3 Months Earlier
With foresight, Lightning would never have gone that night. However foresight is a gift that humanity had yet to be graced with, and so her feet took her to the door, and then her hands hailed a cab, and she drove to Blue Ravine. Nerves assaulted her gut in sharp pinches that were wholly unwelcome. She collected spit, swallowed, collected more, rolled the window down and spit. The cab driver grunted in displeasure, and she rewarded him by flipping him off.
This was possibly the first time that she had ever performed spontaneity. It was the first time she had gone to a bar – or a club – with a date. It was the first time the feeling of vomit rising along her throat felt good. It also made her sick, the sharp corner made her eyes flutter and she curled her thin arms around her stomach and leaned forward.
She didn't get carsick, and somewhere near the back of her mind it suggested she had morning sickness – a ridiculous and impossible notion. She hummed the laugh, not willing to open her mouth. "Are you alright?" The driver asked her warily, his voice full of unbidden contempt. She lifted a hand to placate him, and he said nothing else directly. "Don't throw up in my car, you stupid bitch." – That was muttered, not for her ears, and in order to distract herself she imagined beating his face in.
She had been told violence suited her once by one of her many escapades, however the truth was that she wasn't very good at articulation. There was a reason she was not in politics; there was a reason she was in the army. There were reasons she wanted out sometimes when she was alone and had time to think in the dark of her bedroom.
She was good at fighting, she was good and getting the job done, and that was why this impromptu back-to-back date was as nerve-racking as it was exciting – too much for her stomach to handle, evidently.
The car glided to a stop in what must have been an effort to not send projectile vomit on the back of the front seat of his car. She gratefully got out, turning and pulling out the relatively high price for the drive, and handing it to him. He didn't count; she had short-changed him.
Outside she felt better, the icy winds cooling off the sweat that started to accumulate at the back of her neck. It quelled her raging stomach until it once more was lackadaisical, and she sighed in relief. Carsickness, huh? A wry smile curled along her face and she walked up to the building, before pausing and noting it.
It was one of the high-class clubs, glass a dark blue served as the walls, with black columns supporting them. She couldn't hear the music, impressively enough, however she could feel the vibrations in her heel. There were two bouncers, both tall and muscular and slow but they always got the job done. One was a redhead, with a thick dusting of cinnamon freckles and a boyish face that was out of place on his muscular physique. The other, a tall, dark-skinned man with strong and regal features had short dreadlocks that hung to his ears.
She smiled at them, them being attractive enough to smile at. The dreadlock one smiled openly back, the redhead looked nervous. "I have a date." She explained. The lists held in their hands screamed the club's inclusivity.
"With who?" The redhead was terse, his mouth set into a hard line and he was put on edge by the dull look that she gave him.
"Is that any way to treat a guest?" She tilted her head, the easygoing man laughed. He patted her shoulder in a show of good faith and she turned her attention back to him.
"What's your name?" He asked, holding the list up to prevent her from committing identity thievery – he would have to check her ID regardless, however he had learned a trick or two.
"Lightning." She had not told him any other name. She wouldn't for a long while.
"It's an old nickname," she explained, "it's the only one I gave him."
He shrugged and looked on his list, his finger running down, and flipped the paper, down, flip, down. "There you are." He stated, his eyes hovering on the name. "Quite the date you have there." His wrist twitched and the rolled over paper fell back into place. "I don't suppose your ID will have the name 'Lightning' on it will you?
"No," she agreed, "However my S.E. ID will."
"S.E.?" The redhead asked. "I've never heard of it."
"Calm down, Natz." Natz, the redhead, huffed and looked away. "Don't mind him, second night on the job and he's already having problems."
She kept the choice words on her tongue to herself. "That's fine." She opened her purse and fished out the tiny card that declared her Claire (Lightning) Farron
"I still don't know what S.E. is Tam." Tam laughed at Natz's bitter retort.
"Haven't been past the borders, huh? S.E. – Standard Employment ID." Tam rolled his eyes and held out his hand for the ID. Lightning couldn't help but critique them on their unprofessionalism. Deftly she handed them the card and he nodded, before opening the door, a full rush of heavy, bass dominant music blared through.
