Crono and his companions challenged everything in order to save the future. Still, they were only one group of adventurers to travel the sea of time. Now a new group of heroes have their own challe...
Gina had stayed over with Taban and Lara longer than she intended. When she finally noticed the clock, it was already a quarter-till-eight. Having no real desire to walk back, alone in the dark, she bid her farewells and headed home.
She wished that Flare was with her to walk her home. The long walk from Taban's house was pretty dull if you didn't have a friend to chat with, and though she wouldn't admit it (at least not to anybody but herself), it was pretty scary in the dark. She figured that the day had about an hour left of light in it, so she quickened her pace hoping to beat the sun home.
Shortly after passing the small grove of trees, she got the strangest feeling of being followed. The ground was fairly smooth and she could see a good distance in every direction. Not seeing anyone, she passed the feeling off as paranoia, and scolded herself for being silly. The sensation of being followed; however, would not go away.
Before long Gina had taken all she could stand of the ridiculous paranoia. She spun around and screamed at the top of her lungs, "I know you're there! I can hear your foot steps! So why not come out and stop sneaking around!"
Only silence answered her cry. This wasn't surprising at all since she did not in fact hear footsteps. She didn't hear anything besides the soft hiss of the wind. Feeling a little safer and more than a bit foolish, she decided that she must have imagined the whole thing and turned back around.
She gave a shriek that was half surprise and half fright as she stumbled backwards. A man was facing her, standing less than two feet away. He shouldn't be there! People don't just appear out of thin air! All of her senses screamed those thoughts, but the man standing in front of her was very real.
He was dressed entirely in black. Black pants, black shirt, black boots, even a long black cape. He was tall and thin. Not exactly skinny, but a healthy sort of trim. His undeniably hansom face was drawn up in a huge smile, that had a half-crazed look to it. His eyes were like dark black pits, and his hair was a shining black.
Shining! The man's hair was actually reflecting the diminishing sunlight with an eerie brightness. It wasn't glowing with an inner light, but was reflecting the light like some kind of black mirror. And his eyes! The half-crazed look of his smile did not reach his eyes. They were calm eyes, sane eyes, and this somehow made him all the more frightening.
"Who are you?" Gina demanded backing away, and fighting to keep the panic out of her voice. "Who are you and what do you want?"
The man in black laughed. It was a high pitched and cold laugh that made her skin crawl. He gave an exaggerated bow. "How rude of me. My dear, you may call me Xavius. And what do I want? Well, I should think it obvious! I want you."
"I'll scream." She warned, hating how helpless she was. What kind of threat was that? Screaming? Maybe that was even what he wanted her to do. After all, there was no one around to hear.
"You could." He agreed, confirming her fears. "But who would hear you?"
"Taban would, his house is still in sight," she replied knowing very well that he would not.
"With all the humming, and racket that his machines make? Never," Xavius said as he took a step closer to her. "And you are too far away from Truce."
"I'll run. I'm fast and you'll never catch me." Again she cursed her helplessness.
Xavius laughed his high and cold laugh again. "Yes, you can run, and you can scream. Go ahead. Do it."
Desperate and panicked, she decided to run. Maybe she really could outrun him. She doubted it, but she was out of options; however, to her absolute horror she couldn't lift her feet off of the ground. Gina twisted and struggled, but her feet felt as if they had taken root with the earth.
Xavius continued to laugh as she struggled with her immobilized legs. He walked up to her, his piercing cold laugh ringing in her ears, and the closer he got the less she could move. By the time he was standing in front of her, she was completely paralyzed. She just stood staring straight ahead and screaming. No, not screaming. Gina suddenly realized that she couldn't scream. She hadn't screamed at all. Her voice was as lost as her mobility.
"Oh, it appears that I may have lied to you," chuckled Xavius as he caressed the side of her face, "You can't run, and you can't scream. You are powerless against me. Everyone, is powerless against me."
Gina was revolted by his touch. She thought that the combination of his touch and his laugh would drive her mad. Fear began welling inside of her, mingling with panic until it started to overwhelm her senses. The worst part was that she couldn't scream. She had no way to vent her fear.
"Calm down...I can see that you are frightened." The sorcerer spoke soft and soothingly. "I won't hurt you. To me you are very, very important."
To her astonishment she started to calm down as he spoke. It seemed that his very words carried magic.
"I can see that you will not willingly aid me, but that is okay. You will do as I say, as long as you are under my spell, and you will be under it until I release you. Something that I will not be doing anytime soon."
Gina wanted to fight back against the magic that he was using on her, but she couldn't keep her focus on anything. Her mind started to feel muddy. Her hands and fingers went numb, followed by her arms, soon her entire body was beyond feeling.
Her hearing went next. At least now she didn't have to hear his laugh anymore. The last thing that went was her vision. Large dark splotches that looked a bit like mud, began appearing in front of her. It wasn't long until it had all gone dark. Her consciousness lasted only a little while longer, then she remembered no more.
Xavius smiled as her eyes dulled. They no longer held a look of coherence and understanding. She was in his complete control now.
"Follow me," he commanded.
Xavius turned towards Truce. The port was where he needed to go now. As he headed off to his destination, his body once again faded from view. Onlookers would see only a teenage girl walking by herself. They would have no idea that she was in fact following an invisible man.
By the time Flare and Tai were served dinner they were starving. Their master's wife, Shara, was away visiting her old home in Porre, so it fell upon the grizzly sword master to cook dinner. Though Refla took longer to prepare a meal than his wife, he was still a decent cook. The boys ate their fill as Refla told them stories of his past adventures and battles.
They had heard these stories countless times before. Flare and Tai could have listened to him for days on end in their younger years, and even now the stories didn't seem to get old. The sun was already setting when they finally left his house.
Refla bid them farewell and settled down into a meditative trance. Meditating was something he often encouraged the two boys to do, but Flare thought that hell would freeze over before he learned to meditate properly. If he was planning on sitting around, doing nothing, he might as well just go to sleep.
The orphanage was located on the far South-east section of the town, right next to the coast. "I want nothing more than too sleep for a good twelve or twenty hours," muttered Flare as they approached the large wooden building that served as the Truce Orphanage.
"Yeah, me too-hey! Isn't that Gina?" Tai pointed down the alleyway next to the orphanage, and sure enough, there was Gina heading toward the docks.
Flare squinted in the fading light but then nodded. There was no doubt, it was Gina.
"What do you suppose she's doing at the docks this time of the day?" asked Tai.
Flare shrugged, "'Dunno, maybe she's picking something up for Taban. Let's go say hi."
They quickened there pace to catch up, when they got into shouting distance Flare called out, "Hey Gin! What ya up too?"
Apparently not hearing, she walked on until she came to a long wooden dock, that had dozens of row boats tied onto it.
Speeding up even more, they reached the dock as she sat herself into a small row boat, and began untying it .
"Gin, what are you up too?" Flare called out again.
Still seeming not to hear she finished freeing the boat and grabbed an oar. Wasting no time, she began rowing out to sea.
"What the hell?" Tai asked in confusion.
Flare ran to the end of the dock, now he was within twenty yards from her, and yelled again this time more urgently. "Hey Gina! Is something the matter?" Then more frustrated at the continued silence, "Answer me! What are you doing with that boat?"
But Gina didn't even notice him. Instead she kept rowing further away from the shoreline. Tai caught up to Flare and asked, "What's going on? This is really getting weird."
"I don't know what's up, but Gin's not acting right. It was like she didn't even know I was there. And where is she heading with that boat?" Flare was talking fast now, as the worry for his girlfriend started to increase.
"What should we do?" Tai asked.
"I'm following her," Flare stated without hesitation.
"Huh?" said his surprised best friend. "How? We can't swim. After the workout Refla gave us, we couldn't swim for five minutes before we drowned."
"So we'll take a boat," Flare said simply.
"We're going to steal a boat?" Tai asked apprehensively.
"She did," Flare pointed out as he hopped into a row boat, similar to the one Gina had just stolen. "You coming?"
Tai glanced around nervously, then followed his friend into the boat. "Okay, I'm in." Flare nodded as he handed Tai an oar.