The Wars of Light and Shadow - All Darkness Met
by E. Liddell
* * * * * * * *
I didn't expect to sleep that night. And I didn't. Lying on my back on the cold cotton sheets, which felt coarse after so many years of sleeping on silk, I turned my thoughts to the events of the evening in an attempt to distract myself from Zoisite's absence.
Whoever Beryl had working for her now, he certainly had a good mind. His energy-gathering plans were works of art, so subtle that we had yet to discover one while it was in progress. I wondered if the Sailor Scouts were having any more luck. I doubted it.
And then there was this evening's attack. Completely unexpected and beautifully executed. How he had found Nephrite's mansion I still didn't know, although I had my suspicions. Only a tiny handful of people knew how to reach it. I knew I hadn't been the one to tell him, and I was certain that Zoisite, Almandite, and Nephrite himself were equally innocent. That left Sailor Moon, who was, to say the least, unlikely to be working with Beryl, Almandite's mother, whose memory of the location had been erased by Nephrite, and Jadeite. It went against my grain to suspect one of my own Weave, but the conclusion was inescapable, especially since Jadeite's mind had been hidden from me behind a wall of blackness since his disappearance.
<<You're thinking too much again,>> scolded a familiar mind as a handful of flower petals drifted onto the bed.
<<Someone has to do it,>> I retorted as Zoisite slipped into bed beside me. <<Did you find anything else?>>
<<Not a thing. They even blocked Nephrite's divinations. About all that we were able to confirm was the location of their arrival.>>
<<There's something you're not telling me,>> I stated.
<<I . . . You're right. I didn't get to see their leader, but I did attack him. Malachite, he was too strong for me. As strong as you, maybe even as strong as Beryl. But there was something strange about his power signature. Something . . . forced. I don't know how else I can describe it.>>
<<That isn't exactly very helpful.>>
<<I know. It's the best I can do.>>
<<Don't worry. I'm not angry, or at least, not at you.>>
<<I guess that means we aren't going to fight about it. Too bad. I was looking forward to making up.>>
<<Not tonight. There's only one thin wall separating us from a stranger that we are going to have to treat very carefully. I don't need to have to explain to her how you got in here. Which reminds me, you're going to have to leave before they wake up.>>
<<Go to sleep, my love. We'll have other chances.>> And with him there, I managed to fall asleep as well.
I woke up when he slid out of bed. <<Bring me a change of clothes, will you?>> I requested sleepily. A few minutes later, a pile of cloth fell on top of me. I forced myself to get up and get partially dressed. Then I slid the balcony doors open and stepped outside. The air was still chill with the departing night. The sun was just coming up.
By the time Amber and her son were out of bed, I was sitting in the main room of the suite, drinking tea and reading a newspaper. The latter isn't an activity that I normally bother with, but it had become, of late, the easiest way of tracking the Negaverse. Anything that involves large numbers of people collapsing normally does make the news, although it takes a lot of reading between the lines to figure out what collapses are caused by energy drain and which can safely be ascribed to other causes, such as drunkenness, illness, heat stroke, or food poisoning.
I couldn't help posing a bit as I detected Amber's glance striking my back. I'm very much aware of what effect my appearance has on women--especially when I'm lounging around without a shirt on. I'm not sure whether Beryl ever figured it out, but I always used to leave the top of my uniform jacket unfastened for a reason. It's a little sadistic, I suppose. My relationship with Zoisite was always well-known in the Negaverse. It suited my ego to have dozens of youma drooling over me and knowing that they could never have me. Not that I would have struck up a relationship with a youma in any event.
"I don't suppose you're going to give us that explanation now."
I smiled. "You are quite correct. I am not."
* * * * * * * *
"Mr. Grey, I swear that you are one of the most annoying people I have ever met." In fact, if I had had a chainsaw there just then, I would have tried my damnedest to lop his head off.
"As N--Max no doubt told you, there are more people involved in this than just us." Grey's smile never faltered.
"Have you ever heard of the Sailor Scouts?"
