The Wars of Light and Shadow
by E. Liddell

Chapter 6

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Someone's knocking on the door, Mrs. Baker thought fuzzily. Who could it be? It's . . . three o'clock in the morning! I wish they'd stop so I could go back to sleep. But she had no such luck.

As sleep continued to evade her, she decided to answer the door in hopes of shutting the unknown intruder up. Probably Stanton again. The man has no respect for anything. Molly was already out in the hallway.

"What's wrong, Mom?" her daughter asked.

"I don't know," Mrs. Baker replied, "but I intend to find out."

There was no spy lens in the door. She had never seen the need. Tokyo was supposed to be one of the safest cities in the world when it came to things like robbery. But now she wished she had put one there anyway. The only way to see who was outside was to shoot back the deadbolt and open the door, leaving it secured only by the flimsy chain.

The person outside wasn't anyone she had ever seen before. "May I help you?" she asked in her frostiest I-can-tell-you-don't-have- the-money-to-buy-my-jewelry-so-get-out-of-my-shop voice.

"Pleass. I need to yousss your telephone. It isss urgent."

What a terrible accent. "Just a moment, and I'll pass it out to you." She was damned if she was letting him in.

The stranger giggled. Giggled! "I regret that will not be possssible," he said, and forced the door open, ripping the chain out of the wall. His eyes were glowing, and although she couldn't see what else was hidden under the shadow of his hat, it didn't look too terribly human.

Mrs. Baker backed up until she fetched up against Molly. She cast an astonished glance at her daughter. She would have expected the girl to run, or faint, or something. But Molly was standing fast.

"You have to get out of here," the woman said frantically.

"Not without you." The girl was so calm! "Besides, where would we go? We're three stories above the street, and we'd have to go past that to get to the fire escape."

The creature lunged forward, knocking Mrs. Baker aside, and grabbed her daughter. "Where isss he?"

"I don't know. Let me go!" Molly pried at the hand gripping her collar while her mother looked around frantically for an appropriate blunt instrument. The phone was too small, and that was too heavy . . .

"Where issss he?" the thing hissed. Its eyes were glowing again.

"I told you, I don't know! He isn't here!"

It threw Molly aside and advanced on her mother. "Perhapssss if I kill thisss one, you will tell me where to find him."

Molly tried to get up, but her face turned white and she slid back against the wall. "Mother, run!"

The creature grabbed Mrs. Baker by the hair. Its hands seemed to be made of fire. She could smell smoke.

"Nephrite!" Molly screamed. "Help me! I need you! Nephrite! "

"Let them go. It's me that you want."

Stanton, Molly's mother identified as the creature released her and spun to face the new arrival. Or is it? He wore grey, in a severe style reminiscent of a military uniform, and his voice was harsher than she remembered. But the eyes were the same. And the hair. It had to be him.

He was as calm as Molly had been before the creature had taken hold of her, except that his eyes showed the slightest trace of-- annoyance? Was this thing just a minor nuisance to him? He held his left hand against his chest, as though cupping something under it. His other hand was raised in front of him.

"I ask for power from the stars." His voice was still flat calm as tiny motes of white light gathered around his hand. They exploded with a whoosh and knocked the creature back on its heels. It didn't seem too terribly impressed.

"So, Zoisite was right." Was he talking to the creature, or to himself, or--Mrs. Baker's gaze shifted to her daughter. Although still white as a sheet, Molly appeared to be understanding and absorbing everything that was going on. "You are resistant to our powers."

A wave of light and fire swept toward them from the creature. Stanton stepped in front of her and blocked it with his arm. It didn't appear to harm him.

"Very impressive," he said, and his voice was arctic cold. "But not even nearly good enough!" Blue light began to spill out between the fingers of the hand that was clenched at his breast. The creature could only take half a step backward before striking the wall. It was afraid now. "I wonder . . ." Stanton must have been talking to himself, because he didn't finish the sentence. A blue aura surrounded him, crackling with energy and making his hair stand straight up. Streamers of light shot out from his extended hand to envelop the creature. "It should be possible . . ." The blue fire coalesced into a globe around the monster, then gradually shrank down to about the size of a baseball. Smiling grimly, Stanton cupped his right hand palm upward. The ball floated over and settled there. He shifted it to his other hand, finally releasing whatever it was that he had been holding. His aura died, and he stepped over to the wall Molly was still sitting against.

"Are you all right?" he asked. Mrs. Baker was surprised to hear real concern in his voice.

"I think so," the girl said. "It's just bruises. Ouch." Stanton extended his free hand to help her up. "What are you going to do with that?" She nodded towards the light ball.

"Take it home with me. Malachite really wants to have a talk with one. I'll tell you if we find out anything."

"What do you mean, you'll tell her? I won't have her getting any further involved in this, Stanton or whatever your name is!" Now that the crisis was over, reality was beginning to set in again for Mrs. Baker.

"She already is involved." He had his arm around the girl's shoulders. "I only want to protect her. They may come for her again, or for you."

Molly was clinging to him, for God's sake! "I am not going to let the two of you argue over me like a pair of dogs over some old bone," the girl stated. "Nephrite, if you're going to question that thing, I'm going with you. Otherwise, I'm going back to bed."

