It is finally time for chapter 3! Sorry for the wait but here we are!
Cold winds whipped across the land, nipping constantly at Noctis and Prompto's faces. The endless vision of snow had made their eyes almost hurt from when the sun reflected down on it. Their only relief came when the sun had set and their vision properly adjusted. The only downside to that was the dropping temperature.
It grew colder and colder by the minute, and the boys shifted closer to one another, trying to find warmth. Even with their attempts, the wind slapped the frozen flakes into their faces, making their entire bodies shake and tremble.
"Come on," Noctis said. "We need to keep going. We should be able to turn off the path."
"But how much further? All I see is a crap-ton of snow," Prompto replied.
"Don't know. But we need to keep going. Stay close."
Prompto shuddered as he bumped up alongside Noctis, and right away he wrapped an arm around him. If it helped them stay at least a little bit warm, Noctis was going to go for it, even if it did make him a little flustered.
Sure he had spent many close times with Prompto before. Hanging out on the couch together, goofing off in the back of the Regalia, and even sleeping close in the tent. Lately, Noctis felt himself growing more and more attached to being around Prompto. He now knew why, but it didn't make it any easier to deal with.
He had been thinking long and hard about his revelation over those feelings and how it would affect everything. It wasn't the time nor the place, but no matter how hard he tried, he was unable to shake the thoughts away.
"It's freezing out here," Prompto muttered.
"I know…" Noctis whispered back.
He hated every moment he couldn't do something more to help. Out in the cold tundra he was pretty much useless. The winds had picked up and it was hard to see which way they were actually going. Stopping to check the map would only waste their time and the remainder of light they had during the day. All they could do was keep going.
Prompto staggered as a strong wind brushed up against them. Noctis was quick to try and keep Prompto from falling over, but even he was feeling weak in his legs. Noctis tried to grip Prompto tighter, pulling him through each grueling step.
"Come on," he breathed heavily. "We're almost there."
"Almost where? There's nothing for miles."
"A cave maybe? We could rest there," Noctis said.
He looked across the landscape, seeing the shadows of mountains in the distance. Even with warping, he would hit stasis long before even coming close to them. The last thing he wanted was to be in stasis while out in a blizzard. He couldn't let himself become useless and put so much on Prompto's shoulders. They had to support each other equally, and Noctis knew all too much not to burn himself out in a dire situation.
Prompto must have been thinking something similar. Noctis could see it in his face, knowing they couldn't get there as fast as they would have wished.
He breathed out slowly as he gave his next question. "Just keep walking then?"
"Seems like it."
They trudged further, watching as the skies grew dark with more clouds. As the wind picked up, Prompto held his hand in front of him. Noctis soon found himself doing the same. There was just too much snow to see anything now. The mountains he had thought were in the distance were now blurred away with the excessive snow.
The snow was already building up on their clothes, and Noctis was sure there was some freezing into their hair. He could feel how stiff it was when the wind brushed it against his face. At this rate he wasn't sure how much further they were going to make it. The temperature kept dropping and the snow showed no sign of letting up.
It was at this time that Noctis wished he had better access to his magic. Due to his injury he had as a child, his abilities to truly connect to his Lucian magic was damaged. He couldn't summon magic to his hand naturally like his father, or even some of the Kingsglaive could. He was completely worthless in that area, always having to rely on flasks to do the job for him.
Even a flash of fire wouldn't help in this situation. It would burn out immediately against the harshness of the wind. There was nothing he could do besides stay close to Prompto and hope it was enough.
Speaking of Prompto, Noctis finally came out of his deep thoughts and realized that he was walking alone. He turned around and saw the blond face first in the snow.
"Prompto!" he shouted.
He ran back as he felt the beat of his heart dare to break his chest. "Prompto, you need to get up!"
"S-So cold," Prompto stuttered. "Wh-What a way to go…"
"No! No this is not the way to go!" Noctis shouted.
