"The real question is, do you trust him?"
Ovelia glanced over at the young man, caught off guard by his question even as she had pondered it herself many times before. "I...I honestly don't know," she admitted to him, quickly averting her gaze. "I want to because of what he's done for me, but somehow..." She shook her head. "I don't know. Sometimes he acts like he really wants to help me, but then he says he's only out for himself."
"I don't know much about him myself," Rad admitted. "Only what Ramza told us. But then, Ramza doesn't really know him anymore, either."
The Princess nodded. "I can't imagine anyone being that way all their life."
Rad hummed thoughtfully to himself. Ramza had asked for him to stay behind in Zeltennia and take care of Ovelia, but the job was proving to be more difficult than he'd imagined; romantic advice wasn't something he was used to giving, being a bounty hunter by trade. He wasn't happy about leaving Ramza's party now that things were becoming more complicated, but he'd given his word to watch the princess. Not to mention he'd sworn to Agrias, and her temper was the last thing he wanted against him. "Well, this isn't exactly my field, you know," he answered at last. "I'm more of a bounty hunter."
"Yes, I know." Ovelia forced a smile for his sake. "Thanks for your help, Rad. I'm glad I have someone to talk to."
"It's no problem. Listen, I should go." He collected the pieces of armor he'd shed earlier. "I have guard duty. If I'm late, I'll have extra chores."
Rad patted her on the head like a little kid, somewhat enjoying the adopted position of elder brother. "Take care, and try not to worry about it too much. You'll just make yourself crazy. But if you need to talk some more, come find me again."
Once Rad had left, Ovelia felt more alone and confused than ever. Even though Rad's advice had done her well, out of his presence all the old insecurities came rushing back. The more she considered her situation the more she realized that none of her questions had answers, increasing the discontent in her heart. She wanted to find truth; she had a sickening feeling that it didn't exist.
When Ovelia had first come to Zeltennia, she had been alone and afraid. More and more she felt like someone's toy, to be manipulated and taken advantage of. She'd wanted nothing more than to escape her title as Princess, forsaking any birthright she had to a corrupted and tattered thrown. And though at first she'd found some comfort with the knight who'd rescued her in the first place, now she could only wonder constantly at his intentions.
There was a knock on the door, and before she could reply it opened. She caught her breath when she saw who it was: the very man in question. His dark eyes locked immediately on hers the way they always did; she often imagined that those orbs, so deep, could read her very soul. He was pulling out her memories and her emotions through his gaze, and it frightened her. "Ovelia."
"Thank you for knocking," Ovelia said, trying to raise her tone to something that resembled confidence, "but you really should wait for permission before entering."
Delita Hyrule stared at her a moment more, sending chills up her spine, before answering. "I'll remember that next time." His face showed little--if any--remorse at his rudeness.
"Thank you." Ovelia turned away from him. "Now, what is it you want?"
"You were talking to that boy." He advanced further into the room, standing just beside the chair she was seated at. "What did you tell him?"
"Why do you ask? He's my friend, and merely a guard."
"I know that Ramza sent him to keep track of you," he said quietly, startling her. "I was impressed by his being drafted into the palace guards so quickly. He's determined. He must have gotten that from Ramza."
Ovelia forced herself to meet his gaze defiantly. "So? Knowing that, what will you do?"
Delita's expression--or rather, lack of expression--didn't change. "Nothing, for now. I have no reason to do anything, do I?"
"No. So leave him alone. And leave me alone," she added, choking slightly on the words.
He paused for a moment before speaking again. "I see." He watched her just as long, piercing her with his intense, dark eyes. Then, without a word, he turned and left the room, closing the door behind him.
Ovelia turned to watch the door as he left, now even more confused and distraught than ever.
For the past several weeks Ovelia had forced herself to be very conscious of her surroundings, and the situations she found herself in: she didn't want to find herself being used again. Now, something was changing. She could see it in Delita's dark eyes every time he looked at her. She wasn't quite sure what it was: lust, love, or simply an opportunity. But the more she caught his gaze on her the more she found herself looking back. She often stared at his face when he was unaware, watching his sharp features, firm jaw and dark, slicked back brown hair. She thought that the gold armor he wore was impressive, but she liked it more when he dressed in simpler clothes, giving her a better idea of the shape of his body. These things embarrassed her, and she often escaped his presence to avoid being caught in her own emotions. She didn't want him to know that his control over her was working.
One night the princess had subjected herself to some particularly disturbing thoughts, and she fled to the ruins of Zeltennia church in order to find her solitude. It was dark and there were none of the birds she normally found among the tumbled-down walls. It was this place in which Delita Hyrule had first sworn his trust to her, among the wildflowers and the weeds. She remembered crying in his arms--crying hard until her eyes ran dry and she had nothing left to give. She wanted to believe in the promises he'd made to her again and again, but still her logic outweighed her heart and would allow no order to be established in her thoughts. She sat down on the soft earth and hugged her knees in close. She was in the very same spot, and just as before, she wept.
