Circles
by NaruMolly (aka Gwenne-chan, or Bard)

PART FIVE: Duels

* * * * * * * *

He stood to one side of the throne room, watching with a faint smile as Zoisite explained the plan the two of them had so carefully formulated to Queen Beryl. Of course--Zoisite withheld some of the details; Malachite had taught her too well for that. A main rule for survival under Beryl's rule was "Never tell everything; let others make their own mistakes by jumping to the wrong conclusions." With half-smile, he stepped to Zoisite's side, bowing to the Queen. He would go with her this time; watch his love work...

...Snow swirled around him, blowing so hard, some of it found its way inside the jacket of his uniform. Some corner of his mind complained of the severe cold, but the chill in his heart where there had once been a glowing spot of warmth chilled him more than the weather ever could. The only part of him that was not turning into ice was the burning hatred, and he clung to it with all the will that he had left. Before him on the snow cowered the two moon cats. Raising his hands, he channeled the fury at them...

...All but Sailor Moon knelt before him, knocked down by the cutting edge of attack he favored. It was her fault Zoisite was dead-- that Zoisite had been driven by jealousy to try to go against Queen Beryl. It was Sailor Moon's fault that Beryl had noticed Tuxedo Mask, and had wanted him for herself so much that she didn't tolerate Zoisite trying to kill him. Zoisite had been trying to destroy a rival, as she had been taught to.

Gritting his teeth to keep from crying out, he poured his pain, his all-consuming fury into one last attack. Gathering the energy one last time, he sent the gleaming arc of energy swirling at Sailor Moon, the red glow twice as glaring as he had ever managed. Then, his eyes widened as she raised the wand with the Crystal and the blast was reflected back at him. He stared in morbid fascination, not even trying to move as the blast swung back towards him, the light from it etching itself in an after image to his eyes. With a faint sense of--relief he watched it come towards him, the glow etching a perfect circle.

The circle was complete; he would go join her. Pain smashed him into...

...The floor. "Ow! Damn!" Malcolm pushed him self up, rubbing his nose and glaring at the armless chair he had dozed off in. "Great," he grumbled, "Just what I needed; a broken nose on top of everything else." He pushed himself up, standing and running his hands through his hair with a grimace. He stilled when his fingers reached the ends of his hair. Something was wrong with that movement-- but what? **Wait--the other life.** He remembered. **Malachite-- my hair was several inches longer then.**

With a shudder, Malcolm picked himself off the floor and then sat heavily in the chair, flopping against the back with a tired thud. Sighing, he bent almost double, head grasped in his hands and his elbows resting on his knees. The memories had come, despite his fighting. Bridgette had been right.

Abruptly, he stilled. Who was Bridgette? No more memories had come of who or what she was--or what--and no hint of what interest she would have in raising the returned generals.

He raised his head, looking at the clock on the beside-table. It was noon, and that meant that Bridgette had been gone almost two hours. He hoped fervently that she was all right--that those children were--the Sailor Scouts! Malcolm grimaced, shoving the hatred back. **No! They are just children! Sailor Scouts or no--that--person--I was deserved everything they did to me!** He shook his head firmly, as if trying to dislodge he memories, then sighed. Shoving a fist into his hair again, he glanced to Jared's still form on the bed and moved over to perch on the bed's side, peering down at him. **Poor Jared; if he just got back memories of what Beryl did to him...**

Suddenly, the younger man stirred slightly, face crinkling. The pale hands resting on the coverlet twitched feebly as Jared muttered something unintelligible.

Shoving all other thoughts away, Malcolm reached out carefully and shook Jared's shoulder. "Jared! Jared, wake up!"

Jared stirred groggily a moment, and then his pale-blue eyes flickered open, focusing on Malcolm slowly. The younger man's face twisted into a confused, and very un-Jared-like frown and he glanced at Malcolm's hand, which still resting on his shoulder. "Lord Malachite?" Malcolm jumped, taking his hand away as if he had been burned, his silver eyes widening. "What--did you do to your hair?"

Malcolm stopped, staring incredulously. That voice! That wasn't Jared; that was Jedite! Malcolm blinked a couple of times, then he sat back in his chair and began laughing. He couldn't help it. He laughed until tears formed in his eyes and his breath wheezed through his chest, but he couldn't stop.

The stranger with Jared's face frowned, almost glaring at Malcolm. Then, the hardness to his face softened, and the pale-blue eyes widened a little in alarm. "What the--get out of my head!" Jared's eyes moved to Malcolm, who began laughing even harder, actually falling off the edge of the bed to curl on the floor, his arms wrapped around his aching sides as he gasped for breaths between laughs. "Malcolm! Will you quit laughing, dammit!? This isn't funny!"

Malcolm, having succeeded in stifling his laughter somewhat, howled, and fell back down, laughing even more than before.

* * * * * * * *

Nathan sighed, sitting carefully on the floor of the gym, glancing around as the rest of the students from Molly's and Serena's class settled nervously around him, huddling closer to him as though he were some sort of guardian. Molly was pressed tightly against his side, resting her head on his side, one of his arms draped comfortingly around her shoulders, trying to ease her shaking. Serena and the other girls were the closest of the other students, clustered around Nathan and looking around with wide eyes and pale faces, obviously picking out missing faces in the crowd in the gym. Those students that still lived, huddled together in the gym, were splattered with blood, their clothing torn and dirty. And all with a uniform look of hopeless terror. Miss Harruda sat with a few other teachers, still somewhat in shock, her hand clutching at the make-shift bandage Nathan made to temporarily set her broken leg.

With a sigh, and a silent curse at himself for being so careless, Nathan glanced about himself, watching the terrorist movements carefully, noting their patterns of motion, and timing them with surreptitious glances at his watch. He counted fifteen of the gunmen in the gym alone. **Damn! I wish I dared do something, but I don't think I could protect anyone else before I took 'em all out.** With a sigh, he settled back, waiting tensely for an opportunity. Instead, he forced himself to watch as the survivors of the initial attack slowly filed in, moving numbly to sit where they were directed, like cattle in an abattoir.

Frowning, Nathan tugged Molly closer to his side, and raised his violin, peering at the smooth wood curiously. His eyes moved over every inch--not a scratch that he didn't already know intimately. Murmuring a little in surprise, he peered closer. He knew he had dropped it when he had run to protect Molly. By all rights, it should have been a pile of splinters--if not from the drop, then from the blast. He had picked the fiddle out of a pile of rubble when he had been going around helping patch up the wounded in the classroom. With a sigh, he set the instrument to his side next to the bow, and settled his other arm around Molly, resting his cheek in her hair, his sapphire eyes still watching everything in the room carefully.

"Nathan--" whispered Serena, nervously, touching his elbow slightly. "What'll we do? We can't transform with all these people in here! And they'd start shooting before we finished, anyway!"

"We wait; there is nothing we can do at the moment, Serena." Nathan grimaced at her, his eyes showing how much his own words bothered him.

"But--what about--" Serena's eyes shot around the room once more, and shone with anguish.

Lita snorted. "You’re rather calm about this whole thing, Nathan," she muttered to him under her breath.

Nathan turned his eyes to her a moment, startling her with the dark seriousness in the shining pools, and he raised a hand, shrugging a little. "You know what kind of life I lived--last time, Lita. What did you expect; me shitting my trousers and fainting?" He sighed, stroking Molly's hair a little, not raising his head from resting atop hers. "Besides," he added softly. "I was born in Belfast this lifetime; for a while, it was bombs with the porridge, y'know?"

"You there! Keep quiet!" A terrorist came over and struck Nathan a stinging blow on the side of the head with the butt of his gun.

Nathan swayed a little as Molly cried out, clutching at him in fear as stars filled his vision. Quickly, Nathan stomped on the fury and merely glared evenly back at the man who had struck him, carefully pulling Molly closer. The terrorist sneered, and turned his back on the musician.

With a sigh, Nathan settled back, gingerly raising his slender hand to touch the spot where the gun had hit. It hurt like hell, and he'd doubtless had a lovely bruise in a little bit, but the skull didn't seem to be cracked.

An hour since the attack, and no word on who was doing this--or why. Molly's hand tentatively brushed the sore spot, and he held back a wince at the pain, trying to smile reassuringly, though his eyes narrowed in speculation. When the leader of this fiasco did show up...

* * * * * * * *

Darien frowned, pacing before the long window of his apartment. ZoŽ sat slumped on the edge of his sofa, watching him carefully and warily, toying idly with the curl hanging before her right ear. "I don't have time for your lies, Zoisite. Sailor Moon is in trouble and--" Darien finally snapped, after glancing at the muted television for a moment, eyes on the ruined school building and the few visible gunmen.

"Damn you, Cape-Boy!" ZoŽ surged to her feet, eyes flaring in anger, her fist clenched at her sides. Then she stopped, sighing and stomping on her anger as she rubbed at her head. "Darien, please--please--this is hard enough. Getting me angry just makes--her come out. Or--something." She looked at him pleadingly, then flopped back down on the couch a helpless expression on her face. "I just--if you didn't bring me back--then who did? Who--and why?" She stared at the images on the television bleakly.

Darien shrugged, then stopped his pacing to regard the woman evenly. "How much of you is Zoisite, anyway?" he asked warily.

ZoŽ shrugged helplessly. "I--it's not that simple, Darien. I--I wish that I knew enough to tell you. I--remember everything from--that--life, but--I am ZoŽ Chanter still--I--think." She bit her lip, staring at her hands. "I'm a musician," she muttered softly, slowly, as if trying to convince herself.

"What about your three friends; those other musicians that you're with? You mentioned that they seemed to be back too. Did you ask them? And what about Malachite; aren't the two of you--"

ZoŽ flinched. "Malachite--no; he's Malcolm. He--thinks of me as a sister; we're not..." ZoŽ colored, turning her emerald eyes to the floor and the tops of her soft boots. "I--don't think anyone of us really knows what is going on--though--Nathan might; he was--he was the one who got the--dreams first." She stood suddenly, her eyes widening, staring at the television with shock. "Wait! Nathan was going to the--"

The door to the apartment burst open and Sailor Mars and Sailor Venus ran in, both of them out of breath from running to get there. The two cats clung to their shoulders, tails bushed at least four times the normal sizes, Luna frantically babbling into Mina's ear. "Darien! Did you--" Rei stopped, staring at ZoŽ, her dark eyes narrowing. The musician held her hand to her slender throat, paling as she stared fearfully at the two Scouts. "What is she doing here?"

* * * * * * * *

Nathan's head jerked up from resting his chin in Molly's hair, frowning. His head pounded with pain, the bruise on the side of his face smarting, but he ignored those discomforts for a moment. Had he really felt that? A stir in the terrorists near the door leading back into the main part of the school drew his attention. The doors opened, and in walked a very strange group. There were three more of the normal terrorists, each toting some sort of gun. These three took up positions near the door, their eyes scanning the crowded gym warily. The rest of the strange group...Nathan had to repress a shudder. Four 'people' surrounded a fifth, and Nathan recognized as adonni, some of Beryl's favorite guard creatures.

