Chrono Trigger: Time of Illusion Chapter 2

By Nihon Soba

The End of Time

     Guru Gaspar sat beneath the lamp post, pipe in hand, brooding. He was still confused and frustrated over the incident with Ayla. If there was danger, I should know about it, he thought. Nothing escapes my attention! Unless...

     There was a creak of door hinges. Spekkio peeped out of the door to his “room”, and saw Gaspar sitting down with his unlit pipe and a downcast expression on his face. Normally, the Master of War would take this opportunity to sneak up on the old man, either to give him a scare or a swift kick in the ass, and run away laughing. However, today Spekkio could tell that Gaspar was not as he usually was, which dampened his mischievous spirits.

     “What is it, Gaspar?” Spekkio announced himself with the question, his Kilwala-form body waddling up to the lamp post and standing a few feet behind it.

     The old man sighed, then struck a match with his fingernail, lighting his pipe. “You know well what it is.” he began. “Ayla appearing here and all. I thought all the gates were closed since that day four years ago.”

     aster of War shrugged, folding his arms across his girth. “Maybe Lavos wasn’t responsible for the Gates.” “True, my friend, but still... I would have at least sensed something. It just doesn’t seem right. Why don’t I know what’s going on?”

     Spekkio took the opportunity to pace around the floor, not getting many opportunities to leave his little room. His brow furrowed, and his form rippled. In a second, he took the form of a goblin. Sleek, fast, and strong, even if cowardly.

     Well, Gaspar, maybe this is something beyond your... reach.”

     The Guru of Time looked up with an annoyed expression on his face, his pipe clamped between his teeth. “What do you mean?”

     The goblin’s form rippled, becoming the body of an Omnicrone; gargantuan and strong, dressed in ceremonial red executioner’s garments.

     “Think, old man. Yes, you do know almost all that transpires here, but what if this is a matter of... how shall I put it... another world, perhaps?” Spekkio casually flipped a large mace in one hand as he presented the information.

     Gaspar stroked his chin. “Another world? Interesting prospect. One I am not very familiar with, however. Belthasar was the expert in that field, and now,” he spread his arms, shook his head, “he’s gone.” Smiling sadly, Gaspar inhaled from his pipe and blew out a few smoke rings.

     Spekkio’s form shifted again, as it always did when he was hatching a plan or keen on a certain subject.

     “But still, don’t you think that might be the answer?” said the beast, a larger creature then even the Omnicrone. It was a copy of the aliens Masa and Mune in their melded, powerful form. “Come on, admit it! I’m right! But seriously,” he said, catching Gaspar’s irritated expression. “I believe Belthasar was right about his theories.”

     “You never even met Belthasar!”

     “Somewhat true, but I’ve heard you talk of him constantly. And you’re wrong about me not meeting Belthasar--in person, that is.”

     This time Gaspar was completely dumbfounded. “What? You’ve never seen him! All you do is spend your days in that cell of yours,” he indicated the door with an irritated gesture, “and you’ve been here longer than I have. Hell, you might have been BORN in this place for all I know. So how could you know about Belthasar, much less have seen him, without my help?”

     The massive giant shrugged. “Some things I keep secret, even from you.”

     Gaspar sighed. “Very well. I will take you on your word, for once. But how is it that you are so certain of this prospect of... other worlds?” he asked, turning around to get a good glimpse of Spekkio. What he saw made him open his eyes wide, gave the old man a revelation.

     A Nu stood there. “Trust me, old man, I know...”

* * * * *

     Area: Three miles before the Forest in the Dead World      Era: Undetermined

     Crono, Lucca, and Marle were still on their trek toward what looked like civilization, ignorant of the fact that at the same time, a dire tragedy had befallen Robo’s expedition. But that is/was/will be in another era, another time, another universe entirely. This Dead World knew none of these. Neither did the three as they trudged across the barren landscape.

     “What the hell kind of place is this?” came Crono’s comment after walking for about an hour and seeing nothing but blasted, brown earth and rolling black clouds in the sky. Marle was less enthusiastic as she was before, wearily walking with Crono, each of them supporting each other’s weight. Only Lucca remained energetic, walking briskly with no support, taking note of every surrounding.

     “Interesting.” she commented to herself out loud. “I see no animals, no plants at all. Only this dirt.” she stooped down to gather a sample of the brown dirt, and placed it into a small glass flask that she procured seemingly from nowhere. Crono shook his head bitterly, exhausted from walking, not paying attention to what he just said:

     “Yeah. Like this world was bloody manufactured...”

     Lucca looked in his direction and adjusted her glasses, making a mental note to look into Crono’s theory that he had unknowingly just created.

     The three walked for another two hours, but then decided on a unanimous vote to stop and rest. Amazingly, they had come upon a forest, the first plant life they had seen since they had been stuck in the place. While Crono and his wife took a rest by the roots of one of the unknown trees, Lucca went off to collect specimens of the various plant life. She was no biologist, but as a scientist she had a natural knack and like for learning, and presented to her was supposedly a whole new world, filled with all kinds of new plants and animals.

     Brushing from her face some strands of soft lavender hair, Lucca sat down underneath a tree that was a short distance away from the two. She still remembered when she had almost walked in on Crono and Marle when they were.. um, er, ‘getting it on’, so to speak. It wasn’t that fact that she almost walked in on them that made Lucca embarrassed; it was the emotions that followed that made her feel uncouth and ashamed. A combination of jealousy, excitement, and lust. Even now she shivered, feeling as if someone was looking into her mind and laughing at what they found.

     Looking into the mind...

     Where had that thought come from? Lucca trembled. It was as if she had sensed another person’s thought, and the person had been thinking of what she had been thinking of. Confusing, yes, but she couldn’t describe it any other way.


     What the...?

     The robot stood there, had been always standing there (so it seemed) when Lucca lifted her eyes. She was baffled. Just that moment, she had been thinking of the old robot she had built for the Millennial Fair, so long ago, it seemed. And now he was in front of her. The bulky metal shell that was his body, the pointy “ears” that earned him his namesake, the bright red chrome paint, all down to exact detail.

     MY NAME IS GATO, the robot said again in a slow, primitive-synthetic voice.

     “Gato...” said Lucca. For the moment, all feelings of fear and suprise melted away. Here he was, her first robot creation, her Gato, whom she had so lovingly worked on for two years before the new millennium, her ultimate creation.

     “Gato!” she cried, rushing to him, hugging his cold metal frame with her arms. “I’ve missed you so... I’m sorry that I used your body as scrap metal.. I’m so sorry...” she sobbed. Lucca hadn’t ever realized that she loved the big, clumsy robot so much, even if it wasn’t fully sentient. She would take care of him now...

     Two metal hands placed themselves on Lucca’s shoulders, the robot’s bright eyes staring (so it seemed) into her own. Lucca looked at the face of her first robotic creation. The chrome paint on him was new, almost fresh. There was a splotch of red paint on his yellow head, however. Lucca reached up to brush it away, smearing it on her hand from his face.

     The paint was thin, not thick as the acrylic red she used should be. Absent mindedly, Lucca wiped the paint off on her shirt. There was a faint metallic odor emanating from the paint, however. Annoyed and perplexed, Lucca looked down at her shirt and once again smeared off the paint. Holding her fingers to her nose, she sniffed the red smear closely. Coppery smell, thin texture. Without knowing it, she tasted the red substance. Salty. Warm..... blood.

     She looked up. Gato was looking down at her again, but from unseen orifices on his head, blood began to trickle out like a red river. It dripped off his metal head onto the dusty ground, and more followed.


     Metal doesn’t bleed


     Metal doesn’t bleed...

     BEAT ME UP...

     Oh god it’s really blood


     Lucca tried to scream, but no sound could escape her constricting throat. Gato’s bleeding face loomed in closer, and it was only after another attempt at screaming that she realized that the strong metal hands were clasping her throat ever so slowly. Lucca managed a strangled yelp, struggled in futile as the robot’s face closed in, his metal head rusting and corroding at a rapid pace. It was unreal. Tinny, horrifying music, a mockery of the music that the robot would play when it spoke, was emanating from the unseen speakers on Gato’s rapidly rusting head.

     This can’t be happening it can’t it doesn’t work it’s not real it’s your mind

     But Lucca’s thoughts, however rational, could not help her or explain what was happening. The head of Gato had completely corroded away, and a black hole was left it it’s stead. The metal hands on her throat relaxed their grip, but held her still.

     Dimly, Lucca remembered that the hollow body was where she encased the mechanism that allowed Gato’s body to move. Shocked, confused, betrayed, and frightened, Lucca looked down into the black hole that was Gato’s interior. It wasn’t that dark before...

     A hand snaked out, clutched her face, sharp nails digging into her flesh. What she saw inside would haunt her at times when she was alone and in the dark for the remainder of her days. There were glimpses of rotted flesh and hair, and glistening white fangs, but that was nothing compared to the image that came next.

     The Eye.

     Lucca screamed, faintly heard a male human shout somewhere above her, and blacked out.

* * * * *

     Rokan had seen the whole thing.

     His employer told Rokan to come to the forest and wait. For what, Rokan didn’t know. His employer only told him that there would be three people venturing in the Cursed Forest several miles outside of the city. These people are part of the Plan, he said, and must be brought to me. You are the one I trust and count on, you must bring them to me!

     And so they had come. Madoshi was right, thought Rokan, adjusting his dark sunglasses. Three humans, two females and one male. The male was wearing a sort of loose, blue tunic along with pants and boots that had seen better days, with spiky orange hair and a katana sword hanging by his side. The girl with him was beautiful, wearing clothes that seemed more... modern, to his tastes. She had bright, reddish-blond hair, and carried a crossbow on her back. Obviously this chick knew how to use it well.

     The second girl caught Rokan’s attention. She wore tattered, faded denim jeans and a white T-shirt with some faded design on it. Her face was lean and her eyes hawkish, and her hair was shoulder length and lavender, tied back in a ponytail. She wore glasses that seemed a bit too large but still functional. Her face... it reminded him so much of Miko, even though Miko’s hair was raven black and her eyes more slanted. The nose, the length of the hair, and the cheekbones were the same, however. Rokan was studying her intently from the trees above, cloaked in the shadows as he was used to being. Studying her until he saw what happened.

     The Cursed Forest was what this grove was called. Rokan did not know why until this moment. His employer had explained about it shortly, an explanation that Rokan unfortunately did not listen to very well. The man had, however, given Rokan a charm to protect him, a green gemstone that hung on a fine chain, worn as a pendant. It all seemed to much like the books Rokan used to read until he saw what happened.

     The girl was sitting down, absorbed it some plant she had picked up earlier, when he saw it. She did not see it, being absorbed in her work. Two rusted metal hands slowly, quietly thrusted themselves up from the ground a few feet away from her, followed by an equally rusted robotic body. Then, it was as if the robot was brand new. A sudden appearance-change, if you will.

     He knew why. The charm given to him allowed him a glimpse into the things that inhabited the Cursed Forest, the things that showed up to the people who wandered in there with no mental protection. To the girl, it seemed to manifest itself into this bulky robot, which seemed somewhat amusing. Amusing until blood started to pour out of its face. Until it started choking her.

     Rokan himself had been frozen with fear then, and he felt ashamed. Only when the robot’s head had corroded away and it had stopped choking her was when Rokan came to his senses. There was something inside the robot’s rusted shell, something alive... something evil. When the hand snaked out of it and grabbed the girl, Rokan snapped fully into action. He gave a shout, jumped off of the tree he was surveying from and landed on the back of the headless robot. The thing made no sound as its arms reached back to crush the life out of the man who had landed on its back.

     But Rokan was quicker. Out of a pocket he procured a piece of rice paper with a rune-like symbol written upon it. He dropped the paper into the hole in the robot, and jumped back. Almost instantly, a greenish smoke lifted from the hole, and it enveloped it fully. After a while, the green smoke had dissipated, and the robot had disappeared.

     Rokan shivered and cursed softly. He had seen some strange things ever since he had arrived in this land, but this had to be one of the most horrifying. He made a mental note never to go near this area again, and if he had to then he would bring the charm with him and wear it at all times. Not that it seemed to do any good except to reveal the true form of the apparitions that haunted people who entered the forest. But Madoshi had said that the charm would keep the forest’s denizens from entering his mind.

     That is how the Cursed Forest works, Madoshi had said. It peers into your mind and drags out a thought, twisting it, distorting it, and uses it against you.

     But there was no time to think about such matters now. Rokan was at the girl’s side, checking for any harm. Besides light bruises on her neck where the apparition had tried to strangle her, she seemed to have taken no more damage, except for blacking out. Rokan picked her up--the girl was suprisingly heavy--and carried her on his shoulder. She did not come to. After a short walk, he located the other two humans sleeping at the roots of a large tree. Miraculously, nothing seemed to have happened to them. The other girl must have attracted all the attention.

     Rokan walked over to a gnarled old tree, preparing to climb it and keep watch as was instructed of him. He had no sooner placed his hand on the rough bark when a firm hand clasped itself onto his shoulder. He whirled around in suprise and, by instinct, grasped the arm that was clasping his shoulder. An arm swathed in the sleeve of a black robe.

     Shin smiled, his eyes narrowed at Rokan.

     “I see you still do not trust me, your master.” said the youthful yet menacing figure with long, jet black hair. He shrugged off the reply that Rokan was about to give. “Have you done as I asked, my servant?”

     Rokan knelt down before the Dark One. “Yes, master. I have made sure that the three were safe in this forest, and will carry out any other plans you have.”

     Shin gave a crooked smile, tracing his fingers along Rokan’s face. Rokan winced, feeling as if blades forged of ice were cutting into his flesh wherever the fingers touched his skin.

     “Do not fail me, my servant. My next task for you is to make sure that these three make it to Acheron safely, and once there, lead them to my lair. I will take care of the rest from there.”

     Rokan looked up from his kneeling position. “What about sending me home,” he said softly but firmly. “You won’t back out on your deal, will you?”

     Shin frowned, his red eyes burning. But after a minute, he started to chuckle softly.

     “Rokan, my boy, do you still not trust me?”

     “As far as I can throw you.”

     “You realize, of course, that I can kill you this very instant.” said Shin, his hands behind his back. One hand snaked out and again clasped Rokan on the shoulder, and gripped firmly. Rokan cried out. It hurt like hell, but he would not yield so simply. His sunglasses slipped off of his eyes as he looked his master in the face.

     “Yes, you can kill me, Shin,” he said, spitting out the name, “but you need me. I know your secrets that you foolishly showed me, and I know that you cannot do this without me!”

     Shin laughed out loud, picking up Rokan by the shoulder as if he were a rag doll.

     “That’s why I picked you, my lad!” he said. “You’re not one to bow down to pressure. Of course, I know that you would betray me at the first instant, but as long as I control your way home--and the only way back to your precious Misato,” he added, grinning when he saw Rokan’s furious reaction, “you will obey me! Understood?”

     Rokan bit his lip, then lowered his head in submission.

     “Yes, master.”

     The Dark One smiled. “And don’t forget that, Rokan...” he said as his body seemed to shimmer, grow transparent, then disappear completely, making not a sound.

     Rokan waited a few minutes. It was dangerous to leave thoughts unguarded around Shin. Even when he leaves, his presence still lingers around for a while, waiting to catch the fatal remark or thought that will reveal treachery.

     When enough time had passed, Rokan took from his shoe a device that resembled a cellular telephone from his world, only this one was smaller. He flipped it open, and pressed several buttons button on it, pointing it toward a shadowy section under the branches of another tree. He waited, and eventually a holographic image slowly formed where he pointed the device, almost as if it melted into place.

     Madoshi himself was cloaked in darkness, the faintest features of him showing up in the milky hologram, which was quivering slightly.

     “Ah, Rokan. I trust that you have done what I asked?” a distorted voice spoke from a speaker on the device. The hologram moved only slightly.

     “Yes. They are here.”

     “Good... did he show himself?”

     “Yes. I know that Shin can read minds, and I put myself in danger with each new meeting with him. Sooner or later he will find your device that blocks his powers, and when he does, my life will be forefit.”

     A pause.

     “Yes I am aware of that. I am sorry to put you in such danger, Rokan, but I need you. I cannot do many of these things by myself, I am required here. You are my eyes and ears, you are my right arm. We must succeed in the Plan, not only in order to save us, but to stop the ancient threat once and for all! I thought I knew all... but I was wrong. So many things still unknown! I have only a fraction of the knowledge needed in order to carry out my plan. So I need your and the others’ help, so that we may finally leave this wasted world and find out what is really happening around us.”

     Rokan nodded. “Aye.”

     The holographic image of Madoshi nodded in turn, then the image winked out. Rokan pondering, held out the device in front of him. After a while, he reached down to pick up his sunglasses, and put them back on.

     Can he really do it, he thought? Can he help us all? Why does he need these three? And how does he know all of this...?

     Several sharp, jagged objects raked across Rokan’s back. He screamed, falling to the ground on both knees, stinging pain like wildfire burning on his shoulders and back. There was a blow to his face following up, which broke his sunglasses and bloodied his nose. He could see that it was a metal hand, rusted and corroded, that was attacking him like this. Hissing in pain, Rokan feebly reached for his automatic pistol that he had carried with him, aimed it and fired three shots, with several-second gaps in between each shot.

     The gunshots echoed loudly throughout the Cursed Forest, followed by a clang as two of the shots connected solidly. The undead robot (if there was such a thing) jerked and fell back a step or two for each bullet that hit its large body. Rokan, feeling weak, tried to squeeze off another shot, but by accident triggered the mechanism that ejected the clip from the gun. It fell to the dusty, leaf-covered forest floor. There was one bullet left in the chamber. The odds were against Rokan, and he knew it. He would be able to shoot again but it would probably do no good. The gun fell from his cold, shaking fingers as he saw the rusted robot swagger towards him with a frighteningly human gait. Rokan’s gaze lowered to the forest floor where there lay his ammo clip--and the charm that Madoshi had given him.

     Must’ve slipped off when I jumped from the tree...

     Suddenly Rokan heard a woman’s voice chanting soft words in a language that could only be magic, and felt cold, frigid air swirl past him and collect somewhere behind him. The voice ended the chant with a loudly punctuated syllable, and almost instantly, a man--no, more like an elder adolescent--with spiky red hair lept up high into the air above Rokan, and seemed to be suspended there for a moment as frigid energy was absorbed into his katana sword. The energy flowed through the blade, and the young man fell toward the robot , sword extended. The blade pierced the rusted metal creature, and instantly a thick sheet of ice began to envelop the robot entirely. The swordsman began to rapidly run around the dead robot, his sword slicing and singing as he continued in his deadly dance. He ended it with a quick slash through the ice encased ‘droid, and the robot fell into several pieces, each which shattered when they hit the ground. The pieces then seemed to dissolve, as if acid were poured on them, and a noxious smoke rose into the air and dissipated.

     It was then that Rokan fainted from the pain and loss of blood.

* * * * *

     “Shhhh... stay still.”

     Rokan blearily opened his eyes, and tried to move around, but was chastised by the voice and a pair of strong hands.

     The girl with red-gold hair was holding her hands over him, speaking words in arcane language softly. Her hands were placed over the wounds in his back, and somehow the presence of them felt warm and soothing. The deep, bleeding scratches in Rokan’s back were enveloped in a glowing white-blue aura, and slowly but surely they were beginning to close up, flesh and muscle mending, blood vessels connecting again.

     Rokan could see better now. The swordsman with punk hair was kneeling beside him, leaning on his katana, now in its scabbard. His gaze was wary, but he stood beside ready to help out with the healing if needed. The woman who cast the magic upon his sword was the person healing Rokan. He remembered that there was the other girl, the one with glasses, and he tried to turn around more to find her, only to discover that she was behind him.

     They were all outside of the forest, on the blasted landscape. They sky was dark, as always. In the distance, Rokan could see Acheron, the city, the last remnant of civilization around this area. The last city on this Dead World. The place where he was supposed to take the three. But with the way things looked now, it would probably be them taking him.

     The red-gold haired girl stopped her chanting and placed her hands on her knees, on which she was kneeling.

     “I think that’s the last of it,” she said to the swordsman. Leaning over Rokan, she spoke to him. “You can move freely now.”

     Rokan slowly pushed himself up to a standing position. The young man, however, made his way to him and stood in front of him.

     “Wait, wait. You’re not leaving until you tell us where we are and how we get out of this place.”

     Rokan blinked. “What?”

     The swordsman did not waver. “Don’t try and hide it from me! I saw you bring Lucca here,” he pointed to the lavender haired girl with glasses. “unconscious, I might add. I saw you talking to that hologram. How else could we have attacked the robot before you were killed?”

     The golden haired girl placed a hand on his shoulder. “Crono, don’t be so harsh...”

     The man named Crono continued speaking. “I saw those bruises on Lucca’s neck. Did you do them? Because if you did, you’re in for some deep shi--”

     “No!” shouted the girl named Lucca. Crono, Rokan, and the other girl turned their heads toward her. She was standing up, hands clutched together, fear in her eyes.

     “It wasn’t... him.” she said, pointing toward Rokan. “It wasn’t him. It was.. something... oh god...” she fell to her knees and trembled, sobbing, reliving the terrible moment. Crono and the other girl knelt beside her, held her shoulders, offering words of sympathy.

     Her words affected Rokan, though. He remembered how that robot had silently clawed its way from the earth, and how it began to bleed from multiple orifices on its head, how it lumbered in a frighteningly alive type of manner.

     “The Eye...” Lucca said to herself, trembling.

     All heads turned toward her in unison. “What?”

     Lucca looked up at them, wiping away tears. “It was...” she shivered violently. Crono just looked at Rokan with an emotionless gaze while the other girl hugged Lucca, offering soothing words.

     “It was... Crono, Marle, do you remember that robot battle-trainer I made for the Millennial Fair four years ago?”

     The swordsman and the golden-haired girl both nodded.

     Lucca continued. “Well, I was away from you guys looking around, and then... he appeared. Gato, the robot I made four years ago. He was there, I know it! It felt so real...” she shivered again.

     “Then he suddenly started... bleeding everywhere. I don’t know how or why. Metal doesn’t bleed...” she lowered her face to hide her tears. “A-and he started choking me, his bleeding face getting closer and closer, rusting, falling apart. Then he stopped, and his head was gone, with only a dark hole remaining...” Lucca’s voice started to quaver when she continued. “I saw.. inside... oh god...” she clutched Marle fiercely, afraid, trying her best not to cry. “The Eye...”

     Rokan’s head shot up. He was sitting a few feet away from the three, but he had been reliving the horrid scene as Lucca had described it. When she mentioned the Eye, he came to full attention.

     “The Eye... Madoshi spoke of it. The name of the nameless dead...”

     All but Lucca turned their attention towards him. “What?”

     “The Eye. Mado... I mean, my master, speaks of it sometimes. He speaks of it very little, though, as if it were something not meant to be spoken of. One time, he woke up in his sleep, screaming out unintelligible phrases, and among the words he spoke were ‘The Eye’ and ‘The Name of the Nameless Dead’...”

     The girl named Marle was entranced. “What did he mean by that?”

     Rokan shook his head. “I don’t know. I’d rather not. I may be his right hand man, but I don’t interpret his ramblings.”

     Crono, having not witnessed the horrifying spectacle that Lucca and Rokan had earlier, seemed more calm and collected.

     “Who is this Madoshi that you speak of?”

     Rokan matched Crono’s even gaze. “He is my master, the Wise One, the Prophet. The one who offers me and many others the way back, off of the Dead World and back to our lands...”

     Crono and Marle looked at each other. “Prophet?”

     Rokan continued. “Yes, the Prophet. He knows much of what had happened and what will happen, though his foresight is limited. Yet he has foretold that you exact three people would appear in this very spot, and he has sent me to fetch you and bring you to him...”

     Lucca was silent, looking down at her hands. Marle spoke some soft words to her and helped her stand up. Crono stood protectively in front of both of them, stern and unmoving.

     “Why should we trust you? Lucca says you didn’t do anything to her, but I’m not so sure...”

     “Crono, stop it!” the girl named Lucca commanded in a suprisingly strong and even voice. Crono looked at her in confusion. “This man,” she said, pointing to Rokan, “did not hurt me. In fact, he might have saved me from that... thing.” she walked up to him, and inquired, “What is your name?”

     He thought of telling them his real name, of finally ridding himself of the alias he had gone by for so long... but no. Madoshi had warned him never to tell his true name, as he himself never went by it.

     Don’t tell them until you are sure that you can trust them fully, Madoshi had said. These three, I know them, and they know who I really am, but whether you want to reveal your true self to them or not is up to you.

     “Rokan...” he paused, apparently nodding to himself. “My name is Rokan.”

     “Rokan...” Crono mused. “Very well. I say that we follow you. I have a feeling about this Madoshi, this Prophet...” he turned to the other two girls. “What do you think?”

     Marle whispered something to Crono, and his eyes widened. The two of them nodded resolutely to each other, much to Rokan’s confusion, then turned toward Lucca.


     She simply nodded wordlessly.

