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

Chapter 40

© 2006 by E. Liddell


Back to Dark Kingdom Home | E.Liddell's DK Stories | Stayka's DK Stories | Other DK Stories


Kunzite

Who are you?

Amber opened her mouth to answer her sister's question.

<<Don't say anything!>> Even though the command wasn't aimed at me, the touch of Zoisite's mind felt like the lash of a thorn whip.

<<And why not? What is it that you don't want her to know?>>

Seeing Zoisite's eyes narrow, transforming his face into a familiar, vicious mask, I decided that I had best intervene before someone got hurt.

<<He doesn't want her to know anything at all,>> I told the blonde woman. <<Why should we give her information? Knowledge is power, and power is survival.>>

She snorted. <<Somehow, I think I'm fortunate that I never lived in your Negaverse. Why shouldn't we tell her who we are? What possible use could the information be to her?>>

<<I don't know, and I think that's what's bothering both of us.>>

Amber bit her lip. <<Still, she's my sister. I can't just...>>

<<I'm your what?>> Beryl asked.

I swore. Of course she had picked up our conversation. Amber hadn't been taking any measures at all to prevent herself from being overheard. I should have noticed that before Beryl had drawn my attention to it, but I had been more focused on--

I grabbed for Zoisite's shoulder as he lunged forward, an ice crystal spear forming in his upraised hand, and barely managed to hold him back. <<No! If nothing else, she might have some value as a hostage. Don't kill her!>>

For a moment, I thought he was going to anyway. Then his hand snapped downward and the spear dissolved. Beryl relaxed slightly, obviously thinking that the crisis had been averted, but I could feel the tension in the muscles under my hand, and knew that Zoisite was still primed to explode.

<<Look, you're supposed to be in charge here,>> I snapped at him privately. <<You can't let yourself lose your temper this way. You have to stay in control.>>

<<Why don't you just take over, since you seem to understand the role of leader so well?>> he snarled back.

<<Because I don't trust myself around her,>> I admitted. <<I... I want her dead for a reason, not just on general principles the way you do.>> I could feel the dull burn of hatred inside me--had been feeling it ever since I had entered the room. Only the knowledge that killing her right here and now would be perilously close to letting her win was helping me keep a rein on my anger. <<After... he died, there wasn't much left in my life that I valued, and she took it all away from me.>> Power, prestige, position. All of them cold comfort when what I had really wanted was a certain person standing beside me, a certain body beside me in bed at night, a certain pair of green eyes looking up at me, softened with love.

Zoisite--this Zoisite--was looking at me with the oddest expression on his face. <<You know, every time I start mistaking you for Malachite, you come up with something like that.>>

<<Like what?>>

<<"I don't trust myself around her." Malachite wouldn't doubt his self-control. You... You're afraid you're going to slip, aren't you?>>

The only reply I could make was a terse nod. Admission of weakness, but then he'd just demonstrated a little vulnerability of his own. That flash-paper temper of his was always leading him into trouble.

I felt the muscles of his shoulder relax slowly under my hand, and relaxed a little myself. Crisis averted. Beryl still flinched visibly when he locked his eyes with hers, though.

"I suggest that, if you want to get back home in one piece, you start giving me reasons why I should leave you alive." Zoisite was almost painfully neutral now. I frowned. I couldn't remember him--the other him--ever using quite that tone of voice.

"I can give you the Negaverse," Beryl said, and her tone of voice was equally as odd, although not in quite the same way.

"Oh? Assuming that we even wanted it, why would you betray your own that way?"

Beryl was silent for quite a while, and I felt Zoisite's shoulder begin to tense up again.

"Because it's the only way to save him," she said at last.


Beryl

I didn't want to be doing this. I really didn't want to be doing this. But if I did... then maybe, just maybe, there was a chance.

"Him?" Zoisite prompted sharply.

"My father." He doesn't believe me. And, to be honest, I didn't really expect him to. Not the Zoisite that I remembered, who had been one hell of a vicious little brute. "I want to get him away from the Negaforce. Help me with that, and you can name your price."

Amber froze for a moment, lips slightly parted as though she wanted to say something, but didn't quite dare. Zoisite's lips thinned, but otherwise he didn't move. I'd been more than half expecting him to slap me across the face and call me a liar.

"You love him," he said at last.

"Yes." A shameful, shameful thing to admit, but I was afraid that this strange mood of his would break if I lied to him.

"And you want to save him."

"Yes." Tears that I didn't dare shed prickled at my eyes.

He and Kunzite looked at each other, and I could feel them conversing privately. Finally, Zoisite turned back towards me.

"Terms," he said. "Not negotiable."

"I understand," I said, and then it sunk in, and I reeled inside. He actually believes me... He's going to...

"Amber and I will help you only if Kunzite agrees to do so as well. You will have to negotiate separately with him for his help. My price is the use of the Imperium Silver Crystal for about ten minutes."

