The Otherworlder Epilogue: The Brink of Time and Beyond
The door thudded open, and Eä smiled as she saw the weary time travelers make their way in. She waved to them, and Crono gave a half smile as they made their way into the kitchen. Frowning, she wiped her hands and set the tankard of ale in front of Toma, and signaled to Nubert and Kiwi to take over. The nu gave her a dreamy affirmative while the kilwala piped up an additional OK in its shrill voice, but she'd already turned to hurry after the heroes. She closed the door behind her, and began drawing drinks for the group as they settled into their usual spots. They were oddly subdued; even Marle sat glumly in her seat. Eä finished setting the drinks down, then started pulling together something for the group to eat. As she set the platters down in front of them, she cocked her head in question, trying to decide who she should address first.
"Something amiss?" She poured herself a drink and sat down on a stool beside the counter. Lucca seemed most open to interrogation, so Eä focused her sights on the inventor. Lucca pushed her glasses further up on her nose, a sign that she'd been doing some serious thinking and was about to launch herself into a lengthy explanation. Eä settled back to get comfortable, as this reasoning process was highly interesting, although equally time consuming.
"Lavos created three new gates," the inventor said simply. Eä frowned, setting down her glass and titling her own head in thought.
"There were ten gates altogether, all of them located at the end of time," she said, trying to recall her memories of the game layout. "Are you saying there are more in addition to those original rips?" Lucca nodded, sipping her drink. Eä frowned a moment, tapping her chin with a finger. "Well… I guess it's possible that there were more that we were never shown. I mean, there are so many little towns and things that were left off the overworld map that it's possible they were just overlooked. I mean, the castle in the game had less than twenty rooms, but here there are over 200, not to mention all the tunnels, the out buildings, and the surrounding outposts. I'm sure it's just a data transference discrepancy." Lucca shrugged, poking at her food with a knife.
"We were about to go after him through the bucket at the end of time, but Gaspar said that something odd was going on, and we agreed to check it out. The new gates were in antiquity, our time, and in the future. What we learned… well, I think it backs up what you've been saying all along." Eä frowned, looking at the girl.
"Which is…?" she asked.
"That you're from another world," came the abrupt reply, but it was Magus, not Lucca, who replied. He winced as he spoke, as though the words were bitter on his tongue, and Eä let out a small sigh. Just that? Why on earth did he want to start that argument again? Then, she froze as realization hit her. She stumbled off her stool to stand rigid in front of him.
"Did- Did you find a way back to my homeworld?" She gasped, and she was surprised at the sudden lurch in her chest. It had been over ten years since she'd left that place, and this inn was her home now, but a part of her still yearned for the family and friends she'd left behind. Lucca's headshake left her heart with an ache, although some of the sorrow lifted from her. Eä sat back on her stool, took a deep breath, and sipped her ale.
"Alright… so what did you find?" She asked, her eyes now on Magus. To her surprise, he stood and went through the back door, no doubt to wander off into the woods and kill things to relieve whatever stress was eating away at his mind. Eä looked after him for a moment, then turned back at the rest of the group. Lucca picked up the story where she'd left off, sighing and dissecting a roll in front of her as a means of distraction.
"Well, the gates themselves led to these weird compilations of places of places we've visited from all across time. Those in and of themselves weren't so odd, because the whole area seemed in flux. It's what we saw when we defeated our shadow clones." At this, Lucca stopped and looked up at her. "Are you sure there wasn't a sequel to this game of yours?"
Eä tilted her head as she sat thinking. "Well, there were rumors that they were working on one. I mean, there was this text game that was never released in my hometown. I don't know the whole story, just that there were three characters looking for this magical item that granted wishes or something. Again, I don't remember their names, just that they were wandering around this castle. I think there were rumors that one of the characters was Magus, but again… well, they were rumors, and it was a long time ago. Sorry, I can't be more specific, it's just… a lot has happened since I was a teenager." She gave an apologetic smile, Lucca stood, turning her back on the group.
"I hate to tell you this, but based on what we saw, I'm pretty sure there was more to those rumors than mere speculations," the inventor said, hanging her head.
"What did you—" Eä started, but Lucca interrupted her, arms crossed protectively across her chest.
"Eä, we found Schala, and she's not in good shape." Eä stared at the group, mouth agape. She started to speak, but Lucca pressed on. "We also found Magus. I mean, he was in our party when we stumbled into the scene, but there was another one of him, which means-"
"Either you entered a time rip, and he was a future version… or there's another world out there, where Magus found Schala on his own." Lucca nodded as Eä's mind continued racing, trying to figure out what it all meant. Unable to grasp any tangible facts to assemble into some sort of cohesive conclusions, Eä stood herself, refilling her tankard and raising it to her lips with trembling fingers. "Janus…" she whispered under her breath, then turned to see what the group would say. "What happened?"
"She was trapped in a crystal, imprisoned on top of a Lavos spawn," answered Crono. He gripped his own drink with white knuckles, his face grim as he recalled what must have been a horrific sight. "She'd deteriorated to the point where there was very little of who she once was. We were able to wake her up long enough to hear her story, but she sent us away before we could completely free her."
