Parasite: Epilogue, Chapter 2
A faint ray of moonlight lazily plodded through a window and into the hallway of Guardia Castles fortification. Washing silently over a piece of the stone floor, it illuminated a semicircle of rock at the foot of a brilliant tapestry. As one traversed the passageway, a series of weaves decorated the hall leading to the easternmost watchtower. The window closest to the staircase leading up the tower had filled with the reflected rays of the moon. It was as if the moonbeam was meant to lead travelers down the darkened hall so as to reach the tower unharmed.
Despite the serenity of the hall, if such a traveler was to glance out one of its windows, a perilous drop met his eyes. Directly outside the wall of the castle fortification, a meager cliff dropping straight into a frigid moat greeted the unwary witness. Likewise, very few people took the time to explore the outer parts of the stronghold.
Paying the steep cliff no mind, the Magus floated with an uncaring repose as he peered through the windows. Catching sight of an appropriately sized figure, he followed the form until it neared the foundation of the watchtower. Then, as casually as one unafraid of heights could be, the wizard perched himself coolly on the window sill, casting an ominous shadow through the moonlight and onto the diminutive shape of a knight.
Instinctively drawing the legendary Masamune, Frog tensed as he followed the shadow towards it owner. Suppressing a frown as best as he could, the amphibian quietly pronounced: Magus.
Casually regarding the swordsman, the sorcerer sat down, leaning his back against the frame of the window and dangling a leg over the outside edge of the wall. Pulling his other knee upward, he rested his hand on it and nonchalantly inspected his heavy glove.
As the knight errant relaxed his posture, he waited for a response from the magician. Receiving none, he suspiciously kept his grip on the handle of his weapon and inquired, How didst thou discover me herein?
The locals in Truce are busy gossiping about the Royal Armys new commander, Magus explained. Apparently he was a friend to Cyrus.
Tis I of whom they speak, the frog-man clarified, calmly allowing himself to widen the distance between himself and the former prince.
Partially rolling his eyes at the blatancy of Frogs remark, the sorcerer let his gaze wander to the horizon of Guardia. The sun had long since crept below the landscape, and little could be seen by the light of the stars and satellite. Yet as he took in the ambiance of his suroundings, the Magus could clearly discern that something significant had changed in the era. While the plane of Magic that was present in his subconscious usually kept a strong bearing when he resided in the Middle Ages, it now felt quite different. He deduced a change less from this abnormality in the ether-field than from a more apparent calmness that rested itself over Guardia. It felt as if, without realizing it, the countryside had grown greatly at ease.
Ozzie is dead, the wizard announced to the air after pondering the difference in the atmosphere.
Surely, Frog agreed, Mine own eyes witnessed his demise. Slaughtered a second time is thy pet worm, Helminthes.
Arching an eyebrow, Magus returned his gaze to the inside of the fortress. Staring straight into the swordsmans face, he queried, What are you talking about?
Ozzie resurrected the monster, and unleashed it upon the future, the knight affirmed.
Shaking his head calmly in disbelief, the former Mystic leader mused, Never figured Ozzie had that much intuition.
Frog stepped back into the moonlight and declared, Therein the village of Sandorino was devastated. Furthermore, it took a young mans life to thwart that mage. Ozzie was more crafty than believed.
So, was it that Crono again?
Nay; a man from this very year sacrificed himself to end the Mystics Curse. Better that thee should know this and behold what thy deeds hath wrought. A life has been lost this time because thou left thy handiwork to be picked up by others.
Stirring where he sat and leaning into the hall, the sorcerer drew his dangling leg up to the sill and dropped the opposite leg inside the castle. Dont try to make me feel for people who volunteer themselves to die. Im not here to discuss virtue with you.
Pray, tell me what it is that has brought thee here, the knight demanded in an irritated, falsely courteous tone.
I have an offer, Magus stated, tugging confidently at the glove he had been studying. Ill only say this once; you have another chance to fight me for your revenge.
Dropping the hand that had been gripping his broadsword, Frog regarded the words with tired annoyance. I have naught to gain from that. Rather should I keep the nobility that the good knight Cyrus hath imparted in me by his example.
Fine, the wizard replied sourly, But if you refuse, youll remain in that clumsy frogs body. My death is the only thing that can break the curse.
Ive grown fond of my shape, the knight confirmed, twisting his mouth upwards. The life of a frog hath done well for me. Begone, Dark Wizard.
Incredulity numbed the magicians body. He made himself stand up, barely contained by the arch of the window, and frowned skeptically at his former adversary. Before his face could warp into a bitter scowl, he spun himself around to face the moat outside the fortification. Glancing sardonically over his shoulder, he sneered:
Suit yourself. You wouldnt be worth my time anyway.
As you like it, the frog-man replied.
With a derisive snort, the sorcerer leapt off of the edge of the sill and floated downward. The amphibian kept his eyes on the moonlit window for a few minutes, waiting as if the Magus might return, yet knowing that he would not. Snickering at the poor quality of their conversation, he resigned himself to his patrol, and ascended the staircase to the eastern watchtower in silence.
