Dark Skies over Palamecia

Ch 7, part 8

"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 8

Clarisse lost track of how long they had been running through the woods. The sun was all ready up in the sky before Paul thought to look around and decide that they could stop. Cantirena was the first to fall to her knees in exhaustion, as was to be expected. Her face was red from how much she'd been crying, and her nose was stuffed up so bad she could barely talk. The moment she stopped moving, she covered her face with her hands like she was hiding in shame.

"Paul," Candice said, putting her hands on her hips. "Are you gonna make a habit out of saving me, or what?"

"I can't refuse a pretty lady in trouble," Paul said, smiling. "It goes against my very nature to let a girl go through any sort of pain." He kneeled down next to Cantirena. "Hey… I know… it's rough everywhere. What you went through back there? Shit, I don't know what we could do if we lost another leader of the rebellion." He put his hand on her head. "You're gonna have nightmares about that for the rest of your life."

"Paul!" Clarisse shouted at him. "Lay off!"

"I'm not gonna sugar coat anything, Claire, that's not how I do things," Paul said, standing back up. "And you, Mr. Mysidian Mage…" He gave Minwu a very stern look. "I'd slap the shit out of you, but I have a letter to give you. What I said just a minute ago? Well, it's true."

Minwu felt weak himself, but he wasn't sure what to do. He looked down at Cantirena. "It's true, wasn't it?" he asked.

"Yes," Cantirena sobbed, through her tears. "I took the lives of many people when I swore to serve the Empire."

"It was the magic, the power of the Stone of Iluia…" Minwu said. "You were controlled by that power. It was not your fault."

She shook her head. "No. I did it of my own free will. After I became possessed by the evil power of the stone, well… I leaned on the fact that he…"

"You did it because you were in love with Mateus," Clarisse said weakly, breaking into her own tears. "You killed your own countrymen because you were in love with… that… son of a bitch."

"I could say that he would have killed me if I didn't," Cantirena whispered, "But he never said such a thing. He was interested in my magic, and… I guess he wanted to see how far my love would go…"

"The man gets off on control," Paul said. "I know that first hand exactly about that. He likes having men do his dirty work for him, or, in this case, little girls with awesome magic powers. Anyway, Minwu, I'm an official messenger of the Wild Rose Rebellion, as you know. This is for you, directly from Princess Hilda." He pulled out one of the letters from his belt pocket and put it in Minwu's hand.

With all that happened lately, Minwu wasn't sure if he was ready to accept that letter. Still, he was faithful to Fynn and its royal family. He would not refuse it. He opened the letter which was stamped with Fynn's rose wax seal.

"Dearest Minwu –You have been the best retainer any princess could ever ask for. In lieu of the situation, there are times I wished I was selfish, to keep you here with me, because I've been at a loss for what to do so much without your guidance. You have grown so much since we met you and took you into our court. Take care of your student, who I am sure means more to you than just as your student. Hide it all you like, I know your feelings. Guide her as you guided me once. This is goodbye, my loyal vassal. I leave the Wild Rose Rebellion in your hands, Minwu. All of my love, Hilda Fynn-Kashuon"

Minwu read the letter, and it struck him as very odd. "Paul…"

"She wrote that herself," Paul said. "It's her final orders to you, and no, I've no idea what's written inside it."

"She signed it with her married name," Minwu said. "She hadn't exchanged vows with either Scott or Gordon, unless that changed while I've been away."

"No. Gordon is in Deist right now," Paul said, "Which happens to be my next destination."

"Paul, is the Princess all right?" Minwu asked.

"I'm… I'm not gonna sugar coat things for you, either, my friend…" Paul said. "Brace yourself for impact. This is gonna hurt." He put his hand on Minwu's shoulder. "Minwu, Princess Hilda is dead."

Clarisse let out of a scream of despair. She had no idea what was happening to her world. It all felt like a terrible dream and all she wanted to do was wake up all ready.

Minwu shook his head at first. "That's… that's not possible. Our plan… was…"

"She died trying to buy you more time," Paul said quietly. "Because good ol' Asshat McFuckface himself was flying to Mysidia and we were afraid that he would catch you before you made it here. Hilda had more faith in you than she did in herself. So she decided the only logical thing to do was to stop him, and we managed to do that. Unfortunately, Mysidia only wanted you to pay for their own stupid justice system's ridiculous laws. She died trying to ensure that you would get the crystal needed to stop this war at the source, and fuck it all, there was no crystal and there is no Goddess!"

Minwu slumped to the ground right alongside Cantirena. "We… we must… go to… Altair…" he said, unable to focus on much of anything. "We have to… fight back."

"Oh, yeah, and the other thing," Paul said. "Guess how we managed to throw Empy off track, hmm?" He clenched his fist, striking a nearby tree. "Hilda… gave me the order… to… to…" He punched the tree again, many leaves falling off from the force of his blow. "She gave me the order to burn it down myself!"

"What?" Candice asked. "Just because she wanted to buy us time?" She felt bad, too. Her heart sank to a place she hadn't felt before. She wasn't really crying, but she felt like she needed to.

"That's right." Paul said. "She believed in the legend of the three blue haired girls. She believed that Minwu would find a crystal and right the wrongs of this war. Princess Hilda killed herself for a bunch of fucking fairy tales!" He shuddered just thinking about it. "I hate that mother-fucking, cock-sucking, tyrant asshole with every part of my body. Minwu, you have to lead the rebellion now. You have to."

Minwu felt terrible. Everything he set out to do was a failure, and here was his student, the woman he loved more than any other, unable to even look him in the eyes. His head hurt, his heart hurt, and for a moment, he was more than ready to just give up the struggle.

With Princess Hilda dead, there is not much hope left for Fynn or the rebellion.

"Princess Hilda died for you, Minwu," Paul said angrily.

With Princess Hilda dead, that's two places to which I have sworn my life, and have failed.

"So what if Cantirena was the Dark Princess?" Paul asked. "It's not like she can't do anything to help. She's been to Palamecia, she knows the castle and the feeling that darkness gives off. If she was put to death, we'd lose a very valuable asset in winning this war. Sure, it's shocking that it happened to such a tender little girl, but… where would we be without her? Minwu, come on, pay attention to me."

My student… killed innocents… because I…

"Hey, Minwu!" Paul shouted. "Look. This is not your fault. None of this is. Don't think that because you fucked up this is over. We're the Wild Rose Rebellion! We are the rebellion!" He got down to look Minwu in the eyes. "Do you know what the last words Princess Hilda said to me were? No? She said 'I am the seed which is planted in the ashes of rebirth'."

Minwu looked up at Paul. "She… called herself that…?"

"Yes. She did." Paul said bitterly. "I assume she was referring to the Wild Rose."

"That's right," Minwu said, "Because the Wild Rose can bloom anywhere, even in waste." He took in a deep breath. "Cantirena…"

"Yes?" she asked.

"Remove your hands from your face," Minwu said. "Please. It pains me to see you like this."

"I cannot… bear to look at you…"

"Do you know how many people have had to go through hell just to make sure you two got to stay together?" Paul asked. "Get the hell over yourself all ready. You two are meant to be together, so don't let those poor fools die in fucking vain, Cantirena. I'm about to pitch a tent right now so the two of you can just make a baby right the fuck now."

"…that would be interesting," Candice said, sort of half-laughing. She didn't have the spirit in her to laugh out loud right then. It was the best she could do.

"Of course you'd say that," Clarisse retorted. "Of… of course… you'd say that…"

"Minwu himself told me not to change," Candice said, shrugging.

Cantirena did as she was asked. She removed her hands, and Minwu lifted her face up by her chin.

"Do you know the price for taking life?" Minwu asked.

"Surrendering my own," she answered.

"Yes. That's right. But you can't just die. You have to live. You have to make this world a better place for those who live in it. Cantirena, you are no longer allowed to live for yourself. As your teacher, this is my punishment for you. This is the last order I will give you as your teacher, Cantirena." Minwu then pulled her face closer and kissed her. "And as your husband, this is my new promise to you. We will work, side by side, for the rest of our lives, correcting our own mistakes."

Cantirena nodded. "I accept those terms," she said, crying onto his chest.

He reached up to the top of his head, taking off the turban that none of them had seem him without. Taking it off revealed that he had dark brown hair, only a little darker than that of his skin. It was sort of shaggy with a short ponytail hanging around the nape of his neck. He threw the turban onto the ground disgustedly. "I am no longer Mysidian," Minwu said sternly. "I claim nothing I left there, I wish nothing more to do with it. I am just a citizen of Fynn. If I can help with my magic, I will not hesitate."

Paul tapped his finger on his chin like he was forgetting something. "There was one other thing…" he said. "Oh shit, how did I forget?! Minwu, get up, get your ass in gear and prepare to move."

"What? Why?"

"I'm sure you're curious as to how the hell I got to Mysidia, right?"

"Well, yes, but I all ready knew you were a human kite…"

Paul shook his head. "Look. The Emperor has a prisoner on his airship right now, one of the survivors of Altair. Everyone in Altair that wasn't Hilda or Gilbert were sent to Galtea, but one little girl came back for some stupid as fuck reason, and… look, he sent me to Mysidia or he was going to kill her. He wanted me to break their anti-machinery barrier so he could fly there and land in a place to come collect Cantirena. It just so happened that while I was looking for whatever causes that barrier to exist, I came upon that ceremony that was going to cost you your life, my friend. I hate to say it, but you owe the fact that you survived to Krystal being a dumb girl and Empy knowing how to manipulate a good-natured guy into doing something he's not really in the mood to do. Right now? He's coming here."

Minwu took in a deep breath. "We… need to get to Altair. We need to meet up with Firion and Gordon… we cannot live in the forests of Mysidia forever. Eventually then the Emperor could send his Dark Knights in and flank us. We'd be trapped."

"There's our master tactician speaking," Paul said. "That's the Minwu we all know and love."

Clarisse pulled out Minwu's trusty map from the Item Pouch, as she had it strapped onto her from earlier that day. "Here. Let's see what we can come up with."

"Thank you," Minwu said as he took it from her. He opened it up. "Well… since Mysidia's landscape is always changing it's hard to make a certain plan…"

Candice pointed at the northwestern part of the continent, far above the range of Mysidia's Winding Mountains or the jungles they were in at the moment. "What's that?"

"The Bog of Eternal Stench. You don't want to go there." Minwu said. "It's a terrible, terrible place."

"Oh…"

"Wait," Cantirena said. "What about the Angel's Tunnel?"

"My love, you remember that?" Minwu asked. "Those lessons did stick with you, didn't they?" He pointed at the base of the mountains to the south. "The Angel's Tunnel extends from the base of these mountains here and continues as an underwater bridge to the continent further south. It is a bit of a hike, but I do believe we can make it. On that continent, we can catch a ship and make our way back to the east."

"More hiking," Candice grunted. "That's exactly what I wanted to hear."

"It's either that or being caught by the Empire. Again." Paul laughed.

"There's only one part of this plan that worries me," Cantirena said.

"And that is?" Clarisse asked.

"The fact that the Emperor can connect with me," Cantirena replied. "He does it when I'm asleep, because that's when my defenses are the weakest. How he can see through my eyes and hear what I hear…"

"We can't just sit here and wait for him," Candice said. "I'm not getting captured again."

"Well, actually…" Minwu said, putting his finger to his chin as he thought. "…no, I'm not going to do that. We don't have any way to break the Demon King's control over him."

"Yes we do," Cantirena said quietly. "Remember when the three of us came together for the first time? My possession ended! I became myself again."

"You want us… to get around him…?" Clarisse asked. "That sounds…"

"Like a baaaad idea," Candice said.

"So, we're just going to let him follow us forever," Cantirena said. "That sounds like a lost cause to me."

"He'll put us all to death and fuck you raw," Paul said. "Well, no, he would keep Minwu alive, just to torture him. I don't like this idea."

"I don't like the idea of being chased around the countryside for the rest of our lives!"

"Hush, my darling," Minwu said, pulling her back to him. "We need to make a decision, and we need to make it now. Do we let him find us or do we flee south?"

"I'm for fleeing," Paul said.

"Me too," Candice agreed.

"All right, this is what we'll do," Minwu said. "You two find Prince Gordon and tell him of what's happened."

"We're splitting up again?!" Candice asked. "No. We have to stick together, Minwu! This mission is tantamount to suicide without all three of us together. You won't be able to break the Demon King's hold on the Emperor unless we're all there."

"So you want to go with us?"

"NO…" Candice almost yelled at him, she was so upset about the idea. "I'm saying that maybe there's a better way to go about this. We should get to a better position, and maybe pretty up his doll there before we make a presentation. I think he'd… appreciate it more. We find a place to hide from him while you research about making the crystal, and when the crystal is made, we present Canti to him as… some sort of peace offering. That's when she uses the crystal and… I dunno."

Minwu nodded. "I like that plan."

"You… you do?"

"Yes. It makes a lot of sense," he said, hugging Cantirena to him tightly. "Then we will make for the Angel's Tunnel."

"You will," Paul said. "I need to go free a certain little bird from her cage."

"Sounds like something you'd do," Minwu said, slowly pulling himself to a stand. When he and Cantirena were up, he pulled off his cape and tossed it over to where his turban was. All he was wearing was a dark brown breastplate with a draping cloth that hang just above his navel and the skirt which fell past his feet, held up by an ornate belt. His stomach had always been exposed, but now he felt freer than he ever had. "There. I no longer wear Mysidia. I… am… free."

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