Chapter Four

Over the following weeks, Krux went out frequently, under the pseudonym of Sander Saunders. He was visiting from the capital, he said, which wasn't a lie. He would be staying with Libber for the time being. Most everyone accepted this and said they were glad to meet him.

He asked a few times about Acronix, but stopped when his question was answered with, "Huh, sounds like the old Master of Time's name," and instead wandered the bustling market by the docks and eavesdropped on the sailor's conversations. Nothing. No leads, nowhere to even start looking.

Maya and Ray stayed inside the house at all times. Often, Krux caught Maya pacing the living room, crossing its width in a few long steps and turning around to cross it again. Ray said she had spent too long cooped up in there. "She's never been good with confinement," he said, and left it at that. None of them had any solutions.

People were looking for Maya and Ray. He saw the posters with their faces. Strangely enough, Krux himself was not on any posters–and he had used his time-stop on the emperor. Surely that was punishable by death.

Libber's baby grew older. So did Ling and Nya. By Krux's estimation, Jay was a few months older than them, but Libber said nothing about Jay's birthday. Maya and Ray celebrated Ling and Nya's first birthday with quiet song and a sweet dish that Nya spread all over the table and Ling immediately threw up.

Maya and Ray's elemental powers were gone by then. For weeks beforehand, Ray would light a single candle in the night, staring at the flame until Maya called him to bed. It took more and more effort as time went on. One day, he couldn't do it. Krux thought he took the loss remarkably well, and he told him as much.

Ray laughed. "It's not gone," he said. "It's in my children–well, one of them." He was holding Ling on his lap at the time, and the child was giggling happily and playing with a torn piece of cloth. "Is it you?" he said to her, tickling her belly and making her screech with laughter. "You've got a fiery spirit, I can tell!"

"Dada," Ling said, and Ray immediately fetched Maya to tell her Ling's first word.

Libber would have lost her powers by then, too. She didn't talk about it, and Krux was not going to be the one to bring it up.

More time passed with no progress. Eight months after Maya and Ray were called in front of the emperor, Gloria knocked on Libber's door.

Libber ushered Maya, Ray, and their twins into the back of the house while Krux answered the door. "Oh, Saunders," Gloria said with none of her usual cheer. "I'm sorry, but i need to speak with Libber."

Krux nodded. "She's taking care of Jay, she should be–"

"I'm here, I'm here!" Libber rushed out with a smile. "Good to see you Gloria, how's…"

She trailed off, staring at Gloria's worn, red eyes. "Is something wrong?" she asked.

Gloria took a shuddering breath. "It's Donny, Libber. I'm so sorry, he–he passed away unexpectedly last night."

Krux gasped. Libber's eyes widened. "He's… he's gone?" she said. "My dad, he's…"

"I'm sorry, Libber," said Krux. "If there's anything I can do…"

Libber sobbed and covered her mouth. "No," she choked out. "No, he can't–you said he had years left, not–!"

She broke down in tears. Gloria made as if to hug her, but Libber staggered back away from her. Krux stood there, processing the news. There would have to be a funeral, he thought. A fairly large one; Donny had been an elemental master, after all.

Realization struck. Krux turned and went into the house to where Maya and Ray were hiding.

"We have to go," he said as soon as he opened the door.

Ray jerked his head up. "Now?!"

"Not now," he clarified. "But soon. Libber's father died, and at an elemental master's funeral…"

"Everyone will be there," Maya said. She stood up, holding Ling and Nya. "We need to go before then."

Ray looked between Maya and Krux. "We can't go now," he said. "If Libber's father just died, we need to be there for her. We can't just leave without at least an explanation."

"I know," Maya said. "She'll… she'll understand. She has to."

Krux nodded. "I'm going back out," he said. "Stay here. Stay hidden."

They didn't need him to tell them that, and Krux knew that, too. He said it anyway and went back to the door.

Libber crouched on the ground and sobbed, burying her face in her hands. Gloria knelt down next to her, shedding tears of her own. Krux stood there awkwardly until Gloria spoke. "We need to make the funeral arrangements," she said.

"Go away!" Libber shouted.

Gloria flinched, but didn't move. "Libber, I know this is hard–"

"I said go away!"

Krux sucked in air through his teeth. "You should come back later," he said to Gloria. "I lost my own father, years ago. I'll make sure she's not alone."

It wasn't a lie–Krux's father was dead, after all, even if Krux hadn't had the love for him that Libber had for Donny. He had handled the arrangements during that time, surely he could help Libber through this.

Gloria nodded, slowly. "Okay," she said. "I'll… I'll come back tonight. I'm so sorry, Libber."

She left. Krux stood there for a few moments longer, listening to Libber's sobs, until he cleared his throat and started to speak.

Libber interrupted him. "I don't want you here, either."

Her voice was eerily calm. Krux took a deep breath. "Libber, I–"

"I'm serious." Libber picked herself off the floor and glared at him, her eyes red and swollen. "I want you out. You, Maya, Ray–all of you."

Krux hissed air through his teeth. "Libber, wait. We need to–"

"You don't need to do anything but leave," she said. "And you need to leave now. Go tell the others."

"We can't just–"

Libber shoved past him towards where Maya and Ray were still hiding. Caught off guard, Krux staggered to the side before regaining his balance and following. "Libber!"

No amount of pleading from Maya and Ray could change Libber's mind. "I want you out," she repeated. "I don't want you here. Get out."

"We need more time!" Maya held Ling close to her chest while Nya stood up on wobbly legs, gripping her mother's skirt. "We'll leave soon, I promise, but–we need to prepare, we can't–"

"I don't care," Libber said. "You need to leave."

"So you're kicking us out," Ray said, his hands clenched into fists. "Just like that? You've helped us for this long, and now we're on our own."

Maya turned to him, worry evident in her eyes. "Ray, please–"

"She's kicking us out!" Ray said, louder this time. "If we're caught, our children will be murdered! Are you sending them to die?!"

Libber punched him.

Maya screamed. Krux caught Ray as he fell and kept a solid grip on him so he wouldn't retaliate. He opened his mouth, but what could he say? It was clear, now, they couldn't stay here.

"Out," Libber said. None of them argued further.

Libber's house was on the edge of town. Maya, Ray, and Krux left through the back and went into the forest, carrying Ling and Nya with them. "It's not safe," Maya whispered. "People hunt here!"

"Where else can we go?" Krux snapped, the stress of their situation catching up to him. "We can't go into town. Not with the twins."

Ling was starting to cry. Maya ignored Krux to try and sooth her. They kept going.

They walked for what felt like hours as the sun travelled across the sky. Ling and Nya were both crying when they finally stopped to rest, in the mouth of a cave. Without warning, Ray handed Nya to Krux and went deeper into the cave. "I'm making sure it's safe," he said when Maya asked what he was doing. "Stay there."

Nya squirmed in Krux's arms. "Dada," she whimpered. "Wan' Dada!"

She continued wailing. Krux looked at Maya helplessly. Maya wiped her eyes and sat on the ground, balancing Ling on her knee. "Bring her here," she said, patting her other knee.

Krux gladly handed Nya over and hovered at the entrance to the cave. The sky was starting to cloud over and the air carried the faint scent of rain. Krux hadn't noticed any clouds earlier. He vaguely remembered that the Master of Water could summon rain, but that couldn't be it–Maya would have lost her powers by now, and her children were too young for either one to manifest them. He glanced back at her, but she was busy with Ling and Nya.

He heard footsteps in the cave behind them. "It's empty," Ray said. "We can go further in, if we want."

"Are we going to live in a cave now?" Maya said, raising her voice to be heard over her children's cries.

"Don't worry, Maya. It's just for the night."

"And where will we go then?" Maya clutched Ling and Nya close to her. "Libber was the only one we could trust! If she doesn't want us–"

"We'll figure something out," Ray interrupted. "For now, we should rest."

Maya bit her lip and said nothing. Krux frowned.

"You stay here," he said. "I'm going to find someone who can help us."

Ray and Maya snapped their heads towards him. "Excuse me?" Ray said. "What can you do?"

"Reverse time, for one. I have my elemental powers, remember?" Krux looked back out at the forest. "You have your children to worry about. I'm the only one who can go freely."

"If you're caught–"

"There aren't even any wanted posters for me," Krux said. "Yes, if someone realizes I'm the Master of Time, I'll be in trouble, but so far, no one has. I'm going. You stay here."

"He's right, Ray," Maya said. "We can't stay here forever."

Ray sucked in air through his teeth. "Fine," he said. "You go. Maya, we need to talk."

Krux rolled his eyes and went out into the forest. Soon afterwards, he felt the first drops of rain.

By the time he reached a road, Krux was completely soaked, and the makeup he used to disguise himself had smeared. He wiped the rest of it off and tried not to worry about it. If someone recognized him, so be it–he would deal with that when it happened.

The road had farmland on one side and forest on the other. Krux vaguely remembered where he was–there was a village at the base of a nearby mountain, wasn't there? If he kept the forest on his left, he was going in the right direction.

The rain came down in sheets. He shivered. The stress of the day was wearing him down–why did Libber kick them out? If she had a problem, she should've said something beforehand, not wait for her father to die! At least, they should have had some warning! Krux clenched his jaw and kept walking, his rage keeping him going.

And what good had Libber done him? He was barely any closer to finding his twin than when he first heard he had one. Certainly, Donny had told him his name, but what good would that do? No one in the town knew of anyone named Acronix. Why would Ray's father keep the name, either, if Krux's father would recognize it? Krux kicked a pebble down the road, which didn't help.

Someone was approaching him; they were too far to make out, but clearly walking towards him. Krux straightened his shoulders and kept walking. Whoever it was, he would just have to hope they wouldn't recognize him.

When he was close enough to see who it was, it was too late.

"Krux?" Wu said. He had an umbrella, but it had done a poor job of keeping him dry in the rain, and his white hair was sticking to the sides of his face. "Master of Time?"

"No," Krux said, his teeth chattering.

Wu frowned. "You're freezing," he said. "Here, this should help."

He held out the umbrella. Krux eyed it warily, but reached to take it. His fingers were so numb, he couldn't grip the handle, and nearly dropped it before Wu took it back.

"Never mind," he said. "Come with me. You're going to freeze to death if you stay out here."

He took Krux's arm and positioned the umbrella above them both. Krux was too cold to argue as he was led down the road.

Wu had to support Krux as they ascended the mountain. Even with the assistance, Krux's legs ached like they were going to fall off, and he could hardly think through the cold. By the time they reached the building at the top of the stairs, Wu was half-carrying him.

Going inside felt like walking into a furnace. Krux welcomed it.

"I'll get you a change of clothes," Wu said, sitting him down on a soft chair. "Wait here, I'll start some tea."

The storm howled outside. Krux wrapped his arms around himself, still shivering uncontrollably. It hadn't subsided when Wu came back with a plain shirt and pants. "I'll let you change," he said. "Unless you need help…"

Good God, Krux couldn't begin to imagine the embarrassment. "No," he managed to say. "I'll manage."

Wu nodded and left.

When he returned with a mug of tea, Krux had changed out of his soaked clothes and folded them in a neat pile. "Here," Wu said, handing him the mug. "This should warm you up."

Krux sipped the tea and waited for his shivering to cease. "Thank you," he said.

Wu sat down across the room from him. "What happened?" he asked. "You left so suddenly… are you with Ray and Maya?"

"I'm sorry," Krux said, "but I don't know if I can trust you. You were at the execution, after all."

"I understand, but please believe me, my brother and I were only there out of obligation. Had I had a choice…" Wu shook his head. "If they and their twins are safe, I'm glad for it. I have no intention of turning them in."

Krux said nothing.

"Why were you walking in the rain?" Wu asked. "Do you have a safe place to stay?"

"We…" Krux took a deep breath of the tea scent. "We did, until recently."

"And now Ray and Maya are out in the cold with two babies." Wu stood up. "Krux, I would like to offer this monastery as a home for the three of you."

Krux raised an eyebrow. "Even with twins?"

"Yes, even with twins. Ray, Maya, and their children will be safe here."

"And myself?"

Wu frowned. "Why would you be in any danger? You may have fled the palace, but…"

"Wu, Ray and Maya revealed to me that I, too, am a twin, and somewhere in Ninjago lives my brother. I fled the palace because I wanted to find him." Krux narrowed his eyes. "Knowing that, will I be safe here?"

Wu barely hesitated. "Of course," he said. "All of you are welcome here. It's the least I can do."

What choice did they have? The rain was cold, and the twins wouldn't last through the night out in the wilderness. "Very well," Krux said. "I'll show you where they are."

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