Cherry Blossom Procession 4 2 34

[14:01] <Minaplo> [Medical looked less crowded than it once did.-
[14:02] <Minaplo> [Or rather, it was still crowded. But for the first time in what seemed like a year, there were fewer patients and more staff making up that bulk.-
[14:07] <Minaplo> [It also meant more rooms had been emptied as well.-
[14:10] <Minaplo> [But recently, one such room had been occupied. Within, lying on a bed, apparently sleeping, was Tsubaki Akagi, a sheet drawn up to her chin. Flowers had been left on her bedside table, along with several stuffed toys (including a teddy bear and a koala), get-well-soon cards and other offerings.-
[14:13] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki wasn't alone, however. Sitting by her bedside was Mana Kirishima. It was impossible to tell how long she'd been there- but considering that Mana was flipping through a book, it seemed she'd been there for some time.]
[14:18] <Raphael> Perhaps she wouldn't have seen a figure peer at them through the observation window, but that was followed a second or two later by a gentle knock on the door as Raphael poked his head inside. "Hi, Mana."
[14:22] <Minaplo> [She turned around rather quickly, her expression surprised; then she smiled. "Hi, Raffy. I didn't expect to see you here."]
[14:24] * Raphael smiled back as he stepped inside and shut the door gently behind him. "I was here with Doctor Akagi earlier, but I had to attend a meeting. I was actually coming back to make sure she was alright, but it looks like you've taken over the post."
[14:26] <Minaplo> ["Heh. Yeah, I figured I'd swing by and try to keep her company." Said Mana. "I'm kinda trying to read this book to her- she says it's one of her favourites- but it's kind of dense and… Old."]
[14:28] <Raphael> "Oh? What is it?" he asked, and set Rustami's gift beer on a table by the door as he moved to take a chair.
[14:29] <Minaplo> ["It's called Hagakure. I dunno, it's some old Samurai rubbish I think."]
[14:33] <Raphael> "I see. Well I'm sure she appreciates the effort."
[14:34] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, maybe she does." Said Mana, turning back to Tsubaki. "It's strange, going from knowing Tsubaki can hear everything to wondering if she can hear anything…"]
[14:35] * Raphael gave a quiet murmur of agreement at that as he looked to the bed in turn. "Are you holding up alright?"
[14:40] <Minaplo> ["Me? Yeah… I'm okay." Said Mana, giving him a little smile. "Tsucchin's my friend, but I think she's pretty tough. I'm worried about what happened- I don't really know what went down- but I'm sure she can bounce back from it somehow."]
[14:44] <Raphael> "I'm sure. I've only had a short while to get to know her, but I think you're right…"-
[14:44] <Raphael> "… so this all came out of nowhere for you too, hmm?" he asked, looking back at Kirishima. "She seemed alright when Misato and I visited her."
[14:48] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Mana; she frowned and put the book on the bedside table. "It's strange. She seemed cheery and happy just the other day. Really energetic, just loving to be out and about. The happiest I've seen her in a long while."-
[14:49] <Minaplo> ["And then just… This, out of nowhere." She said, her eyes narrowing. "Tsucchin just attacking a random Eva…? I dunno. It's fishy. I just hope it's not something to do with the remote synch. It'd be awful if they had to put her back into the Eva full-time…"]
[14:59] <Raphael> "It would," he said quietly. "Hopefully we'll have a better idea when she wakes up. No use worrying until then, I suppose."
[15:01] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, that's about right." Said Mana. "Nice of you to bring the beer, though…"]
[15:05] <Raphael> "Oh, those?" he gave an awkward chuckle. "Prime Minister Rustami gave them to me at the meeting as a thank you, surprisingly. I probably should've dropped them off before coming back, but I suppose I thought the Doctor might need them…"
[15:10] <Minaplo> ["Probably." Said Mana. "I can't imagine what sort of pressure she's under… They haven't launched an inquiry or anything, have they?"]
[15:15] <Raphael> "It's in the preliminary stages right now. With the injured technicians they have no choice… and it's technically misuse of an Evangelion, by my understanding, but I have to imagine that'll be thrown out quickly."
