Chrono Trigger: Time of Illusion Chapter 4

By Nihon Soba

Smoke, the smell of it saturated in the air. The sound of soft talking in various languages,of cubes of ice clinking in drinking glasses. The dark atmosphere, literally dark, the only light provided being several low-power flourescent lights on the ceiling. The senses of a tavern, a bar, a lounge.

Coins clinking, inserted into an antique jukebox. The sound of them rolling into the slot like wheels tumbling down a hill. The click of a button, the droning mechanical soundof the machine selecting a seven inch. The fuzz of the speakers as the melody begins to play...

Olha que coisa mas linda
Mais cheia de graca
E ela menina que vem
e que passa
Num doce balanco
a caminho do mar...

The soft, soothing tones of Jobim’s Bossanova filled the air of the seedy bar, the smooth Portuguese lyrics dampening the constant sounds of muttering and chatter. Rokan tilted his head back and closed his eyes, savoring the moment. He was seated on a barstool, the others had opted for a table near the back. Madoshi has told him to wait at this bar for the escort, and that he did willingly. Rokan sighed, reciting over the lyrics in this mind, the Brazilian music calming him.

Moca do corpo dourado
do sol de Ipanema
O seu balancado e
mais que um poema
E a coisa mais linda
Que eu ja vi passar...

Marle, Lucca, and Crono watched Madoshi’s servant from their table in the back.Crono, always the scrutinizer, peered over his mug of ale as he drank. Marle held the delicate glass of martini (a new-found name of drink to her) in her hand, taking a sip at regular intervals, the look on her pretty face a quizzical one. Lucca’s gaze strayed fromarea to area, pausing to rest on Rokan for a while... much to her emotional confusion. She took a gulp of her glass of what Rokan called bourbon, a strong, amber-colored whiskey, the ice cubes clinking against the glass as they floated on the surface of the drink.

Ah! Por que estou
tao sozinho?
Ah! Por que tudo
e tao triste?
Ah! A beleza que existe
A beleza que nao
e so minha
Que tambem passa sozinha...

Marle took some time to absorb the new sights and sounds and smells. There were humans in this area, most paying attention to their drinks and cigars, others sitting and staring into nothing. There were some slender, tall elves, creatures Marle had never seen before, whom she thought existed only in stories she heard as a child. Short, stocky dwarves dressed in metalsmith garb were at one table, talking loud in their native tongue, laughing as they toasted their mugs of beer to each other. Still, there were stranger beings as well; bipedal lizard-men, blue-skinned human-like creatures, a whole melting pot of different entities. What nobody seemed to notice was why most all of the life forms were of the bipedal, humanoid type...

Ah! se ela soubesse
Que quando ela passa
O mundo sorrindo
Se enche de graca
E fica mais lindo
Por causa do amor...

“I’ve waited too long,” said Crono over his mug, breaking the “silence” that they all shared. Without another word, he marched over to the stool where Rokan was seated.

Marle decided to stand up and stretch her legs after a long wait, and left the table with Crono, leaving Lucca to herself.

She took another drink of her liquor, looking over to where the others were at. Since the machine started to play music, she had been listening to the strange language it was sung in, trying to decipher it. Always the scientist, Lucca was fascinated by anything new. The episode earlier, in the Cursed Forest, was now but a dark memory in the back of her mind. She tilted her head in thought, her drink temporarily forgotten.

“I told you, my employer told me to bring you people here, and that an escort will be sent shortly.” Rokan explained to an impatient Crono, absorbed in his drink and the music rather than the spiky-haired swordsman behind him.

“It’s been almost two hours!” Crono said angrily. “Do you expect us to wait any longer?”

Marle was more lenient. “Perhaps they ran into some unexpected difficulties, Crono.” she finished the last of her “martini” and placed the glass on the bar. “Let us wait a little while longer, then if no one has arrived, we shall be off, with or without an escort.”

Marle motioned for her husband to follow her, and a rather dejected Crono sighed, letting her lead him back to the table.

