A Look on Antoher One Part 3
Chapter 17, Flight from Zeal
Crono and Marle rushed over to Janus while Dalton’s men crawled up behind their boss.
“Be careful, lord Dalton…” one of the warriors growled, but it was hard to tell which one.
“Would you like to explain yourself freely or do we have to get harsher?” Dalton said, still eying the wizard with unpleasant interest.
“What do we do?” Marle hissed from the corner of her mouth.
‘As I told you he did find out the truth when I was the boy, but it’s too early!’ Janus muttered through telepathy, ‘this could really complicate things…’
‘It won’t be “complicated” before I pop out of your head and offer to help,’ Flea dryly commented.
‘If you do you’re deader than you’d ever believe was possible,’ the three Januses snarled.
‘Is that gratefulness?’
‘When did I first talk with you about gratefulness?’ the Prince asked.
‘That was when you first mastered Dark Matter, I believe.’
‘Precisely. And what do you remember from that?’
‘Very little, you put me in coma for a week. And when I woke up the first thing I heard was Slash announcing that you were our new king.’
‘Exactly. So shut up.’
‘Intriguing how your life was based on that spell…’
‘Oh shut it…’ the Pawn grunted, a little sour even.
‘Focus, people!’ Janus grunted.
‘He did capture us when you were a child, didn’t he?’ Crono grimly said.
‘His golems are very powerful, and you didn’t know how to fight them,’ Janus replied, ‘we can maybe make it… they can copy our magic, so we must be careful. There’s no way we’ll make it in a long fight.’
‘Can we combine our powers and take it out in one blow?’ Crono thoughtfully suggested.
‘Hmm… it’s made of stone so it has to be really strong.’
“I’m still waiting for a reply,” Dalton impatiently said.
We’re not answering to you, Crono snapped.
Marle grimly nodded and Janus just glared.
“To bad for you,” the one-eyed man smirked and raised his hand, “come, golem!”
What opened in thin air between the two groups looked almost like a Gate, but the darkness was too drained of life. A silhouette clumsily lumbered into sight, quickly gaining looks as the portal began to close.
It seemed to consist only of jaws and gigantic fists.
“That is so… ugly…” Marle groaned.
‘I have an idea,’ she whispered in her thoughts, quickly beginning to explain.
“I’ll teach you manners, you insect!” Dalton growled somewhere behind the stone giant.
“But it’s true!” the princess called, smirking.
“Make sure you don’t kill them, golem!” the general snarled.
With a roar the stone-creature slammed its massive fists together.
“Look out!” Janus shouted and leaped backwards, turning his staff horizontally and pressing it against his stomach so that Marle and Crono got pushed back together with him, almost carried on the weapon.
Three gray orbs plunged down from nowhere and narrowly missed the good warriors. They dissolved almost immediately, but being hit by those had without doubt not been pleasant.
“How about it?” Marle growled as she got up.
“I suppose it could work,” Janus agreed, slamming his weapon into the ground to release the blades.
“Alright, quickly! Crono?”
“I’m ready,” Janus said with a small, almost evil sneer on his lips.
“Powers of the world, I bid of thee to lend me the power of Water!”
… Of Lightning!
Flanked by his friends’ chanting Janus leaped forward, spinning the staff in his right hand.
Before the golem had time to react it had a wizard on top of it. It obviously did not find that funny, rocking back and forth as it tried to reach him with its gigantic fingers. Janus stood firm however and kept spinning the staff at impossible speed.
Without a word, without a taunting shout he stood there, silently holding a tornado and just bending away from the golem’s tries to grab him. Then all of a sudden the staff stopped moving and the golem grunted in rage as it found it couldn’t move its hands. The fingers that had tried to grab the wizard were locked in thick, clean ice. And in the middle of the ice was Janus, immobile in the complete cold. The staff lightly touched the stone head with one blade deep within the frozen water.
Crono’s feet left the ground as he raised his hands towards the sky, carried by the sheer power of his assembled will.
From the blue sky a massive lightning bolt flared, cleaving the ice by the middle. Janus flew out from the cold depths and landed on his feet while the golem rocked back and forth in pain as the lightning kept flowing electricity through it; its fists were forced down on the ground by the heavy ice. Just before the lightning finally ended the staff flew out of its center and landed in Janus’ hand. The blades were red hot after the intense electrifying and with a growl the wizard leaped forward, slashing at the small, mad eyes of the beast.
It roared in pain and fell forwards, nearly crushing the wizard.
Janus stumbled out of the way and planted his weapon in the ground, the buried blade hissing as it met the cooler earth.
‘That was crazy,’ the Prince mildly commented, smiling however.
‘I’m not sure if it was smart either,’ Janus hissed, panting even in his thoughts.
It had been a tad bit too close with the lightning bolt, but Marle’s plan had worked well. Their opponent’s main power was its massive fists, which needed to be taken cared of for safety purposes. The problem was to get both of its hands trapped with ice, with just one weighed down it might have been able to smash itself free. Janus’ first part of it had been nothing but distraction to give Marle and Crono time to prepare their spells properly. To have him trapped in the ice and escape like that had been risky, but the red-hair knew his powers well.
However, the cold had not been easy on Janus’ body.
“Powers of the world, lend me the power of Water. Na matala sela…” he muttered.
The healing eased the stiffness a little, but he still felt rather dizzy.
Are you alright? Crono called as he and Marle hurried over to their ally.
“Fabulous…” Dalton growled, rage and fascination battling within the single word.
He raised his hand…
“Run!” Janus croaked, but it was too late.
With squeals of surprise Crono and Marle were pushed down on the ground together with Janus by three reddish walls that locked them inside a magical, pyramid formed prison. The wizard lost the grip of his staff and it was pushed away, he pressed his hands against the walls snarling in rage.
“Hey! Let us out, you slug!”
Janus glared towards the distant Kajar past the approaching Zealans and tried to mutter the teleporting spell, but the walls glowed upon the final word and nothing happened. His will stayed locked in his head.
Dalton sneered down at the three warriors that furiously slammed their fists against the inside of their cage.
‘Dammit!’ Janus roared in his mind.
‘Didn’t count on that, bloody hell…’ the Pawn and Prince snarled simultaneously.
“You’re not getting out of there, children,” Dalton smirked, causing several blue-hairs to grit their teeth, “will you still not talk by yourselves?”
Go to hell! Crono snarled.
“Oh really now. I’m sure the queen will be interested in such peculiar guests, and since you’ve proved that you’re dangerous we’ll just have to make you explain yourselves. I’ll gladly make you talk the hard way,” he sneered, almost hungrily.
“You one-eyed creep!” Marle just spat.
‘Schala has fixed this situation twice before,’ the Prince growled, ‘but Dalton never caught someone who had the hair color of the royal family earlier. I doubt he’ll let her get close, we have to get you out right now somehow!’
‘I’d love to get out, but how?’ Janus growled, hardly able to control his despair now, ‘I’m not going through this again!’
‘Calm down!’ his teacher commanded, ‘this isn’t a good time to loose your cool. Focus! Dalton can’t beat you now; he never got me nor the lord here and you’re the strongest of us!’
The Prince said nothing then, though he knew their corresponding Dalton most probably would imprison both his younger versions at one point. But it was better that they didn’t know.
‘Easy for you to say…’
But Janus clenched his teeth against the drowning waves of helplessness. There had to be some way out…
‘Flea! Where did you go?’ the Prince suddenly called, suspiciously.
‘Can it, cutie. I’ve almost got it…’
‘Got what now?’
For a tormenting split second nobody said anything in Janus’ mind, though Marle and Crono kept swearing at Dalton.
‘There’s a weak point, the top of the pyramid isn’t perfectly shut!’ the Mystic finally called in triumph, ‘it might be breakable!’
‘But Dalton will notice I’m up to something…’ Janus grimly said.
‘Who said you’d do it?’
‘FLEA!’ three blue-hairs shouted.
‘Really now, can you never hear me out, boys?’
Crono’s features locked in a growl for a swift moment a second later, as he listened to something in his thoughts. Marle was able to keep shouting at their warden as if nothing had happened within her mind.
“Alright you two, shut up,” Janus growled aloud and grabbed a shoulder in each hand, “this isn’t helping at all.”
He pushed them as far away from Dalton as it was possible in the small cell, glaring up at their captor alone.
“Fine,” the wizard snarled, “I’ll talk if you spare them. They’re hardly more than kids, let them be.”
“And I had a feeling you knew me a little,” the general cruelly said, “but I might consider being a little kind for once. Maybe.”
Janus just glared up at him without a word. Marle and Crono sat behind him on their knees, silent.
“So let’s hear it,” Dalton smirked, “who are you? And I mean you, not the others.”
“I’m a skilled mage, born in Zeal.”
That reply would possibly serve to protect the prince.
“Oh really?” Dalton skeptically said, “what’s your name then?”
“Cyrus,” Janus lied.
It was the first thing coming to mind, apart from Magus which came out of a memory but was strangled and quartered before it had time to slip out between his lips.
“I’ve never heard of a mage nor warrior named Cyrus of your caliber,” the general said, soft as silk, “especially none with the hair color typical for the royals.”
“I told you it was an embarrassing problem,” Janus spat, “I made a mistake and the explosion changed my hair!”
“Did you see the princess about it?”
‘He’ll question Schala about this whether we get out or not, what would she say?’ Janus hissed.
‘Tell him whatever, I’ll warn her,’ the Pawn offered.
‘But what about Lavos?’
‘I’ll be careful.’
“She hadn’t time to talk, she was going to the throne-room as I saw her so I went to the Mammon machine in hopes that the power streams would be able to revert the magic,” Janus said aloud, “as you see it didn’t work.”
Dalton was silent for a moment. Then he raised his hand and waved it from side to side.
“Turn your head,” he commanded, “let me see your profile.”
“For what goddamn reason?” Janus asked, raising an eyebrow.
“You remind me of someone,” Dalton said, leaning forwards a little with a thoughtful smirk, “even more as you glare with such bleary eyes.”
“My bet is that you’re talking about prince Janus,” the wizard calmly said, “you’re not the only one. People always said that if my hair was blue instead of purple… well, you know.”
He added the last with a roll of his eyes.
“I really think that explosion might have been set by some kid wanting to play a prank on me.”
“I’m not questioning you for small talk,” Dalton snapped.
“Then what?” Janus replied.
“One simple thing before we go on. Do you think I believe you?”
“Probably not, then you wouldn’t ask that.”
Dalton straightened up, smirking.
“I’ll have you tell the truth soon enough, you or your young companions.”
“Just what makes you think I lie?” Janus furiously asked, “leave them out of this, they’re…”
“Yes, just what are they?” Dalton cut him off, “they’re not Enlightened ones and obviously not Earthbound ones.”
“I simply find Nu’s and their likes too common,” Janus said, “this design is more interesting.”
“And just now you called them kids and was worried about them?”
“You might not care about your created companions but it took me a long while to give mine proper minds and bodies, you leave them be!”
“I have no created companions,” Dalton sneered, “it’s too easy to command them.”
“Then what about those scouts following us?” Janus shot out.
“What are those to care about?”
‘Are you done yet?’ he hissed in his thoughts.
‘Any second…’ Crono reported.
“Well whatever they are,” Dalton sneered, “you do seem to care more about them than about yourself so you’ve already proven your weak spot. And you obviously do know enough to be aware of what happens to people who endangers the kingdom.”
“We, or rather you put them on mount Woe.”
“True. But in some cases that’s eventual.”
Janus shifted his legs a bit, still pressing one hand against the wall as he had done for a while.
“You know, I don’t think you’d believe me no matter what I’d told you, Dalton,” he commented.
“Nobody talks that easily,” the captor commented.
“You’re smarter than most would say you are, after all,” Janus said with a sneer.
Dalton’s single eye thinned with rage.
“You’re not in a situation to talk like that, my friend,” he coldly said, “I can fry one of your friends from here if you don’t behave according to your position.”
Janus pursed his mouth.
“Alright, alright, I know you’ve got us right where you want us,” he said, “I know the only sensible thing to do.”
Marle and Crono grabbed his hands and in a storm of lightning tearing up the tiny hole in the top of their prison they shot upwards with magical, red shards exploding around them.
“Escape,” Janus clarified, releasing the teleportation spell that had been canned before.
Followed by Dalton’s furious holler they swept away from the field and landed on top of one of Kajar’s buildings. With a little better ability to concentrate Janus focused on the field outside Enhasa and they leaped there through the magic.
“At this rate he won’t lock up the Gate, he’ll follow us or send something through,” Janus snarled and made his friends run towards the town, “we can’t let him do that, it’s way too early.”
“What?” Marle asked, confused, “will he know time travel?”
“He was in Guardia,” Janus snarled, “a future version of him was helping the Mystics in their tries to kill me, but it’s not time for that yet.”
You have one hard necked father, have to hand him that, Crono growled as they rushed on.
Janus hissed the spell again and they landed in the shadow of the white buildings on Enhasa’s south side.
“They’ll find my teleport tracks within seconds and follow us,” the wizard muttered through clenched teeth, seeing a distant flash of light in the field, “we’ll have to get to the Gate by foot.”
“Can’t you at least teleport us down on the ground?” Marle whispered.
“I can try, but your memories of that might be too blurred… run!”
They rushed towards the east side of the city, after a few yards Janus teleported to the roof he had been standing on when he first saw his child version. They could hear Dalton and his men shout to each other as they sought the next track. There were many new warriors, the general must have been focused enough to get more people before they all teleported after the escapees.
There! Crono hissed, pointing at the northern skyway.
If they went to the southern one they would be seen and hunted down by teleporting soldiers, no doubt. Janus understood and sent the small group there. They dove inside for safety and jumped onto the pod, being sent down into the winter lands.
“Powers of the world, lend me the power of Fire…”
Protected by the spell they ran into the cold snowstorm.
“Whatever would we do without you, Janus?” Marle gratefully sighed as they hurried on just to be safe.
‘I’m starting to ask myself that too,’ Flea commented, ‘geez, however did our troop make it this far without you, Janus?’
He aimed the last part towards the Prince; his Janus, of course.
‘”Our” troop?’ the Prince repeated, rather amused to common surprise.
‘You know what I mean, cutie.’
“I actually think you’d be in less danger right now,” Janus grunted, “technically, that is…”
Yeah, we’d be captured already, Crono mildly said.
“Point there, I suppose.”
Janus even chuckled a bit and stopped, making Marle and Crono do the same.
“The storm will give us even more cover,” he said, “I need just a moment’s search through your minds…”
It took him a couple of seconds, but in Marle’s memory he found a dead tree which she had seen on the way through the winter lands together with Crono and Frog. That was all he needed to focus on, it was not too close to the Gate cave.
Once again they teleported and landed in the snowstorm several miles away from their last position. Using a compass Crono wisely had brought with him during the travels they found the right direction and hurried off, the snow quickly covering their trail and protecting against the men that had to spend several hours searching in vain.
Chapter 18, Homecoming
The wind howled and tore at the ragged earth, but somehow it couldn’t reach three small figures walking over the snowy plains.
“We should reach the cave in half an hour or so,” Marle said, almost a little too hopeful to be believable.
Nobody minded much, though. It was no trying walk as they were all perfectly protected against the cold, the snow was a little hard to walk in but they were still living on the relief of getting away.
After the Pawn had returned from successfully leaving a message to Schala - without telling just exactly who he was, she had thought it was the grown Janus she had seen earlier – there were finally a full set of spirits in Janus’ head again.
If still one too many to wish for.
‘I’m waitiiing,’ Flea finally said after a long silence.
