Ch 13, part 5
"Dark Skies over Palamecia" – a Final Fantasy II Alternate Universe
Disclaimer: Square Enix owns all Final Fantasy II characters, places, and references found within. Original characters and interpretations belong to the co-authors of this fan fiction. There is no profit being made from this story.
Candice was walking through one of the now full hallway, heading to Minwu's chambers to change her shift with Clarisse. When she got to the door, though, the person she crashed into was Gordon. "Oh, sorry about that, Your Highness," she said. "What's all the commotion?"
"Cantirena told me of the coming storm before she collapsed," Gordon said. "I believed her, but… it's worse than what she could predict at the time. I wanted to seek Minwu's counsel before doing anything more than what I've ordered. We've come across a few things that change the whole situation." He sighed. "When all of the townspeople are brought into the castle, I will have a meeting with you and Clarisse."
"Where is Claire anyhow?" Candice asked, really surprised that the middle sister wasn't there as she always said she would be.
"When she heard the Knights were mobilizing, she couldn't help herself. You literally just missed her. She knew you were coming, and that Minwu isn't going to leave his student's side," Gordon explained. "Also, your trip to Deist might not happen immediately. Ricard has left on an assignment with your father and a few others." He then walked past her, running into the crowd of people that were congregating towards the center of the castle where there were no windows for winds to blow into. "Also, if you know anything about dealing with spirits of the dead, talk to Minwu. He's… a little more up to conversing now than he was earlier."
"Spirits?" Candice asked, watching Gordon disappear into the crowd after that. "What do spirits have anything to do with… well, any of this?" She crossed her arms, leaning against the wall.
I didn't think I'd have to deal with spirits again after what happened with the Ghost Ship in Poft a few years back, she thought as she wondered exactly what Gordon was on about. Now that was a terrifying experience. Why would spirits have anything to do with Canti's condition…? Unless…
"Oh hell," she shouted. "Now that's fucking insane!"
Candice reached for the door and pulled it open quickly, only to find that Minwu was sitting on the bed next to Cantirena. He was holding one of her hands in his, and she looked like death warmed over.
"You could have knocked," Minwu said very quietly.
"It's not like you two were getting it on or anything," Candice retorted. "So anyway. Gordon told me that you need someone who knows about spirits. He didn't quite explain what was going on, because there's hundreds of people in the castle that he has to attend to right now, and I can totally understand why that is, but… he said that if I knew anything about spirits to come see you. Here I am. Tell me exactly what spirits have to do with Canti's condition, now, will ya?" She walked up to Minwu, putting a hand on his shoulder. "I mean… it's the least I can do for my brother-in-law, help him save his wife, right?"
Minwu looked away. "That's not what this is about, Candice. Obviously, I'm not what she wants."
Candice said, "Let me run my theory by you right quick… when we were on our way to Mysidia, before that whole debacle happened. Remember when we were in the marshes and we were talking about Canti still having feelings for her dream prince and she said she wanted to save him?"
"Like it was yesterday…" Minwu could recall it very clearly even now.
"Well. She lied. And she put up a face that she was in love with you because she knew how we all felt about it," Candice continued. "Because she knew we would judge her for it."
"That really does seem to be the case," Minwu answered softly. He hated himself for having to admit that, but he wasn't going to lie to himself or anyone else. He had done wrong by his student on pretty much all levels. "I… failed her. Instead of looking for her real feelings, I… let her believe she had to lie to keep going."
"Nah, Minwu. We're all to blame, really. I mean, we told her that if she ever went back to him that we were gonna kick her ass to bring her back," Candice said passively. "But that doesn't matter now. Mateus is dead and she has to deal with it. It's not easy, and I'll be the first to admit that… but I-"
"…what was it that you know about spirits?"
"A few years back in Poft, we were bothered by a Ghost Ship. It was controlled by the spirits of pirates who died unfulfilled… they were so unhappy with how their lives ended that they were taking people among the living into their ship and killing them so their numbers would increase," Candice explained. "The way we appeased them was by contacting the pirate guild based in Palamecia and have their leader explain to them what happened. The ship then sailed away, to the north…"
"Past the Tower of the Magi, where the ships carrying the souls of the afterlife sail," Minwu finished her sentence. "Yes. I know all about that path between the jagged mountains and the Tower intended on being a gift to the Goddess." He nodded. "The reason I'm sitting right here is because it gives me a good view of that mirror on the wall."
"What? I can see that mirror just fine standing here."
"You can't see the reflection that you need to see," Minwu said. He got up, placing Cantirena's hand at her side. "You sit here. You'll see it just as Gordon and I have."
Candice did just that. Upon looking at the mirror, she gasped loudly. "He's actually here!" she shouted. "He's holding her right now!"
"And, truthfully, they look happy together there. I suppose without the Demon King controlling him, he's not… terrible." She wanted to say something nice about him, but it was hard. Mateus had taken her prisoner, made her work in his slave-labor camp, and steal her father's inventions. But watching those two together in the mirror, she couldn't help but think that all of that wasn't his doing, but that of the Demon King.
"What do you think we should do, Candice?" Minwu asked. "I'm open to any suggestions."
Candice didn't have any. If this really was something Cantirena was doing to herself, there had to be a way to snap her out of it. She wondered if the most direct approach was the best. So that's what she did. She reared her hand back and slapped Cantirena's face as hard as she could. "Wake up!" she yelled.
"Candice!" Minwu pulled her back. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
"I was just trying the first thing that came to mind," she answered.
Minwu looked at the mirror, where he saw Cantirena sitting up. When he looked back at her, he noticed she wasn't moving at all. "Cantirena," he breathed out. "Why didn't you tell us that Mateus has been with you this entire time? You said you were hearing his voice, and you didn't know if you were going crazy or not. You didn't say 'his spirit is hovering over me and has been since I touched the Lunar Harp'. I daresay you don't trust any of us."
"Can you really blame her on that one, Minwu?" Candice asked. "Remember how we treated her back after the Demon King was expelled from her body…" That's when she got an idea. "You know what we have to do, Minwu? We need to apologize."
"…we have to prove to her that even though she loves Mateus, who we claimed to hate because of the war going on and all he was doing at the time, that we won't judge her based on that," Candice suggested. "Slapping her in the face didn't help, so I'm actually trying to think up some alternative methods of getting through to her, all right?"
Thunder crackled outside, shaking the walls of the castle and making one of the hanging shelves fall over onto the floor.
Candice frowned. "Dammit," she said. "I'm gonna go look around. I know all of the knights are working on this, but I can't help but feel like I need to go help, too. Keep an eye on my sister, Minwu."
"Did you expect me to do otherwise?"
"…no, not really." She left the chamber just as quickly as Gordon had earlier, leaving Minwu to think once again.
Convince her that even if she loves one of the worst rulers in our world's entire history, who has used her as a tool of war and a breeding mate, I still care for her to the utmost? He thought, sitting back down next to her on the bed. Truth be told, I did want him to be saved. I did want her to love him instead of me. I did want her to marry him so when I have to die, she would not be dragged down into this exact situation. Losing me would do this same number on her. What happened in Mysidia was proof of that. She was going to kill every one of the mages in the council to prevent my death. Inside her mature looking body is a scared little girl, frightened of losing everyone. Frightened of… of being alone.
"Cantirena," he said, taking her hand into his once again. "I don't know if you can hear me, but there is something I need to tell you. I've been needing to tell you this for a while now. I… I'm so sorry for what I've done to you. I gave you my body because I thought it was an adequate replacement for the one you lost to this devastating conflict. Had I known you had feelings for Mateus based on the time when you first met him, I would have taken different steps. I might have even told you to go and be at his side before he took the crown, be at his side. It's possible we could have been enemies, but at least your heart would have done what it needed to do. I love you, my student, but… I am afraid it is not romantic love. I would marry you, gladly, if it kept you from falling into this cycle of depression. I can see now that I am not enough. A love lost cannot just be replaced. You can't love me and pretend that I'm him. It will never work out that way. I let your sisters get away with teasing you over your crush, so you decided to pretend to give your heart to me in his stead. It… it was wrong in every way I can think of." Minwu felt his eyes burn with tears. "You don't want to accept the Emperor's death as forever. I know. But you can't do this to yourself. Even if you don't want to be in training under me anymore, I understand. If you don't trust me, or want me around you anymore, I will comply. Just wake up, Cantirena. Wake up and let's move forward from this sadness… together."