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Some time later, Sunny left the room, walked between the tall menhirs, and entered the sprawling garden of the Sanctuary. The cohort had intended to talk to Noctis together, but after his bombshell of a revelation, the others needed some time to digest all the new information and decided to stay behind.
In truth, Sunny wanted to be alone for a few minutes, as well. Although he felt that he had made the right decision, revealing his secrets was… an uncomfortable experience. He felt as if an invisible weight had been lifted off his shoulders, a bit, but also rattled and uneasy. He felt… naked.
Sunny could use a little solitude to gather his thoughts, too.
After the initial shock, he had gone into more detail about his capabilities, explaining how a Divine Aspect worked, and the circumstances of how he earned it. However, it was not like he knew a lot about this matter himself, so the conversation was not too long.
It had helped the others better understand his powers, as well as that of Nephis… and, most importantly, of Mordret. Now, they were as ready to face the Prince of Nothing as they could be, should a conflict with him happen. Additionally, due to everyone gaining deeper insight into Sunny's powers, their already profound synergy as a battle unit was bound to grow even more refined.
Sunny kept a few things to himself, as well. The difference was that if before there had been a strange dynamic between him and his friends, where they pretended to not know that he wasn't being entirely honest with them, and he pretended to not know that they knew… now, the existence of those white spots had been openly acknowledged by him.
Effie and Kai understood that there were things he wasn't ready to share, and why he was reluctant to do so. They seemed to respect his wishes.
All in all, it went surprisingly well.
Walking through the beautiful garden, which was illuminated by the pale light of the full moon, Sunny enjoyed the tranquil air of the Sanctuary. At some point, however, a slightly disconcerting thought entered his mind:
'I wonder… was this decision of mine influenced, to some degree, by Hope's poison? If so… what deep desire of mine had she amplified to push me toward being honest with my friends, for a change?"
Suddenly thoughtful, Sunny approached the door of the sorcerer's lair, waited patiently for the Sailor Dolls to open it, and walked inside.
'Maybe I was always…'
His eyes suddenly narrowed, and his hand shot to the side, ready to grasp the shaft of the Cruel Sight. Something was very wrong inside the dark hall… a thick, nauseating smell of blood invaded his nostrils, sending adrenalin coursing through his own. It surrounded him like a suffocating wave, as though a terrible massacre had just taken place in the immortal sorcerer's quarters.
…But Sunny did not see any corpses. The central chamber was just as he had left it the last time — empty of all furniture, with a vast circle of runes drawn on the stone floor. No, not entirely the same… the floor had cracked in several places, as though something was pushing at it from beneath, exerting devastating pressure on the ancient stones.
Noctis was still in the center of the circle. One of his sleeves was rolled up, and there was a deep cut on his left wrist, a stream of blood running down his hand and falling down like a crimson ribbon. In his other hand, he held the diamond sickle. The sorcerer was surrounded by a shallow pool of blood, however, it somehow failed to touch the hems of his garments.
Sunny stared at him for a few moments, noticing that the stone surface… seemed to be slowly absorbing the blood. Then, he gripped the emerald amulet and asked evenly:
"…Are you trying to kill yourself?"
Noctis slowly opened his eyes, glanced at Sunny, and smiled brightly. Then, acting as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening, he wiped the diamond sickle, hid it in the folds of his silk garment, and stoop up:
"What? Of course not! I'm too young to die!"
Sunny gave him a dubious look.
"Young? You are at least a thousand years old."
The sorcerer tilted his head, scratched his cheek with a thoughtful look, and then smiled even brighter:
"…What? Of course not! I'm too beautiful to die!"
Happy with himself, Noctis somehow made the cut on his wrist close, jumped over the pool of blood, and walked toward Sunny with a relaxed expression.
"Come… this place needs to be aired, I think. The garden is nice and chill, though."
Sunny threw one last look at the disappearing pool of blood. Did he imagine it… or had the stone floor of the chamber trembled slightly, just then? Shaking his head, he turned away and followed Noctis outside.
Together, they slowly headed for the Altar Island. Noctis seemed to enjoy the silence of the moonlit garden a lot… a minute or two later, though, he broke it with a carefree question:
"So, what did you want to tell me? Have you and your friends come to a decision?"
Sunny hesitated for a moment, then answered:
"We did. We… will help you free Hope."
After that, he didn't say anything else.
Sunny waited for a while, a little confused. They had already reached the white altar and sat down on a stone bench, enjoying the sight of the pristine lake, with a pale circle of the moon reflecting on its calm surface. And yet, the sorcerer seemed to lose his ability to speak.
Slightly irritated, Sunny hesitated for a moment and then asked awkwardly:
"…So? Do you need me to give you the knives?"
Noctis looked at him with an easy smile and shrugged.
"Ah, no need. Keep them."
Sunny's eye twitched.
"What do you mean, keep them?! Wasn't the knives what you were after?"
The immortal sorcerer looked at the reflection of the moon, then waved a hand vaguely.
"We can deal with them when the time comes. Things will sort themselves out, one way or another."
He remained silent for a bit, and then added, his smile slowly disappearing:
"Now that the One in the North is dead, things will start moving faster. The other Chain Lords are probably already in motion."
Noctis sighed, then leaned back and looked up at the sky.
"We won't have as much time to prepare as I would have hoped. Two months, perhaps… maybe even less. You and your friends should spend that time wisely. Once the end starts, we won't have an opportunity to relax like this until it's all over."
Sunny grew silent, then looked at the tranquil lake. After a few moments, he said:
"We will help you, but I have some questions."
Amused by that statement, Noctis laughed.
"You even have questions on a night like this? Sunless… you should learn how to enjoy yourself, from time to time. Take a moment and appreciate the world. Otherwise, what is the point in living?"
Sunny glanced at him with a deadpan expression.
"Do I look like someone who knows what the point of living is? Thanks for the advice, I'll take your words to heart. However, I still have questions."
The sorcerer made a dour face and sighed.
"…Alright. One question. I'll answer one question. So think well before asking it!"
Sunny did not speak for a while, staring at the reflection of the moon. His face grew serious, deep shadows veiling his eyes.
After several minutes spent in silence, he finally frowned, looked at Noctis, and said:
"…Then tell me this one thing. Why did Sun God destroy Hope's Kingdom?"
The immortal raised his eyebrows, then threw his head back and laughed.
"By the Moon… of all the questions in the world, you just had to ask this one, didn't you!"
He shook his head, and then looked away.
"Well, a deal is a deal. I'll answer… like many others who tried to answer this question over the centuries. Some said that it was because she was a daemon, others said that it was because she was too powerful. That she had grown too prideful, or that she had grown too radiant, outshining even the Lord of Light. But they were all wrong. In truth… at least what I think is the truth… Hope wasn't punished because she was too powerful, too prideful, or too radiant."
He remained silent for a few moments, and then sighed.
"…It was because she was worshipped."
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