Kazuo talks with Ami about Sailor Earth. Ami brings up the elephant in the room. Kazuo is REALLY not Usagi.

Date: 2018-01-22
Pose Count: 32
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 19:11:22 88311
When Ami arrives at the Communal Living Room, there are more textbooks than usual lying around -- some, granted, in the usual and expected state of neglect, but a couple have actually been left open, and there are actual notebooks here and there.

In other words ... The new term just started for the girls. But finals just started for the guys.

This has not prevented Kazuo from getting there in time to have a few things out on the otherwise-cleared coffee table. Ami's currently-preferred soda. A plate of sandwiches cut into small triangles. Another plate of small pastries. Makoto has been working on civilizing the boys for quite a long time now, and it will never actually be /her/ food unless she's come and cooked, but her influence shows.

Kazuo himself is the reason that one of those textbooks is open; he glances up from it at Ami's arrival, and rises to greet her with a bow.
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 19:13:32 88312
Ami Mizuno smiles softly as she enters, her shoes left beside the door. Her steps are whisper-quiet as she steps into the room, and she bows back. "Kazuo," she says, moving to sit across from him, coffee table in the middle. "I am happy to see you." But her blue eyes hold questions, even as she pours herself a glass of soda over ice. Picking up a little sandwich, she nibbles, and watches him expectantly.
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 19:18:55 88313
Kazuo says quietly, "Thank you for coming." Not that she ever hasn't, when she's asked. But it'll be a long time, if ever, before he lets himself take that for granted.

He doesn't make a habit of small talk unless someone or something prompts him to remember. Which is why the next thing he says is, "The woman who calls herself Sailor Earth has been sighted again. She stopped by the store Kyouko works at."

A moment's pause, and then he amends, "They didn't fight. They actually talked."
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 19:19:57 88314
Ami Mizuno goes breathless, and forces herself to breathe. "Okay." She watches him closely, putting her drink down, and carefully but quickly finishing her sandwich. "What did she learn?"
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 19:26:05 88315
"There's still a marginal possibility," Kazuo's tone shifts to the dry one he tends to use when going along with Mamoru's insistence they go out of their way to be fair to the anomaly in question, "that she's from another timeline that she's correctly describing."

He pauses for a moment. "But odds are now rather better that she's being fed information from someone who knows about the Silver Millennium and the Golden Kingdom -- but has few details about either, and more about the first than the second. She claimed that she ruled over Earth for a thousand years of peace."

... when Earth's comparatively-eyeblink lifespans were one of the points of contention to begin with.
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 19:48:09 88316
Ami Mizuno frowns slowly. "Hmm." She swallows, not taking anything for granted. "I... well. Honestly, something stinks, here, Kazuo." And she picks up her soda, sipping at it lightly before setting it back down. She looks worried. Moreso than usual, even.

Everything else seems swept away in her concern. Cram school worries, her teachers and mortal friends being ill. It's all about Sailor Earth right now.

"Has..." She swallows, mouth suddenly dry despite the soft drink just consumed. "Has anyone considered the fact that this could be Takashi...Takashi-san at work?"
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 20:07:17 88317
"That's a possibility," Kazuo says quietly. "But Lacrima told me a year ago that while Agera was away, UMBRA's servers had been hacked. Lacrima's Dusk Zone research and Agera's Nullheart research as of that time were accessed before she disconnected the systems from the network. So there is also the possibility of someone else having obtained his technology. And neither Agera nor any other known researcher has had the kind of access to Mamoru that Agera had to Makoto." Honorifics are placed with a certain degree of care, but are still placed. Possibilities aren't certainties.

He's silent a moment after. "Lacrima did ask me about Mamoru's current condition the last time she visited. But he'd been acting a little out of character at New Year's; she had innocent enough reason."
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 20:08:52 88318
Ami Mizuno frowns deeply. Very deeply. "I don't like it," she says quietly, looking at Kazuo seriously. "It stinks of something I can't put my finger on, and... I want this to be over." She sighs, and slumps in her seat, looking forlornly out the nearest window.
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 20:21:48 88319
The nearest window is the wide one that looks out on the balcony. The rosebush has been brought inside for the winter, but still frames one side of the view, where it can soak up the most sun through the glass. Outside, off toward the right, Tokyo Tower stands as a beacon in the middle distance, bright against the varied pale grays of the January city. The skies are startlingly blue, with just enough clouds to contrast the color and make it more startling still.

