground beneath it, razing as if out of control, but if Noctis closed his eyes, then he would be none the wiser to the violent weather around him.

In a field of dead grass, three trees bloom with bloodied blossoms.

The ground, which was once a massive stretch of cracked earth, sprouted dying grass and the occasional weed. Noctis heard the crunch of the dry blades beneath his feet, an odd compliment to the flashing lightning. Replacing the two thrones from before, three trees had sprouted and the chain had disappeared. White petals drizzled in blood flew from their branches. They howled around him like a bizarre tornado consisting of dead foliage and harmless electricity. Noctis, suddenly aware of what he was doing, sank to his knees in shock.

He couldn’t stop any of it. His imagination had run wild before he realised that he was bringing the invocation keys to life. 

He was summoning a demon .

Perhaps worse than that was the atmosphere. It lingered on his skin like a layer of grime. While it did not necessarily reek of dread and evil, Noctis could only describe it as dark . No other word was suitable. Dark like the black hole of the Milky Way. Dark like the raven locks on his head.

Dropping the grimoire in a frenzy, he spread his wings to take flight and abandon whatever he had conjured up. He had to get back to Heaven before his guardian found out what he’d been doing.

Except, when he turned around, he was not met with an empty scene.

The lightning continued to flash, and the bloody petals continued to drift to the floor. Nothing would be out of the ordinary if it weren’t for the dark figure looming above him.

Noctis gasped.

Tipping his fedora, Adagium gave him a charming smile.

Chapter Text

“An angel summoning me? I never thought I’d see the day.”

Noctis was frozen in place, as if the dead grass had ensnared his feet and buried him like a seed. Even his wings had faded, too stunned to keep them open. He suddenly felt extremely small.

Adagium appeared as something curious, nothing like Noctis imagined he would be. He had initially thought of a distorted, salivating beast whose horns could rival those of Ifrit—leakage of the scourge from every crevice on his unholy skin. A hideous monster, in less pretty words. Noctis had seen all ranges of ugly when slaying demons, from the animalistic to the repulsive, but this… what he was presented with shocked him into silence.

He was tall. Very tall, having almost a foot over him in height. Adagium, removing his fedora, bowed cartoonishly. He bent his back so far forwards he almost folded himself in half. A gesture of mockery. He was dressed in long cloaks of black. His coat reached the ground, the ends ratty and riddled with holes as if he had dragged them across the ground for miles. Underneath that he wore many layers of various greys, a bright orange scarf accenting his bizarre outfit. As he regained his noble posture, Noctis could hear the jingling of the decorative spurs on his boots. He was dressed as if he were a human rather than a creature of immense age and power.

However, the part that Noctis found himself so entranced by was his face. It was not mottled or scarred like the demons beneath him. In fact, he was handsome. His pale skin and gleaming amber eyes did not deter from his beauty, akin to the higher ranked demons that served him.

The dominion stuttered over his words as he tried to speak. “I—It was… an accident.”

Adagium’s lips curled into an amused smirk. “Is that so? I have never heard of an accidental summoning before, so might I inquire as to how you achieved such a thing?”

His eyes flickered down to the discarded grimoire. Noctis had forgotten it was even there.

“The… invocation keys,” he said.

“Ah, I see!” Adagium spun around as he wrapped his arms around himself in a personal embrace. Noctis watched as he tilted his head back and inhaled the stagnant air. “No wonder it feels just like home. How wonderful .”

His voice was a velvety purr—enough to send a jolt of apprehension down Noctis’ spine. He couldn’t tell if it was pleasurable or not. This demon spoke with such regality that it was hard to imagine he was the very thing to blame for all of the recent misfortune. He was odd, but he didn’t come across as the Devil, bringer of all things bad and chaotic.

Well, he had achieved his wish. He wanted to know more about Adagium, and here he was before him. Noctis forced down a nervous swallow and tried his best to regain his former confidence. It was difficult when one was shorter.

“Heaven has been warning us about you.”

There was a chuckle. “As they should. It is dangerous to dabble in magics you have no understanding of, little sparrow.” Sparrow ? Who the hell did this guy think he was? “Tell me, what did you achieve in summoning me here? Did you hope to defeat me? To send me back to Hell like a common demon?”

Noctis bit his lip and looked down. “N...no.”

“No?”

Adagium vanished in a flurry of smoke, only to reappear directly behind him. Noctis yelped and stumbled forwards but his wrist was caught in an iron grip.

That is an answer I was not expecting.”

He felt the rumble of another laugh against him, the vibrations shaking him to his core. Sweating, Noctis pushed down his fear. Demons were parasites. Feelings of anger and terror was what fueled them the most. They could never feel the same way as a human or angel, so they fed from them in the vain hope of feeling something again. It was pitiful, but the way of the universe. And yet, Adagium didn’t seem to be feeding off anything. It was hard to explain, though Noctis felt the absence of an ethereal tongue lapping at his energy. There was nothing. In a strange way, Adagium was… warm . As if his soul had not entirely rotted away as it should have. Just what was he?

Noctis held a breath he didn’t need to hold as he then felt Adagium rest his chin on his shoulder. He refused to look his way. Light stubble scratched his cheek and his breath was hot—yet he would not falter.

“I wanted to know more about you,” Noctis eventually said. He did not know if that was a mistake, but it was the truth. “While we have been warned, they never said… who you were. Why you were cast out. I came here for answers.”

He wasn’t sure if Adagium was drawing out the silence on purpose, or that he truly didn’t know what to say. Noctis sighed in relief as the body pressed against him disappeared and reappeared a few feet away.

“A curious angel, then,” Adagium murmured. 

“What do you want?”

“I’m afraid you’ll have to be a little more specific,” Adagium said with a sweet smile.

Noctis rolled his eyes. “What do you want to do to the world? Your demons said you want to infiltrate Heaven, and that you torture them if they don’t cause the chaos you desire.”

“Me and every other demon,” Adagium commented sarcastically. “I couldn’t care less about Earth. Destroying Heaven and watching as every angel crumbles to dust? Of course, that would be most satisfactory to commit with my own hands, although I do need my demons to nudge it along. Torture is such a strong word, regardless. I prefer ‘gentle encouragement’.”

As he walked with an irritating swagger, Noctis felt a sudden enragement by his tone of voice and summoned his sword. Adagium did not turn around as Noctis leapt towards him, brandishing his blade to pierce his back. Instead, the demon sidestepped, black wisps trailing behind him. He checked his nails in a nonchalant matter.

“Come now, there is no need for fighting. I’m really more of a pacifist.”

“Pacifist my ass!” Noctis snarled. “Your demons are hurting us!”

“And how would your opinion change if I told you how I fell?”

Noctis paused. He did not speak, but he lowered his weapon. Adagium took that as a sign to continue. He wandered over to the three trees Noctis had summoned and rested his hand along the bark. It chipped away at his touch, blood from the petals rubbing between his fingers. Really, in an ominous way, he was quite beautiful. The way his dark form contrasted against the paleness of the trees was an artwork within itself. 

“I was like you, once. An ignorant angel who spent all of his time with his head in the clouds. I truly believed there was no evil in the world— ha , what a joke.” His teeth gritted in anger. “You want to know about me, little sparrow? I shall gladly tell you. I was a healer. I cared for the sick and wounded, angels, demons and humans alike. I absorbed the darkness from their hearts unto myself. Tell me, do you consider that a crime?”

His answer was shocking. Noctis stood there, dumbfounded, as Adagium threw his hands to his sides, his calm composure gone. He was glowering at the three trees, teeth gnashing inside his mouth.

“That’s… not what Somnus said,” Noctis whispered lowly.

Adagium let out a sudden bark of laughter. “Somnus? Oh, so you’ve met him, have you? Tell me, what did he say about me? I’m just dying of curiosity.”

Noctis was unsure if he should answer given the dangerous radiation of fury emanating from Adagium’s body, but some unseen force prompted him to answer anyway. His mouth unhinged like a marionette’s as all of his knowledge on the seraph spilled forth.

“He said you were his brother. That you were Heaven’s perfect angel before you fell because of a lust for power. He then… said I was made in his image.”

The smirk on Adagium’s face was unsightly. His beauty disappeared in favour of the appearance of a raging beast, and he leapt forwards in the blink of an eye. Noctis felt the air in his lungs being pushed out as he landed against the floor. He could see the branches of the trees up high, the blood-soaked petals landing on his face. It was replaced with the sight of Adagium hovering over him, a horrific black sludge seeping from his eyes and mouth. 

The scourge of demons, infecting him like the plague. It festered inside his body more thoroughly than any other cursed creature.

“Somnus is a liar ,” he spat, flecks of the scourge flying everywhere. “He is a jealous and manipulative monster. You believe his lies so readily, yet he is the one who cast me out! He pinned blame on me, using the disease I had absorbed as ‘evidence’ of my betrayal. Let me tell you this, sparrow, I am no demon, because I never fell .”

It took a few moments for him to compose himself, but after he had finished his little rant, he stood up. Removing his fedora, he ran a hand through his brilliant red hair.

“Nevertheless, I am now a creature of darkness, no better than a demon.”

Noctis shakily got to his feet when he was sure Adagium had calmed down. He took several steps back and retrieved his sword, keeping the blade close to his side. Adagium stood and watched him with a curious eye.

“Then, if you’re not a demon, what are you?”

His smirk returned. “I am of myth and legend, a being forged through the most wrongful of sins. I am too cursed to be an angel, though too intact to be a demon. I hover between the two in an eternal limbo.” He spread his arms out in a grandiose gesture. “I am a Nephilim.”

From what Noctis knew, Nephilim were the offspring of humans and angels—a legend that did not exist. So, what, Adagium was half and half? Surely, that couldn’t be possible either. Once an angel fell they became a demon and that was that. Still, Noctis had been unsure of Adagium’s presence since the beginning. He was warm, unlike the cold husks of demons. He was infected with the demonic plague but had not rotted away entirely.

When the young dominion tried to wrap the subject around his mind, he gasped and fell backwards when a dark sharp began to unfurl behind Adagium.

Wings.

