Ch 11, part 3
"Dark Skies over Palamecia" – a Final Fantasy II retelling
Disclaimer: Square Enix owns Final Fantasy II and all FFII characters featured within. Original characters and interpretations are owned by the co-writers of this fan fiction. There is no profit being made from this story.
Cantirena didn't resist any of the directions given to her once she was taken to the wing of the castle where all of the contestants for the tournament were being held. She didn't interact with any she passed by, as there was no way she planned on making friends with someone she was going to have to kill to ensure victory. She didn't keep track of time while there. Warriors and mages from all classes and creeds were there, though less than she expected. Each combatant was given a room within the wing, and free passage inside that wing to combat practice areas and dining halls which never ran out of food. A few of the poorer members of the group never lived in such luxury, if it could be called that. The food was half the quality of what was served in Fynn castle during her youth, and many of them praised it like it was the best food they'd ever eaten before. They were all going to die in the tournament, but Cantirena found it extremely hard to care about any of them. They were faceless as far as she was concerned. She had a goal to reach, and goddamn it, fuck anybody who got in her way. One man tried to flirt with her while she was eating her evening meal asking if she'd like to have the chance to experience romance one more time before having to bite the dust, and she gave him a cold stare to take with him to hell. Cantirena didn't give any of them any of her words. There was no physical contact, and when she practiced her drills, it was all aura concentration. She dared not show them what she was capable of, as that was a very stupid strategy. Those who were going to show off their best moves had no idea what they were doing to themselves. No one there was going to fight honorably. They were either baseborn cretins who aspired greedily to a higher life and wished to attain it through fighting in the tournament, or they were battle-crazed fallen former knights who used to serve in the Palamecian army until just days ago and only wanted the chance to once again shove their swords into a body weaker than their own.
Things changed after being in the training program, if it could be called that, for two days. Guards gave them all a message in an envelope, directing them all to take a path from the castle to the nearby coliseum where their practicing would get more intense. While many were either frightened by this prospect or joyful about it, Cantirena had no real reaction to the situation. She would do what she had to. They weren't given a choice as to whether they wanted to go or not. They were being led along by force.
The contestants arrived at the mouth of a cavern, to the surprise of many. The guards pointed inside, stating that this is the path to the coliseum, so if they were not to be late in addressing the Emperor about their wishes before the tournament were to start, they would have to get a move on. Some were even more frightened, as the cave let out air that was rancid and humid. It smelled of monsters and demons, of rotting flesh and leaking sulfur.
Cantirena was the first to approach the cave.
"Girl, what are you doing?" one of the contestants shrieked at her. "Where do you think you're going?!" he was shaking in his knee-high lace up boots. His battle armor did not suit him. He was just as cowardly as Gordon was at the beginning of the war, if not more so. At least Gordon had the balls to pull himself together and fight for his home and the restoration of his people.
"Don't you know anything about Palamecia's geography, or even the local legends?" she asked quietly, speaking to them all for the first time. Many had assumed she was mute, so it caught them off guard. "At least, the legends say that the kingdom is directly connected with Hell itself. The reason why it smells like zombies and dragon dung is because that's what it's full of." She walked up to the mouth of the cave and used her left hand to create a ball of light to illuminate her path. "But if you want to know where I'm going, I have to address the Emperor about my wish, just as the rest of you do. You won't get your wish granted if you don't get to speak with him, right? So pull yourselves together. How much does your wish mean to you?"
"…how much does your wish mean to you, if you – the only woman in this group, and the only person who does not carry any sort of weaponry – can approach such a dangerous place without being at least a little scared?" another contestant asked her.
Cantirena laughed at that. "My wish…" she said, taking a few more steps into the cave. "…is something worth braving Hell for. I don't care what comes at me. It will die, be it a monster… or be it one of you."
Even though she kept walking, she could hear their words behind her. Some followed her in, though at a distance.
"That girl is dangerous," the first contestant said, thinking she couldn't hear him. "She has the most apathetic expression I think I've ever seen. Whatever she wishes… might not be a good thing for the rest of the world."
"Maybe it's about family," another said. "She might be fighting to rescue her kids or something. Maybe she's operating on pure motherly instinct."
"I don't want to think of any kids who have that as their mother," another answered. "She's ruthless and cold."
"…she reminds me of the Emperor himself."
"Yeah, now that you mention it."
"That same emptiness… of something you love being missing from your life… turning you into a former shell of what you used to be? I always got that feeling from the Emperor, and now I'm getting the same vibe from her."
Cantirena laughed again. "Shut up," she snapped at them. "There's a lot about the world you don't understand. I won't tell you my wish because it's not like any of you would fight for it yourself. It's not like you care enough to give up your wishes to make my own come true. So there's no point in trying to talk over anything. I will kill every last one of you… if it would make my wish come true."
I'm so sorry, Minwu. I know this goes against your teachings, but… I have to save you. We have to make this happen. I will live for all I've killed, once I've freed you. I swear it.