Cepheus was scared.
No, that wasn’t quite right. He was always scared. There were always things to be scared about when you could trust no one. Cepheus was terrified. He had never felt so vulnerable before.
Destroying the Earth was supposed to be easy. Their denpa technology was inferior to theirs, even with the boost provided by the three strange satellites that orbited it. They had neglected to look for their missing astronauts, only proving that they were a race full of ugly, traitorous creatures that should be wiped out of existence before they could find a way to harm them. They were unaware of their existence, and could even serve as vessels for his strongest and finest warriors. But with War-Rock fleeing with the key to their strongest weapon, and his elite guard yet to report in, Cepheus had been starting to doubt that. He listened for any word of his warriors. What he had been told by several of the underlings did not alleviate his worries.
They had all been killed, he was told. No matter. He could revive them, easily. The humans they had been possessing were killed as well, they said. Well, War-Rock had been raised to be a proper FM-ian soldier. Such efficient cruelty in battle was highly prized by his race. Frankly, it surprised the FM King a little bit. Even with his competitive nature, War-Rock didn’t often like to kill unless it was necessary. That he had risen to the top ranks of his army while still holding onto that soft nature of his spoke volumes of his strength. The fact that he had started killing freely while on that planet merely confirmed to him that Earth was a toxic, corrupting influence. It was a home of betrayers and fiends. It should be destroyed.
Then, Cepheus felt it. That familiar surge of power. The Andromeda Key had been activated, if only for a brief amount of time. It had changed hands. But none of his soldiers were alive to force War-Rock into giving it up. That only meant one of two things: that War-Rock had finally chosen to activate the key for whatever reason he had, or that the humans had managed to discover him and take the key for themselves. Neither outcome was favorable. It was time to retreat.
Cepheus disappeared from the remains of the space station Peace that he had planned to use as a platform for destroying the Earth (wouldn’t it have been such lovely irony, using the very vessel they had planned on using to deceive them as a base where he would carry out the Earth’s own demise?), cutting off any connection he had to the wreck.
Those events had been nearly a year ago. It had taken them three years to chase War-Rock through space down to Earth. Cepheus was not foolish enough to believe that it would take either War-Rock or the humans that long to launch their counter attack. After all, there was a difference being hiding out and avoiding detection, and launching a full-out assault.
No, as soon as Cepheus had gotten home, he had issued orders to increase his army’s numbers, attempted to find new elites to guard him, and established new security protocol. He saw no one. His needs and decrees were delivered through various untraceable transmissions. He holed up inside a secret hidden room with no entries or exits, the walls made to only accept authorized denpa-his food, his decrees, nothing more.
His subjects called him mad, paranoid. Cepheus ignored them. They would be paranoid too; if they had to deal with attempted murder from the day they were born. Time after time, he would trust someone. Time after time, they had either betrayed or failed him. Gemini was only the most recent in a long string of failures. Had it not been his idea to destroy the Earth, the same way they had Planet AM? Look what misery that had brought him. His most powerful warriors destroyed and his most powerful weapon halfway in the hands of a traitor. All he could do now was languish in this secret, unknown room with the Andromeda’s controller, isolated from everyone and everything.
Cepheus vowed, then and there, to never trust in another being’s word.
The entire castle shook to its very foundations, disturbing even Cepheus in his secret chamber. So, it had begun. The traitor, or those humans...they had reached him. He cut off all connections, suppressing his own extremely powerful waves. Hopefully, to the invaders, it would merely look like a stretch of wall and he could escape in the aftermath.
Cepheus had planned to run while the majority of his forces had been out subduing the invading force. But they were falling back too quickly. They had been told to hold out for a slated amount of time, and it hadn’t even been half that before Cepheus heard nearby walls being blown down. Whoever had managed to get close, they were destroying everything with reckless abandon, not caring for targeting anything specific. This wasn’t good. What kind of power was this?
No matter. He would have to forego any security measures. Trying to sneak out would take too long, at the rate this force was closing in. He would have to make it an all for nothing. Letting his denpa flare for the briefest of moments, enough to signal his forces to his location and indicating where backup was needed, he turned to flee.
That moment of turning away was all that was needed for his attacker to grab him by the back of his neck.
