The Wars of Light and Shadow: An Ill Fate Marshalling

Chapter 25

© 1999 by E. Liddell


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Demantoid

April 12, 2002

<<How do you feel?>> I asked my patient.

"Terrible," Jasper croaked. "I'm hungry, thirsty, tired, and uncomfortable. How much longer is this going to take?"

<<That depends on you,>> I replied. But I really didn't doubt his power or his strength of will. The black crescent on his forehead had already begun to fade. I estimated that it would only be a few more hours before he was completely cleansed of the demon's influence. Truth be known, that was better than I could have done. Perhaps Jasper's long-ago contact with the Negaforce had helped him build up a resistance to evil power. Or perhaps the tiny fragment of the Negaforce's power that still remained inside him was jealous of its territory. Either way, he was going to be all right. I was going to make sure of that. I only had three living relatives, and I was damned if I was going to lose one of them.

Pyrope, whom I'd dealt with beforehand, has been both more difficult and easier. Easier, because he'd been unconscious when Malachite had handed him over to me, and so couldn't fight me, as Jasper had been reflexively doing at the beginning. Harder, because the Doom Phantom's power had been more entrenched in him, and he couldn't help me fight it.

Jas's hand reached up to clasp mine. <<Thank you, Uncle. Now, can we please get this over with? Being tied to a chair isn't my idea of how to spend a victory celebration.>>

<<It isn't mine, either, but then it isn't much of a celebration,>> I replied absently. <<Anyway, you know as well as I do that there's no need for you to complete this now. If it's that rough on you, untie yourself and get up.>>

<<And have to fast for twelve hours again before resuming? No thank you. Now, you were talking about the Third Circle -->>

<<Jasper. Demantoid. Join us.>>

<<We'll be there at once, my King,>> I replied. It was only when I lowered my hand again that I realized, to my consternation, that I had saluted, even though Malachite wasn't actually present. Jasper didn't say anything, but I caught a hint of a suspicious little smile tugging at the corner of his mouth as I helped him unbuckle the two wide straps that held his torso to the chair.

Malachite was in the conference room. And so, too, was everyone else -- not only the five other Generals, but the three Generals-in-training, and Neo-Queen Serenity.

I don't like the look of this, I thought as I took my position between Almandite and Cuprite. Malachite was inscrutable as always. I thought I caught a flash of gold on his wrist, under his jacket sleeve, as he made some small gesture. He'd been secretive since he had returned from his quest, but I didn't know him well enough to be certain that that wasn't his normal mode of operation.

"It appears that we have been left in an awkward position," the King began. "Despite our success in confining the Doom Phantom, the Earth remains under its spell. All of those present here know how that spell is to be broken. Unfortunately, that does not precisely help us.

"We know that Neo-Queen Serenity and the Silver Crystal will defeat the spell. Unfortunately, Zoisite has informed me that even it cannot thaw the Earth at the present time. It will take roughly a thousand years for the Doom Phantom's spell to decay to the point where effective action can be taken against it. Since human lifespans are not that long, we must assume that Serenity and the Crystal will travel forward in time."

"Unfortunately," Serenity said, "I am unable to do so by myself. While the Silver Crystal is extremely powerful, it is difficult to focus that power and use it to form something as delicate as an entrance to the Timestream." She fell silent again.

"Thus requiring that one of us go with her," Malachite resumed. "But with the youma on the verge of rioting in the tunnels, I have to keep you all here and on call, so to speak. I am open to suggestions."

Cuprite seemed about to speak, but frowned thoughtfully instead. Meanwhile, I was trying to chase down a thought that had been nibbling at the back of my mind. It was something about one of those experiments of Rutile's, back in the old days before the Empyrean. He'd been playing around with the relationship between time and magic...

I curled my right hand into a fist and slammed it against my left palm. Idiot! Of course!

"Actually, my King, there may be another way," I said as all eyes turned to me. "If it's necessary that we all stay here... why not move the entire Negaverse?"

