Cardinal King 3: Bright Future (Ch 3)
Last Time, on Cardinal King:
Rin is reunited with the injured Sailor Pluto. Mamoru is allowed to heal her, and she tells them of her failure in allowing Little Lord and six additional entities to travel to the past and alter the course of their history. All five Doom and Gloom girls were accounted for, but one entity made it past, back into Rin's future. Rin learns that everything he did was for naught: he could not change his present by altering theirs; things were just as they were when he left nearly a week ago. Pluto does not want to involve them and attempts to send them back to their time...
But Rin came to the past for help, and Mamoru decides that he'll get it.
The Kings and Helios agree to try to save Rin's future and travel through the Space-Time Door and into a hellscape of a deserted city populated by burned, melted buildings. They are joined by the Senshi and find themselves in a race to the Crystal Palace as enemies appear. Upon entering Rin's home, they meet Helios - a human, and a projection at that. He praises Rin for his bravery, announcing that their arrival here may well be this world's last hope.
In an antechamber below, the forms of the future Heavenly Kings and Sailor Senshi lay inert.
Chapter Three: Crystal Tokyo
“They’re only sleeping?” Mamoru asked in the silence, his eyes concentrating on the lifeless bodies of his friends in the room beneath them, staring hard to see the rise and fall of their chests to catch their breathing, not quite brave enough to use psylocation and find out the answer definitively. This was why Rin had used the past tense when he explained the radiation. What had Pluto said? Anything about reversing this? Fixing this?
“Comas,” Helios replied, and Mamoru released the breath he hadn’t been aware he was holding. Comatose was still alive; though, as he found out with Usako, it was not a state the Golden Crystal was successful in alleviating. But they were alive and, given enough time, they could recover. Would recover. They just had to give them that time.
“Where is Serenity?” Venus stood at the edge of the balcony, one hand gripping the railing as she stared down at her future self, only then turning a hard gaze on human-Helios.
“Resting,” Helios reassured, holding up his hands placatingly. “The last battle took a lot out of her, and the subsequent small scale attacks on the survivors by agents like the two you ran into earlier are wearing her down, but there’s not much we can do to alleviate it - we opened the Palace as a Keep and hundreds of citizens came to us for safety, but one of them made it through and pulled off an attack right beneath our very noses - it was unsafe to continue with such measures, especially after the last guardian -” he cut himself off. “We did our best, but our best wasn’t good enough, and Serenity and the citizens of Crystal Tokyo are paying the price.”
“I thought Rin came to our time to awaken us?” Jupiter asked, “But… we’re already awakened here?”
Helios - both of them - turned to Rin, who wouldn’t venture into the space at all, instead standing in the outer room. “Rin?” the High Priest prompted.
“I… messed up,” Rin said to his toes, and at a slight disapproving noise from human Helios, he straightened and looked right at Jupiter to say, “I made a mistake. I meant to awaken you guys before the Archons arrived, so that you’d have more experience with fighting and you would have already been awake when the attacks started happening, but I miscalculated and got there too late.”
“Too late?” East marveled, “You came the day we defeated Diana, any earlier than that and you’d’ve been fighting Senshi instead of attempting to get Usagi-chan to bring them back in on the action.”
Human Helios’s expression changed, his brows furrowing momentarily before he locked his eyes on Rin. “But you arrived too late?”
“The Archons attacked two days later,” East continued, “They weren’t even out of the hospital by then.”
Rin kept Helios’s gaze without shrinking, but his voice was small when he said, “I made a mistake.”
“But… you didn’t.” Helios replied, turning to look at East critically, a curled index finger on his ghostly chin as he examined the King of the East.
“Our uniforms,” North nodded knowingly, and when Mamoru looked back at him he nodded his head back towards the comatose Kings; he was right, they weren’t wearing the same uniforms - they wore what they had during their past lives, during the Golden Kingdom, but then Mamoru could wear his Endymion gear, and they had worn those uniforms in Elysion after Usako had sealed away Queen Serenity, why would that matter?