Janus deeply sighed, but the howling wind drowned it.
‘Fine,’ he grunted, ‘thank you for helping us back there.’
‘You’re welcome,’ the Mystic said with a lovely smile.
The wizard grunted something, as did his two versions.
They all walked in silence for a while. Then suddenly the Pawn sighed.
‘Fine, I give up,’ he said, ‘Flea?’
‘I have the time and nerve to ask now, might as well use it. Why do you look like that?’
The silence following was broken by Flea’s finger snapping.
‘You just made me loose a bet to Ozzie!’ he sighed.
‘Oh woe and horror…’ the Prince said and rolled his eyes.
‘I was sure the wizard here would be the first to ask,’ the magician groaned.
‘I was about to, but he bet me to it,’ Janus smirked, ‘I’ve been wondering too. Why the heck do you look like that?’
Flea nervously scratched his chin, uncharacteristically.
‘You’re going to laugh,’ he finally said.
‘Try us,’ the Prince said with a faint smirk.
‘Alright, but don’t tell anyone.’
The monster grimaced.
‘I had two reasons,’ he said, ‘first…’
Marle and Crono looked up in surprise as they heard a choked sound and saw Janus trying to muffle a laugh with one hand.
What? Crono asked.
“Oh nothing,” Janus said, his voice hardly steady with the suppressed laughter, “I just thought of something funny. Never mind.”
“Alright,” Marle shrugged, focusing on walking.
She was a bit too tired to bother about humor for the moment. Though she was happy to have gotten away, the past day was starting to eat on her. Crono glanced at her and offered her his hand for some new strength. She smiled gently at him and accepted the touch.
Meanwhile, three voices were still laughing, suppressed and otherwise.
‘And secondly my eyesight was fading so I had to do something to keep from going blind!’ Flea shouted to be heard over the noise.
‘Ha!’ the Prince almost yelled with laughter, ‘it doesn’t surprise me the least either!’
‘Now you’re being plain mean!’ the Mystic pouted.
‘You can’t blame us!’ the Pawn smirked through two explosions of laughter.
‘Hey! Respect, somewhere?!’
‘Not around here, Flea.’
‘What do you expect? You are “so damn ugly as a man”?’ Janus snickered.
‘I told you you’d laugh…’ Flea grumbled and sourly crossed his arms.
Trying not to chuckle the royal wizard walked on through the snow storm towards the distant cave.
Finally they saw the far away shadow of a cliff and rushed forwards. More diving inside than anything else they found the dark orb waiting for them.
“Finally…” Marle sighed with relief.
“Have to agree on that,” Janus said, absentmindedly painting the line of fire to get his staff to lean on.
His body was grunting in protest at every movement now; he was tired.
‘When did I last sleep properly…?’ he tiredly thought.
‘Not since we showed up,’ the Prince replied.
‘Not a few days before that either, with my restlessness about missing the crew when they came to save Leene.’
Janus grimaced and stretched his back.
You alright? Crono asked, holding the Gate key in his hand.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I just need some decent rest…”
“You better stick to the plan and go back to Guardia for a couple of days while we go talk to that guru you mentioned,” Marle kindly said, “you’ve been working non-stop lately.”
Janus smiled a bit, tiredly.
“You’re right, I better go home.”
“You’re back?!” Lucca’s voice shouted from somewhere ahead, followed by running steps.
“Fresh and alive…” Marle grunted, leaning against the dark fence.
“What happened, did thee come to blows with someone?” Frog wondered, giving Janus some support as the wizard crouched against his staff.
“Yeah, Janus’ daddy sure is persistent!” the princess said with a sigh.
“Much alike him,” the knight mildly said.
Janus just grimaced at that.
No, we’re fine, we just pressed ourselves a bit too much through the snowstorm to get back, Crono calmed everyone.
“Hello, prince Janus,” an old man’s voice gently said.
The wizard looked up and frowned. But that soon melted into a recognizing smile.
“Gaspar, what are you doing here?”
“Not much,” the old guru smiled back and took his hand, “watching over time, mostly.”
‘Had to leave a couple of surprises behind, didn’t I?’ the Pawn said with a faint smile.
“You know each other?” Lucca asked, raising an eyebrow.
“The Guru of Time,” Janus said, smiling.
To the warrior’s relief the lord didn’t seem as angry as he had feared. Instead, he was looking around the field, thoughtfully.
“They’re clever…” Dalton muttered to himself.
The track had just ended, searching in the snow down there was rather pointless. But he wasn’t going to give up that easily, those insects would pay dearly.
Something wasn’t right here… not only that he was very curious about the truth. There was something more present…
The grass was clean of human works.
He smiled coldly.
Maybe… He leaned down and touched the grass, then smirked.
“Here we go…”
And he followed the trace that the staff had left behind as it was summoned.
“You’re well informed, prince,” Gaspar complimented, mildly.
“I had a good teacher,” Janus said with a chuckle.
‘Should have thought you some things about self-sacrifice though,’ the Pawn grunted, not too serious however.
‘Well now… huh?’
He looked around at a hissing sound.
“Strange thing!” Ayla howled, jumping up and down nervously.
“What’s happening?” Marle called.
“The Gates are being closed by an external force,” Robo beeped, concerned.
“Dalton!” Janus and Gaspar growled, both diving at the magical portals.
The light was steadily falling from all of the pillars, soon the time travelers would be completely locked in.
“Oh no you don’t you one-eyed dog!” Gaspar snarled, stretching his arms straight aside.
Janus mirrored his movements and they both began chanting in low voices.
The light shivered and for a moment the pillars rose and fell until two of them suddenly went out completely and the rest flared up for a second. The two magicians sighed in relief.
“He got the ones connected to Zeal, but we stopped him from sealing the rest,” the guru reported.
Well, I suppose we do need that other guru’s help right away… Crono commented.
‘This isn’t good, boys…’
Janus swayed back and forth for a moment until everyone closed in to give him support. He faintly smiled through a veil of exhaust.
“The wizard Janus is suffering from extreme loss of rest,” Robo informed, “breakdown estimated to occur within ten hours.”
‘That sounded familiar,’ the Pawn said with a roll of his eyes.
‘Indeed…’ the Prince agreed.
“When did you last sleep?” Gaspar demanded.
“I was unconscious when I got to Zeal…”
Frog, bring him back to Guardia, will you? Crono suggested, we’ll go to the future.
“Thy request is a wise one,” the knight said.
He smiled faintly and continued:
“Powers of the world, I bid of thee to lend me the power of Water. Na matala sela.”
Janus straightened up and smiled down at the swordsman as the healing stars reenergized him a little. It wasn’t top notch but he was proud of his friend for learning.
“Let us leave this for a moment of history,” Frog kindly said, “thou hast done more than anyone possibly could ask of thee in the past few days.”
“And my reward is to be shredded and roasted alive by Lai,” Janus dryly smirked, “thanks a lot.”
They just chuckled then, the lot.
‘Can you hear me, Lai?’
A hand clutched a flame-shaped gem.
“Janus?!” the young woman shouted, bringing the whole room to its feet.
‘Frog and me are on our way, we’ll be in town in half an hour or so,’ the mental voice of the wizard softly announced.
“They’re coming back! He’s alive!” Lai called with overwhelming relief, so loud that half the castle heard it, “damn, he’s back!”
If the other occupants of the building had not heard the female magician’s cheer, they could not by any chance have missed the common rejoicing following her voice.
About one hour later Frog the swordsman and Janus the royal wizard came through Guardia forest.
“Oh no, I hate that…” the blue-hair groaned as the two sighted the castle gates.
“Come on now, hero,” Frog smirked and dragged him on towards the assembled crowd.
‘Yeah, be a man!’ Flea snickered.
‘You’re one to talk!’
The knight hardly had time to finish the sentence before the relieved soldiers, servants, advisors, Majesties and various other inhabitants of the castle rushed to meet them.
‘I hate it when they put me in the center!’ Janus tiredly grunted in his thoughts.
‘Straighten up and be a royal wizard, young man,’ the Prince cruelly smirked.
Janus rolled his eyes and then he had to try to keep breathing among all the worried questions and relieved smiles.
“Don’t thank me for anything!” he shouted to be heard through all the other voices and easily threw a short friend up onto his right shoulder, “I would have been dead if it hadn’t been for Frog and his friends!”
“My gratitude,” Frog dryly hissed from the corner of his lips.
He didn’t exactly like being in the center of so much attention either.
“You asked for it,” Janus snapped back in a low voice.
With a chuckle Frog swiftly leaped down on the ground as the crowd split for the king and queen.
“You had us worried, Janus,” the king said while both the frog and the wizard sat down on one knee in the grass to greet the royals.
“I apologize, my liege,” Janus said with a neutral voice.
‘Oh man, this guy is more whipped than you two ever were!’ Flea groaned.
‘If it wasn’t for the fact that you’re tragically right you’d dearly regret that,’ the Prince surprisingly calmly said.
‘Oh shut up, all of you,’ Janus snorted, ‘it’s called respect and gratitude.’
‘It’s all your fault!’ Flea stated, accusingly pointing at the Pawn.
‘Now really, I just brought him here!’ the one that had been enslaved defended himself, trying not to snicker.
‘Well your guardian angel version of this place could have done a better job then,’ the Pawn said with twitching lips.
‘Am I suddenly to blame? I handle other time streams, here I am as innocent as a flower!’ Flea snorted.
‘Excuse me while I laugh, again,’ the Prince said in an expressionless voice.
Janus just rolled his eyes, but as his head was lightly bowed nobody noticed.
“Will you two tell us what happened?” king Guardia asked.
“If you allow, I would prefer to rest for a while,” Janus said, “what has happened in the past days have been very tiring on me.”
“I shall gladly tell thee all I know, my liege and friends,” Frog offered, “Janus may fill in the details I lack knowledge of later, alas now he is in dire need of assembling his strength again.”
“But of course,” the king kindly said, “go to your room and rest then, Janus. We’ll send up a meal for you.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” the wizard said and stood, nearly swaying again but managing.
His green friend was about to stand up as well, but quickly sank back and watched the ground when another voice spoke.
“Frog…” Leene gently said.
“Your Majesty?” he said, swallowing hard.
“You have proved yourself a great warrior in saving Janus from the Mystics,” the queen said, “it would be an honor for me if you would once again be my guardian.”
For a moment Frog was silent, and the wizard towering above him was on the brink of sending him a silent threat of further body transformations when the big bulb eyes looked up.
“I cannot deny thee my aid if thee truly wishes for it, my liege,” he said in a little thick voice.
“Thank you, Frog,” the queen warmly said.
Janus bent down and offered his friend his hand to straighten up.
Though he hadn’t had much time to look around the wizard had a strong feeling that he wouldn’t be able to see the face he missed the most among those that surrounded him.
Lai hated crowds even more than he did, and he envied her slightly greater anonymity. Even though Janus was grown and had improved his liking for others he still had traces of the small prince left.
‘I’m finally getting inside,’ he sent out to her mind, wherever it was.
‘About time,’ she replied, and he smiled to himself.
‘I missed you too.’
‘You’re dead, sweetheart.’
‘I’ll be there in a minute.’
‘Cozy, but I always thought a room just misses something without a few torches,’ Flea happily commented.
‘I could always light a candle,’ Janus grunted, ‘that is, theoretically.’
Out of habit he reached for his forehead to remove the headband, then remembered that he’d lost that in the Mystic castle, like his shirt. The lack of the larger piece of clothing had been mended by Melchior though. Lacking purpose his hand thudded onto the pillow beside his head.
‘If you even try to chant in your state I’ll have to rip your tongue out,’ the Pawn informed.
Janus shifted a little with a grunt.
‘If an assassin shows up now I’m dead, end of story,’ he muttered in his thoughts.
‘You’re pretty dead anyway,’ Flea briskly said one second before the door slammed into the wall.
The staff and a few books that had been lying in a pile on the desk fell to the floor.
“God, Lai!” Janus groaned and covered his eyes with a heavy hand, “spare my poor head…”
He blinked at her as she put the tray she had been carrying on the desk, closed the door and carefully began to assemble the mess of books.
‘I think we better take a look at what your friends in this world are doing,’ the Prince emotionlessly said, mentally dragging Flea’s spirit out of Janus’ head by his crag.
‘No fun!’ the Mystic pouted, but had he not allowed it the warlock wouldn’t have been able to get him anywhere at all.
‘I think our old friend is getting softer minute by minute,’ the Pawn mildly said as he also left.
‘Be careful, you hear?’ Janus called after them.
‘Don’t worry about us, bloodshed just bore us by now…’
‘Nice knowing you!’ Flea teasingly shouted from afar.
‘Are they with me or not?’ Janus wondered with a faint smirk.
His head felt a bit empty without the three, but at least it was finally completely silent.
“Hey now, Lai,” he muttered, trying to get up to help her with the books.
“You stay right there,” she ordered, throwing the books into a neat heap.
“Oh good, I thought you had lost it.”
She straightened up and glared at him.
“Just how do you look?” she demanded, “you’re pale as death itself!”
“I just need some sleep, I’ll be fine,” he replied with a faint smile.
Lai glared for a moment longer, then her expression suddenly softened.
“What have they done to you, sweetheart?” she asked, much more gentle than before.
Janus shook his head.
“Not nearly half of all they wanted to do, have to be grateful of that.”
“Oh no, you’re not giving me any of that crap.”
She marched over and grabbed his shoulders, pushing him back down on the mattress so she alone could sit on the bedside.
“No subtle evasion, I want to know what happened,” she said.
“Why then, it’s not that funny,” Janus pointed out.
“I know. It’s so I can tear out Slash’s heart and shove it down Ozzie’s throat while dancing on Flea’s rotting remains.”
‘Hold me, she’s scary!’ Flea’s voice squeaked somewhere distantly in Janus mind.
This was followed by the Prince’s very irritated voice:
‘Get off me or I’ll slice you up more thoroughly. And cut the damn anchor in his head!’
Janus chuckled lightly at all the voices, present or no. This caused Lai to smile a bit.
“You know I’d do it too,” she said.
“Yeah, I know. You’re a demon.”
The wizard put his hand under his head on the pillow.
“Frog is telling the story now, isn’t he?” he pointed out.
“I don’t give a damn about Frog’s version. He wasn’t with you all the time,” Lai said, eying him more seriously.
“Alright, anything for my student,” Janus gently said with a small smile, “but don’t gut me if I fall asleep halfway through.”
Lai smiled a bit, watching his weary, red eyes.
“You should eat something before you fall asleep,” she kindly suggested.
“I can’t eat and talk at the same time as I feel now.”
“Alright, then talk. Here though.”
He sat up leaning against the wall and accepted the glass of water that had been on the tray.
“Well, I was tired after the battle with Slash and lack of sleep, so the mantis thing that Flea had made up last was faster than me,” he began, “but it did make Frog change his mind about battling or not, quickly.”
It was natural knowledge that if she found out the truth about that, then she would kill him. Better to lie.
After emptying the glass Janus slipped further and further back on the mattress while his disciple kept listening. He fell asleep somewhere around his meeting with the others in Zeal, and as he was too heavy for her to move Lai wrapped him up in the bedspread as good as she could.
“You’re overdoing it, sweetheart,” she softly mumbled and forced herself to simply kiss his forehead before straightening up.
His blue hair gently tickled her cheeks as she moved.
She left the room without looking back.
Chapter 19, One knocked out wizard
“Art thee awake?”
“Awake, yes,” Janus grunted, turning over and pulling the bedspread over his head against the sunrays torturing his head through the eyelids, “alive is another thing.”
