|Date of Cutscene:||07 June 2016|
|Location:||Kunzite's Palace, Jadeite's Palace|
|Synopsis:||The slow approach of the current confluence of disasters is enough to try the patience of a stone.|
|Cast of Characters:||Kunzite|
"And there's nothing left that we can do to reinforce you, or to extend the time."
The oversized cat flicked its ears, the six-inch black tufts flaring for a moment. "Nothing that he'd approve of."
Kunzite eyed the caracal flatly. "Solutions that include feeding you half of Tokyo are not solutions."
His palace's guardian spirit let its perennially-lowered eyelids close further, showing just a sliver of yellow-green gleam. "That's what I said."
"All right. Today, then. No more splitting your attention." Kunzite fell silent for a moment, listening. The place around him stood silent again, too. For all that people kept calling it an oasis, he hadn't even before the interference been able to call up enough water to start restoring it properly. Enough to bring green, yes. Enough to give it a little life.
The water was gone, now. The plants that should have kept its life in them long enough to make seeds were already dry and dead. Not that it mattered; in the long run, he could bring them back from his own dreams and will, the same way that he'd restored the palace itself. Part of the same way that Mercury had planned his own reincarnation.
As long as the little half-real worldlet had the energy to spare. Which it no longer did.
Kunzite laid his hand on the door to Jadeite's palace, intricately carved with geometric patterns that summoned up the serenity of the place. "I'll be back when it's dealt with."
"He's not in that one, you know."
The caracal made a noncommittal sound, deep in its chest and almost at the low edge of hearing, and settled down in place in its watchful laziness. Conserving energy. Waiting for prey. Kunzite left the creature behind him and stepped out into his brother's world.
Even depleted as it was, its nature shone through; the plants might be dropping dried-out brown leaves, the sky an ominous color, but the design of the paths remained. When Kunzite's palace suffered, it died back to its essential nature, stark and bleak as bone. When Jadeite's palace suffered, it wilted, but it kept the promise that winters and sicknesses were only things to be endured. Kunzite did not need the essential hope that underlay that promise, precisely. He could function perfectly well without it. But over the last six months, he'd been receiving lesson after lesson on that topic: that 'function perfectly well' was not as sufficient as he'd always taken it to be, that hope and faith were stronger forces than he'd taken them for, that miracles could sometimes be won with them and never won without.
There was a strength in that hope that had kept Jadeite from ever being drowned too long by the darkness that held them, no matter how many times it forced him back under. Kunzite walked the winding gravel paths of his shrine, and tried to find for himself something of that hope, that strength. Something he could add to his own without diminishing the worldlet's. Perhaps he did find it; certainly, as he gave himself over to the patterns of the stone, he found it easier and easier to keep the helpless rage in him buried. That was good. That was needful. The impatient always lost; he could not let the anger force his hand, let it press him into acting rashly or prematurely. Jadeite's strength, then. The sculptor's hand, never hasty with the clay.
And out of the clay, here -- out of the soil, rather -- could still come tiny miracles of its own: Kunzite spotted, sheltered under a low branch, a set of unspoiled deep-green leaves. He almost smiled. Even with the assault on the world wearing away at the palaces that reflected it, it seemed that Jadeite's heart was still strong enough to make something perfect. He stepped from the path, careful to break no struggling stems. Knelt down and gently lifted the branch to see the younger plant more clearly.
Vibrant pink petals greeted him, thriving brilliantly in the shadow.
Fiore's deadly, world-killing flower.
He knew. Intellectually, he knew. It could not be real. The shrine's guardians would, like his caracal, have already hunted it down and torn it out and destroyed it. It was only a reflection, a signal of how bad things were in reality, of how near and how great and how widespread the danger was.
He tore the alien thing from the ground by its roots. There was no fire here to burn it with. He tightened his gloved hand around it and called on his own energy; something like but not quite lightning danced over the thing, blackening the delicate blossom where it touched.
It would do no good. An expenditure of energy that he might need later. Destroying a reflection would make no difference to the real thing.
He held on to it and lashed out with his magic and his will until the last of it was char. Then he rose and returned to the path, moving purposefully now. Nothing left to be gained. No strength left in these places to defend his prince. Time for them to go.
When he passed through the stained-glass door to Zoisite's palace, the ashes still marred Kunzite's bone-white glove with gray.