He tried to pull Prompto up, but even his own body was telling him to stop. Every one of his muscles ached and burned, feeling more stiff by the minute. "Come on, Prom. You have to get up. Please!"
He bent over and wrapped his arms around Prompto's body, trying once more to pull him up. All of his efforts were for naught though as his own muscles finally gave out and he let Prompto flop back down into the snow. With a heavy sigh, he laid himself carefully on top of Prompto, wrapping his arms around him again, but this time to provide warmth.
"I'm sorry…" Noctis muttered.
"Not your fault."
"Yes, it is," Noctis grumbled. "I dragged us into this because I was stupid and fell for Ardyn's trick."
Above, he could hear the sound of Magitek engines. Even in the roaring wind of a snowstorm those ships could still be heard crystal clear. He lifted his head and saw that the spot lights were pointed on them. MTs were already jumping down and slowly approaching, weapons in hand and prepared to strike at any moment.
Noctis tried to focus, but his vision was already beginning to blur. There would be no way he would win this. Even if he tried, he wasn't about to get up and leave Prompto defenseless.
"I'm sorry," Noctis repeated.
He buried his face against Prompto's, daring not to look at the MTs that drew closer. If these would be their last moments, he didn't want to spend it staring at the enemy.
"I love you, Prompto. I'm sorry I hurt you," Noctis whispered once more before his consciousness finally faded away.
With a groan, Prompto started to feel his thoughts come back to him. The hazy was beginning to clear up and he was able to open his eyes, trying to focus.
"Where…" he mumbled softly.
Pushing himself to his knees, his eyes quickly fell to his right wrist, seeing that the sleeve had been pushed up and his wrist band was gone.
"Shit. Where is it? It's gone," he cursed softly under his breath. "It can't just be gone!"
With a deep breath he pulled the sleeve down, hiding the barcode from his sight. As long as he didn't have to see it, he could worry about it later. For now, he needed to figure out the answers to the questions piling up in his head.
"Where… What is this place?" He muttered as he turned around.
He was just starting to take in the area around him when he saw Noctis laying on the floor beside him. "Ah! Noct! That's right… We were in the snow. We were walking."
He gasped before he bent over and started to gently shake him. "Noct! Wake up Noct!"
All of the memories came rushing back to him. He remembered where they were before, far out in the cold tundra. He remembered how hard it was to see anything with the snow trying to blind him. Noctis was there the entire time, holding on to him, trying to keep him warm.
He was there until he wasn't. The wind had picked up and for a moment Noctis had slipped away from him. The next became a blur as his face had met snow. Noctis had soon come back before he realized it. His body had been pressed up against his own as he muttered something soft into his ears.
"Wonder what he was saying… Man, I was pretty out of it before," Prompto thought to himself.
He shook Noctis again. "Come on, Noct! Now's not the time to keep sleeping."
"Idon'twanna," Noctis mumbled incoherently. "Fivemoreminutes."
"No, not five more minutes. It's time to wake up and find out where the heck we are."
Noctis stared to blink, his eyes focusing on Prompto. Suddenly he lunged forward and wrapped his arms around him tightly. "Prom! You're okay!"
"Y-Yeah, of course I am," Prompto stuttered, startled by the sudden hug. He knew Noctis was not one for deep and close affection, at least not just out of the blue. "Are you?"
"I just," he swallowed as he pulled away. "I thought we were going to… we were out there and…"
"Hey," Prompto whispered. "It's okay. We're still alive. Somehow."
"But where's here?" Noctis asked as he started to look around.
Prompto shook his head. "Don't know. But might as well find out, yeah?"
Noctis stood up and then helped Prompto to his feet. "Right. Let's look around, okay?"
The two began to look around the room, passing by the various pieces of equipment that they had no idea about. Eventually Promtpo found a newspaper that had an image of an old man on it.
