Ch 11, part 6
"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 left where she faced off with Mateus, walking into the far wall where there were open chambers which she assumed at one point in the past was full of either tournament contestants or monsters. Either way, the chambers were dirty from thousands of years of neglect, and smelled like the sweat off of a collective dead army's balls. She sat on the ground, which wasn't even paved or made of any sort of solid stone. It was just sand. Cantirena noticed a window above where a little trickle of light fell through, but the chamber was mostly full of shadow.
"I just realized…" she said quietly to herself "…that it's impossible to form a plan involving my sisters if I don't have them here to discuss it with me." She laughed at that, putting her hand onto the sand and running her fingers through it slowly. "And there's no way I can get to the castle, since I promised I would stay. Fuck. All those lessons, teacher, and I'm still stupid as I was when you first started giving them to me. I'm hopeless. If I don't do something, I can't even do what I set out to do. I might as well just bend my knee and be done with this struggle if I can't save you."
She sat there, leaning against the wall, and after a while, gave up on thinking how to defeat the Emperor. She was better at improvising than planning anyway, right? She'd just pull something out of her ass, and if it didn't work, well… she knew that because she was valuable to him, Mateus wouldn't hurt her. He wouldn't hurt Minwu, either, because she knew that Mateus knew he needed to be alive to keep her sane. It wasn't what she wanted, but while sitting there in the darkness, she was almost ready to believe it was the only way. What could she do now? What could anyone do in her situation? Fighting back didn't do jack shit!
Her eyes closed as she pondered everything. Eventually, she drifted to sleep, letting out a soft snore with each breath.
Mateus stood there in the doorway. He had been standing silently in a place where she couldn't see the entire time, watching her.
You wish to use your sisters, he thought. While that is an intelligent idea, I agree with you on the count that it is impossible for you to make any plans without them present. I suppose if I had a different face, you would allow me to hear your heart, wouldn't you?
He snapped his fingers, calling forth magic to change his appearance. Blue swirls wrapped around him, changing him from the tall Emperor wearing gold to that of the bronze-skinned, white robbed Minwu. He concentrated his thoughts on what Minwu's voice sounded like. If he wasn't going to get caught in this, he was going to need to be perfect.
"Cantirena, my student, are you here?" he asked, his voice sounding exactly like Minwu's.
Cantirena looked around, suddenly called from her nap. "What?" she asked. "Is… is anybody there? How long have I been asleep?! Is it time for the fight all ready?" She was dazed and confused, barely able to stand. Having fallen asleep, her body finally noticed that she was extremely exhausted.
"No, it is not time for the fight."
"…Minwu!" Cantirena said happily, pulling herself up straight. "What are you doing here? You were supposed to stay at the castle."
"Aye, but the Emperor decided to show mercy to you because you were the only one who survived the trek inside the tunnel between the castle and the coliseum. He permitted me to come here to see you."
She ran to him, wrapping her arms around him the best she could. "I've failed you on all levels… I'm so sorry. Some protégé I am."
"Don't say that." His hands ran lovingly through her hair. "I don't see you as a failure. I love you and nothing will change the fact that I do. No matter how many you kill, no matter how many cities you destroy. Even if I can't have you for myself, my heart will not change. I am yours, Cantirena."
"And that's why I have to fight to save you."
"If you are determined to save me, then I can't stop you. You have to make your own decisions. You have to do what's best for yourself. And if throwing yourself into danger in my honor is what you think you need to do, then by Cosmos, you do it! I would not have you embroiled in conflict, but your life is your life. It is what you make it."
"…truthfully, I wish I could live to your teachings, but… protection isn't just cure spells and barriers."
"Even I have violated my own teachings in the past in the name of protection. I am no pacifist, and you shouldn't be either. I always want you to follow your heart, Cantirena."
"…Minwu," she said, gripping him tighter. "We have to live for those we've killed. We promised we would rebuild this world together. I refuse to let that promise be broken. I can't rebuild anything while that tyrant is running the place."
"My dear student, you sound so very convicted in the matter. Pray, tell me of your plans. Do you hope to stop the Emperor yourself?"
"I wish I could, but… when I faced him alone, I couldn't do any damage," she said sadly. "I cast a Thundaga, and that did nothing. And my Holy spell melted before it even reached him. Teacher, I… I fear that I will not be able to do anything to him on my own, and my sisters… I can't form a plan without them."
"You wish to involve them?"
