Noctis was re-reading the newspaper for a third time. Apparently, the prince had returned to Insomnia on his own. There had been no official comment made about why he had decided to come back all of a sudden, nor any comments made about why he had left in the first place. Many believed it had been because of his betrothal to Luna since he had disappeared around the same time the news had broken out.
He didn’t know what to do. The rational part of his brain told him to go home and sort this mess out. However, that would mean facing everyone. A small part of him desired to stay away. After all, this could benefit everyone. Lucis got the heir they need back, and Noctis was allowed to continue living freely. No one to tell him to get up in the mornings or who he should marry. But the rational part of his brain knew he couldn’t do do nothing about this situation. Who knew what this person masquerading around as him wanted. Would this person hurt his dad? He ran his fingers through his hair. There were so many thoughts running through his head.
He was too distracted to pay attention to what was in front of him as he walked. He didn’t notice the stranger until he crashed into the person. Noctis looked down at the man who had fallen onto the ground. The guy had short blonde hair that had a part of it swooped upward. Weird. He also had a camera hanging around his neck. Noctis held out his hand to help the man up.
The guy only stared at him, which kind of made him feel a little uncomfortable. Eventually, the stranger took hold of his hand. When the guy was back on his feet, Noctis noticed his bright blue eyes that had a hint of violet. He also had a bunch of freckles sprinkled across his cheeks. He looked familiar. In any other situation, Noctis would be taking the time to admire the person’s beauty. However, he was too busy mentally freaking out about the recent turn of events.
“Thanks,” the guy said. He continued to stare at Noctis like he was trying to figure something out.
“Well, uh, sorry again. See ya.”
Noctis was about to leave, but the guy stopped him.
“Prince Noctis, is that you?”
Noctis pulled his hood further over his head before quickly walking away. However, the blonde kept up with his pace.
“It is! Sorry, we went to the same school, so I sorta recognized you.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yeah, you probably don’t remember me. We didn’t really talk much. I mean, we sorta did once. I tripped, and you tried to help me up.”
The guy was rubbing the back of his head. A memory of a boy around his age wearing glasses came to Noctis’s mind. What was his name again?
“That was you?”
“So, you do remember me?”
“A little, um…”
“Oh, Prompto! So, what are you doing here, your highness? Aren’t you supposed to Insom—”
Noctis quickly covered his mouth.
“Keep it down, will you? It’s difficult to explain, okay?”
Prompto removed Noctis’s hand from his face. “Well, now I’m really curious. What’s going on?”
Noctis sighed. “Fine. Do you have a hotel room or something so we can talk privately? And drop the whole ‘your highness’ thing.”
Prompto nodded and led Noctis to a small hotel. They went up to his room on the third floor. Inside the room was a single bed, a couple of chairs, and a TV. It was about as big as some of the motels he had stayed in. This room was cleaner, though. Prompto grabbed the newspaper from Noctis’s hands.
“So, how did you get all the way from Insomnia to out here in a day?”
“I didn’t actually. I haven’t been anywhere near the city in four years.”
Prompto pointed to the photo. “Well, this dude looks a lot like you.”
“Yeah, that’s what I don’t get. Whatever is going on, there’s someone pretending to be me.”
“Who do you think it is?”
“I don’t know.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“Are you going to go back?”
“I don’t know!”
Noctis flopped onto the bed and tightly gripped his hair. The mere thought of going back to the Citadel filled him with anxiety. He wondered what the fake Noctis was currently doing. Did he even know how to act as the real prince? Wouldn’t the others have noticed that he was acting strange? Then again, they might chalk it up to him having been gone for a few years. The bed shifted, and a hand gently touched his shoulder.
“Hey, it’s going to be okay. Tell you what, we’re going to march down to Insomnia, and we’re going to sort this out. Maybe even kick this imposter’s ass if we need to.”
“You make it sound so easy. Maybe, I don’t want to go back."
"But you gotta! You're the prince!"
"So? Who says that I have to? Everyone's been doing just fine without me."
