Those Chosen By The Planet
By Fai Gensou
Summary: The stage is set. The places have been taken. The time has come for those so chosen to make their choices. With naught but a prayer and a hope, the old gives way to the new. For every dusk, there is a new dawn.
Disclaimer: Don't own Final Fantasy.
Prompto stretched his arms above his head, cracking his neck. To be honest, it felt weird to be leaving Insomnia for longer than a day of hunting after fifteen years. And to be leaving on the anniversary of his arrival? Kinda creepy. Gladio had claimed the other spot in back, declaring that if he couldn't make out with his boyfriend while they drove, neither could Noct and Prompto. Ignis declined to comment, a touch of pink high on his cheeks.
Prompto grinned as he caught sight of Noct in the rearview mirror. Scarcely five minutes out from the last checkpoint and he already looked tired. "Planning on sleeping the whole way there, buddy?"
The very fact Noct started told how he had already started to doze off. "Everything looks the same after a while. And don't you dare start a game of I Spy. You and your hawk eyes." Noct grumbled.
"Hey it's not my fault you're so unobservant." Prompto protested.
"Spotting a chocobo picture a foot tall three hundred feet away…I'm with Princess on this one. No I Spy." Gladio added.
With Ignis making a noise of agreement, Prompto just crossed his arms and pouted. "…Truth or Dare?"
"HELL NO!" Was the unanimous answer.
"Prompto, you've plenty of games downloaded to your phone, which technically shouldn't be on your Crownsguard phone anyway. You can entertain yourself." Ignis declared.
Considering Ignis had King's Knight on his own phone, the reminder was a bit hypocritical. Even more so since the Crownsguard didn't really care what they put on their phones as long as it wasn't porn.
Prompto was about to bring this up when the Regalia made a weird noise. "…it's supposed to do that, right?" He asked, eyeing the engine.
"No…" Was Ignis's drawn out response as the noise happened again. And didn't stop until the car stopped.
The four got out of the Regalia with this. Ignis popped the hood, and smoke billowed out. Coughing, Prompto couldn't help saying, "I Spy with my little eye…"
"So what's the deal with Cindy?" Noct had to ask, after camp was set up for the night. Ignis had insisted on them resting before taking out the last group of varmints Cindy pointed out to them. "It can't be the clothes, for all that you're a boob and leg guy."
Over the years, Noct and Prompto had reached a mutual agreement; girls were great to look at, even if the only one they would consider bringing into the fold (Lunafreya) had been unavailable for hosts of reasons. It had become a bit of a game, commenting on girls and describing what they'd do. First one to blush was on the receiving end. Despite the disadvantage his coloring gave him, Prompto had a very filthy mouth, so it worked out to roughly equal.
"Well…she probably doesn't remember, but Miss Aerith and I stopped here, the night before we reached Insomnia. She showed off the garage and played with me. First time I can remember, playing with someone else. Close to my age, anyway." Prompto said. "Stuff like that wasn't exactly encouraged. Not that many of them wanted to…" He admitted, fiddling with his food.
"No kiddy stuff then?" Gladio asked. It was a rare thing for Prompto speak of what they had all taken to referring to as 'Before'. Noct knew the most, but Ignis and Gladiolus had learned bits over the years.
"Since it technically related to me, the Marshal let me see the MT file. It had been mentioned in mine but…there was stuff, in the food. To make the units more docile, less independent, less sense of self. Not sure how it worked…when she went over the ingredients, Mom figured that going off of them had contributed to the weight gain. It took years to get out of my system, and years more to find a new equilibrium, without it present." Prompto admitted. "Between that and the guards…" He shrugged.
"Will you be alright, should we encounter them?" Ignis asked. "While they are not to be at Altissia, we cannot rule out that possibility."
"Yeah…I should be. Not like any of them would remember me. And it's what's inside the armor that scares me." Prompto answered, turning back to his food. "Wonder if there'll be time to hit the beach before we have to get on the ferry?"
