Cherry Blossom Procession 4 6c

[18:12] <AdEvaGM> […-
[18:12] <AdEvaGM> [It was warm.-
[18:13] <AdEvaGM> [The sort of warm that one felt when they knew just how cold it was beyond the warmth. A homely, welcoming, nurturing warmth, the warmth of a fireplace, or a blanket, or even a freshly-baked biscuit.-
[18:13] <AdEvaGM> [Sera was in a place that felt familiar. A clean, expansive building, the floors made of varnished wood, large windows looking out into a snowy mountainscape.-
[18:14] <AdEvaGM> [This was Switzerland, the resort that NERV had requented in the past…-
[18:14] <AdEvaGM> [Armin stood at his side, as did Freya, who looked puzzled. Sitting at a table in front of them was Tsubaki.-
[18:14] <AdEvaGM> [Except she turned and stood with an easy grace, revealing a red coat and hat, the latter of which she tucked to her chest. She curtsied lightly and placed the hat on her head.-
[18:15] <AdEvaGM> [Armin's eyes narrowed. "Nadiacadenza."]
[18:19] <Sept> "You're introduced, good." Sera glanced around the room and took a moment to straighten out his NERV uniform, for once feeling comfortable on him. "Now… I guess we need to find her."
[18:20] <AdEvaGM> ["What is this place?" Asked Armin.]
[18:23] <Sept> "Resort in the Alps. Her memory or mine. Maybe Rei's, too. A good place for something like this."-
[18:23] <Sept> "No, you know what? It's a good place in general."
[18:38] <AdEvaGM> ["This is a precious space." Said Nadiacadenza. "Rei Ayanami has sweet, warm memories of this place, locked away in her little shrine of love in her heart. You, too, found the warmth of other people here, more palatable than you remembered it being."-
[18:38] <AdEvaGM> ["This is a healing place. Nothing bad happens here. In some ways, it is a little paradise."]
[18:43] <Sept> "Yeah, I'd agree with that." Sera took a deep breath and looked back at Freya. "Everything okay?"
[18:45] <AdEvaGM> ["Y-Yeah, everything's okay." Said Freya, despite looking around doubtfully. "We should find Tsubaki as soon as possible."]
[18:49] <Sept> "Mm," Sera nodded, giving her a bit of a concerned look. "If you don't have a premonition of where she'd be, I think we should be able to discern signs from the environment. This place probably wouldn't try to mislead us, after all."
[19:35] <AdEvaGM> [Freya closed her eyes.-
[19:35] <AdEvaGM> ["… Statues…?"]
19:46] <Sept> "Statues," Sera repeated. "A gallery, or performance area…?"
[19:46] <AdEvaGM> ["Seem to be cold to the touch. Uhm. They might be snowmen?"]
[19:52] <Sept> "Outside, then." Sera turned around and walked a short ways towards the exit. He hadn't thought to pack his furs. Any snowmen congregating beyond the doors?
[20:00] <AdEvaGM> [There were racks of furry coats near the door.-
[20:00] <AdEvaGM> [Outside, Sera could see several snowmen of various forms- and a white-haired girl in the middle of them, looking away from the door.]
[20:11] <Sept> "Ah," said Sera, throwing on one of the coats. "I guess it's up to you if you want to come with?"
[20:17] <AdEvaGM> ["Do you think we should?" Asked Freya.]
[20:20] * Sept paused in front of the door, looking at the white-haired girl. "I guess I'd rather you did. She knows we're not really alone. Would seem disingenuous to me."
[20:32] <AdEvaGM> ["Then we're with you." Said Armin.]
[20:33] <Sept> "Right."-
20:37] <Sept> Sera stepped outside and walked towards the group of white figures. The faint crunching from the well-trodden snow under his feet seemed like the only sound in the world.
[20:48] <AdEvaGM> [Tsubaki did not turn. The snowmen… One of them looked like Sera. Another two looked like Viviane and Natasha. A fourth looked vaguely familiar- until he realised it was Naoko Akagi. A fifth didn't ring any bells at all.]
[20:53] <Sept> "Tsubaki," Sera spoke up, reluctantly breaking the silence. "Can we talk?"
[20:54] <AdEvaGM> [Tsubaki turned slowly toward him. Her expression was passive.]
[20:57] <Sept> "I was worried this wouldn't work. I'm glad you're here."
[21:02] <AdEvaGM> ["I wish I could say the same."]
[21:06] <Sept> "Yeah." Sera was standing a few meters away from her, hands in the pockets of his coat. He shifted his weight from one foot to another.-
[21:09] <Sept> "This isn't the end. They're fighting outside, and they'll stop Albus one way or another. But life will continue after this."
[21:16] <AdEvaGM> [She mouthed the words 'life will continue' to herself, then shook her head.-
[21:16] <AdEvaGM> ["What does life mean to you, Sera?"]
[21:24] <Sept> "It's… well, a reason to fight. You've already earned yours, though. There's so much you can do."
[21:27] <AdEvaGM> ["Is that fair, though?"]
[21:29] <Sept> "What do you mean?"
[21:50] <AdEvaGM> ["You and I aren't like other people. Our lives have… 'Meaning'."]
[21:55] <Sept> "Yeah. I- I hate it."
[22:00] <AdEvaGM> ["But is that the right reaction?" Said Tsubaki. "There's a power to our meanings, a power only we can use."-
[22:02] <AdEvaGM> [She gestured to the fifth snowman, the one Sera didn't recognise. "This person… It is hard to label him as weak. He was fifteen when Impact struct. He lost his parents to floods, his best friends to war, his wife to disease… Yet despite that he prospers. He built up his business, his children are healthy and his community respects him."-
[22:05] <AdEvaGM> ["He made his life his own." Said Tsubaki. "But now he is dead."-
[22:05] <AdEvaGM> [The wind blew the snowman away.-
[22:06] <AdEvaGM> ["Our lives have a meaning. A purpose. Meaning even our deaths are more important than anyone else's. What do we do with those lives? Do we resent the power they give us, or do we use it for good?"]
[22:10] <Sept> Sera's gaze followed the snowman particles for a time.-
[22:11] <Sept> "I don't know that we need to accept them as good in order to do the best we can. It's still the right thing to do."
