Chrono Shift Chapter 17

The Chronolysis Effect

By Tool23X

Three bodies had been haphazardly strewn across the floor. Were they corpses? Possibly. At this point in time, it was impossible to tell. In either case, they all laid motionless, unaffected by the obscure location they had collapsed upon.

The three humans, one a male and two females, lay in patternless heaps at the far corners of the plain, smallish room. Each of them rested within a tall pillar of haunting bluish light, beacons that were the only objects inside an otherwise empty space. Just beyond the fallen bodies was a brownish, hand-carved wooden guardrail, placed deliberately in calculated areas to prevent anyone from wandering past it. This was a necessary precaution, because just beyond the guardrail rested a great oblivion, nonexistent in features other than its expansiveness. This immense, perpetual limbo swelled to an infinite emptiness. The platform safe-house where the three bodies had appeared sat somewhere inside this plane, surviving outside the space-time continuum.

Adjacent to the room with the pillars of light was a short, narrow hallway leading to a second room of similar size. This one was the home to a couple small coffee tables, one which housed a nearly empty bucket, containing only a small quantity some unknown liquid inside. The table in the opposite corner of the room sat underneath a cup full of a mystical potion. In the center of the room was something much more peculiar. A single street lamppost, circa 19th Century London, stood several feet above a man dressed in old fashioned street attire, lightly gripping a wooden pipe between his lips and wearing a brown hat which covered his face when tilted downward.

The man beneath the lamppost had given the three strangers some of the unidentified tonic, in hopes that he could somehow revive the three. The adventurers could be key to one of the many quests necessary to his overall mission. But, more importantly, they would provide the old man with some company for a change.

Eventually, the old man with the brownish rain hat heard a "What is this place?" spoken from the far room with the light pillars. He slowly wobbled on his cane until he reached the narrow hallway connecting the two chambers, until he could see the figures emerging from their long slumber. They were no doubt confused and groggy, but that would all wear off with time. Right now, he wanted to introduce himself to some potential allies.

"Ugh, where the hell am I?" came a young man's voice, asking a question that had nearly echoed the earlier question asked by one of his female comrades.

"You're at The End of Time, my boy!" The old man declared with an abrupt, somewhat brusque response that made the three travelers nearly jump out of their skin. After the justified screams and pounding heartbeats subsided, the old man watched six eyes fixate on his dark silhouette. He had experienced similar situations countless times in the past, always from some unsuspecting time travelers who had somehow been caught up in his personal crusade. It always ended up one of two ways. Most often would ask to return home, a choice the old man was willing to accept. But sometimes, they would ask one too many questions, and they would discover the truth about the world. Then, feeling they had some duty to humanity, they would try, and ultimately fail miserably, to destroy the demons of this tired old planet.

Oh, it was true that in some timelines, there had been a group of heroes that had actually succeeded in destroying Lavos. The vast majority of timelines had brought the old man into contact with the six, and in some cases seven, protagonists who had made it their duty to destroy the great evil. Most times ended in failure. There were some outliers, however, in which those seven had actually succeeded in killing Lavos because of some outlandish fluke. In fact, this occurrence had allowed the true timeline to become one where Judgment Day never happened, and the world lived on peacefully into the future. But quite recently, an event at the bottom of the sunken Black Omen caused a massive rift within the Chronolysis Effect, and the true timeline of the planet had shifted from one in which the heroes had destroyed Lavos back to the original timeline where Lavos rose to the surface in 1,999 AD and reigned his apocalypse upon the human civilization.

The Chronolysis Effect. It was the staple of time traveling that held the fabric of the universe together, and nearly eliminated the possibility of paradoxes. Without it, traveling forward in time past a time split would cause the traveler some unpleasant side effects. When he reached the split in the timestream, he would either have half of his body placed in each of the alternate dimensions, or he would arrive at a completely random reality, with no way of telling just where he had ended up. The Chronolysis Effect states that because of events in the past, a specific timeline is followed when traveling forward through time. This allows for a certain order and stability in the space-time continuum, as well as the ability to predict what will happen when someone steps into a time gate. Sure, one could argue that natural fate had something to do with which future is chosen, but in the end, the Chronolysis Effect was what really prevented such oddities as random or split placement, and other side effects of forward time travel.

"Who are you?" the voice of the younger female visitor asked, snapping the old man from his thoughts.

"Oh, excuse me, I'm sorry," the old man apologized. "I allow my mind to wander off sometimes. It happens when you get as old as I am. Anyway, my name is Gaspar."

All three of figures outlined near the bluish pillars of light gasped loudly. In almost complete unison, they uttered, "The Guru of Time!?"

"Yes, I once held onto that title. Have you three been to the ancient Zeal Kingdom?" Gaspar asked, slightly blushing.

"You might say that," the male voice said. "It's where we used to live."

"Gaspar, you should remember me," the other female stated diligently. "I was the head of Her Royal Highness's Magical Research and Development?"

Gaspar's eyes widened in surprise, "Candor?" he asked in an astounded voice. "Candor from R&D? Is that you?"

"Yup. That's me." Candor replied. "These two troublemakers are Seraph and Augur," she concluded, pointing to her young apprentices.

"Oh my, Candor. You look so youthful!" the guru gleamed, causing his old acquaintance to blush slightly. "It is unfortunate that the years haven't been as kind to me as they were to you."

"You have definitely changed, Gaspar," Candor admitted.

"Indeed I have, for better or for worse." Gaspar said. "Years in this place have put a bit of a damper on my short fuse, but every day I'm growing a little more senile."

"Regardless, you're still the same old guru to me." Candor revealed. The two former coworkers stood quietly for a few seconds, simply looking at each other and reminiscing about those days together in the kingdom so long ago.

Finally, Gaspar changed the subject. "Well, I suppose I'd better get to work. Augur, Seraph, please follow me. I know all about your little quest, and I've got some information for you that should prove useful." he said, watching their faces return to confusion once again. "Come on into my main chamber, where there is actually enough light for us to see. I'll explain everything to you." The three weary travelers followed him down a short, narrow hallway and through a swinging door. They were offered some kind of energy drink in a coffee cup, and all of them gleefully accepted. Now, feeling refreshed, they sat upon the oddly constructed floor and prepared to listen to the guru.

"Would you like to know why this place is called 'The End of Time?'" Gaspar queried.

"That might be a good place to start," Augur conceded.

"This place exists outside the space-time continuum. Time does not pass in the traditional sense while one exists here. The End of Time is where all time travelers pass through before reaching their destination. Sometimes, however, travelers break one of the rules stated in the Conservation of Time theorem, and don't make it all the way to the other end of the timestream. When that happens, they end up here, at the coordinates of least resistance."

"Alright, Gasper. Would you mind explaining how that relates to our current situation?" Candor wondered aloud.

"One of the perks of this place is that I can choose to view any event in the history of the world from my vantage point here. Call it a form of entertainment, if you will. Anyway, I watched you three take on Nadir, and I'll admit it was quite a show. Too bad it didn't turn out the way we would've liked." Gaspar began. Checking to see if he had everyone's attention, he added "Well, you know that giant bluish portal you traveled through at the end of the battle? It's called a 'gate,' a name given by the brilliant 11th Century scientist Lucca Ashtear. It creates a miniature wormhole around a concentrated point of supergravity, which allows someone to travel through time. This particular gate was no doubt created by the Chrono Shift when it crashed into the ground, but gates can be caused by a variety of different things. Oddly, I lost the ability to see Magus and Gunner after you were all sucked up by the gate, but I did manage to track the movements of you three in the far off future."

"Wait a second, Gaspar," Seraph said. "I hate to say it, but you're just confusing me more."

"Sorry. I'll try to stay to the essentials," Gaspar assured. "In a nutshell, that giant blue gate sent to through time, into the future, more specifically. You ended up in the year 3,000 AD, fifteen thousand years after the destruction of Zeal. You awakened on a desolate, dead Earth. This is because Lavos arose from the planet's core in 1,999 AD to destroy the human civilization, and the dead world left in its wake was what you saw when you came out of the time gate."

