The wind swept through his hair, pulling at his shirt, but Gladio wouldn’t trade it for anything. He finally felt like he was doing something again. Moving forward as he drove the bike through the abandoned streets of Insomnia. Cool hands were wrapped around his waist, only gripping tighter when Gladio turned corners. He had taken people before for bike rides, normally just his sister, but this was vastly different. Eyes watering slightly, Gladio only had the light of the bike and the red giants to guide him. If it wasn’t for the constant threat of daemons, Gladio might have enjoyed having Ignis hold on to him as they eased into another corner.
To the side of him, he had Nyx and Noct, the prince holding onto Nyx for what looked like dear life. If Gladio didn’t know better, Nyx was having fun weaving through the dark city as if it was the most natural thing. Then again, Gladio had to remind himself that Nyx was more acclimated with the dark than he was thanks to there being no sun.
The Marshal brought up the rear, with Prompto letting loose another starshell at a red giant that had somehow gotten behind them far too quickly. If only Noct had put on the damned ring, they could have easily taken down one or two of those giants between Cor and himself alone. But Cor called the shots and he had told them all they were heading out of the city post haste. If the daemons followed they would fight he supposed, but they had more pressing matters. They had to get the lights back on in Tandem.
“Iggy!” Gladio glanced over his shoulder. The helmet nodded. “I’m going to get in front of one of the giants, want to try your magic?”
With Noct being so close, well, Ignis was going to be in a bit of shock with just how well his magic was going to work. From what the guy had told him earlier, the magic worked, but it was hardly as potent as it could have been.
Ignis shifted so he could hold on to Gladio a little better, but a free hand crackled with a bit of electricity. Smirking, Gladio revved the bike a little before cutting into an alleyway, having seen the blazing fire of a red giant ahead. Nyx didn’t know the streets like Gladio did, but Noct would. He was sure the prince would give directions when possible, so Gladio did his best to keep the immediate daemons off of Nyx to keep the directions simple enough.
Cutting off the daemons path, it roared in protest at the sound of the engine but didn’t turn its attention to them until Ignis threw the electricity right at it. The air crackled around them, sending Gladio’s hair to stick up a little as white lightning spread throughout the space, temporarily lighting up the buildings and street lamps only to have the bulbs shatter from the pure power. Glass rained down, not exactly an intended side effect, but Gladio didn’t care. He had a tight grip on the bike, righting it when the flaming sword came crashing down on the streets shaking the ground. A few pieces of fallen buildings and abandoned cars shifted or were tossed around by the sword, none of it hitting either of them. The daemon was now following them. Ignis held a little tighter after that as Gladio sped through the alleyways big enough for the bike and the daemon. Divide and conquer.
“We’ll have him follow for a bit then we’ll lose him,” Gladio said, keeping the bike just ahead of the sword. He could feel the flames licking at the bike, his legs, and boots. The heat warmed his skin, but Ignis blocked most of the extra fire with ice, droplets of rain hissed in protest against the hot pipes of the motorcycle sending rivets of steam up from the metal. “Try not to tire yourself out, Iggy.”
Gladio put a bit more distance between them and the sword. Heart thudding hard in his chest, this feeling, the adrenaline, was familiar. Maybe not playing cat and mouse with a daemon necessarily, but driving and outmaneuvering the daemon was more than he had done in the past week. He didn’t need to think about which buildings belonged to who, or who might have have been spared in other cryovats. All he needed to do was focus on getting out of Insomnia with Ignis and the others. A pat on his shoulder brought his wandering mind out of deciding which road to take next and try to focus where Ignis pointed.
A few blocks away, another starshell was released in the sky. Seemed the Marshal was having just as much fun as they were if the gunfire was anything to go off. Yet, that wasn’t where Ignis was pointing at. No. It was to a motorcycle on the main road, almost to the gate. Good, that meant they could finally ditch their daemon and get going. Gladio nodded.
Sadly, ditching the daemon at their heels was a lot harder than Gladio originally anticipated. The red giant didn’t care for the buildings or what he crushed in its path as it pursued them. The small alleyways Gladio started to take were actually only hindering him when the red giant would plow through the buildings and start causing them to collapse. It made poor conditions for Gladio to swerve out of the way of some of the falling windows and escape ladders, or the occasional dumpster that threatened to crush them against brick and mortar.