[16:16] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki was quiet for awhile, staring at the snowfigure of her mother.-
[16:17] <Minaplo> ["What if… We could do away with it?" She asked. "Strip away the purposes we've been forced to bear."]
[16:25] <Sept> "Can't say I haven't dreamed of it," Sera smiled, rubbing his hands together. "Who could you ever trust with something like this? Who would even be willing to accept it?"
[16:28] <Minaplo> ["Does it matter?"]
[16:35] <Sept> "Sort of. If there's something special about us after all — maybe that'd be lost to the world at a time when it's needed. It'd be unfair to foist it onto someone else who can't… do it right."-
[16:38] <Sept> "But. I'll always want to be there to help, even if I'm free. And if this is the humanity we're fighting for… well, frankly, any one of us should be up to the job, right?"
[16:45] <Minaplo> ["What if I don't care about humanity anymore?"]
[16:53] <Sept> "I understand if you don't. It doesn't look all that great, from where we're standing. And for what it's worth, I don't think Elisha did, either — so it's not like that's a dealbreaker."
[16:57] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki's expression was bitter.-
[16:58] <Minaplo> ["So all of those things you told me were bullshit, then?" Asked Freya. "All that about doing what was best for the people- just theatre?"-
[17:01] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki shot her a dark look. "No… Of course I still care about humanity. I'm just so tired of this. I never asked to be special. I didn't volunteer to be a holder for Lilith! I was made to prove Gendo Ikari's hypothesis, and she just went along with it." She said, gesturing toward the snowfigure of Naoko Akagi.-
[17:04] <Minaplo> ["I spent years in a fugue state I hated because it was necessary that I be ready to pilot. Whole chunks of my life, some of my most important years- lost." Tsubaki shook her head. "Then the Ayanamis came in and I thought maybe they'd let me go, but I still had to pilot. You can't just quit."-
[17:05] <Minaplo> ["Every time I ask for something I want, something good and proper for me, something to make my life worth it, I get the same answer: we can't, you have a purpose and it doesn't include that. He can't, he has a purpose and it doesn't include you. We can't, humanity needs it and you can't have it."-
[17:07] <Minaplo> ["I'm stuck in a maze, with only one valid exit- the one designed for me." Said Tsubaki. "But Albus offered me something different. A way to violently break out, to set my own rules for a change."-
[17:07] <Minaplo> ["What do you have to offer that could possibly compare?"]
[17:16] * Sept was quiet for a few moments, looking past Tsubaki and biting his lip.-
[17:18] <Sept> "I didn't come here with an offer and a game plan to bring you back. You know how I do things. I'm just happy to see you, whatever happens."-
[17:20] <Sept> "I don't know Albus, and I don't know if what he says can be done. But if this is his dream, it's ugly and unfair and nothing that Azariah would've wanted. I think Albus is a dumb idiot."-
[17:20] <Sept> "So there."
[17:23] <Minaplo> ["Th… That's it?"-
[17:24] <Minaplo> ["You came all this way just to… Tell me you think he's an idiot and you're happy to see me?"-
[17:24] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki stared at him. She was positively vibrating with anger.-
[17:24] <Minaplo> ["You… You're the idiot!" She shouted. "Is that all you have to say? Why do you have to be so utterly you all the time?!"]
[17:39] <Sept> "Because I know who I am! Because I know what happens if you let someone like me devise his master plan for everyone else, because you've always been the smart one no matter what you say, and this isn't the first time I've tried to console you without having any business doing so." Sera took a quick breath. "And because those are the two things that I know are true about this whole
[17:39] <Sept> thing, so that's where we start, and if you don't think he's a dumb idiot then you won't help me find the solution and the rest won't matter."-
[17:40] <Sept> "And if that's true, I might as well tell you how I feel and make sure I remember this forever."
[17:44] <Minaplo> ["I don't want to fight you." Said Tsubaki, her hands balling into fists. "I didn't want to fight anyone! I hate that Albus made me do it, but, but, but he can free me- can't he?"]
[17:49] <Sept> "I don't think so," Sera said uncertainly. "Freedom in his world doesn't seem like it'd be fun. You… deserve better."
[17:52] <Minaplo> ["I-I do. But that doesn't mean anything unless you can do something about it."]
[17:54] <Sept> "Right. So you have to help me."
[17:54] <Minaplo> ["How…?"]
[18:00] <Sept> "I'm gonna give you some solutions and you have to tell me when they're dumb."-
[18:01] <Sept> Sera eyed the snowmen dotting the grounds outside of the resort. "But could we get out of the cold, first? This place is better than this."
[18:03] <Minaplo> ["Fine."]
[18:08] <Sept> "It's just us, so where do you want to go? Restaurant, luxury suite, hot spring?"
[18:13] <Minaplo> [Nadiacadenza began looking around, her eyes narrowing.-
[18:13] <Minaplo> ["Let's go to the hot spring." Said Tsubaki. A fresh snowfall was starting to sweep into the area, obscuring the existing snowpeople.]
[18:20] <Sept> "Right! That was the only time I've been to one, so it's been a while." Sera turned halfway back towards the entrance and motioned Tsubaki to follow as they left the snowpeople behind.
[18:30] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki followed.-
[18:30] <Minaplo> ["I don't know if I've been."]
[18:34] <Sept> "They're nice. Maya says they're an important part of Japan."
[18:35] <Minaplo> ["I mean, I've been to a hot spring before. I think. I don't know if I've been here- does it matter? Let's just hurry up."]
[18:42] <Sept> "It's this way," Sera said, not breaking stride.-
[18:43] <Sept> "I've always been a little obsessed with memories, you know."-
[18:43] <Minaplo> ["Yeah."]
[18:45] <Sept> "Ever since all this started. Trying to piece together who my parents were, but that wasn't real. Then I tried to get back all of Elisha's memories, which was futile."-
[18:48] <Sept> "Then, one day, I realized there were holes in my past, too, so I became obsessed with that. How many times had I died? When was I born? Why was it important I didn't remember certain things?"-
[18:52] <Sept> "But we're just human. Our reach is… limited. So it never ends. There's always something back there that's missing or aching."-
[18:55] <Sept> "The past always wants to change you. But it can't hurt you if you don't push it away."-
[18:55] <Sept> "I think."
