The Wars of Light and Shadow II: All Darkness Met

Chapter 17

© 1998 by E. Liddell


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Zantisa

Adare, just ahead of me, began to laugh with unholy glee. "Looks like we made it!"

I slashed the throat of one last partisan of Beryl's before turning toward the door. The dark symbols coiling there, just at the level of my eyes, read, 'Main Armory'. Grinning like a fool, I pushed the door open. We had achieved our objective. I could only hope that the Lords Nephrite and Malachite had been equally successful.

Our goal here was twofold: first, to get decent weapons for those who had entered the battle with makeshifts, or no weapon at all, and second, to wreak as much general havoc as we could, and ensure that Beryl's forces couldn't use this place for resupply. I stalked down the center aisle, looking for something I remembered as being stored here...

Ah. There. Some twenty kilos of human-made plastic explosive, left over from some experiment Zoisite had been conducting a few years ago. We could definitely have some fun with this.

Fortunately, all the equipment necessary to touch the stuff off had been conveniently stored on the next shelf down. As I began to arrange the wires, it occurred to me to wonder where Mel had gone. I hadn't seen him since the very beginning of the attack on the palace. It would be a shame if he had been killed -- he was kind of cute, and anyway, we didn't see very many male anythings in the Negaverse, which made him a valuable commodity. I still didn't know if I'd done the right thing by stringing him along rather than extracting the whereabouts of the Silver Crystal from him directly, but I couldn't change what I had done now. No regrets, I told myself. Worrying about the past was just a waste of time.

My first bomb completed, I called Adare over and told her where to place it.

Zoisite

We could have stayed in the throne room and confronted our foes piecemeal, I suppose. Nephrite seemed to favor that strategy. However, Malachite insisted on an all-out effort. Thus, we headed for the Negaforce's room. On foot, since most of us either couldn't teleport or didn't have enough energy left.

<<Do you really think we can win?>> I asked my lover as I walked at his side, his arm around my waist providing me with a little unobtrusive (and much-needed) support. <<We're all worn out, and Sailor Moon doesn't have the Silver Crystal, which was what defeated Beryl before. As the humans say, I think we're toast.>>

<<We have only two ways out of this: we can win or we can die,>> Malachite replied. <<Considering the alternative, I'm planning on winning. Whatever it takes.>>

<<There won't be any second chances this time,>> I remarked gloomily. <<The only people left to resurrect us would be Beryl and Citrine, and if they ever did, it would only be because they'd found a way to bind us so tightly to the Negaforce's service that we'd never be able to free ourselves again.>>

<<I'm not so certain of their solidarity. I can't put my finger on it, but something makes me think that Citrine is having second thoughts. Or perhaps he's just mentally unbalanced -- I would be, in his place. Unfortunately, it's nothing we can count on.>>

Suddenly, the floor began to shake, and I could hear a muffled roar coming from somewhere far below us.

<<Zantisa made it,>> Malachite remarked. <<I couldn't have timed this better if I'd tried. Maximum distraction for Beryl, and thus maximum advantage for us.>>

<<But will it be enough?>>

He didn't reply. And that was what truly frightened me.

Malachite

"The Scouts go in first, with Tuxedo Mask, Jadeite and Jasper," I ordered. "Then Nephrite, Almandite, Zoisite, and myself. The rest of you stay outside." I glared at Amber and the human boy, who had, for some unknown reason, continued to follow us. Innocent bystanders were a complication we didn't need, given the Sailor Scouts' peculiar need to rescue them when they were in trouble. I only hoped that Almandite would remember not to waste time on such things.

"Jasper is not going in there," Amber insisted.

I don't know what kind of expression I had on my face, but she flinched when I turned my attention to her. "He's going," I snapped. "We need him." We need every edge we can get. Without Jasper, our chances go from infinitesimally small to non-existent.

"I'll look after him," Jadeite told her. "I promise." He gently wrapped his arms around her and held her for a moment.

