Silver-trimmed lavender cape flaring out around him, a less than pleased expression on his face, Kunzite emerged from the shimmering, reflective surface of the Vortex Mirror. So close, and yet he had been called away on the verge of victory. It was a galling sensation, the Fire Warrior had to admit.
As he stepped down the three steps of the dais to the Zodiac-carpeted floor, he immediately saw Zoisite looking whole once more, her slender form pressed up against her redheaded sibling's body, Garnet holding her in a comforting and protective embrace. That brought a sense of relief to the pale-haired Elemental; regardless of how angry he remained at Zoisite and how outwardly cold he was toward her, he still cared about her deep within.
The Water Warrior's swift return to health was adequately explained by the presence of twin forms speaking with the dark-haired Guardian of Space. An amethyst-maned woman and blond man, each looking as alike as a male and female could, were listening to whatever it was Lord Obsidian had to say. Ametrine, Healer and Intelligence Officer. He must have asked them to restore Zoisite . . .
Clearing his throat, Kunzite sought to capture his lord's attention even as he strode across the circular carpet. "You summoned me, my lord?"
Obsidian turned, fixing his dark-brown gaze on the Gemlord approaching him. "Indeed. What happened to Commander Zoisite has made me decide to change my tactics slightly."
"I see," the pale-lavender haired man replied.
Even as Kunzite spoke, a shimmer of orange-amber light cast its momentary illumination over the Hall of the Mirror, a figure clad in golds and yellows taking shape as the teleportational field faded away. Violet and citrine eyes instantly turned their gazes to that familiar hue; twin hearts suddenly leaped into dual throats as Ametrine caught sight of the Air Warrior.
"Commander Jadeite reporting as asked, sir," the short-haired blond stated, crossing his arms over his chest, amber eyes gazing steadily at the Guardian of Space.
There he was, looking so alive . . . and so cold. The dual Gemlord felt a sinking feeling of disappointment at the Air Warrior's lack of attention to all save the lord that ruled over their race, but they managed to keep their faces neutral. That he was here, and dressed in Lithosian clothes, confirmed what Lord Obsidian had been telling them: the Elementals save Nephrite were free of the Negaverse and here to prove themselves again, given a second chance through the Guardian's generosity.
"Ah, good. Now, if you'll excuse me for a moment, I have something to do before I speak to you all."
The handful of Gemlords nodded, all eyes focused on Obsidian as he turned and began walking over toward the large black-green glass prison on the other side of the Mirror from where his black stone throne sat in eternal vigil over the sacred chamber. Reaching the crystal of his making, he caressed it with the fingertips of his right hand, once again dropping into a trance where he could feel the pulsing energy trapped within. Closing his eyes, he opened himself up to the connection, reaching in and pulling to him the sunshine-yellow power from the helpless Senshi.
Garnet felt his stomach lurch. For the third time, he watched as someone he thought he knew seemingly callously stooped to a low he thought he'd never see, let alone thrice.
Against him, Zoisite shivered and huddled closer, pressing her face against the taller Gemlord's T-shirt-clad torso. The emotions . . . So wrong . . . He's enjoying it, practically getting off on it. Echoes of the hunger for energy of the Negaforce danced in her memory, making her feel spiritually chilled.
Side by side, Ametrine watched in wide-eyed horror. That part of the dual Lithosian that was the Healer wanted to run up and pull Obsidian away, to do something to break him out of that foul-sensed rapport, but they knew better than to interrupt him just then. No telling what he would do had they tried. Mentally shuddering, Lord and Lady Ametrine turned to one another, hugging themselves as they continued to stare in morbid fascination.
Jadeite raised an eyebrow, then glanced over at the tall figure standing next to him, looking for confirmation. Noticing the Eastern Commander had turned his attention to himself, Kunzite spared his third-in-command a look out of the corner of his eyes. It was all the blond Gemlord needed to realize that he was right. Seeing this brought back far too many memories of the Negaverse, of the need to steal and gather energy and the pleasure derived from doing so.
For good or ill, the Guardian of Space was being the psychic equivalent of a vampire.
Energy. Sunshine-bright power full of warmth and vitality. It filled him with its wonderful feel, giving him that rush he found so very nice. He took what he could, letting it shimmer there within him--and then, suddenly, he could siphon off no more. Irritation shattered the blissful moment; reaching through the link, Obsidian willed--nay, demanded--the moment to continue.
Nothing. He'd taken all Sailor Andromeda had to offer.
Mentally growling, he opened his dark-brown eyes, fighting back his sudden rage. Feeling the golden energy still glowing within him, he felt a momentary sense of disorientation. Why did I do this? he asked himself, his confusion stifling the anger that had been there only seconds before. Turning to his left, his dark gaze fell on the low table that had become the focus of his thoughts of late. Seeing the pathetic remains of his once-proud people, he once again was reminded that a certain violet-blue one could have been returned to that open grave only moments ago. His jaw tightening, he walked over to the morbid display, looking for one stone in particular.
Someone had thoroughly trounced his Western Commander. Someone was going to pay for daring to do so. That's why he had taken the last of the Senshi's energy, to bring another of his people back, one whom he knew would be able to eliminate any threat this unknown factor may cause in the future.
His mind focused on avenging the stab to his pride at the wounding of his follower, Obsidian grimly smiled when his gaze settled upon the soulstone he had been searching for, lying up against an equally battered, pale dead-gray jewel. Reaching down, he picked the soot-gray gem, feeling the edges of the stone's smooth facets against his skin. Beginning to channel the stolen energy into that hand, he stepped back from the table, walking off a couple of paces.