"Okay, can I ask a question?" Augur asked. "I've been told that Lavos was supposed to have been destroyed by seven adventurers in the future, so the apocalypse never occurred. Come to think of it, Magus said he even took part in the event. Was I mistaken?"

"Oh, I forgot to mention," Gaspar realized. "Now, I have no solid evidence on this, it's just my personal theory, but..."

"Go on," Candor urged.

"What happened at the Ocean Palace was what I prefer to think of as an Angelus Errare. 'A place where angels lose their way.' What this means is that when the Chrono Shift hit the ground, it caused some sort of dimensional split. In one dimension, the energy release from the relic was released, and in the other, everything remained the same. Two alternate timelines. Well, long story short, if you had stayed in the original timeline, Lavos would still have been defeated. But instead, you traveled down the other, new timeline. Somewhere along the lines of this new timeline, an event occurred which restored the old future, where Lavos wrecked havoc upon the Earth in 1,999 AD. Of course, the other possibility is that no split timeline ever occurred, and you simply crossed over from one timeline to another. There was a 'shift,' in the true timeline, if you will. Whether you crossed over to the alternate dimension immediately, or it happened somewhere along the lines of your journey forward through time, we may never know. Should the latter of the two be the case, the most likely point where you crossed over to the an alternate dimension would have been in 1,010 AD, but we'll worry about that later."

"Sooo..." Augur trailed off. "Something determined that when we traveled through time, we ended up in a different, new future?"

"Technically, the new future is the old old future, but that doesn't matter," Gaspar said. "The thing that determined where you would go is known as The Chronolysis Effect. Basically, the events in the Ocean Palace caused the true timeline of the planet to change to one of the irregular timelines. Odd as it may seem, it was predetermined that you would end up in the timeline you did before you stepped foot in that gate."

"Yes, I've heard of this Chronolysis Effect before," Augur recalled. "But regardless, what happened to us when we were in 3,000 AD?"

"Well," Gaspar again started, "Lavos had been multiplying nonstop ever since he took over the world that fateful day in 1,999 AD. His offspring filled the Earth until the tired, old planet could hold no more of them. I believe you saw them rising out of the ground before you were sucked into that red gate. Lavos, with his final act of malice, used his seeds of destruction to escort the lavos spawns out of the atmosphere and into deep space, where they could find other planets to infest. Unfortunately, the side effect of this act makes the host planet a squalid fire pit. Lavos spent his final breath creating an almighty explosion which destroyed the Earth itself, causing the giant body of rock to shatter into pieces. That, my friends, was right after the red gate dragged you to The End of Time."

"Alright, Gaspar, that brings us up to the present. Where do we go from here? Where are Nadir and the Chrono Shift?" Candor asked.

"Why don't you take a step into that door behind me quick, and we'll talk about it after that?" Gaspar mysteriously responded. The three shrugged their shoulders, each in turn, and decided to go with the guru's suggestion.

The doorway led to yet another room, styled the same fashion as the first two had been, complete with the odd flooring and uniquely carved hand rails. In the very center of the room stood an odd creature, looking rather like a Nu, but with a reddish skin covering instead of the typical blue. The red Nu turned around at the sound of the door swinging shut and slamming against its frame. "Oh, I'm sorry," the Nu apologized. "If I had known I was going to have guests, I would have changed into a more suitable form."

"Huh?" The reaction was unanimous among the three visitors.

"I'm a shapeshifter," the Nu replied. "Allow me to formally introduce myself. I am Spekkio, the Master of War. But there's no need to call me by my title, just Spekkio will do. I suppose the boss sent you in here so you could be given the powers of magic."

Augur, Seraph, and Candor all had their own questions. They came out simultaneously, in a jumbled heap of words overlapping each other. From what Spekkio could discern, there was some mention of the shape-shifting ability, comments about magic, and a mocking scoff about his "Master of War," title.

