Disclaimer: I do not hold any rights to Chrono Trigger in any form or fashion, nor do I make any profit out of writing this fic.
Note: As the summary states, this is a yet another novelization of the story of Chrono Trigger. However, it differs from the ones I've read so far in few respects. One, all the original dialogue from the game was kept, word per word, including both the main scenes and the random dialogue of random NPCs. I do not wish to alter any of it, and only intend to add some, filling a few voids, most notably for Crono. Two, it is intended to be retold from a humorous perspective ('intended' is the key word here, mind you), although I will try to retain the solemnity when the original scenes call for it.
And thirdly, it will diverge somewhat from the original story, not by far, rather by addition than by alteration, towards the end of the fic, if I ever get to that point and not get bored of the project beforehand, that is. My intention is to make it partially a romance – a double romance, a Crono/Marle and then Lucca/Magus. With an extra challenge – while keeping them actually in character. Am I overly ambitious? 'Ain't that the truth!', to quote Lucca.
And now the real question – is anyone even going to review it, ever...? Only praying offers hope... Or maybe a human sacrifice is the way?
Chapter 01 - The Millennial Fair and the Return of the Queen
The relentless voice kept drilling through his sleep-numbed mind, in attempt to make him 'rise and shine', the last thing he felt like doing at the moment. Maybe if he pretended to be asleep long enough, she would go away... Vaguely aware that it was the last thing he should do, Crono cracked an eye open, trying to assess how persistent his mother appeared to be today. Predictably, she did not miss the minute movement on her son's part. She never did.
"Good morning, Crono!" she chirped and he knew all hope was lost. Now, she had him firmly in her merciless clutches – her benign, motherly visage didn't fool him one bit – and the visions of 'just five more minutes' he had been entertaining, quickly, and very disappointingly, mutated into 'dragging his sorry behind through another boring day'. ...Not that he would describe it as such to his mother.
"Come on, sleepy head! Get up!" His mother flashed him a knowing smile and in a continuing streak of cruelty yanked the curtains open, bathing the room in bright – and very unwelcomed – sunlight. Somehow, it made the strange ringing sound he had been dimly aware of for some time now even louder.
"Ah, Leene's Bell makes such beautiful music!" his mother sighed while his still barely awake thoughts lazily rolled around her words. Leene's Bell...? Yes, he decided finally, there was a bell named Leene's Bell in Truce. It was in Leene's Square, and both had been named after some past Queen of the Guardia Kingdom, of which he happened to be a citizen, as the back of his mind assured him. But why was it tolling...? The last – and only – time he had heard it was when the wife of the current King, King Guardia the XXXIII, had died, and he had been but a boy then.
His mother's words interrupted his thoughts, clarifying his hazed stipulations about who had died this time. "You were so excited about the Millennial Fair that you didn't sleep well, did you...?"
Crono's eyes shot open. That's right! Today was not just any day, today was the day of the Millennial Fair! Nobody had died, Leene's Bell was announcing the beginning of the Millennial Fair, which was the fair, attracting visitors from all over the Zenan continent. It was a once-in-a-lifetime occasion, literally, since the King organized the Fair to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Guardia Kingdom, which also happened to coincide with the current date – 1000 A.D. The next such occasion, if any, would happen in another 1000 years and he was quite sure he would never get a chance to see such a date come to pass.
His mother noticed the sudden increase in her offspring's level of consciousness and announced her motherly decree. "I want you to behave yourself today!" Crono replied with a thrown glance. For goodness' sake, he was eighteen, not eight! Not to mention that he had always been known as a 'good boy', despite the few boyish pranks he had on his account, none of which were particularly malicious, mind you.
Apparently grasping her son's message, his mother gave the issue a rest and headed towards the stairs. "Let's get moving, now!" she added cheerfully, walking down the wooden stairs and disappearing behind the rail. For once, Crono couldn't agree more. Today was a special day, void of fishing, farming or any random jobs around the town he often undertook while searching for that one thing he would like to do in life. Today he would meet people from all around the continent, would try exotic dishes, would inspect all the exotic goods and would generally enjoy the occasion as much as he only could.
Empowered by the prospect, he gingerly jumped out of the bed and quickly pulled on his customarily fiercely blue clothes – there was hardly a need for him to try to 'tone it down', his brightly red and oddly spiky hair made him stand out as it was. Just as quickly he tied his katana to his sash, happy to recall that he had heard of an arms' dealer from outside the Zenan continent – how amazing was that! – who was to come to the Fair. Not that he would be able to afford any fancy sword, at the moment he couldn't afford even any real sword, only a wooden practice sword. But who knew, maybe he would find some special, ultra exceptional, incredibly cheap offer...
For sword fighting had always been a dream of his. It went hand in hand with his dreams of adventures filled with unbridled heroism, of rescuing helpless – and beautiful, let's not forget beautiful, he was male after all – maidens, of being this or another Hero, admired for his skills and bravery. True, he was old enough to know that almost every boy entertained such fantasies, but... Even now, being technically and practically an adult – despite his mother's general attitude - he still often dreamt that somehow, in some miraculous way, he would get his adventure, just one, he wasn't greedy, that he would become a skillful swordsman, with a real sword, that he would rescue at least one maiden.
Sighing, Crono headed towards the stairs that led down and out of his room. Fantasies, that's what those were, nothing but fantasies. Not only was he in no way special – regardless of his oddly and yet naturally spiked hairdo, something that always made him feel somehow... exceptional, even if uncomfortable – but heroic adventures were simply a thing of the past now. Guardia Kingdom, and the entire Zenan continent for that matter, had been at peace for centuries. In fact, the Millennial Fair had been organized also in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the end of the last war. Queen Leene had been somehow connected to that war, he recalled vaguely, heading down the stairs, although he was not entirely sure how. If his memory served him right – and apparently it didn't, at least not in relation to history – during the class on that period of the Guardia Kingdom's existence, he had been too busy pelting Cyril Fieldnear with paper pellets to catch more of the story. Oh well...
"Finally!" his mother announced once he reached the ground floor of their small, cozy house. "By the way, that inventor friend of yours... Uh... you know...! Oh, dear, I've forgotten her name!"
