Ardyn had used a stitch in time to switch appearances with Prompto, and tricked Noct into hurting his closest friend. Nevertheless, a king pushes ever onward, accepting the consequences, and never looking back... well that should be the case at least. Noctis didn't only lose Prompto, he also lost Asuka's respect as she bitterly blames him for what happened. Her anger is justified, even though Noctis was tricked in to hurting Prompto. Having arrived at Tenebrae, Noct sits on the train platform along with the many other beleaguered passengers; Gladio and Ignis stand beside him, while Asuka keeps a fair distance from them, not trusting herself to remain calm if she stands to close to them.
From behind Noct, he suddenly hears a familiar voice "Well, look who's here".
Noctis looks behind him "Aranea. Guess we've got you to thank for this mess?"-
"More to it than meets the eye. You wanna know who to thank? Come with me" Aranea said as she began walking away.
Slowly, Noct gets to his feet "Can't wait to hear this".
They walk along behind Aranea toward some imperial drop ships, said woman looked at Ignis "What did you do to your eyes?".
"Oh, uh… Just a flesh wound" Ignis said calmly.
"Can you see?" Aranea asked.
"I'm…afraid not" Ignis admitted.
"Wow. That sucks. It's a cruel world" Aranea suddenly stops and looks at them "Uh, wasn't there one more of you guys?".
"Yeah…there was" Noctis said, making Asuka slowly clenche her fist.
"We…lost track of him" Gladio said.
"Is he dead?" Aranea asked.
"No! He is not dead!... He can't be dead..." Asuka said with clear pain in her voice.
"Then quit moping, keep hoping" Aranea said as she resumes walking "And in the meantime, handle what's at hand".
"So if it's not you we thank…" Gladio began.
"Thank the daemons, pawns of the imperial army" Aranea finished for him.
"The army that you fight for" Gladio reminded.
"Fought for. My men and I are in the search and rescue business now" Aranea corrected.
"You mentioned being part of the relief effort. We have a favor to ask" Ignis said.
"Ask away" Aranea said simply.
"In light of what you've told us, we can't allow the other passengers to continue on" Ignis said.
"Sure, leave 'em to me…but, who's gonna drive the train?" Aranea asked.
"Now that you mention it, yeah. You know anyone?" Gladio asked.
"I do. In fact, I know two" Aranea said as she walks the group up to two other familiar faces "Your new engineers. Biggs and Wedge. No need to worry they can take a lickin'".
"Only if we have to. What's all this about?" Biggs asked.
"Driving a train. To Gralea" Aranea answered.
"That all?" Biggs asked.
"Well, who would you have me ask?" Aranea asked.
Biggs shrugs "You got us there".
"We'll do it" Wedge said simply.
"Hey, really appreciate you going out of your way" Gladio said, meaning it.
"Yeah. No sweat" Aranea said as she walked away.
Noctis speaks with Biggs "Hey, thanks for the lift".
"We're happy to help. Can't say the climate will be as cooperative, though. Y'know?" Biggs said
"Right. 'Specially the gorge" Wedge said.
"The place is freezin'! Makes sense, what with the ice goddess's cold corpse lyin' around. It's a rather long ride, so I suggest you bundle up before we ship out. By the way, I bumped into a woman from the manor, used to serve House Fleuret. Must've gone off looking for ya. Said she had something important to discuss" Biggs said.
"With me? Guess I oughta find her, then" Noctis said before he walks away.
Asuka walks away to a spot where she can be alone for a bit. She sits down and looks at the ground. Memories of her time with Prompto flows through her mind. From the day she met him, to the day he finally worked up the courage to ask her out... when they finally became a couple. Happy memories... yet all they did was bring her pain, and she could feel more tears starting to form.
"Hey..." Asuka gasped in surprise when she heard a voice behind her.
She wiped her tears before turning her head "You...".
It was Kunimitsu, and she walked up next to Asuka "Mind if I sit down?".
"I would like to be alone..." Asuka answered in a bitter tone.
"Alone. Such an ugly word" Kunimitsu said before sitting down next to Asuka "Being alone means you are prepared to die. No one can survive alone".
"You speak from experience I guess" Asuka said.
"I do indeed. I would be long dead if not for Aranea" Kunimitsu confirmed.
Asuka looks at her "She told us she found you when you were a child. What exactly happened?".
Kunimitsu had a sad smile "I could never forget that day. Years ago, my family and home were killed by a powerful Daemon, I was the only one who survived".
"Oh..." Asuka said, realizing she and Kunimitsu were more alike than she could imagine.
"After that, I struggled to survive. I became an petty thief, who stole anything I could get my hands on, in desperate attempts to survive another day. On one of my little crime nights, Aranea caught me trying to steal from her. Caught with my hands in the cookie jar you could say" Kunimitsu said, earning a small chuckle from Asuka.
"So you weren't the clever little thief you thought you were" Asuka said.
Kunimitsu gave her a playful glare before continuing her story "When she caught me I was so scared I almost wet myself. I thought for sure I was in for some serious pain... but instead of throwing me of a cliff, Aranea gave me even more food than I was planing to steal... and after a while, she took me under her wing and began training me".
"Unexpected for a mercenary. Then again she has prove more than once that there is a heart behind her armor" Asuka said.
"Yeah... honestly, while I always try not to say this out loud... she is my mother. I don't see her as anything less than my mom" Kunimitsu said.
Asuka was silent for a moment before she spoke "Why are you telling me all this?".
"Because I noticed you've been keeping distance from your friends, and I know the look of loss on your face. Not to mention your group is missing a member. Why would you avoid your friends when you clearly need them?" Kunimitsu asked.
Asuka looks down "Because... It's Noctis fault that we lost Prompto".
"What do you mean?" Kunimitsu asked.
"He was the one who pushed Prompto of the train" Asuka said as she clenched her fists.
"Did he do it on purpose?" Kunimitsu asked.
"He... said Ardyn tricked him in to doing it... but-" Asuka began but was cut of.
"Ardyn? As in the guy known for manipulating and tricking people in to doing what he wants them to do? The guy who is responsible for who knows how many troubles?" Kunimitsu asked.
"I... yes" Asuka answered.
"Asuka... it really sounds like you are blaming Noctis for something that wasn't his fault. If anyone could trick him in to attacking Prompto, it's Ardyn" Kunimitsu said.
Asuka looked frustrated "I know but-".
"But nothing! I get it, you are angry and upset for losing your boyfriend, but you are blaming the wrong person. Ardyn is the one responsible for what happened, not Noctis. And try thinking about how he must feel, being tricked in to attacking his own friend. You know him better than me, do you really believe he feels no guilt over what he did?" Kunimitsu asked.
Asuka looked like she wanted to argue... but she couldn't. Kunimitsu was right, of course Noctis would never willingly, or knowingly attack Prompto, they were best friends, no way Noctis would hurt Prompto like that. Asuka really has been taking out her anger on the wrong person.
"Damn it... you are right" She admitted.
Kunimitsu smiled "Of course I am. You need to trust you friends a little more than this. And if your boyfriend is still alive out there, trust that he will find his way back to you".
"Trust... yes, I know he is alive, and he better come back as soon as possible. Otherwise I am going to be pissed" Asuka declared.
Kunimitsu giggled "Now there is my rival. We still need to have our final battle one day, and I do not want you to be held back by your needless moping".
"You sure don't pull any punches. But yes, we will have our battle soon, and when we do, I will be at my peek" Asuka said.
"Good. But that doesn't mean I am going to lose to you" Kunimitsu said with a smirk.
"Nor will I. When we fight, you are going down" Asuka said with a smirk of her own.
With their rivalry reforged and Asuka's moping coming to an end, they began heading back to the others. Meanwhile, Noctis was speaking to Aranea.
"About the Crystal… Remember how I said it was locked away?" Aranea asked.
"Uh, yeah?" Noctis said, a little confused.
"They really don't allow anyone near the thing. The emperor himself never got close to it. The lab rats had a theory that the Crystal posed some kind of…threat to the daemons. The way they see it, that's the reason the chancellor had the emperor go after it in the first place. Dunno, but that theory holds water in my book " Aranea said "Certainly explains why the kings have always guarded the Crystal, and how they kept the daemons at bay. Long story short, we're stuck in this rut until you go and take back what's yours".
Noctis thinks about this before Asuka and Kunimitsu showed up. With Asuka walking up to Noctis... and he noticed she did not look hostile anymore.
"We should give them a moment" Kunimitsu said to Aranea.
Aranea smiled "Indeed. Good work kid".
Kunimitsu giggled before leaving with her mother figure. Asuka and Noctis stood in silence for several seconds. Both were thinking about what to say... boy did this feel awkward.
Noctis began to talk "Asuka, I'm sorry for what happened. I-".
Asuka held up a hand to stop him "No, Noct... I've had time to think about this, and had some sense talked in to me... what happened to Prompto wasn't your fault. Ardyn used you, made you do something you would never do. He is the one to blame for this, and he is the one who will feel my rage".
"I see..." Noctis said, sounding more relived.
"Besides, Prompto is not dead. He will find his way back to us soon enough. Now, it's up to use to stay alive until we see him again" Asuka said with a smile.
Noctis smiled back "Yeah, you're right. Thank you Asuka. This means a lot".
"Don't mention it, Noct. Well are we ready to head out?" Asuka asked.
"Yeah, I believe we are" Noctis said with a nod.
With their frienship restored, everyone headed back to the train. After a few words with Biggs and Wedge, the train was ready to move.
"Don't worry about the civilians. They're in my good hands. Can't say the same for you. Watch yourselves in the capital" Aranea said.
"We will" Ignis said.
"Thanks, Aranea. We'll see you around" Noctis said.
"Take care Kunimitsu, next time we meet, we will fight" Asuka said.
Kunimitsu smirked "Looking forward to it".
Asuka, Gladio and Ignis turn and board the train; Noct turns and begins to follow, then stops, looking up as he takes notice of snow beginning to fall
"It's…snowing" He said.
"Get your ass on board" Gladio ordered.
"Yes, sir" Noctis said as he boards the train.
And so they were on their way once again. Next stop: The imperial capital.
Tell me what you think.