First off, I'd like to thank all my fans who have sent me messages on how I was and encouraging me to update after these months of haitus. I haven't had any serious problems, except lots of drama which was overwhelming. But that's life.

So to everyone: Thank You.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, for sticking with me. As a novice writer, I am truly blessed to be supported by so many. I can't promise the next update though I do have Chapter 81 already underway.

Happy Wednesday everybody.

~Animangame02freak


Chapter Eighty

"You sly, old grandpa! No wonder why you were so calm when Elia went missing!" Felix laughed, swinging an arm around Myle's neck to pull him into a rough one arm hug. Myles nearly choked on his pipe, and jabbed his elbow into the boy's gut to be released before dissolving in a coughing frenzy.

Durante reprimanded Felix by hitting him in the back of the head. "Careful with the old man."

Felix rubbed his scalp before realizing the look on Gareth's face as though he was about to cry. "H-hey? What's with that sad face, dude?"

"It's just…" Gareth made a motion as though wiping his eye, "it's so pitiful to watch a young man getting his ass kicked by the elderly."

"I'm going to kick your ass later…" Felix muttered.

"Yeah yeah." Gareth said in a tone that clearly lacked feeling. He had heard that phrase hundreds of times before, it lost its value over time. He poked Noctis next to him, "Hear that? Does that sound new to you?"

Noct smiled, "Hang on, I think I remember him saying something about it once–"

"Or twice—" Gareth interjected.

"Of every minute—"

"Everyday—"

"Shut up you guys." Felix said.

Contrary to his words, Gareth burst out into laughter. Noct clutched his stomach. He wiped an eye then glanced at Durante who stared at him most attentively. His grin faltered slightly before coming to terms that everyone was looking at him. "What?" He asked weakly.

"Finally, you smiled." Durante said matter-of-factly.

"What do you mean by that?"

Looking at him over the rims of his glasses, he pressed a finger over his forehead, "You've been grim these past few days. Now everything's back to normal."

Gareth chucked. "I wonder why that is." He muttered lightly.

Noct felt the sudden desire to defend himself, "I'm always like this." He said tensely.

"Right." Durante said in a tone that clearly signified the opposite. "Sure you are."

Ignore that jab of sarcasm; Noct was wise enough to say nothing when they drew near Elia's residence. Felix opened the door without a clear incentive to knock and ask for permission. From inside, he shouted: "Hey El, you up yet?"

"Oh, for the love of—" Durante muttered and hurried after him.

Gareth shook his head holding a small grin and stepped inside. Noctis stared at Myles's back. "Myles."

"Hm?" The old man said, turning around.

"Thank you." Noct added. "For last night."

Myles pursed his lips tight around his pipe at the gratitude received. A stream of smoke escaped his mouth and stared after it even when it had disappeared into thin air but left a sharp scent. "I didn't do it for you." He said. "So don't get too confident." He gave Noct a look under his bushy eyebrows but in the end reached into his pocket to tap more tobacco into the pipe chamber. "But I appreciate your thanks nonetheless."

Noct could only smile half-heartedly, his train of thought falling back into a topic darker than this. "You know that by staying here, she must be probed."

Myles's grimaced, and puffed his pipe. "I don't like the sound of it."

"I don't either."

"Why don't you probe her then?" Myles asked.

"It's not that simple." Noct said defensively.

"You did it with Felix though."

"And if I may remind you: that after I did that, I was immobilized for two weeks and I had nothing else to listen to then you ranting my ear off about what sort of trouble I had gotten myself into."

"Ah, you remember that?"

"It wasn't really hard to forget." Noct admitted bluntly.

Their conversation cut short when Myles opened the door and Noct immediately found Elia standing there, draped in a blanket. The sight of her nulled his worries, drinking her presence in with his breath and eyes. Gareth burst out laughing at something the two must have missed. Myles turned beet red with annoyance and stomped over only to begin shouting Gareth and Felix for getting her out of bed.

Elia laughed at their scolded expressions then her laughing eyes set on Noctis where the mirth disappeared entirely. There was a look on her face, almost as though caught in disbelief. His heart lurched. Had he done something? He wished to step forward but there was some foolish notion that she would run if he did. But she smiled at him and waved at him. Perhaps he had just imagined her surprise…

"Boy." His eyes flew to Myles, who stared at him. "Go get her robe in the bathroom, if she's going to be out of bed then there's no need for a blanket." He nodded and Myles then told Durante to start a pot of hot water for soup. He walked into the bathroom and did what he was told just in time to see Myles yank the blanket out of Elia's hands despite her protests on its warmth. He merely laughed at her in her pajamas before seeing him. Then a thought hit Myles so fast he almost stumbled back.

He wouldn't dare…

"Noct, you wouldn't mind helping putting that on Elia while I go help Durante?"

Noct stiffened while the robe in his hands sudden weighing like two tons. A sound erupted nearby that sounded like choked back laughter. He snapped his head towards Gareth, his hand over his mouth in a feeble attempt to hold back his amusement. "What's so funny?" He snapped tersely in his direction.

"Nothing." Gareth said, bringing a fist against his chest to hide his laugh behind a weak cough. "Accidently inhaled too much of Myle's cigar smoke."

"Well boy?" Myles said.

"Don't you have someone to go help out?" Noct said back as quickly.

Myles gave him a look, before walking off. Noctis sighed, and gathered his resolve before walking over to Elia: her cheeks faintly pink. "Are you cold?" He asked.

"N-no." She replied, quickly turning her back towards him, stretching her arms out like a lady waiting for a dress to be fitted.

Noct chuckled. "Aren't you a princess?" He remarked. She said nothing, and he was glad she did not look at him. It made it easier for him to do it. Noct focused on a point off in space, his hand gliding around her as she slipped her thin arms through the sleeves. He stepped closer, bringing his arms around her waist, hands fumbling trying to fasten the knot around her waist. Noct fought to keep his face level, feeling himself to be the target of all eyes other than the woman in his arms. Myle's heavy gaze from nearby made it harder so to ignore him standing there.

He glared at the old man before finally, after forever, the knot was secured and returned his hands to his usual side trying to ward off the heat of Elia's body before he got carried away. She hugged her arms, her cheeks taking on a more reddish hue. He swallowed, trying to clear his head of thought.

"Noctis, I need to talk to you." Myles said.

Suddenly he was thankful for his advisor, then when he approached him, seeing his reserved look, became abruptly upset. "You enjoyed watching that didn't you?" He hissed under his breath.

Myles didn't even flinch or even deny it. "Are you going to tell her?" He asked calmly.

Noct blinked then remembered the initial reason. "It can wait till later." He said. "She can wait until then."

"Noct, Elia needs to know. The more you delay, the harder it will become." Myles said.

"You think I don't want to tell her now?" Noct whispered. "She just got back for Etro's sake. She needs time to rest."

"I don't want her to go either, but even if I don't want it, there's no other way. If seeing the Ministers and letting them see her will settle them…then that's what we must do."

"Myles…" Noct searched for words. "You don't know what it's like there. You've only heard rumors Myles, I've seen the real deal. I don't want to do that to her."

"She's not fragile as she looks, boy. Remember that. She's not some bird you can keep penned up."

"I don't want to do anything like that to her. I just want her safe."

"I know, Noct, but we can't get everything we want."

"Then it's settled then." said a new voice.

Myles and Noct's heads turned to Elia—how long she had been there, he did not know—who stood as defiant in her bathroom as easily she could have been in a suit of armor. "I'll go to the Ministers then." His heart began to pound, quickened by fear. She did not know what she was dealing with.

"It's dangerous!" Noctis said.

Elia blinked appearing taken back. But the shock did not last long. "So? It's not like I haven't been in danger in all my life so far. I can handle them."

"Elia—"

"Listen to me, Noct—"

"You don't know what you're getting yourself into!" He said blatantly. "You are putting your entire life in jeopardy, your sanity! You need to rest."

"It has to be done, doesn't it?" She said, with a persistence he knew there was no turning back. Her determination was something he admired. How she did what she did because she wanted to. But now his admiration turned into dismay, he almost found it foolish. But no matter what he thought of it, no matter how much he was against it. She was right.

"Fine." He snapped glaring at her. "Be that way."

"Fine." Elia said likewise.

He felt hot, like the sun was boiling under his skin. He felt the stares of everybody watching him. He needed to cool down; think…breathe. Without another word, Noct slammed the door after him and hurried away from the room until he could regain his clarity.

"I am such a kid." He thought bitterly, looking at his hands. Hands that marked a young prince, a king-to-be, and cursed magic. Hands that grasped nothing but air.