The adonni were huge; each of the creatures having a body that looked like the ridiculously built men that Nathan had seen in some of Jared's comics before; able to rip a man to shreds as if the flesh were paper. All four wore masks like might be seen in a Kabuki theatre, but hands were black, and scaled on the palms, and furred on the backs, tipped with glistening claws at least an inch long. They all wore unadorned black gi's and each carried a simple enough staff-spear, but Nathan knew the spearheads were dipped in deadly poison. The students shrank back from the unnatural cold the beasts radiated as the quintet moved through the crowd, the stench carrying to Nathan, even as far away as they were.

And the man they were escorting. "Damn!" Nathan hissed, his arms tightening around Molly, his blue eyes narrowing in hatred.

"What--do you know him?" whispered Ami, her face pale, her hands clutching at Lita's arm.

"Yes." The group stopped in the center of the gym, and Nathan's whole body trembled with his tension as he stared at them. The four adonni roughly kicked the few students too scared to move out of the way, taking up guard at four corners around the man in their center, then each slammed the end of their staff-spears into the ground. The man in their midst smiled thinly at the room, sneering into the sudden silence.

He was a handsome man, with a mop of inky black curls that looked so tousled, it had to take hours to achieve the effect. His face was young looking, but the icy blue eyes held no warmth whatsoever. He wore a high-collared uniform of dark blue with silver trim, matching silver clasps on each shoulder, a long silver-threaded sash of black around his slender hips. The man looked around the room, sending chills through everyone his eyes touched, forcing them all to look away. Nathan breathed out in a hiss through clenched teeth. "Joerdan."

Joerdan sneered, crossing his arms over his chest. "Well, well. I suppose you sheep are all wondering who we are; why we have attacked a school full of 'innocent' children." Nathan's mouth tightened and the jeweled eyes flared with anger, but he merely kept staring at Joerdan, hatred written on his usually gentle features. Joerdan lowered a hand, pointing accusingly at one of the teachers, the poor woman cowering and covering her face with her hands, fearing the worst. "But not everyone in here is so innocent; not everyone here is what they seem." There was a low murmur through the hall, with all the students looking at one another. Lita, Ami, and Serena paled a little, and Molly pressed herself against Nathan's back fearfully. "I am looking for the Sailor Scouts. If I do not find them, ten of you will die in an hour. Then ten more the next hour." He shrugged. "I really don't care how long it takes."

Nathan pushed Molly away slightly, and stood, unable to contain his fury. "Is tha' your real plan, Joerdan, or is this hunt for the Sailor Scouts merely an interestin' diversion?" he demanded, his eyes cold and hard.

Joerdan's eyes shot to Nathan, the narrow, handsome face twisting into a vile frown as most of the gunmen swiveled to aim at the rigid musician. "Who are you? How is that you know me? How dare you speak to me in such tones!?"

Nathan snorted, pushing Molly protectively behind him, and tossing his bangs from his eyes. "Don't tell me your bloody memory is that short, Joerdan."

The man's eyes narrowed--and he stared. Joerdan appeared to struggle within himself for a moment, and the look of shock slowly composed itself back to a cold sneer. The full lips pressed into a thin line, as his ice-blue eyes met Nathan's with an almost audible clash. "Ah! So that fool Zoisite didn’t managed to kill you, Traitor."

The room went silent; as far as the two were concerned, it could have been only Nathan and Joerdan in the room. "Wrong on several points, Joerdan. Y'really ought to check your sources, you know. Zoisite never tried to kill me; she left the attackin' to her creatures. And they did succeed."

"You lie! You stand before me, Nephlite!" Joerdan spat back.

Nathan smiled icily. "Not Nephlite; I am Nathan Malley. Nephlite is dead; you can ask Sailor Moon, if you ever find her."

Silence reigned and every eye was locked on the two men as they stared at each other. Not even the gunmen dared to breathe. The adonni remained as still as statues, unperturbed, the staff-spears ready to cleave into any that came too close.

* * * * * * * *

ZoŽ crouched behind the ledge on the roof of the building she, Tuxedo Mask, and the two Sailors were using as a perch to watch the school. She squinted at the banner hanging over the front door, shading her glimmering eyes from the sunlight with a hand. "I can tell the banner is from the Negaverse," she said, shaking her head, "but I don't recognize the personal insignia." She glanced back at the warily watching Scouts. "I have been rather out of touch."

"Joerdan."

Everyone jumped, spinning towards the voice the smooth voice. A tall, slender figure stepped from within the strangely, too-dark shadows by the side of the shed which covered the stairs entrance on the roof. It was Bridgette; dressed for mayhem. Her long, silvered red-gold hair was bound up in a complex pattern of braids and a few loose curls, her lithe body clothed in a business-like outfit in flowing dark violet silks, rather like some sort of gi. Full legged-trousers were tucked into the tops of low, soft boots, and a full-skirted tunic hung smoothly over her hips. The only ornamentation on the violet silks was some soft black thread embroidery showing knot-work more suited to the Celts, rather than the Eastern-looking outfit. The hilts of two swords showed over her shoulders, near the neck, and a long staff, which Darien belatedly recognized as some sort of bow rested in on hand, a clutch of arrows peeking over one shoulder, closer to her shoulder-blade opposite shoulder from the sword hilt. At her hips rested some sort of wicked-looking throwing blade, like a three-sided boomerang, and on the other side was a simple enough dagger, though the hilts of all the weapons were elaborately decorated.

Bridgette's dark eyes were cold and flat, regarding them as if reading the paper "Where did you come from?" asked Sailor Mars, trying to recover from her startlement.

Bridgette crossed her arms over her chest, the bow tucked into a corner of her arm, as her face twisted into a dark frown. "Why should that matter at the moment?" Her unnervingly stern gaze moved to ZoŽ then, ignoring the two Scouts and Tuxedo Mask. "The insignia belongs to Joerdan, ZoŽ; I think that you'll remember him."

"I--don't--" ZoŽ frowned, thinking, sorting through the other memories, her fingers toying with a few locks of her long, golden hair. "Wait--I--know the name, but I--can't quite place it. Was he another one of Beryl's underlings; one of the lesser ones?"

Bridgette shook her head. "No. He was one of Jedite's, actually."

"But Beryl wiped out all of Jedite's followers when she trapped him in the crystal," ZoŽ protested, her brow crinkling in confusion.

Bridgette spread her hands easily, her blue eyes moving to rest on the school. "Most she did, but he managed to escape Beryl's wrath on his leader. He's very good at--mmm..."

"Ass kissing?" ZoŽ guessed wryly.

Bridgette's eyes flickered back to the woman while Mina had to stifle a giggle. "In part, yes, but he is also a good strategist, and he is very good at 'court' intrigue. As of now, he is now of a rather high rank--Commander, I think." Bridgette shrugged. "I never cared to spend the time learning the system of ranks in the Da--Negaverse."

ZoŽ stared, face pale, her green eyes widening considerably. "Who are you? How could you possibly--I--thought I knew you."

Bridgette sighed, rubbing at her forehead with a graceful hand, glancing over at the school once more. "The Bridgette Corwyn you know is real enough, ZoŽ, just as ZoŽ Chanter is--just as Zoisite was. Yet as Zoisite and ZoŽ are just one facet of the whole that is you, so it is for me." She shook her head. "Such explanations are best saved for later. Now; this attack is part of a plan to--"

"How do you know?" asked Darien, breaking in, still fighting off the feeling that he had seen those dark eyes and the beautiful face before. And the locket...

Bridgette's eyes moved to peer at him and he couldn't help but take a step backwards under that unwavering gaze. "I have my sources, Darien, and it shouldn't matter now." She shook her head, the wispy curls flying as she nodded at the school building. "Your friends are in danger, Darien, and I think that is what should concern you, rather than my sources." Darien felt himself unaccountably embarrassed at the reprimand. He swallowed heavily and nodded meekly for Bridgette to continue. The soul-piercing stare moved back off him, and he relaxed. "Joerdan and Beryl are gathering energy for a pending attack through the fear and the pain of the survivors. Nominally, they are claiming to be searching for you Scouts, but that is only an excuse and an added bonus, should you decide to show up and surrender."

"Survivors?" Venus paled.

Bridgette's eyes narrowed, regarding the Scout wryly. "Beryl is not playing footsie this time, girl. She has regained what power she has now from the life forces of thousands of people she trapped in crystals." ZoŽ paled. "As she did with Jedite when he failed her. She has discovered that blood magic is a fine source of power--as are the darker side of emotions that humans can experience." She turned her gaze to ZoŽ who stood tautly on the balls of her feet, her hands wringing. "You had a question?"

ZoŽ jumped, then spoke up tentatively. "I--the crystals. Is--that why Jared--"

"Yes; Beryl nearly succeeded in destroying him." ZoŽ sagged back to sit heavily on the ledge behind her, her hands digging into the concrete of the ledge and drawing a little blood from the force. Bridgette moved with a deadly grace to stand beside her, patting the younger woman's shoulder with absent-minded motion of reassurance. Keeping her hand on ZoŽ’s shoulder, she turned her eyes more carefully on the school below and before them. "Now, as you may have guessed, the reason that they chose that school as their target is because several of Beryl's minions had discovered many of your identities, and traced you there."

Rei paled. "So they're looking for us."

Bridgette shrugged. "I doubt that Beryl cares much whether or not you show; it would be an added bonus, but not completely what she is after. She is looking for life forces, and seeking you Scouts gives her people a feasible reason to start killing people should no one show--or should you show and do something 'threatening.' You see, she needs to bide time, and if she just went in and started a wholesale slaughter, then the police would not be so cautious, and she would not gain as much." Bridgette paused, pushing a few strands of her hair from her eyes, watching the motions of the gunmen on the school roof, and the swarming human activity below. "The slaughter will come later, when she has more energy at her beck and call."

"I'd give a lot to know how you know this," Tuxedo Mask said dryly.

"Darien," she said evenly, ignoring his obvious desire to ask how she knew his name, "it is the job of any story teller to know both sides of the tale. And of the many things that I have been and that I am still, that is the best to describe it. I have my ways, and that is all that I am prepared to tell you at this point." She fixed her gaze on him again, and he was forced to look away. "Now unless you want people to die in the time it would take to explain my methods and my motives, I suggest you sit on your arguments and listen."

* * * * * * * *

Nathan found his mind wandering slightly while he kept his glare locked on Joerdan's. The room remained silent, tense, students and teachers clutching each other, the gunmen shifting restlessly. Only the adonni remained unflappable as ever.

Molly clutched at Nathan's left hand, her face pressed against his back, her other arm around his waist. He knew that he should turn his total attention to the adversary before him, yet, for some reason, he found himself thinking to a show a couple of years back. Bridgette had been organizing a number of Irish dances with twenty other dancers in it. He remembered sitting on a chair, carefully buckling on his shoes and checking the strap that he had repaired earlier in the day. Bridgette was on the floor before him, talking with the lights and the cameraman, pouring over the sheets of paper she had sketched out the complex patterns the dancers were all to form as they danced. "Why th' patterns, Bri" he had asked.

