Ch 11, part 10
"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 walked peacefully behind Ricard and Firion, who were following Paul. Firion couldn't believe that without having to figure out the maze, he and Ricard had made it through. Now that he was aware of it being a maze, he was more confused than he was when running in at full blast. There weren't any guards or maids along their path. When they started to see some natural light around them, they noticed other people, too.
"Hey! Who are you strangers?" a guard asked, huffing loudly at the end of his sentence.
Cantirena stepped between Ricard and the guard. "They're here with me. I'm taking them to meet with the Emperor."
"Oh, many pardons, my lady," the guard said, bowing his head. "Are you sure you should be out of bed? His Majesty was worried sick about you."
"I'm all right," she answered. "By the way, have you any idea as to where the Emperor has gone?"
"My lady, he specifically stated he was on his way to see you, and that he should not be disturbed for any reason," the guard replied. "So if he is not with you, then I do not know where he is. Forgive me."
Cantirena shook her head. "All right, then," she said. "Firion, Ricard, Paul… let me at least take you to see Minwu. We'll wait for the Emperor there."
Paul turned to look at Cantirena. "You want us all in the same room, waiting for him to show?"
"For once in your life, just do as the lady tells you," Firion said. "There's something I need to find out."
Paul followed them reluctantly. "I'll go back to the ship and tell Cid to keep the motor running…" he said, waiting until no one had their eyes on him before he hid back in the shadows. "I don't like the idea of us all waiting in a trap we made ourselves."
The moment Cantirena walked through the door where Minwu had been staying, she found herself face-to-face with Mateus. It was as if he was about to walk out of the room as she was walking in.
"Ah, there you are," she said. "I knew we'd run into you eventually."
"…my lady, what are you doing out of bed?" Mateus asked. "You shouldn't be walking. You were gravely injured!" He was starting to push her back out the door when he noticed Firion and Ricard were standing behind her. "And you have an entourage. Interesting."
"You could call it that," Firion said. "What's more interesting is how Canti speaks of you coming to a political agreement with her… that seems very suspicious."
Cantirena tried to get behind Mateus to see Minwu, but when she got a glimpse behind him, Minwu wasn't there. "…where's Minwu?" she asked. "I need to speak with both of you…"
"Minwu has gone to the infirmary," Mateus answered. "He was concerned for the condition of your sisters…"
"I suppose we'll have to go there, too. Better if we talk everything out together as a group, right?" she asked, smiling at him. "Don't worry. I don't plan to go back on what we decided on earlier. I just want everything out in the open, so we can talk about it with everyone concerned. I doubt Minwu would change his mind."
The Emperor put his hand on her shoulder. His voice was soothing. "Of course, but I am concerned for your health. You've been incredibly weak. Let me take you back so you can rest-"
"No. We're heading to the infirmary now," Firion said sternly. "Canti is fine. She's stronger than she looks or acts sometimes. We don't need to wait anywhere. Let's take care of business. If things check out, Your Majesty, then we'll leave and we'll be out of here. If…" he looked at Cantirena. "If… you, Minwu, and Canti came to an agreement to end the war, then by all means. We'll stick to it."
Not that you're the type to hold to agreements, of course, Firion thought. All I can see is you betraying everyone in the deal, including the woman you claim to love.
Ricard didn't have anything to say on the matter. He was standing face-to-face with the man that decimated his homeland and took everything from him. Discussing peace was above his ability, even for a man who appeared to never lose his cool. "Not only that, but we do need to find Clarisse and Candice. We were separated upon entering your castle," he said, trying to force the idea of getting done with this as quickly as possible.
Cantirena cocked her head to the side. "My sisters are here?" she asked.
"They were both concerned for you," Ricard added quietly. "Everyone back in Fynn misses you. Gordon especially would love to have you as his aide, considering everything that has happened. There's no one more qualified to assist him than Cantirena and Minwu. At least, that's what the King would have you believe."
"But…" she whispered, "…that's what I'm going to do here. It's… what I've been preparing to do my entire life. I became Minwu's student as a child, and I met the Emperor while he was still a prince. I'm meant to be here, in Palamecia, serving as his aide, as Minwu was to Hilda. I can't go back to Fynn no matter how much I am loved there." Shaking her head, she walked over to Mateus' side. "So, as the Royal Mage of Palamecia, I hereby order you to finish your business and return to your King, Knights of Fynn."
What?! Firion thought. No, no, no, no! There's no way Minwu agreed to this!
"And you do your job so elegantly," Mateus said. "Spoken like a true Palamecian. It warms my heart to hear you take care of business, Cantirena."
"I'm only doing my duty, sire. There is no reason to praise me."
Firion frowned. "All right, then. Fine. We'll go see the other two girls and Minwu, get it done. We'll be out of your hair, my lady," he said. His spirit sank. "Forgive our… intrusion."
"Firion?" Ricard asked.
"Let's find Minwu."
Cantirena then snapped her fingers. "That's right… we have another airship landing soon. I will go and take care of that now, if that pleases you, sire. I'm still new to this position! You'll have to forgive me if I mess up with any of my duties."
Firion made a face that showed just how sick he felt hearing that.
"Ah," Mateus said, releasing his hand from her shoulder. He loved Firion's reaction. "Do not worry about any of that. You are more to me than the Royal Mage of Palamecia. But, yes, if you would take care of that matter, I would be most appreciative."
Cantirena bowed her head politely, then walked out of the door, leaving the two rebels in front of the Emperor. The silence left behind was unlike any other.
"Take us to where Minwu is, if you wouldn't mind," Firion said to Mateus. "I just wanna hear from him that what Cantirena is saying is the truth. If she made the decision, then I have no right to interfere. Let me confirm it."
"Why do I owe you this gesture?" Mateus asked. "I should throw you in the palace dungeons to rot. A rebel who has been fighting against my forces since I torched his hometown… you are an enemy to my court. Sneaking into my castle while I was dealing with the fairer pair of your emissary group? That's very despicable."
"You've no room to talk," Ricard said angrily. "You are the textbook definition of despicable."
"And rude, to boot. Gordon makes the worst choices to represent his country," Mateus mused. "Tell me, did you come into my castle unannounced to make off with what belongs to me?"
"If you mean to rescue two of the most important people to Fynn, then yeah, I guess that would be what we're here for…" Firion said, crossing his arms. "And Cantirena doesn't belong to you, no matter what kind of a spell you put on her this time."
"She is under no spell," Mateus said carefully. "She is motivated by her love for Minwu, as she always is. It's what gives her the strength to keep going. Minwu is useful to me. Her sisters are useful to me… but the two of you… no. You will not see the blue-haired girls. I will see you out of my castle."
Ricard drew his spear, putting it up defensively towards Mateus. "Firion, go look for the infirmary…"
Firion flinched. "What do you mean?!"
Ricard shook his head. "Go tell Minwu what's going on…"
Mateus put his hand up. "If you will not accept my offer to leave the castle alive, you will die within it."
Ricard laughed. "You will not best the techniques of a Dragoon so easily, tyrant!"
Firion turned to run. "You better follow me!"
"I will be right behind you, my friend," Ricard said quietly. "Now, go!"
Firion nodded, dashing out of the room and in whatever direction he could think of going. "Dammit, Ricard…!"
Mateus shrugged dismissively. "What is this? The last stand of the last Dragoon? Come now, you're nothing without your dragon to ride on."
"You severely underestimate the capabilities of a Dragoon…" Ricard said proudly. "You cannot go after Firion until you've bested me in combat."
"…that is easily taken care of…"
END CHAPTER ELEVEN