The Wars of Light and Shadow II: All Darkness Met

Chapter 15

© 1998 by E. Liddell


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Amber

Jasper folded his wings tight to his back, then turned to look at me again. That smile... it looked too much like his father's smile, his real father's. I didn't like it.

He walked up to me and brushed my forehead with a fingertip. I felt a sensation like an electric shock. As he turned away from me, I floated downwards until my feet were solidly planted on the floor. Next, he knelt beside Melvin, his touch dissolving the chain wrapped around the boy's ankle.

Jasper looked up at me. "You're free to go," he said.

"Why are you doing this?" He was dangerous, regardless of our blood relationship. I didn't dare trust him.

His smile never wavered, and he was no longer avoiding meeting my eyes. His gaze was shadowed, full of secrets. "I'm offering you a way out. Now go, before Lord Jadeite gets back."

He's lying. This must be some sort of trick.

"Why should we trust you?"

He shrugged, causing his wings to open out slightly. "You may, of course, stay here if you prefer."

I hesitated. I had come to this evil place for one reason, and one reason alone. "I'm not going anywhere without you."

"Why not? What am I to you?"

I knew he wouldn't listen, as he wouldn't the last time, but I said it anyway. "You are my son."

Jasper

So. Either she's a very good actress, or she actually believes her story. She wants to save me. How... quaint.

Now that I bothered to look, I could see a resemblance between us, tiny similarities in the shapes of our faces, small gestures that we both made in the same way. But that didn't mean she couldn't have been hired to play a part.

"How much are you willing to trust me?" I asked.

Amber

Not at all. With everything I am. I'm not so much of a fool as to believe that my child would never be capable of malice. But I still couldn't make myself believe that he would deliberately set out to hurt me.

"Why do you ask?"

He sighed. "You are extremely persistent in your claims. Obviously, you believe them. That means that one of us is being deluded. There may be a way for me to find out which of us it is."

"What do I have to do?"

Jasper

I had her where I wanted her.

"Look at me," I ordered her, and when she hesitated, I tangled my hand in her hair and used it to pull her head back. This was infinitely more important than whatever disquiet I might feel when looking into her grey eyes.

I would most likely have to peel back several layers of her consciousness to uncover the memories beneath. That she was unlikely to be sane after the process was finished, assuming the shock didn't kill her, concerned me not at all. Her primary value to me lay in the mystery she presented. Once I had solved that, she would only be another slave, and slaves are a dime a dozen for a Negaverse general, even one as junior as myself.

Image of an infant with wise grey eyes...

Image of a young boy with those same eyes, laughing...

Image of the boy's hair being ruffled by Jadeite, who is dressed like a human and wears a tight, almost pained smile...

It could be me, I decided, but I can't be certain. Did I want it to be me? I was even less certain of that. A child without a father, always a bit different, always a bit alone... Yes, that might have been me. I could understand how, under those circumstances, I might have chosen Jadeite to fill a gap in my life. Even if he had manipulated and lied to me. And he... surely he had been lonely too.

I still felt nothing but a twinge of disquiet when I looked at the woman -- my mother? I would never be able to be certain. What was this supposed to be a test of? Loyalty or the ability to see through illusion and distinguish reality from falsehood? Or perhaps a bit of both? Damn you, Jadeite. The thought held no conviction.

I withdrew my probe from the woman's mind. The layers of thought that I had parted snapped back into place with a resilience that surprised me. What was she? Human -- and yet... different. Like me.

Amber

His eyes, locked on mine, began to glow a bright white-purple, and I wondered if I hadn't made yet another Big Mistake. The story of my life.

I never again want to experience anything like that first, surgically fine, cut at my mind. I felt a layer of myself being peeled away and folded aside, and then another and another, until I could barely think at all. This is for Jasper, I managed to remind myself, and held on to sanity with my fingernails while the glow from my captor's eyes expanded to fill my world.

When he finally let me go, I felt as though the inside of me had been scraped raw. Jasper was frowning. For the better part of a minute, he simply stood, his wings twitching occasionally in what was probably an involuntary action.

Those wings. Did they show that my son was too deeply involved with this evil to ever be able to pull himself out? That sort of distortion of form was the stamp of the Negaforce, judging from Malachite's explanations right after the kidnapping. Or perhaps, just perhaps, they might be the sign of a Crystal Weaver. But if so, where was his crystal?

"What are you?" he asked.

I sighed. "If you're not going to believe me, why should I repeat myself?"

"That isn't what I meant. You seem to be human, and yet you aren't. Not entirely."

"My father was a Crystal Weaver." It was the first time I had come out and said it. "Like Jadeite." I still wasn't sure whether Crystal Weavers could be considered to be strictly human. Isn't one test to see whether two creatures are of the same or different species crossbreeding them to see whether or not they produce fertile offspring?

