Ch 11, part 5
"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.
Emperor Mateus sat at the top of the coliseum, in a replica version of his throne. Around him stood cold stone walls which had been erected not much longer after the Palamecian castle was constructed. He watched, expecting so few of those who signed up for the tournament to come in through the door which was situated in a way that he could watch from where he was sitting.
Come through, Cantirena, he thought. I'm waiting for you.
But after hours of waiting, not a single person walked through that opening which connected to the tunnel between the castle and the coliseum. He knew that Cantirena would be through there in time. He didn't expect anybody else to make it through that cave, but he knew how driven the lady who wielded the goddess' powers tended to be. She was willful. She was stubborn. Wounded or not, she would be through.
"My lord," a guard said loudly, catching his attention. "An airship approaches from the northwest! It bears two flags – one of yellow with a red fire, and one of white with a rose!"
"That would be my personal guests from the new jointed kingdom," Mateus said with a nod. "Do welcome them into Palamecia, but unless they have deemed to enter the tournament, they are to go straight to the guest wing of the castle. Do apologize for my absence."
"As you wish, Your Majesty!" the guard said, walking away briskly.
Gordon, have you sent your rebels… or have you come yourself to see peace talks? Mateus thought, looking up at the sky. I take you for more of a tactician than coming yourself… if something happened to you, why your kingdom, no matter how many countries you've absorbed into it, would cease to exist. You wouldn't make it so easy for me, would you? Where's the fun in that?
Soon a voice below shouted at him. "What? Are you gonna invade the clouds above you, too?"
"Such impudence," Mateus replied, looking down to see Cantirena standing there with her hands on her hips. "My lady…"
Cantirena flicked her curls back, looking up at the Emperor with nothing but pride. "How dare you put a Zombie Dragon in that tunnel," she said. "That was uncalled for."
"If you wish to compete, you must prove yourself," Mateus answered.
"I'm not sure if you've noticed, but there's nobody else here," Cantirena said. "Everybody else died in that tunnel. They were a sorry lot who didn't stand a chance against what you put in there, and you made me use every kind of magic I know to make it through here." She shook her head. "This isn't a tournament, Mateus. I don't think you even understand the concept of fair play."
"You're perfect in every single way," Mateus said gently. "Except you've one terrible attitude and disdain for authority. If I could change one thing about you, it would be the way you speak."
"I'm not here for your pleasure," Cantirena said angrily. "And those… those people weren't either. I didn't like them, but they weren't… inherently bad, or anything. Some even risked themselves to save me, even though I up and called them terrible things to their faces." She shook her head. "I didn't have to kill them. I told them I was going to. No. You made it impossible for anybody else to make it through that tunnel." She wiped her face. "You want me for yourself, huh? Come and fucking get me."
"I do not wish to hurt you," Mateus said.
"But you want to use me as an instrument of war, like you did before. You want me to use my magical powers to help you rule mightier than you all ready do!" she screamed. "You… You planned this from the very start… my sisters were right. I… I didn't want to give up on you, Mateus. I loved you, I adored you… more than anyone, more than even Minwu…" Cantirena didn't want to cry, but she couldn't help herself. Tears streamed down her cheeks. "I wanted to save you from what you've done to yourself… even after you made me kill while under the influence of the Demon King. But… you're not even human anymore. You've become him. You are the Demon King!"
"I am more than that pathetic insect," Mateus said, standing up.
"Did I strike a nerve?" she asked.
"I am greater than the Demon King Iluia," Mateus stated. He leapt from where he was standing next to the throne and landed right in front of her, in the middle of the battle grounds of the coliseum. "I have absorbed his powers into me, adding his to mine. And if only you'd cooperate, my lady, I would have your powers to add to these which dwell within me."
Minwu once said during a lesson that if a person holds too much power within them, it drives them crazy… Cantirena thought, putting her hands up defensively. As a human, he was gifted with magic, and with the powers of the Demon King completely fused with him, it may be too much for his mind and his body to handle whether he realizes it or not…
She stared him down. "My powers aren't going to be used for destruction anymore. I'm… a white mage, like my teacher. You will not have my powers within you."
"I know. I can't just absorb them into my own body. Humans don't work like that," Mateus said, stepping closer to her. "We'd have to make offspring, to pass them on to the next generation. Super soldiers to fight our battles much better than we ever could. Wouldn't that be spectacular?"
"…and then watch them become even more erratic than you are?" she retorted. "Mateus, listen to me. Too much power can devour someone from the inside. You were once a kind-hearted, gentle, peace-loving prince. These powers have changed you. If you were to take the chaotic powers that live within you and mix them with… whatever it is that lives in me, it would drive any children we have insane. It's because of the powers I carry that I don't want children. I don't want them chased after future tyrants who want to abuse them!"
"I don't want to abuse you," Mateus said. "I don't want that. I would never hurt you."
You can't get me like that again… you've done this to me once. I won't fall for it again!
"You have enslaved me before, taken away my memories and my own free will. And it wasn't even your fault. It was the Demon King who lived within you! The longer you live with him inside you, the more crazy you're going to become. You are only human, Mateus!"
"I am no mere human… I am God!" He started twitching madly, as if his composed nature had finally failed him. "I am the ruler of all, my lady. You have just as much a right to serve me as any other no-good humans on this planet."
"…I won't help you cause more trouble… if I can't convince you to go back to your old self, then…" she sighed. "Then I'm going to have to stop you and put you out of your own misery. You're in pain just as much as the rest of the world is."
