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Chapter 51: A New World
...betrayed by Germonique, who was his most beloved disciple, the Saint fell into the hands of the Ydorans. And for thirty days, they forced the Saint to suffer for the crime of denouncing their evils. For thirty days they used metal and stone, torch and magic, and cruelties as clever as the weapons with which they'd conquered the world. They brought the Saint in secret to Golgollada Gallows, then cleaved the head from his body, and cast both into the sea. So mankind revealed, even with the love of the Saint, that evil cannot be extinguished from their hearts. So the wicked rejoiced, ignorant of the doom they had brought upon their empire...
-Mandalia Gospel, "The Death of the Saint"
Though Ramza was on solid ground again, the world still felt very unsteady beneath his feet. Perhaps it was the questions that still plagued him about—Beowulf, Delita, Reis, Ovelia, and the Church. Or perhaps it was the daunting scale of the task in front of him—as difficult as any ocean crossing, if not more so.
Then again, it might just be physical weariness. The flight through Goug had been tense and exhausting (clinging to the shadows of the old ruins, hearing the patter of feet in the darkness and wondering if it was others on clandestine errands or one of their many enemies closing in upon them). Nor could they move very fast—Besrodio was still too weak after his long captivity. So Ramza's skin crawled as the rain hissed down upon them and the thunder cracked and every shadow seemed to loom with a sword in hand, eager to cut into his flesh.
But eventually, damp and terrified and exhausted, the four of them made their way to the docks, and slipped aboard an agile Romandan cutter with its sails furled and its engine purring so that it stirred notable ripples even in the drizzle. Ramza lingered behind a moment, looking back to Beowulf.
"Thank you," Ramza said again.
Beowulf smiled. "It's no less than you would do for me."
Ramza hesitated then. "Do you need my help?" Ramza asked.
Beowulf hesitated in turn. "Not today," he said at length. "But if I do-"
"Find me," Ramza said at once.
Beowulf nodded, and the two men turned away from one another.
Idly, Ramza wondered where his friend had gone. The captain of the ship—a woman with Romandan olive skin and long, lustrous black hair—had no idea. Or at least, that's what she claimed. Ramza rather got the sense that both she and her eclectic crew knew far more than they let on.
Ramza turned to face the captain now, adjusting her hat and shielding her eyes from the blazing sun above. The docks of Warjilis teemed with life around them—with sailors and passengers disembarking, porters and dockworkers unloading ships, and men and women patrolling the docks with books and pens in hand, making note of the cargo as they breathed the salty air. Beyond them, warehouses of wood and stone spread as far as they eye could see, as seagulls wheeled beneath the cloudless sky.
"You're sure you'll be alright?" Ramza asked.
The captain—she refused to tell them her name—chuckled and shook her head. "Never sure," she said, her Romandan accent faint but just thick enough to give her words that curious upwards tilt. "But, ah, we know what we do, and..." She yawned, and Ramza felt a curious sense of deja vu; the way she yawned and titled her body from side to side was almost exactly the same as Baron Grimms looking to make sure he was safe to continue. "And," she continued in a lower voice. "The Church is too big not to have weaknesses."
That Ramza had gleaned. The captain and her ragtag crew were gregarious, efficient, and expertly evasive, deftly deflecting personal questions. But there were little hints—so many accents on the same crew, and little tidbits about who they'd once; here an Ordallain soldier, here an acolyte from Limberry, here a Leslian tailor. And no one used the Saint's name.
"Thank you," Ramza said. "For getting us here."
The captain grinned. "I feel it is I who should be thanking you," she said, jerking her head up the gangplank to where Mustadio and Besrodio were saying their farewells. "I have never heard my engines sing so sweet."
Ramza supposed the Bunansas had more than earned their passage. They had spent so much of their time belowdecks, playing with the Ydoran magitek engine that let the ship move so easily across the sea. Ramza knew only enough about such engines to realize how difficult the technology was to work with—they could not be rebuilt, only maintained. They were one of Goug's top exports, the pride of any navy.
He should know more by now—both men had certainly talked enough about the nature of the engines, their history, their quirks and virtues and foibles—but whenever they started talking Ramza found the sight of them at once too painful, too nostalgic, and too sweet to listen too closely. They talked almost exactly the same, losing themselves in a rapid patter of technical details. How quickly they fell into the old patterns, in spite of all they'd been through. Ramza couldn't help but wonder if he and his father would have done the same, had there ever been time.
But that was besides the point, wasn't it? The point was that Ydoran engines of the kind this ship used were much-sought-after. So who was this crew, that they had once? Who were they, that they drew their numbers from all across the world, and shared some common distrust for the Church?
Instead of asking his questions, Ramza looked back up the gangplank to Mustadio and Besrodio. He wondered what they were saving now, they hadn't said last night. He felt guilty about eavesdropping on them—he had been trying to sleep, and had almost managed it when they returned to the small cabin belowdecks the three of them shared.
"Shush," Mustadio whispered, as Ramza rolled away to face the wall. "We do not want to wake him."
"I know, I know," Besrodio said, tired yet satisfied. In spite of Mustadio's admonishment, the two were rather noisy while they made ready for bed in their separate bunks, which made it still harder for Ramza to sleep (and it was already hard enough, suspended in this swaying hammock: he could never figure out if the falling sensation was real or fake, and had flailed his way onto the hard ground on more than one occasion).
When he had finally started to drift off again, voices intruded on his consciousness—stage whispers floating ghost-like through the dark.
"I will stay, if you ask me to."
Silence then. The words had jostled Ramza from sleep. He kept his eyes on the wall, but he pricked his ears up to listen.
"I want you to," Besrodio said softly.
Silence again. Ramza remained frozen, guilty but fascinated.
"I want you to," Besrodio said again, and there were tears in his voice and Ramza felt another stab of guilt. "What you face will be...will be far more dangerous than Baerd, and..." He drew a shuddering breath, audibly choking back a sob.
"Father," Mustadio said softly, and there were answering tears in his own voice.
"But I know!" gasped Besrodio, all in a rush. "I know you have to go, I know that you need to save her, that it's more than a debt and I am so proud of you, my Dio, I..." He trailed off again, breathing heavily. There was the rustling of a man rising, and then Mustadio and Besrodio were talking to each other once again, in hushed, teary whispers Ramza couldn't quite make out. He scrunched his eyes closed and tried his best to sleep.
"Ah," the captain said, stirring Ramza from his reverie. Ramza jerked guiltily and swiveled his gaze back to her. She pointed down the dock. "Your escort's arrived."
Ramza frowned and followed her finger with his eyes. Then his heart lurched in his chest.
The man walking down the dock wore a sailor's cap with the brim pulled low, somewhat obscuring his features. Likewise, his clothes were a little too big for his body, obscuring his frame. But Ramza recognized him almost at once.
He fought his urge to shout out in alarm, and instead stayed silent as Delita approached. He came to a stop and nodded at the captain. "Good to see you," Delita said.
"I'm sure," the captain answered, smiling.
"I hope you'll consider taking my correspondence?" Delita asked, and handed the woman a sheaf of papers. The captain took them, and her grin widened.
"Now it's good to see you," she said.
Delita smiled, and his eyes flickered to Ramza. "I'll need you to follow me."
"Why should I?" Ramza asked.
"I got you out of Goug, didn't I?"
Pieces clicked together once again, in a flash of cold lightning that made Ramza's hair stand on end. He grimaced and looked back up the gangplank, where Mustadio and Bestrodio were finally saying their farewells. They separated from their embrace, and Mustadio hurried down to the dock, wiping tears from his eyes.
"Who is this?" Mustadio asked, in a cracked voice.
Ramza's mouth felt as stiff and reluctant as his heart. "An old acquaintance," he said at last.
Delita rolled his eyes. "You still don't trust me?"
"I don't see how I can," Ramza answered.
"But you can agree that it's best we don't stay in the open?" Delita asked.
Ramza wasn't sure it was any better to follow Delita, but he knew there was little choice. He gestured for Delita to lead on, and his former friend led them down the docks. He moved quickly, and Ramza and Mustadio hurried to keep up.
"Ramza, who is this?" Mustadio asked again.
"Delita," Ramza said grimly.
Mustadio jerked to a halt. "The one who works for the Church?" he squawked.
"The one who works for the Church," Delita agreed, with a withering glance over his shoulder He had not stopped walking. "And the one who saved your lives."
"Yes, I heard that before from a man I once called a friend," Mustadio snapped. "It sounded no better then."