Jasper

A Crystal Weaver. Like Jadeite. Was that what I was?

I had to keep her talking. Judging from my experiences up to this point, in order to do that, I needed her trust. The easiest way to get that was to play along with her.

I stepped through the door and out into the corridor.

"Well?" I asked. "Are you coming?"

"Just a moment." She went to the corner where the human boy was cowering and pulled him to his feet. "Okay, we're with you. Lead on."

I had the advantage of knowing the corridors of the palace, and so was able to lead them along a twisting, circuitous route. I expected her to ask why I didn't teleport, and even had an excuse ready, but she never questioned me on the subject, and the boy was clearly either exhausted or terrified, because he said nothing at all.

We had been traveling for some ten minutes (in total silence -- I felt that questioning her might spoil the impression that I was trying to sneak them out, and had thus decided that conversation could wait until a rest break became necessary) when I heard sounds coming from up ahead. This worried me, since the wing of the palace that we were in should have been deserted. It hadn't been occupied since Sailor Moon had killed Beryl and decimated the youma population. I motioned the woman and the boy back into an alcove, and crept forward alone to the next intersection. I didn't want to risk losing my prize to some stray follower of Malachite's.

My caution, as it turned out, was useless. I was just about to take a look around the corner when six people came running around the bend and crashed into me. We landed in a heap on the floor.

Someone's elbow struck me in the face, nearly knocking my front teeth out. I couldn't see who had hit me, because some sort of fabric -- a skirt? -- was covering my eyes. Giving up my attempts to extricate myself physically as impossible, I teleported blindly left and upwards. Crashing to the floor again didn't exactly do wonders for my morale, but at least, I reflected as I counted the stars that seemed to have suddenly appeared above me, I was out from under the pile.

No sooner had I managed to gather my scattered wits together than I heard the sound of footsteps again. Lord Jadeite skidded to a stop mere inches from my outstretched arm. He surveyed the scene with one eyebrow raised, and, if it were possible, a glint of humor in his eye.

"How convenient," he remarked, gazing down at the tangled pile of what I now realized were Sailor Scouts. "Thank you, Jasper."

"You're welcome." I worked on pulling myself upright.

"So, Sailor Moon, it appears that this is where you and your little sailor friends say good-bye." Jadeite raised his hand ostentatiously (Aren't we overdoing it on the theatrics? I wondered) just as the topmost Sailor Scout managed to extricate herself from the pile.

"You wish, blondie!" She raised her arms and crossed them over her chest. "Jupiter Thunder Crash!"

Jadeite was forced to redirect his powers and create a shield, from which Sailor Jupiter's attack rebounded harmlessly. But we both knew that he had made a mistake. He was reacting now, not acting. The Scouts had control of the situation. We desperately needed to get that back.

I didn't have time to worry about getting up now. Still on my knees, I teleported back into the mouth of the corridor from which I had entered, pinning the Sailor Scouts between myself and my mentor. Three of them were still lying in a pile on the floor -- apparently Tuxedo Mask's cape had gotten tangled around him and two of the Scouts, and they were having a very difficult time getting loose -- but Sailor Mars and Sailor Mercury were on their feet.

"Shine --"

I blasted her with everything I had before she could finish the attack, knocking her back against the wall. She struck her head and appeared to lose consciousness. But while I had been dealing with one Scout, the other had gained the time to complete a formula.

"Mars Celestial Fire Surround!"

"No!"

Someone knocked me out of the path of the attack before I could prepare to shield myself. It was the woman, Amber. Apparently she had gotten worried about me when I hadn't reappeared. I smiled at the absurdity. Powerless as she was, how could she possibly think she could do anything to help?

"Don't hurt them," she was saying.

"But Amber, they're evil," Mars replied. "Can't you see that?"

"It doesn't matter." She was between me and the Sailor Scouts now. "I won't let you hurt my son. Or the man I love." She looked at Jadeite. I would have expected him to reply with scorn, but he had the strangest look on his face. And he wouldn't meet her eyes.

Those damned accusing grey eyes. What magic did she have in them, that let her pierce the shields of ice and darkness that we, as servants of the Negaverse, had erected around our hearts?

Jadeite

"So, Sailor Moon, it appears that this is where you and your little sailor friends say good-bye." Damned melodramatic impulses! I knew from the moment that Jupiter managed to pull herself off the top of the pile that I should have just blasted them first and conversed later, if at all.

Jasper took out Mercury, but I thought Mars was going to kill him. And all I could do was stand there and grind my teeth. They were too far away for me to throw any sort of shield over my... son.

Then Amber knocked him out of the path of Mars' blast, and ordered the Scouts not to hurt us.

I had been a fool to see her only as a potential youma, slave, or bed-toy. She had courage -- perhaps even combative spirit -- although it was buried deep beneath the surface. And with Malachite and the others gone over to the other side, we were short a general or two...

Sailor Moon, Tuxedo Mask, and Sailor Venus finally managed to extricate themselves from their tangled pile. I groaned inwardly. I was hoping to pick them off one at a time, if possible. Now they've stopped running, and their only way out of here is through one of us.

Sailor Moon cowered back against the wall, beside the stunned Sailor Mercury, and the others took up defensive positions around her. Now *that's* odd. Normally, she's the first to jump in with one of those stupid speeches. Why is she hanging back? I scanned her in as much detail as I could manage, given that I had so many enemies staring at me. What the -- That isn't really Sailor Moon, that's Serena Tsukino wearing an illusion! But why?

Every time I've seen her before, she's been wearing that locket. It probably has something to do with her transformations. With the locket and the Crystal in Citrine's hands, she's helpless! I don't believe this! The Scouts I knew would never have had the gall to mount an attack with their strongest member out of commission. This must have been Malachite's idea, or else they were so desperate to get the Crystal back that they decided not to worry about minor things like getting killed. That means that, until Mercury recovers, we've only got four of them to deal with, and cooperation was never Tuxedo Mask's strong suit. The odds are beginning to look better.

<<JADEITE!!!!>>

I clutched at my temples as the mental scream attacked me.

<<JADEITE, YOU SON OF A BITCH! DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'VE DONE? DO YOU?>>

<<Zoisite?>> It was difficult to pick an identity out of that thought, but the general tone of outrage was right.

Apparently, Zoisite hadn't been expecting an answer, because he didn't wait for one. <<DAMN YOU, HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO US?>> And, again without waiting for an answer, he forced into my mind everything he was seeing and feeling at that moment.

It was a window into my own private hell.

I was encased in ice. I couldn't see. I couldn't hear. I couldn't feel anything except the endless cold and the crystal sapping my energy so that I wouldn't be able to destroy it and release myself.

--standing before Beryl's throne--

--"Sleep! Forever!"--

--The infinite cold reached out to envelop me, and the last thing I felt was the absolute certainty that I had been used. Used and discarded, like some paltry youma...--

--And then, after my release, I had come running back here to be used again--

How could I possibly have been so stupid?

<<Lord Jadeite! Are you all right?>>

<<Alex?>> For a moment, the pain was just too much, and I forgot when and where I was. My vision was clouded, blurring the form that stood beside me. All I could see, at that moment, was that it was another Crystal Weaver, a man, with long, dark hair that was doing its damnedest to escape from a single braid. Like Alexandrite's. Then the odd shapes behind him resolved into a pair of gray-purple wings, and I realized that it was Jasper, not Alexandrite. My brother was a thousand years dead, although my memories of him were suddenly fresh and sharp and painful, unclouded by the Negaforce's shadow.

I was dishonoring everything he had stood for.

The realization almost made me ill. I reeled back against the corridor wall, still clutching my head, ignoring the stares of Amber, Jasper, and the Sailor Scouts. Shadows obscured my vision as the Negaforce tried to damp my emotions and re-exert control. I denied it.

Bonds of frost and darkness shattered, and I was free.

<<Avenge us...>>

<<Malachite?>> But he didn't reply, and I couldn't even be certain I had heard him. It had only been the faintest of whispers. Another shadow on my mind.

Avenge you, hell. I'm going to *free* you.

Citrine

"You have done well."

"Thank you, my Master." Once again, I was on my knees in the presence of the Negaforce. The stab wound Zoisite had inflicted on me still ached, but it was healing quickly.

"Thanks to you, it is only a matter of time until the Earth-realm is ours. What reward do you seek for your services, Citrine?"

Reward? As far as I knew, this was unprecedented. Beryl had never mentioned the Negaforce rewarding anyone.

It was what I had been waiting for.

"The use of the Silver Crystal," I said firmly.

"We have only begun to corrupt it to our purpose. It will be some time before you will be able to use it in safety."

"My safety doesn't concern me." My revenge, however, does. Malachite's capture hadn't satisfied me. There was still a burning emptiness inside that I needed to fill. And there was only one thing I knew of that might do it.

An extended tendril of darkness brushed against the palm of my hand, leaving something round and smooth behind. The Silver Crystal.

"Losing it will mean your death," the Negaforce warned me.

Death didn't worry me either. "May I have your permission to depart?"

I was going home.

The End of Chapter 15 - Goto Chapter 16


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