     “All right,” he said, keeping a hand near his katana on his belt. “But no tricks, Rokan. Or else you have to deal with me.”

     The three--Crono, Lucca, and Marle--all walked together, behind the one they knew as Rokan. They started walking at an even pace, stopping to rest every now and then, for according to Rokan, the city named Acheron was not a far distance away. They ran into no more apparitions or foes on their way, only the same dark skies and barren land, the monotony of it broken only by the buildings and landmarks of the Last City.

     “That is Acheron, the Last City.” said Rokan, pointing to the city. The others showed only mild interest, all except for the inquisitive-minded Lucca.

     “Last City?”

     “Yeah, it’s one of the only outposts of civilization in this area,” said Rokan.

     “What exactly is this place, and how did it come to be?” inquired Marle.

     Rokan sighed. “I don’t know much myself, I’m not native to this area. No one is... but I can at least tell you what I know. It’ll take a while, though.”

     “We’ve got plenty of time,” said Crono sternly. “go ahead.”

     Rokan began to speak. “All right, where shall I begin...”

* * * * *

     The End of Time

     “What the... what in blazes... how?” were the only words that Gaspar could sputter. Spekkio uttered a sound that resembled a chuckle, though the features on his “face” did not betray any emotion.

     “Old man, do you really think this is what I am?” said the pink Nu, which reverted back to a Kilwala in a split second. “No, it’s not what you think. The way I gain new forms is by interacting with the very creatures I mimic. So, I guess I’ll leave it up to you to use your powers of deduction to figure the rest out.”

     Gaspar’s pipe fell out of his hands as he stared, his mind at work. Finally, he was able to speak again after a long period of silence.

     “Spekkio, what are you... really?”

     The Master of War shrugged his little Kilwala shoulders.

     Gaspar was insistent. “Spekkio, don’t play games with me now. I really need to know what is going on, and you’re one of the only people that seem to know. I need your help.”

     The Kilwala sighed. “Old man, the truth is... I don’t really know myself.”


     The Master of War nodded. “I can’t remember anything before arriving here, at what you call the End of Time. And you were wrong earlier. I haven’t been here all my life, I am an outsider just like yourself. Only, I have been here longer than you.”

     The guru of reason was absorbing this all in. “Good god... how long have you been here?”

     “Well old man, since this is the End of Time, and time isn’t practically or properly measured in here, I can’t really answer that. All I know is that you appeared while I was still here.”

     Gaspar frowned for a moment, then picked up his pipe from where it fell. “Amazing... but even so, that is beside the point. Earlier, when you assumed a Nu form, I had an epiphany, and now I’ve forgotten what it was about... (don’t ya hate when that happens? -Zelgadis).

     Spekkio waddled up to the guru of reason. “Ah, you were probably wondering something that has been pondered by many others, especially your old friend Belthasar...”

     “The Mystery of Life?”

     The Master of War almost had a seizure from that answer. “No!!! You were wondering about the Nu and what exactly they were! Couldn’t you figure THAT out? Maybe you are going senile!”

     “Senile? How dare you! Have you no respect?”

     Spekkio snickered. “Not for those who forget so easily.”

     Gaspar fumed for a moment, then sighed. “Anyway, yes, you are right. I was hoping that perhaps you could help me out with the enigmatic Nu.”

     The Kilwala sat down next to the bucket that contained healing water. “Well old man, would you believe me if I said that the Nu are not native to the world you come from?”

     Gaspar looked grim. “I... it would seem so. They never did seem to fall into any ecological niche, and Belthasar didn’t seem to understand them either.” the pipe lit up again. “But the way I remember, the Nu were little more than semi-sentient animals. We used them for manual labor and menial tasks. They were not magic creatures--no aura or power surrounded them. Still, I do wonder how they were discovered.”

     “Don’t forget, humans did know of Nu back in prehistoric times, around 65,000,000 B.C.E.” said Spekkio.

     “Are you hinting at something?” asked Gaspar, pipe clamped in this teeth. Spekkio nodded, but not without a troubled expression on his face.

     “Yes, well... it’s really hard for me to remember what I’m trying to.”

     Gaspar sat up straight. “What? Tell me, I must know!”

     The Master of War began to slowly speak. “Well, it was... the time that I first arrived at this place you call ‘The End of Time’. I can’t remember much before that... only a few glimpses and half-remembered memories.”

     Gaspar exhaled smoke. “Go on.”

     “How was it... forgive me, like I said before, for some reason I cannot remember very much of my past before entering this place.” the Kilwala stood up and paced around the corners of the small room, pondering, until after a few minutes he came to a solution.

     “That’s it!” he exclaimed, snapping his fingers.

     Gaspar was interested, puffing away furiously with his pipe as he always did when thinking or intrigued about something.

     “Continue, my friend! Whatever you have to say, it must be relevant!”

     Spekkio still paced as he talked. “I can remember... someone telling me of a great calamity that destroyed a planet where a sentient species dwelled, a very advanced species. Needless to say, the cataclysm destroyed them along with their planet, as the--reports?--said. How the cataclysm occurred, I do not know. But I remember someone else telling me something of them, how a few somehow survived. How they left behind one last legacy, their ultimate creation, before they disappeared forever...”