The assembled Gemlords continued to stare at him, their expressions ones of various shades of astonishment, discomfort and dissociation. Though it was obvious what he was doing--they could all see the small gem being carefully cradled in the grasp of a hand--neither Garnet nor Ametrine thought the end result worth the method used. Jadeite again glanced to his commander. Noticing Kunzite just standing there, apparently unconcerned, the Air Warrior wondered just how often the other Elemental had seen this happen before.
Golden light began to shine around the Guardian of Space's hand, casting yellow beams over the Hall of the Mirror and its contents. Once again, the stirrings of large amounts of energy started to eddy within the circular chamber, causing a physical breeze to ruffle clothing and hair alike. Concentrating on filling the soulstone with the power thrumming through him, Obsidian stood within the eye of the developing psychic storm, holding the pattern in his mind, waiting for that one defining moment when the life within caught fire and burned into existence once more. The golden radiance abruptly winked out, the illumination levels falling back to normal within the Hall.
Feeling that threshold crossed, the dark lord opened his eyes. Yes, the grayness was gone, the stone revealed to be the darkest of blacks. A deep light, more sensed than actually seen, glimmered within the heart of the now-shiny, facted stone. Lowering himself to a knee, he set the awakening gem down onto the plush, Zodiac-adorned carpet, rose and stepped back, dark-brown eyes continuing to watch.
The electrifying sensation of large amounts of energy continued to assail Gemlord senses, hair and clothing rippling with the force of the psychic wind, as that almost-light grew brighter with each heart-like pulse. All of them stood watch in utter fascination as another of them was brought back from the cold stillness of death.
Helplessness, then rage. A body crowned by silver hair and clothed in white and silver slowly falling to a crumpled heap on the ground, only to fade to nothing. A white-gloved hand emerging from a gray sleeve reaching down, picking up a lifeless, gray stone and flinging it away in utter contempt. Utter fury at seeing the finality of the insult, then a bright flash of something . . .
Then darkness . . . A profound nothingness . . .
The not-light swelled to a crescendo then stopped; a figure lay there on the floor of the Hall. Slim, athletic, a wealth of hair as black as night spilling across the colors of the carpet underneath, the Gemlord lying there was as unearthly beautiful as nearly all of the Lithosian race. Comfortable, slightly bloused sable pants covered his lower body and were tucked into mid-calf-high black boots. His upper body was clad in a tunic, the hem lower in front and back and higher along his sides, of the same dark shade save for the collar buttoned at his throat, the cuffs of his sleeves, wide stripes along his broad shoulders and a wide stripe that ran from the collar along the front to the point of the hem that rested against his thighs. Those were a silvery slate-gray that only added to the overall effect. Around his head, gleaming underneath the raven-hued strands of his hair, a silver circlet adorned with a single, jet-black cabochon stone could be seen.
They all knew him, of course. With only a set number of Gemlords and millions of years to get to know their fellow Lithosians, all of them knew one another on sight and by psychic presence. Shivering in sudden dread, Zoisite clung to Garnet, making the redheaded spy wonder just why she seemed frightened of the Gemlord brought back to life.
Kunzite set his jaw slightly. To say that there may be bad blood between himself and the newly-resurrected Gemlord was an understatement. He had been there when this one had fallen, after all.
Standing next to the Fire Warrior, Jadeite looked over their lord's choice with a seemingly detached interest.
Still hugging one another, Ametrine looked from the Gemlord lying there to their now seemingly normal-appearing ruler. Obsidian was standing there, smiling.
"Welcome back, Lord Adamant."
At the sound of his name, the awakened man opened his eyes. Black as the night, they stared upwards, noting the familiar frescoes painted on the domed ceiling of the room atop the tower that was the center of Lithosian culture. The Hall of the Mirror . . . Then all must be well after all? "My lord?" the raven-haired Gemlord responded, turning his head toward the source of the voice.
"Take a moment and regain your bearings, my friend, before you attempt to rise," Obsidian responded, kneeling down next to the other man. "The resurrection process may leave you somewhat disoriented for a moment."
"No, I'm fine, my lord," Adamant said, beginning to sit up. As the Guardian of Space regained a standing position and stepped back to allow room for the other man to rise, the elegant warrior pulled himself up to stand once more on his booted feet. Though he felt weak at the moment, he was sure it would be a passing thing.
"Very well," the Lord of Lithos acknowledged. "I'm sure you have many questions. Give me a few moments and I shall explain what's going on to not only you, but the others gathered here. However, I must be quick about it. There is a problem that's developed that I wish for you to deal with."
"I am ever at your command, my lord," the resurrected Gemlord swiftly replied, lowering his head in a gesture of respect.
"Your loyalty has ever been a joy to me," Obsidian replied with a smile. "And I thank you for that." Holding a hand out, he gestured for the slightly shorter man to turn and take a look behind himself. "Before you ask me why they are here, let me say that they are now free of the darkness that bound them and I am giving them a second chance to prove themselves worthy of being considered among our numbers. So far, they have given me no cause for grief."
They? Jet-black eyes narrowed, a sudden feeling of anger sparking within him. Taken in context, Adamant knew there could only be one group his ruler could be speaking about. Turning, he looked in the direction indicated by the other man, and was not surprised to see the ones he expected.
The Elemental Guard was there, or rather, three-fourths of them. Zoisite was doing her best to make herself unnoticeable there in the arms of her older, rather overprotective brother, while Jadeite and Kunzite stood side by side, the first watchful but the other wary. A good thing our lord has vouched for you, Elementals, the raven-haired warrior thought. Especially you, Kunzite.
"Besides, I need them for what I have in mind," Obsidian added.
"But sir, if you truly need us for whatever it is you are hoping to achieve, how do you propose continuing without our final member?" Leave it to the Air Warrior to ask one of the questions that just begged to be answered.
"I know where Nephrite is . . ." Zoisite's soft voice spoke up, even though she continued to hide in the shadow of her sibling's taller form.
Inwardly, Garnet groaned. Had he been aware that the Water Warrior had known that piece of information, he would have counseled her to keep it to herself until they all had figured out just what was going on. Still, he was continuing to reel from what he'd heard Zoisite say their usually-benevolent lord had threatened as well as what he'd witnessed the Guardian do.
"Where?" the dark lord hissed, turning his attention fully to the fragile-looking Western Commander.
"He's on Terra, my lord. Somehow, he's . . . human. He was there, helping Sailor Jupiter . . ."
"Seems as if he feels an obligation toward that one," Kunzite murmured, glancing to Jadeite for a brief moment.
The Eastern Commander nodded his blond head, expression thoughtful. "Sounds like him all right."
"Human, you say?" Obsidian asked, baritone voice holding a note of disbelief.
"Stranger things have happened, my lord," Adamant softly reminded the other dark-haired Gemlord.
The momentary flash of anger seemed to dissipate, leaving Obsidian with a bemused expression on his handsome face. "True enough. Very well, my plans in that matter won't change overly much. First the stones, then Nephrite."
"The stones, my lord?" chimed in the twin voices of Ametrine, both the blond lord and the violet-haired lady speaking at once.
"Yes, the stones," echoed the Guardian of Space. "However, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning . . .
"I awoke alone in the Hall of the Mirror, the stillness of what proved to be centuries surrounding me. I had saved the Tower and the Mirror, but the price . . ." He trailed off, an infinite grief there in his dark-brown eyes for a moment. Shaking off the emotion, Obsidian started pacing across the carpeted floor, apparently retreating a bit into his own little world as he related to the others there how he had watched the history that he'd missed in the Orrery there within the Hall, how he had gathered them all together to bring them home to the Tower, going even into the Negaverse itself to find the stones of the ones lost there. His voice was low, melancholy, as he spoke of how Beryl was utterly lost and his decision to shatter her stone since the Gemlord was truly no more, and then it became hard, irritated, as he related how Nephrite had somehow evaded his Call.
Listening to him, a thought began to form in Garnet's mind. Something was wrong with their ruler. To those that truly knew him, it was almost painfully obvious, even if he himself didn't see it. And now, there was opportunity. The redheaded spy frowned, feeling an ice-cold shiver run down his spine.
Ametrine slowly let go of themselves, citrine and amethyst eyes wide in the listening of their lord's tale. They had floated out there in space, among the debris field that had once been their home planet, for a thousand years. The thought was a very sobering one.
Adamant merely listened, letting the words fill in the gaps between that final moment of utter darkness and now. Though he had many questions, he was determined to wait and see how many the Guardian would answer on his own. However, he did take the opportunity to look over the other Gemlords there, a low, seething anger sitting there in the pit of his stomach every time he looked upon one of the three responsible for the catastrophe.
Obsidian's low voice continued on, telling them of his determination to restore what was lost, of bringing life back to the Gemlords and Lithos alike, of how he'd taken the initiative to do what was needed, resurrecting the three Elementals he had in his possession, and then finishing up with telling how Garnet had come to be in the Tower. Pausing for a moment, the Guardian of Space turned his attention back to the three former generals. "And for this plan, because of the control needed to reform our world from debris and energy, I need four special stones. Forged at the beginning of all things, they are attuned to the ancient Elements that make up the whole of matter, pure Elemental energy crystallized." His dark gaze swept over the three Commanders there. "Yes, together we have the power to create matter from energy by weaving together the Five, but this will take a control finer than can be had locked as we are within physical shells. With these, we shall be able to set the warding and weave the spell."
"We can't do it without Nephrite, my lord," Kunzite pointed out.
"Indeed. It wasn't my intention to proceed without him. However, since I had no idea why he was able to resist my Call, I determined that the best course was to acquire the tools I needed first, and then search for him," Obsidian explained.
The Fire Warrior relaxed slightly. There at least was one problem addressed.
"If I may, sir," Garnet spoke up, "where exactly are these stones, and do you have any of them so far?" Of course, he already knew the answers, having listened to a sobbing Zoisite recount the recovery of the Sapphire from Castle Mariner, but he wanted to hear it from Obsidian himself--and he wanted the others to hear it as well.
"With the help of Commanders Kunzite and Zoisite, I have two of the four in my possession. The other two will be found hidden within chambers in the hearts of the royal castles of Jupiter and Venus," the dark-clad Lord of Lithos replied, still pacing across the floor. "Unfortunately, it takes the castle's princess to open the doors, hence I need to borrow the key for a short length of time."
Borrow the key? The redheaded spy blinked, a curl of fury warming within him. "A key?" he stated out loud, voice taking on a tone of pure amazement. "My lord, these are people you're discussing, not inanimate objects."
Obsidian stopped, cape flaring out, the metallic gold trim catching the light of the illumination crystals as he whirled to face the young Gemlord. "They are still the key to open the chambers, like it or not."
"My lord," the newly-resurrected Adamant began, "are these stones absolutely needed to accomplish your goals?"
Still glaring at the redhead, the Guardian of Space curtly nodded. "Alone, the Elemental Guard could not focus enough to pull the pathetic remains of Lithos back together and give the remaining soulstones enough energy to wink back into existence. Perhaps with the Tower Guard's assistance, it could be done, but there has been an unforeseen problem. By pulling the Mirror into the Vortex to keep it from being reached by all save us born from the Mirror, I have inadvertently cut it off from its usual energy supplies. I know not how long it would be before I could bring the Tower Guard back to help, and even then, the spell would not be a sure thing.