[15:16] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. Tsucchin's real lucky she wasn't able to cause any major damage to 06." Said Mana. "I, uh, can't imagine Command would have much mercy if she disabled one of our remaining working units…"]
[15:20] <Raphael> "None at all," he sighed.-
[15:20] <Raphael> "Everyone's under a lot of pressure. Even if it's not something to do with the synch, hopefully we can find some understanding."
[15:21] <Minaplo> ["Yeah…"-
[15:21] <Minaplo> ["I wonder if de Pteres has been around to visit her yet?"]
[15:26] <Raphael> "No idea. I'd certainly hope so." It came out darker than he'd intended - the conversation with Rustami was still fresh.
[15:28] <Minaplo> ["… You okay, Raphael?"]
[15:32] * Raphael forced a smile back onto his face. "… Sorry, I'm fine. Just a bit tired and irritable, I suppose."-
[15:32] <Raphael> "Those two seem to care about one another. I'm sure he's taken the time."
[15:40] <Minaplo> ["Yeah."-
[15:41] <Minaplo> [Nonetheless her expression was a mix of curiosity and concern, her eyes narrow as she scrutinised his face.]
[15:44] <Raphael> "It's nothing, really."
[15:45] <Minaplo> ["Hmmmmm. You're working too hard, is that it?"]
[15:54] <Raphael> "So's everyone else!" he laughed. "It's under control."
[15:55] <Minaplo> [She snickered.-
[15:56] <Minaplo> ["I've let you get away for too long, Raphael. My role as an aide de camp's gone soft. I haven't checked your mail in ages…"]
[15:57] <Raphael> "It's all piled up in my office like snowdrifts, Sergeant," he said. "Terrible, really."
[15:57] <Minaplo> ["That's no good. I'll move into your office tomorrow."]
[16:00] * Raphael chuckled. "Don't worry yourself, Mana. I'm glad you've taken a little bit of time to see to yourself, to be honest."
[16:01] <Minaplo> ["Heh, yeah… I guess I kind of needed it, huh?" She said, her smile growing weak.]
[16:05] <Raphael> "You did," he nodded. "I… tried to let you have it, but I hope that didn't come across as me not caring. We're all here for you."
[16:07] <Minaplo> ["Hehe." Suddenly the warmth in her smile returned, and she seemed to sit up straighter. "Does that mean you'll give me a hug if I ask for it?"]
[16:11] * Raphael hesitated, then nodded firmly. "Overseeing morale falls under my duties, Sergeant Kirishima," he said seriously… which then broke into a tiny smirk.
[16:20] <Minaplo> [She stared- and after a second Mana started to giggle.-
[16:22] <Minaplo> ["Stop being such a seriousface and give me a hug then, Raffy!"]
[16:28] * Raphael did. It was a slightly awkward gesture - a mile away from Ezra and Sarah - but it was a hug all the same.
[16:42] <Minaplo> [She was quiet, just happy to rest in the embrace for awhile… Then she pulled away. "Heh. Thanks, Raphael."-
[16:42] <Minaplo> ["I… Don't know how long it's been since I've felt really, properly settled."]
[16:54] * Raphael gave a gentle nod. "Is there anything we could do to help?"
[17:15] <Minaplo> ["End the war?" She asked, a little cheekily.]
[17:17] <Raphael> "Believe me, I'm working on it…"
[17:24] <Minaplo> ["Well we can't have you working much harder either. Maybe we can end the war the other way, by everyone doing no work at all?"]
[17:26] <Raphael> "Hm. A very lazy armistice." He tapped his chin. "It has potential."
[10:35] <Minaplo> ["I'm sure we could find someone to give Mary Caine a nice backrub…?"]
[10:37] * Raphael looked a little disgusted by the idea. "… That sounds like work, Sergeant. Violates the terms of the armistice."
[10:39] <Minaplo> ["We'd just have to find someone who'd enjoy it then~!"]
[10:41] <Raphael> "I'll speak to Surov. He's the one who specialises in designing things that weren't meant to be."
[10:47] <Minaplo> ["Hahaha."-
[10:49] <Minaplo> [She looked back over at Tsubaki for a moment, then looked back at Raphael. "Actually, from what I've heard, it kind of sounds like the war's sort of in the mop-up stage anyway, with how Germany's going."]
[10:59] <Raphael> "That's the hope," he said. "Of course Asia and Africa are still to be decided, but the outlook right now's not too bad…"
[11:02] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. Maybe it really will be over by Christmas this time."-
[11:03] <Minaplo> ["… But Germany's pretty important. Caine won't be happy with losing it, will she?"]
[11:12] <Raphael> "…"-
[11:13] <Raphael> "Most likely not."
[11:15] <Minaplo> [Mana's eyebrows drew together; she lifted her left leg up against her chest, holding it close with her left arm. "She's gonna take it out on- on Promised Land, isn't she?"]
[11:22] <Raphael> He just watched her for a moment, then stood. A moment later he'd pulled two bottles of beer out of the box by the door, handing one to Mana and taking the other for himself.-
[11:22] <Raphael> "She might," he said as he settled back into his chair. "We're going to try to help if we can."
[11:28] <Minaplo> [Mana took the beer with a thankful nod, but she didn't crack it open just yet, instead nursing it in her lap. "What are you gonna do?"]
[11:40] * Raphael had already twisted off the bottle cap on his own. "I can't tell you. Realistically speaking I shouldn't have told you that we're acting at all, but… you deserve to know that we don't intend to just sit by."
[11:41] <Minaplo> ["W-What do you mean? Wouldn't you want my help?"]
[11:48] <Raphael> "Maybe, but right now we're more likely to succeed with fewer people who know what we're planning," he said gently.
[11:50] <Minaplo> ["Then make me one of them." Said Mana, an urgent edge creeping into her voice. "I know Promised Land, I have an advantage on this, Raphael…!"]
[12:11] <Raphael> "Mana, I can't. You know if I needed a specialist on the Promised Land I'd come to you, but right now there's too many other moving pieces in play."-
[12:11] <Raphael> He sighed and took a sip of beer, and when he spoke again his voice was neutral again. "… I know how important they are to you, but I'm really trying to act in their best interests."
[12:16] <Minaplo> ["S-So what, I'm just supposed to wait and see?"]
[12:24] <Raphael> "In the short term, yes. I know it's a miserable business, but there's no other choice."
[12:28] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, well, don't worry about it." She said bitterly. She turned back toward Tsubaki's comatose body.-
[12:28] <Minaplo> ["I'm kinda getting used to just waiting."]
[12:38] <Raphael> "…" Raphael's expression was hard to read as he turned back to his drink.
[12:40] <Minaplo> [Mana was silent for a few minutes. She still didn't open the beer.-
[12:46] <Minaplo> ["I'm sick of always waiting." She said hollowly. "I thought I was the energetic one, the one always on the move, but recently all I've been doing is waiting. Waiting for the right time, waiting for someone to wake up, waiting for… I dunno."-
[12:50] <Minaplo> ["It doesn't make me happy." Said Mana quietly, an aching, hurt tone edging into her voice. "I waited to tell Julien that I loved him. Waited- I don't even know what for. The right moment? When he wasn't busy? When Metatron had been defeated?"-
[12:52] <Minaplo> ["Maybe I was just frightened. Either way, it didn't matter. He died, and the last thing I have left of him is seeing my name written on three quarters of the air force."-
[12:55] <Minaplo> ["I don't know what he was thinking in his final seconds. Did he think of me? Did he wish to see me one last time? I have no idea. I never thought to ask what he really thought or felt about me, and now it's too late, and I've been left behind, and I'm not going to be left behind again."-
[12:55] <Minaplo> [Mana stood up; she thrust the beer back at Raphael's chest, turned, and left.]
[13:07] <Raphael> Raphael didn't make a sound, but as Mana turned her back on him his careful composure dropped away to reveal a kind of sad, bone-deep weariness. He glanced up at Tsubaki, still unmoving, and heard the door click shut.-
[13:07] <Raphael> A second later he moved to follow, the drinks abandoned.
