Next Of Kin

Kyouko talks with Kunzite's ghost about siblinghood, Sayaka, and stabbings, somewhere in the Dark Kingdom. Given that this more or less requires Tuxedo Kamen's presence ... there's a lot of family involved, for a couple of orphans.

Date: 2016-03-11
Pose Count: 10
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-11 14:55:15 33212
The caverns are the ones she's seen before. Half-mineral, half-organic, changing when not watched closely, broken up or made out of dozens or hundreds of splintering little sub-spaces. It's easy for groups to be split up. Sometimes they even come back together, having taken two or three or ten different paths to the same nexus.

Right now, Kyouko and Sayaka have found Tuxedo Kamen, and whoever he might be with. That's a good place to be, in a sense. He has the ability to find several other people, to pull groups back together, to give them a better chance. And he has experienced help navigating the place, avoiding some of the more disconcerting hazards, like the places where a wrong step will send someone into a pocket world with no heat, no energy, no apparent exit.

And all it takes is a touch, skin-to-skin contact that might have been an accident or might have been intentional, for him to share some of that help for a moment.

The figure that Kyouko can see out of the corner of her eye, parallelling her on Tuxedo Kamen's other side, was not there a moment ago. Familiar in some ways: tall, pale, white-haired, dressed in grays. Different in others: the uniform is close to the Dark Kingdom's, but not the same, and he wears it with a precision and respect instead of the near-contempt he showed Beryl's; he's taking constant note of the others present, glancing back over the group to be certain whether they're all still present, lingering just a fraction of a second longer on the ones who, like Sayaka, might not be quite experienced enough yet to remember to watch their backs.

Also, what little color he has is washed-out, and it's possible to see the mottling of the walls through him. Though his own faint, pale glow, the hint of a white fog, at least means that it's not possible to see the walls' creepy unlight through him.

His eyes flicker to Kyouko for a moment as he realizes that there's more than one person perceiving him. Without preamble or pause, he says, "Thank you." She can hear him clearly. Just not with her actual ears.
Kyouko Sakura 2016-03-11 15:06:05 33213
    Kyouko and Sayaka managed to catch up with the 'main group' just after they entered the caves, and she's been doing her best to stick with Tuxedo Kamen and Sailor Moon since then, with varying success. Of course, this isn't the first time Kyouko has been in these caverns, although they look a bit different from this angle- still, there's no fear from her, no sense of anxiety. Only a simmering anger and a fatalistic acceptance.

    She's been watching Sayaka's back too, of course. The blue-haired girl is only here because of her- oh, she said she wanted to thank Mamoru and Usagi for what they did to bring Kyouko and she together, and Kyouko believes that, but she also knows that if she, Kyouko, hadn't come, Sayaka wouldn't have either. That makes her feel more responsible than she otherwise might. In truth, she has far more fear for Sayaka than she does for herself.

    When she suddenly becomes aware of an extra figure walking along with the group, on the other side of Tuxedo Kamen, she gives a quick glance, instincts flaring- then relaxes suddenly. She doesn't seem surprised. She knew Kunzite was there, after all, even if she couldn't see him.

    Telepathy is a well-known trick to the Puella. They use it to communicate between themselves often. Kyouko keeps her eyes ahead and her mouth shut, but she answers all the same, her tone wry and amused, the lopsided grin heard more than seen. "Think that's the first time anybody thanked me for stabbing them. 'Specially when it's been more than once."
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-11 15:15:45 33214
It's not that different. The connection's the same; it's only made through Mamoru rather than through Kyubey. The soul gem in Mamoru's pocket is different, too, but serves fundamentally the same perpose ... it was only made by someone who wanted its occupant to be awake and aware all the while, helpless and hopeless, if she chose to tear him out of the body she gave him again.

The awake and aware parts worked, anyway.