“I’d almost be able to call you adorable when you’re like that,” Lai smirked, not really mean however.
“Leave me alone…”
“Aw, you big baby!”
‘Well you are adorable!’ Flea cheerfully said, clasping his hands stupidly.
Before Janus had time to reply he felt a familiar weight swinging the mattress.
“You sorta remind me of last New Years eve right now,” Lai rather cruelly said after seating herself properly, “remember that?”
The wizard ripped the bedspread away from his face and glared at her through half opened eyes.
“Lai, now is really a bad time…” he groaned.
“I was not present, what happened?” Frog snickered.
‘Ohh, this sounds tasty,’ Flea grinned, flashing his sharp teeth.
‘I think I’m getting a headache…’ the Prince grunted.
‘Now, now,’ the Pawn said, ‘you two are being too hard on him. He hasn’t shocked us too badly for what, three days?’
“Well, on New Years day our royal wizard looked much like he does now, and we almost lost him in a battle against three imps,” Lai happily chuckled, “it was really pathetic.”
“You were the one getting me drunk!” Janus defended himself, grunting at Flea’s giggle and the Prince’s groan.
‘Oh shut up…’
“Oh dear…” Frog said, trying to hide his wide smirk with a way too small hand, “I take it the hangover nearly became thy demise as thee could not free thyself from it due to thy burning head?”
“Precisely. Are you two here just to torture me or what?” Janus muttered, rubbing his eyes.
“Bringing thy breakfast, the truth to be told,” Frog informed.
“How come you need two people to…”
“Does the cook suddenly think I’m Ozzie?” he asked, slowly managing to work his way up in a sitting position.
“As far as everyone knows you’ve been gone for two days and supposedly in the Mystic’s castle until yesterday,” Lai said, waving at the two new, loaded trays, “it’s not believable that you were fed there.”
“I simplified the tale, if thee pardon me,” Frog explained.
Janus tried to smile a bit.
“It was probably the best thing to do,” he agreed.
“Lai has revealed to me that she knows the truth,” the knight continued, “therefore I know I can speak freely. Instead of mentioning thy two guardians and the Gate, I claimed that thee as a last resort released all power thou still had, thus causing the castle to crumble. Our escape seemed impossible, but as through wonder a path to the underground trail was ripped open in the dungeon and we rushed to safety before it collapsed.”
“Works for me,” the wizard nodded with a faint smile.
‘What did you tell them about my abduction?’ he sent to Frog’s mind.
‘That the grasshopper was faster and stronger than thee had awaited, how come?’ the knight replied.
‘Oh good, that’s about what I told Lai. She’ll definitely kill me if she finds out.’
‘Cherish it not yet, I still ponders whether to cut thy head off or not for it.’
‘Damn, I’m surrounded by enemies.’
Their silent conversation ended when Lai rather forcefully placed one of the trays in Janus lap.
“Now eat,” she stated, “and you shouldn’t sleep in your clothes, come to think of it.”
“Too late for that now,” Janus pointed out.
“You’re staying right here and sleep more after you’ve eaten, you’re still exhausted,” Lai ordered.
“Less we shall have to tie thee down,” Frog agreed, “’tis an order from the king and queen.”
With a rather dry smile Janus took the spoon and buried it in the mountain of porridge.
Though it was some time since he had eaten properly there was no possibility that the wizard ever could have finished off all the food that had been brought up. Frog and Lai stayed and chatted for a little while about common things, avoiding the subject of the Mystics and future plans quite well. When Janus couldn’t eat anymore the two friends took the trays and left him alone to rest.
‘One could think they were feeding me up for slaughter,’ he chuckled in his thoughts as he stood and almost stepped on his thrown-off boots on the floor.
‘No use,’ Flea thoughtfully said, ‘I’d say you’d be way too leathery… well, cooking for a few hours and…’
‘Flea!’ three almost identical voices growled.
‘I suppose I asked for that one,’ Janus sighed while searching through the pile of books.
He found the one he wanted and headed back to bed, throwing the bedspread away and lifting the blanket.
‘Now what did your morbid student tell you?’ Flea pointed out.
‘No way am I taking off anything with you watching,’ the wizard snorted.
‘I’m a man, remember?’
‘I rest my case.’
Janus leaned the pillow against the wall to get something softer to lean against as he heavily sat down and opened the book. For a start the text was just a precaution for the possibility that somebody would come in during the silent talk, though. Just sitting there in the bed doing nothing wasn’t like the royal wizard at all.
‘So, are they up to something?’ he asked, more grave than just a moment ago.
‘They’ve moved to their second stronghold,’ the Prince reported, ‘you might have some more troubles taking them out than we had, as almost the whole army was saved. A big part of the monsters seems to have gone disillusioned and given up, however.’
‘I don’t see what they’re complaining about,’ Flea snorted, ‘in my experience they were all dead or at least halfway there by now. Not that it’s as bad as everyone thinks, still…’
‘Just regrouping, then?’ Janus summed up.
‘Pretty much,’ the Pawn nodded, ‘at this point you can be fairly calm, they don’t know that you’re back yet and Flea probably don’t feel like sacrificing any leftover warriors as assassins in the current situation.’
‘Well, that’s a relief.’
Janus rubbed his forehead.
‘I wouldn’t stand a chance against any of them right now either.’
‘You sure have a nasty headache here,’ the Pawn said with a frown.
‘With a stupid hairdo,’ the Prince nodded.
‘I am not a headache!’ Flea stated, stomping his foot in anger which only caused Janus to wince.
‘Watch it!’ he grunted.
‘No really, you should sleep,’ his teacher stated, ‘put that book away, there’s no telling when they’ll come to get you and Frog back. Use the time.’
Janus put the book aside and laid down again.
The blue-haired warrior grunted and rubbed his eyes with one hand.
“Now what?” he sighed.
“You’re sleeping in your clothes again!” Lai scolded.
“You’d do that too if you were in my situation…”
Janus stretched his arms with a sigh.
“What is it?” he asked.
“They’re coming to get you,” Lai grunted, pointing at the door with her thumb.
“Fine, I’m coming.”
It took him a few moments to get to the bedside; his whole body felt lightly said heavy.
“Offhand,” Lai said while the wizard before her rubbed his neck, “have you slept since Frog and I were here with your breakfast?”
“Yes,” he muttered, “why?”
“It’s past lunchtime now. And the next day.”
Janus groaned something, rubbing his forehead.
“You’re definitely overdoing it, sweetheart.”
“Yeah, I know,” he grimaced and stood, “but I’ll be fine in a moment.”
Lai rolled her eyes but nodded.
“Alright, I’ll tell them that. But the king and queen aren’t happy.”
Janus looked up at her.
“And you?” he carefully asked.
“I think you’re a self-sacrificing bastard.”
She suddenly grabbed his crag and tore him up to her eye level. Despite the fact that Janus didn’t exactly have a chance to gain balance due to the fast move he didn’t fall. Lai held him still and more or less hanging.
‘She’s stronger than she looks,’ the Prince acknowledged.
‘Amen to that,’ Flea agreed with raised eyebrows.
“And then you’ll be bloody done with the whole damn thing and leave here forever, you accursed creep!” Lai snarled.
Janus finally got a grip of gravity and straightened up. That was, until Lai forced him to bend his back the bit needed instead.
“Face me when I’m swearing at you, dammit!” she growled.
‘Spy mission, now,’ Flea grunted and began to fade, ‘I know, I know…’
‘You’re getting the hang of it, yes,’ the Pawn agreed as he and his mirror also left.
Janus put his hands on Lai’s shoulders and finally managed to make her let go.
“I will never leave Guardia forever,” he firmly said, “this is my home.”
“You can’t promise that and you know it,” Lai retorted.
“I’ll be damned if I go and die somewhere in the past or future.”
Lai shook her head, bitterly.
“You self-righteous bastard…”
And with that she encircled his neck with her arms and hugged herself tightly against the wizard. Janus let out a deep, bitter breath before he allowed his own arms to move around her back.
“I’m sorry, Lai.”
He didn’t feel much, but that was only because he forced every sparkle of warm emotion down so that none of them would be able to shoot needles into his soul.
“Save Schala and the boy is just something I have to do,” he muttered, “if it were you who were in trouble you know I’d come for you too.”
“Yeah, I know.”
She pulled away with a sigh, with a strange sort of relief watching his eyes flash with battling emotions.
“It’s not going to make me jump off a cliff in order to get you to make it up to me, but I know,” she said, trying to smoothen what she’d just done a little.
Janus managed to smile a bit, with a lot of effort.
“It’ll be alright, somehow,” he said, not really believing himself.
“Sure,” Lai forced out, doing her best to keep up.
She backed away and turned to leave.
“I’ll tell Frog and the others that you’re on your way,” she said and walked out.
Janus heavily sighed.
‘Say…’ Flea’s voice thoughtfully said, a bit distant but fully audible, ‘are you sure she’s Lucca’s ancestor?’
‘There’s too much pointing at it,’ Janus bitterly said, ‘her looks, her magic. She’s got no siblings, her parents live in Truce. The only other relatives live in Choras, her uncle’s family.’
‘Ah well. I’ll leave you to changing clothes, then.’
A few minutes later Janus walked down the stairs of the castle with his staff in hand, wearing a pair of blue pants and a darker shirt than before.
‘Well. Here we go again.’
Chapter 20, Lavos’ trap
Boots paced back and forth over a dirty cave floor, the walker getting nervous but grateful glances every now and then.
The Earthbound ones were assembled in the chief’s cave, warming themselves by the magical fire that was feeding on a few rocks and filling their normally hungry stomachs with fine, healthy meat. Normally they were lucky to catch a sick wolf that they all shared, a massive beast from the dangerous lair below them was a feast born from dreams.
Flea had gone on a rant about the beasts being primitive since they didn’t dissolve like monsters normally would when dying, but few of the humans were complaining about the fact.
Ayla, Marle and Crono were on their way to save Melchior, the pre-historian lady getting too bored to stay in the End of Time a minute longer.
‘… It’s a waste and shame to let humans have our flesh, that’s why we dissolve! Sheez! Prehistorian! And another thing…’
‘Shut up…’ the Prince sighed, absentmindedly.
‘It’s disrespectful! I get no respect either! Damn…’
‘You eat, ate humans,’ the Pawn mildly pointed out.
Was he listening to Flea?
‘It’s just because you never evolved into the dissolving stadium,’ the magician happily went on, ‘besides, you’re full of vitamins and stuff.’
‘I’ll take your word for it.’
‘Why are you setting him off?’ the Prince grunted.
‘It’s better than to only have our youngster’s worries to listen to.’
‘Well, you know something is going to go the hell wrong!’ he said, ‘Dalton will get Schala somehow and most probably the boy too. It’s meant to be, if not what else?’
‘Maybe you should stay away?’ Flea said.
‘I can’t, she’s counting on me. I couldn’t anyway…’
‘I’d be careful. You’ve set off Dalton’s interest, I bet he’s itching to get you under fire.’
Janus paced for a moment in silence.
‘I’ll never get used to taking advice from you.’
‘Thank you, I try to make it stay like that!’ Flea said with a cheeky smile.
‘The worst part is, I could take him out in fair battle, no question about that. We all could.’
‘But he never fights fair…’ the Prince said.
‘… Because deep down he knows he’d loose,’ the Pawn finished.
Janus held back a growl.
‘Summary,’ he darkly said, ‘Dalton needs to bring Schala to the Mammon machine in the Ocean Palace, she needs to awake Lavos so that the boy gets sent through time, because this time loop needs to close.’
‘And Dalton always seems to win when he comes to get Schala.’
‘He gets his will through.’
‘There’s no use in worrying,’ the Prince stated in a voice reserved for direct orders, ‘it’ll just make you unfocused.’
‘But if you expect to get your pretty little ass behind bars again I bet it won’t happen just since you believe it’ll occur,’ Flea briskly said and earned a few rolling eyes, ‘it’s the way the story goes.’
‘Now I really don’t want to take your advices…’
‘Well, go me!’
Janus grunted and headed for the exit.
“Don’t worry about me,” he said over his shoulder, “I’ll just go to meet Schala.”
The Earthbound ones nodded in silence, as they were rather thunderstruck with what the blue-haired man and his friends already had accomplished for them.
‘I know, damn it! Will you shut up?’
So many deaths… wasted for their own selfish goals, it’s terrible, terrible…
Janus grimaced and walked on. Listening to Flea commenting on his memories actually became a nice change as he didn’t have much else to do than listen to the voices trying to overpower each other inside his mind.
‘What was your Flea thinking? This one is even more horrible, he’s got no style!’
‘Ah, that,’ Janus thought about the furry creature, ‘quite nasty indeed.’
‘What the heck is it supposed to be? Lizards doesn’t have hair!’
‘He seems to like lizards.’
‘Geez… and this one, what in Magician’s name…?’
‘Now that’s the strangest one yet,’ the Pawn acknowledged.
‘No, it’s still better than that last one,’ the Prince stated.
And so on. The whole discussion was most certainly based much on the fact that they all were growing tired with listening to the black wind.
Janus smirked a bit at the whole argument and looked up, through the snow finally seeing two shadows in the distance.
“Glad you could make it,” Janus softly said as his and Schala’s fire spells merged around the three humans and the cat, doubling the protection against the snowstorm.
“Dalton and mother have been acting strange, I think they know something…” she said in a low voice, nervously taking his hands.
“The one-eyed scum almost caught me and my friends as we left the palace,” he told her, guessing that she hadn’t been informed, “and the timelines are against us. Dalton usually gets his way.”
“Let us try to break it, then,” she said with a hint of the bravery she’d fully awaken soon enough.
Janus nodded and let go of her sitting down on one knee in the ankle high snow to look at the boy.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
“Yeah…” the child mumbled, hugging Alfador tightly though.
“You’ll be fine, I promise.”
The wizard smiled faintly, then closed his eyes and mumbled the teleporting spell, bringing them back to the chief’s cave.
The earthbound ones almost fell over of the surprise, along with Crono, the two blond ladies and Melchior.
“What was that?” Schala asked, almost sharply looking at Janus, “that wasn’t a human spell…”
He shook his head with a slight grimace.
“Alas,” he said, “my teacher passed on spells learnt from a monster.”
Schala opened her mouth again, but everyone else came in between.
“Princess Schala, prince Janus, why have you come to this filthy cave?”
All pretty much at the same time.
“Melchior, what are you doing here?” Schala asked, smiling.
‘Here we go again…’ Flea briskly said.
Janus ignored the magician and glanced at the prince from the corner of his eye. The child shuffled over to a corner, hugging his pet even closer and looking quite tense.
‘Better keep an eye on him,’ the wizard concluded.
‘Hmm…’ the Prince said.
‘What’s “hmm”?’ Janus asked, tensing and mentally reaching for his staff.
‘It’s just strange that she… never mind, it’s nothing.’
‘No, what?’ the Pawn frowned.
The Prince shook his head.
‘She probably just didn’t hear the elder call his home filthy. It’s nothing.’
‘You mean about her comf…’
“You have to stop… my mother.”
Janus made a warning gesture to his fellow time travelers and turned towards the entrance.
Three, two, one…
“Well, well, well…”
Dalton stepped through the cave opening. The earthbound ones pressed themselves against the wall, knowing him all too well from stories.
“What do we have here?” he said with a smirk, “a treacherous princess and a man who calls himself Cyrus. Delighted to see you again.”
He looked past the wizard, even though Janus had spent the little threat speech bringing forth his staff.
“And you, my dear,” he said, “your mother will hear about this, once we’re in the Ocean Palace.”
