No, he wasn't ready. He was still dreaming.
Wake up Crono.
Dreaming of a time when he had been a king and leader of men, married to a beautiful queen.
He'd been a saviour, too.
But then something had happened.
What was it that had happened?
C'mon, get up!
Crono stretched and yawned, but didn't open his eyes. Halfway through the yawn, he felt something cool press against his open lips and he smiled, kissing the finger that had been lain across them. The he rolled over, intending to go back to sleep and find his dream.
"No you don't," a familiar voice chided him. "If you're awake enough to kiss, you're awake enough to eat. I cooked breakfast for you."
Crono opened one eye and then the other, the one-step-at-a-time movements of a man who had overslept and was not yet fully distanced from the world of his dreams. Everything felt slightly surreal. Light was pouring into the room through open blinds. He had just time to vaguely register a blurry figure holding the blinds open before the glare began to hurt his eyes. Yet he kept his eyes opened and fixed on the figure by the window, willing her into focus, enjoying the effect as she became more defined. Slowly the lines around her sharpened into a middle aged woman, a woman who had lost some of her beauty but none of her vibrancy. She radiated youth and joyfulness. The last thing to come into focus was her soft smile, which warmed him more than ever the sunlight could.
Summer was here. Nadia was here. Life was good.
At breakfast, which consisted of a egg from their chickens and a cut of the toast that he had baked yesterday, Crono and Nadia talked over what chores there were to do. There weren't many. It was that peaceful time of the summer when all the planting had already been done but the harvest was not for another couple weeks. It was a time for relaxing and contemplation. It was also a time for love and closeness. The smell of Nadia filled his every breath. Each movement she took, whether it was to eat a bit of toast or push back a lock of fading golden hair, demanded his entire attention. As he did every morning, Crono reminisced on how lucky he was to have her as his wife. Fate had brought them together at the grand Millennial Fair. Fate and Crono's clumsiness. Nadia would still sometimes call her married life "one grand trip" in recognition of the way they met. Crono had been smitten with her both instantly and literally when she'd stumbled into him as he tripped over an untied shoelace on a set of stairs. The resulting tumble had been dangerous and painful but one look at her face and the only thing that he'd been able to feel was his beating heart. Her beauty and features had struck him as markers of nobility, which would've put her far out of his league as the jobless son of a poor single mother. Fortunately, though, she turned out to be the daughter of a local farmer who was only too glad to accept a strong-backed son into the family. When the old man, also a widower, had passed away Crono had inherited the farm. Now he lived a good, if difficult, existence. His mother he'd moved from the old house on the coast to one of the backrooms of the spacious farmhouse where she spent most of her time knitting clothing for the winter. He didn't ask this of her, but she insisted on making herself useful in some way and, as the knitting seemed to put her at ease, Crono didn't argue. Anyway, it was good for Nadia to have help with the baby while Crono was in the fields.
Crono paused with his fork halfway to his mouth. Egg yolk dripped from its tines as his brow furrowed in thought. The baby... where was the baby? Some tidbit of important information was pushing its way to the surface of his mind, bringing a tide of unexpected anxiety with it. His first thought was to ask Nadia, but something stopped him. She didn't like to be disturbed with the child, he dimly recalled. That's why mother was helping. That's why mother kept the baby with her in the backroom.
"Mother's with the baby," he said out loud, wondering if that was quite right. Nadia, finishing her breakfast opposite him didn't give any sign she'd heard. "Yes," he said again. "In the backroom, with the baby." As he reaffirmed the statement the thought that had been trying to surface sunk again, appeased for the moment.
Crono refused to let the matter concern him. He finished his breakfast and left Nadia with the dishes while he went off into the fields to check on the crops. Though it was shaping up to be a good harvest many a farmer had lost their yield by being over confident. It was not in Crono's nature to be over confident. Hard work in the fields had taught him the value of measured cynicism. Checking the fields every day kept him constantly aware of the progress of his crop. Any issues and he would have them spotted and taken care of long before they became dire problems. Even though this close to harvest little beyond an act of the gods could change his yield, he didn't mind the extra work. Vigilance kept a mind sharp and a body active. When he'd first married Nadia he had been all youth and impatience, eager to finish his work as fast as possible and frustrated with the long year's wait to see the results. Nadia's father (William, the old man's name had been) had put that eagerness and energy to good use, having Crono do everything from milking the cows in the morning to tilling the fields in the afternoons and, finally, to collecting food and cooking supper at night. Along the way, he showed Crono the benefits of patience and of scrutiny.
"The future is in the details," the old man used to say. "If a man studies what's put in front of him for long enough, he'll figure out what's going to happen before time does." Here his voice would always drop to a whisper and he'd give Crono a wrinkled wink. "And if he takes long enough, the future comes anyway and he doesn't have to worry about it."
Thinking back on the old man's dry cackle and sage yet oddly homely advice brought a wave of sadness to Crono's heart. He had truly cared for the old man. Never having a father of his own, Crono had looked up to him as a sort of surrogate parent. He also suspected that the man had always hoped to have a son. That Nadia's mother had died in childbirth was not uncommon in the farmlands, so distant from the healers of the city, but it had affected the old man so much that he'd decided to never take wife again. Nadia had been his life after that, attested to by the happy smile he flashed every time she came sauntering across the fields. Yet Crono noticed that there was a special, conspiratorial, smile that he reserved for Crono, as if he shared with the boy secrets that Nadia would never know. Nadia brought the old man happiness. Crono brought him pride. Never had Crono felt the burden of responsibility the way he had on the day the old man had passed away. Nadia had cried for weeks afterwards and still would occasionally grow silent for hours at a time during the winter months, whose cold had ultimately claimed her father. The man had taught Crono much. Every successful harvest, Crono silently thanked him for helping him support his family with the knowledge he had passed on. He thanked him for the people that lived through each year because of that knowledge: himself, Nadia, mother... and the baby.
Standing amidst long stalks of what he knew would turn out to be a very sweet corn, Crono stopped for the second time that day, frozen once again by a sudden feeling of urgency. It was the baby again. There was something about the baby he was forgetting. A birthday, maybe? Crono was notoriously bad about such dates. His head was already overcrowded with details about the harvest. He considered their future more important than his past. Yet, Nadia insisted on acknowledging and celebrating his birthday. She would shoo him out of the house right after breakfast on the special day, usually sending him to the coast town with a list of goods to bring back. He'd never seen what happened in his absence, but he could imagine it. A kitchen filled with the smells of cooking flour and the sweet tang of sugar. A variety of mixing bowls. Nadia in an apron licking soft batter from her fingers. A mess of dirty dishes and utensils, sticky counters and floors. Whatever the process that Crono imagined, he never got to see any hint of it, only the results. He would walk into a sparkling clean kitchen in the evening. The only source of light would be the candles burning in a colossal cake. The cake was always chocolate and layered in three mighty stacks, the stacks stuck together with thick layers of fresh berry jam. The whole confection was completed by homemade butter frosting, spiced with lemon and fresh sugar cane. The thought made the inside of Crono's mouth burn with an imagined richness.
They lived hard lives out here, but Nadia made sure they found their pleasures. Of course she would be wanting to do something for the baby's birthday. He tried to recall how many harvests it had been since the birth. It was a casual thought at first, but as he realized that he could not bring a number to mind, it became more urgent. He couldn't remember ever having had a birthday for the baby before but surely it was older than a year? Actually, now that he thought about it, he couldn't even recall what the child looked like, though he thought it might be a boy...
At that moment, something crossed his perephial vision and he lost the thought. Instinctively glancing towards the movement he detected a large black beetle crawling up the corn stalk next to him, only a few inches from his face. He recoiled from the creature. It was the one thing which continued to plague him in the fields, the one thing he had never gotten used to. Insects to him were alien and invasive. Long legs emerging out of a giant shell-like body, eyes that didn't seem to see but always seemed to be regarding him. He hated the creatures. As he watched the large bug climb the stalk a monstrous and irrational loathing filled him. The loathing grew until suddenly he saw himself knocking the beetle from its perch and grinding it into the ground with his boot until it was nothing but a black spot upon the hard dirt. He spat at the spot.
"What good does all that armour do you, now?" he hissed, ignoring the cruel hatred in his voice. The thing had meant him harm, he was sure of it. And the black spot it left in his field... that was a bad omen, too, though he wasn't sure what doom it foretold.
The feeling stuck with him throughout the rest of the day and kept him in silent contemplation until dinner, a fabulous meal which consisted of rabbit and turnip stew spiced with herbs from a garden Nadia maintained at the front of the house. The rabbit had been a large buck and, as such, there was plenty of meat on its small bones. Glistening goblets of fat rose to the top of the boiling stew and the smell of cooking meat filled the farmhouse. The turnips, usually a fairly bland vegetable, took on all the gamey flavor of the rabbit, making them seem like large soft pieces of meat themselves. The meal was good enough to push all thoughts of dire insects out of his mind. Once dinner was completed, he let himself be pulled into Nadia's arms and the rest of the evening held only peace for him.
Later, Crono lay still on the bed, listening to Nadia's light breathing as she dozed next to him, one arm laid across his bare chest. He was thinking the idle thoughts that come before sleep; thoughts that meander through an epic journey of ideas and memories without transitions. Perhaps it was the warm air of the evening or the smell of the crop drifting in from the outside, but at some point he was brought back to a summer night long ago, when his mother had danced for him.
Crono had never known his father. Supposedly the man had been a soldier and had died in service to the king but these were just stories to Crono. The only picture of his father was in his mother's possession and she never looked at it. Crono had once seen the picture. He'd expected some grand epiphany to strike him when he saw it, but it was only a picture of a handsome looking man with a shock of bright red hair similar to his own. But there was no revelation, no surge of feeling. If there had been a father in his life, it was not this mysterious man whom Crono had no emotional investment in. Rather, it was the three suitors his mother kept. Crono remembered them well. Old Syrio, quick witted but slow in everything else; Hario the innkeeper and self-proclaimed chef, a broad chested man whose black bristly hair grew almost as thick as his puddings; and Chaspin, a singer and his mother's favorite. Long after Syrio had lost interest and Hario had left Truce for Medina, Chaspin remained. It was from him that Crono received much of his education for Chaspin was an amazing story teller. He believed the true joy of life was in the experiences one had and the ability to share those experiences. A consummate performer, Chaspin's stories were never just words. They were reenactments accompanied by gestures, movement, and sometimes even magic. At a part in the story where a prince (usually insinuated to be Chaspin) saved a princess (Chaspin would invariably give the role to Crono's mother), the storyteller might pull perfumed flowers from nowhere or release doves from his hands that would land gracefully around the loving couple. Music was a part of the show, too. Chaspin had a special box that would play all sorts of music. Lucca had tried to tell him once how the machine worked, telling him it had something to do with a needle vibrating over grooves made in a metal disc but Crono found her explanation bothersome. The trouble with Lucca was that she always wanted to take things apart and see how they worked. Crono thought it killed the mystery of things. Chaspin's music wasn't beautiful because it was scratchings on a metal disc. He couldn't explain why it was beautiful and he didn't care to. He was happy with it being what it was. He bet Lucca couldn't explain that beauty, or the cleverness of his dancing, or how Chaspin could get everyone to laugh at the same time at a joke. Her science and reasoning couldn't explain great journeys and heroes and villains, not the way Chaspin's stories could. Chaspin taught Crono the meaning of magic and he took to it much better than Lucca's science.
He also taught him the meaning of loss. The plague that struck Truce in the Winter of Crono's seventh year was later said to have come from a fungus that had grown on food shipped into the city from Choras. It was a small break out, quickly contained by the king's healers, but it left a swathe of destruction nonetheless. The weak it killed. The strong it maimed. Chaspin had been strong, but the aftermath of the disease robbed him of the feeling in his hands and feet and turned his once beautiful voice into a rasping horror. There were no more songs or stories. The doves and flowers were now just cleverly folded bits of paper that no longer flew or smelled sweet. Chaspin's smile vanished and never returned. Crono's mother did her best to care for him and keep him happy, but the singer had lost his passion for life. During a cool night in Summer he threw himself upon a table dagger of his own volition and was dead by the time Gina found him. Crono never actually saw his mother crying, but he could hear the sobs sometimes in the middle of the night and he would see the thin tracks the tears left in his mother's cheeks the next morning. Quietly, Gina buried Chaspin with his possessions, as they would've done for the heroes in his stories. The one thing she kept was his music box.
One night, Crono awoke to the sound of the music box playing a sad slow melody. Creeping downstairs from his room, he saw his mother in the living room below. The music box sat on the table next to a single slight candle and his mother was dancing to the music. Crono sat and watched her through the gap in the railing, his little hands wrapped tight around the railings. He hadn't known his mother knew how to dance. Watching her step gracefully through the empty living room was a different kind of magic than the boisterous shows Chaspin had put on. This was a personal magic. His mother was dancing out the story of her sadness and even without words, Crono understood every moment of it. It was a dance for herself, for her own woes, but it was also a dance for Crono, her only audience. From that moment, Crono felt that no other woman could ever mean as much to him as his mother. When the song was done, Gina closed the music box and smiled up at Crono. Coming up the steps, she took him back to bed and fell asleep next to him while he stared out at his wall, thinking now that other man could ever mean as much to his mother as he meant to her. He decided it was okay not to have a father. Maybe his mother decided the same thing. Gina never opened Chaspin's music box again and she never took another lover.
Until recently, a small voice whispered in Crono's head. He frowned in the darkness. Where had that thought come from? He was suddenly sure there had been another man and recently, too. Crono could almost see his face, a noble face but an older one, lined with greying hair and side whiskers. Was his mother seeing an older man? Crono recalled that he wore armour and then that was a captain in the King's guard. He could even see the knight's Castle in his mind, though it was hardly the joyful place of Chaspin's old tales. Instead it was a cold, hard, place filled with too many empty rooms and too many adults. No laughter of children filled its halls. The queen was a lonely, unhappy woman. Try as he could, Crono couldn't recall her face. Eventually he drifted off into a disquieted sleep, his mind filled with images of long dark halls and men with swords surrounding his mother, preparing to stab her to death while she sipped at wine. Crono tried to call out a warning but he was drowned out by the sound of a music box playing sadly somewhere in his mind.