No Peace for the Hero Chapter 2
An Unexpected Visitor
1002 AD, May 14, Luccas House
The green glow faded from the strangers hands, and he slumped to his knees in sudden exhaustion, holding himself upright with his simple, ordinary katana. Damn, he muttered. Not again... Alright, do what you will. The man sounded hopeless, as ragged as his Zealian-style robes. His bandana hung limply as he bowed his head.
Crono shook his head, taken aback. It had all happened in a few seconds time. From armed and dangerous to despairing, the mans attitude spoke of one whod been through hard times recently. Crono couldnt take his eyes off the strangers face, though.
Finally, the man looked up, now taking in the three teens, and their expressions. Recognition slowly dawned on his face. What the... Disbelieving, he managed to get to his feet, still holding himself up with his sword. His eyes took on an excited light. The date! Tell me the date, quickly!
Again, Crono couldnt speak. The eyes before him were green, so like his. Who was this man? Fortunately, Lucca had the presence of mind to speak up. The fourteenth of May. One-thousand-two.
Surprisingly, the man smiled. He even chuckled. I should have known. His laughter grew, until he began to wheeze slightly. I made it. Full circle. His laughter died, and he looked very, very tired. Guess I can die, now.
At this point, Crono could take no more. Who are you? he demanded. Are you a Triggara?
The strangers shoulders shook again in silent laughter. Oh, Crono. You know the answer already, though you dont want to admit it. Im you.
Surprise. You probably saw that coming, but I never claimed I was a genius. That was Luccas department. Besides, Id never met myself before. It was a very weird experience. Now I knew how Magus felt. And, like Magus, I was playing out my part in history.
Crono couldnt seem to catch his breath. This stranger, this bedraggled, tired, torn, bearded man was he, himself? Marle clutched Cronos arm tightly, lending him support, while Lucca stared at the stranger thoughtfully. Crono noticed neither of them as he stared into the strangers eyes. Questions crowded together in Cronos head, all wanting answers. When? was all he could get out.
The strangers tired smile didnt change. Its been nine years. Nine years since I met myself, like youre doing now. His grin widened. It scared the hell out of me. Crono blushed, but the stranger continued, Its good to see you, though. Id forgotten what it was like, being you.
Suddenly, his smile faded. Damn, we cant waste any more time. He turned to gaze at Lucca, his eyes piercing. Lucca, get out your video camera, the one you bought in the future. He turned back to Crono. Crono, follow me. Youve got to rehearse. And with that he walked forward, all but pushing Crono and Lucca out of the way and going down the stairs.
Lucca looked as wide-eyed and confused as Crono felt, but he nodded to her unspoken question, telling her to go along with this strangers directions. He turned to see if Marle was all right as Lucca began to dig among the junk in her room, but Marle seemed to be distractedly staring down the stairs. Marle? he inquired.
Marle didnt look at him, but her grip on his arm tightened. He didnt look at me. Not once.
Crono found the stranger standing on the crest of a grassy hill, near Luccas house. Marle was helping Lucca get her stuff together, a task which Crono had passed on. The stranger was staring off into the distance, toward Truce. Toward Cronos house. He didnt turn as Crono came to stand beside him, but his mouth quirked in what could have been a smile as he continued staring into the now-overcast sky.
You know, Crono said after an extended silence, I still dont know if I should believe you.
The strangers smile widened. Come on, Crono, you trust everyone. Are you saying you dont trust yourself? Crono didnt respond, but the man responded as if he had. Good. You cant afford too much trust. You can trust Gaspar, I think, but Im not sure of anyone else. His smile vanished. Its easy to trust the wrong person.
Crono glanced uncomfortably at the man. Yes, it is. Thats why Im not too sure about you.
The stranger finally turned, and faced him. His expression was sad. Crono... I know about our father. I know what really happened. I know why-
Shut up! Crono growled. Thats enough. You dont know anything. He fell! Thats all! Crono was shocked to find his hand clenched tightly around the hilt of his sword. He was equally shocked to find the strangers hand on his shoulder. Anger flared anew in him, and he shrugged off the clumsy attempt at comfort.
The stranger claiming to be Crono did not look surprised at Cronos outburst. Instead, he simply asked, Do you believe?
Crono stared at him, teeth clenched. Grudgingly, he nodded.
Ive got it, Lucca called, carrying the bulky piece of equipment on a tripod with Marles help. Lucca began to set it up according to the strangers directions. Marle walked up the hill to stand with Crono, but he didnt notice her concerned expression as she glanced at his face.