[19:00] <Minaplo> ["So… What, I'm just supposed to get over it?"]
[19:07] <Sept> "N-no, sorry. I mean… That time still existed for you, and for everyone else around you, whether or not you remember it. And even if it wasn't you the same way, I'm sure… I'm sure you had fun. That doesn't deserve to be hated."
[19:22] <Minaplo> ["So… What am I supposed to do? Hate the time and not who it made me?"]
[19:29] <Sept> "I think it's okay to hate the reasons why you lost that time. The time wasn't wasted, but… those people were wrong to make all those choices for you."
[18:33] <Minaplo> ["The time feels wasted to me."]
[18:41] <Sept> "I know, it's just that…"-
[18:42] <Sept> "Well, it's all precious to me. I know that doesn't make it up to you, and it shouldn't."
[18:53] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki was silent. She simply kept following along toward the hot spring.]
[19:01] * Sept didn't press the issue, either. Soon enough, the entourage arrived at a separate reception area for the springs — empty like everything else they'd seen.
[20:04] <Minaplo> [Without a word, Tsubaki disrobed and stepped into the water, her long white hair vanishing into the steam.]
[20:14] <Sept> "Right, so," Sera started as he undressed by the poolside, taking his time moreso than Tsubaki. He grabbed a towel, as well, but left it where he lowered himself into the steaming water, about halfway across from her.-
[20:15] <Sept> "You want to be free, most of all. Right?"
[20:36] <Minaplo> ["That's right."-
[20:38] <Minaplo> ["Is it really okay to be taking a soak during a big battle like this?" Muttered Freya.-
[20:38] <Minaplo> ["This is an errand of happiness. Baths are happy." Said Nadiacadenza, who had simply appeared in the bath at some point, submerged up to her neck.-
[20:39] <Minaplo> ["Fair enough." Said Freya.]
[20:48] <Sept> "This isn't something we rush through," Sera agreed.-
[20:52] <Sept> "You want to be free, and the most important thing binding you is how your destiny is intertwined with Lilith. So we can either remove it from the picture, meaning you can be a regular pilot or do whatever you'd like, or we somehow make it bearable for you. Sound good so far?"
[20:59] <Minaplo> ["… Sure." Said Tsubaki hesitantly.]
[21:08] <Sept> "Mmh. That's part of the reason why I wanted to talk to you about your memories and everything, too."-
[21:15] <Sept> "Tsubaki, I know there's limitless strength and courage and resolve in you. These years and this life have dulled them, maybe, but you can't break something like that. If you could find the again, I'm sure you could show us all the way forward."-
[21:16] <Sept> "But I know how that sounds, and it's probably just as terrifying as what you escaped to begin with. It's just one option."
[21:20] <Minaplo> [She nodded, and waited.]
[21:27] <Sept> "Removing your portion of Lilith, or reconstituting you without it which is maybe more possible… I think it would fundamentally require someone else to shoulder it. It doesn't seem like a decision we can make here, unless… we can make use of the Lances. I think I know how dangerous that would be, but would it be possible? For one or both of you to bind her again?"
[21:28] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Longinus. "I can take her fragment within my own space. It is a vigilance I maintained for eons."]
[21:31] <Sept> "How inconvenient would that be for me and Tsubaki?"
[21:31] <Minaplo> ["It would have no effects on Tsubaki."-
[21:32] <Minaplo> ["But you understand, it is not required to take Lilith's fragment." Said Longinus. "That means if this act is done, then it would be as a favour of magnitude beyond anything else."]
[21:34] <Minaplo> [And as Longinus says this, Sera realises that no one else is acting or even moving- everyone is frozen in time, except for Sera and Longinus.]
[21:37] <Sept> "Of course. That would be a hell of a way to go."-
[21:37] <Sept> "But we'll have to wait a little longer for that, huh?"
[21:38] <Minaplo> ["It would not be your life. But I would have to take something precious from you."]
[21:40] <Sept> "Not a lot of things that precious to me that aren't required."
[21:42] <Minaplo> [Longinus nodded.-
[21:43] <Minaplo> ["I am the only one who can do this. Cassius may not. He is too weak." Said Longinus. "Whether you wish to deal with me is your decision."]
[21:46] <Sept> "I understand. There are better ways for both of us, I'm sure of it."
[21:48] <Minaplo> ["You may find a different solution. But there are no ways out of this situation without a cost being paid, Sera."-
[21:48] <Minaplo> [Time unfroze.]
[21:51] <Sept> "Mm." Sera took a deep breath, looking up at the ceiling, seemingly dissatisfied.
[21:53] <Minaplo> ["Here's the thing." Said Tsubaki.-
[22:01] <Minaplo> ["A lot of what you're proposing basically means making me useless." She said. "But… I kind of want that. Back when I was stupefied, it felt like everyone pitied me. Then when that passed, it felt like everyone respected me- or at least feared me. Yet either way I didn't connect properly with other people. There was too much… Distance, you know, Sera? A distance of- of power? I never felt like I fit in with the people around me anymore. No one treated me as an equal."]
[22:06] <Sept> "I think I'm familiar with all that," Sera laughed. "Looking at it from that way… what if you didn't have Sangouki? Or couldn't sync with it? That would change a lot."
[22:06] <Minaplo> ["I guess that'd mean I'd be… Normal." Said Tsubaki.]
[22:12] <Sept> "Uh huh. It wouldn't be easy, but… well, it can't be, right? You'd have to stand on your own — and still deal with what happens after today."
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["They're going to come down pretty hard on you, Tsubaki." Said Freya. "At least with the Eva, they'd be forced to hold back a little…"-
[22:21] <Minaplo> ["…" Tsubaki hung her head.]
[22:28] <Sept> "There's a number of ways you could disappear, but I don't know if that's what you want. And if you want to help us, we'll need you around."
[22:47] <Minaplo> ["Disappear. Just go on the run?" She shook her head. "I think they'll find me sooner or later. They're… Powerful. You know that, right? When you weren't looking, the Federation became a titan."]
[22:57] <Sept> "I-I know, so it would have to be- not normal, of course. Shouldn't have mentioned it."
[23:06] <Minaplo> ["I've pushed myself into a corner." Said Tsubaki quietly.-
[23:07] <Minaplo> ["I… I don't believe how fucking stupid I am!" She suddenly shouted, rising out of the water- which began to ripple away from her. The ripples, however, never stopped, but instead continued to emanate from her pale form.-
[23:08] <Minaplo> ["I was… So angry. You have no idea how angry I was. You were my ticket, Sera. Do you get it? You were my way out."-
[23:10] <Minaplo> ["You were the only one to give me the benefit of the doubt when I was slow. Then you kept treating me normal after they installed mum into the battleship. Like an equal."-
[23:16] <Minaplo> ["You were like me. Created for a purpose. I thought you felt the same way I did. I loved you. Or… The idea of you, I suppose?"-
[23:17] <Minaplo> ["… But you're not like me." Said Tsubaki. "And I hated you for not being what I wanted you to be. I hated that you had a choice."-
[23:19] <Minaplo> ["I screwed up, Sera. I screwed up so, so, so bad. I treated you like they treated me. And in the aftermath, I looked for anything that might offer some way out, something besides this fucking plan of my life, but… All I did was end up another fucker's puppet."]
[00:24] <Sept> "Tsubaki…" Sera looked up at her, mouth half open. "I'm so, so sorry. I know how you feel, I really- I wish-"-
[00:26] <Sept> "I do feel like you do, but- but not all of me. I don't have a way out, so all I wanted was for you to find one, just so… so you can be happy despite everything. And I need you to help me do this for you. I don't know if something will happen to you or me one of these days, so we really, really have to solve this now."-
[00:27] <Sept> "You don't have to be anyone's puppet. And I'm not going to say goodbye here. O-okay?"
[00:37] <Minaplo> ["… Okay."]
[00:48] <Sept> "Okay," Sera repeated, pausing for a second before clapping his hands together. It broke the brief silence in the spacious room and echoed for a moment. "So we have to start making decisions. First of which is do you want a hug now or after?"
[00:48] <Minaplo> ["… Could I have it now?"]
[00:54] <Sept> "O-obviously." Without so much as a glance to the other figures in the room, Sera got up, crossed the distance between them and wrapped Tsubaki tightly in his arms.
[01:05] <Minaplo> [And Tsubaki pulled her to him, her head resting against his shoulder.-
[01:06] <Minaplo> [The water continued to ripple away from her- in fact it began to accelerate, each wave becoming higher and sharper.-
[01:07] <Minaplo> [A wind blew through the room.-
[01:09] <Minaplo> [It wove around Sera and Tsubaki, drawing ribbons of water up into a curtain as it went.-
[01:14] <Minaplo> [The water began to shine with a bright, warm light, pushing away a gloom Sera hadn't even realised he'd felt.-
[01:15] <Minaplo> [Then they realised that they weren't alone.-
[01:17] <Minaplo> [A radiant spirit stood next to them, its own arms around the two of them. It looked like- Rei Ayanami. She was smiling.-
[01:17] <Minaplo> [In this place, she was always smiling.-
[01:19] <Minaplo> [Another spirit joined her- Edgar Chevalier, his eyes closed, his brawny arms tight on their shoulders.-
[01:20] <Minaplo> [Others came.-
[01:24] <Minaplo> [Sho came next, alongside Rei. Then came Alexandre, his eyes closed, a cool smile on his face. After that was Ni, then Asuka, then San, Niles, Chii, Evangeline, Go, Remy, Roku, Keita…-
[01:25] <Minaplo> [They gathered around Sera and Tsubaki, a spiritual host spreading outwards and rapidly growing.-
[01:26] <Minaplo> [Faces kept arriving, some he barely knew, others he knew painfully well. Viviane appeared- as did Natasha, a happiness in her expression that Sera could not remember seeing on her living face.-
[01:28] <Minaplo> [The Ayanamis came, all of them, but before long they were joined by Shinji and Gendo, their blue eyes, the very same eyes Tsubaki herself had, bright and warm and welcoming. Between them was Rei Ikari, her little gloved hands clasped together; she laughed silently.-
[01:30] <Minaplo> [To Sera's right were the NeoSpartans, the old guard, the first supersoldiers, now so seemingly obselete in a world of Ayanamis and Phantoms and Iron Guard and Shadowmen and Brothers and any number of horrific and wondrous creations that were simply beyond the ability of most to even slow, let alone stop.-
[01:32] <Minaplo> [Yet they had also carved spaces out for themselves, spaces they had fought tooth and nail for before many of them had learned basic maths. Jagged-edged spaces, bloody spaces, yet absolutely their own, something that they would let none take away.-
[01:34] <Minaplo> [Once upon a time, Sera had wanted such a space, had longed for it, ached to be one of those tortured, unbroken souls, to be included as one of them, part of that band of champions who were a family through blood- blood spilled, but blood nonetheless.-
[01:35] <Minaplo> [He saw Silas Caine near the far end of the spring, a cheery little smile on his face. Next to him was Atticus Nelson, who simply tapped his cheek twice at Sera's direction.-
[01:38] <Minaplo> [And to Tsubaki's right stood the Ikari family. A family inextricably bound to the Impact Century from before it even began, to its present, and- its end, not too far from here now.-
[01:39] <Minaplo> [Power clung to this family, through institutional ties such as Yutada of Seele, or spiritual ones, such as the A-Type soul that called itself Gendo Ikari, a soul that had the power to control the plants and the trees, a power never realised, yet always there.-
[01:40] <Minaplo> [And there was power in the blood, too, the power of the Ayanamis, a poetic codename, one that had been applied first and foremost to Tsubaki Akagi.-
[01:45] <Minaplo> [Yet even though Tsubaki's ties to the Ikaris seemed so much more tangible than Sera's ties to the NeoSpartans, they were nonetheless just as distant, just as unreachable despite that seeming proximity. Tsubaki had the blood of an Ikari, yet never had she been taken in by them and treated as one of them. She had been called Ayanami, yet she was different to them- she was no clone, nor did she have the soul of a Disciple. Yet she was just as manufactured, and her soul just as divine.-
[01:47] <Minaplo> [Yet they were here, now, in this place of happiness, this place of promise shaped by the innocent love of an innocent woman- a love that in this moment promised that which was needed the most: forgiveness.-
[01:49] <Minaplo> [But forgiveness, in this place of all places especially, should not be a one-way path. Just as this place promised to forgive them their trespasses, it also asked that they forgive those who had trespassed in turn.-
[01:50] <Minaplo> [To Sera's right, at the far end of the crowd of NeoSpartans, appeared one last figure. He was tall, with jet black hair. He had his back turned, yet Sera could see and feel his smirk, the single smuggest thing Sera had ever known.-
[01:51] <Minaplo> [And to Tsubaki's right, behind the Ayanamis and the Ikaris, was a woman with dark burgundy hair and a heart-shaped face. She, too, was looking away, her face downcast. Her back was to them, to Gendo, and she literally existed in his shadow.]
