As I noted in Chapter 3, this is not the best place to start reading this story.

Halftime

By Aaron Ziegler
spanner@visi.com

Chapter 17: Time to Prepare

"Janus! You're all right!" Ukyou exclaimed when she, Ranma, and Miss Hinako entered the Neko Hanten.

Magus turned from where he was in discussion with Akane, Mousse, Crono, Lucca, Marle, Frog, Genma, Soun and Cologne. (Well, with everyone but Soun, Lucca and Mousse, anyway--Lucca and Mousse merely stood to one side staring at one another dreamily, while Soun was bawling like a baby over the loss of his home.) The sorcerer lifted an eyebrow and replied, "Of course. What did you expect? Still, your concern is appreciated."

Akane looked up. Her eyes met Ranma's for a moment, and her face paled. Quickly, she turned her eyes away, noticing the third member of Ranma's group. "Miss Hinako?" she asked. "What are you doing here?"

Miss Hinako looked petulant. "I'm helping you take care of those delinquents, Miss Tendo. It's my job."

Kasumi appeared from the kitchen, bearing a tray of ramen bowls. "Why, hello, Ranko, Ukyou! And Miss Hinako, this is a pleasure! I don't believe I've seen you since that incident with Ranko and the fifty-two barrels of pickled herring!"

Heads swivelled to look questioningly at Ranma. Ranma turned beet red. "Look, it wasn't my fault! Really."

Miss Hinako was idly toying with a 50 yen piece. "Do you have any idea what it costs to clean fifty-two barrels of pickled herring off of a baseball diamond, Ranko? When I do get to the bottom of that little incident, you'd better not be there," abruptly, Miss Hinako pointed the coin at Ranma, "or else."

Kasumi, apparently oblivious to the thinly veiled threats, began handing around bowls of ramen. "Thank you again for your generosity, Cologne," Kasumi beamed. "It was so kind of you to shelter us after that band moved into our house."

Cologne waved dismissively. "No trouble at all, child." She turned to the others. "Now, who remains unaccounted for?"

"Just Ryoga and Robo," Marle listed. "Unless you also count Lucca and Mousse, who seem to be in outer space at the moment."

The two just named jerked in startlement, each blushing. "We're listening, we're listening!" Lucca protested.

"Ryoga could be anywhere," Ranma supplied. "Even if he landed outside the front door, he probably wouldn't be able to find his way here."

"And Robo could be with him," Akane finished. "They're pretty good friends, after all." Both Ranma and Akane were making a visible effort not to notice each other again, despite their cooperative efforts towards regaining their lost home.

"I suppose this is our army, then," Cologne noted. "Very well. Now, tell me again of this musical attack that ended your confrontation."

Lucca assumed a professional tone of voice. "I think that the band is able to find the harmonic frequencies at which people's bodies resonate. If they can do that, then they could use sonic vibrations to throw us in all directions, or to hold us in place. Or even to shake us to pieces." Lucca shuddered. "I'm glad they didn't try that."

"Is there any way to overcome this technique?" Cologne asked.

"Not once they start playing," Lucca responded. "After that, we're under their complete control."

"I know how to stop them from playing," said Ranma. "And probably cripple them as a fighting team."

Everyone gazed at her with raised eyebrows. "Prithee, keep us not in the dark, milady," Frog responded.

"I worked it out on the way here," said Ranma. "You remember how the Director was always giving orders and waving that stick around and stuff? Well, most of them seemed like they wouldn't have done anything without the Director to tell them what to do. If we can take him down at the very beginning, they probably won't know what to do."

Lucca beamed. "And they certainly wouldn't be coordinated enough to play that harmonic attack. Ranko, you're a genius!"

Suddenly, the door burst open. "Crono!" a woman's voice yelled joyfully. A brown and blond blur collided bodily with the startled swordsman, knocking him to the ground, and somersaulting with him two or three times before standing again, Crono held out at arm's length.

"Ayla?" chorused Frog, Lucca, and Marle. Magus hardly seemed surprised, and Crono was too stunned to speak.

