The Wars of Light and Shadow - All Darkness Met
by E. Liddell

Chapter 2

* * * * * * * *

The Ancient

So, one of the creatures called "youma" had fallen into my trap. Excellent. I couldn't have waited much longer in any case. Although the Eternal Light had grudgingly led me to a source of water, there wasn't much here that I would consider to be even remotely edible. My power alone kept me going on such a meager diet, and even that would eventually fail to be able to sustain me.

I checked the gender of the youma as best I could without untangling it from the net. Although I understood the females to be far more common than the males, it paid to be certain, especially in an operation so delicate as this.

It took me six blows to render the creature unconscious, with it staring murderously at me all the while. This damnable flesh was so easily weakened! But eventually I had it.

I untangled the creature from the net and laid it out on its back on the floor. Now came the most delicate part of all.

The green crystal was warm and eager in my hand as I placed it against the creature's forehead. I cupped my hands over it and closed my eyes. Search for the life within both, and push the one through to displace the other, the Eternal Light had told me. Lacking the instincts of a Weaver to guide me, all I could do was follow its advice and hope for the best.

The life force within the crystal was much stronger than the youma's, but both were somehow warped by an outside force which I almost recognized. Malachite, I realized. Those of his Weave bear this signature. What did it mean? Hopefully Beryl would be able to tell me.

Now, push. I still didn't really understand what I was doing, but I tried to force Beryl's essence toward the youma's. It resisted, as though held back by an elastic barrier. Thwarted, I pushed harder, knowing that something would have to give and hoping that it wouldn't be me, or Beryl.

Suddenly, the barrier vanished, and I was through. Beryl immediately forced both me and the youma out. I was rocked back on my heels by the force of her power. How is that possible? The Eternal Light said she would be weak . . . Ah, I see. This is coming from outside of her. But I could not identify the source, except to say that it was the same entity whose twisted signature I had noted earlier.

I sat cross-legged beside her and watched as the single horn the youma had borne on its forehead shrank and disappeared and the contours of her body rearranged themselves. So this is Beryl. I had never been much concerned with human appearances, but she was . . . interesting. It was something about that bright red hair . . . so soft under my hand when I reached out to run my fingers through it . . .

Her eyes flickered open. "Who are you? What am I doing here?"

I shrugged. When did I start picking up human body language? "You were dead. I don't know for exactly how long. I just finished resurrecting you."

"Who are you?" she repeated.

"It's a little difficult to explain. My kind don't have names." For the first time in my existence, I felt a little ashamed about that.

"Your 'kind?'" she echoed, eyes narrowing.

"Empyrean." I sighed. "Or I was."

She jerked away from me, then stopped and smiled slowly. "And what are you doing in my Negaverse, Empyrean?"

"I don't know. I was injured and thrown off the edge of a roof during a fight in the human world. I woke up here afterwards." Negaverse. So I at least have a name for this place now.

"Help me up," Beryl demanded, extending her hand. I rose to my feet, took it, and pulled. She rose, swaying for balance. I had this odd impulse to put my arm around her. After a moment, I did. It made me somehow uncomfortable that she was several inches taller than I was.

"Why did you revive me, Empyrean?" She had her spirit crystal in her hand now, and was staring at it as though she didn't recognize it.

"Because you know the ways of this place and I don't. As you can see, this useless body of mine is on the verge of starving to death."

Beryl smiled, showing a pair of nastily sharp little fangs. "I think that can be remedied, but there are other matters to attend to first. I must see what has become of the Negaforce. Come." She shook my arm away and strode off down the corridor. I had to hurry to keep up.

Our path wound gradually downward, into what I could only assume was the core of her kingdom. Finally we emerged into a room whose floor looked vaguely like the lower jaw of some great beast. At the very tip of the jaw stood a dark pillar interrupted midway up by a shattered globe. Beryl went to examine it.

"So, my Queen, you have returned." The voice was nowhere and everywhere at once. It reminded me of something --the Eternal Light? How was that possible? They were complete opposites!

Beryl went down on one knee. "I am here, my Master."

"You have severely weakened me by your incompetence! I require energy, Beryl, and soon!"

"I will do what I can, mighty Negaforce, but most of my servants are dead."

#Help her!#

Well, they do seem to have identical temperaments, I reflected wryly. With the Eternal Light's command still ringing in my mind, I went forward to kneel beside Beryl, wincing as shards of the broken globe cut into my knees. "Lord, with your permission, I would like to assist the Queen," I said to the strange sourceless voice, ignoring Beryl's stare.

A thin tongue of blackness reached out to wrap around me. "You have power, but it is of a form foreign to me. Why should I trust you?"

"It was he who revived me, my Master." I hadn't expected Beryl to come to my defense.

"And you will accept his help?"

"As you wish, my Master." Beryl bowed her head.

"And you, stranger, will you serve me?"

#Tell it 'yes'.#

"I will serve you," I said obediently.

"Excellent." The blackness wrapped around me spread, sliding inside my body. I choked back a scream. It's so cold . . . My mind and body were being twisted, wrung in the hand of that incredible dark power, with blackness invading into the heart of me, where there had previously been only light. Darkness transformed even the fraction of the Eternal Light's power that had been imprisoned with me inside this mortal shell into something I could scarcely recognize. And there was some sort of resonance between the two, the light sucking in more and more darkness until I thought I was going blind.

When the darkness thinned, leaving me still kneeling on the ground beside Beryl, I felt light-headed, but not with relief. I could tell that my powers had been drastically amplified by what I had just undergone.

"Take good care of him, Beryl. He is your equal in every way--and perhaps your superior in intelligence! Now, bring me some energy!"

"At once, my Master." Beryl rose and backed away from the column. I copied her, wondering precisely what had just happened and why the Eternal Light had told me to do this.

#We require the alliance if we are to overcome the Crystal Weavers.# The words stung, burning some part of me that was now only darkness and would not accept the light. I have become so incredibly debased . . .

"You are a fool, Empyrean . . . I can't just go on calling you that," Beryl said once we were outside the Negaforce's room.

"I'm surprised that you retain a trait so human as the desire to name things. Call me whatever you wish, it makes no difference to me."

She stopped walking and turned to face me. "Citrine," she decided at last. "I will call you Citrine. May you be of more service to me than your predecessors."

"Service? To you? Your Master called us equals."

"Your Master now as well," she reminded me sharply. "And regardless of your powers, you still have a great deal to learn. I am mistress here."

"Has anyone ever told you that you're beautiful when you're angry?" I spoke the meaningless human platitude mainly to disconcert her, and succeeded beyond my wildest imaginings.

Beryl's eyes glowed as she glared at me. "You are even worse than that worthless fool Malachite!"

"Malachite never understood the meaning of evil," I said, smiling crookedly. I should have realized that he came from here the moment that Negaforce thing touched me. Perhaps she knows of a weakness of his that we can exploit. "He and his Weave are soft. They favor the humans."

"Malachite is dead!" Beryl snarled.

I laughed. "About as much so as you are!" I shouted back, ignoring the wind that was whipping around us. "Your father resurrected him. Apparently there was some affection between them. No, Malachite is very much alive."

"Alive . . ." Beryl hissed. Her eyes stopped glowing, and the wind died. Then she began to laugh. "Alive! So I will be able to kill him myself after all! Excellent!"

She raised her hands in invocation, and the corridor shimmered around us. The sumptuously appointed room we were now in had suffered from a period of neglect. Beryl frowned when she was forced to dust off the seat of a chair before sitting in it. I just sat, ignoring the dust.

"Do you know how to collect human life energy?" she asked suddenly.