"Yes." Just the acknowledgement. Yes, Ami wants that. Or more likely: yes, all of them want that.

After a moment, Kazuo draws a breath; lets it out, heavy and slow. It may be the most sign of human weakness she's seen from him since she made him a human again. "If we can find out who's behind this, or how they're doing it ... we may be able to end it early."
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 20:24:15 88320
Ami Mizuno swallows, and looks back to Kazuo. Her blue eyes are darker than normal, full of emotion. She tries to hide it by shaking her head, as if to clear it. "How?" she asks, voice cracking a little.
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 20:43:20 88321
"Let's think." Kazuo reaches for one of the small sandwiches, studies it in his hands rather than eating. What he so often does with a coffee cup, till Mamoru stops putting up with it and takes it away from him. "She has a singular energy profile. She also tends to leave by teleporting. I don't know whether her method is a traceable one, or how fast her energy traces fade. We might be able to pick up information by checking near Kyouko's workplace. Or I can tell you if I hear of her visiting Nephrite or Zoisite, for instance, and you can keep tabs on any contacts with the other Senshi. We might be able to get enough information to watch for her signature. Or to be able to trace where she goes when she leaves."

He shrugs, just a little. "Or we might not. But we'd be no worse off."
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 20:44:44 88322
Ami Mizuno frowns softly, but nods. She turns to watch him, let him gaze into that sandwich as if it held answers. She sighs quietly. "Has she visted you yet?"
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 20:52:25 88323
Kazuo's gaze remains fixed on its subject. The infinite mysteries of ... bread. "No. I'd be somewhat surprised if she chose to. But I'm considering contingencies."
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 20:54:50 88324
Ami Mizuno tilts her head at Kazuo. "Why would you be surprised?" she asks.
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 20:58:10 88325
"She doesn't appear to have a reason to speak to us, except to try to set us off-balance or sow doubt or dissension." Kazuo glances up to Ami again. "My previous behavior should have made it clear to her that the effort would be wasted. Alternatively, of course, she could either believe that that's a show for the other's sake, and try to get me to name a price for betrayal, or simply decide to remove an inconvenient piece from the board. It will be interesting to see whether she tries."
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 21:01:57 88326
Ami Mizuno nods, lips pursing into a thoughtful frown. She's doing a lot of that. "I see," is all she says. She drinks the rest of her soda, and then curls up in a tight ball. "If it is Agera-san," she says, fixing her honorifics, belatedly. "If it is, Kazuo.. what will I do?" She looks up at him, then. "I'm sure you're not the one to ask, but you're the one that's here." She grins crookedly. "No offense, but I kind of wish Usagi-chan were here right now..."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 21:09:21 88327
Napkins are a thing that exists, and there are a few of them on the table. Kazuo sets the sandwich back down on one of them, untouched. "Usagi," he agrees, "would tell you that you would outsmart him, beat him, lecture him, and then prove to him that he's doing the wrong thing -- that it might not take this time, but that if you just kept trying eventually he'd have to see. And that she'd be with you the entire time to cheer you on. And possibly to sit on him through punitive numbers of Disney film marathons."

He pauses. "I would tell you that you'd have to decide what your priorities are. But Usagi and Mamoru have a better track record in this than I do."
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 21:10:49 88328
Ami Mizuno can't help but crack a smile at the mention of Disney marathons. "That's true. And I do care about him. But... I'm starting to wonder." She looks at the uneaten sandwich before looking back out the window. "I just want to have him normal. Or, if not normal, not -evil-."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 21:18:16 88329
"What you're trying to do with him," Kazuo says quietly, "is harder than what Mamoru had to do with us. We had a previous existence. It was clear that it was possible for us. Takashi doesn't believe he can survive without dark energy."

Yes, that was not a family name.

"His entire life has been warped to make him into someone's weapon. You're opposing everything that he's been taught, and a great deal that he's experienced for himself, and an effect on his mind that predisposes him against every truth you try to show him. And he believes that if he falters, if he fails in his project, if he falls once at the wrong time, if he only does not progress fast enough to have enough personal power to meet every crisis himself, the world will end.