Cepheus didn’t know how long he had struggled to get away. All he knew was that one moment, they had been in his safe room, and in the next moment both of them were sitting on the dusty and unused throne that he had left abandoned for such a long time. How was this individual standing up to his waves? The Z-Waves his body gave off were strong enough to twist the real world and the denpa world together into a mangled mess, strong enough that many denpa beings could barely tolerate being near him. Only his previous ten strong warriors could bear to be near him for long periods of time. With War-Rock the traitor gone and his nine others killed in action…who was left?
He was given his answer when he was harshly thrown to the floor. On trying to get up, he found himself at the edge of a long blade. Looking up, he saw the form of…a young human boy in a blue suit? His castle had been stormed, his warriors apparently defeated, and his waves were being resisted by an infant membter of an inferior species who had barely discovered the wonders of denpa technology?!
“Don’t move. Trust me, my blade is faster than you think.”
That was the voice of a hardened warrior. One who had seen many fights, one whose resolve would not be shaken…the cold, emotionless voice of a perfect FM-ian soldier. An FM-ian soldier who had picked him as their next target…
“What do you want from me?” At that, the boy laughed.
“I thought it would be obvious. Or are you telling me that you hid yourself away for no reason at all?”
That condescending tone…how dare such a child-
“Ah, ah…” Cepheus felt the blade touch his neck, and he flinched. “Careful. You don’t want to get in a temper, do you?”
The FM King could only growl softly as he looked up at the boy. His eyes widened as he saw the Andromeda Key embedded in the blue suit that the boy wore. So that’s how he was able to resist his strong waves…how long had the boy been assimilated with the key itself?
“How…” Cepheus swallowed, only proceeding to talk at a gentle nudge from the blade against his neck. “How did you know where to find me?”
The boy gave him a condescending look, as if he had asked a particularly stupid question.
“War-Rock told me all about you. Your paranoia, your fear, your inability to fully trust in others.” And then, the boy smirked. “Paranoid beings like you…that’s easy to predict, isn’t it? You wouldn’t go hide out somewhere new if you could help it, you’d just continue to build walls around yourself in your safe haven and hope that no one would care to notice you. I would know…I did the same, once.”
Cepheus could only gawk as the boy laughed softly. “Hide away and hope the world doesn’t notice us, eh? Build up our walls, isolate ourselves from everyone else, and hope that nothing will ever break through. A fruitless endeavor. There will always be someone or something trying to get involved with you for one reason or another. The universe is desperate to create bonds. What a cruel place to live, eh?”
“Y-you would dare…you would dare compare yourself to me, the FM King?!” Cepheus growled. So this boy…he was aligned with the traitor somehow. Was this the human that had fused with War-Rock? No…War-Rock wasn’t this cruel. How could the human have taken over the Denpa-Henkan like that? Was it his true personality showing through…?
Cepheus’ musings were cut off by another dismissive laugh from the boy.
“Well, yeah. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we both chose to deny relationships with others, to refuse to trust, and yet, we were granted an immense power to change the universe…”
The boy tilted his head, and smiled.
“The difference is that you chose to use your power as a means of self-defense. To brandish it when you were threatened and nothing more. While I…I plan on using Andromeda for the purpose it was made for. I’ll change the universe…I’ll destroy it all. Then, there won’t be any more trivial bonds to worry about, to cause pain to everyone in it...a lovely thing, wouldn’t you agree, FM King?”
“Y-you…” This boy…he echoed the very same thoughts that would flit around Cepheus’ brain from time to time. Wouldn’t it just be easier to destroy everything, so he would have nothing to fear? It was true that, at the rate that he was going, Cepheus would likely have attempted to destroy every neighboring planet before they even had a chance to invade…
But why did it feel so wrong having them voiced? Why did the thought of actually carrying it out scare him so?
Cepheus grimaced in pain as he felt a hand grip his throat, lifting him up so that he was looking down at the boy’s face, their eyes meeting. “You would really…?”
“Of course. I would think that you, out of everyone, wouldn’t be shocked. After all, I know you can sympathize. But of course, you’re either too weak-willed or too attached to your own existence to even think about its eventual destruction…so I’m afraid I’ll have to take the Andromeda’s controller from you.”
“I’ll never give the controller to you!” It was an instinctual response. Andromeda kept him safe. Andromeda was his means of eliminating any threats to his well being. He couldn’t give up his last vestige of strength, not even if it would allow someone else to do what he never had the strength to do.