“Your stones,” Helios stopped, looking from East to South, then to West -
“When were the Archons supposed to arrive?” West asked, outwardly undisturbed.
“Two months after the Moon Queen was sealed away,” Helios stated, moving to look at North’s pendant, and then, finally, to his, a deep furrow forming between his brows as ghostly fingers moved up to the black stone etched with a golden lotus blossom. Helios was shorter than him. “I didn’t give you that,” he said quietly, honey-yellow eyes flashing up to his before falling back to the clasp.
“The Pyrite pendant shattered,” Mamoru explained, slowly for the benefit of their obviously uncomfortable ghostly guide, “the same night Usako became Princess Sailor Moon; you were exhausted all of last week, so if you don’t remember it --”
“Princess Sailor - ?”
“It’s because Rin changed the timeline,” North interrupted, smugly finishing in a very different assurance than what Mamoru was going for. “Something in his arriving when he did pushed the Archons into acting before they intended to, and this is the result,” he said, motioning to the other Kings in general. “Did we get kidnapped during your time?”
“Kidnapped?” Helios repeated incredulously, eyes opening wide.
West, his arms crossed in front of his chest, mused, “During their first attack we started out separated and had to divide our resources further to watch out for Rin; in their time they hadn’t had to do that.”
“So I wasn’t taken,” South continued.
“And we probably got enough out of your attacker to start figuring things out without the distraction of Rin’s arrival and Mamoru’s visions.” North surmised. “Which means we never met Them and Mamoru never died, so Usagi-chan never used her Crystal the way she did and the Senshi never awakened.”
Figuring out the differences was an interesting study, but there were more pressing matters here - like saving this timeline. “It didn’t stick,” Mamoru deflected, waving off future-Helios’s look of concern to redirect attention to the room below, “but I take it if we don’t move quickly, that may not be the case for them.” The mood in the room refocused, and with that renewed focus he turned back to Helios. “We came here to help,” Mamoru stated, whether this is our direct future or not. “Tell us about Metallia.”
Helios nodded, and then left the room, a trail of superheroes in his wake led by Cardinal King. “I’ll show you,” the High Priest said, moving faster than before through crystalline corridors and up short staircases until the palace opened up for them again in an enormous room outfitted in various technical devices, the foremost of which was a giant screen that took up three multi-story facets of what must have been the crystalline tower they saw within the structure from a distance. Helios reached a bank of computers and called North over to press a series of buttons that his transparent fingers could not interact with.
Suddenly the screen lit up, showing a scene recorded from multiple angles: an army marching on Crystal Tokyo, led by a singular figure. The camera zoomed in on the leader as he spoke, his skin mottled green and black, flaming red hair standing up behind him and writhing as though truly on fire; brandishing a staff with an ugly, bulbous end, his voice boomed, “Child of the Moon Kingdom, your fate has come to claim you! Metallia is AWAKE, and We will reclaim the planet that was stolen from Us!” and with a hiss and sweep of the staff, fire exploded outward, knocking through the buildings it struck and setting everything it touched ablaze. The images - all of them - shut down in smoke and static before others clicked on, showing the scene from farther away: the edges of the cone of flame had dissipated nearly a block away from where the leader stood, creating an arc of fire, and everything in between was leveled and blackened. Sirens blazed and people screamed a background cacophony to the gut-wrenching utter destruction one attack had done. The sound in the room cut off suddenly, but the image continued, zooming in yet again to Metallia and his army, but it was Helios who spoke:
“This was the first attack. It came without warning and entirely unprovoked.” Metallia pointed, and his army of half-human creatures rushed forward into the destruction, spreading out throughout the city as their leader marched in steadily, glaring up towards the Crystal Palace. “The Kings were dispatched immediately,” he said, and a few smaller screens popped up, one a black-and-white map with colored markers diverging from the Crystal Palace, heading to surround the affected area. When the first reached the line of red dots, another screen lit up to show West King engaging with the army of monsters. “With its stated relationship to the Moon Kingdom, we tried to contact the Mau programs in Mare Serenitatis for information, but there was no response; through satellites, we later found that the old Moon Kingdom’s palace had been destroyed,” new images on screen, showing an alabaster palace in blackened ruins, and, beside him, Sailor Moon had turned away, holding on to Sailor Venus, who, even as she held Sailor Moon close, did not shut her eyes against the images. “The supercomputers that housed the programs remain unresponsive to remote attempts at rebooting their systems.”
“Did you send someone up to make the attempt manually?” Mercury asked, her voice tight with control. Her eyes, too, were glued to the screen, but the way they shone made Mamoru avert his gaze.
Helios shook his head. “While technology has come a long way,” he said, motioning to the control system surrounding the room, “it evolved differently to the technology developed on the Moon Kingdom; the only person capable of fixing it would have been you,” he said, “a complication that was compounded by Metallia’s strikes on space launch facilities.” A series of new screens appeared atop the original battle’s views, the windows popping up to show large explosions in other locales, else visual footage of blackened remains after what must have taken place. The screens disappeared.
“But while we may not know where it came from, there are things that we found out. First, that that is not Metallia.” He pointed to another series of buttons and North kept up diligently. “Later on in this fight, with its numbers depleted by the Kings, they faced him and this happened:” - a mobile camera from an elevated location zoomed in to see the four Kings approaching Metallia, with East and North holding off additional forces while West and South moved in; they were not in good shape, their grey uniforms torn and motions stiff with pain. They couldn’t catch any words from the distance, but Helios supplied, “‘Serve me and live.’ They refused - ” he cut himself off as the image took over for him. Metallia brought his scepter to bear, energy racing along its length to summon the flame that had taken out city blocks. Mamoru’s breath caught in his throat, afraid he was about to see their ends - but, instead, it was Metallia who was ended. The black spots on his skin started to expand, fire escaping from within in an enormous blaze, and then Metallia was no more: he was a smoking husk of a human. The Kings on-screen released their hold on their capes and were fine, but as they moved in towards the remains a dark mass of smoke emerged and, as though sentient, rushed from the field. “‘This isn’t the end, Serenity,’” Helios dutifully repeated.
As the smoke disappeared, the army fled, but not before a pair stormed towards the Kings; the male raised his arm and the Kings flinched and dove for cover as something shot out and exploded on contact. West threw himself towards the staff Metallia had dropped, but the second enemy, running past, threw out a stream of water that rushed it farther afield and, diverging in her path, she scooped it up and ran off with it. “Staballoy and Tethys,” Helios reported as the screens went dark and two large images appeared on screen - close-ups of the two figures, though with city backgrounds rather than the burnt field they had been in within that video. “He can fire armor-piercing munitions that self-sharpen on targets and explode on contact; she has control over water, and always appears when Metallia does.”
“Tethys and Staballoy -” Mars broached, “The two we faced earlier mentioned them. They suggested those two, and others - Ferrocerium - had killed the Kings.” She didn’t flinch from the word, “and maybe, us, too.”
Helios turned back to the controls, North working as his hands, first calling up a third picture - ‘Ferrocerium’ - and continued his narrative. “Metallia’s retreat pulled her army from the field, but after less than a day of peace, they began to return to wreak havoc and…” more screens opened to show an attack on a shopping district, only instead of killing everyone, the enemy - Ferrocerium - used his power to create flames surrounding them to stop anyone from escaping, then started to drain their energy - it was clear enough by the body language, the way they started to slump practically identical to attacks the Senshi had orchestrated. And, just like those attacks, the enemy did not stay to personally oversee them. They pointed at a random human, one that started to fight back, and dark mist surrounded them and one more, eclipsing them from view. When it cleared, two other half-human creatures were in their place. “Replenish their numbers.”
“They’re human,” South breathed.
The scene continued to play, and Ferrocerium disappeared, leaving the new beings in charge as people gave out. East King, now in his Elysion armor, arrived on the scene too late, and while he punched one of the creatures through the wall of a building, the people stayed down. “Sometimes, if you knocked them out soon enough, they reverted to their original forms, but those that didn’t would be claimed by Metallia’s forces and appear later in another fight. These attacks continued in areas all over the city, running everyone ragged for days. When Zoisite fell, we decided to try to reawaken the Senshi.
“King Endymion found their whereabouts and the Kings left to bring them in, but we lost Nephrite to Staballoy in the process, and even with all of them gathered, we didn’t know where to begin - how to reawaken their inert abilities and spark their transformation.
“That’s when Metallia struck again,” Helios announced, turning to the screen, where new videos were pulled up through North’s touch. An entirely new person led the charge - a woman with flowing green hair and glowing green eyes, holding the same staff. Tethys was to her right. The video had sound - “Surrender this planet, Serenity! Submit yourself to me and face justice!” She pointed her staff and flame erupted from its end, but before long it crashed into a barrier and was thrown back, one tendril sparking to the camera and decommissioning it.
When another image picked up the fight, King Endymion was on the field, a staff of his own held out to face the threat, the Golden Crystal brought to bear at its tip. It felt odd to see “himself” on-screen when he had never been there, but the video was taken from far enough away that he couldn’t really focus on his own features, just his attire: his grey Cardinal King uniform. While “he” fought off against Metallia, who wielded flame and burning plasma at once against him, West and South, also in their Elysion armor, stood by his side, breaking off only when her army separated from her in an attempt to flank them. “King Endymion went out to face it,” Helios said as the Kings fought tooth and nail to keep the transformed humans at bay, “and soon became the new target.” The video’s sound was all crackling static as Metallia’s whips of plasma cut through the air, held off by bursts of Golden Crystal energy; King Endymion transformed, armor from his past life overtaking his Heavenly Kings transformation, and his defensive abilities soon took the offensive. But then South King fell, and in the split-second distraction, Metallia directed another burst of fire at him. West burst in, knocking Endymion out of the way and took the brunt of the attack but was surrounded by golden energy as he hit the ground. Endymion, alone, spun and held up his other hand, directed at Metallia, and at that moment she brought down her staff and a fireball fell, crashing all around Endymion.
His body hadn’t been in the room with everyone else’s.
Metallia’s second host burst into flames and the smoke emerged, rushing towards the explosion where Endymion had been, and the image erupted in static.
“The smoke is Metallia?” South asked, the lurch in his voice paralleling the one in Mamoru’s stomach.
“Yes,” Helios answered, the static clearing to show no sign of Endymion or Metallia.
“What was the static?” North demanded, and the video rewound to just before the static overcame it and slowed in the replay, Kaito working the controls as he glared up at the screen.
“The Silver Crystal,” Helios replied, watching the screen as North worked. “Neo-Queen Serenity had been monitoring the situation with me, and when Endymion fell, her crystal reacted.”
“So Endymion was pulled back to the Palace?” East’s assumption was a little less than steady.
Helios shook his head, “It was not. Jadeite stabilized, parts of the city were reformed, the Senshi reawakened, but Endymion disappeared with Metallia.”
North froze the image just before the static struck and enlarged the image - “There -” he pointed to a silver of pale, near-transparent gold barely seen through the flames and the smoke of Metallia - “That’s from the Golden Crystal, isn’t it? So he’s still alive?”
“We believe so,” Helios replied, though not as hopeful as Kaito’s voice had been. “I left for Elysion immediately to fortify it, just in case… but he hasn’t reappeared.”
“Fortify Elysion?” East repeated, and while Mamoru appreciated it, they couldn’t afford to avoid the possibility.
“It’s tied to me,” he supplied, “so if I started to turn as those others turned, Helios would know and could take steps to stop it, or warn Crystal Tokyo in case he couldn’t.”
Helios nodded curtly. “I’ve been praying nonstop, but so far there has been no indication that an attempt has been made to change his heart.”
“Would his death negatively affect the planet?” Venus asked, and silence fell heavily, four sets of eyes glaring at her steadily.
