* * * * * * * *
"Hey, mister! Mister! Are you all right?"
He opened his eyes, but his vision was still blurred, and it took sustained blinking to clear it. He licked his lips. Why was he so cold?
"I . . . don't know." His voice sounded raspy, and the language was only half-familiar, like something out of a dream. "Where am I?" He realized suddenly that he could feel the roughness of asphalt under his back and buttocks. He was lying, stark naked, in the middle of a road bridge. The guard rail was only inches away on his left. His right shoulder ached fiercely. So did his head.
"This is the Williams Road bridge. Someone must have dumped you here."
English, he identified belatedly. He's speaking English. With an American accent. What am I doing here? The last thing I remember is the park.
The stranger's clothing had slowly resolved into some sort of police uniform, although the face topping it belonged to someone barely out of boyhood. "Look, you must be freezing. I've got a blanket in the car. Wait here a moment."
He used the railing to pull himself into a sitting position while the boy went to get the blanket. Cautiously, he probed his shoulder. It appeared to be undamaged. Which, of course, proves nothing. If I'm alive, it must have healed. If I'm dead, then why should I take my death wound with me into the afterlife?
Something was hanging around his neck. He cupped the crystal on its thin chain of black metal in his hand and gazed into it. It only reflected back his own pale and anxious face.
"You got a name, Mister?"
"N--Maxfield Stanton." He gathered the blanket to him to cover for his near-slip of the tongue. I must be rattled. I almost gave him my real name. "Look, would you mind telling me what day this is? The last thing I remember, I was in Tokyo. I'm afraid I may have lost some time somewhere."
The young deputy told him. Nephrite shivered. Over a year. What in hell happened? He raised a hand to his forehead.
"Did you get hit on the head?"
"I . . . don't know. I have lost some time. Quite a lot of it, actually. Could you help me up?" Extending his hand, he realized how weak he really was. His investigations would have to wait until he recovered his strength.
* * * * * * * *
The first thing he noticed as he woke up was the feel of a familiar body in his arms. The second thing he noticed was that neither of them had a stitch of clothing on. The third thing was that he was leaning upright against a wall, and that the room around them was pitch dark.
"Zoisite? Zoisite, wake up!" He shook the other frantically as he realized that both their skins were slimed with blood.
"Mmmm . . . Malachite . . ." The slim, androgynous body of the younger man twisted in his arms. "What happened? Where are we?"
"I don't know." Malachite tried to focus his powers to produce a light, but discovered he was too weak to create anything brighter than a candle flame. The room that became faintly visible appeared to be part of a cellar somewhere. A bloody knife lay next to his right hand, but neither of them seemed to be injured.
"The last thing I remember is you leaning over me." Zoisite raised his head.
"And the last thing I remember is making a stupid mistake facing off against the Sailor Scouts . . . What's this?" He scooped up a small green crystal hanging around Zoisite's neck. They both stared at it.
"I don't know," Zoisite said slowly, "but you have one too, I think. It's digging into my back."
He relaxed his hold so that the younger man could lean forward. Malachite's crystal was milky white, and as he examined his reflection in it, he almost seemed to see a hint of . . . something.
He resisted the half-temptation he felt to throw it away. It, and its almost-twin that Zoisite wore, might be their only clue to this mystery.
* * * * * * * *
I'm free of that crystal prison, was his first hazy thought. Where am I? was, predictably, his second.
He was . . . sitting in a bathtub. How odd. The water was cloudy with blood, but, except for some general soreness (which was only to be expected in someone who had just been run over by a 747), he felt fine. Certainly he couldn't just have lost that much blood.
Beryl . . . Beryl must be dead. He would never have escaped from his eternal sleep while she was still alive. Well, first things first. He drained the tub, then ran in some fresh water to scrub the diluted blood off. He found an old-fashioned straight razor lying across the tops of his thighs, but it had been rinsed largely clean and he couldn't tell if it had been recently used to assault someone. Hmmm. If I did kill someone with it, why would I have brought it back here-- wherever here is--and why would the bathtub be full of blood?
Clean at last, he took a robe--much too short and a little too wide--off a hook on the back of the door and wrapped it around himself, surprised to find that he was weak as a newborn. He contemplated, for a moment, the yellow-gold crystal he was wearing around his neck, then incuriously let it drop back against his chest. The situation was so bizarre, what did one more unexplainable element matter?
Outside was a one-room apartment, furnished with little more than a chest and a futon. Opening the chest, he discovered that it was full of clothing--all much too short and a little too wide for him, as the robe had been, but better than nothing. He managed to get semi-respectably dressed, then flung back the curtains on the window.
Tokyo. He would recognize that skyline anywhere. Somehow, he wasn't surprised. If he wasn't in the Negaverse, why shouldn't he be at its back door? But the time of year . . . This was all wrong. It had been spring when that fateful battle at the airport had taken place. How could it be autumn now? He shrugged. Perhaps he had been unable to sense time while condemned to the eternal sleep. It hardly mattered.
Jadeite ran a hand through his tousled blonde hair as he stared out the window, wondering what he should do next.
* * * * * * * *
Two phone calls were all it took to establish himself a line of credit as Maxfield Stanton. Fortunately, that identity considerably predated even their earliest attempts to draw energy from the people of Earth.
Still too weak to exert his powers, Nephrite had taken a room at a local hotel after the young sheriff's deputy brought him into town. He had repeated his amnesia story to the point that he almost believed it himself. But if he were only Maxfield Stanton, then why had he disappeared just after moving to Tokyo a year ago, as one of the human managers of his corporation assured him he had?
"The Stars know everything," he whispered to himself as he sat on the edge of the bed in his darkened room, and was rewarded with the faintest stirring of power, but without the Star Crystal or the display he had created in the cathedral room back in Tokyo, he couldn't focus it well enough to do anything useful with it. It didn't matter. It was enough that his abilities were returning. Perhaps he would be strong enough for a divination by the time he got to Tokyo, especially since, lacking the energy for a teleport, he would first have to replace Stanton's passport, which meant finding a Japanese consulate.
It took him close to a week to do that and to secure himself an airline ticket. He sat and stared out the window all during the long flight out of Los Angeles, wondering what he would find when he reached the endpoint of his journey. He could only hope that it wouldn't be Beryl, as his energy reserves were still critically low.
It was dark when he landed in Tokyo, but as the plane banked to start its landing approach, he spotted a dark blot against the city's skyline. It could only be his hill. In a country as short of building space as Japan, no one would have left an open area so completely undeveloped if it had really been completely in the same dimension as the rest of the city.
He might have been able to teleport up, but he decided to conserve his powers and rent a car instead. A taxi was out of the question, of course. The driver wouldn't be able to find the road up the hill.
None of it had changed. The gleaming red sportscar still sat out in front of the big mansion-cum-cathedral. There was no sign of dust or weather damage to anything. He would have expected Zoisite to destroy his private sanctum as soon as he was dead. He wasn't certain what its intactness meant.
It was still utterly silent inside. After some thought, he padded down the hall to his room, dropped the little suitcase he had purchased for show back in the US on the bed, showered, and changed into his spare Negaverse uniform. It somehow didn't feel quite right, but he suspected that one of Stanton's outfits would be no better.
Dressed in grey and feeling obliged to stand a bit straighter, he strode down the hall to his workroom. He needed no light to find his way through the darkness into the precise center of the room.
"The Stars know everything," he intoned, and was gratified to feel the forces in the room responding as he had designed them to do. As the solar system and its surrounding spray of stars appeared overhead, he added, "Show me what happened to Queen Beryl after my . . . death." An image wavered into existence in front of him. Try though he did, he could not force it to become more solid. It was as though the record of the events involved had partially vanished from the universe. But there was enough. He watched the flickering pictures as Tuxedo Mask--or rather, Prince Endymion. How could he have been so blind?--flung a rose at Beryl, piercing her breast and nearly destroying her even there at the center of her power. Beryl sank through the floor. In desperation, the queen merged with the Negaforce, only to discover that even together they were no match for the power of the Imperium Silver Crystal, and that of . . .
"Princess Serena," he murmured aloud. "Of course. Why didn't I remember sooner? There was no Sailor Moon during the Silver Millennium. Why did she manage to fool us for so long?"
But that didn't answer his other immediate question. "Show me how I came to be resurrected."
An image almost began to form--he saw two shadowy figures, one supporting the apparently unconscious second--but the blue crystal, which he had retained through all his changes of clothing up to that point, flashed brightly, blinding him, and the image dissolved again. Rubbing his eyes, he cursed for several minutes, dredging up turns of phrase that he didn't think he had used since the Silver Millennium. And then he stopped cold. The others.
"Show me where Malachite is," he commanded the display. The image formed a little more slowly than it had the two previous times, but eventually revealed Beryl's chief minion standing in front of what was left of her throne. He was wearing only a pair of loose trousers, somewhat too short for him, and . . . a cloudy white crystal hanging on a thin black chain around his neck? Even more oddly, he looked . . . lost. Confused. Was he responsible for what had happened, or another victim? The crystal he wore certainly suggested the latter.
Nephrite hesitated only for an instant before teleporting himself to the Negaverse.
* * * * * * * *
return to Index / go to Chapter 2
The Crystal Weaver Saga Index
The Nephrite and Naru Treasury