The Princess started, raising her head almost fearfully to meet Delita's dark stare. "How did you know?" she asked tremulously, failing to hide her anxiety. She reached to wipe her tears away.
Before one finger could be laid upon the salty droplets Delita was there, holding her hands down. She gasped at the suddenness in his approach and averted her eyes to keep the fear from showing. She didn't want to be afraid of him, but she couldn't help it; he was a cold man and his hands were unkind. "Leave me alone," she hissed, choking on an unwanted sob. "You..."
"Why are you crying?" He touched his finger to her face, tracing the moistened path of its falling. "What happened to you?"
Ovelia risked a glance back at him. "Why do you care?" she asked warily.
"Who hurt you?" Delita edged closer, his face solid and serious, but also genuinely concerned. "Did someone hurt you?"
"No...no nothing like that." Ovelia eased his hands away from her face; they were making her nervous. "I'm alone here. What do you want with me?"
"I don't want anything." She was surprised by the softness in his voice and face, as it was something she wasn't accustomed to seeing from him. But when he spoke again his words sent her flesh crawling once more. "I know you're upset. It's me, isn't it?"
"How can you always read my mind?" the princess cried, retreating further. "Delita, what do you want from me? Why have you been trying to manipulate me all this time? It's not fair."
His face twitched, as if some expression had formed beneath the mask of his insensitivity. "It's not magic," he told her in a firm whisper. "There are things that men know."
"What kinds of things?"
"Things." He touched her cheek with rough fingertips, and though at first she pulled away, the slowness in his movements calmed her, and the warmth of his skin was almost comforting. "I know you're frightened of me. I don't want you to be. You know what I want--this kingdom will be yours. I told you that, right here."
She nodded, and swallowed the lump forming in her throat. "I remember," she croaked.
"Then why be afraid?" Delita was closer than he had been a moment before, and she became conscious of everything around her. They were sitting close together, her with her legs pulled to her chest and him beside her so that his ribs pressed against her thigh. One of his hands lay on the ground on her other side. The other hand remained on her face. She could feel his chest expanding against her leg as he breathed. The air from his mouth touched her cheek. These things she was beginning to notice now, and she felt her skin heating with unwanted images.
His hand curled around her chin. Another touched the base of her jaw, urging her forward. He was holding his breath and she hers. His lips touched hers just barely, if only for a moment, and they were dry and hot, unlike what she would have imagined them to be from her dreams. Then he kissed her fully, dragging her into the confusion of that contact. Mists were spread about her mind and the world grew dark and silent. But still she was aware of everything around her: his hands on her face and neck, his hip against hers, but most of all the steadily increasing pulse of her own frail heart.
She didn't know what to do. She began to shake and her eyelids drifted shut. She was afraid and couldn't gather the strength to push him away even as her body yearned for closeness. It was as if she were experiencing the sensations of someone else's body from far away: his hands were on her neck, then her shoulders, gripping them tightly. His lips were harsh and demanding of hers and she responded to them without thinking. He touched her arms, her hands, her back, binding her up in a smothering embrace, like the thick blankets of deep water. She was trapped between his body and his arms, her fear and her desire, until her clarity fell also and there was only a cauldron of insanity and chaos whirling--spinning out of control.
Ovelia pushed against his chest hard, and though at first he would not yield, once she tore her lips away his ferocity halted. Slowly, he released her and leaned away to put distance between them. The absence of him made her body feel cold. "I...I'm sorry," she whispered weakly, pressing her hands against her chest. Oh god, she prayed, calm this foolish, foolish heart. "I think you've made a mistake, Sir Delita." She felt his eyes on her, but she would not bring herself to view his face. Greater than the fear of what had just happened was the fear of what lay ahead.
To Ovelia's dull amazement he said no harsh words. He took her hand in a light grasp and helped her to her feet, and without speaking led her back to the castle and her room. Just before she entered she turned to see what expressions may lie in his hollow eyes, but by then he had turned away and was on his way down the corridor. "Good night, Princess," was all he said.
It wasn't fair. Princesses didn't think of things the way she did. They met a man, fell in love, and that was the way the story went. But Ovelia didn't feel love. She'd found a man, pulled his strength into her dreams and marred her pure monastery heart, but this was no man she loved. She could not even assure herself of what words he said were lies and what were true. He was a dark, enigmatic man with secrets and intentions that she had no clear idea of. She didn't want to love him. Loving him would be a mistake, because he'd use her the way he used everyone.
"I don't know what to tell you," Rad said, apologizing through the tone of his voice. "You've spent more time with him than me. What can I say? What answer do you want to hear?"
"I don't know..." Ovelia looked away from her companion and shook her head. "Sometimes I really want to know why he's like this. Can a man be truly this way since birth? What made him turn to this...?" She bit her lip. "I think about it all the time--I can't help it."
"Do you wish you'd never met him?"
This question posed more of a problem than the princess would have liked to admit. "I don't know that, either." She took a deep breath. "All I know is that I have to find some answers soon or I'll lose my mind."