"Actually, yes. We needed it for certain mechanisms we used." And to reproduce, although I didn't tell her that. Without anyone to feed them, the few immature Empyrean who had been in the nursery when I had . . . left . . . would long since have starved to death. The last of our race. Gone. If I had allowed myself to think about it, my weak, useless body would have burst into tears. "Although I suspect our operations were not even nearly on the scale of yours."

Beryl smiled, showing those fangs again. "Excellent. I can tell that this is going to be the start of a wonderful relationship. Now. You are going to need food and clothing and a place to sleep. It would probably be best if you took Prince Endymion's former quarters." She nodded toward a door in the far wall. "I will see if I can round up some of the youma and put them back to work while you clean yourself up. Then we will see about gathering energy."

I wrinkled my nose. Smells were another unpleasant thing about being human, and I could smell myself all too well. I hadn't had water or power to waste on cleaning myself up since I had dropped into the Negaverse. I rose and strolled casually toward the door.

The room I found on the other side contained only a narrow, unmade bed and a few shelves bolted to one wall. A second door on the other side opened into something resembling what the humans call a "bathroom". After a close examination of the fixtures, I was able to draw some greenish water and wash off the worst of the grime that clung to me. I also, for only the third time since I had become embodied, wielded that item termed a "razor". I discarded the rags that were all that were left of the pair of shorts I had been wearing during that fateful battle with Malachite and padded back out into the main room, looking for something to wear. High on one of the shelves, I discovered a pile of folded grey cloth. Shaking it out produced a pair of red-piped trousers with ripped knees and a jacket with some sort of stain--blood?--all over the front panel. But I couldn't afford to be choosy. I put them on anyway. One of Malachite's Weave was wearing these colors . . . These must have been his quarters before.

I wasn't sure I looked any more respectable when I returned to Beryl's room, but at least I was better covered. The jacket itched, but then I had never worn any sort of upper-body covering before.

"Marginally more respectable, Citrine," Beryl said from where she was still lounging in her chair, "but not satisfactory as a fashion statement. Allow me." The cloth crawled over my arms and legs, some of it slithering down over my bare feet and hardening into leather. "Much better." Jacket and trousers were now trimmed in black, and I thought I might also have some sort of shirt on under the jacket. "Now, to business." From somewhere, she had produced a decanter and a pair of glasses, which she placed on the table. After a moment, I understood what she wanted me to do, and poured for both of us. A gulp of the liquid went straight to my head, and I decided to be more prudent with it henceforth. "I have assembled some of the remaining youma. They are not especially tractable, but I suggest that you take one with you on your expedition to Earth. If nothing else, it may provide a distraction for our enemies."

I nodded. Hers was the greater experience in this matter, and it was best that I follow her lead. For the present.

"We must also consider replenishing the ranks of youma with freshly transformed arrivals from Earth. Unfortunately, snatching humans will be out of the question for quite some time, which means that we will have to make do with animals."

"I'm not so certain about that." I sipped from my glass, understanding why the humans involved food in so many of their social rituals. It gave them something to do with their hands. "There are humans out there who are ignored by their fellows and will not be missed. Although we will not be able to take many, we can certainly select a few likely individuals and bring them here."

My suggestion was rewarded with Beryl's razor-sharp smile. "I like the way you think, Citrine. Very well. I place the matter in your hands."

I bent my head for a moment in acknowledgment, then asked, "When do you suggest I start?"

"Immediately, if possible. The Negaforce does not like to be kept waiting. Nor do I."

I set my glass aside. "Then show me how to reach the human world from here, and I will begin." And find some decent food, I told my growling stomach.

Teleporting to Earth from the Negaverse required a peculiar twist of thought that I could not have understood or mastered before I had been touched by the Negaforce. I emerged just above a rooftop that provided an excellent view of the darkened city of Tokyo. Beryl had told me that something in the force that bound the two worlds together distorted any attempt at teleportation between the two and forced the teleporter to emerge in the city or its environs, so I wasn't surprised to be here. Energy. I need a concentration of human life energy. That one there will do.