Without a second's hesitation, regardless of how much she felt she needed it, she walked on through. The doors parted, and the thrumming under her feet excelled, numbing her legs. One more set, these airtight, keeping the sound to a low thrum. She gripped the handle, pulled, the sound broke through her eardrum in a crash of waves.
She swayed slightly, the smells musky and thick, the sights a maze of a mixture of colour and texture. Now, she thought, her hands gripping the door tightly, where would he be?
Letting go of the doors, she immersed herself amongst the bodies, the moving mass a hard sea to travel. Eventually, elbowing others out of the way, and after stepping on quite a decent set of toes, she managed to snag quite the real estate.
The bar was glossy, black, there were strips with movement, and it was a shock to her that within the heavy furnishing a large fish tank existed as art. It was quite interesting, as the colourful fish were quite the distraction as the bar tenders busied themselves with making their drinks.
"Care for something?" Her head snapped up, into a petulant looking face. The pout, even she had to admit in her good mood, was cute. Give her some fresh air and she was sure she would slap it off. Instead, she crossed her arms and raised a brow. Wait for it, really.
He blinked, before shaking his head – and the expression off. "Sorry, I've been doing this without pay for eight hours now."
Too bad. She pursued her lips and clicked her tongue. "Can I get you anything, ma'am? "
"Do I look that old to you?" She wanted to watch him squirm. It made it even more entertaining due to the fact that he appeared to be her age.
"With that sort of response," damn kid was quick, "I'd say so."
"Cy!" A voice called out, and the blonde kid groaned and placed hands on his ears.
"Not now, not now…" He repeated the words in a mantra, even as the other bar tender, nearly twice in age and half a head less in height, pulled on his ear. "You owe me, remember? Now serve the miss her drink before I go charge you for shooting up my bar!"
"It looks great now though!" Cy ducked under the man, cornered in the bar, but seemed to be seriously considering jumping over it. "Look, there are more people now then before!"
"Which is why you're here, working it off, you lazy asshole."
"Like your one to talk!" The older man froze for a moment, looking over his shoulder at the something behind the blonde haired bimbo. Lightning's gaze followed more amused than upset, and her gaze landed on Noctis.
She blinked, and Cy turned around to look too. Then, he jumped back and grabbed Noctis' skull in a loose headlock. "Noct, he's being unfair!" The blonde whined, pointing. "He wants me to do all this work – I mean, man, I did him a favour and everything!"
Noctis' face was split with a grin, "I'm not in this." He stated, slipping out of the hold. Cy flailed, falling on the bar, much to some patron's amusement and others' ire. Lightning laughed, gaining Noctis' attention, before another grin settled on his face.
She couldn't help but smile and wave to him.
It was a sickening case of déjà vu, being here again. Only this time it seemed to be deathly quiet, so eerie and still. I could still see dried blood, or was that just my imagination? I felt like swearing, words started that weren't the language I had been using.
"There are supposed to be here?"
"It's the King's palace." I knew that, it sounded more like a fact – like how the sun rose and set, or how to switch a light. "Where better to go?"
"I'm not in the mood for subterfuge," Fang loosened her muscles, rolling them. "Ready to just storm it?"
"I am." Hope relinquished his weapon, Fang rotated the long spear in her wrists. Vanille danced lightly on her toes, holding something I couldn't even begin to attempt to describe.
"Just stay back and try not to get hit, alright?" Fang pushed my shoulder, I assume it was in companionship, because her grin didn't say 'I was really trying to hurt you' or anything of the sort. I nodded, another hazy fog clouding me.
She was gone, Vanille was tugging on my arm, Hope hesitated, waiting up for Vanille. I couldn't help but think of him as replacement for someone – I really couldn't. Who? A headache had started to come on, I could barely see.
There was no one on the front, no one, but it was a lie. Fang was going to die – how did I know that? How… I shook myself, but it felt like something else was invading my brain. Like someone else, and fear gripped me. I couldn't shake it, couldn't shake the feeling that this was the other me, the one I forgot and left behind.
I didn't want to disappear; I didn't want to die in replacement. I didn't, I didn't want to loose control, even if I would gain control. I didn't want the headache; I didn't want any of it. I faltered; Vanille was pulling on my arm. She was trying to say something. I couldn't… I just couldn't hear.
