Ch 10, part 7
"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.
Emperor Mateus gave the order as he promised he would do, impressing both Airu and Minwu over the fact that he listened to what Cantirena had to say. The banners came down, people were freed from the slave camps, and ships were sent out with the prime directive of returning all of Palamecia's people back home. Families were reunited at home, celebrations were had. The commoners were claiming that an angel had come to save not only their Emperor from his nightmares, but to save them as well. Cantirena would have none of that, as all it did was make her feel horrible. She was torn. All she did was give an order, honestly. All she did was tell him that there was no way she'd accept him as an ally unless he followed her directions. But, he did do what he said he was going to do, and Cantirena hated it. She expected to be refused and locked away for questioning the Emperor at all. She was led through the castle, hailed as a heroine and a savior. Neither Minwu or Mateus were far from her side during all of this. Palamecia had seen the end of its nightmares, and Cantirena was given the credit for it.
She stood in front of a very large glass window overlooking the harbor where many of the Empire's ships were launching off to bring back every single one of their troops. She put her hand on the glass, watching each ship as they left the harbor one by one.
"You have leadership potential," Airu said from her side. "You will make an excellent queen, Cantirena."
Cantirena shook her head. "I… don't think I should be."
"And why not?" Airu asked. "Here in Palamecia, even a baseborn can rise up through the ranks if he works hard enough. You, my dear, have changed the course of history. You will make my son a lovely wife."
Minwu agreed with that quietly. He was still studying, even while standing. "Your place is no longer with me, my student. You have proven that you are ready to continue with your life."
I wish you'd stop saying that, Cantirena thought. Because I want… to always remain by your side.
"You have such a sad look on your face," Mateus said from behind her. "I can see it in your reflection on the mirror. Pray tell what is on your mind."
I wish you'd just stop talking to me, period, she thought, turning away from the window.
"My lady Airu, and… Your Imperial Majesty," Cantirena said aloud, trying to sound as regal as possible. "I'm glad to have assisted you in providing peace to your people, but I do not wish to remain in Palamecia for the rest of my life. My home is Fynn. I wish to help with the rebuilding of my home country."
Minwu shook his head. "Fynn is a dangerous place. You would not be protected there as you are here."
"I don't care how dangerous it is," Cantirena said. "I've faced tons of danger getting this far through life. I faced the worst danger in this very castle the first time I was here!"
"That is all in the past now," Mateus said. "I even feel the strength of the Demon King in my body fading away, the closer I am to you. Surrounded by love and support, he cannot make his presence known." Ah, there he was, passing himself off as a lovely handsome pure-hearted prince again. Speaking in a soft tone like that was never his style, but if it helped bring his plans to fruition, he would play any part he needed.
"So, for the good of the world," Minwu said. "Stay here and help keep the Demon King in check."
"What?" Cantirena asked. She walked up to Minwu, looking up into his eyes. How empty they had become, instead of being full of warmth as they usually were. "You were going to break the possession completely. You said that's why we are even here in the first place. Minwu… I don't want to stay here forever. I want to go home. Back to our tower of Fynn castle…" she reached up and touched his face. "Minwu… remember what Hilda said? Paul said her last words were-"
"Hilda's final words are of no importance now," Minwu said, putting his hand on top of hers and removing it rather coldly. "As you have no parents now, and you are my student, I have made the arrangements for you to be taken care of. Cantirena, this isn't just about you and your selfishness. It's time to grow up, my student, and look at the big picture. If you are the only one that can keep the Emperor sane, then it is good for the both of you to stay together."
"Minwu… now I know something is wrong…" she said worriedly. "You've never once called me selfish. You've never once told me to grow up. What happened to you? You… you aren't my teacher… You're not Minwu!" Her heart ached more than it did before. "…Mateus! Where is my teacher? What have you done with him?!"
Mateus grinned internally. Oh now that was delicious, wasn't it? Her heart was breaking right there, for all to see. But here it was. He was about to break her heart into such shatters that not even the Goddess could bring her back.
"My lady," Mateus said, walking up to her. "You are right. That one is not Minwu at all. He looks and sounds just like him, but honestly… he is just someone made to look like your teacher." He waved his hand, and a magical aura formed around Minwu. With a burst of light, he revealed that the person who stood there wasn't Minwu at all. He was a somewhat-dark skinned person she'd never seen before who dressed like him. "I knew you wouldn't be able to take the truth, so I tried to cover it up from you, my lady. Minwu is dead."
"No!" Cantirena shouted. "Where is his body?!"
"He faded away shortly after his passing. He guarded you with his last breath."
"That's not right," she said angrily. Her body swarmed with all of her latent magical powers, her sadness and rage unable to be sated any longer. "You… you monster!"
"I did not kill your teacher," Mateus stated. "Calm yourself."
"No! If it wasn't you, then it must have been the Demon King who killed him!" She was ready to destroy the entire palace, and she had the power to do it. Mateus was aware of her abilities, but he wasn't ready for her to use them on him.
"I realize that you are sad, my lady, but this is not the way to grieve."
"I don't want to grieve," she roared at him. "I want revenge on the one who took his life. I'll start with you!"
When she ran at him, he extended his hand, casting the first thing that came to mind. "Freeze time. STOP!" he shouted, causing her to stop where she was. "…that didn't go exactly as planned…"
Airu frowned. "You didn't kill him, did you?"
"No, but perhaps I should," Mateus grumbled.
The man who had been disguised as Minwu stood there with a blank expression on his face as if he didn't know why he was standing there. He looked around curiously until Mateus thrust the broader end of his scepter through the man's chest and he flopped dead onto the floor.
"Let her have her teacher if it means she will obey you, my son," Airu suggested. "We can't have power like that running out of control. You may keep her if it pleases you, but don't go thinking she'll willingly walk into your arms with all that's happened thus far. Besides… why would you want her now? You launched ships to declare the war was ending. You set people in slave camps free on her request."
Mateus looked at his mother. She was an intelligent woman, but she didn't have the ability to see through his actions. She never was able to see what he was doing, even when he was a child. "Oh, Mother, you do not understand," he laughed to himself quietly. "What she saw is what I led her to believe she saw. She does not know that every front has been strengthened now, and she need not know that. Palamecia will have a great festival at for your birthday, she will attend and see peace. She will not know that her beloved Fynn will be nothing but a crater, leaving Palamecia the only home she will have."
Mateus took a few steps closer to Cantirena, putting his hand in front of her face. "Moonbeam's whispers, SLEEP!" he cast the spell, causing her to fall over against him. He lifted her up into his arms, carrying her out of the hall. "You will wake up with your teacher. He will wake up next to you." He arrived at another bedroom, placing her on the bed and covering her up. When he snapped his fingers, two attendants came to answer his call. "This room belongs to the lady who sleeps in the bed. Do be sure all of her needs are met. She will come with another guest, and you will look after him as well."
"We will do as you will, Your Majesty," the two attendants answered, bowing before him.
"Good," Mateus said, walking out of the room and heading towards the other end of the castle.
The paths became darker as he came to the dungeons. He hadn't been there in a while, and it was always good to inspect everything every now and then. The first door was the only one he felt he needed to check now; as it was the only one that had a prisoner within that he was remotely interested in checking. He slid the door open as it let out a very loud, rusted cree-ee-ak sound.
"How does he fare?" Mateus asked a man standing in the darkest part of the shadows with a whip in his hand.
"I doubt 'e has another day left in 'im, sire," the punisher's voice was grumbling even when he spoke at full volume. He had a voice which could have belonged to an ogre, it was so gruff and unrefined. But that is not why he was working in the palace dungeons. "Y'think 'e needs some more punishin'?"
"I wish to speak with him further before you carry out the sentence," Mateus answered. "Where is our favorite mage?" He looked around, but he couldn't see much. With a quick flip of his hand, he created a ball of light to illuminate the room around him, and there he could see Minwu, wearing nothing but a loincloth, his arms chained to the ceiling to keep him up right. "…there you are."
Minwu's body was in tatters. He had no strength, his skin bruised and bloody from all the beatings and lashings he had taken since he became a prisoner. His throat was so dry he couldn't manage a word at first. Minwu's eyes held nothing but contempt for the Emperor, who he was sure had only come to mock him now that he was about to die.
"Have you seen the errors of your ways?" Mateus asked. "You can survive this whole ordeal. Beg me for mercy and accept me as your Emperor, and you will suffer no more pain, Minwu."
Minwu couldn't manage more than a glare. Even as starved and as hurt as he was, his eyes were still burningly passionate. They still held emotion in them, and Mateus hated it.
Kill me now if you wish, Minwu thought. I will not submit to you.
"Truthfully, I cannot have you die," Mateus said. "Your student tried to kill me."
Good! Minwu thought.
"You will come with me and tend to your student's needs," Minwu said angrily. "Be glad that I am forced to keep you alive, Minwu. Otherwise, you were supposed to die tomorrow."
"…no…" Minwu whispered, as he couldn't manage to speak any louder.
"Excuse me?" Mateus asked.
"…she will… kill you…" Minwu coughed. "…I… will die… for that."
"You fool," the Emperor sneered, looking over at the punisher. "Give the mage lashes until he passes out. Do not let him die. Inform me immediately of when he cannot take any more. I will be back for him then."
"Aye, sire," the punisher said, rearing back his whip and letting it crack against Minwu's bare back. "All right, criminal! Face your punishment like a man!"
"Emp…eror," Minwu muttered, making Mateus turn around again.
"Hm? Was there something else?"
"This is what happens when humans roam the world ungoverned properly," Mateus mused towards Minwu, placing his hand under Minwu's chin. "They have this sense of arrogance, like only their words matter."
Minwu's firey eyes did not waver even after taking another lash. His conviction was stronger than ever before. He'd rather die than submit, especially after hearing that Cantirena would finish Mateus off if she believed him to be dead.
"You were an obedient servant to Hilda, were you not? Serving Cantirena would not be so different, except she would let you feast upon her body whenever you wanted. Such pent up frustrations only lead to more violence… Your student is full of violence. I wonder if you taught her that violence at times when your emotions are unstable is a good thing in your lessons. Perhaps you are the reason she is violent at all. That would make you a terrible teacher, wouldn't it? You can correct an egregious mistake. Let your violent feelings play you no more like a puppet on strings, Minwu. Be at peace."
"I… am… at peace," Minwu said. "I… will die… So… will you."
"Perhaps I should bring Cantirena down here, let her see you in this state…? Hm?"
"You'll… die… even faster…"
"Or she'd beg for your life in any way she could possibly think of."