That night she went out in search of Delita. She couldn't help herself anymore--she had to speak to him, and understand what was happening to them both. She was able to get out of the guards' sight long enough to sneak to his room, and without knocking--as he had often refrained from that courtesy with her--she went inside.
The room was small, like most of the knight rooms even as he was well respected in the Nanten. There was no unnecessary furniture: only the bed, two dressers, and a table on which many scrolls and papers had been spread. At first she didn't see him, and finally located the man kneeling on the floor so that his elbows rested on the window sill. Cool night air drifted in and blew uncaring against his face. It also ruffled the silk of his white shirt--this he was wearing instead of his armor. She could tell by its slackness that most of it was unbuttoned.
Ovelia stepped closer slowly, surprised that her presence had not yet been discovered. Her strides were cautious, as if expecting him to turn at any time. Could she truly face him if he did? She took a deep breath and swung to the side, hoping to catch a glimpse of his face before he noticed her.
"What are you trying to see?"
Ovelia stiffened. She was only able to see part of his profile, but by now it was obvious he'd been aware of her from the start. If his face had shown any clues to his reprieve, by now they would be far gone. "I'm just wondering why you're sitting like that," she answered truthfully, forcing her voice to be strong. "Is something wrong?"
"I thought you said you made a mistake."
"Does that mean I can't be concerned about the most famous of the Nanten?"
Delita didn't speak again right away. A minute lapsed. "I'm not afraid of anything," he said finally.
She knelt down beside him, looking to see his expression. It was cold ice as always, but this time she could almost detect faint cracks in its surface. "I didn't say you were."
"I don't need anyone."
"I never said you did."
Again he paused; the cracks deepened. "You don't have to be here. If you made a mistake, you should leave."
Her heart had begun to pound; she was being ridiculous. Delita was right in saying she should she should leave. And yet, something inside her forced her to stay. Taking a chance she said, "Do you want me to go?"
"I don't need anyone," he repeated.
"Delita..." The princess put her hand on his shoulder, which he quickly rejected. She bit her lip. "Why are you like this?" she asked, aching to find her answers. "You've got me in your grasp--what will you do with me? I don't know what you want. Or are you simply going to continue and play games with me until we both go insane? You know that's what will happen. I think we're both mad already."
Delita turned his head slowly to stare at her, and his lips parted. "What are you doing here?" he asked in a voice so faint it was almost a whisper. "You don't have to be here. I didn't ask you to. So why?"
"Because I wanted to know what you think of me," she admitted at last. "Can't you see? Just tell me what it is you're after--I don't understand. Why must you do this?"
His dark eyes swirled in the night, reflecting light off the brilliant heaven stars. His lips moved. "Because I don't know any other way."
"Just tell me." Ovelia edged closer still. She was beginning to understand; he was wearing a mask. He was always wearing a mask, one that did well to hide his loneliness and fear. When she looked at him she saw a man that was a child, frozen over and turned inside out by cruel fate and harsh words. If he could just make her understand completely.... She wanted so badly to know him, to love him for the strength in his convictions. What had happened to the Delita that had made so many promises to her that day long ago? Was he gone, or was he still here, confined in chains? She wanted to know.
He watched her. His gaze was intense, his instrument for viewing her soul. She knew he had a way of knowing what people thought, and she knew that he could read her emotions like an open book--if not in her face, then in her tone and body. She decided it would be better to hide nothing, because he would make the truth his own anyway. For once she wanted him to see her raw emotion.
Delita must have, for he reached out to her. At first he seemed hesitant and unsure, and his fingers slid lightly across her cheek. She took his hand and curled hers around it. "Once you told me that you would make a kingdom worthy of me," the princess said. "That you would make my life shine. Please don't let it be a lie."
"You don't need a kingdom," he replied, drawing her closer, "to shine."
He kissed her, a softer, gentler action than she remembered from before. It was still an odd feeling, though, as part of her still continued to fear this dark and mysterious man. He pulled her tightly against him, trapped her in his embrace, each of them on their knees and locked in lips and arms. Ovelia realized with a start that she was kissing him back; her hands wound tightly about the soft fabric of his collar. His hands were rough on her back. It was almost painful. Just before that sharp sensation reached her something came over her, and the unpleasantness no longer mattered. If she let herself drift through her emotions--all of them, good and bad--then she didn't care how it felt. The fear his presence brought her forced her heart to beat faster, but did it not also beat faster with excitement? She found that the terror and agony were on her side, and if she let them overtake her than she could revel in it, some perverse pleasure she could not deny. It might not have been love. It might not have even been satisfying. But it was all she knew.
From there everything progressed too fast for her to comprehend. His lips were on hers, and then her shawl was gone and they'd found her neck, and then her dress was gone as well. She didn't try to stop him: if she could know him here and in this way, she could find a way to his heart. She wanted her answers and she knew no other way. For that purpose, and another deeper, unclear reason, she allowed herself to fall into the passion. She could hear her name being murmured in her ear.
