Ch 10, part 6
"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.
Cantirena lay on the Emperor's bed, her eyes half open. She must have been there a while before she heard much of anything around her. All that had been going on, it was amazing that she wasn't keeping much attention. When she sat back up, she found Minwu sitting at the table next to the wall with a stack of books taller than he was.
"Ah," Minwu said, looking over. "Are you all right, my student?" He looked back at his book.
She nodded, not wanting to say much. She rolled herself off the bed, falling onto the floor, then picking herself back up slowly. When she made it over to his side, she rubbed her eyes and barely managed to croak out, "What… what happened?"
"You saved me from the Demon King using Mighty Guard," Minwu said, continuing to read. "After that, I think you fell into some sort of coma. No one could get you to respond to anything, so I decided to set up studying here instead of the library." He frowned slightly. "Mateus and Lady Airu went to retrieve more texts for us to study. We will be at this a while."
She sat next to him, picking up a book, though the words looked more than blurry. Everything from her eyes to her heart ached, and reading, while she knew it was vital to saving the world, was such a waste of time. "Cosmos Almighty, I can't see worth shit," she grumbled. "Some student I am."
"You're a terrific student, Cantirena," Minwu said, pointing at the book. "Stop making excuses. We must find the solution before the Demon King decides to take to the Emperor's body again, otherwise we're both in trouble. Especially you, once he noticed you were able to cast the Goddess' defense spell. He really didn't take well to that. He made it perfectly clear that it proves your lineage, and that's why he wants to mix blood with you. He wants your powers to carry over into a second generation that he can possess because they're of the Palamecian bloodline." He turned another few pages. "Ugh, this book has nothing either." He placed it on a stack which was on the floor. "Wake up. We don't have much time." He frantically picked up another book.
"Much time," Cantirena repeated, rubbing her eyes again. "Minwu, what's this about? It's not just about stopping the war or defeating the Demon King once and for all, is it? You're in a panic."
"You don't understand," Minwu said. "I'm doing this for your sake!" He glared right at her. "I am not going to have you die before your destiny is fulfilled."
"Destiny?" Cantirena asked. "I don't have a destiny, Minwu. No one does. Life is what we make it." She frowned, too. "So… what is my destiny then? What are you so hell bent on seeing happen that it throws you into a mild panic?"
"I will see you taken care of before I die," Minwu said. The warmth she usually found him full of seemed gone. He wasn't just driven, emotionally he was empty. It was like he was in his last days, and he knew it ahead of time. What could have turned such a composed person like Minwu into something like this? He'd gone mad…
"You said you weren't going to die!" Cantirena shouted. "You promised me-"
"My student, I-"
"Don't give me that." She put the book down. "Minwu, if you think for a second that you can… lead my heart one way and then drop it suddently because of some so-called destiny, you're really not going to get any help from me. I'd rather kill the Emperor than..."
"Continue," a male voice said from the doorway. "I will hear of your treason myself."
"I swore no loyalty to you," Cantirena said, standing up from the table. "You stay the hell away from both me and Minwu, Mateus!" she shouted, putting her hands up defensively. "I don't know what you've done to my teacher to make him this way, but I won't stand for it anymore."
"No," Minwu said, turning and putting his hands on hers. "The Emperor has done nothing to me. I trust him to your care."
"What?!" she gasped. "You want him to take care of me?"
"That is what Minwu has suggested," Mateus said, stepping in the room. "Your teacher is a wise man. You know this. He would not steer you wrong. I have agreed to keeping you here in the Palamecian capital, where you will be provided for over the remainder of your life as if you were a part of the royal family. I don't require that you marry me in exchange."
"But you still want me as your prisoner."
"Are you behind bars?" Mateus asked. "If that's where you'd rather be, I'll arrange it."
She crossed her arms. "What's in it for you? Or are you possessed by the Demon King again?"
"Do you always respond with contempt when people try to do things to help you?" Mateus asked again. When he stepped next to Cantirena, he thrust a book into her hands. "Me taking care of you is payment for Minwu's services," he answered her question sternly, though he didn't like her arrogance towards him at all. "He will help me be rid of Iluia once and for all, and in exchange, I will look after your well being."
"…are you going to leave me here?" Cantirena asked.
"No, he will stay with you, of course," the Emperor answered. "He and I both know that if you were separated from him as you were before, you will probably be driven to insanity. The Demon King took advantage of how confused you were, my lady, and for that I apologize. When you look at me, you must remember everything he put you through while wearing my face. I cannot atone for what I've done except offer you safety in such troubled times."
"…troubled times that you caused…" she muttered.
Mateus rolled his eyes. He wasn't very good at playing the part of someone looking for forgiveness, but he wanted to bring those old feelings back. The ones she fell in love with. He needed to show her somehow that he was the one she adored all that time ago. Minwu was convinced that he no longer wished to wage war, or at least he acted like he accepted the Emperor's attempts at smoothing things over to a degree, but Cantirena was much more stubborn about it. She stared at him with anger, with rage. Those were the eyes of someone who would very well run some sort of weapon through his heart if she had the chance, and the only reason she wasn't at the moment was because Minwu was stopping her from doing so.
"My lady," Mateus said, stepping closer to her. "Do you not remember that spring day when our paths crossed the first time?"
Cantirena nodded carefully, looking down at the book that Mateus had given her. "…the Tome of… Mysidian Mages…?" she read the cover. "This is the same book that I-"
"It's not the same copy you brought with you to Palamecia. I brought that one back from Mysidia when I was there recently. I took it from an abandoned house," Mateus explained. "Yours was destroyed in the Dreadnaught Warship during your rescue. But… when I found this, I decided that you were going to want your textbook back." He extended a hand to her. "You're the only light left in my life, Cantirena. Help me. With you around, I'm sure I could… I'm sure that Palamecia could find peace. The land could heal with your influence here."
Cantirena didn't look up from the book. "Mateus, I-"
Take my hand, my lady, Mateus thought. Come to me.
"I've never stopped thinking about you," she said. "When Minwu asked me how I felt about you the first time after coming back to my senses, I told him that I wanted to save you more than anything."
That's good, he thought. Come to me. I've waited for this…!
Minwu didn't turn to look at her before he even spoke. "And I shouldn't have… led you to believe you should want anything other than that. Cantirena, I'm sorry. I was afraid that if I didn't stop you from going back to him somehow, that you would become his living weapon again."
"So you pretended to love me so I wouldn't go back to him willingly."
"I didn't pretend at anything, but I did take it too far."
"But, my lady, you have the opportunity to make it all right. You can make that dream come true. You can work for the world peace you were inspired to bring about right here in Palamecia," Mateus said gently. "I do not wish to make you fight for me."
"What makes it any different though? Instead of being your weapon, I'm your toy in your castle," Cantirena said, putting the book on the table. She walked back over to the bed so she could sit a distance away from both of them. She didn't want to look at either of them. Her heart ached. What happened to making her own decisions about life and what she wanted to do? "I'm nothing but a thing to you. A means to an end. Give it a rest, Your Grace. Minwu, you can stay here if you want, I want to go back home. Back to Fynn."
"I miss Fynn as much as you do, but Cosmos sent us here for a reason," Minwu said, picking up another book. "We are here to do what is right for the world, and that means, your help is needed as much as mine is."
"That's right," Mateus said. "Palamecia needs to heal from all of the influence the Demon King has had over it since the country was founded. With you here, we really can make this into a holy land that Palamecia the First wanted it to be: the Goddess' country, where all of those who come could live in her light and harmony. This world has had many troubles over the years, and there will be more troubles to come because mankind is far from perfect; but if we bring our efforts together, we may yet be able to lessen the troubles that will be thrust upon us."
Cantirena felt her eyes burn with tears. "…how dare you say that again…"
"All too well." She answered, sniffling once. "Are you really the same prince…?"
"I am the same person," Mateus lied, sitting down next to her. "All that has changed is my title. Let me help you bring your dream to life." Once again, he put his open hand out, gesturing for her to take it.
Take my hand, he thought. Minwu is mine, and now you will come to me next. He doesn't know where his visions have come from simply because I've put them there. You've both been in my land longer than he remembers, my lady. His memories were easy to reconstruct during the confusion. Him first, because you trust him more than anyone. You may be curt and unruly now, but that will fade. That will fade, and it will be beautiful.
Cantirena started to reach for the Emperor's open hand. "Mateus," she whispered. "If you are the same as you were before, I want you to do one thing for me."
"If it is in my power, then it shall be done," he replied.
"I want you to stop all of the advances of your troops. I want the war ended right as of this second. Call back your forces from Fynn, Salamand, and every other place you occupy. Bring them all back here to Palamecia. Set the slaves in the camps free so they may go home. End the war, so that we may concentrate on getting rid of Iluia," Cantirena said. "Then, and only then will I believe that you are indeed the Prince I fell in love with who wanted to strive for world peace. Only… only then would I accept the offer to stay with you."
"…so be it," Mateus said. He knew that the moment he had everything where he wanted it, he was just going to start it up all over again. The world was his to conquer, and this was only a minor setback. "I will carry out your wishes." He got back up and smiled.
You've no idea what's to come now, Cantirena. You obviously have no idea what's going on.