Chrono Trigger: Twins of Destiny Chapter 8
And on the Run
By Mox Jet
Town of Halt
Teclis shifted his eyes, glancing at his opponents from left to right. There were only five of them, but one would have to be left alive for questioning. If they were bounty hunters, that means someone must have either hired these individuals personally, or, more likely and less desirably, someone had put a price on their heads that every Freelancer in the area would want to collect on.
He glanced over to Alaria, who was standing tentatively with her sword at the ready. She was staring menacingly at the closest man. He could feel the swirling energies of Lifestream coming up around her, something she normally reserved. Alaria did not make Lifestream Manipulation her main method of combat. He had only seen her use it under extreme aggravation or agitation. He was guessing that this one was the latter.
Easy, Alaria, he whispered harshly over to her.
Just back me up she said. Without flinching, she sprung into the air with a blur, and the first man did not even see her coming, let alone lift his blade to block, as she tore him open from left shoulder to right hip. Crumbling to the ground as his innards fell to the floor, he groaned in pain, dropping his sword. His armor was not thick enough to bare the power of the Lifestream enhanced might of Alaria.
Alaria came around in a counterclockwise spinning movement, then continued in a circle,decapitating the next man to the right. To her left, there was an attack, but a charge of lightning surged over her left shoulder, its impact marked by another scream. The scream was short lived, though, as Tecliss attack had left the source of the scream somewhat charred and very smoky.
She continued her counterclockwise spin, using the blade to now impale the man on her farthest left, aiming right around the still falling body of the char grilled victim of Tecliss spell. Batting away his attempt to parry, she thrust her blade into his stomach and then circled it upward into his heart. Continuing it to pull up, she tore the blade through his ribcage, letting it come out of him as it shattered his left collarbone. He was dead before he hit the ground.
The last man would not be killed. Alaria did not even get to take care of him. The remaining bounty hunter, temporarily stunned in awe as Alaria ripped through his companions, didnt even move as four knives came flying at him from Tecliss hands. With one landing above his right shoulder, one above his left, a third next to his right hip and the last next to his left hip, the mans cloak was pinned against the wall as Teclis stormed forward towards him. As Teclis reached him, the hunter found that he was met by the almost fatal closeness of Alarias blade, sheathed save for the bottom two inches of the blade, which were at his throat.
Who are you working for, Teclis said bitterly, pushing him up against the wall further. Tell me now, and youll die painlessly. The man, while probably having thought himself a hardened fighter before this, was now only capable of wetting his pants in terror, the blood of his companions staining his face. Teclis would not accept silence as an answer.
Tell me! he said. Who hired you? Who put out the hit? The man finally started to stutter something out.
Th-th-th-th hit is open, he managed to say. Its in-in-in the name of the Government.
Check his hand, Alaria, Teclis said. Alaria lifted up the mans right hand, but there was no sight of a mark of any sorts, let alone a star with wings.
Nothing, she said, throwing the arm down and staring him in the eye. Where did you hear about this contract? she asked.
Its n-n-n-not a hit, he said.
What? Alaria and Teclis said in unison.
Its not for your death. Its f-f-f-f-for your arrest.
Why?! Teclis hissed. What do they want with me?
I dont know! he pleaded. Im just a grunt. I dont know what the cause was. Im j-j-j-just trying to make some money.
Im going to make this simple, Teclis said. All I want to know is where you got this job from. Who did you talk to? It looked almost like he was lightening up or smartening up. Slowly, he began to stutter out an answer to the question.
It was I talked to- the man was cut off by a swirling hiss, accompanied by the flight of a small three pronged bladed object into his forehead. Now dead, the man slumped downward, oblivious to the knives still holding him up. Alaria and Teclis spun around to see who the new assailant was, but the opposing window the only place the projectile could have come from- was empty. The two let down their guard, released their breath, and calmed their tensions, for the moment, anyway.
Damn, Alaria said, fully sheathing her weapon and replacing it on her back.
I smell conspiracy, Teclis said, mocking a sniffing motion with his nose.
The sniper obviously wasnt after you, Alaria pointed out.
Or Id be dead Teclis said. He sighed and sat down against the wall amongst the dead bodies. The building was now beginning to clear out now that the fighting was over, the innocent bystanders scrambling for the door. Teclis and Alaria would be sent out of the building eventually, they thought, and now they might be in trouble with the law. They probably could not even plead self-defense, as Alaria made the first move and there were many witnesses to testify to that. She was still too impetuous.