"Stop her," I rasped, not knowing why, not even in control. I didn't say that, this… thing, parasite, was. It forced my lips and my tongue and blew air through my teeth. Stop her… why? Vanille's brows furrowed, Hope paused, he called to someone, hopefully to Fang. Stop her, stop her, and stop her why?
"Is something wrong?"
It was going to happen. The burning along my temple, the fits, it was going to start. What, where? I felt like my head was going to shrink, or as if my brain was getting too bit. Too bad you weren't expecting it.
You needed to remember, right? I shoved the heels of my palm into my skull, pressing as hard as I could. "A little longer," my body rasped, "Just a little bit longer."
It was gone, but now Vanille was no longer in front of me and the sound of bullets was too apparent. Rolling my head around, I tried to see. I couldn't. It was too dim, I couldn't see. But I could. No, there was the grass, there was the castle, where were the people?
Then, I saw. No, rather I noticed. There were a few guards, Fang and Vanille slaughtering them in a manner that would bring a curse upon their entire bloodline. Where… no how? The rarity of the Crystals would not allow them to simply use it as they please.
Yet… there they were. Singed bodies fell to the floor, even by Hope, my appointed guard. "We need… to get inside." My voice felt so hoarse, I felt eyes on him, pressing in from every direction. I couldn't let them see me. I didn't know who they were.
"What?" Hope asked, catching and throwing his weapon.
"Get inside." I repeated, this time following through with my own words. Inside, the massive front, up the long steps and then a throne. Right, right wing, left, left wing, straight ahead, the kitchens, the dungeons down below. Right in the heart. In the throne room that was a prison in its own right.
The fake thrown. The empty room with a high chair and frozen angels, the place that was created as a punishment. It signified dishonour. It was fake. No thrown would ever be right inside from the door. Those passageways were hidden, the entire building was a mass of a maze.
I didn't know why.
Up the steps, I dimly realized people were shooting, I didn't care why they didn't hit, or why my entire body burned with a fever as I ran up. It felt horrible, like I was dying, however once inside it was completely up to me. I knew the paths, I knew how to fight inside. Outside, storming it, wouldn't work.
This palace needed to be cleansed, to be erased from the blood of its enemy. I hated those words, they felt like echoes from a despised foe. A hand landed, and spun me. I blinked, too dazed to care much for who it was that did it.
Fang's face met mine. Not touching, but her nose was close enough that any slight movement would tap our noses. "What?" I asked, irritated, I needed to get inside, not linger outside the doors.
"What?" She hissed, "What are you doing?"
"Fighting them would be easier inside." I answered. Simply. It didn't match my conflicting maelstrom inside. "I know the layout."
She frowned. "You do?"
"I don't know why though." Best to clear that up. She looked off to the side, Vanille, she looked to Vanille – she was there. She took a step back and I saw Hope was there too.
There were enemies at the base of the stairs. Flashes of a similar situation burned against the back of my eyelids. I opened the door and shoved Fang inside, Vanille following quickly, Hope following quickly. His eyes were wary.
What had he seen? Then, as those outside lifted their weapons, and I was well aware of my impending death, I swore I could hear a scream.
Bullets showered the sky.
I swore they darkened it.
My vision blacked out.
Lifting his hand, wisps of incongruent cracks formed around, breaking, shattering the reality around it. Flashes of weapons appeared, each one fracturing as bullets hit them, spinning, faster, faster, reality breaking away at the seams like shattering glass.
Enough was enough.
It wouldn't last long, the forceful cloud would awaken, the imposter would come back. Lightning was most likely in the basement, locked up with the others. She would need to find a way to break him out, to free him from the mental chamber that they shoved him in.
It was happening again, the result should be no different.
He paused, the burning enveloping his body in a disease, spreading along his system like death, and then, in a burn of heat he left, to the side and rammed a spear up into and through a man's skull, helmet and all. No mercy. He had enough; it was because he gave mercy that he was no struggling to get the imposter out, to get him out, out.
He wanted to see her again, dreaded it, but still wanted to. Grabbing and reaching he caught hold of the gun of the dead man, the spinning around him increasing as weapons swirled and ducked even as he held the gun and fired into the crowd.
Enough was honestly – enough.