* * * * * * * *
July 16, 2991AD
It just wasn't fair.
I leaned against the window and buried my face in my hands. I couldn't bear to watch them anymore.
How could he prefer someone else, and another man at that, over me?
I sighed. Who was I kidding? Those two had been together far longer than I had been alive. It probably wasn't possible to break them up. And I was just another human to him. I doubted he even knew my name. What interest could a man like that possibly have in Small Lady's nurse?
I gritted my teeth and forced myself to look out the window again. Yes, there he was, with the other Negaverse Generals, honored guests at the Neo-Queen's party. One of his epaulettes, catching the moonlight, flashed up at me.
"You look unhappy, my child. Is there something wrong?"
I turned slowly to face the source of the soft, deep voice. The stranger stood only a few feet away from me, and yet I couldn't make out his face, shadowed as it was by his hood. I guessed that he was probably a priest of some minor sect that I'd never heard of before.
"Merely a case of unrequited love," I said, striving for a light tone. "I'll get over it in a few weeks." Liar! It's been almost two years! "Anyway, I'm a human and he's a Crystal Weaver. It would never work."
"And yet Crystal Weavers are born human," the stranger mused. "The transformation from one state to another is not impossible for one who is brave and determined."
I stared at him. His face was still shadowed by his hood, and his hands concealed by his sleeves; I could see nothing of him. I licked my lips.
"Is that an offer?" I asked, running my hand nervously through my short, light blue hair. I could feel his eyes boring into me, despite still being unable to see them.
The laugh that followed unnerved me a little. There was something evil about it.
"Come with me," the robed figure said, "and I will make all of your dreams come true."
The sleeve fell away from his hand as he extended it, revealing an appendage made of shifting, multicolored light instead of flesh. My eyes widened as I realized who this really was, but I didn't move away.
He really does have a lot of nerve coming here. The guards have shoot-on-sight orders for anyone from the Dark Moon. I should be calling for help. Why am I still standing here?
Because I believed that Wise Man's offer was sincere, that was why. I needed to believe it was sincere. It was my only hope.
I raised my hand and placed it in his.
* * * * * * * *
April 15, 2994AD
"They're waiting for you, my lord."
"Thank you, Zantisa." I rose from my kneeling position. I had been trying to meditate, regrettably without much success. I could have used the peace of mind.
The staff almost seemed to jump into my extended hand when I reached for it, a phenomenon that was all the more peculiar given that I was not its true master, but only a stand-in. I straightened the jacket of my uniform and proceeded out into the corridor.
Beryl's old palace (she had been dead for a thousand years now, during which period the building had been Lord Jadeite's residence, but the label seemed inclined to stick) was in a state of orderly chaos, if such a thing was possible. Youma were running all over, but each of them knew exactly where she was going and what to do when she got there. The king had made certain of that. Most of them made way for me, or at least for my uniform, but from time to time I was pushed aside by one who was just in too much of a hurry to stop. Lacking the physical mass of a Malachite or a Nephrite or a Jasper, and being disinclined to waste my powers on trivialities, I let them.
"General Cuprite, my King, my lords," the youma at the door announced when I reached my destination.
"Where have you been?" That was Zoisite, eager to reach the battlefield and annoyed at the delay. I offered him no apology. He wouldn't listen even if I did. I knew that from experience. Instead, I took three steps forward, and knelt, head bowed, before my King.
"Get up," Malachite snapped. "This isn't the time for formality. Are you ready?"
"Good. Take this." He placed something small and hard in my hand, folding my fingers around it. A ring. "Show it to me when you get there. I'll recognize it, even if the others don't. The Dark Moon will be close behind you. Don't stay there any longer than necessary. We need you here. And remember--all of our futures rest on your success."
"I know." I detached the chain on which my spirit crystal hung so as to slide the ring into place next to it, and turned toward where Lord Jadeite and his family stood.
She swept me into her arms, fumbling the spear that she held. It rang against the staff in my right hand. Still, her lips somehow managed to find mine.
<<You'll come back, won't you?>>
<<Don't worry,>> I replied. <<I know how it all turns out, remember? Nothing can go wrong. And if you don't let me go soon, I'm going to have to tell Jas to look after you.>>
<<I'd refuse anyway,>> Jasper remarked. <<I'm only her big brother, not her keeper. But he's right, you know, Aventurine. If you don't let go of him now, he's going to take you with him by mistake, and who knows what would happen then?>>
One last, quick kiss, and she pulled away. I felt a hand clasp my shoulder, and one of the twins willing me, <<Good luck.>> Morganite? Or Marcasite? Actually, for all I knew it might have been their father, Nephrite. They all sounded so much alike.
<<Thanks,>> I replied. And then I was alone in the center of the room. I shifted my grip on the staff, raising it in both hands so that it was poised horizontally above my head. For the first time in centuries, I invoked its power.
I slipped away into the timestream.
* * * * * * * *
April 17, 2994AD
She bowed deeply before the throne. "All is in readiness, my Prince."
"Excellent, Lapis." I didn't bother looking up from the depths of my glass. "You may proceed. Remember, Serenity is not to be harmed in any way."
"Of course not, my Prince."
She vanished into the timestream.
With an idle wave of my hand, I called up a view of Crystal Tokyo, waiting for some sign that Wise Man's new plan had had some effect. Surely the loss of Serenity's greatest allies would change something in the city. Not that I understood how what he meant to do would cause the destruction that he promised, but his understanding of the past was much better than mine, and we had to act almost instantaneously if we wanted the time trace to be strong enough for someone to follow it back . . .
Time passed. Nothing.
"Wise Man!" I snapped. As usual, he took only seconds to respond to my summons, fading into existence beside my throne. "You've failed again."
"Patience, my Prince. Malachite and the others are canny foes--perhaps even more dangerous, in their own way, than Serenity and her people. Unlike Crystal Tokyo, the Negaverse has never had any problem when it comes to applying force."
"Still, Lapis's actions should have propagated up the timestream by now."
"Perhaps. We cannot be certain. Even I do not truly understand how the timestream functions, and I hardly think that either of us can consult Sailor Pluto for assistance. Lapis's task is also complicated by the fact that she must preserve some portions of the present timeline, or risk wiping us all out of existence."
I scowled. "True." But I still glared impatiently at the unchanging scene that hung suspended in the air in front of me: Crystal Tokyo, partially ruined but not completely destroyed, and sprinkled with the remains of our crashed ships, the Crystal Palace inaccessible behind a barrier spun by the Sailor Scouts. And somewhere out there, there were portals to Malachite's realm in the Negaverse. Unfortunately, it was now impossible to pick their energy traces out of the flood of power from the Dark Crystal which was holding the inhabitants of the Earth in stasis, and in any case, I had little left that could be termed a viable attack force. Even with the Silver Crystal vanished to parts unknown, the attack on the city had been ruinously expensive. Much of that had been due to Malachite and his youma troops, since few of the humans were trained soldiers. Our powers had been of little use against the youma, who already bore a similar taint. Not that the Sailor Scouts had helped, either. There had been a particularly awkward moment during the battle when I myself had come within a hair of falling to Sailor Uranus.
I changed the projected image to that of a familiar face and raised my glass in salute.
"From one ruler to another," I told King Malachite. But not for long. I had only to wait.
* * * * * * * *
The Silver Crystal
January 21, 2002AD
I wasn't quite sure what had happened, but I knew something had changed. It brought me back to full awareness for the first time in six years. That required certain adjustments.
Demantoid. I am Demantoid. With the name came identity and purpose.
Was it possible that the last portion of the vision I'd had so long ago, the part that I'd only vaguely perceived, was about to come to pass?
Patience, I told myself. My extended senses now detected nothing untoward except a vague whiff of darkness which might have been there all along. All will come to pass in the fullness of time.
If I'd had a body, I might have smiled. Time. Yes. Time was the important thing here.
I pulled myself back into a largely quiescent state. It wouldn't be long now before the pattern would be complete, and then perhaps I'd finally be free of this Crystal. My life, my brother's life, all those other human and Crystal Weaver lives . . . We'd paid an incredibly high price just to put the necessary pieces in place for the game.
I only hoped it was worth it.
* * * * * * * *
It is like what some humans experience after a limb is severed--a phantom pain that will never go away. That is the closest I can come to describing the hollow sensation that results from my separation from the larger part of my being.
But if I were still whole, I would be trapped. That I know. All I can do is curse the people who divided me, and curse twice over the fate that forces me to placate one of them by returning to the twentieth century to hold the hand of another and tell him where to send his minions.
Damn all Crystal Weavers!
* * * * * * * *
return to Index / go to Chapter 1
The Crystal Weaver Saga Index
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury