Of Magic and Mayhem Chapter 7

The Monster of Mystic Mountains

By CuteLucca and Ghost

"We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us."

-Joseph Campbell

Lucca slept, sprawled haphazardly in her red dress on a large pile of furs and cushions.  She had succumbed to the effects of poi and currently snored like a steam engine.  It was already past noon, which went unnoticed to the inventor; however, another scientist had waited impatiently, and decided that “sleeping beauty” had slept long enough.

Jacious opened the flap to Lucca's tent, hearing a heavy snore escape her mouth.  He entered the dim shelter, a cup of hot liquid in his hands, made after boiling the leaves Ayla had given him.  Lucca flopped over as the room had brightened significantly when Jacious entered. “Mmmmm...  tired…”

Careful not to drop any of the tea, he carefully set the cup down, an evil smile on his face.  He grabbed an extra animal skin and lay next to her, rather closely, draping the skin over Lucca and himself.  He turned to her, just beyond her closed eyes, and whispered, gently, “Hey Lucca...wake up.”

“Uhhhhrm...”  blearily, her eyelids fluttered open.  Lucca didn’t seem to recognize him.

Jacious was having far too much fun with this.  The grin never left his face as his mischievous eyes met her waking ones.  “Good morning sweetie.”

“Jacious?” Lucca mumbled, the name not registering at first.  That changed quickly as her eyes jolted open with a snap.

“Did you sleep well?”  The scheming scientist chuckled. “Silly question.  After what you did, of course you slept well.  I can’t believe you were so wild last night.”  He, of course, never mentioned bed, sex, or any other word.  Lucca was, however, wild at the party, in her own way, and Jacious had been rather surprised by her actions and was a bit angry.  In all honesty, he wasn’t lying to her.

With lightning speed, she flipped herself out from under the covers, looking down at herself quickly; and somewhat relieved she had clothes on.  Of course, just because she had clothes didn’t mean something didn’t happen, and after shooting him a scathing look, her tirade began.  “WHAT THE!  ...  WHAT ARE!  YOU!  I...  WE!....  I never!  I just...!  What the hell are you DOING here?”  Horror registered on her face as she put two and two together.  “AAAAAUUUUUUUGGGHHHH!!!”  Then, the combined effects of the hangover and shock overwhelmed her, and she fell backwards in a heap onto the cushions, out like a light.

Just as Lucca rolled away and stood, Jacious mimicked her movements, standing, the covers a mess on the ground.  He had gestured that he was wearing clothes and made sure to mention she was as well.  Before he could control himself, though, he broke out into a deep laughter as she screamed.  However, the laughter stopped short when she passed out.  “Well what do you know....I overwhelmed her.”  He partly sighed, partly chuckled, “God, I wish I had a video camera.  That was GREAT!”  He shook his head sadly, “Fun's over now.  What a shame.”  He knelt down and shook her lightly by the shoulders.  “Lucca... Lucca, you alright?”

Lucca squeezed her eyes shut, feeling a light pounding in her head.  “You...  you...  asshole,” she hissed under her breath.  “Even with all the poi in the village I'd never do THAT... with YOU!”

Jacious shrugged, not really caring and ignoring her latter comment, “I can be an asshole, yes, but I'm afraid I could not resist.  If only I could have taken a picture.”  He tapped her nose. “So, how do you feel?  You were quite a party animal last night.”

“Liar!” she screamed, “I was a perfect lady.”  She slowly sat up, “But my head...really hurts.”

Jacious wagged his finger. “That's what you said last time.  You got drunk, and you're an emotional drunk.”  Crossing the room, he retrieved the still steaming tea, and offered it with a smug grin to Lucca, who was bent over, head in her hands. “Here...Ayla said this would help.”

Lucca accepted the cup gratefully, but still held him in her withering gaze. “I still can't believe you'd do such an underhanded thing...”  She sniffed, gingerly, at the steaming liquid in the cup. “…smells good.” 

“Well I think you had that coming to you with the way you flirted and danced with all those guys last night. I say it serves you right.” Jacious reprimanded her.

She took a sip, and the color almost immediately returned to her face. “Wow, this stuff is amazing!”

He smiled at her reaction. “Are you really that surprised?  Boiled herbs can have amazing effects.  Back home we have something, but it's a bit....stronger.  We call it ‘Gogo juice.’”

Lucca was too busy examining the drink. “I should keep some for study.”

“I'm sure Ayla would be glad to show you which plants are used, but then you'll have to find and see if those plants exist in your time.  If they don't....you can't take the plant back.”  He gave her an apologetic smile, “I'm sure you understand...temporal physics and such.”

“Never stopped me from dragging the Dreamstone through about six eras,” Lucca replied, feeling much better than before.

“Dreamstone is not a plant.  It is a mineral.  If you brought a plant to your time and it began to reproduce in your habitat, the lack of natural predators could allow it to spread in an uncontrolled manner.  Seriously, I can't believe you wouldn't think of something like that.”  He commented, surprised by her lack of foresight.

“Never said I was gonna plant the damn thing!” she snapped.  “Why did you wake me up anyway?”  Lucca finished the drink in two gulps.  Though she looked far better, the drink had not helped her mood.

“Yeah, but you would have to study the plant before you did anything.  It could grow if just the stem got enough into the ground...some plants are like that.”  He began muttering, “Egotistical...”  He turned to the exit, “We have a job to do.”

“A job?  Oh give me a break.”  Lucca sighed, rolling her eyes and muttering.

She doesn't know...and when I tell her, will she even know the possibilities...of course, she hasn't played the game.  It’s her life...  Lucca stood on wobbly legs and looked around the room for her normal clothes.  Finding them, she retreated behind a screen and began to change as Jacious explained the situation. “A couple of nights ago, there was an earthquake that opened up a cave in Mystic Mountains.  Since then animals have begun acting much differently...even the tamed dog has become wild, forcing their master to terminate it.  This is more near the cave than Ioka.”

There was a loud sigh from behind the screen, “And now I have to go and clean up the mess.”  She grunted as she fit herself back into her clothes, balance still askew.  “Oh well, nothing Ayla and I can't handle.  What are you going to do while we're out?”

There was a small pause before Jacious replied. “Lucca, Ayla isn't going.”


“I'm going, and you're going, but Ayla will be staying here protecting the village.  The two of us will go and see what the problem is.  Besides, I have a feeling this could be an important event in time.”  He sat down, waiting for her to finish dressing.

Lucca peeked out from behind the screen. “YOU??  You're just going to get in the way!  Why is Ayla making me go with you?”

He made sure she saw his smirk.  Slightly red with anger, Lucca’s head again disappeared behind the screen.  With a haughty voice, he answered her question, “She thinks I can handle it.  I seemed to give the tribe a good show last night so I guess she trusts me.”

 “Why is every single one of my friends making me baby sit you?” she muttered, reemerging from behind the screen, holding her helmet under her arm while she buckled her belt.

“Pfft....” Jacious clenched his fists, trying to disregard her last statement.  She can be such an egotistical bitch sometimes.  He smiled despite his thought, “I think I'll be the one relaxing.  You know what I'm capable of.  Besides, I have an advantage in this situation.”

Lucca laughed, “Advantage?  What's that, your small frame will make ya harder to hit?  The enemies won't consider you a threat?”

Jacious closed his eyes, mentally counting to ten before continuing.  Lucca, in the meantime, positioned herself in front of him with crossed arms, waiting for his retort, which he offered through clenched teeth.  “I've played the "game" several times, and because of that, I’ve tried to connect the dots. I've seen several outcomes and read several theories on many events and it's my honest opinion that we're seeing the beginning of the Earthbound Village!”

Interest piqued, Lucca instantly forgot that she was upset. “What?  What do you mean?”

Jacious opened his eyes, a small grin on his face.  Got’cher interest now, don't I…   “Think about it.  Soon the ice age, lasting thousands of years, will come, and these people, though few, will need to survive somehow.  Therefore, this cave might be used as a shelter, and I'm going to guess that there's something in that cave that might be part of Zeal.  Think...it took a LOT of Dreamstone to create the Mammon machine.”