Later, she would remember little of what happened. All that remained in her mind were brief images and feelings: Delita hovering over her, flashes of intense pain and white heat, all which left only fatigue and sore muscles in their wake. By morning they were both in his bed, naked and covered only by thin, damp satin sheets. Delita was asleep, and when she looked at him she was surprised: for once in all the time she'd known him, his face looked perfectly at peace.
After that night something had changed. It was not a large change, as Delita treated the Princess much the same way he had before. Only the details wavered: he now always knocked before entering her room, waiting for her signal; he stayed very close to her when they were together, though if she took his hand he would not hold it; he spoke to her politely and with truth in his tone. All these things proved to her that her questions had been answered. She had feared their night to be some fluke of destiny that would amend itself by hardening both their wills and hearts. But in looking in his eyes she felt confident that they shared something, even if they didn't understand it.
Several days later she awoke to find herself again in bed with him. She prayed for her sins even as she felt no guilt in them. Hell held no fear for her, for she had conquered the endless depths in his eyes, and no other place could threaten her more. They made love several times, not every night but often enough that she did not think it out of the ordinary to find him waiting for her in her room. He didn't speak often but his presence was enough. She knew what he was thinking. Each night together was another added piece for them, and she longed for the time when their trust would be complete.
"There are a lot of rumors going around about the two of you," Rad told his princess during one of their now few meeting times. "Nobody can understand it, and frankly, neither can I. How can you sleep with that man? He's so cold."
Ovelia, who was brushing out her long blond hair, only smiled. "Because I love him."
When something began to bother Delita, Ovelia caught on right away. On a night in which they would have spent together she found him in his room, bent over his desk and staring at a piece of paper. When she entered another sheet was set over it. She noticed but would say nothing of it. "Delita, I didn't expect to find you here," she remarked, striding up behind him. She rested her hand on his shoulder, and one of his reached to take it. "Are you all right?"
"The Hokuten are on the move," he explained, his voice unusually hollow. "They'll be at Bethla Garrison by tomorrow, and a battle will break out. I'll have to be there."
"Of course." Ovelia smiled grimly. "Are you worried about the battle?"
He didn't answer immediately. "I must be brave," he said at long last. "I will have to act without fear--any misgivings will mean the end. It all depends on this."
She didn't quite understand the significance in the Bethla Garrison battle, as politics and war had never been clear to her, but his tone was serious and she dropped to her knees at his side. "You are strong," she said truthfully, leaning against his knee, "and you are brave. I won't fear for you. I know you'll win."
Delita did not feign to her confidence, and his hand tightened around hers as proof. "It will have to be very precise. If I make mistakes there will be no going back. But... but if it means coming back to you, then I'll fight with all my heart."
Ovelia inhaled sharply, as this was the first he had even spoken of his heart to her. She closed her eyes and smiled. "Yes, Delita," she murmured. "I know you will."
That next morning Delita set off to join the front. Ovelia was left behind, and Rad stayed with her in her room during the battle. They received no reports all that day. "No news is good news," Rad assured his friend. "If the battle was going well they might not bother to send word. I'm sure Delita and the others are just fine."
The Princess nodded. "I know. You're right."
But late that afternoon they did receive word. The battle had been disastrous for both sides--the Nanten had been all but wiped out by the breaking of the river dam, and the Hokuten's forces had been reduced due to the spreading of Musfungus poison. Shortly afterwards Delita came to her room. His brilliant gold armor was now coated with blood, and the horrors of that day seemed to reflect in his eyes. "Larg was assassinated, and Goltana is dead," he said in a deadened voice. "Count Orlandu killed him."
"Orlandu?" Ovelia was stunned, as Count Orlandu, leader of the Nanten, had been Goltana's most loyal advisor. "But why..?"
"That I don't know," he admitted. "There were rumors that he was working secretly with the heretic Ramza, which might have been the case."
"You're wrong!" Rad shouted at him in immediate defense of his friend. "Ramza wouldn't have Orlandu do something like that. He's trying to stop the war, not make it worse. You know that!"
Delita glared at him a moment, then turned away. "It doesn't matter anyway," he said, "because Orlandu is dead now. I killed him." Without waiting for a response he left the room, closing the door behind him.
"Something isn't right," Rad muttered, fists clenching at his sides. "It doesn't make sense. Ramza wouldn't plan that sort of thing, and Orlandu has been loyal to Goltana for decades. Why the sudden change? What the hell is going on here?"
Ovelia shook her head, sinking into a chair. She confined her trembling hands to her lap. "I don't know," she admitted meekly. "But his eyes..." She shuddered. "I haven't seen Delita's eyes like that for a long time. He looked so cold..."
"He's up to something."
Ovelia spent the rest of that day alone in her room, trying to make sense of all that had happened. After the battle High Priest Funeral had intervened, offering the church as a means of negotiating between the two sides and bringing the war to an end. But both sides refused. Dycedarg Beoulve took command of Gallione and Delita of Zeltennia, and the war would continue. She was beginning to understand. First Delita had rescued her and become a hero, then progressed his way up through the Nanten, and now was leading their province. It was as if he had planned it all from the start.