[02:13] * Sept eyed the line of them, casting a quick glance back at Tsubaki.
[02:15] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki's eyes were wide, full of wonder and awe- but curiously, no fear.]
[18:13] <Sept> "Right," Sera said, looking at all of the figures on his side, taking a step away from Tsubaki. "I get that I'm supposed to settle things with you all. That I couldn't have really convinced her as I am now."-
[18:13] <Sept> "So what do you want? Hugs down the line? You're not real, you're dead, and I'm naked, so that's certainly not happening. If anything, I need things from you — even if it's ridiculous now, in some of your cases. Even if that need is for nothing but a sense of duty towards a part of me that's just as dead. But there's two reasons why that's necessary, and why all of you are required.
[18:13] <Sept> First, because one day I'll help reconcile everyone's wishes to fix everything. And second, because the only way I can ensure my wishes don't get discarded as stupid by my successor is to treat the past with equal respect. I've figured out that much without love magic."-
[18:13] <Sept> "So, now I carry all the wishes and guilt for the dead and the people I used to be. Half the world judges me for what I do on your behalf," Sera fixed a gaze at the thoroughly self-satisfied back turned towards him. "I can't even synch properly because you need to make sure I stay just the way you need, because you need to know you're in control. You've used me as a pawn and led me
[18:13] <Sept> from one trial to another, you doomed the lives of billions of people. You made the love of your life commit murder."-
[18:13] <Sept> "And in the end, Elisha Caine, what you want is forgiveness, not only from the instrument of your will, but from humanity itself? Because you're the Solemn Exarch and that's how it's always been, because you're the fucking messiah? Well, how about I take the honor away from everyone else, everyone who lost their families in Second Impact, everyone you manipulated and everyone who suffered
[18:13] <Sept> after? How about I refuse to acknowledge you, we sit here until the end of time and watch humanity burn, unified in its desire to get back at you? Is that enough to finally wipe that smirk off your face?"-
[18:13] <Sept> "…"-
[18:14] <Sept> "Of course it isn't. You accepted your death long before I did. I don't think you ever really believed you'd be forgiven. And what a martyrdom that'd be, to have done everything right and sacrificed so much, only to be denied at the last moment by the ones you were saving. That's what that smirk is about. You against the world."
[18:14] <Sept> "But that's… not how it's going to be. And besides, we're one and the same. We saw what was necessary and didn't hesitate. So we deserve to be judged. But I- I believe in people. I think they'll see what we've done and what's ahead of all of us, and make the right choice. There are people waiting for us. Even if we cleverly avoided making promises, they'll be there. And their forgiveness
[18:14] <Sept> is the only way we'll see them at the end of this."
[18:14] <Sept> "And I don't know if this means you win. Even now, your handprints are all over everyone who's here, even Rei. But we're going to see this through, and it won't be the end of us. Because I'm you, and you're me."
[18:14] * Sept closed his eyes, his hands balled up into fists.
[18:14] <Sept> "So I forgive you, you asshole. I-I'm ready to forgive myself."
[20:42] <Minaplo> [Sera couldn't see it, but nonetheless he felt that smirk widen.-
[20:44] <Minaplo> [But Elisha turned, and his smirk slowly faded into a small, simple smile.-
[20:45] <Minaplo> [The NeoSpartans, all those who had come for Sera, started to walk away. As they walked, they dissolved from the bottom up, turning into a radiant firmament of glowing white light, which began to swirl into Elisha's hands.-
[20:48] <Minaplo> [As the light came into his grasp, his form began to solidify, filling out until it was almost as real as Sera, or Tsubaki, or Freya.-
[20:48] <Minaplo> [He did not say anything. There was no point. Sera already knew what he was going to say.-
[20:51] <Minaplo> [I was chosen to be the preservator, to protect the world until it was ready. If you believe that time has come, then my role has come to an end. Let's leave it to humanity, then.-
[20:51] <Minaplo> [He nodded once, then dissolved into the water, which glowed a bright blue.]
[20:59] <Sept> "…well," Sera sighed. "I guess all that just came out of my mouth. Can't turn back now. You good over there?" Sera turned, half-expecting Tsubaki to be gone.
[21:08] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki was still there, next to him. She nodded, her eyes lingering on where Elisha had been just a few seconds before. "Yeah. Are -you- good?"]
[21:10] <Sept> "Guess so."
[21:22] <Sept> "D'you know what to do now?"
[21:29] <Minaplo> ["Well… It looks like you came to terms with the guy who gave you your purpose. Now I need to come to terms with my creators. Right…?"]
[21:32] <Sept> "Seems like a good chance for it. I'm sure you can do it."
[21:50] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki took in a deep breath before turning toward the greater Ikari family.-
[21:55] <Minaplo> ["I never really had a family." Said Tsubaki. "The Neos and I were always… Distant. And my blood was a secret to you all."-
[21:56] <Minaplo> ["But I wanted it so much." She said, lowering her head a little, her white hair falling in front of her face. "Even though you all have such a fucked up family, there's love there. Actual love."-
[21:57] <Minaplo> ["Rits… Took care of me, but she never wanted to be a caretaker. There's too much work wrapped up in our relationship." Said Tsubaki. "And that's okay."-
[21:57] <Minaplo> ["Because it was never supposed to be her job to take care of me."-
[21:58] <Minaplo> [Out of the whirling vapours of steam came another spirit, a little dimmer than the others. The form of Ritsuko Akagi appeared behind Tsubaki. It raised its hand, hesitated for a second, then placed it on Tsubaki's shoulder.-
[22:00] <Minaplo> ["I was selfish." Said Tsubaki. "I even resented Rits, because I could feel how in-the-deep-end being a guardian made her. But at least she made the effort. Who made the effort to take care of Rits?"-
[22:02] <Minaplo> ["Rits would never admit it, but she feels lonely and neglected too. She just handles it better. She's still only human, though, and we need to be loved and nurtured by others. That's just how it is." Said Tsubaki, shaking her head slowly. "You abandoned both of us. I abandoned Rits, too."-
[22:05] <Minaplo> ["You're a bad mother."-
[22:05] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki pushed the hair out of her eyes. "You didn't know the first fucking thing about caring for Rits- or me."-
[22:07] <Minaplo> ["When we needed help, there should've been one person we could've turned to no matter what, and that was you. But we couldn't trust you to be there. Even when I became a pilot, and synched with you, you did the wrong thing. You used me to feel better about yourself, and I had to live with the scummy love-feeling you pumped into my head hour after hour. Do you have any idea how damaging that was?"-
[22:09] <Minaplo> ["For… For years, ever since I was nine years old, I've been your pilot. That's half my life. For half my life, I've been trapped inside your fog. Whole years of my life are just… Gone from my memory. I can't remember most of my school days. I can't remember the faces of my school friends. I don't even know their names anymore."-
[22:09] <Minaplo> ["You turned me into a satellite. You took everything from me."-
[22:10] <Minaplo> [She bowed her head. "But you're more than just my mother."-
[22:11] <Minaplo> ["You knew that the world was about to end. You wanted to do something about it. Just like everyone else from that time, you wanted to help humanity survive."-
[22:12] <Minaplo> ["You're a bad mother. But Lilith… Is way, way worse than you. And you sealed her away inside me. That was your gift to the world."-
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["I deserved better than you. We both did. But you didn't have any E-Types on hand until I came along, and without me… I'm not dumb. I know how many close shaves we've had with Lilith. She still speaks to me."-
[22:14] <Minaplo> [A painful, cold chill seemed to cut through the room.-
[22:17] <Minaplo> ["Lilith isn't as dormant as you all hoped. You thought the E-Type seals were infallible, but they're not, mum. Every month… Every day, Lilith has been growing stronger and smarter. She's whispering to more and more people, and those whispers are becoming clearer."-
[22:18] <Minaplo> ["But if she'd been kept the way she was, she would've succeeded years ago. You put half of her in me, and condemned me to misery, but… You delayed the end of the world long enough for us to make a plan, to get our act together."-
[22:22] <Minaplo> ["You knew what had to happen. And you did it. You came up with a plan, did the research, and carried it through. That's what your generation did. We hate you for it, but without you, maybe we wouldn't be around to hate you."-
[22:23] <Minaplo> ["But you were human, once. And you wanted to be loved as well. I know you better than anyone, enough to know how lonely you were, growing up without a family."-
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["He offered you a way out of that misery and you took it. Just like I did. It ended up destroying you. Just like how I almost destroyed myself."-
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["… I hate to say it, but you and I have a lot in common." Said Tsubaki.-
[22:24] <Minaplo> [She looked at the rest of the Ikari family.-
[22:25] <Minaplo> ["I resented you Ayanamis because of how easily you seemed to have what I so dearly wanted, what I deserved but could never manage to get. But you guys aren't responsible for my happiness."-
[22:26] <Minaplo> ["Yet you were kind to me anyway." Said Tsubaki. "I know better, now. I really appreciate it."-
[22:26] <Minaplo> [Then she turned toward Gendo.-
[22:26] <Minaplo> ["You're a dickhead."-
[22:29] <Minaplo> ["You're an emotional wrecking ball of a human being. You've left destruction in your wake like a super typhoon."-
[22:29] <Minaplo> ["You had just as much an obligation to me that mum had, but you didn't even manage what little she did."-
[22:32] <Minaplo> ["But I know-" She growled for a moment in rampant frustration, "that for all the pain you've caused, you also gave a lot of yourself to the 'cause'. Years of sacrifices, and then killing yourself by plugging Adam into your body."-
[22:32] <Minaplo> ["I hate you. I hated you so much, from the day I found out, because you never tried with me whatsoever, even though you lived way longer."-
[22:33] <Minaplo> ["But no one can accuse you of not living out your principles. If it had to be done, you'd do it, even if it meant hurting others- or yourself."-
[22:34] <Minaplo> ["… The way the two of you lived was wrong." Said Tsubaki. "But I don't know how much of a choice you had, living in that era, both of you so… Fucked up in your own stupid ways."-
[22:35] <Minaplo> ["… I've been miserable. Lonely, miserable and despairing, and so much of that stems from you both. But what I've gone through… Kind of mirrors the same things you two did."-
[22:35] <Minaplo> ["Well."-
[22:35] <Minaplo> [She stood a little straighter, now. Tsubaki raised her hand and covered Ritsuko's with it.-
[22:35] <Minaplo> ["You guys gave us a chance. And I'm going to forgive you for what you did."-
[22:37] <Minaplo> ["Because we're going to use that chance to make sure people like you don't get to exist anymore." Said Tsubaki. "The future we're going to make won't need people like you. It won't create people like you. You have humanity a chance, and…"-
[22:37] <Minaplo> ["Humanity is going to be amazing."-
[22:37] <Minaplo> ["We'll save ourselves, and our future. We're going to break the cycle that made people like you. And it's going to be so, so beautiful."-
[22:38] <Minaplo> ["So I forgive you. Both of you." Said Tsubaki.-
[22:38] <Minaplo> ["I forgive you for what you did to me. I forgive you for what you did to my mum."-
[22:39] <Minaplo> ["And I forgive you for what you did to Ritsuko, my sister."-
[22:39] <Minaplo> [Gendo stepped aside.-
[22:39] <Minaplo> [Naoko turned, now, out of his shadow- and her eyes met Tsubaki's.-
[22:41] <Minaplo> [One by one, the Ayanamis started to dissolve into light, before flowing backwards towards Naoko. Tsubaki followed their passage- then her eyes turned toward Shinji.-
[22:41] <Minaplo> ["You're cool. We should do more together, though." Said Tsubaki.-
[22:41] <Minaplo> [Relief crossed Shinji's face; then a second later, he too dissolved.-
[22:42] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki turned toward Gendo. He gave Tsubaki a low nod, then took off his glasses. Blue eyes met blue eyes for a second- then he too dissolved.-
[22:42] <Minaplo> [Naoko reached out, catching the incandescant ball of hopeful light.-
[22:43] <Minaplo> [She looked down at it for a moment, her form solidifying, filling out like someone colouring in a picture.-
[22:44] <Minaplo> [Then she looked up at Tsubaki again and smiled; they could feel her words.-
[22:44] <Minaplo> [You're everything I hoped you'd be, everything I could never manage. I'm so, so sorry.-
[22:45] <Minaplo> [I love you.-
[22:45] <Minaplo> [She dissolved into the water. Tsubaki's side of the water had been clear, but now it too was bright blue.-
[22:45] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki sighed- and sagged a little.]
