Parasite: Part 2, Chapter 8
A muscle spasm jerked his face into awareness. His kinesthesia was weak, and he could barely feel his extremities. The most he could discern, as his vision cleared slowly, was that he was lying down. The ceiling above him seemed familiar, not in appearance, but in essence. He deduced that he was home, but could remember nothing of what had brought him there. Gradually, he became aware of a weight on his torso. As various other sensations, most of them painful, made themselves known, he decide not to try to get up. This was fortunate, for the mere effort of trying to raise his head to look at what was lying on his chest made his head spin; waves of nausea threatened to deplete his consciousness, and he dropped his head back to the pillow underneath without ever getting a good enough look at what was lying on him.
Whatever it was moved in response. Languidly rolling to one side, then abruptly lifting, Marles head rose into view. It was she that had been sleeping across his chest.
Crono! she exclaimed. Youre awake! My God, you had us so worried! She threw herself across him, and he grunted with the incredible pain that accompanied her hug. She apologetically released him, and as his once-again blurred vision focused, he could see that she had been crying for some time. She simply stared at him for a moment with her hands folded in front of her lips and a pained expression in her eyes; he had no idea what, if anything, to say to her. Suddenly, she jumped to attention and ran to the stairwell, calling, Hes awake!
A stampede of footsteps clamored up to his room. The first to reach the top of the flight was the boys mother; Lucca followed closely behind, and Meridio took up the rear of the group, swaggering much more calmly than the other two.
Kneeling at the side of his bed, Cronos mother gazed at the boy, clearly shocked at the extent of his injuries. She looked more haggard than she had the first time he saw her in the Helminthes-influenced timeline. Before his mind could wander to what had happened to him in the fight with the monster, she spoke.
My boy, she spoke softly as her eyes misted slightly. What do you think you were doing up on that roof?
Seeing his brow furrowed in question, Lucca piped up nervously: Well, you know how Crono cant resist a dare.
The matriarch turned a glance to the inventor and heaved a frustrated sigh. You kids she stated as if staving off a lecture. Turning back to her son, she worriedly adjusted a bandage wrapped around his head and asked: How are you feeling?
Fine, the swordsman answered in a ragged voice; the pain accompanying speaking surprised him. He swallowed in a vain attempt to ease the abrasive feeling in his throat.
Okay, she replied sheepishly, standing slowly. Ill leave you kids alone, she declared, wiping her eyes and heading for the stairs. Upon passing the mercenary, she pronounced: It was nice meeting you, Mister Meridio.
The pleasure was mine, he responded smoothly, taking her hand in his for a moment.
After the lads mother had descended the staircase, Lucca crept to the boys side and began whispering to him. Youll have to play along with us. We told your mother that you fell off of my roof and landed in a barrel filled with tools. Youve been out for a day and a half now. Youre in one piece, but your injuries arent responding to any more artificial healing.
At the mention of this, Marle turned away from the boy and folded her arms with a shudder. Meridio edged up to her and put a reassuring hand on her shoulder, saying something quietly to her as Lucca continued to speak.
Do you remember what happened in the fight with Helminthes? she inquired.
He blinked a few times, then replied slowly and quietly: It attacked I fell down Trailing off, he looked across the room at the mercenary, who still had a hand on the young ladys shoulder. Thats all I know, he finished grimly, taking a deep breath.
Okay, the young scientist replied. Its underground now, but we dont know how long it will stay there.
Meridio released the princess and took a step back. That reminds me, he declared. Why did you shoot ice at it? I thought Water Magic feeds Helminthes.
It does, she answered blankly, turning back to face the troop. The last time we fought it, we tried covering it with ice and it broke out. But it went back underground right after that. I figured it would do the same thing again.
Its as if it has to rest for a growth spurt, Lucca surmised. Crafty thinking, princess.
With a frustrated countenance, Marle mumbled something under her breath and hastily marched to the stairs. Crono narrowed his eyes as he watched Meridio follow. When the two of them slipped out of his view, he rested his head back on the pillow. Lucca pulled the chair from his desk to the side of the bed and sat down.
So how are you feeling? she queried, hoping he would offer a more detailed answer than the one he gave his mother.
Ready to go back out, he wheezed. She chuckled, and he joined her until the strain of laughter became too painful for him. When she stifled her own laughter, he sighed and closed his eyes. A thought leapt through his skull; he had distantly remembered something from the fight.
My sword? he asked weakly, opening a questioning glance to his friend.
I, uh she stammered. Well, they didnt come back with it. Im not sure they even know where it is, she explained.
He grumbled something incoherent under his breath and let his gaze wander back to the stairs. Squinting, this time because his vision began blurring again, he continued to regard the staircase, but spoke to his comrade:
Can I be alone? She hesitantly rose, confusedly murmuring: Oh, uh okay
Can you go down there? he clarified, glancing at her and pitching his head slightly towards the stairs.
Ah ha, she realized. Quickly returning the chair to its place in front of the desk, she gave him a small salute and shuffled after the other two adventurers.
Once again resting his head, the swordsman pondered what had happened the other day while fighting the great flatworm, and what may have happened since then. Something had to be done about the monster out there, but it was clear that he was no longer in any condition to do whatever it would be. Thinking about what had been said days before about their being able to transcend time, he figured that they had to be the ones to fix this broken reality. If there was an element of fate in the events revolving around Helminthes, maybe Meridio was the one to replace him. The terms of that replacement, however, were in question. He could not help but return to the same suspicion that the man inspired in him the first time they met. Exhaustion soon overtook his thought process, and he decided to let himself fall asleep instead of continue his pondering.
What happened to the Mystics? Crono asked. Having spent another twenty hours asleep, he had finally found the strength to sit up and eat. The tray laying across his lap quickly gave up its contents to the boys ravenous hunger. Gathered around him, Lucca and Meridio appeared happy to answer his various questions about events occurring while he had slept. Marle stayed a couple paces behind the other two, closer to the lads desk than to his bed, and seemed much more hesitant to see him than she had been the first time he awoke.
Well, Meridio took care of them, the inventor answered, sneaking in an apologetic smile.
He looked puzzled by her covertly worried expression, and shot a glance at the mercenary. Meridio folded his arms triumphantly and cast a smug nod to the lad.
Hes learned how to use Magic, Lucca continued, almost wearily. Crono shot another glance to the man at the mention of this.
If I can harness my Shadow powers, theres no way we can lose when we fight Helminthes, he declared, puffing his chest subtly.
The ronin sighed anxiously, but cleverly disguised his response as a preparation for the hot forkful of meat he was about to place in his mouth.
An awkward pause ensued before Meridio clapped his hands and declared: Well, we really came up here to tell you that were leaving. Its time to go, he stated, more to the two young ladies.
Why now? the lad inquired.
Weve been feeling tremors all morning, Lucca explained. Helminthes may be done with its growth spurt, and ready to come back any time now.
He was about to pull himself up further in his seated position when a spear of pain shot through the boys leg. What about he began, trailing off to allow the others to pick up on his thought.
Were going to leave you here, Meridio stated flatly, dropping his arms to his side. We only have room for one invalid on our rented cart, and Ive decided to take Robo.
Casting a look back to the young scientist, Cronos question was once again obvious.
Well, hes not finished being repaired, Lucca explained, And we have to make sure that well be able to take him home when we change history back. When his face twisted into a more doubtful expression, she continued. Look, if we do this quickly enough, you wont be in any danger. Well get the Helminthes of the Middle Ages before the Helminthes of this era can find you.
Which is why we cant say here too long, the mercenary urged his companions. If you want to make it to the Epoch before the monster comes back, we have to leave now. He trudged down the stairs, waving the two young ladies after him.
Lucca hurried to the stairwell, pausing apprehensively at the top to tell Crono: Well be back before you know it.
Marle stood where she had been, waiting for Lucca to leave. She took a step towards the boy, reaching her hand out a little, and struggled to find something to say. She shot a couple of quick glances to the stairs, then expelled a distraught sigh and dropped her hand. Bye, Crono; I I
Lets get going! Meridio called from the bottom of the stairs.
Clenching her fists, she cast her eyes to the floor and ran towards and down the stairs, leaving a confused and worried Crono behind.
Promptly losing his appetite at the sound of his front door slamming impatiently, the swordsman pushed his tray of food away and cursed the fact that he could not see the road and watch his friends leave with the mercenary. He began to lay down in a desperate attempt to sleep off his concerns as he had done previously when an unfamiliar glimmer from his desk caught his eye.
At times the drab courtyard at the End of Time held a serenity about it that betrayed its grim appearance. It was as if a cloud of tranquility occasionally saw fit to settle upon the one point of existence within the nihility of the space-time intersection. Frog found himself leaning against the side wall of the yard, folding his arms contentedly. As a dangling finger tapped the handle of the sheathed Masamune, he allowed his thoughts to wander to reminiscence that had usually been pushed from his conscious by more pressing concerns. His early days as a Guardian soldier and his first few weeks as squire to Cyrus ranked among his most fond memories.
His thoughts were interrupted when the door to the War Chamber opened tentatively and the wide face of Spekkio peered out. In response, the slumbering Guru of Time awoke and turned to his companion, leaning towards the chamber door.
Well, the Nu-shape began cautiously, How are things going with them?
Theyre on their way, Gaspar answered.
Did everything play out like you thought?
Its not the worst-case scenario the Guru trailed off.
Opening the door completely, the War Master grimaced more than the Nu-face usually allowed. What, then? I guess its the second from the worst?
Youd better get ready, the elder declared.
Great, Spekkio remarked almost bitterly, defeatedly closing the door to the War Chamber.
The amphibians hands closed into fists upon hearing the exchange of words. He could no longer lean comfortably on the stone wall; standing uncertainly, he paced in the general direction of the Guru of Time.
How doth they fare? he inquired with a forced air of leisure.
Youll see soon enough, Gaspar replied.
Can thou not tell me more?
Not now, the man replied simply.
Increasing the urgency of his pacing, the diminutive fighter started to cast looks towards the runway that led to the Epoch. He spent an indeterminate amount of time doing this before finally approaching the elder from the side and, with an indignant huff, proclaiming:
Twas a sadistic act of Fate that cast thee as the keeper of these environs.
Suppressing a chuckle, the Guru stated: We all have a part to play here.
Casting his eyes to a field of nothingness, the knight errant growled quietly at the unsatisfactory answer. There was little to say in response, on the other hand. Wanting to divert his attention, Frog started towards the War Chamber, hoping to be allowed some time to practice his swordplay with the Master of War. Once he found himself halfway there, a brilliant flash and thunderous clap stopped him in his tracks.
END PART TWO