To End Opposition; Our party muses on the changes within Crono. All begin to search inside themselves and their resolve in their greatest quest is renewed...
He stared out into the end of time almost as if he could see something that the others could not. It took Marle's breath away and she could not believe how much she loved him. In her youth she would have scoffed at the idea of her being able to just get lost in taking in somebody's features, yet here she was. She could not look away. The very view of him lightened her heart and made her feel like everything would be okay.
He was different.
There was nothing bad about this. He was still the same old Crono who offered horrible puns which would draw a punch in the shoulder from Lucca and the applause of Robo. He still enjoyed duels with Glenn, although it was clearly evident that he was far stronger and faster somehow. In fact, he gained more of an appreciation for life than before, signified by the conversations he had with Ayla about the most basest of desires: food. Yes, he was very much the same, but...
It was a little unsettling how much he seemed to know about them, how he was able to coral them and cause them to forget their angers if they had any. He had been back for a week now. They decided it was in their best interest to rest and relax, the journey having taken quite a toll on them. On their journey back from the mountain, all others except Lucca and Marle had seemed downcast. Yes, they were joyful, but there was a strangeness to their actions. They could not look Crono in the eye and when Marle and Lucca recounted their story toward the end they had looked away entirely. It did not occur to Marle until later on that they felt shame. They had given in to the pain and left what they had called "the stillness of time" instead of fighting. In a way, they felt as if they had abandoned Crono. However, without those words being expressed, Crono said aloud, "You know...I felt someone calling to me. In fact, I heard all of you. Maybe that was what you all really needed to do in the end. We didn't need the necklaces or the pictures...I just needed my friends' desires. If it weren't for all of you, I wouldn't have made it."
Nobody had ever mentioned that they had left before it was done, but Crono somehow knew. The fact that this came unbidden seemed to lighten their moods a great deal. In fact, the thought did not bother them anymore. Strangely enough, when he had spoken these words Marle felt a strange twinge of jealousy. Hadn't she and Lucca fought the hardest? Just as those thoughts entered her mind she felt a hand squeeze her own. She looked into the crescent shape of Crono's smiling eyes and suddenly felt a mixture of shame and embarrassment. She forgot her jealousy and her mind went easily to happier things. But then later on she wondered: did he know her thoughts? But that was impossible. Then again, his actions were so well-coordinated that it could not just be coincidence.
Probably the most shocking difference came to light as they traveled to the six-hundredth year to visit their friend the king.
It had been some time since they had visited and Crono recounted how he, Lucca, and Marle rested like royalty in the castle. Although their own time was mentioned, Crono told the party that perhaps it would be better to stay out of modern-day Guardia for a time. Perplexed, the others simply took him at his word and agreed that if he felt that way then there was no reason to argue. Of course, Magus was about to offer up a voice of protest and mention that perhaps he would not be a welcomed addition in the castle.
"Oh yes, what a wondrous idea," he stated this so dryly that if it wasn't so absurd a notion it would've been hard to tell if he was being sarcastic. "Why not take me to stay in the lodgings of the very kingdom I tried to destroy? What a brilliant man! How could you all have gotten along without him?"
"Everything will be just fine" Crono stated with such sincerity that it was almost insulting.
"Thank you, but I believe I will take my chances in the end of time." Magus said with a scoff.
Crono had quickly adjusted to the idea of Magus being a part of their group. In fact, it was very strange that Magus remained. Most of the party had assumed that he would stay long enough to help them bring back Crono, but he had not left. He also seemed to watch Crono carefully, as if he were looking for something. Perhaps it was a reason to explain the changes he saw in him as well. Crono leaned back, his manner becoming even more lackadaisical and carefree. "Do you still have that mantel? We didn't recognize you in that piece of equipment, did we?"
"You didn't expect me to travel through time either, fool."
"Trust me, it'll be fine. Everyone thinks that you are dead. And besides, maybe you'll find out a little bit about Ozzie and his cohorts."
Magus was silent for a moment. "What makes you think I care about those plebeians?"