It was late in the evening that the commotion arose. She was at her window, and the sound of sword fighting reached her ears. The guards outside were yelling orders; someone had escaped. The sounds of battle progressed closer and closer to her door, and the princess held her breath, her mind whirling with questions. At last a dark-haired man burst into her room and slammed the door behind him, locking it. He stumbled a few steps and then collapsed onto his knees. "Princess...."
"Olan?" Ovelia rushed over to Count Orlandu's son and covered her mouth once she saw the blood that spilled from a wound in his side. "My god, what happened? Hold on." She quickly began to wrap her shawl around the injury.
Olan protested, as she was staining her garments crimson. "Don't worry about me," he said in a harsh voice, strained through pain. "I just came here to tell you..."
"Don't speak," she instructed gently.
"Please...listen to me," he insisted. "My step-father Orlandu didn't murder Lord Goltana." Ovelia caught her breath at his words. "Suspected of conspiracy my stepfather escaped Bethla with Ramza Beoulve. Now he's fighting to stop the High Priest's evil plot."
Someone knocked heavily on the door. "Princess, are you in there?" came the voice of the palace knights. "Are you all right?"
"Please, open this door!"
"I know he went in there...."
Ovelia ignored them all, turning instead to Olan. "Then who?" she asked, keeping her voice low even as the guards would not be able to hear her through the thick oak doors. "Who killed Lord Goltana?"
Olan lifted his head to her. "It was--"
The door burst open and a pair of knights ran inside. "Princess are you all right?" the first asked while his comrade signaled outside. "Please, step away from him."
"I won't," she said firmly, wrapping her arms around Olan's shoulders. She could hear him murmuring something in protest but she ignored it. "This man is injured, and he is my friend. What has he done?"
"Sir, he's in here!"
Ovelia looked up as a new figure entered, and a thrill of fear ran up her spine. It was Delita. He was dressed in his full gold armor, and the red and white cape which bore Zeltennia's crest. The sight of him was impressive. He surveyed the scene quickly with sharp eyes, and then said, "You guards, leave this room."
The knights exchanged glances and then looked to their leader. "But, sir--"
"I won't say it again," he snapped, and they hastily retreated. Just as they were leaving a woman entered: Belmafula, one of Delita's comrades. Ovelia didn't know much about the mysterious, scantly-clad woman; only that she rarely spoke and was often in Delita's company. Belmafula observed the scene from a distance with a blank look.
Delita watched the knights go to make sure they closed the door behind them, and during his distraction the Princess leaned close to Olan and whispered. "Tell me what happened. Quickly."
"They were going to question me about the assassination," he hissed back, his eyes wild with hatred. She knew unwillingly what that look meant. "I escaped, but they wounded me."
Delita came forward then, and Olan eased her away from him. "That was such a foolish thing you did, Olan," the new lord said, crouching down beside the wounded man.
"Don't patronize me," Olan snapped, venom in his eyes. "You're the traitor, not my father."
"Oh, please." Whatever light of compassion or sensitivity Ovelia thought she'd brought to life in her lover's eyes was gone now. "You know you wanted this, too. Look around. See anyone who's really saddened?"
Ovelia caught her breath, her heart nearly stopping in her chest even as she'd suspected the truth moments before. It had been Delita to--
"You should thank me," he went on, "for 'killing' your father. Now nobody will be after him."
"Stop it!" The outburst cost Olan, and he gripped his wounded side in pain. "You damn coward. Stop talking nonsense!"
The Princess gathered her courage. "Why?" she asked, climbing to her feet. She did her best to hide the fact that she was shaking by looking her lover straight in the eye. She had nothing to fear from him, after all. He would never hurt her. "Why did you do such a thing?"
Delita stared right back at her, no sign of reservation or fear in his face. He stood, and the height advantage he had over her was unnerving. She held her ground. "I told you I'd make you a real monarch," he answered, though she could not discern the strange look on his face. "That can only happen with Goltana out of the way."
"You're lying," she spat without thinking. "You don't want to help me--you want to use me." The moment she heard the words from her mouth she regretted them, but it was too late.
His eyes almost seemed to grow darker with her words. His voice dropped several pitches. "You don't trust me?"
Ovelia swallowed a sudden lump in her throat. Even loving him, trust was the one thing she could not claim to have. "I..."
Olan was watching her now as well. They both were, waiting to see her answer. She didn't know what to say; all she could do was answer with the truth. "I'd like to trust you," she said quietly. "I would, Delita, but..."
If he had been satisfied or upset with her answer, Ovelia would never know. "Go to my room and wait," was all he said. "You can sleep there. I don't want you to sleep in a bloodied room."
She saw then that Olan's wounds were worse than she thought; much blood had seeped out onto the floor and was staining the rugs. Out of options she had no choice but to obey. "All right. But please, be easy on Olan."
"Alright," he answered. "I promise."
Ovelia wondered briefly if that meant anything, her heart shattering. How could he do this, after everything she'd done to draw him closer? She strode quickly to the door and left, closing it behind her. But instead of leaving she stood beside the oak and pressed her ear to it. She could just barely hear their voices through the wood.
"I don't care at all," Olan was saying. "I just wanted to clear my step-father's name. Go ahead and kill me in one deathblow."
Ovelia held her breath, but Delita's words doused her fear before it had a chance to grow. "What are you talking about? I can't have you dead."
"What am I worth to you alive?"
"You'll work under me, of course."
Olan laughed harshly. "Ha. Don't be a fool. I refuse--even if it means death!"
A moment passed before the voices came again. "You can't refuse. I'll bring down the Hokuten and build Ovelia's kingdom. Of course I'll kill the High Priest; I'm not his dog."
"Are you serious?" Olan demanded, mirroring the Princess's own startled and whirling thoughts. "What the hell..."
"I'm sure you know I'm right," Delita went on calmly. "What I'm planning to do is perfect: a former squire, now in control of knights, is restoring order to the world. It's easy to understand. This is the 'hero' the people have been demanding."
"And for that you're going to take advantage of everything--and everyone?"
"Is that wrong?"
Ovelia clamped her hand over her mouth, finally realizing the depth of Delita's plan--a plan which had included her from the beginning. If the Hokuten were destroyed, and she became Queen...
...and if he married her...
No! No, it can't be... Ovelia stumbled away from the door as if it had struck her, already her hands beginning to shake. She couldn't hear the words anymore, but even if she'd been able to they most likely would have made no sense to her in her present condition. She'd trusted Delita completely--she'd loved him--so how could he do this? Did he have no compassion, no affection at all?
She needed to escape. With unsteady steps she began slowly down the hall, not trusting her feet completely to guide her. And then she heard it: a scream. It was the scream of a woman, and then silence. She couldn't help but release her own shriek that was almost a sob, realizing her mistake a moment later. She covered her mouth once more just as the door opened behind her. In sudden panic she ran without looking back.
Ovelia waited in Delita's room for what seemed like hours, though in truth it was only until after the sun had set. She didn't want to be there--she was afraid and confused, and her heart would not slow in its desperate pulse for even a moment. Finally Delita entered, his face livid with a dozen twisting emotions. At first he didn't seem to notice that she was there, but when he did a layer of ice solidified quickly over his face. "You were listening to us," he stated simply, eyeing her carefully.
Ovelia gathered herself to her full height. She'd formed a plan in her mind: she would stand up to him, no matter how distraught she felt. "And if I was? If you want me to trust you, Delita, you have to at least trust me."
"What's there to trust?" He began to shed his gold armor. "I already told you what I'm doing. You know I'm trying to make this a kingdom for you. What more do you want from me?"
"Like I said: trust." She tried to move closer to him but he quickly stepped away. His heavy metal gloves and chest plate clanged loudly on the floor. She waited patiently for him to finish before continuing. "I heard what you said to Olan. I want you to explain it to me clearly."
"You wouldn't understand." Delita stared at her, as if waiting for something. "Now, you can have the bed to yourself if you like. I'll sleep elsewhere until your room has been cleaned." He started to move away again.
"Delita wait." The Princess snatched his arm, an action that she could tell surprised him. "Don't. Just talk to me, please. Why are you doing this? You've been planning this for a long time, haven't you? Since before you rescued me."
She refused to shrink back no matter how cold his eyes became. "You really want to know? Fine." His gaze locked on hers with a kind of intensity she was unaccustomed to. "I killed Goltana, and I helped bring about Larg's assassination as well. I'm going to kill Funeral, too. With everyone gone there will be only you left."
"And you'll marry me," she filled in, the understanding making her dizzy. "You'll be king."
"That's right." The gentle moonlight reflected strangely off his obsidian orbs. "A common boy grows up to become a knight, saves the Princess, marries her and becomes king, bringing order to a torn country. Charming story, isn't it?"
Ovelia finally took several backward steps. Her gut was twisting, and she felt almost faint. "Then it wasn't for me. You're just trying to further yourself--"
"I told you you wouldn't understand," he snarled. "A commoner as a king--don't you see? There doesn't have to be the separated classes anymore." His voice took on a new tone, one that almost sounded like a deeply routed passion. "Commoners have suffered under nobles for centuries--what makes us different? I'm not going to be used, not now and not ever again. Do you hear me?" He took her by her shoulders, gripping them so tightly that it hurt. "Nobody uses me! There will be no more Tetas!"
Ovelia stared back at him, stunned and confused. "Teta," she repeated quietly. "Who's Teta?"
Delita's face went pale, and he immediately released her. He turned away to hide his face. "She was...my sister," he answered after a lengthy pause. "She was killed by a noble acting under orders from the Beoulves. That was over two years ago."
"So that's why you're doing this." She swallowed hard. All her answers, revealed to her in a simple moment of clarity. "You've been manipulating everyone all for the sake of some girl?"