Well, it wasn't movement, exactly -- we'd just be pushing it a little harder in the direction that it was already going -- but the end result would be that time in the outside world would move at over a thousand times the rate of time in here. Not ideal. But far better than waiting ten centuries for something to happen.

Pyrope

Sometime in 2638AD

<<Trouble?>>

<<No, just the kid again.>> Cuprite grinned at me. <<And this time, her father really is going to be mad -- not only did she pick a fight with a youma again, but this time, she lost.>>

I grimaced. <<Jadeite's going to have to stand in line to get at what's left after Malachite's finished with her.>> I'd been living in this crazy place for a little more than four months' worth of subjective time now. It had taken me less than a week to figure out that if you broke one of Malachite's standing orders, you'd better have a damned good reason for it. Like me, Aventurine was still a trainee, so she'd probably get away with a severe tongue-lashing, but I knew that she wasn't going to enjoy the experience.

<<What's your assignment for the day?>> Cuprite asked, changing the subject.

I sighed. <<"Instructing" youma again. Damn it, why do I always get the tough jobs?>>

<<Because I'm basically blind and Avi can't handle them yet. At least it isn't as boring as supervising Maintenance while they try to fix the plumbing again.>> I think he rolled his eyes, but it was difficult to tell. <<And I get to take Avi with me, to keep her out of range of the warriors for a little while.>> But he really didn't seem all that disturbed by the thought. I think everyone except the two of them could see what was happening, although Aventurine had a lot more growing up to do before anything could come of it. And they don't realize how lucky they are. I'd blown it big time with Malachite, even if he hadn't already been taken, and it seemed that he and Zoisite were the only ones here who shared my... preferences. <<Are you with Jasper again?>>

I shook my head, wondering if he could see the movement. <<No, Demantoid and Zantisa. Jadeite needed Jasper's help on something.>>

<<Ah. Well, good luck. I have to get busy.>>

He was still experimenting with teleportation effects. The current one involved concentric rings of light which began at waist level and floated up and down along his body. They lingered for quite a while after he disappeared. I, on the other hand, had only recently learned to teleport -- I hadn't had the power before I'd joined the Dark Moon -- and had yet to develop an effect of my own. I didn't yet have the concentration to do something else at the same time anyway, especially not with my navigation as terrible as it was.

I appeared in the main practice arena a little higher off the ground than I had really intended. Lacking the energy to hover, I at least managed to make my fall as graceful as possible under the circumstances, and landed with my feet under me.

A hand brushed my shoulder. <<Are you all right?>>

Startled, I glanced up into Lord Demantoid's face. <<Fine, thanks.>>

Something flickered in his eyes before he forced himself to hide it again. Loneliness? Or pain. Certainly it was something that I instinctively felt I understood.

I will have to get to know him better, I decided. I didn't know what he might end up being to me, but we were alike, and, under the circumstances, that might be enough.

Serena

June 8, 2989AD

I laid Rini gently in her cradle, smoothing the pink fuzz that would one day become her hair, and re-fastened the front of my dress. I glanced around the little grey room. I haven't forgotten anything, have I? Wishful thinking. There was nothing here to forget. This was going to be as strightforward as anything magical could get.

I won't be sorry to see the last of this place, I admitted. Bearing my child in the Negaverse, or even here, on the fringes of it, hadn't been in my plans for the year. Or for the millennium. Just my luck.

I picked up the Silver Crystal and cupped it in the palm of my hand. Rini gurgled and reached for it.

"Not yet," I told her. "Your time will come. One day." And *my* time is now. The spell that had speeded the Negaverse through time had been disassembled a few hours ago. The rest was up to me.

There was a knock on the door. I opened it. Molly was waiting outside.

"Are you ready?" she asked. Then she winced, shifted, and lowered her hand to her bulging stomach. I gave her a questioning look. Shaking her head, she said, "Well, they're both healthy -- there's no question about that, the way they've been thrashing around! I think I'll stick to one at a time from now on, if I can. Gods of Darkness, I feel like a blimp!"

She was already the size that I had been a few days before Rini was born, despite having two months yet to go. I hoped that nothing went wrong in the Negaverse between now and then. Burdened as she was, she would be unable to fight, and no one was certain what extensive use of her powers would do to the babies, not even Demantoid.

"Have you chosen names yet?" I asked.

She nodded. "Morganite and Marcasite -- Morgan and Marc, for short." She adjusted the sash of her robe -- uniforms were out of the question until the twins had taken up their own, separate lives -- and held out her hand. My fingers had barely touched it before I felt the cold blackness of a teleport.

We reappeared high in the air, floating roughly level with the top of the Tokyo Tower. Molly let go of my hand and took a step back and to the left to give me a little space. I cupped the Silver Crystal between my palms and raised it to my forehead.

In the moment that the Crystal touched the crown with which my mother had invested me, I could feel the demonic magic which bound the world under its layer of ice. It was cold and spiky and... well... peculiar. Keeping that sensation in my mind, I raised the Crystal over my head, and then imagined the spikes warming and softening and just melting away.

I saw the flash even through the lids of my closed eyes, and, as the counterspell drained my energy, I experienced once again the strange feeling of having wings.

I retained my pose for a few moments even after the spell was complete, not altogether certain that I wanted to open my eyes and see the results of my actions. If I had failed...

"Stop being so worried, Serena! Everything's fine! Look!"

I could not help it. I opened my eyes.

The waters of the harbor had been dyed red and gold by the setting sun. Far below us, the city looked like an anthill that had been overturned, its inhabitants confused by the sudden transition from a winter's afternoon to a summer evening. I sighed and lowered my arms.

"It is -- It's," I corrected myself, forcing the contraction out between clenched teeth -- "done."

"And you're exhausted," Molly observed. "Here, let me take you back to Rini. Then I'll find Darien for you."

Darien. That thought occupied me during the teleport. So strange to think that I actually might see him again, after more than half a year of subjective time spent apart. I'd almost forgotten what it was like to love. Or to hope. Not that things would ever be quite the same between us again. I had changed too much for that.

"Serena?"

I licked my lips. Strange, how they were so dry. I felt like a silly young girl about to go out on her first date.

"Come in," I said.

And then he was there, grinning irrepressibly down at me, enfolding me in his arms. "God, Meatball Head, you look gorgeous. I really like the dress." I was not surprised that he failed to recognize it. He had told me once that he had only the most fragmentary memories of his past incarnation, and he had seen Neo-Queen Serenity only twice, during our original battle with the Doom Phantom.

"Mmmm," I mumbled. It is difficult to talk when you are kissing someone.

Somehow, we staggered over to the cradle together, arms still around each other. Darien smiled as our daughter reached out to grab his finger and drag it towards her mouth. "Hey, there, Rini. How's it going?"

Then Serenity's crown pulsed against my temples, and I had the sudden sensation that I was falling.

Must I? I asked it. He never needed any of them before.

He was never a king before, murmured a voice that I wasn't certain was really there. Darien was not trained for such a responsibility. Endymion was. It is Endymion whose help and support you will need. You must restore his memory, Serenity. It is the only way.

I took a long, long look at his profile, memorizing it. The personality affects the face in so many subtle ways, and when the personality changes...

"Muffin?" I whispered, almost choking on the nickname, as I did on contractions.

"Yes, my love?"

"I am sorry," I whispered, and raised my hands to his temples. It only took a split second to do what I had to do.

"There is no need," he murmured as I lowered my hands again. Looking into his eyes, I saw the same Darien that I had always known, but with an added... depth, I suppose. We had lost nothing, and gained an understanding that could never have existed between the Neo-Queen and just plain Darien.

I sighed, and pressed my face against his chest. Much labor still lay ahead of us. Forging the Earth into a united kingdom would not be easy. But in this moment, my life was perfect, and I was at peace.

Jasper

I was perched on the ice-covered teacher's desk at the front of her classroom when the white light came raining down over the city. It was beautiful, despite the disturbing quality I sensed in it. Demantoid had told me that no one who had willingly served a demon could ever be completely comfortable with the type of power designed to oppose them. Fortunately, it wasn't as though I intended to wield the Silver Crystal myself.

I fell the short distance to desk's surface as the ice evaporated out from under me, and the professor said, "And so --" Then he abruptly fell silent again when he noticed me, and saw the red and gold of the sunset through the windows, and realized that something was wrong. He shuffled over to his jacket, where it hung in the corner, fumbled a bottle out of the pocket, and drank. I didn't blame him. I mean, it isn't every day that you discover that you've lost several hours in the middle of a lecture, and then look up to see a winged man in Negaverse uniform sitting on your desk.

I rose to my feet and strolled casually toward the front row. Just about everyone in the room was staring at me. But the expression on one of those faces was a little different from that worn by the others.

"Jas," Mina hissed as I knelt down beside her seat, "what in hell do you think you're doing? Malachite is going to stir-fry you when he finds out about this!"

"No, he isn't," I replied, not even trying to keep my voice down. "The time for hiding is over. Welcome to the thirtieth century, Sailor Venus."

She went white. "You mean... it happened... and I missed it all? Drat. I'm going to have to talk to Serena about this."

"It wasn't her fault," I said. "Actually, it happened pretty fast, and she wasn't even there. But I'm not just here to provide an information service."

"Then get to the point." She was already gathering her books together. The professor didn't protest. He was still too busy chugging sake.

I remained on my knees. It wasn't exactly the lead-up I'd hoped for when I'd pictured this scene in my mind, but... "Given the timing, you're probably going to accuse me of being crazy, but... Mina, will you marry me?"

"What?!"

The book she had been holding fell to the floor with a thump.

"I know that I'm maybe not exactly what you've been looking for," I continued. "I know that you've always wanted the sort of love that hits like you a lightning strike, the sort of thing that Serena and Darien have, or my parents." The words of the speech that I'd prepared so carefully all these long, lonely months were all forgotten. All I could remember was how I had missed her smile, and the flash of her eyes when she heard a good joke. The laughter we'd shared when she mangled proverbs. "I don't love you that way, Mina, but I think I do love you. In a different way." Gods of Darkness, I must sound like a babbling idiot! "I've missed you, Mina. A lot. And I think I want to spend the rest of your life with you." It had to be her life. The rest of my life was only measurable in centuries.

Finally, I managed to look up again. Are those tears? Why is she crying?

Mina shook her head. "Jasper, you prize idiot -- yes. Yes, of course I'll marry you. I think I've been waiting for years for you to ask, and just never admitted it to myself."

I didn't have a ring. Instead, I kissed her hand, and then, very carefully, her mouth.

"Now we have to get moving," I whispered in her ear, "or Malachite really will have my hide."

Prisma

I think I felt it when the shadow descended over the city. It was only a troubling at the edge of my mind, a residual sensitivity from my own days in the world of magic and war. But I felt it.

And then it melted away again, and I was left wondering if I'd even really felt the transition. But the sudden change in the angle of the lighting showed that something strange had happened.

However, it wasn't until I saw the news that evening that I knew for certain. There were three major stories, all vying for the top of the hour: Neo-Queen Serenity and the revelation of the true identities of the Sailor Scouts, the devastation left behind by the ice spell, and the Negaverse and the work it was putting into organizing and assisting the cleanup effort. I wondered what Serena had offered Malachite in return for that. I didn't suffer from any delusion that he was doing it out of simple charity.

And it wasn't until someone knocked on our door that evening that I knew what else had happened.