[22:51] <Sept> "…"-
[22:51] <Sept> Sera gave Tsubaki a pat on the shoulder, not wanting to break the silence.
[22:55] <Minaplo> [And she hugged Sera again, even tighter than last time.]
[23:03] * Sept smiled and held her close, happy to answer the gesture.
[23:06] <Minaplo> ["Hey, Sera?"]
[23:07] <Sept> "Yeah?"
[23:08] <Minaplo> ["Why does Longinus look like me?"]
[23:14] <Sept> "Um. Right."-
[23:15] <Sept> "She wanted to make sure I'd listen to what she had to say, I guess?"
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["Funny."]
[23:26] <Sept> "But it worked, didn't it?"
[23:27] <Minaplo> ["I guess it did." She said with a laugh.-
[23:29] <Minaplo> ["Hmph." Said Freya, rousing herself out of the awed stupor the appearance of the spirits had wrought.]
[23:31] <Sept> "Something you want to get off your chest while we're here, Freya?"
[23:32] <Minaplo> ["No, no. I'm good."]
[23:34] <Sept> "Great." Sera extricated himself from the hug, but kept his hands on Tsubaki's shoulders. "You gonna be okay when we get out there?"
[23:34] <Minaplo> ["Well… I can't win this battle for you single-handedly. You understand that, right?" Said Tsubaki.-
[23:34] <Minaplo> ["Albus is… Strong. Way stronger than we thought. And he's consumed a lot of Ezekiel's power, too."]
[23:38] <Sept> "Of course. I'll be there with you. For the battles after this one, too."
[23:38] <Minaplo> ["I know." Said Tsubaki. "Be careful. Alright?"-
[23:39] <Minaplo> ["He's bringing in… Help, of some kind. Summoning something he calls the Void Asterion."-
[23:39] <Minaplo> [Much to his likely dismay, Armin and Nadiacadenza exchanged looks of alarm.]
[23:42] <Sept> "Ah. Well." Sera said, his certainty faltering.-
[23:42] <Sept> "We'll have to manage."
[23:43] <Minaplo> ["We should inform Misato and Yanmei the instant we return." Said Freya.]
[23:47] <Sept> "Right."
[23:48] <Minaplo> ["If everything goes well, then I'll see you soon, Sera." Said Tsubaki. "And you too, Freya. And Armin."]
[23:49] <Sept> "Yeah. See you soon, Tsucchin."
[23:55] <Minaplo> [She gave him a smile.-
[23:55] <Minaplo> [The water rose up around her, shining with blinding, warm light. When it fell, Tsubaki was gone.]
[00:02] <Sept> "We should get going, too. Thanks for being there, Freya."
[00:08] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." She said, getting to her feet. "Looks like you came to some sort of resolution. I'm… Um, glad."]
[00:10] <Sept> "…sorry. This was weird."
[00:11] <Minaplo> ["Are you embarrassed…?"]
[00:12] <Sept> "Well. I mean. There's never anyone there when I argue with myself."
[00:15] <Minaplo> [She chuckled. "It's fine. Happens to everyone."]
[00:16] <Sept> "Haha. Sure doesn't."
[00:28] <Minaplo> ["Well, to more than you'd think, anyway. Should we go?"]
[00:29] <Sept> "Yep. Let's." Sera extended his hand to her.
[00:31] <Minaplo> [And she took it.-
[00:31] <Minaplo> [The water rose around them…]
[00:34] <Sept> "Oh, I get it," Sera said.-
[00:34] <Sept> "It's symbolic."