[13:17] <Minaplo> [Mana was storming down the hallway; the moment she heard Raphael emerge from the room, she started to run.-
[13:21] <Minaplo> [As Raphael followed her he'd quickly notice that she was avoiding the elevators- taking stairs whenever possible, usually four or five steps at a time- she was nearly impossible to keep up with, but it gave Raphael a fairly good idea of where she was going: the hangar bays.-
[13:25] <Minaplo> [Raphael called ahead; by the time he reached the bay, Mana had been stopped.-
[13:25] <Minaplo> [Standing in front of her D-Titan AC Suit was Remy, his expression grave.-
[13:26] <Minaplo> ["Remy." Said Mana, her voice hard. "Move. Please."-
[13:26] <Minaplo> ["I can't do that." He said sadly.]
[13:36] <Raphael> "Mana." Raphael had paused few paces behind her. He was composed again, but as he stopped he ran both hands through his hair, exposing streaks of grey.-
[13:36] <Raphael> "… I screwed up," he said plainly. "I was trying to act in everyone's best interests, but I obviously failed. If you'd be willing, I'd like to hear you out and try again. Can we do that?"
[13:44] <Minaplo> [Mana stared at Remy. For a few long minutes she didn't look around.-
[13:45] <Minaplo> [But eventually she did, turning toward Raphael. Her expression was grief-stricken, but she hadn't shed any tears.-
[13:45] <Minaplo> [She gave him a small nod.]
[13:54] * Raphael nodded in turn, and glanced around. There weren't a wealth of appropriate spaces for privacy within range, but up the stairs on the opposite side of the hangar an observation booth sat empty. He led her gently in that direction.
[13:55] <Minaplo> [And Mana went. Remy stayed behind, his expression gentle.-
[13:56] <Minaplo> [Mana sat down against the outer wall of the booth, turning her back on the hangar below; she drew her knees up to her chest and stared down at her feet.]
[14:08] * Raphael sat on the ground as well, cross-legged and with his back to one of the desks. He slipped into a slouch as he gathered his thoughts.-
[14:08] <Raphael> "I was trying to balance the safety of the UEF as a whole and the Marshals Caine, while still protecting you. I thought telling you that we were at least trying was the best way to keep you from running off alone," he said. "I was obviously wrong. I misjudged things."-
[14:08] <Raphael> "Even then, none of that excuses me asking you to do something I wouldn't."-
[14:08] <Raphael> "… And I'm very sorry about Julien, Mana," he added quietly. "I didn't know."
[14:12] <Minaplo> [She shook her head slowly. "I know." She said. "I didn't tell anyone about it. I didn't really know who I could tell."-
[14:14] <Minaplo> ["There aren't many people I can tell about things. Ezra and Sarah… They're some of the only people I can. Julien was one, too, but he's gone and I don't want to lose them too. I just- I feel weightless, just waiting for things to work out around me."]
[14:30] * Raphael nodded a little. "It's not a pleasant feeling," he muttered, and rubbed at his eyes.-
[14:30] <Raphael> "There's only so much to be done for now, I'm sorry to say. I'm intending to reach out to Ezra directly, but a lot of what happens beyond that relies on him."
[14:37] <Minaplo> ["Is… Is there anything I can do? Anything at all?"]
[14:47] * Raphael frowned. "… there's a question I need an answer to, and you might be able to help me. If we offered him an option that let him protect Sarah and hurt Mary Caine, could we trust him to stand by us?"
[14:49] <Minaplo> [She mulled it over, keeping her eyes on her feet.-
[14:53] <Minaplo> ["I think he would, but the issue isn't with Ezra in that case, it's with Sarah." Said Mana eventually. "It depends on what you have in mind to protect her."]
[14:54] <Raphael> "Can you explain?"
