May All Be Free from Sorrow

CONTENT WARNING: Finding remains; blood. Sky Jack, Tuxedo Kamen, and Kunzite find what's left of Nameless Hero and Prism Keeper Yellow, and Kunzite finds out just what the two girls managed to do. Sky Jack offers a prayer for the fallen, and a little bit of comfort is found in the midst of darkness.

Date: 2016-03-11
Pose Count: 17
Mamoru Chiba 2016-03-11 19:25:31 33222
Somehow they'd gotten separated from the group, after they saw Homura and Madoka sacrifice themselves to save them all, to get them into the tunnels. It's not as though getting separated isn't hard -- all it takes is a few seconds not looking, not keeping someone in line of sight, and they can vanish. Almost existential. Tuxedo Kamen had taken being dragged away by the girl he had to carry away to get clear of the mouth of the cave, but now-- now that it's just him and Sky Jack and the tunnels full of evil and hate, and the ghost Sky Jack doesn't know is there, and the drying blood on Kamen's gloves and tuxedo, he's quiet and doesn't hesitate.

Up ahead, there's the scent of snow mingling with something much, much worse, and the walls seem to be cracking and flaking, moving a bit more than they should be, luminous writhing and melting; the breaking down gets more pronounced the further they go.
Kukai Souma 2016-03-11 19:36:01 33223
Sky Jack has never seen anything like this before, but even with the shimmering, shuddering walls all around them threatening to collapse at any second his mind is still aflame with the image of that pink and purple beam to the sky, and the sudden, icily explosive ending that had cut it off.

He'd moved along with Tuxedo Kamen because he was pretty sure he'd know how to get to the center and he'd have Sailor Moon with him, and that was the goal, right? Well. That was Jack's primary goal. His secondary goal was 'find Amu and Tadase and keep them alive in this blue hell'. But then the cave had lurched behind them and they'd gotten cut off from the rest.

Jack's nose wrinkles. There's the scent of rot. Foulness. Something unwholesome, ahead. But mixed in with it, something sharp and coppery. "What is that? It's awful... More youma?" He looks over at the more experienced teen for an answer.
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-11 19:40:01 33224
(The ghost Sky Jack doesn't know is there is manifest only sometimes; more often a quiet voice for Tuxedo Kamen alone directing him around pitfalls or between choices of equally disturbing corridor, more often still a silent, persistent presence perceptible by empathy and nothing else. This calls his attention enough for him to show himself in the edge of Mamoru's vision, pale figure, faint and paler glow. His head's turned not to watch over them but to study the walls.)

("This isn't normal," he says, no more audible to Sky Jack than he is visible. "Even for here. The cohesion's breaking down. Not Moon's doing; she'd have freed them faster.")

(He doesn't have an answer to give his prince for Sky Jack's question. Energy he can perceive, light included. The chemical signatures of scent ... no. So he mirrors the one living boy's glance toward the other, instead.)
Mamoru Chiba 2016-03-11 20:02:54 33226
"Don't know. Don't hear anything. But what's going on with the walls is apparently... really not normal," the tall black-haired boy says, glancing over the top of Kukai's head at something-- maybe the walls--? And giving the walls a questioning look. If it's the walls. But then he glances at Sky Jack again and shifts his weight. "There's a lot of blood ahead, though. Human blood, not ichor. Ichor too, and other things, but, um-- don't flip out, okay?"

He looks to where he was looking before, and a faint glow limns his edges like a corona. "Don't you dare try and push the energy back at me, I want to see if he can see you too," he tells the air tiredly. "It'll be a lot easier on both of us if we can both hear you. Can you go ahead and look, or are you tied to a radius from the rock?"

This he's asking as he keeps progressing, as the walls keep getting more and more disintegrated around them. This he's asking what's not just the air anymore, but a washed-out figure: a taller (taller than Tuxedo Kamen!) man with long white hair, slowly becoming visible. "And it can't have been Moon's doing anyway, I'd've felt that. She hasn't used it since you. So we figure--" he says, voice carefully neutral, "--the human blood probably belongs to whoever did this."
Kukai Souma 2016-03-11 20:13:05 33227
Sky Jack lets out a small, non-commital noise about the word 'normal' used in any context in this place. Nothing's been normal for a long time now. But the word 'blood' does spark a response from him, his heart jumping in his chest. "How much ... blood." He stops before the last word, realizing something. He's seen Tuxedo Kamen heal horrible wounds with his magic. If he wasn't sprinting towards the scent, then he thinks there may be too much blood there to save whomever it came out of.

He turns slightly, confused now, looking to see who Tuxedo's speaking to behind him. Nothing... Maybe something? "Who are you talking to...?" He looks back around at the walls, testing the ground under their feet for stability, wishing he still had his snowboard. Or skateboard. Walking is just more tiring and if he could still fly it'd be a lot safer if everything started caving in.