"Alllllll-right! I'll back up for a second," the Nu said. "I generally change my shape to match the strength of my guests, but you caught me by surprise. This is my true, as well as my most powerful form." Spekkio again heard a snicker from the only male in the group, but once again ignored it.

"Anyway," the Master of War continued, "I'm going to teach you three the basics of magic."

"We already know all about magic," Seraph informed him.

"Is that so?" Spekkio said. "Hmm, let's see here... I just need a second to read you. Ah, here we go. You three are quite skilled magicians, but complete novices in the 'other' field of magic. What I mean is, you know all about the six basic elements of the natural world, but very little about the seventh element, and almost nothing about the Lavos-based magics. Sit tight, Kiddies, this is going to be a long story." Spekkio concluded.

After a brief pause, he started, "Originally, mankind was only able to use the Lavos-based magics. They stemmed from magic research in the ancient Kingdom of Zeal."

"Hey, that's where we're from!" Seraph interrupted.

"Really?" Spekkio questioned. "Well, that makes things more interesting. But I'll talk about that later." Spekkio took a breath. "The Time Crash of 2,400 AD sent a futuristic research center ten thousand years into the past, and to act as a counterbalance, Lavos drew back a city from another dimension's future. This was a floating tower constructed by the Dragonites, in an alternate reality where humans had ceased to exist during the Earth's infancy. Dragonites, also called Dragonians, were descendants of the Reptites, who fought with humans for the control of the world during the prehistoric era. The Dragonians had developed their own highly advanced magic system based on the elements of the natural world. After a long, bloody war, the Dragonites were banished from the human dimension, but they left behind hundreds of artifacts, and influenced the future of humanity. The civilization that eventually existed in the El Nido Archipelago worshiped the Dragon Gods, who embodied the natural elements. In time, mankind made a practice of using those six natural elements as their form of magic.

"Here's the odd part. Somewhere along the line, the six natural elements made their way into the past, and replaced the Lavos-based magic that had been used in the Kingdom of Zeal in the original timeline. It is believed that this occurrence is somehow connected to Zeal's Dark War, in the early days of the kingdom's existence."

"So, what can you tell us about these Lavos-based spells?" Candor asked.

"Well, if you walk around this room three times clockwise..." the red Nu stopped. "Ah, screw it, I'm not in the mood for that right now. Anyway, the Lavos magic system is based on a triad of three elements: lightning, fire, and ice/water. When the three combine, we get the more powerful shadow magic. You three have the ability to employ these skills, but you have to focus your mind in the right way to use the alternate magic system correctly. See, with natural elements, you draw energy from the world around you and release it. With Lavos-based magic, you summon energy contained within yourself. More often than not, the effects are the same, but natural magic is much easier to use. Lavos elements can be performed more quickly, and can be much more powerful, but put much more strain on the user."

"What about the seventh natural element?" Seraph inquired.

Spekkio smiled deviously. "Ah, the seventh element is a combination of the six base elements of the natural world, much the same way that shadow is a combination of the three base elements of Lavos-based magic. The seventh element is commonly known as the "Dark Moon," element on Earth, because it was the byproduct of a synthetic, humanoid Dragon God in El Nido. But, you probably know it as the legendary "Spectral," or "Prism," magic."

"Spectral energy?" Candor gasped. "That's what Nadir used in the Ocean Palace!"

"It's an interesting observation," the Master of War announced. "In all honesty, I have no idea how he possesses it. Maybe you'll find out some day. But until then, it's time for you three to utilize the Lavos-based elements within you."

"Great, just when I thought I was starting to figure out this whole magic thing..." Augur complained.

"Well, Crybaby," Spekkio snarled. "You're a yellow innate, correct? Because your main power is lightning. You, the old woman, have the power of water, to match your blue innate. You there, the chick with the big knockers-"

"HEY!!!" Seraph shouted.

"Sorry," the Master of War apologized. "Hmm, well... This is very interesting..."

"What?" Seraph asked, eager to find out about her new magical abilities.

"You know how I told you that when lightning, fire, and ice combine, we receive shadow magic?" Spekkio asked. "Well, that's not quite necessarily always the case. In truth, there is a counterbalance to the dark magic. It's known as light magic, or holy magic. It is also created from the three base Lavos elements, in almost the exact same way shadow magic is made. The thing is, it's so rare, that I never even mention it anymore."

"So why are you mentioning it now?" Augur impatiently demanded.

"Because this girl here has it. She's a holy magic user."

"Wait! Me?" Seraph asked.

"Bingo, Sugar!" Spekkio affirmed.

"Just how rare is light magic?" Candor questioned the Nu.

"Let's see..." the red Nu responded. "As far as I know, two other people had it. One was actually Schala, royal princess of Zeal, and the other was some desert-roaming bearded man named Moses."

"This is getting too weird," Augur complained.

"Alright, with that said, I'm going to dismiss the two girls," Spekkio said. "Augur, I need to talk to you alone for a minute." Augur moved to protest, but decided on keeping his mouth shut. Seraph and Candor obeyed Spekkio's orders, shutting the door behind them. When they were gone, Spekkio instructed Augur to sit down. He refused.

"How did you know my name?" Augur demanded shortly after realizing that the red Nu had said it, but Augur had never mentioned it in his presence.

Spekkio responded by making a brief, choked snort, something which looked rather odd coming from a Nu. "Augur, think back to 12,005 BC, when Lavos separated Zeal into four smaller floating islands. Didn't you kind of find it weird that the Nues started popping up out of nowhere? Then, shortly thereafter, remains of the creatures were found in the caves beneath the Palace, yet the bones were dated back to have existed for millions of years?"

Augur started to become interested. "Yeah... What are you getting at?"

"Heh. You still don't get it?" Spekkio asked. "Nues are not indigenous to this planet. They are a synthetic life form, manufactured and placed upon this world. And for what purpose, you ask? Why, to control human thought!"

"What did you just say!?" Augur shouted, startled by the Nu's answer.

"All throughout time, humans have thought that Lavos imposed some kind of mind control upon the Zealian Empire," Spekkio explained. "In a sense, they were kind of right. He put thoughts into their heads, but it was the Nu that controlled human actions without consequence. They were started as a project to keep Earth's alternate timelines from becoming too numerous or varied. By controlling the actions of societies throughout the world, especially Zeal, they could force the future timelines to follow a very linear path. This was the same concept later used by Belthasar to create the FATE computer, so that a new timeline without the presence of Lavos would be set in stone. Unfortunately, things didn't work out."

Augur sat staring blankly at the fat red creature standing before him. His eyes were the size of saucers, and his mouth gaped open, dropping down to the floor. 'Where... What... But...I... Um... Huh?" he sputtered. Then, after regaining his composure, he said, "Listen, Spekkio, I don't want to insult you too much. But I don't understand what the hell you're talking about. A manufactured species? What... What the hell?"

"Well, if your question is about why the Nues are here and where they came from, the answer is from a place you know all too well," Spekkio said. "The project was started by Tajj and the Sanctified Deity in the Afterlives, where you went when you died ten years ago. They've exerted their powers to create these mind controlling creatures that you call Nu. I, as the red Nu, am the leader of the Nues. Positioned here at The End of Time, I can easily receive direct orders from those same gods you once knew so well before you were sent back to Earth. And, once again, because of my position at The End of Time, I can easily filter those orders out to all the grunts scattered throughout time. Or, as you would call these lesser creatures, the blue Nues."

When Augur did not respond, the Master of War added, "I don't expect you to understand it, Augur. Just accept it for what it is."

"Why are you telling me all this?" Augur demanded coldly.

"Whether or not the secret of the Nu will help you in any way, I don't know. But I want you to understand where I am receiving my information from. By that, I mean that Tajj is going to speak to you through me, his middleman. He wants to tell you where you can find Magus, Gunner, Nadir, and the Chrono Shift."

"Oh, so I finally get some useful information?" Augur sarcastically spat, annoyed with Spekkio's constant beating around the bush. "So, where are they?"

