"It's him!" Prompto whispered as he grabbed Ignis's arm in his excitement. Their friend was back. After ten long years, Noctis had returned to them.

The three companions approached their King, relief and joy visible on their faces.

The King of Insomnia looked over at his retainers, seeing such fervent hope shining on their faces.

He smiled.

Noctis was frozen in shock at the scene before him.

"It seems you've arrived a tad late," Ardyn sauntered out from the shadows of the garage. There was a wicked smile on his face as he faced the Chosen.

Noctis choked out a small sound. He only looked at Ardyn for a brief moment before his eyes were drawn back to his friends.

"Your dear friends were so excited to see you once more, especially the blonde one," Ardyn motioned at the still body on the ground. Prompto, his eyes wide open in shock even in death, lay in a bloodied heap.

"He died first," Ardyn chuckled, "and it was by your hand that he saw his life end. He must have felt so betrayed in his final moments."

"You bastard..." Noctis whispered. Ardyn had used his image to catch his friends off guard. The Chosen clenched his hands, feeling his nails dig into the skin. He felt anger take hold of him, beginning to suppress his horror and despair for the moment. The Chosen latched onto it. It was easier to let it consume him so he did yet feel the full extent of his loss.

'The Shield was next," Ardyn continued, that infernal smile still on his face. "It was disappointing, really. He did not last long against me. After that only the Advisor remained. He-"

Noctis didn't let him finish. He summoned his blade and leapt at the Accursed. Ardyn warped out of the way, appearing behind him. In rage, Noctis called upon the power of all thirteen Royal Arms, intent on shredding his friends' murderer to pieces. Ardyn was going to pay.

"Oh no. Not yet," Ardyn laughed as he easily warped out of the way of every blade that was sent out to skewer him. "Our fated battle shall not be here. I have a far more suitable venue in mind."

Noctis screamed as he put every ounce of his power into his Armiger. He felt something shift in his magic and the Royal Arms of his predecessors seemed to react to his fury and magic.

The Chosen attacked in a frenzy, using a combination of attacks he'd never been capable of before. Ardyn was able to dodge them, but this time with a bit of trouble.

"Oh? Looks like you've learned some new tricks," Ardyn murmured. He raised a hand and a barrier appeared around him. It was reminiscent of the Wall that once protected Insomnia but this was crimson-hued instead of azure.

Noctis unleashed another flurry of attacks but even powered up, the Royal Arms bounced off harmlessly against Ardyn's barrier. He soon exhausted himself trying to shatter it. When Noctis's Armiger faded, Ardyn allowed his own barrier to dissipate.

Noctis then took the chance to charge his foe with the Sword of the Father in hand. But once again, Ardyn just warped out of the way with a laugh of delight.

"I shall await you in the heart of Insomnia!" Ardyn called out, appearing much further away this time. "Try not to be late this time!"

And with that, darkness surrounded the Accursed. In moments, he was gone.

And Noctis was left alone.

His anger quickly being replaced by despair, Noctis collapsed to his knees. He looked over once more at the bodies of his friends. In all his time in the Crystal, he'd been hoping that he could see them one more time. He wanted to speak with them, laugh with them, just be with them.

But it was not to be.

That night was empty, save for the sobs of the only living human left in Hammerhead.

A really quick one-shot as I chip away at some of my other stories. Hopefully I can post the next parts of the others sometime soon.