“Change of plans, Iggy. Hold on,” Gladio shouted as they came back to the main road leading out of Insomnia. They would just have to outrun the daemon. If they could do that perhaps it would just drop the chase.
Taking a deep breath, Gladio turned off the light to his bike. Cold hands tightened slightly, the only indication that Ignis did not like what Glado was doing. Too bad for Ignis that Gladio knew this street like the back of his hand and had driven on this street more times than he could count. There were no potholes, or death traps, just cars that were littered along the road. They would be easily ignored and it wasn’t like they were completely in the dark. The flames of the red giant were still providing a sliver of light for them.
Ahead of them, Gladio could hear rather than see the truck that Cor had taken. It only dawned on him then that there were stairs leading to the top, how the hell were they supposed to get the truck up and out to Tandem.
“Shit. Iggy? Is there another way out of here?” Gladio asked.
Ignis shook his head.
“How are we going to get the truck out of here?”
Gladio glanced back to see the red giant falling further behind. Good, that would give them a few minutes time when they reached the steps to figure out something. For the first time since Ignis had climbed behind him, he flipped the visor up and drew close to Gladio’s ear so he could be heard.
“There’s a lift of sorts. It was how we got Nyx’s bike up and down here. He’ll have it ready for the Marshal,” Ignis said.
A shiver ran through Gladio at the breath against his ear. Only Ignis would think to lean in closer instead of just shouting whatever he needed to say. Shaking his head and laughing, Gladio could only hope that Ignis didn’t question him about his reaction. The further along the road they went, the further away the glowing red and orange danced around them. They had finally given the red giant the slip it seemed, or perhaps the daemon had just grown tired of pursuing something for so long.
“Guess we gave the red giant the slip. Let’s go see about handling whatever is going in Tandem,” Gladio said.
He was rather proud the way things were handled and felt a little better about having Ignis around too. The man could hold his own, and suddenly he wondered what would have happened if they had actually fought. As they drew closer to the steps, Gladio slowed the bike until he could stop. He turned it off, letting Ignis get off the bike first, a little wobbly on his legs it seemed, but he said nothing. With the helmet no longer intruding on their form of communication, Gladio eased off the bike.
“So where’s the lift?”
“Over here. I didn’t think we would actually need it for anything other than Nyx’s bike and some of the books he had gathered the first time he was down here.”
Ignis stepped to the right of the steps he brought Gladio the first time. Sure enough, behind the steps was a shaft of sorts, though it was much larger than he originally thought. Cor was already pulling the truck onto the lift, Noctis helping to direct him with a bit of light from lightning in his hand to give the space some much-needed light.
“Is Nyx already at the top, your highness?” Ignis asked.
“Yeah, he dumped me on the stairs and then went straight to the lift.” Noct folded his arms, clearly perturbed, but Gladio only smirked.
“Guess he loves his bike more, princess.”
“Hardly, I’m sure he’s just making sure it’s safe for us up top,” Ignis said to quell whatever retort Noct was about to say. “Prompto, I hope you didn't give the Marshal too much trouble.”
The kid was still in the bed of the truck, fiddling with his gun. When Ignis addressed him, he beamed up at Ignis. Was the kid just quiet? Or was it simply because Prompto didn’t know them that he kept pretty quiet unless Ignis spoke to him. It unsettled him a little, but he’d just have to figure it out later.
“Nope! Totally saved the truck once though. Those red giants are faster than they look.” Prompto said looking over at Cor who grunted but didn’t dispute what was said.
“Alright, put your back into it!” Nyx shouted before he pulled on the rope to the pulley system of the lift.
All six men were pulling at the rope trying to get the truck filled with gear to rise from the depths of Insomnia. Sadly, because the power was out, so too was the motorized lift, they had to pull the car up with their own strength. At least with the pulley system in place, it was better than trying to lift the damned thing by itself, but Gladio was going to make sure to give Cor a piece of his mind about the whole truck. Next time they were in a pinch, he would just have to tell him the weapons and gear could wait. But having seen what people were carrying earlier and what Ignis said, the hunters could use this stuff.
Muscles strained, and all six were huffing and grunting at the exertion of pulling on the rope. Nyx was at the front with Ignis and Cor right after. Prompto was behind Ignis and Noct came up next with Gladio, the tallest and broadest, in the rear acting as the anchor. He had the rope pulling against his back and hips a bit as the rope bit into his shirt and jacket. The rope was wound around him and his left hand as they all pulled.
“Noct! Dig your heels and dig deep, buddy,” Gladio grunted as he saw the prince start to falter. They needed everyone to get that fucking truck up top.
“Sure thing, Gladio. Let me just--oh I don’t know, suddenly grow as tall as you and the muscles to match.”
Gladio could hear the eye roll in Noct’s voice even if he couldn’t see it, but the prince dug into the ground a little deeper. At least Noct hadn’t changed, not too much anyway. None of them had time to dwell on shit for too long. So long as Noct could still make a sly comeback, things would be okay in the end.
“Yeah, how about some magic?” Gladio said in return.
“Would if I knew one that could help.” Noct was being serious now.
“Less talking and more pulling,” Cor grunted.
“Sir,” Noct and Gladio said, pulling harder at the ropes.
The car was up and safely secured after another ten minutes of pulling at the rope. Noct had taken to sitting on the ground, a hand rubbing at his lower back. Prompto was right by his side, looking concerned. Ignis was rubbed at his hands, a grim frown on his face. Gladio went to Ignis first, seeing as how Noct was already getting attention.
“You okay?” Gladio asked, stepping up to Ignis. “Let me see.”
Sure enough, the rope had cut right through the gloves and left Ignis’s hands a bloody mess. Without so much as blinking an eye, Gladio pulled out one of the many potions stored in the armiger. It came with a flash of blue shards.
“W-What was that?”
Raising an eyebrow, Gladio smirked. Putting the panicked voice from earlier out of mind, Gladio was glad to see the guy had more than just stoic reactions to everything. “It’s called the armiger. It’s where we store things. Right now, so long as we’re near Noct, we can access it. We meaning the Marshal and I. Later, anyone who Noct allows can access it or even their own little pocket armiger. Now, hold still.”
Gladio gingerly took off the gloves Ignis wore. He noticed Cor and Nyx briefly looking over but didn’t bother to check on them. Cor more than likely told Nyx it was nothing, but Gladio had to smirk at seeing Nyx turn his body slightly toward Ignis. While he listened to Cor, Nyx was obviously still protective. He was beginning to understand why they called him hero. He and Nyx probably shared the same sort of feeling about protecting Noct, no doubt.
“Alright, watch the magic happen.” Gladio broke the bottle with one hand over top Ignis’s hands, holding them in place gently.
The same coloured blue from the shards of the armiger seeped out of the cracks of the bottle and splashed onto the wounds. It was cool and felt weightless as it touched Ignis’s skin. The liquid turned quickly into particles, floating around as the wounds glowed a bright ice blue. But much like how anything from the armiger had come and gone, the particles faded and left behind nothing but unbroken skin. Ignis had watched the wounds close up and heal as if time had been reversed. Gaping at the closed wounds Ignis gingerly touched where his skin had been torn open, Gladio chuckled. There were still spots of drying blood, but otherwise, Ignis’s hands were fine now.
“You guys don’t have potions?” Gladio asked, handing Ignis back his gloves.
“No. We usually just bandage them up and live with the pain.” Ignis slipped the gloves on, though what good they would do now was beyond Gladio. “You shouldn’t have used the potion on me. What if you needed it for something far worse than just rope burned hands?”
“Easy. We just make more. Now that we have access to the armiger a lot of things are more possible.” Gladio shrugged and stepped back a little to give Ignis space.
“What if we don’t have the necessary ingredients?”
“Iggy, calm down. It’s fine. We have bigger worries and there are plenty still in the armiger. We’ll figure out how to get the supplies and then show you how to make ‘em too. That way you can teach others.” Gladio patted Ignis on the shoulder, hoping to reassure the guy. If they had lost the ability to make potions, they would figure it out later. “Besides, we still have more work to do and you can’t exactly throw any magic or use your daggers if your hands are hurting.”
“Yes…..thank you,” Ignis said. He smiled a little, cradling his hands as if they were still in pain.
“Igs? You okay?” Prompto latched onto Ignis’s arm, glancing at the hands. “Shit, were the gloves not thick enough?”
“I’m fine.” Ignis showed Prompto his newly healed hands.
Noct came up, looking miserable, far more than usual as he slumped against Prompto. The three were a sight, but if Noct was already comfortable around Prompto, that was good. Something felt right, fighting alongside these two with Cor and Nyx. Part of him knew he shouldn’t get too comfortable with having them around. When this was over, Noct would end up deciding their next move, and who knew what that would be or where it would take him.