"I heard Old Man Gaspar talking to you about the Chronolysis Effect out there," Spekkio replied. "Here's the deal. There's a time split in 1,010 AD. Keep that in mind as I explain this. Now, do you remember the order, from first to last, that everyone entered that massive gate in the bottom of the Ocean Palace after you fought with Nadir?"

Augur had to think about this for a second, before saying, "Gunner and Nadir were taken in instantly, and Magus jumped in after that. Me and Seraph and Candor were sucked in afterward."

"And do you remember what year the gate took you to?"

Augur stood silent for a moment. "Do you mean that they're in 3,000 AD as well?"

"Well, sort of," Spekkio said. "A gate only leads from one time to one other time, so yes, they're in 3,000 AD. But they weren't in the same timeline as you."

"What do you mean?" Augur inquired.

Spekkio sighed. "Put the information together, Augur. The gate led to 3,000 AD. Magus, Gunner, and Nadir weren't in the same place as you guys were. Finally, there's that time split in 1,010 AD..."

Augur gasped, "Are you saying that those three went into the future following the course of an alternate dimension? That they're in an alternate 3,000 AD?"

"Correct," Spekkio confirmed.

"Isn't that in direct contradiction to the Chronolysis Effect, which is supposed to eliminate the random placement of entities traveling forward through time?" Augur questioned.

"It would seem so at first," Spekkio began. "But what the Chrono Shift did in the sunken Black Omen involved a "Switching" of which alternate future was the correct one. Magus, Nadir, and Gunner entered the time gate before the switch, and you three entered afterward. Magus, Gunner, and Nadir were sent to the 3,000 AD in the future where Lavos had been defeated and the world had survived. You, Candor, and Seraph were sent to the 3,000 AD where Lavos did destroy the world in 1,999 AD. Then, you three were pulled here by another gate. Make sense?"

"A couple quick questions," Augur said. "You're telling me I can find Nadir and Gunner and Magus if I find away to get to the alternate future?"

"Yes," Spekkio acknowledged. "Tell Gaspar you need a gate that takes you to 1,010 AD, and he'll make the travel arrangements from there. Once you're there, head to the El Nido Archipelago, if the gate doesn't take you there directly. Once in El Nido you can switch dimensions at either Opassa Beach or the Hydra Marshes, if you find an Astral Amulet. If you can't, your other option is to find a hidden island lagoon in the El Nido Sea. Here, you will come across a place known as the Bend of Time. The funny green octopus creature that inhabits it will try to put you off with stupidity and ignorance, but it's just a facade. If you keep pushing, it'll tell you the secret."

"Alright, and am I to assume that the Chrono Shift now lies in that alternate future with Nadir?" Augur asked.

"That assumption would be correct," Spekkio answered. "So once you find your way into the alternate dimension in 1,010 AD, you'll have to find another gate. Hopefully, you'll end up in the right place eventually."

Augur put an irritated grimace on his face. "Look, 'Master of War!'" he spat. "You can tell the Deity that I'm sick of going on these crazy searches based on piss-poor information. I've had one damn surprise after another, and I'm fed up with this crap! So, tell him I'll give this thing one last shot, but if I so much as smell something funny, I'm going to give up and retire in that El Nido place!"

Spekkio sighed, "Augur, you have to realize that the gods are there to guide you, not confuse you. It's in they're best interests that you accomplish your goals."

"Oh yeah?" Augur refuted harshly. "Then let 'em know that it's in their best interests to not screw me over!" Augur quickly turned around, and walked towards the exit of Spekkio's chamber.

The red Nu opened his mouth to stop him, touting, "You'd be better off if instead of complaining about the way life has treated you, you worked to better yourself through the things you actually can control!" But the words fell on death ears, as Augur did not so much as slow his stride away from the creature. He was in too much of an aggravated state to care. The young warrior grasped the top of the wooden gate with one hand, and swung it backward violently with all his strength. The gate slammed into the adjacent railing raucously, and was left swinging around as Augur stormed out of the room, not bothering to shut the door behind him.

Candor immediately looked up from her perch beneath the well lit lamppost in the center of the next chamber, slightly alarmed by the crashing noise of the door that had slammed behind Augur, and noticing the enraged presented by his expression. "What's going on, Augur?" she asked. "Is something wrong?"

Augur walked passed her, not bothering to look up when he snarled, "We're leaving." Then, he approached Gaspar sternly, and commanded, "We need a gate to the year 1,010 AD, in the El Nido Archipelago."

"Okay, if you insist," Gaspar sneered, offended by the venomous fervor in Augur's voice. "Just give me a minute, and I'll see what I can do." Gaspar closed his eyes and seemingly dropped off into a trance as he briefly leaned his head back against the cold iron of the street light. Augur waited impatiently.

"The closest I can come in El Nido is 1,020 AD. Unfortunately, the location is-"

"That'll do," Augur cut the guru off mid-sentence. "It's after the time split, right?" Gaspar nodded slowly, and looked ready to say something, but wasn't given the chance. Augur finished his angry rave by concluding, "That's all we need." Augur wasted no time walking for the room in The End of Time where the bluish pillars of light stood.

"What's going on?" Candor asked him, trotting at a decent pace so she could catch up.

"Gunner, Magus, and Nadir, along with the Chrono Shift, are in an alternate dimension in the year 3,000 AD. We're going to El Nido in 1,020 AD so we can cross over to the alternate dimension, and then head to the future to go after them... Gasper, where's the gate?" Augur inquired.

"Give me a few seconds, and I'll get it ready for you," the Guru of Time explained, rolling his eyes at Augur's rudeness. The guru then closed his eyelids once again, concentrating deeply and focusing all his attention on opening the gate. Results were almost instantaneous, as a high pitched chime filled the room. A single ray of vivid, translucent blue light shot upward from the ground, shimmering brightly against the darkened backdrop of The End of Time. A holy aura was briefly felt by all, until the bluish beam faded in brilliance and extended its base outward until it became one of the pillars of light, holding a gate inside like all the others.

"This will take you to El Nido," Gaspar said.

Augur looked back towards the aging man, sighing. "Thanks Gaspar, and..." he paused briefly and took a deep breath. "Thanks for putting up with me while I acted like an ass. I was just a little steamed about what Spekkio said to me."

"Oh?" Gaspar began. "What was that?"

"It's... not really that important," Augur admitted. "But anyway, we must be going. Nice seeing a familiar face, Gasper." With that, Augur stepped into the blue pillar, and his body glowed brightly. Augur was reduced to a series of smallish, sparkling stars, which floated precariously through the air like feathers caught on the wind. Eventually, the sparkling balls of energy shot up into the space above The End of Time, and disappeared into the darkness of infinity.

Gaspar turned to Candor. "Good seeing you again, Candor. It's been a long time."

Candor smiled. "You too, Gaspar. I'm sure I'll be meeting up with you again, if we have to do all this time traveling. Oh, and don't mind Augur. He gets like that some times."

Gaspar cracked a smile as well. "He's just a kid, Candor. I don't worry about those things too much." After a moment of silence, he added, "Well, since you plan on going to the alternate reality, you probably won't be meeting with the same me, but..."

Candor laughed, "You think too much sometimes, Gaspar."

"I'm a guru. It's what I've been trained to do," he replied. "Besides, I used to say the same thing about you."

Candor lost her smile quickly. "How fitting that the Guru of Time would end up here, huh? Well, goodbye for now, Gaspar." Candor unexpectedly took a step forward, and gave the old man a brief hug. "I'll see you some- time, I guess. Isn't that the appropriate word?"

Candor ended the embrace as quickly as she had started it. Then, turning to Seraph, she said, "We should probably get going, catch up to Augur."

Seraph nodded. "Ready any time." The two girls stepped into the pillar of light together, and Gaspar watched as their bodies dematerialized in unison, their very essences being transformed into whitish star fragments. Then they disappeared as Augur had, disintegrating into the cold niches of time. Gaspar, once again, was left alone with his streetlight.

Chapter 18

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