The Wars of Light and Shadow
by E. Liddell

Chapter 14

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Molly considered herself fortunate that Malachite's command let her run with, instead of against, the tearing flood of power that was pouring out of the amplifier. Still, it was difficult to determine a direction, or to keep a goal in mind. They're trying to turn us into zombies, too. Zombie Crystal Weavers. The thought made her feel almost as ill as the pile of bodies on the roof had. Even though she knew she had never tapped her power to its full extent, what she had seen of her own and the others' abilities terrified her. Must reach Serena. Must reach Serena!

The Scouts were crouched down behind some kind of chimney or generator housing that shielded them from the full force of the blast, but they still didn't look very good. They're halfway there already.

"Serena!" Molly shook her friend's shoulder. It took several seconds of increasingly violent activity before the glazed eyes focused on her. "Serena, give me the Silver Crystal. Please!"

"M-Molly?" Serena shook her head. "What happened?"

"There's no time for that! You have to give me the Crystal!"

"If you say so."

That isn't the real Serena talking, Molly thought as she watched her friend fumble to detach her locket. Maybe it's just as well that she's halfway to being zombified. At least she doesn't argue this way.

The locket was finally free, falling from Serena's hand as she slumped back against the other Scouts, her clothes fading from her Sailor uniform into the mundane outfit she had evidently been wearing before all this happened. Molly picked up the locket with the Crystal inside. I wonder how this is supposed to help us. But there was no time for speculation. She began to fight her way back upstream toward Malachite.

Something split the power of the amplifier around her, and she increased her pace. <<Hurry,>> said Malachite's voice faintly in her head. <<I can't keep this up for much longer.>>

When Molly found him, he had backed away from the amplifier to kneel beside Nephrite and Zoisite, who were lying semiconscious on the roof. Jadeite was with him. Malachite silently held out his hands and took the locket from her.

The eldest general lifted the chain holding his spirit crystal over his head and placed the white stone on Nephrite's chest, lowering one hand overtop while the other closed around the Silver Crystal. <<Quickly, all of you! Join your powers to mine!>>

<<What are we doing?>> Nephrite's thought was hazy and undirected, but if it had been possible, Molly would have jumped for joy when she heard it.

<<The Silver Crystal is an amplifier of sorts in its own right, and it was designed for use against the Empyrean. I'm hoping that we can use it to burn out their amplifier. In any case, we have no other choice. We've tried everything else.>>

<<But won't it-->>

<<Burn me? Almost certainly. Don't worry, my love.>> Malachite smiled at Zoisite with surprising tenderness. <<We've been out of contact with the Negaforce for a long time now. The taint has been greatly reduced. The Crystal may injure us, but I doubt it will kill us if we are the ones using it as a weapon..>>

There are no choices left. Molly closed her hand around her own spirit crystal. Nephrite, if we don't make it . . . I'm glad that I knew you. Even if it was only for a little while. A green- smeared hand rose to grip her wrist, and she smiled.

A vortex of wind gathered around them. Molly felt the conflicting currents playing with her hair, and knew that her eyes had to be blazing. The others' were. Spirit crystals glowed so brightly that they turned the flesh of the hands holding them became translucent, and she could see the patterns of the bones underneath as faint shadows. Malachite's left hand, which had been holding the Silver Crystal, was visible only as a ball of radiance.

The light spread, encompassing first Malachite's arm, then his body and those of the others, and unfolding across the roof. Is this what dying feels like? Molly wondered as her vision went white and her body seemed to dissolve into the brightness.

<<Not really,>> Nephrite's voice whispered in her mind. <<This is too . . . peaceful. Death was like trying to claw your way up out of a hole somewhere, only to continually slide back down again. And if there was light, I don't remember it.>>

White slowly dissolved into grey, and then into the multihued darkness of evening. We're alive, Molly thought numbly. Glancing around, she added, and the Empyrean are dead. The amplifier was now a blackened metal hulk.

A stabbing pain ran up her left wrist, and she gasped and dropped her spirit crystal. Malachite, his eyes still sparking with odd gleams of white light, let the Silver Crystal and Serena's locket fall to the rooftop. His hand was burned to the bone.

So we didn't get away completely without a penalty after all. The girl reached forward, drawing on what little power she had left to help damp the pain and rebuild the damaged tissues. I guess it's over now.

Nephrite stirred beside her and pulled himself into a sitting position. "You're all right," he said.

Molly stared into the deep blue eyes that had captivated her since the first moment she had seen them. "I guess so. I'm tired, though."

"So are we all."

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#Brothers?# the Ancient called dazedly. #Brothers?#

There was no response. He heaved himself up onto his hands and knees. They aren't here. I am . . . the last. Because of this worthless body, the Crystal Weavers' power passed me by.

He was largely hidden from the rest of the roof by the remains of the amplifier, which was now so much cracked crystal and metal slag. The diamond, barely the size of the tip of his little finger despite all the trouble it had cost them, crumbled to dust under his touch. I'm beaten. Completely. He snarled in the direction of his five foes, who appeared to be, however weakly, congratulating themselves. Celebrating. How dare they?

They really weren't all that far away. He might even be able to crawl far enough forward to . . . tweak their noses, or something. It would be the most he could manage in his present state. Surely there must be some way I can mount an attack.

His eyes fell on a jagged shard of broken crystal. A glob of molten metal had hardened around one half of it, forming a crude handle. It could almost be what the humans call a knife. In any case, it is a possible weapon. He picked it up. The shape wasn't quite right for his hand, but he would manage. He looked back over at the little group of his five embodied enemies. I do believe that they are completely oblivious. Good.

He clung to the shadows as he crept forward. The white- haired Center of the Weave had his back to him. Excellent. Without him, the group would disintegrate, and the Ancient would at least have the satisfaction of knowing that he had dragged them down with him.

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Nephrite smelled something wrong the instant before he saw it. The taint of unwashed human had no place on the windswept roof. <<Watch out!>>

Malachite threw himself sideways. The blonde man's knife hissed past his shoulder, only to lodge in Molly's side.

Without training, she didn't know what to do, or couldn't think it of it fast enough, Nephrite thought numbly as Molly pitched forward into his arms. He felt the searing pain of her injury for an instant, then lost it again as she lost consciousness. Red blood coated his hands, mingling with the half-dried green. No. NOOOOOOOO!

Malachite had reflexively scooped an abandoned sword up off the rooftop and lunged at his assailant, but it was small comfort to Nephrite to see the blonde man's blood pour out to mingle with Molly's. She's dying. She will die, if . . . He exerted his powers, trying at least to hold her blood inside where it would do her some good. The red flood became a trickle and stopped. Is she breathing? Was I too late? I can't tell!

Adrenaline, or whatever the equivalent was in his biochemically twisted body, gave him the strength to stand up, lifting her, but he could not teleport. He had drained his powers beyond what he would once have considered possible.

"Molly! What happened?" The Sailor Scouts were running towards them, Sailor Moon in the lead. Meanwhile, in the background, Malachite was tipping the blonde man's body over into the street below. "Is she . . . ?"

"I don't know," Nephrite was forced to say. "She hasn't been one of us long enough that I would expect her body to dissolve as she died. It's quite possible that she is . . ." No! I won't say it! I won't! She's alive! She must be! I would have felt her die!

To his surprise, Sailor Moon actually said, "I'm sorry."

Nephrite turned away. Perhaps, if we all pool our powers, I can at least get her home. The seat of my power is there. It may be enough.

Then he felt her body shudder in his arms, and her breathing stopped. No!

"It's too late," Malachite said softly. "Too late this time around, in any case." He reached out and lifted Molly's spirit crystal off over her head. "But we still have this. She'll be back."

Nephrite put the body down gently, trying to find a place that wasn't already smeared with gore. It's only for now. I have to believe that.

It was the first time in a thousand years that he had cried.

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Serena bent over to pick up her locket. I don't believe it. Molly, dead? Fighting the Negaverse or the Dark Moon was never like this. The scent of the blood that had been splattered all over the rooftop was making her feel sick again. I wish Sailor Scouts could retire. I know this is my "destiny", as Luna is always saying, but I don't want to do it anymore. Not if it means this.

"Hey, girlfriend!" Lita. It's good to have friends. I need them right now. Beyond the tall Scout in her green skirt stood the other three Scouts, Darien pushing past them to see if she was all right. And beyond them, the four Negaverse generals stood leaning against each other. I don't believe it. They turned out to be the good guys after all. Sort of.

Jadeite said something to Nephrite that Serena couldn't quite make out. The auburn-haired man smiled wearily and nodded back. Still trying to support each other, the four started toward the stairs that would take them to the ground floor.

"So they're just going to walk away and leave us to explain," Darien said. Serena couldn't blame him. Someone was bound to notice the blood and the dead bodies, not to mention the stack of near-naked ex- monsters still lying off to one side.

Jadeite turned back toward them with a peculiar look on his face. I think he heard that.

"My prince," he said, in an oddly formal tone of voice, "it has been an honor to serve you. I hope that you will do as much honor to our memories."

Serena frowned, trying to puzzle out what the general had meant, and then noticed that Darien's face had gone white above her as he watched the four continue their slow progress.

"I don't understand," Serena complained.

Darien sighed. "When Beryl attacked my father's castle, back during the Silver Millennium, a small group of people fought a rear-guard action to buy time for the others to get away. One of them managed to send a transmission off to the Moon. Those were the last words spoken before the transmission broke off. When the refugees reached the Moon, I asked around to try to find out who the people had been who saved so many lives. No one remembered any of their names, just that they had been living at court a long time, like someone else's poor relations."

"You're saying that . . ."

"They were heroes. Yes. Then as much as now."

And the sun sank down below the roof, plunging the blood- soaked expanse into darkness.

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