"But with these stones, what we lack will easily be made up for, straddling as they do the line between Energy and Matter. Success is practically guaranteed." Eyes alight with conviction and passion both, Obsidian swept his dark-brown gaze over the few living Gemlords. "Just think of it, my people . . . Everything we've lost would be regained. Lithos and the others would be alive again; we could go on as if nothing had happened."
"I want that, my lord." Stepping away from her brother, Zoisite gestured toward her ruler, an almost desperate hope on her face. "For you, for Lithos, for the others . . . and for myself. I regret what happened, and I am truly sorry. If this can make up for some of what I've caused . . ."
"For all of you," the dark lord replied, his gaze settling upon each of the three former Negaverse generals there, "help me accomplish this and I will forget about any harm you caused."
Though neither one said a word, both the Fire Warrior and the Air Warrior nodded in agreement. It was a bargain, and a pardon, they were more than interested in making.
"Very well. Then as it stands, I need to gain these other two gems before we can proceed."
"My lord, I could have had Jupiter had you not called me back," the pale-lavender-maned Elemental pointed out, one hand curling into a fist.
"Forgive me that, Commander," Obsidian said, sounding apologetic. "Commander Zoisite had already become a casualty. I had thought it more prudent to retreat and regroup, especially with this new factor that's imposed itself into our situation. With more of us in existence, we should work in teams to achieve our objectives. Though we now have a Healer available to us," he paused, nodding in the direction where Ametrine's twin forms stood nearby, "I wish to not have to need their services again, if it can be helped."
"You want us to gang up on children, my lord?" Garnet asked, a look of disbelief on his face.
"I want those gems, actually. And I want whatever hurt your precious sister to be taken out of the picture," came Obsidian's answer. Fixing his gaze on the ponytailed blond, he asked, "Zoisite, what exactly happened to you?"
Folding her arms over her small breasts, the Western Commander softly spoke, relating what happened from the moment she saw the girl she knew was Sailor Jupiter running through the cemetery up to the point where the strange Senshi with the dragon-fanged circlet slammed her into the ground for the final time. Though she stared at the ground, feeling her cheeks burning in utter embarrassment, Zoisite was brutally honest in her retelling, not leaving out her pettiness.
Watching her, Garnet's heart went out to her. In many ways, she was still very young, and it showed. He knew she did her best, but there were times that overly-emotional nature of hers got the better of her. Of course, it was better when he was male, but it seemed as if Zoisite was eschewing that part of herself for some reason or another. Though the redheaded spy longed to pull her back into a comforting embrace, he knew that right now, she needed to stand up by herself and face whatever results her actions caused.
Shivering at the recall of the agony she'd endured, the Water Warrior turned her large, violet-blue gaze to her fellow Elementals. "Something else I learned about this Sailor Draco . . ."
Recognizing the expression on the blond woman's face as one that just begged them to ask a question--one didn't serve with one for millions of years and not get to know them at least a little bit--Jadeite raised a blond eyebrow over an amber eye. "And just what was that, Zoisite?"
"Draco is Siolan. You remember? That mercenary that Beryl assigned to Nephrite's command?" the youngest Gemlord replied, shuddering again, her arms tightening over her chest. "I recognized her voice. When I said her name, she confirmed it."
"Well, well. Seems as if there's another thing Beryl screwed up on, then," Kunzite softly murmured.
"That explains the viciousness exhibited towards our hapless Water Elemental, however," Jadeite said, casually inspecting the well-trimmed nails of a hand.
The Guardian of the Gateways turned to look Adamant in the eye. "That is why I chose to use what energy I had to bring you back among the living. I have utter faith that you can deal with this new development."
The raven-haired Gemlord smiled, nodding his head in a gesture of acknowledgment and respect. "I assure you that you will not be disappointed in my performance, my lord."
"Good. I will not allow this Sailor Draco to undo what I'm trying to achieve. I want her dealt with in a manner that prevents her from interfering again."
"You're not going to try to have Adamant assassinate her, are you?" Garnet asked, incredulous. This was swiftly going from bad to worse. The Guardian of Space he knew didn't so blithely go on the attack. Yes, world and people had been lost in an unprecedented moment of their ancient history, but the redheaded man still had large amounts of trouble seeing even that making their ruler become so blatantly reactionary--and overly so.
"It would be the prudent thing to do," the black- and gray-clad warrior replied, sable eyes narrowing in subtle warning at the younger man.
"Prudent, perhaps, Adamant," Obsidian agreed, light glittering along his golden circlet as he nodded. "However, even I am loathe to permanently incapacitate the guardian of a star system. I'd rather see her out of the picture without having to resort to lethal means. After all, she is an agent of Energy, even as we are agents of Matter."
"If that is your desire, my lord, I shall do my utmost to achieve it." The raven-haired Lithosian filed that knowledge away, his mind already thinking over the methods he could use to eliminate this Dragon Senshi as a threat without killing her.
"Sir, please, I beg you to reconsider," Garnet began, taking a couple of steps forward, black leather coat creaking faintly. "There must be a better way of doing this."
As the others watched, feeling the growing tension filling the sacred space of the Hall of the Mirror, Adamant took a step forward, eyes glittering with a diamond-hard light. Noting the movement of the other Gemlord and catching Ametrine's dual, wide-eyed expressions of consternation, Obsidian held up his hand in a staying gesture. Frowning, the newly-awakened Lithosian stopped in his tracks, obeying his lord's silent signal to hold for the moment.
Dark-brown eyes raked over the redheaded spy still clothed in Terran garb. "Desperate times equal desperate measures. Never before have any of us faced a shattered Lithos and near extinction as a race."
Shaking his head, Garnet refused to look upon the Guardian of Space. "The ends do not always justify the means."
His hand still poised in that signal of restraint, the golden signet ring of his office there for all to see, Obsidian slowly nodded in reply to his spy's words. "Not always; that is true enough. However, can you truly fault me for wanting to restore everything that has been destroyed?"
Granted, it was a noble goal. Even so, the way he was going about it was leaving quite the bad taste in Garnet's mouth. Folding his arms over his chest, he finally turned his violet gaze to stare at his friend. "No, but I can fault the methods by which you're going at it."
Feeling very uncomfortable, Zoisite looked away from the growing confrontation. Hugging herself tighter, she closed her eyes, not wanting to see her dear brother get in trouble for his words and his questioning of Obsidian's authority.
Kunzite and Jadeite as well were beginning to feel ill at ease. Though in the past their ruler had listened with an open mind to opposing points of view, things were quite different now. As he had said, never before had they been in a situation like this. Remaining silent, the two Elementals exchanged glances.
"Garnet--" Adamant started to say, only to have the Guardian's baritone voice interrupt.
"No, let him have his say for the moment." Tilting his head slightly, the Lord of Lithos gave the argumentative redhead a long, questioning stare before finally adding, "My methods are what they are out of necessity. There's no time for finesse at this point. The Mirror gathers energy far too slowly."
Blinking in astonishment, Garnet could only stare back for a couple of beats of his heart. When he did recover, he rocked his weight back onto a booted foot and snorted in mild contempt. "No time? Too slowly? You're starting to talk like a mortal. Patience isn't just an option for us--it's a mandatory part of the package. We have time, if nothing else."
"My lord," Adamant practically pleaded, itching to put the younger Gemlord back in his place. Apparently Garnet's position, rather rashfully given in the raven-haired man's opinion, had gone to his head and it was high time the youth had some of that ego crushed.
**No, Adamant,** the dark lord softly responded, looking at the other man out of the corner of his vision as he telepathed in a channel privy only to the two of them. **I'll deal with him for the moment.** Feeling the other's reluctant obedience, Obsidian turned his focus fully back to the Terran-clothed Lithosian, growling softly and crossing his arms over his chest. His very stance hinted at his growing agitation. "It's been long enough. How long were you in hell, Garnet? If you could have gotten it over with sooner, would you have? Even if the methods weren't exactly 'proper'?"
The redheaded spy only shrugged a single shoulder in response. "A thousand years. It's not much, all things considered. And that would depend on what methods I had available to me."
"Ah, but at the time, Garnet, did you know it would only be a thousand years?"
"No, I didn't."
Obsidian smirked just a bit, dark gaze boring into the younger man. "So tell me, did you wish over and over there would be some way to end it, once and for all?"
Again an almost casual shrug, Garnet's violet gaze meeting the one of his ruler. "Yes, I wished there was a way to end it, but I didn't go around attacking people who had nothing to do with what happened to me, at least! My lord, I think you're being too hasty. Stop pushing your timetable. Let the Mirror gather energy, and look for other ways to do this besides the course you're already on."
"I need those stones, Garnet. There's no other way around it. As for nothing to do . . ." The words died off in a soft growl, a sense of betrayal emanating from the dark lord to those of his people with empathic abilities. Even so, when he spoke again, his words had nothing at all to do with that momentary flash of emotion. "You saw what this newcomer did to your precious Zoisite. Should I let that go unpunished? It would have, had I not taken the energy needed to bring back Lord Adamant."
"There is a way around it," the redheaded spy insisted, stubbornly staring at the dark-clad Guardian, "You could try asking the Senshi for help. By treating them the way you have been treating them, you're inviting attacks. You're the one who dispatched Zoisite on the mission to attack Sailor Jupiter, my lord. Will you refuse to take any responsibility for what happened to her?"
Garnet turned slightly, violet eyes now focusing on first his little sister and then on the pair of Elementals standing there off to her right. Recalling some of the Water Warrior's tearful story, he challenged, "Go ahead and tell our lord what happened when you fought the Outer Senshi. If this course continues, the Inners might wind up being supported again."
Under the scrutiny of the redhead,the three members of the Elemental Guard reacted first to Garnet's demand with complete silence. Still very ill at ease, the ponytailed blond continued to stare down at the toes of her violet-blue boots while the Air Warrior shifted his gaze away from the spy's challenging stare to focus on the dual Gemlord slightly to his right and in front of himself. Frowning at the tension in the chamber, Jadeite dispassionately noted that Ametrine had returned to hugging themselves, the two of them looking wide-eyed and alarmed at the growing confrontation. Kunzite, however, met the spy's gaze, pale-lavender eyes narrowing slightly, his expression one of defensive wariness.
**My lord, this is quite enough!** Adamant telepathed back over that private channel between the two of them, mental voice tinged with fury. Before the Guardian of the Gateways even had time to respond, he stepped forward, lips curled in a silent snarl. "Enough of your insolence!" All those present turned swiftly at the outburst from the now-trembling warrior. His words came swiftly, sharp as the edges of Zoisite's crystal shards. "It was enough that you had the arrogance to question the very incarnation of that which gave you life, your lord and master, but now you seek to use others to your advantage? I will tolerate no more of this! These three were present and accounted for the day Lithos fell," the black-maned Gemlord hissed as he indicated the Elementals, "unlike you. Though they stood against us, at least they stood!" The brief pause in Adamant's words was punctuated by Zoisite's gasp of astonishment; why was he defending her? After what had happened . . . "I have heard it said that you waited a thousand years, skulking in the shadows, while the defenders of Lithos lay dead. You have no place to even speak before the Guardian of Space, let alone to question his methods! Now hold your tongue and obey your lord!"