"Now would be best," Stanton--Nephrite?--said.

"Then let's go." The girl stepped back so that she was standing right beside him, leaning against him.

Nephrite looked directly at Mrs. Baker. "For now, it's probably best if you just lock the door and go back to bed," he said. "Don't mention this to anyone, and don't open the door for any reason. I'll arrange to have the damages paid for, since this is partly my fault." A curtain of red mist rose up around him and Molly. When it faded, they were gone.

Mrs. Baker reached for the telephone, then put it down again. There was a possibility, however remote, that she might manage to think up some story to tell the police, but she kept on remembering how cold Nephrite's eyes had been when he stared down the creature. The man was a ruthless killer. And he had her daughter. And she had best not cross him.

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They rematerialized in darkness, but since Nephrite didn't seem particularly worried about it, Molly decided that she wasn't either. He still had his arm around her as he released the blue energy ball. It floated in front of him at his eye level, which placed it a few inches above her head.

"That's it?" The sound of footsteps coming toward them followed the unfamiliar voice. A white-haired man stepped into the circle of faint light cast by the ball.

"That's it," Nephrite affirmed. "I don't think it's going to be happy when we let it out, so be prepared. Where's Zoisite?"

"He went to find Jadeite."

So, by process of elimination, the stranger must be Malachite. Molly had guessed as much.

Zoisite appeared amid what looked like a swirl of pinkish flower petals. "He isn't here. I think he went down into the city again."

"We don't have time to wait for him." As Zoisite landed beside him, Malachite wrapped his arm around the slender man's waist. Molly realized what Nephrite had meant when he had said that Amy wasn't Zoisite's type, and blushed. "Let it loose."

Nephrite closed his eyes for a moment. The blue sphere burst like a bubble, revealing a very annoyed creature. It had lost the clothes it had been wearing to simulate a human appearance, and it glowed in a rainbow of changing colors. But for all its beauty, Molly couldn't help but remember how malignant it was.

"What are you and why do you seek us?" Malachite's voice raised echoes from the corners of the room, indicating that it was probably bigger than Molly had thought.

"We are the Empyrean, desssstroyers of worldsss." Its voice was reminiscent of the hiss and crackle of a fire. "You cannot sssstand againsssst ussss, fool. Thissss issss our world."

A flash of green light lanced out from Zoisite's hand and struck the creature. It hissed. "You will speak to the lord Malachite with respect," stated the blonde man in a matter-of-fact tone.

"You came looking specifically for one of us. Why?" Malachite asked, ignoring Zoisite.

The thing hissed again, but this time it sounded like laughter, not a scream of pain. "You truly do not know," it stated. "You will get nothing from me, then. I hope the Ancccient is amussssed by thisssss game! To the Glory of the Eternal Light!" And it exploded.

Molly felt Nephrite's power gathering around her to shield her from the worst of the blast, but the hot wind still tore at her hair and clothes.

"The Empyrean," Nephrite said into the silence.

"That was almost as unproductive as our conversation this morning," Zoisite added in disgust.

"We did learn one thing of value," Nephrite contradicted.

"Oh, and what was that?"

"They're afraid of us. Would you commit suicide to prevent yourself from being tortured by someone who couldn't hurt you?"

Molly shivered at the word "torture", and leaned back against Nephrite, looking for reassurance. His arms drew her in even closer, until she had to have been standing practically on his feet. Unable to hold it in any longer, she yawned. Malachite and Zoisite were actually looking at her directly. They had been carefully ignoring her before.

"I should take you home so that you can get back to bed," Nephrite said.

"Please don't. I don't think I could stand to go back there tonight. Not after what happened."

"All right. It's almost morning, anyway." He led her swiftly through the darkness and into a half-lit hallway, then down a flight of stairs. At the bottom, he opened a door, and she was relieved to see a normal, if somewhat Spartan, bedroom. She lay down on the hard, narrow bed, and was asleep before her head touched the pillow.

* * * * * * * *

#The one we sent is dead,# "my lord" reported.

#I can see that, you fool!# The Ancient moved even closer to the scanner, blocking "my lord"'s view completely. #I do not like this. The Weaver who answered the girl's summons was among the most powerful I have ever seen, and yet he was not the Center, either. When we do find their Center, I suspect his power is going to be catastrophic. And there are still three more left to test! Have you had any success in discovering where they took our brother prior to his demise?#

#No, Ancient,# the scanner technician he was addressing respectfully replied. #It does not appear to be properly part of that world. However, we have discovered a pattern on the part of one of the other Weavers. It appears that he spends most of each night in a specific area of the city.#

#Excellent. Tomorrow, we will be ready for him.#

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Nephrite, Nephrite . . . Why did you have to do that? You should know better than to tip your hand that way. Don't you remember anything I taught you?

A sudden weakness drove the dark man to his knees, and he stared in loathing at his right hand. Another day, perhaps two, and my part of this will be over. He wiped blood from the corner of his mouth. I shall have to ask them, when I finally see them again, whether being dead hurts.

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return to Index / go to Chapter 7
The Crystal Weaver Saga Index

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury