A Warrior's Redemptionby Artiles
Chapter 5MEMORY FIVE: A LOSING BATTLE
"You've grown older, Varlus. And much more predictable, I see." Krianna waved her sword lazily through her sides, staring at Varlus, who was dead tense. Jack seemed nervous, gun shaking in his hand.
"I knew this was a trap. I taught you everything I knew, Krianna, and I see you've grown far more than I expected."
"Then why did you let yourself be captured? Surely you understand by know I work for Shinra, and I won't let you escape."
Varlus stepped forward. "Listen, Krianna... this is one huge mistake. Shinra's after Ifalna. I can't allow that."
"Yes, I know" sighed Krianna. "I've been fully briefed on the situation."
"Let me be on my way" said Varlus, secretly pleading Krianna would understand. "I only want to make it back home to my family before it's too late."
"I'm afraid I can't allow that, Varlus."
"Why are you doing this, Krianna?" Varlus got closer to her. "I know you're not just another Shinra captain. We lived through a thousand situations together. You too have the sense of honor inside you. Why do you try to stop me? Have you lost your self pride?"
"Shut up!" shouted Krianna, slashing at Varlus, who rolled out of harm's way. "Don't give me that crap! I don't deserve it. I'm a warrior, just like you. And I still have my honor intact, whereas you don't."
"Oh, really? Is it an honorous thing to stop a man whose only goal is to save his family from death at the hands of your own employers? Would you sacrifice your honor just for unfair loyalty to genocides?"
"We are mercenaries, Varlus" answered Krianna. "We do what it takes."
Varlus sighed. "That it a lesson you never learned, Krianna. And I'm the one to blame for that."
"What do you mean?" asked Krianna, puzzled.
"A warrior is not a puppet. We warriors live only to fight and kill, since that's what we do best. But digging our own codes only to be loyal to another is not being a warrior. That's being a puppet, a tool. Warriors are not tools; mercenaries are. Warriors follow different paths, but always have a key word etched on them: honor. Pride. Mercenaries' only loyalty is to the highest bidder. Not to their own honor."
"Admirable feelings, Varlus" replied Krianna. "Then why did you join Shinra? Why did you accept the war on Wutai and became Commander? You speak of honor and pride, yet you betrayed yourself by slaughtering innocents at Wutai, at Mount Corel..."
"I'm not proud of my past, Krianna. You know that." Varlus looked sideways for a moment, then refocused his sight on the Captain. "But that doesn't mean I'm doomed forever. I've changed... remembered my old ways... took you as my apprentice. Taught you everything about a warrior's way. Now I'm trying to amend a mistake."
"You left me for dead on Corel! Do you remember that? I had to fend for myself after you fled like a coward, Varlus!"
Yes, he was expecting she'd say that. And had his answer ready.
"I didn't leave you. We were outnumbered, injured, and pretty much fucked up. I risked my own life to get you out of the main battlefield. Do you recall waking up near a cliff on the north side of that battlefield? I dragged you there. While you were unconscious, I fought against those Corel men, and barely escaped with my life. I distracted the Corel men long enough to run back to that cliff and take you out of that hell, but by the time I reached the cliff, you were gone. I realised what had happened. So if it weren't for me, Krianna, you'd be six feet under by now."
Krianna lowered her head. "Playing hero as always, Varlus."
"There are no heroes or heroines in war. Only survivors."
"Still" said Krianna, now facing Varlus again, "you didn't care to seek me out later, did you? You left on your own, leaving everything behind, like a lonely wolf! I was dead worried about you, and you gave a damn about it!"
Varlus shook his head. "You'd grown up to a fine woman, and warrior. You were more than capable of living by yourself. You needed my assistance no longer."
"Assistance, help, advice, training... is that all you can think of? Can't you see beyond those things?" Krianna's eyes watered. Varlus understood: she still felt the same about him as before.
"I told you this before, and I'll say it again. I'm not the most suitable man for you. I have a wife, a daughter, and I'm happy with them. You'd be best off with a younger man, with no commitments. And I am neither young nor free."
"I don't care! You still think for yourself, Varlus, not caring about what others may feel!"
"What is it that you want to hear from me, Krianna?" Varlus had to end this once and for all. "That I love you as much as you love me? I don't. I care for you as my most appreciated friend. I don't love you. I told you it was a mistake to fall in love with me. Yet you did. That's okay... Hey, I don't blame you. It's a natural thing to happen. But you have to accept the facts, Krianna. It's not gonna work out."