Bridgette had smiled, her dark eyes warming with affection as she had glanced back over her shoulder at him. "Nathan--this show is for the Heritage Festival. This dance--well--dance was long thought to enhance magical properties. These are all old patterns that were--once thought to hold power." She chuckled at him as he made a face. "I thought it'd be appropriate." Smiling, she winked as Malcolm moved behind her, feet clicking in complex rhythms while he tested the fit of his shoes, then moved to stretch on the bar, tossing his silver hair back over his shoulders. "Just say it is the eccentric musings of an old woman for now. Who knows, Nate-one day, you might find it useful..."

Somehow, Bridgette had known.

Nathan smiled suddenly. Other ambiguous and confusing conversations with Bridgette suddenly made sense. "There is no such thing as a 'simple' musician, Nathan..." Or earlier--"Music is its own magic, but even more so when a person puts their whole hearts in it. Don't you laugh now, Nathan; where'd you think the old expression 'music shall tame the savage beast' came from."

Nathan laughed once to himself, and Joerdan's icy eyes flared with hate, taking the laugh as a mock of him. The black-haired man's eyes narrowed suddenly, and a cruel smile turned his lips as he noticed Molly, pressed to Nathan's side for comfort. "Ah yes; I remember Zoisite saying how you had fallen in love with a human. You fool! Your precious pet human will be the first to die here, Traitor."

Nathan's face stilled as the crowd sucked in its collective breath. Then all the emotion flooded out of Nathan's face, other than a stark, cold fury. "I think not, Joerdan. Make one move towards her or anyone else, and you will not be alive t' feel another heartbeat," Nathan snarled, most of the accent drowned out in the dark anger.

"If he has one," muttered Lita, under her breath.

Nathan smiled humorlessly, and his muscles tensed almost imperceptible as he heard several of the guns aimed at him being cocked into readiness. Joerdan snorted, holding up a hand to still the terrorists. "You arrogant, fool! Do you actually think you can defeat me?" He sneered. "And what of these pitiful mortals you seem to care so much for? Make one move towards me, and they will start to die; bye ones and twos--or by the mob, I care little which way it is."

Nathan paused, his eyes flickering around the crowded gym, as if calculating, then crossed his arms over his chest with a derisive snort. "If you're so bloody sure o' yourself," he said wryly, "then why hide behind your little human guards? It's easy to strut when you have four adonni, not that they will be much of a problem, either." Nathan laughed shortly, glancing into the nearest gunmen's eyes, ignoring the Uzi aimed at his chest. "Imagine that; big boy like that, scared o' the horrid fiddler." The gunman blinked in confusion while Joerdan trembled in suppressed ire. "Can't think of being able t' defeat me in an open challenge, is that it?"

Joerdan's eyes narrowed, but he made a slashing gesture with his hand and the guns lowered all over the room. "Very well, Traitor," he spat his almost-colorless eyes glowing with anger. "But when you are dead, you're little humans will die anyway, and you'll be helping you Queen once again with your blood."

Nathan smiled thinly. "Some Queen." He tossed his head, when Joerdan snarled. "Very sure of yourself, aren't you, Joerdan. What makes you think I intend to lose?" He smiled thinly. "An' don't dismiss these humans so quickly; after all, who is it crawling about searching for energy enough t' flush the bloody toilets." There was a low, uneasy laugh in the room, even from the gunmen. "You would be amazed the power even a single human holds, Joerdan. We're not so easy to beat, y'know." His smile broadened. "An' this time, I've got 14 years of music and dance to back me up now."

Joerdan looked slightly puzzled.

* * * * * * * *

"You want us to go in the front?" Mars asked incredulously, staring at Bridgette.

"Yes; sometimes it's best to do the obvious, Rei." She pointed to the front gate of the school. "The people who watch the school down there will expect it, Rei; heroes are expected to show up." Bridgette shrugged a little. "Darien and ZoŽ can handle the back."

"Where will you be?" asked Venus, glancing nervously at the thronging crowd below.

Bridgette pointed to the main wing of the school building. "There are 6 men on the roof there; along with four on each floor." Mina and Rei paled, and ZoŽ bit her lip. "I will be taking care of them."

"Alone?" ZoŽ asked flatly.

"Yes; alone." Bridgette tossed her head. "I won't be hurt." She fixed each of the small raiding party with her gaze. "Just remember to try to kill no one. For every person, whether terrorist, or student, who dies, Beryl will only gain that much more energy."

"Then how are we supposed to fight them? If they're from the Negaverse, we can hardly expect knocking them over the head to work," Rei protested. "Even if we could get close enough with all those guns aimed at us."

Bridgette shook her head. "Except for Joerdan and his four adonni, the others are normal humans that Joerdan was able to recruit." She shrugged. "And that is why I am taking care of the ones who will be more wary." She smiled thinly. "And if you wish bash them over the head with something, sneak up on them."

"Is that what you’ll be doing?" asked Venus.

Bridgette chuckled lowly, the sound sending a few chills down the others' spines. "No. I have my own ways." She stiffened suddenly, her eyes shooting down to the gym, where reports had said that the remaining hostages were being held. "Damn, Nathan--I didn't think you'd figure that out now." She rose to her feet from the crouch, frowning. "Plans have been changed; we go now."