"They're a bunch of teenaged girl superheroes who hang around here," Jasper said from behind me. I wondered what he was making of all this.
"That's essentially correct." Grey sipped his tea, still watching me. I didn't like the look in those silver eyes.
"So what does some Japanese urban myth have to do with this explanation that you aren't delivering?" I wish he'd trade an explanation for, say, some hen's teeth. I'd probably have better luck in getting those than in prying anything useful out of this man. I'd swear that he's actually enjoying stringing me along.
"Not urban myth," Grey said. "They're quite real." I had the feeling that he was laughing at me. Again.
"You don't mean that you're, um . . . I mean, uh, you don't look like a teenager." Or like a girl. Okay, so it was the first thing that popped into my head.
Grey's smile was one of the coldest things I had ever seen. He ran one hand over his bare chest, drawing attention to the fact that it was hard, muscular . . . and flat. "No. And don't even suggest the existence of a connection in front of Zois. He can be very touchy about people mistaking him for a woman. But they are mixed up in this. So, for that matter, is your half-sister." His motion had displaced the white crystal pendant he wore, causing it to flash in the sunlight that was streaming in through the window.
"What is she like?" I said after a few seconds. If I hear one more cryptic remark about this Beryl person, I am going to scream.
"Hmmm?" He looked up from the newspaper to which he had returned his attention.
"This phantom sister of mine. What is she like?"
"Beryl is insane. She suffers from certain megalomaniac delusions. I would advise you to stay well away from her, assuming that she is still alive." Okay. He's finally given me some hard information. Take it and run with it.
"You don't know?"
"The Sailor Scouts reported her demise some time ago, but we've recently begun to doubt that they were correct in that observation. The problems we're having now are exactly the sort of thing that Beryl would cause."
"And just how does Jay enter into this?"
"The four of us--Max, Jay, Zois, and I--used to work for Beryl. We're afraid that Jay's gone back over to her."
He's crazy. He's got to be. Either that, or he's lying. Why would a millionaire like Stanton be working for my crazy sister? Assuming that I have a crazy sister.
"All right. Let me get this straight. I have a sister. She's bent on world domination, or something cliched like that. And you guys used to work for her."
"I don't expect you to believe me." But those silver eyes were staring levelly into mine, daring me not to. "I am, as you may have noticed, leaving out a great deal. The rest of the story would seem even more preposterous to you without my offering some form of proof. And I'm not willing to do that. Not yet." So tell me something I don't know.
"Well," I said, "I can tell this is going to be . . . entertaining . . . when you finally get around to telling me the whole story."
"You think I'm insane." He smiled again. "Go right on thinking that, Mrs. Jones. It will be a lot easier to handle than the truth would be. Excuse me for a moment."
"Wait," I said, on a hunch, as he stood up. "What's your real name? And don't screw me around this time."
His lips thinned, and if looks could kill, I would have had flash burns. I didn't think he was going to answer me.
"My name is Malachite," he said at last. And he spun on his heel and disappeared into his bedroom before I could ask anything else.
I turned to Jasper, who was staring at the closed door, eyes round. "Can you do me a favor, Jas?" I asked him.
My son shook himself out of his daze. "Sure, Mom."
"Be very careful around that man and his friends." I lowered my voice to a whisper. "I know there's something wrong here, but I'm afraid we might get hurt if we try to argue with them. So just be very careful. Don't trust them."
Jasper nodded, eyes going even wider.
Malachite, I mused, staring at the closed door in turn. Just like Onyx, Amber, Jasper, and Beryl. This is more than just some family tradition. There is no way I could be related to anyone like Malachite Grey. I really want that explanation, damnit, even if he is stark raving nuts! Understanding his delusions would at least give me something to work with. I need to know more if I'm going to get us out of this. Maybe I should tackle one of the others. Amanda Baker's name--if that is her name, which I'm beginning to doubt--was notably absent from the list of people he said were working for Beryl. I wonder if I can get her alone?
"I hope you're ready for breakfast." He was back. I couldn't help but notice that he was wearing a white shirt, not the blue one I remembered from yesterday. And he didn't bring a suitcase. Where did that come from? "The others are waiting for us downstairs."
Are waiting, I noted, not will be waiting. Why was he so very certain?
Having little choice, Jasper and I followed Grey out the door and into the elevator. Once inside, the tall man leaned against one wall and watched us. Not flash burns, I thought, staring right back at him. Frost burns. His eyes are cold, not hot. He acknowledged my scrutiny with an ironic nod just as the doors slid open again.
"Took you long enough," Zois remarked to his lover.
"Stop being so jealous," Grey said. "Nothing happened."
"That's what you always say." But the green eyes were sparkling with amusement. Perhaps Zois Edwards had a better personality than I had thought.
"Were they always this bad?" Amanda Baker asked her fiancee. The two, arm in arm as usual, were just behind Zois.
"Actually, they used to be much worse," Stanton replied.
Zois and Grey led the way to the hotel coffee shop, followed by me and Jasper, with Stanton and Amanda unobtrusively pinning us in the middle. I wasn't sure anymore whether they were trying to protect us or keep us from running away. Likewise, when we sat down, Jasper and I were hemmed in against the wall.
The waiter's English was terrible, and Stanton ended up translating for us. Fortunately, the menu was bilingual. I couldn't help but notice that, despite the distinctly Occidental names of our four tablemates, they all spoke fluent Japanese--I couldn't tell just how much so, being unable to speak the language myself.
"So," I said once the staff had brought us our food and seemed inclined to leave us alone, "is someone going to give me that explanation now?"
Amanda glanced at Grey. Zois smiled. Stanton and Grey himself were unreadable.
"Not yet," Grey said at last. He held up a hand, apparently in an effort to stop me from speaking, although I hadn't been about to say anything. "What I said earlier about the unbelievability of the situation still holds, probably more than ever now. And furthermore, we have no proof that you truly are the innocent bystanders that you appear to be."
"You don't trust us." Somehow, I wasn't surprised.
"I never trust anyone," Grey replied. "I especially don't trust strangers who suddenly call one day and start asking suspicious questions, claiming to be related to someone I know."
So I was the one on trial here. I looked pleadingly at Stanton and Amanda. He wouldn't meet my eyes, and she had a pained expression on her face that seemed to indicate that she didn't approve of this but was powerless to interfere. I underlined my mental note to get her alone.
"Do you think," I said, striving for a tone of maximum outrage, "that I'd bring my son into this if I wasn't sincere? Jay Tsumeta is my friend. I'm really worried about him, and everything you people have said and done since I got here has only made me feel worse."
"We're really sorry," Amanda said, "even if these blockheads would never tell you so."
Stanton looked vaguely offended, but it was Zois whose eyes flashed. He raised his hand, only to have it slapped down again by Grey.
"Iie," the white-haired man snapped. I didn't have to know the language to recognize that as a forcefully worded "No". I wondered what Zois had been about to do, and whether it would have served as part of this "demonstration" that Grey seemed so reluctant to give me. I had figured out, by this time, that the silver-eyed man was the leader of this little group, although I couldn't fathom why.
"Jay is our friend, too, Mrs. Jones," Grey said quietly. "We've known each other since the four of us were children. But your concern for him--and yes, I can tell that it is genuine--does not make you any less of a possible spy."
"I doubt she is." Stanton finally spoke. He was looking down at the table, and I couldn't read his expression.
"I thought you said the evidence was inconclusive," Zois snapped.
"Taken in combination with what she's already said, it's sufficient to make me believe her."
"I wish I could say that it was sufficient for me," Grey said. "It isn't. Until we have better proof, I'm afraid that we must suspend judgment and postpone any explanation."
I glared at him. The silver eyes stared back, unmoved.
"You must understand, Mrs. Jones, that the danger to you in this matter is only potential. The danger to us is very real. Lives have already been lost over this. We want to avoid any more deaths."
Not just crazy, but paranoid too. Great. "I've had just about enough of you."
"Complain all you like. It won't change anything. Amanda, you have the morning shift. Zois will join you after lunch."
The three men rose and left together, leaving Jasper and I alone at the table with Amanda, who sighed.
"I hope I have enough to cover the bill," she remarked.
"I would have thought that your fiance--"
She sighed again. "He tends to forget about little things like that, and Mal and Zois are even worse. I don't know how much Mal told you, but they were kind of living in isolation for a long time. And they didn't have to worry about money." She fished through her pockets. "Looks like I have enough to cover maybe a couple of ice creams. I certainly can't pay for all this." She waved a hand over the remains of the meal.
"I'll sign it to the room," I offered. "Look, is there somewhere we can go to talk?"
"I know what you want." Amanda's eyes looked haunted. "I'm sorry, but I can't tell you anything you don't already know. Not without Mal's permission. I'm sorry," she repeated.
I gritted my teeth. This isn't her fault. She knows exactly how frustrated I am, and it doesn't look like she's much happier about the situation. Reining in the worst of my irritation, I said, "So who died and made Malachite Grey god?"
There was something a little disconcerting about Amanda's smile. "I'm sorry, but I can't talk about that either. You'll just have to accept that he is in charge, and the rest of us have to abide by his word."
"If you can't tell us anything, can you at least show us around the city?" I needed to get out of here and do something before I went insane with pent-up frustration.
"I think I can manage something along those lines, if you don't mind walking."
Outside, a beautiful, warm, sunny day was just beginning. Amanda led the way along the sidewalk, stopping every now and then to point out some sight of interest. About midmorning, we decided it was time for a break, and sat down together on a bench.
"Have you lived in Tokyo long?" I asked.
"All my life, believe it or not. My father's family has lived here for generations, and when he died, my mother decided not to move back to the States."
So her life was a safe enough topic. "He's dead? I'm sorry to hear that."
She shook her head. "Don't be. It was a long time ago."
She was looking a bit depressed again. I decided to steer the conversation to a slightly different topic, in the hope of prying some sort of useful information out of her. "How did you meet Maxfield Stanton?"
Apparently, that was also a safe enough topic. "Bit of a long story. The short version is, we met at a tennis match. I'd gone to watch an old friend of mine play. I don't know why Max was there--he's never said. Well, maybe saying that we met there is stretching it a bit. That was where I first saw him, anyway. For me, it was love at first sight, but it took weeks for him to notice me." Her smile faded, as though some less pleasant memory was tangled up with her recollections of Stanton.
"What is it?" I asked.
She shook her head.
"Isn't there anything I can do to get you to trust me?" This game of dancing around the subjects I really wanted to know about was getting really old.
She made as though to shake her head again, then stopped. A thoughtful expression crossed her face. "You know, maybe there is. Come on."
"Where are we going?" I hauled a protesting Jasper to his feet. He was getting really tired of walking around looking at things he had no interest in, I suppose.
Amanda brushed back a few strands of long red hair that had drifted forward into her eyes and replied, "To the Sacred Temple at Cherry Hill. Don't worry, we'll take the bus."
A temple. I shrugged. If it gets me some answers from her, it'll be worth it.
It turned out to be quite a nice place, although it was also quintessentially Japanese enough to make me feel a bit uncomfortable. We were greeted at the gate by an old man, who directed us inside when Amanda asked him a question.
"Not that I really had to ask," Amanda admitted as she led the way around the back. "All we have to do is follow the sound of hyena-like laughter."
Which was coming from the back steps. There were five girls there, all of whom looked about fifteen. Or the brunette might have been a little bit older. The girl laughing was a blonde with her nose stuck in a comic book. She was the only one who didn't come to her feet when Amanda called out to them in Japanese. It took a moment and one of her friends addressing her in a "get a clue" sort of tone to convince her to even look up. When she did, she stared as hard as the rest of them.
Amanda said something with my name in it, then added, "Amber, this is Serena, Raye, Lita, Mina, and Amy. I'm afraid that, except for Amy, they don't speak much English."
"I'm pleased to meet you all," I said politely.
"And we're pleased to meet you," said the girl with the short blue--blue!--hair. Obviously, she had to be Amy. "Now, what is it you need our help with?"
"Dispelling Malachite's paranoia," Amanda said ruefully. "He's got himself convinced that Amber and her son are spies from Beryl."
Lita snorted. "Surfer Boy must crazy be," she remarked. Surfer Boy! Oh, that's beautiful! He even has the tan for it!
"No, just very, very worried, for which I don't blame him. I don't think he really believes it. It's just an excuse, in his mind, to keep from telling her anything."
"I somehow doubt we'd be able to convince him of anything," Amy said.
"All you have to do is convince me. No, I don't believe this stupid theory of his, but if there's even a chance . . . Well, let's just say that I need one more piece of evidence to convince me that they're just what they seem. If you can do that, I'll tell her myself, and deal with Malachite later."
"I don't understand. A year ago, you wouldn't have been worried about this. What's changed for you, Molly?"
Amanda--Molly?--winced and closed her eyes. "I'm one of them now, Amy. Can't you tell?" She made a sweeping gesture that encompassed her whole body. I wondered what that was supposed to mean. "I'm just as tainted as Malachite and the others."
"You could let Serena try--"
"It would kill me," Amanda interrupted. "I have to accept what I've become. And you're not helping."
Well, that was enlightening. I wish they'd stop beating around in the bush.
We waited while Amy translated our conversation for the other girls. And then we waited some more while they argued amongst themselves. I wasn't sure how much longer Jasper could hold up under this. Sure enough, when I turned around to look for him, he was gone. I decided not to say anything. Malachite's paranoia aside, I had no reason to believe that we were in any real danger, and I suspected that my son would explode if he didn't have a chance to go off on his own for a little while. And in any case, who would be looking for us inside the grounds of this temple?
It was Raye, the black-haired girl, who had the last word. When the others had all said their pieces, she beckoned us rather impatiently forward. We followed her into the temple proper, the other girls trailing behind us. Even the comic-book- reading blonde looked serious now.
We entered a room completely empty of furnishings. A fire burned in a deep pit in the center of the floor. Amanda and the girls sank gracefully into kneeling positions in front of it. I sat down cross-legged beside Amanda, feeling awkward.
Raye, who was closest to the fire, said something that sounded very formal. I turned to ask Amanda for a translation, but her eyes, like those of the younger girls, were fixed on the fire. I shrugged and did the same.
The flames flared up once, then again, which was an interesting trick. I wondered what she had fed into it. As far as I could tell, Raye hadn't moved. She was still kneeling, with her head bowed and her hands resting on her thighs.
"Nothing," Amanda murmured. "Well, that's evidence enough for me, even if it isn't for Malachite."
Raye said something else. The flames flared again, but this time they parted and a picture appeared. It was Jay's face, but frozen in an expression of terrible ruthlessness that was ten times worse than anything I had ever seen on him before. A flicker, and the image became that of a blonde man, a stranger with pale skin and features almost as delicate as Zois's. His face wore no expression at all. Flicker. The image of a woman with unnaturally bright red hair, fangs, and purple eyes. She was smiling in a way that made me instantly decide that I didn't ever want to meet her.
"So what was that all about?" I asked as the fire died back down to its former level.
"It's called a fire reading," Amanda explained absently. "This is a temple to the Shinto spirit of fire. It gives its priestesses certain powers. Raye first of all asked who you were working for. As you saw, she came up blank, indicating that you probably aren't working for anyone at all. Then she asked who the enemy was. That's when she got those pictures of Jay, Beryl, and that stranger, who, come to think of it, reminds me of someone . . . Amber, where's Jasper?"
"He stayed outside."
Amanda spat a word that was probably distinctly unladylike. "Malachite is going to skin me for not noticing that." She was already on her feet and heading toward the door when we heard a scream, which stopped abruptly, as though someone had clapped a hand over the screamer's mouth. I instantly felt cold all over. Jasper . . .
* * * * * * * *
I scuffed my feet in the dirt as I walked across the yard. What a waste! I want to go home! Sure, being in Japan had been cool for the first few hours, but so far there had been nothing, really, to see or do, and there were at least two people watching me all the time so that I couldn't sneak away.
I was bored. Really, really bored. Maybe I should have gone inside with Mom. Nah, it's probably just more grown-up talk. Maybe the girls that Mom and Miss Baker had come up here to see weren't quite grown up yet, but they were older. A lot older. I wished I was older. Maybe then Mom wouldn't keep such a close eye on me.
"Hey there, Jasper. What's up?"
Jay Tsumeta was leaning against the wall of the building--the shrine?--and watching me. I ran over to him, but skidded to a stop when I was still an arm's length away. Something was wrong. Jay was wearing some sort of grey uniform that I didn't recognize. It made him look dangerous. And his smile . . . Something about it looked fake.
"I'm just waiting for Mom to finish whatever she's doing in there," I said, backing away a bit. "What are you doing here?"
Jay shrugged. "I used to work here." The look in his eyes frightened me.
"Uh, I'd better go see what's keeping her--" I turned to run. I couldn't help it. I was scared stiff.
Strong, hard hands grabbed me from behind. I screamed.
* * * * * * * *
I was only seconds behind Amanda as we ran out the door. We were both seconds too late.
Jay stood in the open courtyard behind the temple, wearing a red-trimmed grey uniform. Jasper was slumped unconscious in his arms. Jay's eyes burned with an unnatural dark fire that I found frightening.
"Jadeite, what in hell do you think you're doing?" Amanda sounded angry, not frightened.
"Almandite," Jay--or, rather, Jadeite--greeted. "As you can see, I'm recruiting. Potential Crystal Weavers are few and far between these days. This boy's power signature shows him to have excellent potential. I expect the Negaforce to be very pleased with him."
"I'm not going to let you get away with this," Almandite--that had to be her real name--said grimly. She raised her hand and made a throwing motion. Hundreds of tiny darts of yellow light shot out at Jay.
He made a pushing motion, palm flat out toward the darts. A dark wind swept them away, but in the distance, I could hear a different voice shouting, "Zoi!"
A stream of pink flower petals struck Jay in the face, battering, and, I hoped, blinding him. They swirled to one side of him, coalescing into a column, in the center of which appeared Zois Edwards. He was dressed in a uniform precisely identical to Jay's except for the green trim. In one slender hand, he held what looked like a crystal shard. I couldn't be certain if that was what it was, because it was already blurring down toward Jay's shoulder.
It struck in total silence, apparently passing right through flesh and bone to emerge through Jay's chest. He gasped and staggered, falling to one knee. I gasped as well. The tip of that shard had come out too close to Jasper's head for my comfort.
"We don't tolerate traitors," Zois said grimly, floating in midair.
"Look out!" screamed another voice.
Several things happened at once. A grey blur struck Zois in the side, knocking him out of the way of a beam of white light that scored a deep furrow in the ground. Almandite spun around and fired off more of her darts in the direction of the roof. Five girls in brightly colored sailor costumes with very short skirts came up behind us. And Jay disappeared into thin air, taking Jasper with him. I could only stare at the empty space in confusion, wondering what had happened. Where had they gone? And what was I supposed to do now?
I learned later that Almandite caught me as I fainted. All I knew at the time was that the lights went out abruptly, and everything stopped moving.
* * * * * * * *
Brief note: Yes, I know it's properly a shrine and not a temple. Don't blame me for the inability of the people at DIC to tell the difference (although I suppose you can legitimately blame me for being too lazy to change the reference.) I'm also aware that Molly's father is mentioned in at least one dub episode as though he were alive, but we never see him and so I've chosen to ignore that reference.
* * * * * * * *
return to Index / go to Chapter 6
The Crystal Weaver Saga Index
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury