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That Isn't Me

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     Prompto and Noctis were finally at the bridge that led to Insomnia. The buildings grew larger as they got closer. He could make out the giant wall that was being held up by his dad. Oh, how he hated that wall. It was a necessary evil, and he had always feared the day he would have to sacrifice his health to the crystal to keep people safe.

     They reached the entry point of the city, and Noctis pulled his hood up. They got off their chocobos, who ran off to return to Wiz’s place. He avoided making eye contact with the guards. They asked what was wrong, and Prompto lied that Noctis was sick. The Prince coughed as he said this. Both of them managed to pass through without too much trouble. Standing in the city again, it felt weird. He couldn’t quite describe it. The best way he could explain it was that he felt a bit like an outsider.

     “So, what’s the plan? Are we just going to use the front door?” Prompto asked.

     “Nah, too many guards we’ll have to deal with. We can use the secret entrance to get in.”

     “Woah! There’s a secret entrance?”

     “The Citadel has several secret passageways. One of them leads outside in case the royal family has to evacuate.”

     “Aw man, that’s so cool!”

     Noctis shook his head. He didn’t really find the secret passages all that exciting. Then again, he had roamed around the ones that he had discovered as a kid quite often, so he had gotten used to them quickly. It had been fun scaring some of the workers by making loud moans as they had walked by his spot in the walls. Ignis had scolded him whenever he had found out. Of course, that had never stopped him from doing it again. Maybe after they deal with everything, he could show them to Prompto.

     “I can hail us a cab,” Prompto stated.

     “Can’t we just walk?”

     “Dude, that’s at least a couple-hour walk! I’m not walking that.”

     Noctis sighed and agreed to get in a cab. He knew that he shouldn’t waste any more time, but he couldn’t help it. He didn’t even know what he was going to say to everyone. Both of them got into a taxi. They told the driver to drop them off at a location that was about ten minutes away from the Citadel.

     As they were driven to their destination, Noctis stared out of the window. So much, yet, so little had changed. The city and its people looked pretty much the same. However, he noticed that there were some new buildings. The car passed by an arcade that he had visited a couple of times after school. He wondered if there were any new games there.

     The people walking on the sidewalk were going about their days. Unaware of what was going on and too busy worrying about their own problems. He had always felt distant from everyone. They had never approached him to be friends, making it clear that he was a prince first and foremost. Looking at the people walking around, he still felt distant. There were a couple of giant screens on some of the buildings. They displayed the recent news, which was all about Noctis and his return. There was footage of his imposter and his dad. Noctis forced himself to look away and opted to stare at the ceiling of the car.

     It didn’t take long for them to reach the place. They paid the driver, and Noctis led Prompto to where the entrance of the passageway. It was in a more secluded area at a park. Noctis remembered using it to escape the Citadel whenever he needed to get away for some time to himself. Sighing, he searched around until he came across some bushes that crowded around a tree. 

     Looking around to make sure there wasn’t anyone nearby, he made his way past a couple of bushes and knelt down. Noctis patted the ground until it sounded like he hit something hollow. He brought his fingers to the edge and lifted the hatch. Down below was a ladder that led into darkness. 

     “We have to go down there?” Prompto asked.

     “Yup.”

     “But it’s so dark. I don’t know about this.”

     “It’s fine. There are some lights that should still work.”

     Noctis gestured to the ladder, and Prompto hesitantly climbed down. Noctis followed after and closed the hatch. Once he reached the ground, he felt along the wall until he found a light switch. He flipped it, the lights came on. He and Prompto walked down the tunnel. The temperature was cool, and there were small sounds from deep within that echoed. A couple of the lights flickered as they made their way to the inside of the Citadel.

     “I really hope we don’t come across a dead body,” Prompto stated as he looked around.

     “Why would there be a dead body?” Noctis asked.

     “This looks like the best place to hide a body.”

     Noctis rolled his eyes in amusement. After a couple of minutes, they reached the end of the tunnel. There was another ladder that led up into a small corridor. They climbed up and walked up to a wall. Noctis put his ear against the wall but didn’t hear anything on the other side. Slowly, he opened the door. Taking a quick look around, he and Prompto quickly entered the hallway.

     Now he had to figure out where to go. His best bet would be to talk to his dad, but where was he? He could try the throne room, but he would likely be in a meeting. There was also the chance that he was in his office. He hoped his dad was not stuck in a meeting.

     “Aren’t we going to get into trouble if someone sees us?” Prompto asked.

     “Not really. I mean, I’m the prince, after all. Just act like you’re supposed to be here, and it’ll be fine.”

     Noctis opted to head to his dad’s office first. After that, they could try the throne room. If anyone attempted to stop him, he would just keep going. No more distractions. He led Prompto down some hallways to get to the elevator. So far, there was nobody in sight. They rounded the corner, and Noctis stopped in his tracks when he came face to face with his doppelganger. The other Noctis looked surprised for a second before giving a sly grin.

     “Well, well, what do we have here?” the other Noctis asked.

     “Woah, he sounds just like you, Noct,” Prompto whispered. Was that really how he sounded like? Now that he was up close, he could see that this person was an exact copy. It was impossible. There hadn’t been any new images of him for who knows how long. So, how did this guy make his disguise so convincing?

     “Who are you?” Noctis questioned.

     “Why I’m the Prince, of course.”

     “No, you’re not! I am!”

     The imposter placed his hand on his chin and looked away as if he was contemplating something. “If I recall correctly, you gave all that up the moment you decided to abandon everyone you cared about.”

