A Shadow of All Night Falling - Part 2: Hunters of Worlds

Chapter 25

© 2006 by E. Liddell


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Serena

"Ooooooooh... How could she?!"

I was hopping mad, and not for the first time this week. I'd gone to meet Darien on his way home from work, because even though he didn't remember me now, I couldn't stay away from him, but I'd gotten there just in time to see Anne dragging him away, and I'd tried to run after them, but a traffic light had changed at just the wrong moment, and I'd lost them, and now he was with that bitch, and--

And, just at that moment, I tripped over a crack in the sidewalk and fell flat on my face. Never fails to happen whenever I'm thinking about something. Carefully, blinking just enough so that I could see through the tears, I checked to see if I'd scraped myself badly enough to draw blood anywhere, knowing that Mom would kill me if I ruined another school uniform. Then, after having a good cry, I picked myself up and dusted myself off and limped toward a nearby cafe. Maybe a chocolate milkshake would take my mind off all my troubles. I had just enough money...

I made it as far as the doorway before stopping dead. What's she doing here?

The woman sitting over by the window had her back mostly to me, but she couldn't have been anyone but the maybe- General we'd seen Kevin talking to in Raye's fire reading. Not with that hair, and especially not with her jacket tossed across the back of the chair beside the one she was sitting on. She didn't seem to be paying any attention to anything around her.

Hey, maybe this is my chance to get answers to a few of our questions! True, Luna would have said that it was stupid of me to just walk right up to her and ask, but hey, Luna wasn't there.

I strode purposefully across the room to stand behind the chair opposite my quarry.

"Is this seat taken?" I asked.


Almandite

What does it all matter, anyway? I can't do anything to help Jadeite, and I can't get us out of here on my own, and it'sall my fault...

I knew I was being a self-pitying little fool, but just then, I didn't care. Back at the mansion, I'd had to keep up a good front and try to fool Kyanite into believing in my ability and confidence, but I'd come here primarily to cry into my tea, and because I'd reached the point where I just couldn't spend another minute in that empty house without going insane. I'd lived there for decades and raised two children there, but seeing it as it was now, empty of any sign of Nephrite's or my or the twins' lives there, was just another straw added to an already overwhelming burden.

I am a Negaverse General and a Crystal Weaver, I reminded myself, but the words failed to have their usual spine-stiffening effect. I just wasn't used to being alone anymore. I'd spent decades, now, coming home to Nephrite's arms every night, and now I couldn't even feel him...

I've lost something, I realized, staring out the window. Somewhere out there, a girl named Molly Baker was going about her day. Alone, without him, and not realizing that anything was missing from her life. I'd gained so much since then, things that I'd never even imagined having, but I'd also forgotten how not to be half of a pair, or one-seventh of a Weave, at least when it came to working through difficult problems like this. But Jadeite couldn't help me, and Kyanite had no worldly experience of any sort to draw on, and I had to find some way back before Mena Kimlubeniz destroyed everything.

If nothing else, I had to find some way to save my children.

But that just brought me back around to my first problem: Jadeite. I had to cure him before anything else would become possible. Careful sifting had finally led me to believe that he was being subjected to some kind of magical energy drain, but I couldn't tell who was doing it or why. The obvious palliative treatment was to give him massive infusions of energy, but--

"Is this seat taken?"

I glanced up, then shut my eyes. Go away, Serena. So very odd. Thoughts of her had drawn me here, but I had never really wanted to see her again. Neo-Queen Serenity had lived a long and full life, and met her end among friends, with the man she had loved. Not a bad way to die, all things considered. It wasn't really her that I was mourning. No, in typical selfish Negaverse fashion, it was myself, or at least a stage of my life, that I was grieving over. Silly and childish, I told myself. It wasn't like I could ever have gone back. It was just that it was a shock to suddenly have no one to share the memories with.

I squared my shoulders. Enough of this indulgence. I have work to do.

"Actually, I was just leaving," I said.

"But you haven't even finished your tea!"

I shrugged. "The tea was just an excuse. I needed... well, never mind." I scooted my chair back from the table a bit, preparing to get up.