Lucca tapped her chin.  “Well.  You've just got all the answers, don't you?  But if you're right...” 

Jacious finished her sentence, “If I'm right, and I'm pretty sure I am, then they'll need this cave.  It might become the first mining colony known to this world.”

Lucca nodded, “And they'll need the cave cleared of monsters.”

Jacious continued with his lecture. “Let’s not forget that Dreamstone has more uses than magic.  It was used to create weapons, and when magic was later discovered, we know that the people began to study it.”

Lucca donned her helmet. “So the monsters need to be destroyed, and Lucca the Great's just the one to do it.”  Jacious, for the first time in his life, face faulted.  “Plus, I can grab more samples of Dreamstone for my own work...maybe create fuelless power sources.”  She began doing calculations in her head.

Jacious’ face grew red.  “You really think you don't need me?   Are you that stupid!  Arrogant?  You can't do this alone!”  He stopped a moment to catch his breath. “You can't be that foolish.”

Snapped from her thoughts, her face turned dark. “And what good will you be?  You've only been in this world for a few days.  Your magic is undeveloped.  Your physical skills are inadequate.  All you've got is knowledge gleaned from a child's plaything.”

His eyes bored into her own, threatening to cut clear into her. “Is that how you truly feel?”

“I want to support you in your quest to... find yourself, or whatever it is that you're here to do, but I don't want to put myself or my mission in danger by having to keep an eye on you.”  She returned his gaze, daring him to argue.

Jacious’ right eye twitched.  With as much as he had trained to learn to protect himself and others,  with all the training he had done with his magic, she still thought lowly of him.  Well Lucca be damned!  “You think that eh?  Fine then...”  He walked to the flap of the tent, pulling it up, “The cave is south west, as you know.  Come back alive so I can hear you brag about how well you did.”  He stormed from the tent, out of sight in seconds.  The flap of the tent fell closed behind him, and the tent again fell dark as the sunlight was shut away.

Lucca blinked twice, “Uhm...”  Maybe I was a little too....?  She shook her head. “Naaaaah....”  Checking her gear one last time, Lucca set out to find Ayla in the village, to ask her to come along; however, the chief was nowhere to be found, and none of the villagers were especially helpful.

Jacious, meanwhile, walked along the southern path. “Well, if she doesn't need me I'll just stay out of the way for now...but I have this weird feeling...something will happen soon.  Be careful, Lucca Ashtear.”  He sighed, his feelings guiding him along the path he had chosen.

Finally, alone, Lucca stood at the edge of the village, looking across the canyon.  “Stupid Jacious left without giving me all the information.”  Nonetheless, she began to walk out of the village, Wondershot held ready in her hand, eyes and ears alert.

Several miles down the path, a wolf-like monster approached her, looking rather hungrily at her; two more were at its flank.

Lucca’s lips turned upward with the prospect of a battle. “Ah, about time I saw some action...  it's been too long.”  Eyes glinting, she lowered her gun, her sight aligned between the first wolf's eyes, “Bring it on.”

The lead wolf jumped to the left and then forward, attacking.  The other two circled around, intending to catch her at the sides.  Lucca responded, doing a quick forward roll to pull herself out of the flanking maneuver.  She went to her knees, pulling out a Megabomb which she tossed into their midst.  The Megabomb exploded, sending the leader back a good way.  The other two took the least impact and came out quickly, charging fully, intending to get their meal.  They attacked with outstretched claws, ready to pin and tear Lucca apart.

“Errgh...”  Lucca rose to her feet and blasted off a quick shot at each wolf.  She hefted her mallet in her left hand, ready to whack them if they insisted on approaching.  The alpha wolf stared at Lucca for a moment, the other two limping slightly as they moved into place behind him.  With one last baleful glance, the leader turned around, taking his companions in search of easier pray.  Lucca, not trusting them, kept her weapon trained on the wolves until she was satisfied they wouldn't return.  With a smile, she continued towards the canyon, picking up a brisk jog. 

