Title:The Change of Time
Disclaimer:None of the characters and properties of Ranma ½ or Sailor Moon belong to me. The idea for this plot is also not mine; it was borrowed off Nighthawk quite some time ago.
A.N:Yuppers, that rewrite that's been in the works for so long is now here. It's been a long time, but I always found myself dissatisfied in some way. This fic always turned out so dark or so phony that there were periods where I just threw my hands up and walked away… I was always drawn back, and, through whatever means, I will get this fic finished. Er…yeah.
He had waited years for this moment, from the day he had first joined the program, eager-eyed and filled with dreams of glory and servitude. Most of those dreams had been flights of fancy from a youngling who hadn't known better, but this…
This…this was the real deal.
He could tell from the steely look in the Instructor's eyes and the eager expressions that lit up faces that he had grown to love during the past ten years of training. His stomach fluttered, and he was suddenly thankful he had not eaten anything beforehand. It wouldn't do for him to empty its contents on the Instructor, now, would it?
A man of little words, the Instructor simply eyed him, gray hair and tired lines of age taking nothing away from sheer presence. And perhaps it was wishful thinking, but he rather thought he saw a hint of pride in those stern eyes, and his stomach settled.
The Instructor said, "You will soon find yourself alone in a strange land, in a strange time. Your job is a thankless one, and if you succeed, none will know of your triumph, your sacrifices, and your toil. You will see this with much clarity, and you will doubt. It is the way we are, we men, and you may be tempted to fail. But remember your cause, remember your purpose, and all will be as it was meant to be."
With that, the Instructor turned sharply on his heels. A path to the doorway was cleared, and once the authority figure had left the room, the dozen or so other young men converged on him. They gave him claps on the back, pats on the shoulders and arms, even a few ruffles of his hair, and they all tried to say their piece at the same time, for they knew that it would be the last he would hear from them.
" – can't believe it's happening – "
" – got guts, that's for sure – "
" – 's what we've all dreamed of – "
" – lucky bastard, do us proud – "
" – keep yourself safe – "
Most, after saying their encouraging bits, made their way out, until only one other was left facing him.
He smiled crookedly, "So, this is it."
"This is it," the other echoed, struggling to keep an optimistic façade, pasting an identical smile, if a bit shaky, on his identical face. "I…"
There was an awkward silence. What to say to a brother that would never be there again?
He forced a grin, saying everything in that one gesture that he could never find words to voice aloud. The other grinned back, somewhat slowly, then fisted his hand, kissed it, and tapped it against his chest, over his heart.
"For the glory of the Kingdom."
Mirroring the act of devotion to a crystal kingdom in Japan he had never personally been to, but loved with all of his being, he nodded. "For the glory of the Kingdom."
He walked over to the machine and activated the controls, typing in the coordinates for his destination without hesitance. It was complicated, but he had been trained for this moment, and he lacked no knowledge that was necessary for the completion of the mission.
The portal formed, energy crackling as if in protest, a swirl of channeled magic and endless possibilities.
With one last look back, he stepped into the embrace of the unknown.
Patience had never been his virtue.
Even as a child, he could not remember ever staying still for more than a minute; with the added fact that his brother was much the same way, their mother had been worn down and vehemently against the idea of another.
He smiled as he remembered what state his father had been in after that particular suggestion.
The smile faded as he resisted the urge to shift for the thousandth time. It was well past noon, on a particularly scorching day, and here he was stuck in a tree waiting for the chance to complete his mission.
He had no doubts, but he was getting impatient.
Reminding himself that impatience often led to irrational decisions, he relaxed his muscles as much as he could and tried to keep his mind occupied.
'Huh, that cloud looks like a pie chasing a dog.'
Suddenly, he heard the distant sound of laughter, and many voices.
If the history books were right, this was the day the King – well, the Prince, in this time – took his entourage out for a picnic.
They had chosen this day, because this day was also the day the monster Beryl allied herself with the demon Metallia.
And yes, there they were.
He could make out the Prince, not garbed in the royal purple shades as he would be in the future, but in black clothes lined with silver. Youth shone in his eyes, despite being a good eighteen years old, and he didn't seem to have a care in the world. The Prince was not a picture of great dignity and wisdom, but he was still impressive, with a shining potential for the greatness he would one day possess.
And if he succeeded, that day would come sooner.
But where were the – ah, yes, there they were. The Prince's constant companions, the Four Kings, surrounding the Prince, watchful and alert for anything that could endanger their liege. He'd never even seen pictures of them before, but he knew how they lived in his time, their spirits trapped inside stones for all eternity, never to be freed for fear of being turned against the King once more.
They, too, would be better off if he succeeded today.
Then – he spotted her.
The history books said that she had been a respected member of the Golden Kingdom's court; personally, he had no idea how such a shrew had managed to claw her way into such a noble kingdom. She was pleasing to the eye, he noted clinically, with fiery red hair, fair skin, and blue eyes. But the way she strove constantly to be closer to the Prince, smiling at him, leaning into him…
It was disgusting.
She was disgusting, nothing but a power hungry whore.
His upper lip curled in distaste, but he took extra care not to move, for it had been impressed heavily upon him that the Four Kings were some of the best trained soldiers on Earth. A single suspicious movement, and they would find him. He could not afford that.