I heard Birdy's surprised gasp as she answered the door, and looked up from the magazine that I was reading. I couldn't actually see the person outside -- he was too short, and Birdy was blocking most of the doorway from where I was sitting -- but I could see one white-gloved hand resting against the doorframe, and a bit of the grey sleeve above it. The piping at the wrist was red-violet, and I couldn't recall any General who used that color, but it was obvious what the stranger was.

"What do you want?" Birdy was even more nervous of the Negaverse than I was. It's a good thing Katse isn't here tonight, and that Avery moved out last year.

"I need to speak to Prisma." The voice wasn't one I recognized, either. When Birdy backed away to let me pass, I finally got my first good look at him. Short, with black hair and blind grey eyes. He was smiling gently at me from where he leaned on his staff.

"I'm Prisma," I said. "I'm afraid I don't recognize you, General... ?"

"Cuprite," he supplied. "I reached my present rank only a few days ago. I was asked to deliver this to you." And he held out a folded sheet of paper with his free hand.

Bemused, I took it and unfolded it. A single line of characters straggled across the page. Prisma, go with him, they said. There was no signature, but the handwriting...

I crumpled it in my hand. "Impossible," I whispered. "He's dead." Then, more loudly, "What kind of a sick joke is this?"

"No joke. And what King Malachite would do to me if I tried a stunt like that doesn't bear thinking about. Don't ask me to explain, but Sapphire is in the Negaverse, alive, but still terribly weak. And he wants to talk to you." And the young General extended his hand.

Was this what hope really felt like? This burning pain, this sensation of awakening from a long sleep? For once, I actually enjoyed the familiar coldness of the teleport.

We emerged from the darkness of nowhere into a small room furnished with a bed, a desk, and a wardrobe. There was someone sitting in the desk chair, apparently asleep, his head pillowed on his arms. I forgot to breathe for a moment when I saw that dark blue hair.

Cuprite shook the sleeping man's shoulder, gently, and he yawned and blinked and twisted in his seat to smile at us. I'd despaired of ever seeing that smile again.

"Prisma? I'm sorry, I must have fallen asleep again."

I had frozen. I choked trying to say his name, and then stood rigid, embarrassed, as his smile faded.

"Prisma?" he said again.

I finally managed to get it out. "Oh, Sapphire!" And I threw myself into his arms as he stood up, almost giving us both concussions. I didn't care.

Nothing else mattered as long as we could be together.

Malachite

<<Are you sure you did the right thing by reviving Sapphire?>>

I shrugged and put Diamond's spirit crystal back in its place on the shelf. <<We need more genetic diversity. Given the risks involved in becoming a Crystal Weaver, I don't think we're going to attract many humans, so that means reviving some of the Enclavites. If I want Sapphire to reproduce, I need to pair him with Prisma, and she only has so many childbearing years left. So it was profitable to revive him now instead of waiting.>>

<<Liar,>>Demantoid stated. <<Admit it. You just didn't want to stand in the way of their love.>>

I shrugged again. <<That may have been a secondary consideration, yes.>> I had identified too much with Prisma, perhaps. But I was so familiar with the particular form of slow torture that was living on without the one you loved...

<<It's strange, you know,>> Demantoid mused. <<Your people are so completely different from the way we were. You're so much more... passionate. You love and hate with a ferocity that I don't think I'll ever achieve.>>

Ferocity, yes. "Fierce" was definitely a good way to describe what Zoisite and I shared. And the others? Maybe.

<<It isn't something we chose,>> I replied, and teleported away without waiting for an answer.

<<You're late!>> Zoisite accused as I reappeared in our quarters. <<I've been waiting for you for half an hour!>>

<<I'm sorry.>> I loosened his hair from its accustomed ponytail, running my hands through the bronze-gold curls. <<I had some things to think about.>>

<<Sometimes you do too much thinking.>> He teleported my jacket off, a delicate operation which I myself couldn't reliably perform. Adamant's gold armring, now resized and fitted snugly around my left wrist, gleamed in the light from the globe over the bed. <<Come here, damn it!>>

And I laughed and tumbled with him onto the bed.

Goto Epilogue


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