The Wars of Light and Shadow - Chapter 5

© 1998 by E. Liddell


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"Mom, have you seen my orange pajamas?"

"I threw those out a year ago. The blue ones are in the top drawer."

Why did I think of the orange ones? Molly wondered as she prepared for bed. The best answer she could come up with was that it had something to do with Maxfield Stanton, and that didn't make any sense at all.

It can't hurt, she decided at last. "Mom, have you ever met anyone named Maxfield Stanton?"

"Now what kind of a silly question is that? You introduced us yourself, last year, at Princess Diamond's ball."

Molly dropped her toothbrush on the floor with a clatter. "I introduced you?"

"Well, of course. You met at a tennis tournament, you said. You had such a crush on him that I would have thought you remembered everything about him. Dear, are you feeling quite well?"

"Of course, Mom. It was... Oh, never mind." Molly fled to her bedroom. This really is weird. How come she remembers him, and I don't?

"Have you met him again? Is that it? I'd heard he was back in town." Mrs. Baker stood in Molly's doorway, eyeing her daughter anxiously.

"You... You don't mind?"

"Well, now, that depends. You always did act kind of strange around him, disappearing for hours at a time and going out late at night. I won't have any of that. And he is much too old for you. But if you really have your heart set on him, I don't think I'm going to be able to stop you. It didn't work before. Just be careful, Molly. Please."

"I will," the girl whispered. She continued staring into space when her mother left. Princess Diamond's ball... She remembered it only vaguely, as a not-too-interesting event that her mother had made her attend. Concentrating, she dredged up an image of dancers in masks. Had she danced that night? Yes! With... With Stanton! She had introduced him to her mother, and they had gone out on the balcony together, and... and... Nothing. So I did know him. Then why did he introduce himself to me again yesterday, as though we'd never met before? He must have known that I wouldn't remember him. Why?

Going out late at night, she said. In my nightclothes? Was that what happened to the orange pajamas? The day after the ball, I went out to the pool with Serena. We talked... about crushes. Serena freaked out when I told her I liked Stanton. She came back later in the afternoon and tried to convince me that there was something weird about him. And then... What happened that night? Something. Someone phoned me, and I went out. But I can't remember why...

The park! We were in the park, and he told me he was looking for something called the Silver Crystal! I stole what I thought was the right thing from Mom's safe at the jewelry store. He tried to take me with him somewhere, but someone stopped us... and I can't remember who, or why, just this vague flash of some kind of creature. Ugh. Not more weird monsters. This city really has been getting strange, this past year or so. But I was fully dressed that night. What happened to the orange pajamas?

And she was still thinking about them when she fell asleep...

"Nephrite, we'll get a doctor, and it'll be okay! Please don't go! Nephrite! Don't leave me! NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

But she knew it was already too late. He was already fading out of her arms, his body, which had been heavy and solid up until then, losing weight until it dissolved into dust and sparks --

Molly sat up in bed. My God, how could I ever have forgotten that? He gave his life to save me! She could still feel a faint tingling where her hands had been coated with his blood. He died in my arms... So what is he doing still alive? And that Zoisite! How can they be on speaking terms? Is it really him?

Malachite steepled his fingers, staring off into space. "Has either of you seen Jadeite this morning?"

Nephrite and Zoisite shook their heads. They were seated around the balcony table again. It was becoming a regular conference site.

"He came in late last night," Nephrite said after a moment's concentration. "He may still be asleep."

"He should be here. Zoisite. Go wake him."

Zoisite went inside, returning a few moments later with a haggard Jadeite.

Figures, Nephrite thought. The only one of us with any facial hair, and he forgets to shave. Then, as the blonde man sat down beside him, He stinks of sake! I knew he was drinking, but just how much did he put away last night? Trying to get drunk? Someone should have warned him that it wouldn't work. I've never gotten even the least woozy from alcohol alone, and I don't think any of the others ever have, either. Jadeite never used to be one for primitive vices. What's wrong with him?

"Look, unless there's something really important going on here, I'd like to go back to bed until my headache goes away. I never did manage to get very drunk, but that doesn't seem to have saved me from the hangover."

Malachite nodded to Zoisite, who told the story of his encounter for the second time that morning...

Jadeite snorted. "Well, isn't that just great. So we have a batch of enemies we don't know anything about to add to our personal lists. As though the Sailor Scouts and whatever leftovers there may be in the Negaverse aren't enough. You didn't have to wake me up to tell me this. I'm going back to bed." And he suited actions to words, taking his chair with him, since he had teleported from a seated position.