Another teleport, and I stood in the shadowy back room of a bar. I was separated from the human occupants only by a flimsy door.

"Go out there and do your work, Elis," I ordered the youma I had brought with me. The slender, childlike, androgynous creature had seemed the least annoying choice from among the helpers Beryl had offered me, possibly because she was the only one that had been shorter than I was.

"At once, Lord Citrine." Her body melted and flowed, and after a moment I would almost have thought I was sharing this storage closet with a petite but well-proportioned human female. She opened the door and slipped outside. I perched on an overturned bucket and waited.

It took her some ten minutes, but I wasn't complaining. Someone had left a box of granola bars in here, and I took the opportunity to wolf down the first solid food I had seen in days as the sounds of human revelry outside gradually faded.

The door opened and shut again, revealing Elis in her natural form with a ball of gleaming light cupped in her hands. "It all went precisely as you predicted, my lord," she said, giving the stored life energy over to me. "The humans were so entranced with the display I was providing that they were unaware of the energy drain."

Perhaps I understood the humans better than I had thought. In any case, I thought as I prepared to reverse the path that had brought us here and return us to the Negaverse, it appears that I have made a good beginning. Beryl will be pleased.

* * * * * * * *


I smiled up at Nephrite as the music for that particular dance drew to a close. "Could we sit down for a while? My feet are getting a bit tired."

"Whatever you like." He smiled back at me--a genuine smile, tentative and weary in equal parts--and led me over to the bar. I let him order for me and turned back to watch the other dancers as the music started again.

A year earlier, I would never have been allowed inside such a place as this club, much though I would have liked to be. And now that no one was looking twice at me--except a few men appreciating my appearance or a few women envying me my escort-- I wished I could be young enough to be stopped at the door again. I can't bring myself to believe I belong in such places. Perhaps that's because I don't, really. Whenever I try to pretend that I'm a normal adult living a normal adult life, I feel like a child playing dress-up.

Nephrite turned to follow my gaze. "There was a time," he mused aloud, "when I would only have sneered at them and tried to plot the best way to gather their energy for Beryl. Now . . . I almost envy them, I suppose. Humans do seem to lead such easy lives."

"Please don't," I said. "You know how it bothers me when you talk about them that way." It bothers me to be reminded that he is not human. Nor, truly, am I, any longer.

"You're the one who just said 'them'," he pointed out gently.

I turned away, back toward the bar. "I know." Catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror above, I shivered and quickly looked down again. I wonder if I'll ever get used to that. The woman in the mirror was beautiful, but I still didn't feel that she was me. Whenever I pictured myself in my mind's eye, I saw a girl of fourteen with shoulder-length red hair and large blue-green eyes. An innocent. I didn't see this grown-up stranger with waist-length hair and yellow eyes which reflected the faint cynicism of her smile. I still saw myself as Molly Baker, not as Almandite.

"What's the saying? A penny for your thoughts?" His hand closed gently over mine. I looked up into Nephrite's blue eyes and tried to smile, but my heart wasn't in it. For this man, I had given up my family, my friends . . . my entire life up until only a few months ago. I had thought that all I wanted in this world was to be with him. But it wasn't quite enough. Wishes never turn out like you think they will.

"I was thinking that we should have invited Malachite and Zoisite to come with us," I lied. Lying was something that Molly Baker had almost never done. Almandite did it often.

"They said they had something to do. Anyway, this is our night. That's what you said you wanted when you persuaded me to come here."

"I suppose . . ." I shifted, moving sideways toward him on the bar stool. Balancing a bit precariously, he managed to put an arm around me.

I forced myself to look up, to study the eyes of my reflection again. Was the darkness there because I had died? I didn't think that was it, but how could I know?

Dying really hadn't felt like much. Pain, then the sudden cessation of pain. And darkness. I hadn't been aware of time passing. I didn't see the tunnel of light that you always hear about, or float up out of my body, or watch my life flash in front of my eyes. There was only an interval of darkness, which had seemed to last only a few seconds. But I had woken up two months later in a stranger's body, with everyone I had known believing I was dead.