At Helios’s hesitation, he backed up her question, knowing it needed to be asked. If he was being used and there was no way out, he would want to be taken down before his body or his powers could be brought to bear against them. “Would it?”
The High Priest didn’t look at them, staring at the screens as he replied, “The loss of the Golden Crystal would be a loss for Earth, but not one that would have an adverse effect on the planet or its current civilization.”
Venus tilted her head up, accepting the response without further comment.
“If Metallia is after Serenity, turning Endymion could be the end of it,” Mars stated instead. “Would she fight him if he appeared?”
“Losing him dealt a critical blow,” Helios said quietly, “but she’s been prepared for that possibility.” He motioned, and North hit another series of buttons. “The Senshi were effective at first, but in strategic attacks following the King’s disappearance, including the one on the refugee shelter within the Palace itself, and one against the young Prince, they, too, fell, and Neo-Queen Serenity is alone now in the protection of Crystal Tokyo.
“She held Metallia off in her third incarnation -” the images appeared - the exact ones from Mamoru’s visions, only crystal clear: the city from above, equal in height to the top of the Crystal Palace, the position behind the woman with the streaming hair: Neo-Queen Serenity, Usako’s future self. She stood on a platform cut into the structure, the Silver Crystal held out in front of her, streams of energy bursting out of it against an intensely bright figure that lashed out with lances and whips of glowing plasma, the heat so intense that the buildings far below were set aflame. The camera gave out and the image went dark. “This hosts’ body was manipulated; multi-stories tall, it wielded energy we were able to positively identify as being most similar to magnetic bursts and solar storms from the Sun.” The ghostly figure’s jaw clenched, and after a tight breath, he continued, “Metallia burned through this host, too, before she could deal a blow to our Queen, but Serenity was left exhausted and heartsick, even more so when her son disappeared.” He turned, finding Rin, and softly said, “But he did something heroic, and though luck or fate or something in between, he might have just saved his world.” Rin hugged himself, and Jupiter, nearest him, put her hand on his back comfortingly. Helios went on, “He should go see his mother.”
“I want to help,” he replied quietly, and Jupiter bent down and picked him up.
“You’ve done a lot, kid,” she said softly, “but I think the best thing you can do to help right now is helping me help you find your mom.” She looked to Venus and Venus nodded, so she started to make for the exit. As she passed behind him, though, Rin reached out and took hold of the cape that draped from his left shoulder, and Mamoru reached back to take his hand.
“It’ll be okay,” he said, encouraging him, “You did all this to help her, right? You should show her you’re okay.”
“I’ll go --” Sailor Moon started, but Helios cleared his throat to interrupt her, Mercury turning to look at her, too, and Usako stopped, diverting, “catch up with you later, okay, Rin?” She smiled at him, and he nodded, releasing his hold on Mamoru’s cape, and Jupiter led him out of the room, wherein he asked to be put down and led her away. Usako watched him go, and her question was answered without having to ask:
“It could be dangerous to have two Silver Crystals in one place,” Helios said, “the energy may end up resonating.”
Mercury added, “and we’re unsure of time travel’s effects on people effectively being in two places at once; I’d prefer we keep some distance between ourselves and our future selves.” Helios nodded, agreeing with her, and there was a consensus.
“Was that the most recent attack by Metallia?” West stated, redirecting to the problem at hand. Helios nodded, and he continued, “So she gave up on possessing Endymion, then, and moved on to another?”
“We bel--” Helios stopped, corrected himself, “I believe so.”
“A new host…” North trailed off, and started pressing buttons, bringing many images on the screen at once, green eyes flashing between them. Mamoru watched, and as he saw their fight - or flee - race backward, he understood what North intended, watching the other screens work in reverse, keeping an eye out for any sudden appearances the way the Senshi had appeared behind them on the rooftop. He took a few steps forward to better see, standing beside West and his-Helios as North explained, “Sailor Pluto was defeated before we found her in her dimension by something that had not come with the enemies that chased Rin; Pluto said she had found a new host, one from our time --”
Human Helios sucked in a breath and turned to the screens, searching with them. North had found the timestamp when they had suddenly appeared on the rooftop and slowed the playback down, unsure of how much earlier the new opponent had arrived.
