Wrestling with Chemistry!
© 2011 by hyperdrive
What can I say? Sometimes miracles do happen—like new chapters of The Masadoom and Company! I was thinking of splitting this chapter up-it's the longest chapter of the whole story so far, but considering how long it's been, you all deserved a good, uninterrupted tale. I hope you all enjoy this very belated chapter!
Crono stared out of the mouth of the cave at the swirling snow, shifting his orange bandana as the wind blew violently. Sighing heavily, he slowly turned towards his companions in the cave, his face drawn with worry and his eyes filled with uncertainty and fear. "Do you think they're safe? I'm beginning to think that this weather will never stop."
Just like Crono, Frog, Marle, and Robo appeared very anxious. Frog was nervously looking out into the blizzard, his hand playing upon the hilt of the Masamune. Marle looked pale and was sitting on a rock, fidgeting. Even Robo was alternating between pacing and looking out into the snow.
Of the group, only Ayla, who sat relaxed on the soft sand of the cave floor, seemed without worry. She spoke, saying, "Ayla know purple and blue hair. Both strong, smart. Safe."
"Ayla's right," Marle said, trying to sound cheerful. "I guess a tornado wouldn't be anything to Maggie. But what about your mom, Crono? The tornado got your house."
"She's okay. She was visiting some relatives in south Truce. But yes," Crono agreed, "if Magus made it, he would make sure Lucca did too." He frowned, not entirely convinced at his own words.
The cavewoman nodded and then smiled wryly. "Blue hair never let hurt purple hair. Will make strong babies."
"Pray that thou dost not speak such lunacy," Frog shuddered, "for Lady Lucca hath the sense not to fall prey to that wastrel!"
"Ayla lead Ioka. Ayla see many like them. They not know yet." The cavewoman nodded again with considerable self-assuredness. "Ayla know what blue hair and purple hair need. Need pri-vass-see. Need alone time. Make strong babies, you see."
Frog ribbit-ed. "Perish the thought of breath in that wastrel's lungs, let alone that!"
Ayla said nothing but continued smiling. Frog shivered and Marle giggled. Crono scratched his head. While he wasn't certain that it was romance, Ayla had definitely touched upon something unusual. There was something very curious about how the conceited wizard was helping with Lucca's broadcasts. While Magus's thirst for revenge had made it obvious why he had helped in the quest against Lavos, it was much less obvious why he was still helping them now.
Crono was about to speak when Ayla suddenly scrambled to her feet and bolted to the mouth of the cave, Robo following close behind. She cupped her hands behind her ears for a moment and then frowned. "Ayla think hear people. Ayla wrong."
"No, it was something," said Robo. "There is a 65% chance that it was a shout in the distance."
"Really? I hope it was, because then we'd be rescued, and we'd go home and have chocolate cake and hot chocolate and—"
"Robo needs to hear, honey," Crono interrupted.
Marle fell silent. For several seconds, all that was heard was the sound of the wind outside and the slow dripping of water echoing from the depths of the cave. After a few more seconds, the sound of excited breathing, coming in small hushed puffs, joined the sounds of nature. No one spoke; all ears (or microphones, in Robo's case) were concentrated on pulling the faintest strains of voice from the snowstorm.
"Ayla was correct," Robo confirmed. "There are voices in the distance."
"I can't hear anything."
"Prithee Sir Crono, Lady Ayla and Sir Robo's hearing mayhap stronger than our own," Frog suggested. He paused and blinked. "Indeed! Verily, many people doth approach! I too hear."
Crono grinned. He could hear the shouting now as well. The teenage swordsman squinted as he surveyed the endless, thick snow falling before them, searching for anything vaguely resembling a person.
Robo pointed into the whiteness. "There they are."
A dark shape appeared in the distance, resolving slowly into a small crowd. As the crowd grew closer still, shouts of "Lucca! Frog! Crono! Ayla! Magus! Robo! Marle!" rose above the howling wind.
"A search party!" Marle shouted.
The Crono Trigger crew emerged from the cave, running towards their rescuers. As they closed on the crowd, Taban, Lara, Crono's mother, and a man in sunglasses and baggy clothes appeared at the lead, with several dozen people following.
"Oh, thank God you're all safe!" said Taban.
Crono's mom wrapped her son in an enormous embrace.
Marle's eyes widened as the man in baggy clothes hugged her. "Don't shout 'Daddy!' please," the camouflaged King Guardia whispered. "Thank goodness you're safe."
The crowd came forth, eager to meet the Crono Trigger crew. "DADDY!" Marle shouted, just realizing that the disguised man hugging her was actually her father. Thankfully, the princess's indiscretion was lost amongst the din of the the crowd. Most of them were people Crono and his friends had never met before, eager people waiting to hug them and shake their hands. Some of them had brought warm clothes, clothes that Crono and his friends happily accepted. Some of them asked for autographs. Others just wanted to talk and ask questions.
Crono found himself lost under all of the attention; finally, he called out "Taban, who are these people?"
"Isn't it obvious?" the middle aged inventor replied, "They're fans. After the broadcast ended, they came over to help us look for you!"
"Oh!" gasped Crono. "It is a pleasure to meet you all!" For a few moments, Crono and his friends mingled with the crowd, enthusiastic to meet their fans. Then, a worried shout rang out.
Desperately Lara cried, "Where's my Lucca? And Magus?"
"Milady, the wastrel took Lady Lucca in the truck and fled," Frog replied. "He hath not returned."
"Then the search is not over," declared Taban. "We will find them yet!"
The crowd roared in agreement. With that, the Crono Trigger crew and the search party left, trudging through the snow in the last direction the truck had gone.
Lucca winced as she slowly opened her eyes. All that she saw was darkness and even as her eyes adjusted to the dimness, the darkness remained. Still tired and groggy, she tried to recall where she was. She felt very warm and quite safe, but her ankle hurt, occasionally sending small pangs of pain to her sleepy brain. She began to get up, but stopped as she felt a strong pair of arms around her naked stomach. She inhaled a deep breath, her nose filling with the scents of the abandoned cabin and her warm compatriot. She blushed as she realized that she was sitting in Magus's lap. His arms were still tightly around her, and his large cape was still over them, protecting them from the cold air outside. The teenage inventor barely stifled a giggle as she realized that Magus's chin was resting on her head. Then, much to her consternation and confusion, a small thrill ran up her back as she realized that they were both very nearly naked. Lucca stiffened for a moment, then slowly leaned back into the wizard's chest. She could feel his muscles on her bare skin, and his scent enveloped her. His arms tightened slightly around her. It was undeniable: something about this situation seemed very right. Against her better judgment, Lucca found herself almost wishing that this moment would never end, so warm and comfortable she felt.
"You're awake?" Magus asked.
"Yes," said Lucca. She found herself smiling. His voice was quiet and calming, completely devoid of its usual arrogance and superiority. "I'm awake."
"How is your ankle feeling?"
"Much better. It still hurts a little, though."
"That's alright. You don't need to stand up yet."
"Good." Lucca blushed, embarrassed. "I-I-I, um, I-er-m- mean that I don't mean to impo—"
"It's okay, Lucca. Just relax. Last night took a lot out of you."
"I don't want to impose."
"You aren't imposing. Besides, it's still very cold in here. You wouldn't want to get up yet."
"Can't you use your magic to heat the cabin up a little?"
"No, no, not yet," the wizard replied quickly.
Lucca couldn't help but think that something sounded strange about the wizard's reply. Did he actually want to keep holding her—no, he was probably just cold himself. After all, Lucca reflected, he was closer to the cold than she was. For a few moments, Lucca was lost in thought. Then, she shifted uncomfortably in the wizard's lap. She slowly had begun to realize that something solid was pressing against her. "Magus, is something pressing against me?"
"Er, where would that something be pressing against you?"
Lucca replied quietly, "My bottom."
"Ah, yes, Lucca, there is something there," said the wizard.
"Would you min—oh!" The inventor's eyes opened wide and she gasped as she realized exactly what was pressing against her. She swallowed, suddenly feeling very strange. Her thighs seemed very hot. Her chest seemed to ache slightly.
Magus coughed, almost nervously.
Lucca began, "Err."
"Ah," Magus continued.
"Um—so is that a pipe in your undershorts or are you just glad to see me?" Lucca asked. She could feel her face burning with embarrassment.
"Mere biological reaction," Magus said promptly, "it's just a simple biological reaction. Nothing more."
"Yes, it is." Lucca found herself frowning. She almost thought that some small part of herself actually liked the situation she was in. But as a good scientist, she thought, she was immune to such petty animal urges.
Ignoring what she was feeling, Lucca relaxed into Magus's chest and said, "So, when do you think we'll be able to leave the cabin?"
"Probably in a few hours. We should have our magic back by then, so we'll be able to dry our clothes and get help."
Crono shook his head. For almost an hour they had been trudging through the snow. For almost as long, Frog had ranted about Magus, Marle had yearned for various caffeinated beverages, and Taban and Lara had worried over the fate of the wizard and their daughter. Fortunately, it had finally stopped snowing, and the sun had come out. Moreover, the entourage of fans had stayed with them and had continued searching; Crono was certain that their thirty-strong group would eventually find the missing pair.
"You know, I bet that Magus and Lucca drove back to her house." Marle was beginning to shake from caffeine withdrawal and was becoming a little grumpy. "They're probably drinking hot chocolate right now."
"Lady Marle, dost thou not see? Lady Lucca wouldst not suffer to leave without seeking us out," Frog said. "And verily, that wastrel wouldst not waste a chance to feign heroism, whilst rubbing his foul villainy in our faces."
"But I want hot chocolate. It's so tasty and flavorful and warm and good, and when you put marshmallows in it, it's sooo delicious!"
"Please be quiet, Marle! We might not hear them if they're hurt," said Taban.
Lara cried out. "My poor Lucca!"
Ayla tried to comfort Lara. "No sad! Ayla help," she said gently. "We rescue blue hair and purple hair! They make strong babies! You see."
Lara smiled faintly as the mention of Magus and Lucca having children. Several of the fans immediately sighed. Another made a strange, high-pitched "squee" noise. One said, "Oh, wouldn't that be sooo cute?" Yet another smiled broadly, and said something about how happy his LuccaVision fan fiction club would be.
Frog moaned, scandalized, and made a choking sound. "Pray it does not come to that."
Ayla abruptly dropped to all fours and began running. Crono found himself following as fast as he could, with the rest of the group hot on his heels, following the cavewoman's lead. Now Crono could see that there was something glinting at the edge of the forest. For a moment, everyone slowed as they clambered over a recently fallen tree.