But right now, he had Noct to worry about. If it was his back, it could only mean that being frozen had certainly done more to him than Noct had originally let on. He hated it when Noct didn’t tell him things like this, but there was nothing he could do except hope they made it through the attack in one piece.
“Noct, is it bad?”
Noct shook his head. “I can manage. But um...after everything is done, I think we need to start up my stretches….again.”
“Yeah, alright.” Gladio nodded. He shifted his weight to one foot, crossing his arms. “Just warn me if it’s something I need to worry about on the battlefield.”
“Yeah.” Noct nodded his head before blushing at the sudden pair of eyes on him. “Umm...it’s an old injury. My back just hurts a bit.”
“The cold must have aggravated--”
“Hey you four, get over here. We need to get going.” Cor glared at them. “The daemons might be stumped by stairs and a locked door for now, but the ones up here aren’t.”
Heading over to Cor and Nyx, Gladio noticed Nyx was better equipped now. He had on an old Glaive jacket and a set of kukri knives at his side. Cor gave Ignis and Prompto Crownsguard jackets and handed Gladio his usual fatigues.
“Don’t ask. I found it and that’s all that matters.” Cor went back to the driver’s seat. “We need to get moving and bring the rest to the hunters. After that, we need to figure out our attack plan if they haven’t already.”
Nyx nodded, hopping into the bed of the truck, trying to make room for some of the others. Prompto easily slid into his place from before, Crownsguard jacket on. Noct found space next to him shifting uneasily as if trying to find the best way to sit without hurting his back before deciding to lean against Prompto. Ignis sat up front with Cor worrying his lip as he glanced at Gladio. Before Gladio could find a spot, Nyx tossed him a set of keys. The others held on to some gear now that they weren't being chased and needed speed.
“Take my bike. You drove yours pretty well, so I can trust her to you. ‘Sides, you and me both know there’s no more room.”
Gladio grunted but took the helmet he saw Noct wearing earlier before getting on the bike and starting it up. It would be better this way, honestly. He could protect them from any daemon this way instead of on the back of a truck. He was not about to take offense to what Nyx had said. When they were all settled, Gladio gave the sign that he was ready to go.
Ignis must have steered Cor through the Tandem. While they had to take the main road into Tandem, Gladio felt a little unsettled at seeing all the lights off. It felt way too similar to how Insomnia did below and he wasn’t sure if he could lose both places today. They didn’t take any of the main roads when they reached Tandem, so he followed Cor’s lead, watching their backs.
There were people on the streets, but most stayed out of their way, too busy helping each other get someplace they deemed safe. Wherever that might have been, it was clear there were protocols in place, no doubt thanks to Ignis. There were a few shouts and yelling near the market Gladio first met Cor, but there was a rush of hunters already on the scene. He distinctly heard the word ‘goblins’, meaning daemons wouldn’t be too far off.
“Ma’am, follow those two over there. They’ll show you were to go,” Ignis called out to a woman with three children huddled near the doorway of one of the buildings. She seemed utterly lost and when the two men Ignis pointed out looked back, they quickly rushed over to help.
Gladio drove a little closer to where Ignis had his window rolled down. “You still want to tell me you don’t run the place?”
“Now is hardly the time, Gladio.” Ignis pointed Cor to another alleyway to avoid an oncoming crowd. “Gladio, why not go ahead and let the hunters know we’re coming with some supplies. Have them initialize the blackout protocol. Those who’ve remained will wait for us.”
“Sure thing, Iggy.”
Gladio weaved his way in and out of the crowd, finding his way if only because he had the main road to glance at in alleyways to guide him. He didn’t stop to help anyone, as much as he wanted to. Right now the fastest and best way to help was to get the power back on, but for that, they needed to regroup and go over strategy before just blindly going in. Running from the daemons was one thing, but protecting a city of mostly civilians was another thing.
He saw the pitched tents before the three buildings. It was so strange to think the hunters found solace in them instead of in an actual building. But then all he had known growing up was his own home and the barracks of the Glaives. It was there he realised the sensation of the armiger was no longer there. He supposed without Noct being near he would be left with the sword at his hip until Noct was close enough again.
The hunters themselves were all gearing up by the stern looks on their faces. Some were shouting, others were forming groups. When they heard the bike, a few waved only to stop mid-air. They seemed confused at first, Gladio couldn’t blame them. They were probably looking for Nyx, their hero, not some guy who had just suddenly shown up. He came to a stop when a few the of the hunters blocked his path. Taking off his helmet, Gladio rested his feet on either side of the bike so the bike could cool for the moment.
