Chrono Continuum Chapter 84
Feelings of Helplessness
Lucca's breath came in and out in ragged gasps as she slowed down, trying to think of where to go next. She'd realized that Adom would have led her husband, her daughter, and her alternate (What an unexpected group, she thought.) underground, into the warren of stone and earth tunnels that lay under the Red Omen, weaving in and around like the last work of some great spider. However, her problem wasn't that she was lost in those tunnels, though she had no doubt she'd be so when the time came. And she wasn't tired, even after all of the fighting that had just gone on, due to her implants. No, her problem was much more mundane.
She'd encountered a locked door.
Normally, she'd just break the damned door down, but in the Red Omen, she didn't stand a chance of success at such a tactic. So, she was busy running through her mental map of the Red Omen, trying to remember any alternate routes into the tunnels. Because if she didn't find them, they would be in big trouble, and never see it coming. Hoping she was right, she turned and ran to her left, turning around a corner almost instantly. Hoping she could find them. Hoping she wouldn't run out of time.
18:23, she counted silently.
Same Time Period
There was silence in the cave, so quiet you could hear the faint crackle of the energy field which acted as a third wall, also providing some small amount of light. What necessary light it didn't give off was easily replaced by the nearly blinding light of the Frogmasamune, which Christina was holding back with all her strength. The sword was apparently so hateful toward this new threat that it was willing to charge into battle, with or without her, and it was only the fact that nobody understood the nature of their enemy, for the most part, that they didn't all do the same.
Personally, Christina felt she probably knew all she needed to: a demon with some amount of intelligence had possessed Parsa, and the sword hated it, far more than it had reacted to any of the more animalistic demons. That, and the fact that despite the two separate light sources there was no trace of a shadow coming from the deposed queen of the Kingdom told Christina that this was a creature that needed killing pretty quickly. Or it might kill them.
"Why?" The word was like a hammer to glass, shattering the delicate silence that had frozen everyone in place. The three Travelers looked to see it was Adom talking, his expression more than a little upset. He looked betrayed, and suddenly much older. He still looked muscular, but he also looked... skeletal? As if he was the dead walking. Which is pretty much what he is, Christina mused. Summoning the demon had apparently taken a lot out of him. Which meant that he was vulnerable, and probably wouldn't be of much help to the possessed woman.
"Why?" he repeated, apparently having no intention of trying to help her. "You promised me... I served you for so long... And you betrayed me. I can't believe it."
All of her muscles remained rigid, keeping her in the same odd crouch, as her head turned with unnatural grace, until the eyes focused on Adom. "Fool," the voice that was almost, but not quite, Parsa's replied in a contemptuous hiss. "You've served your purpose. You should be proud that you've managed to return me to your universe again. After you failed me last time, it's a wonder that I didn't kill you on the spot as soon as I found you alive again. You're fortunate that I'm so... merciful."
Adom shook his head slowly, as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "But... You said that I'd have immortality. You said that together we'd bring down civilizations, destroy planets." He suddenly pointed towards Christina. "And that she'd pay for what she did to me."
Parsa, or Gaston, didn't turn to look at whom Adom was pointing at. She, or he, or whatever it was knew. "You truly are a fool, aren't you? Can't you see it in her eyes? Gashnir!" it exclaimed. The curse, though muttered softly, caused everyone's hearts to skip a beat. The curse had been said with the creature's natural (if natural it could be called) voice, a thing of horror and darkness. It continued, "She doesn't know who you are. As far as she can tell, you're just another Hellbound, and one who's drained of his power, at that."
Surprised, Adom glanced over at Christina, quickly examining her expression. She tried to betray nothing, but something in her eyes, or the set of her mouth, or even the way she stood, made Adom's eyes fill with understanding.
"Hell," he whispered. Gaston hissed, which Adom ignored as he continued, "You're right. You mean, that's not her?"
"Of course it's her, you idiot! She just doesn't know that yet." The smile widened. "Maybe she won't live to find out."
A look of relief swept over Adom's face, and he took a deep breath. "So... She can't kill me," he muttered, amazed.
"No," Gaston agreed, "She can't."
It was over before any of them could react. Gaston's eyes narrowed, like a predator stalking prey, and suddenly Parsa's legs tensed and launched the body, which had been still as rock but a moment ago, towards the Hellbound at blinding speed. Before Adom had a chance even to react, Parsa's left arm shot forward, a blur, and punched into Adom's chest, accompanied by the sickening crunch of snapping bones where his rib cage caved in. Its arm stayed in place for a moment, embedded in his chest, as if it were the only thing holding him up. It waited until the life left his dark eyes, and then withdrew. Adom stood upright for a moment, then collapsed.
Smiling darkly, it turned to the Travelers. "Your turn."
There was an explosion of light, slamming against the walls of the cave like a tsunami. However, it didn't come from the creature before them, but the Frogmasamune. Christina jumped back, releasing the hilt of the sword, but it didn't move from its place in the air, as if an invisible swordsman was still wielding it, pointing towards the inhuman creature. Gaston simply narrowed its eyes, and if its skin reddened slightly from the light, nobody else noticed. They were all looking at the sword, and at the five figures slowly forming before them, with varying degrees of recognition. First, standing to the left of the hovering blade, appeared two figures, almost identical save for the colors of the collars of their white robes. Their skin was golden-bronze, their ears and faces pointed, their ears wide and unflinching. On the opposite side of the sword, two more figures appeared, much the same as the first two, save that the robes of these two were primarily red, and their eyes were hard with trouble and anger. Finally, appearing with his hand already curled about the hilt of the sword, as if he had always been wielding it (and indeed it was almost true) appeared Frog, looking as fresh as he had just minutes before he'd died. Together, they spoke.
Creature of darkness, they accused. You do not belong in this world!
Gaston nodded slightly. "True. Then again, nor do you, Glenn." If the spirit of the dead knight was surprised at Gaston's knowledge of his name, he didn't show it. Gaston continued, "Do you honestly think that five mortals can take me on, ethereal or not?"
You are outnumbered, they responded, their tone one of righteous anger. And together we're so much more effective than any of us could be apart.
Gaston's smile darkened, as did its eyes. "Is that so? Then I'll just have to separate you."
Suddenly, the sword flew forward, driven on by the will of the five who were bonded to it. And it didn't stop when it slammed into and through the stomach of the possessed woman. It instead continued on, carrying her with it, like a ragged doll, until it finally embedded itself in the stone across the tunnel, Gaston pinned to the wall like an insect, its head slumped downward. There was no scream.
Slowly, shuddering, Gaston's left hand reached up and grabbed the hilt. Silently, without a grunt of pain or effort, it began to pull at the sword. At first, the sword remained stubbornly lodged where it was. Then, slowly, the sword began to come out, inch by inch, until it came out of the wall, and Gaston fell to its own feet. Without looking up, Gaston continued pulling, until the sword came out, blood-soaked.
Suddenly its head raised, smiling. No trace of pain or fear showed in the dark eyes, and it began to quietly chuckle. "Is that all you've got?" the undead creature asked.
The three Travelers and five beings stared with varying degrees of incredulity. Even as Gaston quietly laughed, the death-wound (no doubt about it, that had to have been a death-wound) let blood flow freely down the once beautiful dress. If it bothered the creature at all, there was no evidence. In fact, it seemed to be enjoying their expressions of disbelief.
"I see," it hissed. "In that case, would you like to see what I can do?"
And with that it calmly raised the sword, which was glowing in a futile attempt to escape the powerful grasp. Suddenly the glow of the sword vanished, leaving it, for lack of a better word, dead. At once, Frog, the two Masas, and the two Munes screamed in pain, and several of them fell to their knees.Gaston began to chant something quietly, then, as it muttered the last syllable, the sword shimmered, as if seen through heat waves. Instantly, Masa and Mune, the ones in red, vanished, as if they had never been there. "I've sent them back in time, where they can do the most damage," Gaston calmly informed them all. "They're really rather angry. I estimate that anger will express itself in other, less pleasant ways. Now, for you two," it announced, directing its gaze towards the remaining Masa and Mune. It again repeated the last word in its chant, and Masa and Mune cried out in pain. They seemed to freeze in place, and suddenly the light that surrounded them shattered, like glass struck by a hammer.
They looked at each other in horror. "Masa," Mune whispered, as if unable to believe it, "I... I can't feel you any more." He fell to his knees."I'm... alone..."
Masa was shivering visibly. "It's worse than that, little bro. We've lost our mental link... and our physical one. We can't go into the sword anymore. Also, we'll start to age again. We're... mortal..."