There were few absolutes in Lithosian society; the one that ruled over them all valued each one of them as an individual. However, despite all the freedoms allowed by the Guardian to the long-lived race that had been created by the Mirror he served, there were a small number of rules that were never to be broken. And one of those, a doctrine drilled into thousands of years of training and placement within Lithosian society, was one that all young Gemlords swiftly learned: thou shalt respect thy elders.
The wrath of a Lithosian, especially that from the oldest of the generations to step forth from the Mirror, was an awesome sight to behold, a small piece of the very forces of the Cosmos brought to bear in fury, righteous or otherwise. The rage on Adamant's face was echoed in the irritation within Lord Obsidian's eyes and the looks of disapproval the older Elementals were giving Garnet.
Every Gemlord had his or her place, but none of them were ever to step out of that spot if it meant disruption of the whole. They were too few, their travels covering vast distances as they carried out their duties, to allow for anything but a cooperative society, each one contributing to the harmony of the whole.
And Garnet had stepped out of bounds.
He knew it, from the harsh looks the older Gemlords were giving him to the very fact that Adamant had felt compelled to risk the Guardian's censure to break the peace of the sacred Hall. Fear gripped him, his face paling in reaction, but his stubbornness kept him looking somewhat outwardly composed. Visage still deathly pale, he turned his head and focused his violet gaze on the suddenly very interesting design of Capricorn there woven into the plush carpet. For all his intelligence, his position and his talent, he was still one of the youngest Gemlords ever to emerge from the Vortex Mirror; it just wasn't his place to question their ruler in public. Any concerns should have been aired out in private.
An almost deathly silence hung there in the circular chamber for a long, drawn-out moment. Finally, the redheaded spy's voice, so soft it could hardly be heard, broke the stillness. "Forgive me, Lord Adamant, my lord. I overstepped myself. I apologize." The plea was a heart-felt one, his sincerity easily read by those there with empathic skills.
"My lord, please," the raven-haired warrior said, his words falling into the silence after Garnet's apology, "forgive me as well for not obeying you." Sable eyes turned to look to the Guardian, his expression shifting to a neutral one.
"Well, then," Obsidian finally said, breaking the momentary silence after looking first at Adamant and then at Garnet. "I accept your apologies, both of you." Relaxing slightly, he walked over to stand before the redhead, making sure to keep a clear path between himself and the Mirror now behind him and to the left. "Since you seem overly concerned with what I have done with these children," he said, his rich baritone at a conversational level, "I'll show you I have no long-term ill planned for them." Turning swiftly, the dark lord thrust an arm at the black-green glass prison that had been Sailor Andromeda's home for a while.
At his gesture, there came a sharp sound, the sound of glass breaking. Virtually exploding from within, the vitreous prison burst apart, dark shards of glass littering the dais next to and just in front of the Vortex Mirror. With a solid-sounding thump a brunette body fell to the floor, one that was glad in a Senshi uniform of white, purple and dark blue. The girl warrior lay there, unmoving, quite obviously unconscious, dark blue cape draped unceremoniously over her.
"Ametrine," the Guardian of Space called out, catching the attention of the young, dual Gemlord. "That is Sailor Andromeda. Though she was a guest of the Silver Millennium in the years before the fall of Lithos, her true home is a star system at the heart of the Andromeda Galaxy. I think it's long past time for her to be sent home to where she truly belongs."
"Are you asking us to take her to her home system, my lord?" the blond man asked, amethystine eyes wide.
"Yes, I am. If she needs Healing, please do so, but after you take her to her homeworld."
Ametrine glanced at themselves for a moment, then nodded, lord and lady doing so simultaneously. As the violet-haired woman closed her citrine-colored eyes and got the location to teleport from Obsidian, the blond lord walked over to the unmoving body and knelt down. Picking Andromeda up in his arms, he looked back over his shoulder to see when his other half rejoined him. The moment both forms were before the Mirror, the Symbol of Space began to once again glow with its eerie aura of blackish-green light. As one, the dual Gemlord stepped through the reflective surface, disappearing from the circular chamber.
Pivoting on a heel, Obsidian fixed his dark-brown gaze on the redheaded spy, who was only now lifting his head to once again meet his lord's gaze. "There. She'll be back where she belongs and nothing more will happen to her."
But was any of it truly necessary? Garnet couldn't help but ask himself. He wanted to say that to his lord, his friend, but he knew it would have to wait for a moment where he could follow up on his concerns in private.
Getting no reply from any of the Lithosians remaining there, the Guardian of the Gateways nodded to himself. His attention turning to the raven-haired man, the one in charge of the corps of warriors who had worked among cultures that had known of the Gemlords and Lithos, Obsidian smiled. "Adamant, I believe you know what I'd like you to do?
"Yes, my lord," he responded. Recognizing his ruler's words as a dismissal to carry out his orders, Adamant offered a respectful salute--right fist closed over heart, a lowering of the head as well as a slight bow--then turned and strode toward the Mirror. Already the dark, black-green shards of Obsidian's construct were gone, faded to nothingness now that the Guardian's will was no longer there to keep them intact. Even as he stepped up to the Symbol of Space, the scene upon its reflective surface shifted, becoming one of the tranquility and orderliness of some religious shrine. This was where Obsidian wished him to travel; the Mirror reflected the will of its lord. Without a look back, the raven-haired warrior stepped into the seven-foot-tall reflective pane of smooth, obsidian glass.
All eyes turned back to Obsidian once the deep glow of the Mirror had faded away. Only four of them remained, the two older Elementals standing together off to one side and the youngest Elemental with her almost-equally-young sibling to the other.