     The guru of reason was attentive as a child. “Continue! This is something that I’ve never heard or known of before!”

     “I remember this part more clearly now, when I arrived at this place. It was before Lavos arrived, while humans were little more than sentient apes, fighting an evolutionary battle with the more advanced reptites. I remember one day as I looked upon the earth, I noticed something I’ve never seen before, in one of the prehistoric jungles. A short, squat creature colored blue, with short arms and legs...”

     “A Nu!” said Gaspar. “But how do you know that it was unique? It could have hidden among the jungles long before you arrived.”

     The Master of War shook his head. “No, it couldn’t have. I was able to see every last square inch of the planet while I was there. I KNOW that the Nu was not something of this world when I first looked upon it. And it did appear a while after I arrived... about a century, if I can use years in a place like this.”

     “So there is a connection with the Nu and this alien race’s ‘final legacy’, according to your testimony.” said Gaspar, nodding to himself. “Incredible...”

     “It would appear so,” said Spekkio with less enthusiasm.

     “But one thing remains unclear,” said Gaspar. “How did the Nu appear suddenly on this world?”

     The Kilwala was silent for a moment. “I do not know. But I have a bad feeling about this all...”

     “What do you mean?”

     “Well, what if the Nu are connected to Lavos somehow? What if they are responsible for bringing him to this planet?”

     That caused the guru of reason to think a bit. “Interesting theory. I shall have to think a bit on this one... and if you are true, the Nu are a dangerous foe indeed. But it just doesn’t make sense... I’ve worked around Nu. They don’t seem the kind to be, well... evil. Have you ever witnessed any evil done by a Nu?”

     “No,” said Spekkio. “And I could be wrong. But still, I have a bad feeling about them. Not just them... but whatever caused the planet of their masters to be destroyed. What if the thing followed them? What if... it is here right now?”


     “Gods help us,” said Gaspar solemnly, his pipe on the floor.

     “It makes me think that the Seven companions were meant to travel through portals so recently.” said Spekkio, sitting down again near the healing bucket. Gaspar was taken completely by suprise.

     “What? Not only Ayla vanished?”

     “Old man, I know these things. I saw each of them get sucked into different portals, by different means. With Crono, Lucca, and Marle, it was by accident. Frog, well Glenn since Magus reverted his form, was forced into a gate by a Nu. Magus... I think he learned something of what’s happening, so he left by himself. And we all know how Ayla left.”

     “All of them?” asked Gaspar in disbelief. “But how? What time era did they go to?”

     Spekkio shook his head. “Gaspar, try to think in more than three dimensions, pun intended.”

     The guru raised an eyebrow at this request, until he figured out what Spekkio meant. “Another universe... I should have known. So, the gates don’t only lead to eras in our world.”

     “It would appear so,” said Spekkio again. “But the gates are supposed to only lead to different time eras in our world, not entirely different universes. That’s the way it has been since the birth of this planet, and even longer before that.”

     Gaspar added in his knowledge. “According to the Conservation of Time Theorem, a great disturbance in the space/time fabric is something that can damage the stability of gates, causing them to grow larger than normal and to change the destination of them.”

     Spekkio nodded in approval. “When the Seven destroyed Lavos, I believe that it caused a large disturbance in the space/time fabric. That could be the reason that the gates have returned and that--”

     “Returned?” Gaspar laughed. “No, my friend! You may know much about the outside of our world, but I still have the lion’s share of pure scientific knowledge. The gates have not ‘returned’ as you put it. They have always been there, and always will be there. They are small tears in the fabric of space and time. Certain disturbances, or events, cause these little tears to grow larger, such as when Lucca’s Telepod device reacted to Marle--no, Schala’s--pendant. Like I said before, the greater the disturbance or event, the larger and less stable the gate becomes.”

     “Like when Magus summoned Lavos to his castle in 600 C.E.!” exclaimed Spekkio, snapping his fingers. “And what’s happening now is because of the disturbance caused when Lavos was destroyed!”

     “Not exactly, my friend.” said Gaspar, once again picking up his pipe and lighting it.

     “What do you mean?” asked Spekkio stubbornly.

     “Well, when Janu... when Magus summoned Lavos to his castle in 600 C.E., the result was only the creation of a larger than normal gate that led everyone into different time eras. There was nothing more than that. So I say it wasn’t only Lavos that caused the gates to become unstable. He wasn’t powerful enough to do such a thing.”

     Spekkio shifted his form into a large, frowning Masa Mune beast and towered over Gaspar, looking down upon him. “Oh really? I wonder if you are really right, Gaspar. Do you even have proof of your earlier statement on the stability of gates?”

     Guru Gaspar looked back up at Spekkio, unimpressed by his change. “Numerous experiments, college and Scientific Institute thesises, contributions to astronomy and physics, my award given to me by the King of Zeal, the Chrono Trigger, the--”

     Spekkio silenced him with a wave of his massive fist, then shrunk back to his Kilwala form. “Forget it, I believe you. But what I don’t understand is, if Lavos didn’t cause the disturbance by himself, then... what else did?”