So he waited.
His opportunity came far later in the day.
When the others had packed their things and the servants had taken the furs and foodstuffs back to the palace, the Lady Beryl stayed a bit, casting longing glances at the Prince. Throughout the entire picnic, she had done all but throw herself bodily onto the Prince, and she had been politely but most firmly spurned each and every time.
And, finally, when she was alone, she did something he did not expect – she buried her face in her hands and wept bitter tears.
For the first time, he felt doubt bloom in his heart. Here below him sat Lady Beryl, not the monster she had been when she had destroyed the glory of the Silver Millennium, but a heart-broken maid of scarcely seventeen. And without her fellows about her, she had no fear of staining her image, and wept freely as all women wept when rejected by those they loved.
For here, and now, that was the only thing she was. A woman. No monster.
Seeing her pitiful state, how could he kill her?
And yet, knowing what he did, how could he not?
He hesitated again, indecisive. Training had not prepared him for the humanity of Beryl, for the pity he found in his heart.
Perhaps she, too, was only a victim of circumstance.
Then, he did a slightly double take. Was he seeing things, or was that a shadow that grew ever so slowly, ever so stealthily, by Lady Beryl's shoulder?
Beryl,he heard, but not with his ears. He heard with his mind, with his soul, a soul that quivered in fear as it sensed the utter darkness and evil within the owner of the voice. Beryl.
Lady Beryl raised her head, eyes red and swollen, cheeks streaked with tears; "Leave me alone, Dark One!"
Her voice was vehement, but not in distaste, only in her grief.
I sensed your pain,the voice said, and he realized who it belonged to. Metallia. I sensed your sorrow and from the depths of my domain I rose to answer the need within you, Beryl. And this is how you greet me?
"I have no need for you," Beryl spat bitterly, but with no conviction. "I will not consort with one such as yourself."
Won't you?Metallia's voice was sly and knowing. I see into your heart, young one, and I know you far better than you know yourself. There is little you will not do in this world…if the reward appeals to you.
"And what could you possibly give me?" Beryl asked disdainfully, wiping her cheeks free of tears. "You are but a shadow, unable to act, only able to speak petty words."
I told you, I can give you the one you desire,Metallia whispered seductively.
Beryl bit her lip.
I can give you the Prince.
She visibly wavered, "The Prince? Endymion…"
Yes, Endymion, I can give him to you, as I have told you before.. Join with me; and his life, his soul, his love…it will all be yours,the evil shadow promised.
"Endymion," Beryl whispered, her eyes closing. "His love… Mine…"
Yes,Metallia hissed. Join me, and you will have all that you desire. All.
The fear in his soul vanished as anger replaced it. From the look on Beryl's face, she was tempted, dangerously tempted by the offer. Obviously, this was not the first time Metallia had come to her, and her defenses had been lowered each time. And this time, there would be no refusal.
As if acting out her part from his thoughts, the reluctant look on Beryl's face was replaced with longing, with indecision.
And it solved his own indecision.
Human or no, she was closer to becoming the monster than ever before. And his love for his Queen, his King, and his Kingdom overwhelmed all other doubts.
He had to do it, and now, before she made her compact with the shadow demon Metallia and gained powers he could never hope to defeat.
Leaping down from the tree, he whipped out his long dagger and grabbed Beryl in a chokehold before she could react to his startling presence. She struggled, whimpering as she attempted to breathe.
What is this?Metallia howled. Release her!
"I'll not listen to your words, demon!" he hissed, and plunged his dagger through Beryl's back and into her heart as she arched to get away. Immediately, she stiffened, and a gurgled cry of pain escaped her mouth.
Metallia shrieked in rage. NO!
"Yes," he replied spitefully. When her struggles stopped, he felt at her neck and was satisfied to find no pulse there. He dropped her body on the ground unceremoniously, kicking it away from him, and spat at the ground, just missing her corpse, saying, "For the glory of the Kingdom."
The Kingdom?Metallia became furious as she leapt to the only conclusion she could draw. Serenity! You'll pay for this!
"No," he disagreed. "She won't."
She will, in time,Metallia told the insolent human. Having Beryl as my avatar would have made my ascension to my true form easier, and faster. But she was not my only option. I spent the last seven centuries creating this rift from the Negaverse, and it will serve me well. I will bide my time, increase the rift, create youma to do my bidding on Earth – and eventually gain enough power to free myself with no need for a possession of a lower being. Serenity and her children will pay dearly, if it's the last thing I do!
Terror grew in him at each word she spoke, and he began to back away from the shadow.
No,the shadow of Metallia writhed in glee. You will not leave. You will be my first servant in fulfilling my goal.
"No," he whispered, shaking his head. "NO!"
The shadow erupted tentacles of darkness that reached for him and caught him, far from being as insubstantial as they appeared to be, and held fast as the shadow Metallia rolled closer.
Open wide,Metallia sneered.
His last thought was of his family, of his brother, mother, and father.
I will have the last laugh, Serenity!
Metallia's cackle of triumphant laughter was drowned out as the screams of a dying man transformed into the roar of a newly created youma.