Parasite: Part 2, Chapter 6
Clamoring loudly across the wooden slats, the rickety horse-drawn cart traversed Zenan Bridge as awkwardly as a well-built cart thrice its age. Luxury was far from the groups collective thoughts; they were more focused on reaching Truce as quickly as they could. Whipping the steeds so as to hasten their trip across the span, Meridio narrowed his eyes and snuck a glance over his shoulder. The lifeless form of Robo occupied most of the back end of the vehicle; Lucca pored over the mechanical devices revealed by the removed panels in his side. She was obviously engrossed in her work. He turned to the young princess sitting next to him and inquired:
Why isnt Crono with you, anyway? I thought he protected you.
I can take care of myself, Marle answered over the clunking sound of the unbalanced wooden wheels against the bridge. But if we ever run into any monsters, Crono is the best fighter among us.
Better than me? the mercenary suggested with a wry smile.
She smirked back at him, recalling how quickly he dispatched of the Mystics guards in Ozzies rebuilt fortress. Well, I guess well have to see about that.
Maybe he said under his breath.
As they neared the end of the bridge, the jostling grew in intensity. Robos body sunk as the cargo hold in the back started to give way, creaking loudly. One of the horses tripped and stumbled, nervously regaining its footing just as the cart left the wooden span. The tremors continued even as the group reached solid ground. Marle braced herself, mostly out of surprise, and called out to the air:
Whats going on?
Meridio looked about him, trying to find a source of the disturbance. Lucca raised her head from her work, scanned the horizon, and observed:
It feels a lot like the earthquakes that Lavos made, only closer.
I dont like this at all, the Guardian heir stated. Lavos never moved from his landing spot.
If its not this Lavos, then what else could it be? Meridio queried, cocking a knowing eyebrow to Lucca.
Lets get going, the inventor commanded ominously before gathering her tools and the stray robot parts from around the bed of the cart.
Marle began to say: You think its actually Helmin--, but was cut off by a sharp crack on the horses reins. Meridio urged the cart forward, seemingly ignoring its poor construction. As the vehicle sped towards the relocated Truce, which was appearing over the horizon, any tremors from the giant worm became indistinguishable from the clumsy jarring of the old horse-drawn cart.
Im not sure I can feel them any more, the princess declared.
I havent really felt them since we got here, Lucca confessed, seating herself in a chair next to her fathers workbench.
I felt one about an hour ago, Meridio claimed as he paced near the front door of Luccas house. The sun had already snuck behind the hills to the west, and the last few smears of red were giving way to a darkness that seemed eerie when coupled with the thought of the great flatworm stalking civilization. Only Lucca seemed oblivious to the threat, as she was preoccupied with a specific piece of Robos inner mechanism. Various parts of the automaton decorated the previously-tidy floor. Her father had left for bed hours ago, and the young scientist gave no acknowledgement of his strange early retirement. Ordinarily, Taban would stay up until all hours tinkering with various projects, but in this parallel history, in which his wife had been killed during some encounter with Helminthes, the man had an uncomfortably subdued air about him. Lucca chose not to address the matter, instead concentrating on her work with Robo. Since they reached her house, none of the group had seen Crono.
Are you sure hes going to come here? the mercenary asked.
He wouldnt expect us to be anywhere else with Robo, Lucca responded absently, bringing a magnifying glass to her eye and drawing the odd-looking robotic part to her nose for a much closer inspection.
Hes not waylaid somewhere else? Meridio said sarcastically. When Marle shot him a questioning look, he clarified: I mean, at his house or another friends.
Still examining the device, the inventor replied. Hes looking for Melchior; he may not be back for--
Before she could finish, the door flew open and slammed against the frame. The red-haired swordsman rushed in, followed closely by a portly figure in a cloak. Both were breathing as if they had been running for some time, although the second man seemed more exhausted than Crono. Removing the hood of his cloak, Melchior greeted the trio with a fatigued grin.
Melchior! Marle observed. Are you alright?
Im fine, the Guru of Life stated, But we must hurry with our business; we havent much time to work.
Agreed, Meridio piped up. Helminthes is on his way.
The elder examined the mercenary quickly, furrowing his brow slightly, and nodded. Yes. Well, quickly now: do you have an anvil and pair of tongs handy? I would imagine you already own a hammer and kiln that would suit my purposes.
Standing in slight irritation, Lucca hustled towards the back of her abode. Well, we had an old family heirloom that would work; I hope it still exists in this history. This way.
Splendid, Melchior granted as he followed her.
Crono bent over and clutched his knees, letting out a deep breath and calming himself. Marle walked over to his side. Are you alright, Crono?
You look like youve been over-exerting yourself, Meridio pointed out as he folded his arms and turned his shoulders toward a window.
No, Crono disagreed. The lad stalked over to a nearby chair and slumped into it.
Is something the matter? the heir inquired.
