Booger wished the air conditioner worked.
She could have related to the outdoor unit's shuddering fan as she cowered behind the box's concealing dimensions. She had foreseen from the moment of the boy's arrival that his efforts to dissuade the three bullies from their game would ultimately--and painfully--end in vain. However, as far as diverting ample time for the girl to hide was concerned, he was successful.
The sound-numbing roar generated by the metal box would have also muffled the fragments of a conversation the little girl would rather not have had close by.
"Dang. Down in one hit."
"Yeah, that wasn't very much fun."
"Well, that's that. How much longer am I gonna hafta keep teaching these bolt-heads who's boss 'round here?"
"Stupid new kids. Think they know everything, y'know?"
"...Hey, where'd she go?"
Booger clung to a gasp, praying no hint of movement would discriminate her whereabouts.
"Man, she musta hauled it."
Darren's jesting voice hollered after a spectre, "Hey Boogs, ya didn't leave a note! That's rude, ya know!"
"'guess she's not such a 'tard, after all!"
"Aw, screws to her. There's always tomorrow. Let's get outta here."
The girl freed a puff of breath proportionate to her relief.
"...Hey guys, what about this?" Chucky hindered the group's departure. Booger snatched back that released air, her anxiety stirred again.
"Wha? That? Just leave it."
A black wisp sailed into Booger's limited scope of view, bounced off the whitewashed wall with a dim clap, and fell into a pile on the sand below. She blinked at what shaped out to be her discarded glasses. A second later three more blurs disappeared around the building's edge, any visible danger leaving with them.
Another protracted minute assured Booger that the afternoon's threat had seen fit to vacate the campus. In an almost jubilant response she breathed wholly for the first time in many tense minutes, savoring the scent of mildew festering in the sour wood in front of her. Her impish mitts rubbed at her eyes and combed through her purple, scruffy hair in an attempt to palliate her distress.
When notably calmed, the girl crawled from her dusty sanctuary and staggered into the graces of the relentless sun. She scooped up her spectacles from their resting place and thanked whichever fate returned them to her in fine condition. With regained clarity she panned her vision around the still courtyard, and then skipped her gaze to a lifeless, clothed pile, baking in the intense light.
She started over to it, wary of its state of consciousness, yet drawn by a curious motive. Kneeling beside the lump, Booger instantly surmised what had befallen the child.
The knockout was swift, hard, and delivered with a punch to the cranium. A red soup leaked from the mark of impact and streaked down the length of one eyebrow. He had been soundly sedated by the trauma, and the boy's face sank into a sober depiction of deep slumber.
The girl's own expression was plagued with fretful, scattered worries. A period of thought finally inspired her to relocate the young man, in any manner feasible, to the soothing grasses carpeting the base of the nearby tree. While this was easier said than done for most, for Booger it was an even contest. She hooked his arms in hers and tugged the boy in laborious huffs towards the rejuvenating shade. After the boy's trailing boots had drawn two neat, long furrows across the sandy lot, Booger settled the limp body on the mat of celadon growth.
Bearing a light pride at having reached her destination, and at wits with what to do now, she clumsily dropped onto her rear and collected herself before reassessing the situation. Once dragged into matters, rather literally, she informally assumed custody over this hapless, foolish boy.
As Booger meditated on the next, logical course of action, she coyly scrutinized the unaware youngster. He seemed... odd. Different. Casting aside the freakish hair, he still withheld an indefinable characteristic that almost demanded attention. There was something strange to his looks, or his attitude, or perhaps his origin. Even his name was rather unorthodox.
...Crono... Booger couldn't dispel the weird hunch that had been luring her towards him from the moment she first laid eyes on him.
Recovering from her lost gazing, she blushed to spite herself. The girl decided to cease such thoughtful wandering and tend to the lad's minor wound. At a lack for what else to use as a bandage, she gingerly unbound the strip of white material serving as his headband and padded at the gash on his forehead, mopping up any stray blood.
As she sat back to admire her work, a clue of the boy's revival alarmed her. He weakly shifted his head to one side and began to moan. Was he waking up?
The notion of the boy rising to discover her gripped Booger with a new panic.
The subtle jingle of rustling leaves.
A trickle of wind.
A brilliant spectrum of hues, dancing with the smooth feet of rolling water. Green, red, shady blue, shimmering gold...
Crono... It's okay. Everything is fine.
The colors sharpened, acquiring depth and image. The visage of a woman coalesced from the meshed shades like a portrait from a palette.
Crono was awestruck by her beauty. Fine threads of hair washed over her delicate shoulders and framed her round, pale face with rivulets of silken lavender. Her eyes, those of luminous sapphire, embodied the infinite reaches of the sea. What intrigued the boy's fancy, however, was the pair of feathery plates drifting at silent attention behind her.
They were wings--great, crimson ones, their soft texture ticked with flakes of gold. They coiled into a flaring halo about her head and exposed the intricate remiges layered on the underside, like sequin on a ballroom gown.
