The three superpowers were never the same. The carnage that occurred that fateful day haunts the minds of the people in both their thoughts and dreams. Parents losing their children, children losing their parents; for many, this was their reality.
The wailing of the wounded and mourning filled the air. The townspeople were occupied with search parties to find those still missing. After witnessing the King of Helix vaporized by the Panzer, most began to lose hope once nightfall arrived. But they continued, hoping to find their loved ones.
Cronus was alive. It took an entire day of searching, but he was found unconscious under debris. He assured the monarchs that it is doubtless Derringer forgot about the whole thing and is likely waiting on reinforcements.
This was the horrific effect of the Time Blast. Those who perished inside the battleships seized to exist in more than one way; their timelines were erased from the flow of time, and with them the memories that they made with other people. It was a heavy blow to the flow of time, but some still remember what happened that day.
"All who witnessed the blast are the only ones who remember." Cronus sat in defeat. "The boy won't remember a thing. I put him on stasis so he never considers the Time Blast."
"He'll figure it out eventually." Edana pointed out.
Cronus had that in mind. It won't take long before Leon figured it out, as the townsfolk would soon spread word of what happened. What mattered, however, is that Leon never witnessed it. As long as Leon was unaware of the right chant and movements, he would never figure out how to use the Time Blast.
Victory would not last long. The remaining guards made an effort to bind the time traveler and send him to jail. Edana protested, but Cronus pleaded her to let them be.
It was only when Cronus sat on the carriage, bound and alone, when Leon's stasis finally wore off. The boy stands up, asking where his friend was.
"Leon...I'm sorry." Edana wiped a tear from her eye. "The Helixian Council ordered for his arrest. Even I don't have the power to free him."
"He's under arrest? Then we have no time to lose!" Leon marched past Edana, who was quick to grab his arm. "Lemme go, Edana."
"The guard promised to accommodate him." Edana continued. "Please don't do anything reckless, not now. The Council won't tolerate any effort to break him out. We do so much as even plot a jailbreak, Cronus will never be set free."
"And the old man is okay with this?!" Leon grabbed his hair by the handful. "What are the charges? Tell me!"
Edana stayed silent for a moment. Then... "He's been marked as the most dangerous person alive. And when you're marked by the Council, it'll be difficult to plead your case."
Leon was completely unaware of what happened. He remembered the Panzer and the people it slaughtered. Julius wasn't forgotten, either. "Edana...what exactly did the old man do?"
Edana remained silent. There was no way she could explain it without telling him exactly what Cronus did. Was the boy ready to hear this?
Chapter Thirty-Two: Wanderer on Trial! The Quest for Unification Begins!
It's been two weeks since the Nocturnan invasion. Leon, Edana, Demetrio, and Nicolae were led to an isolated area by Metal Bahamut on carriage. They could see a massive crop field not far away and the house that was caring for it.
Chi had undergone treatment by the town clerics and doctors. Despite doing their best, all they could do was ward off the pain. "We're sorry. She will never walk again."
Leon glanced at the girl, who sat on a seat behind him. She would meet his gaze, but immediately averted her eyes. Her face was that of a person lost on the sea of defeat. Leon didn't know what to say.
Chi knew everything. In her moments of peace, she would inquire about the things she overheard. Now that Derringer has invaded Io, there was no point in hiding things from anyone curious enough. So, Leon ended up telling Chi more about the worlds beyond Io.
She smiled at the thought of more worlds out there, but one look at her legs was enough to demotivate her. In one day, she learned of the terrible reality that is outside her home and lost the ability to stand and to run. Her grandparents would grow too old soon, and they could not afford a helping hand. Chi had hoped that one day she could make enough to hire workers for the farm but now...
"We're here, mates." Metal Bahamut stopped the carriage. The path on their left led to a small wood cabin, with two older people sitting on the front porch. Metal Bahamut hopped off, then Leon followed. He went to the back of the carriage to open the back doors.
Uriah was on full alert when he saw the Avatarian once again. He grabbed his pitchfork at the sight of Nicolae and Demetrio. "I knew it! A government spy!"
"Lay down your tool, farmer." Edana squeezed between the king and the necromancer.
Uriah dropped his weapon. He and Emerald immediately knelt down. "Y-Your Majesty!"
"King Nicolae and I came to speak with you, personally. Worry not, the two of us made a truce."
Emerald wondered why both monarchs were here. It was surreal, seeing the two so close to each other. She glanced at the back of the carriage, and then she grimaced. "No. No!" She started crying, screaming and sobbing uncontrollably.
Uriah couldn't believe his eyes. The sight of his granddaughter on a wheelchair prompts him to run to her. "Chi!"
Leon let go of the wheelchair handles as soon as Uriah got close enough. Chi extended her arms as much as she could, and is greeted by her grandfather with an embrace. Uriah sobbed and sniffled, making Chi do the same.