The swordsman arched his spine, stretching his back out while apparently suppressing a yawn, and cast an almost apologetic look to the princess before explaining:
Were being followed.
By whom? the mercenary inquired.
So were up against Helminthes and a team of Mystic assassins? Meridio queried.
Theyre after me, specifically, Melchior replied as he emerged from the back room to retrieve the Dreamstone and Sun Stone from the pouch that Crono handed to him. They apparently did not fall for our ruse, he told the children.
Well, all we have to do is find them before they find us, the mercenary concluded, unclipping his mace from beneath his fire-damaged overcoat.
Id rather not give our position away, Lucca proposed, having quickly resumed her effort to restore Robo. Plus, if we aggravate them any further they might take it out on other citizens.
Not if there arent any of them left, Meridio stated coldly.
There are plenty more than those following us, Melchior declared as he started towards the back room that held Luccas familys anvil. I suggest we keep our attention on staying out of sight while we prepare for Helminthes. This shouldnt take too long, as long as Im not interrupted. And with that, he receded to begin his work.
Lucca sat down next to the slumped form of Robo with the piece on which she had been tinkering. Mumbling something inaudible under her breath, she proceeded to replace it in the workings of the automaton. Standing triumphantly, she threw a small switched on the back of the robot and watched it come to life with a spasm.
Wh where am I? Robo sputtered. Upon seeing his companions, he beeped. Its good to see you all. What has happened since I have been shut off?
We moved you to my house so I could finish repairing you, Lucca explained, I just restored your main drive motivator. You should be able to tackle just as quickly as you used to.
Thank you, Lucca, the android pronounced. And what has happened to Helminthes?
Hes due to arrive somewhere at any moment, Marle stated. Were having Melchior make us pendants so that well be able to attack him without having our energy be absorbed like before.
Of course, that seems to apply only to the magicians among us, Meridio declared somewhat sourly.
Can you not use Magic? the automaton asked.
The Master of War wouldnt grant me any, the mercenary recalled sarcastically.
Robo beeped softly in thought to himself, then queried innocently: Would you like me to remove the stick from his output valve?
Sadly, only Lucca appreciated the unintentional effect of the statement; she was forced to lean on a table as she gasped between fits of laughter.
A hot ray of sunlight shot through the curtains and struck Crono on the face. He sat up wearily; the rough floor of Luccas hut offered no comfort whatsoever. He looked about himself; Meridio was sound asleep not two yards away, and Lucca was slumped beside the now-deactivated Robo. Footfalls alerted him that it was not the sun that woke him up; the Guardian heir was descending the staircase, having been offered the use of Luccas bed for the night. She appeared well-rested as she tied her hair into a ponytail behind her head.
Morning, Crono, she whispered as the boy stood up and tried in vain to smooth the wrinkles in his clothing. Sleep well?
Before the swordsman could find a polite response to such an unintentionally audacious question, an ungainly thud reverberated right outside the west wall of the dwelling. The inventor and the mercenary snapped awake and scrambled to their feet. Crono put his hand to the Rainbow, which had been at his side even as he slept, and crept towards the window nearest to the sound. Before he reached it, however, all of the windows in the living room smashed apart, and a mob of shapes flew into the house amidst the confusion. They all stopped and stood in place after surrounding the group. The agile Diablos scowled and cackled at their captives as an Imp pushed through the circle from the front door to address the young people.
You think were pretty stupid, dont you, humans? the brown troll accused. You think well never find where you hid the old man, dont you? Well, now we have you surrounded; wheres the old man?
Meridio twisted his mouth into a satisfied sneer and replied: Well kill you all before you can find--
A sudden and urgent tremor nearly shook all those present to the floor. The Imp toppled over with a curse, but hastily jumped to his feet. Some of the Diablos turned their attention to the door of the house and the horizon. A couple muttered between themselves. Looking to have heard their exchange, the Imp turned around and peered through the doorway.
The boss leapt as high as his stumpy legs could propel him and yelled, Woo-hoo! Its coming, its coming! I never thought Id get to see this! He rushed outside, leaving his platoon behind. A few followed, while others stayed behind and conversed among themselves.
The four adventurers traded questioning and worried looks among themselves as the rumbling continued. When the original din died down, a second, much more steady, rumble shook the frame of the abode. Meridio ran to the door, shoving a Mystic aside, and called out: Hes got to be talking about Helminthes! Were too late!
Weve got to do something now, Crono! Marle yelled urgently as she pulled the ronin outside by the arm.
The brown dwarf spun on his heels at the mention of the boys name. Youre Crono? he asked. A vicious grin slithered across his face. Oh, boy; its a great day to be alive!
What do you mean? Lucca inquired.
The Imp jabbed a finger at the red-haired lad. WE know who you are! Ozzie the Great told all about you in his memoirs; weve had other spies looking for you for years.
Why? Marle asked.
Because, the boss laughed, He may be in Lachesis-town now, but hell be on his way here in no time. Youre Helminthes main target!