There were times when he just couldn't believe his mum... How could she forget Lucca's name...? He and Lucca had been best friends ever since their first day at school, maybe because they both stood out so much. He with his spiky hairdo and Lucca with her huge glasses which proudly announced to the world that she was a first-class geek, born and bred.
"That's right, Lucca!" his mother recalled with his help, "Don't forget that she invited you to see her new invention!"
Incredible. His mother forgot Lucca's name – despite being friends with her parents! – and yet remembered something he had mentioned to her only once. This was certainly a new entry at the top of the list of his mum's bizarrely-selective-memory episodes. There were times when he wouldn't be surprised if she forgot his name.
"Run along now," his mother continued cheerfully, once more adopting the 'you're five and you're not going to get any older in my mind, ever' tone of voice, "and be back before dinner."
Shaking his head in mild dismay and giving his cat a farewell pat – there would be hell if he ever forgot to do that before leaving the house – Crono headed out and towards the town of Truce. He and his mother lived on the outskirts of it, with only one neighboring house nearby, but he wasn't too bothered by the distance, it was no more than 10 minutes of a walk anyway. Truce wasn't that large a town to begin with, it was much smaller than Porre, the largest town of the Zenan continent, but it was significantly larger than a simple village. Plus, it was near the Guardia Castle, a bonus which added greatly to diminishing the mundanity of life.
Today however, it was not the King and his visitors from far, far away that was on everybody's tongues, but the Fair. Everywhere Crono went, he could hear people talking about it in excited, cheerful voices. Not that it was surprising, the last unusual event in Truce happened when the Snail ferryboat that offered a quick connection between Truce and Porre across the sea had crashed into the pier. And even that had been pretty mundane, the ferryman had slipped on a wet trout – its presence on the bridge remained a mystery, however – and fell onto the speed lever.
But the Millennial Fair was something different altogether and there wasn't a soul alive in Truce, or in all the Kingdom for that matter, who had not heard of it. At least so it seemed, judging from the crowd that Crono spotted the moment he neared Leene's Square, where the fair was held. Leene's Square was a square only by name, since it wasn't even in Truce proper, but rather, it stretched out on its outskirts, at the foot of the nearby mountain range. He was not entirely sure why on earth it was called a square, or who decided to build it in such a location to begin with, but it didn't matter in the slightest. Today, Leene's Square would see its finest day, housing the Millennial Fair, and many folks were pouring from all over the continent to see it. There were farmers and fishermen, young and aged, wealthy townsfolk from near and far and stylish looking soldiers from the Guardia's troops. All sorts of folks, in short.
Making his way through them all, Crono headed towards and under the heavily decorated gate and promptly engaged in visually devouring all the colorful booths, tents and stalls that had been set up in the square for the occasion. Only visually, for now, because he was going to first head over to where Lucca and her father, Taban, were setting up their new invention, to see if they needed any help. Doubtful that they would, after all, Lucca refused to even tell him what it was, quite an offense, actually. He had tested countless of her inventions, from the automatic butterfly catcher she created at the age of nine, to the – supposedly calming, in reality frightening – automatically rocking chair she whipped out but two summers ago. And yet now she wouldn't even tell him what was it that she had created!
So needless to say, he was determined to get an early glimpse of the 'invention of the lifetime', as Lucca enigmatically announced some time ago. Ignoring – for now only, of course - the races, the strength testing gizmo, the house of horrors and an invitation to the 'prehistoric' music concert, he squeezed his way through the constantly thickening crowd, heading up the lightly grey stone steps that led to the elevated parts of the square.
"What's the big deal?" he heard a small boy announce to his parents as he was passing them by, "So what if we won a war against a wizard hundreds of years ago!"
Crono didn't linger around to hear how the unfortunate boy gets chewed up by the group of elderly men standing nearby. Elderly men somehow always revered history, and especially war victories, something that perhaps came with the progressive deterioration of one's mental faculties accompanying aging, but personally, Crono agreed with the boy. It was ancient history, well, maybe not ancient, but old nevertheless, and after all, past was past, that was all there was too it.
Wondering idly why some people assigned so much importance to past and history, he sped up the stairs, looking around the booths set up there and thus completely disregarding where he was going.
Omph! In his lack of attention he crashed into something soft and warm, something that yielded at once and flopped to the ground, but not before toppling him over to the ground too, somehow. In the process, they had knocked against Leene's Bell that was hanging right in his path from a small decorated arch. It rang briefly, raising a few cheerful voices from the crowd around them. Supposedly, those who heard the bell ring would have happy and interesting lives. Supposedly.
"Hey!" the young girl he had bumped into announced in mild protest, "Ouch, that hurt!"
Crono was about to apologize, but the girl beat him to it. "I'm so sorry," she said, getting up, dusting herself off and crouching down next to him, all in amazingly energetic movements. "Are you okay?"
Even if he wasn't, he would never admit it! She was not only a girl, but also a very attractive girl, a very attractive girl. Slender and perfectly built, with sparkling green eyes and silky blond hair tied into a high ponytail. Very attractive. 'It would take much more to take me down', was what Crono was about to say as he opened his mouth and collected himself from the ground, but the girl's attention shifted away from him already.
"Uh oh... My pendant!" She was frantically looking around, scanning the ground in the area. Or at least trying to, the people constantly passing by them made it quite difficult. "Don't tell me I lost it!"
Thanks to his advantage of a few extra inches of height, Crono was much more successful with the task, and quickly spotted a simple pendant lying on the stone pavement near a stall. It was a round bluish stone, cast in gold and held up by a simple gold chain, and he hoped it was the one she was looking for, since he couldn't see any other objects even remotely resembling a pendant in the vicinity. But if she was looking for trash, it would've been a different story... It was only the beginning of the first day of the fair, and yet already trash was beginning to pile up everywhere.
Squeezing through the crowd, he grasped the pendant before somebody kicked it away or crushed it and returned to the girl.
"Oh, thank goodness! My pendant!" she sighed in relief the moment she noticed it in his hand. "It has a lot of sentimental value! May I have it back?"