As she came to the entrance of the canyon, a green ball rolled out of the brush, right into her path.  It was too close for her to just stop quickly.  She skid into the ball, tripping over it and flipping end over end, landing hard on her butt a couple feet away.  The ball unrolled, showing itself to be a descendant of a Roly, having some small, but sharp fangs.  Two imp-like monsters, looking a bit more formidable than their descendants, jumped from the bush, looking to Lucca with sinister gazes.

Lucca scoffed, “Come on, I was beating your brothers up ages ago.”  The imp on her right kicked the Rolly at her like a soccer ball while the other on the left threw a rock.  Lucca, still in good shape, dodged the Roly, but was beaned by the rock.  “Ow!  That hurt, you little…”  She extended her hand, casting Fire at the rock-throwing imp.  The imp burnt to ashes much to the horror and rage of the second imp and Roly.  The imp jumped on the Roly and  steered it towards Lucca, attempting to attack.  It gave a rather pathetic battle cry.

“Gimme a break...if this was all the cave had to offer, Ayla would have cleared it out ages ago.”  She sidestepped the 'attack' and shot the Roly as it passed.  The two disintegrated with the rapid energy blast of her Wondershot.  Sighing, Lucca continued on the path, finally approaching the cave.  Surrounding the cave's entrance, especially along the mountain cliffs, were a varied number of monsters, especially those that resembled Gargoyles, Megasaurs, though few, and flying type dinos, all of whom looked decidedly unfriendly.  There were also a number of small ground creatures looking like spiders the size of large dictionaries and rabid dogs, wolves and omnicrone type creatures.  It looked like a small path had been formed between the monsters, though they moved around.

Lucca peered out at the crowd from behind a bush, taking back her earlier statement, “Well.  That's a lot of monsters...”  They all faced the entrance, looking rather peeved, though none dared to enter.  It was as if they were guarding the entrance to prevent something/someone from escaping.  One of the Megasaurs sniffed the air, and looked in Lucca’s direction.  He gave a roar and a few of the monsters, five of the probably fifty or so total she'd seen, approached as though they were searching.

She gulped, “Oh, crap in a hat...”  and retreated back down the mountainside a few hundred yards.  “I have to distract them somehow.  Now let’s see…”  Thinking fast, she set fire to a small isolated stand of trees, and thick black smoke began to bellow into the sky.  She then walked a circuitous route around the cave entrance, ending up on the side opposite the one she was at initially.  Lucca looked over a bush to see if any of the monsters had gone to investigate the fire.

The monsters were in an uproar, distracted and in a total panic.  They were running around, just about all of the larger ones were gone.  The smaller ones are huddled farther away, using numbers from protection, leaving the gate's entrance open.  Seizing the opportunity, Lucca dashed to the entrance and into the darkness of the cave, hoping that nobody had seen her.

Several feet into the cave a rumble came through it, causing the earth to shake.  Some rocks from the side of the mountain tumbled down, blocking the entrance, but leaving space for air to circulate in and out.  “Shhhi…” Lucca caught herself from swearing, running back for the entrance as the rocks came tumbling down, but stopped before she reached it, realizing she didn’t make it in time.  She pushed against the newly formed wall, and it didn’t budge.  “Perfect!”

Frowning, Lucca formed a small ball of flame in her hand as a light source, and began walking, slowly, deeper into the cave.  “Guess I'll have to find another way out.” 

Lucca heard a sigh on her left.  A voice echoed through the darkness. “I was wondering when you'd get here, Lucca Ashtear.”  Closing her hand around it, the flame was extinguished, and she dodged against the cave wall, saying nothing.  She heard a dry chuckle and a small orb of fire appeared on the path ahead of her.  The orb approached her with the sound of light footsteps.  “You shouldn't be afraid.  I thought you were all powerful, but yet you fear?”

Lucca’s eyes narrowed, “I'm not afraid.  Just wary.”  Recognizing the voice, she sighed, “Is that you, Jacious?”

He came closer, revealing his face. “You got that right.  Like I said, ‘What took you?’  I had to take down fifty of those guys before I got into this cave, but for some reason, they aren't moving in after me.”  He turned around to look into the darkness, “I'm guessing whatever is in here has them spooked.”

Lucca relaxed, leaning into the wall. “Why are you here?  Are you just trying to prove yourself or something?”

Jacious shook his head, “I don't need to prove myself.  I have a duty to do.  Ayla asked me to help, but you're too bull headed to accept it.”

“No,” she sighed, “just trying to make life easier.  But you're here now, so I guess I'll have to deal with it.  In case you didn't notice, the entrance collapsed.”  She was silent for a moment. “Wait... did you say that you killed fifty monsters to get here?”

He nodded his head, his voice casual, “Yeah… is that a problem?  Those Megasaurs are tough bastards, you know.”

“Hm.”  She said nothing more, but the look in her eyes told Jacious that she was impressed, though she tried her damndest to hide it.

His own look turned serious, and he motioned into the darkness, “I bet whatever's in here caused that earthquake, and I’m also willing to bet that Lavos awakened or maybe created it as a genetic experiment after it landed.  However it came to be...it's not supposed to be here.  It must have some strong influence though, if it's causing those monsters to go crazy.”

“Well.  Shall we go check it out?” Without waiting for a response, she started walking, creating the flame for light again.  Keeping his own flame, the spell simple enough to keep up for a while, Jacious followed behind her.  After a period of silence, he called out.

“Hey Lucca.”

“What?”  She didn’t turn.

“Did you really mean all those things you said back there?”  He remembered her drunken words from last night.  She said she didn't mean all that stuff...but....

“You've got... potential.  Maybe.”  She still kept her back to him.

He nodded slowly, “I see...Well, I wonder what kind of monster we're up against?”

She shrugged, “Who knows?”

They continued some ways in silence, Jacious feeling a bit awkward, trying to think of something to say. “So, how did your parents meet?” 

Though he couldn’t see it, Lucca smiled. “They were school sweethearts.  Got married young, and amazingly managed to stay happy even after I showed up.”

Jacious found some humor in that. “Why would you cause them to be anything but?  I know I for one would love to have a kid one day.  Being a father is my dream, to at least understand what my own parents went through.  Why would you bring your parents anything but joy?”

She turned around, stopping in her tracks, eyebrows raised, “Seriously?  You of all people should know how mean I can be.”

Jacious could have agreed, but he only explained, “You're mean because you're prideful because you know you can kick ass, especially in science.  That came after your dad's invention, but they've always loved you.  In fact, I envy your parents a bit.”

Lucca snorted with laughter, “Riiight.  I'm just a little ball of sunshine and roses.”

“I wouldn't go that far,” he said with a semi-serious tone, “but your parents love you no matter what.  I've seen this from experience of other families.  And…” he said matter-of-factly, “I have a feeling you'd be a good mom.  Given how bad you are, you'll be great at taking care of your kids because you could predict their movements.”

Lucca’s soft laughter reverberated off the cave’s walls. “Oh, I know my mom and dad love me.  But I admit, I've been... difficult….ha!  How bad I am...sheesh.  My kids would be hellions.”  She shook her head, “But it's pointless to talk about it.  I don't see that happening any time soon. I'm too busy for that... child raising stuff.” 

Despite a possible punch to the mouth, Jacious gave her a soft pat on the shoulder. “Give it time.  The way you talk it's like there's no hope.  It's not like you’re an ugly self centered....scratch that.....It's not like you're an ugly girl or anything.”

Lucca’s shoulders slumped, “Who'd want anything to do with me... in that way?  Seriously.  I'm too busy for a family or relationships anyway.  There are inventions to be invented and processes to be improved.”

Jacious countered again. “Perhaps your inventions would come about through seeing the needs and issues with child raising?”

“I don't see myself as inventing the world's best highchair.  I'm more along the lines of…” She waved her hand about slowly, “vehicles and weapons and robotics.”

Jacious adopted a humorous tone, “Well maybe you can make diaper changing easier through robotics.   Anyway, we need something else to talk about.  You're going to get depressed if you keep thinking all down and stuff.”

Lucca pointed to herself, “Me?  Depressed?  Never.”

He laughed, “You're right.  The great Lucca Ashtear is never depressed.  In fact-” His eyes narrowed, and he stopped in his tracks.  “Damn.”