[15:00] <Minaplo> ["Ezra and Sarah don't like making decisions for each other." Said Mana. "If they do, it's because they've discussed it first or they know absolutely that the other would agree to it. So if you're offering Ezra an option to protect Sarah, you have to keep in mind that he will discuss it with Sarah first… And the idea of being left behind or tucked away safely whilst Ezra fights
[15:00] <Minaplo> infuriates Sarah."]
[15:06] <Raphael> "Mm. I can't really blame her…" he muttered. He glanced towards the window, his brow furrowed as he chewed at his lip.
[15:14] <Minaplo> ["Yeah…" Mana shook her head.-
[15:18] <Minaplo> ["Look. Ezra is going to fight Mary Caine with or without your help. Either she starts it or he does." Said Mana eventually. "I don't think you need to offer him any incentives to stand by you. I just think all you need to do is promise to not let him hang high and dry when the time comes- should be easy to promise since coordinating helps both of us."]
[15:32] <Raphael> "Quite. As far as I'm concerned, the more lives we can save on both sides the better."
[15:43] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. And I'm sure Ezra and Sarah think the same." Said Mana. "T-They won't let us down."-
[15:44] <Minaplo> [A few stray tears began to form in the corner of Mana's eyes, but she stubbornly wiped them away. "They'll pull through for us. They'll do things we weren't even e-expecting, I promise you that."]
[16:00] <Raphael> "I'm sure they will," he said. He shuffled a little closer and - assuming Mana allowed it - gathered her up in another, less reserved hug.
[16:02] <Minaplo> [And she did; she leaned against his shoulder, her eyes closing in an almost fretful manner. Raphael felt her hand grasp the back of his shirt painfully tight.-
[16:03] <Minaplo> [A few minutes later, a dull metal -clunk- would come from the staircase leading to the booth. Then another, and another.-
[16:03] <Minaplo> [Mana looked up.-
[16:04] <Minaplo> [The Peaceknight had climbed the stairs, and was now staring at them. It walked out into the doorway, then knelt down.]
[16:07] <Raphael> "…" Raphael stared, an arm still tucked around Mana. He'd spent more than enough time around the Peaceknight to grow used to it acting autonomously, but he'd never actually seen it seek people out before. "… hello, Prometheus."
[16:10] <Minaplo> [The Peaceknight did not speak in reply, but it bowed its head.-
[16:13] <Minaplo> [A tiny hatch on the Peaceknight's chest slid open, revealing what seemed to be some sort of holographic projector. A second later it flared blue, emitting a shape into the air: a thin, tall young man with messy blonde hair, wearing a slightly dirty labcoat over a technician's uniform: Julien Lafabre.-
[16:14] <Minaplo> [Next to him, Raphael would hear Mana gasp softly.-
[16:15] <Minaplo> [Julien awkwardly scratched the back of his neck. "Hi, Mana."-
[16:16] <Minaplo> [Mana's breath had caught in her throat- only a second later was she able to croak out a small, tiny 'hi' in return.-
[16:16] <Minaplo> ["Man, I don't like doing these sorts of things." Said Julien. "But the idea of not is even worse." He sighed.-
[16:17] <Minaplo> ["If you're seeing this, then it means that I'm dead." He said. "But if you are, then it means that the Peaceknight didn't fall into enemy hands and that you're alive to see it, which I hope is the case- it's better than the other way 'round, at least from where I'm standing."-
[16:18] <Minaplo> ["I don't know how I died- er, am gonna die. I'm still alive recording this obviously, but-"-
[16:18] <Minaplo> ["Dumbass." Whispered Mana.-
[16:20] <Minaplo> ["Chances are I probably tinkered a little too hard and blew myself up in a positron explosion." Said Julien with a little laugh. "Which is like a viking funeral for a Thruster man, you know? But it's also possible someone had me killed. It's probably that asshole Langley or that son of a bitch Surov, you know- professional jealousy…"]
[16:24] <Raphael> Raphael, looking solemn and a little pale, untangled himself from the hug and began to stand, ready to leave them to their privacy.