I stood staring at the great double doors that led into the heart of the darkness. In a thousand years of service to the Negaverse, I had never come here voluntarily. Contact with the Negaforce had always left me feeling faintly sick, even when I was under its influence.

Zoisite placed his hand on my arm. <<Are you sure you're ready for this?>>

<<I have to be, don't I?>> I replied, knowing that it didn't answer the question.

With a swirl of my tattered cloak, I turned toward the portal. It was difficult to force open. The hinges appeared to be ill-maintained. I would have liked to be able to fling the doors open and make an appropriately melodramatic entrance, but it seemed that I wasn't going to have the chance. In any case, it wasn't likely that anyone inside would be handing out points for style.

I gestured Jadeite and Jasper through, then the Scouts and Tuxedo Mask. Serena hung back in the corridor, for which I couldn't blame her. I decided not to mention it. Nephrite went through next, followed by Almandite and then Zoisite. Then it was my turn.

Inside, shadows writhed in the corners, moving like living things. The room was lit only by a baleful red glow coming from the sphere which was effectively the Negaforce's body, and by a brilliant white light which came from the Silver Crystal, hanging suspended in midair. Between us and it, two figures stood -- Beryl, smirking at us, and Citrine, who looked remarkably small beside the red-haired woman.

Beryl met my eyes over Sailor Mercury's head. I smiled slowly at her, trying not to show just how uncomfortable her presence made me.

You have failed me for the last time. The words seemed to hang in the air between us. I moved a little to the left so that I could slide an arm around Zoisite. Beryl's smirk widened as she watched. I considered letting my smile do the same, but suspected that it would look rather sickly. And this war wasn't going to be fought with nuances of expression.

She was the one who finally broke the silence. "You have served me well, Malachite, by bringing these traitors here. You will be well rewarded."

"You never used to be a fool, Beryl." Or did you? "I think we all know exactly who is on which side. You're wasting your time by trying to confuse the issue."

"And so you choose to save the humans."

"And so I choose to save myself," I corrected. "The humans are of little concern to me."

"Then join with me once more. You could rule half the Earth."

"I don't trust you." It came out flatter than I had intended. "You've already betrayed me once. I'm not going to give you a chance to do it again. Just how stupid do you think I am?"

<<Watch Citrine!>> Zoisite warned me.

I jumped out of the way as a blast of white light nearly split me in half.

"I'd hoped you would say something like that," Citrine remarked.

"Revenge never benefits anyone."

I shook my head. Darien really had to lay off the self-help manuals.

"Somehow, I'm really not inclined to trust your opinion." Citrine used Tuxedo Mask as his next target. The former Prince of Earth dodged the attack. "Malachite destroyed my world," Citrine continued. "Do you honestly think that I'm going to let him get away intact after that?"

"I don't think it's going to be your decision," Zoisite snapped before I could.

Unfortunately, this drew Beryl's attention to him as well as Citrine's. He dodged Beryl's shot, but was caught in the crossfire from the former Empyrean, and he had no energy left with which to shield himself. All I could do was catch him as he fell.

Nephrite

I saw the look of shock on Malachite's face as Zoisite went down, and realized that we had lost not just one of them, but both, at least for now. I knew that being forced to watch impotently again while his lover died was Malachite's worst nightmare, just as Almandite's death had, since my resurrection, become mine. The fact that we had both lived those nightmares already robbed them of none of their terrible potency.

"I ask for power from the stars," I muttered, ignoring the shattering pain of Zoisite's injuries, transmitted to me through the fabric of our Weave. The familiar formula was soothing, although the power it invoked wasn't accessible from here.

The blue fire that gathered between my hands was faint, almost invisible in the harsh light that spilled from the Silver Crystal. I poured my energy into it until my knees threatened to give way and I realized that I had nothing more left to give. Then I threw it at Citrine, disappointed, but not surprised, when he blocked it.

"You dare."

There had been a time when I had thought I would never welcome the sound of that voice. Zoisite was pulling himself to his feet with Malachite's help. The glare he aimed at Beryl as he wiped a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth went beyond outraged, and perhaps even beyond hateful.

