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

Chapter 18

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If I had been truly human, instead of merely an imitation, I might have cursed and wept and clawed at the Negaforce's essence as it drew me in. Being Empyrean, I did none of those things. I froze instead.

<<You'd better think of something fast,>> Demantoid warned me. <<If it finds out I'm in here, we're both dead.>>

<<You could find some way to help, instead of giving me useless advice.>> Anger cleared my head a little and started my thought processes working again.

<<I don't have any powers while I'm stuck in your body. All my personal energies are tied up in the Silver Crystal.>>

Which I still held in my hand. <<If I yield to you, so to speak, can you use it? I can't, not really.>>

<<Maybe. I'm not sure. It will probably kill us both.>>

<<Do you think I care?>>

<<I suppose not. All right. Move over.>>

I suppose I had subconsciously come to think of that body as mine after all, because the sight of it being manipulated by someone else gave me the most bizarre feeling. Demantoid opened the hand that held the Silver Crystal. Gathering power from it, he channeled all of our energies into a single act . . . but I didn't understand what it was, or at least not until light blazed out of the Crystal.

<<You're letting it loose? You're insane!>>

<<Not really. The Eternal Light and the Negaforce seem to be fundamentally opposed. Their interests overlap only in the destruction of the human world. I don't know what will happen when the two of them meet, but I doubt they'll be terribly friendly to one another.>>

I tumbled through the air in a whirl of light and shadow, wind and fire. My side smashed into a wall, and, losing my concentration, I fell to the floor. Shards of the Negaforce's globe slashed at my hands and knees as I tried to pull myself upright again.

<<The wind will just knock you off your feet again,>> Demantoid remarked.

<<Do you really want to face this lying down? Are you insane?>>

<<By your standards? Probably. After all, I did volunteer to become a part of the Silver Crystal.>>

<<You did what?>>

<<It needed doing, and I and two others were needed to do it. We were all that was left. But then, volunteering probably isn't a concept you're very familiar with, is it? Poor little Empyrean. You've been led through your life by one god, then another. You've never really chosen anything for yourself.>>

<<I chose revenge for myself!>>

<<Actually, I think your biochemistry did, mostly. You probably aren't very familiar with that, either. Be ready. I think a victor is about to emerge from our little contest.>>

The whirl of light and shadow above us was indeed slowing, little wisps of it annihilating each other, leaving behind a fading residue of grayness. With a roar, the two forces rushed toward each other for the last time, and the world was filled with fog.

There was still a wisp of darkness left when it cleared. Weakened and fragile, it appeared to be searching for something.

<<It needs a body,>> Demantoid told me. <<It's very weak. Without some sort of physical shell, it may dissipate altogether.>>

Beryl lay in a crumpled heap on the floor beside me. The remains of the Negaforce were oozing toward us. Demantoid claimed that I had never chosen anything for myself. This would be my last chance, then.

I chose.

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None of us could do much but stare as the vortex of light and shadow formed, then became a wall of grayness which suddenly evaporated, leaving only a wisp of darkness and two figures lying on the floor. Citrine pushed himself up onto his elbows even as I watched. My self-preservation instincts were screaming at me to kill them now, before they had a chance to pull themselves back together, but I held back. Jumping into a battle one doesn't understand is a good way to land in a heap of trouble.

I don't know what I was expecting Citrine to do, but it certainly wasn't what I saw. A cloud of radiance flowed from his outstretched hand, then pulled itself down into the Silver Crystal. I seemed to perceive the very fringes of a startled thought as it did so. Then Citrine picked up a shard of the broken globe off the floor. His eyes met mine with a tangible shock.

"I think I'm very tired of being used," he remarked, and smiled ruefully. He sighed and glanced down at the shard in his hand. "And so it comes down to another makeshift knife and another desperate position. But this time, I'm going to do what I think best."

He drove the razor-sharp edge of the shard upward into his throat, slashing the major arteries there beyond any hope of repair, even with magical help. He bled to death in seconds.

The wisp of darkness that was all that remained of the Negaforce recoiled from his body as the Silver Crystal rolled away from his slack hand. Not willing to waste an opportunity, I dove forward to pick it up. The cloud was already headed in another direction.

It swirled around Beryl, pulling her to her feet, wrapping around her and melting into her body. When her eyes opened, they were opaque black and glittering with hate. So the last confrontation was to be with her after all. How appropriate.

I raised the hand holding the Silver Crystal. I had a little power left. I didn't know if it would be enough, even amplified, but I had to try. The only problem was that I couldn't figure out how to make Beryl suffer enough for what she had done to me and Zoisite.

The Crystal vibrated in my hand. It was so unexpected, that, despite the fact that I would never normally have taken my eyes off an enemy under these circumstances, I looked down.

<<Even amplified by us, what you have left will never be enough.>>

<<Demantoid?>> I had known intellectually when he had confronted us in the hallway that he claimed to be a part of the Silver Crystal, but I had never expected any firsthand evidence of his nature.

<<Hold out your free hand, palm up. Hurry!>> he added as I hesitated.

I did as he asked. Light shot from the Crystal, forming into something hard and smooth and gleaming in my hand. A spear. Damnit, this is Zoisite's favorite weapon, not mine. What in hell am I supposed to do with it?

Kill Beryl, of course. That was obvious. But there was one other question.

<<Why?>> I asked.

<<I was a man and a Crystal Weaver before I became part of an artefact,>> Demantoid replied. <<It may be selfish, but I have an interest in the continuance of my race. And there aren't many of us left.>>

But my momentary hesitation had lasted a little too long. Jasper and Jadeite had combined to attack Beryl. She shrugged off Jadeite's energy darts and what looked like a stream of purple feathers with contemptuous ease and blasted Jadeite into the wall. It appeared that her plans for Jasper were slightly different. There was a flicker of darkness, and she was behind the winged man, touching a shadowy blade to his throat.

"If you fail to surrender, I will kill the boy," she said. "My terms are these. Firstly, Malachite, you and your--five, is it now?--confederates belong to me." Her fangs gleamed as she smiled. "After all, you're still wearing my uniform. You will submit to me and serve without question. The Sailor Scouts are free to go, but only if they leave all their weapons and transformation tools here."

"And what about me?" Darien asked.

"You stay."

Beryl's long track record of underestimating people hadn't yet ended, however, as was demonstrated when Amber kicked her feet out from under her. Jasper rolled away as she fell, and Amber and Beryl fetched up together, with Amber on top. I was left with an unpleasant decision. From where I stood, I could get at Beryl only by going through Amber.

<<I'm sorry,>> I told Jadeite, and plunged the spear down.

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As Malachite's weapon entered my side, I realized that I had made my last Big Mistake. The spear blazed a path of fire from just above my right hip to just below my left breast, and then continued on to impale Beryl. It pinned us together. The face of my sister and enemy seemed destined to be the last thing I would see in this life.

Shouldn't I be going numb about now? I wondered after a moment. But if anything, the pain was getting worse as the burning from the spear spread into adjacent tissues. Beryl's and my blood, mingled together, ran along the spear's shaft and dripped to the floor, forming a puddle far darker than human blood should have been. What's happening to me?

I could feel the darkness that had invaded Beryl gathering itself for one last effort, and realized that I was its last hope. It would never hold itself together long enough to make it to Malachite or one of the others. Its only remaining option was to take over my body.

Jadeite, help me! I tried to scream, but I only succeeded in coughing up blood. It wants me, it wants me . . . help!

He was kneeling beside me. <<What wants you? Amber, please, stay with me!>> With the words, I felt such a wave of love and concern that I almost began to cry.

<<Negaforce.>> I didn't know how I was doing it, or why I was able to, but I forced the thought in his direction. <<It wants my body.>>

<<Well, it isn't getting it.>> Golden light flared around his hands, one resting on Beryl's forehead, the other on my shoulder. I heard/felt a thin wail as something finally disintegrated. <<There. It will be all right now. Almandite!>>

<<She's still alive?>> The red-haired girl bent over me. The others, Negaverse generals and Sailor Scouts both, surrounded us at a slight distance.

<<I'm still alive,>> I told her, <<and it hurts like hell.>>

Her eyes widened in shock. Malachite's narrowed. Zoisite frowned. Nephrite's eyebrows quirked upwards. The Sailor Scouts, obviously unable to hear me, just looked puzzled. Darien rubbed at his forehead, looking quizzical.

<<We need to get this spear out of her. Malachite, this is just a magical construct, right? Can you negate it?>>

The white-haired man frowned and flexed his hands. The spear dissolved in a shower of sparks. Almandite touched the entry wound, sending a shock through my body.

<<That's odd,>> she stated. <<This looks like it's been cauterized, or something. I don't understand how you could have lost so much blood.>>

<<Half of it's Beryl's. At least half,>> I corrected.

<<Mmmm. Jadeite, I'm going to need your help here. I'm still worn out from being stuck inside that damned block of ice.>>

He placed his hand on top of hers where it was cupped over the entry wound. A cool tingle negated some of the fire still burning along the spear's track.

"It's probably safer if we leave the rest of it to heal naturally," Almandite said aloud. "How do you feel?"

"Lousy," I croaked, and coughed up more blood. Jadeite and Jasper, who was now kneeling at my other side, helped me sit up. I could still very clearly feel every inch of the hole where the spear had transfixed me, but at least I was alive. <<How come I can hear you?>>

<<I don't know.>> Malachite's voice, with a frightening power behind it despite his puzzlement and exhaustion. <<It shouldn't be possible. Regardless of your ancestry, you're not a Crystal Weaver . . . or are you?>> He bent over Beryl's body for a moment. <<Ah. I'm not certain whether this solves a mystery or introduces a whole new one.>> The corpse disintegrated into a pile of dust as he touched it. The dust then evaporated into nothing as he reached down to pick something out of it. I couldn't see what his hand closed over, but I felt a strange sort of discomfort. It was almost as though he was intimately touching me. <<You felt that, didn't you?>>

<<Yes.>> I wished he would just get to the point.

<<Then I think this is yours.>> He held out a small green crystal, darkened with Beryl's and my mingled blood. As soon as it was in my hand and not his, I felt much better. <<Your spirit crystal. Congratulations. It looks like you and Jadeite are actually going to have enough years together that you might have a chance to get tired of each other.>>

<<Not a chance.>> Jadeite's lips brushed against my cheek. "Amber," he added aloud, "I know that this is a little sudden, and maybe I don't have the best timing, but will you marry me?"

"Don't be an idiot," I said. "Of course I will."

As I turned my head to kiss him properly, I heard Lita asking someone, "Did you follow any of that?"

"Only the last little bit," Mina replied. "I guess we're just going to have to ask them about it when they finally come up for air."

Unfortunately for the Scouts' curiosity, that was something I had no intention of doing any sooner than I could help it.

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I unobtrusively slid my arm into its usual position around Zoisite's waist as I watched the two new lovebirds embrace, wondering if Demantoid shouldn't perhaps have been a little more optimistic about the continuation of our race. We now had two Crystal Weaver couples, and Amber and Jadeite effectively had a child already.

"Lord Malachite!"

I turned slowly toward the door, bringing Zoisite with me, and trying not to let the new arrival see that she had startled me. "What is it, Zantisa?"

"Beryl's forces have surrendered, my King. The Negaverse is ours!"

My King. I decided that I really liked the sound of that.

King of the Negaverse. A human would have found the gloomy tunnels running through miles upon miles of rock depressing, I suppose, but it had been my home for a thousand years. I could feel the energy currents around me, still clouded with the remains of the Negaforce's power, untwisting, as the energies that had held them in their unnatural configuration slowly dissipated. It was . . . almost pleasant.

<<I think I'd like to have a look around,>> I told Zoisite privately, at the same time giving Zantisa the commands I thought were necessary to restore order in the aftermath of our little civil war. As soon as that was done, we teleported.

The air above ground was colder than I remembered. I could see my breath clouding it. But that was the only cloud present. The mantle of fog that had formerly veiled the skies was gone. Looking up, I saw blackness spangled with a glory of stars. Nephrite will like that.

<<I wonder if there's a sun to go with them.>>

<<Somehow, I don't think so.>> I held Zoisite protectively close. <<It just doesn't seem to fit in with the ambiance.>>

<<Now that you have what you've wanted for the past thousand years, are you happy?>>

I smiled. <<For the moment. I expect the kingship will hand me enough crises to keep me from getting too bored. You realize that we're going to have to find you a set of epaulettes. We can't have Nephrite outranking the Prince Consort.>>

<<Does that mean I can tease him with impunity now?>>

I laughed. We stood together there for more than an hour, watching the slow and stately progress of the stars across the heavens, before Zantisa called us back inside.

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