'...An angel...!' Crono alerted himself to his assumption.
She hovered over him, which hinted to the boy that he was flat to the ground. ...Where was the ground? Where was he? Who was this lady?
The woman's entire mien smiled glowingly. When her lips parted, her voice cast itself as an echo deprived of identity or origin.
Fear not. The servant is here. Our mistress will be whole, soon.
These cryptic statements fell short of doing anything besides obfuscating the poor boy.
'Mistress?' he inwardly wondered.
The woman's intently adoring gaze seemed to mutely express her well meaning. An angelic hand fondly brushed Crono's chin.
We will meet again, my hero. Sooner than you think.
Among Crono's lingering thoughts before the apparition vanished in a sleepy haze was how soft the lady's hand felt on his skin. It was like being touched by a rose petal. Her calling voice, not unlike a flower, was whimsically gentle.
Watch for the Mii Sci Kee...
The static of swaying flora. The shrill chirp of a blue jay. The faint crunching of... footsteps on grass... fading quickly...
Crono rolled over drunkenly, his sensations dulled to the army of tickling, green bristles furring the earth. A perk of warm afternoon breeze swept his mind's landscape free of drowsy fog and reintroduced him to reality. His eyes peeled open and connected with the first attracting item within his grounded field of sight.
Vision focused on that black ant, the boy correlated his swimming thoughts.
He was... outside? Lying on grass? Maybe Matt would know why...
Current events slapped him in the face. Matt was long gone, away in Marriville. Crono, meanwhile, was in Truce, in his new school's back courtyard. He had just picked a fight with Billy "the bully" McGraph. And lost. Badly.
He climbed to sit up, and was instantly overwhelmed by a swell of throbbing pain. Crono pasted a hand to his skull and tried to massage his fresh headache away.
"Ah... that hurts..." he groaned. The boy compared this unpleasant experience to being hit with a blunt object. It was recalled a moment later, somewhat to irony's amusement, that he was precise in that relation: the object was Billy's fist.
Another, less blatant ache suddenly afflicted his conscience. Sulking in the wake of his confrontation with the bully, Crono was belatedly beginning to rue ever crossing his path. He should have heeded the warnings of Joey and the other boys. While thoughts began to piece together the events that inspired his recklessness, a pang of dislocation aroused his inquisitiveness.
Surveying his environment, the boy found it strange to have turned up where he did. Didn't he collapse several feet away, in the sand? How did he recover so far from there, near the birch tree? Yet another averting puzzle piece was picked up, and the youngster grimaced with confusion.
Where'd she go?
Crono jerked back his hand after encountering a sticky dew just above his eyebrow. Dumbly staring at the bright red that filled the creases in his fingerprints, it occurred to him that he was losing small measures of blood from an open cut on his face. He considered the potential hazard from this, and then eventually deemed that he was okay, just as that winged lady had told him.
Any remnants of dazed reasoning were stamped down as Crono fully awoke to that musing. That lady! He had seen her again. She had spoken to him another time. Was he asleep throughout the whole episode? Was the "angel lady" merely a figure of the subconscious realm, however bizarre and imaginative as it was? If so, why did she say such things?
Who was the "mistress?" What was, or is, the "Mii Sci Kee"? Crono sorely wished he could understand the significance of those three puny words.
Returning to more immediate matters, he carefully reached up again and poked at his bruised skin, provoking a hissing wince. With a bit more prudence he fingered the surrounding fleshy patches, scanning for any further damage. To his relief, he discovered nothing of injuries to concern him. However, when combing through the fiery growth on his scalp, a quirk disconcerted him. A particular piece of headgear was missing.
Wasn't he wearing a white headband?
Boi wat a wird day i had! Evrewun at skul iz rile wird. I got tu tichurs. Miz Hult tichis maf and shis nic. Miz Misi tichis gramur and shis ril meen. Shi almos meid me reed alowd tuday.
I met ulot of uther pepul at skul to lik Joie whoz nic to me. Hez goin to shoud me arond tomuro. Thin i met a giy namd Bile and he wuznt nic at al. Hez a rel girk. Joie seid that he liks to pik on pepul mor litl thun him lik bugir. bugir iz a rely rely wird gurl that i met and shi nevr talkz. I dunt evin no if thas hir ril nam. I cant emagin wat it wuld bi lik to nevr talk.
niway i trid to help hir but Bily and hiz frindz beet me up and thin i fink he tuk my bandanuh bicuz i cant find it no mor. Im reli mad that Bily stold tat frum me it wuz my favirit bicuz moma saiz it uzed to bi my dads. I dunt no my dad but i no tat bilongd to him and im goin to git it bak from Bily tomuro.
oh yeh i almos furgot whin i wuz uslep i sah thu anjul agin. Shi sed somfin ubowt thu my si ki agin and ubowt a miztris beein hol. I stil dunt no wat shi menz. I hop i se hir agin and den mabi shi wil eksplan wat that menz.
Im goin to slep now.
-Crono (not Cruno lik Miz Hult daut)