Rokan chuckled, taking a sip of his wine. “Wouldn’t make it far without an escort,” he said, not facing them. “Wouldn’t make it far at all... .ha!” Then, as the English part of the music came into play, he softly sang the words:

Tall and tan and young and lovely,
the Girl from Ipanema goes walking and
when she passes each one she passes goes a-a-a-h...
When she moves it's like a samba
that swings so smooth and sways so gently and
when she passes each one she passes goes a-a-a-h...

Lucca paused from lifting the glass to her lips. This was a song she had never heard of or heard before in her life, a song not from her world. And yet, the words were decipherable. As clear as an unmuddied lake. Though words like “Ipanema” and “samba” were unfamiliar to her, she understood the lyrics perfectly. Was she the only one who did? Why did a song from another world use the same language as she and others spoke? Odd...

Oh--but he watches so sadly,
How--can he tell her he loves her
Yes--he would give his heart gladly
but each day when she walks to the sea
she looks straight ahead, not at he...

Rokan remembered one time, back in his thieving days with Misato, when she and him had both infiltrated the mansion of an aristocrat who was throwing a party to show off one of his new aquisitions--what it was, Rokan still did not know. It was not their task to know. Their task was to slip into the party disguised as a couple invited, and later sneak into the aristocrat’s art gallery and steal a rather rare sculpture by a modern artist--Rokan still couldn’t remember the artist’s name. When they had done the deed, and were attempting to slip out of the party unnoticed, this song--the very song that was playing now--had started up, and they were both led, somehow, onto the dance floor. Needless to say, they had not been expecting this, but the song was so soothing, and the atmosphere romantic, that they could not help but to come together and dance...

Tall and tan and young and lovely,
the Girl from Ipanema goes walking and
when she passes each one he smiles but she doesn't see
she just doesn't see...

Lucca, as scientific as always, was pondering the meaning of this. This song is not any I’ve heard in our world, our time, she thought, tapping her finger on the counter for a passerby human bartender to refill, which he did. It would appear that from Rokan as an example, most of us--no matter from what world or time--share the same or similar language. Lucca pushed up her glasses with her index finger, and sipped from her glass, the strange music permeating the atmosphere around her, puzzling her about the language it was sung in that she could understand. Hmm...

Oh--but he watches so sadly,
How--can he tell her he loves her
Yes--he would give his heart gladly
but each day when she walks to the sea
she looks straight ahead, not at he...

The escort hadn’t showed up yet, Rokan noted. A little voice in the back of his mind was warning him of something going wrong, but the music and the memories he was reliving took all of his attention. He took another drink of his wine, and then suddenly stopped.

* * * * *

The murder was silent. A hand clamped over the mouth and the blade drawn across the throat. Ancient and crude, but effective. Death came within seconds. The sounds of the city of Acheron muffled the sounds of the person’s untimely demise. In the shadowed alley where the murder took place, a dark mass covered the body. The disposing of the body commenced.

* * * * *

Turn the tourniquet
‘till I’m sick of it
see the other side
always overdrawn
feeling like a pawn
somebody died...

Rokan shuddered, coming back to reality. A bead of sweat trickled down his forehead, and he shivered.

Somebody died...

He remembered that song. He had heard it long ago, and it was one of his favorites. But why did he think of it now? He had been enjoying the song that was still playing on the jukebox a few moments ago, but now... it wasn’t just the memory of the song that shook him. It was the feeling. Something was wrong...


The feeling of a hand clamping upon his shoulder and a voice speaking his name caused Rokan to start. He turned his head around swiftly, and saw someone familiar.

“Glad you were so patient,” the escort said, a female garbed in black leather clothing, wearing an equally black overcoat and dark sunglasses. She patted him on the shoulder, giving a wry smile, her short, dark hair falling in front of her face. “Madoshi awaits.”

Rokan was still a bit shaken from what he had experienced only seconds earlier.

“Yeah,” he muttered, standing up from his stool, tossing a few coins onto the table as a tip. “Let’s move out.”

Marle saw Rokan motion toward them. She lightly elbowed Crono in the ribs, finishing up her drink. Lucca noted this and stood up, walking toward Rokan, silently brooding over the whole situation. Crono took the elbow to his ribs with a grunt, leaving his drink behind on the table and standing up. The three of them met up with Rokan and another woman, whom Rokan said was the escort from Madoshi.

Outside of the bar, the companions seemed to lighten up a bit. The air in the city, though not exactly of the most pleasant scent, was a damn well better smell than it was in the seedy little tavern. Too many alien sounds, smells, and sights. Too much input on things never seen before. It had given Marle a headache just looking around the place.

Rokan’s black leather boots sloshed dirty water around as he nonchalantly stepped in several puddles. He and the others were following the escort through asphalt streets illuminated by electric and gaseous lighting.

“So, where’s the car?” asked Rokan. He lifted up a hand to push up his shades, realizing then that his shades were broken, lost in the battle with that... thing earlier. Instead, he brushed back his short, wiry blond hair, wiping sweat onto his shirt.

The escort turned her head back to look at him, not faltering in her steps a bit.

“There is no car,” she said, her expression unreadable behind those dark sunglasses she wore. “There weren’t any to be spared. I was given orders to collect you and the other three, and lead you to your destination.”

Rokan lifted an eyebrow in confusion. He could’ve sworn that a wehicle was going to be brought, according to Madoshi. He thought of his sudden though earlier in the bar.. and then dismissed it with a swift shake of his head.

I’m letting all this get to me, he thought. Too fuckin’ jumpy nowdays, I am...

“So how long does it take to get wherever we’re going?” came Crono’s voice from beside him. In his musings, Rokan hadn’t paid attention to where he was going. The escort walked briskly several yards before him, and Crono, Lucca, and Marle were not around him.

Rokan sighed, wincing as a trickle of sweat made its way into the fresh scar on his face, made from the thing that he had tried to fight earlier in the forest. “About half an hour, if I remember correctly. Give or take a few minutes. Ease up, man.” he said, too lazy to look at who he was speaking to. “We’ll get there. Speaking of which...”

Crono’s gaze followed Rokan as the man jogged several yards to catch up with the escort, and began to fiddle with an object he retrieved from his pocket. Nothing more could be seen from where Crono was.

“Shouldn’t we catch up?” asked Lucca.

“We might lose them,” stated Marle, keeping an eye on the distance between them and the other two.

Crono peered at Rokan, now a good distance from them, but still in his sight. The man was still absorbed in whatever he was doing with the device he had.

“Nah. Let’s just follow. No sense in wasting energy to catch up.” he said, though as he did, he felt that something was wrong indeed...

* * * * *

Rokan was now far enough away from the three, and a good distance from the escort, who led them through streets and alleways. However, he did not pay too much attention to the scenery of Acheron. He remembered something, and was glad that he did: the communicator. That was why he suddenly kept a distance from the other three.

Popping open the cel-phone-like device, he pressed a few buttons and waited, a green light flashing on the communicator. The light stopped flashing, turned solid green, and a sputtering, staticy hologram the size of his arm formed. It was Madoshi. The master’s expression was devoid of anything, as far as Rokan could tell.

“How is it proceeding?” Madoshi said, his familiar voice distorted by the speaker on the communicator.

“Going as planned, so far.” said Rokan, keeping the device in front of him, taking care not to reveal anything to the others. The escort was keeping her brisk pace, clearing paths for them, unknowing or uncaring of the conversation taking place behind her. “Though I wish you’d have brought a vehicle or something. Hurts my damn feet, walking so much.”

“I did send for a transport,” said Madoshi warily. “I detailed you on where it would be, remember?”

“Yeah, you did.” said Rokan, looking down on the hologram of Madoshi, clothed in a flowing black leather coat, dark shades, his long hair tied back behind him, the ponytail draped over his shoulder. “Only it didn’t show up. Waited in the god-awful bar for hours and finally your escort shows up.” Though there WAS good music playin’ there...

* * * * *

Madoshi stood inside of his personal office, looking at the life-size hologram of his right-hand man, listening to what he told of the mission he was given.

“Escort?” he said, his deep, almost whispering voice seeming loud in the vacant room. But he did not care.

There was a pause, the hologram flickered. “Yeah, the girl in black leather. We’re on our way right now, to let you know.”

Madoshi said nothing. He had sent for a transport, driven by one of his retainers, but there was no female escort. And Rokan had said that he and the other three were forced to make the journey on foot.

“Wait. Turn off the hologram.”

Rokan did, and his image was gone form the room, only sound left on the communicator, coming from speakers located in the small room.

Giving the command, Madoshi then lowered his head and closed his eyes, placing his hands together in a praying manner, channeling the magic through his mind. An image of Acheron soared beneath him, giving a bird’s-eye view of the sprawling wonder of technology. A red, pulsating dot was in one part of the city, and Madoshi focused on it. There was Rokan, the escort... and the Three.

In the wrong sector of the city...

Quickly, Madoshi focused on the escort that Rokan had described. The image of a young woman, somwhat hazy, even in his mind’s eye. In the room, his hands reached out, and made a parting motion. The haze surrounding this person vanished, replaced with--

Oh, shit!

* * * * *

“Eh? What was that?” Rokan said, tapping the communicator with his finger before putting in over his ear again. “I couldn’t catch ya. Must be some interference from where we are.” Static hissed, and a few more words were made out.

“I said ge--” the rest was droned out with static. The light on the device flashed twice, and the power went out from it. Frowning, Rokan closed and pocketed the communicator, paying attention to the escort and where she was taking them.

Or where she was not. The sounds of the city seemed far away, even though they were clearly within the walls of it. There were much fewer sentients than there were before, and from the looks of it, Crono, Lucca, and Marle were wondering the same thing.

“Where the hell are we?”

The escort stopped suddenly, her coat whipping in the sudden wind, turning around to face them. She seemed too cool, collected, and something about her posture indicated that she knew something the others didn’t.

“Where indeed...” she said in her smooth, sexy voice, her slender fingers brushing away strands of jet-black hair, removing the shades from her face. Her eyes were dark, the pupils dilated.

She hissed, an unerathly sound, and raised her arms. It seemed as her body melted into a puddle, only to re-emerge again as something different. What was left behind became clear: a face deviod of orifices, two blood-red eyes narrowed in anger; sleek, coal black skin, devoid of clothing; gangly arms and legs that were far more powerful than they looked; brittle, swept back hair; sharp claws on the hands and feet--the very form of a race known as Shapeshifters.

The Shapeshifter clenched her fists, her chest rising and falling as she breathed.

“Your journey ends with your death,” she said, using a mockery of the voice she had used from her human host. Her eyes focused on Rokan. “The traitor and the others will die.”

Rokan was spitting out curse after curse in his mind, unarmed. He wished that he’d have kept his gun when he dropped it in the forest... he had the other with him, but he was not sure they could hold up long enough against a Shapeshifter--they have been able to take out entire squads of gunmen--twenty or more of them--without taking a single hit. Those bastards were fast. And the whole time since the creature made itself known, a single name, the explanation for this, was going through his head.

Shin. Somehow, he found he out... shit! Two years of playing the servant for him and he finds out at last...

While Rokan stood there, seemingly frozen with shock, the others were not as taken aback. Lucca wasted no time. She unholstered a 9mm handgun she had taken with her when she first arrived in this strange realm, and fired at the creature. So fast that it seemed slow, the being spread itself out as if it were jelly, forming itself into a hoop, and the bullet whizzed right through it.

With equal speed, the thing was able to melt back into a puddle, rush to Lucca, and reform just as quickly, a clawed hand disarming her and slicing her stomach.


Crono jumped to push her aside just in time, taking the worser half of the slash. The thing... it had meant to disembowel her. Luckily, it failed to do so to him too, even though he took the rest of the claw swipe.

“C’mon...” Marle said softly, her crossbow loaded and raised. Crono and Lucca were by her, and Lucca needed to be healed, but she did not want to let that creature get away with what it did. Maybe she could get it when Lucca wasn’t able to...

With a twang, the crossbow fired, Marle holding it steadily and surely. The Shapeshifter was not looking in her direction since after the attack of Lucca. The steel bolt whizzed through the air, a sleek, unfeathered razor-sharp shaft honed in on its target. The creature turned her head around from where she was standing, ready to dodge, yet it was too late. The metal arrow struck her in the forehead, causing the creature’s head to jerk back. She fell to the ground, unmoving.

“Got you...” said Marle, her voice as cold as ice. She holstered her crossbow, tending to Lucca and Crono’s wound. They were not very deep, but would require a few minutes of tending to with magic. Rokan was still frozen in what seemed like shock, looking at the fallen body near him, the Shapeshifter.

We’re safe... he thought. Then, like a ton of bricks, the reality hit him. No. Shin is powerful, he wouldn’t send someone this weak to finish me off... it occured to him that the creature had attacked Lucca. But didn’t Shin want them alive? Perhaps it was a mistake...

Suddenly, he heard a light metallic clang. Jumping at the sound of it, Rokan whirled around...

Where the hell are we? It should be noisy, even here. It IS a city, after all...

...and saw the Shapeshifter up and on its legs. With her red eyes burning with anger, she grasped at the metal bolt that was lodged in between her eyes, and yanked. The bolt came out easily, with no mark revealing its entry. She tossed it aside, the projectile clattering against the asphalt road.

Rokan looked frantically around for a weapon--any weapon. He spotted, in a pile of garbage, some shards of broken glass. Thinking himself crazy for utilizing it, but remembering that he had utilized stranger things in his previous line of work, he picked up a large, sharp piece of glass.

The Shapeshifter had locked its gaze on Marle, who was healing Crono and Lucca, both of them on the ground and unable to fight. With incredible speed, the creature again melted into a puddle, and launched itself into the air toward the three. Right as it did so, its form began to change again, taking the likeness of a blade, hardening parts of its alien body into an edge.

Marle frantically tried to get everyone to move, but they were still wounded, and would not. She thought it would be all over until she heard a yell, and saw--

“Rokan? What the hell are you trying to do?!”

With a cry, Rokan was running into the path of the shapeshifter, her form still a blade, rushing toward the three, intent on killing them all. He knelt down on one knee, raising his hands, and as the being was almost close enough to split him and the others in two, he slashed downward, a huge piece of glass in his hand. The Shapeshifter hit the glass, and split into two clean halves, both of the clanking to the ground.

However, that didn’t stop it. The two halves of the being snapped back together, melting in the process, and formed her body again.

“Oh shit...” Rokan breathed.

“I will kill you now.” the being stated, extending an arm at amazing speed. She grabbed Rokan by the throat from a distance, and lifted his body into the air. Her eyes narrowed as she tightened her grip. Her prey was struggling frantically, his hands grasping at the one around his throat.

Rokan could hear strange words being chanted. As he struggled to stay alive, he realized that it was Marle, preparing to cast some sort of spell. But he could feel his strength giving away every second. His vision seemed to get hazier with each attempted breath...

...and then black lightning struck in the sky above them.

The Shapeshifter looked up, suprised. Her grip on Rokan relaxed, but did not waver. Above her, black lightning was crackling. And not in the manner of regular lightning. It was more like a field of electricity, as if someone had torn a power cable and set it into a pool of water. And then...

Space itself had shifted, and ripped.

A hole had been torn in the heavens. Within it was a swirling blue void, out of which something fell out of. The creature was too transfixed with the whole event to notice the thing plummeting toward her.


The Shapeshifter’s body collapsed upon itself as the thing fell upon her with a loud crack. She released Rokan, who fell to the ground, gasping for breath. He had heard things going on, but was unable to see anything. And still, he was too exhausted to see anything else, only the sky he was staring at as he lay on the ground. Suddenly, something made its way into his clouded vision.


Rokan could make out a vague female form. He tried to say something, but no words came out.

The woman shook her head. “Not okay. I help.”

He felt himself being lifted up into the air by strong, slender arms. He could smell animal fur and sweat, and felt long hair as he was strung over a shoulder. Being carried by this woman seemed to speed up his healing process. His vision cleared, and Rokan could see, from where he was slung across the woman’s shoulder, the collapsed form of the Shapeshifter. Must’ve landed on her hard, he thought. There was no sign of life from the being.

“Ayla? Is that you?”

Marle’s spell was interrupted when she saw what was definetly a Gate being formed above her target. She had seen a humanoid shape fall from the portal and crash into the creature’s body, collapsing it. After the person got up, she could see it better. There was no mistaking the long blond hair and the skimpy animal fur bikini, along with a fur cloak as well.

Rokan was being whirled around as his carrier was as well. He noticed an ecstatic Marle, standing next to the now-resting Crono and Lucca. He could feel soft skin and the hard muscle behind it on his face, and then became aware of his present position. Nervously, he realized that his head was resting against stomach muscle, and he could see a bare, shapely leg when he looked down.


“Marle! You here too! Sign of good luck!” Ayla yelled, rushing toward Marle.

Too late that Rokan realized he was about to be sandwiched.

Still with Rokan over her shoulder, Ayla gave Marle a crushing embrace.

“Ack! That’s a little tight...” Marle gasped, and the cavegirl let her go. “Ayla! How on Earth did you get here?”

“Long story! Tell later--oops, poor boy.” Ayla said, stepping back to reveal a squashed Rokan.

“Ghee...” was his only reply.

“Ugh...” came Lucca’s voice as she sat up from where she had been lying down.

“What happened...?”

Marle rushed toward her and (still sleeping) Crono. “Hold on! I haven’t even had the chance to heal you guys yet!” she said, noting how Lucca was clutching at her bleeding midsection. Marle knelt down and places her hands on Lucca, closing her eyes. Blue light shimmered from where her hands touched Lucca, and then she stepped back.

“There. Now, please don’t move too much for the next hour or so.” and with a smile, she cast the same spell on Crono. “Same goes for you, big guy...”

Ayla, still with Rokan slung over her shoulder, was looking around the area. She sniffed the air, and her nose wrinkled. Going to the fallen body of the creature she had landed on, she knelt down to get a better look at its coal-black, strangely shaped body.

“What this? Strange, but woman too. Hmm...” she said to herself. Rokan took the opportunity to wriggle out of her strong arms and fall on the street. His head was a little woozy, but other than that he felt better. He stood up and brushed himself off.

“So why are you here, Ayla?” came Lucca’s question, spoken from where she was sitting on the ground.

“Oh, long story, but good! Ayla go to hunting ground--hunting bad, no much animals left--and learn of strange creature there!”

“Strange creature?” came Marle’s confused voice.

Ayla nodded. “Big, fat, blue. No much hair, thin arms and legs.”

“A Nu...?” Lucca figured it out.

“Correct.” came a different voice.

Everyone’s head turned, and saw, standing in the shadow of a building several meters away from them, a tall male figure that seemingly appeared from nowhere. The figure stepped out of the shadow, and everyone got a good view of him.

The man was wearing the crisp, clean business-like suit, all in jet-black, including the shirt he wore underneath and the gloves on his hands. His long, black hair was not tied back by any way, flowing down his back in a suprisingly neat fashion. His face was rather gaunt, with sunken cheekboned and arched eyebrows. His eyes were yellow of color...

The man pointed out his finger toward the group, and made a come here gesture.

“Rokan.” he said.

Everyone’s head turned when the name was uttered. Some faces were marked by confusion. Crono’s was marked by anger. Rokan noticed all this as he slowly walked away from the group, toward the person. He stood there for several seconds until the man let out an amused chuckle.

“So, it seems that my servant did end up having things done my way, after all.” the man said, hands in the pockets of his expensive black suit. The sarcasm inserted into the word servant was noticed by some of the others. But not Crono.

“Traitor,” the spiky-haired boy hissed.

“You should know by now that I never was your servant,” Rokan dictated to the man menacingly. “And I don’t remember anywhere in your orders that the others needed to be killed!”

The man stood there, hands in pockets. “Ah yes, a little change of plans, Rokan my boy. It seems that I need them to be dead, here and now. They are too dangerous to my plan to be left alive.” with that said, the man walked over to the fallen body of the Shapeshifter and looked down upon it.

“That’s what I love about these creatures,” he said, kneeling down and grasping hold of the creature’s neck. “They have no skeleton, and therefore, something like being flattened won’t stop them.” with that said, the Shapeshifter’s eyes flared red, and she pulled herself up to a standing position, taller than the man yet compliant to his wishes.

Rokan stepped back from the man. “I am NOT your servant, Shin!” he said. “Nor will I ever be! The only one I serve is Madoshi.”