"Please don't cry, grandpa." Chi comforted Uriah. "I'm alive."
Uriah seethed in anger. He turned to Metal Bahamut. "You!" He pointed his finger. "Ever since you showed up, our luck has gone down! It's your fault Chi went to Helix!"
Metal Bahamut, indignant, was about to bark back. But...
"He's not the one you must blame." Leon said sadly. "It's my fault. My selfish request led those ships here. They leveled the capital city, causing a building to crush your granddaughter from the waist down."
Uriah took a good look at Leon. "Look at me."
Leon could not.
"Look at me."
"I said look at me, boy!" Uriah reeled back his fist and swung as hard as he could. Leon knelt from the blow to the jaw, but even then he remained quiet.
"That is enough." Edana ordered. "Nicolae and I came to offer our deepest apologies. Had we set our differences aside sooner, we would have been able to combat this threat."
"We all share the blame on this, one way or another." Nicolae's tone was one to assert diplomacy and control. The glare on his eyes was enough to make Uriah lower his fist.
"I could apologize all day, and I know that won't be enough." Leon wiped the blood on his face. He stands back up. "But we will make this right!"
Emerald was quick to invite everyone inside. Uriah sighed and grabbed Chi's wheelchair, silently signaling the group to follow. They all went inside the small cabin, which had a living room that only had a table, three chairs, a cooking pot, and a few mundane every day things spread out. Leon noticed the small loft which, he later found out, served as Chi's sleeping quarters.
Edana and Nicolae spoke the most with the family. Demetrio stood by the king's side, not taking Uriah out of his sight. Seeing knock Leon down with a single punch was enough for him to consider the farmer a potential threat. And when he found out Uriah had a military background, the general would not let got of the hilt of his sword.
The subject came up naturally, when Uriah mentioned that he fought for Mesarthim for many years. The kingdom's navy, the Brass Maelstrom, did dangerous jobs and campaigns on the oceans between Mesarthim, Helix, and the distant set of islands known as The Shimmering Shoals.
Edana naturally thanked the former sailor for his service, making Uriah smile for the first time since they arrived.
The two monarchs explained everything: Derringer, the battleships, the results of the Play, and the different worlds out there. Metal Bahamut added that the vessel the couple found on that fateful day was a smaller ship used to transport goods and prisoners across the galaxies.
But, along with everything else, it took the couple time to take it in. And their main concern for the moment was taking care of Chi. "My granddaughter is a cripple."
"Uriah!" Emerald bonked her husband with a ladle. "She's right there!" She pointed at Chi, who sat by the ladder that led to her loft.
"It's the truth, ain't it?! Now she'll never follow her dreams!" Uriah slammed the table. "And now she can't help around the farm! It's not a problem now, but one of these days the two of us are gonna be too old to move!"
Nicolae and Edana nod to each other. The king sent Demetrio to fetch something out of the carriage. When the general came back, he dropped a large sack on the ground. A single gold coin leapt away from it.
'Three thousand gold coins, straight from the coffers of the Thule funds. It may not be enough to allow you to retire, but this will bring weeks' worth of income even by nobleman standards." Nicolae waited on the couple for a response. But they were at a loss for words.
Edana was next. "Uriah, with the power granted to me by the first queen of Mesarthim, I hereby name you honorary citizen. Once the proper paperwork is finished, you'll be allowed to have a couple of workers who will lend a hand in your duties."
Uriah looked up at the queen. "Do you do this out of pity, Your Majesty?"
Edana shook her head. "Nay. It is your granddaughter who told me about your situation. Besides, the men and women who risk their lives for the greater good..." Edana paused, quickly recalling Kari's final moments. "...must always be rewarded."
There was one final gift to be delivered. Make that two. "Chi." Leon drew nearer, followed by Metal Bahamut. "We didn't forget you."
The Avatarian handed over a spyglass. "Top quality. You can use this to look at things from far away."
Chi gave the duo a puzzled look. "Couldn't you have given me this on the way here? Besides, what would I use it for?"
It was then when Leon gave her a book and a modern set of pencils. "This is a sketchpad. You draw whatever you want on it."
"Draw." Chi took a moment to look at her gifts to make a connection between the two.
"Go with what your imagination gives you. It shouldn't be limited just to what you see nearby."
"If nothing else," Metal Bahamut began "use the spyglass to admire the landscape."
"Thank you." The girl held the items close. "And...when you said you can make it right, I believe you."
Leon nods. "We all have to chip in and play our roles. As for you, focus on recovering. It would mean a lot to us if you continue to smile."
Chi smiled at them. The duo turned to leave, as did Edana, Nicolae, and Demetrio. Everyone bid farewell and wished each other a good night.
The older couple gave Chi a tight embrace. They did not want to let go. Chi let go of her gifts to return the hugs. Now, more than ever, she had to be strong. Strong enough to endure the hardships ahead.
It was Leon's turn to drive the carriage. He hopped on the driver's seat, watching everyone hop on. Everyone except Metal Bahamut. "Your ride's here, isn't it?"
The Avatarian nods. "Looks like this is where we part, mates." He finally managed to get a hold of his people, who happened to be patrolling this particular solar system. And now, they had gone on their way to pick him up. "It's not worth asking you lot to come, is it?"
"I am prepared to die defending my planet." Edana said.
Nicolae added "As am I. With a threat looming in the horizon, this is no time for petty squabbles. The duty of the kings and queens is uplifting their kingdoms in times of crisis."
"Aye, and as Vice President I hafta do the same." Metal Bahamut looked over at Leon once more. "And you? What are ya doing?"
"I'm gonna topple Nocturna." Leon gave a thumbs up. "But I can't do it without the old man. I have to earn his freedom."
A blue light shot from above. Metal Bahamut slowly ascended towards it. "Then I'll fight Derringer on a different front. Avataria will continue its fight against the damn tyrant! Just hope your little plan works!" And in an instant, he was gone. The light was gone as well.
Leon waited until everyone was on board. "Helix, then?"
"That is where we'll gather our forces and make the trip." Edana looks over at Nicolae and Demetrio, who nod in agreement.
"To Helix!" Leon said as he ordered the horses to depart. He thought heavily on what has happened and what's to come. Yet, it was the results of the trial that gave him hope.
"We're already in Helix, you fools." Demetrio interrupted Leon's flashback to point that out.
Leon remembered the short trial. He sat on the balcony stands with his group while Cronus stood on a lower level, bound and surrounded by a crowd that sat behind him, the jury on both flanks, and three judges that sat on the high seats in front of him.
Edana gave Leon a quick run down on who the judges were. The one on the leftmost seat was a man with pointed ears, a serious facial expression throughout the trial, with long chestnut hair and gray eyes. The image of a skeleton hand holding a scale decorated the podium in front of his seat. "Andrew, hierophant of Kelemvor. His dogma is basically let the dead rest in peace."
Next was the judge in the middle. A bearded man who held a mace which he slammed on his podium whenever the crowd or jury got too rowdy. He wore yellow robes, while a starburst with rubies decorated his podium. "Anoria, head of the church of St. Cuthbert. He is the main judge here and his sentencing has always been fair."
The Helix trials were always rough. Those that were tried could be executed by the crowd behind them if they're guilty of their crimes. Cronus was no different. People had knives ready in case he was declared guilty.
Cronus was charged with genocide in the lands of Helix, something he was quick to admit to. The victims were the invaders of Nocturna, but the judges cared not for their rights. No, what they cared about was Cronus using such a potent weapon to wipe them out. If he could do that here, what would stop him from turning his weapon on the innocent?
"Cronus! The jury and the judges hereby declare you guilty of all crimes! I sentence you to solitary confinement for the rest of your life! Which is actually three moments, before we carry out the death penalty!" Anoria slams his mace. "Case dismissed. You are at the mercy of the crowd on your way to your cell."
The crowds were quick to swarm around the time traveler. Behind their shouts of anger, Cronus could still hear the wailing from their hearts from that day. Deep down, they believe his sentence was justified. Their families could at least be avenged. It was his fault Nocturna invaded, after all.
He opened his eyes and saw a small barrier keeping the crowd at bay. The judge on the third seat, the far right, was holding up a silver object. Cronus saw that the third judge was short yet stocky, with red hair and beard and wearing armor with the cloth decorated in grayish blue. A hammer and anvil decorated his podium.
"Aren't ya forgetting something, Anoria?" The third judge said. "The people wantin' this man free have agreed to take care of this problem for us, in exchange for his freedom."
"Grunver Irontotem." Edana quietly yet happily said. "A dwarven priest of Moradin who shows compassion for all."
"You were indeed too hasty, Anoria. What do we do now?" Andrew crossed his arms.
Anoria banged his mace again to put order back in the room. "Then we shall do just that. The king and queen have expressed desire for your freedom, to the point of going on a campaign to unify the entire planet." The judged chose his next words carefully. "For reasons unknown, these invaders will insist on destroying our beautiful home. I cannot allow you to use your power again, no matter how much you promise to never turn it on Helix. Am I understood.?"
Cronus looked up at the balcony stands, then at Anoria. He wanted to be happy. "Yes!"
"However, they only have three months." Anoria banged his mace one last time. "If they fail, you will die by beheading."
Cronus dared not lose hope despite the time limit. He glanced over at Leon one more time before the spell wore off and he was taken away. Leon assured him with his right hand over his heart and a slight bow. Everything is going to be okay.
"The butler sign I taught you. Clever boy." Cronus smiled. It was all the assurance he needed before he was taken away.
To be continued...