Cherry Blossom Procession 4 1 34

[22:08] <Minaplo> [The air was muggy and hazy.-
[22:10] <Minaplo> [It was also very still; the Minaris had opened their windows, hoping to catch a breeze that simply wasn't happening. Instead, all it did was fill the air with the ceaseless, aggrandising chirping of cicadas.-
[22:23] <Minaplo> [Minami Taro lolled listlessly on the carpet, his eyes only half-watching the television.-
[22:30] <Minaplo> [His left hand was covering a page of his homework, whilst his right held a pencil up toward an oscillating fan. Every time the fan rotated toward him, the eraser end was caught within the fan grille, creating a constant clicking noise as it went.-
[22:35] <Minaplo> ["Taro!" Called Ms. Minami from the kitchen doorway. "Don't do that to the fan."-
[22:39] <Minaplo> [Taro shrugged and pulled his pencil back long enough for his mother to move away.-
[22:41] <Minaplo> [The television wasn't interesting, but at the moment nothing seemed interesting enough to rise above the air thick with heat.-
[22:47] <Minaplo> [("… Four seasons a year.") Droned the narrator. The scene was of valleys filled with white, deep snow; strangely enough, it was supposedly Japan.-
[22:52] <Minaplo> [("However, during Second Impact, the axial tilt of the planet…")-
[22:53] <Minaplo> [Suddenly, the television screen scrambled; the snowfields disappared into static.-
[22:58] <Minaplo> ["…" Taro frowned. He hadn't been paying attention, but static was annoying.-
[23:01] <Minaplo> [A second later the static cleared.-
[23:03] <Minaplo> [Now it showed a room. Or did it? It was so dark… Taro thought he could see only vague shapes. Maybe a desk? Or… A platform?-
[23:07] <Minaplo> [A voice suddenly echoed from the gloom. The voice was deep, dark and unsettling; no human voicecords could make such a sound, surely? Young Taro found it scary.-
[23:07] <Minaplo> [("Hearken to me, people of Japan!")-
[23:07] <Minaplo> ["M…Mama." Said Taro. "Something's wrong with the tv."-
[23:08] <Minaplo> ["Huh? What do you mean?" Said Ms. Minari, walking back into the room. She scowled. "What's this? Change the channel."-
[23:09] <Minaplo> [Taro fumbled around, grabbed the remote, levelled it at the television and hit the channel down button.-
[23:10] <Minaplo> [The tv went blank for a moment, only to show the exact same image.-
[23:10] <Minaplo> ["What's going on? Change it!" Snapped Ms. Minari.-
[23:12] <Minaplo> [("Are you listenin-")-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [The tv went blank; then on the new channel…-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [("-g yet, Japan?")-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [Ms. Minari snatched the remote from Taro's hand and began furiously hitting the channel change buttons.-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [("It's about-")-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [("-me someo-")-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [("e woke you all-")-
[23:13] <Minaplo> [("from y-")-
[23:14] <Minaplo> [("Pot of bronze!")-
[23:15] <Minaplo> ["It's on every channel." Muttered Ms. Minari. "What's going on…?!"-
[23:16] <Minaplo> […-
[23:23] <Minaplo> [Panic reigned within the studio offices of Japan's largest media broadcaster.-
[23:24] <Minaplo> [Mr. Okoda, the chief of broadcasting, stared wide-eyed at a veritable wall of televisions. Fifty screens showed fifty dark rooms, booming with fifty voices.-
[23:26] <Minaplo> ["Turn it off!" He shouted, thumping the back of a chair. The occupant of the chair- a young bespectacled technician- jumped and squeaked.-
[23:27] <Minaplo> ["We've tried, but the network isn't responding to anything we do!" Said the technician.-
[23:27] <Minaplo> [("Quiet, quiet, going about your days, keeping your eyes closed and your ears shut-")-
[23:28] <Minaplo> ["Chief?" Said a messenger from the doorway. "The Minister of Communications has just told us to shut down the broadcast-"-
[23:28] <Minaplo> ["I'm trying, damnit! Where's it coming from?!"-
[23:29] <Minaplo> ["W-W-we don't know!" Squealed the technician. "It looks to be a recording somehow, uploaded over the network-"-
[23:30] <Minaplo> ["Can we cut the network?!"-
[23:31] <Minaplo> [("None of you know the fire that's been lit below all of you-")-
[23:35] <Minaplo> ["We can cut it manually, but it won't be safe." Said another technician, whose tone was cool, even amused. She rubbed the corner of her cheek. "It'll require physically cutting the power to the broadcast dishes, which'll take time, tools, oh… And it'll probably cost a whole bunch to repair~"-
[23:35] <Minaplo> ["Chief? The Imperial Court has just demanded that we shut down-"-
[23:35] <Minaplo> ["Damn it! WHAT DO THEY THINK I'M TRYING TO DO?!"-
