Chiba Mamoru, 17 years old, second year high school student at Azabu high school in Tokyo Japan, stood in line for the bus stop. In one hand was a textbook, opened easily in his palm for him to skim through his sunglasses; in the other hand was his schoolbag, hanging over his shoulder easily as he waited. Balancing the book's spine on his middle finger, he used his thumb to turn the page in a practiced manner, barely noticing the effort. As the bus came down the street he thought he heard the tinkling of bells; finding the crisp, clean sound out-of-place in the bustling city, he looked up from the pages to glance around the street, and saw, for a split second, the strangest thing he had ever seen in his entire life: a winged white unicorn.
What the hell? He blinked, his brows furrowing as he wondered just what was going on, but there it was, still there. It was small, like the size of a cat, and floated five feet off the ground in a blue bubble: a white horse with wings and a tiny golden horn on its head. In a second the bus rolled further down the street, obstructing his view, but the in three-second timespan between seeing the oddity and losing it to the bus, he was fairly certain that it hadn't been a figment of his imagination, but, beyond that, anything was possible.
He stepped onto the bus and swiped his student ID badge to use the school credit line, and quickly moved to the opposite side to look out the window to see the strange site again, but nothing was there. He visually swept through the entire area, from the flower shop to the bakery, moving to see behind things as far as he could, even sitting up a bit to see into the nearby gutter, but the blue bubble and it's odd occupant were gone.
Deciding that from then on he would make sure to eat breakfast, Mamoru sat down and stared at his book, wondering what could have caused such vivid hallucinations.
Later that day, Chiba Mamoru left the locker room dressed in his school clothing, bag in hand yet again, and waved to other members of the soccer team as they broke for home. Practice had gone well, and the team was shaping up nicely; he felt strongly that they could win their next match, so long as the new goalie, Midori, continued to show up for practice. Mamoru had his reservations; the transfer student had long, wavy brown hair and a snarky attitude, and no matter what kind of skill the guy had with blocking the net, if he let that pride get the better of him the team was doomed to fail. … and the way he kept asking about the closest public school and the best place to find girls, Mamoru had an inkling that Midori's pride and ego might rank higher than the good of the team.
When he got home he had a quick dinner, completed his homework, and read through the required readings for the day, writing down questions as he read and using the material to create an answer. When he finished it was nearly 22:00. He stretched, showered, brushed his teeth and put his pajamas on, then went about his small apartment turning off the lights. Leaving the curtains open to see the beautiful full moon, he climbed into bed, reached over, and shut off his bedroom light. As the lamplight faded suddenly and the moonlight overtook the apartment, Mamoru suddenly found himself face to face with a horse.
The noise he made was one that he had never made before. It was a mix of a scream, a shout, and a grunt, made as he jumped backwards into the wall and the windowsill bit into his spine. Arching in pain, he nevertheless didn't miss an opportunity to grab the closest thing and toss it in the face of the strange intruder; as the horse stepped back and shook its head to free itself from the pillow, Mamoru tried to launch himself off of his bed and across the room, but was foiled by the sharp pain in his back, and merely stumbled off of his mattress and into his dresser. "Stay ba—" the word froze in his throat as he spied the long, cruel-looking golden horn on the beast's head, glinting threateningly in the silver light of the moon. Steadying himself, he grabbed his umbrella and positioned it before him like a sword, then he tried again, "Stay back, Horse, or I swear you'll be glue by morning!"
The great beast turned to look at him with one red eye, and a voice suddenly invaded his thoughts. "Mighty threat, Umbrella-Man. " The intonation was masculine and deadpan – clearly the creature was making fun of him, but Mamoru refused to stand down, tightening his grip on the handle. It tossed its mane in a way familiar to someone rolling their eyes, and then spoke again, "Listen, we don't really have time for this, so put the umbrella down, Chiba Mamoru; people are in danger andyouhave to help them."
He stood his ground. "How do you know my name?"
"It's not that hard, you leave your ID everywhere. And your name is on your homework on your desk. But really, we have absolutely no time— "
"How did you get in here?"
"The window. Now will you just— "
"Why are you here?"
"Well I had hoped to SAVE THE LIVES OF HELPLESS CITIZENS, but you're making it rather DIFFICULT! "Suddenly wide white wings unfurled from the back of the stallion, and it advanced at breakneck speed, pinning its horn in the wall just shy of Mamoru's ear, his red eyes even with Mamoru's. "Questions are for later, Heavenly King, now take this pendant –" a golden pendant was suddenly in his hand, in place of the umbrella that had been knocked aside uselessly. "and yell "Pyrite Power Transform" "
He was about to object and it was probably obvious, because the red eyes of the mythical beast whirled in his head. …and it was just then that Mamoru realized he was dreaming. He probably fell asleep as soon as he lied down on the bed. Clearly the hallucination from earlier had been prominent in his psyche and it manifested itself in a dream sequence. And in that case, it would be interesting to see what this imaginary unicorn/Pegasus thing had planned for him; he was actually rather glad it was a lucid dream, this could be another one for his journal. So instead of speaking out, he repeated the phrase.
"Pyrite Power, Transform!"
As the words left his lips he felt a warm sensation rush over him, and his pajamas were suddenly gone, replaced with a blue-gray suit. The long sleeved jacket was piped in golden material and fastened asymmetrically on his right using the pin the horse had given him, and had a high collar and lower hem, like a tunic from old European fashion. At his waist was a black belt that matched the material of his knee-high boots – flexible and non-reflective, topped with a folded layer of boot material to make a flat line. His vision was ringed in gold; he pulled away from the golden horn to glance in the mirror, suspicions of some sort of eye gear confirmed when he came face-to-face with himself wearing a golden-colored mask. "Not too subtle, is this?" he asked, looking back at the horse.
"Shut up and follow me. " The horse turned, shrinking in size as he did so, and nodded towards the window above his bed. It opened immediately, his sheer curtains wafting in the cool night air. Mamoru's eyes widened as the horse, then no bigger than a house cat, jumped right out the window. He rushed to stick his head out into the night, peering over his short window sill to the dark streets below, but the Pegasus was nowhere in sight. He glanced up, wondering if it had flown higher, but above him was only the stars and the moon. "WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? "
Mamoru started backwards, the white horse's face suddenly right in front of him, his red eyes angry. Defensively, he replied, "Well it's easier said than done!" He approached the window boldly, kneeling on his bed to face the beast eye-to-eye.
Mamoru's brow furrowed as he tried to figure out what it meant; "What, do I jump on your back or something?"
"No! Of course not! "he sounded indignant, almost insulted, as his wings beat to move him farther away. "Just jump!"
"What, right now?"
"Would you prefer a formal invitation? YES NOW!"
He looked down, the ground nearly eight stories below. "You're crazy!"
"Don't be such a wuss! Jump! We're running out of time!"
Frowning, he climbed up into the windowsill, holding the side of the window for balance as his boots scraped against the concrete. He couldn't believe he was actually doing this. He stood shakily, looking down, reminding himself that it was only a dream.
"Any time now."
"Just shut up!" he retorted, then took a deep breath, trying to ignore the white jerk flying just a few feet away, and jumped as if trying for the next roof top. He fell. As the wind rushed past him he felt a weight on his shoulders, but wasn't as concerned with that as he was the concrete street rushing up to meet him. If this were real, he mused, I would easily break both legs. Probably in multiple places. Instead his feet hit the ground with no more force than if jumping off of a bench; no harm to him whatsoever, and very little discomfort. "Neat," he mused, then took a moment to examine the long silver cape at his shoulders for a mere second before it disappeared.
"This way!" the horse called, flying off down the street. With a shrug, Mamoru ran off after him, following the stallion through a maze of streets and alleys until he found himself in a large shopping district. The horse flew up to a second story window and motioned him to follow, but he couldn't see how. No fire escapes to climb or anything; but there was a bank of windows and a door that he could probably force his way through. He made towards it, only for the horse to balk, "Do youwantto be seen? Jump up here and gain the advantage of a surprise attack!"
"Attack on what? And I can't jump that high!"
"Try it! You won't look any more like a doof than you do running straight into battle without a supreme advantage point. Now get up here!"
Frowning and wondering why he could be dreaming about such a crude character and, furthermore, why he was letting the dream horse goad him into doing something utterly ridiculous again, he nevertheless crouched and launched himself into the air, expecting to do something akin to a bunny hop, but instead flying impossibly high, his arms wheeling until he nearly crashed through the open window. He caught himself on the edges of the window, his feet scuffing on the small ledge, and gasped in pain as the rough concrete rubbed against his palm. The horse coughed smugly. Bracing himself with only one hand, he turned his left hand over and saw deep red scratches. He had been hurt, and felt it; was… was it not a dream? As his skin knitted together, healing itself in the odd way it somehow always had, he started seeing things in a new, real light. It was crazy; a white Pegasus with a golden horn that could change in side had burst into his apartment, transformed him into a form that could withstand long falls and allowed him to run faster and jump higher than should be physically impossible, and had led him to a store in the middle of the night. His stomach queasy, he turned back to the impossible figure with cautious eyes.
"Look; see all those people on the ground?" He glanced in and looked down; there were thirty, maybe forty people sprawled on the ground of the jewelry store, all in various prone poses on the ground, most face-down, "Their energy is being drained from them as we stand here. Much more, and they lose all of their life energy and this building is filled with dead people in the morning."
He grew cold at first, examining the helpless people, but whatever hesitation he had before about his situation before quickly turned to determination to help these people, and, with any luck, to punish those responsible. "What do we do?" he asked quietly.
"Do you see the creature in the background? The one that looks half spider, half snake?" the horse asked, nodding towards the shadows where, just as it had suggested, lurked a creepy looking monster, its pointed teeth sticking out from dry lips, its black saucer-eyes scanning the room proprietarily. He grimaced at its ugliness, and nodded to show that he had seen it. "You go fight that, I'll figure out where the energy went."
"What?" he hissed in a whisper; how could he fight something like that?
A force pressed against his back, pushing him forward. Knocked off balance he started to fall, but in the last second took control of the situation by launching off with his feet so that he could land under his own control, closer to the creature he was to somehow do battle with. The cape appeared as soon as he left the ground, and disappeared when he touched down again, landing in a crouch. He straightened and extended an arm with a finger pointed to the monster. "Hey!" he challenged, "Let these people go!"
The creature smiled slowly, its dry lips cracking audibly as it set its dark eyes on him. For a moment it did not move, but simply observed him, its head turning slowly one way, than another, as if seeing him from different angles; he held his ground under her gaze, a frown set on his face as he dropped his arm to his side, watching her as closely as she watched him. He assessed what he could see of its faintly feminine body, noting that its great eyes would serve as an excellent place to attack, while he should avoid the wicked teeth and arched claws at the end of its hands. Through peripheral vision he searched for anything he could use for defense or offense, but unless he broke glass and used a piece of it as a weapon, he was completely—
Arms grabbed him from behind, pulling him down. He fought, stepping forward and thrusting his elbows backward, connecting with hard bone and knocking a body backwards as he unintentionally moved closer to the beast. Whirling to see what had attacked, the heels of his boots landed on fingers and he jumped back, finding himself suddenly surrounded by the very people he had hoped to save, their eyes white and staring, as though their eyeballs had rolled up into their heads. Their arms were up and seeking, grabbing for him.
"The creature!"the horse warned, and Mamoru turned just in time to see an arm stretching impossibly, long clawed fingers closing around his neck. He grabbed at the wrist and tugged, trying to wrench himself free, but three of the supposed victims jumped him, putting all their weight on his arms and dragging them down. He was surrounded by energy zombies, weighted down by their unseeing bodies as a freakish monster choked him to death. Each breath was a battle, and that battle was coming to an end as his vision faded…
Until suddenly a golden disk of light whirled past him and into the creature, whizzing straight through the arm that held him. It relinquished its grip in shock, and the bodies around him suddenly became limp and lifeless yet again. Coughing to restore the use of his throat, he turned his head to see the faint silhouette of a young woman, her hair in impossibly long pigtails topped with circular buns. The golden disk returned to her and she caught it, revealing that in truth it was a small golden tiara, which she put back on her head. The red jewel in the center shone in the darkness, and she stepped closer, into a beam of moonlight.
Her expression was fierce, blue eyes glaring at the creature hatefully, but her beautiful features were masked below her frightening gaze, hidden by a sheer silver veil that stretched from ear to ear, overtop the tip of her nose. She wore a sleeveless cocktail dress that reached just above her knees, the gown itself appeared black, but overtop it was a sheer layer of silvery-white material that glistened and flowed. The effect was strange and alluring, as though her dress were changing colors with every movement, turning from all black to partially black, to all white… reminding him subtly of the face of the moon going through its monthly phases. The dress was cinched at the waist with an ornate black belt with a pearl decoration. Her hands up to the middle of her forearm were covered by white dinner gloves; her feet, from mid-calf down, were encased in shining black boots ringed in pearls. At her throat was a bright red collar, almost like a gorget, lined with pearls on the outside and centered with a red gem. "I am Jewel Tiara! Gems and pretty things are supposed to fill girls with joy, not sap the energy out of them! Hurry and defeat her, before she regains control over their bodies!"
Recovered from the attack, he straightened and dropped to a ready position, wanting to do nothing more than what she suggested, but he didn't see how.
"I found the energy! Hurry, attack! Call out "Cardinal Rose Sword" and fight it!"
Now it mentions he has a sword! If words could dress him up and give him some sort of crazy jumping abilities, they could summon a sword, too. "Cardinal Rose –" a long stemmed red rose materialized in his hand, dew shining on the petals, and despite the urge to just stare at it for a moment, he continued, "Sword!" The rose grew and changed shape, morphing into a sword with a thorned hilt, the rosebud head at the pommel. As if he had been born with a sword in his hand, he rushed forward towards the monster with the sword at the ready, and brought the shining silver blade down in a sweeping arc, connecting with the trunk of the creature.
It backed up in time to avoid a deathly blow, but a sliver of black ooze shone in a diagonal: the sign of a sure hit. It screamed in challenge, its scissor-like teeth spreading as a snake's tongue slithered out and towards him, but he wasn't the type to wait when an opportunity shone. Cruelly and with finality, he held the sword horizontally at shoulder level, then rushed forward, sinking first the tip and then the rest of the blade as hard as he could through one of the large, black eyes.
Slightly horrified by what he had done he froze, the monster's other black eye staring right at him as it dissolved into dust. His sword was suddenly free, but as his grip relaxed, it transformed back into a rose, and fell into the pile of ashes at his feet. He turned and saw the people stirring normally, awakening as if from a deep sleep. The girl, Jewel Moon, had vanished into thin air, and the Pegasus waited for him in the window. He crouched and jumped, landing clumsily on the edge, and jumped again, down in the street. The horse flew before him and he ran alongside it, determined to get a few answers from it.
"What is going on?" he asked.
"… we're running away to avoid awkward questions."
"Too bad it's not working for you, huh?" he commented, "You know what I mean – who are you, what was that monster, who was that girl, why were those people suddenly without energy and what am I wearing?"
The Pegasus did an equivalent of a sigh, grumbling, yet answered his questions. "The monster was a creature from the Dark Kingdom, sent by one of the senshi to gather energy to awaken an ancient and evil force."
His brows furrowed, "And just why do these 'senshi' believe that awakening an ancient and evil force by stealing energy from innocent people is a good thing?"
"They swore allegiance to the ancient and evil force; if it is allowed to reawaken, it will take over Earth and the senshi will be in positions of power."
"Take over Earth?"
"That's what I said."
"And I guess I'm supposed to stop them?"
"Very astute assumption."
"Thanks," he replied sarcastically. "But if it's just me against them, who was that girl?"
"I'm not sure; I wasn't in the room at the time so I didn't even get a good look at her, only hearing her voice. But you will not be alone in this fight; there are three others."
"Okay; and where are they? Why weren't they here tonight?"
"Well… I haven't exactly found them yet. You're the first, called Cardinal King. When I discover the identities of the other three Heavenly Kings in this world, we will awaken them and they will help you."
"And the five of us will defeat the senshi?"
"Eh… pretty much." The horse replied as they reached his apartment. Far above them, his blinds wafted out the window of his apartment, and he had the crazy idea that he could jump off of the building beside his to get there. As the Pegasus flew by, pausing by the door to his building, Mamoru calculated the angles quickly, and, with a measured correctional step, he jumped. Propelling himself off of his building, he sprung to the building beside, and then back to his, landing clumsily on his bed and stumbling onto the floor. He smiled as the Pegasus joined him. "You're a quick learner; that's going to be useful. I'll find you again when the senshi attack. It was nice to meet you, Cardinal King."
"You too, I guess," Mamoru replied hesitantly, "By the way, what should I call you? And who are you, anyway?"
"I am Helios; and for now you can think of me as a mentor, of sorts."
He nodded, "Alright, then, Helios. Thank you for helping me save those people." Gently, his transformation faded away and the golden-colored pin was back in his hand. The Pegasus nodded and faded away as well, as if he had never been there. Wearily, the teenager climbed into his bed and quickly fell asleep.
A:N - Hi everyone!
Thank you for starting Cardinal King! This story was a product of a lot of love and time and I'm happy that you're giving it a shot! This started as just part of the above chapter in a "role reversal" oneshot posted to Tumblr on July 1, 2012 ( post/26327322061/cardinalking-5). It was finished - the main story, anyway, on November 3, 2013 ( post/65904885589/cardinalking20), with a total of 20 chapters and around 88k words - the rest of what you see counted here are in the "Alphabet Series" of one-shots that are behind-the-scenes perspectives of things that went on in the story that Mamoru wasn't exactly there for, or privy to, or scenes from someone else's point of view to let you see more of what was going on. This story was the first I've ever finished, and I'd like to thank everyone who reviewed, commented, followed, and and liked for adding fuel to my fire!
I'm still putting together one-shots to fill out the Alphabet, but I've also started the next "season" for the Cardinal King series, and I've linked it in the 'ending chapter' of this series for anyone who would like to check it out after this, or you can find it on my author's page.
Thanks again for reading! I hope you like it!