Crono glanced at her in surprise. Who did she think he was...? Some random bully who was just showing it to her to taunt her or something...? "Of course," he replied, dabbing his tone in nonchalance.
The girl smiled brightly in thanks, taking the pendant from him. "I came to see the Festival! You... live in this town, don't you!" She seemed excited about it, though Crono was very much lost as to why. There was nothing exciting about living in Truce. "I feel a little out of place here," she confessed with a shy smile, "Would you mind if I walked around with you for a while?"
Would he? It was like a slap on the back from the heavens, one saying 'you're gonna have a great day, Crono! You're hardly up and already a beautiful girl is practically asking you out!' He would have to be insane to say 'no'!
"Sure," he replied in a continuing streak of manly nonchalance, missing the fact that his reply was slightly disjoint with the form of her question.
But she got the gist of it nevertheless and began literally jumping up and down in joy, "You're a true gentleman!"
Crono's ego was pleasantly stroked and he firmly decided to make her hold to that opinion for as long as only possible.
"Oh, by the way...," the blonde added, smiling yet again, "My name is, er..."
Just what was it with people and amnesia today, Crono wondered briefly. Though, honestly, even his mother wouldn't forget her own name... he hoped.
"...um, Marle!" the girl, Marle, apparently, recalled finally, "And you're?"
"Crono," he replied, once more casually.
"Crono? What a nice name! Pleased to meet you! Now, lead on!" She said it all almost in one breath, confirming his earlier assessment of her as quite a lively and energetic person. Apart from being an outstandingly beautiful person, that is.
In his amazement that a girl like that would ever want to hang around with him – and seemed pleased about it too, somehow – Crono almost forgot about checking out what Lucca was up to. He could've forgotten just as well, it turned out, because the secluded area where Lucca and Taban were setting up their latest creation – Lucca's father was just as much a crazy inventor as she was, or maybe the other way around, she took after him after all – was guarded by two youngsters who quite firmly sent the two of them away, telling them to come back in a while.
Not that he really minded, truth be told. Now that he was accompanied by Marle, the fair's attractions seemed somehow even more appealing than before. And they spent the next hour trying out as much of what the fair had to offer as they possibly could. They checked out the 'Tent of Horrors', made a small bet on the races – losing, sadly – and even went to that prehistoric music concert, where he let Marle talk him into joining the 'prehistoric dance', which basically consisted of making an arse out of oneself, but since Marle seemed to enjoy it, Crono didn't complain.
In return, Marle did not complain when he spent over ten minutes simply admiring the weapons offered by the exotic swordmaker, Melchior, the one from outside the Zenan continent. He lived on the continent to the east, as he informed his customers kindly from behind his bushy white mustache, inviting them to come see him sometime, like they would ever get a chance to do that. And sadly, Crono couldn't afford even the simplest of the swords offered by the oddly clad swordsmith, not to mention the fanciest ones, costing thousands of Gil.
Casting them one last longing look, he finally pulled himself away from the display and followed Marle towards the soda guzzling contest. He guzzled like mad, but only managed seven cans, winning absolutely nothing, apart from an overly full bladder.
"You're awfully competitive, aren't you, Crono?" Marle laughed next to him, refusing to try it out for herself. Not that he could blame her.
"I'm having a great time," Marle added happily, bestowing him with another bright smile. And despite his uncomfortably full bladder, so was Crono. Marle proved to be not only a beautiful but also a very pleasurable companion. She was lively, cheerful and very easy-going, smiling happily over almost everything and seemingly having the time of her life, even though her simple yet expensive looking white clothes told him that she was not a plain farmer's daughter. She had not mentioned where exactly she was from, however, but since it would've been quite ungentlemanly to ask, Crono did not raise the issue. They were both having a great time and that was all that mattered.
Just as they had helped a little girl with a visible snot problem find her lost cat, they heard somebody in the crowd say that Lucca's invention had been all set up and so they headed again towards the northern part of the square. Marle was just as curious about what could it be as he was, since he had told her all about Lucca and her passion for science and crazy gadgets, but she still insisted on buying some candy first. Crono didn't object, she considered him to be a 'gentleman', and when a pretty girl considers you a gentleman, you simply have to live up to the reputation!
Yet when the vendor drawlingly informed them of the latest gossip, which was that the King was distressed over his tomboy of a daughter, Marle suddenly picked up her pace and pulled him further up north, to where they were heading to begin with.
"Step right on up, any of you who have the time and the courage!" Taban's loud voice welcomed them as they entered the secluded part of the square, "Our 'Super Dimension Warp' is the invention of the century!"
'Super Dimension Warp'...? Crono cautiously eyed Lucca's newest invention, craning his neck above the crowd. It consisted of two strange, round and elevated platforms, surrounded by a multitude of wires and what he assumed to be supporting machinery. It somehow reminded him of the 'intelligent' cleaning machine Lucca and her father had created just last year. Not so much in form, but rather in its potential functionality. The 'Ultra Amazing Cleaning Bot' had been a square box on wheels that was supposed to automatically clean away any trash from the floor – and for one short week the floor in Lucca's home was actually free of the thick layer of scattered books that normally covered it – but unfortunately, the machine attempted to 'clean away' also any living object standing on the floor, including him. And he took offense to being classified as 'trash'.
And apparently, he wasn't alone in his suspicions. "Lucca's inventions never work right," announced a guy to their right in an authoritative 'I know it best, even though I'm a moron when it comes to science' tone of voice. Some of Lucca's inventions did work right, even spectacularly right, and some were actually very useful, like her fire detector. But people tended to remember flops better than successes, at least when it came to beings other than themselves, so Lucca already had quite a reputation in Truce.
"To use it, jump here...," Taban continued coaxing the audience and gestured to the left platform, "...and you'll get teleported here!" He made a dash to the right one. "It's the masterwork of my beautiful daughter, Lucca." Hearing her name, Lucca turned to the spectators from where she was still working on something, waving at everybody and flashing them a smile.
"Check out that girl's glasses!" commented a young boy to their right.