"Ayla find Crono!" Ayla continued, giving Crono a fierce hug before setting him down again. She glanced around the room, as if only just noticing how crowded it was. "Who friends?"

Crono, after regaining his breath, introduced Ayla to the others. Ayla was co-chief of the Ioka tribe, a village of cavepeople who lived in 65,000,000 B.C. on their world, and had been a fellow adventurer in their quest to destroy Lavos. Once introductions were complete, Ayla's former companions (save Magus, who stood silently aloof) were eager to describe the adventures they had had since arriving on the world they now occupied. Ayla nodded grimly as they finished. "Is good you know Lavos here. Ayla come get help to fight Lavos."

"How exactly did you get here?" asked Marle.

"Joketsuzoku wise ones help send Ayla," Ayla answered. Cologne and Mousse glanced up sharply at this.

"Maybe you'd better explain everything," Marle suggested.

Ayla seemed to agree, and began to describe how she had come to this world, continuing to speak in the same odd, primitive manner. (The language of Ayla's people, while the same as that spoken in modern times, was much less developed in her time; still, she was perfectly understandable most of the time.) After Ayla had returned to the past after helping to defeat Lavos, she had rejoined her mate and co-chief, Kino. The two of them lived together happily for many years, helping to preserve their people in the face of an oncoming ice age. (Actually, the words Ayla used were "big cold" instead of ice age, but Crono, Marle, and Lucca were well aware of the fact that Ayla was fighting an ice age triggered by the huge clouds of dust generated when Lavos first collided with their planet. None of Ayla's people had ever experienced winter, and Crono and his friends were the ones to first teach them the word "snow", which had been used on their world to describe the cold, frozen rain ever since. It was just another one of the ways in which Crono's adventures served to fulfill history.)

"Kino give Ayla good, strong, baby boy," Ayla grinned. "He make fine chief, one day. We name him Crono." Crono blushed at this. Then Ayla sobered. "Many babies not so strong. Many babies die in big cold. We learn to make clothes like ones you wear," Ayla added, indicating her rough, brown dress for emphasis. "We make new word, 'sewing'. It mean to put fur together and make warm skins. Many animals with little fur die, and animals with much fur live. So we get more fur for ourselves."

"I was wondering why you looked so...dressed," Lucca noted.

Ayla nodded and continued. It had been many, many, many suns since Ayla had returned home from her adventure with Crono and their friends. She had been hunting one of the tusked big-meats in the mountains near the hunting range, when her footing gave way beneath her and she began to fall. She was very high, and most likely would have died, if it were not for the Gate which opened directly beneath her. The Gate took her to a strange, rocky land, and then disappeared. The people she met there all spoke in a strange manner, with words that Ayla did not understand. Nevertheless, a tribe there adopted Ayla and took care of her, slowly teaching her their language.

"Speak some of it," Cologne suddenly commanded, a curious look on her face.

Ayla obliged, and Mousse suddenly exclaimed, "It's Chinese...sort of."

Cologne nodded and said, "It is a very ancient dialect, one that has not been spoken for many thousands of years. Its roots are with the very beginnings of the Joketsuzoku people. Please forgive my interruption, Ayla, and continue with your tale."

Ayla, though she missed her own tribe, and especially her son and husband, eventually began to participate in village life. Her tremendous strength and skill as a warrior made her very useful. One day, however, an enormous army of warriors from an unknown tribe attacked during the night. There was no warning, no mercy offered, and no reason given for the invasion. The village was devastated, but Ayla managed to lead the few villagers not killed or captured to safety. As Ayla and her band of survivors traveled, seeking somewhere to reestablish their village, they heard rumors and tales from other refugees that finally revealed the truth behind the invading army.

The army came from a people known as the Jusenkyo. They were a hostile, warlike tribe who were constantly conquering surrounding villages. As their territory grew, so did their army, as they conscripted captured warriors and forced them to fight for them. They were led by a man who was known only as the Sorcerer of Jusenkyo (Cologne's eyes narrowed to slits at this). There were rumors that this sorcerer possessed powerful magic, and that a few of his soldiers did as well--stories that some of his soldiers transformed into vicious wild beasts in battle. Ayla wasn't sure which of the stories were true, and which just exaggeration. But one thing she did learn: the location of Jusenkyo, where her former villagers were being held prisoner.

Ayla organized the few warriors she still had with her, and executed a successful raid on the Jusenkyo prisoner's camp (despite her primitive nature and language, it should be understood that Ayla was an extremely cunning and accomplished warrior and leader). She liberated the people being held there, which included people from a large number of villages. There were very few men among them, and no warriors at all. Any warriors not killed in battle had long since been sent off to fight as conscripts in Jusenkyo's armies. Still, Ayla knew that the Sorcerer's armies had to be stopped, so she organized the liberated people into a new village, a tribe of Amazon warriors. A tribe they called Joketsuzoku.

Mousse's eyes nearly popped out of his head, while Cologne merely nodded slowly, but still seemed almost awed. The two of them were in the presence of the woman most responsible for the creation of their tribe.

Ayla helped to train the women to fight, and once their village became known as an enemy of the Jusenkyo army, many refugees and unconquered tribes allied themselves with them. Their ranks were also increased by deserters from the Jusenkyo army, who saw no further reason to fight now that their loved ones were safe. A full-scale war erupted between the Jusenkyo and the Joketsuzoku, with battles won and lost on both sides. Ayla's cunning strategies and battle plans were, unfortunately, more than offset by the sheer immensity of the enemy armies, along with their leader's devious magicks. It became clear that Ayla's people were slowly, but steadily, losing their war. A ray of hope became known when some of Ayla's spies in the enemy village finally delivered a piece of critical knowledge to her: the magical powers of the enemy stemmed in part from a powerful creature that they called Lavos.

Ayla had learned many things while traveling through time with Crono and his friends, not the least of which was that Lavos could create Gates through time, like the ones they had used before Belthasar, the Guru of Reason, had given them the Epoch. So, with some reservations, she commanded some of the wise women of her tribe to try to tap Lavos's power--to try to create a time Gate that would take Ayla to the people she believed best able to help them in their hour of need. The wise women were skillful in the ways of magic, and attempted to grant Ayla's request, though they warned her time and again of the evil nature of Lavos's power. Ayla knew Lavos's evil only too well but saw little alternative. Finally, they produced a special time Gate, one that was fixed only in their time and at their location. Once Ayla stepped through it, the other end would be fixed in the time and place Ayla desired. So, Ayla fixed the image of Crono in her mind, and stepped through.

It almost worked perfectly. Instead of taking Ayla directly to Crono, it took her to a place Crono had recently been; a place now controlled by an evil man who called himself the Director. Perhaps the slight error had been caused by Lavos's evil, but Ayla soon escaped the man's clutches to follow Crono's scent to his new location. "Now we go through Gate, kill Lavos, and save Joketsuzoku!" Ayla finished.

Crono nodded, and then pointed out that the Director was still a problem, especially since Ayla's Gate was in the Tendo's home. Crono went on to carefully explain Ranma's plan of attack. Ayla nodded and smiled at Ranma. "Ranko plan good. Army without leader is like animal without head. But some animals, body keeps fighting, even when head gone. How kill others?"

After making it clear that they were not trying to kill the marching band, merely to overcome them, they admitted that they had not yet developed a plan beyond that. Ayla nodded. "Need fighting techniques that hit many, but not kill. Like Frog 'Water2', or Robo 'Laser Spin'. Also need strong techniques for stopping strong fighters. Do you know Double Techs?"

"Double Techs?" asked Genma.

Marle explained, "Sometimes we combine our spells and techniques to do one, extra powerful technique. That's a Double Tech."

"Oh, you mean like that 'Arc Impulse' thing you hit that dragon with?" asked Ranma, understanding.

"Actually, that was a Triple Tech," Marle answered, "'cause there were three of us. But the principle's the same. I don't think you guys know any."