"And yet he listens to you at all. If you never get farther than that, you will already have worked every bit as much of a miracle as Usagi can."
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 21:23:32 88330
Ami Mizuno looks at Kazuo, her eyes slowly brightening as he speaks. By the time he talks about miracles, her eyes are filling with embarrassed, but pleased, tears. She sniffles and wipes her eyes. "I don't know, Kazuo. He's... He's difficult at the best of times."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 21:29:23 88331
"You are, as ever, remarkably kind in describing him." Kazuo's tone is dry; that might be a joke. His expression tightens into one of those small frowns of his, though, and he doesn't continue for a moment.

When he does, it's to say: "I was about to tell you that if he is behind this, I would find it unforgivable; but I would not hold it against you if you saw it otherwise. But ... the five of you found it in you to forgive us. You set difficult examples to live up to."
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 21:31:04 88332
Ami sighs and rubs her face. "I know. He's.... difficult," she repeats. It seems even she is struggling to be kind. "But I do like him a lot, Kazuo. I may even love him." She looks up, then, staring into Kazuo's eyes. "We can't even live up to our own examples, sometimes, I think." She sounds a little bitter. Maybe she's just tired. Even the best people have moments of doubt, after all.
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 21:43:30 88333
Kazuo rises. Not quickly, no; he telegraphs the movement enough not to startle Ami, and when he comes around the table, he crouches down so that he's not looming over her. So that she's looking a little down, if she looks toward him.

He does not try to touch. He's only closer, that's all.

"By definition," Kazuo says quietly, "everyone has their worst moments. So sometimes, yes. For everyone. What matters is what we do in the crisis. And for that ... often enough we need those worst moments. To tell us what we truly value, and what risks we're willing to take for whom."
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 21:46:24 88334
Ami Mizuno smiles at Kazuo, grateful, watery expression shaky. "I appreciate that," she murmurs. She wipes her eyes again, and sniffles. "I don't know, Kazuo. I know I value him, and I absolutely won't corrupt my core value of being a Senshi--but at the same time, I refuse to give up on him. It tears--no, cuts--really, really badly." She looks down at him for a moment, before looking out the window again. "I just want to be less conflicted all the time. I'm having stress nightmares."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 21:56:51 88335
"Of course you are. You're a swimmer. You know what happens when you try to rescue someone who's drowning by hand." Kazuo passes a hand over his face, carefully avoiding making the gesture reminiscent of being pushed under. "Normally I'd suggest that Mamoru might be able to help with the nightmares. But at the moment he's not available. Akashimaru or Ariel work in dreams, but ... I'm not sure whether what Ariel does can help a normal dream, and I ... have reason to know that Akashimaru has a backlog of problems to deal with."

It does not take being a genius to work out why Kazuo might know that. But at least there's one more thing Ami's not alone in.
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 22:03:35 88336
Ami Mizuno sighs and nods. "I will talk to Ariel, then, because I need to... I don't know. Kazuo, this stress is eating me up inside."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 22:10:08 88337
"We can deal with anything we can see or touch," Kazuo says. "But feeling helpless is harder."
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 22:11:35 88338
Ami Mizuno exhales shaily. "Yes. And I hate feeling helpless, because... I'm not used to it anymore. It reminds me of before I met Usagi, when school was really all I had. That and swimming. I don't like feeling this way again."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 22:21:58 88339
"So." Kazuo lowers his head for a moment. "What's that Usagi likes to say? 'Do your best?'" He pauses; glances up at her again. "It may be the most cliche'd difference. But if you are focusing on whether someone else makes a particular decision as your goal, then of course you feel helpless. You can't control what decision they make. If you focus on doing what you can, then -- you can control what you do. It will still be tiring. It will still be stressful, because you care. But it may be a little better."
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 22:23:11 88340
Ami Mizuno smiles softly, sniffling. "Yeah. You're right. You're getting better at this, Kazuo," she says gently. "You're getting more empathetic and kinder, and I appreciate it."
Kazuo Takeba 2018-01-22 22:25:38 88341
It is entirely possible that the best thing Kazuo has done for her mood all day, or will do for her mood all month, is ... get that faintly bemused expression where she can see it. Those are two sentences neither of which he has any idea what to do with. After a moment, he gives up on trying to find a response in words, and just gets up goes to find and offer Ami a packet of tissues.
Ami Mizuno 2018-01-22 22:26:14 88342
Ami Mizuno laughs a little, and accepts the packet. "Thank you," she says, taking a tissue and dabbing at her eyes.