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“You had to know it would come to this.” Cor fought to keep his tone steady when all he wanted to do was grab the young chamberlain by the shoulders and shake the madness out of him. Ignis did not raise his head, his gaze locked firmly on a point between his feet. Out of shame? Cor wondered. Or just shame he had been caught?

When Monica had brought him the intel, her serious face lined with concern, Cor had not wanted to believe it. Ignis was the last person Cor would ever expect to bring harm to Noctis. In every assessment, from the tender age of six to his now nineteen years, had shown him to be a dedicated servant to the Crown Prince. And even if his fealty had not been unshakeable, Ignis was smart. He knew better than anyone the protocols surrounding His Highness, not to mention the basic laws of Insomnia.

Had Monica not brought him photographic evidence of Ignis pressing Noctis into a mattress, his long fingers gripping the younger man’s wrists hard enough to bruise, Cor would have dismissed the charges without a thought. It was not an image he was soon to forget.

It was a small blessing that Regis was out of the Citadel, taking a rare departure to the borderlands of the Crown City. Cor did not want to bring this matter to the king until he had it settled.

“What sickness has come over you?” Cor demanded, steeling himself for the answer. “Forget the political implications. The public scandal. His Highness is barely more than a child, a child whose well-being was placed into your hands. You swore an oath to protect and guide him, not to take advantage of him!”

Ignis’s jaw clenched. A small voice in Cor’s head reminded him that Ignis was nearly as much of a boy as Noctis himself, but he pushed the thought aside.

No argument came. The stubbornness in Ignis’s face quickly faded, shoulders slumping as he remained silent.

This was getting nowhere. Cor needed to find out why. Not only for the Crown’s sake, but for his own.

Both men were distracted by the sudden rise of voices outside. Cor pushed his chair back. He had ordered there were to be no interruptions, and it seemed someone was taking offense to the order. Ignis’s uncle, no dou—

Cor was proven wrong when the doors to his office were smashed open, one very unlucky Crownsguard the battering ram. She hit the floor and slid until the wall abruptly halted her trajectory.

“What in Bahamut’s name?!” A slender object followed her. Not a blade, Cor realized, but a pen of all things. It stopped in the center of the room, defying physics for the briefest moment before the Prince himself caught it in a spray of blue light.

As the glow of his warp-strike started to fade, Noctis whirled on the Marshal.

Cor was hit by a startling realization. In the sixteen years of his Prince’s life, he had seen him in many foul moods. Sullenness had been a hallmark of his teenage years. Noctis could take more offense to a side dish than anyone Cor had ever known. He had even had the dubious honor of seeing his fair share of tantrums, including the one time a very consequential negotiation had been abruptly adjourned by the ear-splitting wail of a two-year-old.

Yet now he realized that, in all that time, he had never seen the Crown Prince truly angry.

“Release Ignis right this instant,” Noctis commanded in an imperious tone Cor had not even known he possessed.

“Six, Noct!” Ignis was the first to get his breath back, speaking for the first time since he had been arrested. “Calm down!”

Every Crownsguard within earshot started pouring into the room only to halt awkwardly in the foyer, eyes darting from their Marshal to their Prince to their comrade, who was still shaking off the blow.

“Your Highness,” Cor began, rapidly trying to process the new information before him. “Ignis has been accused of a serious infraction –”

“I don’t give a shit,” Noctis replied, ever the diplomat.

“It is my duty to investigate crimes against the Crown.”

“Then you’re fired.” The room fell dead silent.

“Holy hell, Noct!” Ignis straightened in his chair, looking surprisingly affronted. “You cannot fire the Immortal!” Noctis spun on him. Cor found himself glad to have that steely gaze turned away from him.

“You want to bet I can’t?!” Noctis snapped back.

“The Marshal and the Guard are only doing their jobs, Noctis,” Ignis scolded. “I have broken both protocol and law, and you know it. Article C-532-A of the –”

Noctis cut him off with a stomp of his foot. “We are not debating C-523-A while the Crownsguard has you handcuffed to a chair!”

Cor found himself privy to the surreal sight of Ignis, of all people, trying to convince the Crown Prince that his own arrest was valid.

“It is a very clear statute –” Ignis began.

“—that is in direct conflict with C-235-B, which obviously takes precedence!” Cor had the strangest feeling that this was a common debate between the two.

Ignis switched tactics. “In any case, you do not have the authority to dismiss the Marshal of the Crownsguard. That power lies with His Majesty alone.”

Except when the King isn’t here,” Noctis fired back. “B-63-A. ‘In the absence of the Crown Ruler of Lucis, all powers of the Crown Ruler are temporarily granted to that of his or her heir.’ Section B defines ‘absence’ as the ‘unavailability of the official due to sickness, duty, or distance.’ As Dad is not in the Citadel and is not picking up his damn phone right now, he is absent.”

Cor felt the bizarre urge to laugh. Ignis looked utterly offended, yet perhaps a little proud, that Noctis had managed to quote Lucian law in a debate and win.

Cor sunk back into his seat. The movement seemed to remind Noctis of his existence. The Prince spun back to him with a snarl.

“I said, let him go!” Cor pulled a key from his pocket and tossed it to Noctis, who caught it in surprise.

“Obviously, the situation is not what I feared it to be,” Cor said, before leaning over to dig in a desk drawer. “An investigation will need to be done, but until your father returns this evening and unfires me –” Cor pulled out a bottle of brandy. “— it is officially not my problem.”

The assembled Crownsguard watched in silent shock as their Prince unhandcuffed his advisor and drug him from the room. Yes, an investigation would have to be done. Cor would have to figure out who fed Monica the intelligence that Ignis was taking advantage of Noctis when it was becoming quite obvious they were dating. There was no doubt going to be much hay made by the Council over whether or not a member of royalty could take a consort and if that threatened the potential of a political marriage. Both boys were going to have to be sat down and given a stern talking to about closing the damn blinds whenever they got frisky, much less kinky.

But at the moment? Cor the Immortal was blissfully unemployed, and he was going to make the most of it.