The dark lord returned their gazes, looking first from Kunzite and Jadeite to Zoisite and Garnet. "Now that this Sailor Draco will be dealt with, we need to come up with a plan to acquire those other two stones."
"Respectfully, sir," the redheaded spy began. He still had his doubts about the methods being employed, still had a sense of something just not right. It was fairly obvious that by being out of line before, of questioning their ruler in front of everyone, Obsidian had immediately discounted any of his concerns. He needed to get his friend to think about what he was doing.
Dark-brown eyes fixed on Garnet, a momentary flash of deep-golden fire alighting in them as the Guardian gave the younger man a look of irritation. "What now, Lord Garnet?"
Flinching slightly, the intelligence officer gestured toward the dais and the throne resting upon it. "Could we perhaps talk in private, my lord?"
Violet-blue eyes wide, Zoisite stared at her sibling. When he thought something was wrong, he could be downright persistent, but there were times she wondered about his stubbornness.
The look exchanged between Kunzite and Jadeite said it all. It practically screamed "The ideals of youth". Deep within, however, the Fire Warrior too was disturbed by some of what he'd been sensing from the Guardian and yet, given what he knew of the man, he could see no better solution to anything. Perhaps he could have asked the Senshi for their assistance, but then there was no guarantee they would allow him to have the stones and had they resisted, they would have known of his plans.
For the Air Warrior, the entire scene with Lord Garnet was on the irritating side. The man seemed to think that because he'd been favored with a position that ranked up there with the Tower Guard and the Elemental Guard themselves, everyone should view his opinions as treasured utterances of some demigod. The Cosmos relied upon the Gemlords, and right now, there were damned few of them in existence. Blinded to that basic duty by Metallia, Jadeite had been a part of what had made this come about, and he was quite willing to do whatever it took to rectify that mistake. If a few Senshi got temporarily hampered in the process, so be it. They were warriors, soldiers of their respective planetary powers; if they couldn't cut it, their planets would be better off without them in the first place.
Obsidian kept his gaze on the younger man, considering his request. In all honesty, he truly wanted his people united behind him; that one of them at least seemed to have doubts bothered him, since it made little sense that Garnet would prefer to have things remain as they are. Sure that he could dissuade his friend of his misgivings, the Guardian of Space finally nodded. Turning and walking towards the dais, he gestured to Garnet to follow behind. "Come to my chambers then and we'll talk there. Elementals, you are free to relax as you will in the meantime. However, be ready for my call."
"Yes, sir," the trio of Gemlords spoke, their voices coming at once. Each one saluted, again simultaneously, then watched as the Terran-clad spy trailed along after Obsidian's retreating form.
The wall behind the throne was smooth, made of the same dark stone from which the entire tower was constructed. Immediately behind the black stone chair was a tapestry, one that depicted a floral motif like something found out of an illuminated manuscript surrounding a circle of antique gold bordered with black. Within that roundel was a black and deep-green star of four large points and four smaller points, oriented as a compass rose in a map would be, the longer rays at the cardinal directions, the smaller rays in between. The symbol of both the Guardian of Space and his now-destroyed homeworld, it overlooked the contents of the sacred Hall of the Mirror.
Between the tapestry and the Vortex Mirror itself, the jet-black wall looked ordinary, unbroken. However, all those within that room knew better. Hidden away, constructed so that it could not be seen by purely visual senses, a doorway lead from the dais to a hallway that accessed the private quarters of Lord Obsidian and the Tower Guard. Responding to a mental command from the lord of the tower, the doorway made itself known, the opening becoming visible as a rectangular passage through the thick stone wall.
Stepping through it and into the hallway beyond, Obsidian turned and waited for Garnet to follow him through before mentally giving the order for the door to close. As the rectangle once again disappeared, the dark-haired man gestured for the younger one to make his way over to the nearest door that was in the gently curving wall of the corridor.
Nodding slightly at the invitation, Garnet crossed the hallway and pushed open the door. The walnut panel swung open soundlessly, exposing the first of what he knew was a three-room suite. Stepping within, he let his violet gaze sweep over the somewhat familiar furnishings of the Guardian's personal study.
Like the door, the furnishings were made of walnut, the dark wood varnished to a semi-glossy finish. Bookcases filled with tomes from all over the universe lined those parts of the walls where the two doorways were not. Next to the doorway on the other side of the room that lead to the bedchamber, a painting was hung on the green-painted wall. The carpeting that covered the floor was a darker shade of green, the pile plush but short. Near the center of the room but just a bit to the left, facing towards the doorway he had just entered, a large desk set was located, the top of it neatly organized, while to the right and back towards the corner, a reading area consisting of two chairs, a table and a tall, brass-fixtured lamp was set up near some of the bookcases.
Eyes focusing on the painting--from what he recalled from other visits to this very same room, the picture was of a landscape, a solitary moon looming over a farmland draped in twilight, its dim, pale gaze far larger than Luna was over Terra--Garnet waited for the room's owner to join him and begin the conversation. For all that they were friends, the spy couldn't help but feel rather nervous. Obsidian had to still be upset for the disruption out in the Hall.
"Very well, Garnet. Tell me again of your misgivings."
At the sound of the other's baritone voice, the redheaded Lithosian turned and gave the older man a long, almost pleading look. "I wish you'd reconsider what you're doing, my lord. Talk to the Senshi. Maybe they're willing to help you. As you said, you're only seeking to restore our people and our planet. I see no reason why they wouldn't want to help you with that."
"They have given me no reason to trust them," the Guardian replied. "Unlike you, I am not willing to give them the benefit of the doubt simply because they are children. They are warriors first, the incarnation of planetary powers. Just because they are children doesn't make their position or their responsibility less."