Okay, the stranger said, once the camera was set up appropriately, heres the plan. This tape is going to be a warning for one Professor Philip Thomas Johnson, about two-thousand years from now. He handed Lucca a slip of paper. This is the exact date. Hide the tape in such a way that hell find it before then. Lucca stared at the paper as if it was written in another language. The stranger continued, If this doesnt get to him in time, hell be kidnaped... He hesitated. ... by a man with blue hair.
Magus? Lucca asked, disbelievingly.
Who else could it be? Marle replied.
Crono regarded the man skeptically. Why are we doing this? Why not just rescue him personally? He wasnt inclined to trust this stranger, even after his supposed proof.
The stranger smiled, tired. You cant. I should know. Hell, if you did, it might cause a paradox. He sighed. Of course, Ive probably caused any number of minor paradoxes just getting here, but... He pointed a finger at Crono, and spoke as if pronouncing judgment. Your destiny is not yet complete. You have tasks to do before you are done. There was silence for a moment, except for the wind, which whistled shrilly. Storm clouds were gathering overhead.
What about me? Marle asked, quietly.
The stranger looked at her as if seeing her for the first time. He shook his head, slightly, and muttered something. You, too, have tasks left to you, he whispered. With that, he stepped closer to her, put his hands on her shoulders, leaned forward, and began to whisper in her ear. Her eyes widened with each word. When he withdrew, she looked at him with something not unlike terror. She shook her head slightly, but he only nodded.
Thunder sounded abruptly overhead, though none of them had seen any lightning. The stranger looked up sharply. He glanced around as if expecting something. Looks like my visit is about to end, he said quietly.
What? Crono said, surprised. What do you mean? Where are you going?
The man ignored him, instead pulling up the left sleeve of his tattered clothes. A strange device was wrapped around his wrist. Crono was no expert, but even to him the machine looked ruined, with wiring hanging out and metal crumpled. The stranger pressed a few buttons experimentally anyway, and grinned when a few lights blinked. He smiled appreciatively at Lucca, for some reason. The stranger glanced up at the sky again in time to hear another peal of thunder. Still no lightning, though.
Still staring upward, the man turned once again toward Crono. Gradually, his gaze lowered until he was staring into Cronos eyes. Well, Crono, he said quietly, almost unheard in the now constant thunder. There are only a few things left to say. First, youve got to do this alone. He held up a hand to forestall Cronos protests. No, Crono, Lucca and Marle have their own lives to live. All three of you will die if you take them. Theyre not as tough as you are. Lucca looked about to say something there, but the stranger ignored her. Marle was strangely quiet.
Also, the stranger continued, dont take the Epoch. That way, too, lies death. Trust me. His expression took on pain for a moment, but it faded. Finally, Crono, remember home. Remember Truce. He glanced up, looking worried. How about a handshake, Crono? he asked, trying to be heard over the nearly constant thunder. He reached out with his right hand. Its about time for me to leave.
Crono reached out to take the gloved hand, and two things happened at once. The stranger leaned forward and yanked the Rainbow out of Cronos sheath. At that moment, lightning finally struck from the thundering clouds. Right on the top of that hill.
They were all thrown into the air by the explosion of dirt, of course, but whether by reflexes or luck, the stranger landed first, and closest to the source of the blast. However, where a small crater should have been after a strike of such magnitude, there was instead a small pool of... water? No, not water. It was smooth like water, but far too reflective, and moved oddly. Ripples constantly ran in reverse, shrinking to points and vanishing before new ripples began. Abruptly, a form burst out of it, like a fish jumping out of the surface of a lake. It landed gracefully, a womans form clothed all in black, straddling the pool. The strange liquid sloughed off of her, back into the puddle.
Crono, surprised, couldnt do much more than sit and look at the woman. She was shapely, with curves in just the right places to catch his eye, like Marle. Except this woman was obviously older, from her height and bearing. Her dress and demeanor were both equally regal, the dress made of silk, with lots of embroidery, her chin up so that she could look down her nose at them. Her bare arms were deathly pale, much like the Magus, as was what he could make out of her bosom, which was well complemented by the dress. What detracted from her dress, however, was that it was all black, except for the embroidery, and even that was dark blue or purple.
The stranger thing about her was her mask. It was a perfect black mask of a beautiful, queen-like face, polished until it shone. However, the face of the mask was attached to leather, which stretched around and trapped her head, leaving no room for hair. Her head was obviously shaved bald, or nearly. The mask was obviously uncomfortable, if not painful. Yet her regal bearing remained unchanged. There appeared to be no mouth hole in the mask, but Crono suspected the mask could be removed when necessary, like when the woman needed to eat. Only when necessary, however. This mask might hide her identity or disfiguring scars, but it certainly demanded respect when worn. Its authority was second only to that of her eyes.