"And Janus..?" Eä whispered, afraid she already knew the answer. Lucca simply shook her head, and Eä stood to leave. Without a word, she was out the door, hunting Magus down.
She found him where she'd expected to find him; leaning against the large tree that stood its ground before the cliff, the echoing sounds of the waves crashing below the only noise. She didn't say anything, she simply sat down on the log beside him, staring out at the white caps misting over the sea's surface far off in the distance. Their relationship wasn't as secure as she'd have liked it, but he didn't ask her to go, which meant something, anyway. After a time, she finally spoke, trying out the words she'd been mulling over in her head.
"I know you'll find a way to save her, Janus. This new meeting proves it. If she was too far gone, she wouldn't have been able to talk to you, or to use her powers to send you back, so maybe—" the blade of his scythe stopped her, and she sighed, reaching up to shove it away and look up at him. His crimson eyes were cold, his mouth a tight line, but he allowed her to pull him down beside her, and remained motionless in her arms as she guided his head onto her shoulder. She threaded her fingers through his hair and lightly massaged his neck, trying to ease the tension he could feel coiled beneath his skin.
After some time had passed, he eased himself away, although he remained seated on the log beside her. He stared ahead, and his voice, when he spoke, was authoritative.
"You need to get away from this place. Maybe further south, or on one of the other continents. This place is no longer safe for you." Eä stared at him, not sure what to say. Magus knew her silences well enough to understand that she didn't see the logic behind his words, and he sighed, disgusted. "They didn't tell you who we ran into in this time, did they? Eä, Dalton is here, in this time, and he's out for blood."
Eä gaped at him, at a loss for words. "Here?" she managed to get out, and he sighed in disgust.
"He was in one of the new gates. It appears we released him from the area after we fought him. He gave us the slip, but he mentioned Porre and an army, and he's determined to have his revenge against the kingdom of Guardia. I'm not worried about those three, because they're seasoned warriors at this point, and they can hold their own. But you, well…" He let his sentence trail off, and Eä gave a breathless laugh, shaken.
"Without magic, I'm a sitting duck," she finished for him. He nodded, and she sucked in breath, trying to steady herself. Dalton was not a person she'd want to meet alone. Dalton with an army and a determined goal was an awful thought. Sure, the man was absolutely bonkers, but he wasn't an idiot. And she'd slighted him enough in Zeal that any encounter they might have would end up with her at the mercy of his magic. She shivered at the thought, pulling her robes closer. "Where should I go?" she asked out loud, trying to think of a place where she could slip under the general's radar. To her surprise, Magus put his hand on her head.
"He'll be focused on Guardia for the most part, so as long as you stay away from Porre and keep your head out of trouble, you should be able to settle your affairs and get away as quickly as possible. Surely you can find someone else to take over your inn here. Maybe that nu and kilwala could run the business for you- at least until this mess has been sorted out."
"And you?" she asked, already knowing the answer. He shook his head.
"It would not be my battle, although I would gladly slay the buffoon," he replied. "I must find that path to Schala, and free her. I know there's a chance to save her, and I will stop at nothing until I have done so." She smiled, and rose to look down at the crashing waves below.
"I know you can do it, Janus," she said, not turning to face him, "if anyone can, it's you." She gulped back the tears she could feel welling up. It was silly, but she felt like she was saying goodbye… again. And this time it would be for good. She couldn't think of anything else to say, so she simply stood there, thinking about what she'd do without the home she'd worked so hard to build. Leaving the inn meant leaving her friends, her memories of the group's comings and goings, leaving the ramshackle house that had become a comfortable business, and as good a home as she could make. Starting anew would be difficult, to say the least. But to stay, and risk the chance of running into Dalton, that was too big a risk, even for her.
"I've heard some of the travelers talk of a collection of islands far to the south," she said. "From what I hear, they're a bit rural, but there's a town that's growing larger since they opened that new ferry, and it's tropical, which means nice weather all the time. I always wanted to live someplace where there are always flowers growing. I think I could happily grow old there in a place like that."
She jumped a little as his arms came around her, and she closed her eyes, leaning back into the embrace and taking deep breaths.
"It won't be forever," he said, murmuring in her ear, "and when those three have dealt with Dalton and all his foolishness has blown over, you can come back here. Think of it as a tropical vacation." She laughed, despite the tears in her eyes, and placed a hand over his.
"Well, you know I'll leave a window open for you," she said. "Maybe even a door, if you promise to see me more than once every few years." He chuckled at this, and turned her to face his. He brushed away the lingering wetness in her eyes, and leaned down to kiss her, briefly.
"I'll stop by as often as I can, and tell you what news I have. The gate that leads me to her could be anywhere, so I will need to travel far to search. But it is equally important to have a point of return; a home base, so to speak." She smiled, tilting her head.
"So long as you understand that it will be my home base that you're returning to…" she said, tugging him down again for another kiss, "I'm fine with frequent visits."