"I'm not in pain, my lady," Mateus laughed. He was a mere foot away from where she was standing before he raised his staff in her direction. He was going to attack her. She knew that stance. "I enjoy the sensation of feeling power beyond human reckoning. I relish in the fact that this world, and everything in it, belongs to me."
"You're wrong," Cantirena declared, putting her hands together. When her aura was flowing freely, magic came to her fingertips as easily as it always had. "I don't belong to you!" The single fireball shot from her hands was deflected very easily.
"Come now, you can do better than that," he said. "If you're going to fight me, at least show me what you can do! Bring forth that mighty lightning that you used to destroy so many towns below our Dreadnaught Warship, which you lovingly had built for me. Make it interesting. Don't waste my time, my lady. I'll even give you an extra shot. Strike me down, Child of the Goddess!"
It's hard to fight against him, when I don't want to hurt him at all… oh, Minwu… no, I can't rely on Minwu to guide me all the time. I have to make some decisions on my own. I'm not Minwu's mouthpiece, just as much as I'm not Mateus' slave! I'm my own person and… and…
"Sometimes, I have to fight for myself!" Cantirena shouted, raising her left hand into the air to call forth all of the static electricity around her. "Protection isn't just healing spells and barriers. Protection is… fighting for what you love and believe in! That's what it means to protect!"
"Very good," Mateus said teasingly. "But will that knowledge help you?"
"I don't know… but it sure as hell won't help you!" She could feel her arm prickle. There was enough static in her left arm to call forth a spell to knock him down, though it would leave her without any means of defense for a bit. Cantirena had to take the chance, though. She had no choice. "The Might of Zeus' Wrath! THUNDAGA!"
The light was so bright that Cantirena had to cover her eyes, and her body felt much weaker than it had just a few moments ago. She hoped that was enough to leave him on the ground, but when she opened her eyes again, he was even closer than he was before she cast the spell.
"That was all?" he asked. "You must be out of practice. It's terrible, really, to see such ability go to waste."
"It's not a waste," she said, stepping back away from him. "I refuse to…"
"…you don't want to kill me. You know what I can do for you. I'm this close all ready, just wait until I get closer. You remember what I've done for you. The feelings you've felt while at my mercy. On your knees, my lady."
You won't…! You won't have me again!
"I will fight you with every ounce of life I have in me, Mateus. I'm not your toy or your tool." Cantirena said, pulling herself back to standing upright. She put her hand up. "I'm not going to hold back this time, I swear it. I don't want to hurt you, but…"
But I can't do this anymore!
"Angel's Wrath! HOLY!"
The ball of light melted away into nothingness before it even touched Mateus.
"You've lost the ability to cast destructive magic. I wonder why that is?" Mateus asked. "Is it because you're not confident in your powers? Is it because you stand against me, alone, and you fear what's to become of you if you fall before me? You're afraid of losing. You're afraid of losing everything you love and hold dear to you."
"But I'm not afraid of you!"
"Then why aren't you attacking me at full strength?" Mateus asked again. "I'll give you another chance. On your knees, my lady, and all will be forgiven."
"I told you before, I can't just bow to you."
"Then, for Cosmos' sake, fight back."
Why can't I land a blow on him? Is it because he's still wearing that reflect armor? Minwu, I've done everything right, haven't I? What am I missing? Why can't… what's wrong with me?!
"Cantirena, I'm losing my patience. Either make this battle worth my time or fall to your knees!"
Wait a minute. If he really wanted to attack me, he would have by now.
That's when she put her hands down and shook her head. "No," she said softly. "I will not do this."
…if I want to fight at my full strength, then I need to have my sisters with me. Shit, I'm gonna have to make up something… anything… shitshitshitshitshit…
"Mateus. You're not going to hurt me. You want me too much. If you were to kill me, you'd invalidate not just my powers, but those of my two sisters as well. They're children of the Goddess, too, you know. If you want more power, you'll need to have those two. Not just me."
"Is that so? If they also have the powers of the Goddess, you make a very good point."
Come on, Cantirena, think!
"All I have is the magical prowess of Cosmos… but my sisters have other abilities of the Goddess, too…"
"The legends did speak of power, wit, and heart…"
"That's right. According to the legend, I have the power it speaks of. Clarisse has the heart, the ability to understand emotions and empathize with others. Candice has the wit. She's sharp as a tack and just as deadly. She may not be book smart, but she beats everybody else with practicality." Cantirena continued. "So if you really are seeking power, and if you have invited the party from Fynn like I think I overheard you say… let me go now. Wait until the celebration for your mother… and then strike."
"Why would you suggest that? You don't want to be under my power."
Oh Goddess… for fuck's sake… Mateus, just… shut the hell up all ready!
"You're right. I don't. But I do know that there will be no cooperating with either of my sisters… if you make the wrong move beforehand," Cantirena said. "Clarisse and Candice both would rather have your head on a silver platter. If you wait it out, you'll have a better chance."
"I don't trust you. You have fought against me all the way up until this point. There is no reason for me to believe that you would even consider this kind of a plan. This isn't like you."
"I don't trust you, either. So we're even in that respect… but, you have Minwu in the palace, right? I'll stay here and cooperate. We will throw the celebration like originally intended. My sisters are undoubtedly guests on the airship. I know them all too well. They were coming the moment we were separated south of Mysidia. I will not leave the coliseum."
"Tell Minwu that everything will be going according to plan."