"I have been thinking that it has been so long since we visited that time. The last they saw of us we went toward your castle. I just want them to know that Glenn and everyone here is alright. And besides, I want to know how things have been. I imagine that Ozzie and his friends aren't letting up at all. Maybe they are causing more trouble. I think it would be would be a good idea to see how the kingdoms have held up after the war."
Magus stiffened at the mention of the word "war". Without a reaction that betrayed him as trying to cover anything, Crono stated. "After all, if they are having difficulties we could help."
Magus only relaxed and bowed his head as if he were in deep thought. Finally, he looked up and said, "If they come at me I will not stay my hand."
"They won't. I'll see to it." Crono stated.
Glenn baulked from any speech. He didn't even know what was more incredible to him: Magus agreeing to entering Guardia peacefully or the fact that Magus would be staying in Guardia at all. Glenn merely chuckled in disbelief and shook his head slowly, not in disagreement, although it was there, but in amazement. Things indeed have changed. Glenn, feeling the need to state his displeasure at the idea was about to say, in a joking manner, that he better at least not share a room with Magus. Before he could even utter a word Crono stopped him. "You know, I bet the queen will be really happy to see you. I wonder if her baby arrived yet." For a man knighted in his own kingdom, no topic is as cherished or as excitable as the prospect of a new heir. His eyes shone and immediately, all thoughts of Magus being in the castle vanished. This, however, was not lost on Robo who offered this point to Marle in a private moment.
"It's as if he is putting us at ease." Robo stated.
"Or guiding us, maybe?" Marle stated more than asked, biting her nail.
"But to what?" Robo asked again.
The fires of time gave way and they found themselves soaring above the gloriously green world of the medieval age. In the distance the castle gleamed in the morning sun like a beacon. Upon looking at the sun, Lucca noted that it's declination was higher in the sky than the last time they were here. "Ah ha, so it appears it is summer...We have been gone a while, it seems." She could not help but notice the Black Omen, also glinting in the sun as it had been doing by that point for several millennia.
They lowered their machine quite a way from the castle and city so that they might not frighten anyone. They had found a secluded cove that served as a good hiding space, used their magic to cover the entrance, and began their journey to the castle. The mood around the city was one of renewal. The city had expanded greatly, and to Glenn he had noticed the sound of many foreigner accents Namely, the majority came from the Dorino and Porre areas.
Glenn smiled, "It doth seem that Guardia is in sharp growth."
As they neared the castle, and thus more surrounded by people of importance, their presence was more noted. It caused Crono and Lucca pleased embarrassment as fellow knights bowed in reverence before whispering the news to others who might not have recognized them. Therefore, it was not a surprise that the king had heard of his coming. What was a surprise, however, was the astonishingly warm gesture of leaving his very castle with his guard, traveling with haste to where Crono was seen, and greeted him with a deep embrace very unbecoming of sovereignty. While the king was far more relaxed in formalities than his rival kingdoms, this was still a gesture of such great import that it had been talked about for years to come and thus solidified the deeds of Crono and Lady Lucca for all history.
"When we have not heard neither rumor nor story about you and your crew, we had feared the worst."
He spied Glenn out of the corner of his eye and almost jolted in disbelief. And without another word he ran over to him, knelt down and embraced him like a brother. The thought of a king, the ruler of a domain, to even kneel...To explain the repercussions of this incident takes the words of a historian who lived during that time. "This gesture was of such great magnitude and meaning that it was open to positive and negative interpretation, which was inevitably received by the entire ancient world. The explosion of the Guardian population, already large and robust during the time of the reconstruction, had doubled. However, kings and other countries felt the sting of this, a humble act by a superior civil servant. They had sent petitions, threatened with actions, and decried the nation as abandoning decency and the sacred traditions of royalty. The Kingdom of Porre, particularly outraged, saw this as an act of weakness. This action, coupled with the fact that their power had waned considerably with the advent of Guardia, nearly caused them to move against the offending country in a act of war. This effort was halted by the protest and the diplomacy of a single man: Glenn of Porre."
Therefore, while the king had solidified Crono and Lucca's name in history, Glenn had been made legendary.
"Your majesty...I am home."
The repercussions of the king's love was far from being expressed. In fact, it would be several months before word of it left the kingdom to become a scandal. For the time being, everyone sat in the great hall at a table adorned with the finest food they could muster. Seeing that prosperity had flourished as a result of the war ending, it was a considerable bounty and Ayla was perhaps the most joyful she had ever been in her life. Glenn, being hungry, was far too amazed by the cooing infant in his arms to notice. He had shed his tears of joy by this point and was enveloped in the wonder of life, staring at the child that grasped his gloved finger. He felt a strange longing for his older life and his thoughts turned to an old flame that he had not heard from in some time. Magus sat, still very ill-at-ease as he took in his surroundings. His head was lowered and he was very careful not to speak nor react to anything negative the king had to say, which was thankfully little. Crono, Marle, and Lucca spoke to the king and queen all about what happened after the battle and where they had been, leaving out parts that would either startle or bewilder them.
After speaking their piece, the king offered a few words of interest: "After the time you left and when his castle was destroyed, Magus' troops scattered and lost all their will to fight. It seems that their master wasn't able to summon their fabled demon."
Magus glared at his untouched plate and said nothing. The king did not notice.
"However, we still have Mystic raiders from time to time. And we try our best to find them, but honestly, Ozzie has shown a lot of intelligence."
Magus perked his head up but said nothing as Crono asked the question for him: "Ozzie? What does he have to do with it?"
"Well, he took upon himself the mantle of leadership and he has been going to towns on the coast with whomever he can gather. It is not an army like it had been before, but the Mystics are still stirred up into anger against us and try attack us whenever they can."
Queen Leene jumped in at this point, taking the baby away from a nearly objecting Glenn. "I'm sorry, I must feed him, you can have him in another moment- It was very quick for Ozzie to gain power back. That was how we knew Magus was dead even though we weren't sure of the method. Ozzie claimed he killed him."
Everyone turned to face Magus whose hands rested on the table. He was not angry or wroth, but was very surprised. In fact, he was pretty sure he was amused. Without missing a beat, Magus replied with a smirk, "That fat oaf took down Magus?"
"Well," Leene continued, "as more came out, it seemed to be a plan of his. Even though Magus had the power to bring it about Lavos, Ozzie would not have a world of humans. Even just one."
"So, he had been planning an assassination? That is his story?" Magus asked, the haughty prince in him coming out for a moment.
Crono made a gesture and Magus obeyed it. It did not upset him, seeing that the anxious faces on everyone else caused him to laugh within himself and forget his surprise for a moment. Ozzie? Assassinate Magus the Great? Surely a kitten attacking its sleeping owner would be more effective. Nonetheless, something about it bothered him even though he tried not to admit it to himself. Instead, he began to feel himself grow annoyed and asking the king or queen a question now and again about Ozzie's supposed location. Of course he knew the king would be clueless as to his exact location, but an exact location was not what he needed. He needed places that were frequently attacked, sightings, and places of triangulation. After hearing a few key locations Magus congratulated himself on his astute knowledge and made a mental note to himself. "Ah, yes...Ozzie is in his old haunts...I know that place well. When I get the chance I should pay him a visit." He looked up while he sipped his wine and was a bit surprised to see Crono staring at him while the king and queen were occupied with the others. Crono, to Magus' further surprise, nodded in agreement.
It was like old times; everyone was gathered together, playing games while eating their strange amalgamation of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. Crono, like he had before, basked in the company of his friends but this time he kept his peace more often. He watched them with a smile that suggested he knew something deeper and more profound with every action. Magus did not know why, but this irked him. He did not like how at peace he was. How could he be so calm? Surely it must have been on his mind that Lavos was still alive. Surely he must know that victory against him is impossible. And he must surely know how badly Magus wanted to hunt that fool Ozzie down. However, his ability to follow him was uncanny. Furthermore, Crono never left him alone long enough for Magus to leave and take off in the Epoch.
"It's like I am child being watched by a parent." Magus thought irritably. And with that thought came a strange new thought that resounded in his mind with a tone of rage.
He said nothing as he left the room without a word. The others looked at each other for only a moment, but thought nothing of it and didn't pursue him. In fact, it was only Crono who gave a subtle and imperceptible look with his eyes. He waited a few more minutes before he excused himself.
Magus felt the cool, night air as he made his way toward the Epoch. Despite the fact that it was summer, the cold current of the Guardian ocean caused a light fog that gave the surrounding forest an eerily serene feel. He did not bother bringing a lantern, for his eyes were sharp enough to peer past the fog and his vision in the dark was excellent. Not only that, his ears seemed to pick up so many things that would have escaped the attention of others. For example: he could hear the crunching footsteps of Crono following him. He sighed irritably and said aloud, "You could at least pretend that I can't hear you and try to mask your footsteps."
"But if I did that then you wouldn't hear me and I'd be following you for an hour until we reached the cove. I definitely don't want to do that."
Crono stepped out into the clearing, his hands held up with nothing in them. Even his weapon was nowhere to be seen on his body. Clearly he was intent on talking which was something that Magus did not have the patience for at that moment. Magus had not been expecting this and realized that he had instinctively pulled out his scythe. He gave Crono something that was a mixture of an apologetic look and one that suggested he was almost annoyed that he came out here with nothing. He twirled his scythe and hid it in his usual place underneath his robes and said curtly, "I am in no mood for a chat. I am going and that is that."
"Going where?" Crono asked.
"Don't play dumb." Magus said, still walking while Crono followed a short distance behind.
"What makes you so sure that I know where you are going?" Crono asked, his voice the perfect tone of innocent curiosity.
"The way you watched me, the moments you kept me from leaving at opportune times...you know I am out to track down Ozzie."
"You know where he is?"
Magus' brow furrowed. If he had been wrong about Crono knowing, he had accidentally gave the game away. He growled before turning around sharply and said, "Yes."
"Well, that's great. That saves us all the trouble of trying to hunt him down. I guess that means we can all leave in the morning."
"Yes," Magus begun, spinning around to walk away, his voice dripping with sarcasm. "Why don't you go back to the castle? I'll be there in an hour or two."
Magus did not gasp, but it startled him when Crono was suddenly in front of him in a blink of an eye. Crono's face was no longer joking, but very stern. "Or, you could come back with me right now and wait until morning." Magus stood his ground for a moment and looked Crono in the eyes, his own narrowing into little slits. He subtly shook his head, scoffed, and moved to the side to pass him. Crono obstructed his path again. Magus glared and tried to move past him again only to be blocked again. And he did it again. And at the fifth time he had lost his patience. He most definitely was not going to kill Crono, but he had enough of this peasant's meddling. He would hurt him enough where he could leave and that would be the end of it. However, he did not get that chance. Crono's hand rested on his lightly, preventing him from drawing his scythe. Magus had not even seen him move.
"You still haven't learned anything. Not even after all this."
Magus pushed but Crono did not budge. In fact, it almost felt as if he didn't resist at all. His skin just glided over Magus' skin, never leaving contact and never giving him room to remove his scythe. It didn't even feel like he used much force. His grip was soft, but unyielding, like the grip of a newborn around your finger. Magus' temper flared instantly, but try as he may with all his rage, it did nothing. So annoyed was he that Magus did not register Crono's words until after he struggled for some time. "And what do you mean by that, you walking abomination? What haven't I learned? At least I didn't die or throw my friends into harm's way, you self-righteous, ignorant, sister-murdering idiot!" Oh yes, thought Magus, that insult should stick. He had seen the weakness of his mind on that front and he knew that blaming him for his sister's death was nothing short but a way to evoke his murderous rage.
However, Crono's countenance barely changed, and it was nothing even close to blinded rage. It was a look of pity. And that did more to infuriate Magus than he expected.