"You're joking," I said flatly. Yes. It has to be a joke. There's no other explanation.

"I don't joke. Not about things like this."

"Funny," I said. "The Zoisite I knew would have considered torturing me that way a wonderful game."

A shiver wracked his entire body for an instant.

"I'm not like that anymore." His voice was tightly controlled. "I'm not like that anymore, and I refuse to ever be like that again. If it's necessary, I'll do it, but I refuse to enjoy it. She enjoyed..." Then his voice cracked, and he stopped without finishing the sentence.

Amber laid a hand on his shoulder. He pushed her roughly away.

<<I don't need your sympathy.>> I honestly don't know whether he never meant to keep the communication private, or whether he forgot that I would be able to listen in. <<Come on. Let's leave and let these two talk this over.>>

Amber followed him towards the door, but she stopped before stepping outside, and looked at me. <<Good luck.>>

<<Thank you,>> I replied numbly.

For a fraction of an instant, I could almost feel a fragile emotional link binding the two of us. Sister... Then she turned away, and it snapped. I sighed in vague regret.

"Name your price for your help," I said to Kunzite.


Amber

We'd been waiting outside for several minutes before I finally gathered the courage to speak to Zoisite again.

"So why did you agree to help her?"

"I don't know." His emotional state, sensed along the Weavelink, was a whirlpool of contradictory feelings. "Given the choice, I'd really prefer to bash her face in--it's difficult for me to remember that it isn't her, the other Beryl... but nothing here is quite the same, is it?"

No, it isn't...

I swallowed, and then blurted out a question that had been on my mind for quite a while now. "Exactly what did the other Beryl--my sister--do to you?"

He shuddered. "Well, let's just say that I would have much preferred to be raped."

"Oh," I said in a small voice.

"The only reason that I was able to work with her afterwards," Zoisite said slowly, "was that I didn't remember what had happened, or much of anything that had happened before it, either. The humans have words for such things these days, but I've never studied them. Malachite... nursed me. For the better part of a century. Without him, I would have died. I sometimes wonder why he bothered."

Now, there was a stupid thing to say if I had ever heard one. "Because he loves you, of course."

"Does he? I wonder about that sometimes, too."

And that was just too much.

<<Don't be an idiot!>> I exploded at him. <<Of course he loves you. I only hope that Jadeite feels half so strongly about me, when we've been together as long as the two of you have. And I may not have my husband's skills of observation, but I would say that you love Malachite right back, or whatever lovers' quarrel you had before we left wouldn't have you in such a twist. Furthermore, you have to get over it. We're in big, big trouble here, in case you hadn't noticed, and we don't have time for you to sit around and brood, or wander off on your own and slaughter poor defenseless youma for the crime of being in the wrong place at the wrong time! I'll be the first to admit that I've never really liked you, or vice-versa, but you've been one of my teachers, and I respect you. You're supposed to be in charge here, and I know you're capable of being a good leader... when you're not being bull-headed and petty and holding onto a grudge until it dies of old age. I know you can rise above this. Please. Prove me right.>>

And then, having run down, I bit my lower lip hard enough to draw blood--although, granted, when you have fangs, that isn't all that hard. I was afraid that I'd gone too far. Zoisite... is not a good person to push. Apply too much pressure to him, and he tends to lash out at you.

He does it to protect himself, Amber. He's really quite fragile, deep down inside, and he's been badly hurt. Malachite is the only one that he really trusts. The rest of us, even Nephrite and I... He can never be absolutely sure that we wouldn't try to turn on him, because there was a time in our lives when we would have done just that, and you and Alex and Almandite are all too close to us for him to consider you safe. Maybe some day he'll heal. I hope. Because he used to be quite a different person. Oh, I don't mean that he hasn't always been hot- tempered and prickly, but he used to have this sort of wit--vicious, but funny--and every so often, when he got really absorbed in whatever he was doing, you would get these elusive little flashes of something glorious from his mind... It's difficult to describe. But I miss the person that he used to be, when the five of us were young together.

Or, at least, that's what Jadeite had told me when I had asked him, late one night, how he could stand having such an arrogant, bad-tempered, bloodthirsty, cruel, misogynistic little jerk sharing the inside of his head with him, much less love our green-eyed Weavemate the way I knew he did. Weavemates are supposed to be closer than siblings, it's true, but I'd never wanted to be within arm's length of Zoisite, and it was difficult to understand how my husband could, in fact, treat the little man like a brother. After he'd told me all that, though, I'd tried to make a few allowances for Zoisite, to meet him halfway wherever I could. In some ways, I'd even succeeded, but...

<<Are you crying?>> I asked, incredulous. I couldn't remember ever seeing him do that before. Or at least, no like this. Not with his face contorted and water running down it, without any attempt on his part to hide it. Not with his shoulders slumped in total defeat.

<<He doesn't love me.>> The words were lifted on a wave of despair, and I stared at him, frightened. Was he losing his mind? And if so, what was I going to do? I couldn't find my way home again even if Kunzite agreed to help us into the Timestream in the absence of his promised reward... <<How can he love me? How could anyone? Why would he want to waste his love--and you your respect--on a broken thing like me? I'm weak... Shattered inside... Worthless. Completely worthless. Of course he abandoned me the moment he found someone better. Kyanite isn't broken. He's strong, despite everything he's been through in the few short days that he's been alive. Malachite deserves someone strong to love, and to love him. And I... I don't...>>

Alex was right in saying that he had a heart of glass hidden under all that nastiness, I realized, and now it's broken. Poor thing. The question is, what can I say that won't make him even worse?

<<You are not worthless.>> I didn't mean to let my irritation leak through, but it did anyway. <<You're a brilliant theoretical sorcerer, for one thing, and a pretty damned skilled warrior, for another. That's two good, important, and worthwhile things that I, for one, am not. For the gods' sakes, Zoisite, just because someone special to you has developed feelings--and not even romantic ones!--for someone else doesn't mean that everything you've achieved, everything you are, has any less value than it did before. I understand that you love Malachite, but you can't define your entire life according to what he's going to think of what you do.>>


Zoisite

How long had I been so close to the edge? How long had I been so empty, so needy, that a few simple words from a person that I had long ago convinced myself that I disliked were able to push me over into hysteria?

--I respect you.

That was all it had taken to make me start crying like a child.

--I know you're capable of being a good leader... I know you can rise above this. Please. Prove me right.

From somewhere far away, I could hear myself babbling, mind-to-mind, pouring out grief and confusion and fear and petty jealousy and I knew not what, but all the important parts of me were stunned, trying to make sense of what Amber had just told me.

I'm just not used to having people other than Malachite believe in me, I guess. It was... Well. Have you ever had to do something that forced you to wedge yourself into a confined space for an hour or more? Do you remember how it felt when you finally had a chance to get out and stretch? It was a bit like that.

How could I have been so wrong about so much?

I felt my mouth twist up into a crooked smile as I reached up to wipe the tears off my face.

<<Feeling better now?>> Amber asked.

I shrugged, but forced myself to add, <<I'm sorry you had to see that. It was... inappropriate.>> Yes, that was probably the best word, although if she had been a youma, I would have chosen a different one.

<<Nonsense. You're my Weavemate. If you and I can't trust each other, then who can we trust?>> And she favoured me with a quick smile.

<<No one, I suppose.>> Truth? Falsehood? I wasn't certain myself.

<<And... >>

<<Yes?>> I prompted.

<<Thank you for agreeing to help Beryl. I don't know why--I know she isn't even really my sister--but it's important to me.>>

I shrugged. <<Oddly enough, helping her represents what I think is our best chance of getting out of here in one piece. And... I know what it's like, to love someone and want to save them.>> I looked down, not wanting to meet her eyes.

<<Zoisite... Do you think we're going to see my fa--Onyx?>>

So that's what this is really all about. <<Your father is dead, Amber. The Onyx of this universe is no more your father than Kunzite is my Malachite.>>

She sighed. <<I know that. But... I don't know if you realize how difficult it is not to have seen him die, except through Jadeite's memories. I mean, there wasn't even a body... Somewhere deep down inside, I suppose I still don't entirely believe that he's gone. It's as though he's still just missing, the way he has been since I was a little girl. There's no... no closure.>>

<<I didn't have a chance to say to him everything that I wanted to, either,>> I admitted. <<In a very real sense, he was a father to all of us. Without him, we would never have become what we are. But Alex came back to us. Maybe your father will, too.>>

<<I don't think so. If he'd been meaning to do that, wouldn't it have already happened?>> But she smiled.

Impulsively, I turned and hugged her. <<Even if he doesn't come back, you still aren't alone.>>

She wrapped her arms around my waist for a moment and pressed her cheek against mine. <<Same goes for you,>> she stated. <<Stop hiding inside that prickly shell of yours. It's a waste.>>

<<Well, now, isn't this touching.>>

I jerked away from Amber as though she had burned me. Absorbed as I had been in our conversation, I hadn't heard the door open, and I was not pleased that Beryl had managed to surprise me. However, I ignored her, turning to Kunzite instead.

<<I take it that the two of you have come to an agreement,>> I stated.

<<That's right.>> Kunzite's single eye was almost glowing with intensity. What had the two of them said to each other in there?

<<Then we have some planning to do.>> Absently, I tugged the hem of my jacket straight.

<<Actually, I already have a plan,>> Kunzite stated. <<However, I know you're not going to like it.>>

Goto Interlude X


Back to Dark Kingdom Home | E.Liddell's DK Stories | Stayka's DK Stories | Other DK Stories


This page belongs to Stayka's Dark Kingdom Home at http://www.dark-kingdom.de

© by E. Liddell - Email: eliddell@despammed.com

Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!