"Actually," Genma noted, "Ranko and Akane did one once. Do you remember, Ranko? When those two girls claiming to be Soun's daughters fought you to inherit the Tendo Dojo?"

Ranma and Akane thought back. The elder of the girls, Natsumi, fought with an ornately designed rug beater, and was capable of generating fierce tornadoes of bitterly cold wind. The younger, Kurumi, wielded a whiplike hair ribbon that left burn marks with its heat. The two of them together could create an tunnel of extremely powerful hot and cold force; a technique that had decimated both Ranma and Akane the first time they had used it. To counter the effect, Ranma had devised a countertechnique. She had waited for the sisters to begin their technique, and then had Akane run into the forming cylinder. Then Ranma had executed an altered 'Hiryu-Shoten-Ha' technique, aimed horizontally rather than vertically. The tunnel the sisters had created helped to focus and augment Ranma's 'Hiryu-Shoten-Ha', which, in turn, caught up with the charging Akane, lifting her and accelerating her towards their opponents, at the same time protecting her from the harmful effects of the sisters' technique. The overall effect was that Natsumi and Kurumi's attack was splintered, and Akane was flung at them with enough momentum to deliver two decisive, knockout blows.

"I don't think-" Ranma and Akane began together. They glanced at one another, and Akane turned away hurriedly, leaving Ranma feeling miserable.

"I don't think that would work here," Akane continued for them both. "It kinda depended on Natsumi and Kurumi's attack."

"Still, it sounds like you have the idea!" Marle exclaimed enthusiastically. "Perhaps we can think of some more before we face the music."

"Perhaps you should experiment," suggested Cologne. "The riverside would make an excellent training area."

"Aren't you gonna help us get back our home?" asked Akane.

"No, Kasumi and I shall remain here to guard the Neko Hanten," the old woman replied. "The enemy might choose to acquire a new base of operations, should you succeed in routing them. I do not intend to let them make this restaurant their home. Farewell, and good luck." Then Cologne added, "And I should like to speak with you again, Ayla. There is much I would like to know about our people." Ayla nodded, and soon the group had left the restaurant.

"I do hope that they'll be alright," Kasumi said with concern.

"Do not worry, child," Cologne responded. "If there are any who can succeed against such odds, it is they."

* * * * * *

Exhausted and disheveled, Ryoga found that he had come upon another door. He was long past watching or caring where he was going. Had he been watching, he still would have had no idea. All he knew now, was that he had found a door, and it was possible that there was someone behind it that could point him in the right direction. He slammed open the door and demanded, "Where is the Neko Hanten!?!"

Abruptly, he froze. He recognized this area. It was Nabiki's room (funny, he didn't remember climbing any stairs, let alone walking into any house). But something was very wrong. Robo was on Nabiki's bed, with six of those Kielowitz band members playing something at her. There was evidently some sort of invisible barrier around her, because she had some object in her hands that she was pounding against the barrier over and over again. She was sobbing, and screaming something, something like, "WHY WILL IT NOT DIE??!!?" over and over again. With a sick lurch of his stomach, Ryoga realized that the object was Happosai. Someone had locked Robo in a cell with Happosai while she was in girl form.

That someone turned from where he was watching the spectacle to stare at Ryoga in surprise. "How did you get past my security?" he demanded.

Ryoga ignored his question, unsheathing his umbrella. "You fiend," he whispered hoarsely. "You sick, twisted, fiend! Have you no humanity?"

The Director glared back. "No more than I must. SECURITY!"

Ryoga snarled, fury driving him well beyond reason, and charged at the Director. His charge was met by four musicians that had been sitting with Robo's six guards without actually playing along. His heavy umbrella hit two with enough force to knock them cold, while a single kick took out a third. Ryoga slammed his head into the face of the fourth, and Ryoga heard the distinct crack of a jaw breaking. All of this took less than a few seconds, and now the way was clear between Ryoga and the depraved animal he so wished to smash.