"She could probably see the back side of the moon with those," agreed an elderly man next to him, shaking his head and also the dangling and dried up skin of his cheeks and neck that he could probably wrap around the moon, easily.
It was true, though, that Lucca's glasses were very thick. She was as shortsighted as a mole, well, nearly as shortsighted anyway, and her glasses could easily serve as the proverbial bottle caps. It didn't help either that they were as unfashionable as can be, and made her eyes appear tiny and indeed mole-like. Lucca didn't seem to care much about it though, she generally didn't care about being pretty or 'womanly', as her clothes clearly manifested. She wore an orange and green loose top that would make any fashion follower scream bloody murder, completely unmatching black shorts and thick and sturdy boots. Her short and practical do of violet hair – violet hair was a rarity even among the people of Zenan, many of whom had green hair – was squashed even further under a heavy cap/helmet sort of thing she wore at almost all times. It had little to do with protection of her uppermost appendage, however; its purpose was mainly to hold up the recording and transmitting device attached to it over Lucca's right ear. She often had a million ideas a minute and needed something to capture such a brainstorm quickly. The device served its purpose well enough, but unfortunately it also gave Lucca a habit of muttering to herself, something that did not improve her image of a 'mad scientist' in the slightest.
In all factuality however, Lucca was not bad looking at all. Crono could remember the few times when she would let herself be talked – usually by her mother – into dressing in a more feminine manner. It never lasted longer than a few hours before she would become irritated with the impracticality of such 'nice' clothes and abandon them in favor of her usual attire, but it proved for all to see that if she wanted to, she could pass for an attractive girl, easily. It was just that she didn't give a damn about it, always saying that looks were nothing more than appearances and like all appearances could easily be deceiving. Not to mention that there were more important things in life than attracting boys who would fall for appearances.
Crono had to agree with such a line of thinking. True, he knew himself well enough to know that he was a sucker for a pretty face, but even for him just a pretty face wasn't enough to hold his interest. Although, he added, glancing to the pretty blond girl he had just acquainted, sometimes a face cold be pretty enough to hold his interest for quite some time indeed. But Marle seemed to have other, just as pleasing, characteristics and he regretted that she would probably leave Truce once the fair was over.
Taban coaxed the audience again, inviting any volunteers to test out the 'Super Dimension Warp', but there were no apparent takers. Crono sighed dolefully. That was his cue, and his duty as a friend. He had been the test subject for Lucca ever since they were seven and apparently today would be no different. Not that he was scared; he trusted Lucca's inventions wouldn't maul him, at least not permanently, and he could take an occasional electrical shock or two.
Ready to face his impending doom, or at least pain, Crono made his way through the crowd, with Marle close behind him, and approached Lucca.
"Crono!" the mad scientist jumped up once he reached her. "Where have you been? No one wants to try the Telepod!"
She was playing innocent, acting as if she was not expecting him to volunteer, but he had seen through such tactics over ten years ago. And sure enough, her eyes instantly sparkled with even more of the false innocence. "How about you?"
"It looks like fun!" Marle exclaimed from behind him, executing a few excited jumps of her own. "I'll watch while you try it out!"
"Just hop onto the left pod!" Lucca flashed him a satisfied grin, obviously too preoccupied with her invention to ask about his new friend.
Hoping that this time he would manage to escape unscathed, Crono obediently clambered up the pod. Taban and Lucca instantly latched themselves onto the supporting machinery, eliciting an ominous buzz from it.
"All systems on!"
"Begin energy transfer!"
Crono felt himself being pulled in all possible directions and closed his eyes shut, preparing himself for the worst. Yet as a few seconds passed and nothing bad seemed to have happened, he ventured to take a peek at his surroundings, only to find himself already on the right pod. And as amazing as it was, he was still in one piece, and despite a slight tingling sensation crawling up his skin, he was no worse for health.
"It... worked! I can't believe it!" For a moment there, Taban let his facade slip, but soon remembered his fatherly feelings. "Uh, er, a thrilling display of science at its best, ladies and gentlemen!"
A collective 'wow' rose from the crowd, and suddenly there were many who were more than eager to try it out. Marle was one of the newly converted, and standing much closer to the pods, she beat all others to it.
"What a kick! I want to try it, too!"
"Huh?" Lucca finally noticed that Crono didn't come alone. "Hey Crono, how did you pick up a cutie like her?"
Crono shot his friend a warning glance, signaling her not to blow his cover. He was trying to impress the girl, not have her know that her presence in his company was indeed a one-in-a-million strike of luck for him!
Fortunately, Marle wholesomely ignored Lucca's comment. "Hang on, Crono!" she exclaimed over her shoulder, vigorously approaching the pod, "I'll be right there!"
"Behold, ladies and gentlemen," Taban resumed his MC duties, "as this vision of loveliness steps aboard the machine!"
"Don't go away," Marle flashed Crono another smile, "I'll be right back!" Rejecting Taban's whispered advice that there was still time to reconsider – Taban was as much a sucker for a pretty face as Crono himself – she hopped onto the pod.
"Okay, everyone," Taban addressed the crowd once more, "let's give her a great big hand when she reappears!"
The two inventors began pressing switches and levers again, once more eliciting a shrill buzz from the contraption, and the audience watched in rapt attention. Apparently, the combination of a working invention of Lucca's with a girl as pretty as Marle held some irresistible appeal. Crono had to admit he could see why.
He was also curious to see how it looked from an onlooker's point of view, having been on the receiving end of it before, and so he watched just as attentively. If this 'Telepod' really worked, really transferring a person from one place to another, then it was indeed an invention of the century. But when Marle's pendant began glowing, brighter and brighter with ever passing second, Crono began suspecting that it wasn't how it was supposed to go, and Marle seemed to agree with him.
"What's happening?" she asked with a slight tinge of worry, glancing down to the shining stone. "My pendant... it's..."
"Huh?" Lucca finally noticed that something was wrong, and the two inventors stopped their manipulations at the machine's consoles, but it seemed too late already. Crackling streams of energy erupted among the wires and levers, pushing the duo away. And right in front their very eyes, a large bluish whirl appeared between the pods. Before anyone could regain their stunned senses enough to voice their opinions on the matter, Marle was sucked into it, and her shocked face was the last thing they saw before the whirl disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared.
