Its over. Its finally over.
The tired old man slumped back into his chair behind his desk. His ancient features and wrinkles seemed deeper than ever in the flickering candle light of the Dragoon Library. He slowly folded his hands and let his chin rest on his knuckles. He gave a deep sigh.
If only they could know what they had accomplished.
The old man slowly realized he was the only one in El Nido, maybe the world, who knew just what had taken place overnight. For all the others, it was as if none of it ever happened, they had completely forgotten the friendships made, the journeys taken, all of it. To save the world, then wake up and not even know it...
From his vantage point, knowing the truth of both worlds since it all started,... since the Time Crash, and Terra Tower battle, and FATEs take over, and the colonization of El Nido Archipelago... hed seen it all, from beginning to end.
And now all was at rest. The Frozen Flame was gone, the Dragons were defeated, and Chronopolis and the Dead Sea were but a memory. The young travelers had used the last Time Egg to destroy the Time Devourer and, most importantly...
The princess was saved at last.
Hed raised the beautiful princess of Zeal since the day of her birth. She was always so happy, so full of life, so wonderful, everything about her made everyone want to love her. She was the pride of Zeal, not the wondrous towers or the Mammon Machine... it was Princess Schala, and everyone knew it. Had he really lived there once, been a Guru in the high court, in another lifetime? It seemed like eons ago. The old man smiled to himself. Hed forgotten that it was.
And now, like hed promised himself, hed saved her. In the erased future of the Apocalypse, the Nus told him he was reduced to an old hermit, living in a lonely dome, tinkering with machinery and lost timepiece elements. He shuddered at the thought. But even then, he was told that he had perfected the Wings that Cross Time, the Epoch, and given the children what they needed to destroy Lavos. And then in the new timeline, in the deep, deep future without Lavos, hed been obsessed with time travel, the ability to go back in time and make things right, fix old mistakes, an obsession which led to the Time Crash, and the start of all this madness. But all along he only had one intent...
Save the princess.
Thats what hed done, wasnt it? The world was back to normalcy. Its ultimate threat, Lavos, was at last gone forever. The two worlds were joined together again, and the princess regained her life. But what now? A worried thought flashed through the old mans head. What would this lead to? For a world to be divided then throw back together, what was to be expected? He had to admit, hed never given it much thought. That was just the goal, rejoin the worlds, and fix everything, who ever thought of the consequences of doing what was right? He had no idea.
He reached over a took a sip from a nearby glass. With weary eyes, he leaned back in his chair a prepared to observe the next chapter in the scattered, tangled up history of his world.
Just like he always had.
* * *
Youre late, Serge!
Leena stood at the flower shop near the entrance of Termina, looking very lovely among the beautiful blooms and flowers around her, even in her simple sundress and head band. Serge stood there, dreamily gazing at Leenas beautiful features. Her long red hair, her curvy figure, her green eyes... now if only she could that scowl off her face, shed be perfect.
Im sorry, Lee, it took me a while to get over here through the canyon and everything- Serge began. He was a lean fit young man at 17, and pretty handy with a swallow. Not many wild dingos would want to challenge him. Yet still, it was a long trek.
Never mind your lame excuses, Mr. Wuzuski! Leena snapped. Serge was a bit taken aback, but couldnt keep the smile off his face. He was used to Leenas little outburst by now.
Leena took a breath, and calmed a bit. Do you have the tickets? she asked over the noise of the crowds.
Right here, Serge patted his pocket.
Then cmon, lets hurry! She grabbed his arm and pulled him through the sea off swarming crowds. Serge tried not to stumble as a million faces and people, young and old, small and tall shoved and whizzed past him. If we dont hurry, well miss the concert! Leena called back.
After a few more shoves and stepped on toes, the couple reached the port. It was packed. People everywhere, yelling, screaming... Serge didnt think this many people lived in El Nido! Some must be from the mainland, he decided. The Magical Dreamers obviously had quite a following. There were posters, banners, stand-ups, t-shirts, everything everywhere had the rock bands famed flamboyant singer on it, and near the ported concert ship, a group of fans were all jumping and chanting, Nikki! Nikki!
Before Serge could say a word, Leena was on the move again. Were almost there, cmon! Serge wasnt sure how she did it, but somehow she managed to get through the entire crowded of screaming fans and to the ticket booth, dragging Serge along by his arm.