Abruptly, Ryoga stumbled, as five or six band members, who must have come at the Director's call, leapt onto his back. Ryoga crashed to the floor, and immediately struggled to regain his footing, actually lifting the entire pile up into the air. But then, ten more added themselves to the pile, pushing Ryoga decisively to the ground. Ryoga strained and grunted, but was unable to move.

The Director walked to within a few feet of the trapped man. "Well, it would seem we have another prisoner. Do you have anything to say for yourself?"

Ryoga's mind whirled with frustration. He couldn't move, and one of his friends was only a few feet away from him, slowly losing her sanity. Robo was helpless, and Ryoga was unable to help her. HE was helpless. He was worthless. Ryoga could think of only one thing to say. "Shi-Shi-"

Abruptly, the Director recoiled. "Quickly! Subdue him!"

"Houku-"

A snare drummer prepared to kick Ryoga into unconsciousness, but was too late.

"DAN" Ryoga finished, and a tremendous explosion of negative emotional energy burst from him like a grenade. The band members atop him were scattered in all directions. Ryoga staggered to his feet.

"Stop him!" called the Director.

Thinking quickly, Ryoga jumped through a window. As the glass shattered around him, he called, "Hold on to your sanity, Robo! I'll save you as soon as I can!"

Thump. Ryoga landed on the Tendo lawn, and glanced around feverishly. They were going to be after him any second, and his 'Shi-Shi-Hokudan' had left him too drained to run. His eye fell upon the Tendo pond. They would be after him...but not after P-Chan.

* * * * * *

The Director was furious. All of his sentries claimed no one had entered the Tendo property. And yet, Ryoga had somehow waltzed into the house, walked up the stairs, and barged right into the prisoner's quarters, apparently never even realizing where he was! Even worse, he had then overcome no less than twenty martial arts musicians, somehow gotten back out again, and no one could find anything except his clothes. His clothes! Why would he have left his clothes? How could a nude teenaged boy walk unseen past so many guards?

Robo's cage was down to four members, two of them having been knocked senseless by Ryoga's attack. Fortunately, Happosai was in no shape to take advantage of the fact, and probably would have preferred to stay inside with Robo anyway, despite the abuse he was enduring at her hands. Inside, Robo was still pounding the battered old man against the musical barrier. She was close to breaking, the Director could tell.

The Director thought back to the Shogi game he had overturned. It seemed that his opponents had found a way to cheat after all. But once Robo was willing to talk, the Director would know the rules by which his enemies played.

* * * * * *

Meanwhile, the enemies in question were training down by the riverside, and really making a mess of the area in the process. Their standard method of practice was to unearth a boulder, and then to pulverize it in any of a number of ways. This, while an effective method of practice, had the side effect of leaving huge boulder holes and scraps of stone shrapnel all over the area. Still, if anyone from the police or sanitation department had happened upon the scene, they probably would have been reluctant to interfere once they had witnessed the cause of all the destruction.

At one corner of the area, Ranma and Ayla had squared off to try to determine whether or not any of their various techniques were compatible. Ayla had discarded her brown dress, preferring to fight in her traditional outfit. This, basically, consisted of a bikini-like getup of the same grey fur as her boots, scarf, and wristbands. With the brown dress gone, Ayla was revealed to have an extremely shapely figure to complement her handsome, if angular face.

The two of them had come to the conclusion that few of their techniques could really be combined effectively. The ones that had come closest to doing so were Ranma's 'Hiryu-Shoten-Ha' technique and Ayla's 'Tail Spin' (the latter technique consisting of Ayla spinning in place fast enough to generate a minor tornado). Unfortunately, Ranma's dependence on heat and cold to execute his own technique made it difficult to practice. Theoretically, though, with Ayla spinning counterclockwise and Ranma's chi spinning clockwise, a large number of foes could be lifted and slammed together by the fierce opposing air currents.

"Is good Double Tech, Ranko," noted Ayla, satisfied. "When you can do, tell Ayla and we do together. Okay call it 'Crosswinds'?"

Ranma nodded, the name 'Ranko' still sounding sour in her ears. Ayla looked concerned. Hesitantly, she asked, "Is Ranko not real name? Ranko unhappy when it said."

Ranma sighed. "No, my name is Ranma. I'm actually a man, but I've been transformed."

Ranma wasn't really expecting to be believed, but Ayla nodded slowly. "Ranma smell like man," she noted. "Is Jusenkyo magic? Ayla think so."

Ranma looked surprised. "You can tell?"

Ayla nodded. "Ayla smell captured Jusenkyo soldiers. Some change shape, and have magic scent. Why Ranma not use warm water?"

"It won't work," Ranma answered miserably. "I'm stuck this way, and everyone's under some sort of spell, except for Ucchan."

"'Ucchan'? Ranma mean Ukyou? Ayla have good, strong Double Tech with Ukyou: Ayla throw enemy at Ukyou, and Ukyou hit with spatula. She call it 'Home Run'."

"Well, other than her, everyone thinks that I've always been a girl. Well, there's Shampoo, too, but she's stuck as a c-c...a c-cat."

"Shampoo is cat? Ayla find cat that smell like human girl."

"That's Shampoo," Ranma shuddered.

"Ranma afraid of cats," Ayla noted. "Is sad for Shampoo." Ayla grinned. "Shampoo smell like human girl--like human girl in love. Ayla think Shampoo love Ranma. Cat always watch Ranma." Ayla pointed at a distant clump of bushes.

Ranma nearly leaped when she saw the tiny, white, furry shape sitting under a bush hundreds of meters away. It was far enough away that she could resist fleeing in terror, but the thought of a cat watching her still filled her with fear.

"But Ranma love another, anyway. Is not true? Ranma love Akane?"

"I don't want to talk about it," Ranma noted sourly, with more than a hint of self-loathing.

Evidently, Ayla could smell that, too. "Ranma should not blame self. If Ranma love Akane, and spell stop love, blame sorcerer that cast spell." Ayla paused. She could think of little else to say. "Ayla practice with Genma and Soun now. Be well, Ranma."

As Ayla walked away, she found herself pitying Ranma. She was a young woman--man, she corrected herself--with many problems. She wondered if Ranma knew that Ukyou was in love with her, too. Troubled is the man with many loves. Then, Ayla scolded herself. Pity would not help Ranma. But if there was a way Ayla could help her, she would.

* * * * * *

Ryoga was barreling down the streets of Nerima as fast as his little piggy legs could carry him. At least, he desperately hoped that he was still in Nerima. He had to find the Neko Hanten. He had to! Robo was counting on him. If anything were to happen to Robo, just because he got lost...why, he'd never be able to forgive himself!

Featureless buildings blurred past, dotted with the occasional frustratingly half-familiar landmark. P-Chan's head darted back and forth. 'Does that restaurant look familiar?' he asked himself anxiously. 'Haven't I seen that particular cluster of vending machines somewhere before? And that flower shop; is it the one a few blocks from Furinkan High, or the one across town? Argh! Why do I have to be so hopeless!'

Suddenly, Ryoga's tormented musings were cut short as he suddenly discovered that he had run out of road. Ryoga tumbled head over heels down the steep embankment built next to the riverside. When Ryoga came to a halt, he eyed the river in front of him tiredly. 'The river?' Ryoga thought. 'That's nowhere near the Neko Hanten! Or is it? Oh, Robo, forgive me!'

"HAIIIYAAA!" a shrill, yet familiar voice cried. Ryoga's ears perked up as a sliver of stone whizzed by just overhead. 'Akane?' he thought, daring to hope.

Indeed, it was Akane. She had just finished pulverizing a medium-sized boulder with her wooden mallet, while a few others looked on. Ryoga looked around the area and was delighted to see that everyone was there. Perhaps it was not too late for Robo after all!

Being careful to stay out of sight, P-Chan sought out Ranko. Everyone else thought that P-Chan was Akane's pet, and Ryoga would not have an easy time explaining Robo's situation while trying to keep his secret safe.

Ranko was standing sulkily off to the side, occasionally throwing terrified glances toward some distant object for no reason that Ryoga could discern. That caused Ryoga to pause for a moment. It had been suggested that Ranko might not be quite sane at the moment, with her insisting on being male and everything. Had it gotten worse? If Ryoga revealed himself, would Ranko betray his secret in some bout of insane rambling? Ryoga had no choice. He gently nuzzled Ranko's foot with his soft snout, grunting softly to get the girl's attention.

Ranko was startled. "Wha-?" she looked down. "Ryoga! So, ya finally made it, huh?" P-Chan grunted and squealed anxiously for a few seconds, pointing towards a copse of bushes atop the embankment with his snout for emphasis. "Something's wrong? C'mon, let's get you out of sight."

As it turned out, Ryoga had recognized those bushes as one of the many caches of clothes he left at points all around the town. He always marked such caches with a semi-hidden yellow and black striped bandana. This particular cache also contained a small kerosene stove and a teapot of water. It took only minutes for Ryoga to transform back to human form and get dressed, and even less for him to hurriedly babble the horrible scene he had witnessed. As he finished, the color drained from Ranko's face. "We've gotta get the others, fast!" Ranko agreed, grabbing Ryoga by the arm. The two of them hurried down to where the others were still training.

Breathlessly interrupting each other, Ryoga and Ranko explained the situation, taking time to explain to Crono and his companions exactly the sort of horror Happosai embodied. "I don't know how much more of that sort of torment Robo can take!" Ryoga added.

Crono scowled and unsheathed his katana. Marle nodded sharply, and said, "Crono's right! We can't wait any longer. Robo needs us."

And so, the battle for the Tendo Dojo began, somewhat ahead of schedule.

Afterword:

I don't know what the real origins of the Joketsuzoku are, or of Jusenkyo. As far as I know, if they are revealed at all, it is in the manga, and not the anime.

Double and Triple Techs. It had been my intention from the beginning that Ranma and associates would work together with Crono and associates to create some Awesome New Techs. Unfortunately, the opportunity just never seemed to present itself before this point. It is my hope that the sudden infusion of combinational Techniques doesn't come across as awkward.

From a number of sources, I have gathered that Miss Hinako has some sort of a crush on Soun Tendo. Unfortunately, this angle falls squarely within the realm of the manga, and so I have little or no idea what sort of relationship the two have. As such, don't expect anything to develop along those lines.

Chrono Trigger Tip #17:

After I've saved Crono, Gaspar gives me a list of missions that I can go on before I challenge the Black Omen. You know, things like "In the Middle Ages, a woman struggles to save a forest," and things like that.

Yes? What of it?

Well, whenever one is accomplished, it disappears from the list. I've managed to get rid of them all, except for one.

Let me guess, the one that says something along the lines of "Someone close to one of you needs your help."

Hey, yeah, that's it! What on Earth do I need to do for that one?

Sorry, can't help you.

Huh?

And chances are, no one else can either. I've searched far and wide, and no one seems to know for sure what that one's supposed to mean. Even the strategy guide doesn't help. Really the best theory is that Gaspar is referring to Queen Zeal, who you can 'help' by destroying the Black Omen (and presumably her as well). This will make Gaspar stop listing that annoying message. Unfortunately, destroying the Black Omen makes him stop listing ANY of the messages, if there are any left. So, it doesn't really prove anything. There's also the problem that Queen Zeal really isn't close to any of the characters. Probably Magus comes the closest, and he really doesn't give a flying fig for her at this stage of the game (or, really, at any stage of the game). It can't be him, anyway, because if you decided to kill him, rather than let him join your party (which is an option, earlier in the game), Gaspar STILL says that someone close to you needs your help.

My personal theory is that Gaspar is referring to Marle's father's impending trial, and that (whether it is due to a glitch, or something else entirely) the message simply doesn't disappear once you succeed.

If there is any Chrono Trigger buff out there who has, somehow, managed to get rid of this message without destroying the Black Omen or winning the game, please, tell me how. You are in a distinct minority among Chrono Trigger players, and the majority would love to be enlightened.

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