A pair of shredded, torn wings made of decaying feathers and snapped bone spread outwards into an arch. They appeared as if they were barely hanging on to his shoulder blades, and they were missing so much flesh that they looked more like sewn together sticks than wings. No doubt about it that they were real, however, as Noctis could sense the lingering angelic energy within them. It was faint, but it was there.

“You see? Wings, as clear as day. Not that I can fly with them, yet this is proof that I am not a mere demon.”

“Whoa,” Noctis breathed.

Adagium laughed in a more friendly tone this time. “You should have seen them when I was an angel.”

Noctis believed him. While his wings were a mangled mess of what they once were, no doubt they had been truly wonderful when they were whole. What colour were they? Red? Gold? White, even?

“Why did Somnus cast you out?” he suddenly asked.

Raising his eyebrows in surprise, Adagium faltered. “When I absorbed the memories of Ifrit the Infernian, I discovered that I was meant to be the ruler of all angels.” There was a softness in his voice. He cast his eyes down, remembering times that were kind to him. “I was to lead them unto Earth to spread kindness and health. Somnus and I were indeed brothers, but Ifrit showed me that Somnus desired my place, thus convincing the gods with his silver tongue that I was infected. Well, I suppose now, he is right.”

A sudden sadness overcame them. Noctis took in the sight of Adagium, how his tattered wings fell and faded back into hiding. They had to hurt. His entire existence had to be painful if he was forced to live without the comfort of being with his former siblings in Heaven, or adopted by the dark ones in Hell. Cursed to wander a life of grey—a life of nothing.

Noctis’ heart sank.

Not that he could take everything Adagium said at face value, but something about him just… made him believe

“I’m sorry, Adagium.”

The nephilim flinched, turning to snarl. “My name is not Adagium. That is a title referring to the ignored and outcast. I have a name.”

“Then tell me what it is.”

“Why should I? Why should I believe you will not slander it?”

Pursing his lips into a frown, Noctis stepped forwards. “Tell me your name and I’ll never call you Adagium again.”

There was a pause. Adagium stared at him, golden eyes blazing around empty pupils. Light seemed to bend around them as if he was warping the air itself. Eventually, he sighed and turned his head.

“It is Ardyn.”

Ardyn. Noctis mulled it over in his mind a few times. “I’m Noctis.”

Laughing, Ardyn faced his way again. “Oh, I know who you are, little sparrow.”

“Then why do you keep calling me that?” Noctis snapped. He furrowed his brows as Ardyn laughed further. He sauntered up to him, arm sweeping up to catch his chin in his hand. Noctis felt the soft skin of Ardyn’s thumb and forefinger keeping him in place.

“Why not? It suits you.”

Yanking his head away, Noctis huffed. “Doesn’t sound like a fair trade to me.”

Life is not a fair trade, let me tell you.” Ardyn then allowed the black smoke from earlier to engulf the lower half of his legs. “Consider me in a good mood, thus I will allow you to flee, for now. Do with my information as you wish, but I advise you to begin thinking for yourself. The seraphim are angels of the powerful, although they are not angels of the truthful.”

He was gone before Noctis could ask for clarification. The dominion stood there, hand outstretched in an attempt to catch some of the wisps in his fingers. It was futile, for they faded into nothing.

What the fuck was all that about! Noctis whirled around and grabbed the grimoire. He flipped it open to Adagium—no, Ardyn’s —page once more, but there was no information that he didn’t already know. All he had was his invocation keys. Hugging the book tightly to his chest, Noctis spread his wings and made for Heaven.


 

Ardyn slumped to the floor once he returned to Hell. His hair was tangled and his skin felt clammy underneath all of his layers.

Why had he gone and done that? Upon knowing that Somnus had a little pet running around, he had sworn to himself to make the knave suffer. He would cross that bridge when he got to it, yet his mind had gone blank when encountering Noctis for the first time.

Firstly, he was astonished anyone had access to his invocation keys. They had warped over time, becoming completely different to what they were as an angel, but like everyone else, they were burned within his soul. The two thrones represented him and Somnus, the chain a mockery of their prior relationship of brothers. He supposed the lightning was his fury, and the silence of it a remnition of how he had been kept quiet until now. As for the trees and dead grass… he was unsure. Three was not a significant number to him, and the blood staining the white petals could mean anything. He supposed he would just have to figure it out.

Upon laying eyes on Noctis, he was further stunned. It was like gazing at Somnus as a newborn, fresh from the womb of the Astrals. He was so pure and virginal that Ardyn had been temporarily paralysed by his presence. 

Not that he was a match for his own power. Noctis was not a true angel—not yet, at least. He figured his ascension was nigh as he was tasked to go around slaying demons, a task not given to any fool. Upon attaining his full powers as a dominion, then yes, he would be a threat. For now, however, he was a lovely little lamb right for the slaughter.

So why did that thought perturb him so? 

Ardyn picked himself off the ground and began to make his way back to Hell’s centre. Hell consisted of many layers, from limbo to the deepest pits of torture, but Ardyn had chosen to take his residence in between. Gralea was Hell’s most densely populated city. Full of demons of all ranks, it was the ideal place to build a castle upon so everyone could view him as the true king. If he could not guide Heaven to light, then he would force Hell unto the darkness.

His castle welcomed him like the embrace of a hated relative. Its walls were painted a bloody red, gold accents lining the doors and arches. A gothic marvel, in some eyes, though to Ardyn it was just another building in his eternal torment. 

He collapsed into his makeshift throne with a weary sigh. The hard metal dug into his sides but he did not care. All he could think about was how he reacted to meeting Noctis.

The angel was within his grasp. There was no way he could have escaped in Ardyn’s own domain. They might have been in the astral realm, but the moment Noctis imagined those invocation keys it belonged to Ardyn. It had been his and his alone, and Noctis was the wanderer who had trapped himself within it. Yet, despite that, Ardyn laid not a finger on him. A touch here and a caress there, though no blood had been drawn. Why? Somnus’ lap dog was right before him, and Ardyn had not done what he had promised himself. 

He dragged a hand through his hair. Ugh, what a nuisance .

“My lord,” came a voice.

Ardyn lifted his gaze to see Verstael. Wonderful. The deranged lunatic was here to bother him.

Well, he supposed he could not slander him too much. Verstael taught sciences of all kind, his knowledge rivalling every other demon in existence. His memories that he had forcefully plucked out had been ripe with information that had been of value. So, Ardyn forced himself to keep a neutral expression.

“Yes?”

“You appear unwell. Did you find the dominion?”

“I did.”

Verstael’s face broke out into a grin. “And did you destroy him as decided?”

The Accursed faced away, concentrating deeply on a tear in the wallpaper. Hm, he would need to get that fixed. “No.”

“You… didn’t?”

“I don’t see how that is any business of yours,” Ardyn hissed, nails digging into the armrests. “You are here to serve me and not ask questions, Verstael. If you have nothing of interest to say, then begone.”

The blond demon gave him a nod of apology. “I came to offer any assistance in your search of the dominion. However, seeing as you already found him, I suppose that will no longer be necessary?”

Ardyn held up a hand to stop him. “No, continue to monitor him. Whatever he does, report it back to me. Do not harm him in the progress.”

Verstael looked like he wanted to ask more questions, though upon seeing Ardyn’s hard stare, he sealed his lips in a tight line. Once he was gone, Ardyn sank further into his seat. His head throbbed as all these emotions swirled around in his head. Emotions he had not felt in eons. Not necessarily positive ones, but… curiosity. Interest. An innocent inquisitiveness that was nothing like the wrath he had experienced before. Why Noctis stirred such thoughts within him was unknown, but Ardyn forced himself to focus on other matters.

After all, he had a brother to destroy, and mulling about an angel would not advance him in that quest.


 

His friends were already back in Heaven by the time Noctis returned. 

Just outside of the Insomnian citadel, Prompto jumped up to greet him. They hadn’t seen each other much since Somnus had healed him, so Noctis gave him a smile. He returned his fist bump and saw that Ignis and Gladio were also present.

“You were gone some time,” Gladio said.

“Uh, yeah, my bad,” Noctis said, rubbing the back of his neck. “Got carried away with demon hunting.”

Ignis and Gladio swapped glances. “We did not hear of you banishing any demons,” said the former.

“You were gone ages, buddy,” Prompto added. “Like, two or three days, actually.”

Had he really been away all that time? It had felt like a few hours, not days . Noctis had to assume it was all his time studying in the various libraries. He’d had to flip through many books to find one that worked. The grimoire was tucked away safely in his Armiger—a private storage space in between the dimensions. No one would ever find it there.

“What can I say, I’m a workaholic.” Noctis attempted to slide on by them though Gladio’s hand on his shoulder stopped him.

“Actually, we were gonna say we were concerned."

“Huh? About what?”

Ignis peered to the side. “Saint Lunafreya met with us in your absence and stated that you had been asking about Adagium.”

The dominion feigned a bored expression. “So? Everyone’s talking about it.”

“It is not that, but the fact you seem to be a little obsessed with it.”

“We had someone check up on you,” Gladio said. “They saw you rummaging through a load of human libraries on demons.”

Noctis felt his temper flare. “What the hell, guys! Why’d you go and do that? Maybe I’m just interested in this weird all-powerful source we’ve been warned about but not given any actual information on! Besides, maybe everything isn’t as what it seems, anyway.” He stormed past them in a huff, and Gladio did not try to physically stop him yet he could definitely hear them on hot on his heels. Would they ever end up leaving him alone? First it was his ascension, and now Adagium.

Ardyn’s words lingered in his head. He had told him to think for himself. Noctis wasn’t bad at that, but independent thought was widely discouraged amongst angels. They worked as a hive mind—or at least, they enforced it.

The citadel was suspiciously empty when Noctis got inside. The hallways echoed with his footsteps. He frowned, glancing around in search of his guardian. Regis was almost always here.

“Noct, we just wanna warn you,” he heard Gladio shout out.

“Don’t care,” he snapped back.

“Noctis, this is serious.” Ignis came sliding in beside him, beige wings ruffled. “We’re not the only ones that have been watching you. The seraphim—Somnus—has also been keeping an eye. We don’t know why, but we wanted to tell you to perhaps keep in line lest he—”

“Lest he do what, hm?”