Although she was invited to the wedding party, Eä declined, not wanting to chance stirring up old, best forgotten memories from a time long since past. Instead, she spent a quiet evening with her patrons, and chattering with her regulars, listening to gossip of news from places near and far. As of yet, there was no word of Dalton's forces had reached her ears, but rumors of a gathering band of thieves spotted in the mountains, though few and far between, troubled her. She had little ability to go after them, as she had no magic left, and her sword skills, although not terribly rusty, would be no match against an entire force of highly skilled fighters. Dalton alone gave her pause, and she desired no chance encounter with him, if she traveled south. So, she kept her head down, her hands busy, and her ears open. If ever she heard any news, she would send a message post haste to the new Guardia monarchs. It was all she could do, given the situation.
No, the night of the royal wedding and coronation found Eä with Nubert and Kiwi closing the inn late into the night, the last of the celebrating guests at last in their rooms, the fires dampened for the night, the dishes and food away until morning. The three sat in companionable silence, sharing a final drink before going to bed themselves. Eä smiled as she thought about what the happy couple and their happy future together.
Upon learning that not only would Eä not attend the wedding, the older woman would not be able to force her possible boyfriend (Magus had said something rather biting as to his thoughts on that title) into coming, Nadia had kicked into high gear, and came down to bring what she could of the wedding. After being shown the wedding dress, Crono's wedding attire, informed of everything that was to be eaten, everything to be danced, and everything else to be done, Eä had laughed in delight, and thrown a large party at the inn, leaving the happy couple trying to goad Magus into smiling. Magus, having woken up to the cacophonous noise, and unable to escape, tried drinking himself into a stupor. Lucca and Eä exchanged low words, and after several quick jaunts back and forth through time, the team was once more reunited for a pre-wedding party. Eä wondered at the inventor's apparent lack of fear of wasting fuel, but Lucca shrugged it off when the innkeeper pulled her aside to ask.
"One final party, I think," the girl had said, smiling. Then she frowned, watching the others enjoying themselves. "Eä, I'm not a superstitious person. I don't believe in predestined fate, and I think that we have the power to make the future better. I truly believe that. And yet," she paused, sipping a drink. The inventor's face was solemn when she finished her thought. "I just have this feeling that-"
"Miss Dinn, you look like you're about to fall asleep."
"What?" She snapped out of her reminiscence, spilling her drink and jumping to attention. She cursed and began sopping up the drink with a napkin, and the kilwala and nu laughed.
"See, Nubie is right! Dinn should get to sleep! Leave clean up to us!" the kilwala giggled, jumping onto the table and grabbing a napkin in each hand. The little creature began to spin and dance, cleaning up the mess, and the nu tugged at Eä's sleeve.
"Get some sleep," Nubert said. "Tomorrow will be busy again, I think." Eä was about to protest, but then laughed instead, getting to her feet.
"I think you're right," she said, smiling at her furry friend's whirling cleaning antics. "I'm about to drop off where I stand, and I couldn't think of more capable hands to keep this inn in shape. Goodnight Nubert, Kiwi."
"Goodnight!" the two said in unison, and she waved a goodnight to the two of them. Still, she paused on the stairs, and the inventor's cryptic words flashed through her mind again.
"I just have this feeling that this is the last time we'll ever be together again."
She shook her head, trying to clear her own sense of foreboding, and continued up the stairs. She skipped most of her usual nightly ablutions and crawled into bed, more tired than she'd realized. After a few fleeting thoughts of wishing good luck to Crono and Nadia, Eä was soon asleep, and immediately dreaming.
She knew she was dreaming, which instantly put her on edge. She called these lucid dreams "visitation dreams", because inevitably someone, usually Doreen, would be using dreams to make contact, and contact with Doreen was almost always bad news. But Doreen usually haunted a clean, scientific city, and this shadowy plain was unfamiliar to her. She looked around the watery landscape, so familiar, and yet, she knew she'd never seen it before. It was the voice that called out to her that helped her figure out where she was.
"Do you love my brother?"
Eä spun to see Schala standing behind her, the princess glowing a pale white in the shifting darkness around her. Her attire was the same as Eä had last seen her, the purple robes billowing around the girl in an unseen, dark wind, but her expression was sad, and the young woman looked more tired than Eä before. Were it the shifting light, or the shadowy magic, the princess's hair grew pale and golden, then deep blue before returning to its normal pale indigo. Eä tried to stop staring, but the figure behind her was so surreal, so unexpected, it was like running into the ghost of a friend long since forgotten. With a jolt, she realized the feeling was probably close to the truth.
"S-Schala," she finally managed, walking towards the princess. The girl made no move, but Eä could not get closer, and gave up after a few stumbling steps. "Schala," Eä tried again, "I want to help you! Tell me what I can do!" The princess smiled and some of the life returned to her. Eä could see the effort in that smile, though, and the weary woman lost her smile once more.
"Do you love my brother?" she asked again, ignoring Eä's question. Eä nodded, not sure why Schala had summoned her, or how much longer the girl would be able to hold her own against the darkness that held her. "I'm glad," the princess continued when Eä nodded, and the princess gave a brief smile once more. "Janus has had such a hard life, and I'm glad to know that he has someone who will look out for him in the years to come. Watch over my brother, Eä. He will have need of it, when his adventures are finally at an end."