"You know yourself that they want Mateus' head on a silver platter. They were able to break the possession over me when every bit of magic you knew failed you…"
So that is how the possession was broken! The three pieces of the Goddess created an aura so pure when put together that it cast out the darkness which was so deeply imbedded into your heart…
Cantirena continued. "Together, I know that we three can get the Demon King out of him, and if he still wanted to fight, at least then we'd stand a little bit more of a chance. Minwu, I… even though I said I was going to kill him, I don't think I can bring myself to do it. Every time I try, something stops me. My spells weaken when I look at him. I swear up and down I don't love him anymore! I don't know what's going on with me!"
"…my student, I have no words of advice to offer you. All I can do is comfort you."
She looked up at him, taking comfort in his gaze. "And that's enough for me. To know that you love your failure student even to this point."
He put his hands to her chin, raising her jaw up to kiss her gently. When he released, he said, "You are not a failure. What do I have to do to convince you that you're perfect?"
"Don't flatter me, Minwu," she whispered.
"I'm not flattering you. I believe it. I wouldn't change a single thing about you." He kissed her again. "I would worship you, if only you'd let me."
"…now that's not something you'd normally say. We humans are not to be worshipped, that is for the Goddess. That's what scripture says, somewhere. I can't quote the chapter or the verse, but I know the scripture says that somewhere."
"The time away from you, worrying about you, missing you… you have never left my thoughts even though you are far away from me physically. Please, let me show you how much I've missed you." He pressed his hips against hers, and she could feel exactly what he meant.
Cantirena blushed. "You're normally not so forward," she said. "Even though I've thought of it myself, this isn't really the time or the place for that."
"You aren't going to push me away before I have to go back, are you?"
"Minwu, you are not the type to act out of desperation for anything. I know I said I wanted Airu to lie to Mateus about me being ready because I wanted the chance to spend some time with you, but… I've got other things on my mind right now."
"…you should let them go for the moment."
"No, Minwu, please, let go of me."
Let down your guard. The one you love the most is here, holding you against him, wanting to give you affection, my lady. Let me in.
He only gripped her tighter. "Do you not realize how much I fear for you? I have no idea what the Emperor has put you through, and I don't know what else is to come. Cantirena, I'm afraid that I'll never have this chance again. That tournament is either going to take you from me, or me from you, somehow. Even if victory is achieved, and you manage to free the Emperor from the Demon King, something could go wrong. One of us could die… Allow me to give you my love now, just in case it is impossible to do so later."
Cantirena slapped him in the face, pulling away completely. "You… you… You're not Minwu! That is not something my teacher would say to me, ever, under any circumstances. He does not beg or plead for anything, even when he wants something he can't ask for it. He believes in me. I know he does. You aren't Minwu. Get away from me."
"I am standing before you now. I am Minwu."
"…you look and sound like him, but you're not acting like him."
"The situation has changed everyone involved. You're not acting much like yourself, either."
"Can you blame me? There was one guy who wore your disguise and tried to convince me to marry the Emperor who ended up being skewered by his scepter! With that in mind and knowing the kind of manipulation magic that Mateus is capable of, it's hard to believe that anyone is… well, anyone!"
"That was just a dream. There's no reason to think that I'm not who I say I am, Cantirena. I am afraid that our plans will not come to fruition, and that we will not be going home to Fynn together somehow. I only wanted to show you how much I love you before that chance is denied by the circumstances around us."
"…Minwu doesn't fear anything."
"You are wrong about that. I fear for this world. I fear for Fynn. I fear for you."
"Bullshit. Minwu has said it tons of times. It is every man's destiny to die. He doesn't fear for himself or anyone else, because he believes the world is in the hands of the Goddess, and that she knows what she's doing. He doesn't question what the Goddess puts before him. He does what he believes he is supposed to."
"Cantirena… Do you believe that I am even real at this point? You're saying all these great things about me, but you don't believe that I am standing here before you. You had a dream where a man pretended to be me, trying to convince you to marry the Emperor, and now you don't want to believe that I am who I am. Will you believe that every image that you see of Minwu is a fake? Do I only exist in your imagination somehow? This vision of perfect that is completely unachievable?"
"You cannot be serious. I've given you my heart and you do not trust me."
"…because you're not acting the way you normally do."
"And neither are you, my student. You are acting differently because you've changed just as much as I have. You are less trusting, which considering what you've been through makes sense, but you know that I will never hurt you. We have known each other for how long now? I love you. I wish to cherish you always. Forget the Goddess. Forget the war. Forget it all, I just want to be with you."
"Get out of here."
"But Cantirena, I-"
"Get out of here. I don't know if the Emperor put you up to this to convince me of something or to draw information out of me or why else you would do this, but I'm not putting up with this anymore. You're not Minwu. If you persist, I will not hesitate to kill you."
"Will you kill the man you love because you distrust the fact that it is him?"
"You're not the man I love. Your words have proven this." Cantirena turned around. "If I look back and see you again, I will not hesitate further. Get out and leave me in peace."
He walked behind her, putting his arms around her waist. "I will not leave you. This is the last chance I may have at being near you. I want to hear your heartbeat, to hold you close, to caress your skin, to kiss you, to make love to you."
She used her hands to try to get his hands off of her, but he gripped her much tighter. "Don't make me call for the Emperor." She stated it so emotionlessly, but she couldn't think of anything else.
"You'd call for him? You hate him."
"And if I called for him, I know for a fact that he would come here. Nobody pretends to be him. I know who he is and what his motivations are, so in a way, he's a lot safer than you are. If I told him that you were hurting me, he would kill you. He values me too much to let harm come to me. I bet he can even hear what's going on right now."
"Hm. I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't very far from here, trying to learn all he can. But we have to show him our solidarity, don't we?"
"You are some crony he's made to look like Minwu..."
"I am nothing like that."
"…if you're not some lackey, then it's possible that you're the Emperor in disguise. I would not put that past him at all, considering."
"What would you do, if I was the Emperor in disguise? Hm? Can you honestly tell me what you would do if this was the truth? You confided in me that you could not bring yourself to kill him when you faced off with him. You couldn't do it. If the Emperor really took on my disguise and got this close to you, why, I believe he'd have exactly what he wanted. He probably wouldn't be able to hold back. He would take you against your will, making you beg for release in more ways than physical, and I'm sure that he would let you know it was him so you'd know exactly who has the control. That's just the sort of man he is. But I know your stubbornness. I've dealt with it every day since we have met. I am willing to put up with this treatment to prove to you that I am who I am and I am who I say I am."
Suddenly, Cantirena stopped struggling. She turned to look at his face. "Minwu," she whispered. "I'm so sorry. This… this war has… been hell…"
"All is forgiven, my student," he answered, kissing her cheek. "You will fight for our right to be free… You are a brave woman, willing to take such risks."
"You probably don't know this, but everyone else who entered the tournament is dead. Mateus set it up so that everyone else would fail his trial before the whole thing began. This isn't a tournament at all. I have no idea what he's planning to do to me come the day of the fight."
"It doesn't matter. You will rise above them all. I have nothing but faith in you."
"That's sweet of you to say, but I still can't help but feel nervous about what's coming. I've got four days, and I opted to stay in this pit until the day of. I was incredibly stubborn. Maybe if I had agreed to go with him, I'd be able to eat, or even see my sisters before having to face off with some incredibly fierce monster I've never fought before."
"I will stay with you."
"But… Minwu… what about… what about the crystal?"
Crystal? He thought. What is this about a crystal? Minwu has a crystal? This… is very troublesome indeed.
He snuggled against her gently, pulling her back onto him as he sat down on the sand. "What crystal?" he asked.
"Are you saying that because you don't want the Emperor to hear of it? Is he nearby? That rat, I'm going to teach him it's not nice to eavesdrop."
"Well, Cantirena, it is because of the Emperor's mercy that I am here to begin with. It would not be wise to betray him for breaking the rules of the tournament as he has now, you know. Let us be as generous as he has."
"…yes, teacher." She said it very dismissively.
"Come now. I am more than that, aren't I?"
"I can't help it. Every time you remind me of a lesson, that's my initial response."
He fell silent for a little bit before pulling her hair away from her ear and kissing it, making her fall against him with a smile on her face. She liked how gentle Minwu always was about his affection. It was much more enjoyable than the force the Emperor was so keen on using. It made her feel loved, not owned.
"You shouldn't," she whispered.
"And why not?"
"I'm not sure if this is the best place to-"
"Anywhere I can lay you down is the best place to do so."
Cantirena stopped him before he could kiss her again. She put her finger right on his lips. "Since when were you so forward?" she asked playfully.
"Since I thought I was going to lose you forever. I don't have time to hold back anymore," he answered, nuzzling against her with his nose. "Now can I continue, or are you going to make me answer more of your questions?"
"I'm learning, teacher. You taught me to question everything… even you."
"Allow me to give you a new lesson, then," he said gently. "To answer every question when it comes to matters of the heart. Perhaps you will have the conviction you need to face the battles ahead this way."
"…I say I'm not scared, but… but I am scared."
"The only way one can be brave is if they are scared first."
"You've said that before."
"Just quoting scripture."
It didn't take long for their position to change. Amid well-aimed kisses and gentle moans, Cantirena found herself in bliss under him.
I brought something with me. I'm sure you'll find it familiar, my lady. The spell itself is different, but it works similar to the last one. This one won't break. Instead of basing it around your love for me, it's based around your love and dedication to Minwu. You rely on him too much. It's too easy to manipulate. It's like you're asking to fall into my control again.