"Provided it doesn't take too long to deal with the last group Cindy wants us to deal with, we'll make Longwythe before sundown tomorrow. While it may be possible to reach Galdin Quay the same day, I am not confident in our ability to handle a daemon, especially those Iron Giants rumored to appear on the roads." Ignis stood up to dish out seconds. "I know there is at least one ferry a day, but not to the times. So it's entirely likely."
"If there's time, I wanna try building a sand castle. Didn't have anything to shape the sand with last time."
"Too busy leaping on fish?" Noctis asked with a snicker.
Gladio and Ignis, having seen Noct's copy of the picture, smirked.
"Man, is anyone ever going to let me live that down?" Prompto asked with a pout.
"No." Was the universal response.
"Was it really necessary to take all their money?" Came the voice somewhere off to his left.
Cid just snorted. "Was it necessary for you to make the car break down?" Wiping his hands on a rag, he turned to look at his guest.
"At least I made it break down in a way that's easily fixed." Aerith retorted.
"Anyways, between Cindy settin' them on the local varmints and harvestin' bits, they'll be fine. Even if she hadn't spotted them the gil. Not like any one past here will take yen; they should've exchanged it."
"The fact that you can easily exchange it at a better rate had nothing to do with it?" She crossed Her arms and leveled a look at him.
He refused to be intimidated by a slip of a girl who happened to be older than dirt. Literally.
Not that it was working. "Is there a point to Your visit?" Avoiding the subject.
In an instant, the garage shifted to the haven She had taken him and the guys to after saving their asses. At least an illusion of it, given the haziness on the edges.
"…Cid?" Came a voice behind him. A voice roughed with age, but still recognizable.
Cid whirled around to see Regis behind him, leaning on his cane. "Stars above, Reggie! You look like shit." He had seen recent pictures, but being face to face really rammed home how much maintaining the Wall had aged Regis.
"So do you." Regis retorted.
"Cid? Regis?" Came Weskham's voice as he and Clarus approached.
"Havin' a little reunion here?" Cid directed to Her. Smirking, She just pulled out bottles of the rot gut they had favored on the road thirty years. "Why not? And you don't need the cane here, Regis."
They sat down around the fire, each with a bottle in hand. "I really shouldn't." Clarus said, looking at the bottle wistfully.
"Don't worry; I'll take care of the buzz before I send you back." Aerith assured him, taking a sip of Her own bottle.
Moments passed with Clarus still eyeing the bottle. "Do I need to make it a royal command?" Regis finally asked.
"To get drunk? Never." Shrugging, Clarus took his first gulp.
The five drank in silence for a few minutes, before Weskham finally voiced what the four men were all thinking. "Not that I'm displeased to see everyone…but why?"
"The treaty." Was Her simple answer.
"Like we didn't already know that it's a trap and prepared accordingly." Clarus commented, already halfway through his bottle.
"It's a trap, yes, but also…it marks the beginning."
That drew the men's attention. Regis just sighed. "I had a feeling. Part of the reason I made sure Noctis would be out of the city."
"What will happen at the signing…is merely the first chapter in the story to come." Aerith stared down into Her bottle like it had all the answers. "This was the only chance. To say goodbye."
Silence again reigned. Not wanting this time to be depressing, Cid finally asked, "What the hell you been teachin' that boy of yours Reggie? Looks like you, with the all the dignity kicked out."
"And here I thought I always looked like that, given your complaints." Regis responded primly, sipping his bottle with far more dignity than the other four could muster together.
"Well to be honest, you always had a little dignity. Not this boy of yours." Cid told him truthfully.
"His nap was probably interrupted." Weskham commented, the sleeping habits of the Prince being well known.
"'Course it was, the damn car quit! Had to push it to the garage. Thought you had quality mechanics in that Citadel of yours." Cid exclaimed.
"Well, I had one excellent mechanic on tap, but he decided to put his skills to use elsewhere. After seeing the Regalia through the war and all even." Regis said, sending Cid a look.
"Truth be told, Someone decided to give it a helping hand in the quitting process." Cid directed a dark look at Aerith.
She just blinked at him, face full of innocence. Cid was still expecting fox ears and tail to pop out whenever She used that face, like in those stories of foxes disguising themselves as pretty women.