The boy only gave him a dismissive look.
“Of course you wouldn’t. I’d be surprised if you did. That’s why I said I’d have to take it from you. Even if you don’t tell me where it is, I’m pretty sure I can hazard a guess. After all, we are alike, aren’t we?”
At that, Cepheus tried to wriggle free, only to have the boy tighten his grip on his throat.
“Let’s see. You hide away in a room with no storage capacities whatsoever, only a bed and little else. The most precious thing to you is your own safety and welfare. Naturally, you would hide whatever you associate with your own safety and welfare as close to you as possible. And if your room has such little storage capacity…” The boy grinned, and Cepheus found himself feeling dread at watching the expression of knowing triumph grow on his face. He amplified the strength of his waves in a last ditch effort to try and dissuade the boy, try and shake him off. It had no effect.
“You’ve done the same as War-Rock. The Andromeda controller is assimilated into your body, isn’t it? Keeping it there until it would be needed, was it?”
“You-ghk!” The boy’s grip had tightened again, and a sword had been placed against his chest.
“Well, then, it was a pleasant chat, but-“ An explosion cut the boy off as the remnants of Cepheus’ army had responded to the sudden spike in the king’s power levels, using it as a signal to track him down. It was an impressive sight, seeing so many denpa bodies crowding into the throne room at once.
The boy merely looked at them all with a dismissive glance. “A last ditch resort by a desperate king, is it? Very well.” He tossed Cepheus to the side and brandished the sword that had been meant for him at his army instead.
Before charging off to battle, the boy looked back and smirked.
“I suggest that you don’t run. It’ll only make things worse for you in the end.”
And Cepheus could only watch as the boy charged into the depths of his army. The boy was a brutal fighter. He made sure that every attack of his struck someone. He had no problem with using other enemies as shields for attacks, and the battle cards that he used were varied and all lethal.
When the boy summoned a series of missiles that targeted and eliminated nearly every null element lifeform in his army, Cepheus did what any sane being would have done in his situation.
Cepheus looked down at the FM Planet as he fled. This had been the original plan: have his army distract the attacker long enough so that he could flee into exile. It mattered not what happened to them. He trusted none of them with his life regardless, so staying with them was out of the question. Now, he had to embark on the life of a fugitive, constantly hiding, fleeing, on the lookout for a threat…it was no different from his usual life, was it? Only now, he had no safe haven to return to…
He froze. No. It couldn’t be. No. No. How had his attacker caught up with him so quickly? It was impossible…he turned, and found his neck being grabbed again as he was brought face to face with the boy once more.
“War-Rock and I defeated all of your most elite warriors a year ago. Did you think that a hastily thrown-together army could even compare, especially since we’ve spent a year getting stronger on our travels, and assimilating with the Andromeda Key? I could call you a more foolish king than Crown Thunder, if that was the case.”
“O…of course not…but I had hoped…”
“To use them as a distraction, so you could run and hide away again.” The boy smirked. “I told you, we’re very alike. I could easily guess that you wouldn’t have listened to me and fled anyway. See how much worse you’ve made it for yourself? That fleeting sensation of hope, it’s all gone now, isn’t it? All that effort for nothing…doesn’t it feel worse, now?”
Cepheus grunted, before letting out a scream of pain as the boy sliced through his body with a sword, forcing his hand inside his chest to pull the Andromeda’s controller out. As the controller emerged, the key embedded in the boy’s chest began to glow in response, and the figure of Andromeda began to materialize underneath them.
The pain felt like it would never end, and Cepheus couldn’t even track the time it took for the controller to be pulled out. He only registered it ending when he was dropped onto Andromeda’s fully materialized body, looking up blearily at the boy investigating the controller with a triumphant expression on his face. He watched as the boy used the key’s power to convert the controller into a small card, which was then inserted into the device on his left arm. He struggled to stand, to try to at least crawl away. He had to survive. Even if he didn’t have his safe haven anymore…he had to find a way to hide, to keep himself from being hurt further. Instead, he found himself picked up by the back of his neck yet again.
“Now where are you going, hm? Don’t you want to see what you could have done with Andromeda’s power? After all, your planet is just as full of pain and suffering as my own planet is...it’s your duty, as FM King, to oversee it being saved, don’t you think? Besides, I’m not done with you.”