Malachite scowled. "We're going to have to snap him out of that. We don't have time for these sorts of juvenile antics."

"Try to look at it from his point of view," Nephrite found himself saying. "We know we all suffered personality changes when Beryl exposed us to the Negaforce. I don't think she knew what she was doing at first. You and I almost managed to stay sane. I think it was worse for Zoisite, but he at least had you. Jadeite has never had anybody, and now that we all seem to be reverting to type, he's under more stress than the rest of us. Add to that the fact that Alexandrite was his brother, and you have a recipe for disaster. And I don't think he's absolutely convinced that Beryl is permanently gone, and that we aren't working for her. He's just toeing the line because two of us are stronger than he is."

"'Reverting to type'? Do you think that's what's happening to us?" Zoisite's hand reached out to take Malachite's as he spoke.

Nephrite shrugged. "Well, the two of us are barely arguing anymore, and you aren't... well, you know. If Malachite is right, we originally worked together. I would assume that there was some sort of bond between us. I think it's coming back."

"To you more so than the rest of us, perhaps." Malachite's eyes were narrowed, as though he were thinking. Or suspicious.

"I nearly broke free from Beryl toward the end. I may have a head start on the rest of you."

<<Can you hear me?>>

Nephrite's eyes widened. <<Yes, but how?>>

<<Part of my dream again. Zoisite and I used to use this method of communication occasionally, but it was too... intimate... to use with you or Jadeite.>>

<<I can see why. What do I... feel like to you?>>

<<Glass. Or crystal. A lens? Something clear, anyway. It's difficult to describe. Why?>>

<<Just curious. You remind me of a sword, or you would if it were possible to make a sword out of ice.>>

"Ice blade," Malachite muttered aloud.

"What?"

"I can almost remember someone calling me that."

"Onyx?"

"I don't know. The voice isn't familiar. About all I can tell you is that it was a man."

"We're going around in circles," Zoisite said.

Malachite shrugged. "There's nothing else we can do. To find our answers, we probably need to find Onyx. Since none of us remember what he looks like, we're going to have to wait until at least one of us recovers his memory. There doesn't seem to be anything we can do to hasten that process. We have to wait."

"Why were we brought back now?" Nephrite asked suddenly.

Malachite's eyes widened, then narrowed. "You're right. Why were we left for dead for almost a year, only to return now? Unless that much time is required for the process... No, that doesn't make sense. Why move parts of the operation to America and China if that much time would be involved? It has all the elements of a hurried job. And these monsters. The Sailor Scouts defeated me in open battle, but can't handle them. Yet Zoisite and his crystal took one out alone... There may be a connection. I don't know. We need more information." He smiled evilly. "Perhaps the monsters can tell us something. I should have thought of this before! We need to go hunting."

"The stars know everything," Nephrite said. "Tell me where these creatures are."

A flash blinded all three of them this time.

"That wasn't the crystals," Nephrite observed. "It came from inside the divination."

"A shame you can't predict the future," Malachite said. "If we knew where they were going to appear next, we could lay a trap for them." He sighed. "I suppose the best we're going to be able to do is wander the city at random until one of us picks one up. Remember, we need it alive." He stood and teleported.

Nephrite shrugged and went to change into some of Stanton's clothes. If he was going to go for a walk, it was probably best that he not attract too much attention.

I knew it! I knew he'd be here. Molly watched Nephrite -- if it was really Nephrite -- enter the park through the side gate. Well, no time like the present.

"Maxfield?" she said hesitantly.

"Hello, Molly." He smiled at her, but it was Stanton's smile, not his own. His real smile was more hesitant, almost as if he didn't believe in it himself.

"You still owe me a chocolate parfait." If it wasn't really him, the words wouldn't mean anything...

"You remember," he said in a harsh whisper.

"It is you!"

"There was some reason to doubt it?"

"Only that you're supposed to be dead. I... I..." And she began to cry. Embarrassed, she tried to turn away from him, but his arms slid around her and he held her close. "Why did you do that to me?" she shrieked into his shirt. "Why? It nearly killed me, trying to go on without you. Why didn't you ever come back?"

"As far as I know, I was dead. I really don't remember anything after the park that night. The only detail I left out of the police report was the fact that I was dying."

She managed to work the sobs down to the point where they were only sniffles. "I'm sorry. I know it wasn't your fault. But you lied to me again."

"I suppose I did. I warned you about that, remember?"

"I guess you did." Say, wait a minute. "But you weren't lying when you said that Serena was there, that night. Funny that I don't remember her. The only other people there were Zoisite and the Sailor Scou-- " Serena's hair! Of course! I'm a total idiot for not figuring this out before. "Serena's Sailor Moon, isn't she?"

Nephrite nodded.

"That means that Amy and Raye and Mina and Lita must be the other Scouts. I thought Serena had been acting a bit weird lately. That thing with Darien, how they're always either in love or hating each others' guts... He would make a cute Tuxedo Mask, I guess, but I like you better."

Nephrite's smile was genuine this time. "I doubt I'd fit the part. Look, all of this is a very long story. If you want to hear it, we'd better go somewhere we can sit down."

"...And so our next step is to find one of these creatures and convince it to talk," Nephrite concluded.

"That's quite a story," Molly said, looking down at the view. They were perched together on a narrow platform near the top of one of the city's taller buildings. There was so little space that Molly sat in Nephrite's lap. She wondered if he'd arranged it that way. If so, she didn't mind. She liked the feel of his arms around her.

"What, do you think I'm lying again?" he asked.

"I know you're not." The sun was setting out over the harbor. She had never seen it from so high up before. "Do you think the others will mind that you're telling me all this?"

She felt him shrug. "I doubt it. After all, between knowing me and being the favorite target of every youma within a hundred-mile radius, you must have figured out some of it for yourself."

"Yeah, just call me a monster magnet." I wonder what I'm going to say to Melvin. He's sweet and all, but he just can't compete. Nephrite will always be so much *more* than he is. "Nephrite?"

"Mmmmm?"

"Be careful, okay? I don't think I could stand it if you died again."

She was sure that he smiled. "I'll do my best to avoid that. I've never been fond of pain."

That remark seemed to cast a pall over the conversation, and they sat in silence as the first stars began to appear. Then Molly checked her watch. "Oh my God, look at the time! Mom is gonna kill me! I've got to go back. You know," she added reflectively, "she warned me about you. Apparently you're always keeping me out late."

He actually laughed. "I guess a thousand years in the Negaverse messed up my time sense a bit. Let's go." He took a firmer grip on her and stood up -- standing on nothing, as far as Molly could tell. Then crimson and white smoke swirled around them, and when it cleared, they were standing outside the door to Molly's apartment. He relaxed his grip on her and turned her to face him. "Good night, Molly."

Is he going to kiss me? Do I dare ask him? No, it would be just too embarrassing if he said no. "Good night."

He nodded to her, turned away, and disappeared again. Will we ever be able to be together?

Molly sighed as she opened the door.

"And just where have you been?" Her mother was waiting just inside, but she had been expecting that. "Do you know what time it is?"

"About seven?"

"You know I expect you back here for supper at five-thirty, Molly. I don't ask much of you, but that is one of the rules."

"I'm sorry." Not good enough. She's getting that 'what am I going to do with you' expression again.

"Molly, I know it's hard without your father here, but Maxfield Stanton is not going to fill the gap. I don't want you seeing him anymore."

"No."

The flatness of the word seemed to take her mother by surprise.

"I'm sorry," Molly said, "but I just can't do that. He doesn't know what happened to him or where he went." Well, that's sort of true. "He could disappear again at any time, without being able to say good-bye to me. I'm not going to waste the time we have because you're afraid that he's going to take advantage of me because I'm so much younger than he is." Like by about a thousand years. "We've never done anything together that we couldn't have done in front of you." Well, not from a propriety point of view, anyway. Watching him teleport me would probably freak her out, but that isn't the same. "You're being scared of nothing."

"I'm being scared of nothing? When you're talking back to me like this? I won't have him encouraging you in this wild behavior, Molly."

"I'm sorry," Molly said again, "but there are things in this world that are more important to me than how you feel about my behavior. Even if you try to keep me under house arrest until I'm twenty-one, I choose my own friends and what to do with my own time." This got beyond the point where you could protect me a long time ago, Mother. Please don't be mad. "I know what I'm doing. I'm not going to get hurt. Please."

Her mother sighed. "We'll talk about it again in the morning. Meanwhile, since you didn't get here in time for supper, you can just do without it for tonight. Go to your room."

"Yes, Mother." Molly shuffled along the hallway to her door. Nephrite, I hope you're okay.

#They were at large in the city today,# the technician remarked.

#Did you deduce any patterns?# 'My lord' was fuming. The Ancient was impatient for results, and had been leaning on him.

#Only one. It seems that one of them is fond of a specific human. He spends much time with her.#

#Excellent. If we target her, we will flush him out into the open, and even if we cannot defeat him, it should be possible to get some estimate of his powers.#

The End of Chapter 5 - Goto Chapter 6


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