Ch 12, part 2
"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.
Clarisse sat there in a chair next to Cantirena, holding her left hand in both of hers. She watched her little sister's breaths become shorter until she had to cough just to be able to continue those little breaths again. Candice stood behind Clarisse, trying to give some emotional support. Minwu was at Cantirena's right side, checking her vitals repeatedly, but every time he tried to cast a spell to heal the wounds, the magic was repelled completely.
"Why can't I do anything?" Minwu asked, frustrated. "The one time I desperately need to be able to heal and I can't do anything." It was taking every bit of emotional control he had to not break down into helpless tears right then.
"Minwu… we tried to use that Goddess healing thing we did back when she was possessed by the Demon King, and that didn't work either," Clarisse said quietly. "I thought that was supposed to heal absolutely everything, but it didn't even wake her up."
"What the hell was she fighting to end up in this state? There's no fighting tournament in the world that gives someone wounds untreatable with magic," Candice said. She shook her head. "Something just doesn't add up here. What kind of wounds are unable to be healed with holy white magic?"
Minwu turned to look away from Cantirena. "Perhaps I have failed… maybe if I had stayed in Mysidia longer, there could have been a technique that I could have learned…" he walked away for a moment, then walked back to her, until finally he slammed his fist against the wall, making it crackle loudly.
The door opened and two maids came in, one carrying Airu's bag full of books. "Excuse me," the shortest one said, catching everyone's attention. "Lady Cantirena asked us to give you this, Minwu. Said you had an assignment to do."
Minwu walked over to take the bag from them. "Thank you, girls. You are dismissed." He looked down at the books once they left, only to find that they were the books that Airu promised to gather for him.
Why didn't Airu give me these? She was the one who left to gather them… Minwu thought. It looks like I have everything I need to create a crystal with these at my hand. But Cantirena… What use is getting rid of the Demon King if I can't even save Cantirena? Sure, I can create a crystal, but what would it be for? My student… no, the woman I love is dying before my eyes of some sort of disease beyond my power, and she expects me to walk away from her to save the world?!
"Canti had the bag sent to you?" Candice asked. "But isn't she right here?"
"Maybe she gave the order before she left to fight for that tournament preliminary," Clarisse suggested. "At that time, we don't know if she was just with Mateus or if she wandered on her own. Maybe Airu told her something, or maybe Airu said the order came from Canti instead of her to catch Minwu's attention? Canti's good at those sorts of behind-the-scene things. Always doing things as a backup plan…"
"Yes, that would be very like her," Minwu said, "To give an order saying 'if I am ever incapacitated, please do this in my stead'." He looked at the books. "Unless…" His mind was racing through different possibilities.
"Girls, the last time I heard from your sister, I was wounded gravely from being in the castle's torture chambers. She healed me, and she wept over me, wanting to stay by my side. She knew what Airu was doing, because Airu explained the situation to her before Mateus escorted her out," Minwu explained. "I fully believe that she set up some sort of just-in-case countermeasure. I haven't heard from Airu though she's supposed to be back by now. Based on what Mateus told me before she came back wounded, Cantirena rushed to join that tournament because she wanted to free us in a perfectly legal way, because there was a chance that Airu would not be able to get the texts from Kashuon as originally intended. Considering all the trouble Airu's been in, being suspected of Treason several times, even she knew that she might be going too far right under her son's nose. It's very possible that Airu has been put to death by now."
Suddenly there was another, weaker voice coming from behind him. "T…teacher?"
"Canti?!" Clarisse exclaimed.
Minwu turned around. Cantirena's eyes were half-open, and her voice sounded so hoarse. She was still having trouble breathing, but she was alive. He let out a heavy sigh, coming back to her side. "Oh, how you make me worry," he said quietly, putting his hand on her forehead. "My precious student… how glad I am to see your eyes open, even if you are wounded."
"…I know…" Cantirena said. "It… really hurts…"
"I wish I knew what to do for you, my beloved, but I have tried repeatedly to cure these wounds, and it seems I am not the white mage I claim to be," Minwu said. His words weighed very heavily on his heart. "Can you tell me about what happened? How did you get this way?"
"I was the only one… who made it to the final stage of the preliminaries," Cantirena said. "The last challenge was to fight a Dragon Zombie."
"Zombies? Those aren't just creatures of folklore?" Candice asked.
"Palamecia is connected to the underworld, underneath the castle," Cantirena answered her oldest sister's question. "It is the only place where zombies are known to roam freely."
"So I take it that you lost," Clarisse said, wanting to hear the rest of Cantirena's story.
"I must have, or I wouldn't have ended up in its mouth."
"It tried to… eat you?" Minwu gasped in horror. "You have claw and tooth marks from a Dragon Zombie…?! Perhaps this is why it looks and smells… like you're rotting."
"Doesn't it say in myth that you can't heal a wound from a zombie creature with natural means? Either it's by a certain kind of magic or a certain kind of item?" Candice suggested. "At least, that's how the stories that I read went."
"Meh," Cantirena breathed out. "Who cares how I got wounded? It means I lost the deal. I'd rather die than stay alive anyway."
"What? How could you say that?!"
"I'll be a slave to the Empire for the rest of my life, and you know what the Emperor wishes of me. I'd never be allowed to leave his bedchambers…" Cantirena's eyes watered a little, and though it seemed to hurt her to sniffle, she did anyway. "Minwu, I'm going to lose you to my own incompetence."