Noctis knew he was being ridiculous, but he was too hesitant to return to the city, to his dad.
"Maybe, they won’t want me back. Who knows, he might be a better me than me. My dad might be better off with this guy as a son.”
Noctis’s face was suddenly grabbed and turned towards Prompto, who squished his cheeks together.
“Repeat after me. I am a guppy, and guppies don’t smile.”
“I don’t see how this has anything to do—”
Prompto only repeated the sentence louder. Noctis sighed.
“I am a guppy, and guppies don’t smile.”
“But I do!”
“But I do.”
Noctis felt as ridiculous as he sounded. Prompto let go of his face and started to giggle. He had the brightest smile that Noctis had ever seen. It was like looking at the sun; it didn’t help that he had blonde hair. Not to mention, his laugh was a bit contagious. Noctis tried to keep a straight face, but he couldn’t help but let out a small chuckle. He lightly pushed Prompto.
“This is serious.”
“Listen, I know that I don’t know anything about your dad, but I imagine that he would want his real son back.”
Noctis only shrugged his shoulders. Prompto stood up and pulled him to his feet.
“Come on, let’s go.”
“You mean the both of us? Aren’t you, like, busy with anything?”
“Nah. I’m only here to take pictures to help build my portfolio. Though, I occasionally do some work for Vyv. I don’t really mind helping out.”
“I... can't. I'm sorry."
Noctis stormed out of the room, and, to his surprise, Prompto didn't come after him. He spent the rest of the day hiding out. He planned to leave the following morning. Where? he did not know. He just needed to get away from here. He sort of felt bad for leaving Prompto, but he hadn't wanted to be around his former classmate long enough to see the look of disappointment that would have appeared on his face. Noctis was already disappointed with himself.
That night, he had a decent dream. He was traveling around the continent with Ignis and Gladio. One moment they were running through the fields on a hunt, the next, the two disappeared, leaving Noctis alone. Suddenly, he was back in the Citadel. Specifically, he was in the throne room. In front of him, his dad was standing with his back facing Noctis. Near his dad was another Noctis. The real Noctis tried to call out to his dad, but it was as if his dad couldn't hear him. The other Noctis pulled out a weapon to strike his dad. Noctis tried running to his dad, but it was like he couldn't get near him. He woke up before the blade sliced his dad.
Checking his phone, he saw that it was around 10 a.m. Way too earlier to be awake. Sighing, he got out of bed and went to the bathroom. He splashed some water on his face and looked at his reflection. There were some bags forming under his eyes, and a yawn came out of his mouth. Leaving the bathroom, he dug through a bag on the table to find some leftover food. There were half a hamburger and several fries. The breakfast of champions. Afterward, he left his motel room. He tried to sneak his way out of Lestallum without bumping into Prompto again. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
A hand landed on his shoulder and forced him to turn around. It was none other than Prompto, who was frowning at him.
"We're going back to Insomnia, and I don't want to hear any 'buts.' Got it?"
Prompto interrupted him and would not let him speak until he agreed to go. This guy was being annoyingly persistent. Maybe, Noctis could warp as far away as he could from Prompto. But that would mean giving away his identity to any onlookers. Fuck, why was he in Lestallum again? Reluctantly, he agreed, and Prompto thrust his fist into the air in victory.
“It's a long way to Insomnia. Do you have a car?” Noctis asked.
“Nah, dude, I don’t even have my license.”
“You never got your license?”
Noctis opened his mouth to retort but closed it again. Heat rose to his cheeks, and he turned away.
“Hey, it’s fine. I rented a chocobo and still have about a day left with her. She can be our way of getting there.”
“Okay, but we should stop by Wiz’s outpost, so I can get my own bird to ride.”
They walked over to a stall that housed rented chocobos. Prompto led his own out and petted her neck. He looked really excited to be around the chocobo, and Noctis went around Prompto and mounted the large bird.
“Hey! This is my chocobo; I get to be in front.”
He gave a little pout, which Noctis couldn’t help but think it looked adorable.
