Hello, everyone. This is the first story I've published in years. It feels odd being back, but hey.
WARNING: There is a lime/lemon/some sort of citrus near the end of this story. I once told an author in a review recently that there is a time and a place for such things. I guess only time will tell if I've been able to follow my own advice.
The following formats shall be thus:
"Author notes and time/place headers."
"Flashbacks and thoughts."
Chrono Trigger, Radical Dreamers, Chrono Cross, and all characters within belong to Square-Enix. All original characters belong to me or friends who've given me their permission. Please don't sue. I have no money.
Medina, 1228 AD
Another set of fireworks lit up the sky in the city square. Fiends of all kinds were dancing around the myriad of bonfires set up for the celebration. For the first time in eight years, the kingdom of Medina stood fast against the militaristic nation of Porre, and won.
Schala Zeal felt a smile - a genuine smile - cross her lips as she looked out amongst her traveling companions. To her left, barely avoiding knocking over Flea, was the mermaid Reika Onin. The voluptuous hyperactive girl was chatting amiably with the mercenary Glenn Zweibreicht, captain of the Zweibreicht Company, who lazily took a drag out of one of his ever present cigarettes. Towards the back near one of the bonfires keeping vigil was former Knight of Guardia Laura, lost scion of Guardia's royal family. Near the center, seemingly asleep, was Grobyc - no, it was Gilbert now.
Schala had yet to fully remember that little detail.
Her eyes moved over towards a small gathering where Slash was getting ready to arm-wrestle Acacia Deva Schwann Tarvos. Cocking her head to the side, she wondered how the much thinner Slash was holding his own against the giant tiger-like Demi-human. Shaking her head, she looked over towards the dark-garbed magician and her self-appointed guardian. As soon as Magil turned his masked eyes to her, Schala instinctively turned her head away, frowning. Perhaps her memories of 'The Prophet' were still fresh in her mind.
Perhaps she was still angry at her estranged brother for not doing as she asked that fateful day and move on with his life.
Of course, the sudden motion turned her gaze to the last of their group. Speaking with the squid-like Chancellor Tamlen was the man who would one day soon become the next Fiendlord, if this recent victory everyone was celebrating was any indication. Cain Deveritas, son of the Fiendlord Wren, nicknamed 'Lark' by Reika during his self-appointed exile. Arbiter of the Frozen Flame. One of two responsible for this great victory, the other being herself.
Schala fought to stifle the sudden blush that adorned her cheeks when his brown eyes met her green ones. Lowering her head, she began fiddling with her index fingers, at a loss as to what to do, given recent events.
"If you're willing to give me a chance, I could prove it to you."
With the situation being as it was, those words had all but been a declaration of love.
Her mind racing, she hurried past the celebrations into the palace, the young prince's eyes never leaving her.
The palace servants bowed to her as she hurried down the hallways and into the upper floors, her blush only growing stronger. Schala did not know what drove her to the royal bedchamber, but it was here she soon found herself. Letting out a frustrated sigh, she plopped down on the large bed - the same bed where not even a day ago, she had lain unconscious from her self-induced coma. Turning anxiously, her mind returned to earlier that day before the battle. To that conversation in the space between dreams.
"So that's it? You do all this good for others, but when something pulls out an inconvenient truth, you just run off and disappear? It doesn't work that way, Schala!"
Even now, as she lay alone on that bed, Schala could still feel the passion in Lark's voice.
"I'll protect you..."
"What do you mean?"
"You know damn well what I mean! Why the hell am I so important that people want to give their lives for me?!"
And there it was. The reason why she always took the path of self-destruction when it was offered. Her father had died to save her. Chrono had died to save her. Lark had nearly done the same at Viper Manor. Even now, she never understood why. She remembered the dam breaking, leaning into Lark's embrace as a lifetime of pain and suffering flowed out all at once. It was only after her tears had finally dried that he continued.
"I can't speak for your father, and I can't speak for Chrono, but... You never gave up on me. Even when it was easier to let me rot. Even when I gave you - all of you - every damn reason to kill me, you were the only one who tried to bring me back to my senses. And it wasn't just that..."
Schala could feel him having trouble finding the words.
"I... For so long, I've kept everyone at arm's length. I didn't think I could... That I could care about anyone the way I used to. You changed that. You helped me find a part of myself I thought I had thrown away forever. You make me want to become a better man. So how can I stand here and listen to you say you want to disappear?"
She looked up into his eyes as he cupped a hand on her cheek, wiping away a stray tear.
"Schala... Your life does have meaning, and... If you're willing to give me a chance, I could prove it to you."
Schala's hand closed around the bodice of her dress from the memory, her fingers digging into the fabric. Ever since the moment those words were uttered, they had been on her mind. It had been unfortunate that he had awoken at that moment, once again leaving her alone within the Dreamscape.
Then the fighting started.
Uncertain what she wanted to do, the connection they shared - a connection born of Lavos, but a connection nonetheless - showed her a terrible premonition; Lark leading the charge being cut down by a sniper. The shock of it had spurred her to awaken, to do something to save him. In the end, she had, but she could still see the bandages peeking from under his shirt from where he had been shot.
If she was honest with herself, a part of her wanted to remain in that coma. And yet, she could not bring herself stand back and watch someone she had come to care for die. She did not expect to care for him the way she did at all, though given all they had been through together over the past year, one could suppose that it was somewhat understandable. For a moment, Schala entertained the thought of Lark's proposal...
But then she remembered what had happened with Serge. The guilt swam inside her once more, it's black voice whispering in her ear.
"You don't deserve happiness. Not after what you've done. What you tried to do."
Schala sat back up on the bed. This had been a bad idea. Glenn always said it was counterproductive to think too much. Perhaps this was why.
Standing up, she began pacing within the chamber. It was always difficult to quiet that voice of guilt. She needed to do something to take her mind off of things. Off of him. It was then that she noticed the standing mirror in the corner of the room.
She stared at her reflection and realized that this was the first time in years that she had genuinely taken a good long look at herself. Sure, she had looked in the mirror plenty while under amnesia for jobs for the Company and the like. But the last time she ever truly looked at herself was back in the Kingdom of Zeal.
Gods, she didn't even look like her old self any more, though age might have been a factor. Her body evolving with Lavos while fused with the creature explained the rest.
Schala had been seventeen in those final days, now she was twenty-four. She absently brushed aside one of her face-framing bangs. Long hair that was once a light teal blue had turned blonde, until finally becoming the silver-white it now was.
She had grown a couple of inches, though that really wasn't too surprising.
Her body back then had been nothing to write home about; a petite to moderate bust and a decent set of hips. Now however, she had a chest large enough to be considered 'impressive', and her hips were noticeably wider. She wondered when that had happened, though she remembered Fin joking in a jealous manner that she had grown almost three cup sizes in only two years.
As Schala absently cupped her hands under her breasts, she wondered if she would have been a 'late bloomer' in her original, unaltered body. Of course, she finally noticed that the dress her mentors had picked out for her had flattered her curves even more. It was no wonder Lark - and at rare times Reika - was always doggedly pursuing her.
Somehow, she almost felt a sudden swell of pride. However, no amount of attractiveness could make up for an emotionally crippling sense of guilt. A guilt that was clear in her eyes, which aside from turning from green to blue for a while, were the only part of her that had remained the same.
Did she always have that perpetually sad expression on her face? Schala shook her head. That wasn't true. She could remember a time when she was happy, but that was before the Frozen Flame.
Before her father died.
Before her mother went insane.
"That's right. Wallow in the past. It's all you deserve."
Schala squeezed her arm tighter than she probably intended, hoping that the brief flash of pain would silence that voice of guilt.
She needed some air.
It was close to midnight when the man who had recently become a permanent fixture in Schala's thoughts leaned upon the balcony beside her. She noticed that his dark brown hair was tied back into its old tail.
"Hey there. Long time no see."
She turned to face him. Lark was wearing his trademark grin, but his eyes told a deeper tale. Worry. Relief. Contemplation.
Schala merely nodded to acknowledge his presence and turned her gaze back towards the horizon. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him shrug and make his way closer to her. There was a tense moment of silence as neither person could think about what to say.
Once again, it was Lark's turn to break the ice. "So, I heard you got into a scrap with Dalton while I was on the front lines. Would've loved to see the look on that bastard's face."
Schala simply nodded silently, causing Lark to lose steam again. They both knew he was stalling.
"Will you be staying here?" Schala found the question needed to be asked.
"For a while," he answered, thankful for Schala giving him more time to get his thoughts in order, "Medina needs to be rebuilt after eight years. Maybe then I can leave with a clear conscience. It's the least I can do." Another uncomfortable silence passed before Lark spoke again. "I'm glad you're awake," he said, relief evident in his tone, "I... missed you these last few weeks."
Schala finally turned to face him. He looked pensive, once more trying to find the words he wanted to say.
"About my offer... It still stands." And there it was. "If you don't have an answer yet, that's fine. It's just..." The words died in his throat.
"It's not that..." Schala said, her voice pensive, as if she were straining to get the words of her own out. Looking into his eyes, she knew her answer, but... "I don't want to lose you."
She could see Lark's eyes widen a bit before giving her a reassuring smile. "You won't."
That wasn't good enough. "How do I know that?!" She hadn't meant to sound that forceful. "How do I know you won't wind up dead because I was too stupid to think things through?! I... Too many people are gone because of me... If I lost you as well..."
Throughout her tirade, Lark remained quiet, with a hint of understanding. She wanted to slap him, he shouldn't be so damn smug. But more than that...
Schala didn't know if it was the adrenaline or the year and a half of repressed tension since they had first met finally bursting to the surface, but on pur impulse, she leaned in to kiss him. She was surprised at her sudden boldness, and judging from how wide Lark's eyes were, so was he. Without missing a beat, he returned the kiss. The guilty voice in the back of her mind tried to get a word in edgewise, but she pushed it into the back of her mind. This was her moment.