The quartet whirled around to see Somnus hovering over Regis’ throne, seemingly bored. He leaned against it casually. He had one leg kicked over the other, the tip of his sandal tapping against the tiled floor. His wings were hidden although one didn’t need to see them to know that he was upset.

Ignis and Prompto immediately sank to their knees, Gladio following shortly afterwards. Noctis remained standing.

“I do not condone speaking of others, especially if it is about myself,” Somnus drawled as he made his way before them. He did not stop until he was mere feet away from Noctis.

All the dominion could think about was what Ardyn had said. How Somnus had set him up and cast him out in order to get his place as top dog. Glaring into the seraph’s eyes, he spotted hints of anger that sullied his perfect face. He looked at each of them, but his eyes narrowed into blue slits when they landed lastly on Noctis.

“Noctis,” he started, voice low. “I am aware of your recent activities. I know you have met with the Accursed.”

Prompto gasped from somewhere behind him. Noctis kept his gaze steady.

“It was an accident.”

Somnus scoffed. “You did not ‘accidentally’ summon the Devil. You do know that lying is a crime punishable by a higher ranked angel?”

His stance suddenly became dangerous. The other three scrambled back as Somnus raised his six wings, looming over Noctis like a draped curtain. He put his hand on his shoulder. It felt good, but there was a crushing tightness within his grip that chilled his heart. Noctis swallowed the lump in his throat and tried his best to look at the seraph in the eye, except he was too powerful. The very sight of it made him flinch away.

“I’m sorry to have to do this, dear Noctis, but your actions have been unacceptable. You will receive discipline.”

Chapter Text

“Repeat from the beginning.”

Noctis sat in a chair of diamond, his wrists and ankles pinned down so that he could not move. All he could do was thrash his head in pain as the Crown of Subjugation tortured him, digging into his scalp with every twist of the screws that Somnus made.

He didn’t know how he’d ended up in such a situation. After Somnus had forced his friends to leave, he had taken Noctis to a part of Heaven he did not recognise and at first, had said nothing. The seraph had merely stood there. Back turned, pose stiff. His wings were visible, neatly folded behind him in enormous black curtains. They were truly magnificent, yet all Noctis felt was a sense of dread. As Somnus stood there, he just reminded Noctis of a demon due to the way his halo glowed darkly.

The room he was trapped in was small. There was a skylight above so that Somnus’ features were highlighted in a harsh white. In any other situation, he might have been beautiful.

He raised his chin. “Glory.”

Wincing, Noctis tried to speak through the blood coating his teeth. “ ADGMACH .”

Somnus nodded, slowly beginning to circle him. He kept his eyes in front of him, hands clasped behind his back, but the burning aura of his existence was overbearing.

“Begotten.”

GEDOTBAR .”

A cruel ritual that he was forced to perform, Noctis panted where he sat. The crown still dug into him, although the pain had lessened since earlier, his tongue getting used to forming the ancient holy words.

The language of angels was not necessarily a language they used to speak. Noctis believed it was a mixture of the Astrals’ tongue and strings of magickal spells. It did not form exactly how one would think a language would be. It could not be spoken to communicate. Of course, the words that Noctis coughed out meant what Somnus had asked him to translate, but it hurt. His brain racked as he struggled to recall such a language that had been seared into his ribcage at birth. 

The contraption he wore merely acted as a torture device. A black metal crown, lodged onto his head and bolted in place. Adorning it were a series of nails that Somnus would screw and unscrew depending on his answers. An answer wrong, and a bolt would thrust into his skull painfully. An answer right, and he would remove one. By now, Noctis was hunched over with four nails sending rivers of blood cascading down his forehead. It had started off worse. He was sure, at one point, he had every single nail driven in, causing him to scream, howl and beg for release.

Somnus gazed upon him with hard eyes. His punishment seemed to be far from over.

“Truth,” he murmured, watching him sternly.

Noctis thought for a moment. It was difficult to function with four nails in him, though he somehow got some sort of word floating towards the front of his mind.

HO… HOTH .”

Was that correct? By the gods, he hoped so.

The seraph frowned. He reached forwards, taking hold of a nail that had only just been recently removed, and drove it back in. Noctis screamed.

“Incorrect. Try again.”

Slumping in agony, Noctis let out a whimper. The right word was ‘hoath’. How long was this going to last? He had been in here for what felt like hours, and with every waking moment he felt himself lose his grip on his consciousness. 

It went on and on and on .

By the time Somnus got to his last question, Noctis was on the verge of passing out. He panted and heaved, blind from the amount of blood dripping over his eyelids. His hair was greasy and damp from it all. He just wanted to rest.

Somnus leaned in, face so close their noses almost touched. And, for a moment, he could have sworn he saw a hint of a smile gracing the angel’s lips.

Fear .”

Noctis whimpered. “ HOXMARCH .”

He gasped in relief at the feeling of the crown loosening. Somnus unscrewed the last nail before removing the evil piece of trash from his head. He threw it aside carelessly, ignoring the clatter it made as it hit the ground. Good. Noctis hoped he never had to see the damn thing again. It then disappeared, probably into Somnus’ armiger. Did he regularly torture angels like that? Noctis hesitantly looked up at him after wiping his face, afraid to see the seraph’s eyes cold and uncaring. He looked so different to what he had when he had first met him. Still very comely, but the aloofness tainted his beauty.

Grabbing his chin in a bruising grip (much like Ardyn had done only with more force), Somnus forced Noctis to make eye contact. It burned his very soul.

“I do this so that you are reminded of what you are,” he said. “When speaking the angelic hymns, you are closer to the Astrals and to the heavens than ever before. Painful as it is, you are fortunate to experience this.”

What a joke. Noctis’ head hung as he was released. His brain pulsed as it slowly healed the wounds inserted into it, sending shock waves throughout his body. His fingers twitched.

Somnus then teleported both of them out of the room seeing as Noctis was unable to fly, and back into the garden. Noctis collapsed once they arrived and tugged at the grass in relief. The air was so fresh, the sky was a plethora of purples and blues, it was so peaceful, so peaceful

“Be on your way,” Somnus snapped suddenly. “Continue with your duties, and do not attempt to speak to Adagium a second time. He will destroy you, Noctis.”

For some reason, Noctis felt the same way about him. 

The seraph unfurled his wings and flew away. Sitting there for a long time, Noctis waited for his head to stop bleeding and for the pain to finally ebb away. The good thing about being an angel was that healing did not take long. If he were human, then having nails dug into his skull like that would have killed him instantly. It was… unpleasant to think about.

Upon arriving back at Insomnia, he decided to avoid the citadel and his guardian for the time being and made towards the ocean edge. While Insomnia was surrounded by rolling hills, there were open waters not too far away. Noctis spent his early years in the ocean almost entirely. Nothing compared to the sights that water hid within its expanse volume—not even flying. Both had their benefits, but Noctis felt drawn to the gentle lapping of waves at his feet and the salt minerals on his skin. Not to mention he was particularly fond of sealife. 

He sat on a rock, feet bare and dipped just under the water’s surface. At first, he was tempted to fish, though Regis always told him to leave the sealife alone. Thus he refrained.

The calmness of the scene gently washed away the pain. Noctis sighed. He allowed his wings to spread out, stretching out his primary flight feathers as the ocean spray dampened them. He had no desire to fly after all that, but it was nice to get some air between his feathers. They were nowhere near as big as Somnus’ or Regis’, or even Ardyn’s mutated ones, yet Noctis felt quite proud of them. When he was first born, he spent many hours counting each individual star embedded into his plumage. He still remembered the number. There was 182. 

Despite his body feeling better, his mind continued to race with questions. 

Somnus had tortured him. Actually tortured him. And for what? He had a conversation with Adagium? He had returned unharmed, and had not shared any valuable information, so what was the issue? Was Somnus afraid he would become corrupted? Noctis did have to admit he felt an odd pull when Adagium—Ardyn—had hovered nearby. Not necessarily anything strong or overbearing, but it was alluring. Magnetic.

He wanted more. Ardyn held knowledge far beyond his understanding, and both of them knew it. Whatever Somnus had tried to engrave into him had failed. Despite how his ribs burned, etchings of the angelic tongue carved into them for eternity, all Noctis could think about was returning to the astral and seeing that being again. He thought ‘demon’, for a moment, then recalled that Ardyn was beyond that. Or rather, in between demons and them.

Such a mystery! And what did his curious little mind do when it wanted to know things?

It pursued that feeling.

Noctis stood. Wings outstretched, he took a running leap and dove into the ocean. 

There were many exits that could be used. While the gates beyond Insomnia were the main way in and out of this section of Heaven, Noctis had practice in sneaking out. He was not called Regis’ rebellious ‘son’ for nothing. While admiring the magnificent sealife around him, shimmering fish and dolphins alike, he assumed a mist form and descending to the ocean floor. Now, where was it?

When Noctis caught sight of a chasm, his eyes lit up. There it was. A one way ticket to the astral. It was not the most comfortable of portals, though it did the job. The only problem was that he would have to come back via the main gates.

Bracing himself, Noctis curled his wings around his body as the crevice dragged him inside. There was some turbulence—mostly consisting of being knocked around, but Noctis quickly found himself in the air. He almost plummeted to the earth in surprise. The dominion forced his wings out and caught the wind just as he was about to make a particularly nasty crash onto the rocky surface. Sharp rocks thrusted upwards and the sky was dark. He had no idea where he was, but this clearly wasn’t a pleasant area.

It was deserted, however. Noctis had initially expected a skinwalker or two, yet all that was present was the howling of the wind and the rustle of deceased trees. It somewhat reminded him of the scene he had conjured with Ardyn’s invocation keys.

Should he… attempt that again?

Noctis felt conflicted. He desperately wanted to see the nephilim once more. For what reason, he wasn’t entirely sure, but there was a burning longing inside his chest. A longing for knowledge, power or even the pursuit of academic interest, he did not know. All he did know, was that Ardyn had much more to tell him. Not to mention he had said Somnus was a liar. Noctis had been skeptical at the time, but now… he had never felt so confused. He had hurt him. Somnus had dragged out that gruesome punishment for as long as possible, forcing Noctis to recite words that evaded him. 

Was this an excuse to seek pity? Noctis shook his head. Surely, if he just wanted some sympathy for his plight, he would go to one of his friends. So why was he here? Why was he standing alone in the astral in a land he didn’t know, hoping to see Ardyn again?