"Please, will you stay for just a few minutes and listen to me?"

I hesitated. I couldn't help it. The memories were just too strong, and it was such a trivial request.

Serena sat down. "Uh... you're from the Negaverse, aren't you?" Her hand went out, seemingly involuntarily, to touch my jacket. I really shouldn't have come in here in uniform, all things considered, especially not in an era when most respectable women still wore skirts, but I had been past caring.

"If that's what you choose to believe." I cursed myself for letting my weariness creep into my voice. All my instincts were telling me that this was a friend that I was talking to, but I knew that in this time period, she wasn't necessarily an ally. That had come later. And I didn't even want to think about the disruptions I had to be causing in the fabric of history. Sailor Pluto was going to be unhappy with me. "Did it ever occur to you that it might not be wise to let me know that you recognized me, Sailor Moon?" Keep her off-balance. Zoisite would have been proud of me, but I just felt disgusted.

"Uh--"

"I didn't think so. I assume Luna is somewhere else, or she would have advised you against this little... misadventure."

Serena flushed. When had I become so gratuitously cruel?

"What's your name?" she asked.

I shrugged. "Call me Almandite. I'm no danger to you or yours, Sailor Moon. Just let me resolve my own problems in peace. The sooner I can do that, the sooner I'll be gone." This time, I did get up from the table, grab my jacket, and toss down a handful of money to pay for my tea.

"I guess so long as you're not stealing people's energy, it's none of my business," Serena said--or, more accurately, mumbled. I think she may have said something else, but I was already walking away.

Outside on the sidewalk, I tried to put the conversation out of my mind and concentrate on more important problems again. Jadeite. Energy. I needed to get energy for him, but there was no way I could filter that much raw magic through my own body, and as for gathering life energy instead--

I froze. As for gathering life energy... Theoretically, there was no reason that I couldn't. Others had... Jadeite, my husband... but... I'd been a victim of those attempts so often that I wasn't sure that I could bring myself to do it. Even if it was the only way to save both universes.

That's hubris, I reminded myself. I don't know that the three of us being present in the future will make any difference at all. We might get back just in time to see everything fall apart. For good. But I have to try.

With a heavy heart, I went in search of a concealing alleyway from which to teleport back. I knew that, unless some inspiration struck very soon indeed, I was going to end up wrestling my conscience into submission and saving my Weavemate's life at an unpleasantly high level of cost to some helpless human, because that was the only way I could see to get us out of our situation, and Negaverse Generals are always ruthlessly practical.

I knew I would do it.

And I hated myself for it.


Serena

Well, that was...

And there I stopped. I couldn't find a word to describe the conversation that had just taken place.

... strange. There. It was weak, but I couldn't come up with anything else.

She knew that I was Sailor Moon, and about Luna. That's not good, is it? And why was she still so naggingly familiar? Actually meeting and talking to her had convinced me more than ever that I had met her somewhere before. Just the expression on her face while she had been telling me how silly I was being...

I glanced down at the money she had dropped on the table. Something wasn't quite right there, either. I fished through five-hundred-yen coins until I found the one I wanted--just a little too small, with a strange blue sheen. It was still too light for its size, though. One side was covered with kanji that I couldn't read (well, past figuring out that the coin was worth a thousand something), and the other showed a woman's head in profile. Not Beryl's head, though, as I might have expected. The person who had posed for this coin was a stranger, although I did like her hairstyle!

I slipped it into my pocket, feeling a bit guilty but nevertheless believing that it was important, somehow. I'd have to ask Amy to have a look at it later. She was probably at cram school or computer class right now, though. Maybe I'd just go to the arcade and play a few games--after I had my milkshake, that was...


Kyanite

I stirred and woke from my half-doze when a hand touched my shoulder.

<<Did you find anything that might help?>> I asked Almandite when she didn't seem inclined to say anything.

She closed her eyes. "I came up with an option, but it's something that's... extremely distasteful... to me. Kyanite, if you don't mind, I think I'd like to be alone for a bit."

I rose from the chair, but as I did so, I waved a hand in Jadeite's direction.

"He only counts if he's conscious," she said. "Go."

I went.

I hadn't really had a chance to explore the house yet. Not that there was much to see. Door after door opened on empty, dusty rooms that didn't appear to ever have been used for much of anything. Or, at least, that was the basement and the ground floor. The upstairs was a bit different.

When I climbed the stairs from the main hall, the door at the top was this huge double thing. If the left side hadn't been a bit ajar, I don't think I could have opened it. As it was, I just managed to squeeze inside, almost scraping the top button of my uniform jacket off.

What the--? I cupped my hand over the button, instinctively protecting my precious uniform from a threat now past, but I was fascinated by the room on the other side of the doors. It was huge, for one thing--far bigger than should have been able to fit into the building, judging from what I'd seen of the outside, but maybe that was just me. The windows were made from colored glass, and I thought that there might be some kind of pattern on the floor, almost completely obscured by the dust and the colored light. And all around me, the feeling of magic, moreso than anywhere else in the building. Magic that plucked at my mind, for some reason.

I stirred up the dust as I walked toward the center of the room, and I think I must have sneezed several times, but I didn't much care and wasn't paying attention. I kept walking until I reached a place that told me, here. Then I stopped. I curved my arms in front of me as though trying to embrace someone or something, and found myself speaking, although I hadn't really meant to form any words.

"The Stars know everything. Powers of the Universe, please grant me your guidance." I didn't know where the words were coming from. They just seemed to appear on my tongue.

The room darkened as though the light outside had been cut off by a sudden solar eclipse, and stars swirled in front of me, motes of light that slowly began to coalesce into an image. I strained. Was that... a dark-skinned hand in a tattered white glove, holding the hilt of a crystal sword? But something wasn't quite right. There was blood on the crystal, so much blood...

The image faded even more quickly than it had appeared, and I was left staring at a shaft of multicolored light that struck the floor near my feet. My father's hand--surely, that dark- skinned adult's hand must have been Malachite's--holding the crystal sword I had seen so briefly before, and blood on the whiteness... I flinched away from the thought. Something had been very, very wrong in that picture.

This must be Nephrite's workroom. I wonder why it answered to me? I thought he was the only one who was supposed to be able to make the spells here work. And had what it shown me been a true vision, or only the unbalanced results of my invoking it incorrectly? I didn't know. I wasn't certain that I wanted to know.

Whose blood had that been?

And why was I so sure that it was mine?

Troubled, I left the house and began to jog down the gravel driveway. I had no intention of actually leaving the hill and entering the city, but I thought it might do me some good to put some distance between myself and my nightmares.

Who am I? Why am I? I know I exist for a reason. Was I put here, in this world, just in order to die?

<<You have a destiny.>>

I groaned. <<Oh, great. I thought you were dead, or something.>>

<<I've been dead for over a thousand years, even in this time. But I cannot leave you until your destiny is fulfilled.>>

<<Damn you, WHAT DESTINY?!>>

<<You will know when the time comes.>>

"Thanks a lot," I said out loud. <<Is there something in particular that you wanted to say to me, or did you just want to chat?>>

<<You must go down into the city. It's important.>>

<<Important to who?>> Damnit, I didn't want to go down into the city! It was loud and bright and full of humans. Nosy humans, if that girl Serena was any indication.

<<To everyone. To the fate of this and every other universe.>>

<<I don't want to be responsible for the fate of the universe! I don't even want a destiny. Someone else can have it, and good riddance. I just want to go home.>> I felt my eyes prickling, and blinked back the tears. Generals aren't supposed to cry.

<<Important to your fathers, as well.>>

And suddenly I couldn't blink hard enough or fast enough anymore. My fathers... I loved them both so very much, even prickly little green-eyed Zoisite. I wanted so very much for them to be proud of me. For them to love me back. I still don't understand what it is that I did wrong, but maybe, if I do what Adamant tells me... maybe it'll make up for it.

<<All right, then,>> I told him. <<I'll go. But it had damned well better be worth it.>>

Goto Chapter 26


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