Sadly, the need for air forced them to break the kiss. As if realizing she had committed a social faux pas, Schala's eyes widened and she broke away from Lark to return to her spot on the balcony, her face a deep red.
'Gods, I can't believe I just did that...!'
Although she did not look in Lark's direction, she knew his eyes were upon her, cataloging each detail from her flushed cheeks, to how her breasts heaved by her quickened breathing, even how she was nervously crossing her feet. He even had the nerve to sport that insufferable cocky grin from the old days. And if she was really honest with herself, she would almost admit that she missed it.
"Well, Your Highness," he began, his tone jovial, "you are certainly full of surprises today."
She knew what he was trying to do. She whirled towards him with a pout, though the smile in her eyes betrayed her gratitude. She poked his chest roughly, causing Lark to raise his hands in surrender. "Now, don't you start. I've said it before; You're not as smooth as you think you are."
"Huh. That sounds familiar."
For a while, the two of them stared into each other's eyes, both waiting for the other to make the next move. Schala was the one to break the stalemate by edging closer, her eyes downcast. "Promise me..."
Lark placed his hands on Schala's shoulders as she continued. She placed a hand on his face, absently stroking the vertical scar over his left eye - a parting gift from Dalton years ago.
"Promise me that you won't get yourself killed for my sake."
He didn't need to promise. The kiss he gave back to her was answer enough.
As she wrapped her arms around his neck, she felt his hands roaming her back. She shivered as his fingers brushed against her tailbone. All of a sudden, she gave a yelp of surprise as her legs were swept out from under her. Her arms were still wrapped around him as he began carrying her inside.
There was desire in his eyes, an unspoken wish to take things further. However, Lark was nothing if not a gentleman, even if he was a bit more fond of touching than most.
"Only if you want to."
Schala closed her eyes. A part of her wanted to take things safe and slow. However, she had been without physical contact or any form of intimacy for - thanks to Lavos - what seemed like eons, and her kiss with Lark felt as though a long-rusted floodgate had finally been wrenched open.
All of her instincts built by years trained and groomed as a proper princess and lady screamed at her that to agree to this was both insane and impure.
She didn't care anymore. She wanted this.
It was difficult to do so, but Schala was able to drown out that guilt-mongering, self-destructive voice that said she did not deserve the solace of another as Lark gently set her down on the bed, sliding his hand up her leg.
She put the fallen souls of Zeal in the back of her mind as he pulled down the bodice of her dress, planting kisses down her neck and breasts. She managed to shut away the memory of her father's death as she guided her hand to Lark's loins, blushing as she felt him react.
She kept the visions of her mother's madness from haunting her as she opened her legs, yearning to let him in. She was able to dull the pain of her imprisonment to Lavos as Lark continued to thrust, with her trying desperately not to dig her fingers into his back.
Her memories of Serge's rejection faded away while her back arched in ecstasy as they released together.
All of the suffering she had endured became nothing more than a distant dream as Schala lay her head on Lark's chest, their fingers intertwined.
"So, you think the others are already taking bets?"
Schala looked up at her lover with a small pout. "Please don't ruin the moment."
His response was a chuckle and a kiss to her forehead.
This was new to her. This closeness... this intimacy. For the longest time, she had genuinely believed her existence was a blight on those around her. Out of guilt, she had tried many times to erase everything she was. Her memories, her appearance, her very soul... She had nearly destroyed it all in her conviction that she was unworthy of happiness or normalcy.
As she lay with Lark, listening to the beating of his heart, Schala finally came to realize that she had been wrong. It was not a terrible thing to wish for happiness, even if her soul was stained. She would never be able to take back the things she had done, but as long as she worked to better herself and those around her...
Lark had said that it was Schala who saved him, who gave him a reason to trust again. However, if someone were to ask her, she would say the opposite; it was he who had saved her from the loneliness she had purposely drowned herself in. All he had to be was a stubborn bastard, and she was grateful for it.
For the first time in ages, Schala's sleep was free of nightmares.
Well, there we are. Now I know what you all must be thinking.
"Wait, how the hell did we get to this point?!"
"What kind of moron starts a fic in the middle of a tale?!"
"Who are all these people?!"
The answer to those questions is that this is only the first in a long series of one-shots across an overarching story.
That story is Chrono Saga: To the Sea of Dreams, a game script project of mine that can be found in the Chronocompendium, not unlike alphadorredeux's Chrono Helix. (Apologies for shameless plug. Read his story. It's awesome!)
Of course, Sea of Dreams is nowhere near finished, and if my mental issues are any indication, it will remain unfinished for quite some time. At the same time, there are so many ideas and such that I don't want to wait to write about out of fear that they might slip from my mind.
That's what these one-shots shall accomplish. All of them will be spread throughout different parts of the main story, bringing with them a personal touch that a game script can't really provide. Characters will be introduced, and some events will be explained.
Is it unorthodox? Hells yes it is. Is it bad structure that will inevitably flop? That remains to be seen.
To anybody who has stayed with me through this wall of text, I thank you. I hope to get my next one-shot out soon.
Special thanks to my friends Ambrienne and Solana for being my beta readers.