     That comment felt like a jab to Noctis’s chest. He gritted his teeth but didn’t say anything in response. He knew that he didn’t deserve to be royalty, but this wasn’t right. He didn’t have time to waste with this guy. He really needed to get to his dad.

     “You should have seen the look on your father’s face. Oh, how happy he was to finally see his son again. I do believe tears were shed.”

     Now the man was just pouring salt in the wounds. As much as Noctis was hurt by the statement, he could only focus on the anger he felt. Clenching his fist, he tried to walk past the other Noctis. However, the imposter summoned a weapon out of thin air. Pink sparks appeared as he did so. Noctis stood in disbelief. He thought only members of the royal family, the Crownsguard, and the Glaives could do that. There was no way this guy fell under any of those categories.

     He pointed the blade toward Noctis, who summoned his own weapon. Prompto drew the pistol that Noctis had let him keep.

     “Now, now. Where are you off to in such a hurry?”

     “I’m going to tell my father what’s happening, and you’re going to wish that you never stepped foot in Insomnia,” Noctis replied. He tried to speak with as much authority as he could muster.

     “Daddy dearest is quite busy today. It would be irresponsible of me to let you interrupt his important meeting.”

     The imposter rushed at him and swung his weapon. Noctis brought his own up to block the attack. He directed the blade to the side before pulling his sword back to slash at the other Noctis, who quickly defended himself.

     “What is going on!?”

     Noctis turned to see that Gladio and Ignis were standing several feet away from them. They had changed a bit since he had last seen them. Gladio’s hair was longer, and his muscles were bigger, making him look the part of the Shield. Ignis was slightly taller, and his bangs were gelled up. Weird hairstyle choice, but he managed to pull it off. Both men had confusion written all over their faces. The other Noctis quickly backed away from him.

     “Guys, I ran into this strange guy!” The other Noctis exclaimed.

     “What is going on? Why does he look like you?” Ignis questioned.

     “No clue. Given the fact that there is a Niff standing next to him, I’d say the Empire is up to something.”

     “I’m a Lucian just like you guys!” Prompto proclaimed. There was a hint of annoyance in his tone.

     “No, listen! I’m the real Noctis!”

     “He said that he was looking for my father. I think he wants to hurt him.”

     Gladio took out his greatsword from the armiger. He walked towards Noctis, glaring at him. Noctis took a step back. He had been on the receiving end of his Shield’s glare before. However, he had never seen him with such a murderous look before.

     “Gladio, please! I swear that’s not the real me!” Noctis pleaded. The last thing he wanted to do was get into an actual fight with Gladio.

     “If you Niffs are seriously trying to impersonate me, I suggest you wear something other than those dirty rags. Maybe then someone will believe you,” the imposter stated with a grin.

     “I already failed as a Shield once. Not this time.” Gladio said. He swung at Noctis, who jumped backward to dodge. He hesitantly raised his sword only to lower it. They may have argued a lot, but Gladio understood what it was like to be born only to fulfill a role. What it was like to never have a normal childhood.

     He then thought of an idea. He didn’t know how this person was able to summon a weapon, but Noctis could prove who he was by warping. There was no way the other guy could do that. He raised his weapon and aimed it at a spot where it wouldn’t hit either Gladio or Ignis. Before he could throw it, the other Noctis threw his sword at him and warped.

     He saw sparks of pink instead of blue, but it was a legit warp. Who in the hell was this guy? Noctis refocused on what was happening and blocked the attack just in time. The guy had a sinister glint in his eyes as he smirked at Noctis. Before his opponent could do anything, Gladio pulled the guy away and stood in front of him.

     “Stay back, your highness,” Gladio ordered.

     “I can handle him just fine.”

     “No, I’m not going to risk losing you again!”

     Noctis was trying not to shake. He knew that he deserved this, but it hurt too much. He looked over at Ignis, who already had his daggers out and was ready to defend the other Noctis. That broke him. He took hold of Prompto’s wrist and ran away. They had to get back to the secret passageway as soon as possible. Ignis, no doubt, already alerted the whole Citadel.

     He could hear Gladio shouting behind them. When they turned the corner, Noctis threw his sword toward where the entrance to the secret passage was. Tightening his grip on Prompto, they warped over. Noctis rapidly opened the door, and the two of them got inside. Once they were in the tunnel, Noctis walked with haste.

     “Hey, slow down!”

     Noctis ignored him and kept walking. He couldn’t stop thinking about that guy. He had his face. His voice. He could warp and summon weapons. But he wasn’t Noctis. Noctis was Noctis. Wasn’t he? Maybe Noctis was losing his sanity, and the other person was the real him. But that didn’t make sense. Nothing made sense.

     If the pink sparks were anything to go by, that guy had to be associated with his family somehow. Could he be a long lost twin? Surely, his father would have mentioned him. He was so confused. A hand grabbed his shoulder and forced him to turn around. He looked at Prompto’s face, which conveyed nothing but concern. Noctis backed away until his back hit the wall. He grabbed his hair in frustration and slid down onto the ground. 

     He needed to come up with something, anything. He felt so lost. Noctis didn’t notice that he was crying until he felt tears running down his cheeks. He heard Prompto sit down next to him, but he stared at his knees. An arm wrapped around his shoulders.

     “Hey, it’s going to be okay.”

     “It’s not going to be okay! Everything is so fucked up!”

     Noctis drew in a deep breath before exhaling.

     “What’s plan B?”

     “I don’t know.”

     “Well, we’re not going to solve anything down here.”

     Prompto stood up and held his hand out to Noctis. He looked at it for a second before grabbing the offered hand. With Prompto’s help, he got up on his feet. They left the secret tunnel. As they walked away, Noctis looked back at the Citadel.