"Lucca!" Taban demanded, jumping back to the machine once the crackling of energy ceased, "Where is she!"
But the growing shouts and whistles from the crowd made him turn to the immediate reality of their situation and he hastened to salvage as much of the initial success as only possible. "Show's over, folks! Let's head along now!"
Reluctantly, the crowd poured out back to the main square, among quizzical glances and astounded comments.
"What's going on Lucca?" Taban demanded once more, turning to his shock-stricken daughter, "WHERE IS SHE?"
Lucca collected herself, and unlike her father, for whom marketing was the main problem here, she focused on the scientific basis of the unexpected phenomenon. "The way she disappeared... It couldn't have been the Telepod! The warp field seemed to be affected by her pendant..."
Taban ignored her hasty analysis. "What are we going to do now?"
"She's so familiar!" Lucca muttered to herself, ignoring him back, "I KNOW I've seen her somewhere..."
Crono slowly shook himself out of the shock of seeing his newly acquired friend disappear into the mysterious blue whirl. It wasn't important where Lucca could've seen Marle before in his opinion, he agreed with Taban, what mattered now was what were they going to do about it. They couldn't just abandon the girl! And not only because there had been so many witnesses who had seen her disappear on the pod, but simply because it wasn't right! They had to do something!
A shimmer from the left pod caught his eye and he absentmindedly headed towards it, still dazed by the whole experience. It was Marle's pendant, he found, inspecting his find. Somehow, it was left behind, lying on the blue flooring of the pod. Whether it fell because the lock was faulty or whether Marle was quick enough to leave it behind on purpose didn't matter at that point. What did matter was that it was, as Lucca stipulated, the initial source of the problem. A plan began forming itself in Crono's head and his insides clenched a bit.
"Do it again," he told Lucca, picking up the pendant and stepping onto the pod. "Do exactly what you just did. I'm going after her."
"Crono!" Lucca exclaimed, shaken out of her frantic contemplation.
"You're actually going to do it!" Taban turned to him, noticing the pendant in his hand and grasping his intentions. A faint glimmer of hope appeared in his eyes. An exploding flop of an invention was one thing, but a flop that disappeared somebody was a completely different story. If they couldn't bring the girl back, there would be a hell to pay. "What a fine lad!"
Truth be told, Crono was not feeling like a 'fine lad' at all. He was feeling... apprehensive, not to say downright scared. A faint whisper in the back of his mind was telling him that this was the adventure he had always wished for. A beautiful maiden, clearly in distress, needed rescuing – it was the epitome of a heroic story, but... he was not feeling heroic at all. Who knew where the blue whirl led to, as far as they knew it could lead to nowhere, instead just shredding its victim into a million tiny and bloody pieces, a prospect Crono did not enjoy in the slightest. But he couldn't just let it be, just ignore the whole thing and pretend it had never happened. It just... wouldn't be right! Even if he didn't know the girl at all, even if she had been a spotty teenage boy instead of a cutie that she was, it still wouldn't be right to just abandon her!
Swallowing the lump in his throat, Crono nodded in confirmation.
"Listen!" Lucca's analytical mind quickly reached a decision. "I don't know where this machine is going to send you, but we haven't any other choice."
"Won't they both be lost?" Taban questioned, mostly out of a sense of decency.
"This is our only hope!" Lucca was just as aware as her father that disappearing a test subject would mean an end to their inventing days, if not to their lives. Or at least freedom. Not to mention that despite being a mad scientist, she had enough morals to be ridden with guilt all over if the girl was never found. "That pendant seems to be the key, so hang onto it Crono, and brace yourself!"
And he did. His insides doing some more flip-flops, Crono braced himself with all his might, struggling to keep his eyes open. Soon, the mechanical buzzing filled the area once more and again he felt himself being pulled in all directions. But this time the pull was different. It was more forceful, more demanding, almost... alive.
The pendant began shimmering again, energy sizzled around them and from a corner of his eye, Crono could see the blue whirl reappear between the pods. Without as much as a warning, it sucked him right inside itself, into bluish nothingness.
"I'll follow you after I know what went wrong!" Lucca shouted behind him and he sincerely hoped that she would, and that there was somewhere, anywhere, to where she could follow him, anything but nonexistence. "Good luck, Crono!"
Leene's square disappeared from his view, replaced by endless whirls of blue. He was being hurled through that blue void, unable to stop or to make out anything of his surroundings, anything other than the blue. There was nothing he could do but to endure and hope that it would end before his life did.
And miraculously, it did. In a blink of an eye, a gaping hole opened in the eternity of the blue and he was unceremoniously spat out onto a green forest clearing. Expressing silent thanks to the deity that had been so merciful, Crono picked himself up and quickly inspected all his bodily appendages. Everything seemed to be in order, no broken bones, no open wounds. Sighing in relief, he shifted his attention to his surroundings. It looked somehow... familiar. True, all forests looked alike, at least all average forests, but he could swear that the general atmosphere was somehow known and familiar to him.
If he was lucky, really, really lucky, Crono thought, pushing through the reddish undergrowth of the forest, he had been transported but a few miles away from Truce. The possibility seemed to be confirmed when something rustled in the bushes nearby and three blue imps jumped out at him, smirking smugly in their customary manner.
Imps – small, 2 feet high creatures, with their large, round and split in the middle heads that looked like, well, basically their hinder parts – were a part of the magical folk that was often called the 'Mystics'. Truth be told, they were not particularly magical, or if they were, they were doing a magnificent job of hiding it, since Crono was yet to see an Imp do anything even remotely magical. Yet they were generally considered a part of the magical world and as such were held in contempt by most humans. The fact that their main occupation in life was pestering humans did not improve their image either. They inhabited most forests of Guardia, ambushing humans and taunting them by a variety of methods, the most civilized of which was stretching their mouths and sticking out their tongues. The less civilized included flipping the finger and pulling down their shorty short-shorts to moon the unlucky passer-by. They looked downright ridiculous in the process – like two asses connected by a back – but it seemed to matter little to them. Or they just didn't know, never mooning each other.