As the two brothers tried to comfort each other, Frog stepped forward, still glowing with the purest light. "Thou fiend," he accused, and his voice was no longer part of the communal voice it had been a minute ago. "Thou hast taken their lives, as surely as if thou had killed them thyself. Such a thing is inexcusable."
Gaston stared coolly back at the spirit of the knight. "So sue me. It's not my fault that they're weak. That they can't survive alone. Besides, drawing on weaknesses is what I do best. I know everything about all of you, even you, knight. Including the reason why you didn't choose to die." Its smile widened slightly. "You couldn't let your friends die. You wanted to defend them. And who am I to deny such a wish? Frog, from this day forward you will still live in this sword, but any power you have will be sealed, including any powers of communication you have." Its eyes narrowed. "You will watch your friends live, fight, and die for all eternity, while you do nothing but sit back and watch, unliving, undying, existing in a limbo of endless battle, until you fail, and one you love dies by your own blade. Only in failure shall you be free. Welcome home, Frog. You'll be here forever."
And Gaston released the sword. It floated in midair for only a moment, before shooting forward with the speed of a bullet. Frog made no attempt to dodge, even as the Travelers tried to do... something, anything that could help. The sword slammed hilt-deep into the glowing figure, but there was no blood, only a deep sadness in Frog's eyes, as he whispered, "The next time we meet demon, you will be destroyed. On my honor as a knight."
And with that he vanished, taking the white light with him. The sword clattered loudly to the ground, cold and lightless and dead. It was no longer green, but in the light of the force-field, they could see it was black, the black of mourning. The only sound for a long moment was the sobbing of Mune as Masa stared at Gaston with hatred in his wide eyes. But nobody said anything. It was a moment of silence, for the passing of a friend and an ally.
"You bastard," Lucca suddenly screamed, and everyone, even Gaston, turned to watch her. Flames roared into life around her, pushing back Christina and Janus, but the tears that slid down her face didn't evaporate in the intense heat. With a roar of rage, she aimed her palm at him.
Everyone but her was nearly knocked off of their feet as the explosion engulfed the possessed woman. Lucca screamed in rage even as the fire took on a new form, a pillar that swirled around itself constantly, centered completely on the form that was inside it, but barely visible.
And it stopped. Suddenly, as if they had never existed in the first place.Smoke rose from Gaston as it smiled coldly, its clothes blackened and hair singed, but otherwise unharmed. Lucca stared at it for a moment, before she reached over to her holster, ripped out the pistol, and fired as quickly as she could. She had just reloaded, so she had a full clip. The body jerked as each of the sixteen bullets hit home, in the chest, but the cruel smile never wavered, and the cold eyes never flinched. Lucca fired until she heard a loud click, signifying a need for reload, but even then she just kept firing and firing, hoping that after just one more pull of the trigger it would fall. Yelling in disgust, she threw the pistol aside, and it clattered loudly as it slid across the floor. Ignoring Janus' and Christina's attempts to stop her, she charged forward at full speed, her fury giving her impossible strength, and she jumped to tackle the unnatural thing.
There was an audible impact as Gaston's hand flew out, seemingly from nowhere, the heel ramming into Lucca's unprotected throat with the force of a falling house, and Lucca stood still for a moment, as if the hand was all that held her up. Then Gaston's other hand came up and backhanded her, throwing her back, until she landed on the cold stone floor with a thud. For a moment, no one moved, and then Janus virtually flew toward her as he heard the telltale signs of choking. Her windpipe must have been crushed, he thought, near panic. She's going to die too, unless...
He knelt down beside her and placed his hands on her throat. He'd never healed anyone before, but theoretically anyone with magic and the inclination to heal could do it. But this was real life. Let's hope it's more than theory, he thought as he tried to gather the magic together. As he did so, he felt more than heard Christina, Masa, and Mune gathering together between him and the monster. There was the scrape of metal on stone as the dead sword, no doubt now called simply Frog, was lifted from the floor. But he couldn't concentrate on that right now. He couldn't think about the lack of magic he was able to draw on. He couldn't think about the distraction of the intense pain in his broken arm.
He could only think about Lucca, lying there, dying even as he was trying to save her. If she dies, he thought, I'll bring the whole Red Omen down on Gaston's head.
Little did he know that he was pretty close to the truth.
"If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else, you will have
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