“Who’s leading you right now?” Gladio asked. A few of the hunters were reluctant to answer.
“Libertus and Crowe. Come on, I’ll take you to them. Is Nyx alright?” The man had messy brown hair, but behind the stern look on his face, Gladio already knew he liked the man.
“Yeah, he’s in a truck with supplies. They should be here in a bit. Kinda hard to maneuver a truck through the streets with all the people around. I came ahead. Igg-Ignis gave me some orders. Gladio,” he said offering the man his hand.
“Pelna. If Ignis gave you orders you best tell Libertus and Crowe, they’ll get people moving. You can leave the bike here. Tedd will make sure it’s put where it needs to go for Nyx later.”
Gladio nodded. He turned the bike off before sliding off of it and handing the keys to Tedd. Gladio didn’t know the hunters that well, but Pelna seemed like someone he could trust for now. The relief that flooded the man’s face at hearing that Nyx was still alive made Gladio wonder just how much respect Nyx really had from these people.
Pelna guided him through the tents and to the building Gladio had met Nyx in first. Inside was just as packed as the outside had been, full of hunters and a few civilians who wanted to offer their help. Hunters were running everywhere, calling out numbers and locations. Honestly, Gladio wished he could understand more of it to help, but he just didn’t know the area yet. What he couldn’t understand was why there were so many people here instead of out there protecting the people and the city.
“Crowe! Lib! I got some good news. Hero and Ignis are okay. Ignis gave some orders to this guy,” Pelna urged Gladio forward to pair of hunters. “Go on.”
One was a woman, hair tied up and shouting at a few of the hunters. Gladio had never seen a woman instill the fear like she was in a hunter. She wasn’t afraid to get physical either when she hit him over the head before shoving him back into the crowd. The hunter quickly rushed off to do whatever Crowe had told him to do. The other hunter was built a bit more than Nyx. It was clear that both Crowe and Libertus were not afraid to yell or tell people off. Libertus only glared at Gladio, clearly not impressed with the Shield.
“Crowe,” the woman said with a nod. “That’s Libertus. What did Ignis say? And what took him so long?”
“We were underneath Tandem when lights went out. He said to use protocol blackout.” Gladio was glad at least one of them didn’t question him or even the orders he gave them.
“Thought so. We already started it. Nyx was with ya right? He better get his ass here. I swear, that man is never where he needs to be.” Crowe sighed. “Can you fight, big guy?”
“Me? Yeah, but--”
“Good, fall in line with the hunters, I’ll find ya a group.”
“Uh, Crowe, I got a group already. Though they’re not hunters. They’re coming with Ignis and Nyx.” Gladio smiled a little, as he rubbed the back of his neck.
“Oh. Well good. Hope they can fight too because we’re going to need to it. Pelna, how’s the group of techs coming?” Crowe turned her attention back to the man who was talking into a radio.
Taking the moment, Gladio stepped back against the wall to let others give Crowe and Libertus what they needed to know. He felt useless leaning there, but his duty was to Noct at the moment. If Noct decided to help, which he was sure he would, then fine. The whole ordeal left a rather sour taste in his mouth, as he thought back to the Crownsguard and the Glaive. He wished he could do more.
Gladio overheard Pelna say the group of techs were ready but they needed a guard detail if they were going to make it into the powerplant to fix whatever was broken. Among the hunters, no group spoke outright to volunteer. There were sure to be daemons and after hearing Ignis say it was difficult for them to handle one daemon alone, let alone a sudden attack like this, Gladio could partly understand. For the hunters, it was a suicide mission and without Ignis or Nyx around to instill a sense of morale, Gladio could see the hunters shift their gazes as Crowe and Libertus waited for some sign.
The familiar feeling of the armiger in the back of his mind came back, letting him know Noct was nearby. It took a few long minutes of the hunters avoiding Crowe and Libertus trying to rouse a group, before Gladio saw the familiar black hair. Cor and Prompto were on either side, Ignis and Nyx were leading the charge. A few of the hunters were ready to grumble at Ignis and Nyx for bumping into them as they tried to make their way to the center of the room where Crowe and Libertus were, but the threats died when they realised who it was. Gladio motioned with a jerk of his chin to Crowe and Libertus when Noct gave him a questioning look.