Yes, he was hoping to see him. He had the book and was perfectly capable of using the keys again, though Noctis just wanted him to be there.

Perhaps the invocation keys made him uncomfortable. The atmosphere had been very oppressive, after all. The smell of crackling lightning and dead foliage still lingered in his mind.

He ended up slumping down to rest on the rocks. Sulking, Noctis leaned his face against his closed fist and stared into the distance.

“My, such an ugly expression for such a pretty angel.”

Noctis flew forwards in shock. He scrambled onto his hands and knees, wings covering him and flapping in a panic. He wiped the sulk from his face in favour of a snarl, his best attempt at intimidating whatever creature had decided to bother him. If it was a skinwalker, then he would be sure to end it.

“Whatever are you doing out here, little sparrow?” Ardyn purred softly, leaning against the base of the nearby cliff. Noctis’ mouth dropped open into a gasp.

“You!” he ended up spluttering.

Ardyn chuckled and adjusted his hat. “Don’t act so surprised to see me. You were practically screaming my name in your mind.”

... Had he? Noctis frowned as he got to his feet. He left his wings out, just in case Ardyn tried something. He did not summon his sword, however. Strange, because he didn’t realise he was repeating Ardyn’s name in his head. He wasn’t even sure he believed him, but how in the world had Ardyn found him? The astral realm was infinite!

The nephilim had a smug grin on his regrettably attractive face. It was a shame he decided to hide much of it with that fedora. 

“Oh,” Noctis said. His cheeks flushed red. “I, uh, didn’t mean…”

“Of course you didn’t. Fear not, for I find myself in your company a second time, little sparrow. Heaven not interesting enough for you?”

Should he tell him? That was partially the truth, after all. Noctis stared at Ardyn for a long time. He took in sight of the tattered ends of his coat, the brightness of the orange scarf, the way his hair contrasted with such an outfit choice. He was all too much to look at. Noctis didn’t know if that was in a bad or good way, but describing Ardyn as ‘too much’ seemed fitting.

He decided to answer. “I guess, actually.”

Ardyn raised one eyebrow. “Is that so?”

“Well, uh,” Noctis rubbed the back of his neck. Why was he so warm? “I… saw Somnus again.”

Anger flashed in Ardyn’s eyes. He didn’t say anything. 

“He… he knows I spoke to you last time.”

In a flurry of black and red, Ardyn suddenly lunged towards Noctis. The dominion hardly had time to gasp as he felt Ardyn’s fingers clamp around his throat, squeezing with no mercy. Hands shot out to pry them off, though it was no use. He was dubbed the Accursed for a reason. Noctis choked and tilted his head back as he felt his entire body go limp. Whatever Ardyn was doing, he was completely paralysed.

Flashes of his recent memories flickered behind his eyelids. It played like a film roll. There was their last meeting, and then returning to Heaven only to find Somnus waiting. Noctis let out a cry as he was forced to recall being tortured by the Crown of Subjugation in that ghastly room. Why was he seeing this? What was Ardyn doing to him?! In fact, if he didn’t know any better, he would say Ardyn was laughing. A horrible, evil laugh that shook him to his core and rattled his bones.

Noctis was only released when the span of his memories played out until the present time. He fell forwards as Ardyn let him go, clutching at his bruised throat. He coughed.

“Oh, how intriguing,” Ardyn hummed. His eyes slid shut and a warped smile tugged at his lips. “Somnus tortured you, did he?”

“What… what did you…”

Ardyn laughed again. “What a surprise! As lowly as he is, I never expected him to outright harm a fellow angel like that! He was always so discreet in his actions. Oh, Noctis you are a marvel . I wonder what you’ve done to make him so interested in you.”

“What are you talking about?” Noctis growled, suddenly angry.

“Oh, don’t mind me. I am but an old man making his observations.”

“That wasn’t observations,” Noctis shakily stood, “you… you looked at my memories! How—”

Whirling around, Ardyn pulled a horrific sneer that made Noctis stop speaking mid-sentence. His eyes glowed amber, a black ooze sliding from the sockets. The demonic scourge lay thick within him. Noctis could smell the corruption from where he stood, a sickening scent of sulphur and burning rubber. It was everywhere—on Ardyn’s hair, pouring from his mouth, sliding out from his sleeves. And, as fast as it had appeared, it vanished.

He did not seem bothered. Ardyn twirled a hand and sauntered away a few feet. “One of the many benefits of the demonic curse. It is how I learned of you, after all.”

Noctis froze. “Learned of me?”

“Oh yes.” That grin returned. “Apprentice of Regis, reigning throne of Lucis. You are approximately 20,000 years old, barely a toddler, and you spend your time demon hunting with your adorable trio of friends. Most interestingly, you were created in Somnus’ image .”

So he had found that part of his mind, too. Noctis scowled as Ardyn flaunted his newfound memories. He felt invaded, having every corner of his head probed into by this creature of Hell. Had Ardyn learned everything? How allured he had felt by his presence? The way he craved the knowledge he possessed?

Ardyn’s expression told him his answer.

“You really are a curious being, Noct .”

“Why do you care about me? I’m not Somnus, even if I do look like him. Even though you saw him torture me, why should I believe you over him?”

Lip curled into a snarl, Ardyn huffed. “You may not be him, but you are certainly linked. You are calling me untruthful, little sparrow? Because let me assure you, I am older than you can comprehend—older than Somnus—and hold more knowledge of the truth than you can fit inside your tiny mind. I witnessed the birth of the very universe , and yet, here you are, blissfully ignorant of how the world works. You believe the Astrals are true gods? That they are the supreme rulers of all? Utter nonsense at its core.”

The way Ardyn spouted in his strange language made Noctis back down a tad. The nephilim waved his arms in grandiose, theatrical gestures, eyes not focusing on one place too long. He held a far-away cast over his face. It appeared as if he was recalling ancient visions of the past, yet that was the thing. Noctis could not see what he saw. Ardyn was right, in many ways. Noctis was a very young angel. He had been born long after society in Heaven had materialised and had not met any of the Astrals even once. He hung his head in embarrassment. Perhaps he was ignorant.

It was all so confusing. Somnus said one thing, while Ardyn said another. Who was he to believe? While Somnus was a seraph, the highest ranked of all angels, he had hurt him. Ardyn was a fallen being, a creature doomed to suffer the plague of demons, but he had not hurt him like Somnus had (with the exception of rifling through his memories). 

“Then tell me.”

Ardyn stopped in his tracks. He swivelled his head back around. “Pardon?”

Truthfully, Noctis couldn’t believe he’d just straight up asked. Except that feeling within him—it was a curiosity that desperately needed to be sated.

He pursed his lips. “If you know so much about the truth, then tell me. I want to know.”

“You said it yourself. Why should you believe me over him?”

“You can prove it to me if you’re so certain.”

Smiling in amusement, Ardyn turned to face him fully. He placed a finger to his chin in thought. “Aren’t you the little inquisitor?”

They stared at each other, gold eyes meeting blue. Noctis continued to hold the determined frown, trying to probe Ardyn’s expression for any sign of betrayal to his words. Demons were liars at heart. Then again, as he said to himself before, they were capable of speaking facts. Ardyn was no proper demon, however. Did that make him more prone to lies or to truth? 

Eventually, Ardyn dropped his gaze and chuckled. A long, low chuckle that made Noctis’ eyes widen.

“Very well. Come with me.”

“What?”

Ardyn outstretched a gloved hand. “Come with me, and I will show you wonders that you never knew existed—granted to the ones who are not blinded by the Astrals’ light.”

The dominion faltered. “Where to?”

“Not to Hell, if that is what you’re afraid of. Come now, sparrow. Are you more afraid of where I will lead you or being shrouded in obscurity for evermore?”

His grin was unreadable. Noctis stayed rooted in place, eyes burning into the hand that extended in offerance. What should he do? He wanted to know more , wanted to know what his guardian and the others refused to tell him, but… this was the Accursed. The so-called Devil himself. The ruler of the underworld, the bane of the universe. And yet, while blunt and satirical, he had offered Noctis more answers than anyone else.

So he took his hand.

Chapter Text

“On the physical realm, crystals have far more value than simply being decorative stones. Look here; if I align these particular seven in a certain order, I have thus created the human chakra.”

“And what is the human chakra?”

“Chakras can be compared to invisible wheels of energy that attain balance. We do not have them as spiritual beings, though humans have their own unique internal system that keeps them ticking. Their chakras are but a mere cog in their works. Fascinating, is it not?”

Noctis had to agree. He and Ardyn sat facing each other, tucked away deep inside a dense forest. Thanks to the leaves and foliages distorting their energy waves, it made it much harder for Noctis in particular to be traceable. As a dominion, he was vulnerable to anything malefic that seeked his higher vibrations. It was why angels rarely ventured down into the astral unless they had to. It was a cesspool of demons and soul-sucking parasites that would do anything to get their hands on an angel. However, with Ardyn and the trees enveloping them like an embrace, Noctis felt safe.

Why he felt safe with this being was beyond him. He had half expected Ardyn to sap his strength once they were in this private location, but he had merely sat him down and began educating him on the topics of the universe.

There were hundreds. Ranging from Earth’s species to galaxies Noctis had yet to visit, he never ceased to be entertained by Ardyn’s teaching. How was he so knowledgeable when he had been imprisoned for most of his existence? Then again, he did have the ability to absorb memories. That was probably why.

“Yeah,” Noctis breathed. Before them were a set of seven crystals. They were commonly found rocks. Noctis never found much of an interest in them seeing as he saw them as ore, though Ardyn begged to differ.

Who knew they could contain so much power?

Ardyn went through each one with a brief description. Red jasper, carnelian, citrine, aventurine, sodalite, amethyst and quartz. Each held their own ability in healing certain ailments in the human body. While they were useless to them , to humans, they were far more valuable than they even knew. Noctis hummed as he held the clear quartz between his fingers. If he were a mortal, then this would be his crown chakra.

He held it up to the light. He was meant to attain a crown upon his ascension. The elder dominions sported tiaras and circlets of light—as he would one day. Tthe angel blew out a sigh at the thought. Such a crown would only weigh him down.

