This is the last chapter of Fractured. Before you ready any further, please ensure that you have the proper equipment:
* Your heart (please ensure that all strings are cut to prevent unnecessary pain when it is torn out and thrown on the floor). If you do not have a heart, you may skip the following and begin reading the chapter.
* One (1) box of tissues
* Approximately eight to ten (8 - 10) minutes of sad music.
If you do not have the requisite music, I recommend (all lyric-free): Insight XIV by Julien Marchal, Þú Ert Jörðin by Ólafur Arnalds, and Frysta by Ólafur Arnalds
When you are suitably equipped, please proceed past the solid line and read on.
16-17 May, 756:
He had always meant to die for Lucis.
Nearly thirty years ago, when he had first put on the Ring of the Lucii, he had known it would be the end of him. The Caelums never lived to see their grandchildren.
As the years wore on, he could feel death growing closer. He had watched as he grew older while his friends remained much the same; his body had withered, his strength had failed him, and, slowly but surely, he knew the end was coming.
But he had hoped for a few more years.
A few more years of being drained dry upholding the Wall, a few more years of suffering indignity after indignity, a few more years of wasting away, and, yes, a few more years of chronic pain and growing weakness. He prayed for those years. He begged for them. Because even if his legs refused to support him any longer, even if his lungs gave out and his body turned against him, it would mean a few more years with his children.
Now, even that was to be robbed from him.
Still, he had always meant to die. If he was to give his life sooner rather than later, and in doing so spare the lives of his children and many others, then so be it. He would do his duty. And, in time, so would Noctis and Reina.
It had been three days.
Three days since he had seen his children off, since he had put his foot down one final time and pushed Reina after her brother. Three days and most of it had been so busy that he hardly had a moment to think about them, to worry or to wonder. When things were quieter at night, though, he did think. When he had lain awake the first two nights in the dark of his room, feeling the empty space next to him.
When had the last time that he had fallen asleep without her been? His daughter, ever-faithful, always there, just waiting to be needed. He hadn't slept much, those two nights. But he had held onto his phone, sending a text in response to the ones he had received from Reina. The result was immediate, both nights, as if she had been doing exactly the same thing.
His phone had rung.
He stared at the glowing screen displaying a picture of his beautiful daughter, smiling up at him. Despite how much he wanted to answer it, he hesitated. If he answered he would hear her voice again and he had already resigned himself to having said goodbye for the last time. He wasn't sure if he had the strength to do it a second time.
He didn't have the strength not to answer, either.
"Father." She breathed that one word and the relief was tangible in her voice. He shut his eyes against the empty dark and he could just convince himself that she was still with him, by the sound of her voice.
The second night had been just as hard. He hesitated to the third ring before giving in. How could he have her waiting on the line, the offer of hearing her just one more time, and not answer? He couldn't.
She'll be alright, Clarus had said. Someday she'll understand.
But now Clarus was….
Regis hoped she did understand.
Things were quiet enough to think about his children, now, as well. How could he not think about them, as he looked at Lunafreya? She was Noctis' future—or so he hoped—and even a blind man could have seen some of Reina in her: dutiful, strong, fearless, and devoted—and that look she wore as understanding settled… it wasn't unlike the look Reina had worn when he'd told her to go with Noctis.
Forgive me, my dear…
His hand burned with pain: a terrible throbbing that resonated down his whole arm as his body mourned the loss of fingers. The strip of cloth Lunafreya had tied around his hand was already soaked through with his blood. It didn't matter, though—it wouldn't hurt for very much longer.
His knee ached, as well, though it was blotted out by the pain from his hand. His whole body protested the unusual treatment—he hadn't put it through its paces in years.
A hopeful thought flitted across his mind, subconscious and automatic:
Reina will soothe it.
He took it for granted that she would solve those little inconveniences, because she always did. But not this time.
He shut his eyes, allowing himself one last moment of reprieve. It must have been past ten, by then—nearing on eleven at night. She would have been holding her phone, waiting for his message. It would never come. He had no time to say goodbye one last time. How long would she wait before she called him? And when he failed to answer, what then?
Regis steeled himself, opening his eyes and looking at Lunafreya through the shimmering barrier. He had known from the start it would end this way. He had known it would be difficult. But there was no turning back.
"I know your mother would wish the same as me. That you and Noctis live happily. All those years captive because I failed you. Not again. Locked doors will seal your fate no longer."