Those humans who were stupid enough to fall for the taunts usually got toppled over, roughed up and mugged out of all their valuables. For the Imps, like most magical folk, were sentient beings, capable of speech and reasoning. Well, speech at least. And they had many needs that could only be satisfied by a steady income. The fact that being thus mugged pissed the humans off royally was just an added bonus.
Fortunately, the Imps – regardless of their color variety, for they came in many – were generally weak and unthreatening. Their battle tactics consisted of jumping at the opponent, kicking his shin and then jumping away with a smug smirk, occasionally high-fiving another Imp on the way. It hurt like hell, of course, but unless you were inattentive or inept enough to let yourself trip over one of them – they would jump on the victim like a swarm of flies then – there was nothing to worry about.
Crono pulled out his wooden sword and whacked the as ever smug Imps generously over their indecently shaped heads. As always, they seemed utterly surprised to be hit. For some reason, they never saw the blow coming, no matter how many times they had been thus whacked before. Their expressions frozen in shocked disbelief, they wobbled and fell unconscious to the ground. Some people killed Imps, or any other magical creatures, but Crono never did. They could be annoying as hell, true, but compared to him they were pretty defenseless, so it just didn't seem right. Instead, he did what he always did to Imps, and what seemed only fair – mugged them. Sadly, they carried but a few Gil each, apparently being smart enough not to take large sums of money with them when they went to 'work'. Perhaps they had learnt this obvious tactics because many people shared Crono's views and mugged the Imps regularly, or maybe they just never had much money, blowing their 'earnings' on whatever it was that Imps blew money on. Who knew.
Pondering the matter idly, Crono continued through the undergrowth and arrived at a small creek that was winding its way among some rocky ledges. The ledges were connected by wooden ladders and pathways, making him think that perhaps he had wandered into an Imp colony of sorts, but it mattered little. The good news was that a) he was still alive and b) it seemed that he had indeed been transported only a few miles away from Truce.
Carrying on through the ledges and whacking – and mugging – a few more Imps on the way, Crono finally arrived to the end of the forest path, reaching a final ledge that allowed him a good view of the area. Yup, he decided, inspecting the horizon, he was still somewhere near Truce. He could clearly see the tall towers of the Guardia Castle in the distance, and he doubted there could exist two identical castles of this kind in the world. Then all he had to do now was find Marle, make sure that she was alright and escort her back to Truce.
Now that the tightly clenched feeling in the pit of his stomach that had accompanied him through the whirl dissipated somewhat, he was actually feeling disappointed that his heroic escapade would end so quickly. Whacking Imps hardly counted as heroism, however loosely one would define 'heroism', since after all, he did it almost every other week, treating it as the cheapest sword practice opportunity he could get. And an extra income source.
But along with the slightly disappointed feeling, there was another thought in Crono's head, steadily making its way from the back of his mind to the forefront. There was something downright wrong with what he was looking at, something that should be there, but was not. Frowning, he focused once more on his surroundings, his eyes traveling between the Guardia Castle, the mountains behind him and the seacoast he could make out in the distance.
The sudden realization hit him and his eyes widened in surprise. Holy hell! Where he stood, right at the foot of the mountain, he should be in the middle of Leene's Square! But unless thick forested areas counted as squares nowadays, Leene's Square just... wasn't there.
Blinking in astonishment, he repeated the process of surveying his surroundings, sure that he must've made some mistake. But no, no matter how much he scanned the area, the bottom line remained the same – somehow, during his voyage through the blue whirl and the Imp-fested forest, Leene's Square had mysteriously evaporated from the face of the Guardia Kingdom.
But Truce... Truce should still be there, right...? Jumping down from the ledge and making his way through the trees that were obstructing his view of the town's location, Crono quickly reached a convenient vantage point and sighed in relief. The town was still there, and the familiar red and brown roofs, and customary creamy walls of the town's short buildings were quite a sight for his suddenly anxious eyes. Yet... he couldn't not notice that somehow, the town seemed... smaller than before. And that clock tower on its right side, where he had made out with Penny Clearwater when he was fifteen – where was it...?
And as he entered the town, he noticed that it wasn't the only difference. The buildings were the same only in style, but in practice many were missing, or were replaced by a completely different edifices. Many shops were missing from where he usually found them. And the people looked different too, somehow... older. Well, they looked their ages alright, but their clothes looked older. Many wore capes and gloves, most had old looking swords at their sides and ridiculous looking hats. In his bright blue pants and shirt, he stood out like a sore thumb.
Somewhat staggered, he headed to the first place that offered potential information, and which actually was where it was supposed to be – the Truce Inn. Entering the stylishly wooden establishment, he asked the first person he saw – a soldier in a strangely historical armor – the first question that came to his mind.
"Where am I...?"
"'Where am I?'," the soldier repeated sardonically, rolling his eyes. "Are you stupid? THIS is the kingdom of Guardia! We're battling Magus's army."
He was speaking in mock loudness and clarity, as if his interlocutor was a complete and utter moron, but Crono had absolutely zero brainpower for any witty comebacks. "Magus's army," he repeated numbly, his mind reeling.
"You DID know that, right?" the soldier eyed him suspiciously and Crono dazedly confirmed, quickly making his way out of the Inn, before anyone questioned him more.
Flopping down heavily onto a stone bench nearby, he sat among the sunny, quaint streets of what both was and wasn't his home town, his mind trying to cope with what he had just heard. As oafish as he was when it came to history, he recognized the name 'Magus'. It was the name of the wizard against whom Guardia Kingdom had fought its last war, four hundred years ago. ...Or at least it had been four hundred years ago an hour ago, for right now it seemed that it was now, zero years ago. As unbelievable, mind-boggling, skull-numbing as it seemed, somehow, Lucca's Telepod had thrown him 400 years into the past, into the midst of the war.
Still unable to fully incorporate the reality of it into his mind, he idly recalled all that he knew about the war, in budding regret that he hadn't paid more attention during that class at school. But from what he could remember, the war hadn't been against Magus per se, but rather against the Mystics – the magical creatures of Zenan. Although Guardian history taught that the Mystics attacked the Kingdom in an attempt to destroy all human life, he had always suspected that they simply had enough of the constant abuse they would unceasingly receive from humans.