"He searches for you," Eä said, her mind already racing, trying to think of ways to get a message to Magus. Schala sighed, and her image flickered.
"I have already told him that there is little to gain in that effort," the princess said. "I know that will not stop him, though. That's why I've come to you for a request." Schala floated down and grasped Eä's shoulders.
"When next you meet, he will not know you," the princess began.
"What-?" Eä started, but Schala shook her head, tightening her grasp.
"He will not remember the others, he will know nothing but what he hears of the time traveling heroes; he will not know that he searches for me, simply that he searches for something, or someone. He will not know himself, for he has stripped away all that he was to let all that he could be flourish."
"I don't understand-"Eä tried again, but the princess kept going.
"That's why I'm moving you forward to the time in which he'll reappear," said the princess. "I need someone who knows who he is, and what he is to do. Without a little nudge, he will be forever wondering what it was he lost, and he'll never know how to go about getting it." Schala paused, stepping back, and pulled off her pendant to show Eä. The deep crystal sparkled, despite the lack of light, and Eä felt the power flickering off of it.
"Lucca found a girl in the forest with my pendant. She was supposed to be what I was meant to be, much like Janus's transformation. However, things are not as they should be, and I continue to grow weaker. Her own future is now compromised, and I cannot allow her to suffer the same fate as me. Eä, you must see to it that Janus finds this girl. Together, they can rework time and space to set things right again."
"I ask this of you, and in return, I give you time," Schala said, once again ignoring Eä's attempts at interjecting. "You've been patient with the Chronopolis scientists, but what they do not understand is that time is flexible, and sometimes you can change the story's end, despite what others say. There are infinite possibilities that stretch out in all directions; all you need is a little help to return things to the desired path." The princess began to fade once more, but then refocused. She looked sorrowful, clutching the pendant to her heart.
"I know they'll succeed. And once I'm gone, the girl whom I'm meant to be will be able to live her happily ever after. And Janus- you'll be able to help him live his own happy story to its end. I'm sorry to push this task upon you, but it's necessary. You, who came from a place far from this time and space, have the unique situation in that you'll remember everything as it was, and as it becomes. I know you'll use what you learn to help those you meet."
The princess began to fade in earnest then, and only the girl's quiet voice remained.
"Eä, I'm glad that Janus has you to help him learn who he really is. I know that together, you'll both make a happy ending for yourselves. Goodbye, my little sister."
Eä gasped and sat upright, startling the old man who stood in front of her. She yelped at the sight, startling the old man and the odd monster beside him. She sat clutching at her chest, trying to regain her breath, and squinted in the bright sunlight. Sounds of rolling waves gave her pause, and a quick look confirmed that she was on a small beach, lying in the sun-kissed sand, and that there was, indeed, an old man with what looked like a dragon tagging at his heels. The old man peered at her oddly, tilting his head to the side.
"What's with kids these days, sleepin' in the oddest places, I tell you. It's dangerous to sleep out on the beach, but do they care? Nothing but a bunch of hooligans, you ask me," he grumbled, although if it was to Eä or the dragon, she was unsure. Tentatively, Eä stood, brushing sand from her clothes and looking around her.
"Where am I?" she asked, holding her head and getting the oddest sense of déjà vu. Apparently, the old man was disgusted with this answer.
"Amnesiac teenagers comin' from the ocean, I tell you!" She was now pretty sure he was complaining to the dragon. "You're on the beach, fool girl. Right outside of Termina, you are." Termina. The name sounded familiar, but she couldn't place it, and squinted in the bright sunlight as she gazed out across the ocean.
"Am I close to Guardia?" she asked, ignoring the rather snarky manner of the elderly man. He made a rude noise, which she was hoping was a bug or something flying up his nose, but she was sadly disappointed when she determined it was his version of a laugh.
"Guardia's gone, girl. Been gone for, oh, a good ten years now." He stared at her, peering up to make sure she was actually just a harmless idiot and not some evil spy in disguise. As it was, she was doing her best not to fall over in shock, and the vaguely nauseating feeling in the pit of her stomach apparently played itself across her face, for the man's suspicious glare turned into genuine concern. "You should be heading up to Termina, Lassie. See someone about that head of yours."
She must have made some noise of assent, because the old man was ambling off down the beach once more, the little dragon critter hopping behind him like a kangaroo. Eä allowed herself a few minutes to try to come to terms with what the old codger had said, and tried assimilating it into Schala's enigmatic words. Things are not as they should be; the future is compromised. That had to mean that Dalton, through some bizarre twist in fate, had been able to successfully dole out the revenge on the three remaining time travelers. Although he was willing to leave some things undone if it was advantageous for him, Eä was willing to bet letting those three alive was something he would not leave to fate, having learned his lesson once before.
