Laying to Rest (Kyouko Sakura)

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Laying to Rest (Kyouko Sakura)
Date of Cutscene: 06 September 2016
Location: Kazamino
Synopsis: Kyouko returns to her family's old church for one final time.
Cast of Characters: Kyouko Sakura

There's an old church in the city of Kazamino that's been abandoned for years. It stands in a run-down, poor section of the city. The fire that destroyed it is something of a local legend- apparently the priest had gone crazy, murdered his wife and two daughters, and then hung himself after setting the church alight.

It's no wonder the site hasn't been reclaimed or re-developed. The ruins of the church remain, burnt-out and crumbling. Eventually, no doubt, local memory will fade to the point that some business or developer will demolish what's left and build something new, but that time has not arrived yet.

To the magical denizens of Kazamino, especially the few Puella Magi who call the city home, the church has another legend attached to it. For several years, it was home to a fierce, red-haired Puella who would ruthlessly attack and drive out anyone who sought to move in on her territory. The Terror of Kazamino, she was called, because she refused all overtures of peace or cooperation. Violence was her first and only resort, and many are the tales of Puella driven from the city, wounded either physically or just in pride, at the tip of her spear.

But then, a little more than a year ago, she had vanished, and the ruined church had been empty in truth. Slowly, other Puella had moved in to claim the territory. Although she was gone (some said dead, finally claimed by despair), the legend of the Terror of Kazamino lived on among the Puella of the city, though thankfully only in stories.

Today, though, a slender red-haired figure stands outside the ruined church as grey, heavy clouds scutter across the mid-morning sky. She looks like any other teenager, hands in the pockets of her jeans, eyes fixed on the ruined building. There's nothing to visually connect her to the girl who used to call this place her home, both before and after it was ruined.

Kyouko Sakura stands there for a long time, outside the church, just looking at it. Her expression isn't particularly sad, or afraid, or anything. She just looks at it, playing back in her head the various scenes connected with this place in her memory. Good scenes and bad. There's no way a place as central to her life as this could be all one or all the other, even after everything that happened in the end.

But eventually she moves. She came here for a reason, and that reason was not to stand outside and look. Inside, the church is in even worse condition than she remembers. That makes sense, she supposes, since nobody has been living here at all since she left. Well... almost nobody.

She pauses by the remains of what looks like a small camp. Some food wrappers, a pile of rags that might have been a bed. Momo had been here, briefly, before coming to Tokyo to look for her. Momo had also mentioned recovering the remains of their parents and 'burying' them. That was something Kyouko had never bothered to do- she hadn't been able to face that. It was easier to just look away and pretend she wasn't hurt.

But Momo had done it. And Kyouko is done looking away.

It's easy to find the 'graves'. In truth, there isn't much. After a fire like the one that had consumed the church, there wouldn't be. But the markers were more ceremonial than anything else- meant to bring an end, to bring peace. Nothing more than two small piles of rubble and stones, heaped into a modern approximation of cairnes. Likely there wasn't actually even anything of their parents under those stones, but that's not important.

One has a wooden cross laid upon it. Their mother, Kyouko assumes. She had ever been the innocent in their lives. Her only sin had been being too weak to stand up to their father. She pauses by this grave, and after a moment she kneels. She doesn't say anything, merely looks at it for a few moments, then reaches out to lightly touch the cross. Your girls are doing okay, Mama, she thinks to herself. Somehow, despite everything, we're doing okay.

But this wasn't why she had come here, either, and after a moment, she stands, pacing with her arms crossed across her chest for a moment, before stopping before the unadorned pile of rocks which marks the last resting place of her father.

"For a long time," She says, out loud in the empty building, "I let my fear rule me. Acting tough, fighting, bullying, but it was all just an act. I was afraid- not of what was in the future, but of what was in the past."

"I couldn't face what you had done.. I couldn't face you. You had destroyed my life.. destroyed everything that I loved. I blamed myself too, accourse- I was the one who had made the Wish, and I was the one naive enough to think that you would accept it. Accept me."

"But.. ain't that what a father is supposed to do? You spoke a lot, Papa, about unconditional love, about acceptin' others for what they were, about peace. But it was all just talk, wasn't it? When it came time for you to actually display that yourself, you couldn't. You couldn't do it. All you could do was run, and take everything down with you."

Her lip has curled slightly, an expression of anger, of frustration, but after a moment she forces herself to relax.. sighing as her head drops slightly to look at the floor. "I thought, for a long time, that I had escaped. An' that made me feel so guilty, because it was at least partly my fault, but I was the one who was left. Mama and Momo were gone, the ones who had nothin' to do with it, but I was left."

"But now I realize, I never escaped. You destroyed me as surely as them, that day. For years, I was dominated by you, by what you had done. I did terrible things because I couldn't face myself, and I couldn't face you. That fear ruled my actions and made me a petty, insecure, good-for-nothin' failure. Maybe I was still alive, but you destroyed the good, hopeful little girl I had been as surely as if you had killed me too."

She's silent for a few more moments, looking at the floor. But then her eyes look up. Red eyes, fierce and proud and full of fire. "But guess what, Papa? Turns out, what's destroyed don't always have to stay that way. With time, with care, and with help, you can put it back together."

"I dunno what I did to luck into the things I have. I surely don't deserve any of it. But I've been put back together. Maybe not perfectly- I ain't the same as I was. I'm not the naive little girl that you knew anymore. But I'm whole again. I'm not afraid anymore."

"Momo came back. Miracles are real, Papa, and she found her way back despite your best efforts to keep us apart. More than that, I've found a new family. They say nothin' is thicker'n blood, but some things can be just as thick. Bonds forged in suffering and shared salvation. Love born in the dark. It's been hard, but nothin' worth havin' is easy to get."

She sucks in a deep breath and turns again to look directly at the unmarked grave. "So that's why I came back here. One last time. I wanted you to know that you failed. I wanted you to know that despite your petty, self-obsessed efforts to destroy me.. you failed." And now I'm done with you."

"You controlled me, even after you were dead, for too long. But it's done now. I'm through with lookin' back. From now on, I look forward. I dunno how much time I have left. Could be it ain't that much. But I'm not gonna spend it running away from anything, especially you."

Another moment of silence, and then Kyouko breaks into a lopsided grin, single-fang bared. "After all, I'm Kyouko Godamned Sakura. I don't run from anybody. And I'm Apatite, the Knight of Sincerity and Respect. That's a title I have to work to live up to. This is the first step- closing the door on the past."

She hesitates a moment more, grin falling away. "For what it's worth, Papa, I never hated you. Even at the end. You were just... too weak for this world, and it twisted you. But your daughters aren't weak. We won't fade away, forgotten in a pile of rubble. So, even if you can't take pride in anything else, take pride in that. You did at least one thing worthwhile in your life. You made us strong."

Another moment of silence, and then, "Goodbye."

And then she turns and walks away, hands stuffed once more into her pockets. And as she emerges from the church onto the sidewalk, a ray of bright sunshine pierces the heavy clouds over head, seeming to light up the path in front of her.

And she smiles. Because she's finally free.