For humans, all magical creatures were akin to animals – no rights protected an Imp, for example, from being hunted down and killed by a human. Magical folk were usually referred to as 'monsters', and even those who lived in harmony with humans were regarded as lowly and filthy, slaves at best. Unlike the Mystics, humans were void of magic and viewed it as somehow degrading and vile. Those humans who possessed even a slightest spark of magical abilities in them – there were some – strived to keep it a secret. It was fine now – in his time, in 1000 A.D. that is – such people were mocked and looked down upon at most, but he could recall that in the past – that was now for him at the moment – some were quite harshly persecuted for displaying magical abilities.
It was hardly surprising then that the Mystics would eventually get pissed off and attack the humans. What was surprising was that they would be organized enough to do it, since various groups of Mystics frequently fought against each other. From what he could recall, that was where Magus came in. A powerful mage, whose true name remained a mystery for all, since he was simply called either 'Magus' or 'Maou', the Demon King, unless 'Magus' really was his true name, in some bizarre coincidence of familial intention and sonly outcome, he had somehow united the Mystics and led them into a war against the humans.
And unsurprisingly, they had been quite successful at it for many years of the long war. Imps were near harmless, true, but they were pretty much at the bottom of the magical chain. There were countless other, much, much more dangerous magical creatures out there, some who enjoyed feasts composed of human flesh, some as huge as mountains, some downright undead.
And yet, the humans had won in the end, driving many of the Mystics away from the Zenan continent altogether. He couldn't recall the details of the victory however, other that it had happened in the year 600. But what he could recall was enough. He knew now where – or rather when – he was, and since he was not planning on getting involved in the war, there was no need for him to know more. What he did know was enough to allow him to fit in, at least enough to find Marle, which was still the priority.
Straightening his back as he sat on the bench, Crono drew a deep breath and formulated a plan. As unbelievable as his surroundings still seemed to him, the bottom line remained the same – he had to find Marle and then wait with her till Lucca arrived. He had no doubts that the maniacal inventor would manage to find some way to get here too. If something was doable – and time travel apparently was, as proved by his current situation – then in her outstanding genius she was the one to be able to do it.
Reassured, he nodded to himself and moved on to the execution of the plan – finding Marle. Truce was large enough for the two of them to keep missing each other endlessly if he set out to search for her blindly, so he should better ask around if anyone had seen her. Revitalized by having a plan and finally beginning to cope with the reality, or rather the unreality, of the situation, he got up and re-entered the inn.
Straining his ears, he listened on the conversations held in the dining/pub area, and among countless gossip and war news – the Mystics had destroyed Zenan Bridge, apparently – he finally managed to fish out some promising bits. It seemed that Queen Leene – he knew she was somehow related to the war! – had been lost, presumably abducted by the Mystics, but was found this very day. Found wandering in the very same mountains where he had been spat out by the whirl, and where in all likelihood Marle had ended up too. So if the search party had found Queen Leene there, it was quite likely that they had also found Marle in the process. Nobody would pay attention to a simple girl when the Queen was in danger, true, but they would undoubtedly rescue her as well.
Which meant that he should go to the Guardia Castle and ask around. Even if Marle was no longer there, at least he would learn if she had been found at all. Satisfied with that line of reasoning – and with his powers of deduction – Crono marched out of the inn again and towards the impressive castle in the distance. It was located beyond the Guardia Forest, but it shouldn't take him longer than thirty minutes of a quick walk to get there. Unless he ran into more Imps that is, since they enjoyed camping around the road that led to the Castle, knowing that many humans traveled past it on regular basis, some foolish enough to carry valuables and venture into the woods without neither a weapon – although a sturdy stick was all it took to bring an Imp down – nor an escort.
And although he did run into a few Imps and Rollies – round, green creatures that could fold themselves into a ball and bounce on their victims mercilessly – he made good time in getting to the Castle.
It was only as he entered the main gate that it occurred to him that perhaps he stood out a little too much to be let into the Royal Castle just like that, especially in the times of war.
"Who goes there?" demanded one of the royal guards, obviously not too apt, since otherwise he'd be out on the front lines of war.
"Check out that hair!" commented another, one with a large pimple on his nose. "Where're you from, son? Are you one of Magus's troopers?"
He most certainly was not, and the soldiers didn't seem to be serious anyway. "Hardly!" the first one laughed. "This kid never would have made the cut! Show us your stamp collection, son!"
"Har, har!" The pimple-nosed one found the joke absolutely hilarious. True, Crono was not too tall or massive, especially for his already more or less adult age, but honestly, the clearly pubescent soldier was hardly better off than him in that department. "Now beat it, shrimp!"
Hardy har har indeed, Crono gritted his teeth, unsure what to do. Making a few well-placed jokes was what he would enjoy the most at the moment, yet he wasn't here to start brawls, but to search for Marle. And he was quite sure that beating up royal guards – he was equally sure he could beat them up indeed – would undoubtedly prove to be a hindrance in the process.
"Stop that at once!" demanded a female voice from the main staircase of the castle, the one the soldiers were guarding, interrupting his considerations.
"Queen Leene!" The soldiers bowed down respectfully the moment the elegant lady descended half-way down the stairs. She was definitely a beautiful queen, with silken blond hair, green eyes and an immaculate figure in a stylishly white, frilly dress. And her face was awfully familiar, even from a distance...
"Show your manners!" the Queen demanded. "This is a friend of mine!"
Since Crono was absolutely certain that he had never, ever, met Queen Leene before, then unless the Queen had tried out some funky mushrooms during her escapade to the forest, that was not Queen Leene at all.
One of the soldiers dared to protest. "But there's something odd about him!"
The supposed Queen Leene fixed them with a very stern and a surprisingly royal look. "You refuse to obey my orders!"
The soldier whimpered at once. "Forgive me, my lady! Please enter, Sir!"