Though, after a bit of cajoling and helping with the cleanup, Alaria convinced the owner to let them stay and have a few drinks. Luckily, the owner of the restaurant had seen the fight and had sided with Teclis and Alaria, knowing that the bounty hunters posed a threat and that her actions were well founded. In addition to saying that, he would give such a statement if questioned. Again, though, it dawned on the duo that it wasnt as if there were any law enforcers anyway, though, so it probably wouldnt come to that. It was people like Teclis and Alaria that kept the law now. How ironic that they had just broken it.
So they stayed and had drinks. At least the restaurant was cooler than the outside. Also, taking the chance to satiate their hunger, they dined on freshly baked bread and fried fish imported from Gregor, a town on the Northern Sea.
I should have been more careful, Teclis said. I forgot to keep my back covered, sipping a glass of soda as he leaned back in a wooden chair.
And I charged in without thinking again, Alaria added, taking a shot of the scotch in front of her. And on top of that, Im sure were not going to be looked on very fondly of the townsfolk now. Its not like we were doing the town a favor by offing those guys. I bet theyd never been a problem here in the past. I dont know where they were from, but they didnt look like the rest of the locals. Something tells me that this contract really did come from farther away. But, open? Totally widespread? Can they even do that? He must be exaggerating.
But why would he? Teclis said.
I dont know. What bothers me more is that whoever contracted those men wants them to stay quiet. That, and we dont have any traces on who that might be, save for this she pulled out the three pointed throwing weapon.
So dont you go throwing it with the rest of your toys, Teclis said to her She lightly sneered.
Id like to figure out where it's from what its made of you know? Whoever threw this star is now at the root of our problems.
And I thought it was just getting paid, Teclis said sarcastically. I guess were going to have a hard time assassinating this guy, now that were on the run from other Freelancers.
Alaria shrugged, taking another shot.
And slow down with that, Teclis said, taking away the bottle as she was about to pour another. I cant have you drunk while were now on the run.
Im fine, she said, wiping her lips with her forearm. I can have some more.
No, he said. Youre done. She pouted as he got up and gave the bottle to the nearest employee. Grumbling for a minute, she finally got over it and got back to what was important.
Where do we go next, then? she finally asked.
To do our job, he said. We still have a contract to complete. Well have to stay on guard. He glanced at his watch. Its 2:00, now, he said. I dont know what our chances are of getting at this guy today, but we might have to lay low while we wait to do it. When bounty hunters come, they come in droves. I wouldnt be surprised if there were more waiting just outside to ambush us
The duo eventually left the restaurant only to be met by dirty looks wherever they turned. They had already paid for their hotel room, so their decision was to rest there. The hotel, unlike most of the buildings in this town, was efficiently cooled, and so it would be the least heat stricken place to go. They were slightly perturbed, however, when the hotel manager would not let them go into the hotel. They were given a refund, but he apologized for not being able to serve a wanted criminal.
Naturally, this caused some distress among Teclis and Alaria, but the manager was able to back up his statement with a wanted poster, accompanied with the neat marking of 60,000 Gil beneath Tecliss picture.
Bah, Teclis said, crumpling the poster up. We should find out whos behind this so I can slit their throat, he said bitterly, throwing the paper to the floor and spitting on it.
Where will we stay? Alaria asked the manager. He gave an apathetic shrug.
I dont house criminals, he said. Youre welcome to stay here, young lady, if you want. Alaria frowned.
I want you to tell me where else we can get a room so you can lose our business, she said, leaning on the counter that separated them. Now, are you going to tell me, or not? The manager looked at the ground.
Just leave, please, he said. Alaria grunted. Teclis was stoic.
Come on, Teclis said. Lets just go. Theres bound to be someplace in this town that we can go to.
Humph, Alaria muttered, turning her nose up at the manager. Fine, she said. Lets go. Turning around, she left the building, Teclis following, out of the cool hotel and into the dusty, dry street.
The street was crowded with people. A few blocks away, they could hear the sounds of the market place where vendors were hawking their wares, trying to make enough money to buy food and water. This far out, the dust from the ground that was kicked up at the market was still in the air, stinging their eyes and making breathing hard. It was 2:30, which was the hottest time of the twenty six hour days here
What a jerk, Alaria said, as they began to walk down the street in search of different lodging. Thats what you get for 150 Gil a night, I guess, she said sarcastically.
Hmm Teclis mused. Suddenly, he stopped walking.
It looks like lodging isnt the majority of our troubles, Teclis said. Look over there he indicated to his left, where three men in armor were talking to one of the townsfolk, who was generously pointing in Tecliss direction.
We should get out of here, Alaria said. Its not good to start a fight with this many people around. Teclis nodded in agreement.
Lets make for the town wall. Well see if they follow us out of town. If they do, then we can take care of them without the crowds. I have an odd feeling that this wont be the last time we deal with hunters. Expect a lot more until we find some place to hide.
Where can we go? Alaria asked.
Im not sure Teclis admitted. There has to be somewhere, though. Alaria brought her hand to her chin in thought. Then, her eyes lit up in epiphany, her hand shooting into the air.
I have it! she said. Theres a Nisai Ryu Monastery a few hikes to the east of here. We can go there. Theyll give us sanctuary. They might be a little sore about letting you in because youre a male, but I bet we can pull something off, especially since you have blue hair. Actually come to think of it, I believe requirement for entry to the school was simply blue hair. I dont think it had anything to do with being female.
Then that sounds like a plan, Teclis agreed. From there, we can formulate what to do next. However those guys are coming over to us now. We should probably make haste.
Right, she agreed, swirling her cloak around her and walking towards the east wall of the town. Each of them occasionally looked back to see if they were being followed, and sure enough, that same trio of bounty hunters was still after them. In attempt to cover their hair, a dead give away as to their position- both of them pulled their hoods over their heads, concealing the blue signatures.
They pushed through the crowds, trying to lose their followers in the market place bustle, but even with their hair covered, they realized one more thing: they were the only ones wearing black. All of the townsfolk were wearing shades of white, light brown at the darkest, in trying to reflect as much heat as possible. Teclis and Alaria, preferring the mysterious look to an extent, anyway-, were the only ones that were wearing black cloaks in the heat of the desert sun. As a result, the hunters continued to follow them unhindered.
The East Gate was a simple affair, being merely an archway in the adobe walls that surrounded the village. Teclis and Alaria made it there after a few more minutes of walking, and quickly made speed in splitting up and hiding against the outside edges of the wall, taking momentary cover from their assailants. What little the afternoon sun provided in the form of shadows was conveniently shading them.
Let us get out of sight, Teclis said, gathering a short burst of magical power and surrounding himself and Alaria with it. They lightly touched off the ground, floating upward and on top of the wall, where they would remain hidden.
Their followers protruded from the gateway with a look of confusion. Baffled, they checked to the left and the right, even gazing backwards to see if they had missed their targets, but the duo was out of their vision. After half a minute of useless searching and cursing, the bounty hunters finally gave up with heaving shrugs and went back into the town. Only when they had retreated for a few minutes did Teclis and Alaria remove themselves from their cover.
Removing the hood of his cloak, Teclis sighed, saying: We should get going as soon as possible.
This is one instance which Im going to agree with you on, Tec, Alaria said. Though it looks like well be going by foot this time.
Itll only be about an hours walk, if its just a few hikes, and if we speed it up with magic, itll be faster. The Winds gathered to Tecliss hands once again as he and Alaria began to hover three inches above the ground. Pointing in the direction he wanted to go, they shot forward at roughly twenty miles an hour, making headway towards the Monastery.
Teclis was using a spell commonly employed for transporting multiple people to a destination. Unlike individual floatation spells such as Levitation, Teclis used a variant on a Rei Wing spell in order to provided a pocket of air around Alaria and himself, and then manipulate it to send them forward. The advantage of this was, of course, that both of them could be transported at once, and due to the movement of the air that creates the pocket, the inside of their transport bubble was much cooler than the stifling dessert air.
They flew across the sandy shores of the North Denegrad desert, though they were still clear of the heavier sand dunes, which were located further South. As a result, there were occasional patches of green grass, and the gradual fade where the sand interfaced with the grasslands of the North was never out of sight. As they flew a few hikes from Halt, a small series of hills and small mountains, mostly plateaus, came into view. As they headed east, the desert that was south of them was becoming more and more harsh, with the growing mountain features become more pronounced. In this area were these slowly rising mountains, and the Nisai Ryu Monastery. The ground in this geographical zone, known as the Dry Hills, was cracked due to lack of water, causing almost a jagged tile effect on the areas that were flat. The canyons created by either dried up rivers or fissures in the Celes crust were not to much unlike the Grand Canyon on Earth. These canyons stretched Southward for a few hundred miles, forming the eastern wall on the Central Denegrad Desert. On the other side of the Dry Hills, there was a small stretch of grassland before one reached the coast.
The Monastery was located in the side of one of the Canyons, for isolation purposes, as Alaria explained. People rarely became involved in the Nisai Ryu by stumbling on the Monasteries (though it was not unheard of), but typically came to the school through some other medium. Often, people were found in regular society and recruited. Other stories flourish that the Nisai Ryu Ninjas would rob the cribs of young children, stealing them away to become assassins in the ancient art of Lifestream Projection. Still others say that important Ithilmarian families will send their girls to these schools so that they may be trained in the Nisai Ryu arts. More than likely, it is a combination of all of these, with yet even further explanations available. Granted, only the most important leaders of the organization actually know where all of their adepts come from, or what they are actually being trained for, but they will probably not be interested in disclosing their secret.
Teclis and Alaria reached the actual monastery after a solid two hours of flying, making the original estimate of time slightly off. Alarias distance perception of only a few hikes was somewhat skewed, as forty had never really struck Teclis as a few. On top of all of this, casting a spell for a sustained two hours is somewhat draining, and Teclis, while not ready to admit it, was very tired when they came upon the stairway that led to the monastery gates. This stairway, dug right out of the earth in perfect form, stretched up about one hundred feet, the total stair count being roughly two hundred. Alaria sensed Tecliss exhaustion, though, and finally offered to provide the transportation.
Alaria had never really liked Lifestream Projection, as she didnt grasp the concept all that well. Something about drawing on other peoples life force bothered her, and it only seemed like they would be pissing somebody off by doing it. Never the less, it would also serve to signal those inside that a Nisai Ryu was at the gates, if the Lifestream was picked up.
She had to concentrate deeply as small strands of green energy seeped up from the ground and spiraled around her and Teclis. The strands sparked with power as they grew in size and speed, eventually lifting the two of them off of the ground and carrying them ethereally up into the air and over the steps, where they set down at the top landing.
The top landing of the stairs and the gate to the monastery were very ornate, appearing to have existed for longer than either of the travelers could care to remember or think about. Intricate carvings of animals and symbols covered the floor, from the gate in front of them to the stairs behind them. The last stairs were flanked on either side by a dark stone statue of a winged figure, though it looked very humanoid, almost like an angel. A similar figure was drawn on either side of the twenty feet high doors that marked the entry to the monastery. The rock wall seemed to envelop the area around the gate.
The gate itself was a set of double doors, both the frame and the
doors themselves engraved with similar runes and pictograms as the rest of
the entryway was. There were
no handles on these doors, nor did Alaria know how to get them
open. On the ground below them, there were no markings that
would have been made by the stone doors grinding on the floor, so they were
left to believe that the doors must open
inward. Deep shadowing marked
the outline of the door, a result of the heavy
carvings. Above the door the
words: Halus Viavius Geminus Jallar
were printed, though neither
teen was able to decipher them.
The rocks walls ranged in colors from light yellow to deep red, appearing to be a sedimentary pattern. On close inspection, it could be seen that the gate was actually carved directly out of the rock, the vestiges of the rocks coloring still slightly visible under the intricate carvings that filled the wall. The landing also appeared to be carved out of the rock as well, making this whole temple blend in to the mountain side with beautiful inconspicuousness.
Teclis and Alaria both jumped when the doors began to slide open, grinding inward. The inside of the temple slowly became clear to them as the darkness spilled outward and the light spilled in, casually illuminating the entry way. No one was visible on the inside of the entryway, though, as the doors appeared to be moving of their own volition.
We go in? Teclis asked as the doors finally stopped grinding open and the two of them were standing on the landing, dumbfounded.
I guess, Alaria said with a shrug. I suddenly find myself blanking as to all of the formalities that are involved, though.
No matter, Teclis said, sweeping his cloak behind him. Lets just go in and see what happens. Either way, itll be a good hiding place from those hunters until we can come up with a more effective method of escape.
Right, Alaria agreed. The two of them stood there for a minute looking at each other, and then to the door.
You going first? Teclis finally asked.
Umm fine, she said, realizing that they had both been waiting for the other to make the first move. Taking a deep breath, she stepped forward with her left foot, then followed with her right, suddenly feeling as if she was learning to walk all over again. She plunged into the entry, Teclis following with a slight delay.
Then, things suddenly became familiar again. She walked into the monastery and she could see a few people spread out about the vast entry room, balancing on toes or practicing movements with their weapons. It was as if most of them didnt even notice the entrance of the new guests. Granted, they would soon be greeted by the Grand Master of the monastery, who was just now passing through the main room. The large rock walls supported by granite pillars echoed of memories of years past. The images on the ceiling suddenly felt familiar and the feeling of the stone floor felt good against her boots. Even the air was the exact temperature as she remembered from her own monastery. Even though it was in a different location than before, Alaria was home.
The Nisai Ryu was, for the most part, a clan of ninjas. In fact, thats what I thought it was the entire time. The delicate inner workings of the organizations, though, were kept under close wraps, and I dont doubt that only perhaps several of their entire active body actually knew what it was for. At any rate, they certainly had their knack of tying themselves up in complicated affairs and then untangling themselves just as easily -Jack McKlane, on the Nisai Ryu
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