Malachite had said that I was better off that way. But then Malachite was a bit of a cynic.

<<Is something wrong?>> Nephrite was being gentle and solicitous again. It isn't a face he shows to many people, even those who know him well. He's still worried that Zoisite would consider it a weakness to exploit. Myself, I doubt he would. Although still hot-tempered, Zoisite long ago ceased to be pointlessly spiteful.

"I think I've had enough," I said aloud. "Let's go home." What I really wanted was to go home, back to my own little room in my mother's apartment, not to the grey mansion perched halfway up a not-quite-there hill on the other side of the city. But I had given that up forever one night in an alley not far from here.

"If you're sure that's what you want." He tossed some yen down on the bar to pay for our untouched drinks and guided me gently out into the night.

The street outside was a busy thoroughfare, populated even at this time of night, so we couldn't teleport home directly. We would have to find some darker and more sheltered place first, unless we wanted to tamper with the memories of all the passers-by, and that would have been foolish. Flagrant use of our powers is not the way to seek acceptance in the ordinary human world.

We were rounding a corner, entering the mouth of the alleyway that ran back along the side of the club, when Nephrite suddenly stopped in his tracks.

<<What is it?>> I didn't bother to ask aloud, suspecting that I wouldn't be able to attract his attention sufficiently to make him answer me.

<<Don't you feel it? Dark power . . .>>

Now that he mentioned it, I could. Someone or something was in the club. Something with power. And I didn't think I would like what it was doing.

<<We should try to stop it.>>

<<No!>> His hand closed on my shoulder, preventing any move on my part. <<The signature is familiar to me, even if it isn't to you. Whatever is in there is from the Negaverse.>>

<<What? I thought you said it was empty! Destroyed!>>

He shook his head. <<We thought it was. All we ever saw the few times we went back were a handful of youma, not really worth our notice. But whatever is in there is far more powerful than any youma. We have to tell the others.>>

<<But what about the people in there?>>

<<I doubt they're in any serious danger. This feels like it's probably a standard energy-gathering expedition. The worst it can do is land a few of them in the hospital for a few days. Now, come on!>>

There wasn't time now to worry about what the people on the street might or might not see. We teleported together, arriving in the hallway outside Malachite and Zoisite's room in seconds. Nephrite pounded on the door.

"Just a moment." We had to wait another thirty seconds before the door opened and a head of disheveled white hair poked itself out. "What is it?" Malachite was dressed only in a pair of grey trousers, and it was fairly obvious what he and Zoisite had just been doing.

Malachite's frown of irritation deepened into a frown of worry as Nephrite told him what we had sensed downtown. "If that's true, then you shouldn't have wasted time coming back here."

Nephrite glared at him. "It isn't my fault you didn't hear me when I called you!"

"Stop it," I said. "This isn't helping anything."

"You're . . . right," Malachite admitted, sounding as though it hurt him to do so. "Give us a few minutes to get dressed and we'll go back with you."

Ten minutes later, we were all in that alley. Malachite seemed to be listening for something the rest of us couldn't hear.

"Shouldn't we go inside?" I suggested.

"Yes, but not by the front. Although whatever power Nephrite sensed seems to be gone, the door could still be watched. Do you remember what the inside looked like? I don't think anyone in there is likely to be conscious, so teleporting shouldn't be much of a risk."

Nephrite had vanished inside before Malachite had finished speaking. The rest of us shrugged and followed him.

Inside, the lights were still on and the music was still blaring from the sound system, but the people who had been drinking and dancing there were sprawled out on the floor in a way I found altogether too familiar. There had been a time when I ended up in that position myself just about every other day. I checked the pulse of a young man who was sprawled against the bar. Sluggish and slow, but he was alive.