And once the Queen let out a very conspicuous giggle and backed up the stairs, 'Sir' Crono did indeed enter, ignoring the half-envious, half-resentful grumbles of the guards, and hurried up the stairs and through the lavish corridors decorated with royally scarlet carpets and gold-strewn draperies hung on the stone walls, towards the equally lavish throne room. King Guardia the XXI was apparently inside, as another guard positioned outside informed him, while the other guard of the pair instructed him to mind his manners.
Minding them indeed – he had no desire to end up in a Middle Ages jail for offending royalty – Crono entered the throne room and approached the amiable looking King.
"Sir!" King Guardia the XXI brightened up in a smile, "I understand that you are the one who saved my dear wife, the Queen!"
Eh...? That is, sure, if that was the official story. Crono smiled back sheepishly.
"But can you tell me what happened?" the King continued while Crono felt a nervous twinge ran up his spine. Well, he could tell the King what had happened to him, but that would probably earn him a comfy spot in a loony bin, if they had any in the Middle Ages, that is.
"Leene's acting rather odd," the King frowned, talking more to himself than to Crono. "And she seems to have lost her coral pin, which is something she guarded with her life..."
"Forgive me!" the King caught himself and focused on Crono again. "You must be tired. We can talk about this later. Please rest in the Knights quarters, downstairs, to the left."
The audience over, Crono bowed and removed himself from the royal presence, glad that the King was so well-mannered as to postpone his questions. And although he was indeed a bit tired – and mostly hungry, since he had had only some candy and soda today so far and it was past noon already – finding Marle, ergo having an honest chat with Queen Leene, was the priority. He wasn't entirely sure how he was to get about to doing that, since the Queen was missing from the throne room, but fortunately, some actually impressive looking – for a change – royal guard approached him at that point.
"The Queen seems to be waiting for you upstairs in her room," he informed the spiky-haired 'hero' with a slight hint of uncertainty in his voice. Still, royal orders were royal orders, and the boy looked human enough, so who was he to question the Queen's decrees?
Following the man's directions, Crono quickly clambered up the countless stairs of the tall tower in which the Queen resided, noting that being royalty was apparently not as 'comfortable' as one would think – he'd hate having to toil up those stairs every single day!
"The Queen awaits," informed him another impressive looking guard at the top of the stairs and the slightly whizzing Crono followed yet another long and lavishly decorated corridor before finally entering the Queen's chamber.
The Queen was looking out through a tall, arching window, seemingly ignoring the two servants in the room, but as soon as the heavy wooden door creaked open, she turned around to face her guest. "Ah! There you are."
"Please leave us," the Queen gestured vaguely to the maids, "I need to talk to this individual."
"Certainly, your Highness." The maids bowed and left the room, but not before casting a few curious glances at the 'individual'.
The Queen smiled coyly at him. "Come nearer, Sir."
Quite sure that Queen Leene was not Queen Leene at all, especially now that he got a better look at her face, Crono did indeed come nearer, a sparkle of amusement in his eyes. She really was milking it for all it was worth, wasn't she?
The 'Queen' giggled gleefully once he approached her. "Fooled you, didn't I, Crono?'
Not wanting to spoil her fun, Crono made a surprised and questioning face.
"It's me!" Marle announced joyfully. "But everyone calls me, Leene!"
"No way," Crono replied in fake astonishment, both feeling relieved that he had indeed found her and in a way owing her the fun. If she hadn't been with him when he went to see Lucca's contraption, she would never have to go through the whole ordeal. She laughed merrily again, pleased that he had been fooled, but then her pretty face grew more serious and she turned away from him slightly.
"I'm so relieved you're here!", she confessed quietly, and her downcast eyes told him that even though she seemed to be having fun now, it must've been quite a different story when she had found herself alone in an unknown to her forest. Not to mention 400 years away from home. "We barely know each other," Marle continued quietly, idly playing with a lock of her golden hair, "but somehow, I knew you'd come for me..."
She turned back to him with a small and warm smile and for the first time since the beginning of their odd adventure, Crono really felt like a hero. True, so far he hadn't done anything heroic as such, but he had been ready to be heroic if need be. And he had jumped into a mysterious whirl of energy for no other reason than because she had been pulled into it. But even if that didn't count, her smile made him feel like it did and he felt ready to do a million times more.
"Of course I would," he replied, smiling back, and her smile deepened.
"Thank you, Crono!"
But as they were smiling at each other, somehow joined by the moment, a strange greenish tinge fall upon the chamber and they both felt a pull of mysterious energy.
"S, something's wrong!" Marle gasped in surprise, looking down at her hands in astonishment. "W, what's happening! It feels like... I'm being torn apart!"
"Help me, Crono!" She was being lifted into the air as if by a set of invisible strings. Crono rushed towards her. "I'm scared! Please... Crono... h, help me!"
He hastily reached out to grab her and pull her down but his hands met only air, even though he could clearly see her petrified eyes. She was fading right before him, still there and yet already being somehow half-transparent and intangible. Crono looked around frantically, searching for anything that could somehow help, but before he even surveyed the whole room, Marle's figure grew fainter and fainter until she simply vanished into thin air.
Crono blinked in shock, his eyes fixed on the spot where Marle had been just a second ago. What happened to her...? Had she been transported to yet another era of history...? But there was no Telepod here! And she didn't even have her pendant! Frowning in frustration, Crono wished Lucca was there with him. He wasn't an idiot, not at all, but Lucca's unbelievably vast brainpower, especially when it came to science, would've made a very welcome tool at the moment. As it was, he had absolutely no idea what was going on. Had the world gone mad...? Had he gone mad...? Maybe he had actually taken the liberty of 'just five more minutes' this morning and was still asleep...?
Nearly growling in frustration, he slapped his forehead, trying to force some discipline into his thoughts. But it was to no avail, he still had no idea what the hell had just happened there, where was Marle, how to get her back and most importantly, what was he to do now. For all the contemporary people in the castle knew, he had just disappeared their queen. If such news broke out, a comfy spot in the loony bin would be but a pleasant dream.
Liked it in any however remote way? Then please review! Pretty please with Crono on top! Even if you're reading it in some post-apocalyptic world where I no longer exist!