"Sir, they haven't done anything that I can tell that should make you think they won't assist you if you just asked them. By doing things as you are, you're only going to make them want to fight back. I don't want to see any of us get hurt, especially Zoisite."
"That is why I now have Adamant out there to deal with Sailor Draco and why we are going to come up with a plan to get those other two stones."
Garnet mentally groaned, his lips turning down in a frown for a moment. Why was Obsidian being so obstinate? Couldn't he see that this just wasn't the right way to go about this? "Why are you so set on doing it like this, sir? We have time on our side, after all."
The Guardian shook his head, the deep-red highlights of his nearly-black hair shimmering faintly as he did so. "No, Garnet, we don't. I have a responsibility to my people and to the Cosmos. We have been essentially non-existent for a millennium, five of our number actively causing damage." He paused, that dark, melancholy expression crossing his face again as his mind turned to the image of the low table in the Hall covered with the remaining soulstones of his people, the ones that relied upon him to lead them. His voice dropping low, almost talking to himself, Obsidian continued, "They've been dead long enough. They've been scattered throughout the debris that was our home long enough. I've seen the evidence of my failure long enough."
"Your responsibility, my lord, doesn't include forcing the issue," the redhead stated, sure of his point. Why couldn't he see that? Sighing softly, shook his head slightly. "But they're not scattered now, my lord. You brought them to our quintessential home--the Tower. You saved that much. Is your pride really so much more important than anything else that you have to risk everything in a scheme that might not even work?"
Dark-brown eyes narrowed in irritation. Why couldn't this youngster understand what it was he felt compelled to do? "It's not a matter of pride, it's a matter of fact. In our millennial absence, Chaos has gained much, far more than we can tolerate," Obsidian growled, arms coming up to cross over his black-clad chest. "We can not afford to dawdle and take our time because a few Senshi might be inconvenienced, and your refusal--or inability--to see that is beginning to make me question my judgment in having you in such an important position."
"But sir, one of my duties is to point out to you what's going on--" Garnet began to say.
"Your main duty is to do as I ask of you, however. That is why your position has the power it does."
Garnet nodded, his gold circlet glimmering there on his brow underneath bangs of deep red hair. "Yes, my lord, I realize that," he answered, standing there before the older man, making himself relax and return his arms to a position along his sides. "But please allow me to be honest with you, as I've striven always to be. What you're doing to the Senshi is not right, Obsidian. All you need is those elemental stones. You didn't need to render the foci of Mars and Mercury inoperable. And you shouldn't have to go about this task in the way you've been doing. They're not the enemy. They're children, and they're the Inner Senshi. They've traditionally been our allies."
Reaching for something to get through to the other man, Garnet paused before what he sure hoped was a direct blow, given all that he knew of his lord's past. "Queen Serenity wouldn't approve."
"Leave her out of this!" Obsidian hissed, closing the distance between the two of them rapidly, a hand darting out to grab the other man by the shirt. Glaring angrily at the youngster who seemed determined to be a stubborn ass about things, the dark lord's voice grated out in a growl, "She's dead. She has nothing to do with this. As for those children, they are the Inner Senshi for all their youth. They will get their powers back once I'm assured they cannot interfere in what I'm attempting to achieve, but I will not allow the needs of my people or the Cosmos to be cast aside. Lithos and the Gemlords will be restored, will you or nil you."
Though taller and bulkier than the older man, Garnet paled and turned his gaze away from the furious Guardian. In an attempt to push home his point, he'd managed to once again overstep his bounds, catching the fury of the oldest of all right in his face. All he could hope for now was submission alleviating the rage.
Obsidian's voice dropped to a very silent, very deadly-sounding tone. "You will help me get those stones, just as the others will. I rule here, Garnet."
"Yes, my lord," the spy replied, his own voice just as quiet.
"And you're going to start right now, or face the consequences of disobeying me. Am I clear?"
"Yes, my lord," came the small-voiced response.
"Very well," Obsidian said, anger-filled, dark-brown eyes continuing to glare at the redheaded Lithosian in his grasp. "This is a direct order, in case you can't figure it out. You will take Zoisite with you and the two of you will--"
His words died off, his attention grabbed by a sudden, telepathed message. Stiffening slightly, his gaze remained focused on the cowed man even as he listened to Adamant's report. The moment the contact broke off, Obsidian's attention returned to the Gemlord at hand. The smile that crossed his face was one that was dark and chilling both.
"Well now, you've got the perfect opportunity to prove to me that you are worthy of keeping your exalted position, Garnet. You are going with all three of the Elementals and you are going to help Lord Adamant get Sailor Draco neutralized. You are then going to all work together to recover the stone there at Io Castle and you're going to bring Jupiter, Mars and Draco here to the Tower. Do you understand your orders?"
Garnet squeezed his violet eyes shut, agonizing. It was the last thing he wanted to do, and yet, it was very clear that he truly had no choice, not if he wanted to keep his job and possibly his existence. "Yes, sir," he managed to choke out. "I understand."
"Good." Letting go of the man, Obsidian straightened out the dark tunic that covered his torso and stepped back. "Then get out of my sight and meet the others at Io Castle. I hear one word from any of them that you weren't cooperating and you will face my wrath."
Sullenly, the redheaded spy smoothed down his T-shirt and tugged his leather jacket back into place. Taking a deep breath and then giving the Lord of Lithos a respectful salute, he teleported out of Obsidian's study, a double-helix of red light swirling around his athletic form as it faded away.
Watching him disappear, the Guardian of Space smiled, the expression a chilling one. Closing his eyes, he proceeded to telepath his orders to Adamant and the Elementals.