“It was a Space-Time door, right?” South asked, “So there’s no telling what space it’d appear in, it could be clear across --”
“There.” Mars stated, and North hit pause before following her finger, then hit play, watching something small pop into place. It looked no bigger than a bird, but it did seem to suddenly appear? North reversed, enlarged the image so it took up more screen space, hit play and -
Even with Helios flying higher to be even with her image, she was there, clear as day: Beryl. The camera caught her from mostly from behind, unable to see her face beyond the curve of her cheek, but there was no mistaking her; her fairy-wings beat to keep her elevated as she surveyed the city, her mouth moved, but there was no one there to talk to - she nodded, and flew off, but North froze the frame.
“Beryl is the new host?” South voiced quietly.
East shook his head, squinting as he approached the screen, “She wouldn’t - there’s no way -”
“It’s her,” West confirmed heavily.
“But why?” North asked, reversing to see her appear again, “And how?! She was in Elysion, wasn’t she?”
Mamoru could scarcely believe it, but it was her, and she was there. “She disappeared the same night you did,” he reported for North’s benefit but added nothing else; he had nothing else to add. Why would she join Metallia? She wasn’t the kind to get into something without doing her research - ...but then she had acted quickly without them in Elysion, making her own plans… She wouldn’t change sides. There was no way.
“Metallia’s army changes humans into one of them,” South mused, crossing his arms as he looked up at the screen. “If Metallia came across Beryl, it might have just… taken her. She said she didn’t have a soul anymore, so it would have been easy to do, wouldn’t it? To brainwash her, like Diana did to Usagi-chan?”
Like Diana had done? He couldn’t help but be reminded of that fight - of dodging Jewel Tiara’s attacks as Diana laughed, of the way Usako’s eyes had been so empty... Someone took his hand and he started out of the memory, turning to find her there, her fingers intertwined with his. “Then it’s not permanent,” she said without an ounce of doubt. “With Mamo-chan reminding me of who I really was, I managed to break through her control. Beryl will, too. We just have to remind her of who she is, and she’ll come back to our side.” He squeezed her hand and she squeezed back, tilting her head to look up at him with a determined smile, and he resisted the urge to kiss her; she said exactly what they needed to hear, and her optimism kept him thinking forward instead of stewing in what could happen if nothing changed. He’d just keep pushing forward, with her.
“Okay then, it’s settled!” East declared, punching a fist into his other palm, “We find her and knock some sense into her before it’s too late!”
“Isn’t it already too late?” Mars asked, drawing everyone’s attention. She continued calmly, “Pluto was defeated by her; Metallia may already be completely in control.”
“Then she’ll take control back,” East shrugged his shoulders. “She’s annoying in how stubborn she is. Metallia got her when she was alone and vulnerable - in front of an audience cheering her on, Beryl’ll kick her to the curb, no question.”
The High Priest didn’t look so convinced. “Beryl’s magical prowess will make her a dangerous host; if Metallia uses her in battle, her form may not give out as quickly as the other hosts, if it gives out at all. It survived the fall of the Golden Age, channeling dark powers of the sun may not cause it to be destroyed.”
“Then we change her back or take her out,” West stated heavily, and Mamoru felt his friend’s strain without having to initiate contact. “Speed up the video,” he commanded, and North obeyed, “let’s see where she goes.”
Hello again! o/ Continuing on my reposting-streak, here's chapter three of season three of Cardinal King~!
You can find the full story (Arcs 1, side-stories, 2, and 3) complete on both AO3 and ffnet; the links to both are my tumblr page if you head to the Cardinal King subpage, plus notes on like character names and etc.~ Otherwise, I'm planning on posting two chapters a week until I run out~ With 16 chapters, that'll be 8 weeks from now! ♥
I hope you liked it!