At that name, the man named Shin sneered. “You disgrace me even further, human scum. I did not think that you would be working for that... thorn in my side.” Shin’s face then settled into an amused grin. “But you have still served my purpose, and now I know that I have thwarted his plans.”

Shin raised his arms, and screamed something unintelligable. Suddenly, from all over the ground before him, the dead began to rise, in various types of decay. All of them stood compliant with their ressurector, until a veritable army was amassed.

“Didn’t think there so many dead...” Ayla muttered, in awe of the spectacle.

“Hmm?” Shin noticed the cave-girl. “My plans mention nothing about... whoever you are.” he said, almost as if he were annyoyed. “You are a nuisance, a hindrance to my plans. Die.”

WIth that command, a spear of dark energy was hurtled toward Ayla. It pierced her in the midsection, and she cried out as it ripped through her and continued on its mindless path. Ayla stood there, gasping, clutching the bleeding hole in her stomach. She locked her eyes with Shin’s, and gave him a determined, angry stare.

“So you are stronger than I thought, whoever you are.” he said as if amused, yet clearly he was not. He was seething in anger, and it seemed as if he was... frightened by the fact that his attack was not fatal.

“Very well then, I’ll just finish you off.” Shin dictated, another spear of dark energy forming in his hand. The dead he had raised began to shuffle slowly toward the group as he prepared to throw the spear. “You will all die here, and nothing shall get in my way again.”

He cast the spear...

...which struck an invisible barrier on Ayla and crumbled into nothingness.

Shin’s eyes narrowed in anger, but he just smiled.

“All right, you nuisance, come on out, there’s no use in hiding... or do you fear me that much?”

Materializing next to the wounded cave-girl was a tall and slender man, wearing a black leather trenchcoat, black gloves, and boots. His skin was rather pale, and his ears were pointed. The mysterious stranger’s eyes were obscured by a pair of dark sunglasses, and his long blue hair was tied back into a ponytail which was draped over his shoulder.

“I do not fear you, and I never did.” said the stranger, folding his arms. “Stop this fruitless attack, you know that you cannot do anything while I am around.”

Shin exploded with anger. “Shut up, you pointy-eared FREAK! I will not be intimidated by you!” then, as if reprimanding himself for bursting like that, he forced himself to settle down, grinning instead of showing anger. “Besides, you cannot use your powers here, I know that for a fact, Madoshi...”

The stranger named Madoshi said nothing, his eyes unreadably behing those dark shades. Instead, he snapped his fingers, and from almost every convievable shadow, window, and alley, armed warriors emerged. There were humans and non-humans alike, each armed with whatever they had; sword or gun, it made no difference.

Crono, Lucca, Marle and Rokan stood there in confusion, not sure what was going on but sure that this stranger named Madoshi was on their side... at least for the time being.

“I still don’t trust you!” Crono hissed to Rokan, unsheathing his katana. “How do we know that you haven’t led us into a trap?”

Rokan just shook his head. “You should have been able to figure it out by now. I don’t really work for Shin.” he then sighed. “I wish I had a weapon...”

“Then here you go,” came Lucca’s pretty voice. She reached into her pockets and retrieved a small handgun, which she tossed to the ratty looking “guide”.

Rokan chuckled, and made sure that the tiny gun was loaded. “Well, beggars can’t be choosers...”

“Crono, let’s focus on getting ourselves out of this mess alive.” Marle said, bringing up her crossbow. “Stop blaming Rokan and let’s use this squabble going on to get us away from whoever this Shin person is... Crono! Are you even listening?”

The spiky-haired boy was peering intently at Madoshi. “I’m sure I’ve seen him somewhere before...”

Ayla, still in pain from her deep wound, looked up at the person who saved her.

“Ugh... hurts. Hey...? You blue hair one, I remember yummy frog talk about. Youmore tasty?”

Madoshi looked down at her and gave her a slight grin.

“Thank you for showing up, Ayla. Believe it or not, I actually owe you for that.”

Ayla had a sudden revelation, as well as Crono, Lucca, and Marle.

“That’s it! I remember!” they all said in unison. “You’re--”

But before they could say the identity of Madoshi, the battle started, and chaos ensued.


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