“Something on your mind?” Ardyn’s voice cut through his thoughts like a knife.

Noctis glanced up. “Nothing. Well, I know it’s dumb, but I was thinking about my ascension.”

The Accursed nodded knowingly. “Ah, of course. The inevitable trial angels of the higher ranks must go through for their true power. Surely you are not far away at this point?”

“No. Not long now.” Raven hair falling over his face, Noctis placed the quartz back down on the floor. 

It could be compared very similarly to a knighting ceremony like the medieval humans would have. Once deemed mature enough, a seraph would test Noctis’ potential as a dominion. If he were to pass, then his true power would be unleashed. What that trail involved exactly was unknown. Even if another angel were to tell him, the tests always differed. All he had been told is that it was drawing near. Above all else, Noctis hoped it would be Luna who tested him. He knew she would be fair.

“Worried?” 

Ardyn had a smirk on his face. Noctis was unsure if it was meant to come across as unkind or as a jesting manner. He merely shrugged. An action unbecoming of an angel, yet nobody was here to judge him. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

The Accursed let out a condescending scoff. “Does it matter? It proves nothing in the end. You will never cease to be a servant of the astrals.” His lips twisted into a sneer. “Stupid little soldier.”

Scowling, Noctis folded his arms. They had not been speaking long, but he had never known such violent mood swings. One moment Ardyn was seemingly nice, and the other he was making snide remarks as that. 

Ardyn caught him before he could argue. 

“Don’t look so offended. Why, I had to explain to you how crystals worked when even some higher-attuned humans know that. But,” he stood up and made a broad sweep with both arms, gesturing outwards, “I consider myself a merciful being, and I do hate to see a bright mind go to waste. Thus, you may ask me as many questions as you like.”

“Will you just make fun of me again?” Noctis bit out sharply.

“For the moment, no.”

He remained still, a sweet smile on his face and his hands clasped together. He had his head tilted back so his fedora was no longer hiding his eyes. They burned a fierce amber. 

Noctis got to his feet and sat himself down on a fallen log. It was caked in moss, feeling rough under his palms. Whenever he was down in the astral he always took the time to feel around him. Textures in Heaven were often very soft. Soft or a sleek glass, and while that was nice, it became dreadfully dull. The dominion preferred the feeling of sharp grass prickling his skin or the choppy surface of wood. In a strange way, he could compare these various textures to the new beings in his life. Somnus was the very personification of shining glass and diamond. Beautiful, though hard and cold. Ardyn draped himself in dark folds that looked scratchy and worn. Perhaps unsightly to some, but that was exactly the kind of material that Noctis loved.

Back to reality—Ardyn wanted him to ask questions? That was quite a vague request. The amount of questions in the universe would always be limitless. He frowned and rested his chin on his fist.

“What kind of questions can I ask?”

“Anything you like.”

Alright, then. Noctis pursed his lips against his hand and thought. What did he want to know? For a long time, he had considered himself content in his life. He had one of the highest seats in the spiritual hierarchy, after all. He had it so much better than humans, or demons, or even parasitic vermin such as incubi and skinwalkers. He surely had a better life than Ardyn. Then again, he supposed that was why Ardyn taunted him so. He might be in the less favourable situation, but he knew so much .

He only came up with a question after several more minutes of pondering. 

“Okay, uh, how old are you?”

Ardyn laughed heartily. Noctis suddenly felt embarrassed. It was a silly thing to ask. It had popped into his head since Ardyn had been so angry before, shouting about being older than Somnus.

“As old as time. I have had the pleasure of seeing the Hydrean soak the Earth with her waters and the Draconian breathe law into the very fabric of space. To be more specific, you could say I am a little older than the planet of the humans.”

Maybe the answer wasn’t necessary. In technical terms, time didn’t exist in Heaven. It was only measurable in the physical realm. Yes, to a human, Noctis was around 20 millennia years old, and Ardyn could be over four billion. Astronomical numbers to a mortal. In the end, he supposed it didn’t matter.

A new question then sprung to mind. “What kind of angel were you?”

The nephilim seemed surprised before speaking. “...I was a seraph.”

No wonder. No other rank would be suitable to be so close to Somnus. That also explained how he was a healer. Now, all angels were capable of basic healing, but only the seraphim could cure the scourge of the demons. Why would Somnus cast him out for doing his job?

“Did you… know the Astrals?”

“I have met them, yes,” Ardyn replied. “I was appointed under Bahamut, the Draconian.”

Noctis’ eyebrows raised. “What were they like?”

“Gruff.” His answer was blunt. Ardyn rolled his eyes at the memory. “The majority are cruel beings. Bahamut and Ifrit especially saw the Earth as an experiment. I suppose, at the very beginning, they could be perceived as decent… but who knows? I theorise that boredom finally caught up to them. Life is no fun without a challenge, after all, and that is why they choose not to intervene in evilness.”

That was a disappointing revelation. Ardyn had met all six Astrals and all he had to say was that they were unkind? Noctis was aware they were not always gentle, though he had been told they were at least fair .

He didn’t know. He’d never even seen them.

“Not the answer you were hoping for?” Ardyn said with a gleam in his eye.

“Not really. Always imagined they were more dignified than that, if that’s the case.”

“Oh, but it is. I may have been locked away for a very long time, though I know what those pesky Astrals have been up to. Why, they treat their own creations like mere toys. They are not fit to rule as gods.”

“You said they weren’t the true rulers,” said Noctis. When Ardyn paused, he continued to explain further. “That, you know, it was all nonsense. You’re saying there’s more gods?”

“There are more planets and galaxies than just the solar system you reside in now, are there not?”

That was true enough. Noctis had travelled quite far from Earth, but he’d never actually been anywhere that had caught his eye. Space was very empty. Dark and cold; drifting aimlessly through its harsh vacuum wasn’t enjoyable. Sure, some stars were spectacular up close—Betelguese or Sirius, for example. Their sapphire embers should be decorating the entire skies rather than the gaseous orb they had been compressed into.

If it had not been the Astrals that had created everything, then who was responsible? 

Ardyn seemed to read his mind. He sighed and turned his gaze to the left. “I personally have not met any other so-called gods. You see, a ‘god’ is a dubious term. What is a god? A being of immense power? If that was the case, why shouldn’t angels be referred to as gods? Or perhaps, a god is a being that desires to be worshipped. Half of the human race would be deemed as gods.” He stopped to laugh dryly. “No, the Astrals are simply creatures of great omnipotence who claimed the word ‘god’ for themselves. Yes, they helped decorate the Earth and enrich it with life, but they are children of the universe like the rest of us. What—or rather, who— created the universe itself is the only thing worthy of being called God .”

Noctis decided to challenge his rambling theory. “And how do you know there are more gods? You said you’d never met any.”

“Neither have you.”

The response was sharp and jarring. Noctis almost stumbled over in shock. Ardyn looked smug.

“You may dismiss it all as a conspiracy, little sparrow. What you believe to be a god is up to you, though know this: the Astrals granted you a halo, not as an act of kindness, of as an act of domination.”

He sauntered over at a slow pace. Noctis froze as he approached, but held still as he felt Ardyn press his index and middle fingers to each temple as if he was holding his head. His thumbs drifted forward to touch the skin under his mess of black locks. Ardyn’s condescendence had disappeared in favour of an expression of curiosity and intrigue. The corner of his lip had turned up ever so slightly. The dominion did his best to keep his face neutral. No matter how Ardyn made him feel, dropping his guard completely was a bad move.

“What is a halo, Noct?”

“A ring of light,” he replied stiffly. He knew it was a rhetorical question, although answered nevertheless. “It signifies our status as angels.”

Well, it wasn’t literally a ring, but it was best described as such. A halo acted as their personal aura. An angel’s soul. If he were to stand against a white wall, one would see a gentle blue glow around Noctis’ form. Ardyn had one too, even if it was as black as coal.

“Yes, yet that is why you struggle to see the truth. Your halo blinds you. Envision it as a literal ring of light, clamped over your eyes. You wouldn’t be able to see past its brilliance.” Noctis’ eyes fluttered shut as Ardyn’s touch became gentle. He tried not to move, trapping the breath in his lungs when he felt Ardyn move his hands to cup his cheeks and then slide down to his neck. His voice was a mere murmur at this point. “Mine is shattered. It snapped in half and grew like horns atop my head. Yet, as ugly as I am, I can see . I can see that there is far more to the world than the Astrals and their laws. I can see that you can make whatever life you want for yourself, for fate and destiny do not truly exist. I can see, Noctis, and seeing is wonderful .”

His lips were so close that Noctis felt his breath on his face. Why wasn’t he opening his eyes? Ardyn could attempt to sap his memories again, though for some reason, Noctis felt no danger. His eyelashes twitched but he did not step away.

Just when he thought Ardyn was going to come even closer, a shout snapped him from his trance and he gasped.

“Noctis!”

The dominion whipped his wings over him in a flurry of black feathers in the attempt to conceal himself. He watched from the small gap between them as Ardyn glanced up idly. Noctis raised them so Ardyn was hidden more than himself.

He’d know that voice anywhere. It was Prompto, desperately calling out for him. 

“Get out of here before he finds you,” Noctis hissed.

“Friend of yours?” Ardyn said. He was smirking.

“I’m serious!” he snapped. “If someone catches you, then I don’t know what they’ll do! Just go !”

Ardyn seemed to be in no hurry. Noctis was forced to lower his wings as he felt the presence of the angel come closer. He couldn’t push Ardyn out of sight. Unless he willingly disappeared, they’d see him as plain as day.

“You care about me that much, sparrow? I am humbled, truly.”

A furious blush of embarrassment dusted Noctis’ cheeks. “Get over yourself. I just don’t want to get in trouble.”

“Oh, that can’t be the only reason,” Ardyn drawled with a twirl of the hand. He eventually sighed and snatched up Noctis’ hand. “Very well. I shall depart for the time being. I assume I’ll be seeing you down here again soon.”

“Yeah, yeah, sure , whatever.”