When her ice-cold blue eyes focused on Crono, he saw little but contempt, and an expectation to be instantly obeyed. There was also... what? Crono could not say. He knew, though, when he glanced at her cleavage, that more than her authority made his heart skip a beat.
The man who claimed to be Crono had no such thoughts on his mind, however. He laughed, brandishing the Rainbow. So, you finally found me, eh? Well, Ill not be easy prey for you, my lady.
Despite the slight muffling from the mask, the womans voice was so cold that Crono almost expected icicles to form in the air. Silence, worm. Face your death with dignity, if you have any. Dont make me have to corner you like a rat. She ignored the three teens completely as they stood.
The man only grinned. Rats tend to survive when royalty cant.
Abruptly, the woman cast her arm out at him. Icicles formed in midair, sharp spikes in a sphere surrounding him. Survive this, she said simply. As one, the icicles drove toward the center.
The Rainbow was a blur as the stranger claiming to be Crono spun, the sword flickering in and out of sight. Icicles shattered with the force of his lightning-fast blows, faster than Crono could personally perform. Much faster. In a matter of seconds, it was over. The stranger stood calmly in a ready stance, ice crystals littering the ground around him.
Strangely, the man laughed again. Nice try, but the games not over yet! With that, he leapt at her. A shield of ice leapt up between them, but he shattered it with the Rainbow. He tackled her, and yelled Home! They fell to the ground, and there was a blinding flash of light. When Cronos eyes re-adjusted, they were both gone. The strange pool was now no more than a shallow crater in the ground.
What the hell? was about all Crono could manage to say.
What do you think happened to them? Marle asked, surprising him. Crono hadnt heard her approach, but now she attached herself to his arm. What was wrong? Shed seen battle before. For once, she looked scared. What was she so afraid of?
It didnt take him long to figure it out. Im sorry, Marle. I have to investigate this. I think he was telling the truth. The sad expression on her face told him that hed guessed correctly. Id better get ready, he continued.
Lucca tapped him on his shoulder, again surprising him. Meeting himself had made Crono really jumpy. Maybe we should record this tape, like he said, she suggested.
Crono nodded, and she gave him the piece of paper. It didnt say much, but what it had was in his own hand-writing.
Philip Thomas Johnson, 2014 A.D., February 5, 6:00 P.M., Trann Scientific Research Center
He turned over the paper, and was surprised to find something else, hurriedly written.
Nothing is what it seems.
Crono frowned as he considered this, but not for long. Lucca was ready. Crono took a deep breath and, when Lucca signaled him, began talking.
Isnt that just the way life is? You get settled in, youre tired of looking for adventure, and adventure finds you instead. Well, I didnt know what was going on, but Ive always been a curious sort of guy. Thats why I like cats.
Anyway, I got ready that day. I told Mom goodbye, said Id be back soon, told her not to worry. She didnt sound very worried, but of course she was. She knew I was going off on some crazy, life-threatening, world-changing quest, and she also knew that Id probably forget to wash my clothes every few days. Well, she was right on both counts, of course, as Moms usually are.
I packed my stuff, of course, and brought along two of my spare swords. The Rainbow had been unbreakable, but the sword of my future self looked like it had seen some serious use. Better safe than sorry, you know. When I went to Luccas house, to use the Telepod, Lucca and Marle were waiting for me.
Good-bye, Crono, Marle sobbed, hugging him tightly. Crono returned the hug, of course, but he was concerned. Marle knew he could take care of himself. Why was she suddenly so emotional? The future Crono had whispered something to her. What was it?
Slowly, reluctantly, Marle released her death grip on him. Wiping away tears, she reached up to her neck and pulled the Pendant over her head. Here, she said. Take it. Crono tried to decline, saying that it was a family heirloom, but Marle was adamant. Just bring it back to me, she said firmly, then spoiled it by sniffling.
Lucca, equally perturbed by Marles tears, gave Crono a much more normal hug. She punched him playfully in the arm, trying to hide that she, too, was worried. Dont get your head cut off without me to back you up, she warned him as she handed him the Gate Key. And say hey to Gaspar for me, will you?
Crono agreed to say hey, and to be careful, and not to drop his sword on his foot, and a dozen other things. They really didnt seem to think he could survive without their assistance. True, he had died once already, but that was no excuse to think him helpless. Crono stepped onto the Telepod while Lucca fiddled with the controls. Have a nice trip, she said, and pressed the final key.
As Crono felt his body dissolving, the last thing he heard was Marle shouting I wont forget you!
As he flew through the tunnel in time, Crono wondered what the hell he was getting himself into.
Its a dangerous business, going out of your door. You step
into the Road, and if you dont keep your feet, there is no knowing
where you might be swept off to.
-Bilbo Baggins, from The Fellowship of the Ring