Lucca stopped right behind him, “What?”

He frowned, “The Black Wind howls......the thing is close by.”  He heard a click as Lucca pulled and cocked the Wondershot.  Jacious stared deeper into the cave, “I'm going to need to get a katana or some sort  of bow staff later, but for now I'll just deal with it....you ready, Wondergirl?”

“That's Lucca the Great to you, hotshot.”  She took off down the hall.  “Nyah!”

“Wait, Lucca! You can't just charge in there!”  He ran after her saying nothing else.  Soon, they came to a large chamber.  There was a bit of light from some holes in the ceiling, and dappled in the filtered sunlight, they saw the creature fully.  It was a head, floating in the air, its right and left hands hovering not too far away.

Lucca screeched to a halt. “What in the name of god is that?”

Jacious nodded slowly, recalling the game. “Gods...it looks like Giga Gaia, but...it's not...and the color is all wrong.”  The monster looked golden, rather than purple.  “Zeal hasn't risen yet...but how can he be here....unless....”  The creature still seemed not to notice them.  “Perhaps Lavos just created this thing as an experiment...or maybe it was here to begin with and Zeal adopted the design later?”

Lucca trained her Wondershot on the creature. “Suggestions?”

Jacious’ eyes narrowed as he felt some hate well in him from seeing the creature.  It never should have been made, and as things were, it could pose a threat unless they stopped it.  “Well it looks like the earthquakes might have been from this thing trying to get out...look up there.”  He pointed to the narrowing ceiling where the light was coming through.  “Only a bit longer, and it would have escaped.”  His voice dropped as he worked through his thoughts.  “If this thing is here...then what about Giga....could Zeal have found this guy's remains and had a copy of him created using magic?  Lavos would be the best explanation; either that or this thing is as alien, but I'm leaning toward Lavos....”

“Don't really see it as being too mobile...hrm.”  Tapping her foot, she said a bit louder; “You done with your monologue yet?”

The being turned its head to them and let out a roar, coming a bit closer in the large room.  “Crap... we're spotted!  Yep!!! I'm done!”

She grinned, somewhat maliciously, “Good.  Guess that means it's time to bust this bastard up.  Unless, of course, you think killing it would screw with Giga Gaia’s existence in 12,000BC.”

Jacious remained silent, staring at the upcoming creature.  So something like you was on Mt.Woe...  but it wasn't you… in fact, your magic power is just on par with Lucca's...

Jacious’ glare threatened to kill the monster itself, “It's too early for him to exist.  Zeal made Giga Gaia...Lavos or someone made this one… somehow.  The version Zeal made was much more powerful than this.  I know...it just doesn’t feel right.”  Quietly, he said, “He's screwing things up as it is.”  He held out his hands in front of him, preparing a spell.  “Kill the bastard!”

“Fair enough.”  Lucca spread her arms out, floating lightly into the air, and searing heat filling the room.  “FLARE!”  Lucca's form glowed, and blinding red light, with a deafening crash, filled the chamber, knocking dust and rocks loose from the ceiling, turning the surfaces nearest her to glass.  The creature roared in pain from the heat. 

Jacious thrust his hands out, a dark ball of energy shooting to the creature's left hand, which exploded into a dark bomb.  The creature roared and retaliated by pounding his right hand at Jacious, who jumped back to avoid being smashed.  Again the creature roared, preparing an attack in the form of a plasma field, and it rolled over him in a nauseating wave.  Jacious, having never experienced magic from the receiving end, yelled out, gritting his teeth in pain.  “I'm going to kill you!”

Lucca fired at the left hand with the Wondershot, and it seemed to stun the hand, distracting the creature.  The plasma field dissipated, leaving Jacious shivering and angry.  Taking a quick breath, he grinned and jumped on top of the stunned appendage, Jacious’ right fist crackling with lightning magic, and he thrust it downwards, connecting with the hand with a bright burst of energy and sharp smell of ozone.  The hand fell to the ground, motionless.  Jacious looked up to the remaining pieces of the creature, anger and slight bloodlust in his eyes.