"How does anyone fall for that face? It's like You're screaming mischief." Clarus commented.
"For most, their first impression is that of naïve little girl, regardless of My physical age. Just because your first impression of Me was different doesn't change the fact that it works." Aerith told him.
"If it wasn't for seeing that face in action, I'd never believe You could do innocent." Weskham admitted, starting on a second bottle.
"Hey!" She exclaimed as the men burst out laughing.
And so the 'night' passed, the men drinking and teasing the way they had thirty years ago. Aerith was still there, content to watch the four of them. It could not go on forever.
Weskham and Clarus returned first by their own request, leaving Cid and Regis alone. "…I always thought I'd be the first to die." Cid admitted quietly.
"I never did. You're too stubborn to die." Regis replied.
"Everyone dies Reggie." Cid turned to look Regis in the eye. "I'm sorry I wasn't there when Aulea died. I'm sorry I wasn't there period. Too stubborn I guess."
"I'm sorry I never came to visit. It's not like it was so far away as to interrupt the Wall. Too much pride to admit I was wrong in person." Regis apologized. "I don't know if I'll be waiting for you on the other side. I don't even know if I'll see Aulea again. I'll be joining the kings of old, and…I don't think it's the same place everyone else goes." He admitted, rising to his feet.
Cid also stood, and the two looked at each other, so much unsaid, yet it didn't need to be said at all. It was impossible to say who moved first, but the end result was them meeting in the space between, hugging fiercely. "Give 'em a hell of a fight for me, eh?" Cid said gruffly, not bothering to hide the tears.
"Would you expect any less?" Regis responded, silent tears of his own on his face.
Pulling apart, Cid gave Regis the royal salute and bowed, meaning it more than he had any other time before, as he said goodbye to his king.
Once Crownsguard, always Crownsguard.
Regis returned the salute, nodding firmly. "Walk tall, my friend."
"Walk tall, Your Majesty." Cid replied formally, the haven fading away to the garage as he did.
Cid just stood in place for a few minutes, facing Insomnia. Straightening, he wiped his tears away and went back to work. As much as he'd love to put down a few more Nifs, his day had passed.
All he could do now was make sure the royal steed served the son as well as it had the father.
Aerith was left alone at the haven. Taking in the four empty chairs, She raised Her mostly untouched bottle in salute. "Walk tall, and may My Blessings be with you always."
She drank in honor of the old guard stepping down, and for the safety of the new guard taking their place.
The first night was rough, and not just because of the smells resulting from physical activity outdoors and no running water. Despite all four being men, there were certain difficulties they hadn't considered before the trip.
Namely, sleeping arrangements.
Noct wasn't a problem; he could sleep in the weirdest positions and through practically everything. Gladio flailed his limbs in his sleep. Somehow Ignis could sleep through this, despite being a bizarrely light sleeper otherwise, who could not tolerate anyone clinging to him. Prompto gravitated to cling on a heat source, leading to a problem when this heat source wasn't Noct, especially when wandering hands were factored in.
About three in the morning Prompto wound up switching to the other side of Noct, with Ignis moving to Gladio's other side. Noct wouldn't be disturbed by Gladio's flailing; Ignis could somehow sleep through it, and Prompto wouldn't run into problems by groping his heat source.
Despite the rough night, Ignis still got everyone up early. Noct couldn't understand just why everyone else was so tired, or why Prompto was getting dirty looks from Ignis and Gladio.
The Regalia was ready by the time they taken out that bizarrely colored dualhorn described by Dave. Noct was only a little jealous, over how Prompto trailed after Cindy like a lost puppy. Hopefully, Ignis would agree to stay at the motel in Longwythe, and even if they had to share a room, there was always the bathroom…
"You okay, Paw Paw?" Cindy asked as the boys drove away. "Can't explain it, but you seem kinda sad."
"Just old man stuff. Realizing that all your friends are dyin' and missing the old days." Cid answered, watching the Regalia as it vanished into the distance and long after, remembering his own travels in the car.
"So, what do you think about the wedding, really?" Prompto asked on the motel roof that night. Umbra had been waiting when they arrived. Being so close to meeting again, Noctis just kept it short.
Can't wait to see you again after all these years. Prompto's eager to finally see you in person.
"I'm kind of worried. I can't help feeling like they could use the wedding and the treaty as an excuse to do something. Gladio's comment about the car breaking down isn't helping." Noct admitted.
They sat side by side with their legs hanging over the edge of the roof. Noct had his left hand over Prompto's right, and periodically rubbed his hand up, over the bracelet. Today it was the first one he had given Prompto. "I'm surprised you haven't started vibrating, knowing what's coming." Noct commented.
"I can't really say anything until you two are back in Insomnia; can't have your best friend tagging along on your honeymoon, even as a guard." Prompto said.
"Damn, there goes my plan to give you to Luna as a wedding gift, with nothing but your pendant, your bracelet, and a smile. Maybe a bow, in an eye catching area." Noct half-complained. He couldn't protest Prompto calling himself his best friend since he was that first, for all that they were to each other now.
"I mean, it's still kinda…abstract?" Prompto shrugged. "When it gets closer I'll start vibrating. I think Iggy may already have a bubble wrap suit or foam shielding ready. That man always has a plan."
"Besides…" Prompto said to Noct with a sidelong look. "That could be my welcome home to both of you, what you described. What color ribbon were you thinking?"
"So you're here for the boats then?" The weird guy asked.
"That was the plan…" Prompto said tentatively. Something about this guy was bugging him. He couldn't place it, but it was like he had a mask over his body.
"Well it's seems they're not running. Perhaps the treaty's to blame?" The weirdo mused, before flinging something at Noct's face. Gladio caught it before it hit Noct though. "Your allowance, for now."
"Allowance for what?" Prompto couldn't help asking after that guy walked away.
There was a mutual shrug between the four of them. "It's an Oracle Ascension Coin; made to commemorate a new Oracle's Ascension. They're not particularly rare, but it is unusual for someone to carry one on his person, let alone give it away." Ignis frowned down at the coin. "It's really old too; at least five hundred years. If anyone was carrying a coin as a lucky charm, then it would be one from Lady Lunafreya's Ascension."
"Maybe he's tryin' to collect one of each and had a duplicate?" Gladio pondered.
"Either way, we need to ascertain if he was telling the truth about the ferry." Ignis passed the coin to Prompto, to stash in his Bag of Holding (as he couldn't resist calling it).
"Ms. Coctuna should know; she's the lady in the middle." Prompto led the way over. "Hi Ms. Coctuna. I was here with Miss Aerith, fifteen years ago…?"
"Oh! The hand-fishing boy!" She exclaimed.
Prompto just groaned as everyone else laughed. "Just kidding, I recognized the smile, even if that picture is one of the staff's favorites." Coctuna said as the guys took seats at the bar. "We've built up a collection of pictures over the years, of the kids Miss Aerith brings here. She was here last year, with a pair of hyperactive toddler girls. She was taking them to their surviving family in Accordo."
Coctuna had pulled out an album as she spoke, and turned to the most recent page. Miss Aerith was wrangling a pair of identical toddler girls, and looked distinctly frazzled as She tried to reclaim Her hair ribbon from one while the other was pulling on a bracelet. She flipped back, stopping at a page that had Prompto and Miss Aerith posing in front of Angelgard, plus that photo he could never live down.
"Anyway, that guy that just left, he was saying the ferry's not running?" Prompto asked, once the guys had gotten their fill of his hand fishing attempt.
Coctuna sighed. "Yeah, they just stopped yesterday. It wasn't announced either. It's the first time anyone can recall the ferry being stopped. No word on the duration, but I doubt Altissia will keep it closed for long; too much money in it."
"What about you?" Noct asked. "How much does this hurt you?"
"It won't put us in the red, since we double as a resort, but a third of our profits come in as a result of the ferry. It will start hurting in a few months, for all we save on food by fishing and growing nearly everything ourselves." Coctuna admitted.
"Is there anyone we could perhaps persuade in sailing us over? We do have a wedding to attend." Ignis asked.
Coctuna hummed in thought as she did her flip-everything-in-the-pan trick. "Try talking to Dino on the dock; the kinda sleazy looking guy sitting on the bench. He's a reporter, so he might be able to swing things to get a boat out. He's been trying to break into the gemstone talisman business, so he might put you on a fetching run for stones in exchange for a boat." She told them, warning of the likely cost.
Despite the closeness of the gemstone deposit, Gladio vetoed going after the stones that day, opting for them to take on a couple hunts to build up their funds before making camp at the nearby haven.
Prompto was still distracted about the weirdo, and several shots came close to the others, something Gladio couldn't help commenting on. "You alright? You've been kinda outta it most of the afternoon. Not like you to be distracted like that, especially out in the field." He asked, sitting by the fire. Noct had already retired to the tent, and Ignis was tidying the camp for bedtime.
Prompto, who had half-heartedly been playing a solitaire game, looked up. "It's that weird guy from earlier. I know I've seen him before, and he just doesn't feel right on top of it."
"Well, once we procure the stones for Dino, we shouldn't see him again, since hopefully we'll be in Altissia by this time, day after tomorrow." Ignis reassured him, banking the fire. "Best get to bed early. No clue what may lay between us and those stones."
"Yeah…maybe if I sleep on it, it'll come to me, or at least go away." Prompto said, claiming his spot next to Noct.
He peeped out through the crack in the door, having heard Hat Guy greet Miss Aerith. "May I ask why you felt the need to take one of mine? He was slated to join the officers within the month."
He didn't know what that meant, but he was glad Miss Aerith found him first.
"You are aware the Crystal has Chosen." She told him.
"But of course. Its favorite son has been reborn after all." Hat Guy didn't sound happy.
"This is Me stacking the deck. I know you've long since stopped caring, but…with him at the side of the King, the prophecy has the greatest chance of success." She informed him.
He didn't get what they were talking about, but it sounded important.
"I can hardly have missed how maintaining the Wall has left the royal line struggling to produce even one heir each generation, and the branches that have lasted to the present day are too far removed for the Crystal to consider. Things will be moving forward in the next twenty years. There will be no other chances." There was a rustle of cloth, as Miss Aerith stood. "I would wish you luck in your endeavors, but as they lay in opposition to Mine…"
Miss Aerith sounded stern, like how the one doctor had when he was caught scratching at where the pins in his leg stuck out, before his hands were strapped down.
"Likewise." Hat Guy started to walk away, but turned to look back.
With the full view of his face, he found himself back in that place, the unit from production year M.E. 729 in front of him in Hat Guy's place. Reaching to him with the blackness dripping from her fingers, she changed into that doctor (Pamela Kania, his mind whispered). Still reaching for him, he tried to run, but he couldn't move, just like when they were fixing his leg. Looking down, he saw a snake coiled around him, Hat Guy's face instead of the snake's face. He squeezed his eyes closed as Hat Guy snake lunged up.
Prompto jerked awake with a muffled cry, breathing harsh. Sitting up, he waved a shaky hand at Ignis as he left the tent.
He all but collapsed in a chair, staring up at the sky. Dinner was starting to churn up in his stomach.
He remembered the weird guy now. In his dreams and memories he never saw his illusion face, just his real one.
Not mention he spent a considerable amount of time not thinking about Before.
"'Rom?" Noct stuck his head out of the tent, barely awake. "Back. Cold." Despite the ability to sleep through anything, Noct couldn't sleep through Prompto getting up. It kind of made Prompto feel guilty when he got up in the mornings for his runs, but Noct generally didn't take long to go back to sleep.
Curling back up next to Noct, Prompto clung to him. "Night-yawn-mare?" Noct asked, a little more awake as he sensed Prompto's distress.
"Yeah…" Ignis was either ignoring them, or actually asleep. "That weirdo today…he was there. Before. Uber bad news too."
"Don't matter. My Prompto." Noct said fiercely, draping himself over Prompto as though to keep him from leaving.
Prompto let himself relax under Noct's familiar weight, drifting back asleep.
Prompto, stop being so easy to torture!