[16:25] <Minaplo> [But Mana pinned his arm tightly to her- he wasn't leaving.-
[16:27] <Minaplo> ["… Sorry." Said Julien, suddenly looking abashed. "If you're seeing this then you're probably at least a little upset, huh? I'm going on all jokey about it- sorry. I guess it's kind of hard imagining my own death."-
[16:30] <Minaplo> ["Heh, now I'm rambling a little. I'm actually kind of nervous. I had to lock the doors before I even did this, and I had to make sure to code the Peaceknight so it doesn't show this to the wrong person…"-
[16:31] <Minaplo> [He stopped and took a deep breath.-
[16:34] <Minaplo> ["There's some things I want to say." He said, his expression becoming serious for a change. "I… Know that telling you not to be upset won't help, so I'm not going to bother with that. You take your own time with things, alright? You've got a good head, and you're pretty good at working these sorts of things out."-
[16:34] <Minaplo> [Next to Raphael, Mana shuddered lightly.-
[16:39] <Minaplo> ["A good head- and a good heart." Said Julien. "When you first joined us, I think everyone was charmed by your enthusiasm, your cleverness, and just how damn quick you are. I was, too. And as we became friends, I started to really appreciate you being there. You make a person feel wanted, like they belong- you accept people with next to no hesitation, and I can't stress how incredible that
[16:39] <Minaplo> is."-
[16:48] <Minaplo> ["In fact, I… I have trouble these days imagining my life without you in it, and oh God this is embarrassing to say." Said Julien, clapping a hand over quickly brightening cheeks. "You're pretty much the highlight of my day whenever I see you, and I start to miss you like a sad little puppy when we're out on business. I wish I had the courage to tell you that I love you to your face,
[16:48] <Minaplo> but… Like a lot of the things I do, that's a work in progress."-
[16:48] <Minaplo> [Mana bowed her head, her fringe falling forward to hide her eyes.-
[16:50] <Minaplo> ["… Although that's pretty selfish of me to say now if I'm dead." Said Julien, frowning. "I don't want to burden you with anything more than you've already got going on, because I imagine it's pretty heavy for you right now. I hope it isn't. I wish I could be there to help, if it is."-
[16:56] <Minaplo> ["… I want to talk about two things I've got going on." Said Julien. "I've been asked to help design a starfighter. I've drawn on some of the tech they used for that Tsetse fighter, but I've added a few of my own spins- the fighter has to be able to withstand a lot of heat as it reenters the atmosphere, and it needs to be long-range for that as well. It's fast, quick, pretty tough, and
[16:56] <Minaplo> it's got a lot of heart for an interceptor- so right now I'm pushing for it to be named 'Kirishima', after you. That… Might be weird, right? I don't usually do that sort of thing, but I don't know… The idea of filling the stars with your name sounds kinda appealing to me. I hope. Anyway, I'll probably get a chance to ask you about it first-"-
[16:56] <Minaplo> [Mana covered her eyes with her left hand; her shoulders were starting to shake.-
[17:00] <Minaplo> ["… The other thing is what you're seeing this message on." Said Julien; a tone of warmth entered his voice. "It's an AC Suit called the Peaceknight. It might just be the best AC Suit ever made- the tech and materials are probably a decade or two ahead of mass production. But no one cares about one AC Suit- this thing's made to fit in a very special type of Superheavy. It's called the
[17:00] <Minaplo> G-Defiant Peacecraft- I'm hoping it has what it takes to go toe to toe with an Eva and win."-
[17:02] <Minaplo> ["I know, I know. Everyone says it's impossible." Said Julien with a small laugh. "But impossible doesn't seem like a very meaningful word to me nowadays. Not after what I've seen, not after everything that's happened."-
[17:05] <Minaplo> ["We live in a time of gods, sometimes. A time of miracles, where all the established rules of everything are just out the window. Yet the way a lot of people think seem to ignore that. We have Evas now, so we don't need armies. Superheavies are just there to escort the Evas. We don't need infantry or tanks anymore, we've got Iron Guard, or Phantoms, or AT Fields or whatever the hell."-