Janus heard the shuffling of Schala’s robes as she backed.
“Can it already,” the wizard growled and warningly changed the grip of his staff, “you’re not getting her as long as I stand here.”
‘Might as well challenge fate while I’m in a good position for it,’ he grunted with a mental roll of his eyes.
“You stand there, eh?” Dalton said with a smirk, “will you finally tell me your name, or do I have to put you inside a proper pyramid?”
“No need for that,” Janus said with the hint of a sneer, “you may know now, as you found out last I was in this cave, thirteen years of my lifetime ago.”
Dalton perked an eyebrow, and his gaze slowly but steadily wandered towards the corner where the prince now stood, hatefully glaring at him.
“Janus, get over there, it’s safer,” the wizard said, gesturing deeper into the cave.
The prince hesitated for a moment before he hurried over to the more crowded area, even if he most certainly didn’t like it.
‘Behind Schala, of course,’ the Prince reported as Janus didn’t feel like looking around, ‘not the best pick but better.’
“What was that supposed to mean?” Dalton suspiciously said.
“I think you’ve figured it out already,” the wizard said with the dry sneer, “I am Janus, from the future.”
He lashed out his staff and Dalton took a step backwards before he could stop himself as one of the blades stopped just a few inches from his chest.
“And don’t you even bother to give me that pathetic speech about me not really wanting to kill you due to Zealan belief about spilling own blood,” the wizard said in a hiss, “I know who you are to me and I don’t give a damn. You don’t have anything against killing your own son, so why should I care about my father?”
There was a murmur of surprise behind him. Dalton’s sole eye narrowed.
“So, so… Janus, you say?” he said, once again shifting between interest and anger.
“I see you still don’t quite believe what I say,” the grown prince said, helplessly a bit amused.
“It does seem more believable than your Cyrus tale,” the general admitted, eying the man before him, “but you’re nothing like the little brat I know.”
Had Frog or any other of the friends of the wizard seen Janus’ smirk, they would have begun wondering who he was. Luckily, only Dalton and the spirits did see.
‘There’s hope for you yet,’ the Prince mildly said while the general moved into a defensive stance.
‘Blasphemy. And there’s no room to fight in here.’
“How about we explore the differences between him and me, Dalton?” he said aloud though, and the smirk was hinted in his voice.
But only hinted, less he’d make his friends quite nervous.
Dalton growled something and threw out his hand, hurling a fireball against the wizard. Janus leaped backwards and swung his staff, sending the attack into the wall and thus harming none.
“This is how its done!” he snarled, “na farey tlo!”
The staff hit the ground and a second later Dalton furiously chanted a water spell to put out the flames in his cloak. Janus just stood there, tapping his foot scornfully while his father spat curses over him.
Finally the general managed to save his clothes and glared at the wizard.
“You’ll regret that dearly,” he promised in a growling voice.
“If I had a coin for every time an idiot like you have said that to me…” Janus snorted and got back in fighting stance, “and you started it, don’t blame me.”
“Trust me,” Dalton said and raised his hands, “this is the final time you hear it.”
‘Same fool as ever…’ Janus thought with a roll of his eyes, this time ready and with pure will smashing the three walls trying to catch him.
‘Hey…’ the Prince suddenly growled.
“What are you doing, Schala?!” Marle shouted.
The staff clanked against the floor as Janus’ feet left it, his arms pressed down along his body by turquoise, flaring ropes erupting from Schala’s hands.
‘What the hell?!’
Melchior and the earthbound ones stumbled away from the princess as her beautiful features turned cruel in a sinister smirk, followed by a cold laugh free of any pity.
‘This is bad, really, really bad!’ Janus growled through the searing pain, more commenting on his own foolishness than the situation.
‘Guys, sad to say it but we majorly suck,’ Flea growled, ‘can’t even tell Schala from her mother…’
‘I can’t believe we didn’t notice it!’ the Pawn roared in outrage.
‘She’s clever,’ the Prince snarled, ‘or rather, he is.’
The purple robes melted to a heavy cloak and the thick blue curls straightened out as queen Zeal revealed herself. The small prince Janus didn’t move, staring at nothing with empty eyes. The cat in his grip seemed pretty lifeless as well.
‘This is ridiculous, we should have been able to sense it!’ the Pawn growled.
‘I guess we were focusing on Dalton a little too much,’ Flea grunted, grimly shaking his head, ‘there’re flaws in our tactic…’
Janus couldn’t reply as he couldn’t think straight any longer because of the clawing agony. Faintly he saw his three companions get ready to attack the queen, but she looked around at them with a smirk.
“Stone age,” she snickered, “oh please, don’t give me any trouble and your friend here might even live for another five minutes.”
‘I… can’t… believe… I… did… it… again!’ cracked its way through Janus’ melting brain as Crono ruefully sheathed his sword, Marle lowered her bow and Ayla sunk down on all four like a panther, hissing.
‘Well, it wasn’t on purpose this time, at least,’ the Prince grunted, moving his hands in a complicated pattern.
Janus’ skin suddenly turned numb as his oldest mirror snapped his fingers. The pain was still there, but it seemed it couldn’t really reach him.
‘I experimented with a painkiller after a meeting with a dragon,’ the Prince grunted, ‘now, how are we getting you out of this one?’
‘I guess something just will have to come up… crachert!’ Janus growled as his parents stepped up in front of him, both smirking evilly.
“When Schala and Janus suddenly disappeared it wasn’t hard to realize something was going on,” Dalton smugly explained without questioning, “and they weren’t exactly moving quicker than my men could catch up with. Then it wasn’t hard to guess where they had been going, even if they wouldn’t talk.”
Janus could only try to look like he was still in pain, glaring at the two through slit eyelids.
‘Prisoner again…’ he bitterly thought.
“Sometimes you better do things by yourself,” the queen said in a dangerously soft voice, raising her hand, “my own Janus, all grown up… fascinating…”
Her hand felt like a set of daggers against his forehead.
‘Guys, I have a bad feeling,’ Flea hissed, ‘really baaaaugh!’
‘Flea!’ the Prince shouted, then his voice too turned into a roar of pain.
“And just what is this?” Zeal said, intrigued.
Twitching in agony the spirits were torn out of Janus’ head, encircled by the same kind of lightning as him. Many gasps of shock were heard, but three of them were aimed only at the Mystic.
“This is just getting more and more intriguing I say,” Zeal smirked.
“It’s not doing much of a change but I’m very glad Frog isn’t here…” Flea cringed, snarling as he tried to break free.
“Can you be serious just for one single second?!” the Pawn growled.
Flea’s voice trailed off as his former leader let out a slurring groan and fell over, if that was the word in his tied up state. The queen’s hand floated above the heavy blue stream that was his hair.
“Hey!” the pink skinned magician snarled, “get your grubby hands off him!”
“This one is weaker,” the queen purred, ignoring Flea completely.
The Prince’s head went up due to the queen’s grip of his chin. His eyes were closed.
“Still quite… tasty.”
The hoarse whisper was hardly audible, and also quite needless.
Flea’s eyes caught a dangerous glow deep below the grimace of pain.
“I said,” he growled, “get your hands off my Janus you parasite!”
“Aren’t we perky?” Dalton scornfully said.
“We’re perky and I spent a good part of eternity chewing on my fingers for his sake, I’m not even talking to you!” the magician snapped.
His easily said improper for the situation and silly behavior caused everyone to be caught off guard as he suddenly shot forward through the air and tackled the queen away from the Prince. She stumbled backwards with a growl.
Shaking his head the old king of Mystics fully regained his senses.
“Ain’t leaving ya hanging now,” Flea muttered with a tiny smile before Dalton swatted him away like a big fly.
“Now!” Janus shouted.
With a growl Crono leaped forwards and clung his arm around Zeal’s shoulders while pressing his katana against her neck. She snarled as the cold metal touched her skin and even Dalton was caught off guard, staring at the youngster who had managed to get a deadly grip of the queen.
You might be able to electrify me with one movement, Crono growled, but I’ll most possibly be able to cut you before that...
‘Let’s just hope Lavos doesn’t realize that the boy probably can’t bring himself to do it like that…’ Janus thought, mentally wincing.
“What are you doing, parasite?” the Prince scorned, even if his voice was hoarse, “risking your fine vessel?”
“You will come for your precious sister in any case,” she said with a dangerous glistening in her eyes, watching Janus, “then I will have you all!”
She snarled the teleportation spell and Crono stumbled forwards as she disappeared. With a short Zealan curse Dalton followed her, glaring at Janus. The masterfully created illusion of the small prince and Alfador disintegrated.
The ropes disappeared and the four that had been bound thumped against the floor, in the wizard’s case gasping for air. That had been quite a strain.
“Managed to keep him away from you at least,” Janus grunted to his old teacher, who grimly nodded as he stood.
“Wouldn’t have been pretty if he had sensed himself inside of my mind. I’ve got to find Molor and get rid of him soon…”
“Uh, Janus…?” Marle’s voice said.
He looked up.
“Yeah, hello to you too,” Flea said with a grimace, leaning his head in his palm with the elbow on his bent knee cutely.
“Not a word to Frog, understand?” he grunted, “he’d go ballistic if he knew I’m walking around with that in my head.”
“I am not a ‘that’!”
The Prince stood with a rather dangerous growl.
“He managed to disguise her as Schala, and now he knows we’re here,” he said, “pathetic!”
“At least we got out of there, thanks Crono,” Janus muttered, trying to smile a bit at the young man who still glared suspiciously at Flea.
“We’ll have to hurry,” the Pawn grimly said, “or he will take his chance to kill the boy as he knows that he’s a threat.”
“Why is Flea here?” Marle asked.
“He’s different from the one you know,” Janus calmed his friends.
“Nobody’s feeding anyone to Lavos in this time stream either,” the Prince growled and threw an irritated glance aside, “not even Flea.”
The magician looked up with a silly smile and wide open eyes.
“Oh, my lord,” he cooed, “I didn’t know you cared!”
“And if you call me that again I’ll make sure Lavos chokes on you,” he frostily replied.
“Call you what?” Flea innocently said, “you mean ‘my Janus’? Hurk!”
“You. Heard. Me.”
“Good. Now, we don’t have time for this, the boy is already in danger.”
Still holding Flea’s throat in one hand the Prince disappeared back into Janus’ head, followed by his mirror. The wizard looked at his friends, reaching out for his staff.
“I’ll explain on the way through the Ocean palace, I promise!” he said, urgently, “but we have to hurry now or the prince and Schala might die!”
Hanging around with you is quite freaky, Crono said with a smirk as he sheathed his sword, but it sure never gets boring… let’s go, people!
Marle and Ayla nodded, determined.
“Wait a second,” Melchior mildly said, reaching into his robes, “this should be able to help you.”
He pulled out a dagger with a strangely reddish blade. Crono took it with a questioning look.
“It’s made in the same material as the Mammon machine,” the guru explained with a smile, “it might help you. Good luck everyone, you’re our only hope now.”
We’ll do our best, Crono grimly promised.
He put the dagger in his belt and exchanged glances with his friends.
Let’s go, Janus.
‘You’ll do your best, alright,’ the wizard sadly thought, clenching his teeth as he began muttering the spell, concentrating on Schala’s room in the palace.
“And Janus better tell Ayla and other what monster do in his head or Ayla will have to cave it in!” the cave woman stated as the light swept around them and the earthbound ones called their good lucks.
Janus smiled a bit.
“I will, I will…”
Chapter 21, Enter the new era
“… A headache was the best name for Flea as of yet!” Marle called from behind as the four dashed through the eerie lit corridors of the Ocean Palace.
Seeing the magician’s head pop out of Janus’ back was a quite disturbing sight, even if he was much smaller that normal.
“I am not a headache!”
A human hand reached out and grabbed his crag.
“Get back in here you idiot,” the Prince’s voice snapped and his hand ripped.
Eww… Crono winced.
“What?” Janus said over his shoulder.
“Ayla think this strange,” the cavewoman stated, running on all four like an animal as usual.
Janus never managed to get a grip of how a human moving like Ayla did could look natural.
“I’m not too fond of it either,” the wizard grunted.
I wonder how Frog would react if he found out… Crono thoughtfully smirked.
They entered a fairly circular room. On the floor was two dark orbs and the roof… was nowhere in sight.
“Will it hold us?” Marle nervously asked as she saw the floor swing lightly with Janus’ steps.
“Don’t worry, it’s an elevator,” he calmed her and the other two warriors.
Not that Ayla knew what an elevator was, but as the others seemed calmer she trusted them.
Cautiously the non-Zealans stepped on.
“We’re closing in now,” Janus grimly said, “be ready for anything.”
‘What about you?’ the wizard thought.
‘I’m not sure,’ the Pawn grunted, ‘getting close to Lavos might not be the wisest thing for us to do. But if we leave you now we won’t be able to come along when you follow the boy. If he’s still alive.’
‘He has to be!’ Janus growled.
‘We have to hope so. But it’s reality that the big hedgehog probably won’t want to take risks.’
‘Back on topic boys!’ Flea said, frowning and sounding quite serious however, ‘we’ll have to think about your recently acquired allergy to him, m’lord. You know how you reacts after all that happened back home.’
Janus touched the orb closest to him while the Prince muttered something in reluctant agreement. The ball sparkled slightly in bright blue and the floor swung before starting to quickly descend. They had hardly gotten ten yards before a group of scouts in different colors and a couple of creatures with peculiar hoods materialized. It was questionable whether the latter foes were human or not.
Janus, you handle the red scouts and Marle the blue, Ayla, you and me take care of those… things! Crono shouted as they all reached for their weapons (or raised their fists).
‘About your problem, can you hide somewhere deeper inside my mind?’ the wizard thought even as he chanted, aiming for the flyers.
‘I don’t think it would help,’ the Prince says, ‘he’ll most certainly look for us at any given chance and sense us anyway.’
‘Is there nothing I can do to shield you?’
‘Not sure how that would work, unless you can think of something.’
‘We have a problem here. Uhuh. Yeah…?’
Janus thought he heard Flea mutter to himself, but had to concentrate on battling the yellow scout that tried to latch onto his face. In the next heartbeat a lightning bolt zapped the cretin and it dissolved in a puff of smoke.
‘See? Those are evolved!’ Flea absentmindedly huffed.
‘Who are you talking to?’ the Pawn suspiciously asked.
‘Wasp, my great, great, great, great grandmother,’ the magician said with an alarming smile, ‘take or add a great, I loose track.’
‘And she has any ideas in this matter?’
The Prince’s voice had a quite wary tone. Flea’s fists hit his hips.
‘Why my lord!’ he said in a stupidly mock shocked voice, ‘don’t you trust me after all I’ve done for you?’
Marle’s arrows got the last hooded creature and the four continued downwards in peace.
‘You still have a sea of deeds to make up for before I’ll consider trusting you,’ the Prince stated, ‘especially when your eyes glisten like that.’
Flea pouted and floated closer to his old leader, who suspiciously eyed him.
‘My lord, you will just have to learn to trust your old teacher!’
On the last word his hand fell down on the Prince’s shoulder.
Janus more felt than saw the flash that erupted from the spirit. Flea leaped at the Pawn, who still stood blinded by the magic force and fell to the same fate.
The magician’s hands clenched into fists around something very small.
‘What are you doing?!’ Janus shouted in his thoughts, his frail trust in the Mystic wavering violently.
Flea unclenched his hands and swept them over each other. Then he held up his right hand for Janus’ inner eye. He kept two glistening pearls between three of his fingers.
‘They’ll be safe like this,’ he explained and grimaced, ‘but they’ll sure be sour when they get out of there.’
‘Think they’d prefer being warned before you do something like that,’ Janus pointed out in a calmer voice than earlier.
‘Ahh, that’s a good idea. I’ll do that next time,’ Flea nodded with a chuckle.
He opened one of the pouches in his belt and neatly dropped the two pearls into it.
Janus shook his head with a light sigh.
‘What about you then?’ he asked.
‘I think I’ll be alright. My mind has no weak point in that parasite and I haven’t got him inside of my head either.’
‘Let’s hope so then.’
‘Aww, Janus, you care too?’
‘Don’t push me.’
The elevator reached the bottom and the passengers hurried onwards, knocking everyone getting in the way aside.
‘By the way, haven’t you learned to float?’ Flea said in a casual voice.
‘Ah, I guessed your teacher didn’t learn. You’ll need to take a rather wide leap soon, this should do it less complicated…’
Janus learned rather instantly that studying and running at the same time is a hard thing to do. He nearly went cross-eyed. Luckily Flea was done copying his knowledge within a couple of seconds.
‘I can’t believe I’m taking lessons from you…’ the wizard grunted.
‘You informally always did, cutie. Well, a version of me. In any case, here we go!’
“Whoa!” Marle shouted as she almost crashed into Crono, who nearly sent Janus into a sea of molten metal.
There’s got to be a button for a bridge here somewhere! the red-hair called.
“The Mammon hall is just ahead!” Janus growled and took a few steps back, fixing his eyes onto the distant portal on the other side of the boiling lake.
“Jump that far?” Ayla skeptically said.
Janus shook his head.
“I’m not sure. But Flea seems to think I can fly, so let’s try it out…”
But he rushed forwards and leaped on the hot edge, closing his eyes in concentration.
For a moment he felt insecure, then the air around him slowed down and he opened his eyes to see the other side of the room closing in safely.
‘You could have done it anyway,’ Flea chuckled.
‘Thanks, I guess.’
Janus turned around as he landed, smiling a bit at his surprised but cheering friends.
“I’ll be gone saving the boy,” he called, “I’m not sure when I’ll be back, but I’ll return!”
“Good luck, Janus!”
“The same to you…”
Clenching his teeth he turned to the open doorframe and dashed forwards, his feet leaving the ground as he sped up.
“Go to hell, Dalton!” he growled as he passed through the following room, feeling the man hide but not caring to fight.
‘Oh, the look on his face!’ Flea chuckled, ‘though there’s no use to ask someone to go below…’
Janus ignored him and zoomed forwards, Lavos’ presence ripping closer in torn waves.
“If you don’t let Janus go you’ll never get my help!” Schala’s voice screeched.
“And if you don’t help he’ll die!” the queen snarled back.
The royal wizard swung his staff at the guards on the bridge, sending them flying before they had time to realize what was happening.
“Zeal!” he roared.
All his life, all his training, all his worries, sacrifices and pain led up to this one moment.
Flea grimly smiled.
‘We’re with you all the way, Janus.’
Schala spun around and for a moment the prince stopped struggling against his guards. Even Alfador stopped hissing, trapped in a small cage behind the soldiers’ feet.
“You could have chosen a wiser timing!” the queen growled and snapped her fingers.
The relieved glistening in the royal children’s eyes wavered as the common enlightened ones in the hall reached out and took each others’ hands. They began to chant.
‘Janus, Lavos is trying to make you use magic,’ Flea warned, ‘he doesn’t really need Schala at this point; if the Mammon machine manage to transfer just a little bit more of Shadow energy to him, his body will have enough power to move. To him it doesn’t matter who helps out.’
For half a second Janus hesitated.
‘What would happen if he wouldn’t show up now?’ he wondered.
‘Give me a second, I’ll look it up to make sure… stall it somehow!’
“Zealans!” Janus shouted, “if your god awakens today your kingdom will crumble and be swallowed by the ocean!”
It affected a couple of the men and women, which halted the chanting for a brief moment.
“Don’t listen to him, you fools!” the queen snapped and got them started again, “he’s a madman!”
The whole list that Flea muttered took less than a heartbeat for Janus’ mind to absorb, as the magician simply placed the information in the middle of his thoughts.
‘If neither you nor Schala does his bidding then Lavos will use his own dark power through the queen, in two blasts at the prince. He’ll parry the first with his awakening magic but will of course collapse, and the second wave will kill him.’
‘Crono, everyone, forgive me…’
It was too much to risk, for the future of the world… generations to come.
“Dark powers of the Underworld, I dare to ask thee of strength! Worch crahela krun shar retetack!”
The Dark Mist flared towards the Mammon machine and stuck itself onto the statue’s chest.
For a moment time seemed to stop function.
“At least it wasn’t your fault this time, Schala,” Janus said with a faint, bitter smile, now carrying hundreds of lives on his conscience.
The darkness dissolved, sucked up by the machine.
A quake tore through the room.
‘If it’s anyone’s fault, it’s Fate’s,’ Flea said in a surprisingly gentle voice, ‘don’t blame yourself.’
Janus sighed and mentally shook his head bitterly. Then he narrowed his eyes and swept straight towards the prince through the shaking room.
A sparkling darkness had begun to grow in the air only a couple of feet behind the boy.
With the shock of seeing the blue-haired man with the sharp staff added with the unsteady surroundings, the two soldiers choose to get themselves out of the line of fire. Janus’ hand closed around the small prince’s fingers and safely pulled him up against the bigger chest with an encouraging smile. His momentum was bringing them both into the Gate, even though its gravity would have done the job anyway.
“Don’t worry, Schala!” Janus called over his shoulder, his free hand fumbling for Alfador’s cage…
The flashing blackness surrounded him, the boy and the cat, and he stumbled forwards.
‘It’s Fate,’ Flea’s voice mildly said somewhere far away, ‘did you remember to bring aspirin?’
Janus staggered out in autumn cold grass, lost his balance but managed to spin over to avoid landing on the child. The cage left his hand but thumped onto the ground safely.
“What the hell?” an all too familiar, hoarse voice exclaimed.
The back of the wizard’s head hit a rock and his world turned so white that he for a fading moment thought that his mind would implode.
But it faded… faded to black… black… stillness…
‘Oh,’ was his last, concluding thought before he lost consciousness.
“Get them!” he heard Ozzie command, as through a wall as he slipped from the world.
“Leave us alone!” the boy screeched.
If Janus had had the strength, he would perhaps have smiled a little.
Unheard, Flea said something quite uncharacteristic as he took a closer peek at the Ozzie before the troop.
Chapter 22, It’s definitely not the same
“… Of Water, na matala sela…”
Janus thought he felt a cool hand against his forehead, but he was still in the process of waking up. The warm, healing light gently pulled at his mind.
‘Just look at this!’ he heard Flea whine, ‘is that all I’ve been reduced to?! A preparation?’
‘Preparation or headache, take your pick,’ the Prince smirked, ‘though I am a bit surprised myself.’
‘These time streams are starting to make me dizzy,’ the Pawn muttered, ‘now this is just a tad bit too strange.’
“Na matala sela…”
That voice was familiar… but… different?
Janus managed to crack his eyes open, but he couldn’t see anything through the blur.
“Na matala sela, are you back with us now?”
The blur dissolved.
Janus blinked. Blinked.
“What?” the pink-skinned Mystic said, raising his eyebrows.
‘See?!’ Flea whined, ‘I told you!’
‘Taking the risk of sounding incredibly silly,’ the Prince dryly said, ‘as usual you are too hard on looks and it doesn’t surprise me.’
‘Argh! Those damn glasses! That short hair, that skinny body! Do you know what it does to a guy!?’
“Flea?” Janus hoarsely said, lightly said baffled.
The quite male-looking Mystic jumped.
“How did you know that?” he demanded, suspiciously fiddling with the rather thick glasses he wore.
“It is you?” the wizard asked, still not quite believing what he saw.
The present magician eyed him for a moment in puzzlement, then nodded. Though his basic appearance was cute different from other time streams, he did wear the same kind of white robes as his more female versions. Though those things were a tunic and a pair of pants, not a dress and tights.
“Yeah, I’m Flea. Have we met?” he wondered.
“Not like this…” Janus begun, but dryly added as he heard the clinking of chains as he tried to move, “but something similar.”
“Fine, I have no clue what you’re talking about, but I suppose I’ll know either way later on…” the magician said, tiredly rolling his eyes.
Janus mind finally began to catch up with things.
“Were you healing me?” he suspiciously asked.
Flea threw his arms slightly upwards in a shrugging movement.
“You looked like you needed it, so what?”
The wizard slowly raised an eyebrow.
“I’m not hearing this.”
There was a series of choked sounds as the Prince and Pawn did all they could to stop themselves from snickering.
Flea dryly smiled and shifted his kneeling pose to cross-legged.
‘It’s not me, it’s not me, it’s not me!’ the spirit grumbled.
‘That’s pretty apparent,’ Janus concluded.
“So you say? So, how come you seem to know me but I have no clue who the heck you are?” the living magician said in a conversational tone.
Janus grimly shook his head.
“I haven’t got time to tell you,” he said, “I have to get the child I came with out of here.”
Flea grunted and looked down on the ground.
“Yes, that would be a good idea I’m afraid… ain’t gonna happen though. But hey, he’s safe right now, hasn’t awakened yet. And they’re not looking for me down here.”
“Look for you?” Janus said after a moment of trying to get the logic together.
“To wake him up, of course. Magician knows what Ozzie plans for that kid.”
Flea turned his head and spat on the floor as he spoke the green monster’s name.
‘Alright, now I’m really, really confused,’ Janus thought.
‘I find it quite fascinating, actually,’ the Pawn said, sending an amused glance in the spirit Flea’s direction.
The spirit deeply sighed. Just for the sake of it, of course. Not that he really needed to breathe.
‘Okay, in this time stream I seem to be a wimp with a softie heart. Happy!?’
‘I think my brain will need a while to grasp the concept,’ Janus muttered.
“I have a clue of what he plans,” he said aloud and calmly clenched his fists, “I’ve been waiting for several years to stop the damn toad from doing it.”
“First of all, I don’t think you’ll be able to get loose like…”
The wall made a cracking sound around the rings that the chains were stuck to. Flea’s eyebrows twitched.
“Alright, alright, I get it already!” he quickly said and grabbed Janus’ right arm, “sheez, you muscle freaks… powers of the world…”
“What are you doing?” Janus said, rather flatly.
Flea snapped his fingers after a grunted spell and his free hand caught a red glow.
“Look, there are simpler ways to get out of here than to make the whole castle crumble…”
“So you say?” the wizard said with amusement through the surprise.
The magician grunted something and grabbed the shackle. The metal melted, but the skin below was left unharmed.
“See?” Flea dryly said, “not that hard, was it?”
Janus smiled a bit, slanted.
“Last time I was in this situation, the Flea and Slash I know were discussing which of my entrails to cut out first,” he said.
Flea took off his glasses and scratched his head with one of the curves normally holding them in place by his pointy ears.
“I can’t remember ever discussing anything with Slash, mister,” he informed and put the glasses back.
‘Hooboy, this is a real winner!’ the spirit Flea groaned.
“I see,” the wizard mildly said, “but tell me, isn’t helping a human deemed as high treason or something along the lines?”
The Mystic suddenly flashed two rows of sharp teeth in a grin.
“Well you know… not everyday you meet a human fellow who can break himself free from chains with pure muscle power. Gonna save the kid, are you?”
Janus found himself smiling widely back.
“That’s what I had planned, yes,” he said, “are you coming?”
“Aw, what the hell. Let’s blast down some walls.”
The spirit Flea suddenly didn’t look quite as frustrated anymore. Even the Prince’s lips twitched a bit.
“I think we’ll get along just fine,” Janus grinned as he stood, taking a hold of the remaining shackle, “powers of the world, lend me the power of Fire.”
“Whoa,” Flea commented, playing with his glasses again, “never seen a human use magic before.”
Janus chuckled and offered his hand.
“Janus, royal wizard of Guardia, from a possible future.”
Flea shook his head, but then accepted the greeting.
“Flea of the Mystics, magician and rather confused.”
“I’ll explain it to you once we’re out of here,” the wizard promised as he called for his staff.
“My teleporting skills are a bit rusty, how about you?” Flea wondered.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll get us around.”
Janus frowned a bit.
“Do you know if there was a cat brought here together with me and the boy?” he asked.
“A cat?” Flea said with raised eyebrows, “no, I don’t think so.”
“Good, could be hard to find Alfador around these parts… anyway, let’s go.”
Flea nodded and tapped his own head. With a slight smirk Janus reached out with his own mind and muttered the teleportation spell.
The strange couple disappeared in the typical flashing light.
“… Is Janus!” a child’s voice screeched, blurred with pain and fear.
“Damn it!” Janus growled.
But even before he had time to change the grip on his staff Flea had hurled a fireball straight in the surprised goblin’s face and dove for the boy, lashing out his right hand towards Ozzie.
Another whip slashed through the air before the magician could throw another fireball, and he growled in pain as his light robe was torn along with his concentration. He stumbled but got a safe grip of the kid as he fell. The child stared at the pink monster with wide eyes filled with tears of agony, but clutched the arms that shielded him with desperate hope.
“Flea! You good for nothing idiot!” Ozzie’s voice roared in outrage.
“The sign of a good leader is respect for his underlings,” Janus snarled as he swept up behind the fat greenie.
Ozzie moved surprisingly quick, but the staff slammed down on his forehead and he fell.
Running steps were heard from outside the corridor.
‘Time to leave!’ the Prince warned.
Janus tackled the remaining goblin before it had time to raise its whip again. Then he leaped over to the fallen two, muttering the spell he last had used once more. The magical light filled the dark room.
‘This must be an escape record or something,’ the female looking spirit pointed out.
‘It went smoother than mine,’ the Pawn allowed himself to agree.
“Dammit!” was Flea’s comment as he safely thumped down in the grass of Truce canyon, still with the small prince in a safe grip.
“Dammit what?” Janus asked with a hint of amusement, sitting down to inspect the wounds on the Mystic and child.
He placed the staff on the ground while the winds played with his long hair.
“Dammit, I missed the fat toad,” the magician grunted.
‘Ozzie sure will like hearing this!’ the spirit monster said, all of a sudden disgustingly cheerful.
Janus mildly chuckled, absentmindedly glancing around for any sign of Alfador. The cage he had been in laid open in the grass, the door seemed to have broken. No cat in sight though.
‘I’ll go find him,’ spirit Flea offered and left the wizard’s head.
‘Thanks,’ Janus thought, more friendly than last time he’d said that to the Mystic.
“We’ll just have to hope you’ll get another chance later,” he said aloud and gently touched the boy’s shoulder, “hey, are you alright?”
“I’m… I’m…” the kid stammered, staring at the wizard.
“It’s okay, nobody will hurt you anymore,” Flea calmingly promised as he carefully handed over the saved one to Janus.
This got the child staring at him instead.
“I’m not like them back there,” the magician hurriedly assured, “don’t look at me like that, kid.”
His voice trailed off in a sob.
“Don’t try to speak if you don’t want to,” Janus kindly said, “powers of the world…”
“I don’t know what’s worse,” Flea chuckled and stretched a little as the healing magic washed away his pain as well, “the fact that a human is using magic, or that he’s doing it better than me.”
“My knowledge comes from a version of you, does that cheer you up?” Janus mildly asked.
Flea rolled his eyes.
“Okay, that is it. Explain yourself, now.”
“I will, I will. In a moment. Feeling any better?”
The wizard aimed the last part towards the child, who slowly nodded.
“Thanks…” he whispered in a weak voice.
“I know you’re confused and scared,” Janus gently said, “I’ll explain everything to both of you, alright?”
Another frail nod.
“I just numbed your pain since you might have cloth stuck in your wounds,” the wizard said, “I have to get that out but you won’t feel anything.”
“Alright,” the boy said, his voice slightly securer than last time.
Janus gently helped him lay down on his stomach and carefully pulled the biggest pieces of bloodied robe away from the two long wounds.
“Will take care of you in a moment,” the wizard said, looking up at Flea.
The monster shrugged.
“I’m alright, care for him first,” he stated with a slight smile at the suspiciously glancing child, “I care more for an explanation right now.”
“Here goes then,” he said, “my name is Janus, and that is also the name of this child. I came from this land in the future to save him from the Mystics.”
He looked down and met the boy’s hesitant gaze, unwilling to talk above his head since the story concerned him.
“I was saved like you, but this place is different, and my savior was different too. In my world, this monster here is my archenemy.”
“Hey, that’s rather harsh…” Flea said, fiddling with his glasses.
Janus chuckled with the hint of a grin.
“You don’t look like that in my home world either,” he said, “I know you as a psychotic, egocentric guy who looks like a woman. Can’t exactly say I don’t like the variation.”
Very slowly one of Flea’s eyebrows went up.
“You’re kidding, right?” he flatly said.
“Sometimes wish I was. My version of you has been trying to assassinate me for the last eight years, failing every time.”
“So you’re saying that you come from another world, where I’m a cross dressing freak who is too stubborn to give up an idiotic project and on top of that makes friends with Ozzie and Slash?” the magician summed up in a calm voice.
“Yes,” Janus nodded.
“Right. Just dandy.”
Flea laid down flat on his stomach and crashed down his cheek into his hand, looking at the surprised boy. Right then he did remind a bit of the Flea Janus knew.
“Please tell me he’s just a nutcase, kid!”
At first the small prince just stared at the Mystic in bewilderment. Then his small fingers flew to his lips, as if their twitching tries to grow a smile baffled him even more.
‘I hear ya,’ spirit Flea’s voice sourly stated in a distance, ‘and I’ve never been so insulted in my entire life!’
‘Does it feel better if I remind you that you’re dead?’ the Prince smirked.
‘Ohh!’ the Mystic grumbled and “stomped off”.
“I don’t know,” the boy finally said and glanced at the wizard, “I met him two days ago.”
“Oh good, then I’m not alone with this confusion!” Flea said with a dry chuckle and smiled as the child battled another wave of intruding new sensations aimed at his lips.
Janus watched the boy with fond hope. To have Flea cracking his cold asocial shell was not expected, but it seemed to be happening.
‘Afraid of smiling, is he?’ the Mystic sent over to the wizard via a thought.
‘I was like that too,’ Janus replied, ‘had a hard time back in the place where we were born. You seem to be doing a good job though.’
‘Heh. Don’t like children that much but what the heck…’
“Okay, so he says that he’s you,” Flea said aloud and sarcastically pointed at Janus with his thumb, “so who are you?”
‘This will be interesting…’ the Pawn murmured.
The boy watched the monster in disbelief for a moment, not used to having anyone else but Schala show him genuine interest above the “worrying miscarriage” level.
“Why are you asking me?” he asked after a couple of seconds.
“Since I’ve already deemed him there out of his mind, you seem sensible enough. My name’s Flea, nice to meet you.”
Another short silence.
“Flea?” the boy finally repeated, battling another hesitant smile.
The Mystic rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, back in the good old days my family had names like Dreamer and Magician. Now we’re stuck with insects! Can you guess what my mother’s name was?”
Janus softly smiled as the boy slowly shook his head.
“No…?” he said, timidly.
“Spider,” Flea said with a grimace, “but her brother was named Bumblebee so I suppose we two have it good. We just called him Bumble and he hated all of us for it. I think granny Termite was missing a few…”
The wizard of the three smiled broadly and even his mirrors allowed themselves something similar as a giggle escaped the boy. He covered his own mouth in surprise.
“It’s alright, Janus,” the wizard gently assured him.
‘Congratulations,’ he warmly sent Flea.
‘Thanks. You owe me one.’
‘Sure. And was his name really Bumblebee?’
‘No, Dragon Fly. But Bumble sounds funnier.’
Janus couldn’t help but chuckle aloud.
“The Flea I know will die standing if I tell him all of this,” he said to cover it, not willing to risk the boy thinking that he was the joke.
The child was still in a critical mental state and Janus didn’t want to take any chances.
“Are you feeling any better?” the grown one asked the smaller.
After hesitating a moment the boy nodded, trying a small smile. Janus returned it and helped him sit up.
“Your back is cleaned, I better tend to the insect collection now.”
The boy couldn’t stop himself from giggling again.
Then suddenly he stopped smiling and pulled up his legs towards his chest, hugging his knees.
“Where’s Schala?” he mumbled, watching the wizard who just sat down beside Flea.
“I’m not sure,” the wizard said, grimmer than earlier, “but I’m going back to find her.”
“I want to come too!” the child said, almost furious as he began to realize that he might be left behind.
“Janus, listen,” the wizard said and sadly shook his head, “I came from the future to save you, to make sure that the time-loop in which prince Janus is safe would close. You need to grow stronger, like I did, to go back in time and rescue another one of us.”
He watched the pale, angered face and shook his head again.
“I know how you feel, I hated my teacher when he told me the same. But if you don’t refine your powers, then you won’t be able to kill Lavos and help Schala.”
“I can’t… I have no powers!” the child protested, “I’m… uh…”
His voice trailed off and he stared down at his hands in disbelief as his memory caught up with something.
“Everyone in Zeal was wrong about you, Janus,” the wizard softly said.
“If you can’t use magic, then I’m a frog,” Flea stated, causing three spirits and nearly also a wizard to whack their own foreheads due to the association.
The boy shifted his wide eyes between his hands and his guardians.
“Look kid,” Flea mildly said, “I might not be as powerful as my ancestors but I’m a magician and I know magic when I see it. Just not used to seeing it in humans, but now I know where to look.”
The child helplessly looked at Janus, who sighed.
“It’s a long time, I know,” he said, “but you need to do this to stop Lavos once and for all.”
Watching the clenched jaw he sighed.
‘Guess I’ll have to lie a little to convince him,’ he grimly thought.
‘It will only be half a lie, after all,’ the Pawn nodded.
“It’s not only for Schala and Lavos,” Janus said aloud, “it’s for us too. If you don’t also save yourself as a child, that Janus will grow up among the monsters.”
The boy flinched and Janus clenched his teeth to continue.
“Look, I’m going to show you something…”
Grudgingly he turned to the child and swiftly pulled off his own shirt, revealing all the scars he had collected in the Mystic castle. The boy sucked in his breath and Flea cringed.
“I was saved, but I got these,” Janus said, in his mind crossing his fingers, “the Janus who saved me had spent thirteen years being beaten up and brainwashed. He couldn’t even remember his past; serving the monsters as Magus, Pawn of the Mystics. I’m sorry I scare you.”
He quickly redressed and held out his palm to the boy.
“This isn’t about me, it’s your life,” he said, “you can grow strong and have your revenge against Lavos, and make Schala proud of you.”
The boy watched the palm for a few seconds before he reached out and placed is smaller hand in it.
“Royal wizard?” he hesitantly said.
“That’s my title, it doesn’t have to be yours,” Janus kindly said, “our lives will be different according to what you chose to do. And how the world here is set, Flea is different as I’ve pointed out already.”
He glanced at the listening monster.
“How is king Guardia here?” he asked.
“He’s okay,” Flea said with a light shrug, “keeps the hostile monsters at bay as well as he can, allows peaceful to live among humans…”
He sighed and shook his head.
“What about the war?” he darkly asked.
“It was in its final phase when I got thrown through time again,” Janus said with a light sigh, “the Mystics were loosing but it was barely.”
“It’s idiocy…” Flea growled and hit the ground with his fist, “Ozzie is out of his mind!”
“Ozzie?” the child repeated, a dark edge in his voice.
“Yeah, he wants to start a war and wipe out the humans,” he grimly said, “as it is now I might just go to king Guardia and ask for his protection, I’m going to need it. I suppose they’ll like a magic user, even if I’m rather crappy.”
“You?” Janus mildly said.
“In compare to my ancestors, yes. What about your version?” the monster gruffly asked.
“I think you’re just in loss of self confidence.”
Flea’s face hit the ground.
“You are all too right there,” he said, muffled and bitterly, “magic is rather passé these days.”
“How can you live without magic?” the child said, his own frustrated memories lashing out at the monster.
Flea looked up and shook his head.
“I’ve got magic, that’s all I’ve got, kid. I’m no fighter. Look…”
He took off his glasses and turned them in his hand to show the boy how thick they were.
“I’m almost blind, so I can never battle with physic strength. So I get no respect, see?”
“And they all thought I was worthless because I couldn’t use magic!” the child growled, confused and angry over this new concept.
Janus remained silent, waiting and watching the evolution.
“Almost all monsters can use a little magic,” Flea grunted and put his glasses back in place, “but they rely on brute force. I’m just a little bit better a magician than others. Understand?”
“At home magic was everything!” the child said.
“We’re both misplaced, aren’t we?”
The Mystic smiled a little without joy.
“I’ve wanted to blast a fireball right in Ozzie’s fat face for years, and when I get the chance I miss,” he sighed.
Meeting the boy’s gaze he smiled a bit softer.
“I’m not that powerful. You however, you’ll bypass me in a couple of years and then you can send that toad flying through the walls of his big castle.”
“I… could?” the child hesitantly said, but there was something new in the back of his eyes.
“What would you be, nine, ten?” Flea asked and shrugged, “maybe a little too young to take chances. But it wouldn’t be much longer, would it?”
He looked up at Janus, who shook his head with a smirk.
“I plan on doing something like that as soon as I get back,” the wizard said, “but I’ll stay here a little while and help both of you get stronger, if you want.”
Flea dryly chuckled.
“I wouldn’t turn down an offer like that even if I was crazy,” he said and looked ahead, “what about you, kid?”
The boy hardly hesitated at all this time before nodding, and it was with resolve in the small, green eyes. He reached out a hand and Flea took it with a small, excited smirk. Janus closed his hands over the two finer ones.
“But before I go anywhere else I want a damn explanation!” Flea suddenly stated after a few moments of symbolic silence.
“Yes, of course…” Janus chuckled and let go.
‘Look what I found!’
“… But I think we’re missing someone,” the wizard added after hearing the call in his head, smiling at the boy.
“What…” he begun, but followed his older versions gaze.
One of the bushes surrounding the small grassy platform moved and a cat with purplish fur leaped out with a happy meowing.
“Alfador!” the boy called in pure joy and caught the animal in a tight hug.
‘Let’s just hope that doesn’t become his only friend again…’ the spirit Flea muttered, ‘though I wouldn’t worry too much.’
‘Oh?’ the Prince said, surprisingly mild.
“How come everybody knows about these people Schala and Lavos around here,” the living Flea grunted, but with a chuckle, “even the kitty talks about them.”
Janus raised an eyebrow and the boy looked up in surprise.
“What, it’s not that hard,” the magician mildly said.
“Can you understand what he says?” the boy asked, intrigued.
“Sure, he’s glad to see you… and he’s wondering where he is, but it’s okay since you’re back. So cute I think I’ll get sick…”
The tone of his voice got them all smiling again.
“Now really,” Flea said, “who’s Schala and Lavos?”
Janus opened his mouth but quickly closed it again as the boy burst out:
“She’s my sister, and Lavos fooled all of us! We all thought he was a god but he… and the black wind…”
“Hey whoa,” Flea said, waving with his hand, “take it from the start, alright? I’m in the dark here.”
The boy took in a deep breath to calm down and looked up at the wizard before starting again, a bit hesitant. But Janus nodded encouragement.
“Schala is my sister,” the boy then begun, “we lived in Zeal and…”
Smiling to himself Janus resumed picking pieces of cloth from Flea’s wounds while the monster fascinated listened to the child’s tale.
Chapter 23, The circle closes
“Your Majesty, we have come to ask for your protection for this child and the Mystic, for the monsters desire their enslavement and death.”
The royal guards, chancellor and even the king himself was a bit taken aback by the blue-haired stranger’s looks, the looks of his company, his words, and the way that he turned the bow to sitting down on one knee with his head lowered. His movement went so smoothly that it was hard to comprehend how he changed position. The fact that his kneeling was a perfect imitation of how the knights greeted the king wasn’t taking anything off the surprise.
‘Sweet talker,’ two Flea’s commented, one of them unaware of the other’s existence.
‘Whatever gets you in,’ Janus mildly commented to the breathing one.
‘Suppose you have a point.’
“And… what about yourself?” king Guardia finally wondered, still trying to comprehend the situation.
“I must continue my journey, Your Majesty,” Janus explained, looking up but not standing, “but I can no longer protect Janus here as it seems. We were captured by the Mystics and would not be here now if it hadn’t been for Flea’s aid.”
“You were what?!” most of the room exclaimed.
‘Your turn,’ Janus advised.
The monster mentally nodded and stepped forward.
“Your Majesty,” he said too and bowed, “my name is Flea, a magician of the Mystics, though I finally cast off my allegiance with the monsters as I could not allow Ozzie to go through with his plans to enslave these two.”
“What did those demons want with you?” the king grimly said, watching the child and the cat he held with concern.
The small Janus bit his lower lip and shuddered as he tried to speak.
He trailed off and his grown version calmingly put his hand on the small shoulder.
“After Flea freed me from the dungeon we rushed to find Janus,” the grown one grimly said, “he was being whipped.”
The humans winced as the wizard carefully held up the child’s robe to show the tears.
“Flea took a hit as well as he shielded Janus, then we managed to get out of there and the wounds were healed with our magic.”
There was a silence.
“Your magic?” king Guardia said in disbelief.
The grown Janus nodded and held up his hand.
“The reason that Ozzie desires our enslavement is that he finds this fascinating,” he said and a blue flame danced up from his palm.
Quite a few people were lightly said startled.
“Yes, I am a wizard,” Janus softly said, “and so is Janus, apart from the fact that he doesn’t know how to use his powers yet. He will need protection until he’s strong enough to take care of himself.”
“I thought only monsters could use magic!” the chancellor exclaimed, despite himself.
“Yes, it usually is so,” Flea said and shook his head, “but we are loosing much of our knowledge of it. How these two can use magic is beyond me, however I sense that Janus will be more powerful than I am.”
He bowed again.
“To my old friends I am dead,” he continued with a hint of bitterness, “and I will be at first sight. Therefore I humbly asks for your protection, Your Majesty. My magical powers aren’t what they should be, but I can heal.”
“Magic or not,” king Guardia kindly said as he finally had managed to swallow the worst surprise, “I wouldn’t turn down a plea for help. You are both welcome to stay in the castle for a while.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” Flea gratefully said.
The boy managed to find his voice yet again and also thanked the king, very much despite himself. The grown Janus softly smiled as he stood.
“I will stay here for a short while and help Flea begin to teach Janus,” he said, “then I must be going.”
“That shouldn’t be a problem,” the king nodded with a smile, “but what is your name, then?”
“Cyrus, Your Majesty,” Janus replied without blinking.
Flea nervously played with his glasses.
“Your Majesty…” he hesitantly began, “there is something else, far more grave, but I didn’t want to say it earlier to hold it against you…”
“What then?” king Guardia asked with a slight frown of worry.
“It’s Ozzie,” Flea said and bit his lip, “due to my bloodline from an ancient and great magician I had a fairly high position among the Mystics, and therefore I know that the monsters are planning sinister things as we speak. Ozzie’s plan is to start a war to wipe out the humans, weapons are being forged in hidden caves below the ocean.”
Most of the humans in the room either paled or caught deep frowns.
“Are you sure?” the king grimly asked.
A tad bit pale himself the magician nodded.
‘He can’t help but feel guilty for being a traitor,’ the spirit Mystic almost fondly said.
“I am absolutely sure,” the living one assured, “they will be ready to attack within three years, maybe even earlier.”
Janus dearly wanted to assure the king of the truth, but knew that it would complicate things since he’d have to explain himself. Therefore he left it.
But the boy then surprised the ones who knew him.
“I heard some monsters talk just before they… beat me,” he said in a fairly steady voice, only hesitating a couple of times to pull himself together, “they said that… I could be useful in the war since I was even more powerful than Flea.”
“It’s alright,” Janus calmingly said, putting his hand on the boy’s shoulder again for reassurance while Alfador rubbed his head against the robed chest.
King Guardia exchanged worried looks with his chancellor.
“Please believe us,” Flea grimly said, “if we were lying, what would we gain of such a lie?”
The king stood and gravely nodded.
“Though I cannot verify your information I must take it as the serious warning it is, and there will be preparations for an occasion of war. I thank you for letting me know.”
He added the last in a kinder voice and continued:
“Now, I see that you are tired. I’m sure that there are some beds free in the hospital wing, and getting your own rooms shouldn’t take long. We’ve got many unused chambers in this old castle.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty.”
The boy nodded, fully focusing on his teacher. Flea also listened closely, sitting on a chair and absentmindedly petting the sleeping Alfador who had curled up in his lap.
“Alright,” Janus said, “the easiest thing to do, strength wise, is an illusion. I know you’ve tried this before, but now that your powers have awakened you will be able to do it, trust me.”
“Okay,” the child said, with determination.
Janus glanced at Flea, who innocently smiled.
‘You teach us magic, mister, I handle his vocabulary for now,’ the Mystic chuckled.
‘He’s a worse menace than Lucca!’ the Prince grunted.
‘Heh,’ Janus neutrally said and turned back to the child.
“Good,” he said aloud, “try something simple at first.”
The wizard reached out and took one of the scrolls of middle classed magic he had given Flea to study while the boy learnt the basics.
“Try to make an illusion of this beside it,” Janus instructed and put the closed roll on the floor, “I’ve noticed that it’s easier to concentrate if you hold one or two fingers against your forehead.”
The boy nodded and raised his hand, frowning in concentration as he glared at the book.
Slowly a ray of light flowed out from where the forehead met fingertips, tentative at first but as the student felt that something happened he gained confidence and the ray rushed down on the floor. A lightly transparent copy of the scroll appeared when the light touched the ground, and it stayed as the small Janus let his hand leave it’s position in excitement.
“Well done!” the wizard smiled.
“Great work, kiddo!” Flea cheered with a big grin.
‘Somebody kill that… thing, pleeease!’ the spirit Flea groaned, hanging on the Prince’s arm even if he tried to shake him off.
‘Let go before I kill you, again,’ the oldest Janus growled.
‘But I’m sure this treatment is good for my ba-a-ack!’ the headache called, flapping almost like a leaf in storm.
‘Threaten to start asking him personal questions again instead,’ Janus suggested with an inner smirk.
‘I’m calm, silent and leaving you alone! Yessir!’
The Pawn chuckled a bit as Flea moved off.
‘Behave or I’ll ask you how old you are,’ he warned.
‘You should never ask a lady about his age!’ the spirit monster snorted, wrinkling his nose.
‘Even if they’ve always looked the same, like you and your friends?’ the Pawn mildly pointed out.
‘Monsters age slower than humans,’ the Prince said with a smirk, ‘he was 57 when I killed him.’
‘Jaaanus!’ Flea cried, imitating a banshee quite well.
‘Ozzie was 62 and Slash 54, I believe,’ the old leader cruelly added.
‘Now that’s a bit surprising,’ Janus said with raised eyebrows.
‘Yes, making the only one with the ability to think straight the baby of the group,’ the Pawn snickered.
“Hey, would you look at that?” the living Flea grinned.
Janus looked up and aside, meeting his own transparent eyes. He jumped a bit of the surprise, then smiled at the boy.
“You’re doing great.”
The child smiled carefully, for him it could pass as a wide grin.
“I think we can go on to a bit more useful things then,” Janus said and picked the scroll from the floor, “first…”
He held out his arm and slammed the hard, wooden side of the aged script’s base into his left upper arm.
“… Simple healing,” he added with a wince, “that hurt… now I want you to make the pain go away. You saw me and Flea heal yesterday, think you can do it?”
“I’ll try,” the boy nodded, reaching out for the reddish mark.
“Healing requires that you are able to care for the victim and picture his pain, just a little bit is needed. It gets easier with time and practice, like everything else.”
“I always regarded it as a way to make the big babies stop whining,” Flea muttered to Alfador, who’s tail twitched as he watched his young human friend.
“Powers of the world, lend me the power of Water, na matala sela!”
The boy closed his eyes in concentration, and a small snowstorm of stars completely covered Janus’ arm. Needless to say the pain left.
“Oops,” the child said in embarrassment as he opened his eyes when feeling the exaggerated use of power.
“It’s alright,” Janus assured, “you’ll learn control, first of all we need to get you started.”
“I understand,” the young one gravely nodded.
Janus allowed himself a light sigh.
‘Homesick, are you?’ the Pawn gently said.
‘Suppose… and I’ve only been away from home for what, a week?’
‘Six days of your life,’ his teacher corrected, ‘close enough.’
‘Well, it’s just that this place is my home, but at the same time it’s not.’
“Sir Cyrus?” a voice said ahead of him.
“My liege?” Janus replied, automatically.
‘Damn my absent mind…’
‘You’re only human,’ Flea cheerfully said.
‘And grateful about it, too.’
‘There are lots of great stuff about being a monster!’
‘Like being dead?’
King Guardia smiled.
“You bear no such close allegiance to me, do you?” he said in a friendly way, “no need to use that title.”
“Call it a habit, Your Majesty,” Janus mildly said and passed the last few steps, “what can I do for you?”
The king’s smiled dropped and he frowned a bit.
“It considers young Janus,” he said, “I hear the tale of him and also yourself has leaked out and the people in Truce seems to be a bit nervous since they’re not used to magic being cast by humans.”
Janus folded his arms lightly and nodded.
“Ah yes,” he said, “figures. No, no, I understand. Nothing about Flea, though?”
The king shook his head, clearly a bit uncomfortable with the whole subject.
“Peaceful monsters have switched sides before,” he said, “it’s more common than magic.”
“Janus is still learning but he’s doing good in healing magic,” the wizard thoughtfully said, “if he could get a chance to show that side of our powers somehow it should calm people.”
King Guardia nodded.
“That’s a good idea. I’ll see if the town doctor needs any help. Nothing too gross, of course, he’s still a child.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty. Try to make sure there won’t be a crowd though, I know he’s a bit shy.”
“So I’ve understood. I hope it’s passing,” the king kindly said.
“I’m pretty sure it is,” Janus nodded with a smile.
They would have continued talking for a while, if it hadn’t been for the young voice shouting.
Quick steps came up the stair.
“Look!” the boy panted, smiling through the breathing.
The king blinked, though he had received a few glances at the mystical powers the freely floating Alfador took him by surprise.
“You’re advancing almost quicker than I was,” Janus softly said and reached up to scratch the cat behind the ears.
‘He’s making a worse process in cheerfulness too,’ the Pawn chuckled, ‘damn Flea.’
‘Oh yeah, blame everything on Flea… oh, you mean the weird one. Okay, carry on…’ the pink spirit muttered, at first pouting but then quickly changing.
“You never cease to amaze me,” king Guardia commented and gave the boy a friendly smile.
The smallest Janus’ troubles to smile were breaking apart very smooth and quickly. Flea sure was a threat to his coldness.
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” he said.
At first the title had most probably just been spoken by him since he felt it was needed, but already he was doing it automatically.
‘He’s in good hands,’ Janus softly thought.
Chapter 24, Final assembly
“I thank you for accepting Janus and Flea,” the grown wizard said, straightening up, “I know that they will be safe here and I can continue my travels.”
“You’re welcome back if you need help, Cyrus,” the king kindly said.
“Thank you, Your Majesty.”
Janus let his smile pass the people in the throne room, pausing briefly at his two pupils and Alfador.
‘Are you ever going to come back?’ the boy sent over to his mind.
‘My own teacher came back to see me, and anyway there’s no way I’d just leave you forever,’ Janus promised again.
They had already had a similar discussion, but the boy was apparently still worried.
‘You two take care now.’
‘Leave it to me, I won’t let him screw up,’ Flea chuckled.
‘Better not,’ Janus smirked.
‘We’ll think of something to save Glenn and Cyrus when that time comes.’
‘I’m sure you will.’
“I bid you farewell now,” the wizard said aloud, turned and walked out, staff in hand.
He left the castle and made sure he was out of sight before he stopped to chant.
‘This should do it…’
The darkness opened and he stepped through time and dimensions.
He stepped out in a snowy plain and frowned.
‘No, you haven’t done a mistake,’ the Pawn said in a controlled voice, ‘this is all that remains of Zeal.’
The icy winds spread Janus’ hair about as he stared towards the tiny village. Somewhere his brain noted that it didn’t feel quite as cold as he remembered it. The eternal snowfall had ceased, too.
But this… this were the last remains of humanity?
‘Because of my magic…?’ he bitterly thought.
‘It would have cost us the boy’s life if you hadn’t,’ the Prince reminded, more friendly than he ever had been before, ‘in our streams it was because of Schala. She doesn’t talk about it.’
He let “but she knows all too well” remain unsaid.
“Just great…” Janus growled aloud and hurried towards the village.
Earthbound and enlightened ones were assembled in the center of the broken circle of huts, all looking dispirited and bitter. The wizard winced as he estimated their numbers. There could only be a tiny part of the magical kingdom’s population left. The earthbound ones seemed to have done better though, but they hadn’t needed to make it to the sky lifts…
‘That Lavos is so powerful…’ Janus bitterly thought.
‘To destroy an entire land, yes,’ Flea surprisingly gently said, ‘with enough power he’s able to do so and more. But you will still beat him.’
‘I sure hope so…’
‘Don’t worry about it, cutie.’
He had been spotted. Now all the people looked up with either relief that he was safe or surprise for the call.
Janus hurried the last few yards forwards. As he began to slow down a child from the outskirts of the crowd stood and hurried towards him. Without thinking the wizard let go of his staff and lifted the little one as the boy clearly asked for a proof of security. Sobbing slightly the child buried his dirty face in the clean cloth over the shoulder and hugged the strong neck tightly.
“What has happened here?” Janus asked, looking around.
The enlightened ones stared at him in distrust while the ones in torn and dirty clothes closed in with relieved smiles.
“So glad to see you, prince,” the elder said, “Lavos awakened and destroyed Zeal… we thought you were dead.”
“Are there any injured people? Where are my friends?” Janus asked.
The smiles dropped.
“What?” the wizard demanded.
“Lord Dalton came here and brought your friends to the Black Bird,” the elder sadly said and shook his head, “and that crashed into the ocean minutes ago.”
‘They’re alive,’ the three spirits said simultaneously.
Janus still let his gaze fall and slowly nodded.
“I see,” he slowly said not to raise too many questions, “we can just hope that they are still alive then.”
He reached out his free hand and put it on the old man’s shoulder.
“As for now, are there injured among you?”
“Yes, but with the Mammon Machine gone no one can use magic to heal them,” someone else in the crowd sadly said.
Janus hesitated for a moment.
‘If you don’t let them know how you do it, it should be alright,’ Flea gently said.
‘I agree,’ the Prince said and the Pawn nodded.
“Lavos did not create magic,” Janus sternly said and let his gaze run over all the people, “there is still some left, and I’ll use it to help you now. But then it’s better that the mystical powers leave humanity, as you have seen proof of here today.”
There was a light, confused murmur in the group.
Janus would have clarified a bit, but a sudden earthquake threw them all to the ground. The wizard managed to land on his back to protect the gasping child.
“What’s happening?!” somebody shouted.
“Look! The Ocean palace!”
Growling Janus got up and glared towards the horizon as people began to point.
‘I never really understood why he did that,’ the Prince grunted.
“Is Lavos bringing even more suffering to us?!” yet another voice croaked.
“Are we gonna die too?” the boy who Janus held whimpered.
The wizard’s eyes narrowed and he calmingly put his hand against the small, shivering back.
“No, I promise,” he muttered, “it’s alright.”
‘What’s the point of making the palace fly?’ he asked in his thoughts.
‘Nothing as far as I ever saw,’ the Prince said, ‘whenever going to a future era it was just floating there, never doing anything. That was, until we fought the queen in there and trashed it.’
‘It never hurt people by me either,’ the Pawn nodded, ‘any idea, Flea?’
‘We’re talking an intergalactic parasite from outer space, in a ship looking like an overgrown hedgehog,’ the Mystic pointed out, ‘do you expect logic?’
‘He seemed all too intelligent when he talked to me and Molor,’ the Prince grunted.
‘Just a showoff methinks.’
“Calm down!” Janus shouted, “I don’t think it’s going to hurt anyone, if so it would have launched something at us already. Just calm down and try not to think about it for now, we have to get you back on your feet!”
The people were still in uproar of new fear. They went from one shock to another these days, the poor…
Janus clenched his teeth and muttered a spell under his breath, so silently that not even the boy heard him. He wasn’t going to risk somebody rediscovering the powers and use them to take command of the small world.
A flame erupted towards the sky and the wizard finally got the attention back.
“Listen,” he said in a calming voice, “I’ll tend to your wounded. Further, there must be something edible around, on land or in the ocean. Hunters, fishermen?”
“We’ll send out people,” the elder nodded after a moment of collecting himself.
“Good,” Janus said, smiling to encourage them all, “select those who should get food and the others start collecting firewood. This winter won’t last forever but it’s rather chilly still, isn’t it?”
‘Am I a leader?’ he dryly thought as the people began carrying out his advices.
‘You were born a prince, it’s in our blood,’ the Prince said with a slight smile, ‘even if you’re rusty you’re doing pretty well.’
‘Thanks, I guess.’
“You okay, Marle?” Lucca worriedly asked.
“Yeah…” the princess mumbled.
“Marle like Crono best…” Ayla sadly purred.
The daughter of king Guardia straightened up with new determination in her eyes.
“Crono… I’m finding him, no matter what!” she muttered, more to herself than anything else.
Lucca faintly smiled. She missed her childhood friend too and her heart ached as she thought of his fate, but she saw that her newer friend felt more than just the regular grief. And she had turned the pain into a resolve to right what had been wronged.
But Crono was dead… would even time travel help this time?
She was brought out of her thoughts by Marle’s jump out of the cockpit.
“Let’s check the village out, who knows what Dalton might have done while we were imprisoned!”
“Coming!” Lucca shouted, “wait up!”
Ayla leaped down in the snow and shrieked.
“Brr! Ayla miss Janus too!”
“I’ll see what I can do…” Lucca promised and tried to figure out how a warming spell would work.
It worked fine in a way. The snow melted away as if it had been touched by red hot iron wherever the cavewoman trampled.
The three women found the camp in a better state than they had left it. The dispirited humans were now rushing about carrying firewood to one of the huts, which apparently had been turned into a storage for such. The older and younger parts of the population had been shrouded in roughly cut pieces of the many robes the enlightened ones had worn on a daily basis.
“Something apparently happened while we were away,” Lucca mildly said.
“Hey, you three!”
They looked up to see the elder of the earthbound ones.
“You’re alive!” he smiled.
“Yeah, we’re fine,” Marle said with a brave smile, “are you guys alright?”
“Yes, things are looking a bit better as you see.”
“Dalton is gone,” Lucca reported, “you won’t have to fear him anymore.”
The elder smiled gently.
“I want to thank you from all of us,” he gratefully said, “you have done so much to help. Ah yes, and prince Janus is here.”
“He is?!” the three shouted simultaneously, nearly pouncing the elder.
“Yes, he’s helping the wounded,” the old man said and waved at the northwestern houses.
His beard almost shivered by the wind created by the women’s speed.
The blue-haired figure stood and turned away from the lying form he had tended to, smiling slightly as Marle, Lucca and Ayla dashed into the simple house.
He saw it coming better than his teacher had done and steeled himself not to stumble backwards over his patients as the blonde princess threw herself at him.
“At least you are alive!” Marle almost growled, her voice choked with emotions.
Janus gently hugged her back for a moment, meeting Lucca and Ayla’s relieved gazes.
‘This will hurt…’
‘Your conscience is too big, cutie,’ Flea said, gentle however.
‘It’s not fair to them.’
He looked down at the blond horsetail. It brought his mind helplessly to Lai, the hug didn’t exactly make him feel any better.
Janus was constantly feeling bad for letting his student down again and again with history’s need for refusal. He couldn’t take much more of a similar thing.
‘They’ll forgive you when you get him back,’ the Pawn kindly said.
‘I hope so.’
“Marle… all,” Janus carefully said.
Two crystal blue eyes looked up into his ruby red ones, hesitantly.
“What?” the princess said.
“The black wind said…”
Janus sighed and shook his head.
“It said ‘the young man will die, so that his friends may live, so that the ones he cares for won’t perish like him’.”
Marle opened her mouth but only a choked sound came out. Lucca looked down at the floor with shaking fists and Ayla made a sad, growling noise.
“I’m sorry,” Janus said, “what do you think had happened if I had told you? I’m sorry. But look at me. Look at me!”
He sternly looked down into Marle’s eyes again after meeting the other’s gazes.
“We’re getting him back, understand? My guardians tell me that they managed, and so will we then.”
“Are you sure?” Marle asked with new hope.
Janus smiled a bit and gently let go of her.
“I’m sure. Let’s go talk to Gaspar, he’ll know.”
“Alright!” Lucca cheered, punching the air with a big, hopeful grin.
“Blue haired one good friend!” Ayla grinned.
Janus’ smile turned a bit bitter.
He looked back at Marle again and then sunk down on one knee, lowering his head before the women’s surprised gazes.
“As the princess of Guardia you are, after all, the same as my liege,” Janus said with the hint of a smile, “and on my honor as the royal wizard of your cause I hereby swear that not telling you all that I knew Crono would die was the last time I ever hid the truth or lied to you.”
‘You’re crazier than a room full of imps,’ Flea commented, his pointing finger spinning about an inch from his head.
‘Your general says wise things every now and then,’ the Pawn mildly told the Prince, who simply grunted.
“Stand up, wizard,” Marle said, not sure if she should scold him or chuckle, “and quit the act.”
“It’s not an act,” Janus gravely said as he straightened up, “you have to admit that I have been keeping a lot of things away from you.”
“Not like you didn’t have a reason,” Lucca said, “can’t say I like it but in retrospect we wouldn’t have wanted to know about Crono.”
“Still, I am sorry for lying,” Janus said.
“It’s alright,” Marle stated, “or it will be alright when we get Crono back.”
The wizard nodded and waved a little with his hand to bring their attention to the rest of the hut. There were about ten more people in there, those who were awake watching the four visitors rather strangely.
“I just need to finish healing these ones, then we’ll go,” Janus said.
“And we’ll help,” she said with a stronger smile than last.
“Then kill Lavos!” Ayla grinned.
Janus’ smile widened and he nodded with determination.
‘Onwards towards the end…’
He forced the smile to stay.
‘Now don’t get all depressed there, honey,’ Flea cheekily said.
‘Oh shut up…’
Lucca didn’t notice that the wizard bitterly glanced at her as she helpfully went to check that the fire warming the hut wasn’t smoking too much.
‘I’d strongly recommend keeping Lucca away from Lai, yeah,’ the Mystic went on, ‘she’d positively roast her. And apart from that…’
He didn’t get any further as the Prince absentmindedly kicked his ankle, used the unbalance to bring the Mystic down with a light shove and then planted his boot on the white-robed stomach.
‘Okay, okay, I get it already!’ Flea pouted, ‘sheez! Why do you always have to exaggerate everything?’
‘I exaggerate?’ the Prince said, soft as silk.
‘Of course! If you fall into complete despair you don’t just have to go crazy, you have to go get possessed by hurk!’
‘If you’d believe my personal thoughts,’ the Pawn muttered, ‘I’d say they somewhere deep down just don’t want you to be depressed.’
Janus’ lips even twitched, even though he still felt a bit down.
‘That theory is better than the one about them trying to drive me crazy…’
Chapter 25, Flea troubles
“This’ll protect you against the cold,” Janus said with a smile, placing a sparkle on Marle’s forehead and turning to Lucca for the same treatment, “good luck you three.”
“Thanks,” the princess of Guardia said, her eyes glistening with determination.
The assembled troop in the End of Time waved at the two women and Robo as they jumped off the edge to Epoch, Marle clutching the Chrono Trigger in a safe grip.
That over with, everyone went back to just waiting. Or rather, Gaspar, Frog and Janus did. Ayla went to fight Spekkio out of boredom. The sounds from the battle was magically and thankfully distant.
“Don’t you get bored here, Gaspar?” Janus asked in a conversional manner, sitting down in a free corner of the room and leaning against the railing.
He put the staff on the ground and stretched out before getting into a casual and relaxed stance.
“Heh, if I couldn’t watch time I’d go crazy living here,” the guru admitted with a chuckle, “I get to see quite a few interesting things.”
He tipped his hat a bit with a small smile.
“You know, family lines growing, love stories, frogs with broadswords killing dinosaurs…”
Frog chuckled and gave a light bow.
“’Tis an honor to entertain thee, sir Gaspar,” he smirked.
“Can you see where Schala is, then?” Janus asked.
‘Hey, gotta try.’
‘Now you’re thinking like that alternate Flea talked,’ the Prince grunted.
“I’m sorry, prince Janus,” Gaspar said with a sigh, “not all events of time are always open to me. Otherwise I would have sent you to find her already.”
“I trust you as much, my friend. And quit calling me prince, it’s wizard or just Janus if you please.”
“If you say so, Janus.”
The wizard smiled a bit and leaned his head backwards, looking up into the never ending brownish sky. After a moment he began feeling like he was falling into it and closed his eyes to get rid of the sinking sensation.
‘Aww, he’s feeling down again,’ Flea commented.
‘You’re too attached,’ the Prince muttered.
But in the next second he sighed.
‘I’m one to talk…’
The other three of the group smiled a bit at their second oldest member, not scornfully.
‘But it’s personal this time!’ the Mystic said.
‘Isn’t it always?’ Janus dryly replied.
He looked up and smiled a bit as Frog plopped down beside him.
“Dost thee believe they will be victorious?” the swordsman softly asked.
“I don’t think they’re allowed to fail,” Janus replied with a gentle smirk, “we’re stopping Lavos at all costs. Hm…”
He sighed lightly.
“… And cleaning up history.”
“Dost that bother thee?” Frog wondered.
“Well you know…”
Janus leaned his cheek in a hand.
“When Lavos is dead I’ll leave Guardia to find Schala,” he muttered.
“Oh, I see…” Frog said in a low voice, looking down at his hands as well as his misplaced eyes allowed.
Grunting lightly the wizard shifted.
“Will have to make sure the Mystics are gone first…”
He smiled joylessly.
“I’ll have to kill Flea.”
For the strange tone in his voice he got a puzzled gaze.
“Does thee hesitate when facing that deed?” Frog wondered, frowning.
“Ah, not in his case. But when I saved the boy I met another kind of Flea, one that helped me. It will be hard to wash his memory out of my head when I fight.”
‘And you’re not helping either,’ he grunted in his thought to one of his guardians.
“’Tis a true twist of fate,” the swordsman commented, “why wouldst he aid thee?”
“He didn’t get along with Ozzie, Slash or any of the other Mystics very well, so to speak.”
Janus put a hand on his friend’s shoulder.
“I’m still freeing us from our magician though,” he declared and smiled a bit, “for your sake if nothing else, Glenn.”
Frog smiled a bit.
“Thy loyalty warms my heart. But pull a stunt like with the mantis again and I shall cut thy hands off.”
“Alright, alright…” Janus chuckled.
‘Heh…’ the spirit Flea muttered.
‘You’re awfully quiet,’ Janus suspiciously thought.
‘I’m leaving you this moment,’ his teacher mildly said, ‘don’t know about those two though.’
Flea and the Prince exchanged quick glances, as if offhand.
‘Just remembering,’ the oldest Janus calmly stated.
‘Yeah, my shoulder still aches where you cleaved. All the way down to my…’
‘Thanks, I remember just fine by my own.’
‘Tch, tch, tch…’
‘Is there something you’re not telling us?’ the Pawn wondered.
‘It’s something you’ll find out and pass on your own, boys,’ the Mystic happily said.
‘Sounds like fun…’
“And for the memory of Cyrus,” Frog pointed out, his smile dropping.
The wizard’s face changed to a grim mask as well and he nodded.
“Of course. And everyone else that died in the war.”
Janus, Frog and Gasper looked up as a flash of light announced the arrival of Epoch. Moments later Marle, Lucca and Robo swept up from the darkness below. Crono landed between them, grinning widely.
“Crono!” Frog called with a big smile, leaping to his feet and dropping the earlier moment’s dark determination.
The wizard got up as well to joyfully welcome his friend back to life.
The two warriors from Guardia nearly got overrun by Ayla, who dashed out of Spekkio’s room and literally pounced the surprised returner.
Marle flinched for a second, but got a grip of herself as Ayla leaped off the young man almost immediately as if she was afraid he had gone broken. But he got up with a chuckle.
Glad to see you too, he mildly said.
“Ayla glad Crono okay!” the cave woman beamed, “so worried about Marle too!”
“Eh…” the princess began, though dropping it.
‘They were so cute on Death Peak, hugging! Nyaha!’ Flea giggled, causing the Prince to roll his eyes.
‘Good update…’ Janus just commented with a faint smile and grabbed Crono’s hand.
And you’re back in one piece too I see, the red-hair grinned.
“It went as well as I could have hoped for, yeah,” the wizard smiled, “good to have you back.”
Gasper let the reunion go on for a while, then he cleared his throat to get the attention.
“Now that you’re back in full force you might be able to tackle Lavos,” he announced, “however I have seen glimpses of history that you might need to look into before that…”
The iron portal in the dark wall did add up a little, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
‘It should have been raining,’ Janus idly thought, his fingers drumming against the staff as he silently watched the dark castle.
‘Don’t be so sentimental,’ the Prince muttered.
‘It’s not just that, it’s hard enough to get into the right mood for this as it is. More appropriate weather could help.’
The Prince just shook his head at that.
‘You have to see it from his view, milord,’ Flea said with wide, innocent eyes, ‘would you be able to kill me again after all that’s happened?’
‘Don’t push me.’
The spirit Mystic cheerfully grinned.
A pair of gargoyles screeched at each other on top of the wall as the three warriors came out of the forest. When realizing they were seen, the monsters dove down on the inside.
Janus exchanged glances with Frog and Crono, then walked closer to the gate.
The knocks rung through the still air like a gong.
“Mystics!” the wizard called, “I am Janus! Let’s settle this once and for all!”
Even though the song of iron hung in the area for several seconds after the last knock, it was as silent as the depth of the ocean. A very tense silence.
They’re not answering the bell… Crono grimly concluded, his hand on his sword hilt.
“So it seems,” Frog said, motioning at the gate, “shall we enter as they dost not decline us to do so?”
“Be my guest,” Janus nodded and stepped aside.
It took a couple of swings to break the gate, but in the end it fell before the might of Frog’s blade.
With the wizard in the lead the three entered the fairly small courtyard, only to be greeted by an angry buzz.
A big, familiar insect stormed out of the castle gate, it’s black eyes set upon Janus.
Again the staff suffered deep cuts but remained in one piece. Without a word the wizard swung his weapon at the nearest wall, sending the mantis flying. It got control of its flight in time and zoomed back, finding itself forced to parry a thin sword. Hissing it tumbled over Crono’s head and rushed towards Janus again.
The staff slammed into its chest, hardly marking the steel-hard panzer. But Frog’s swing nearly cut off the nearest sword arm, had the opponent not been so quick.
We’re getting more company! Crono warned.
Freelancers and goblins with varying weapons were hurrying down the stair to the fort, flanked by sorcerers and skeletons. They were much more scarce than expected, but still not a nice sight.
“Keep him busy for a while, I’ll clear some room!” Janus growled.
“Aye!” Frog grimly nodded.
Crono would have agreed had he not been busy with the mantis already.
“Powers of the Underworld…”
A shrill whistle tore the air into pieces and nearly caused all the fighters to drop their weapons in the fight to cover their ears.
“That’s enough, in you go!” Flea’s voice snarled.
Sourly buzzing the mantis turned and flew into the fort again, past his master in the doorframe. The other monsters were giving their magician puzzled looks.
The humans cautiously tightened the grip of their weapons as the monsters cleared way down the stair for the pink skinned one.
‘Either he’s got more guts than I thought possible or it’s a trick,’ the Pawn commented.
‘I think it’s something just in between,’ the spirit Flea muttered, raising an eyebrow.
“What trickery be this?” Frog aggressively demanded.
Flea smirked a bit and stretched a bit of the glowing whip he held between his hands.
“I give Janus as much,” he stated, “this is between him and me and I’m not sharing again.”
Feeling down after the fiasco last time? Crono scoffed.
“You stay out of this, human.”
‘Is he serious?’ Janus thought, a bit surprised.
‘As far as I can see he’s pretty offended from when we helped him save the Mystics,’ the Prince emotionlessly said, ‘whether you’d believe it or not he’s got more sides than the childish one.’
‘Oh, thank you, milord,’ Flea smirked, ‘I think. Erk!’
“Back off, you two,” Janus calmly said, motioning at the area behind his back.
“What?” both the swordsmen said, disbelieving.
The wizard smiled a bit.
“It’s the first time Flea and me agree on something, it’s only fair. You stay out of this one.”
He’ll make them shoot at you at any chance possible! Crono growled, glaring at the common Mystics.
“Hell no,” Flea snapped, “no one’s interfering this time.”
“Wouldn’t something be wrong if I had a fight with Slash, but not with my archenemy?” Janus mildly commented, “we really need to get this done.”
Hesitatingly Crono and Frog backed away.
‘Heh, you know…’ the spirit Flea muttered, scratching his cheek with one finger, ‘there’s something very disturbing about watching yourself get wasted, so see you guys later.’
And he was gone from Janus’ head, leaving a somewhat empty space behind.
“It should be raining,” the wizard said in a low voice, almost idly.
Flea’s lips twitched a little as he drew his hand back and moved his feet into a fighting stance.