And then there's a ghost beside him. At least, a faint, seethrough image of a tall, gorgeous teenaged man, just on the brink of adulthood, with white hair and eyes like an oncoming killer storm. Kukai tries not to jump and mostly succeeds. "Uh Tux... Is this who you were talking to? Wait. I..." He rubs his head. He'd seen him once before, but where? Lots of new faces in the past few months. Then Tuxedo's last words pierce his brain. "So one of us did this? I... what for?"
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-11 20:33:14 33228
Lots of new faces in the past few months; and this one's changed details since Walpurgisnacht, and even since a few days ago. No shadows to hide behind. Different uniform. Lack of maniacal laughter. Not attempting wholesale destruction of anything. It's the little things that count.

Kunzite's ghost-image inclines his own head to Kukai, the calm, precise gesture of politeness entirely out of place in these halls. "I can't go far from the gem, no," he answers Tuxedo Kamen. "But a little." A few steps; he takes the illusion of the steps, anyhow. Easier for the other two to process than vanishing and reappearing. And even a few feet ahead might give him a second or so to give a warning, if they need it.

"It might have been an accident," he notes, and his voice is nothing but calm and level. "Something that happened in the course of fending off an attack." He does not mention other possibilities. Not now.
Mamoru Chiba 2016-03-11 20:54:30 33229
And they keep going. The scents get thicker. There's rockfall; there are piles of ash and dust, and hollows in the walls and ceiling where they haven't completely caved in. There's nothing that can attack them ahead; Kunzite would know first, and tell them. As they go, the corruption lessens more and more.

Then they can see scorch marks, like a bunch of little things combusted against the floor; they can see more ash and dust-- and a pile of ceiling on the floor, now. There is blood congealing on the floor, sticky and viscous, from under the rockfall. Dust covers a lot of things, outlines grey... and that's a shoulder, a puffy sleeve; black hair turned grey from the caustic dust.

And that's a hand, outstretched, curled around a wand that looks like a telescope; there's a yellow crystal in it. Kunzite will be able to sense the power in it, faint but still present, though there is no life energy here except for the two living boys. One more thing--

--there is no dark energy in this space, this stretch of corridor, even in the middle of the Dark Kingdom. None. No creeping corruption, no feeling of the very air moving to steal life, no pervasive sensation of darkness trying to slither into the mind and soul.
Kukai Souma 2016-03-11 21:18:20 33231
Sky Jack stands a little straighter as the corruption and heaviness in the tunnel lifts, even as he raises a sleeve to cover his mouth and nose, face wrinkling at the odors. It's a moment's worth of weight off his shoulders in the awful place.

But then the aftermath of the fight becomes visible, and Jack's eyes go wide. He can't stop himself - he dashes past Tuxedo Kamen and the ghost of Kunzite towards the two figures, letting out a sudden, stuttering, gasping sob as he sees that little yellow wand and the puffy sleeve.

Frantically he begins throwing rocks off the two figures, the larger atop the smaller, panicked and desperate, trying not to slip in the dark red and congealing puddle that has spread so widely here. "Nonononono come on no Yellow come on, get up, get up, please! Girl, please, get up!" It would be easier, in some ways, if he could sense life energy, but even the fact that he can't feel the magic from either of them, just from that little yellow wand, doesn't stop him.
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-11 21:20:33 33232
"She can't." That voice is shaded a trace gentler, perhaps. Only a trace. And it won't help; it never does. The ghost is down on one knee beside Jack, on the far side of that outstretched hand, that faintly-colored wand. "They're gone, both of them. There's nothing living here but the two of you."

Kunzite follows the lines of the fingers, as if he could look past the rockfall; tilts his head back to study what's left of the ceiling. "Not an accident, though. They chose this. Still trying to give antidotes, even here."
Mamoru Chiba 2016-03-11 21:33:05 33233
And for a second, Tuxedo Kamen's eyes close. He doesn't know the name of the girl with the Prism Keeper, but he knows that wand, he knows that crystal. He knows damn well what help those bright and determined little stars were, how bright a star in her heart that little girl carried -- and he knows the same has to be true for the other.

And Sky Jack is trying to dig them out.

He moves, somehow, as silently as Kunzite did-- and then reaches to put his own bloody-gloved hand in front of where Jack is digging, try to catch and stay his hands. "Stop," he says quietly. "We can't bring them with us. The best we can do for them is end this war, save this planet. We can finish burying them, make sure nothing can," his voice catches a little, but he breathes, and steadies it again, "can disturb them."

He glances up at Kunzite. Unspoken, but not needing to be, another question: 'would have freed them faster? Antidotes?'

None of this will help Jack, not yet. Maybe it will, later.
Kukai Souma 2016-03-11 21:46:06 33234
Sky Jack tries to pull his hands away from Tuxedo, to keep working, to keep saving them. But the formally-clad hero won't stop, and finally with an angry curse Jack pulls his hands away from him. The grief, threatening to overwhelm him (another failure) at the sight of the blood and the wand (another dead little girl) changes, in an instant, to anger. "What the hell do you care about saving this planet?"

The venom in Jack's voice could easily have come from any of the youma they'd seen. "You and the rest of them, you say this was a better world at one point, that you ruled it - well you don't rule a thing here now! And all you've done is bring pain and death to the Earthly heroes here now and from what I know -you don't care-, because if you lose, big deal, you'll just reincarnate somewhere else and do it again!" Whether or not that's true Jack doesn't know, but pain blinds.

"All I know is that because of this war, we suffer. This little girl and a dozen others are dying - my friends are dying - because in some past life that may or may not have happened the royalty couldn't talk things through!" Jack turns away from Tuxedo Kamen and Kunzite's ghost, sitting down on the floor, suddenly exhausted. He wants nothing more than to stop, here. The fighting and the work, he could do for days. May have been doing for days, now. But every time he looks at that wand and that black-turned-grey hair his heart breaks all over again.

And in the back of his jacket, where it was slashed, some more of the stuffing falls out, and keeps falling out, as something wiggles inside it...
Mamoru Chiba 2016-03-11 22:08:39 33236
The older boy pulls back, watches Sky Jack, doesn't apparently react as the words, the accusations are hurled at him. But Jack has his attention. All of it. He is listening, and the weight of the Earth that Jack is fighting for is behind the blue eyes behind the mask.

He takes the mask off and flips it into nothing, somewhere about the middle of 'pain and death to the Earthly heroes'. Still he doesn't say anything, only listens and weathers it, crouched on one knee next to the rockfall, in maybe a less bloody spot.

He doesn't argue.

When Jack turns away from him and his guardian, he silently reaches to take Prism Keeper Yellow's Chroma Crystal from her telescope-wand.

Standing up, finally, he says in a low voice. "I'm just a high school student, Jack. If Sailor Moon fails here, none of us gets another chance."

He steps toward Jack, and leans down, holding out Hoshi's crystal for the other boy to take. "I'm good friends with Prism Keeper Red. When she thought she was dying, she told me to take her Chroma Crystal so no one could misuse it. I think you should hold onto Yellow's for her."
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-11 22:28:38 33237
The ghost-image is silent as well, listening, staying still. The crystal that holds him holds him at a distance as well; grief is a limited, muted thing for him. That's useful, when it comes to offering support. That's anything but useful when it comes to offering understanding.

Except, of course, in that he's heard this kind of venom before. Including from himself.

That only means that he trusts his -- just a high school student -- to deal with it better now. He stays silent, crouched there by the forlorn wand, until Tuxedo Kamen finishes speaking. Sky Jack can't see the nod; unless he turns, he won't see Kunzite rise to his feet, head still bowed. But he can hear, after a manner of speaking, the ghost echo the last words spoken. "Keep her hope safe for her."
Kukai Souma 2016-03-11 23:09:45 33239
Sky Jack doesn't look up at Tuxedo Kamen for a long moment, until he holds out the wand. There's still too much pain inside him. But finally, he reaches up and takes the wand, squeezing it tightly. He can't give up the pain, not just yet.

But as he goes to put it into his pocket, he feels something, like a mouse, inside his jacket. Suddenly mystified, he sets the wand into his pocket and shakes the back of his jacket, pulling it open a bit more and tearing it another stitch, as more stuffing comes out - no, wait. Under the stuffing is a tiny little angel, with straight blonde hair curling at the bottom and closed eyes, who flails as she falls free, and then hovers up to shoulder height with Jack, coughing. Jack is, understandably, shocked. "Eru?! What are you doing here?"

Eru eeps and hovers back, head turning back and forth. "When you had dinner with Utau you said you were leaving! I was so worried for you that I hid in the back of your jacket! Neither you or Utau noticed - but I heard you yelling and I had to see..." She turns, seeing what's left visible of the two girls, and lets out a cry, clinging to Jack, who reaches up, petting her back and holding the tiny Chara. "You shouldn't have done that, Eru." Jack looks at the pile of rubble, one hand still over Eru. "I can't... I'm gonna try to defend everyone, but I'm failing."

The angel Chara pops up and looks at him. "You have to make it! You have to come back to Utau and everybody else! You can't give up here! And you can't be mean to your friends! They're all you have right now!" Jack shakes his head, reaching up to run one hand through his hair, pulling at it, before nodding, sad and reluctant. He knows she's right. "I can't just leave them here."

A memory comes to him, and he finds himself shifting, moving over to kneel on a nearby clear patch of the floor. "Grandpa taught me a prayer when I was little and staying with him, but I can't remember the words. Eru... Can you help me find them?" Eru nods and hovers over, standing on his shoulder next to his neck, and folds her hands as Kukai does, bowing his head.

The two of them clap their hands together at the same moment, invoking the spirits. Jack begins, but when he can't go on Eru helps him remember and finish. "May all beings have happiness, and be the causes of happiness. May all be free from sorrow, and the causes of sorrow. May all be never separated from the sacred happiness which is sorrowless, and may all live in equanimity, without too much attachment, and too much aversion, and live believing in the equality of all that lives."
Mamoru Chiba 2016-03-11 23:31:26 33241
One glance at Kunzite and a burst of appreciation-- gratitude and love-- and Tuxedo Kamen's attention is back on Jack. He looks a little startled when a tiny angel chara digs her way out of the jacket, but he doesn't say anything else. There's the slightest increase of tension around his eyes at Jack's desire to protect everyone and his grief over his failure; a burden he can't take away from a like mind, a like soul.

Maybe there's the hint of a smile, there, when she starts talking to the younger boy, but it's short-lived; he's too tired and bereft for it to stick.

When Jack moves to kneel, though, and pray--?

The older boy, the Prince of Earth who shares the planet's soul -- just a high school student, at the same time -- takes to his knees on the other side of Kukai from the little angel and puts his hand on his free shoulder. With that hand comes something else:

It's a sense that the heart of the Earth listens too, and lends its strength in this clean and sacred place; it lends its strength to the prayer, pushing it toward the spirits, the cosmos, and willing it to take flight and make itself manifest. There's a calm and a loving comfort that comes with it, shared heartache and loss, true understanding. It's larger than the boy prince, it's a warm and ancient and true thing, a connection to the memories of the mountains and the oceans, the forests and deserts, the caves and fields and rolling plains beneath the rains or the stars or the sunny skies, the civilizations and the dreams of the collective unconscious.

It is slow and calm and so very old; it is bright and young and hopeful; it is the hearth and the light to come home to, and it wishes the same things for all the souls that live within its embrace.

When the prayer is finished, Mamoru's hand slips from Jack's shoulder and he shifts away, moves to get up. His voice is very, very quiet. "Say one for me if I go before you. I'll do the same for you."
Kazuo Takeba 2016-03-11 23:52:05 33242
The ghost-image is only a sentinel, in this. Prayer is something not significant to him from any of his fragmentary lives. One in which he learned young that though the impulse was unavoidable, it would not be answered; the gods' attentions, if one were lucky, would always be elsewhere. One in which he found no more solace in it than in anything else. And one that took place here, where the closest thing to a deity was the radiant dark.

Watching these two, bound into that connection between these two ... there are things that, bound in the crystal, he cannot truly understand. This, deeper and greater than the facets that hold him, he knows he will remember differently if and when he wears human flesh again instead. And he knows he will wonder then, even if he does not know, if all three times he's missed something important; if this is one of the things he'll need to change.

For now -- he watches over the pair and the little angel. It's not necessary; this place is clean of the darkness, and any youma or monster that might come near would make its presence known by its contamination long before its physical arrival.

But if he can't pray for the dead, he can honor them. The one he knows and the one he does not alike.
Kukai Souma 2016-03-12 00:31:41 33244
Sky Jack feels Tuxedo kneeling beside him, and stutters over a word. He doesn't stop though, lead on by Eru, but when that hand lays on his shoulder he can feel the sensations. He can feel the Earth listening and responding, pushing the simple, heartfelt message along within the prayer for his two friends, helping to ease the hurt and the agony of not just this death but the others that Kukai had seen in such a short time.

Magic was something common to Kukai - he saw it, lived it, every day - but the connections between people and the size of the planet itself, was something else entirely. Alien, but familiar. Perhaps not magic, but power, the power of the planet and its places and its inhabitants. It's cleansing and refreshing and although every time Jack thinks about the bodies before him the hurt aches anew, it is not nearly as dear and as sharp as it was before.

Jack opens his eyes and then stands, looking at both the prince and the ghost. "... Yeah. I will. Thanks." He looks down for a moment, but before he can want to say more he makes a point to do it. "...Sorry. ....We should go." He holds one pocket open idly for Eru, much the same he would for Daichi if he wasn't Transformed, and the little angel hops down into it and peeks out over the top. He starts to look back, one last time, but then stops, reaching down instead, feeling a small telescope in his pocket instead, the metal wand all he needs to reinforce him for now.