And what did she mean, Lucca found a girl? Had Lucca been able to raise the child she'd found in the woods? Did she know who the girl was? Where was the girl now? Obviously still alive, since Schala wanted Janus to protect her. Which meant that Eä needed to get to a place where she would likely meet with him once more. While she looked for him, she could ask around to find out what had happened over ten years ago, and try to piece together the fate of her late friends. With a goal finally in place, she straightened, and headed off in the direction the old man had directed her to. Termina seemed like a good place to start, even if the name had a bit of an "ending" sound to it. She'd mourn those who were lost properly, but later, once she knew more of the details surrounding their deaths.
Termina turned out to be a port town that was bursting with activity. Eä stood at the gate, not really sure where to start looking. There was the inn, of course- travelers often ended up drifting into inns, she knew from experience, but the inn proved to be small, and it was more of a motel than a proper inn. When she asked the proprietress about getting food and drink, the woman directed her to the bar, a cozy establishment a stone's throw from the inn. Eä liked the place immediately, as it had the same ambient atmosphere she'd shared with her regulars at her own inn.
As she sat down at one of the tables, her heart twinged a little in guilt; so intent on learning about Crono, Nadia, and Lucca, and finding Magus once again, Eä had completely forgotten about Nubert and Kiwi. She wondered for a moment if the inn had been attacked, and if the two had survived. If she ever cleared everything up, she would make the trip back to the main continent and search for them. Again, something to worry about at a later time. As it was, she was here now, and she was on a mission. She flagged down a waitress, ordered a meal and a drink, and put on her sweetest smile as she turned to her first target. Let the information gathering begin.
Schala hadn't told her specifically where or when Janus would be making his appearance, but Eä was pretty sure that Termina was where she needed to be. Call it instinct or call it fate; whatever it was, within three days of her arrival in the town, the barmaid ran off with a sailor, and the owner was in a state. When Eä offered her services, he immediately hired her on. Not only was she skilled in making drinks and small talk, she could hold her own against the regulars, and wouldn't stand for the soldiers acting up. So Eä worked at the bar, dealing with the tourists, the travelers, and the regulars by day, and searching for clues and a certain wayward prince in her free time.
She'd been working at the bar for four months, and had finally pieced together more or less what had happened to Crono and Nadia, although no one could quite agree on what had happened to Lucca. Eä was beginning to think that it might be time to relocate her search when finally, one evening, an old woman came in out of the pouring rain. Accompanying her was a man whom Eä would recognize a thousand times over, and her heart skipped a beat. Elegantly garbed in white, Janus argued with the old hag- Eä vaguely remembered seeing the old woman around town, but couldn't place her- and it was all she could do to keep from running over and jumping him, regardless of all the people in the bar. As it was, she forced herself to remain calm, and- after briefly explaining to the owner that she'd spotted an old friend whom she hadn't seen in years-took a drink over to their table, setting it down in front of him.
Startled, he stopped his argument mid-sentence and stared up at her.
"I'm sorry, madam, but I didn't order this," he said politely, trying to push the drink back on her. Eä gulped, trying to steel herself. She'd spent her days playing this scene out, remembering what Schala had said, but to actually hear the lack of recognition in his voice knifed through her heart. Still, she managed a smile, gently putting her hand on his and forcing him to accept it.
"It's on the house," she said, and brusquely turned away, heading back to the bar. She could hear the old hag cackling about how Janus had won someone's heart tonight, but Janus made no reply that Eä could hear. Needing a moment, she called to the owner that she was going to take a break for a bit. He looked perplexed, as most reunions usually had both parties recognizing each other and embracing, and, of course, long discussions to catch up on old times. Still, he was a good man, and didn't press her; he just nodded and made a mental note to keep an eye on that stranger for her, in case the man departed before she returned. As for Eä, she slipped out quietly, relishing the cold and salty night air on her flushed skin.
He didn't remember her.
Schala had said as much, but it still hurt, nonetheless. And without even a hint of recognition or a suggestive manner that indicated any inkling that he had once known her. She leaned against the side of the building, at a loss. She felt cowardly for her initial reaction, but she thought it understandable, considering the situation. He was Janus- the man Janus should have become- totally free of the sorrow and terrible shadows that he'd cloaked himself in as Magus. How on earth was she supposed to convince innocent, totally unprepared Janus to go on some quest to save his older sister's double when he had no recollection of ever having a sister, let alone losing her or her double? She closed her eyes and cursed under her breath. If only Schala had given her a bit more guidance, this would have been so much easier.
"Excuse me, miss?"
She nearly jumped out of her skin to hear that voice so bloody close; as it was, she gave a small shriek and sprang from the wall, hand to her heart. Janus was standing there, very apologetic and looking a bit ashamed of scaring her out of her wits.
"Y-yes?" she asked, although it was a bit more breathy than she'd meant it to come out. Part of her was still reeling, trying to assemble her thoughts, and the other part was trying to fully appreciate how very nice Janus looked in white, mask and all. She hoped the two warring sections of her mind wasn't making her face contort into any odd expressions as she tried to regain her mental footing. "I'm sorry," she tried again, laughing away some of the airiness to her voice, "you just startled me, is all. What can I do for you?" He frowned, unsure of himself.
