Dark Skies over Palamecia

Ch 12, part 7

"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.

Part 7

Cantirena walked beside the man who looked and sounded just like her teacher, believing for every moment that they were together, that he was exactly who he appeared to be. She didn't want to stop talking to him, as there was so much weight on her heart with everything that was going on. She didn't know what was going on with her sisters, and she had no clue if she was even going to get to speak to them again.

"You are so full of thoughts, aren't you?" Minwu's voice came out of the imposter so sweetly. "You seem so conflicted…"

"Perhaps the best thing to do would be to silence her thoughts? All of these emotions… all they will do is bring her to conflict with what we want her to do."

"Oh, be quiet…"

Cantirena looked up into Minwu's eyes. "Am I bothering you?" she asked, her face wrought with worry.

"I was not speaking to you," he answered her. "Tell me your thoughts and feelings, my dear. You know I love you and wish to comfort you in any way that I can."

"Then… who were you speaking to?"

"You don't hear it?" he asked, motioning to the area around them. "The deepest, darkest voice I've ever heard keeps whispering things in my head…"

"Oh…" she said very quietly. "I know that voice."

"You do?"

"I know exactly the voice that you're talking about… the same voice that led me down the dark path of betrayal… the one that told me no matter what I did, I would end up back in the service of the Emperor. The one that told me I would never be near you again." She took in a deep breath. "When I heard his voice the first time, I knew he was the Demon King Iluia."

"I'm charmed you remember me so fondly, my lovely lady. Was I not right? You are back where you started, finally. Back where I am only one body away from that lovely power you hold within your beautiful, perfectly molded being."

"…are you quiet because he's talking to you again?" Cantirena asked.

"He speaks nonsense. Only to draw you closer to him." He extended his hand to her, and she took it, smiling. "I will not let that happen. You are safe with me."

"But if you can hear him, we must be close to where the Emperor keeps the stone. It… surprises me that I am not hearing him, if you are." She looked around, soon stopping next to one of the random doors that she saw while walking. "Because if we can find the stone, we should. That way, when you create the crystal, it'll be over much quicker."

"You don't have to search every room in the hall, my beloved," Minwu's voice said, making her turn back to him. "The more we have gone through here, the louder his voice has become. I am certain that when it sounds like he is standing as close as you are to me, then we will be right where the stone is kept."

"A brilliant strategy! You're my teacher for a reason!"

"I will take your compliment to heart, as I always have."

"…you know, I don't think I would have made it this far without you, Minwu. Thank you."

"And what are you thanking me for?"

"Just… because you are you, and you're here with me… because ever since you saved me from that fire when I was little you've always been close by. I love you, Minwu."

"And it is that love which will lead you right into my clutches once again, my lady. We've prepared something very special for your arrival. I hope you like it."

Minwu grunted angrily. "Damn voice… it doesn't know when to quit."

"Oh, let him talk. And if he can hear me, I want him to know that I'm coming personally to end him myself!"

"I am fairly certain he can hear you. His replies always contain such vulgarity towards you."

"Even if I am to be a servant of the Emperor and advise him on things, I won't ever serve the Demon King again! I'm stronger than I was when Mateus found me stranded in Fynn."

"You are stronger. Yes. I agree. But it is that strength, and your future potential that I need… with your heart as it is, Cantirena, you will not be able to stand me in your psyche. You will lose control far faster than even the previous Emperor. I am not the type to don a female skin, but if I must be a female to achieve my goals, then I will do so. You will not just be infused with a piece of me as you were before. Oh, no. You will carry me as Mateus carries me now."

"I don't want to listen to his diatribes any longer, Cantirena. Let us turn away from these darkened halls."

"No…" she said confidently. "The Demon King's gonna pay for what he's done. To me, to my family, to my home, to this world! The sooner I find that stone, the sooner I can put all of this behind me and move on with my life!"

"Such… illusions of grandeur do not fit you, tender little Goddess-spawn. You do not know what lies in wait for you. Come, we will reach the stars when we make love next!"

"Now I really don't want to go further." Minwu stopped walking. "He speaks of… defiling you… Such arrogance! He is nothing but a spirit in a stone, capable of no more than possession, however… just hearing the things he wishes to do to you drives me back in fear." He put his hands on her shoulders, then immediately hugged her to him. "I'm afraid I will fail you. I love you so much that I just might-"

"Minwu. I have faith in you. I trust you. You've never failed me before."

"I allowed you to get captured by the Palamecian Empire in the first place."

"You didn't allow anything. Circumstances were beyond your control, and you gave up your rank within the Fynn Royal Family to look for me!" Cantirena said, returning the affection. "I didn't realize it until after it was too late… I've always adored you. I've always wanted to be close to you. But because of the taboo associated with not just someone who's basically a knight having a romantic relationship and the fact that you were my teacher, very much like a father figure of sorts, I didn't want to say anything about it. I made the stupid decision of… of… falling in love with the Emperor when he was a prince instead because… I was afraid of you rejecting me. I… didn't want to live my entire life in Fynn forever. I wanted to be at a distance from you, even though I cared about you… because it hurt, knowing I had feelings for someone I wasn't supposed to love."

"Cantirena…"

"You have to be strong, Minwu. You've always been strong. I've faced that terrible voice before, heard it tearing me apart from the inside. If I can handle it, you can, too."

Minwu looked down the hall, seeing a bright light coming from the direction they came from. They were being followed. "If we're going, then we'll go now."

"Of course!" Cantirena shouted.

He took her hand and led her much more quickly down the hall than they were walking earlier. "It's… in here. I can hear the Demon King's voice. He… warns us not to proceed."

"But we're going in anyway."

"Yes. We are."

Cantirena pushed on the door with all her strength, and it almost fell out under her weight. When she looked at the wall across from her, she could see the dark energy fluctuating around the Stone of Iluia, which was being held up by a statue of a man wearing robes. The statue had horns, just like the Emperor of Palamecia. His hair was almost in the same kind of style, too, even though the statue looked younger than the current Emperor.

"I know… that darkness…" she whispered, staring at it. "That's the same… that I felt within me when I…" her eyes burned with tears. "…when I destroyed cities and killed thousands of people."

Minwu closed the door behind them, locking it. "It is the same darkness that was infused into your body when you came into the Emperor's care, yes. It is the same darkness that, when fused with your power, created the Black Lightning which destroyed airships. It manipulated your memories into believing you were the Emperor's wife and carried his heir," he explained. "And it is capable of far more than that."

"…what? What are you talking about? Why do you know about the darkness of the Demon King?" Cantirena asked.

"I read many of Lady Airu's books while waiting for you," he said quietly. "I learned quite a bit about what we need to defeat. How would I know what to expect if I didn't research in my downtime? I had to prepare in your absence, my love."

"Why… why are you acting so strangely?" Cantirena asked. "You're too close to it. Get away, Minwu. I'll handle this on my own before it… changes you!"

"You are mine," he said, pulling her closer. "The stone won't take you away from me…" He put his hand on her forehead. It sent warm energy coursing through her body, causing her to fall limp against him. "Don't resist me. You'll only hurt yourself. I must ensure your safety above all else."

"No…" Cantirena whispered, trying to push him away. Her body held no strength, her muscles refused to cooperate with how she wished to move. Even falling against him with all of her weight did nothing. She couldn't explain the phenomenon in any other way except frustrating. "I should have listened to you about not coming in here. He has a hold of you now…"

"Sleep deeply, dear student," he said, pulling her along with him, closer to where the stone was on display. "Dream of me, won't you?"

As her eyes closed completely, his disguise melted away. The Emperor held Cantirena against him for a moment before laying her directly under the statue.

"You'll have to forgive me for deceiving you to not just hear the truth of what's behind your heart, but to bring you here to the deepest part of my inner sanctum," Mateus said quietly. He reached up to take the Stone from the hand of the statue. "Rest assured. I will not kill your sisters if they come to me. Anyone else, though… they will not be spared." He leaned down next to Cantirena, pulling off the Mysidian Ruby necklace she'd worn since Minwu gave it to her. He put that on the floor, then laid the stone of Iluia right over her heart, watching it sink into her skin until it was no longer visible.

"Yes… this is… this is absolute power…"

"You can't use her power until you're in sync with her," Mateus said quickly. "It will take time to take control of her body completely, much like it took time with me. You must not attempt to fuse with her more quickly – you may accidentally kill her if you do."

"Her consciousness is sealed away within a dream. If I wanted to, I could control her now."

"Not yet. Let me kill Minwu first. If she wakes up and finds her beloved teacher made the change as she has, then she will not refuse the complete transformation. Stay dormant, let her rest." Mateus picked up Cantirena and placed her behind the statue, where an old ceremonial bed from ancient times was on display. "I beg of you, Iluia. I do not wish her to die."

"Have you fallen in love with that which you have chased since we first sensed her potential?"

"It doesn't matter to you if I have or not," Mateus said angrily. "You only want something else to use to tease me, you insect."

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