Noctis’ blush deepened into crimson as Ardyn pressed his lips to his knuckles. He said no more afterwards, vanishing in a wisp of smoke. Prompto tumbled into the area seconds afterwards, wings spread and flapping like a frantic seagull. He landed with a skidding halt onto the forest floor. Noctis resisted the urge to laugh at the angel trying to get twigs out of his hair and feathers. Normally he made pretty decent landings, so he had to be in some sort of hurry.

“Oh, thank the Six,” Prompto wheezed. After he had rid himself of the last stick, he ran forwards and grabbed Noctis by the shoulders. “Dude, where the hell have you been?”

“Huh?” Noctis said dumbly.

Prompto glared at him with angry blue eyes. “What do you mean, ‘huh’? You’ve been gone for ages! I got worried because Somnus took you somewhere, and then you didn’t come back. Are you okay?”

Oh, right. He’d almost forgotten about Somnus’ punishment. Noctis shuddered at the thought. How long ago had that been? While Ardyn had done a good job of distracting him, it didn’t feel like more than several hours.

“Yeah, I’m fine, Prom. No biggie.”

“That’s not why I came. Look, you’ve gotta come back to Heaven, your guardian’s beyond pissed—”

“Hold on, my guardian ?”

It was too late. An earth-shattering tremor threw the young angels off their feet. Such an earthquake would have collapsed an entire city in the physical world, and Prompto yelled as the trees caved in around them. They were both forced to raise their wings and use them as temporary shelters lest they be pinned by falling debris.

A force as big as that could only been one thing. An angel of the first sphere was coming, and he was not happy. Regis.

The throne appeared in a burst of brilliant light. Noctis dared not unfurl his wings lest their sear his eyes right out of his skull. The light was strong and hot like a dwarf star. In fear for his friend’s safety, he crawled across the ground and then shielded Prompto under one wing. The lesser angel had pressed himself as close to the floor as possible, whimpering under the immense power. The edges of his golden feathers were beginning to burn away. Noctis grit his teeth. Did his guardian really have to announce himself in such a manner?

Regis, at first only appearing as overlapping wheels of a thousand eyes, took his time in assuming his humanoid form. His wings remained in sight, however. 

“Why’d you go and do that?” Noctis immediately snapped. While Regis held a face of thunder, he had very nearly injured Prompto. “You could have hurt him!”

Be silent! ” Regis roared. His voice boomed so loudly that thunder clapped and the trees bent in a concave pattern. Noctis shrank back. “Do not speak to me like that, Noctis! First you are issued a punishment by a seraph, and next you run off and hide? Do you have any idea how much this will impact your ascension?!”

Noctis felt very small. He had fallen backwards upon hearing his guardian’s cries of rage, and he curled himself into his wings. He trembled in fear.

“What did you want me to do?”

“You are to come back to the citadel next time you are in such trouble! What made you think it was wise to frolic in the astral realm when there is work to be done? How do we know that you are not interacting with demons?”

His heart leapt into his throat. He just had to hope they couldn’t sense Ardyn’s presence lingering in the air. Thankfully, it seemed Regis was too angry to notice. He raised a hand, and for a moment Noctis thought he would strike him, but he directed his rage at a nearby tree. It burst into flames the second he looked at it.

“Stay in Insomnia unless I tell you otherwise. Your studies will be enforced ever harder upon you, Noctis. I will not have you fail your ascension because of your laziness.”

Not having much of a choice, Noctis was hoisted to his feet and then dragged into the air. Regis kept him close like a gravitational pull, and Prompto drifted behind carefully, flashing his friend looks of pity. Noctis pouted. He’d really gone and fucked up by pissing Regis off, but he was just glad that they hadn’t seen Ardyn. If they had, it would be all over them both. Noctis would be locked up in the damn citadel for the next thousand years and who knew what they would do to Ardyn.

Why was he so happy about that? Why did he care so much, as Ardyn had jokingly asked? Even as Regis berated him half to death once they arrived home, all Noctis could think about was their encounter. The things he learned, the things he had pondered at the back of his mind. Did Regis knew the properties of amethyst like he did? Did he know how rocks could heal invisible wounds? Had he witnessed the fabrication of the Earth like Ardyn had, or was it all second hand knowledge?

His private quarters felt very lonely. Noctis spent his time pacing and thinking about what Ardyn had told him. What he had said about crystals and god and the universe. What a halo was. What ‘god’ was. It was all so mysterious and beyond his reach, and that was why Noctis wanted to go back.

He smirked to himself. Ignoring the books he had been given to study, Noctis gazed out of the stained glass windows. Maybe Ardyn was right. Maybe his ascension was not worth all of the effort everyone wanted him to put into it. The Astrals never revealed themselves, anyway. No one besides the seraphim had even talked to them! Alright, sure, he couldn’t sneak out again right away, but they wouldn’t keep him trapped here. Ascension be damned. He wanted to learn more. He wanted to find out if Ardyn was right, if there really were more gods out there.

Noctis was caught up in his daydreaming before a flash of movement caught his eye. He craned his head over to see better.

It was a small troop of angels. Not just any type of angel, either. A group of armoured archangels marched towards Heaven’s gates, spears in hand and shields in the other. At the front, Somnus.

No, no. They couldn’t be about to do what he thought they were. Without thinking, Noctis phased through the window and made a beeline through the air for them. It seemed Somnus was busy talking to one of the guards, as he idly glanced over to see Noctis barrelling towards him.

“Noctis?” he muttered.

“Wait, wait!” Noctis called out, panting. “Where are you going?”

Somnus raised his chin. “Is that any way to address a seraph?”

Noctis couldn’t care less. “Are you going after Ard—I mean, Adagium?”

His vocal error did not go unnoticed. At the slip up of Ardyn’s real name, he sneered. “Perhaps. Why, do you not want us to?”

Oh, dear. Noctis stood there awkwardly, swallowing under the gazes of all the archangels Somnus had brought out. Some were wearing helmets that covered their faces, others wore visors to hide their burning eyes lest they accidentally smite something they didn’t want to. How could he word what he wanted to? Obviously, Noctis did not wish for them to hunt Ardyn down, especially after knowing what he did, but he couldn’t very well say that.

The dominion ended up rubbing the back of his head. “I just… I want to hunt demons with you.”

It was the only thing he could think of. Maybe if he was present, he could throw them off Ardyn’s scent.

Somnus laughed, long and loud. He rested his palm on the tip of the sword attached to his hip. “You wish to travel with us, boy? Do not be so foolish. Dealing with such a creature is best left up to warriors with experience. Do return to the citadel lest your guardian become angrier with you, hm?”

He was gone before he could argue. Noctis mentally flipped Somnus the bird as he watched him dive into the clouds, archangel platoon close behind him. Whatever. If Ardyn didn’t want to be found, then he wouldn’t be. Somnus, as powerful as he was, could not enter Hell. If Ardyn laid low, he’d be fine.

Noctis just had to hope he was sensible enough to do so.


 

Ardyn stood by the water’s edge. He had travelled quite far from their initial resting place, coming to a halt by a black lake. Snow crusted its edges and ice hung from the surrounding trees. Ardyn had always liked chilly weather. It felt far more pleasant on his sensitive skin, a welcome feeling compared to the harsh heat of the sun.

He watched on as his breath clouded up in front of his face. He’d had a very long conversation with Noctis. He hadn’t intended for it to become so lengthy, but he was bored, and the angel intrigued him. What could he say?

It was amusing to watch the young dominion widen his eyes in response to all of the knowledge Ardyn spilled forth. It was basic nonsense, really. A teenage girl dabbling in Paganism knew more of crystals and magickal science than angels did. It was nice to see him learn, however. Ardyn did not like to see potential go to waste—even if that potential did belong to Somnus’ copy. He was pleasantly surprised to find that Noctis was nothing like him. Somnus had always masqueraded his way through life, feigning kindness before he’d turn and scoff when all eyes were averted. Noctis, on the other hand, was true to his word. A little blunt, though the honesty was admirable.

The nephilim chuckled to himself, throat scratchy due to the cold air. My, he was becoming soft in his senile age. Verstael would be laughing at him if he knew how he felt. Not that he ever would.

When an icicle behind him splintered, Ardyn did not need to turn. He already knew the cause. Not a sudden warmth, or a breeze. He lifted a hand to tilt his hat over his eyes.

He continued to avoid looking at the seraph as he gazed at the dark lake.

“Somnus.”

Chapter Text

When Ardyn turned to face his long lost brother, he wore a smirk on his face. Somnus was far less than surprised. He stood with his archangels, defensively poised with weapons drawn. A long broadsword lay at Somnus’ hip. 

Since Somnus had such a deep scowl on his face, Ardyn decided to tip his hat and gave them a flourishing bow. It was in character for him to do so at this point, but he never used to back when his wings were still in tact. In those days, he was almost as stuck up as his brother. For a moment, Ardyn cringed.

“Salute plurimam dicit. Si vales, bene est, ego valeo.”

The seraph didn’t respond. Ardyn placed a hand to his chin in feigned confusion. “Too formal? Very well—how’s tricks, dear brother?”

“Must you display yourself in such a manner, Ardyn?” Somnus finally said. 

However do you mean?”

Gesturing to his clothing, Somnus pulled a face. His lip had turned up into a sneer and his eyes narrowed condescendingly. Despite how anger bubbled up in his chest, Ardyn twirled around on the spot, on one foot. He primly swept his arms out and looked down at himself.

Yes, his clothing had been inspired by humans, yet times were changing. Even Noctis and his group of friends didn’t dress so modestly as Somnus did. Ardyn pulled his own sneer at his brother’s garbs. Seraphim truly never changed.

When he told him this, Somnus scoffed.

“I remain true to my origins. It is you, Adagium, that betrayed your nature and were cast out,” he said.

Again, seraphim never changed. Ardyn rolled his eyes. He’d been imagining this very encounter for eons, both subconsciously during his slumber and his more recent hours of awakening, but this wasn’t going as he’d pictured. He had always envisioned the great clashing of swords, metal sparks flying as he cut his brother down into pieces and took his title back. Perhaps he was being a tad overdramatic? Here they were, facing each other next to a lake in the astral. Ardyn suddenly found he had no energy to attack Somnus on sight. His words stung, boiling the wrath that had been simmering for millions of years, but he refrained.

After all, he had his secret little weapon he had become so fond of.

“That’s a tad harsh,” Ardyn pouted as he spoke, “considering you were the one that did this to me.”

“False!” an archangel cried, raising a spear. “We have come here on behalf of Saint Somnus’ orders, a being true to his word, to banish the creature that reeks of Hell.”

Chuckling, Ardyn merely pointed back to Somnus. “Ah, yes. That would be him.”

It was beyond ridiculous to see these parrots obey someone so dutifully. They never once stopped to question his orders—not even for a moment. Noctis was capable, wasn’t he? Truthfully, it was taking longer than Ardyn would have liked, but he supposed he could not blame him. Somnus had always been fantastic at manipulating. He would make a good demon.

“Enough.”

The devil in question raised a hand to quiet his small army. He turned back to Ardyn, a shadow cast over his face as he lifted his sword. The edge of the blade gleamed in the dull light. “I am not here to make trifle conversation. I have arrived to risk tainting my presence with your corruption because you have been philandering with one of our own.”

“Philandering?” Ardyn repeated. He threw back his head to cackle. “Surely, you jest.”

“Do not be coy with me. We have heard from the boy himself of your rendezvous. What are your plans, hm? To seduce him? To manipulate him? To use him as bait? Or as a weapon, perhaps? Whatever it is you wish to do, your plans will stop here, Adagium, lest we inflict you with a fate worse than death.”

Ardyn flippantly twirled his hand. “Been there, done that. Do be more original, Somnus. Why the upsetment? You can’t possibly hope to keep such a fetching young angel all to yourself.” 

There was no point in keeping up the facade of innocence. When Ardyn dropped the act, Somnus face twisted into fury. The smell of his aura was pungent—a sickly scent of rotting cherrywood and what Ardyn could only place as liquid nitrogen. While humans described it as an odourless substance, to someone like the Accursed, it was comparable to charcoal. He took a step back in disgust. Seraphim were considered to be the most beautiful of all the Astrals’ creations, though when angered, they quickly became the most hideous. Right at this moment, Somnus appeared worse than a demon.

Could the archangels see it? Judging from their neutral expressions, Ardyn supposed not. Oh, if only they had the luxury of removing their halos and witnessing how grotesque their ruler was in reality. Somnus’ pretty face, so similar to Noctis’, was a mere ceramic mask.

It was meant as a teasing gesture, but Somnus’ lip curled up in displeasure.

My. He’d certainly lost whatever sense of humour he once had over the years. 

The Accursed let out a gasp of surprise as Somnus suddenly lunged for him. His attacks were angry and messy, not focusing on his true skills in favour of just cutting him down. Ardyn only got out of the way at the last second. The tip of the glowing sword grazed his neck, drawing forth black ooze.

Ardyn choked as he stumbled backwards. The demonic scourge poured from the wound, seeping into his collar. He held a hand to it. 

“There was no need for that.”

“For what it’s worth,” Somnus said as he lurched to take another swing, “I do not care what happens to you. You can rot here or in Hell. The only thing that I politely request from you is to stay far away from Heaven and its angels.”

The archangels watched closely as the pair sparred. Perhaps ‘sparred’ was an understatement, but watching an angel and a demon (in other words) fight was daunting. It was nothing pretty. Ardyn slashed at the holy robes adorning Somnus and Somnus pierced his blade wherever he could manage. Ardyn had yet to draw a weapon. He was too busy using his teeth and fangs—just like a demon. The disease was dripping from his eyes once again.

“You always were the jealous type,” Ardyn spat.

Somnus smiled, blood between his teeth, as he then struck a blow directly through Ardyn’s back. Screaming, he was pinned to the floor, limbs thrashing and flailing as he tried to free himself. 

For the seraph, it was a wonderful sight. He took pleasure as his once-brother gurgled on his own blood and plague. It was seeping from his lips, bubbling and frothing and scorching the snow beneath it. If such a substance were to land on a mortal, it would surely kill them.

He placed his foot on Ardyn’s back and dug his sandal in. “Vile devil. You have nowhere to turn besides your place of eternal torment.”

Despite having a sword impaling his ribcage, Ardyn forced out a demented laugh and turned his eyes towards Somnus.

“Do what you must, Somnus. Just be sure that when I return, you will be the first to fall by my hand.”

He could utter no more words as the sword was lodged deeper. The hilt was now pressing into his back, blade buried in the ground. For extra measure, Somnus twisted it as if it were a key in a lock. Ardyn let out a barbaric howl. Only when Somnus had twisted his sword around a 360 degree angle did he remove it. A gaping hole was left in Ardyn’s body, gooey and fizzling like a witch’s broth.

Turning to the archangels, Somnus held up a hand.

“Soldiers. Join me in cursing the demon back to the place of the condemned.”

IALPON NN DONASDOGAMA TASTOS ,” cried his servants. Ardyn shut his eyes for this part. It was nothing like falling, yet it would be a nasty ride. The archangels raised their blades and pointed them around him in a circle. They would be performing a banishment.

There was nothing he could do. As much as it angered him, Ardyn gave up attempting to flee. He could not hope to defeat a seraph and an entire fleet of archangels. Nephilim or not, he was still just one being. He bit down on his tongue as a ring of fire engulfed him. It lasted ten, or maybe 20 seconds

It was excruciating, but he would not give Somnus the satisfaction of hearing him cry any further.

He didn’t deserve it.


 

“Seriously, man, where have you been getting to?”

In his quarters, Noctis sat faced with Ignis and Prompto. Gladio was somewhere outside, guarding the door as per Regis’ quarters. Ignis was his advisor, so he was pretty much obliged to be here during his studying hours, and Prompto… well, Noctis had made enough of a fuss that his guardian allowed him to stay.

However, perhaps that was an overstatement. He loved his guardian as a human child loved its parent, but an angry Regis terrified him. Thrones were very wrathful when angered. Not as much as the cherubim, though it was a close comparison. When Regis had heard of Noctis’ rude mannerisms to Somnus, he had promptly banished him to his quarters and now had Gladio making sure he didn’t try to run. He sulked at his desk. 

Prompto sat on a settee nearby, wings hidden as he lounged across it. Ignis, as always, stood as straight as a poker with his hands behind his back. Noctis had already tried making small talk, but Ignis wasn’t having it. Virtues, he thought bitterly.

“Do not distract him,” Ignis shot. Prompto shrank back.

“I was just curious.” He then leaned forward, hands holding up his chin. “Noct, you still haven’t told me why you were in a random forest in the astral. There weren’t any demons around. What’s the deal?”

Noctis rolled his eyes. “Maybe I wanted time to myself.”

“But you weren’t at your usual fishing spot,” said Prompto.

“Didn’t feel like it,” said Noctis.

“What? You always feel like it!”

Ignis cut in between the two quarreling angels before things could get too rowdy. He glared down at them, eyes sharp and his stance stiff. His wings were concealed, though they could both see a faded outline of where they wanted to appear. 

“That is enough. Prompto, I’m afraid this is Noctis’ studying period. I will have to ask you to either leave or quiet down.”

The blond frowned sheepishly. “Sorry.”

They returned to silence. Noctis looked back at the book he was supposed to be reading, and Prompto returned to staring at the artwork on the ceiling. As the angel of the night, Noctis’ room (or rather, estate, given the size of it) was decorated with black walls and gold etchings. The ceilings had paintings of messenger ravens and star charts. It was nice enough to be in, but when one had spent thousands of years stuck here, they tended to become a tad stir crazy.

Noctis was quick to throw back his head and sigh. The virtue peered at him in disapproval, though Noctis ignored him and kicked his feet up.

“This is boring! How’s studying the angelic tongue gonna help me get stronger?” he griped. He flung an arm over his face to hide the sight of his advisor.

“You should know this,” said Ignis. “It brings you closer to your higher self. Have you forgotten that already?”

Flinching, Noctis allowed his feet to fall. Ignis’ words struck an unpleasant chord in his heart. He could only think back to sitting in that room with Somnus, struggling to form words around all the blood in his mouth. The pain of those bolts digging into his skull—it had been horrific. Anger flared up inside him. Perhaps he had become too emotional these past few centuries, yet Noctis had never felt so angry in his life.

They worshipped him! They worshipped Somnus as if he was Heaven’s perfect creation, when all he did was inflict pain. Were his views distorted? Was he being childish? Noctis knew he might have a biased view because of his growing relationship with Ardyn, but… the pain had been real. The torture had been real.

His fury only grew in intensity when Ignis mentioned the very angel he had been thinking of. 

“Remember that Somnus has taken a liking to you, Noctis. He would be very disappointed if you failed your ascension.”

He huffed. “Whatever. I’ll take Adagium’s judgement over his any day.”

Noctis froze. Oh dear.

“You what?” Prompto gasped, shooting up from his seat and almost catapulting himself into the air from the sheer force of his power. Ignis appeared livid.

“Did you say Adagium?” he said slowly. Menacingly.

Trying to pass it off as something not so serious, Noctis shrugged and turned away. He fixed his stare on the stained glass of his window.

“Uh, I guess.”

“So you have been meeting with him!” Ignis snapped. He fell from his perfect poise, clenching his fists and trembling with shock. Noctis had never seen him look so surprised and betrayed. Guilt welled up in him, snuffing out the anger from earlier. “I did not want to believe it, although it seems Saint Somnus was not exaggerating.”

“Calm down!” Noctis said as he got up from his chair. “He isn’t even a demon! The seraphim are making a big deal out of nothing. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”

“So you know this monster now?”

The pair glared at each other. It was true, Noctis thought to himself. He didn’t really know Ardyn. He’d spent several days with him, learning snippets of his backstory and unlimitless knowledge, but in the end, Noctis was still very much ignorant of who he was visiting. Ardyn was a mysterious being. What he was was still an enigma. According to the seraphim, he was the Devil; Satan himself. By the words of his demons, he was both an inflicter of pain and salvation. From Ardyn’s own mouth, he was just an angel wrongly cast out.

Who was he supposed to believe?!

Noctis ended up chewing on his lip in frustration. Ignis paused his questions, leaning back to study the intensity of consideration on Noctis’ face. He was thinking deeply.

In the end, he knew he should simply rely on his own judgement, but Noctis had spent too long under the guidance of others. He needed another opinion, and he knew exactly where to get it.

He eyed the window.

“Noct?” he heard Ignis press.

He would have just one shot at phasing through the window with enough speed to bypass Ignis. Prompto was faster, though he was nowhere near strong enough to take him down. Noctis doubted even Ignis would be able to, yet Gladio was definitely capable. A power was an angel not to be trifled with. Thus, Noctis flicked his gaze back to Ignis and Prompto. The latter was crouched on the sofa, watching him for an answer.

“Gonna go for a walk,” Noctis muttered before unfurling his wings. He was too fast to be stopped. He could hear Ignis shouting from behind him and Prompto stumbling back, but he once again shattered the rainbow glass of the citadel. The Garden was not far away. Even if all three of them pursued him at once, he was certain he would get there on time.

The crystal skyscrapers whizzed by in a matter of milliseconds. Noctis didn’t spare them a glance. His only goal was to get to the Garden where he could ask the one angel he trusted most.

But when he arrived at the entrance—an enormous archway of stone—a sudden force blocked his path. 

Howling, Noctis was sent crashing to the floor like a boulder. He winced as one wing was bent underneath him, the other sprawled out at a sharp angle from his shoulderblade. 

“And where do you think you’re going?”

He looked up. The light was intense. He was forced to shield his eyes. Only when it dimmed did Noctis open them, just to let out something between a gasp and a groan of dismay. 

Ravus towered over him. His pointed chin jutted out as he scowled.

Lunafreya’s considered ‘brother’, the cherub was well known for his curtness. Not that the cherubim were bred for kindness seeing as they were angelic guard dogs, though Ravus managed to stand out from the rest. His silver hair was immaculate as always, black and white armour gleaming in the lavender sunlight. Noctis had to be grateful he was not in his more monstrous form adorned with four heads and four wings. No matter how humans tried to depict the cherubim as chubby babies or gentle saviours, they would never cease to be the most terrifying angels ever created. They were deadly.

“Uh, I’m just—” Noctis managed to stammer out before Ravus interrupted him. 

“Why were you hurtling into the Garden at such speed? You could have hit someone.”

Did he really care about the wellbeing of others? Noctis pursed his lips. “I, uh… came to see Luna.”

Ravus arched a brow. “Saint Lunafreya? You wish to meet with a seraph?”

“We’re friends.”

“Oh, please. Whatever kindness she showed you in the past were acts of pity, you winged idiot. Do not assume I don’t know about your attitude towards Saint Somnus! Why should I let an infantile dominion to see my sister when he has not even passed his ascension?”

Noctis was beginning to grow desperate. His friends would be here within moments, and Ravus was blocking his way in. He needed to see Luna. She always had a clear head on everything. He could ask her any question about any topic and she would give him an answer void of judgement or bias. If anything, she was Heaven’s most perfect angel, though most seemed to give that title to Somnus. What a joke.

He stood up to try to make eye contact with Ravus, but he was shorter than him by several inches. He tried to hide the flush creeping up his cheeks. “Look, Ravus, I need to—”

“Noct!”

Fuck.

He realised too late that he swore out loud. Ravus seemed like he was about to smite him on the spot. Noctis would have offered him a weak smile of apology, though as expected, his retainers arrived to drag him back to the citadel. He attempted to face them bravely.

Gladio was fuming. Ignis was close behind him, though Prompto hung back by quite a few yards to stay clear of the fighting. Noctis saw him hide behind a tree to watch at a safe distance, but he didn’t get much time to study him before Gladio caught his arm in an iron grip. Ignis then grabbed onto his shoulder to focus his attention on him.

“Why did you run off like that? You are well aware you are under direct orders to remain at the citadel!” the latter warned.

“You want to make us look bad in front of your guardian, Noct?” Gladio added, eyes ablaze with fury.

A low laugh rumbled from Ravus’ chest. “Ah, the dominion’s retinue. You can’t even keep an eye on one child?”

Ignis and Gladio bowed in unison. “We are so sorry for this, Your Excellency. We will have him escorted back at once—”

Noctis scrambled out of their grip by lashing his wings out like a fan. He threw himself at the archway before Ravus held him back by the collar. There was no way he could defeat a cherub, but he wasn’t to go down without a fight like last time. He needed to see Luna. She was the only one who could possibly assist him in this whole ordeal with Ardyn. She would view the situation with fresh eyes and give him a clear, logical answer.

Angering Ravus had been a mistake. The cherub unfolded his four great wings, stained with mottled greys. They made Noctis seem like a blackbird in comparison. He had a sword with him, but he kept it buckled at his hip for the time being.

“It seems confining you to the citadel is not enough of a punishment,” he said.

“Just let me see Luna and I’ll go back!” Noctis retorted.

“No,” said Ravus sternly. Noctis clenched his jaw.

Before he could say another word, they were all temporarily blinded by the presence of another angel. Or perhaps two, by the looks of it. 

Had Ravus summoned them here? Noctis tried to peek through his fingers, yet he was only able to see figures shrouded in light for several minutes. However, such a silky voice could only belong to one person.

“Noctis?” whispered Lunafreya meekly, swivelling her head to view the scene. The dominion swore again—although, this time in his mind. He was happy enough to see her considering she was the one he had requested to speak with, though the other figure besides her was a more unwelcome face.

Somnus glared at them all. Ravus bowed to him, thus concluding the theory that he did summon him. The higher sphere could communicate via their minds. It was a skill that Regis insisted Noctis would learn later in his life, but for the moment he had to be content with speaking face to face. Sometimes he envied the humans and their smartphones.

“What is this disturbance?” spat Somnus, fists at his sides. 

“I apologise for the unscheduled summon,” began Ravus, “but Noctis, the apprentice of Regis, has been causing me trouble.”

The seraph turned to him. “Is this true?”

Noctis did his best to stand his ground. Behind him, Ignis and Gladio had stepped away out of respect and Prompto had disappeared entirely. He felt sort of bad for them, seeing as they were always forced into his affairs, although the selfish part of him would state he never asked for any of this. 

It made sense in his mind. He’d never wanted to be an angel, especially one as high as a dominion. Great responsibility had been placed upon his shoulders before he was even conceived. Sure, flying was great and so were the powers he possessed, but he really was jealous of the simplicity of humans. While he’d never had much time to actually watch them, the things Ardyn had told him were fascinating. The struggle for survival, the food, the drinks—he wanted it. Just a taste would satisfy his boredom in life.

Why couldn’t he get Ardyn out of his mind? Why couldn’t he think of anything else? 

Noctis was only able to speak after exhaling the stagnant air in his system. “I wanted to speak with Lunafreya.”

As her name was mentioned, he saw Luna look at him. Her eyebrows were creased with worry. She then glanced back to Somnus.

“He and I are friends, Somnus. It is no offence to me if Noctis wants to—”

“He does not have permission,” Somnus growled. Luna flinched at his tone. “He must go through a throne or a cherub to speak to a seraph. Your personal relationship with him means nothing.”

What a prick. Noctis even caught a glimpse of a smirk upon Somnus’ face. The sight infuriated him. What, so he held a grudge against him because he’d met with Ardyn? Were Ardyn’s words true after all? Somnus really was a liar and betrayer? Somehow, when looking at him—really taking in the sly smile and narrowing of his eyes—Noctis believed it more than ever.

In fact, he believed it so much he had no control over his next words.

“Fuck you, Somnus. Ardyn was right about you.”

Time stopped as Noctis flung a hand over his mouth.

He’d never seen Somnus appear so stunned. Next to him, Lunafreya’s mouth hung open in an unladylike gape quite unlike herself. Noctis had no idea what his retinue could possibly look like, but he didn’t want to see their expressions of rage and disbelief. He’d fucked up this time. More so than before.

Just before Somnus began to scream, Noctis caught a hint of another emotion in his eyes. Panic. 

“You little knave.”

The seraph’s body began to burn. Even Luna was forced to move away as the temperature rose to quadruple digits. By the time it stabilized, the heat of a neutron star had settled within Somnus’ body. He was ready to kill. 

“You dare raise your voice to a seraph, Noctis?!” A hand raised and struck Noctis on the cheek. He was sent flying.

“Somnus!” Lunafreya called out in the attempt to calm him down, yet he merely shook her off and pointed his fury at her.

“Do not get involved! He must be punished!”

“You don’t have to hurt him!”

Even someone as powerful as Luna was flung back by the force of Somnus’ flexing bicep. He did not push her very hard compared to how he hit Noctis, but it was enough to scare her into servitude. How could she argue against the king of angels? She looked over at Noctis. He was crumpled on the floor, twitching and coughing as he inhaled the burning air. His words concerned her.

The rumours were true. Noctis had met with Adagium (who she presumed was Ardyn given by Somnus’ reaction), and was now taking his side. She had no idea what they had spoken of, yet to get such a violent response from Heaven’s most trusted? Her disappointment did not lie with Noctis, but in Somnus. The way blue embers licked his skin and his eyes gleamed with Noctis’ pain—he reminisced her of a demon rather than an angel.

He was not finished. After plunging his sword into the fabric of Noctis’ clothes, effectively pinning him in place, he curled his lip upwards.

“It seems confining you to the citadel is not an effective punishment. The penitentiary will have to do.”

“The penitentiary?” Lunafreya cried. “You cannot place him there!”

“Can I not?” Somnus drawled, sarcasm dripping from his words.

“Somnus, please think about this. I don’t know what Noctis meant, though surely he has a reason for his actions.”

Her words weren’t getting through. She was helpless to watch as Somnus ordered Ravus to collect Noctis. The cherub roughly threw him over his shoulder as he was too dazed to walk. Lunafreya would have asked her brother to be more gentle at the very least, but it seemed neither were willing to listen to her. She bit her lip. What was the point of being assigned such a high role if no one would hear her out?

Instead, she turned back to Somnus, jaw tight and eyes narrowed. “I assume 'Ardyn' is Adagium?”

Somnus bared his teeth. “Keep out of such affairs, Oracle. Do be a good servant and return to the seat of Leviathan’s throne before you are missed.”

Oh, she would. Luna spun on her heel to leave the area. She would gladly return to her appointed Astral and tell her exactly what she thought of Somnus’ behaviour. On the other hand, she would first have to speak to Noctis' retinue.