Magus pushed off against him and Crono gave him space this time. Magus growled as he began to conjure magic. Suddenly there was a gust of wind that came from nowhere. Leaves obscured Crono and blinded Magus for a moment. The next thing he knew he felt himself flipping head over heels and landing on his back. The metal of his scythe was a painful thing to land on and he clenched his teeth in response. Crono looked down at him, his boot holding him to the ground. Magus struggled, but found that his boot was very much like his hand, in the manner that he could not move out from underneath it. In a strange moment Magus remembered this feeling, as he was trapped and unable to move. He felt as if he were a stallion being broken in. He felt that same helplessness at the hands of his mother, the same injustice and powerlessness at the hands of Ozzie, and the inability to muster anything against Lavos. It was not rage anymore that caused him to strain. It was pure desperation. He wanted to be free. He was so sick and tired of this.
"Pride...that is your weakness."
Magus still struggled, but his ears could hear now.
Then, to his further surprise, Crono quoted a popular saying from his era: "'The selfish soul of the other led him to the murder of his brother: he murdered him, and became, himself, one of the lost ones.'"
Magus lay still, but panted heavily from his exertion. After a moment of silence, Magus looked toward Crono with squinted eyes that tried to search beyond what was on the surface. "Who the hell are you?"
Crono ignored him and continued to speak, "It was your thirst for revenge that kept us from destroying Lavos, that kept you from acting when you could have saved your sister, and it is that same thirst that would deny justice with mercy."
"Justice?" Magus asked, his eyes searching for a moment. They grew wide with surprise and he spoke incredulously, "Ozzie? You want to give that monster mercy? He deserves to die!"
"For what he did to the people? Or for what he did to you? Think carefully before you answer that..."
Crono could already see that Magus, while not completely rid of his anger, no longer held blood lust. He let his foot off him and allowed him to rise. Magus did not respond to that answer, and truthfully, it was more because he did not want to incriminate himself. His pride still stood and he did not want Crono to have the victory here. To slay Ozzie was the right thing to do. What did the motive matter in a situation like this? The prince of Zeal, who had always been a wondrous speaker with a silver tongue, had nothing to say. Instead, he growled and turned away from Crono. Crono said nothing nor gave any inclination that he had won out. Instead, he acted as if there were no victor and said that it would be best if they returned to the castle. "Besides, Lucca was less trusting of you then you realize. She made it so the Epoch wouldn't start for you."
Magus felt his teeth clench and swore that Crono's shoulders shook as if he were trying to suppress a laugh.
They walked, and as they walked Magus thought. Crono, the simple boy he knew from back then through a demon's eyes had become something unfathomable. For a brief moment he pondered on the idea, and it was something that he had thought before: this was all a ruse from Lavos. This boy that had come back to them was not really Crono, but a marionette that held his memories. It would be an easy thing for Lavos to create such a creature. After all, what greater tool could there be to learning weaknesses than through the most trustworthy face among them? But as he thought on it and searched his heart, he knew that was not true. He was the real Crono, in the flesh, in every aspect. His demeanor remained sweet, calm, and humble. And yet, underneath that simplistic layer was something great and powerful. It was a mind that was shaped by what it must have observed after passing through the gateway of death. Although the others had not fully comprehended that changes that occurred in Crono, it was Magus who knew to the fullest extent what he was now. Yes, he could see Crono for what he was for it had been taught to him by the gurus and by Schala. But could it be true? Could Crono truly have become a prophet?
A prophet and a master of the elements. A man who could feel the great balance of all things. For a brief moment Magus remembered what Crono had said with a look of pity in his eyes.
Something in his eyes seemed condemning.
Magus felt a chill go up his spine and wished he could blame it on the wind.
Author's Note: Thank you all again for reading and for your continual check-ups. Life is fantastic right now, and I am very happy that I am going to finally have some time to get more writing done. I wanted to be finished with Ozzie and his friends by this point, but if you all haven't noticed I have a bad habit of drawing things out. O_O Divinekingsteve, thank you for your comment. It is crazy to think that I am coming up to nine years on this. It's been a constant pleasant time waster (I don't think "waste" is a proper word for it though) for this long and it always feels great to get it out there to share. Kit, Ocaj, Puja, Benevo, so many of you, thank you for your reviews. I really appreciate them. JediMinddingus, also thank you for your review. I enjoyed talking about it with you and I will take yours and everyone elses' thoughts into consideration. Stay tuned, folks! I'll try to make it a good one! :3