"No!" Minwu said. "We'll take you home."
"Why? I'm rotting anyway…"
"Don't speak like that!" Minwu shouted. "You're stronger than that! You're not just my student; you're the woman I've chosen to spend the rest of my life with! Now… pull yourself together. We're going to break out of here, even if I have to push that bed onto an airship!"
"Oh… all right…" Cantirena said. "Just… let me have one thing before I get up. If you wouldn't mind?"
"What would that be?"
"…just a kiss. I need your love to get me through this."
Minwu smiled, bending down to plant his lips right on hers. He felt her arms reach up slowly around his neck, and right as he felt her breath on his face, the door slammed open.
"Get away from her!"
"Firion!" Clarisse shouted with glee. She was more than relieved to see him standing there.
When Minwu tried to look up to see what was going on around him, Cantirena's hands pulled him down further until she started making a hissing noise right as her mouth was under his neck.
"She's a fake!" Firion shouted, running over and slicing one of her arms off.
"…how dare you interfere?" Cantirena shouted, throwing Minwu off of her. With a bright flash of light, it was revealed that it was not Cantirena in that bed, but a large, snake-like creature with the head and body of a woman – namely Cantirena's. Still had her blue hair and blue eyes, though her expression had turned much more demonic, with dark red eyes and sharp teeth that could have belonged to any famous vampire. Her face was more angular now that she had been exposed, as if she'd been holding back her true appearance.
"A lamia!?" Minwu shouted, shocked. "But…!"
"That's Queen Lamia to you," the creature said loudly. "I won't forgive you for taking my arm off, silver hair! The Emperor promised my clan more rights in the Palamecian government if I pulled this off swimmingly. The mage would have willingly been my manservant until his death with just one single kiss."
"No wonder we couldn't heal her," Candice said, instantly putting an arrow into her bow and shooting it off, hitting the Lamia Queen right between the eyes. "Because she's not human… monsters don't heal the same way we do."
"Some monster posing as our little sister? That's just wrong on all levels…" Clarisse said, using her blade to cut off the other arm.
The Lamia Queen howled angrily, lunging at Minwu. "You belong to me, Minwu," she hissed.
Minwu didn't even turn to look at the Lamia Queen. His hand went up, a barrier forming right when her head was a few inches away from him. "I'm terrified at the fact that you have to bargain with the Emperor for the sake of your race," he said very calmly, even though all it did was piss off the Lamia Queen. "And I also have to apologize because I didn't realize there were sentient monsters with their own government. However... your methods are wrong."
"Clearly you are mistaken," the Lamia Queen said. "We side with the humans who are the strongest, and which country is clearly in control of the world? Palamecia. We do not pretend to understand why humans are the prolific race on our planet, or why they would destroy the world around them as they do, but we side with the ones who are clearly in charge to protect our own. Mage, I severely doubt you understand anything between the monster and human world relations."
"I don't," Minwu answered. "This is not something that is even discussed in lands where I have lived and studied. The connection of the castle here to the underworld must mean that there is more to look after than just basic civics, and for that… I must apologize on the behalf of my fellow humans. We are a selfish race."
"You cannot sweet talk me out of what I've come here to do," the Lamia Queen said. "I will control you through your love of Cantirena… you cannot have her. Come to me, I will allow you to have what you want without having to upset the ruler of the most powerful country in the world." She closed her eyes, trying to once again take the form of Cantirena again, but Minwu shot a spell at her before she could transform. "I will save my people, mage."
"…then I have no choice but to kill you," Minwu said promptly. "Because I, too, fight for what is mine and to protect that which I love." He charged up a spell between his hands. "Angel's wrath! HOLY!"
With the blast of holy light, the Lamia Queen disintegrated. When she was gone, everyone could hear her last words.
"Maybe… if the world had more leaders like you…"
Clarisse took the moment to glomp around Firion. "You saved us!" she shouted.
"Hey, local neighborhood hero, remember? That's what I'm here for!" Firion said, ruffling her hair. "I was afraid something like this had been going on. Anyway, Cantirena is doing a lot better than what you saw here. Until we went looking for you, Minwu, we were on our way out of the castle… but, that's neither here or there at the moment."
"So she's still with the Emperor then," Candice thought aloud.
"Yeah. But it gets worse." Firion continued. "She's clearly still very much in love with Minwu, but she's working with Mateus now. I don't know if it's some sort of spell or by her own free will, but… she's serving as his royal mage, and she told me that Mateus would not interfere with your relationship if she worked for him in the castle. That you three agreed on the deal."
"That's why the maids had this bag sent to me in Cantirena's name… because she literally gave the order…" Minwu said quietly.
"Now that you guys know what's going on, I have to go back. Ricard fought the Emperor in a duel to keep him from stopping me from getting to you. I need to go look for him. Who knows what state he could be in right now."
"I'll go with you," Candice said immediately.
Minwu thought about the circumstances for a moment. "Go on. I wish to create the crystal as soon as possible, and use it, while I'm this close to the man possessed by the Demon King. If you find Cantirena again, please… take her with you. I promise I will follow."
"If that's what you really want…" Firion said cautiously. "…then I'm not gonna fight against it."