Cepheus struggled to free himself, even as the boy sent off Andromeda with a wave of his hand, watched as his ultimate weapon began to eat away at his previous home.
“What…what more do you want from me…you have my trump card…”
“Ah, but I don’t have all your power, do I? War-Rock told me that your Z-Waves are so strong, they can mesh the real world and the wave world together…you were able to summon wave balls that could convert solid matter to denpa with the sheer strength of your waves. If I want Andromeda to destroy the Earth, wouldn’t I need to be able to do that as well? With Andromeda no longer in your hands, and your planet destroyed, you no longer need your title of FM King, do you? You would no longer have to fear anyone coming after your throne. You no longer need your power to control Andromeda, nor to defend yourself.”
“N…no…please…” His strength was all he had left. It was his only constant. His efforts to free himself renewed, but were all in vain as he felt the boy’s grip tighten, his fingers sink into his neck, and his energy being sapped away by the sheer force and will of the Andromeda Key in his attacker’s body. He screamed and writhed in pain even as the boy looked on with a blank, unfeeling expression.
“I would have left you unconscious for this. But it’s apparent by your actions that you need to understand the magnitude of suffering your fearful and paranoid existence has brought upon yourself. Even if it’s good to avoid having to make bonds with others…loneliness is its own pain, isn’t it? Always having to look out for threats, always clinging on to this power in an attempt to protect yourself when it’s that very same power that draws your attackers to you…what has that brought you, FM King?”
Cepheus did not respond, only screaming more as he felt his power being drained away into the key. His eyes opened enough to watch the device on the boy’s arm open, revealing a screen where War-Rock was looking on, bound inside the machine by several green strands of energy. So the human had found a way to overpower War-Rock. What a vile species…going so far as to produce spawn like this child…a child that would willingly destroy his own home!
“Ah, War-Rock, I nearly forgot. You did want your revenge on the FM King as well…does this satisfy you, seeing him watch the destruction of his own planet, the same as you did as you watched Planet AM…?”
Cepheus’ eyes widened. One of his most powerful soldiers, an AM-ian? War-Rock had never really been on his side? He watched as War-Rock looked up at his weakening body and then looked away, something almost like regret on his face.
“Is that so? Very well.” And then the energy drain intensified. It almost felt as if Cepheus’ remaining energy had been all pulled out at once. He hung limply in the boy’s grip, and didn’t move even as Rockman turned around to allow Cepheus to watch his planet’s end.
“What a lonely, sad existence you’ve led, FM King. Always afraid, always worried, and never happy…why did you continue to cling onto life? You had no purpose other than to lash out at anything that came close to you. And now, it’s come to this. You have nothing left now, except your miserable life.”
Cepheus said nothing at first, only watching helplessly as Andromeda continued to eat.
“Does it make you happy, watching everything that could be a threat disappear? Did it ever?”
“…No…” Cepheus was too tired to feel surprised at the traitorous words coming out of his mouth. “Not at all…there was always something new to worry about…I could never…ever feel at peace…”
“Do you understand, then, this pain of your existence?”
“Then…would you see it end, like your planet now, like mine in the future…like the rest of this universe…?”
Cepheus was silent. Even if the boy chose to spare him…what would he do? He had no power. He had no purpose. He had no safe haven, no home. What would stop him from continuing to be hurt?
“Then so it shall be.” And the boy let him go one final time.
Cepheus felt nothing even as he fell to his end. As he fell down into Andromeda’s path, he reflected that perhaps this wasn’t the cruelest of ends. In the end, this boy had chosen to be…somewhat merciful. He knew he had thwarted many enemies that would not allow him to die in safe anonymity like this, would parade his loss throughout the streets, would never allow him a quiet, easy death and would torture him as long as remotely possible. And the boy…he had the strength to do what Cepheus wanted, but never could bring himself to do…to bring the end of everything that was a threat.
“Andromeda. Consume him.”
Cepheus closed his eyes as he saw the giant robot’s jaws open.
[A/N]: SHIT, ROCKMAN'S GOT THE CONTROLLER. Anyways, there's only one or two more chapters planned after this, so we're coming close to the end! Also damn, Rockman got pretty fancy with his words over the last year. I guess having a year to plan how to get the controller does things.