For Want of a Nail (Kunzite)

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For Want of a Nail (Kunzite)
Date of Cutscene: 19 February 2016
Location: Nephrite's Palace
Synopsis: Last time, it only took a couple of tiny mistakes for Beryl to be able to break the Shitennou from their Prince. This time ... Beryl only made one mistake. And then a half-dozen other hands helped it spiral, if only for a few moments, out of her control.
Cast of Characters: Kunzite

In the Golden Kingdom, there were never more than the tiniest, near-invisible cracks in the bonds of loyalty that held Endymion and his guardians together. A trace too much worry here. A breath of concern there. A shadow of insecurity, a single moment of impatience.

Beryl found and used them all, breaking them open them wide enough to tear the Shitennou from their prince and take them for herself.

This time --

This time, the first near-invisible crack in her control over Kunzite is one that she placed there herself. In her anger, she made Zoisite into an example for her court of the price of failure. And for a moment, that placed Kunzite's loyalty to his brothers -- something that not even Metallia had destroyed completely, since it would take his usefulness to the Dark Kingdom with it -- at odds with his loyalty to his Queen.

It made almost no difference. It meant only that Kunzite put aside the work he'd been doing for a few hours, to make certain that the work Zoisite had been doing did not go neglected while the youngest General recovered.

It meant that, while neither of them had the capacity to think about or understand what was happening, Endymion had the chance to renew contact with him -- and the crack opened an infinitesimal bit wider.

It would still have come to nothing, if not that perhaps Beryl's treatment of her pet trickster offended someone else, too; or perhaps it was only a seed once planted growing up to harvest. Before he struck her down, the newest-chosen kitsune of a certain patron of tricksters shed a literal light, for a moment, on the condition of Kunzite's mind. It would have come to nothing; it was weak enough for Metallia's control to shrug off. But again, the crack widened a little.

Enough that he could not look at the symbol inlaid into Nephrite's palace in stone and stars.

Enough that Jupiter noticed, and drew the shape of their loyalty again -- drove that symbol deeper, breaking off a memory at the edge. Not anything that should have mattered. Not anything that gave that symbol meaning or context. Only the memory of fighting with everything he was to retain the idea that that symbol existed.

It should have made no difference at all. He didn't know what it meant, or why it might have been important. In a few minutes, it would have been buried.

Even the memories that the third key unlocks should have, ultimately, meant nothing. Not on their own. The only ones that he should have had sufficient context for were of brothers he already knew.

Intelligence. Occasionally the bright flare of Zoisite's striking to the heart of a problem, tearing it free of the situation they thought it related to and setting it somewhere else, where new rules applied, new perspective. But in far more of the moments Kunzite regains, it wasn't Zoisite who shed new light on the problem. Knowledge drawn down from the stars, set alongside whatever else they thought they knew, showing them how it looked when the shadows were cast a different way. Sometimes confirming their approach. Sometimes suggesting there was something they were overlooking.

How had it managed to happen that Kunzite, for all his private love of night and the shadows and the bright, hard, distant lights that shone in them, had never spoken to Nephrite of his art -- Nephrite, who loved them still more?

Comfort. Memories that echo the night after that terrible spectacle in Beryl's court. A small, dark-haired child seeking him out; sometimes more than one, dark-haired and bright. It was something he grew accustomed to, resigned to. Not something he ever understood. But sometimes, in the memories when the children were a little older, there was a trace of that symbol. Something that began to give it meaning.

Courage. More than he can name. Jadeite shielding their prince with his body. Nephrite disdaining weapons, disdaining his own powers, striding into the heart of a fight with only his bare hands and his confidence to protect him. His own knowledge that Zoisite, out of sight and separated from them all, would be moving into place on nothing more than the trust that the rest of them would be there in time to save him. The quartered circle, over and over again.

The prince at the heart of that circle, standing alone against the army that Beryl and her Four brought to destroy the Moon.

Venus' face, Venus's eyes, when she stood in Kunzite's way.

The prince shielding the princess with his body, as Jadeite had shielded him.

Venus' eyes, knowing that everything was already lost, still fighting all the same.

Even that, this time, should have made no difference. Metallia had stripped the context away from the memories, made it impossible for them to affect him. He should have been immune to everything but what strengthened his bond with his brothers, made him still more furious over Jadeite's loss, willing to go to greater and more terrible lengths to preserve Nephrite and Zoisite for whatever time remains to the world. But one symbol, meaningless in itself, bridges the gap; ties him back to the memories again, to understanding, to the moment after Endymion's death when Kunzite had himself back just long enough for Venus to kill him.

A shattered prince trying to rebuild himself out of despair and nothing. A fox out of her depth, refusing to give in. A woman from a lost time, still breaking herself fighting a lost war. One girl risking herself out of love for a friend; another risking all the world out of compassion for her enemies. A third weaving her desperation into hope, in roses and honey, lightning and dreams. An angry queen, making the smallest mistake. A dozen or more acts of courage, and one of the lack of it.

For want of a nail --

He comes to himself again, surfacing from the memories like a drowning man finding the air. It won't last. He's certain of that. It didn't last time, and it won't this; he can feel the pressure on his mind, ready to drag him back down.

But after Walpurgisnacht, Kunzite never expected to wake to his mind being his own again.