     Gaspar inhaled from his pipe and exhaled a cloud of smoke. “That’s what we have to find out.”

* * * * *

     Area: Outskirts of Acheron      Era: Undetermined

     “I do not know much about this world myself, but what I know I will share with you. This world, as far as I know, has no true name. I don’t even know where the hell it exists. The people stuck here--yes, I do mean stuck here, which I will explain later--call this place the Dead World, and rightly named it is.

     “Okay, there are several settlements, I think, far from this area, but I’ve never been around much. I’ve only been here in Acheron. Basically, we get people from all over. And I do mean all over. There’s humans, other types of sentient life forms I haven’t even heard of or seen--”

     “Other life forms?” Lucca interrupted Rokan as she walked along with him and her other two friends. “You mean, like alien life forms?”

     Rokan chuckled. “Yeah, I guess you could say that. Though, this is such an alien world that I have trouble calling them ‘alien life forms’ myself. I’ve even seen beings that I thought only existed in fairy tales and Tolkien books. Elves, dwarves... I’m not kidding.”

     “Wow..” said Marle, entranced.

     “Amazing... how did they get here, and where did they all come from?” asked Lucca.

     “And who the hell’s Tolkien?” blurted out Crono, confused.

     Rokan continued, unable to answer the questions immediately (especially Crono’s).

     “Anyway, like I said, you get people from all over here. Of course, since there’s such a diverse variety of sentient life, it’s nearly impossible to establish a system of laws that everyone agrees with. So Acheron remains a mildly anarchistic city. The only order we have comes from groups of... well, calling them criminal syndicates would be kind of out of place in a society like this, where there is no natural law, but I guess that’s the best description of them.

     “So, this city is ruled by gangs of cutthroats.” stated Crono. Rokan raised an eyebrow at this statement.

     “Well, to tell you the truth, there IS a city council, but it is so corrupt that one tends to prefer the rule of the ‘outlaws’ to the council. The syndicates are too busy with their own internal affairs to tax or to bully the people. Instead, they propose an alternative to the corrupt council: you pay an annual fee in order to have protection from others by the syndicate you pay. It seems strange, but it actually works out this way. It keeps people from rioting or from looting and pillaging like one would imagine in a somewhat anarchistic society. Basically, the little order that we have comes from these ‘gangs of cutthroats,’ as you describe them, Crono.”

     Crono frowned in anger, not bothering to retaliate. Marle, however, was still interested in learning more.

     “Is this Madoshi a member of a criminal syndicate?”

     Rokan chuckled. “Yes, I guess you could say that.”

     “Just out of curiosity, how did he become the leader?”

     “He killed the former leader and his toadies, and took their place.”

     Crono frowned, and shared a confused glance with Marle. “He sounds dangerous.”

     “Only if you’re on the wrong side,” said Rokan. “Actually, he’s brought more order to the syndicate and turned a small band of brigands to top-notch thieves. Madoshi leads the organization and is the only syndicate leader that is carrying out a plan to get us out of this place.”

     Rokan stopped talking, leaving everyone to brood over their thoughts before they entered the city. But when he led the three to the “gates” of Acheron, they were speechless. Before them, beyond what was apparently a checkpoint, was a sprawling complex, the largest Crono, Lucca, or Marle had ever seen. It was a mixture of technology and decay, from what could be seen, but was still something to marvel over.

     At the wide entrance, there were a large group of robots standing guard. Rokan strolled casually up to them, and almost immediately the nearest one wheeled right in front of him, saying something rapidly in a language none of the three had ever heard before. The robot had, attached to its arm, what seemed to be a rather large cannon-like device. Fortunately, the machine did not need to use it. Rokan retrieved from his pocket a plastic card, and slotted it into an orifice on the robot’s other arm. Several lights blinked across the machine’s black face, and then it moved aside, the other robots following it.

     “Gotta have this card to get in Acheron,” said Rokan, holding it up for the others to see. “Otherwise, the ‘bots go ballistic on ya, and I wouldn’t want to get caught around them in their attack mode. Those arm cannons can blow a hole in steel. Luckily for you, I have permission to escort you people within the city. Madoshi’s able to bend the system like that.” he added with a chuckle.

     Crono kept on hand to the hilt of his katana. “Don’t make any wrong moves...”

     “Hey, Relax!” said Rokan nonchalantly with a grin. “If I wanted to ‘86 you, I could have done it a long time ago. But I don’t want or need to. Just stick close to me, I’ll make sure no one--or thing--harasses you guys.”

     “How far is this ‘Madoshi’ and how long will it take us to get to him?” asked Lucca.

     Rokan looked back at her and grinned. The sounds of a city echoed everywhere, breaking the sound of the wind that dominated the blasted plains. The streets were paved with a hard, sturdy material that was unlike the dirt or cobbled roads Crono or Marle were used to. Lucca was able to tell that the material was asphalt, something she had seen when she visited the future in 1999 C.E. Puddles of stagnant water were seen in several places, pooling in the dips of the road.

     “You’ll meet him soon enough,” said Rokan, giving Lucca an admiring gaze, much to her bewilderment. He walked down the street, his head held down. “You’ll meet him soon enough...”


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