Legacy of Honor Chapter 11
The Kingdom of Ordallia.
A country that bordered Ivalice to the east, rich in gold, silk, and spices, ruled by the benign King Valowa.
It is a land rich with meadows and valleys, rolling hills and sheer mountain peaks, barren deserts and luscious forests; a land more diverse than its neighbor to the west. It is also a rich land with mines abundant in jewels and metals for jewelry and smithing, forests for timber, and grass for raising livestock.
Such a land of incredible bounty showed no signs of its struggle with Ivalice that ended about sixteen years ago. Unlike their neighbor, they had no problems paying war reparations to those who fought. The people rebuilt what they had lost and continued on with life.
Which has been quite peaceful since.
If Ivalicians knew of such peace, how marvelous that would be.
A man in his early thirties sat on a knoll tossing an apple core over his shoulder before lying back on the grass with hands folded behind his head of shoulder-length flaxen hair as he relaxed for the day.
The plain, long dry after the winter snows, was once again alive. The grass grew green under a bright, cold sun that shone from a cloud-patterned sky the color of gunmetal. The wind blew strong, rustling the grass, carrying the promise of rain before nightfall. A herd of bison moved slowly over the verdure, like great shoals of fish, and overhead eagles swooped and circled. Far to the west lie his homeland of Ivalice and he wondered what went on there, but only vaguelythis was his home now, this fine, free place.
Abruptly, he stood up and called for his mount. A yellow-feathered chocobo answered his call, warking happily. The man mounted the great bird and heeled it to a canter for the return back home before the rain came.
As the sun approached the western horizon, clouds gathered in massy banks of ominous gray, blown toward him by the wind out of the northeast. Lit redly by the setting sun, dark above, they reminded him of a great explosion he had witnessed in his young adulthood. Indeed, like the distant roaring of cannon fire, he heard the rumble of thunder carried on the wind. It was time to halt for the night.
Seeing that he would not make it back home before the storm would hit, he brought his chocobo to a stand of oak. The wind was strengthening steadily and already the sky grew dark, the thunder drawing closer. He picketed his chocobo and left it to forage, then set to constructing a makeshift shelter. There seemed little point in attempting a fire that likely the approaching storm would drown, so he contented himself with the jerky he brought, squatting beneath a roof of branches. As he finished his meal the storm arrived, and with his sharp eyes watched as lightning stab daggers of jagged brilliance at the ground before moving on like some vast and ethereal many-legged beast stalking the plain. The thunder dinned awhile longer and rain drove hard against the trees and the roof of his shelter. He stretched out dry, pleased with his construction, and composed himself for sleep.
A woman sat alone at the only table in the cottage staring pensively at the dancing flame of the lone candle, flickering as a breeze blew from the nearby window. She heard the rain pound endlessly against the thatched roof of the cottage, lightning flashing afterwards, briefly illuminating the dark corners.
A plate of venison lie cold in front of her untouched, a similar plate lying across from her also untouched. She stared now at that plate wondering if her brother would return from his outing to the grassy plains or stay at a wood to wait out the storm. She sighed as she turned green eyes to the window where lightning flashed, lighting up the countryside so that she could see the trees of a nearby forest and the plains that stretched as far as the eye could see.
And yet, there was still no sign of her brother.
Thunder seemed to roar in protestation at the two men whose blades crashed in time to its beat. Sparks flew as their swords locked in mortal combat, both unrelenting in their struggle. They were evenly matched, both reading the others movement as easily as if they read a book. Parry or thrust, the others blade would always find a way to counter.
The man, whose sleep had been suddenly interrupted by the whisper of a blade being unsheathed, clenched his teeth as he blocked his opponents sword. Rain poured in abundance, drenching him from head to toe, the ground slippery so that he had to tread carefully or risk the chance of slipping and letting his opponent get the upper hand. He held his sword in both hands, not only to give power to his swing but also to keep a firm grip on the hilt, the rain threatening to slip it from his grasp.
He breathed heavily, briefly wiping the rain from his eyes as he stared at his opponent whose countenance seemed to mirror his own. Lightning flashed for a moment revealing a face framed with long dark hair that hung limply about his head and a heavy beard of about the same color that grew around his mouth and up the sides of his face. Dark eyes returned his gaze unwaveringly. His lips then curled into a grin as he spoke in a strong, soft voice, I see that your skills have not waned during the years you have stayed here, Ramza. They are as sharp as ever, his grin grew wider as he added, and more besides.
Enough Delita, Ramza declared, thunder rumbling in the distance adding authority to his voice. You came here for a reason. Now tell me, whats so important that the King of Ivalice left his country and come hunting for me? Is it to bring me back to be tried or to act as executioner because I know the truth?
If you want an answer, Delita began as he drew back his weapon, you have to beat me first! He roared as he charged at Ramza, his sword held high, his shield held in front.
Ramza stood relaxed holding his Chaos Blade casually to the side, waiting for the right moment to strike. He did not move even as Delita drew his sword further back in preparation for an attack, only stood watching.
This puzzled the monarch for he knew in past duels with Ramza that he would make a move to block his attack. What are you up to?, he thought as he begun to swing his sword. He then saw it as quick as the lightning that flashed in that instant.
His blade was deflected, catching him off balance, so that he stumbled back only to fall when Ramza followed up with a punch to his jaw. His sword slipped out of his grasp as he hit the ground, the blade sliding over the grass only to stop at the base of a hill a few feet away. He reflexively raised his shield in anticipation of a follow-up slash that would surely come.
Delita looked up to see his son standing protectively in front of him, brandishing his sword that had flown from his grasp at Ramza in challenge.
Lightning flashed as Ramza stared in disbelief at the young boy who claimed Delita to be his father. The boy was but a youth with honey-colored hair that was cropped short and eyes that burned with determination, yet his features seem to be of the gentle sort. Ramza gasped, thunder booming in the distance, suddenly realizing where he had seen that look.
You have the look of your mother, boy, he stated solemnly.
The boy was caught off guard with that statement, his sword lowering a fraction. My...mother...? he asked softly almost eagerly. You knew my mother?
He knows nothing! Delita suddenly shouted as he quickly stood up and grabbed his sword from his son before charging at Ramza once more.
Ramza dodged, parried, and blocked the wild swings from his adversary as he felt a sense of dread grip his heart. Ovelia! What have you done to her?! he demanded as he backed away from a slash.
Nothing! Delita replied as he continued to swing wildly. You know nothing! Nothing! He continued to repeat those phrases with each swing until he lost control and fell onto his knees where he covered his face with his hands and wept, his tears mingling with the rain that flowed down his cheeks.
Delita... Ramza whispered sadly as he watched the monarch sob into his hands. He then watched as Delitas son walked slowly towards his father, puzzled on why he was weeping.
Father, whats wrong? he asked as he knelt by his side.
Oh, forgive me, my son, Delita moaned as he brought his son into his arms and hugged him close. I killed her. I killed your mother...
The womans eyes snapped open when she heard the door to the cottage burst open. Alarmed, she decided to investigate. She quietly rose from her bed and carefully made her way to the bedroom door, taking her staff that leaned against the wall next to it. Whispering a soft prayer, she opened the door and peered cautiously around the common room.
Lightning flashed briefly revealing three figures lurking within, two of them standing at the door to the cottage while the third headed towards the fireplace. Gathering up her courage, she screamed as she charged out of the room, heading straight for the figure near the fireplace, hoping to catch the intruder off guard. It nearly worked until a voice shouted: Stop, Alma!
She unknowingly obeyed, confused on how these strangers knew her name. She then received an explanation when the figure near the fireplace successfully started a fire, illuminating the cottage, revealing the identities of the three strangers.
Brother! she exclaimed in relief upon seeing Ramza. I thought you would wait out the storm.
Ramza nodded. I would have if not for our visitors. He gestured towards the doorway.
Alma turned to see a youth and a bearded man, who smiled as he stepped forward to greet her: Hello, Alma. Its good to see you are doing well after all these years.
Alma recognized the voice that had halted her, yet she was still confused on how this stranger knew her.
Perhaps her expression showed her puzzlement for the man chuckled. I guess its been awhile, hasnt it? he asked lightheartedly. Its me, Delita.
D-Delita?! Alma stuttered in shock. But...how?! Why?!
Thats what I would like to know. Ramza came with a few goblets and a bottle of a clear vintage. Both of you take wine? He began filling the goblets with the vintage without awaiting an answer as all sat around the table where only a few hours ago, Alma sat waiting for Ramza.
Thank you, Delita said gratefully echoed by the youth. I realized that our duel had made me quite thirsty.
So, Ramza began as soon as his visitors emptied their cups, tell us why you are here and not in Ivalice.
But first, Alma added as she poured more wine for the two men, who is the boy? We havent been properly introduced.
My name is Raizen, the boy replied sipping his wine after.
My son, Delita added softly. Ovelias...and mine. He saw that Ramza was about to question but held up a hand to halt him. Let me explain, he began in a sad tone. Then you shall know why I have come here to Ordallia...
You...traitor, Olan spat venomously.
Oh, please, Delita said contemptuously. You know you wanted this too. Look around. He spread his arms for effect. See anyone who's really saddened? You should thank me for killing your father...now nobody will be after him.
Stop that nonsense! the Astrologist exclaimed in rage.
Why? Ovelia whispered, shocked. Why did you do such a thing?
I told you Id make you into a real monarch, the King answered simply, taking her hand to assure her.
But Ovelia shook his hand away, shouting angrily, You liar! Youre just trying to use me!
Delita was surprised at her claim. You dont trust me? he inquired gently. Ovelia remained quiet, confusion and doubt writ on her face. Well...Ovelia? Delita asked again.
Id like to trust you... Ovelia began uncertainly. But...
I must talk to Olan, Delita interjected impatiently. There was time for her to explain after hes done with this small important matter. Go to your room...
Seeing that the matter was closed, for now, she nodded her assent. Please... Be gentle with him... she requested.
Ok, Delita nodded. I promise...
Ovelia took her leave of her husband and their guests, taking the stairs down to the floor below, where she opened the door. She was about to go through but was suddenly curious to know what Delita was planning to do. She decided to eavesdrop, closing the door without going through giving the impression that she left the room.
When Olan heard the door close, he said, I dont care. All I wanted was to clear my stepfather. Do it in one deathblow...
Delita looked at the wounded Astrologist kneeling before him, whose blood was dripping down the side of his face as he breathed raggedly. What are you talking about? I cant have you dead, the King declared.
Olan looked up in surprise. What am I worth to you alive?
Youll work under me, Delita stated curtly.
The Astrologist began to chuckle. Dont be a fool, he sneered. I refuse, even if it means death!
You cannot refuse. Delita shook his head as he turned away to look out the window. I'll bring down the Hokuten and build Ovelias kingdom. He then turned back to face Olan and Balmafula. Of course Ill kill the High Priest. Im not his dog.
Olan looked at him in shock. Are you serious? What the hell...?
Im sure you know Im right, the King stated calmly. What Im planning to do is completely justified. A former squire, now in control of Knights, and restoring order to the world. Its easy to understand. This is the hero the people have been demanding.
For that, youre going to take advantage of everything? Olan asked incredulously.
Is that wrong? Delita replied innocently.
Ovelia felt as if shed been slapped in the face. Take advantage of...everything...?, she thought dismally. Was he then taking advantage of me...? Did he use me to gain what he most desired?
As these questions tore through her mind, there was one thing that was certain: she had been betrayed. Shocked and angry at this sudden revelation, she turned and fled the room, slamming the door behind her.
Damn it!, the King thought when he heard the door slam. She must have heard everything! Now I must have a talk with her after all of this is through. He then noticed the female magician had stepped forward in challenge and frowned when he saw the partially hidden dagger.
Whats the matter? he inquired then added mockingly, Want to kill me? Balmafula just glared at him in answer. I know the High Priest sent you as an assassin, stated the King. And if I betray you, youll kill me, right?
He then stepped forward to confront Balmafula, who stepped back defensively, pulling out the dagger simultaneously. Delita spread his arms in challenge as he said, Go on... Stab me with that dagger.
Balmafula continued to glare, lifting the dagger slightly but for some reason, she could not go through with the act. Whats the matter? Delita questioned sardonically, spreading his arms wider to show that he was unarmed and vulnerable. Go on... If you dont kill me... he took one threatening step, Ill kill you!
He then lunged forward as he snapped his right wrist, a hidden dagger appearing in his hand. Balmafula screamed when Delita pinned her to the wall, unable to retaliate as his blade swung towards her. She closed her eyes, waiting for the killing blow...
But it didnt come.
After a few moments, she reluctantly opened her eyes and saw the dagger just inches from her neck. What...? she whispered in surprise and confusion.
Delita stared at her a moment as he moved the dagger lower to her collarbone. There, he moved the blade beneath a thin string. He raised it slightly, lifting a cross with a rose engraved in the middle from its hiding place beneath the collar of Balmafulas tunic. After removing the ornament from Balmafula, he released her.
Youre dead, he declared grimly, holding the cross before her. Ive just killed you. He then placed the cross away. Now get out before I provide the Church with your corpse.
Balmafula nodded somberly in reluctant acceptance.
What does he mean? Olan whispered in puzzlement. What is that cross?
That cross, Balmafula began dourly, is a symbol of a secret sect within the Church called the Divine Rose: a group consisting of the Churchs spies and assassins in which I am a member. Without it, my affiliation with the sect and the Church is removed.
In other words, dead, Delita simply reiterated. The Church will bother you no more. He then turned away, following Ovelias previous route to the rooms exit, leaving Balmafula and Olan to decide their fate...
After that night, I started to doubt my motives, Delita continued, for you see, I heard some surprising news...from Ovelia. He smiled as he looked at Raizen who said, Me?
Delita nodded. I did not expect to be a father so soon after my rise to power, he continued, and thus, my uncertainty. I kept wondering if I was doing the right thing. Then I realized that all Ive been doing was for me and not for others. Ive become what Ive most hated: the manipulator. I used you, he looked at Ramza, your friends, and, yes, even Ovelia. Realizing this, she decided to take matters into her own hands. A few months after Raizen was born, I found her in Zeltennias Church ruins. It was her birthday and I thought I would surprise her with a gift...
As Delita entered the ruins on his chocobo, he saw Ovelia kneeling over some stones that had served as a wall of the church. Here you are... he said as he halted his chocobo. Everyones been looking for you.
He then hopped down from his mount, which soon turned and walked away, as he walked over to his wife with his hands behind his back, which produced a bouquet of flowers as he brought them forward. Todays your birthday, right? These flowers...
Ovelia suddenly turned around and dashed towards him, the flash of a dagger evident in her hand as she stabbed her husband. Delita could only stare in surprise, the bouquet falling from limp fingers, their petals as red as the blood that now flowed from his wound. O...Ovelia...? he whispered in disbelief as he wrapped his fingers around the hilt of the dagger.
You use everybody like that! Ovelia cried, tears pouring down her cheeks, her hand wet now with her husbands blood. Now, youll kill me just like Ramza...!
Something snapped within Delita then. With the coolness of his devious mind he used to use others, Delita pulled out the dagger and flipped it so that he stabbed her in the chest with the blade. Ovelias mouth opened, trying to speak, but only a trickle of blood escaped her lips. Yet, it was her eyes that would forever haunt the King.
His wifes eyes burned with conviction as they slowly dimmed in death. She fell to her knees, her eyes still staring at her husband, her lips forming one word before her last breath escaped between them:
Delita shuddered as he stepped back, clutching his wound, staring in disbelief at his dead wifes body, realizing that he had killed her in cold blood. He dropped the dagger, falling onto his knees afterward in grief and shock for what he had done. Ramza... he rasped as he clutched his wound. What did you get? I... His strength gave out as he collapsed, his world turning black.
The next he woke, he was lying on a bed in his bedchamber. How did I..., he thought as he looked around. He tried to get up but immediately fell back onto his pillows when pain flared from his torso. Wincing, he looked beneath the covers to see a cloth covering his wound.
Suddenly, he remembered what had happened at the ruins. No, I didnt...! He looked at his handthe hand that had held the dagger that had murdered his wifeexpecting to see it covered with blood only to find the evidence of his crime cleansed. She cant be dead! This is all but a nightmare and I will wake from it!
As soon as that thought passed, he heard someone enter the room. He turned to see that it was a chemist, who smiled gently when he saw that the King was awake. How are you feeling, your majesty? he asked as he placed his bag of items on the nearby table.
What happened? Delita whispered, afraid to find the answer.
You mean, you dont remember? the chemist asked as he mixed some potions into a beaker and when Delita shook his head, sighed as he placed the beaker down. He then marched up to the bed and looked at the King directly. Its hard for me to say this but Ill be blunt, he began.
Your majesty...Queen Ovelia is dead.
Dead... Delita whispered mournfully, cupping his hands around the goblet. Tears threatened to flow again but he quickly dashed them away. II killed her... He clutched his cup tighter. I killed Ovelia! he cried out in anguish.
Unable to hold the tears any longer, Delita broke down and cried, his shoulders quaking as he sobbed. Though the news of Ovelias murder came as a shock to the others, they could not help but pity the monarch who had to live with his guilt all these years.
No one was as shocked as Raizen, to know that his father had killed his mother and had successfully hid the secret from him. Oh, forgive me, my son, his father had asked of him but how could he? To learn that his father was responsible for his mothers death, not the victim of an attack by thieves as he was told.
Why did you not tell me? Raizen lamented. Why did you not tell me?! he repeated harshly, abruptly pushing his chair back as he stood and glared down at his father. I had the right to know! Mother was right! You are a deceiver! You even deceived your own son!
Though his sons words pierced his heart, Delita tried to regain control of his emotions, taking a deep breath as he wiped his tears away. I did not tell you because... He looked up at his son and Raizen saw the pain of thirteen years buried in his dark eyes. Because I did not want you to bear the shame along with me. He stood up and placed both hands on his sons shoulders.
Father, I do not understand, Raizen shook his head as he looked up at Delita.
My hands are soiled with the blood of many innocent lives, Delita began, lives which I have taken to reach the top. I promised myself that you would not soil your hands of the innocent but to live honestly with pride and honor, both of which I have lost. He then turned to look at the Beoulve siblings, especially at Ramza, and smiled as he said: Just like General Balbanes used to tell us.
Ramza nodded as he returned the smile. Yes.
Delita then turned to his son. That is why I have brought you here to Ordallia, he explained. To teach you these things so that one day youll be able to rule Ivalice as a wise and just ruler unlike your own father.
I see... Alma said thoughtfully. Raizen...one who rises above adversity. A fitting name.
A name Ovelia chose, Delita added. A name befitting of a prince, of a future ruler of Ivalice.
Mother named me? Raizen whispered in shock. There were so many secrets of his fathers past that he was learning quickly that he felt overwhelmed. He slowly sat back down unable to stand any longer.
Yes, Delita nodded. She foresaw you to be the future of Ivalice calling you a king among kings. I thought she was blabbering nonsense at that time but now I understand what she meant. You will rule Ivalice under a banner of peace and the people shall prosper under your guidance. Your mother believed that to be so and I do too.
Then I must live up to my name, Raizen declared proudly. In honor of mother.
I believe you shall, Delita nodded. He then yawned realizing that the night was not getting any younger.
Seeing Delita yawn reminded Alma of how she had been rudely awakened from her slumber. She stood up and said, Both of you must be tired from your journey. Come. Ill show you to your room.
Alma, if you dont mind, I would like Delita to stay a little while longer, Ramza said.
As you wish, brother, she complied before leaving the common room with Raizen.
Delita resumed his seat as he asked, What do you want of me, Ramza?
Ramza refilled Delitas cup and his own, taking a sip before replying, Why wasnt Agrias present when you killed Ovelia? Before we parted, she told me that she would return to her duty of protecting her. I find it strange to know that she wasnt there.
The King chuckled. Its funny you asked that. He sipped his wine before continuing. She would have followed Ovelia if she wasnt ill that day.
Ill? Ramza couldnt believe such a simple thing as being ill could keep Agrias from her duty. He could only stare at Delita in disbelief, who calmly sipped his wine again before continuing.
Yes, ill, Delita nodded. So ill, in fact, that she couldnt get out of bed. Strange, isnt it?
Very much, Ramza agreed, stroking his beard, which was kept neat unlike Delitas bush of a beard, in thought. What ailed her?
According to the chemist that attended her, she was suffering from bouts of dizziness, headaches, and nausea, Delita replied.
I see... Ramza continued to stroke his beard.
Delita noticed the concern in his voice. Are you worried for her? he teased gazing at his friend slyly.
Of course Im worried for her, Ramza said stating the obvious. As I am worried for the others also. Who knows whats been happening in Ivalice now that youre gone.
What could possibly happen without me there? Delita shrugged as if it did not matter.
After the Lion War, Ramza began gravely, anything is possible.
The next morning, Delita awoke to the sound of laughter coming from the common room of the cottage. He tried to get out of bed but groaned as he fell back, wondering why his head pounded so.
He looked up to see his son holding a cup of water towards him. He muttered, Thank you, as he took the cup and spilled a flow of tepid water down his throat.
Perhaps a bath would refresh you, Raizen suggested. Alma has one already prepared.
Delita began to nod, but thought better of it. He held his head as it continued to throb as he glanced around the confines of the room. The shutters to the lone window were thrown back and morning sunlight shone in painful lances against his eyes: he groaned again.
What happened? he asked thickly.
You had a bit too much wine last night, Raizen answered with censorious solicitude.
Delita scowled slightly remembering the little drinking match he had with Ramza after their little conversation. That wine, he said wincing, is quite strong.
Taken to excess, Raizen shrugged, I suppose it would be.
Delita saw the mischievous smile he wore and found its match. You mock me, boy.
Perish the thought! Raizen gasped. Would I mock you, father? Why, I was just about to bring you breakfast, thinking youd likely be hungry. It will save your pounding head the trouble if you partake it here.
Delita was about to question his son why but soon found his answer when the laughter that had awoken him roared through the slightly opened door.
Ramza is entertaining a friend who had come to visit this morning, Raizen explained. Perhaps you would like to meet him? Hes quite the jovial fellow and quite the gambler.
Maybe I shall, Delita said curious to know what kind of friends Ramza had made during his stay in this country. Though he and Raizen had lived here for as long as Ramza and Alma, they didnt really take the time to make friends, always moving from town to town. But first, that bath, he said as he slowly rose from bed. I would make myself presentable before Ramzas guest.
Of course, his son agreed. Come. He beckoned his father to follow him.
They quit the room to emerge at the common room. Ramza, Alma, and another sat at the table, drinking tea and spooning up some kind of porridge, nodding as they went by. Delita nodded politely, not moving his hurting head too much, and followed his son to the bath, which was behind the house where the twisted trunks of alders hid it from view.
Ill wait for you with the others, Raizen said and Delita nodded. His son took his leave of him then, entering the house as Delita stripped. He then entered the water cautiously, gasping as he plunged beneath the surface. The water was cold, yet invigorating, as he dunked his head and felt the chill water wash away the aftereffects of the wine. When he emerged, he dried himself as best he could before dressing in his leather shirt and breeks.
With the aftereffects of the wine gone, he soon realized that he was hungry, his stomach growling in protest. Best eat hearty, he thought as he made his way back to the cottage.
Raizen was settled at the table, surrounded by his hosts and their guest. He watched with great interest at the little gambling match Ramza and their guest were engaged in while Alma fidgeted nervously in her seat, worried that her brother would lose.
Kyshonthe guestturned back the sleeve of his black coat with a dramatic flourish and shook the dice in the cup of his dark-skinned hand. They rolled across the rough spruce of the table and stuttered to a halt with threes showing on both cubes. White teeth flashed as the dark man grinned, reaching to scoop up the small pile of coins that lay beside a pewter flagon of tea.
Ramzas face remained enigmatic as he took the dice and threw five, reaching into the pouch on his belt to extract another coin that he tossed toward his companion. Kyshon caught it in midair, his grin becoming wider still, until it seemed it must split his face.
Enough? he inquired mildly. Or do you remain bent on rendering yourself penniless?
Ramza grunted and took the flagon, tilting it above his cup to spill the tea brimful into the container. He lifted the cup, not a drop falling from the rim, and drank, his eyes calm on Kyshons face.
The best of three, he challenged as he set the cup down.
Ramza! Alma exclaimed angrily. Enough is enough! We need that gil to survive the next few months!
Dont worry, Ramza said reassuringly. I will win. His voice carried such confidence that made Alma believe that he would truly win.
The gambler chuckled. You need more than luck to win this time. Kyshon emptied his own cup and filled it afresh. The stakes?
Ramza shrugged, dropping coins. Kyshon studied them a moment, then nodded. Very well.
He shook the dice and tossed a seven. Ramza threw nine, though his expression did not change as the gambler snorted and scooped up the ivory cubes. A three followed and Kyshon laughed, then stopped as the Ivalician matched it. He threw six and began to chuckle again. Then stopped again as Ramza rolled two sixes and reached across the table to retrieve what he had bet, his eyes glinting as he faced Kyshon and said, And what you owe me, gambler.
Kyshon shook his head, extracting coins from the stack at his elbow and counting them carefully onto the table.
That is everything I won from you.
Ramza nodded sagely, the corners of his mouth curving slightly as he remarked, A battle is not won until the last blow falls.
Ivalician wisdom? asked Kyshon lazily, tilting his chair back so that the midmorning sun shining into the cottage struck his face, lightening the tan from the color of aged oak to a more polished sheen.
Common sense. He then turned to Alma, his grin growing wider. See? I told you Id win.
And Im grateful and relieved, his sister sighed in agreement.
The group then fell into normal conversation, Raizen speaking with the gambler who he found very intriguing. He then laughed when Delita approached, who smiled as Alma handed him a bowl of porridge, finding a seat at his sons side.
The porridge was thick and restorative, salted and laced with wild honey. He washed it down with tea, and after he had eaten two bowls, proclaimed himself filled.
How are you feeling, Delita? Ramza asked after. Raizen told me that you were suffering some aftereffects of the wine.
Yes, but after that bath, I feel fine, Delita replied. Thank you.
You Ivalicians are soft unlike us hardy Ordallians! Kyshon bellowed. Eh, Ramza? He gave a light tap on Ramzas shoulder as he chuckled heartily, taking out a deck of cards from his coat.
Delita studied the stranger who was dressed in gentlemanly attire. He wore a black coat trimmed in gold and white boots. He shuffled the deck of cards he had taken out in his hands deftly, the cards seeming to have a life of their own. He was dark of skin, teeth shone white in contrast as he smiled a smile that could win any girls heart. Delita noted that he possessed a charisma that surpassed mere looks.
Delita, Id like you to meet Kyshon, Ramza introduced as he rubbed his slightly aching shoulder from that tap. Kyshon, my friend, Delita.
Kyshon nodded, offering his hand as he said, Its a pleasure to meet you, Delita.
The pleasure is all mine, Delita returned as he shook Kyshons hand. When the introductions were done, Kyshon returned to shuffling his deck. I heard you are a gambler, Delita said gesturing to the cards that were flying between Kyshons hands.
I am, Kyshon nodded, be it dice or cards. Your son here has already witnessed my skill and though it hasnt proven quite fruitful, there are other skills that are. He then smirked as he asked, Would you care for me to demonstrate?
No! both Ramza and Alma exclaimed at the same time. Delita and Raizen were taken aback by the siblings answer.
What we mean is... Ramza began to explain more calmly, knowing what those skills his friend was referring to.
That you should show your card skills outside the cottage, Alma finished, hoping that they would heed their words.
Outside? Delita questioned puzzled. Why should we go outside for a simple card game?
I assure you, its no simple card game, Ramza moaned.
Now Ramza, Kyshon pouted as he began dealing two cards to everyone on the table, theres no need to scare them like that. A simple game first, then Ill show them the ace up my sleeve, as I would like to call it.
After he was done dealing the cards, he began to explain the nature of the game. The game was called Blackjack and Kyshon was pleased to find out that Delita and Raizen already knew the rules to the game.
Weve watched people play it during our travels through this vast country, Delita explained.
Great! the gambler nodded. Then lets begin! He then looked at his cards and grinned. Anybody wants to take a hit? Or will all of you stay?
Ill take a hit, Ramza said uncaringly since theres no gil at stake.
I as well, Delita added.
Both men were dealt a card.
Busted! Ramza groaned throwing his cards down on the table in defeat.
All of you will be moaning in defeat like Ramza when I show you my cards, Kyshon grinned. He then flipped both cards, showing an ace and a jack, as he yelled in triumph, Blackjack!
The others groaned as Kyshon laughed. If this were a real game, I would have won all of your gil! he proclaimed enthusiastically as he collected the cards.
You mean, won back your gil, quipped Alma.
Kyshon just shrugged as he stood up. And now its time to give a demonstration of my true skills.
The gambler exited the humble home followed by the others, gathering at a tree stump out in the yard. Kyshon stood atop of it spreading his arms as if he were to address a large crowd. Now I shall demonstrate my card skills, he bellowed. But first, a volunteer from the audience. You sir! He pointed at Delita. Would you care to volunteer?
Delita hesitated but Ramza pushed him forward as he exclaimed, Of course, he would like to volunteer!
But, Ramza...! Delita began to protest but stopped when Alma approached him holding a sword in her hands.
Here you go! she said with a smile as she handed him the weapon. She, along with Ramza, then pushed him forward to meet Kyshon, who was shuffling his deck in the middle of the yard.
Get ready to defend yourself, the gambler warned Delita.
Delita nodded, understanding this to be a duel of sorts, though he wondered what the gambler was going to use as his weapon. Probably a hidden knife, he thought holding his sword in both hands. He then yelled as he charged at Kyshon, who just smiled still shuffling his cards. Suddenly, something flew from the gamblers hands.
Delita halted his charge when he saw five cards standing at his feet. What? he gasped in surprise. He then felt something fly by his face. He turned back to see a card sticking from the wooden fence that surrounded the yard. The cards were like throwing knives!
Impressive, dont you think? Kyshon asked affably as he went to collect his cards.
Delita could only stare in surprise as he picked a card at his feet, staring at it in curiosity. They look like ordinary cards, he said as he handed it back to Kyshon.
Thats the beauty of these cards, the gambler said. No one will suspect them to be weapons.
Amazing... was all Delita could say.
Kyshon nodded before giving a flourishing bow. And thus, ends my demonstration. It was nice meeting you, Delita.
The same to you as well, Delita said. The others came to join them and the gambler bowed once more saying, Now I must take my leave of you. I hear the tables calling me and I must empty them of their gil. Farewell, Ramza, Alma, and to you too, Raizen! I shall return whenever the opportunity rises.
Youre always welcomed here, Ramza nodded. Just dont think of emptying us of our gil.
Kyshon gave a hearty laugh. But I must, Ramza! I cannot proclaim myself the greatest gambler of all Ordallia until I have beaten you! Until next we meet! He gave a wave before walking down the dirt path that led to the main road.
You have quite an intriguing friend, Ramza, Delita said as they all returned to the cottage.
You think so? Ramza asked and Delita nodded. The Beoulve then chuckled. Wait until you meet the others.
Delita wiped the sweat from his brow as he leaned against his axe. Chopping wood was tiring work but it did help strengthen his arms. He then looked to the side where his son was practicing the sword drills he had taught him. Slash, parry, thrust, block...it was just like hed taught him.
Watch your stance, boy! Delita shouted in admonishment. And how many times do I have to tell you, use your hips, not your shoulders to swing your sword!
Stop being too hard on Raizen, Delita, Ramza chided calmly.
Delita diverted his gaze from his son to Ramza, who was on the porch sitting on a wooden chair as he carved something out of a wooden block. Im being hard on him for good reason, the monarch argued. He then caught sight of a group of people heading towards them. More friends of yours...?
Ramza nodded, climbing down the porch, intent on greeting his visitors. Raizen halted his sword drills and, like his father, stared at the company with curiosity. These visitors were no less strange than the gambler they had met in the morning.
Two of them seemed to be twins, so alike were they. One was dressed in the green jerkin of a forest hunter, a red chocobo feather stuck in his green cap that covered a crown of short black hair. A quiver of arrows and a bow was slung behind his back and Delita could see the hilt of a hidden knife in one of the mans ankle-high leather boots. The other twin was a female who wore clothing made of wool, which hid her slim figure. She had shoulder-length black hair which swayed freely in the evening breeze. A long whip was coiled at her belt and around her neck hung a whistle, one that was usually used for calling dogs.
Unlike the twins, who were quite talkative, the other two that accompanied them were not. These two seemed to be the elders of the group, perhaps one of them being the leader.
The oldest appeared to be a savage all dressed in furs as gray as his beard. The skin of a wolf sat across his shoulders, the still-fanged skull surmounting his head where his hair was all white. He held an axe whose broad blades were much larger than the axe Delita had used to cut wood.
The last of the group seemed to be of the scholarly type. She was quite tall dressed in a simple robe of light blue that flowed down to her ankles. She leaned against a simple wooden staff, a soft smile gracing her lips as she watched Ramza talk with the twins.
Whats going on here?
Delita and Raizen turned to see Alma walking towards them. It seems more of your friends have come to visit, Delita replied gesturing to the group.
Alma groaned when she saw the group. It seems Ill be cooking a bigger dinner than I had planned.
Well help you, Delita offered as he turned to follow Alma back into the cottage, his son following from behind. Ramza seems too preoccupied with his guests to offer any assistance.
Alma just laughed.
Delita and Raizen soon learned the names of their guests as they all sat around the table for dinner. The twins were called Jovel and Jovet respectively, the savage one was named Draven, and the scholar who served as leader of this band was named Rae.
As they ate, both learned that the group traveled a lot around the country doing good deeds for the people. It was on one of these trips that they met the Beoulves and had become good friends ever since. Ramza would help them with their mission if they needed an extra hand but most of the time, he would provide them with food and drink and a place to stay if need be.
Ramza found a kinship with them, knowing that money was no issue when helping those in need. The feeling of gratitude was far more rewarding than those of monetary value. His father had taught him that; that life was more precious than gold or silver.
This group, however, was not as simple looking as they seem to be. Each brought forth special skills that were very beneficial in their missions.
Jovel was a hunter, as Delita had predicted, quite skilled with the bow, able to fire four arrows in rapid succession with deadly accuracy. If their missions led them to a forest, he would be their guide in the brush, calling out to the creatures of the forest if they needed help. But if they encountered any monsters, they would all turn towards his sister for assistance.
Jovet was a trainer, as they called it in Ordallia, who could control and capture monsters. The whistle around her neck was used to control the monsters once they were captured. Her skill is very useful especially when trying to avoid unwanted destruction of a town theyre guarding or a caravan theyre escorting.
It was also useful for Rae who was not only a scholar but also a mage; a blue mage to be precise. Blue mages were those who learn monster skills by getting hit by the skill itself. Thats where Jovet comes in. The trainer would tell the monster to execute its skill at Rae, therefore, learning the skill. Rae already possesses a large range of blue magic by this method and yet, she is still searching for more.
As Rae depends on magic for survival, Draven does not. The old man was taciturn, eating when they bid him to and remaining still when done. There was also a strange look in his eyes, as if he saw something that wasnt there. It unnerved Delita and Raizen and they soon learned why.
Berserker? Delita inquired intriguingly.
Yes, Rae nodded solemnly. A berserker, one whose heart is possessed by anger, which becomes uncontrollable rage during a battle. They possess uncanny strength that could crush boulders or split timber asunder. They feel no pain during their enraged state; always killing until nothing is left. Such is the power of the berserker.
Their power is frightening, Ramza whispered, shuddering as he remembered the first time he had witnessed it. Pray that you dont witness it.
But how did he become a berserker? Raizen asked thoughtfully. Did he throw away all emotions except anger?
Sadly, no, Rae shook her head. During the Fifty Year War, he had watched his familys murder while he was powerless to stop it. He became withdrawn, thus, making his heart vulnerable for anger to stir and control it. Will the rest of his emotions return? She shrugged. Who knows? Only time will tell.
Until then, he is a force to be reckoned with, Jovel stated softly.
Soon dinner was over and the group bid farewell to Ramza and the others, thanking them for their hospitality. Interesting friends youve made here, Ramza, Delita said as they watched the group walk into the night. I hope you havent forgotten those youve left at Ivalice. Do you plan on visiting them one day?
No, stated Ramza, saddened at the thought. Though it pains me to wonder about their well being, I am not going back.
But...why? Delita asked imploringly.
Because it would be safer for the others if I do not return at all, Ramza replied enigmatically. He then reentered the cottage leaving Delita to wonder at what he meant.
Years would pass before he would fully comprehend...
Final Fantasy Tactics Fanfic