The red-haired swordsman felt his heart in his mouth as he arrived at the scene just behind Ayla. He looked around; the tornado had definitely left its mark here, as the ground was littered with broken trees and fallen debris. In the middle of the devastation, the twisted carcass of Taban's truck stood in the middle of a shallow depression, half-buried upside down in the new-fallen snow. Lara burst into tears. Fearing the worst, everyone gathered around the wreckage.
"They must have gotten caught by the tornado," said Marle, her voice thin and choked. "Poor, poor Lucca! Poor Magus!"
"To die so young, with such a craven fool," Frog said. He bowed his head. "'Tis a fate most dread."
Ayla, Taban, and Lara had started frantically digging, trying to get the wreckage out of the snow. One of the fans, his face twisted with sorrow, asked the three diggers to step aside. "Let's lift this thing!" he shouted to the rest of the fans, and in a few moments, the entire truck had been pulled from the snow and turned right-side up. Everyone cheered to see that the inside of the crushed vehicle was empty, except for Lara, who only started crying harder.
"Lady Lara, thou shouldst not cry," Frog said. "Verily, I am certain: they are alive."
"My baby is dead," Lara sobbed, inconsolable.
Taban put his arms around his wife and hugged her tightly. To Frog he said, "How do you know?"
"As I said to Lady Marle, that foul villain wouldst not miss a chance to feign heroism. I have heard the wise say that were Magus dead, mine curse would be lifted and Frog I should no more be, but Glenn. I remain Frog. Magus lives, and so does Lucca."
"Try to feel better, Lara," Crono comforted. "Magus wouldn't have abandoned Lucca."
Lara looked a little happier.
"But where would they have gone?" asked Taban. "They would have needed shelter from a storm like that, and if they didn't use the truck, then where are they?"
One of the fans spoke up. "This might be a long shot," she said, "but I used to come here when I was little. My Grandfather had a cabin nearby. There isn't really any other shelter in this area, so they might be there."
"Alright," said Crono. "Lead the way."
Lucca woke to a quiet hissing sound. She was still in Magus's lap, but his arms were no longer clasped around her. The wizard's cape, which had been pulled tightly around them not long before, now seemed to hang loosely over her. Magus was whispering something like a fire magic incantation and the hissing was increasing in volume.
"Magus, what are you doing?"
"Oh, you're awake? I'm drying our clothes."
Lucca pushed the cape away from herself. Their clothes were spread out on the cabin floor and steam was hissing from them, rising in damp white clouds in the cool air. The air was still quite cold, but the cabin was finally warming up. A warm fire was crackling in the fireplace and the sun was streaming in through the cabin's dingy window.
"I didn't go back to sleep like you did," Magus explained. "My magic returned a while ago, so I healed your leg, got the fire going, and now I'm getting the clothes dried. Crono and the others will be here in a little while."
"They're okay? How do you know?"
"Just a guess. I'm sure Ayla's cave kept them safe and if they're looking for us, they'll be here soon. Your clothes are ready, by the way. I started drying yours first."
"Do you need any help getting dressed? It's been a long time since I healed other people, so I'm not sure if your ankle is ready for walking."
Lucca slowly stood up, gingerly testing her formerly twisted ankle. There was no real pain, so she walked over to her clothes on the cabin floor and began pulling them on, leaving her helmet off as she remembered that its batteries were dead. Once she was dressed, she turned to face Magus, saying "No, it seems fine. Hey, is something wrong?"
"I didn't look!" the wizard said quickly. His eyes were staring at the floor as the tips of his ears reddened.
"I wasn't expecting you to just stand up like that," Magus sounded oddly hoarse.
"Oh!" Now it was Lucca's turn to blush. She hadn't even thought about the wizard being there when she had gotten dressed. She also had a feeling that despite his words to the contrary Magus had been watching her dress. "Y'like what you saw?" she teased.
"Ye—no! I didn't see anything, woman!" The wizard jumped to his feet, his eyes flashing. "I didn't see anything, like I told you! You were in your bra and panties anyway, so it's not like—" Magus trailed off and genuinely blushed.
Lucca was blushing as well. The wizard was standing in nothing but his underpants himself. "I guess this makes us almost even," she heard herself say.
The warlock prince stalked over to his still-damp clothes and pulled them on. He was nearly dressed in his usual attire and was just pulling on his gloves when he froze. "What do you mean, almost?"
Lucca found herself blushing even more fiercely. She was stammering. "Y-y-you've s-s-seen m-me und-d-d… without c-cl… n-n-nak—"
One of Magus's usual smirks appeared on his face. "I've seen you naked? I suppose you want me to return the favor. Well, you'll just have to settle for your fantasies, woman." The usual pompous aloofness had returned to the egoistical sorcerer's voice.
Lucca's embarrassment left her as she felt herself becoming angry. Then she realized that the wizard was just trying to push her buttons. Instead of becoming riled, she cackled.
Magus raised his eyebrows, then tried again. "What's wrong? Just don't think you can live without a glimpse, wench?"
Lucca almost laughed. She had the wizard pegged. He was just trying to get a rise out of her. She grinned wickedly and walked right up to the wizard, getting as close to him as she could. "I can live without a glimpse," she said pointedly. She could sense the wizard's bluster faltering as he shifted slightly on his legs. She continued. "But you can't, not after what you saw. I could feel your eyes on my behind when I was getting dressed, O Great Magus!"
Lucca spun around and marched to the cabin window-or would have, had the wizard not caught her arm and spun her back around to face him. "You play a very dangerous game, woman," he growled.
Some part of the back of her mind felt like a cornered rabbit, so fierce was the look upon the wizard's face. Fear almost won before determination set in. "He just wants to see you cower. He wants to control the situation, and you're not letting him," Lucca thought. She steeled herself, determined not to play into the mage's self-centered desires. "I play my games to win, Maggie," she retorted.
"Maggie?" The wizard sputtered, but quickly recovered. "I always win my wars." Magus's other hand grabbed her other arm, holding her tightly. "You should learn your place, wench," he growled again.
The inventor laughed sinisterly. "You're right. You've taught me my place very, very well."
"That's right…" he trailed off. He blinked confusedly at her laughter, even as he held her tightly and tried to scowl more ferociously.
Lucca returned his look with just as much zeal and grabbed his arms just as he was grasping hers. "My place is first place. That is my place. Who was it who got defeated by a plunger? This is a tool worthy of me! Whooped at Wormholes and Rockets? Beat that, woman! Had his ass kicked by a girl? Thou wast beaten by this lady, Magus!"
"Impudent wench!" the conceited sorcerer shouted. "You dare taunt Magus! Friendship can protect you only so much from the lessons I can teach!"
Lucca was laughing, even as Magus suddenly pulled her even closer to him. There was something extremely fun about pushing the wizard's buttons, and she knew she was doing it very well. "There are no lessons you can teach me that I don't already kn—"
For a moment, all that Lucca realized was that she had stopped talking. Her voice had been taken from her. She felt her eyes widening as she began to realize that something very odd was happening. Suddenly, reality dawned on her. Magus's lips were upon her own in a crushing kiss. This understanding made her legs jelly, her mind a blank slate, her body fire. Her eyes were closed now as she pulled her grasp on the warlock tighter, their kiss closer. Rational thought had left the inventor's mind completely. One of Magus's hands was in her hair. It was her first real kiss, and as it deepened, she moaned. Magus's tongue was playing with her own, at first demanding, then gently. The aggressive kiss had become something wholly different. Magus's hand was running gently through her hair, as if he was savoring this moment. His other arm was around the small of her back, and his tight pull on her had become gentle, yet claiming.
They pulled away from each other slowly. The fierce look upon Magus's face was gone. His gloved hand touched his parted lips. He was astonished. "I kissed you," he whispered. "You're hugging me."
Lucca's arms had somehow found their way around the wizard. She felt herself pulling him close again as she laid her head against his chest. She could hear the sorcerer's heart pounding. His hand was still running through her hair. Getting the upper hand in their argument had been completely forgotten as she sighed.
"You're holding me," Magus said again, his voice barely audible. "I kissed you."
"Yeah," Lucca agreed. She was smiling.
"This… cannot be."
Magus spoke slowly, uncertainly. "What does this mean? I don't… understand."
"I don't know," Lucca whispered. "I've never been kissed before."
"Neither have I."
For a moment, nothing was said. The inventor and the warlock prince stood in the middle of the cabin, her arms around him and one of his hands in her hair.
"Perhaps," Lucca suggested at length, "we should try again?"
They were about to kiss again when Magus's ears suddenly perked up. "Our rescuers have arrived."
Lucca put on her helmet while Magus adjusted his shirt. Fully dressed, they opened the cabin door. Immediately, Ayla jumped through the open door, landing on her hands and feet like a cat. Standing, she looked at Magus, then at Lucca, and clapped her hands. "Ayla knows!"
"Ayla, we're so glad to see—" Lucca started, when the rest of the search party arrived. Amidst the cheers of the crowd, she found herself in a crushing hug from Lara.
"My baby's alright!" Lara sobbed.
"Of course she is, woman," Magus said. "I saved her."
"See? Thou seest that I am correct? The foul fiend claims to have resc—"
"Lucca!" Taban wrapped his arms around his wife and daughter, hugging them tightly against himself. "God, we thought we'd lost you when we saw the truck! How did you survive that?"
"Magus saved me," Lucca said.
"Foul beast, what hast thou done to her!" Frog roared.
"Froggie, I didn't do a thing to her. I saved her life."
"Thou art as craven a knave as I believed! Didst I not say this creature would feign heroism?"
The little cabin had become very full by now with the Crono Trigger crew, Lucca's parents, Crono's mom, the disguised King Guardia, and many LuccaVision fans. Everyone was overjoyed to see that Lucca and Magus were alright, save Frog, who while overjoyed at Lucca's survival, seemed far less happy to see that Magus had also lived.
"Who are all these people?" Lucca finally asked. She was rather overwhelmed by all of the people who had come to rescue her and Magus.
"They're your fans, Lucca," said Taban. "They were so worried when they saw what happened in that last broadcast that they insisted on helping us find you guys."
Lara pointed out one of the fans in particular to the stunned inventor. "We wouldn't have even known this cabin was here, if not for this girl!"
Lucca, still rather shocked, thanked the girl profusely.
Little was said on the way back to Truce; though the snow had stopped, it was still chilly and the trek back to Truce was relatively long. Finally, as the afternoon was drawing to a close, the group crossed the bridge back to the island where Lucca's house was and everyone gathered in the living room, where Lara served a large pot of hot chocolate. There, Lucca and the rest of the Crono Trigger crew recounted how the tornado had sneaked upon them.
"In retrospect, it does strike me as hard to explain how a mile wide twister can sneak," Crono admitted as they told the story. "But sneak it did, because it was almost on us by time Ayla got our attention."