[17:18] <Minaplo> ["Well I don't buy into that." Said Julien. "I don't- no, I can't believe that it means normal human beings don't matter anymore, that… That anything is possible except that we have a say on our fate."-
[17:20] <Minaplo> ["I've given the Peacecraft the codename 'Prometheus'." Said Julien. "It's kind of like my dream- the idea that someone or something might challenge the gods for our sake. Even if it doesn't win, at least it proves that we're worth something. We didn't go through the hell of Impact just so our voices could be ignored."-
[17:26] <Minaplo> ["I… Don't want us to just close the lid on everything, either." Said Julien. "What we've learned and seen can't be hidden away or ignored anymore. We have to be- I know we will be- better than to just go back to the way we were, knowing what we do now. I think we have what it takes to choose a better path, but- it has to be our choice. I don't care what sort of future we choose, so
[17:26] <Minaplo> long as it isn't what we left behind- and so long as it's not forced on us by people who think they have the right to ignore us."-
[17:27] <Minaplo> ["… So I'm coding the Peaceknight with three pilots." He said quietly. "Raphael, Suzanne- and you. It's hard-coded right into the Peaceknight's systems, and no one's ever going to be able to change that without destroying the system first."-
[17:27] <Minaplo> ["After all, if this is my dream, then it's only fitting you're always in it, right? Haha… That was a dumb thing to say." He laughed sheepishly.-
[17:28] <Minaplo> [Mana laughed, too- in a halting, almost choking kind of way, but it was a genuine laugh.-
[17:29] <Minaplo> ["… Alright, I think I'm almost done." Said Julien, running a hand through his already-messy hair. "Just… Promise me something, ok?"-
[17:30] <Minaplo> ["Okay." Whispered Mana.-
[17:30] <Minaplo> ["Promise me you'll remember me, ok?" Said Julien. "And- look after Gilly for me. That guy…" Julien laughed. "He fuckin' loves me, he just doesn't wanna say it."-
[17:33] <Minaplo> ["But… Seriously. Look after him. And let him help you." Said Julien, his tone serious once again. "You two- you're actually a lot alike. You're both gentle, loving people caught up in something that's a lot bigger than yourselves. To survive it, you both try to kinda hide who you really are, and… I can get that. But you guys deserve to be yourselves. And other people should get
[17:33] <Minaplo> the chance to see you two the way I see you both."-
[17:38] <Minaplo> ["There's… Room. And time, for you two to be honest with the world, no matter what you might really think about it." Said Julien. "It's scary, I know. And you're afraid of what might happen, I get that too. But trust what I know what I'm talking about: whatever happens won't be as bad as you're thinking it will be. You guys are amazing, and you guys are strong, and I really,
[17:38] <Minaplo> honestly think people are stronger when they let themselves be themselves. There's a sort of strength in honesty, a sort of freedom, too. I- really hope I can see it happen. But if I can't, then I'll have to be content imagining it."-
[17:39] <Minaplo> ["… Alright. I think that's basically everything." Said Julien with a laugh. "Be nice to the Peaceknight, alright? Part of my brain patterns are in Peacecraft, you know, that makes it a real one of a kind. Make sure Raphael's taking good care of it, giving it games and chances to play around."-
[17:40] <Minaplo> ["… I'll say goodbye, now." Said Julien. He straightened up- and at the same time Mana let Raphael go. She ran over to the hologram and held a hand up to its face.-
[17:40] <Minaplo> ["Julien-"-
[17:41] <Minaplo> ["I hope we meet again one day, somewhere over the rainbow." Said Julien with a final laugh. "Doctor Julien Lafabre, signing off."-
[17:41] <Minaplo> [The hologram vanished; Mana stood there, a hand outstretched, touching nothing.]
[17:56] <Raphael> Raphael's eyes were on the floor, his head curled as if he was facing into a strong wind.
[18:01] <Minaplo> [Mana remained still, her eyes widening, almost in shock-
[18:02] <Minaplo> [The Peaceknight stood up, took one step forward, then crouched down. It wrapped Mana up in its powerful, strong arms and squeezed her gently.-
[18:02] <Minaplo> [Mana stared- then she shut her eyes, grasped the Peaceknight tightly and started to sob.]

fin

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