He whirled upon her so swiftly that she nearly shrieked in surprise. "She wasn't just some girl!" he shouted, causing her ears to throb with the volume. "She was my sister--my only sister, and they murdered her! She had nothing to do with them at all!"
Ovelia dropped to her knees, so startled was she from the ferocity in his accusations. She leaned her back against the wall for stability. He was still towering over her, though, wild with anger and something that looked like fear. She was too frightened by his vehemence to notice so small a detail. "I won't let that happen again, ever," he hissed, each word burning with fury. "I don't care how many people I use, how many people I kill. I'll be the one in charge--I'll be the one who's using!"
The Princess stared up at him, too shocked to move and shaking from head to foot. "So you have been using me," she whispered hoarsely. "All along."
His eyes left hers, and slowly he turned away. His silence was enough to assure her, and she struggled to keep her tears from leaking through. She still had questions, but they rested heavily in her mind and heart like fallen snow, and she could not bring herself to voice them. She was too afraid to know the answers. Eternity passed and then she realized that he was heading for the door. "Delita--"
He stopped, but he didn't turn back. "Yes."
She wiped her eyes, staring at his turned back as if it held the answers she wanted but was afraid to see. "You are either the greatest man alive or the most terrible," she said quietly. "I can't tell which anymore."
Delita's response was long in coming. At long last he glanced at her over his shoulder. His eyes were cold stone. "Terrible. Great men don't survive in this world anymore." Then he left, closing the door softly behind him.
After the death of High Priest Funeral the war subsided. Delita arranged for him and the Princess to be married, and she could not protest. It was as he said: he was a hero, and her country needed peace. She was willing to sacrifice herself. More than that, she had nothing left. Accusing Delita of anything would only bring more pain, more fighting.
The wedding was elegant and joyful, as a royal wedding should be. Despite the condition of poverty in Ovelia's lands her country insisted on celebrating openly, preparing banquets and dances in her honor. She and here new husband were revered as bearers of a new and peaceful era; they symbolized the rebirth of a nation. Ovelia brought forth a smile and accepted their praise and efforts with grace, hiding the tears that were constantly trapped behind her eyelids. She was little more than a puppet now, she often thought to herself; a toy for Delita. His hand in hers brought her only shame.
On the fourth night of the celebrations word reached the palace that Dycedarg Beoulve and High Priest Funeral had both died. Ovelia was in the palace at the time, chatting with the court ladies as the ball progressed around--and without--her. Delita gathered everyone's attention to make the announcement. He did not grin in triumph; however, those that knew him could see the pride in his expression.
"In light of these circumstances, Gallione has given up the rite to the throne of Ivalice," Delita declared, bringing a murmur to the crowd. "The crown has been granted to our own, beautiful Queen Ovelia."
Ovelia didn't even react. The cheers rose around her, chanting "Long life the Queen!" over and over gaily, but still she would not feign to their merriment. She was watching Delita. His face was proud. He had ever right to be. His plan had succeeded.
"My dearest Ovelia." Delita took her hand and kissed it. "Shall we dance? In honor of this marvelous development."
She accepted. The new King led her out to the dance floor, which was quickly beginning to fill with other members of court. She allowed him to lead her in the moves, turning and spinning, watching as the surrounding audience passed as a blur. Her body obeyed the guidance of his hands, uncaring. This was her fate.
"You're not enjoying yourself," Delita observed. He pulled her close to him as the music slowed, granting him the chance to catch his breath. "You are not glad to be a queen?"
"I am not the Queen," Ovelia replied softly. She pulled away from him once more, spinning with her hand still curled around his. I am no queen. He is the King.
"Ovelia." Delita urged her to his side once more, his arm around her waist so that she could not escape again. "Is this not what you wanted? A kingdom that is peaceful, that is rejoicing? They'll be no more war as we rule. We will be invincible, and strong."
The crowds were laughing and cheering. Ovelia stared at them. How can they rejoice? she wondered, mystified by their high spirits. She felt dead on the inside, and cold, as if trapped within their tight circle. A circle as tight as Delita's arms around her.
"There is no need for concern any more," Delita continued. His dark eyes were flashing. "This is our kingdom, now. I made it for you, as I promised."
For a puppet her mind whispered. You're nothing more than his puppet whore.
His lips found hers, and Ovelia let out a cry that was half sobbing, allowing her emotions to free themselves. She sagged against him, crying and shaking, unable to stop. He held her upright, startled by her sudden outpouring. He stared, silent. His failure to understand only made the Queen's agony worse, and she beat her fist against his chest, as if attempting to revive the heart she'd once felt inside him.
Just after the wedding word reached Ovelia of the deaths of Ramza and Alma Beoulve. She never heard any word of Count Orlandu or Agrias, or even Mustadio, those who had risked their lives for her. It was as if they had never existed and never would. She assumed that they had perished as well.
And she was alone.
A week passed. It was her birthday. Ovelia escaped the palace and the guards despite the commotion of the celebrations, desperate to find some place for her to be alone. That place was the ruins of the old Zeltennia church, where she had so often come to spill her grief over the sun-weary stones. She hid among the rubble and stayed there all morning.