Lee...Leena! Cut the umbilical cord! Serge yelled more than once, but she never heard him, or just pretended not to.
Finally, they arrived at the box office. The man there looked very worn and cranky, Serge could see. With a very down to business attitude, he shouted, What? Can I help you? over the crowd.
Ha, ha, we made it! Leena was beaming, and that made it all worth it to Serge. She squeezed Serges arm in excitement and turned to the man at the window. Were here to see Nikki!
Well who isnt? the man yelled. Serge could barely understand him, his buckteeth gave him such a lisp. Where are your tickets? he called.
Huh? Leena put her ear closer as the crowd started chanting even loader.
Tickets! the man screamed, but you couldnt tell. Serge reached into his pockets... and found nothing.
Oh-no, he said aloud. He began to search frantically through all his pockets, his belt even under his bandana. Leena eyes grew wide.
Serge where are the tickets? she asked, near frantic.
Uh, well, I... ya know my Mom washed my clothes the other day, and well, uh... Serge searched for an excuse as well as the tickets now. The box office man looked thoughly disgusted.
Serge, where are they!? We need them, you told me you had them! Serge! Leena was frantic now. But before she could continue, the lights went off, the crowd started whooping, and they all stampeded for the risers near the ship stage. Leena turned back to the window to ask if they had any tickets left to buy, but hed already shut the little door and flipped over a sign. SOLD OUT it read.
Serge was at a loss for words. With the music already starting, and the smoke from the stage visible around the neon light show, he didnt know what to do. Leena grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him hard.
Serge! Do something! she screamed into his face.
Like what? Serge grabbed her hands off of him and held them, trying to calm her. What can I do?
I dont know, do something! Leena looked near tears. Serge felt awful. He knew Magical Dreamers was her favorite band, and hed promised to take her, and get the tickets, and now look. He let her down. Again. Serge almost felt tears in his own eyes, looking at Leenas face.
Im just so sorry,... he began.
You folks need a seat?
Leena turned to the voice behind her, and Serge looked as well. It appeared to be a demi-human, but as his eyes adjusted to the dark, Serge saw it wasnt. It was a young boy, maybe his age, with a bright red mow hawk, and wearing only a vest and swimsuit.
Excuse me? Leena said, trying to hide hear her tears.
I said I can helpcha. Cha need a seat? The kid waved them to follow him. Follow me.
Desperate as they were, they did follow him. As he led them past buildings, through door, and even in one window and out another, Serge could hear the opening act on stage. It sounded like a magician's act. And after a moment, Serge recognized the magicians lisp as the ticket taker from earlier. No wonder he was in such a hurry, Serge thought.
He trailed behind Leena and the stranger until finally they led him to a series of easily claimable boxes and ledges. He saw them claim onto the roof ahead of him, and followed, just in time to see the ticket man say ...Two...Von! There was a huge explosion of smoke, and the crowd went nuts. Serge couldnt believe it... they could see the stage! From far off, they could see it all, the crowd, the stage, everything.
Leena jumped up and hugged Serges neck. This is perfect, I love this! she squealed. Serge also hugged her in excitement. Suddenly, Leena turned around. And thank you very much, mister, uh..
Korcha. He said sitting down on the roof. Now sit down and shuddap, I want to see the rest off the show. With that, he turned to face the ship. Leena and Serge didnt argue but sat down a few feet away.
The Sneff family, ladies and gentlemen, the Sneff family! A demi-human announcer said as the ticket taker (apparently Sneff, Serge thought) and his colleges took their bow and left the stage. The audience applauded, including the three on the roof, and the announcer took the stage again.
And now, ladies and gentlemen of El Nido,.. The announcer began as the crowd went insane. The moment youve all been waiting for... the announcer went on but couldnt be heard over the crowd anymore. Finally he said it. Nikki!
Everyone was on his or her feet. Korcha was jumping screaming and doing some kind of howling noises. Serge jumped up with Leena and screamed for all he was worth. Leena was screaming, jumping clapping, whistling, it was great. Finally the lights dimmed, the spotlights went on, off, on, off, and the silhouette of the great Nikki himself could be seen.
Nikki! Who-hoo! Yeah! Bring out Miki! Oowww! Korcha continued to scream. Serge and Leena sat down, close to each other. As the concert began, it was told through this story of a man losing his way in life, played by Nikki, and the mermaid who led him back, played by his super-starlet partner, Miki. Korcha slumped down and began to look a bit bored.