"It seems fairly obvious what happened here," Malachite said at last. "It's probably just as well, Nephrite, that you and Almandite didn't interfere. If this is the work of our former colleagues in the Negaverse, we have nothing to gain by revealing ourselves to them--and everything to lose." He absently reached over to Zoisite, who was standing nearby, and smoothed a lock of hair back off his lover's forehead.

"I still think we should have tried to stop them." Maybe it was just that I had been a victim of this sort of thing for far too long myself, but I couldn't share Malachite's callous attitude.

"Are we supposed to be heroes?" Zoisite asked. "This isn't our job and it isn't our business. We're best off staying away." I couldn't blame him for feeling that way. Zoisite had lost more to the Negaverse than anyone except possible Jadeite, and he'd be a fool if he wanted to risk his life and sanity again.

"I'm still going to call an ambulance," I said firmly. And there's someone else who should know about this, too.

"All right, but make it quick. And get out of here before they get there." Malachite and Zoisite disappeared together. I looked at Nephrite. He looked at me.

"Why don't you go back home and wait for me?" I asked him. "I won't be long." And if I'm going to do what I think I'm going to do, I don't want you as a witness. This is going to be hard enough if I do it alone.

I know he was suspicious. He gave me a sidelong look before saying, "If that's what you really want," and teleporting away.

I went into the back room to find a phone. My mind wandered as I placed the call, and it took me a few extra seconds to remember which street I was on, and what the name of the club was. After I hung up, I teleported to a rooftop nearby and watched until the ambulances got there. All right, that's done. Now for the other. It was after eleven, so she would be at home in bed.

A thought transformed the dress I was wearing into the yellow-trimmed grey uniform of a Negaverse general. Best to keep this as official as possible. Hmmm. If Beryl really is back, maybe we'd better look into getting something different in the way of clothing . . . I straightened the collar, brushed a few escaping long hairs back into place behind my ear, and teleported again.

I had never been in her bedroom so late at night. On the one or two occasions we had arranged sleepovers, she had always come to my home, not I to hers. Fortunately, she was sleeping with the window open, and the moonlight was bright enough to show her and the cat sprawled out on the bed. Cat first. I used a little of my power to deepen the animal's sleep. I didn't need it making any kind of noise--not that anyone would probably notice it over the snoring of its mistress.

I clamped a hand over the girl's mouth. The snores became more muffled, but otherwise nothing changed. Now . . . I shook her shoulder. Hard. She muttered something I couldn't quite make out and shifted position. I stared at her in bemused exasperation, then carefully shifted the cat to the bedside table and yanked the blankets off the sleeper.

That managed to wake her up. I clamped my hand down harder to muffle her shriek of surprise.

"I'm not here to hurt you," I whispered. "Now, if I take my hand away, will you promise not to do anything stupid?"

She stared at me with wide blue eyes and nodded. I lifted my hand away.

"Who are you?" she whispered, demonstrating at least a little presence of mind. I hadn't expected that from her, but then, I remembered her mostly as my friend, and the worst flake to ever grace the classrooms of Crossroads Junior High.

"You can call me Almandite. I have a message for you from Malachite, Sailor Moon." It was only a marginal lie.

"Do you mind if I turn a light on? I really don't like talking to people I can't see."

"Draw the curtains first," was all I said. There was little chance that she would recognize me.

She shut the window, then flicked the light switch. "Molly?"

I gritted my teeth and forced myself not to step backward. "It's good to see you again, Serena."

"What happened to you?" She looked like she was about to cry. Or something.

"I died." Although that wasn't the heart of the matter, I suspected it would make an excellent conversation stopper. And it did. "But much as I'd like to renew our acquaintance, I'm here on Sailor business, not a social call."

Serena nodded, wide blue eyes still staring.

I sat down on the end of the bed. "There was a disturbance in the city tonight. Malachite and Nephrite think it's the Negaverse."

"But I thought--"

"We aren't working for them any longer, no. In fact, it could be really hard on the five of us if they found out that the others were still alive. Malachite wants to lie low and not interfere, in the hope that we'll be ignored. But I thought that since fighting things like this is your job, you should have as much warning as we could give you."

"I . . . Thanks, Mol," Serena said. I couldn't help but notice that she was accepting the changes in me far better than I did myself.

"I'd better be getting back," I said. "Nephrite will be waiting for me."

"At this hour of the night?"

I gave Serena a long, level look. "Believe me, he'll be waiting."

She must have figured out what I meant, because she blushed. I had long since ceased being embarrassed about any of it. I might not have been as adult as my body made me look, but I hadn't really been a child since I had become a Crystal Weaver.

"Molly, does your mother . . . I mean, have you been to see her?"

I sighed. "No, and I won't ever be able to again. Serena, she thinks I'm dead. Permanently dead. The others deliberately left my body behind to be found so that no one would ever think of looking for me anywhere but in a coffin. I wouldn't have wanted it this way if I had been able to choose, but what's done is done. The only thing I can ever be to my mother is a stranger."

"I'm sorry." Serena turned those luminous blue eyes toward me.

"Don't be. I chose." That had become my mantra. I chose. This was the fate I selected for myself. Perhaps I would even come to believe it one day. "I thought that what Nephrite and I had was more important than what my mother and I had. I don't know if I was right or wrong, but it's too late to change things. Molly Baker is dead. Almandite is all that is left, now."

I stood up and took a step away from the bed. Yellow sparks gathered around me as I wished myself back in Nephrite's arms. I needed him so much just then . . .

"That took you longer than I would have expected." He was sitting up in bed, flipping the blankets back on the opposite side as I divested myself of the grey uniform.

"I had another errand to run," I replied as I slipped in beside him.

"To the Sailor Scouts?"

I froze. "How did you know?"

"It was obvious that you'd want to tell them. Even Malachite must have figured that out. You're . . . much more human than the rest of us. It stood to reason that you'd want to help them."

I snuggled up against his side. The touch of his fever- warm skin was comforting. "Then you're not angry."

"Of course not. One little warning won't hurt anything. It may even help. You're going to have to learn to be more devious, my love."

We . . . cuddled for a few minutes.

"What about Jadeite?" it suddenly occurred to me to ask.

"Malachite's trying to locate him right now, to Zoisite's no doubt considerable dismay. We'll find some way of warning him. Don't worry. Anyway, he isn't in the city, which ought to make him less accessible to Beryl."

And we went back to trying to keep each others' minds off the situation.

* * * * * * * *


I gritted my teeth and made one more attempt to claw through the walls that barred me from Jadeite's mind. I had decided that if I failed this time, I would give up. Member of my Weave or no, the blonde man had become a self-absorbed, drunken fool by the time he left, and I wasn't about to waste my time and energy on saving such a creature.

Just as I was about to admit failure, the blockages relaxed a little. Perhaps he had gone to sleep, or something. In any case, I knew his location. He had fled halfway around the world. And his emotional state was a bit different than it had been when he left. I hoped that meant he was finally beginning to heal. We needed him stable and sane.

I might have tried to deposit a message in his mind, but decided that the effort required would be too great for too little return. Now that we knew the general area, Nephrite could take over the search in the morning.

Beryl. The thought that she might be back left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I was--although I would never dare admit it to anyone but Zoisite--afraid. She had already defeated us once, and what we had suffered at her hands then would likely be as nothing compared to what she would do if she caught up with us again. But I also hated, and the depth of that feeling shocked me. It would be so satisfying to see her life drain away under my hands . . .

No. I had to think of the others. Attacking Beryl couldn't form any part of my plans. I would leave it to the Sailor Scouts, who had been infinitely more successful in the past.

Lying back, I lost myself in a fantasy of revenge, and was never quite certain afterwards of the exact dividing line between the daydreams and the true dreams that followed.

* * * * * * * *

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The Crystal Weaver Saga Index

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury