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

Chapter 6

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I snarled as I saw Malachite knock his Weavemate out of the path of my blast, then was forced to duck a barrage from the woman. At least Jadeite had gotten away clean, and the red-haired woman was now occupied with supporting the other, who had collapsed.

"I am Sailor Moon, the Champion of Justice! In the Name of the Moon--"

"On behalf of Mercury!"

"In the name of Mars!"

"For the sake of Venus!"

"And for Jupiter also!"

"We will punish you!"

The display of synchronicity was amusing enough, and the teenagers weren't much of a threat, but Malachite and Zoisite had just about disentangled themselves, and I didn't particularly want to have to face them down. Not yet.

I vanished from the roof while the Sailor Scouts were still preparing their attacks. Reappearing in Beryl's throne room, I noticed that Jadeite was there as well. Two youma gripped his arms while a third sought to pull the ice crystal from his shoulder. The boy he had kidnapped was lying on the floor a few feet away, still unconscious.

"An excellent recovery, Citrine." Beryl greeted me without looking up from the image in her new crystal ball. It showed five very bewildered Sailor Scouts and an annoyed Malachite.

"Thank you," I replied. I didn't add, "My Queen," as Jadeite would have. She was not, after all, my superior.

"Jadeite, what are your plans for our new . . . specimen?"

Jadeite hissed with pain as one of the youma finally got a good grip and began extracting the crystal. His face was white and drawn, and every muscle in his body was tense. "I had intended, as I said to the Scouts, to make him one of us, m'Queen."

"Indeed. And of what possible use could this child be to us?"

"Majesty, he is the grandson of Onyx, the last of the Crystal Weavers. His power potential is at least as high as my own." Jadeite made a hoarse sound as the crystal came loose from his shoulder with a sucking noise. Dark energy crackled over his skin, preventing blood from flowing. The youma released his arms, and he fell to his knees, panting. "If I-- Aargh!--infuse him with that power, before exposing him to the Negaforce . . ."

I understood, then, what he had in mind. Normally, exposing some living creature to the Negaforce produces a youma, a creature whose body and mind have been forced into an unnatural shape in order to support some spark of negative energy. The more intelligent the creature, the more powerful the youma. But expose some creature that already has power, such as a Crystal Weaver, to that dark force, and it is the power that becomes corrupt, while the body, already conditioned to support such energies, does not change. That is how Beryl's generals were produced. That was how I, myself, came to serve the Negaforce.

"Then we will have a child as a potential general," Beryl snapped.

"Not necessarily, m'Queen. I have some training in healing." Which was obvious, since his shoulder wound was already beginning to close. "There are . . . other ways that I can apply it. He will not, obviously, be as mature in mind as myself or Lord Citrine, but I think it should be possible to produce a satisfactory end product."

Beryl swept her brooding glance over the boy again. "Very well. See to it."

Jadeite had forced himself to his feet by this time. "As m'Queen wills." His attempt at a bow made him hiss in pain again and clutch at his shoulder. "Bring him," he ordered the youma, jerking his chin in the direction of the boy's unconscious body. One of the creatures lifted it and carried it toward the door.

"And Jadeite?"

He turned back toward us. "Yes, m'Queen?"

"Do not fail to deliver what you have promised." Which means that your loyalty is still suspect, and probably always will be.

"Of course not, m'Queen."

I propped one elbow on the back of Beryl's throne as I watched their retreating backs. "Do you really think he can do it?" I asked.

Beryl smiled up at me. "No, but it will be interesting to see him try."

I tried to read the expression in her eyes, but couldn't do it. It was one of those human things that I had never properly understood.

#It is called lust.#

#And just where have you been?# I asked.

There was no answer. Evidently, the Eternal Light didn't consider itself answerable to me. My thoughts headed off along other paths. Lust. That's a species-reproductive instinct. The thought was . . . well . . . I was caught between disgust and hilarity. A human--or rather, a Crystal Weaver--and an Empyrean . . . Ridiculous!

#But your last chance to continue your species.#


#Your child would be Empyrean, or almost. It would be able to hear me.#

#You bastard!# That wasn't an Empyrean concept, but it seemed to fit. #You planned this! You actually expect me to . . . to . . .# I was almost beside myself. #With her? Are you insane?#

#It is necessary. And you will obey!#

My vision darkened, but whether with negative energy or simple human rage, I could not have said. The Eternal Light's voice stung at my thoughts and enraged me. #Like hell I will! I'm not your toy!#

#You are Empyrean, and you will obey!# it repeated.

#Empyrean?# I laughed bitterly, startling Beryl. #Does this look very Empyrean to you?# I thumped my hated human body on the chest with a closed fist, not caring how much it hurt. #I am not one of yours any longer. But I am what you have made me. Live with it.#

Pain lanced through my head, but I didn't care. I was outraged, and I no longer cared what my ex-god thought of me. How debased I have become . . . #Do you think I wanted this? Do you? I'm sorry to disappoint you, but this wasn't my choice. It was yours. How does it feel to know you aren't infallible after all? And understand this. When I'm done with Malachite, when the human world is in our grasp--the grasp of the darkness--then I'm coming for you! It will be your turn to taste the humiliation of defeat. How do you think you'll feel, once I've confined you in a body and given you to the youma as a plaything?

#Go away. If you ever speak to me again, I'll . . . I'll . . .# Regrettably, I couldn't think of anything I could do to it that might actually do damage. But the voice in my mind was silent.


Beryl's voice snapped me back to the reality of my situation. I was still in her throne room, still standing beside her, but I was dripping with sweat. Actually, some of it wasn't sweat. When I lifted my fingertips from the back of her throne, they came away bloody. Apparently I had been scrabbling at the scarred surface of the rock. My chest hurt where I had struck it.

I didn't say anything. An apology would have been an admission of weakness, and I didn't want to make any such. Instead, I teleported away without saying a word.

I rematerialized in the Negaforce's room, not because I wanted that being's company, but because, now that I had rejected my first allegiance, it was all I had left, and I needed to remember what I was fighting for. I had expected to be alone. Thus, I was surprised to see Jadeite seated cross-legged on the floor, the unconscious body of his young prize from the Earth realm sprawled awkwardly out before him. Jadeite himself was minus his jacket, his shoulder bandaged. His hair fell untidily into his eyes. The boy was completely naked and lying on his side. His flaccid hand was cupped loosely around a small violet crystal, and his back was oddly swollen. He looked bigger than I remembered.

Jadeite scowled at me. "Is there some purpose in your being here, Lord Citrine, or are you just looking for ways to make my job harder?"

I shrugged. "I had expected you to take rather longer to prepare this one. You work fast."

Jadeite nodded, acknowledging that as a compliment. "Empowering a Crystal Weaver takes only seconds. I thought it best to expose him to the Negaforce immediately once I had done that. It seemed to agree. It will take several more hours for me to complete my work with him. At the end of that time, he will recall nothing of his previous life on Earth. He will be convinced that he was always completely ours."

Beryl was wrong in judging this one as incompetent. Apparently, she just didn't know how best to use him. "Excellent. Carry on, then."

I walked out of the room. Perhaps some time spent wandering the tunnels under Beryl's palace would allow me to come to terms with my choices, and my new nature.

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As soon as Citrine left, I lifted Jasper into my arms again, even though holding him put a substantial strain on my half-healed shoulder. Did Zoisite have a thing about attacking people's shoulders? Still sleeping, the boy snuggled against me, as though seeking reassurance from the contact. I stroked his hair with my good hand, then turned back to my original job.

Erasing someone's memory is not an easy job if the results are to be convincing to the victim. Not only did I have to wipe out all of Jasper's memories of his eight years of life to date, I had to implant almost twenty years' worth of plausible substitutes, and do it in such a way that no one would ever know the difference. I would probably have to work on some of the more influential youma as well, to make certain that whatever I cooked up wouldn't disintegrate from lack of evidence.

Furthermore, I had to be very careful to control the effects of those engineered memories on his personality. I wanted Jasper as an ally. I currently had few enough of them in the Negaverse. That meant that I had to make him dependent on me--but not too much so, or he would be useless. It wouldn't be easy to strike just the right balance.

He moaned as my hand brushed against his back. The skin under my fingers was swollen and taut, and I suspected that some of it was going to rupture soon. The combination of crystal power with the Negaforce's dark energy and the extreme forced aging I was putting him through seemed to be making his deformities unusually severe. I would have to wait until his body settled into its final form before completing the re-write of his memories.

It was odd how much his face, relaxed in sleep, looked like his mother's. Amber . . . No. I had lost her. Forever. It was best that I put her out of my mind. As the chill of the Negaforce's power reminded me, there was no place in my life now for affectionate attachments, especially not to some human.

I tightened my grip on the boy. This one, I would keep, and never let go of. An attachment to one of my own kind fell into the grey areas that the Negaforce didn't bother with and Beryl had never entirely succeeded in condemning, because two people working together were often more efficient than one alone. We'll be quite the team, you and I.

* * * * * * * *


"Relax. You're among friends." Almandite bent over the woman as her eyes fluttered open. The rest of us were standing a little distance away, trying to stay as far as possible from the Sailor Scouts who lined the opposite wall of the room.

"Jasper?" Amber asked.

"Gone. Jadeite took him. I'm sorry."

I wondered when this human stranger would realize that Almandite was speaking to her in Japanese. We had taken advantage of her unconsciousness to get rid of the language barrier, over the protests of the Sailor Scouts.

"You have to get him back." Amber tried to sit up, but moaned and reached up to cradle her head in her hands instead.

"We can't," I said, and immediately regretted it as the Sailor Scouts glared at me. I glared back.

Malachite's hand tightened warningly on my shoulder, but he said, "Zoisite is correct. Even if the nine of us agreed to work together, we aren't ready for an all-out assault against the Negaverse. We need time to plan and to gather intelligence." <<Be careful. We may need to use her as a stalking-horse, in which case we're going to need her cooperation.>>

<<Sorry.>> I didn't make the apology any more contrite than I felt it had to be.

I only half-listened as Malachite, Nephrite, and Amy explained to Amber about Beryl, the Negaverse, and what had probably happened to Amber's son. I knew it all already, and didn't want to be reminded of it any more than necessary. The few words I caught were more than enough to start me shaking. Annoyed at myself for showing such weakness, I leaned back against Malachite. His arms closed around me, forestalling any further tremors.

Even during those dark times in the Negaverse when I could barely remember my own name, it had astounded me that someone as strong as Malachite could be so gentle. It was a side of his personality that he showed only to me. The youma would never have understood. He took such care to be perceived as cold and unfeeling. Only I had known about the warmth underneath the ice.

"Are you saying that this Beryl is going to turn him into a . . . a monster?" Amber's nearly hysterical voice drew my mind back to the present.

Almandite closed her eyes and turned away. It was on the tip of my tongue to say the obvious, but I bit it back. If Malachite wants her cooperation, it's safest that I say nothing at all.

"What's the matter with you four?" Raye snapped at us. "Don't you have any heart?"

"It's no use talking to them about heart," remarked Jupiter, whose real name I still didn't know.

"Heart has nothing to do with it." Despite the coldness of his words, Malachite's arms tightened around me. "If we attack now, we set ourselves up for failure. It's as simple as that. And you can do nothing without us, because we are the only ones who know how to reach the Negaverse."

Jupiter snorted. "We managed once before, and we can do it again. Right, guys?"

The other Scouts said, "Right!" in chorus.

I felt the shift of tension in his muscles as Malachite shrugged. "Very well. I can't stop you from throwing your lives away. Feel free."

"Stop it!" It was Almandite the peacemaker who spoke. "Serena, guys, I doubt there's anything we can do for Jasper at this point. By the time we found him and fought our way to him, it would be too late. We need to figure out some way to get him back that doesn't involve taking on the entire Negaverse. If we can kidnap him back quietly, the Silver Crystal can cure whatever Beryl will have done to him."

Silence. I shifted position slightly, and felt Malachite stiffen. <<Be careful, will you? I have a fairly nasty bruise just there that I got when I tackled you.>>

<<Is she right?>> I asked.

<<Probably. It will mean tipping our hand a little sooner than I might otherwise have hoped, but the chance of getting the Scouts' cooperation should make it worth it.>>

<<So we're going to fight Beryl, then.>>

<<We don't have much of a choice. With Jadeite on her side, she knows that we're alive and where to find us. And in any case, I have a personal score to settle with her.>>

I felt him force a memory that had begun to surface down to the back of his mind.

<<I don't think I could bear it if I were to lose you again,>> his voice whispered in my mind.

<<You won't,>> I replied firmly. <<Where we go, we go together.>>

<<I don't think I ever apologized to you for-- >>

I felt a tremor run through him. <<It's all right. I know you couldn't have saved me. And you weren't yourself,>> I told him. I knew my death had been worse for him than it had been for me. All I had experienced was a few minutes of searing pain, and then nothingness. For him it must have been purest hell.

I leaned back against him and listened to the Scouts arguing again. Couldn't those silly humans see that they were just wasting the time they held to be so precious?

I glanced down at Amber. Monsters, are we? It had been on the tip of my tongue to say it before. Several other possible comments suggested themselves as I gazed down into her tear-filled eyes. If you love your son so much, why didn't you fight for him? I knew it wasn't fair. I didn't care. I am not a fair person.

I wonder when she's going to realize that three of the people in this room with her have just confessed to a series of crimes ranging from passport fraud and statutory rape to outright murder? For a moment, I wasn't certain whether the thought was mine or Malachite's. We had taken to spending so much time inside each others' heads that it was difficult sometimes to know where to draw the dividing line.

<<I give her about five minutes,>> he informed me now. <<She's still in shock.>>

"We need to find a way to save Jadeite, too."

Now we were all staring at the fragile human woman. She managed to stare back defiantly, even though Almandite was supporting her.

"What can you possibly want with that . . . that slime?" asked Raye, outspoken as always.

"He isn't evil," Amber insisted. "I know that. I could feel it whenever I looked at him. Something's hurting him, and he thinks this is the only way for him to escape. He deserves our help. And he isn't evil."

"Actually, he is." Nephrite spoke for the first time since he had arrived. "Perhaps not as evil as these young ladies think he is, but all of us are more dark than light."

"I don't care." She dashed her tears away. "I'm still going to find a way to get him back."

I exchanged glances with Almandite. Normally, we don't get along all that well--partly because I don't much care for women, and partly because I don't much care for humans, which she nearly is--but at that moment, an understanding passed between us. We both understood a little of what Amber felt, I think. We were the two weakest members of the Weave, and each in love with one of the strongest. Malachite or Nephrite could crush either of us with a thought, should they ever so choose, and I had come close to suffering just that fate once or twice. We understood how seductive danger can be.

"You aren't going to just abandon him, are you?" Amber raised her damp face to look at Malachite, and thus, perforce, at me as well.

"We'll do everything within our power to get him out," my lover agreed. "He is a part of us. Without Jadeite and his special strengths, we are crippled. But," he added, and I knew he was shooting the Scouts a raking glare, "that does not mean we are easy prey for anyone who wants to rid this world of our presence."

I smiled my nastiest smile in Sailor Moon's direction, and saw her cringe.

<<Don't overdo it,>> Nephrite warned me. I turned the smile in his direction. He didn't react, doubtless because he was accustomed to being on the receiving end.

"We need time to gather information," Malachite said. "We will meet here again tomorrow to work out our strategy. Be ready."

He teleported both of us out simultaneously. I wondered whether Nephrite was coming with us, or whether he was going to stay behind and watch the Sailor-suited explosion that was bound to take place the moment Malachite and I were out of the room. And I considered Jadeite's human girl. What did he see in her? There was barely a hint of steel underlying her softness. Nephrite and Almandite I could understand. The redhead had turned out to be capable of far more ruthlessness than I would have believed possible. But Jadeite and Amber?

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