* * * * * * * *

Nathan tried not to let the uncertainty he felt show on his face, schooling his features as he did when he felt the twinges of stage fright. Certainly, he now understood what a lifetime of music with Bridgette had been leading towards, but would he be able to use it? He knew nothing, from either lifetime about what he was thinking of. All he knew was the star magic that he had used as Nephlite; and that had been as Nephlite. Even using the powers as he had when he had first gotten the last bit of the memories back, the magic had seemed a bit odd. It were as if he were trying to ride a bicycle after years of doing nothing but driving cars and walking; more like as if he had only ever flown before. Then there was his 'new' body, which was by far, unused to the strange strains of magic.

Joerdan gestured and his four adonni moved as one, sweeping out with the butt ends of their staffs, pushing those students too stunned to scamper out of the way back, giving the two combatants enough room for their duel. Nathan nodded, then turned back to Molly and the other three girls, his face softening as they came closer.

Molly stared up at him with fear in her eyes. "Nathan--" she said, then threw her arms around his waist with a short cry.

Nathan managed a chuckle. "Here now," he whispered, stroking the top of her head tenderly, cupping her chin with his other arm before crouching and hugging her firmly. "I'm already uncertain I'm not being a total idiot; a little confidence, please!"

Serena, Ami, and Lita merely stared at him. "But if you lose--" Ami whispered.

"Then I expect you t' get Molly the hell out o' here," Nathan said flatly, loosing all traces of humor. "An' I also expect y' three to use this diversion to--do what y' have to." He glanced up, seeing a flicker of movement from the corners of his eyes and noticing the guns being raised to him again. Joerdan looked impatient, standing on his side of the cleared space in the center of the gym with a scowl on his handsome features, looking almost as though he were pouting. The fiddler gently pried Molly away from his waist, and bent to kiss her lightly on the forehead. "'Ere now; remember I promised you that parfait this afternoon, Miss Molly." With a smile, he squeezed her shoulders and turned to stride to his end of the duel space, leaving her to turn and huddle miserably and trembling at Serena's side, her friend's arms wrapped around her. "All right, then, Joerdan, let's get this bloody over with."

* * * * * * * *

Gary, one of the terrorists, tore his eyes from watching the activities of the police and other people beyond the barricades, looking for the source of the low cry that he heard behind him. Raising his gun and clicking off the safety, he trotted over and pressed his back to the wall behind him, moving to peer around the corner.

A figure in dark purples straightened, turning towards him with eyes more unnerving than the inhuman, slit-pupils of the four huge creatures that the boss had for a personal guard. The tall woman wore several obvious archaic weapons, but none were drawn; her bow, tucked into the crook of one arm, wasn't even strung. Nowhere about her could he see even a single gun. What held his attention most, though, aside from her stark beauty, was the pile of weapons at her feet--and the dark crystal held in her hand. The weapons and clothes at her feet--looked as though they belonged to one of his fellows, John, maybe.

And arching over the woman's head...

Too late, he saw her hand raise to point at him; saw the brilliant scarlet glow flare from her hand...

* * * * * * * *

Sailor Venus pointedly ignored the policeman whom trotted after them, yammering about himself being in charge. Sailor Mars, however, turned and snorted at him. "You keep out of this; this is our job," she said. "And it doesn't look like you're in charge of much, if you ask me. Nothing but a bunch of people sitting about and staring at the building."

"Going in there like that," the man started, "could get the hostages killed."

Mars turned her back on him, having to trot to catch up with Venus. "So could waiting around for them to kill them anyway."

* * * * * * * *

Darien watched ZoŽ with no little distrust as she moved before him, slipping with a sort of awkward grace from shadow to shadow behind the building. She paused, glancing up at the roof nervously, to see Bridgette's slender form, leaning over, one hand waving slightly before the other woman vanished out of view once more.

Warily, ZoŽ approached the wall of the gym, frowning up at it, then glanced back at Darien. "I can--get to the hole up there--" she pointed to a hole in the wall, which had crumbled from one corner near the ceiling, "but you--"

"I can go in through that door once you give the signal," Darien said flatly, pointing to the closed double doors a few feet away.

ZoŽ glanced at the door, her lips compressing to then lines, then her fingers wove in a strange pattern, and a small clear crystal appeared in her slender fingers. "Here--in case the door is locked. It--I think that it should freeze the lock enough for you to break it."

Darien stared at the crystal for a moment, then took it, feeling the unearthly chill from it even through his gloves. He raised his eyes back to ZoŽ, one brow shooting up into his hairline. She shrugged with a tentative smile. "Jared always says--if you've got it, flaunt it."

Darien nodded, having to smile back, and then moved to take up his position.

* * * * * * * *

Jared sat up in the bed, staring at Malcolm in annoyance as the older man continued to roll on the floor, wheezing in laughter. "What's so damn funny? My head feels like someone's been playing racquetball with it, and you're making like a demented hyena. And to make things worse, I feel like I've got some other person hanging around in my head." His posture shifted again, and Malcolm stilled, sitting up and watching intently. "Indeed. I feel the same way. The last I remember is--" he shuddered slightly, "being trapped in that crystal."

"Jedite," breathed Malcolm. "Oh bloody hell! You're both in there, aren't you? It's not like the rest of us."

Jared's annoyed expression returned, with an added bit of fear and confusion, his hands moving to clutch at Malcolm's arm. "What the hell are you talking about, Mal?"

Malcolm started to speak, but abruptly, he stiffened. He felt...Negaverse magic; nearby--at the school. He stood quickly, biting his lip. "I can't explain at the moment, Jared--Jedite--whoever you are right now. I have to go--"

Jared stood as well, frowning a bit as he swayed. "Wait, Malachite," he said, that un-Jared-like scowl on his face. "I recognized that presence behind that last blast..."

* * * * * * * *

Nathan forced himself to bite back the curses he felt like screaming, as he ducked a rippling blast of yellowed-green energy, and returned with a sparkling wave of the star magic. Joerdan had grown in power since he had last seen him--and Nathan knew that he, himself, was not as strong as he could be; half of him unused to magic in anything but the songs and stories that Bridgette had carefully taught him. **God! That's it!**

Nathan rolled out of the way of a blast, then reached a hand towards his violin, resting by Molly and Serena, and well out of the combat ring. The instrument shimmered suddenly, and vanished, reappearing in his hand. Grinning widely, he rolled to his feet and turned a huge smirk on Joerdan. The other man stopped his barrage of attacks, confused by his adversary's sudden mirth. "Joerdan--meet Bach!" Nathan crowed into the ringing silence, as he raised the bow to the strings.

* * * * * * * *

ZoŽ tried not to think about how crazy she was for doing this; floating fully 30 feet in the air under her own 'magical' powers, and getting ready to climb through a hole in a wall into a gym full of hostages and terrorists and monsters from another world. She stomped on her thoughts firmly, thinking of Nathan in danger within, and slipped through the crumbing hole and stopped, staring at the scene below.

In the center of the gym, Nathan played his violin, **Hey--that's that reel, "Firebrand," that Nathan is always saying is such a pain to play--** she blinked as a wave of fire roared, dancing up from before Nathan's dancing feet towards Joerdan. The rushing wave of flames seemed to follow the rippling notes of the song as Nathan danced to one side of the lightning bolt that while Joerdan had to physically duck the fire, his once pristine uniform getting badly scorched on the back. **At least the arrogant bastard is looking a bit worried.** Nathan was grinning like a fiend, but she could tell from the set of his shoulders that he was tired--and scared out of his wits. She hoped that Joerdan didn't notice that.

Licking her lips nervously, ZoŽ floated amongst the shadows in the rafters, carefully noting positions of each of the terrorists, though they all had their eyes glued on the magical duel, and--the adonni. She shivered, seeing their bulky forms standing statue still amongst the students. Carefully, she perched on the beams that crossed the ceiling, drawing a short crystal blade from inside her jacket and watching the fight below, ready.

She missed seeing three girls pulling a fourth into the shadows of the bleachers.

* * * * * * * *

"But--I--" Molly struggled against Lita's grip, trying to get away from the taller girl to go back out to where she could see the fight.

"Just shut up and stay here! Nathan's got enough to worry about without you being in trouble, too!" Lita snapped. "Just sit tight--and see if you can't start getting other people back here and out of sight--or better yet out the damn door over there."

"What are you going to do?" Molly asked, only half paying attention, her eyes glued to the combat through a narrow crack in the folded bleachers.

"They want the Sailor Scouts, they got them," Serena said, glowering, and touching the broach on the front of her uniform.

* * * * * * * *

Darien blinked, wincing as a loud roar shook the building he leaned against. **What in the world is going on in there? That sounded like an explosion. And where in the hell is that violin music coming from?** As it was, there was no way he would be able to hear ZoŽ’s signal like this. Not only that, but there was also a little bit of smoke pouring out the hole ZoŽ had vanished into minutes before, so there was little chance of seeing her, should she try to visually signal, either. Frowning, he crept to the door and tried it; locked. "Of course," he muttered.

Grimly, he raised the cold crystal, placing the point on the metal near where the latch should be--and stared as thick frost spread all over the door from the spot. With a tentative push, he heard a faint crack, as the area around where he had placed the rapidly melting crystal shattered. The door swung in slightly, and he slipped in, hiding in the shadows to one side, behind a set of bleachers.

* * * * * * * *

"Are you certain you should be doing this? You just woke up after--um--well, after whatever almost killed you." Malcolm asked for about the fourth time. He and his younger friend slipped through the crowd around the school, dodging people, their bodies cloaked in invisibility.

"I’m not, but he is," Jared muttered. "I'll just let him do this, thanks, Mal. I don't like messing with guns, you know?"

Malcolm started to speak, but noticed smoke rising from the direction of the gym where the news had said that the hostages were likely being held. "What in hell?"

Jared stared, then that too-serious expression crossed his features again. "My guess," he said, "is a duel."

Malcolm frowned, the cursed and vanished in a column of red and black energy, no longer caring if there were anyone to feel the burst of his magic.

* * * * * * * *

Nathan staggered suddenly, the clear notes faltering. Something was wrong. Pain. He choked, trying to play on, but more pain exploded in his side. He turned startled eyes on Joerdan--in time to see the scorched and furious man level the gun at the musician once more, this time aiming for his head.

* * * * * * * *

Darien stared, seeing Nathan stagger, and his playing falter. Most of the swirling energies in the combatant's ring vanished as the Negaverse man fired the gun again as the music stopped. The auburn-haired musician's arms lowered to the wounds in his side, the instrument falling from his fingers to strike the floor with a jangling crack, and Joerdan raised the gun again, a cruel smile on his face. Grimly, Darien reached into his coat and pulled out a single red rose.

* * * * * * * *

Molly's scream was lost in the sounds of the battle, and the after-ringing of the gunshot. Nathan staggered back, a crimson stain flaring on his shirt and jacket, as his jewel-toned eyes widened. Another flare of red spread over his clothes, a bit higher on his side as another shot rang deafeningly in the suddenly silent gym, and Nathan stopped playing, the instrument falling from his hands to strike the floor.

The three Scouts gasped and ran into the open, and Molly was hot on their heels.

* * * * * * * *

ZoŽ watched in horror, seeing Joerdan pull a simple handgun from within his uniform jacket. She tried to scream a warning to Nathan, but it was too late--even if Nathan could have heard it over the roar of the magical battle.

As Nathan faltered to a stop, a detached corner of ZoŽ’s mind wondered at the brilliant crimson of Nathan's blood as it quickly soaked the side of his shirt and jacket. **It was green; last time it was green.** Grimacing, ZoŽ tightened the grip on her crystal blade, intent on making Joerdan pay.

To hell with what energy Beryl would gain from it.

* * * * * * * *

Nathan fell to one knee--just as Joerdan fired. The bullet sailed through the air where his head had been, actually grazing the ear of one of the terrorists that had been clustered behind him, intent on watching the battle. The sable-haired man frowned, tossing his curls with a sneer. "You're as weak and trusting as these fool humans, Traitor," Joerdan said, pointing the gun at Nathan once more. "Still--that was quite an interesting display of power; I will have to look into this. Humans seem to have some good ideas." He laughed, gesturing at the gun in his hand. "This for instance."

Nathan grimaced, blood trickling from one corner of his mouth. "I never cared much for guns," Nathan coughed, a bit more blood oozing from between his lips, and bubbling a little.

A single rose cut through the air and slashed Joerdan's hand just at that moment. The leader's hand spasmed, and the gun fell to the ground, a bullet tearing into the wooden floor. Nathan caught himself on the hand not pressed to his wounded side, and raised his head to see Tuxedo Mask striding across the gym, cane held like a sword before him. Sailor Mars and Sailor Venus entered through the main doors, ready for mayhem. From the back, and through the surging students, came the other three scouts from the back. From another, appearing in a brilliant display of power, came Malcolm, his regal face twisted, gleaming arcs of scarlet power ready to throw in his hands, and at his side, was Jared, though Nathan could never remember seeing the younger man ever look that cold.

Then Molly was at Nathan's side, carefully trying to support him, her small hands joining his in pressing over the wounds as former hostages surged up and leapt at their captors.

And ZoŽ slammed into Joerdan from above, cold fury in her eyes and a crystal blade in her hand.

* * * * * * * *

Malcolm snarled, ducking away from the line of fire of one of the terrorists--and returned with a pair of his former-self's favorite: red-glowing arcs of power. Jedite/Jared watched him for a moment, the power just blazing around his hands, then he snorted, leaving Malcolm to fend for himself for the moment.

He strode out into the open, slinging the blast at an adonni who was ready to strike down a brave student who had dared attack it. Both Malcolm and Jared/Jedite stopped, watching Joerdan grapple with ZoŽ, then started off again, moving to meet the adonni who were headed to help their master.

All around the gym, the students and teachers were downing the terrorists themselves. Miss Harruda actually had already downed one by smashing a shoe into his temple.

Joerdan managed to shove ZoŽ back, the woman falling heavily to her back on the hard floor, slipping in Nathan's spilled blood

And Joerdan's eyes fell on the yellow-haired musician. "Jedite!"

"Tell Beryl 'hi' for me," Jedite/Jared snarled and he raised his hands, readying a blast.

Joerdan stared in open shock, then vanished, along with his four adonni. All over the room, the battle stopped as the last of the terrorists surrendered.

* * * * * * * *

Molly frantically tried to stop the blood, as Nathan sagged in her arms, his face paling, and his skin cooling, blood tricking from his mouth. He choked again, wrackingly, more blood oozing from between his lips and starting to trickle out of his nose. "No--no! Not again!" Molly sobbed brokenly. "Please--don't die again!"

"I don't intend on letting him die, girl."

Molly looked up to see Bridgette, crouching swiftly beside her and the dying musician, heedless of the pooling blood. Bridgette carefully set aside a bag of something that clinked, and moved her slender hand to brush gently at Nathan's brow.

His pain-glazed eyes flickered to her as her hands moved to his side, gently displacing Molly's. His pain-taught form slowly relaxed into Molly's arms as a numbing-warmth spreading through him. "Red?" he asked with a weak chuckle, lifting a shaking hand to stare at the thick blood coating it. "I thought I bled green last time."

"Beryl's doing," Bridgette said gently and straightened, standing as the Scouts and the other members of Wayfarer came closer, Sailor Moon hugging Tuxedo Mask. "Explanations must wait. I left some of the wound for the medics to find, since it would be too much to deal with erasing the memories of your coming to the school, and it would give an excuse as to why the hostages had the courage to fight back." She glanced at the milling former-hostages and shook her head a little. "But the memory of your little fight, at least as it was--and of us--" A glimmering blue light lined her body for a moment. "Forget..."

...The student body clustered around the five Scouts and Tuxedo Mask, all crowding to see if the wounded musician was all right as the police attack force finally burst through the doors to find the situation had taken care of itself.

Serena and the other girls looked in confusion, but the other musicians were no where to be seen. The Scouts exchanged glances, then turned to try to help the police calm the former hostages.

Molly smiled as Nathan carefully rested his head in the crook of her arm, his bloody hair smearing her uniform, but she didn't care. A medic ran over, cursing, and cut the clothes away from Nathan's side, pushing Molly's hand away from the bloodiest place, and Nathan closed his eyes, gritting his teeth as the medic prodded the wound. "What d'they think happened, I wonder," Nathan murmured, then smiled up at Molly, and passed out.

* * * * * * * *

return to Index / go to Chapter 6

The Nephrite and Naru Treasury