"That's because Barich Fendsor is an opportunist and an idealist," Delita said. "I am neither."
He kept moving. Ramza and Mustaido exchanged angry, helpless glances, then followed after. Ramza felt claustrophobic with doubts, questions, and hurt. No matter what Delita might say, he had played some part in the trap that had sprung up around them—even if he had arranged for their escape from Goug.
Hurried steps and sharp turns led them through dingy alleys cluttered with refuse, until at last they came to stop next to a little wooden shack. Delita into a nearby barrel and pulled out a sword and scabbard, binding both around his waist and pulling off his oversized clothes to reveal a fine red tuni and brown trousers. He pulled the cap from his head, as well.
"Beowulf tried to tell us to go to his father's," Ramza said.
"That would have been wise," Delita replied.
"And yet you're here."
"I know better than to expect wisdom from you, Ramza."
Ramza's hand jerked down to the hilt of his sword. Delita laughed. "You expect me to believe you'd strike down a friend?"
"You wouldn't be the first," Ramza whispered, and for a moment he was standing ankle deep in snow again, with Argus gasping in pain as his blood dripped from Ramza's sword.
Delita's face whitened. "No," he said at last. "I suppose I wouldn't."
Silence then, as Ramza and Delita stared at each other. Ramza's anger was gone; now he felt tired.
"What do you want, Delita?" Ramza asked.
"To warn you away from here," Delita said.
"We need to rescue the Princess," Mustadio said.
"Any attempt at rescue will lead you right into a trap."
Ramza nodded slowly. "That's why you're here? To lead us in."
Delita nodded in turn. "They wanted me to tell you that the Princess and her retinue will be taken to Golgollada Gallows, slated for execution on the next holy day. Which you might be interested to know, is in three days."
Ramza blinked. "What? But why..."
"You tell me," Delita said.
Ramza hesitated, struggling to think clearly—to think as Delita did, snapping the pieces together to see the greater whole. "If...if she's a heretic, then...then she's no threat to the throne...whoever holds it."
Delita nodded. "And the Church is playing for the throne, as I'm sure you realized."
"You said you could keep her safe," Ramza whispered.
"And I could have," Delita said. "If we'd taken her straight to Bethla Garrison."
"How?" Ramza demanded.
"What does it matter now?" Delita asked. "Now you face the full might of the Church, on their territory. Your prize, should you succeed at defying them, is be accessories to heresy. There will be no safe place for you in all Ivalice."
"Then what would you suggest?" Mustadio said sharply. "That we simply walk away?"
"What choice do you have?" Delita asked. "They will know you're coming. They want your Stone."
"Why!" Ramza shouted. "Why do they want the Princess! Why the Stones!"
"Why does anyone want anything, Ramza!" Delita bellowed. "For power! The Church intends to make sure that whoever takes the throne they benefit from it. Goltanna and Larg would both delight to see Ovelia gone, and by reviving the legend of the Braves the Church can guarantee they play a role in picking who holds the reins of power!"
"Then we trade the Princess for the Stone," Mustadio said.
Delita's eyes widened. He looked at Mustadio in disbelief. "You can't be serious."
"Why not?" Mustadio asked. "It means little enough to us. I only aimed to keep it from Baerd's hands."
"You..." Delita shook his head, his face spread in a disbelieving smile. "Are you both fools?"
"Is it so foolish to want to do the right thing, Delita?" Ramza growled.
"It is foolish to repeat the same mistakes over and over again!" Delita snapped. "First you fail to keep her safe from kidnappers and assassins, then you walk her into the stronghold of your enemy, and then you walk straight into the gallows! How many traps do you intend to stumble into? Do you think they'd let any of you live in exchange for the Stone? You're a threat to them!"
"You mean to you," Ramza said.
Delita glared at Ramza. "How many times do I have to save you before you'll trust me?"
"Save me?" Ramza squawked in outrage. "You mock me for walking into a trap, but you did not do much to save us from Lionel! And you but sent a single man to our defense against a dozen assassins!"
Delita's eyes flashed, and his lips curled into a savage grimace. Ramza's hand rested on his sword-hilt again, so enraged that even the thought of fighting Delita did not scare him. They glared at each other, reflecting their anger back at one another. Then Delita's anger faltered, and was replaced by a quizzical amusement.
"You're quite right," he said. "Sending Beowulf alone...might as well have sent another dozen men to try and kill you."
Ramza's lips quirked in spite of himself. "It's not as funny if he's not here to hear it."
"I know." Delita sighed and shook his head. "Ramza, there's limits to what I can do. Dropping a line to a friend here and there is risky enough; I cannot warn you of their plans."
"Aren't they your plans, too?" Ramza asked.
"I told you already," Delita said. "We aim to make a world where there will be no more need of Tetas or Miludas."
"And Ovelia does not count among that number?" Ramza asked.
Delita's face twisted with guilt. "She does," he whispered. "And there is little I can do to fix that."
"Come with us," Ramza said, and was surprised at what he'd said.
"What?" Mustadio and Delita said together, thought Mustadio's tone was rather more indignant than Delita's.
"If it is a trap, help us fight our way through," Ramza said.. "Help us save them."
Delita's anger was gone entirely—now there was a smile on his face. "After all these years," he said. "You haven't changed."
That startled a laugh out of Ramza. He knew how false that was. How many men and women had died by his hand these last two years? How badly had he let Radia down, to abandon her after she'd pleaded with him to stay, and in so doing leave her in the hands of their enemies? Fool, if he'd only stayed at Lionel, perhaps he could have stopped this, or saved her, or saved all of them, or...
No. No time for regrets yet. Now when they could still be saved.
"You really intend to do it?" Delita asked. "Even knowing it's a trap?"
Ramza looked back at Mustadio, who had his gun at his hip. His friend nodded, and Ramza nodded back and turned towards Delita once again. "We do."
Delita sighed and shook his head. "No arguing with fools," he said. "In that case, you'll need all the help you can get."
Delita fumbled a key from his pocket, caught it as it slipped from his fingers and slid it into the lock. He muttered curses to himself as he struggled to turn it, but at length it clicked into place, and the door squealed open.
"You took your-" started a deep woman's voice, which then rose up into a gasp. "Ramza? Mustadio?"
Ramza stared in disbelief. The interior of the shack was laden with goods—dried meats and fruits, quivers of arrows and bandoliers of bullets, a few daggers, swords, spears, axes, and maces. At the far corner of the shack was a bedroll, and rising from that bedroll, grungy and greasy with her habitual seriousness disrupted by surprise, was Agrias Oaks.
She rushed towards them, caught each of them in one arm, and pulled them close. "I'm so glad to see you," she whispered fiercely. "I did not...but I hoped...I..." She seemed to remember herself then, and took a sudden step backwards with an embarrassed look upon her face. "It is good to see you both well," she mumbled.
"Captain Oaks," Mustadio said. "I am...I am so sorry, I-"
"It is not your fault, Mr. Bunansa," she said stiffly. "I know..."
Mustadio and Agrias struggled to hold a conversation through their guilt and embarrassment. Ramza turned back around to stare at Delita, who was standing in the doorway with a smile on his face.
"You saved her?" Ramza asked.
Delita nodded. "Before they captured the others," he answered. "She was the only one I could..."
Ramza shook his head. "Why did you...I don't understand."
Delita sighed. "I know you don't," he said. "Because you're still the kind of man who thinks he can fight without killing."
Ramza shook his head again, harder. "I'm not."
"But you had to try it first, didn't you?" Delita asked. "Even though it couldn't be done, you had to try. Just like you've got to take a wanted Princess across half the country, and rescue a man wanted by a major criminal organization in spite of all the danger that entails, and walk into a trap on the off-chance you can save the bait."
None of those things were the same as that foolish pretense of righteousness. None of them were so ridiculous. He understood the long odds and the difficulties and...and...
And Delita was right. Of course he was right. Ramza had known it was the same thing when he'd first saved Mustadio, and when they'd set out to save Besrodio. Wasn't that why he'd fought so fiercely with Radia? Hadn't it been the fear that his foolish dreams would meet the same brutal end?
And now they were in danger. Radia, who had saved him from the fires of Zeakden, and kept him sane through the compromises of the past two years. Alicia and Lavian, who had taught him something new, and trusted him with their charge. And Ovelia, who had been his sister's friend, and who was Ramza's now.
After the silence had stretched, Delita went on, "I can't do that, Ramza. I don't know if I ever could. Maybe it's our births-"
"Delita-" Ramza started at once.
"No, listen," Delita said. "Maybe...maybe being born as you were meant you could...afford to dream, and think...and you pulled me along, back then!" He smiled, and the smile made him look terribly young. Then the smile faded, and he continued, "But I...I never really could. I have to count the cost. I have to be...careful."
"So you save one," Ramza said. "And hope she gets the chance to save the rest."
Delita gestured around them. "Will this be enough?"
Ramza shook his head. "What happens if they find out you did this?"
"They sent me here," Delita said. "They want you to walk into the trap. They hope I can lead the way."
"But you're betting on me breaking the trap, aren't you?" Ramza asked.
Delita's eyebrows arched. "Wouldn't that be your plan whether I was helping you or not?"
"It would," Ramza agreed. "But that doesn't mean you have to help me."
"I'm afraid we must agree to disagree," Delita said.
"Because I aim to make a world where there will never be another Teta or Miluda," Delita said. "And I don't believe such a world can exist if there are no Ramzas in it."
Delita smiled. Ramza stared, confused. He had been so angry when Delita had strolled down the docks to meet them. There was a part of him that was still angry now. But that part was only one small piece of the complex mosaic—the nostalgia, the aching grief, the warm love, the doubts and fears and questions that still plagued him. He missed Delita. He did not want to see him go.
"What do you want, Delita?" Ramza asked.
Delita shook his head. "I already told you-"
"I know," Ramza said. "No more Tetas. No more Miludas. But what does that mean?"
Delita was quiet for a moment. He looked up into the blue sky, with his lips pursed thoughtfully.
"Did you ever realize how pointless it all was?" he asked.
Ramza did not answer. He studied Delita, who was still staring thoughtfully at the sky.
"None of us should have been there," Delita said. "Only reason there was a war is because of the squabbling of kings. And without the war, there's no plague—our parents both live, and I never live beneath your roof. And if I don't live beneath your roof, Teta never..."
Delita trailed off. Ramza felt his eyes burning, but still could not tear his gaze from Delita.
"Without a war, there's no Coprse Brigade to form the Corps. And without a prince desperate to keep his army intact, the Corps keeps their pay, and never rebels. Even...even Argus." He lowered his gaze to Ramza's face. "If we don't punish men for the sins of their father, Argus never needs to prove himself. He never..."
Silence then. Ramza thought again of Argus—Argus with tears in his voice, Argus pleading with Ramza to understand, Argus dying with Ramza's sword in his back.
"Everyone just keeps falling the same current. The one that leads to world where people are punished for the ambitions of the powerful and by accidents of birth," Delita said. "Such a world can only give us more Tetas and Miludas."
"And you aim to make a different world?" Ramza asked.
Delita shrugged. Ramza chuckled weakly. "And you say I'm the idealist."
Delita laughed. "Well," he said. "Perhaps you rubbed off on me." He jerked his head out towards the city. "I have to..."
"I know," Ramza said.
"You're leaving against, Ser Heiral?" Agrias called. She and Mustadio had stopped talking at some point, and had taken to sheepishly investigating the various weapons and goods stored in the shack. Ramza suspected they'd been eavesdropping, too polite to interrupt.
"You don't have to call me that, Captain Oaks," Delita sighed.
Agrias nodded, with a slightly baffled expression on her face. "I...I do not know if I should thank you."
"Then don't," Delita said, and headed down the alley. Ramza stepped out of the shack and watched him until he was out of sight. As he had last time, Ramza wished Delita had opted to join them. As he had last time, he was glad to see him, no matter what questions he still had.
He turned back to Mustadio and Agrias. "That's your old friend?" Mustadio asked. Ramza nodded, and Mus added, "He seems like kind of an asshole."
Ramza smiled. "You're not wrong." He looked to Agrias. "You're alright?"
"I will be," she growled. "Once we've saved the Princess."
"I've never been to Golgollada Gallows," Ramza said. "You know it?"
Agrias shook her head. "Only that it is reserved for those who commit the highest crimes against the Church." Her face looked gaunt and haunted. "That they should accuse her Highness for ambition alone-!"
"We'll stop them," Ramza said, and was surprised at the confidence in his own voice.
"Damn right we will," Mustadio agreed.