"You're right," Kunzite acknowledges. No smile from him, either; they're both still working, both bent on staying aware. But there's a faint crease at the corner of one eye, and that's half-felt along with the words. "I misspoke. Thank you twice, then. I'd add in the meetings, but at that point we'd be here all day."
Kyouko Sakura 2016-03-11 15:22:36 33215
    "You don't need to thank me for nothin', nii-chan." Kyouko replies, still walking alongside Mamoru with her eyes forward, her posture relaxed but ready, keeping an eye out for any horrors that might be waiting to spring out at them although at the moment things seem thankfully calm. Enough to get a few words in edgewise, anyway.

    "Hell, probably should be the other way around, yeah? That whole situation.. it came from my helplessness and my loneliness. And it sucked, sure." She pauses for a moment, and does cast a glance sideways at the ghostly figure at this point, before turning her eyes back to the dark path ahead. "But I came out of it with more than I went in with. I won't forget that. I can't. So thank you, in turn. For being what I needed, when I needed it, and givin' me somethin' to fight for."
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-11 15:40:54 33216
Nii-chan. The corner of the ghost-image's mouth actually does turn upward. One of the two people who can see it isn't looking, but Tuxedo Kamen's expression might react, a little.

"We're even on that." He's watching her for a moment in turn, when she looks. The risks behind them left to peripheral vision. "I'd kept what sanity I had by looking out for my brothers. Two of them were missing, then. You did as much for me as I did for you. I won't forget that, either." What he needed, when he needed it. And something to fight for, if on a less visible front. He's silent for a couple of paces. "I'd like to meet your lady under better circumstances, when this is done. I won't take it amiss if she tries to stab me, too." ... that's ... probably a joke. Probably.
Kyouko Sakura 2016-03-11 15:47:08 33217
    There's a faint blush when Kunzite mentions 'her lady', although it /is/ faint. Kyouko isn't ashamed of her relationship with Saya-chan- she's more proud than anything, if still a bit disbelieving that such a thing actually came to pass. It's not like she's exactly the most lovable person, and she knows that.

    "Needed a sister to round things out?" Kyouko replies, with a bit of a mental smirk. "I don't buy it nii-chan, but I'll take it. The times in my life when I've made anything better for anybody are few and far between. It's good to know at least they exist."

    "Saya-chan.. she doesn't understand. But I think she will, with enough time. She's tough, and she's smart, but she doesn't understand.. suffering. And what can come out of it. It makes me sad, but I think she's learning." A quick glance cast to the blue-haired girl walking somewhere nearby. "I feel a little guilty about being the one to bring that into her life. But I think I'm too selfish to wish it wasn't so."
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-11 16:02:35 33218
"The suffering would have come anyhow. Maybe a little later. But no less of it. Better that it come alongside someone who understands, and might be able to help her learn." There's a silence for a moment; he adds aside to Tuxedo Kamen, though Kyouko can hear it, "There's a disjoint about four meters from the end of the next long stretch; it'll drop us into a fairly open chamber. Warn them to keep away from the white patches on the walls. If it gets into any wounds, they won't close." That it makes a perfect spot for an ambush is too obvious to bother mentioning.

He falls back to talking about Sayaka instead. "She has a good heart. That's her strength and her weakness, isn't it? She needs you there to catch her when it breaks."
Kyouko Sakura 2016-03-11 16:11:46 33219
    "That's a godamned downer." Kyouko mutters in response to Kunzite's fatalistic assertion that 'the suffering would have come anyhow'. "Ain't there anybody in this life who gets to avoid all the crap?" Then she laughs, short and bitter though with enough amusement running through the cracks that it's obvious she sees the humor in her own words. "Figured maybe some of us absorb so much of it that there's gotta be somebody out there who manages to sneak by. Eh.. well. I wouldn't be who I am if not for all the crap I been though, and y'know what, I find for the first time in a long time I actually kinda like who I am. So maybe it was worth it."

    Her eyes flick back to Sayaka again as Kunzite returns the conversation to her. "She's a large part of that. Of liking who I am. Who I became. I couldn't have become the me I am now without her- and I don't even mean all the.. the mushy stuff. But it's not just her. It was Mamoru, and Usagi, and you too, nii-chan. For a long time I thought I wouldn't be able to care for anybody again, and that maybe I wasn't worth caring about either. Sayaka was the first one to show me that was wrong, and the rest of you drove that message home."