[23:37] <Minaplo> [("People of Japan, wake up from your doze! This country is not your hot spring; it's a pot, and all of you…")-
[23:37] <Minaplo> […-
[23:38] <Minaplo> [The word resounded through the heart of Shinjuku, broadcast from a dozen massive screens attached to billboards and the sides of skyscrapers.-
[23:39] <Minaplo> [("FROGS!")-
[23:41] <Minaplo> [The dark screen was suddenly filled with a beam of light; a single powerful spotlight shining down into the middle of a platform.-
[23:42] <Minaplo> [Standing within the beam of light was a figure of darkness. It was tall, powerful and heavily armoured in a suit of what looked like a dark red or bronze metal. Wrapped around him was a thick cloak of deep red, covering most of the body- except for the terrifying helmet, the face of which was a grim and imposing, fearsome in the way of the scowling samurai war mask.-
[23:44] <Minaplo> [("Like frogs in a pot, you don't realise how slowly the water around you has been heating up. Blind to that reality, you don't even think of questioning where the fire comes from!")-
[23:47] <Minaplo> [("People of Japan! The leaders you follow experiment and abuse, caring not for the damage they might cause those below them! So I, Vercingetorix, come to warn you, and to bring you- the truth!")-
[23:47] <Minaplo> ["Vercingetorix?!"-
[23:47] <Minaplo> ["Who the heck is he?!"-
[23:47] <Minaplo> ["You mean that African terrorist-?"-
[23:50] <Minaplo> ["I hear he's been fighting the UN-"-
[23:50] <Minaplo> ["Is this some kinda movie stunt?!"-
[23:51] <Minaplo> [The crowd's chatter quickly died out, however, replaced with gasps.-
[23:52] <Minaplo> [For Vercingetorix had thrown open his cape, spreading his arms out as far as they'd go, his hands balled into fists.-
[23:52] <Minaplo> [On his chest was some sort of component; it glowed brightly, then suddenly shone outwards into the camera.-
[23:52] <Minaplo> [The view went dark, only to be replaced by a new image…-
[23:56] <Minaplo> [It showed… An Evangelion cage. Standing on the platform outside were some scientists, some other individuals in ornate armour and robes, and… The Emperor herself.-
[23:56] <Minaplo> [The clip ran for about a minute, and the dialogue was all too easy to hear.-
[23:57] <Minaplo> [("When will it be ready?") She asked.-
[23:57] <Minaplo> [("By October.") Said the head scientist.-
[23:58] <Minaplo> [("Good. Begin testing the Brothers for compatibility.")-
[23:59] <Minaplo> ["Brothers?!"-
[23:59] <Minaplo> ["Those guys who blew up Italy?!"-
[23:59] <Minaplo> ["Not all of Italy-"-
[23:59] <Minaplo> ["But those guys are crazy!"-
[00:02] <Minaplo> [As if to underscore the moment, one of the Brothers then took off their helmet, revealing his unmistakeable blond locks and clean, coldly handsome face. ("I volunteer to be tested first, Your Majesty. Allow me to repay the generosity you have given to us Brothers-")-
[00:02] <Minaplo> [The scream of police sirens filled the air.-
[00:02] <Minaplo> ["Move along! Break it up! Goddamnit, start cutting those televisions off-"-
[00:03] <Minaplo> ["Hey! what the hell-"-
[00:04] <Minaplo> ["Are you punk cops tryin' to subvert freedom of speech?!"-
[00:04] <Minaplo> ["It's a terrorist, you idiot-"-
[00:05] <Minaplo> ["If the cops are trying so hard, then-!"-
[00:05] <Minaplo> ["Be careful! You just knocked this kid over-"-
[00:07] <Minaplo> [("Thank you.") Said Her Majesty. ("You understand how important this is, yes? The world will never respect Japanese power until we have the Evangelion. It's only fair, after all-")-
[00:07] <Minaplo> ["What's Her Majesty saying-"-
[00:07] <Minaplo> ["I said break it up!"-
[00:07] <Minaplo> ["You break it up, bastard!"-
[00:09] <Minaplo> [The video of the Emperor ended; Vercingetorix returned to the broadcast. ("What a powerful tool! With this, Japan can become great… But people of Japan! Your leaders play with a fire they don't understand, and when they lose control of the flame, it is you who will be burned by it!")-
[00:10] <Minaplo> [Another video now- this one was split-screen down the middle. The left was a research report, the right was a conversation between two scientists.-
[00:10] <Minaplo> [("Yeah, we recovered the Eva near Old Wake-")-
[00:10] <Minaplo> [("And the major powers haven't reported one missing?")-
[00:10] <Minaplo> [("Nah, but you know how cagey they are, they probably have whole city-wide basements full of secret weapons and shit.")-
[00:11] <Minaplo> [Vercingetorix returned to the broadcast. ("People of Japan! This is no mere Evangelion! This is an Eva infected with none other than the Metatron Virus!")-
[00:12] <Minaplo> [… and just to nail the point home, the video changed again to footage of the Virus running riot in England and Finland. Cities overwhelmed with infected rabid vessels, Angelspawn destroying tanks and demolishing buildings-
[00:12] <Minaplo> [The crowd below dissolved into utter panic. The sound of shots being fired into the air could be heard like whipcracks.-
[00:13] <Minaplo> [("People of Japan! This is what your leaders now risk! Your very downfall!")-
[00:14] <Minaplo> [("Every day this goes unchecked, your leaders gamble with your lives! The lives of your families! Your children!")-
[00:15] <Minaplo> [("There is more proof. So much that I cannot show it here. But it will come to you! Your leaders cannot silence your voice! They cannot quiet your dissent! When you demand security and bring them down from their towers, they will fall if you move as one!")-
[00:16] <Minaplo> [("And so I have done the one thing to ensure that the truth is fully understood…")-
[00:16] <Minaplo> [Vercingetorix vanished. In fact the entire broadcast vanished, except for a rotating golden V. Below it was an internet address.-
[00:16] <Minaplo> […-
[00:20] <Minaplo> [The hovering V rotated endlessly on a screen within the Imperial Palace. Her Majesty the Emperor watched it, her expression impassive.-
[00:21] <Minaplo> [Eventually she turned to one of her handmaidens. "Summon Liberté."-
[00:21] <Minaplo> [The handmaiden bowed and quickly left the room.-
[00:21] <Minaplo> [A few minutes later, a Brother appeared. He looked like every other Brother, except that his armour was red with golden highlights.-
[00:23] <Minaplo> ["Liberté Égalité Fraternité at Her Majesty's service." He said, bowing deeply.-
[00:23] <Minaplo> ["Leave us." Said Her Majesty to her handmaidens; they left quickly.-
[00:26] <Minaplo> [Once they had gone, Her Majesty settled her gaze back onto Liberté. "I assume you've seen this broadcast, Libby?"-
[00:32] <Minaplo> ["I have, Your Majesty." Said Libby, turning toward the screen. "Rather rude to take over every channel, isn't it?"-
[00:32] <Minaplo> ["Mmm. What are your thoughts on it?"-
[00:34] <Minaplo> ["Well… It's very…" Libby made some broad, wide sweeps of his arms. "Narcissistic, isn't it? And of course I dislike that."-
[00:34] <Minaplo> ["You dislike that?"-
[00:35] <Minaplo> ["Naturally, Your Majesty. Narcissism despises narcissism. That said, from one narcissist to another, I have to admit a level of admiration for his style. Reminds me of the good old days. Did I ever tell you-"-
[00:35] <Minaplo> ["What about the content?" Said Her Majesty calmly.-
[00:38] <Minaplo> ["… Well. It's all true. It can't be helped." Said Libby with a sigh. "It's going to cause a whole lot of mess, and it's not really something we can hide. Your Majesty's involvement is deniable… Isn't that why Your Majesty's handmaidens all look so much like Your Majesty? But it'll give fuel to your political enemies… After all, Your Majesty is supposed to be above politics."-
[00:38] <Minaplo> ["In a democracy, no one is above politics." Said Her Majesty.-
[00:39] <Minaplo> ["… So I've been saying." Said Libby. "Unfortunately, the rule for Japan is that no one is above politics except Your Majesty…"-
[00:39] <Minaplo> [A sour, downcast look crossed her face.-
[00:39] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[00:40] <Minaplo> ["I would like to apologise again for the chaos down at the docks, Your Majesty." Said Libby formally; he bowed again. "This Vercingetorix fellow is impressive on screen, but in person, ah… He is a devil."-
[00:40] <Minaplo> ["So this is the same person you fought."-
[00:41] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Libby. "Power attracts power, I think… And brewing an Eva in the basement attracts a special kind of power. Vercingetorix was… Something else. He was able to match me. I think it is lucky that he ran when he did, but for my sake, not for his…"-
[00:42] <Minaplo> ["I thought no one could match you?"-
[00:44] <Minaplo> ["…" Libby smiled a little. "I appreciate Your Majesty saying so, but there are plenty of individuals that I'd avoid fighting by myself. Vercingetorix is one, obviously… Some of the most powerful Paladins could match me. I'd not care to tangle with the UN's Solomon Primes either. And of course, there is the Bloody Angel. No, Your Majesty, I am easily matchable by all of these."-
[00:45] <Minaplo> ["Then how might you go about bringing Vercingetorix to justice?"-
[00:49] <Minaplo> ["A difficult question." Said Libby. "I'd have to find him first. And that won't be easy… He doesn't seem to align with any of the major powers, but his policies have been anti-UN in the past, so I'm inclined to think the Federation and the League would at least look the other way when it came to him. Ultimately, it'd take a lot of manpower, effort and global reach, and even then taking
[00:49] <Minaplo> him down might require half the Keeper Corps."-
[00:50] <Minaplo> ["Problematic, with the PSB currently in ruins." Said Her Majesty. "The Diet is demanding that resources be pulled from Military Intelligence and Foreign Operations to restaff the PSB."-
[00:50] <Minaplo> ["Mmm." Libby sighed. "My brothers are powerful, but we are not all trained for espionage. I'd have to make my way using informal connections- criminals, smugglers, veterans, the forgotten people… It'd take resources."-
[00:51] <Minaplo> ["And the Keepers shall have them." Said Her Majesty. "But I must ask, Libby, when you said that it was true, the broadcast… Do you believe that applies to the part about the Eva being infected, too?"-
[00:52] <Minaplo> ["… Hm." Libby folded his arms. "That's not really something I know about."-
[00:53] <Minaplo> ["Mm. There were some irregularities with the Eva, but we believed it to be the work of mutations, battle damage or unchecked regeneration." Said Her Majesty. "Troubling. I'll ask the scientists to verify these claims."-
[00:53] <Minaplo> ["Your Majesty is wise. What happens if it is true and the unit is infected?"-
[00:55] <Minaplo> ["Then we'll destroy it, of course." Said Her Majesty. "Work will then resume on Project B."-
[00:55] <Minaplo> ["I see." Said Libby. "It's a shame he revealed the Keepers' existence. Our secrecy was something I valued… Tactically."-
[00:56] <Minaplo> ["Only tactically?"-
[00:56] <Minaplo> [Libby gave her a smile. "Your Majesty knows me well."-
[00:57] <Minaplo> ["Mmm. Regardless, the reality is that we've lost the ability to hide that trump card." She said. "So we may as well make full use of the Keepers. I have a special assignment for you."-
[00:57] <Minaplo> ["I am Your Majesty's loyal servant." He said, bowing again.-
[00:57] <Minaplo> ["I want you to take the position as Ambassador to the Federation."-
[00:57] <Minaplo> ["Wise." He said, bowing lower. "Very-"-
[00:58] <Minaplo> ["… Sorry, what?" Said Libby, freezing.-
[00:58] <Minaplo> ["Is there a problem?"-
[00:58] <Minaplo> ["Not as such, Your Majesty. I just wonder as to what Your Majesty's… Thought process is behind the decision."-
[01:00] <Minaplo> ["The compromise of the PSB has highlighted fault lines within the entire government." Said Her Majesty. "If the UN could infiltrate the PSB, it could infiltrate the diplomatic service. For key positions, I need to rely on people that I can both trust to be loyal to me and to resist subversion from UN agents."-
[01:01] <Minaplo> ["Furthermore, the Federation is known to possess access to extremely powerful telepaths." She said. "Your mental defenses are extremely strong, Libby, and so I know I can trust you to resist such vulgar methods."-
[01:02] <Minaplo> ["Finally… If you are Ambassador, you will be meeting with the Federation leadership on their flagship. It was designed by Silas Caine, correct? If so, then it is possible parts of the ship might only reveal itself to one who shares his form."-
[01:02] <Minaplo> ["I see!" Said Libby, bowing three times. "Your Majesty is wise. You want me to turn their resources in upon themselves?"-
[01:03] <Minaplo> ["Not as such." Said Her Majesty. "I don't want to pick a fight with the Federation anymore than I do with the UN- and at least the Federation haven't moved against us-"-
[01:03] <Minaplo> ["That we know of, at least." Muttered Libby.-
[01:04] <Minaplo> ["Quite." Said Her Majesty. "Nonetheless, I don't like leaving potential threats unchecked. If you can gather information or unlock resources that might gain an edge against the Federation, should it come to that, then I would sleep much more safely at night."-
[01:04] <Minaplo> ["I would climb the tallest mountains to fetch you a handful of water should it help Your Majesty to sleep." Said Libby.-
[01:07] <Minaplo> ["Mmm. Libby, you're the only one I can trust with this." She said seriously. "Make friends with the Federation. Support them as much as you feel is right, without jeopardising us or making us a target for the UN. Many of our contingencies- the battlesuits, the Eva, you- have been compromised today, and it risks the entire Pacific Alliance plan from reaching fruition."-
[01:07] <Minaplo> ["I understand." He said.-
[01:07] <Minaplo> [Finally, Her Majesty smiled. "You always do, Libby. Thank you. You may go."-
[01:07] <Minaplo> ["As Your Majesty desires." Said Libby; without turning his back on her, he left the room, bowing periodically.-
[01:08] <Minaplo> [Once he left, Sakurako settled her gaze back onto the rotating V, a frown creasing her face.]

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