Ch 10, part 1
"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.
CHAPTER TEN BEGINS
When Cantirena opened her eyes again, she had absolutely no idea where she was. She didn't know how long she'd been asleep or what had happened while she was sleeping. She had no dreams, either. It was just an empty slumber which gave her no rest. She could feel sweat slipping down her forehead and around her face. It was hotter than she remembered being, too. The room around her was dark. She could tell she wasn't outside, as there was no wind.
"…where?" she started to ask.
"You're awake," Minwu's voice said from right beside her. His voice was tired and relieved. It made Cantirena feel safe hearing his voice regardless. "Thank the Goddess. We feared you were going to sleep the eternal, and I could not bear that."
"Minwu?" Cantirena said, looking around. She wondered why she could hear his voice, but not feel his warmth at all. His voice was right next to her ear. "Where are you?"
"I'm right next to you, though… I'm not able to move," Minwu answered. "Something happened while you were asleep. I suppose before he comes again to check on your condition, I will have to fill you in." He sighed. "You see, we tried to figure out exactly where the people who lived in that ghost village happened to be. We ended up staying there an entire two weeks before the three of us had a massive argument."
"Where are my sisters?"
"I'm getting to that, love. Hold on," Minwu continued. "I went off on my own for a moment to compose myself. Out of ideas as to what to do, I prayed to the Goddess for aid. She answered and appeared before me as she had appeared before us before the Angel's Tunnel. She created a beam of light and told us to step through it, as it would take us where we needed to go. I carried you through, feeling in my heart that the place we needed to go was Altair's ruins or Fynn, but… no. That's not where we landed. Your sisters, I don't know if they decided to walk through the light. I followed in faith as I always have, and I'm starting to wonder if the Goddess was conspiring against me."
"What do you mean?" Cantirena asked. That didn't sound pleasant at all.
A door creaked open from nearby, and a man carrying a torch walked in. He stood right next to Cantirena, bringing a whole new light to the room. He looked to be just a normal guard, but she knew that armor. She had seen it before. The armor was black and had purple markings on the chest plate and the gauntlets. Suddenly, her head hurt a little, and the memory flashed through her mind instantly.
"Oh," she gasped. "It's a Dark Knight…"
"My lady, you've returned home."
Cantirena tried to sit up to defend herself immediately, but she found her body very hard to move. She had a hard time keeping her eyes focused, but she didn't need much to know that figure which stood right over her. "…it's… you…" she whispered somewhat angrily.
"Hm. I have missed you," the Emperor said quietly. "Imagine my surprise when the guards told me of discovering a couple who came through some sort of magic light to a place within the castle which was off limits to anyone but the royal family. There was Minwu, clinging desperately to you. He had a barrier up around the two of you, but when he saw me approaching… his resolve weakened. He begged me to save your life as his magic was useless in curing the Typhares Fever. Of course it would be the Typhares Fever, great mage. Those who lived on that continent were Mysidian before they crossed, and their magic could do nothing to stop the Typhares Fever. The only survivors of that camp were ones who left before the spores could touch them… it's not surprising that you were immune to it, Minwu. Considering you are the last of the Magi." He bent down to get a better look into Cantirena's eyes. "My healers knew the sickness right away. You've been sleeping here in my castle for two days. We thought perhaps it was too late to save you, but… you have a strong will to live."
"Strong will?" Cantirena asked mockingly. "Not to live. To stop you… Demon King."
"Demon King?" Mateus asked. "I am no king, my lady. I am the Emperor."
"Should I call you the 'Demon Emperor', then?" she retorted sharply.
"My servants saved your life, my lady. They can easily take it away. Just as I have healers, I have punishers…" Mateus said, putting a hand on her face. "Though I'm sure your life means less than others do to you." He smiled just a little. "I would refrain from insulting me, lest you wish your caretaker to hang at the gallows."
"You cannot have him," Cantirena said sternly. "Minwu is mine. I refuse to let you take his life."
"Your will has become very defiant, I see. You are not the meek little student I once found in Fynn. Impudence will get you nowhere within my lands. I am the Emperor, my lady. If you cannot live in my lands on my terms, you will not live at all. The only thing which keeps you both alive is my generosity," Mateus continued. He ran his hand along the side of Cantirena's face. "Tell me, do you remember this?"
"…touch me no more. I am not your poppet," she said, trying not to shudder. "Please, remove your hand." She not only remembered that feeling. She liked it. There was a different flavor to the way Mateus approached her and the way Minwu carried about his lovemaking. "I can't let you do this to me. Not when I've all ready promised myself, I…"
"You were my lady before you were his," Mateus said quietly. "I won't subject you to that darkness again. I know how much it scared you and what it did to you. I promise that I won't let it-"
"Stop teasing her," Minwu said. "If you want to kill us, then by the Goddess let it be done all ready! It'll only give the Wild Rose Rebellion even more fuel for their fires!"
"...you believe I want you dead?" Mateus asked. "No, no, no, my good man, I do not wish to see you dead. I wish to see you grovel before me and accept me as your one true ruler. See me as the heavenly being that I am. I have never wished for any people in this world to die, but when they put up a resistance, they have earned a one way ticket to the farthest reaches of hell."
"You're mad!" Minwu shouted. "Kill me if you wish, but do not bring harm to Cantirena. That is all I ask of you."
"Very well," Mateus said. "Bring the lady to my quarters once she's been fed and bathed. Take the mage to the dungeon. He will hang at first light."
"No!" Cantirena shouted. Her eyes filled with tears instantly. "No, please… please spare Minwu…"
"Hm?" Mateus mused. "I believe I thought I heard you say that you will not let me take Minwu."
"I… I was wrong…" Cantirena said. "…I beg of you to spare Minwu's life. Have mercy for… for my sake. I'll do anything you ask, Your…"
"Yes?" he asked. Was it coming? Would he hear it once again? Those words of complete submissiveness that he longed to hear all this time?
Minwu looked over at her. "Cantirena, what are you-?"
"…I will do anything you ask, Your Grace. Have mercy on Minwu. Please, Your Grace. I am at your disposal."
Mateus nodded. "And so it shall be done, my lady." He smiled gently. She was his once again.
Minwu shook his head. He figured that she was doing it out of preservation, but he also knew what it entailed. He knew where this was going, and he didn't like it at all. Minwu felt his own life was moot in the exchange. He would die if the rebellion kept on going strong. He watched Mateus kiss her forehead, and then the Emperor had the gall to look at Minwu afterward.
Squirm, you loathsome worm, Mateus thought. Watch as your student falls into the darkness again… and there will be nothing you can do about it, even being here.
"Be glad the condition of my lady's heart means more than anything else in the world to me," Mateus said, staring straight into Minwu's eyes. "Or I really would hang you. But I have made her a promise, and I shall keep it. You will live. I will make you her personal attendant, so she will not have to worry about you. Serve her and keep her well, and you will live well in turn."
"…I humbly accept," Minwu said quietly.
"Wonderful," Mateus said. "We'll bathe you and feed you both. From this point forward, Minwu, unless I direct otherwise, you may not leave her side. Keep watch over her… in fact, you may even want to continue your lessons. She is your student, after all. My lady has learned so much from you over the years that I can't think of a more perfect tutor for her to learn courtly manners."
Watch her become mine of her own free will.
"Your Grace," Cantirena whispered.
"My lady?" Mateus asked.
"Where… where are my sisters?"
"There were no others who came with the two of you," Mateus answered. "So if they traveled in the same way that you two did, they did not land in my domain."
That's a good thing, Cantirena thought. It would not do to have them here in this situation…
"Fair enough. Would you keep an eye out for them?" Cantirena asked. "Do not hurt them, please, Your Grace. They have the same color hair I do, and the same eyes, too."
"Mmm," Mateus nodded. "I will do that. The two of you should be very happy, however. The war will be put on hold, you see. The Queen Regent's birthday is quickly approaching, and we will be having a holiday in celebration!"
Lady Airu…?! Minwu thought. But Paul said…
"My mother has been looking forward to meeting you, Cantirena."
"I am honored, Your Grace."
"Release them both," Mateus said, and the guard flipped a switch next to the surface they were both laying on. Cantirena slowly sat up and when Minwu was up enough, she put her arms around him tightly. "I know, you both need a moment to compose yourselves. Take it. The door is unlocked. When you're both ready to have a bath, there will be attendants waiting for you." He turned around. "And Minwu? You may satisfy her needs. I'm sure she'll feel more relaxed with you than with anyone else, especially after all you've been through together. Go ahead. Just remember that you hold my bride."
"Minwu is fully aware of the situation," Cantirena said. "…as am I."
Mateus smiled. "It warms my heart to hear you say that." He then turned away and walked out, giving a hand gesture to the guards for them to follow him out of the room. The door closed when everyone else was out, and in that moment, Minwu grasped around Cantirena as tightly as he could.
"Forgive me," he whispered. "I had no idea that we would be coming here. Cosmos told me that we would be sent where we need to be, not into the dragon's claws!"
"…perhaps we need to be here," she replied. "Lady Airu knows the Palamecian history, right? There's going to be a celebration for her, so we know she's still alive. Oh, Minwu…"
"I hope for the sake of all things sacred that your sisters are in Altair," Minwu said.
"Oh, I do, too."
"…Cantirena, my love, if he approaches you affectionately…"
"I don't want his affections."
"Let him have his way," Minwu said, "Because if you don't give them willingly, he will take them by force. He's not above that. You gave into his demands because you want to survive this mess. Consequently, I must ensure that you survive this mess, so I also went along with it. I couldn't take it if he were to hurt you. When all of this is over-"
"-I want to be traveling the world with you, atoning for what we've done wrong, like we promised," she whispered. "Minwu, I love you. I want you. I couldn't stand the thought of you dying, after all this world has done to us both, we have a right to keep moving forward."
"…you are right. I do not wish to die, not until I know for sure that you are taken care of."
"No! You should not wish to die at all."
"All right, then, my love, I refuse to die."
"We are going to be married under the full moonlight in Fynn, once this is all over, Minwu," Cantirena cried. "I wish to bear your successors that will carry on your noble blood and gentle spirit. No matter what the Emperor makes me do for him, no matter if he forces me to become his bride in the eyes of the court of Palamecia, I will always remain yours in my heart."
They shared a kiss, and they both cried on each other's shoulders.
I… I wish I could give you this, but I'm afraid it may not end this way. Minwu thought. I must find Lady Airu! The quicker I can create a crystal, the quicker I can set things right!