    "That's why I'm here. Why I'm glad to be here. Why I don't care if I die here. Because I'd rather die loving and loved than live on for another year or five years or ten years alone and unwanted. Us Puella, we don't have long shelf-lives, y'know? I've already passed the average by a long shot. Most don't make it half as long as I have. Way I figure it, better to go out doing something really important, for people I care about, while I still have the chance."

    She sucks in a soft breath. "Sorry. I'm not assuming that I'm not gonna make it out of here. I'm Kyouko Godamned Sakura. I'm harder to kill than a cockroach. It's just this place.. weighs on you a little. Listen, nii-chan.. if I don't make it out of here... make sure you catch her for me, alright? I ain't worth throwin' away a bright future over. Make sure she knows that."
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-11 16:49:47 33220
Isn't there anybody in this life who gets to avoid all the crap? -- someone who never cared about anyone else, perhaps; but that one would have to die alone. Or someone who cared, deeply, but died first -- and planning ahead to do that would put the lie to the caring. Things they both know, if they think about it. Kunzite leaves that like the ambush, too obvious to bother saying. And answers her instead, when she says that she's starting to like who she is, "Catching up to the rest of us, are you."

Then he's listening. Every word, or rather every thought, even while they're both still keeping watch. It's not the way Usagi might listen, trying desperately to paper over every crack with affection, hoping it'll seep down and fill them. It's not the way Mamoru might listen, the utter focus on the person he's listening to, Kyouko herself, trying to assess what she needs to say and what she needs to hear. It's the matter-of-fact understanding of someone who has stood or maybe is standing, not where she is, but somewhere close enough to it to pass.

"If it comes to that," he answers her, "we'll do what we can." That, first. It doesn't sound like much; but from him, 'what we can' might as well be 'everything.' And there's that we. Committing Mamoru without hesitation, without doubt, without need for consultation. And maybe there are other shadows in the background, there: one that Kyouko met in passing, in these halls that twisted both of them half out of recognition; one tall and dark-haired that she saw in the corner of her eye at Tokyo Tower, calling down the starlight; one that she's caught a glimpse of in the darkness of the caverns, all brittle arrogance and burning fire. Plan for the worst, always.

"But I intend to hold you to that meeting. I look forward to finding out what standards of hers I don't live up to this time. Probably most of them." Two paces more, that same measured pause. "The average doesn't apply to you, you know. In and of yourself, already. And now with what you girls are doing. I used to track -- Puella? -- you girls who hunt witches, for a while. Fighting in company is unusual enough. Having allies, family, who aren't all in competition with you? There is no average for what you're doing, is there. No precedent. No expectations.

"So. Surprise us all, the pair of you." The only instruction anyone could possibly ever give Kyouko Sakura that she might actually follow.
Kyouko Sakura 2016-03-11 16:56:49 33221
    Kyouko hasn't forgotten that Mamoru can hear this conversation, is hearing it. But she's not talking to him- not because she doesn't want to, but because she doesn't need to. She knows he'll do whatever he can for anybody who comes through this, because he's Mamoru and that's just the sort of stuff he does. But that doesn't mean she'll appreciate it any less.

    "I've found the best way to come through any situation is to do what nobody expects.. not even you." She flashes a bit of a fanged grin. "And don't worry about it too much, nii-chan. If she somehow finds me acceptable, I think you'll at least be able to avoid getting stabbed."

    She looks ahead, into the darkness still looming before them. "Don't you worry. I've still got a surprise or two waiting up my sleeve. Doin' the shit that nobody else would think of doing.. that's practically my MO."

    She falls silent for a long moment, then adds, "Well, anyway. Thanks, Kunzite. For everything, and for this. One way or the other.. it's all worth it." Then she falls silent again, but she seems to stand just a little bit straighter.