Ayla and Robo explained what had happened after they had separated from Magus and Lucca. Finally, Lucca explained how the truck had gotten caught in the tornado, and how Magus had rescued her and found the cabin. She was about to go on, when Magus interrupted.
"Yes, and then I started a fire and bandaged Lucca's foot," said the wizard. "Once morning came and my magic returned, I healed her and we waited for the snow to stop. And that's when you all came and found us." Magus nodded, evidently satisfied with his version of what had happened. He began taking a long sip of his hot chocolate.
"Blue hair," Ayla was smiling crookedly, "Ayla know more happen!"
Magus choked on his drink. Lucca felt herself beginning to blush. A loud "squee" sound came from a number of fans as Ayla continued, saying "See? Blue hair and purple hair need pri-vass-ee."
"Lady Ayla, prithee cease thy spreading of such falsehood!" Frog said loudly, his voice strangled. "And as for this dastardly wizard, let it be known that he feigns heroism!"
The story of the tornado being done, the fans clustered around the LuccaVision stars, asking questions, requesting autographs, and talking about their favorite moments of LuccaVision shows. Everyone found themselves busy with their new-found friends.
Crono very quickly became very comfortable with the attention. As he signed autographs, he told stories of his adventures with the LuccaVision and how he had single-handedly started a new fashion craze. Marle sat nearby, talking about her position as princess of Guardia as well as her involvement in LuccaVision. "Frog started it all by giving Magus bunny ears!" she claimed mysteriously in response to a question on why Lucca had invented LuccaVision.
Ayla was being asked if she had any connection to the circus and if she was considering going back. Moreover, many fans wanted to know what her perspectives on Magus and Lucca were. Robo was helping her understand the crowd's rapid-fire questions and helping to translate her answers. There was little he could do to dissuade the excitement of the fans when Ayla declared, "Blue hair strange with purple hair. Ayla know more happen then speak they!"
Frog and Magus seemed to be on worse terms than usual. The amphibian knight was clearly displeased at how much positive attention the wizard was getting from the crowd, and nothing could dissuade him from his belief that Magus was playing the crowd for fools with his claim that he had saved Lucca. "Oh, those tragic hours trapped in those confines with that cretin! Lady Lucca's mind art corrupted by that fiend!" he moaned.
The fiend himself was loving the attention. Such crowds and such curiosity about him reminded him of faint memories of when he was called Janus, the Prince of Zeal, and often was at the center of balls and galas. Not as pleasing to him was many fans's certainty that "something" definitely existed between him and Lucca.
"In Broadcast 1, Lucca tried to prevent the Masadoom malfunction," pointed out one fan. "You know, 'This is a tool worthy of me?'"
"Yes," Magus frowned, already not liking where this line of reasoning was going.
"And in Broadcast 2, you and Lucca played a wizard and an inventor who fell in love. Then in Broadcast 3, you weren't there, but I have heard rumors that there was a fight between you and Lucca, right?"
"Woman, ask your question."
The fan-girl was not deterred. Any Magus fan-girl knew that such brusqueness came with the territory. "In Broadcast 4, you rescued Lucca and everyone else from jail, and was her partner on the broadcast. Then on Broadcast 5, you looked so disturbed when Ms. Toddsley was flirting with you, and in last night's broadcast, you and Lucca were together in the camera truck—and I don't think I need to mention that you rescued her! Are you saying that there's nothing going on between you two?"
"Happenstance, nothing more," Magus said. "It was pure chance that I was a wizard in Shades of Flame, the rumor is false that me and Lucca had a fight, an—"
"The fiend deceives! Maggie dost needeth his eyepatch, for Lady Lucca didst beat him for his vile perversion," Frog interjected.
The fan-girl looked delighted. Magus scowled. "Next question!"
"So tell us all about your night with Lucca! Ayla says she knows something happened!"
Lucca herself had declined most of the questions about what had happened the night before, saying that she had slept through most of it. She was answering questions about the technical side of LuccaVision and about the invention and challenges of LuccaVision almost robotically while she thought. The teenage inventor was still in a state of shock over what had transpired over the past day. She had gone from being a tornado chaser to being chased and caught by a tornado. She had survived, courtesy of the most arrogant, pompous jerk she knew. That same jerk had carried her for hours through rain, ice, and snow before keeping her alive through the night. She knew that he could have abandoned her at any time, yet he had stayed with her. Lucca's hand went to her lips subconsciously. Just a few hours before, he had kissed her—her first kiss. Now he was denying that anything of that sort had occurred at all.
Lucca snorted. She had heard about about how hormones could take over the mind and make one abandon reason. She suddenly felt almost ashamed to be dwelling on this when Magus clearly was not. In fact, that was probably exactly why Magus wasn't talking about it—he had already defeated the hormones that Lucca, even now, was struggling with.
"Sometimes I wish I could be a little more like Magus," she murmured. The man had incredible willpower, willpower that she suddenly felt like she lacked.
"What? Why do you wish you were more like Magus?" asked a fan.
Lucca's mind came back to her. She had been telling him about how she had first diagrammed the circuits for a LuccaVision camera. Quickly she said, "Magus has an excellent mind for circuit design."
"Yes, you mentioned how he has helped you with trans-stators?"
"Transistors," she corrected, and the fan moved on, satisfied.
By this time, it was becoming late. The shadows were lengthening on the snow outside, and people were beginning to leave for their homes. Lucca turned her eyes back towards Magus, who was across the room talking to another fan. He seemed very preoccupied with whatever they were talking about.
"Ms. Ashtear, what do you think your next broadcast will be?"
"Wha—" Lucca started, and then she froze as something in her mind clicked. She knew the accented voice that had just spoken. As she looked away from Magus to the person asking the question, she knew the face, a face she had seen and imagined so many times. "Doctor Ernst von Heinrich!" she squeaked.
"I see that my reputation precedes me," said the famed scientist. He reached out his hand. Lucca jumped up and seized it.
"Doctor von Heinrich, it is such an honor," Lucca spouted as she began shaking his hand. Still shaking it, she kept gushing, saying "I am such a fan of your work! I have read every one of your papers, from your bachelor's capstone paper, Natural Principals of Gravitational Optics to your most recent work, Fourth Dimensional Space-time Manifolds and the Potential for Orbital Vehicular Flight. Oh, to imagine you in my house! You're in my house! I know every word you have published! I once shadowed at one of the peer review boards for your book The Case for High-Thrust Immediate Mixture Fuel-Oxidizer Reaction Engines and Space! It was such magnificent work! Are you still researching hypergolic fuel mixtures, or are you working on developing an electrolysis of water system for extraction of oxygen and hydrogen? Has the Royal Scientific League considered my request for a re-opening of inquiry into my paper The Telepod: Gateway to Time? I'm so sorry I submitted that paper first, I know I should have lead up to it with simpler research, but time travel has so few references and—"
Lucca only stopped babbling when Doctor von Heinrich wrested his hand from her own. "I am glad to see how enthusiastic you are about my work," the Doctor said, rubbing his hand. "So, are these other people the so-called heroes who saved the world?"
"Yes, some of them are," said Lucca. "They did save the world!"
"Ahm, yes," said the Doctor.
"Doctor von Heinrich?" Taban sprinted across the room. "THE Doctor von Heinrich, in my house? It is!"
"Taban Ashtear," the Doctor said. Taban snatched the scientist's hand and began shaking it, and would have gone on shaking it had von Heinrich not pulled his hand back, saying, "No thank you, I have already had one Ashtear handshake today."
"Here to re-evaluate my daughter's rejection from the Royal Scientific League? Well evaluate no farther, because my daughter is the sharpest girl in the world. Sharper than her old man, even!"
"That would not be a surprise. I am here to offer Lucca an invitation to demonstrate LuccaVision to the Royal Scientific League symposium in three days. Should that go well, we plan to re-evaluate her rejection from the League." The Doctor handed her a letter, which the inventor slipped into one of her pants pockets.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" Lucca cried. "I don't know how to thank you enough, Doctor von Heinrich! It has been my dream to join the Royal Scientific League all my life! I'll do anything to thank you!"
"Anything?" said von Heinrich, raising an eyebrow.
"Anything within scientific possibility!" Lucca bubbled. "An invitation! To the Royal Scientific League symposium!"
"That's my girl!" Taban bellowed.
Doctor von Heinrich left. Soon afterward, the Ashtear residence was empty, save the Crono Trigger crew, Taban, Lara, Crono's mother, and the still-disguised King Guardia. Marle offered Crono and his mother a place to stay at the castle until they had a new house. At that, Robo offered to start rebuilding their home, an offer Crono's mother happily and humbly accepted. Marle, Ayla, Crono, Robo, and Frog agreed to meet again in the morning and then they left with King Guardia and Crono's mother.
Lucca had just finished saying her good-byes when the lights of the Ashtear residence went out. Taban emerged from one of the hallways, saying that a tree must have fallen on the power lines under the weight of the snow. Lara agreed, then groaned, saying that all of the food in the refrigerator would certainly go bad.
"How can we help?" asked Lucca.
"Just go ahead and eat without us," said Taban. "You and Magus have been through so much these past few days. I have a generator in the shed that needs some repairs, and your mother can help. Go ahead and have dinner."
"Really, we insist," said Lara. "Besides, it's been a while since your Dad and I worked on an invention together. And I would feel horrible if you and Magus didn't get a hot meal after all you two have been through today!"
With that, the elder Ashtears bundled up in coats and went outside. Lucca and Magus shrugged and went into the dining room, where they found dinner waiting. Upon a white-sheeted table, four plates of the Ashtear's finest china were set with Lara's best silverware. Ruddy red Medinan wine was set out in crystal goblets. A large dish of lasagna and a bowl of spaghetti with a parsley and garlic pesto sauce were in the middle of the table, as well as a bowl of figs, and a plate of asparagus. A dark chocolate cake drizzled liberally with fudge was under a glass cover for desert. Three silver candelabras were set and lit, lighting the room.
"Wow. Mom and Dad must be really glad we're okay. I don't ever remember us having such a fancy meal."
The two sat down and began to eat. Lucca watched as Magus enjoyed a fig, and began to eat her asparagus. She found herself blushing for some reason, though she did not understand why. As she was beginning a slice of lasagna and took a sip of her wine, she couldn't help but think back to the cabin, Magus raging as she was pushing his buttons, and then… Lucca looked up from her food, and was surprised to see that Magus was looking back at her. His face was slightly reddened. Was it possible that he was thinking the same thing she was?
Almost as if he was reading her mind, Magus spoke. "What happened this morning… I cannot explain. When I… we… kissed, there was… something… very right about it."
Lucca swallowed. She felt very strange again; her stomach was shaking and knotting up, as if worried. Was this what people meant by "butterflies in one's stomach?" "I u-understand. There was something… right about it."
"I didn't say anything earlier because… I don't know what that was," the wizard admitted. "I guess it was a lesson I wasn't qualified to teach."
Lucca almost laughed. "I guess not." More soberly, she said, "Magus, about what happened…"
"Was it… perhaps… lo—"
"Don't say it," Magus whispered.
The wizard answered with silence.
"Magus, you know you can trust me. We made a deal, remember? I'm your friend, and I promise to never betray you. You can share this with me."
Magus seemed to consider her words for a moment. "Perhaps it is that in you, I see an equal," he said finally.
"Once we say the word, we can never go back," Magus said. "In our time together, I have learned that your frie—our friends—are not like other people. And you are not like your friends. I can show something of myself to your friends that I could not show anyone else, and I can talk of things with you that no one else, not even your friends, could understand. You carry yourself like… like I am not tainted."
"I don't judge you on your past. I don't think you were completely right in what you did, but I think you felt you were doing what was right at the tim—"
"I don't want to lose this," the once-prince of Zeal said suddenly, and for a moment, he seemed very small and very vulnerable, like a child dropped amongst monsters. "I have seen how that one word destroys people. I could do nothing for any of them. I have felt it."
"Schala," Lucca murmured, then wished she had not.
"And others," Magus said.
"We don't have to call it anything. Perhaps it was a fluke," Lucca said. "Whatever it was, I am your friend."
"I-I don't think it was a fluke," Magus admitted.
"Whatever it was," Lucca said.
The two continued eating. Finally, Magus said, "So, who was that loser you were talking to earlier? The one with the funny accent?"
Lucca looked up, aghast. "Don't you know?"
"It seems unlikely I would ask if I knew, woman."
"That was Doctor Ernst von Heinrich! The greatest mind in all the world-well, second greatest, after Melchior, of course."
"Don't you mean fourth greatest?"
"What do you mean?"
"You're assuming he's smart at all," scoffed Magus, "If I ranked the brains of Guardia, Melchior would win, of course. I come in at number two and you come in at three. That moron can't be more than number four."
"Moron!" Lucca exclaimed. "He is our finest mind! He's the head of the Royal Scientific League!"
"Unqualified is what he is. I can tell his kind a mile off. He's not a good sort, and certainly not much of a scientist, considering how he has pooh-poohed LuccaVision."
"He wrote the textbook on science education!" Lucca pointed out. She was seeing red. Doctor von Heinrich was beyond reproach. His reputation was sterling, and his work had been fruitful and at the cutting edge of science. "You don't know what you're talking about!"
"My are we defensive now," Magus jeered. He got up from his chair, and stood over Lucca, talking down to her. "Do I detect the little stings of romance?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Lucca was livid as she rose to her tip-toes to stand closer to the warlock prince's height. "What have you contributed to science in your life, you egoistical jerk?"
"More than you will ever know just by giving you transistors alone." Magus retorted, cackling. "See Robo? Ask him one day if he remembers. I'd bet you money that I'm his great-grandpa. You're probably his distant grandma and you don't even know it."
"You have no right to pick on Doctor von Heinrich like that," Lucca reiterated, folding her arms.
"My my, I do tink wittle Wucca has a wittle crushy-wushy here!" In a high falsetto, Magus said "I'll do anything to thank you!"
"You can't tell me what to do and how to feel! He's done so much for human understanding that he deserves anything he wants!"
"You have a lot to learn, woman." The wizard moved closer to her as his voice raised. "You don't understand people like I do."
"You are so insufferable!" Lucca roared. "Doctor von Heinrich is a hero!" She gasped. "Y-you're jealous," she said, surprised.
"Just because I kissed you doesn't mean anything," Magus countered loudly. "I just don't want you to come blubbering to me when you make a stupid female mista—I didn't mean to make it see—"
"How can you say it didn't mean anything!" Lucca shouted. "I don't know what it was, and maybe now it means nothing to you, but it meant something to me!"
"Lucca, I shouldn't ha—"
"Just shut up! I should have known. I'm just another pawn in one of your schemes, another toy for your amusement, aren't I?" Lucca shrieked. With that, the inventor turned and stalked out of the room, shouting "And don't you dare come after me!"
"Fine! Have your little pity party, woman!" Magus boomed in return. He sat down again at the table, and put a large helping of spaghetti in his plate, and went back to eating. Taban and Lara came in later, quietly, and went to bed. Magus stayed up, staring at the candelabras as the candles slowly winked out, one by one, until finally, the room was plunged into darkness.
Lucca awoke, groggy and exhausted. She felt terrible. Sleep had eluded her almost the entire night as she replayed her fight with Magus over and over again in her mind. She felt so foolish, dwelling on their argument, even as her scientific mind begged her to just let it go and accept sleep. After all, why should she have expected different from the conceited wizard? Frog had known him far longer than she, though perhaps not as directly, and the knight had been right all along. She felt ashamed to her core that she had allowed herself to be used to make the dark wizard look better.
Slowly, she arose from her bed. Soon, her friends would be here and they would start planning the next broadcast.
Suddenly, the reality of the night before sunk in. She hadn't changed her clothes, and there was something in the right-side pocket of her pants. She produced it and read it quickly, her heart fluttering. It had been no dream! In her hand was an invitation to demonstrate LuccaVision to the Royal Scientific League!
Lucca flew down the stairs to the living room, and quickly opened a cupboard, fetching several flasks and a number of bottles of chemicals. She set the chemicals out on the table, replaced the batteries in her helmet, sat down on the couch and began putting together experimental procedures, talking as she did so, a recorder in her helmet capturing her rapid flow of ideas.
"Lucca, would you like any breakfast?" asked Taban. He had emerged from the hallway leading to the kitchen.
"Nope! Got to get ready for this broadcast!"
Taban disappeared. A few moments later, a plate of waffles and sausage, as well as a glass of orange juice, was placed on an empty part of the table. "Taban said you wanted this," said a tired voice.
Two pairs of darkened, sunken, exhausted eyes met. Magus sat down stiffly and asked if there was anything he could do.
"No, there isn't." Lucca continued working, doing her best to ignore the wizard sitting down on the loveseat across from her. She frowned. The reaction she was trying to do was stubbornly refusing to work. She started again, pouring a small amount of adipoyl chloride in methylene chloride solution into a beaker of hexamethylenediamine and stirring. Dipping a glass rod into the flask, she frowned. The synthesis of nylon wasn't working at all.
As she started over, Magus got up and left the room. A few moments later, he returned and sat down, picking up the chemical bottles. He gently poured a little of one bottle into a beaker and then a little of the other bottle into the same beaker. "Try this."
This time, when Lucca dipped the glass rod into the flask, she was able to slowly pull out a long strand of pinkish whitish material. "I asked why you seemed to be having trouble. Taban suggested that was the problem," Magus said. "You don't want to mix it, just slowly pour one on the other."
"Listen," the wizard sighed heavily. "I said some things last night that… were not true. You should forgive me, woman."
"I have a name, Magus."
"I am sorry. You should forgive me, Lucca."
Lucca looked up, her eyes meeting the warlock's. "I don't have to do anything for you," she snapped.
"I said sorry."
"You said I didn't mean anything to you," Lucca returned.
Magus shifted uncomfortably.
A knocking at the door signaled that the others had begun to arrive. As Lucca got up to open it, Magus caught her arm.
"Let me go," she hissed.
"T-Tell me how I can make this up to you. Please."
Lucca almost stumbled with surprise at the "please." The look in his eyes was no lie. Magus, the terror of Guardia, the most insufferable, self-important jerk she had ever met, was actually apologetic. Shocked, she gaped and gasped, only recovering with the next knock on the door. "You actually mean it, don't you?"
The wizard nodded very slightly.
"Prove it in your actions then," Lucca stated. She opened the door and the rest of the Crono Trigger crew joined them in the living room. Lucca began wishing everyone a good morning as they found their seats.
Crono seemed mystified and shocked. "You wouldn't believe it, guys," he murmured. "I dropped by the place my house was before the tornado. Robo was working on it all last night."
"I hope my progress on your home is to your satisfaction, Crono," Robo said. "It has been a long time since I last worked on such a project."
"It's amazing," Crono breathed. "It's almost half-done. It'll be done by tomorrow for sure. It's like… it's like nothing ever happened to the house, but somehow it all became brand-new. It's perfect."
Robo beeped appreciatively. "I am… glad you find it satisfactory. I am duplicating the home as I recorded it the last time I visited it, several days before the tornado. I am repairing all damaged items, replacing missing items, and returning them to their original—or to logical—places."
"It's perfect," Crono swallowed. "Thank you."
"Good morning, sleepyheads!" Marle interrupted loudly. "Golly, look at you guys. You've both got such big dark circles around your eyes! Magus, were you up all night with Lucca?"
An unnatural, strange silence seized the room. It was a most unusual silence, a quietude normally reserved by the universe for the aftermath of the greatest of disasters, such as the wake of a rockslide that buries a village in the middle of that village's yearly celebration to the Gods for protecting them from rockslides. Accompanying the paranormal silence was the most bizarre of stillnesses, the stillness of a museum diorama surrounded by velvet ropes and emblazoned with "DO NOT TOUCH" signs. The entire Crono Trigger crew was stock-still, frozen as statues. Lucca and Magus's eyes were locked upon each other, as if seized with a common realization of doom. Crono, Frog, Marle, and even Robo's eyes (or cameras, as the case was with Robo) were staring at the inventor and the sorcerer.
In the midst of this moment, stopped in time, only one person knew just what to do. Her smile was broad, her motions confident and experienced: Ayla stood from her seat and walked to Magus and Lucca, who were standing next to each other. She gently took Lucca's hand and placed it in the sorcerer's gloved palm, curling his fingers around Lucca's still-frozen hand. "Happy for you! Forever you happy! May babies be strong!" she said joyfully. Tears were glittering in the cavewoman's eyes.
"GAH!" gasped Frog.
Crono stood and slowly patted Magus on the back. "You'd better be good to her, you hear? Lucca is my best friend, and I'll kick your butt if you make her cry."
"GAH!" gasped Frog again.
"What did I just say!" Marle asked, confused. "Everyone's all weird now!"
"Thi—Thi—Wha—GAH!" moaned Frog.
"Lucca, would you please explain this to me?" Robo asked. "Human emotions of this sort are not in my database."