"What should I do?" she asked aloud, praying for God to give her an answer. When she received none she turned instead to the dagger she'd brought with her. "I must be out of my mind to have this," she murmured, turning it over in her hands. It was Delita's dagger, one she imagined he'd used many times. There were still stains of blood in its handle. She wondered if it was Ramza's blood sunk into the leather.
"God, please help me," she pleaded over and over, her face toward the heavens. "I can't stand this. This man, my husband...he's taken so much. Even if it was for his sister... I can't stand that he's using me." She choked on a sob. "Oh why couldn't I have stayed with Ramza? Why couldn't I have fallen in love with him, or some other man that feels compassion? Why this man, who takes and takes and cannot love me? Why?"
Silence accompanied her pleas. Again she looked to her blade. She wondered what it would feel like to have that cold sharp agony inside her, to watch her blood empty out. How long would it take for her to die? Would it be swift and painful, or would she suffer hours of blood loss before finally leaving her body behind? Certainly it would depend on where she sheathed it. Her gut or her throat, her heart or her wrists? Which would most quickly deliver her from this fate? She realized that she had no idea, as she'd never been injured by such a weapon, nor had she the experience to witness a death. All she knew for certain was what she'd seen on Olan's face when he entered her room, and the Hokuten knights Delita had slain in rescuing her at Orbonne.
But if she joined her dearest friends now, what would become of her new kingdom? Delita would rule as king without her, a thought that stirred uneasiness and fear in her stomach. He had reached his goal, but then what? How many people would he use, would he kill, to further his ambitions? The people adored him for his courage and idealism, but how long before he tired of the perfect peace? Only great men deserved to rule kingdoms, and he was no such man.
Suddenly she knew. It was a simple answer, and she mocked herself for having not thought of it sooner. Of course--she could kill him. Someone would step up and take his place; perhaps even Olan would, being the son of a Count. Maybe Ramza was still alive somewhere...maybe he could be king. At least she would have escaped this hell....
The sound of a chocobo approaching alerted Ovelia's attention, and she quickly turned toward the wall of the crumbling church. The dagger she pressed flat against her stomach as a means of concealment. The rider dismounted and she knew immediately who it was. His gold-plated boots clicked lightly as he walked. "Ovelia, here you are," he said. All she heard were the words, as she was determined to pay no attention to his tone. If she let him manipulate her now then she would lose her nerve and fail in her plan. "Everyone's been looking for you."
The Queen didn't respond, as her hands were shaking violently and she feared that her voice would give away her intentions. He could always read her mind. She hugged the weapon tightly for security and waited for him to draw nearer.
He was only a few feet away now. "It's your birthday, isn't it?" Five steps away. "I brought you flowers."
Not this time, Delita, she thought, though by now there wasn't even any bitterness left. I won't let you control me anymore. I'm sorry.
Ovelia turned and lunged at him. By now she knew every inch of his golden armor, and her dagger slipped easily through an opening between the plates to bury in his left side. It wasn't high enough to hit his heart, probably not even enough to kill him, but she had to try. A moment later she felt blood on her hands.
Delita gripped her wrists, holding her still even as she wanted to escape that warm life fluid. She looked unwillingly into his eyes. The emotion she saw there was enough to freeze her heart in her chest: confusion, betrayal, exasperation, but mostly pain. A kind of pain she'd never seen in him, twisting his features into something strange. "Ovelia..." His breath hissed with great strain against her cheek, and he shuddered. "Why..?"
"Delita..." She'd made a mistake. She could see in his face a depth of feeling that she hadn't expected, like that of a lover betrayed and lost. She shouldn't have done it, but it was too late.
Delita slid the dagger out of his side, grimacing. The Queen didn't have time to react or explain before the blade came rushing at her. She didn't have time to scream. She felt the cold sting of the metal slice cleanly into her chest, through her heart. The pain was far greater than any of her mind's assumptions. Time stopped. The agony filled quickly into her legs and she was falling. Her gaze twisted to the sky, washing her eyes in its beautiful blue stain. Oh God....
Ovelia landed on her back among the strewn flowers of her husband's bouquet. The soft scarlet blossoms caressed her cheek, and she focused on that sensation to block that of the spreading anguish threatening to consume the rest of her. Something warm and wet spread across her chest and dribbled sluggishly down her side, filling her every sense. She was dying. Her body whispered to her, quietly, almost sweetly, that it could no longer help her. Her sight began to filter with a blinding white light, and the warmth was turning quickly to a bitter cold. Colder than those eyes....
She forced her eyelids open, willing herself to look at the man one last time. Had she the strength she would have sobbed openly at her foolishness. Delita was moving away from her, his steps short and stumbling. He dropped to his knees in the darkening grass. Ovelia reached her hand out, praying that somehow she could reach him. Delita...why...why...
He turned his head to the sky. The last thing the queen saw before she was claimed by her fate was the glint of sunlight off his tears.
*Wow, that was weird writing. I usually try to end somewhat happily, but...well...
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