"You tried to kill me again, you bitch," the blonde man snarled. "Well, just for that --" His eyes began to glow. When had he had the time to regain that much power? He should have been as exhausted as I was.

The ice crystal he created was some six feet long, shaped like a javelin and glowing with pent-up power. Zoisite drew his arm back. At the last moment, he spun on his heel and threw it, not at Beryl or at Citrine, as I would have expected, but at the globe. Devious, dangerous, brilliant Zoisite. At that moment, I understood why Malachite loved him.

The red globe shattered in a moment of absolute silence. Fragments cascaded down to mingle with those from its predecessor, and red-black liquid poured onto the floor.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" Malachite snarled at the Sailor Scouts. "Take them!" He flung his arm out to point at Beryl and Citrine, causing his cloak to swirl dramatically.

"Shine Aqua Illusion!"

"Mars Celestial Fire Surround!"

Water splashed off the wall of dark energy that Beryl invoked as a counter. Citrine floated up into the air to hover beside the Silver Crystal, snarling as the fringe of Raye's attack scorched his ankle. His expression changed to a smile of triumph as his hand closed over the glowing jewel.

Serena

I should be in there with them. I should be fighting. Instead, I was outside, huddled in the hallway with Melvin and Amber. I felt like a traitor.

"Well, what are you waiting for? Take them!"

I wanted the Silver Crystal. I needed the Silver Crystal. But getting to it would mean dodging through a minefield of energy attacks and crystal shards, not to mention what was left of the Negaforce.

Then I think my heart skipped a beat. Don't they see it? Doesn't *any* of them see it? The dark liquid that had flowed from the globe was no longer just lying there quietly. It was evaporating, becoming a huge black cloud that seemed to absorb all light. The Silver Crystal was shining brightly against that backdrop.

All the people inside were concentrating on attacking Beryl and Citrine.

"We have to warn them," I whispered.

"I agree," Amber said instantly. "Come on, let's go."

She was pulling me through the opening and into the room before I could say that I had been thinking more in terms of shouting at someone.

Then Citrine's hand closed over the Silver Crystal and everything went dark. I heard someone sob. I think it was me.

A dim yellow light was the first sign that maybe I wasn't dead after all. Molly held the glowing globe in the palm of her hand. She looked exhausted. So did Nephrite, who was standing beside her. The light tinted his eyes green. Zoisite and Malachite were still leaning on each other. Most of the others seemed to have frozen in mid-attack-gesture.

Beryl was staring up at Citrine with the oddest expression on her face. Then her eyes narrowed, and she smiled evilly (not that I think she was ever capable of any other type of expression).

"So, Citrine, I was right about you after all. I should have known better than to trust someone who had already betrayed his entire species."

Amber

So, this was my crazy sister Beryl. Nephrite had been right -- we didn't look at all alike.

The words, "betrayed his entire species," caused the room to become completely silent again. It was weird how everyone around here seemed to have this thing about making dramatic speeches -- and how everyone else always seemed to drop whatever they were doing in order to listen.

Citrine bowed his head. "Is that what you think of me? I suppose that's what you would have done."

The dark cloud swirled behind him.

"It's probably fortunate that I never expected to have your trust," he continued. "Nor do I want it."

Damn it, someone kill them while they're still distracted! But I didn't dare say it out loud, even though the tension was slowly reducing me to a nervous wreck.

"Good for you," Beryl remarked. "Now die!"

Black lightning shot from her hands. Citrine blocked it with the fist that concealed the Silver Crystal. The darkness split around it and disappeared into the depths of the swirling shadow.

A flash of light from the Crystal struck Beryl across the shoulder, creating a hideous red burn. She fell to her knees, not moving even when Citrine raised his hand again and pointed at her. They stared unblinking at each other for a moment. And then the shadow cloud reached out with thin tendrils to embrace them both.

The End of Chapter 17 - Goto Chapter 18


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