It was Krianna's turn to look away, weeping. "Do you expect me to be just fine after hearing that?" she asked with a broken voice.
"No. That'd be pointless. I only hope that, someday, you'd understand."
Krianna wiped her eyes, still sobbing. Then she faced Varlus.
"I understand. I was mistaken, once. But now I see the real thing. I'm not a mercenary. I'm a warrior. A warrior... that still has honor. That's why I won't let you leave here without a fight. It's not for the Shinra; they can rot as much as I care. I'll fight you... for myself. To amend my mistakes."
And after saying that, Krianna drew back her right leg, dropping into a fighting stance. Varlus sighed again.
"It's not neccessary to come to blows, Krianna. I mean you no harm."
"Say no more" said Krianna, weakly. "Please say no more. Let us fight... I beg you to fight. If I can't be with you, then let me prove you I'm not a failure."
"I know you aren't, Krianna, for God's sake--"
"A fight to the death with the great Varlus Jenneson... that's all I ask. This is a losing situation to both of us anyway: letting you go means my honor and pride will be shattered, killing you means my heart will be shattered."
Varlus looked at her. "To be defeated means I'll not be able to save Ifalna and Aeris... and to kill you means killing my most trusted friend. A losing battle indeed, no matter the outcome."
Krianna nodded. "That's right. So let's Fate decide who has the privilege of at least staying alive."
Varlus retreated a few steps and dropped into a fighting stance as well. "Jack, stay out of this. This is my battle." Jack acknowledged, retreating into a corner.
It was Krianna who attacked first, and Varlus noticed she'd grown stronger and faster after all those years. Fueled by her sorrow, the Captain slashed swiftly at Varlus, who was on the defensive, waiting for his opportunity to strike back. He jumped over a table, which Krianna cleared with ease, and rolled to his side, slashing at the Captain. She, however, seemed to have been expecting this, and after blocking Varlus' attack backflipped and waited, ready again to resume the battle.
Varlus remembered his Father's teachings. "In battle, whoever strikes first, strikes twice." And in Krianna's case, being hit twice meant death. Taking the initiative, Varlus rushed and her and flurried away, but the woman blocked all of his attacks. She then kicked Varlus on the chest, who backed away, and jumped for the killing blow.
Time seemed to stop. Varlus evaluated his options thinking at light-speed, then he saw it. The opening. Taking his chance, the former Commander lunged forward, feinted, and stabbed upwards.
His sword sank deeply through the Captain's chest, but a moment later, Varlus felt a stinging pain in his left shoulder: Krianna's blade had pierced him as well.
Both warriors stood motionless, enduring their pains, when Krianna passed her free left hand through Varlus' head, giving him a one-handed hug.
Varlus seized Krianna's right arm, still holding the sword, in a soft way.
"I... I failed" said Krianna weakly, spitting blood with each word. Varlus withdrew his sword from the woman's chest, and she fell to the floor slowly, as if floating. Her sword retreated from Varlus' shoulder smoothly and fell next to her. Varlus kneeled at her side.
Jack moved forward, but Varlus stopped him with his hand.
"I... I was such a fool... challenging you," said Krianna.
"No, Krianna" said Varlus. "You did what you thought it was right. You held true to your beliefs until the end."
"I'm... no warrior. I'm just... a silly girl." The Captain was making an enormous effort to speak. "I could never be... nearly as good as you."
"Wrong. It was a fair fight. You have improved greatly, Krianna. Had you not left that opening at the end, I would've been lying on the floor now."
Krianna grinned, and a thin line of blood ran off her mouth. Varlus wiped it away.
"I was wrong... I had always... fought for Shinra... only for the money. I... was a mercenary... no feelings... just a blinding rage at you... and I forgot... everything... you taught me. I was a fool."
"Quiet down. Save your strength" said Varlus, though he knew there was no hope for his friend.
"You can't save me... And neither I want you to do it. I'm... finally free... I've finally... made peace with myself... and my memories." She coughed blood. "I've... finally found... redemption."
She raised her hand to Varlus' cheek.
"Go now... go to your family... to Ifalna... and tell her... tell her..." She coughed again, unable to finish her sentence.
"What do you want me to tell her?"
Krianna looked at him.
"Tell her... to be worthy... of you."
Varlus grabbed her hand, staying silent.
"Live... with honor..." she said, reciting Varlus' old motto, and tilting her head to her left, breathing her last.
"Die with pride, my friend" ended Varlus, as Krianna died.