"I spoke to the man at the bar, and he said that the drink was from you," he said in a tone as though he couldn't quite believe it. "He said that you told him that I was an old friend, but after you darted out so quickly, I was wondering if there was some sort of mistake. I'm afraid I don't remember ever having a friend who looked like you." He said this apologetically, but it still stung. She tried laughing it off, waving a hand in the air.
"Well, you reminded me of someone very dear to me, but he was lost long ago. I haven't seen him in years, and seeing you come in, well, I suppose I mistook you for him. I'm sorry to have confused you, but please accept the drink as an apology for the mistake." She turned to go, silently cursing her inability to think of a good excuse to make him come to her room, where she'd try other methods to try to jog his memory. She was halted, however, when he quickly put a hand on her shoulder, turning her back to him.
"Wait a moment, madam!" he said, almost frantically, "I did not mean to upset you with my inquiry. I was stunned when you came to our table, and I'm afraid I'm still not quite sure of myself. You see, when I saw you, I had the strangest sense that I'd seen you before, and that I'd known you quite well. When the barkeeper said that you thought I was an old friend, I thought you might be able to help me." He paused and ran agitated fingers through his hair, and she almost laughed at the recognizable habit. Although he'd lost his memories, he still had the same nervous ticks.
"I was shipwrecked here in Termina some time ago, and the woman you saw me with this evening nursed me back to health," he continued. "Unfortunately, much of my memory was lost with my ship, and I've been working to uncover the truth of my past. Any information you might have would be most helpful. Even if I am not this old friend of yours, it is possible that something of his tale might stir some memory within me."
He looked at her beseechingly, and Eä tilted her head to the side in thought. She knew him, and yet she didn't. This person who stood before her was achingly familiar, and yet a total stranger to her. Regardless of what she told him, there was a chance that nothing would return to him. The story- his history, really- would rely completely on belief, as she had nothing of the past as evidence of who he once was. Another thought niggled at the back of her mind, stilling her tongue: Schala had said that Magus would have no memory of his former self. She willed her clone to live a life free of the sadness she had once endured; did that mean Magus' amnesia was also a matter of his will and desire to start anew? If so, would telling him the truth go against his wishes? She sighed, closing her eyes and rubbing at her temples. After a few moments of reflection, she decided stalling would be the best action. She opened her eyes and stared up at Janus.
"I don't even know what you call yourself," she temporized, trying to see if there was some hint of anything that remained of the man she loved.
"Well," he said, somewhat taken aback by her lack of an answer, "When I couldn't remember my true name, Lady Mesmirda- the fortune teller you saw me with- calls me Guile, as she said it suits a beguiler such as myself." He gave a slight shrug at this, as though he didn't see it for himself, but wasn't going to argue. Eä smiled, liking the old woman's sass. "However, I would prefer that people call me Alf."
"As in, Alfador?" she quickly asked, although she tried to keep her face calm. She was surprised when he nodded, replying, "It was a name that I recalled during my recovery. I'm rather fond of the name." Despite herself, she laughed, and pulled out a napkin to wipe at her eyes.
"Ack, you would remember that name and no one else. Very typical," she sighed, pocketing her make-shift tissue again. She smiled up at him, realizing this really was Janus as he should have been. Just as Schala had said he would be. A part of her was sad at this; Janus was a wonderful person, but where Janus was sweet and gallant, Magus was snarky and sometimes overbearing and challenging, but always in a fun way. She hated herself for it, but a part of her was still waiting for Magus to snap out of it and engage her in a battle of wits and words. She blinked, realizing she'd been staring at him throughout her internal assessment of him.
"So… am I correct in assuming that you do believe I am this friend long since lost to you?" he asked, a silver eyebrow arching above the mask. She nodded, trying to think of something to say. To her surprise, he sighed, deflating somewhat. "I am not what you expected though, am I?" he asked softly. He looked to her for an honest answer, and she looked away, briefly shaking her head. He sighed again, and his fingers went up to his scalp again. He looked up at the stars, his next question quieter than the last. "We were very close, then?" She closed her eyes and nodded once, unable to speak. She heard him sigh once again, which made her smile, somewhat.
"The only time you ever sighed this much was when you were irritated with me," she laughed, recalling their various spats and his inevitable reaction as he grew more frustrated with her. Of course, he made her sigh often enough, too, so it really wasn't totally all her fault.
She was brought out of her reminiscences when she felt hands gently grasp her shoulders.
"I'd like to hear about those times, if you're willing to tell me," he said, peering down at her. She nodded, and he continued, a little sheepishly. "Please forgive me, however, as I must ask you for your name. I'm afraid it's a bit hazy, right now."
"Areä Dinn," she said, not even bothering to look for any recognition, "but everyone calls me-"
"Eä," he finished, and her eyebrows rose as he smiled. "As I said, things are hazy, but some names and places have more clarity than others. That I remember your name means you must have been very important to me." She could feel herself tearing up at that-damn her hormones!- but nodded again.
"We were close, but you had very important business, and you had to leave. But!" she said brightly, stepping back and forcing a cheerful smile on her face, "now that we've met once again, perhaps I can give you the final clue you need to complete your quest." She couldn't stop herself from looking to the side, and she was sure he could feel the forced happiness in her tone, but the memory of the shade of Schala beseeching her to help her little brother pushed her to continue.
"I can't fill in everything, but I can tell you as much as you want to know. Enough to help you conclude your mission. Who knows? Maybe you'll get your memory back as we talk. However," she said, motioning to the bar door with her hand, "as much as I want to sit down and tell you everything, I still need to help with the bar tonight. You're welcome to stay until we close, and I can tell you what you want to know then. Or you can meet me here tomorrow, and we can talk all day, if you'd like. I'm working the night shift tomorrow as well, so my day will be free." Free now that I can stop looking for you, she thought.
"This important business, does it have a pressing deadline?" he asked, concern in his somber voice. She mulled it over, then shook her head.
"Not really. It's something you need to do, but I think time is a relative term in this situation, and doesn't really factor into it."
"Very well, then," he said, nodding his head as he made up his mind. "Although I want to hear everything you have to say, I can wait until the morning. At what time shall I seek you out?" he asked, and she shrugged, noncommittally. What she really wanted to do was suggest he stay until she was off work, and they could stay up the night together getting reacquainted, then start talking once they'd woken up the following afternoon. Still, she owed it to Schala to allow her this chance to see Janus again, no matter how confused and clueless he was, and Eä felt duty-bound to get him off to save his sister as soon as possible. Seduction could come later, as a part of celebration.
"Come when you wake up, time doesn't matter," she replied. "I sleep in one of the rooms above the bar, so I'll be here whenever you want to see me. Just come in and someone will get me. I'll make some breakfast and we can eat in the back room, away from the general public."
"Very well then," he said, bowing slightly. "I will call upon you tomorrow morning. Until then, I have one question I would ask of you." She turned, already opening the door.
"What's that?" she asked, already thinking about who could cover for her if she wanted to take the entire day off, and feeling a warm glow at the prospect of spending the entire day with him tomorrow.
"What is my true name?"
She smiled, holding the door open for him. "Janus," she replied.
When she got back, the bar owner commented on how even old friends with benefits take less time to reminisce about the past that she and Janus had been outside. She'd laughed it off, blushing somewhat, and asked for use of the back room for further reminiscing. When he'd turned a slight shade of green, she felt her spirits rise even more, and promised it would just be breakfast and old childhood stories. She went back to serving the customers with renewed vigor, although she glanced to Janus' table from time to time, and smiled when he looked her way. The old woman- Lady Mesmirda- rolled her eyes at this more than once, and bullied Janus out the door. Eä was surprised to see the old woman return alone, and the lady hobbled over to the counter. Eä peered down in interest.
"Can I help you, m'mam?" she asked, wondering if the old woman was going to forbid Janus to see her the next day, and contemplating ways of getting him away from the old biddy if he was locked away somewhere safe. As it was, the old woman just laughed.
"I'm glad you'll be able to help the dear boy with his memories," she cackled, "He's a good lad, if a bit stiff around the collar. A girl like you should be able to loosen him up a bit." The old woman's smile faded then, and she pursed her lips in thought. "The thing that you desire most," she said in an odd voice, "would require that time and space themselves to be reordered. Still, with your experience, maybe all you need is the will to see it through to the end." And with that, the fortune teller turned and exited the bar. Eä watched her go, a smirk on her face.
"Good thing I'm an ex-Chronomancer with friends in extemporal places then, isn't it?" she muttered under her breath.
Eä saw the girl first. Janus had stopped in for his daily visit, this time to complain about the fortune teller sending him on some inane quest to get something out of a dragoon general's mansion. Eä had made soothing noises, although she'd stopped listening. Guile- she refused to call him Janus, as he was far too polite for either Magus or his younger self, and Alfador would have been ashamed to see his master in such a state- had decided that the pretty tale she'd woven for him was a bit too farcical to believe ("Me? A prince from the past? The lord of the mystics?"), and so came by to ask her for more information about his past. She wasn't sure if he was trying to find gaps in her stories and make them into lies, or if he was really just bored and wanted an excuse to get away from the fair for a bit. As it was, Eä found herself with the unanticipated feeling that she was less and less thrilled with the thought of his visit each day. She'd hoped that Schala or Doreen would get in touch with her and give her some guidance in the matter, but her nights had been irritatingly dream-free.
So when the boy and the girl came in, Eä's attention quickly slid from Guile to the newcomers. The girl was cursing under her breath, and she was wearing little more than underclothes, and Hell, she was even blonde, but the face and build were the same. Eä dropped the towel she'd been using to wipe down the counter, and interrupted Guile mid-sentence.
"Janus," she said, her voice low but insistent. When he looked at her, she nodded at the newcomers. "I think the solution to all your problems just walked in the door."
She felt a little guilty to be so happy to see him off with this girl- Kid- and the boy –Serge- to go and save the world, but she figured Schala would understand. She hadn't told Eä that Janus- without the mystics to toughen him up and the knowledge of what true sorrow was- would become such a boring person. This made Eä wonder about her taste in men if she preferred bastards like Magus to gentlemen like Guile, but, well, no one ever said love was rationale. She was pretty sure the opposite was said, actually, though she couldn't swear by it. Anyway, Guile was gone, and off to save the world and his sister, and, hopefully, regain his memories.
That's not to say that she never saw him again. On occasion, the "dream team" (as she liked to call them- over forty of them! Seemed a bit like overkill to her, but maybe saving the world required more people the second time around) would show up in the bar, and she'd serve them as she listened to their stories. Every so often, Guile would be with them, and he would chat with her for a bit. He never mentioned the "crazy story" she'd told him, but she had a feeling that as time went on and his adventure became even stranger, he started to reassess his initial reaction to her tale.
And then, one day, the door opened, and it was just him. She was busy with customers, writing down orders and refilling drinks, so she flashed him a brief smile as she worked. He lifted an eyebrow at the smile, and chose a seat in the far corner of the room. When she had her customers squared away, she brought him a drink and set it down before him. It was her turn to raise an eyebrow.
"Where's the rest of the gang?" she asked, looking around the small room. "Don't tell me you managed to lose all of them." He frowned, pushing the drink away.
"I don't know what you're talking about, fool woman," he said, and his tone made her still, her smile fading.
"Guile?" she asked, "what's the matter?" He stared at her as though she'd grown another head.
"Guile? Is that a new pet name you've picked up in these Podunk parts? I think I prefer Idiot to Guile." He said with a snort. Eä took in a shaky breath, and forced herself to sit down before she allowed herself to let it out slowly.
"Janus?" she asked, unused to calling him that after months of using the other name. He glowered at her in response, folding his arms across his chest.
"I'm glad to see that you haven't forgotten my name during your little vacation, even if you have forgotten that it is you, and not me, who drink this watered down ale." He sniffed disdainfully at the drink, as though daring her to contradict him.
"V-vacation?" she asked, not really sure what was going on. Guile was acting much like his former self- that is to say, not like Guile at all. Eä sat, dumbfounded, as the man she'd been trying to coax out of that formal fop of a man started grumbling about the sea air going straight to her head.
"Janus, I don't understand," she said desperately, interrupting him mid-sentence again. "Would you please explain what you're talking about?" He sighed, obviously irritated that she would need her hand held through this, but he stopped ranting and started explaining himself.
"Crono and Nadia had their fourth child, and we all went to the castle to see it. Lucca started asking you when you would start a family, and you dashed off without answering the question. You told Nubert and Kiwi to watch the inn, and you bloody vanished into one of those damned gates. So Lucca got in touch with me, and I've been looking for you everywhere." He said this in a less than happy tone, but Eä could only sit and stare at him, mouth agape.
"Janus, Dalton killed everyone over 10 years ago. Guardia is gone, and Dalton built an empire in its ruins with the soldiers he trained in Porre. You've been here, amnesiac, helping your sister's clone and saving the world again by hopping back and forth through time and space-" she cut herself off, then, Schala's words coming unbidden to her.
There are infinite possibilities that stretch out in all directions; all you need is a little help to return things to the desired path. You have the unique situation in that you'll remember everything as it was, and as it becomes.
"Holy shit," she muttered under her breath, causing Magus to frown once more.
"Please don't tell me that you don't recall any of this," he said with an edge to his voice, "because I've spent the better part of the past week looking for you, and Schala was expecting us both to be there for the wedding-"
"Holy shit," she said again, although weaker this time. She had a terrible suspicion that if she didn't start breathing again, she might pass out, and the world was starting to spin a bit. Infinite possibilities…infinite worlds and infinite dimensions. Schala had placed her in a timeline and dimension where everything ended up the way it should- with sappy "happily ever after" endings. She tried blinking away the tears that were welling up, but she couldn't –damn her hormones! Magus, seeing this onslaught of emotion, panicked a little.
"Get your things together and we'll go as soon as you're ready. We're not technically late-" he didn't get to finish his sentence, because she launched herself at him, getting chuckles from the nearby patrons.
"You have no idea how much I've missed you," she said, burying herself in his shoulder. The outfit was wrong- it was Guile's outfit- but she'd ask him about it later. There was a more pressing question on her mind, and she smiled up at him through her tears.
"What should I tell Lucca?" To this he smirked, helping her stand.
"We're working on it. What on earth have you been doing?" he asked as she sought out the barkeep. She smiled up at him, then laughed.
"Everything and nothing. You wouldn't believe me if I told you." He snorted, crossing his arms.
"I've heard your wild stories before, so you can humor me on our way back. But for now," he said, drawing her close, "let's go home."
Thank you for reading, everyone, and thank you for sticking with me over these many years. Eä's come a long way, and it's taken a long time to get her to this point, but I hope you've enjoyed reading about her adventures and encounters, and that you've noticed how she matured and grew. I learned a tremendous amount in writing this fanfic, but I owe a lot of that to you, my readers. Thank you all for the wonderful support and comments you've given to me throughout over the years. I only hope that you, too, will explore the infinite varieties of worlds and times that are available to us because of Squaresoft (because the internet needs more good Chrono Trigger/ Chrono Cross fanfiction!).
Again, many thanks to you all.
~SirLadySketch XX 2009