Had he not known that the Timegate led to a different era, the Magus could have sworn that the world he entered was the same as the one he had just left. The blackness of the night was as dark in the Eleventh Century as the night he had traversed four hundred years earlier. What clarified his location in time-space was the artificial development of the valley he occupied. While the older Valley of Truce was a rocky, monster-ridden passage, the newer landscape had been partially flattened out to accommodate the growing city nearby. Now, a large square filled with shops sat at the foot of the mountains. The Millennial Fairgrounds had since been torn down; the celebration was clearly over.
Wasting little time, the wizard stalked out of the plaza and towards the heart of the city. After swallowing his pride long enough to talk to one of the locals, he learned where he needed to go to find his quarry. Tracing the northeastern side of the burg, he came across a modest two-story domicile and proceeded to its front doorstep.
Knocking forcibly on the portal, he stood statically and waited for a response. Moments later, the door opened and a woman peered out, saying, Good evening as politely as she could despite her wariness at the callers lateness.
Barely shaken by the fact that a woman answered the door, the sorcerer pronounced, Does Crono live here?
Yes, hes my son, she replied, easing the door open slightly more.
Id like to speak with him.
Is he in any trouble?
Well have to see about that, the man remarked.
Shooting a pensive glance to the floor at her feet, the woman said: Ill go fetch him. Leaving the door slightly open, she left to find the boy. Shuffling to the houses only staircase, she called his name. Promptly answering, Crono trotted halfway down the flight, carrying a sword and polishing cloth in his hand. She whispered something to him, and he directed his eyes to the doorway, barely discerning the figure outside. Still staring out the door, he descended the remainder of the staircase and slowly sheathed his weapon. As he shoved the cloth into a small pouch at his belt, he told his mother that he would be leaving.
She gave no response at first, but as he reached the door, she pronounced his name. Stopping at the portal, a mere plank of wood dividing himself and the dark wizard, the boy looked over his shoulder at the woman who had aimed her eyes at the silently floating moon in the sky above Guardia. I know youve been out there getting yourself into all kinds of danger, she affirmed, expertly hiding the faint wavering in her voice, And something tells me youve been through a lot more than I can imagine.
He grimaced slightly. Since the monster Helminthes had been destroyed, nobody in his present had any memory of the Curse of the Mystics. Additionally, his mother could not remember the terrible injuries he had endured at the beasts hand. Still, she appeared to have a better inkling of his travails than he thought.
I shouldnt be so fretful, since you are nearly old enough to live on your own, but Im your mother and I cant help it. Sighing and relaxing her gaze on the moon, she looked to her son and finally requested: Be careful, Crono.
He smiled reassuringly and nodded to his mother before exiting the door to his home.
Following the former prince, the young swordsman said nothing, and received no explanation as to why he had been summoned by the Magus. The pair walked in silence to the south and were soon free of the Truce village limits. As they neared a vast field of waist-high grass, the lad stopped in his tracks.
What is this? he inquired.
Maintaining his pace for a few more steps, the sorcerer calmly faced the boy and answered: A challenge. To a duel.
We never settled our fight before Lavos was summoned to my castle, Magus replied. Im giving you one chance to prove yourself the better combatant.
I have no reason to fight you, the youth asserted.
Yes you do, the wizard confirmed smugly. I may take my anger out on your town if you dont accept.
You wont do that, the boy nearly smirked. Yet before he could say any more, the shape of the magician twisted and appeared to vanish from sight. A quick rustling through the grass alerted him that Magus was attacking. He quickly drew his sword and, in doing so, parried a strike aimed at his torso.
His eyes still had not adjusted to the darkness completely, but he distinguished a devilish sneer coming from the sorcerer as his adversary continued his attack. The Mystic-forged scythe in the wizards hands caught a glimmer of moonlight long enough for Crono to aim his sword and deflect it from its downward arc. Twisting the weapons handle around, Magus threw a wide blow across the side of the boys ribcage. Winded, Crono ducked out of the way clumsily as a second swipe of the sickle-like blade completed the assault and nearly severed his left arm.
Breaking away, Magus spun his weapon maliciously in his hand and charged forward for another attack. Rushing the blunt end towards his opponent, he feinted and swung the blade sideways at the swordsmans right. Crono twisted his sword in his hand and caught the attack, then threw his weight forward into a shoulder tackle. Shoving the magician backwards, the ronin withdrew and composed himself in preparation for another strike.
Magus, too, backed away, and gripped his scythe as he crouched in readiness. When he rushed the lad, Crono mirrored his charged, and the two met amidst flailing blades of grass. Instead of striking with his weapon, the magician released the staff with his right hand and aimed the palm at his adversary. Crono quickly reacted and sidled out of the way as a column of fire erupted from the Magus arm, stretching into the atmosphere as it hurdled past him. In the split second that it took for the sorcerer to halt his spell, the swordsman flipped his weapon underneath the blade of the scythe and attempted to wrench it from his opponents grasp. Magus rolled with the twisting pull, and followed through with a right hook to Cronos jaw. When the boy faltered, the wizard freed his weapon and dodged backwards.
Regaining his footing, Magus scowled, Youre embarrassing m-- but was cut off by the sight of Crono sweeping his hand in a downward arc and throwing a massive, snaking bolt of lightning from the heavens towards the wizard. His defensive spell barely saved the sorcerer from electrocution; he even found himself instinctively shielding his face with his forearms until the spear of electricity dissipated. Promptly abating his derisive comment, the man relaxed his shield and planned his retaliation.
Although a great deal of his internal essence was still depleted after he summoned the Timegate in Zeal, Magus knew of a fighting technique that made expert use of even the smallest amounts of supernatural energy. A few of the remaining teachers of the ancient Mystic art of Eitervæpon had imparted some of their craft on the young Janus before he had adopted his notorious persona. He found the style awkward at best, but if nothing else he would be able to surprise the boy with such an obscure tactic. Twirling his weapon once at his side, the magician took the scythe in both of his hands and held it vertically in front of his face. The air around the blade rippled as it harbored the energy channeled by the Magus. Black waves of magic enveloped the sickle-like blade and seemed to be absorbing any traces of light around the weapon. Brandishing his scythe, the former Mystic leader dashed towards the swordsman.
Crono assumed a wide stance and prepared his sword for a parry as the wizard approached with his scythed aimed low. Catching the blade of the weapon, Crono felt an ominous tremor shake through his sword, threatening its very constitution. He pried upwards against the assault and released his blade in time to deflect the blunt end of the scythe before it could batter his ribs again. The two instinctively jumped back, but Magus quickly recovered and threw himself forward, swinging his weapon at the lads feet. Crono leapt over the slice and pitched his sword downward at the magicians head. Ducking and blocking the strike, Magus spread the black aura across the handle of his scythe and channeled it towards the contact point. Mimicking the sorcerers technique as best he could, the youth charged his sword with his own inner power, infusing it with a greenish-yellow, electrical aura. Sensing the boys effort, Magus concentrated his energy at the very spot that the sword pushed against his scythe, and a repulsive force threw the blade nearly out of the boys hands. Kicked back by the expulsion of force, Crono was unprepared for the blunt end of the scythe as it swiped across his face, catching his cheek and throwing him sideways. Anticipating another strike as he reeled under the attack, the ronin summoned a ball of his inner element into his hand and diffused it outward. The bloom of electricity effectively deterred the Magus, but Crono ended up on his back amidst the unattended grasses of the field.
Scrambling to his feet, the boy searched anxiously for his opponent, and found the magician standing a few yards away. Having rested his weapon at his side, Magus looked to be regarding the lad with an amused countenance. Crono could have sworn he heard the sorcerer chuckle to himself.
You and I are a lot alike, boy, he claimed with an air of amusement. We both let our actions speak for us. But even so, you should know that only one of us is going to leave this field under his own power.
Ignoring the threat, the swordsman assumed a fighting stance and focused an unwavering stare on the wizard. A tense moment passed as Magus remained unmoving, keeping his bemusement aimed at the boy. Without warning, the magician disappeared behind an image-obscuring spell and charged.
Following the collapsing grass, Crono desperately prepared his guard. Appearing mere inches in front of the boy, the wizard held his weapon over his head and swung it downward. The ronin stopped the blade as he had done before, but Magus reacted swiftly by releasing the pressure of his attack and shifting his weight backwards. Dodging Cronos sword and realigning his scythe in the same instant, the sorcerer jabbed the blunt end of his weapon into his enemys stomach. As the lad flinched, Magus released his left hand from the staff and pitched his elbow into the youths head. Continuing to push forward, Magus dropped his scythe and grabbed the swordsman by his hair. In one fluid motion, the wizard smashed Cronos face into his knee and released the boy to stagger backwards. Wasting no time, the magician rushed his adversary and, charging his fist with his Shadow power, delivered a crippling left cross to the lads temple. Crono fell to the ground limply, dragging a few inches through the dirt at the wizards feet.
Magus stepped backwards, frowning in disappointment at his opponent. It was clear that the ronin was not putting up the kind of fight that the former prince demanded. He watched as Crono pulled himself up to a knee, rubbing his temples and breathing raggedly. In a fit of frustration, the boy lifted his sword and drove it into the ground, then aimed a sour glare to the Magus. Maladroitly placing his feet as stably as he could, Crono bared angry teeth and looked to be focusing on something in the very pit of Magus being. He drew his left fist to his side and aimed his right hand, with the first two fingers extended upwards, in front of his face. The dead stare coupled with the sudden stasis of the boys posture became all the more unsettling when Magus beheld the force that seized his enemys body.
What he could discern as the swordsmans shape first started to blur with a supernatural quaking. Magus kept a wary concentration on the alien display of power. Before he could determine what it could be that the boy was channeling, a fiercely bright green aura split the air around Crono and the boy attacked. All the wizard had time to do was remember that he never retrieved his scythe before the lad reached him, almost flying through the air towards him. A staggering force planted itself in his gut, and he doubled over to see the blurred image of the boy before a second, stronger blow caught him upwards in the chin, throwing his head backwards and draining the consciousness from the sorcerer.