Cmon, Miki, do something! Whooo!
Serge wasnt listen to Korcha. He was loving every minute of the play within the concert. More than that he was glad to see Leena so happy. He promised her this concert and hed delivered, in a weird sort of way. As they watched, Leena slowly sneaked her hand into his and squeezed it. He looked down at her hand in his, and then at her. She smiled sweetly, and mouthed Thank you.
Serge smiled, and put an arm around her. He pulled her close and they reclined there on the roof, holding each other. Korcha glanced at them, raised a bushy eyebrow, and looked back. The concert was picking up.
Let this music be a projection of your very soul, the gorgeous Miki said with a wave of her arm, her golden red hair flying the many multicolored vials on her skimpy costume flowed and seemed to dance with the quiet music. She faced the crowd, then turned to Nikki, who stood tall at the top of the ship mast. Let the music guide you! Miki finished, very melodramatically.
Nikkis large purple eyes looked around him. Despite his black and red leather clothing, and his wild purple and red hewed hair, he didnt appear very frightful. He had almost a gentle air about him, and in this moment of drama on the stage, he seemed almost to be the lost character he portrayed.
After a long moment, the musician reached behind him, and pulled out his famed guitar. The bright lights gleamed of it as if it were gold, as there was a small moment of cheers from the audience. As Nikki positioned to play, silence. The moment theyd been waiting for...
Serge eyes immediately perked up to the few strings played. It was a beautiful mournful tune, but only a few strings later, it was over. Leena could barely hold in her excitement. Korcha put two fingers in his mouth and whistled. Serge was sure hed heard this tune before, but no he couldnt of. This was all new stuff, and everyone knew it.
No, Miki said, dramatically gesturing with her hand. More feeling, put yourself into it. Once more Nikki played his short beautiful stanza. Serge was certain he heard it before now. Leena didnt seem to notice. Neither did Korcha, but Serge could almost hear it in his head. He could even recall the next few notes... it went-
Before he could recall, Nikki played the same piece again. This time it was load, deep and filled with emotion. Serge found himself tapping his foot. ...dun, dun, da, dun, Serge hummed along. ...dun, da, da, du-dun, dun-
Da, nah, na-nah, nah, nah, dun, dun, dun, dun... Leena continued, quietly. Serge eyes grew wide as looked down at his girlfriend. Before he could say a thing, he heard Korcha singing along with the tune Nikki played as well. Serge didnt know what to think. He gave Leena a gentle shake and she looked up at him.
Have you ever heard this song before? he asked. She gave him a puzzled expression.
No, of course not, its his new album. It wont be released until-
Yeah, yeah... but you knew it, didnt you? How could you hum along with a tune you never heard?
What? I wasnt humming-
Leena trailed off and rose herself to look Serge in the face. I did know it, she said, her voice confused. And you knew it too, didnt you?
Yeah... Serge look to the stage then back at Leena. I had the whole thing memorized, but how-
Could you two quiet down? Korcha interrupted. This next part it starts to really pick up. Serge was about to ask something, but before he could, the concert lit up, and the entire band went into a huge song. Right on cue.
Serge stared at Korcha in disbelief. Howd you know that? Have you ever seen this before just now? he called to get a response.
Nope. Korcha went back to watching the show as if nothing happened. Serge turn back to Leena, who had an almost fearful look in her eyes. Serge, what does this mean?
I... Serge struggled for an explanation, but what explanation was there? Could they have heard a preview, or could Nikki have just stolen the tune off of someone else? No, it couldnt be. Serge was certain hed heard this song before, all of it, the whole way through. He was even recalling parts of the show now... Deja vu? No, it was more powerful than that...
Finally, he shrugged. Dont worry about it Leena. Its just one of those things. Cmon...
With that he pulled her head to his chest and reassumed his position. Leena didnt fight it, but was obviously shaken, Serge could tell. Was there really anything to worry about? It was just a song after all. He put one arm around Leenas shoulders and the other he used to support his head. Theyd be okay. It was nothing. It was just a song.
* * *
Viper Manor looked like an Arabian palace amide the dense bushes and thickly leafed branches of the Shadow Forest. For almost three years hed looked after it, silently minding its many empty rooms and vacant halls. Ever since the Porre military take over, there hadnt been much else to do. The General was gone, the Divas were gone. Why did he stay here, night after night, year after year? What good did it really do for this abandoned paradise? Porre only had a few units stationed; they didnt expect much resistance. He supposed he should be glad, without them coming to fill in right after the disappearance of the General, it would have been anarchy.