A rumbling in the hall behind him indicated that Glauca had broken through the lift from the hall above.
"Our hope goes with you, now, Nyx Ulric. Godspeed."
He turned to watch the shower of sparks announcing the imperial general's arrival. One final stand for the King of Lucis. With so little strength left in his body, he couldn't hope to match Glauca, let alone win out against him. He couldn't even muster the energy to summon the armiger one last time. But if he could give enough time to ensure Luna's safety, if she could escape and see the ring to Noctis…
Regis cast his cane aside. That hateful crutch that had never been any more than a reminder of his failing health—now he was rid of it for good. His last breath would be taken on two feet, standing tall as befitted a king.
The first strike of lightning hit Glauca full in the chest, throwing him backward into the masonry. Magitek versus magic. They never had overcome the weakness to lightning.
Or perhaps they had.
The next bolt struck Glauca's sword and the crimson metal absorbed the brunt of it. Tendrils bounced harmlessly over his Magitek armor—it sparked, it glowed red in places, but Glauca pressed forward no matter what strength Regis threw into his magic. That was all the energy he had and still Glauca came.
This was his end.
Grim resignation settled in; he would die for Lucis—for the king that his son would become, for the future his children safeguarded… and for his children themselves, though he was never supposed to admit such a selfish motivation.
Glauca deflected. Out of balance on his bad leg, Regis turned to stay upright. He didn't have the strength to turn back around. It was too late.
The blade plunged through the small of his back, emerging clean through his stomach. No words existed to describe that pain—so acute that he couldn't make a sound, so terrible that it caused a coldness like a frozen pond that was even worse than the initial fire.
His fingers closed around the blade where it protruded from his abdomen, a response that he didn't remember initiating. A surreal numbness set in. Was that hand even attached to him, anymore? Was his phone really ringing, or was that his imagination, too?
Maybe it was stupid, maybe it looked incomprehensible to those watching, but he slipped his other hand consciously into his pocket and drew out his phone.
The screen, glowing, displayed a picture of his beautiful daughter smiling up at him. She was always smiling. She was always making him smile, somehow: the way she always seemed to know exactly what he was thinking even before he did; the way she always had a quip prepared for any of his teasing remarks; that devious little look she wore when she was planning revenge on her brother; the soft peace on her face early in the morning when she slept in, thinking he was still asleep…
The way she looked like his little girl again, wearing his shirt to bed…
The way she turned to fire and ice if anyone dared threaten him, question him—challenge him in any way…
Would she ever smile again?
In his hand, his phone vibrated. Even if he had wanted to, he couldn't have mustered the dexterity to answer it. He watched it even as his vision darkened. The pain was gone, now. He couldn't even feel the persistent ache in his knee, anymore.
He would never see that smile again. He would never get to experience that surprise he felt every time she said something—did something—that made him believe she really meant it when she said he was her best friend. He would never dance with her again. He would never watch her fall in love, see her dressed in white, walk with her at her wedding—though he had promised he would. He would never hear her play her violin, again.
And he had never gotten to convince her how much she meant. His little girl, grown up believing that she was the extra child, that she didn't fit anywhere… he had never told her that she was his home.
Sweet Reina, my dearest daughter: live. For me: live.
Her face was the last he saw. Her smile.
When he fell forward, the phone slipped from his fingers. It lay face up on the ground, displaying a picture of his beautiful daughter, smiling up at no one. And it rang.
A/N: JFC, Leek, what have you done?
Okay, as much as I detest ruining that ending with another note, I must provide some further direction and information (please take a moment to get a drink of water, dry your tears, blow your nose, and reattach your heart as necessary).
Better? No? Excellent. Let's continue.
Remnants is up!
(This is the sequel to Fractured, in case you missed that announcement. It covers the ten years between the end of Fractured and Noctis' return.)
You heard me! There's no need to wallow in despair; the first chapter of the next installment of this series is posted and waiting to deliver more angst and feels unto you. Head over to my page to find it. Since it's not finished being written, I'm afraid I will have to resume the Monday-only updates at least until it is.
Thank you all so much!
To all my readers, those who had been here since the start, those who picked it up at completion, and everyone in between: thank you! If you left me reviews, gave me feedback, encouragement, or just dropped any sort of comment for me: double thank you—triple thank you—quadruple thank you! I start stories because I have ideas, but you keep me motivated, keep me interested, and keep me on track. So I finish them for you. I hope you'll join me for the next one.