“Come on! We know the dangers, but someone has to go.” Crowe groaned. When no one spoke up she glared at the hunters. “Cowards, the lot of you!”
Understanding dawned the prince’s eyes as he nodded to Gladio. Smirking, Gladio was glad Noct and him were having the same thoughts.
“My group will do it, Crowe,” Gladio said pushing off from the wall. “We can handle the daemons. Cor also brought supplies, so anyone without a weapon or proper gear should see him before heading out.”
Crowe gave him a suspicious look, but spotted Nyx and the others. The nod from Nyx was all she needed. Libertus looked like he was about to protest, but a sharp hit in the rib shut him up.
“Good, get ready and meet outside in five. We have work to do!”
Nyx rushed up to Crowe, no doubt getting details and figuring out where to head himself. Ignis went straight to Gladio. Noct and Prompto stayed with Cor right outside the hunters. Gladio smirked, knowing that Ignis was not happy about Gladio volunteering, but something told him that Ignis was not going to just let Cor, Noct and him go without helping.
“Come on.” Ignis sighed after glaring at Gladio for what seemed a straight minute. He wasn’t going to back off or take back his volunteering. Ignis turned back to the three waiting for them.“Prompto, we’re going with these three. You’re a tech too after all. So much for a quiet evening.”
“Nothing like a little excitement. And just think, you’ll be able to use more magic.” Gladio grinned at the glare Ignis gave him. “Cor, you staying with us?”
“You just volunteered me to hand out supplies,” Cor grumbled. “I’ll follow afterwards, but you’re taking the truck. It will hold everyone.”
Gladio took the keys from Cor and pocketed them for now. “Well, you are the only one who knows what you brought.”
“Shut it.” Cor rolled his shoulders as they made their way outside. Gladio was glad to see Cor was just as wound up as him about the whole ordeal. “Just make sure you stay alive till I get there.”
“Cor...seriously? You trained Gladio and me. I think we can handle a daemon or two,” Noct said. He waved his hand dismissively, but Cor’s eyes only narrowed at the flippant response.
“Your majesty , need I remind you that you were just complaining about your back? Not to mention you’ve been frozen for quite some time. Do not take this situation lightly.”
Noct stiffened a bit, but otherwise looked anywhere but at Cor. The Marshal sighed before ruffling Noct’s hair, not saying a word. Noct let him, knowing he was being scolded because Cor cared.
The truck was right outside the main building, a few hunters were hanging around it looking at some of the gear Cor brought. Ignis ushered them into some sort of order, as Gladio, Noct, and Prompto followed Cor’s orders of how to separate the stuff. Cor brought weapons, almost a small arsenal it seemed, mostly daggers since they were small enough to load a bunch into the bed of the truck. After that it was just some standard Glaive gear, from gloves to coats and other accessories like belts with pouches and some holsters for the daggers. It took a good twenty minutes to get everything finished and in that time, Penla had come back with a group of techs and one other hunter.
“Where did you get all this stuff?” Pelna asked. Cor had given him a pair of daggers.
“Do you guys even know that Tandem is built over a city?” Noct asked, hand on his hip and eyebrow raised.
“I-I mean, yeah, but we never….” Pelna holstered the daggers and sighed. “Ignis never really liked us going down there. Nyx was about the only one he let roam free and we just never thought to really check out the buildings. Though I’ve read some of the books Nyx brought back.”
“Well, there’s plenty more where that came from. When we get the lights back on, we can make regular trips and start getting geared up to beat the daemons instead of just trying to survive,” Cor said. He handed another hunter a pair of gloves and a dagger. “But that won’t happen if you all just stand around. Get going.”
As if they had done it for years, Gladio couldn’t help but chuckle at the way Ignis, Prompto, and Noct easily found a spot for themselves in the truck. Ignis settled into the passenger seat, Noct and Prompto were in the bed of the truck. Gladio could hear them talking a little about weapons and the use of magic through the little window. If Gladio didn’t know better, people would have thought the two were best friends instead of having only met a few hours ago. The techs Pelna brought quickly sat into the bed of the truck. Pelna and the other hunter piled in after them. Gladio couldn’t remember the names of the techs, but the hunter beside Pelna was introduced as Axis.
Gladio the driver’s seat. He started the truck when Noct hit the window twice letting him know they were ready to head out. He took directions from Ignis. Why he wasn’t driving had struck Gladio as odd, but then perhaps it had simply been because he had the keys. The power plant itself was apparently a little ways away from Tandem, but not too far.
“The power plant itself was too loud for some, so when we started to build onto our outpost, we ended up building it a little farther away.” Ignis kept it his eyes on the road, hands neatly folded in his lap. “We normally have guards posted there.”
“And you’re worried about them?” Gladio asked, not having to look at Ignis to see his hands clench a little.
“Is it that obvious?”
“Don’t worry about it. You care for others.” Gladio shrugged as Ignis hummed. “Seriously, Iggy. Relax. We’ll do what we can.”
Gladio glanced through the rearview mirror to make sure Noct was okay. Prompto was good to have around it seemed. None of the hunters or techs really bothered Noct. Without Cor, Gladio was all Noct had for protection. He hoped that Ignis and Prompto would understand that when the fighting started. Being careful about the bumps in the road, Gladio had to slam on the breaks suddenly, sending everyone pitching forward.
“What the hell, Gladio!” Noct grumbled. Leaning against Prompto had resulted in Prompto hitting his back hard.
“Sorry about that princess, but we got bigger problems.”
The power plant was starting to come into view, but so was the appearance of a daemon who was coming out of a pitch black tar pit that appeared on the ground.
“Damn those things,” Pelna shouted, hopping out of the truck with Axis in tow. Prompto and Noct followed. “Prom, stay in the truck with the other techs. We can’t lose you. Tell Gladio to keep driving.”
“Ain’t happening,” Gladio said. “We stick together.”
Gladio had already shut off the truck and gotten out. He slammed the car door closed. This was not up for debate. Noct hopped out of the back and walked up to Gladio’s side, a little too stiff for Gladio’s liking, but they pulled out weapons from the armiger. Gladio his usual broadsword, and Noct his engine blade. Prompto stepped up to Noct’s free side, his gun locked and loaded with no doubt more starshells. Ignis stood to Gladio’s free side, a dagger in one hand and crackling lightning forming in the other.
“Hey, Igs, where the hell did you find these two?” Pelna laughed taking out his daggers, the ones that Cor had given him earlier.
“Wouldn’t you like to know.” Ignis smirked. “Quickly now, we need to get to the plant. Gladio--”
“I’ll take point, if you’re gonna use magic, warn me.”
Gladio took a deep breath to calm himself before charging at the daemon. This was what he was trained to do. Blood pumping and heart racing. There were no flames to light them up, but out here, where there was no sun, it was still brighter than down below in Insomnia. He could see the metal, the sky not nearly as pitch black as one would think.
Blocking the sword the daemon carried, Gladio’s body shook from the feeling, arm going numb. It didn’t stop him from pushing back, knocking the blade to the side to get in a swing of his own. It nicked the side of one of the daemon’s knees, spraying black ichor. Gladio didn’t stop though. He wanted to keep the daemon’s attention him, letting the others get in their own shots if they wanted. Side-stepping an attack, Gladio readied his sword for another large swing.
Without needing to look, Gladio knew that shout, he turned his blade so it was flat. He waited till he felt the weight on his blade, a maneuver he and Noct had used countless times. Noct warped on the flat of the blade before Gladio launched the prince right at the daemon. Noct swung down with his engine blade, ichor dripping from the fresh new cut. But the force wasn’t enough to cut clean through the bone of the daemon. Noct tsked, but left the blade in the daemon, using a dagger instead to warp out of the way of the daemon.
A starshell blossomed in the daemon’s face as Gladio saw Ignis jump up and use the embedded blade as a way to vault himself up into the air. Instead of his daggers, he had a polearm in his hand. Lightning crackled from it, leading to Gladio’s hasty retreat. Ignis drove the polearm down on top of it’s head, spinning his body to gain some more force. The sword the iron giant held clattered to the ground as it staggered. Ignis still on it’s head, trying to keep his balance.
“Jump, I’ll catch you.” Gladio shouted as the daemon began tumbling backwards.
Ignis did as he was instructed, jumping off the daemons head toward Gladio. He tossed his blade back into the armiger and caught Ignis in his arms, sending them both to the ground. The daemon sunk into the same black tar from where it came. The polearm and engine blade joined the daemon’s sword on the ground. Breathing hard, both Ignis and Gladio stayed on the ground to catch their breath, Ignis on top of him. Gladio was the first to bubble with laughter, Ignis soon following.
