Hello again! Yall thought I was done with this fandom HA.

Back in 2017 I wrote VS XIII and it was my first longfic that I completed and looking back there was so much room for improvement. I'd like to think I've gotten much better at writing since then.

Consider this a re-write even though there's so many changes to this story (it's basically an AU of an AU), but the overall internal structure is the same. Invasion of Insomnia - Bro Trip - God shenanigans - Altissia - Return to Insomnia. You do not need to read the previous version to understand this AU.

Rating might be subject to change depending on how graphic I end up getting with the violence. (and how disturbing I get with the themes at various points)

NOTE: I am posting this chapter to hold myself accountable for this re-write because it will get finished, but I won't post a bulk of the chapters until I'm 80% done with this fic.

Onto the fic.

Chapter I: A Swaying Shaking Light

Noctis was nine when he first met her.

A small slip of a girl, hiding behind the leg of Clarus Amicitia, the shield to the King. Clad in white with blonde locks framing her face, her wispy bangs hiding eyes as violet as the tenebris blossoms that bloomed in a field in the Citadel's courtyard.

She kept herself hidden, afraid to take a step forward or come out from her hiding spot.

His father, King Regis, remained stoic and resolute.

"Noctis, say hi to our guest," he ordered.

Noctis knew to never disobey his father's commands.

So the boy, clad in black, extended his hand to the girl. "Hi. I'm Noctis."

The girl tilted her head in curiosity at his palm. With slow hesitation, she took a step forward and reached for his hand.

"Greetings Noctis, I'm Stella Nox Fleuret," she said, her voice small and unsure, but with an accent and heavy air of politeness.

His ears turned pink. Was he supposed to give his last name? Everyone around him just simply knew. But Stella gave hers.

"She is to be staying with us for a while, Noctis," Regis said. "Make her feel at home."

Stella stepped out of Clarus' shadow. She was a little bit taller than Noctis, which made him bristle. He was still so short compared to his classmates. Gladio gave him a hard time over it a lot.

"Do you like fishing?" Noctis blurted out, unsure what else to say. He looked at how Stella was wearing all white, standing out in a sea of black floors and black clothes and black ceilings and black furnishings.

Stella answered with that same politeness. "I cannot say if I do. I've never done it."

"Then I can show you." Noctis looked up to Clarus. "If that's okay."

Clarus turned to a boy who towered over both Noctis and Stella, dressed in a pressed uniform and standing stiffly with his shoulders square and chin up. "Gladiolus, escort the Prince and Princess to the pond and watch over them."

Gladio nodded. "Yes, sir."

Noctis led Stella down the halls of the Citadel, knowing each corner and short cut by heart, to the elevator to the courtyard where the pond full of fish resided. He didn't like fishing in the pond very much but some days he got the itch and couldn't go to the lakeside. Gladio followed behind them, not saying a word.

Noctis sat down on the wooden pier and reached into the small box of fishing gear and grabbed his rod in the mini-storage shed. He sat down, the bobble and hook resting in the water, waiting for the imported fish to take the bait.

Stella stood, watching.

"You can sit, it's not really much of a standing thing," Noctis said.

She smoothed out her white skirt and took a seat next to him. "What will you do with the fish?"

Noctis shrugged. "Probably throw them back or ask for the chef to make it for dinner."

"Ah. I see it's very low-stress. Relaxing even."

He nodded. "Yep."

A tug on his line. He got excited; this was always the best part. He sat up and reeled it in, trying not to snap the line.

The fish he caught was pearly white in its scales, the dying light of day shimmering as it twitched on the bait. It was small enough that Noctis was going to let it go. So he released it back into the pond where it would swim with the other fish of its kind, surrounded by black-scaled fish.

Stella's feet kicked back and forth. "And you do this all day?"

"Kinda. Only when I have free time and sometimes outside of the Citadel. There's a lake full of tons of fish, really, really big and different colors."

Stella gave a smile. "I'd like to see it one day."

Noctis beamed. "It's really pretty, especially at night with all the fireflies."

Noctis was eleven when Stella asked him to run with her through the fields of Tenebris.

"Run with me Noct, please," she asked, getting up from her spot in the grass. The fog was hanging low that morning, thick and chilling.

"Uhhh," Noctis tilted his head, unsure what she was going on about, but she had her hand out, and who was he to say no? "Okay."

Stella took his hand, tugging him along as they ran through the grass. The fog ensured they couldn't see more than five feet in front of each other. It was interesting, giving Noctis an adrenaline rush and a twinge of fear.

They came upon a massive field of tenebris, all swaying in the breeze.

Stella let go of his hand, breathing heavily. Noctis' lungs burned and he was hunched over on his knees, trying to catch his breath.

Stella flopped down into the flower patch, petals flying into the air. Her white ruffled dress was covered in violet that fluttered their way down.

"Why did you ask me to run?" Noctis asked, taking a seat next to Stella. She was staring up at the sky.

"It felt like we were running away for a moment."

"Running away from…?"

"Everything. The Citadel. Our titles. Our names. Right now, I'm not a Nox Fleuret and you're not a Lucis Caelum."

Noctis leaned on his hand, elbow supported by his knee. It sounded nice. It sounded like a dream. "Do you think we'll have that one day, Stell?"

She let out a low hum. "Maybe. When we're older and we have the power to leave ourselves."

"Where would we go? Outside of Insomnia? Lucis? Farther than Tenebrae, right?"

"Yes. A place where we don't have to worry about anything. No crystals. No fal'Cie. No Empire. No kingdoms." She brushed the petals off her skirt and sat up. "Just the two of us."

Noctis smiled. Stella was his best friend, his only real companion in the Citadel who just… got it. Sure he had his shield, Gladio, and his attendant, Ignis, but Stella had a much closer tie to a crystal, the source of their powers.

He looked up to the grey sky, feeling the fog around them lift and sunshine poured forth, warming his face. "Yeah. Just the two of us."

Noctis Lucis Caelum was sixteen when he watched Stella Nox Fleuret go.

He didn't know why. Didn't understand why.

He stood on the footsteps to the main entrance of the Citadel, his father's hand on his shoulder, as he watched Stella approach a convoy in the dull grey daylight.

Stella had grown taller, but Noctis even more so. He leveraged several inches over her. Her flaxen blonde hair had grown longer, her bangs swept to the side. Her violet eyes had gotten darker with time as she aged.

She turned back to look at him one more time, the door wide open.

"Don't worry about me. Go, live your life."

She got inside the car. A light rain began to drizzle overhead, dampening Noctis' untameable abyss locks. His throat was tight, but he refused to cry in front of his father.

Her words carried little comfort. It was ridiculous for her to assume Noctis wouldn't fret about her. Wouldn't care about her so intensely. She was the only one in his life who understood the absence of a mother, the burden of everyone knowing your name, and the fear people have of the crystals that fueled their magic.

The convoy containing Stella left, and in Noctis' hand was a single, violet tenebris blossom.

He shook off his father's one act of kindness and affection to him, almost stomping and sulking his way to the gardens. He stopped in front of a massive field of tenebris.

He dragged his arm over his stinging eyes before dropping the blossom to be lost in the sea of petals.

That night, he dreamed.

Stella stood in that very field, petals dancing in the breeze. She was even older, an adult woman. Noctis looked down at himself, knowing he was also an adult now.

"Stell?" he called out to her, voice rough from overflowing emotions.

She turned and smiled at him, but her eyes remained sad. "Noct."

Darkness swept forward overhead, darkening the skies. A chill fell over him, making the hair on his arms and on the back of his neck rise. The breeze picked up into a harsh wind. Leaves and petals slapped at him and pushed him back. Stella's ruffled dress whipped in the wind.

"Noct!" She cried out, reaching for him.

He tried to push forward, his arms up so he could see. "Stell!"

A voice, echoing and nebulous, spoke over the wind, as if it was right in his ear.

She, one chosen of the crystal, shall die to save the world from eternal darkness.

"The hell…" Noctis squinted, trying to reach for Stella.

She stood there, her feet frozen to the ground. She couldn't move, for whatever reason. "Noct!"

"Hold on!"

But no matter how many steps forward he took, he was no closer to her. Some invisible force was preventing him from getting to her. He managed to glance down at her feet. She wasn't frozen, she was crystallizing. Her skin turned into translucent stone. Harder than diamond. Clearer than the clearest crystal. Shimmering, even in the darkness surrounding them. Her limbs, one by one, stopped moving. Her dress faded away, and her eyes closed in sleep. Swirls of crystal encased her body in a protective hold. Darkness latched onto her form, intertwining with her lovely crystalline form.

Noctis' blood ran cold at the sight. The darkness consumed and sucked away the life in the field, and imbued itself into Stella's crystal statue.

"No!" he screamed, his throat hoarse as darkness came for him too, slowing his steps.

Her statue crumbled away.

The voice spoke again.

Darkness shall reign forevermore, and she shall pay the ultimate sacrifice to save the world from penance.

"I won't let her die!" he declared. "I won't!"

Nothing remained, save for dead flowers.

He got his heavy feet up and he ran through the field until he fell off the edge of the earth, floating in a dark void with no clouds, no sunlight, no anything.

He kicked himself forward, trying to find any footing he could get. In a burst of sparkles, appeared a woman with flowing white robes, sleeping. She readjusted her head on her arms, eyes still closed.

"What…?" Noctis reached out to her, compelled to touch. The woman's aura was alluring, reminding him of a soft, warm bed at the end of a tiring day.

He touched the sheer fabric of her draping sleeves. Electricity burned through his blood. The epicenter of the raw power surge was in his forearm. Like a rod was pressed to his skin. He cried out in pain, yanking back.

You cannot change fate, the nebulous voice said.

Noctis squeezed his eyes shut, wanting it all to stop.

And it did.

He was back in his bed, heart pounding in his ears. Sweat soaked his black night-shirt and shorts. His hair stuck to his face. Tears stained his cheeks. He sat up, wiping at his eyes.

It felt so real. The nightmare felt so real. He couldn't decide what parts were the worst because all of it was his worst nightmare. Stella dying. Stella crystalizing. The world ending. The pain from that sleeping woman. The voice.

"I can…" He swallowed, his throat dry. "I will change fate."

He hissed in pain, looking at his forearm.

A white mark, an intricate arrow, was embedded into his skin. It shimmered for a moment, making the pain flare up even more. What would he do at that moment to chop off his limb to make it stop, though something told him that wouldn't matter. Noctis was stuck with this mark.

The mark of a l'Cie.