Prompto’s statement was followed by a sharp gasp of air from Noct and I.
“This your idea of a joke?” Noct stalked towards the table from where he had stood by the window.
Ignis held his hands up in a calming fashion. “I need you to calm down so I can explain.”
“I’m as calm as I’m gonna get!” Noct shrugged off the hand I tried to place on his arm.
“Noct…” My brother looked down at my whisper of his name. “Please, let Iggy explain?”
Taking a deep breath and exhaling loudly Noct sat down on the bed next to me and wrapped his arms around my shoulders. Pulling me closer Noct rested his head against mine before turning to Ignis to let him explain.
“There was an attack. The imperial army has taken the Crown City.”
“As treaty room tempers flared, blasts lit the night sky. When the smoke about the Citadel had cleared, the king was found…dead.” Gladio interrupted Ignis’s explanation by reading from the paper he held.
Ignis rushed to continue explaining after seeing the look on my face. “We had no way of knowing that the signing was last night. It’s entirely possible that the reports are premature.”
“But…the wedding? Us going to Altissia. Why would this happen? Where were the guard? The glaive?” The words were starting to process for me, but one part kept circling in my head. The king was found dead. It couldn’t be. The man that raised me and Noct despite having to rule a kingdom. There was no way he could be dead. He had to have made it out alive. Clarus would have made sure of it; that was his job as the King’s Shield.
“I know, that was the plan. I’m not sure.” Ignis reached up to push his glasses back in place and turned to talk quietly to Gladio, but not quiet enough for me not to hear. “The reports of the invasion are all the same. How could every headline in the kingdom be wrong?”
Gladio’s expression darkened and he turned to sit on the couch. After hearing Ignis’s statement I turned to press my face into Noct’s shoulder and try to pretend this wasn’t happening. I could hear a whispered conversation from the rest of the guys.
“We can’t be sure until we see it with our own eyes.” Gladio’s voice was soft but still doubting.
“And that means we go back to Insomnia.” It was said as a statement but we could all hear the silent question mark at the end of Prompto’s sentence.
“Might not be safe for us there.” Ignis, ever the voice of reason.
“Might not be safe for us here.” Prompto countered.
“Turn back?” Gladio’s question was to the room at large, but we all knew who it was meant for.
I felt Noct shift as he looked down at me, still huddled in his chest, trying hard to keep the tears from falling. His arm tightened around me slightly, holding me closer without really moving us at all.
“Yeah.” His voice was quiet and wouldn’t have been audible except that we were all silent, waiting for his answer.
Soon we were throwing hastily packed bags into the Regalia's trunk and pulling out the lot, turning down the road that would lead us back to the Crown City.
My mind was running a million thoughts a second and internally I was a wreck. I tried to make sure nothing broke through my calm mask, the only concession to my inner turmoil being the constant nervous spinning of the ring on my finger. The car ride was next to silent except for the rain outside. The radio stayed off and no one, not even Prompto, tried to start a conversation. In the back seat I sat sandwiched between Noct and Gladio. Gladio had a book out but hadn't turned the page in the last 10 miles. Noct had his face turned towards the window, watching the rainy landscape race by. Prompto sat in the passenger seat, fiddling with his camera but never picking it up to take any pictures, occasionally glancing at the backseat as though to reassure himself that we were all still here. In the driver’s seat Ignis showed no obvious outward signs of distress, but I'd often see his hands clench around the wheel before he'd notice and force himself to uncurl them slightly.
The trip towards Insomnia from Galdin Quay passed quickly enough. Before we could make it into the city we found a road block of magitek soldiers. Noct was the first to throw himself into the fray, warping in to take them by surprise. I quickly followed with a warp of my own and a loud cry filled with the anguish I felt at the possibility of my father truly being dead. The MTs fell fast, no match for the determination that our group held. We all knew that they were simply an obstacle to our destination, an inconvenience and nothing more. After fighting the ones on the road we ran up the small hill, fighting more soldiers along the way as we raced to the outlook over the city. I paused after retrieving one of my daggers from the chest of an MT. Looking around I found no more bodies to fight and joined Noct and the others standing on the cliff, seeing the city for the first time since we left.
Looking at the destruction that used to be our home was the last devastating blow to my emotions. Seeing the wrecked buildings and chaos in the streets killed any of my hopes that the news was wrong. The voice in my mind reassuring me that my father and friends might have made it out alive suddenly went silent.
Noct's phone went off and I heard him speaking to the Marshall. Most of the conversation washed over me except for one sentence.
"-about the king... it's true."
My father, the King of Lucis, was dead. I would never be there again. Never again would I be able to hug him, never have a quiet evening after a long day at court, never ask him for another story about mother, never tell him how much I love him ever again.
Unconsciously I started backing away from Noct and the others towards a rocky wall. My breathing started to get quicker while the distance between myself and the ground got shorter.
Backing up until I faintly felt myself run into a rock, I used it to help myself slide down to the ground safely. Curling into a ball, my hands instinctually found their way to my head and cradled my temple in an attempt to give myself an anchor. When that had little effect I found my hand wrapping itself around one of my dagger’s blades, cutting into my palm, grounding myself with the physical pain.
Silently tears began streaming down my face as I gasped for breathe. Between the tears and the lack of oxygen I could barely see as Noct hung up his phone and conversed with the guys. Noct seemed to glance around for a moment before stopping to stare at something near where I had fallen. The last thing I saw was Noct suddenly sprinting towards me before I clenched my eyes shut in an attempt to fight the pain I felt in my head and my mind. The sound of someone skidding to a stop next to me temporarily over powered the sound of my gasps and blood pounding in my ears. Suddenly I felt myself being carefully sat upright and hands trying to gently untangle my own from my hair. Another pair of hands gently pried the dagger from my grasp and wound a piece of cloth around the cut. A low murmur wove its way through the roaring in my ears and soon the words started making sense to me.
"Kat? I need you to breathe. Slow down and try to take a deep breath. Please? Kat?"
Noct's voice sounded terrified but firm as he tried to help me get oxygen back into my lungs.
"Hey kitty Kat, you need to breathe." Prompto's voice joined Noct's, sounding less calm but still familiar enough to help me continue trying to anchor myself.
"Kid, c'mon. You're freaking us out over here." Gladio's voice was gruff and blunt, but still caring.
"Katialina, you need to slow your breathing else you'll pass out. We are all here for you. Please." Ignis's voice was the last link, finally pulling me back to them.
My gasps became more pronounced as I tried to slow my breathing, stuttering as I failed and continued trying to suck in air.
A gloved hand grasped my uninjured one and brought it to rest against a shirt covered chest.
"Breathe with me Katya, in. Out. In. Out." Ignis took exaggerated deep breathes while someone else tried to reposition me to a less curled up seated position. As my breathing slowed my mind caught back up and the remembered events cause me to start attempting to gasp for air.
"No Katya, keep taking deep breathes. We're here. You're here. We'll figure all this out. I promise. In. Out. In. Out."
My blurry vision started to refocus and I could see the worried looks on the guys’ faces. Gladio stood making sure that no one tried to attack, but constantly glanced back to make sure things were ok. Prompto was kneeling next to me confusion on his face as he tried to figure out how to help. Ignis was kneeling directly in front of my still holding my hand to his chest. For a second I couldn’t see Noct and I started to freak out again, whipping my head around to try and find him.
“Whoa, Kat. Hey! Stop that! Blegh, ugh, your hair is way too long!” Noct’s voice came from behind me and I stopped my panicking to turn slowly to face Noct. He had a grimace on his face as he tried to spit out my hair that had made it into his mouth as I frantically looked around.
Grinning sheepishly I moved until I was sitting next to Noct rather than in his lap.
“Sorry Noct. I couldn’t find you and freaked out a bit.”
“Obviously.” The smirk he gave me negated any bad feelings in his tone. Despite my change of position, Noct wrapped an arm around my shoulder and pulled me close again. Throughout this Ignis had continued holding my hand even as it moved from his chest to just rest in my lap.
“We’ll figure this out. I promise.” Though his expression wasn’t the most hopeful, the strength in Ignis’s voice as he swore was enough to give me hope that we could figure this out. So long as we did so as a group. My father’s last words to Noct rang through my head. This was something that could be done, if we all walked tall together.