Dark Skies over Palamecia

Ch 2, Part 3

"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 3

After the downfall of Fynn, Princess Hilda made her base in Altair. It was a quiet town, though it became louder with all of the refugees that came in. She did her best to keep her composure, but as time progressed that became harder. She missed having her faithful constant support from Minwu, and she missed the days when her title of 'princess' meant she could frolic around a large castle while her father, the King, could handle everything the people needed. This was the price for those leisurely days.

Hilda made it a point to visit her father once every day since they arrived in Fynn. He didn't get any better. It was as if his wound refused to heal at all. No amount of white magic could heal is back or help him sit up right. She knew that Gilbert was on his deathbed. Now it was just a matter of time before his aching body gave out.

The old King would ramble on to her about everything from how perfect the late Queen was, to how much he missed the days when Fynn knew nothing but peace. His father before him did not participate in any conflict on the outside. Fynn was a pacifist nation since its founding, and this was the first time that a massacre happened within its borders. Hilda sat and listened to him out of respect for the father that raised her, but that didn't make listening to him any easier. All of it made her feel like she was Atlas, holding up the world on her shoulders.

Of course, he suggested that she send a message to Palamecia, declaring their surrender several times during their conversations. He couldn't bear it if, while he was on his deathbed, his daughter was killed in a fight he was not there to prevent. Hilda wouldn't hear any of that. She was a smart woman who could lead her people to victory. She was the princess of Fynn, a country symbolized by the wild rose, which could bloom anywhere. No matter if Altair became the new capital, no matter if she had to employ the townspeople instead of a fully trained army. The wild rose would bloom, damn it. She refused to accept otherwise.

Hilda sat on her throne, alone to think about everything that transpired. She never thought she would ever be in a place like this.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.

"Proceed," Hilda called out.

The door opened to reveal the young fast-talking' ninja that Firion happened to be friends with, a very short young man by the name of Paul. He wore an all-black uniform, typical of those who were into thievery and sneaking about. He gave a salute to the princess before coming in.

"Oh, your highness, you look as beautiful as the sunrise," Paul said carefully as he bowed before her. "But that's not the reason I'm here."

"Well, state your business, Paul," Hilda said, not sure if she was grateful to have someone come speak to her, or if she was annoyed that someone derailed her train of thought.

Paul stood back up straight, reaching into his pocket to pull out a parchment. "Princess, you are not going to like this at all. My operatives just returned from Palamecia. This is their report," he said, putting it into her hands.

Hilda opened the note and read over the contents very carefully. When she reached about midway, her eyes grew much bigger than they were before. "This… this is what they saw?" she asked.

"That's right," Paul said, nodding his head. "One of them, well, he's giving' up on the spying business. The things they saw scarred the man for life. I can't imagine watching the Emperor fusing men with demon in some sort of ritual to make Dark Knights without some sort of reaction. Princess, this is what we're up against. I don't think we can keep this up."

"Even you want to turn yourself in to the Empire?" Hilda asked.

"Not at all, your highness, but if-"

"If you don't want to turn yourself in and sell out your countrymen, then I suggest you shut up about it! If you're done fighting, Paul, go, tell the Emperor that you're done and you'll fight for him!" Hilda shouted. "I will not stop you from doing so. But I will never, ever surrender to the likes of that monster!" She wanted to rip everything to shreds. It was like everyone under her command wanted to undermine her ability to lead. She hated this fact and stubbornly refused to give in. "Or will you continue to support the rebellion and fight for your freedom?"

Paul couldn't help but chuckle at that. He shook his head and shrugged. "You make for a persuasive lady, don't you? All right, Princess. I won't talk about backing' off any more. If you want to keep fighting, then I will stick with you. In fact, I came to ask your permission to leave on a new mission."

"Where would you be going?" Hilda asked.

"Right back into the demon's nest, of course," Paul said, giving her a thumbs-up. "I want to crack the Emperor's safe myself and bring back his treasure to fund the war. I've seen crazy things in my time. He won't be able to scare me out of my plundering for the good of the world!"

"That… sounds just like you," Hilda said, sitting back down in her throne. "All right, Paul, you have my blessing. Get all you can carry. We'll show that tyrant a thing or two!"

"Aye aye," Paul said, bowing before her again. "I will be back as soon as possible, milady. I will not fail you."

"You never have, Paul," Hilda said, watching him leave.

And now, I'm all alone again…

"What do you mean, there's a storm up north?!" Clarisse asked Minwu as they were sitting down to eat in the Paloom Inn's dining room.

"The woman with the green bandanna told me. She even gave me a full refund," Minwu replied. He watched as the innkeeper put a bowl of chocobo vegetable soup and a small loaf of butter-filled bread in front of all four of the members of the party.

"How would she know if there's a storm up there?" Firion asked, puzzled about the whole thing. When he saw the soup was ready to eat, he dove right into it. He was so hungry, he could have eaten an entire ten course royal meal. "I mean, if there's a storm, there's no way they could have sent word via a homing pigeon or anything like that, right?"

Gordon shook his head. "I'm not sure about walking there. We do need to get back with the Mythril as quickly as possible, and…" he stared into the bowl of soup. He didn't like onions very much, and there they were, floating in the broth. He was hungry, but he didn't want onions. Minwu was right, he was going to have to get used to not being treated like a prince. He picked up his spoon and took a tiny bite. It had the taste of onions all in it. But he was so hungry. He had to power through that taste, and it wasn't very easy. After a few bites, he just picked up the loaf of bread he was given and nibbled on that.

"Walking would indeed take a week or longer. By a ship, it's just a day's travel," Minwu said. He was examining his map more than he was eating. He always got like this when his stomach was in knots. There was no way he'd be able to eat anything like this. "Plus if we took a ship, we wouldn't have to deal with monsters like we do on land."

"C'mon, Minwu, you should eat something. Can't fight a war on an empty stomach," Clarisse said, nudging him on his shoulder. "You won't be able to trounce that traitor Borghen and find my sister if you're not going to keep yourself nourished properly."

"Aye," Minwu said. "Thank you for being concerned for me." He folded the map up and started to eat the soup he was given. "Prince Gordon? Are you all right?"

"Oh, yes, thank you, Lord Minwu," Gordon said, ripping off the crust from the bread. It was so crunchy. He wasn't used to that, either. "I'm perfectly fine."

"You have that same expression on your face that Princess Hilda used to get every time anyone served her something with peas in it," Minwu said, sipping at the broth. "Or even Cantirena. Every time strawberries would get near her, she would get that exact same look on her face. Oh, how she hated it. The girl flat out refused to eat anything that was even touched by the same hand that prepared strawberries." He smiled, remembering Cantirena when she started taking classes there at the castle with him.

"Teacher Minwu, what's that smell coming from?"

"That, my child, is called a strawberry. It's very sweet. The princess simply loves them. Are you saying you've never had one, Cantirena?"

"Who would want to? Yuck!"

"You don't know until you try it."

"But the smell…"

"Oh, come on. I'm sure if I asked on your behalf, you'd be allowed to have some."

"Let's just get back to the lesson, teacher…"

Clarisse had finished her bowl of soup before she noticed that Minwu seemed a little spaced out. She nudged his shoulder gently. "Hey. You okay over there?" she asked. "You were zoning out again."

"Ahh, yes," Minwu said, continuing to eat his soup. "I just had a flashback, that's all. It's easy to get caught up in them when they come back to you."

Gordon had finished eating his bread and left the table when he did, leaving his bowl of soup right where it sat. Firion took the bowl and drank everything in it all in one big gulp before going over to his bed. Then he proceeded to sit and do some work on his sword to prepare for the next morning.

"Yeah. I've had quite a few myself," Clarisse said gently. "I've never been this far away from my sister, you know. It's… it's weird, not having her around."

"Ever since I adopted her as my student, I was never far from her, either," Minwu replied. "Ten years, and you can get more attached than you could ever expect to be. I knew our destinies were linked then, but I didn't know how strongly until recently." He finished the soup and the bread quickly, then picked up all the dishes and gave them directly to the woman who put them on the table. "And, yes, I believe I miss her, too."

Firion looked over. "It's okay if you do, Minwu. You might be revered and respected around the world, but you're also a person, and people feel things." He then went back to his sword sharpening.

"Yes," Minwu agreed, sitting down on his bed. "Humans have emotions and urges. Sometimes, it's easy to forget that I have them myself."

"How could you forget that you have urges?" Firion asked. "Everyone has natural… you know, things your body just has to do?"

"Firion," Clarisse grunted. "Minwu isn't going to go and ogle a pretty lady, like you do."

"Oh har har," Firion fake laughed. "No, but even Minwu has to listen to what his body tells him to do. You feel hungry, you have to use the outhouse, you have to sleep when you get tired. I'm not just talking about needing relief like that, you pervert."

"I'm not a pervert," Clarisse said. "You're the one who drools over ladies in chainmail bikinis."

Minwu lay on his bed, looking up at the ceiling above. He tried to relax, though he wanted to think even more about their plans for tomorrow. "Even if I found them desirable, I have taken a vow to never indulge in depravity. It is the Mysidian way to purify ourselves in our path to enlightenment."

"If that's the case," Gordon asked from his bed, "Then how does Mysidian culture still exist, if you do not bear children? I heard the Circle of Mages has existed for thousands of years."

"Each of us who leave Mysidia tend to find one on the outside to bring back with us, to train in our ways," Minwu answered. "It is how our culture has stayed alive."

"You were planning on taking Cantirena back to Mysidia with you," Clarisse said in awe. "This is the reason why you have watched over her so carefully since you decided to take her as your student. You want her to continue your line in Mysidia."

"I… would be more than happy, if she accepted my offer to join the Circle of Mages," Minwu said, closing his eyes.

"What happens if you go against your vow of purity?" Gordon asked. "Would you be forbidden to enter Mysidia, or is there more punishment?"

Minwu sat up again. His heart could not rest. What was this feeling? Why were they talking about these kinds of things, putting these ideas into his head? Cantirena was his student, he didn't want to ever… no, that was a terrible idea, and he was terrible for even letting the thought have any space in his mind. Besides, he was damn near twenty years older than she was. "If I were to break my vow of purity, not only would I not be able to return to Mysidia, I would have to give up my position as Hilda's personal aide," he answered. "So, please, let's not discuss it further."

"Minwu," Clarisse said. "We're sorry if we…"

"I'll be fine after resting a bit. Think nothing of it. We have a long trek ahead of us tomorrow, so let's all get some sleep. We'll be leaving a first light," Minwu said, blowing out his candle.

I never thought I'd ever have to discuss this with anyone. It's best left unsaid what happens to oath breakers in Mysidia. If you're going to make a vow, you're expected to keep it!

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