August Third 2017 (Mamoru Chiba)

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August Third 2017 (Mamoru Chiba)
Date of Cutscene: 03 August 2017
Location: Tokyo Prefecture, a cemetery in the countryside.
Synopsis: Mamoru gets to report that no one's seriously tried to murder him this year.
Cast of Characters: Mamoru Chiba, Kunzite

"I'm cautiously optimistic," he told them, sitting on his heels on a cloth in front of their memorial stones, twisting a piece of grass between his fingers. "No one's seriously tried to kill or abduct me this year."

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Returning to his old routine, Mamoru'd been increasingly withdrawn for the days leading up to his birthday, even if he felt foolish about letting himself brood. But it wasn't brooding, was it? It was mourning: part of what'd defined him for so long, silently and in the background, in this life. And maybe they wouldn't have wanted him to celebrate his birthday this way, maybe they would have wanted him to go to the Tsukinos for that cake Kenji promised. But he couldn't. Not when it had cost them everything to save him and they weren't ever coming back. Not when he had his own tradition to uphold.

He'd gone to bed alone by choice, which was a choice he recognised as precious; he'd awakened as early as he had last year, considerably before dawn. He'd had to ask Kunzite not to make the coffee when he got up, so that Mamoru could do it himself, grinding beans and making a pot for everyone else after making his own in his french press. Then he'd set out as the sky went from black to grey, packing his motorcycle bags with lunch and water, gardening and cleaning tools, incense, photographs of the people who meant the most to him-- and his final high school report card and the grades from his exams.

Sitting on his motorcycle outside the city, he'd gazed at the small gated cemetery, full of trees and monuments and shady paths, and taken his helmet off slowly. He should have asked Kazuo earlier. It would have been polite, it would have been considerate. But he hadn't actually decided until then. Last year he'd asked Makoto to come meet them, and this year-- well, he hadn't been sure if he wanted them to himself again, if he wanted the day to himself again.

But he'd met Hiroshi Takeba. And Hiroshi had gotten Kazuo to visit his mother. And Kazuo had been impacted by this day thirteen years ago, and his life had taken such a different shape than it might have otherwise -- just as his own had. Mamoru knew that now. Mamoru also knew, now, that Kunzite had lost his parents two years before he came to be Endymion's guard-- parents who had died to protect the Crown Prince, just as the Chibas had in this life.

He sent a text, and then got off his motorcycle and wheeled it into the memorial park.

Bags slung off his shoulders beside the monument, Mamoru unpacked them and went to work cleaning the stone and trimming the climbing roses he'd planted there in October, when he went to talk to his parents -- he'd decided to call them his parents after all; it was a worthy habit, even if he addressed them now as he had when he was small -- after their first encounter with Sailor Earth.

His fingers traced the kanji on the stone, finally, and he lit the incense.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The piece of grass was somewhat the worse for wear at this point, so he picked three to replace it and began to braid them together as he spoke. "Except for Sailor Earth, really, who hasn't actually tried. We still haven't figured out who she is. I wish you could tell me if there was anything like her back then, or if there was anything I should know about her-- if you knew anything about her. She can't be who she says she is, that's obvious. But at the same time, there's a chance she could be related somehow..."

Then Mamoru shook his head firmly, twisting the braided grass. "That's the only reason I'm even bringing her up again. The important things today-- we celebrated a year free of the Dark Kingdom this past spring, only a few days before so many people visited graves for the sixth anniversary of 3.11-- they still need doctors there, you know? Of course they do. All over Sendai..." he trailed off.

Rallying, he added with a tone of growing indignation, "But there are other people even here in Tokyo who need doctors too. I met a girl who made a deal with the devil to be a girl physically... and to get her out of it, and to get her treatment and eventually surgery, we had to work with doctors in Thailand. Can you believe it? There's practically no one here who will go near people with that problem. They say it's impossible. They THINK it's impossible. So I have to help, that's something I have to help with, and it's not even something I can do with my healing... but it's okay, I'm in medical school now. And I made it to nineteen."

That was smug. That was smug and grateful. Grateful and humble-- and smug. "Which means I'm the SAME AGE as Nephrite and Jadeite now. Even if it's not for a whole year. We found Neph's family! He finally ate his memorybeans and remembered who he is, and he's going to contact his Aunt Sandra and his relatives back there-- I can't wait to meet her. He's sure she'll love me and Mako and everyone else. I think she would have liked you two, too. She probably would have given you guff, oji-san, but she'd have had so much in common with you, oba-san. What I remember about you, anyway... you had to put up with a lot, didn't you? And you had to be my teachers too. What a mess."

Finally, Mamoru fell silent, tying the braided grass into a ring and draping it off the top of the stone. He let his fingers trace over the kanji again, 陽向 and 千代子, and he sighed. No tears this year. Not yet, anyway. "Should we have brunch while we wait for Kazuo? He'll come, I know he will. I asked him to. I think--"

His hand dropped. "I think he wants to apologize," the prince said wryly. "He was all of thirteen and thinks he could have done something to save you. Thinks he should have been there. I wish you could tell him it's not his fault. And boy, do I wish you could talk to his dad... I keep messing things up with him. He's so broken that any attempt I make to fix him is altogether too hamfisted. But you'd been planning to, hadn't you? They were supposed to come to the school that day... but the accident happened, and it sent Kazuo to the hospital too, and when Takeba-san came to see the school, the magic had cleaned it up and it looked abandoned. And all that time you were sitting on the door to Jadeite's palace..."

Endymion shook his head again, reaching up to knuckle his eyes. "You're a thirteen-year-old mystery, the two of you. And that house. And everything about us... but I can tell you one thing for sure. Unless my birth parents think I'm dead, or are dead themselves, then I don't care about them at all, blood aside. And that's one thing I have to-- no, just want to-- want to insist, over and over, but I don't because Kunzite's doing it even if he doesn't want to-- his father tried to find him. He tried. He made the effort. That's worth more than all the blood in the world if they're alive and haven't even bothered to look for me."

Silence, then a half-laugh. "Kunzite," he said without looking up, "are you going to keep lurking, or are you going to come say hello? This is Chiba Hinata and Chiba Chiyoko-- oji-san, oba-san, this is Takeba Kazuo."

And there: ocean-dark blue eyes look up and over at Kunzite, and they're finally overbright, though Mamoru's face is smiling. "They talk even less than you do."