Ch 4, part 4
"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.
Cid landed back in Altair, after having delivered Minwu with Josef's group. He looked satisfied with himself, until he found Hilda outside the rebel base with a very sad look on her face.
"Princess," Cid said, walking up to her. "What's wrong?"
"Oh, Cid," she cried, trying to hold her tears back. "I just needed a moment. I… I… can't do this on my own." She turned to face him. "Everyone in that building expects the world of me. The children look up to me like I'm a mother, the army treats me like a commander, and I…" Hilda let her tears start falling. "…I haven't even properly mourned my fiancée's death. Why, if he were here, I know… I would be stronger for it…"
Cid put his arm around her shoulder, and while normally she would have pushed it away, Hilda accepted his comfort. "Princess Hilda, you are a mother to your kingdom and a commander to your army. That's what a queen is. But, at the end of the day, you're still a normal woman, despite the hand destiny has dealt you," he said gently. "No, my lady, you are an extraordinary woman, and you will not be alone forever. If you open your heart along the way, you will have that companionship you long for."
"I never thought I'd have to lead all of my country on my own," Hilda said, so frustrated that she wanted to punch a wall out.
"How is your father? How is King Gilbert?" Cid asked.
Hilda frowned even more than she was. "He… he knows his time is coming to a close. Cid, I feel absolutely terrible. I've sent Firion and Clarisse off on their own so many times with no way of being able to aid them, and poor Minwu is torn between what he wants to do and what he has sworn to do…"
"Princess, do you want me to take you to them?"
"…and leave my father? I'm as torn as Minwu, it seems," Hilda said. "I don't know what to do."
"Listen to me, Hilda," Cid said. "You need to make decisions for yourself. You aren't going to surrender Fynn to the Empire, right? That means you need to be as brave as the people who fight in your name. You gave to inspire them to continue to be brave. Their bravery in turn will keep inspiring you, and before you know it, you have massive bravery circlejerk that has more courage than the evil Empire can stand against." He looked into her beautiful green eyes and put one hand against her cheek, caressing it very gently. "Princess, there's not any woman in this whole world as beautiful as you. Even with tearstained cheeks, ripped gown, knotted hair, and broken crown. Even with all that, you are still more beautiful than the Goddess herself. But it's not just how you look that makes you beautiful. What do you for your people, what you do for those you care the most about? That right there? That's what the people follow you for."
"Cid…? I didn't… I didn't know…"
"I've always fancied you, but when I saw you fall for Scott, my heart made the skies the woman of my dreams so I wouldn't have to watch you court another man. It was wrong of me to lust after the princess I swore a vow to, so I had to leave your court." Cid said. "I will not try to court you again, though. I'm sure you have a much younger man in mind than me, and I need to find my daughter, alive or not. But I do want you to know that I support you. I want you to be the righteous queen that I know you can be, Hilda. I swore a vow to you long ago. Even if I do not wear your armor or carry your banners anymore, my beautiful lady, I cannot forget it." He ran his hand through her hair. "Whatever you need done to win this war, I will not hesitate to do."
Hilda looked up to him. "I appreciate your generosity, Cid. Right now, I want you to support Minwu's efforts as much as you can. Fly to Salamand, take him to Kashuon. Minwu needs to find his student, and in turn, he will help you find your daughter. I think we should all bring our families together, as closely as we can. That… that is where we will find our strength. In our families."
"Yes, Princess," Cid said, pulling away from her. "There is nothing stronger than the love for the ones we cherish. Together, we will prevail."
"I am banking on that as well, Sir Cid. You may not wear my armor or carry my banners, but you are still a white knight of Fynn. I don't believe you have ever changed, though you seem to want to act like it."
Even though Cid hated hearing that title, he accepted it because it came directly from the Princess he had always been so dedicated to. "You see straight through me, Your Highness. I am flattered to know that you know me as well as you do. I will launch straight away to Salamand and meet up with Minwu and that party the moment they return from their current mission. Please, Princess Hilda, hold yourself together here. We all rely on you, just as much as you rely on us."
"Fare thee well, then," Hilda said, waving at him as he headed back out of town. She turned back to head into the base again, somehow feeling stronger having been able to talk to Cid again.
Strength in my family, Hilda thought. I will find my strength in you, my beloved Prince. I will use your bravery. Guide me, my love. Lead my hand and my heart to victory.
The Snow Cavern didn't feel much warmer as Minwu led the party closer to the exit. By the time they could see the light coming in from the opening, they found someone standing in their way. A short, pudgy man wearing a cape and a big captain's hat with a feather sticking out of it had his hands on his hips and one particularly evil looking expression on his face.
"Ha!" he said loudly. "I thought so!"
Minwu's heart raced, and for a brief moment, he flew into a blind rage. Josef had to grab his cape to keep him from running at the stranger in full force. Clarisse's heart almost stopped dead in its tracks, and Josef had to use his other hand to keep her from charging at the stranger, too.
"What's gotten into the both of ya?" Josef asked, letting them both go.
"Borghen!" Minwu muttered.
"Well, well," Borghen sneered, "Fancy meeting a guy like you in a place like this, my old friend. Too bad you also didn't find your student while you were here, hmm?" he laughed. His laugh sounded like a rooster being tortured.
"That's enough out of you!" Clarisse growled at him. "Where is she? Where is Cantirena?!"
Borghen sighed. "You know. I gave that pretty girl a chance. I saved her from torture, and what did she do? She refused my offer to take her to safety. I'm sorry, Clarisse, but I haven't the foggiest idea as to where she is."
"You're a liar," she said, drawing her sword. "Always have been, always will be!"
"You can choose to believe me, my dear, or you can choose to not believe me," Borghen said, putting his hand on the hilt of his sword. "But I will never lie to my student."
"You're a traitor to the crown you swore vows to," Firion said. "I think that qualifies you for being a liar." He was ready to take the bastard down, too. After all, it was Borghen's betrayal that led to the fall of Fynn, the death of his family, and his adopted sister being missing.
"Your student!?" Clarisse shouted. "What kind of teacher decides that he wants to let his student get killed? Minwu is a real dedicated teacher, going to the ends of the Earth to find the girl he practically raised! …Those Dark Knights, they tried to kill me! They were under your command, weren't they?!"
"No, they were not," Borghen said. "The Emperor himself was there, personally. I couldn't give them an attack. I could only let them know that the guard's lookout was down when we started the attack…" It was clear that he had some remorse as he was talking to Clarisse, but he never did apologize for all he'd done.
"You stole Cantirena," Minwu said, having a hard time keeping his magic from flying out of his hands at the speed of light. "You trapped her trying to lure me out, did you not?"
"If you think for a second that Cantirena vanishing is my fault, no. She stood up to the Emperor himself. She really is your student, Minwu. She faced off with the Emperor and lived to tell about it." Borghen said simply. "She was never in my custody at any point. I did save her from being eaten in her sleep by monsters that one time in Bafsk, but she didn't seem too thankful for it. Maybe I should have left her in that field to die. Then the Emperor would have one less weapon in his inventory to use against this doomed world."
"Speak ill of my student one more time," Minwu growled. "Do it. I will forsake my vows as a white mage and unleash holy hell upon you."
"And all that doesn't clear the beef that I have with ya," Josef said, pulling Clarisse back behind him. "You are a lout and a liar, and even before the fall of Fynn, it was obvious that you were a traitor. You've stolen Minwu's daughter, just like you stole mine. You stole your own niece because you wanted just a little more power in the Imperial army."
"Yep," Firion said. "Borghen, you're doomed."
Borghen looked directly at Josef. "I did not steal Nelly. That was the Emperor's doing."
"You could have said 'no, that girl is my niece' or something to show that you cared about the fact that she's your brother's only child!" Josef screamed, his face wet with tears he'd been holding back far too long. "But no. You blindly obeyed because who knows what the Emperor paid you with…"
Clarisse and Minwu both said it at the same exact time: "Where is Cantirena?!"
"By now?" Borghen asked. "That poor girl is with the Emperor, as she has been all this time. He has taken a liking to her, so don't worry, she's not living in any of the slave labor camps. Yet. I figure once he tires of her, that's where she will end up, though. He's not too kind to the ladies who don't tickle his fancy. But that's not why I'm here. I didn't come here to tell you all of this."
"What? What do you mean?" Firion asked. "Why are you here then?"
"You see, my standings with the Palamecian government have slipped far too many times," Borghen explained it rather quietly. "And if I go back there, the Emperor will have my head on a pike, put on display over the gates in Palamecia as an example of what happens to those who defy him." He pointed at Firion. "So, be a good boy and give me the Goddess Bell."
Firion shook his head. "You want us to aid in your climb to the top after betraying everyone you've ever known? …Fuck you."
"I won't hesitate to take it by force," Borghen said, drawing his sword out.
"Oh yeah?" Josef asked, jumping in front of Firion. "Ya'll get that bell out of here. This bastard's my brother. It's my duty as a man to kill him and put him out of our misery."
"Ohh no," Clarisse said. "That asshat is responsible for everything that happened in my home. I'm allowed revenge."
Borghen drew his sword, unable to tolerate any of this incessant talking anymore. He slashed at everyone a few times, but when Minwu used his staff and clunked him on the back of the head with it, Borghen flopped to the ground with much resistance. No one was hurt. The fat man really wasn't much for show.
Clarisse was disappointed inwardly, because the man who was her teacher in swordfighting turned out to be a miserable pile of pathetic putrid pus. She was innately better than him even without a teacher!
"…you never were that good at fighting," Minwu said, looking down at the man he used to consider a friend. "End this charade. Help me find Cantirena and bring her home, and we will forgive you."
"Forgive me?" Borghen asked. "The… rebellion would… forgive me?"
"Swear that you will help me find my student," Minwu repeated his offer. "And I will bear you no animosity."
"I suppose if you put your position to good use, there's no reason to take you out," Josef said, agreeing with Minwu. "There are other fathers out there who don't get as lucky as me, having friends who are willing to go save their daughters."
"…yes, sure," Borghen said, sitting up. "I… I will help you find Cantirena and anyone else you're missing…"
Firion looked at Clarisse. She didn't seem too happy about the overall outcome, but she had a look of relief on her face. Perhaps their journey would be coming to a close, and they could once again be a happy family? Minwu, Clarisse, Cantirena, and he would have made the happiest family in the world, he just knew it. There would be learning and love. More happiness than any of them ever had in their entire lives up to this point. It was a future worth working for and a future worth forgiving for.
"Then let's get going," Minwu said. "We do have plans to head to Kashuon as soon as possible."
"Yeah, I gotta stop by the house and pick up a few things since it will be a longer trip," Josef said. He put an arm around Minwu's shoulders. "You're a forgiving man, Minwu. Even staring down a man you hate with all your being, you're still able to show him mercy. That takes guts, my friend."
Minwu shook his head. "My love for Cantirena is stronger than my hatred for Borghen."
They started to head out. The outside air was starting to feel really good, even if the snowfields were amid a constant blizzard. Borghen got up off his pudgy butt, and while he started to follow behind the others, he pulled out a dagger he had hidden under his coat.
"…you could have accepted the Emperor as your ruler," Borghen muttered, running up behind Minwu. "But you just had to fight back!"
Josef reached over, snatching the knife from Borghen's hand by the blade. It cut deep into his hands, bleeding all into the snow on the floor of the cavern. "You dirty—"
"Josef!" Clarisse cried. "Your hand!"
"Backstabbing two-faced miserable putz!" Josef yelled, throwing Borghen onto the ground. "Even in the face of forgiveness, you will betray the world for just a scrap from the Emperor's table, you hound!" Even with his hand cut up, he still punched the everlasting daylights out of Borghen, splattering the miserable captain with his blood. Once, twice, three times. Josef couldn't hold back anymore. "Firion's words were right. Fuck you." When Josef finally did manage to stop himself, Borghen was nothing but a bloody pulp with a mashed face and not a single tooth left in his mouth.
"…you may have killed me," Borghen whispered, "But I will not die alone… this cave… is booby trapped! I will see you in Hell, big brother!" The body of the fallen general disintegrated once he had passed on, but a hole in the wall opened up behind him. With a click in the distance, the whole group could see it. There was a gigantic boulder coming down the hall, straight at them!
"RUN!" Firion shouted, grabbing onto Clarisse and Minwu with both of his hands and running as fast as he could. Josef was right behind him.
The boulder was coming down the hall almost faster than they could run, and in a split second, Josef turned around and put his massive hands up to stop it from doing.
"Josef, what do you think you're doing?!" Clarisse yelled at him.
"You… you gotta do… what you… gotta do," Josef said, putting all of his strength into keeping the boulder from rolling any further. "So… Firion, you gotta get out of here. Take the lass… and the mage, and high tail it…"
"No," Minwu said. "I'm not going to leave you here. Run with us."
"Listen to me, you dumb shits!" Josef roared. "You have a job to do! You are the spearhead of the Wild Rose Rebellion, and you have to… ah, shit…" he pressed harder. "Get the hell out of here, you three. Save the fuckin' world all ready!"
"I'm… I'm so sorry, Josef…" Firion said, carrying the other two to the opening of the cave.
"My sweet Nelly…" Josef whispered. "Daddy… daddy isn't coming home this time, baby girl…" he felt tears fall down his face. "But don't worry. This world… this world will be saved, and you'll be able to live in freedom once again… so, it's worth it… I… I love you, Nelly."
When Firion reached the mouth of the cave itself and could see the bright snow shining below his feet, he turned to look behind him. The moment he did, the large boulder smashed against the wall, preventing him from going back inside the cave.
"Josef!" Firion shouted. "Josef! Are you there?!"
There was nothing but silence. Even the blizzard seemed to stop.
"Josef, you ass, answer me!" Firion shouted again. "Come on! Nelly's waiting back home for you, you big lunk! ANSWER ME, YOU MOTHERFUCKER."
Minwu bowed his head in respect. "Firion, he's gone…"
"No, no he's not. He… he can't be gone…" Firion cried, pounding his fists against the boulder which blocked his path. "Josef! Talk to me!"
Clarisse slumped over, sobbing.
Why… why did you have to…?! She thought, unable to find the strength to stand. Josef, we needed you to help us fight the Empire… we needed you!