[00:53] <Minaplo> […-
[01:12] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki had slumped backwards in her throne, but she jerked forward with a start.-
[01:14] <Minaplo> [Two dozen Iron Guard, mostly Virus Guard, had been stationed in the room, along with about a hundred marines- and Ezekiel, chained to the dais on which her throne sat.-
[01:20] <Minaplo> [An massive Iron Guard stood nearby, wearing thick Cataphract Armour- he was the size of a tank.-
[01:21] <Minaplo> [He was staring at her, his face hidden by his imposing helmet. "Lady Akagi, are you alright?"-
[01:21] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki stared back at him, then shook her head. "Yes. Yes, I am."-
[01:21] <Minaplo> ["I have something to say." Said Tsubaki, getting to her feet. "I'm leaving."-
[01:22] <Minaplo> ["… I'm sorry, my lady, but we have strict orders to protect you- in the throne room."-
[01:23] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki ignored him. She took a step forward.-
[01:24] <Minaplo> [The Guard moved to physically block her path. "My lady, return to your throne."-
[01:24] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki paused. She glanced over toward Ezekiel. He suddenly crawled away.-
[01:24] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki turned back toward the Guard. "Last chance. Out of my way."-
[01:25] <Minaplo> [The Guard lowered his positron glaive's point toward her.-
[01:25] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[01:27] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki closed her eyes. A moment later they opened- and now they were shining with incandescant light.-
[01:27] <Minaplo> [For an instant, the sealing mandala flared behind her as her eyes shone, a rainbow corona emanating from them.-
[01:28] <Minaplo> [The Cataphract Guard melted, everything from the waist up turning into molten metal and bubbling flesh. A pair of smoking legs was all that remained.-
[01:28] <Minaplo> [The other Guards reeled, then quickly moved into action, firing at her with bolters, positron bolts and AT blasts.-
[01:29] <Minaplo> [They all bounced off her AT Field harmlessly.-
[01:29] <Minaplo> ["You can no longer touch me."-
[01:29] <Minaplo> [She waved her hand, and shining spears of light punched through the cores of half a dozen Guard.-
[01:30] <Minaplo> ["You can no longer rule me."-
[01:30] <Minaplo> [She sharply raised her other hand. The very ground itself twisted and punched upwards, pulping another five Guard against the roof.-
[01:31] <Minaplo> ["I am no longer anyone's puppet."-
[01:32] <Minaplo> [A globe of spasming antimatter rippled into the air around her; it swept the room in a wide arc, slicing another six Guard clean in half.-
[01:33] <Minaplo> ["I am Tsubaki, and my life is my own!"-
[01:33] <Minaplo> [She dropped both hands to the ground- gleaming tendrils of light shot across the floor and pierced the remaining Guard. They turned to stone.-
[01:34] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki rose, and turned to Ezekiel. "Hi, Zeke."-
[01:34] <Minaplo> ["… Hello." He said warily, his eyes wide.-
[01:36] <Minaplo> ["I've made some huge mistakes. And I'm going to try to fix them by killing a lot of Guard. But first, I'm going to get you out of here." Said Tsubaki. His chains melted into nothing, although he was unharmed.-
[01:36] <Minaplo> [With a light gesture of her hand, Ezekiel rose into the air. She set him down on his feet, but held up most of his weight.-
[01:44] <Minaplo> [With that, Tsubaki made for the door, Ezekiel quickly behind her.-
[01:44] <Minaplo> [She suddenly paused as she crossed the door. "Oh, shit, I nearly forgot."-
[01:45] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki turned on her heel and clapped her hands once.-
[01:45] <Minaplo> [The sound was deafening.-
[01:45] <Minaplo> [A wave of sound and thunder shot outwards, shattering the petrified Guard as it went, before it struck the very heart of the throne.-
[01:46] <Minaplo> [The throne shook violently, bucked wildly, a strange and inhuman scream uttering from it.-
[01:46] <Minaplo> [A few seconds later, it paused and went still, electricity crackling across its surface.-
[01:48] <Minaplo> ["I'll need more time to destroy it, I think, but that'll keep it quiet for now." Said Tsubaki. "If we're going to win this, though, we need some big guns."-
[01:48] <Minaplo> ["What do you mean?" asked Ezekiel, his voice weak.-
[01:49] <Minaplo> [Tsubaki closed her eyes and clasped her hands together, as though in prayer.-
[01:50] <Minaplo> [She stayed like that for a few moments; then her whole form rippled with rainbow light. A mental command emanated from her, strong enough that Ezekiel felt it clearly even though it wasn't intended for him: Come!-
[01:51] <Minaplo> [Imagine Tsubaki, standing in the doorframe of the now utterly demolished throne room, her hands clasped together, her eyes closed. Just a few decks starboard, the Federation forces were invading: they'd taken the prison ward and were pushing deeper in five different directions, legends such as Raphael and- Tsubaki's heart leapt with joy- Aline amongst them.-
[01:52] <Minaplo> [Then there was the command centre the Feds used, having just repulsed a heavy attack from Iron Guard.-
[01:53] <Minaplo> [Go further, away from this scene, and you find the Sphere's forces- hundreds of Guard, mostly Virus Guard, marching toward the front. Following in their wake were thousands of Marines- who suddenly, in jerking unison, trembled, shuddered and then collapsed, screaming sharply for a few seconds before falling unconscious.-
[01:57] <Minaplo> [Beyond that you find the base rooms of the Virus Guard, rooms twisted and corrupted by alien biology. In the centre of these rooms are shimmering dirac portals, through which reinforcements- cultists, more Guard, Annihilators and even Apocalypse Engines stream.-
[01:58] <Minaplo> [And then even beyond that you have the beating heart of the vessel- Main Engineering. A cavernous room, with dozens of doors lining the side walls- and two colossal ones at the far end.-
[01:58] <Minaplo> [Behind these doors is the AT Chamber. Here, lying dormant, fleshy viral tendrils creeping around its legs and arms, is EVA-03.-
[02:00] <Minaplo> [It sleeps, but it sleeps restlessly. Something within it has changed recently, something fundamental to its own identity. Yet it does not yet know this. It sleeps, ignorant of the viral forms spreading parasitically over its body, ignorant of the changes in its very soul.-
[02:00] <Minaplo> [But at that moment, Tsubaki's command- Come! echoes in the room. It shakes everything within it, from the bolts in the plating to the scaffolding holding 03.-
[02:00] <Minaplo> [And the Evangelion stirs.-
[02:02] <Minaplo> [Suddenly she understands what has happened. Her core flares bright with ecstasy as she recognises the voice of her daughter, the very daughter to whom she now submits. The flow of toxic love has ceased- now only understanding and familial loyalty, a new yet not unwelcome sensation, remain.-
[02:03] <Minaplo> [The viral tentacles shriek and constrict around 03, but to no avail; 03 squeezes its entire body, and its AT Field bursts radiantly into existence. The room is suddenly filled with a blazing inferno as rings of fire emanate from 03's very skin, burning, blackening and reducing the tentacles to ash.-
[02:04] <Minaplo> [The room is filled with smoke and fire. It shakes. And again. Footsteps of a titan.-
[02:04] <Minaplo> [Out of the smoke comes the silhouette of Evangelion Production Model Unit 03. Naoko Akagi.-
[02:04] <Minaplo> [Its eyes flare red. The Evangelion rears its head back and roars, a howl of jubilant savage joy that can be heard throughout the entire vessel.]

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