"A New Hope…" he read aloud as Noctis came over to look. "Construction finished today on the First Magitek Production Facility. Rising military star and leading authority on magitek Verstael Besithia has been selected to oversee the plant's operation. Reports say Besithia will relinquish his field duties in order to serve at the compound full-time."
Prompto then looked over at Noctis. "Who the fuck is this dude?"
"I think I heard the name before, but I wasn't really paying attention to that lecture," Noctis said with a shrug.
"Also, look at the date! M.E. 723! That's 12 years before we were even born. Has this place just been abandoned for that long? Or maybe someone's just enjoying reading the old stuff?"
"Don't know. Let's see what else we can find, okay? There's gotta be something else."
They walked around a little more until Prompto found another oddity. This time he picked up an old tape recording. After inspecting that the tape inside was still intact, he showed it to Noctis before deciding to hit play.
"Research log: Year 722, Day 189. I received a proposal regarding a way to improve the infantry's performance by leaps and bounds: outfit the troopers with magitek cores. Preliminary tests suggest sublimating daemons for fuel will result in an unstable infantry unfit for the field. If the calculations he provided are correct, though, this could solve all our problems. The Deathless Project marks the advent of a new age. No longer will our soldiers fall on the field of battle. The empire shall rise, and soon, all the world shall bask in our glory!"
"Geez, you think that's Verstael?" Prompto asked.
"I don't know who else it could be. This guy sounds completely crazy, but if we find more info, it could be useful. Don't really like the sound of that 'Deathless Project' though."
"Do you think it already happened? Considering the date of the log."
Noctis shrugged. "Don't know. Anything else?"
Prompto shook his head. "Not that I can see. Let's try and find a way out of the room."
Moving towards the front of the room, Prompto noticed a panel by the doorway. Humming, he came a bit closer and started to inspect it, seeing if it was something he could easily access. From the looks of it, there was a keypad to the side but above the main panel, there was a light shining down.
"Looks like we may need a keycard," Prompto said aloud for Noctis to hear. "Let me know if you find anything."
Reaching forward, Prompto placed his hand on the device, trying to see if maybe there was a secret panel. If they couldn't find a card, maybe there was a chance he could pop it open and hack into it.
As soon as his hand passed under the light, something flashed and he saw a faint glow from under his jacket. A speaker clicked on overhead and a feminine robotic voice began to talk.
"Scanning production code."
Right away Prompto yanked his wrist back, pressing it to his already rapidly beating heart. His other hand came quickly to cover up the wrist, even though it was still covered by the fabric of the jacket.
"Unit 05953234 confirmed."
"What did you do?!" Noctis asked as he ran over.
"I-I don't know!" Prompto replied quietly. He felt like he should know, given that glow he saw from under the jacket, but he wished he didn't have to think about it.
The metal doors before them slid open suddenly as the voice continued to speak. If Prompto had his gun on him he would have shot the speaker to make it shut up.
"Warning: this unit has been compromised. Initiating retrieval of compromised unit."
"What's it saying?" Noctis asked. "What does it mean by 'compromised unit'?"
"I don't know!" Prompto shouted louder this time.
"Oh, I think I know…" Ardyn's familiar voice rang out. "She still remembers you, after all these years."
The two turned around to see Ardyn standing across the room. Right away Prompto could feel his anger burning within him. It was because of him that all of this was happening.
"What the hell do you want?" Noctis yelled.
Prompto watched as Noctis held out his hand to summon a blade, but strangely nothing happened. Prompto also tried to summon the blade that Noctis had lent to him, but it was all the same. Nothing was coming to him; he couldn't even feel the magic aura from the armiger.
"What gives?" Prompto asked hastily.
"Yeah! What the fuck did you do!" Noctis tried to jump forward, but Prompto was quick to grab him. He wasn't about to let Noctis do something entirely reckless, especially without their weapons.
Ardyn only smiled as he pulled something out of his pocket. The boys gasped, seeing that it was none other than Prompto's own gun. "Ah, but we can't have the two of you spilling blood here, now can we?"
Ardyn took a few steps forward as Noctis and Prompto stepped back. "You know, originally I wished to move things along a little sooner, no thanks to you, dear Noct. But, I figured a small detour wouldn't hurt."
Noctis gritted his teeth, practically growling at the man. "How about you explain what you did! Why can't we summon our weapons!"
"Ah, ah, let's not get ahead of ourselves, shall we? You still don't even know where you are. This is the First Magitek Production Facility. The birthplace of the myriad magitek troopers and daemons the empire holds dear," Ardyn replied. He then shifted his gaze to grin at Prompto. The look alone was enough to make Prompto's stomach turn. "And to you, this place should have some sentimental value. After all, it is your home sweet home."
"Shut up," Prompto replied, his voice cracking slightly.
"So hostile," Ardyn hummed. "How did you ever get in Noct's favor?"
"How about you leave us alone already and stop calling me that!" Noctis argued. He kept gripping his hand, as if that was going to summon his weapon back to him.
"Yeah just leave! You've caused enough trouble."
"Oh? But I wasn't the one who almost killed you," Ardyn purred.
Prompto felt Noctis yank his arm away from him as he finally charged at Ardyn. He screamed, barreling towards the man. Just as Noctis was closing on, Ardyn moved forward, slamming the gun up against Noctis's stomach.
Prompto stood there, practically frozen as he watched Noctis crumble to the floor, now gripping the gun within his arms. "I think it would be wise if you rested. Would be best to compose yourself before meeting the estimable Chief Besithia."
"Who?" Prompto asked, finally urging his body to move to Noctis's side. "Why the hell would I care about someone like that?"
Ardyn only shook his head. "Oh, how quickly they forget. But fear not: I've no doubt a reunion would refresh your memory. Maybe he could even heal that broken heart of yours. Surely sticking around with the one who hurt you only is making it worse."
Eyeing the gun that was loosely being held by Noctis, Prompto picked it up and pointed it to where he saw Ardyn standing. Though when he did, the man was now gone. No one was there but him and Noctis.
Noctis groaned, holding his stomach as he sat up. "Where'd he go?"
"Don't know…" Prompto said as he lowered his head.
"Don't believe anything he says!" Noctis said abruptly. "I-It wasn't my fault. I didn't know what I was doing before."
Prompto raised his head back up and looked at Noctis's eyes. They were wide, perhaps even on the edge of tears. He knew deep down he could always trust Noctis. They had been best friends for years now, and he always put his best faith into him. Every once in a while, though, he would close his eyes and the flashes of memories would come back.
"I know, Noct."
"I really didn't know it was you. I just heard and saw Ardyn. He did something! Tricking me!" Noctis exhaled sharply as he gripped his hair. "This is all my fault. I screwed it up. All of it!"
"Hey, hey!" Prompto said, placing his hands on Noctis's shoulders. "Calm down first. Gotta take some deep breaths."
Noctis was always there, helping him out of his own panic attacks, and now he saw that he had to step up. He had to take a turn to help his friend.
Prompto breathed in deeply along with Noctis. "You got this, just keep breathing for me, okay?"
Noctis nodded. "Trying to. But we have no weapons, we have nothing. I'm worthless…"
"Oh whoa, hey now. Weren't you the one who was always telling me that I wasn't worthless? Why do you get to tell me I'm not that but then say that you are?"
"Cause I can't do anything right! I messed up everything!"
"You didn't, Noct. You came and saved me. Once you saw something was wrong you came after me and made sure I was okay. That isn't messing anything up. Plus, we have my gun. We aren't totally unarmed, and there's probably something else here we can use, right?"
Noctis stared for what felt like the longest time, but finally he let out a sigh. A small smile crossed his lips as he nodded. "Yeah, you're right. We keep supporting each other."
"Ever at your side," Prompto offered with a smile.