Lucca found herself somewhat surprised by Jacious' zeal.  Having never seen him battle anything on this level, she realized she didn’t know what to expect and focused on the battle instead, concentrating her fire on the right hand. 

The creature targeted Jacious again, since he had destroyed the left fist, and happened to be the closer of the two.  The monster created another plasma field and directed it toward Jacious.  As the energy crackled through Jacious, he yelled out, obviously in pain, “Take out the right!  Dammit! Don't hesitate!!”

“I know how to fight!” Lucca shouted, annoyed.  She brought her hands together, a series of huge explosions echoing through the chamber.  The right hand quickly fell dead from the strong magical blast and Jacious stood, swaying slightly.  In a few seconds, he regained himself and shouted, “We need to kill him before he revives the hands!  You have another Flare in you?”

“But of course,” Lucca said confidently, sweat beading on her skin, flushed from the exertion.  She repeated her most powerful spell.  As the heat blasted through the chamber, the walls grew even more melted and glassy from the heat.  The monster, seemingly stunned, stared at them both after the attack.  He was obviously badly injured, and his craggy skin sent puffs of acrid smoke into the air.  He wobbled a bit as if trying to maintain himself.

Jacious smirked, though it wasn’t the playful version; he was focused and cold.  He was ready to eliminate the obstacle in front of him.  “I got one more trick up my sleeve, you bastard.  Lucca, just keep him busy.  I have one other spell to use, but it takes a moment to prepare…”

Lucca grinned. “Okay, impress me. Finish him off.”  She kept true to her word and kept firing shots around the creature--explosions rock the air to the right and left.  The monster dodged wobbly back and forth, trying not to get hit by Lucca's blasts, though he didn’t realize she wasn’t aiming at him.

Jacious held his arms crossed in front of him, repeating a spell he heard in his dreams, “From the depths of darkness come to my aid.  I pledge myself to the shadows for the air you breathe.  I summon thee....”  He spread his hands forward.  “Dark Mist!”  A thick greenish fog flooded the area, concealing the monster’s head, the sounds of sizzling flesh coming from within.  The fog soon dissipated and the monster was once more motionless in the the air.  Jacious fell to his hands and knees, having exhausted himself.  “Is he....dead yet?”

As if in response, the monster's head fell to the earth with a heavy thud, kicking up a cloud of dust. On impact the skull cracked, thick purple ooze flowing from the wound.  Shuddering in disgust, Lucca pulled another Megabomb from her satchel and tossed it at the monster.  The blast disintegrated what was left.  “It's dead now.”

Jacious panted, smiling.  “That wasn’t too bad...I'm too weak though...not enough stamina.”

Lucca exhaled, relieved the battle was over, but still running high on adrenaline.  She padded quickly to Jacious' side. “Are you okay?”

He sat down heavily. “I overextended myself...that's what I get for showing off.”  He frowned, “but that's the extent of my spells...they're not as strong as yours, but I still have a bit of variety.”  He looked away.  “There, I said it.  Your magic is stronger than mine.”

Lucca sat beside him, her legs crossed, “Well, I've had years of experience, and training under Spekkio...  I mean, for being self-taught, you're pretty good.”  She grinned at him. “There, I said it... you're pretty good.”

He turned back to her, grinning as well, “Anything else we need to confess?”

She tapped her chin, “Well... thanks for the help.”  Lucca crossed her arms, “I could have done it myself, of course, but you helped distract it like a pro.”  She cuffed him on the shoulder.

Jacious laughed lightly, enjoying himself, “I'll take that as a compliment.”  He stood slowly, wobbling, “Mind...umm...helping me out?  I'm sure we can handle those monsters if they're still there...waiting.”

Lucca stood as well, brushing off her shorts, “Well, I have the feeling that they'll be gone.”

Jacious placed his arm on her shoulder to balance himself.  His eyebrow rose, “Oh? What gives you that idea? You become a prophet?”

Lucca shook her head, “No such luck. Just that... with the thing we just killed being gone... their reason to hang around the entrance is too.”

“Well then, let's head out and pray we didn't forget anything.  I suppose one more night in Ioka is alright before we head forward in time a bit.”

“If, of course, Epoch lets us,” Lucca pointed out.

Jacious kept his arm securely around her shoulders lest he fall.  “True...but hey, ‘Live dangerously,’ right?”

“Suppose so...”  She wrapped her arm around his shoulders, and supported him as they slowly walked out the way they came.  “You remember that the cave, uh, caved in, right?”

“Yeah,” he said softly, “I can take care of that.  If you have some strength left in you, I can lift the rocks away one-by-one, and you can just help me back.”

“Hmh,” she nodded, “Kinda funny I'm relying on your pasty butt to get me out of here.”

Jacious gave a slight smirk, “And I'm relying on your egotistical ass to get me out of here.”

“Ain't life grand?” she asked sarcastically.

“Yep.” he said matter-of-factly.  “You know, they say that life and death experiences like these give you the urge to have wild, passionate sex. You feelin' anything?”  He mentally smacked himself on the head.  Hold up...I shouldn't kid around just yet...crap.  She could leave me here if she gets pissed.

She blinked and looked him square in the eyes. “Now that you mention it... I am getting a little tingly.”

“Err.”  He turned red, “Right....sure. Thanks for kidding Lucca. The two of us needed a laugh.”

She looked down at his crotch, face serious. “Those are some awful tight jeans. I could help you out of them, if you're feeling... uncomfortable.”

Sweating, he shouted, “LUCCA!”

Lucca continued, “Come to think of it, my shirt is feeling very binding… what I wouldn't give for my breasts to feel the cool breeze in here!  And it's so dark and romantic. What a great place to have sex. What good ideas you have!”

Jacious looked around for a quicker exit.  “Lucca...now is not the time to kid around....”  He bit his lower lip as he felt his stomach tie up in knots.  Me and my big mouth...

She snorted with restrained laughter, “Not the time? I recall YOU started it.”

“I was... teasing.”  He looked to the ground, “Of course I deserved it. I opened my mouth before I thought.  I was afraid you'd get angry and leave me here.”

“What, you wanted me to leave you here?” she regained her hold on him, feeling him slip slightly.

He shook his head, “Of course I didn't.”

Her eyes went forward as they walked.  “Then shut up and let's get out of this damn cave.”

Jacious nodded, “Yes ma'am....you had me going though, that's for sure. Had me scared too.”

“Oh?”  Lucca seemed very amused by this. “Scared of a physical relationship, are ya?”

Jacious nodded again. “Honestly...I've never really had that sort of contact, and I find it a bit scary even to think about it.  That's totally natural of course…”  He stuttered quickly, covering himself.   “Besides, I told you before, I didn't have a girlfriend back home. Didn't need one, and most girls kept their distance. I think I scared 'em.”

Lucca kept that grin on her face, “I can see why.  You're a creepy guy.”

“Oh?”  He caught sight of the exit. “At least I don't go around blowing everything up. They were freaked with the blue hair mainly, but you... whew.  The stuff of nightmares.”

“I'm comfortable with my lifestyle choice,” she said smugly.

“I think I'm still adjusting...”  As they reached the cave in site, Jacious prepared himself. “Alright.  Give me a moment so I can clear these things and give us an exit.  Ready?”

“When you are,” she replied.

Jacious focused on the piled rocks and boulders in front of him and spread his hands out. One by one the stones fly out a distance; the top one first and then those in the center, then the bottom until there were enough gone for a path.  The process took a few minutes and by that time, he was sweating and leaning up against her even more in a show of fatigue.  “I took care...of the entrance.”  He gulped down a lump in his throat. “I'm going to sleep well tonight.”

Lucca found herself impressed with the man, but didn’t say as much.  “And I think... you deserve it. Good job.  Let's get you back to the village.”

He nodded slowly, “Yes. Lets...before I fall over and crack my skull open.”  As she had when he was unconscious after going to Guardia castle, Lucca hefted him onto her shoulders and began the slow trek back to Ioka.  Jacious smiled, his eyes slowly closing, losing himself in a restful sleep, barely aware of the journey.

Chapter 8

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