It was a strange thing, the red-haired one remarked to himself as he found the fence's end, to be trying to sneak back onto school grounds instead of dodging them like the scene of a crime. Crono's return coincided with Miss Missy's departure, which only complemented the sensation of trespassing. He wasn't in the mood to explain his presence to an adult who, likewise, wasn't in the mood for his fabricated excuse, so the fence masked him from that chore and left the teacher to stroll away, oblivious.
Turning onto the lot, the boy encountered the likeness of a ghost town, short its haphazard tumbleweed. He treaded over the weedy carpet and frosty sand, his scuffed footprints lined with caution. The superannuated swing set shed flakes of rust as Crono's hand brushed one of its oblique supports. Still with heat and deserted, the dying lawn yielded nothing for the boy, so he trekked onward.
Nearing the site of his clash with Billy, the youth discovered a green pit in the pulp of a dusty crater. He pawed it out and found the fated article Booger had used to nail the beastly kid's arm.
It was Matt's favorite rock.
"I knew it was lucky..." Crono privately vaunted as he stashed the reputed stone in his tunic. Having redeemed his "big brother's" keepsake, the boy headed away for more hunting. Yet again, he ducked into the aisle of unfettered hedges, trying to retrace his path. It was fortuitous that the foliage concealed him from the oncoming "terrible trio" as they rounded the building's opposite corner and plodded their way onto Brought Road. Crono's only whiff of them was their roaming voices.
"Man, I hate bleeders," Billy griped. "Didn't even get 'er to scream."
"Maybe next time, man," Darren soothed his buddy's pride.
"...Yeah. Hey, do me a favor. Next time I see... um... what's-his-face... Crowboy?"
"Yeah, whatever. Next time I see that punk-haired freak, remind me that he needs to die."
"Shut up, Chucky."
Their noise dissipated over the streets, granting a transient sense of security. Crono waded deeper into the hedges that were maimed with recent traffic. Serendipity rewarded him again when a pale band coiled around his ankle. He scratched it off and scrutinized his latest prize. He wouldn't have believed what he found, but it was soundly in his hand and as palpable as the bushes he was immersed in. Several blinks inhaled it before the boy's amazement waned and he reasserted the capacity to speak.
For him, it was a marvel to recover, and he promptly donned the cloth with a manner of luck-inspired awe.
Lightened by relief, Crono continued, but not without an inquisitive bug wanting to know how his headband came to rest where it did. Seeking answers, he pressed through the murky growth until a forest of picnic tables climbed into view. The lad wandered around the assembly of furniture, absorbing the back courtyard's pristine quiet.
Somewhere nearby, a bird sang. Crono stopped and watched the vacant scenery while the tune wafted into an airy cloud.
Maybe she left, he considered, thinking of his last questionable witness.
A hushed shuffling issued from the schoolhouse's corner pocket, negating that idea. Crono advanced towards the muffled racket and began to snoop about the building's square indention. An initial inspection noticed that defunct air-conditioning unit and a cluster of bestrewn garbage cans, but nothing outstanding. The peculiar sound dragged him to an overturned canister, beneath which low, echoey sniffles could be discerned.
"...Hello?" Crono tested his voice against it, and the detained sniveling ceased.
The boy blinked stupidly at the trash bin and its decidedly sensitive contents. Just as a cat would claw all the more rapaciously at a hiding turtle, the extinguished noise only whetted Crono's curiosity. He moved to lay hold of the can's grooved sides and deftly pluck it from the powdery clay.
While his more logical self already expected Booger to appear there, his reflexes were nevertheless predisposed to yelp with surprise. The timorous girl flinched at the abrupt exposure and turned tearful eyes up to her discloser. Given her bleary, grounded perspective, a vague shadow hanging over her with a gaping barrel must have been something dreadful to behold, for Booger couldn't wait to imitate Crono's reaction and then scramble to the nearest wall.
Determining that the wrong impression was cast, the redhead flung the bulky tin away with the intent to disarm himself, but the ill-judged toss stirred the ambient cans into thunderous rumble that only exacerbated Booger's calamity. She shrieked hysterically and shrank into the corner like a mouse.
'D'oh.' Catching the error, Crono silently rebuked himself and stood on guard like a hiker confronting a wild doe. To amend his initially reckless approach, he slipped into a sluggish crawl, apprehensive of any sudden movement lest he frighten Booger off. However, every nearing step would only agitate her further, no matter how patient or careful, and a delirious stutter fought to ward the boy off.
With her back to the chapped wall, her hands frantically groped at its geography of fissures while her heels toiled against the fickle earth, as if she hoped to scale the wall in his fashion, or perhaps vanish into another trap door after poking the right switch or lever.
The boy halted. This wasn't working, he realized. He needed to say something to assuage her nervous temper.
Crono's choice of words was the core of articulacy.
His speech was nearly as successful as the hurled trash tin, but being wedged between two walls and a clunky fan box, Booger was limited in her recoil. She hugged the crumbling paint to her left and whimpered pathetically, betraying a glimpse of the purple welt on her cheek and the red dripping from her nose.
Sympathetic to the injuries, Crono dared another step forward. "Hey, that looks kinda bad. Lemme see..."
His persisting infringement on her personal territory was intolerable, and Booger wailed as if her tail had been trod over. Crono grimaced, vexed by how to respond. Finally figuring that this girl wasn't going to behave reasonably despite anything he did, he trusted an impulse and sprang to stand over her, hoping to inhibit her attempts at flight and smother the frenzied tantrum. After all, it worked when Matt used it against his crying fits. "Hey now, stop that squealin'!" he demanded, frustrated by her baseless resistance.
Crono couldn't have done worse to alleviate her distress short of striking her, for Booger's reaction was enough to give the impression that he had. She choked on her howling, sank to the dirt, and tensed into a submissive cringe as a dawning cataplexy froze her veins. Caged in and blinded by terror, her gaze glued to the boy's and cried for mercy.
The lad bit his lip, realizing both that his temerity only aggravated this dilemma, and that he was stuck. If his stance relented, his captive was certain to bolt away, and he'd never obtain the explanations he was after. However, hovering over Booger like so was obviously too intimidating, and there no answers were to be extracted, either. He couldn't fathom why, but she was absolutely rigid with fear, and it was his fault. Inexplicably guilty, he imagined an apology for whichever offense he wasn't sure he committed.
"Um, I..." he tentatively began.
Before another word could trudge out, the distraught, cowering creature suffered a peculiar change. A shiver racked her feeble frame, washed her skin ashen, and glazed her eyes with a lost, disoriented look. Her shallow, tremulous breathing hesitated, her eyelids flittered shut, and Booger finally wilted into the corner, surrendering her vitality.
An uneasy pause ensued. The boy wondered at the girl's peaceful trance--particularly at whether his conduct had influenced it. He stooped over the snoozing form, and after a moment's stare, the nature of her condition finally occurred to him. Crono reeled back and caught his gasp, dumbstruck.