With his armor clad boots echoing through the hall, he made his way up to the throne room. He approached one of the six grand pillars holding up the ceiling and pressed a switch on it. The sound of a chain going along cogs could be heard as a small platform was lowered along the far wall. The knight stepped onto it as it was slowly raised back up, giving access to the manors top level. As the platform came to a stop, the knight stepped off and hit a hard left, down the hall.
Why do I keep coming here? he asked himself. It wont change anything... And even as he entered the room at the end of the hall, he couldnt arrive at a solid answer. He stepped into the room and let the door close softly. He leaned back on it and took in a deep breath, as if trying to inhale the room. He saw his reflection in the mirror, blonde and ruddy, yet tired and sad. He looked around, trying to remember the last time he hadnt been in here alone.
It would probably have been 3 years ago... right before they left... why had he survived? It was so unfair... she was so full of life, so happy, so... in love. Then after one tragic voyage, one off day at sea, shes gone. Her and the divas, the very soul of El Nido. Why did I live, he asked himself again. Why me, and not her? Hed gladly taken her place. Would she have done the same for him? Had she?
He paced around the room, from one end to the other. He gently ran his fingers along her table, her bed, her dresser, anything he passed. Finally he came to her mirror. He ran his fingers along his gruff stubble. He sighed. Man, he looked bad. He aged since that day. He almost laughed. What would Glenn say?
The knight looked down and fondly picked up a small note folded there. He didnt know why hed left it there, maybe it made it seem shed never left. Fiddling through his gloves, he unfolded the paper and read it contents for the millionth time;
I have loved you since before I met you. Youre the man of my dreams, my hero, my best friend. I cant imagine life without you. Before I get to scared, I have to write this write now... I love you Dario. Please marry me. As soon as we return we can live together for the rest of our lives. I know youre supposed to let the man propose first but you know me! Here shed drawn a smiley face. I cant wait till were alone again! See you soon.
* * *
Belthasar turned his head fast as he could at the sound of the door opening. He had to squint as thin slivers of light pierced their way through the dimly lit room. At the door, cutting out the light, stood a figure. Ah, his guest.
He cocked a head to the doorway man. If the man made any movement to show he acknowledge it, Belthasar couldnt tell. The light obscured him so...
Trying to get him in, Belthasar gestured with an aged hand. The man stood still for a moment and finally walked in. He held one hand in his pocket, and closed the door with his free one. It was gloved, Belthasar noted.
Please, step right in, Belthasar raised an eyebrow as he spoke. For what you charge, you could at least be on time.
The man stepped forward forcefully. He stepped to the table between them and slammed his hand on the it. Belthasar looked at the hand, then the man. He spoke for the first time.
Im a police officer, old man. I uphold justice. I do what I do because its my job. Im not your private hired bounty hunter. His eye bared down hard on Belthasars old face. Yes, his eye. Singular. The other was covered with a patch.
Who said anything about hunting? Belthasar asked. I only need a favor. And I know youre the best. He pulled out a large strapped bag from under the table and put it on top. At least thats what I hear.
And you believe it?
Enough to scrounge this up. He open the sack. The man looked in, scratching his blonde goatee. Ten thousand gold.
The man took his hand from this chin to the money. His raised a bundle into the light, his expression still cold. His eye floated to Belthasar. Fifeteen thousand.
Bring him back, Brask. He put his hand out. Alive.
Brask looked at the gold, put it back, and shook the outstretched hand. Where exactly do I find this guy?
Thats your job to figure out. The old man went around the table past Brask and opened the door. Light poured in once more. But I hear hes from Arni Village, a seaside town south of here.
Without a word, Brask took the case and headed for the door. As he passed Belthasar added in Youll get the other five thousand upon his return.
Brask turned to him. Alive? Belthasar nodded.
With that he took his leave, going down the silent hallway. Before Belthasar could close the door, Brask suddenly turned around.
Ya know, I got word that General Viper has been found. The Divas are with him too.
Belthasar threw the door open. He stared at Brask smirk, horror wrinkling his brow.
Brask almost laughed. Looks like your boys just causing more and more trouble.
Before Belthasar could utter another word, the man was gone.
He is unworthy of life that gives no life to another.