“You snooze, you lose.”
Prompto gave a huff before climbing up and sitting behind Noctis. Noctis, on the other hand, chose to ignore the butterflies in his stomach when Prompto’s arms wrapped around his waist. He got the chocobo moving to the direction of the farm. Things were quiet between them on the ride, but it wasn’t an uncomfortable kind of silence. It was quiet until Prompto started to hum the chocobo song for five minutes.
“So, what have you been up to all this time?”
“Nothing much. Just fishing and going on hunts.”
“All by yourself? Wow. You must be really good at fighting.”
Noctis smirked at the comment. It did help that he had someone like Gladio train him for a while.
“How come you ran away?” Prompto asked. Noctis should have suspected that he was going to be asked that question. He was dreading having to explain it. The reasoning did seem a little ridiculous when looking back on it. His hands tightened their grip on the reigns. “Oh, sorry, you don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”
“It’s fine. Besides, it was kind of dumb anyway.”
“I’m sure it can’t be that bad if it made you stay away for so long.”
Noctis shrugged, and the two continued on their way to Wiz’s outpost. When they got there, Prompto dismounted first. Noctis got down after him. The chocobo rested her head on his shoulder, and he hugged her neck. He heard a click and turned to see Prompto standing near him with a camera pointed at him. Prompto lowered the camera as he rubbed the back of his head. Noctis stared wide-eyed at him.
“Sorry, I can’t help it. Sometimes, I see a really good shot, and I just have to take it. Great moments wait for no one.”
Noctis was kind of curious about his photos, but before he could ask to see them, Wiz approached them. They rented another chocobo, and Prompto extended the rental period for his one. They left soon afterward. Both of them traveled for a couple of hours before coming across a gas station. Prompto suggested they take a break and get something to eat at the Crow’s Nest. Noctis’s stomach growled at the mention of food. They got off their chocobos and entered the restaurant.
They both ordered the same thing, a burger, fries, and a soda. They sat at a booth to eat their meals. Prompto made a comment about Noctis taking out the lettuce and tomato, but Noctis rolled his eyes.
“So how long have you been taking pictures?” Noctis asked.
“Ever since I was in middle school. I would take pictures of the local animals.”
“That’s cool. Can I see some?”
Prompto was hesitant to give Noctis his camera, but when Noctis took it, he took his time looking at each photo. They were actually pretty good. Some were of crowded places, and others were of animals. There were even some photos of the sky. One was a nice shot of the sunset. He had seen the sunset plenty of times, but something about how this image was taken made the sunset seem magnificent.
“You really are a professional, huh?”
“Nah, I’m pretty much still an amateur with this stuff.”
“Dude, these are very good. Seriously. I’m gonna try to convince my dad to hire you as our royal photographer or something.”
Noctis smiled and nodded, and Prompto went back to eating. His cheeks turned bright red, which Noctis wanted to see more of. He kind of liked the idea of making his former classmate blush. The two of them finished up their food and left the building. They made sure their chocobos were okay to continue traveling before setting off again. They talked a little more about themselves. Noctis told Prompto about some of the stuff he had done. He mentioned his more proud hunts while not bringing up the embarrassing ones. Prompto didn’t need to know about his battle with some cactuars. He had been plucking out needles for hours, and they had been everywhere.
They were approaching Hammerhead, and anxiety started to fill Noctis. He knew that Cid knew his father, and there was a high chance that the mechanic would contact his dad if he saw him. Granted, Noctis was heading back anyways, but he needed the element of surprise. There was a possibility that the guy was only pretending to be him for the royal benefits. However, if this imposter was there for malicious reasons, then Noctis did not want to give the guy a chance to prepare a counterattack.
Not to mention, Cid would probably smack him with a wrench as a form of lecture for his foolishness. Yeah, Noctis did not feel like dealing with the old man anytime soon. He was willing to set up camp for the night, but it looked like it was going to rain. He was not in the mood to camp in the rain. So, a motel it was.