Prompto and Noct were at their sides in meer moments, looking at the two of them as if they were utterly insane. Ignis got off Gladio, brushing off some dirt as he straightened. He helped Gladio to his feet.
“We’re fine, your majesty,” Ignis said as he sat up. “That was--”
“Amazing. Haven’t felt like that in a long time,” Gladio stretched, muscles protesting. “Anyone hurt?”
“Nah, I think we managed to avoid getting hit this time around thanks to you, but is your arm okay? You blocked that blade remember?” Noct asked, poking at the arm in question.
“It’s a bit numb,” Gladio said with a wince. “But I’m used to it. Things will be fine after a bit. The other two hunters okay?” Gladio glanced over to see Pelna and Axis staring at them.
“Yeah, they’re okay, big guy,” Prompto said, grinning. “I think they’re just a bit shocked that the four of us just took down an iron giant.”
“Nice shooting.” Noct held out his arm slightly raised, waiting for Prompto to bump fists. Noct frowned as Prompto just looked at the arm confused. “Dude, come on. We made a pretty good team.”
“Like this, Prom.” Gladio showed him what Noct was waiting for. Once the kid saw, he was eager to return the prince’s fist bump. “Iggy, where did you get that polearm?”
“I borrowed it from Axis.”
Things would be calm for a bit, but Gladio knew they had to get moving again. They needed to get the lights back on. Ignis retrieved the polearm, handing it to Axis who checked the weapon for damage. He then picked up the engine blade, returning it to Noct, who just sent it back to the armiger.
“Why did you leave it in the daemon?” Ignis frowned at Noct.
“I couldn’t get it to go through and didn’t want the ichor all over me. So I left it in,” Noct shrugged as Gladio chuckled rubbing his nose.
“Don’t look too deep into it, Iggy. He’s used to switching weapons and honestly, if you hadn’t used it as a foot hold, I might have.” Gladio slung his arm around Noct’s shoulder, who protested by trying to push Gladio’s arm off his neck. “We trained him so that he would be able to create openings like that since he can warp the easiest among the Crownsguard.”
“Linked attacks. Come on, Gladio. My back hurts!” Noct complained, pushing Gladio off of him.
“Yeah, yeah. Try and stretch it a bit. I’m gonna move the sword out of the road before someone else ends up running it over then we’ll head to the plant.”
Gladio, along with Axis and Pelna moved the sword. The three quickly got to talking strategy and how it took only four of them to take down the iron giant. He wondered what they would say if Gladio mentioned that Cor and himself could take down one or two daemons without Noct? When he glanced back at Ignis, Gladio frowned. Something was up, but he couldn’t quite place. He’d have to ask later.
It wasn’t that big of a deal for Noct to leave weapons for others to use. Or maybe it was simply because the prince had joined the fight? Gladio didn’t want to assume anything. Noct he could read like an open book most days, but Prompto and Ignis were another story altogether. He had only known them for a short period of time. They fought well with each other, but nothing to the extent that Gladio had with Noct that only came with time, experience, and trust.
“That was pretty cool. Can we warp like that too?” Pelna asked, getting his dagger ready to throw as if by simply mimicking Noct he could do it. They were heading back to the truck.
Noct shrugged, stepping near Prompto. “Umm….not exactly. It’s something only Gladio, Cor, and I can do right now. Though Gladio can’t stomach it.”
“Hey! I lost my lunch once. I just don’t like running around and warping all over like you.” Gladio huffed, but ushered their group back to the truck.
“Right now? Does that mean we can in the future?” Pelna grinned.
“Pelna, don’t bother the kid. It’s obvious he doesn’t know the answer, whoever he is and Gladio to boot, I don’t care. So long as we make it through this gods forsaken night,” Axis said tapping on the window to let Gladio know they were ready.
“Sorry….Nyx let me read some of the books, and I sometimes get a bit excited. But guess we owe you one. Maybe, a lot of ones when this is over and done with.” Pelna leaned against the bed of the truck.
Gladio watched them, carefully. All Noct had to do was put on the ring and give them access. They would be able to fight just as freely as Gladio and Noct did, but the kid was putting off his duty. Running away…..again.
He started the truck back up and headed to the power plant. If he had known following Noct as his shield would lead to so many headaches and moody hormones, he might have picked a different path in life. But the hand on his shoulder, and an understanding smile from Ignis righted his world. Noct would learn he needed to do things he didn’t want to in his own time. Gladio just had to be there to help him.