Lucca had finally snapped out of her shock. "It's not like you thin—"
"FOULEST OF FOUL FIENDS!" Frog roared. With the speed of Epoch, the knight-turned-frog closed the distance between himself and the sorcerer, the Masamune flashing from its scabbard and into attack position. Only a convulsive tug from Lucca, who was still holding Magus's hand, saved the wizard from being sliced in two.
Releasing his grasp on Lucca's hand, the wizard summoned the Doomsickle, barely blocking the enraged knight's next slice. "Stupidest of stupid Frogs! Fool to misunderstand!"
Frog lashed out with one blow after another, Magus barely keeping up his defense. "Fiend! I knew thee too well! Curse mine sympathy! Curse mine tolerance for thee! Verily I suspected the loathsomest of enchantments were upon the Lady, yet fool such as I! I didst balk and give thee quarter!"
Magus attempted to knock the knight back, parrying with the flat of the Doomsickle, and pushing back against the furious Frog. "You idiot! I haven't laid a hand on her! Lucca, tell him!"
Lucca began to speak, but she was cut off. "Silence, woman! Thou art possessed by this creature! Thy words be poison!"
Frog leaped at the wizard again. The Masamune rang with collision against Crono's glittering Rainbow katana as Ayla seized the knight-turned-frog. "Release me! I hath spared him, for he hath proved of use in slaying Lavos and in saving thee, Sir Crono! Now, I shall destroy this beast!"
"Frog," Lucca said, trying to keep her patience. "If you're so convinced that I'm under Magus's control, why don't you and Marle just use Double Cure?"
Frog's struggles slowly weakened, and Ayla released the knight. Frog and Marle cast the spell together, and Lucca closed her eyes as the purifying and healing magical energies washed over her. When it was done, Frog sighed heavily and sheathed the Masamune. "There was no enchantment," he finally admitted.
"I think I deserve an apology, Froggie," Magus jeered. "An apology from Frog to Magus. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? You know, I think we need to have this sort of thing more often!"
Frog, only barely mollified before, looked on the verge of a renewed eruption. Lucca quickly stepped between the peeved knight and the sinisterly chuckling sorcerer. "Don't you push it. You're already in enough trouble with me, Magus," she snapped.
Lucca whipped around. "And that includes you too, Frog! You've been pushing for a fight ever since Magus saved my life in the cabin!" More calmly, the inventor continued. "Everyone, we simply had a power failure last night so we didn't sleep very well."
Ayla nodded, still smiling. "What you say, purple hair. What name baby?"
"We're not having a baby. Nothing happened last night."
Ayla nodded again, her smile unabated as she giggled. "Okay! What you say!"
Lucca sighed. Magus shook his head, and Frog made a choking sound. Crono and Marle snickered. Clearly, there was no dissuading the cavewoman.
The teenage inventor decided it was high time to get started with the meeting. She took out her invitation and held it up. "Alright, good news everyone! The Royal Scientific League has agreed to reopen my rejection from the League."
"Rejection?" Crono looked very surprised. "YOU were rejected from a Science Club?"
"Yes. When I applied to join the Royal Scientific League, I submitted a paper on the working of the Gate Key and its relation to the Telepod and Time Gates. They thought I was a loon." The inventor's knuckles popped as her hands clenched. She took a deep breath, and let it out slowly, willing her hands to reopen. "But no more! They have agreed to reopen my case! They want me to demonstrate LuccaVision to them. But this broadcast has to be good."
"That's wonderful!" Marle gasped. "I'm so happy for you! Once you're in, you'll get the von Klopman prize for sure!"
"That would be nice…" a long, lazy smile spread across the inventor's face as she sighed. Her arms moved, almost as if she was holding an infant. "Three point one four one five nine kilograms of achievement of a lifetime…" she purred.
"Err, Lucca," Crono interrupted, "Earth to Lucca!"
"Yes!" Lucca said with a start. "Yes, we are going to be presenting before the Royal Scientific League monthly symposium, and we will be doing an educational broadcast. I figure we'll film us doing some chemical reactions, and maybe end with the synthesis of nylon."
"That sounds good, Lucca," said Crono. The young swordsman frowned. "We've got to do something for our other viewers though."
"What do you mean?"
"There's more than five hundred other people out there with LuccaVisions. It doesn't seem right to inflict an educational broadcast on them."
"Inflict!" Lucca fumed. "If you're worried that this will be too boring, than mission accomplished. Boring is just the way I want it. I want it so dry that when it ends, a casual viewer will feel parched. There can be no mistakes."
Robo bowed slightly. Crono, Marle, Ayla, and Frog nodded. They understood how important this was to their friend.
"This has the potential to make or break my career. I know I have the brains for it, and I'm a great engineer and inventor. But that's not enough. I want to advance human knowledge and make a real difference in the world. I want be a recognized scientist," Lucca said, "and so much of that means I have to have the proper connections—connections that I can best get through the Royal Scientific League."
Marle suggested, "Lucca, I could just poof it up."
The inventor turned to face the princess. "What?"
"You know," the blonde girl snapped her fingers. "Poof! Daddy commands it. Doctor Lucca Ashtear, head of the Royal Scientific League. Head Scientist of the Kingdom Ministry of Science. Kingdom Prime Researcher and Theoretician. Phooey on anyone who don't like it."
"That's very generous of you, Marle, but that's not how science works. I need to do this on my own merits. I know that King Guardia could make this happen for me, and he probably would if I asked for an audience with him and requested it, but I have to do it right. For me."
Realization dawned upon the bubbly blonde's face. "Like coffee, right?"
"Like coffee," said the princess. "Or ice cream! Or candy! It's always tastier when you sneak out of the castle yourself to get it!"
"Something like that, yes," Lucca smiled a little. "Some things are just better when you know you did them yourself, especially when you know you did it the right way, for the right reason."
"Indeed, milady," Frog nodded. "Honorless be that thou didst not earn, and craven art one who doth not stand for that thou knowest right."
Crono nodded and smiled. "Whatever Frog just said."
"Lady Lucca, perhaps we should start with some laboratory safety information," Robo suggested.
"An excellent idea," Lucca agreed. "And speaking of safety, I'll be right back." The inventor stood and vanished down a hallway, returning a few moments later. "I just talked with my dad. I'll have a polycarbonate blast shield that he invented a while back set up. With the push of a button, we can deploy it, though we won't need it. We won't use any chemicals that are explosive or present in high enough concentration to be dangerous, but we can point to our safety measures as being a potential for safe chemical science in the future." Lucca began laughing her trademark laugh. "Yes, Garharhar! We'll build the laboratory of the future! That will impress the League."
"We should have a team work each experiment or presentation," Magus pointed out. "If we split them up, say among teams of two each, we can rehearse the experiments and learn them well before the broadcast. Then each team presents. Also, that will prevent any one mistake from messing the whole thing up."
Lucca agreed that that was another good idea. After a bit more deliberation, the Crono Trigger team agreed that to host three separate "segments" in the broadcast: the first segment would be lab safety, the second would be on common laboratory procedures, and the third would be an actual experiment, the synthesis of nylon.
"Now, here's a problem," frowned the teenage inventor. "I need to be at the symposium presenting the LuccaVision, how it works, and the experimental background behind it. I need someone here to host the presentation and someone to make sure that the broadcast goes well."
"I will host the broadcast and ensure that it goes out exactly as you have planned," Magus said solemnly. His gaze met Lucca's squarely as he said, "There will be no arguments, no mistakes, and no foul-ups, Lucca. You have my word and you shall see proof in my actions. This broadcast will work."
Lucca's eyes widened for a moment. "Thank you, but it's too much for you to do both."
"Too much? Woman, I'm a princ—" Magus started, his tone his usual arrogant bluster. Suddenly, his voice changed. "Yes, of course, you're right."
Frog blinked as his mouth dropped open. Marle and Crono sat straight up, surprised. Ayla clapped her hands and sighed while Robo beeped unusually.
Lucca quickly turned to Crono. "Will you be our host? I need you to walk people through the broadcast."
The red-haired hero nodded slowly, still a little surprised by Magus's unusual behavior. "… sure?"
"Good. And now we need our teams. Crono, since you're our host, I'll put you with Robo. Robo, would you operate the camera?"
"Certainly, madam Lucca."
"Marle, would you and Magus be a team?"
"Me and Maggie would love to!"
"Me? On a team with her?" Magus spat.
"It'll be just like when we saved everyone, Maggie!" Marle bubbled as she laughed. "We'll have so much fun! Hey, maybe between rehearsals, you can introduce me to Mr. Doom Sickle!" The princess's visage suddenly become stern, and she shook her finger at the wizard. "You remembered to feed Mr. Doom Sickle today, right?"
"I can't work with Marle. Lucca, anything is better than this," Magus groaned.
Magus swallowed. There was no mistaking the look upon Lucca's face. It was a picture of cunning deviousness. Revenge and vigilante justification were plain as day in the sudden feral smile upon her lips and in the dangerous glint in her eyes.
Robo took a step backwards. Ayla suddenly found a tuft of carpeting very interesting and focused her attention on it. Crono cowered. Marle gulped fearfully. Frog began to look rather nervous.
Lucca cackled. "Didn't you say anything would be better?"
Magus looked at Marle for a moment, then shuddered. Nothing Lucca could do could be worse than working with the bubbly princess. "Yes, Lucca, anything would be better."
"And you promise that there will be no mistakes and no arguments?"
For the first time in a very long time, Magus could feel the hair on the back of his neck rising. He suddenly knew what the punishment for his earlier disregard of Lucca's feelings was, and he knew that this punishment would be grave indeed. He looked again at Marle and bristled. Yes, even the punishment he knew Lucca had in mind was a better fate than working with the blonde princess. "Yes Lucca, as I said before, there will be no mistakes, and no arguments."
"Frog, is it true that Magus always starts these arguments and problems with you?"
Frog replied eagerly. "Indeed, milady!"
"Then Magus, I'd like you to work with Frog on this one. There won't be any problems, will there?"
The amphibian knight ribbit-ed.
Magus's pointed ears drooped as his shoulders almost imperceptibly slumped.
"I take it I have both your word?"
Frog and Magus reluctantly agreed.
"Good! I'm sure you'll both enjoy working with each other. Now, I'd like to hold onto your weapons, just to be safe, okay?"
Frog and Magus turned over the Masamune and the Doomsickle. Lucca seemed satisfied. "Ayla, would you work with Marle?"
Ayla threw an arm around the princess's shoulders and punched the air with her fist. "We work together! Sun hairs work together!"
"YEAH!" Marle joined the cavewoman in punching the air, and the two did a little dance, apparently quite satisfied with their partnership.
"Alright then." Lucca led her friends to the shed behind the Ashtear house, the location of the LuccaVision studio. There, the Crono Trigger crew spent the next two days preparing and rehearsing, over and over again. This broadcast would be nothing less than perfection.
The broadcast was just a scant hour away. A while before, Lucca had left for the castle where the Guardia Royal Scientific League monthly symposium was being held. There she would give a brief presentation on the technology behind the LuccaVision, and then the broadcast would begin. Marle sat down next to Ayla, triple espresso mocha in hand, on one of the chairs from the Mystic Wars interview and sighed. The last few days had been enormously busy, but everything had gone very well. She and Ayla had made a great team, Robo and Crono had gotten along wonderfully, and even Magus and Frog seemed to have cooperated well to make this broadcast a success. She closed her eyes for a moment, then glanced around the LuccaVision studio.
In just a few days, the studio had undergone a tremendous transformation: where before there had been a podium and an interview table, there was now a wheeled table upon a raised stage. The wheeled table was set up with chemistry laboratory equipment. In the middle of the table was a small set of shelves, laden with glass tubing, beakers, stirring rods, test tubes, and various other chemical handling equipment. A chemical locker was beneath the shelves. On one side of the table was a sink with an eyewash station, a safety shower, and connections for a Bunsen burner and a vacuum filtration flask respectively. On the other side of the table was a clear working area. Holes where metal rods could be inserted were bored into the table at intervals, and clamps and supports were available for setting up various chemical apparatus. Red hoses with nozzles were strapped to the sides of the table every few feet. As for the LuccaVision cameras, only one camera was present, mounted to a mobile tripod so that it could be moved around the lab table to observe various procedures.
Marle yawned and took another sip of her drink, relishing in the smooth chocolatey taste of her favorite way to take the caffeine she required to function. She looked up to find Ayla sniffing at the cup's vent, the cavewoman's nose inches from her own. "Would you like to try some, Ayla?"
Ayla nodded. Marle handed the cup to her partner and giggled as the cavewoman's eyes lit up at the flavor. Ayla grunted appreciatively, and began to hand the cup back, but Marle shook her head. "Go ahead, Ayla. I know you'll like it!"
For a moment, Marle watched her partner enjoying the drink, then turned to look at her fellow companions. Crono was at a control console in the corner testing the function of the buttons and switches. He nodded as he flipped a switch, and the transparent polycarbonate blast shields lowered around the stage, sealing it in. He flipped the switch again, raising the shields. Robo was adjusting the camera, and Magus was standing next to him, performing a final check on the camera's connection to the LuccaVision amplifier. Frog was leaning on the wall nearby, staring at the ground. The amphibian knight appeared unusually troubled, even considering that he had been trying to cooperate with his archnemesis for several days now.
Marle called the knight over. "Why aren't you happy, Frog?"
"My lady," he started, then closed his eyes and inhaled slowly.
"Frog? Sad is no good! Be happy!"
With a long, drawn-out exhalation, Frog opened his eyes again. "When I was but Glenn, a friend of mine was bound by honor to stand aside, forsaking right for honor's sake."
"Verily, it weighs heavily upon mine mind some time: art the greater right in holding to thine honor and thine word, forsaking all other, or art the greater honor in holding to the right and good, forsaking thine mistaken word? Mine friend chose honor, an' another paid dear for that which the right doth have prevented."
Frog ribbit-ed. "My Lady, shouldst one stand aside, holding to honor an' allowing a friend's mistake most dread, or shouldst one do right, suffering honor?"
"Could you be a little more plain?" Marle frowned.
"Do right! Do right!" Ayla said suddenly. She thrust the empty triple espresso mocha cup into Marle's hands. "Do right! Right good! Do right good do not wrong do right no wrong wrong be wrong do right!"
The amphibian knight raised an eyebrow, then nodded. "Indeed. So mote it be." Frog walked over to the laboratory table.
"Ayla, are you alright?"
"Ayla feel funny. Ayla so fast! Ayla feel strong like tree like could climb all day and hunt all night!" The cavewoman was bouncing up and down, as if filled with energy that was trying to escape. "Ayla getting stronger! Stronger! Ayla feel funny!"
"Hey, Marle, Ayla, are you guys ready? The broadcast is just about to start!" Crono had come over from the control console. He looked at Ayla quizzically, then at Marle. The swordsman's eyes came to rest on the empty cup in Marle's hands, then darted back to the barely contained cavewoman. "You didn't… give that to Ay— oh no."
"Ayla feel surge surge bam bam!"
"What's wrong, Crono?" Marle asked, completely innocently.
"This is probably the first time Ayla's ever had caffeine," Crono said tensely. He swallowed. He didn't know just how much caffeine was in Marle's triple espresso mocha, but he was already getting a very bad feeling just watching Ayla's ill-restrained fidgeting. "Well, the show must go on. Take your places."
Marle walked and Ayla bounded onto the stage. Crono shook his head and walked over to Robo, who was waiting with the camera. From his pocket, the swordsman produced a long, cylindrical object, with a black foam cover on one end. He spoke into it carefully. "Testing, testing, 3… 2… 1… 1… 2… 3… Robo, is this working?"
"Madam Lucca's hand-held microphone is working perfectly," Robo confirmed. The robot beeped as it examined the settings on the camera. "All switches and dials are set correctly. So long as all has gone according to plan at the symposium, Lucca will expect the broadcast to begin in 45.689 seconds from this point."
"Is all in order, Crono?" Magus asked.
"Ayla has had caffeine, but other than that, all seems well."
"Caffeine? I should have known that disaster would be Marle's doing," Magus said irascibly. "All of the effort and rehearsals to make this perfect, and now THIS?" The wizard growled and then looked at Crono. "I gave her my word. We shall not fail Lucca."
"We won't, Magus. I'll think of something if the lab safety stuff goes wrong."
"Very well, Crono. Make this work, or Lucca's bite shall be the merest tickle compared to mine." The wizard walked off camera, to where Frog was waiting.
The teenage swordsman stepped in front of the camera, held the hand-held microphone up to his chin, and stood confidently as the camera's record light came on. The broadcast had started!
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of the Royal Scientific League. And good evening, Lucca Ashtear! Has your presentation been going well?" Crono paused for a moment. "Excellent. Tonight, we are demonstrating the chemistry laboratory of the future, a safe and fun place to learn. I am Crono, your host for this broadcast," Crono bowed slightly, "and I shall now introduce you to some friends in the laboratory." With that, he began calling the others' names.
When each of their names were called, the rest of the Crono Trigger crew individually came forward for the camera. Marle skipped in front of the camera and waved at her name. Ayla leaped from behind the table and ran up to the camera, smiling manically.
Crono winced and prayed that they had just had the only mistake of the broadcast.
Frog strode forth and bowed deeply, followed by Magus. As Magus came forward, he nearly tripped over Frog's foot, but almost immediately recovered, smoothly slipping into a bow for the camera.
"And Robo is operating the camera," Crono said. He stepped out of the camera's field of view, and Robo focused the camera on the raised stage. "Now, the laboratory of the future will feature several major features that are not present in the laboratories of today. Note that the entire laboratory setup is built into a single, mobile table."
Marle demonstrated how easy it was to roll the laboratory table around the raised stage.
"The single table contains water, vacuum, gas, and electrical systems built-in under the tabletop and requires no external connections. This allows for the laboratory to be easily reconfigured for different experiments…" Crono trailed off as Ayla took the table from Marle, and began shoving it around enthusiastically. Thankfully, this was easy to spin: "also, it prevents damage to laboratory equipment and piping should horseplay occur. Such movement as you see Ayla demonstrating would seriously damage a regular fixed-position lab table.
"Now, speaking of the built-in water, vacuum, gas, and electrical systems, would you show us how easy it is to replenish the table's supplies, Marle?"
"Certainly, Crono. The gas system can be recharged from an ordinary natural gas or liquid propane gas cylinder and the electrical system is run from high-capacity rechargeable batteries." The princess lifted a panel on the top of the table. "This is the fresh water reservoir. All that has to be done is just keep it topped off, and you're good to go."
Crono winced as Ayla thrust her hand down into the tank, scooping a handful of water from the fresh water reservoir and drinking it. "Note that the laboratory of the future features strong environmental separation between clean fresh water and toxic liquid wastes," he said quickly, "and that under no circumstances can the fresh water be contaminated. The laboratory of the future is eco-friendly, and the separation of the fresh water supply and waste holding tanks from public utilities increases the protection of local water systems."
Marle had gotten Ayla back under control for the moment. Crono nodded, satisfied, and continued. "Now, during a chemistry course, there are often experiments that have the potential to go awry. For example, organic Grignard and organolithium reactions have the potential for loss-of-control situations. In the professional chemical lab, these problems can be even more severe. The laboratory of the future features an easily-deployed blast shield, which can provide protection should the unthinkable occur." At that, Crono flipped the switch for the blast shield, and the polycarbonate shields dropped into place smoothly around the stage, encasing it in a protective cage. "Just as easily, the shield can be removed for access to the experiment and personnel." He flipped the switch again, and the shield raised into its position over the stage again.
"Of course, conventional laboratory safety is not ignored," Marle said. Robo and Crono smoothly moved the tripod and focused it onto the princess and the shaking cavewoman. "When you are working in the laboratory of the future, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with conventional safety systems."
"Life depend on life depend on safety need safety safety good," Ayla said quickly. She pressed her lips together tightly and closed her eyes. Despite the constipated look on her face, the cavewoman was clearly doing her best to resist the anarchic urges of the caffeine in Marle's favorite beverage.
Crono stepped onto the stage and stood next to Ayla and Marle. "Would you and Ayla mind showing us some of the conventional safety systems built into the laboratory of the future?"
"Certainly, Crono. Fire extinguishers are handled through the integrated fire protection system," Marle said, pointing to the red hoses strapped to the sides of the table. "When the hoses are detached from the table, it automatically activates a central fire suppression system that routes extinguishing nitrogen foam to the hoses and to the fire.
"And over here at the sink is the eyewash station and safety shower. All that one has to do in an emergency chemical spill is pull the blue lever to activate the eyewash station, or pull the red lever over the sink to activate both systems."
Ayla opened her eyes, and stared at the red lever. Her eyes narrowed, cat-like, as her hand darted out. Marle dashed to intercede, but it was far too late. Crono stepped back just in time as Ayla pulled the red lever. Water suddenly gushed up from the eyewash station in the sink and flowed down from the safety shower. In an instant, Marle and Ayla were completely soaked.
"Don't hesitate to use the safety systems if you need them," Crono said smoothly. "They are highly effective in quickly washing away almost any toxic or dangerous chemical."
"Yes," Marle agreed.
"Ayla wet!" The cold water seemed to have shocked the cavewoman to her senses. "E-mer-gen-cy wash up!"
Marle and Ayla left the stage, and Robo refocused the camera on Crono.
"The laboratory of the future is a safe, controlled place for chemical work," Crono assured. Inwardly, he patted himself on the back. So far, things had gone swimmingly, considering that Marle and Ayla had nearly made a disaster of the lab safety segment of the broadcast. Every mistake had been nicely covered for. "Now, let us cover some simple lab procedures."
Frog and Magus climbed onto the stage. Crono's shivered as Magus almost tripped again over Frog's foot. That near-fall had not looked like an accident. Then Crono shook his head. Frog and Magus both knew what was at stake. Lucca was counting on them with all of her heart. Both had given their word to work together and do their best. Surely, they could put their differences aside for just a few moments, and help one of their best friends out. With confidence, Crono continued. "Magus and Frog will be showing us some simple chemistry laboratory procedures before we conclude this broadcast with an experimental synthesis of nylon."
Robo switched the camera from Crono's hand-held microphone to a microphone built into the lab table. Crono breathed deeply, relieved that his part was over. Frog and Magus could take it from here.
Magus started "We'll set—"
Frog interrupted. "Betwixt us we shalt construct one 'simple distillation' machination, then wilt we create a 'titration,' for thee all." The knight-turned-frog turned to the sorcerer, saying "Now, tarry not, proby, let us begin."
Magus blinked. He then opened the chemical cabinet, and pulled from it a number of chemical bottles. "In the simple distillation, we shall be distilling an even mixture of cyclohexane from toluene."
Frog began mixing the chemicals in a round-bottomed flask, Robo zooming in to capture the action. Magus opened a hatch in the table and produced some glassware, several glass clamps, and a few metal rods. Soon, he had assembled the simple distillation apparatus, an odd assemblage of tubing, glass curves, and a thermometer that would have looked perfectly at home on the desk of a 600 A.D. alchemist. Magus set up an electric heating pad, placed a small glass container of sand upon it, and then turned to Frog. "Alright, the apparatus is ready."
Frog looked at the simple distillation apparatus for a moment before disassembling it, then reassembling it. "'Tis matter most serious to ensure that thine ground joints be tight, lest thou lose thine gas thither the air and be astonied of the poorest of yield." Satisfied with his work, Frog dropped a small rock chip into the flask of cyclohexane and toluene, attaching it to the distillation apparatus and lowering the flask into the sand. Magus turned the heating pad on and the two waited for the distillation to complete.
"Now, whilst we wait, proby, recount the experiment."
"Proby?" Magus objected, then quickly agreed. "Yes, let's go over the experiment. In a simple distillation, one cannot achieve a perfect separation of a solution's components, unlike a fractional distill—"
"Is it thy lack of training that prevents thee from perfect separation?"
Magus gritted his teeth as he and Frog continued to go over the experiment. Marle and Ayla came over to Crono, much dryer than they had been before.
"It's safe to talk, Robo's got the microphone set to the lab table," Crono whispered. "Just keep your voices down. The table microphone's not one of those fancy unidirectional ones."
"What is he doing?" Marle gasped, pointing at Frog.
"Ruining the broadcast," Crono said glumly. "This wasn't in the rehearsals at all."
"Lucca's going to kill him," Marle gulped. "I mean really kill him."
"Have frog legs tonight," Ayla said excitedly, licking her lips.
"What if they start fighting?" asked Robo. "Shouldn't we stop this?"
"No think good idea. This between them. Step in, no belong, get teared apart!"
"Yeah, I think Ayla's right. If they really start fighting, I don't think I want to be around here. But Frog must have a reason," Crono said. "At least Magus is going along with it. If he just keeps his cool, I think we'll still have a good broadcast."
"Like a student and a teacher," Robo put in.
Ayla quivered. "Ayla no think blue hair like Froggie teacher."
There was something terrifyingly eerie in the air. Crono could feel goosebumps all over himself. He was feeling something very much like the otherworldly feeling of cataclysm that a miner being lowered down a mine shaft feels right after seeing his safety canary collapse.
The simple distillation finally ended, and Frog and Magus set up for the titration, erecting a buret, a large glass tube with a valve on the end of it. From the chemical storage locker, Frog produced a small beaker of an unknown acid, adding an indicator dye to the acid to indicate when the titration neutralized the acid mixture. He then placed the beaker beneath the buret. Magus filled the buret with purple potassium permanganate and opened the valve, allowing the basic potassium permanganate to slowly drip into the acid. Frog took over the titration and Magus began preparing for the next step of the experiment.
Magus picked up an Erlenmeyer flask of ammonia. "Frog, have you finished titrating that mixture yet? The acid has to be neutralized before I pour this base in."
Frog took the beaker out from underneath the buret. "Verily, the mixture doth require a dram ere it titrates."
Magus waited a moment. "Now?"
"No." Frog took a pipette and filled it with potassium permanganate. The amphibian knight dropped the pipette on the table. He picked it up, accidentally squeezing the measuring device's eyedropper-like bulb. A squirt of fluid shot across the table, landing on Magus's shirt.
The wizard glared at the amphibian.
"Prithee, no offense intended, foul fiend," said Frog. A look of disappointment appeared on the knight's face as he noted that the purple titrating liquid had landed on a blue shirt. "Oh, it's not staining."
"Hmmph," replied the wizard. "Is the titration done?"
Magus poured the contents of the Erlenmeyer flask into the beaker. As the purplish fluid in the tube turned green, Magus stopped pouring.
"Add a drop of acid, Frog."
"Unto which acid doth thou refer?"
"The dilute acetic acid."
Magus looked down at the table to find the next substance to add to the mixture. Suddenly, a spray of acetic acid caught him in the eyepatch. The wizard turned to face Frog, furious, as the fluid ran down his face, filling his nostrils with the acrid smell of vinegar. "FROGGIE! I'll—" Magus stopped. He had given Lucca his word.
"Oops. Verily, I hath missed mine target," Frog placed a drop of the acid into the mixture. "No offense was intended, dastard."
Magus 'hmmph'ed again. He opened the chemical locker to fetch the next chemical needed for the experiment and his good eye fell upon a flask filled with ground limestone powder sitting next to a bottle of dilute hydrochloric acid. A devious plot came the sorcerer's mind. For a moment he contemplated, before deciding that he could not violate his promise.
Crono, Marle, Ayla and Robo looked on. Marle shivered. The very air seemed laden with power, with the violent sparks of two legendary personalities, natural enemies from their first encounter, colliding and intensifying in preparation for a disaster of epic proportions.
Ayla watched with fascination as Frog asked Magus a question, subtly mixed with a reference to the wizard having swallowed his pride and submitted to Lucca's will.
Robo continued to manage the camera. In his computerized mind, he envisioned Lucca and the Royal Scientific League symposium, watching a LuccaVision set displaying an educational broadcast about to go very south. The robot produced a whirring as he admitted to himself that a terrible fight was now inevitable.
As the host of the event, Crono pondered how he was going to put a positive spin on the broadcast once Magus had finally taken all the abuse he could stand from Frog, who had evidently gone completely insane. It was inconceivable that noble Frog was breaking his word to Lucca, yet there he was, pushing the sorcerer hard toward the breaking point. The teenage swordsman looked up at the stage. The egoistical prince turned warlock's pointed ears were tense, like the ears of a predator focused completely on its prey. His eye was narrowed, as if tunnel-visioned on his work. Crono heard the quiet grinding of teeth as the very light in Magus's personal space seemed to be dimming, as if the wizard was unconsciously summoning the powers of Shadow to him. The teenage swordsman realized that he had started holding his breath, as if waiting for the fireworks to fly.
Frog held up a calibrated syringe. "Hmm. Magus, it doth seem the plunger of this contrivance hath seized. Not a tool worthy of thee at all."
One of Magus's ears twitched. "Hold on, Froggie. I need to check something," said the sorcerer.
He put the titration sample in the storage locker, then took the flask of limestone powder in one hand and the bottle of dilute hydrochloric acid in the other. In one smooth motion, he poured a healthy quantity of limestone into the bottle of acid, put a gloved finger over the bottle's opening, and shook the bottle. The contents of the bottle frothed violently as the basic limestone reacted with the acid, like baking soda mixed with vinegar.
"What the devil? I doth not recall such in Lady Lucca's instructions."
"No it isn't, Frog," agreed Magus. The wizard grinned, aimed the bottle at Frog, moved his finger away from the bottle's opening, spraying a column of bubbling water, acid, limestone dust, and carbon dioxide gas at the amphibian knight.
Frog dropped to the floor to avoid the spray.
Magus compensated immediately, adjusting his aim, soaking Frog. "Muwahaha! Hahahahaha!" Magus cackled.
Frog slowly rose to his feet. He reached for the Masamune before remembering that Lucca had confiscated it along with the Doom sickle. He assumed an offensive melee stance.
Black flames engulfed Magus's hands as the lab table wheeled into the corner of the stage, maneuvered by Magus's power to make room for the spat of the century.
Crono immediately had a revelation. Lucca's hopes for an educational video had just been dashed, but there was a chance to at least salvage something from this mess. After all, it wasn't just the Royal Scientific League watching; Crono recalled how LuccaVision sets would automatically turn on whenever there was a broadcast. Every LuccaVision set in the land was tuned to the show.
Crono looked up at the stage. Frog and Magus were just entering the 'trade insults' phase of battle. The teenage swordsman quickly instructed Marle and Ayla to take up positions at two opposite corners of the square stage and to listen for further instructions. After giving him the 'are you crazy?' look, they hesitantly complied.
Crono stood, turned on his hand-held microphone, and jumped in front of the camera. "LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! YOU ARE WATCHING LUCCAVISION'S MOST INTENSE SHOW EVER! THIS IS HERO OF THE RING! TWO OF THE WORLD'S MOST TOUGH, MOST MEAN, MOST BODACIOUS, AND MOST FEARSOME WARRIORS ARE DUKING IT OUT FOR THE TITLE OF WORLD WRESTLING CHAMPION!" Crono roared.
Despite his lack of human features, Robo somehow managed to join Marle and Ayla in giving Crono the 'are you crazy?' look.
Crono pointed at Frog. Robo gave Crono a remarkably human looking shrug and zoomed in on the amphibian knight.
Crono put on his most effective 'raw adrenaline stimulating' tone of voice. "In that corner, hailing from 600 A.D.: the hero of Guardia, wielder of the legendary sword Masamune, and packing both a wallop and a grudge: honored knight of the Square Table, the FINISHER, FROG!"
Robo pointed the camera at Magus.
"And in that corner, hailing from 12,000 B.C. and 600 A.D., is the fiend who brought Guardia to its knees, the man who put the brute in brutal, and master of Shadow magic, the King of the Mystic Kingdom and the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Zeal, the WARLOCK, MAGUS!"
"Cowardly, weak wizard! Thou couldn't destroy me nor Gaurdia in mine time: I credit myself with victory as we speak!"
"You? Victorious? Pah! I kicked so much butt in 600 A.D. that King Guardia had to start a rationing system!"
Crono pressed a switch, lowering Lucca's transparent blast shield over the stage. "There will be no escape until a victor is decided," said Crono ominously into the microphone. "NO ESCAPE FROM: THE GLASS CAGE! ONLY ONE MAY LEAVE THE RING!"
"Wait. Crono? Why are you calling the stage a ring?" asked Robo. "It is square."
"Ummm… it's a square ring, OK, Robo?"
"Rings don't have sides, Crono."
Frog had finally noticed that the tone of the fight had taken a drastic turn for the worse. "Maggie, hast thou noticed our predicament?"
"Of course, little Froggie. What's the matter? Having a bit of trouble performing? You mustn't keep girlfriends very long."
"Forsooth! Unlike thee, I hath never desired to know mine sister!"
Magus flew at the knight, landing a solid right hook to his jaw, sending Frog to the floor. "NEVER suggest that again! I have my designs on someone el—"
Magus was suddenly on the floor from a vicious kick. Frog stood to follow up with a stomp to the warlock's head, but the wizard rolled out of the way, grabbing the amphibian's leg and pulling down underneath him. However, Frog proved unusually flexible, wriggling out of the potentially damaging situation.
Leaping to his feet, Magus sighted Frog standing next to the lab table. The sorcerer leaped towards Frog. Frog suddenly shoved hard on one end of the table, spinning it around to collide solidly with Magus's hip. The wizard fell to his knees.
Magus immediately tried to spring to his feet, only to be met with a flask of iron pellets to the head and a punch. The wizard backflipped away from the conflict, drew a mystic symbol in the air, and spread his arms. "GOODBYE, FROG!"
Frog dug the sticky pads in his palms into the floor of the ring as the world distorted and a dark hole opened around the sorcerer. Crepuscular forces seized the knight, pulling him towards the infinite shadow.
Magus tilted his head back, cackling maniacally. His eyes were glowing as his unusually fang-like canines flickered in the wavering light. The sorcerer raised his hand, a sphere of power accumulating in his palm. The wizard stepped into the sinister vortex, unaffected by the black hole surrounding him, and approached Frog as the shadowy whirlpool began to envelop the knight. Magus kneeled beside him and extended his hand. "This is the end for you, the end of our fated battle. I suppose it never could have ended otherwise. The Darkness shall devour you and your soul shall be my trophy!"
Frog moved his hands.
The wizard was engulfed in a wall of water. The vortex of darkness dissipated.
Frog turned to face the wizard, only to meet the lab tabletop as Magus broke it over his head.
"THE WARLOCK JUST SLAMMED THE FINISHER WITH A TABLE!" shrieked Crono.
Frog shook his noggin. Seeing that Magus was again preparing a killing blow, Frog went for the groin. Magus caught the blow with microseconds to spare and stepped back as another wave from Frog buried him underwater.
Frog jumped on the wizard and rained down a volley of undefendable blows.
Magus murmured a few syllables. The shockwave of a Dark Bomb rippled off of the sorcerer, casting Frog away from him. Frog landed in a corner of the ring, dazed.
The egoistical sorcerer, closed his eyes and kneeled, whispering an invocation to the powers of shadow. A second later, a magic barrier formed around the wizard.
Frog stood from his daze and summoned his most potent water based spell. Magus smirked as the spell absorbed into his barrier, which strengthened while healing the sorcerer.
"This ends NOW!" roared Magus. Spheres of dark energy crackled off the sorcerer. The ring began to darken as the ground began to shake. A black triangle of energy ripped open in the air, suspended above the center of the ring. A white triangle grew within the larger black triangle as the full power of Dark Matter built up.
Lucca's blast shields strained with all their technologically advanced might to hold in the power of Dark Matter. Fortunately, the spell never reached full power, dissipating and vanishing, leaving Frog prone, clinging desperately to consciousness.
Magus approached the fallen warrior. He raised his right hand, another black sphere of magical energy forming in his palm. "It was a worthy fight, Frog. But your life ends here. Pass into the Void honorably, not pathetically. Before I finish you, do you have any last words?"
Frog made a 'ribbit'-ing noise.
"What was that? I didn't quite make that ou—"
Out of thin air, Frog's Frog Crush spell fell upon the wizard. Magus crashed to the floor next to Frog, where the two exchanged feeble blows. Until…
The studio door slammed open. Lucca burst in, Wondershot cocked and ready.
"WHO'S FIRST?" she shrieked.
"Meep," said Crono, who promptly passed out, falling atop Robo who had conveniently chosen that moment to go offline. Ayla took one look at Lucca's face, scooped up Marle in her arms, and leaped out the nearest window. Magus melted away, teleporting and leaving Frog to Lucca's mercy.
Frog pulled himself painfully to a half-sitting position as Lucca approached. Never before had the amphibian knight seen such fury upon a person's countenance—not even upon the face of his archenemy, Magus.
"My Lady, I humbly throw mineself to thy lenience," Frog said. He pulled himself slowly, weakly, to his feet, answering Lucca's fury with determination. "Yet I accept the consequences, for I didst bait the wastrel to reveal his true nature. I pray that thou someday seest mine actions art for thee, to save thee from thyself, for thou lovest a beast. For thee, I hath forsaken honor, lest thy lot fall in with that drab-son cur."
"I'm going to feed your legs to Ayla!" Lucca roared as she stalked towards the stage.
Magus materialized some distance away from Lucca's house, lying on the snow-covered ground amongst a small copse of trees. The sorcerer ached all over. He had not fought so viciously since the final battle with Lavos, and even then, he had not been so hurt. The hate and fury from his fight with Frog was gone, replaced with guilt immeasurable. He had allowed himself to be baited into destroying Lucca's latest broadcast—an unforgivable trespass.
Magus knew that Lucca's house was not a safe place for him to be at the moment. Magus started a small fire to ward off the cold and as the madness of the fight returned to his mind, he began to brood. For several hours he lay on the ground next to the fire, his anger raging as he imagined that Lucca was dealing most harshly with his nemesis. Finally, the wizard frowned. Somehow, he knew the inventor would be merciful to the knight, no matter how furious she was. Thinking of Lucca brought Magus back to his inability to keep his word to Lucca and to the ruined broadcast, and he found himself badly wishing he had destroyed the pest of a knight once and for all before Lucca had returned. "At least some good would have come out of ruining her dreams," he growled.
Presently, he found that he was feeling much better. His wounds were healing quickly, though he had not cast any healing spell. His heartbeat suddenly pounded in his ears and his vision intermittently drifted in and out of focus. A dark shade seemed to be falling over the wizard. Something was happening.
The trees nearby seemed to be bending away from him. Magus's good eye narrowed as he stood. There seemed to be a hint of firelight leaking around his eyepatch. Drawing to his feet, he slowly removed the eyepatch and was surprised to find that his injured eye had fully healed, just like the rest of his body. A strange, unnatural wind was blowing around him. His cape billowed out behind him. It was just seconds before lunar zenith. The sorcerer inhaled slowly. His senses were at their most acute. A thrill ran through his spine as a force he had not felt in a long time wafted over him. "The Black Wind blows… a portent of darkness…"
Suddenly, everything was clear to the wizard. His hand clenched against his chest as he bent double, a surge of magical energy painfully coursing throughout his body.
"It's finally time," he gasped with difficulty. Another surge of power. "Froggie… the battle awakened something… uggh!"
The wizard dropped to his knees as another surge of power ran through him. Desires for the most violent of actions were filling his mind. He groaned as his fingernails sharpened and lengthened. His senses further strengthened as his body convulsed again. The wizard attempted to keep his wits about him, to purge the wicked madness that was trying to consume him. The full moon was almost at maximum ascension. In just a few more moments, he would be complete again.
"But at what cost?" Magus thought to himself. "Will I lose myself in my powers? Have I become weak? Can I control my own strength again? Wi—" The wizard's thoughts were cut off as the full moon finally reached zenith.
Midnight seemed to darken as the moonlight shone down on the sorcerer. The powers of shadow, long separated from their lord, returned to their master in a flurry of sight and sound. Magus's fangs extended beyond his lips as his crimson eyes glowed brilliantly. His fists clenched, blood dripping to the ground as his claws dug into his palms. Thunder rolled ominously as Magus smirked. Spheres of purple light orbited around him, spectral servants to their ruler. The King of Wizards stood to his full height, dark energy crackling over his body.
"My power has returned," he chuckled. "Magus is reborn!"
The nearly infinite power of shadow begged to be used. Magus's smirk grew into a wicked grin. Lavos no longer held sway over the earth: revenge had been served. The once powerful and warlike Royal House of Guardia was weak and the people of this era were powerless. The heroes who had fought with him against Lavos had no hope in battle against him now. This was a planet that would embrace a new Emperor. Magus spread his arms and laughed loudly. "My power shall shatter the continents and they will fly anew. Zeal shall be reborn amongst the clouds again and I shall be her eternal King! It is my destiny, mine by right!"
Magus turned towards Guardia Castle.
He blinked. Something within him was resisting. Something in Magus would not let him carry out his wishes.
"Janus," said Magus. "How can you be at peace with this world? This world that cast you out, took your sister from you, forgot you, beat you, twisted you, and destroyed you? How can you continue to deny your destiny? You could have had the world, but you chose to fight Lavos. Now Lavos is gone: you can have the world again! I know your desires, boy who thirsted for revenge and might! I am power, torment, and strength, the man you were desperate to be. You wish for vengeance, and all has been avenged. You wish to rule, and I offer a throne. Why do you refuse it? Why are you paralyzed?" The warlock was quiet for a moment. He closed his eyes. "Janus, why do you resist me?"
Finally, he chuckled. "I could have it all in a single hour. I am the undeclared ruler of this planet! But lust for a kingdom is for lessers who cannot get one. Abuse of power is for the truly powerless. I, Magus, am above such pitiful things. "
Magus sighed and opened his eyes. "And so I remain me."
The wizard's power receded deep into him, pacific, locked away under the control of its master. It was the greater show of power to control his strength. In the morning, it would be time to face the music with Lucca.
After five very busy years in college and grad school, it's looking like I'll have plenty of time to get back to my writing. The good news is that I've already gotten a lot of the next chapter written! The better news is that I'm trying to become a better writer. I'd love to know what you thought of this chapter—your reviews are directly translated into better installments of this tale and others in the future. Please look forward to the next installment of The Masadoom and Company!