Cherry Blossom Procession 4 7 8

[13:24] <Yanmei> It was quiet out, but the deck of the Gendo was neither deserted nor dark, even with all the time that had passed since its last battle. Of course, time hadn't passed exactly. Not for the outside planet or the sun above it. Yanmei stared upward toward the sky in wonder. Time bubbles were really interesting things, weren't they? -
[13:29] <Yanmei> For that matter, the Gendo's current crew was interesting too. The repair guys had been swarming all over less than ten minutes ago, but the deck had become a ghost town the moment their scheduled break hour had hit. Now she could clearly see their progress - big dull metal sheets patching holes here and there. Countless pieces of abandoned high tech machinery and coils of materials she
[13:29] <Yanmei> didn't really recognize.
[13:29] <Yanmei> -
[13:33] <Yanmei> Yanmei frowned down at her tablet, and the countdown timer displaying at the very top of it. "Everything is shit," she muttered out loud, and then, sharply looked around to see if anyone had heard her other than her chosen companion. The deck remained otherwise still and silent. "It's shit," she said again, as if to test fate.
[13:41] <Minaplo> [There was a rustle of feathers next to her. Feng- that very same companion- lowered his head to look at her, letting out a low trill in response that was probably agreement. He adjusted his wings slightly and shuffled a little closer on his claws.]
[13:45] * Yanmei watched him a little warily. Feng was big. But she still felt encouraged enough to go on. "Why did so many Iron Guard follow Albus just like that? Did they really believe in him and his goals more than ours…? But our goals aren't that great either. It's like I have no right to be insulted?"
[13:49] <Minaplo> [A sympathetic coo that made the brilliant purple feathers at the back of Feng's head stick up for a moment.]
[14:07] <Yanmei> "Thanks. But, no. A lot of this feels like the same old family feud. And more people died today because of it. People who didn't even know them. Like all those guys from Australia? And I… no, that was my fault. A lot of this was my fault. Most of it was my fault. I sent them in and then messed with them using that mind thingy? But no one's revolting now. No one even seems mad. It's
[14:07] <Yanmei> like they're stupid or something? Like everyone's okay with getting back to work, and with me pretending everything's all right. But it's not all right. It's shit!" She pulled a foot back and kicked at one of the railing supports. It made a dull, metallic, satisfying thud.
[14:08] <Minaplo> [Feng lifted one of his claws and twisted it into a knobbly, gnarled fist, which he then smashed into the same railing.-
[14:09] <Minaplo> [A moment later, he threw out his right wing- casting a broad shadow- and enfolded it around Yanmei. It was silky and warm.]
[14:10] * Yanmei gaped up at him in surprise. Then, she laughed. "You're all right, bird." She patted his warm, silky feathers. "You're all right." -
[14:20] <Yanmei> She let a few moments go by without saying anything more, just letting her own angry thoughts bubble back up through her awe. "I can't fix this, you know." She said lowering her voice. "The dead people, or the trauma, or having to go back into a fight before everyone's all patched up. Don't tell anyone, but I could stand to be patched up too? And Rustami…" She frowned again, and looked
[14:20] <Yanmei> at Feng seriously. "Look, if you see him acting weird, stop him, ok? I don't think he's… quite right."
[14:26] <Minaplo> [Feng stared back at her with one of his great, vivid green eyes.-
[14:28] <Minaplo> [Then he raised his head and began to sing his song- his clear, sweet song. Yanmei had only rarely heard it, yet there was an odd sense of familiarity and rightness to it- even if it sounded a little otherworldly.-
[14:29] <Minaplo> [Beneath the song, she only barely heard the sound of a footstep far behind her.]
[14:35] * Yanmei started and rather slowly pulled away from under Feng's wing, leaning casually against the rail as if she was a spectator who happened to end up in that spot during a nice mid-afternoon's stroll.
[14:38] <Minaplo> [It was the Empress Chiisana, her expression perfectly calm. "Yanmei."]
[14:40] <Yanmei> "Oh, hi!" She grinned cheerfully. "I see you got a little tired of hanging out below deck too, huh?"
[14:44] <Minaplo> ["Something like that." Said the Empress. "I would like to talk to you."]
[14:46] <Yanmei> "Certainly?" She pushed away from the railing to show that she was paying attention.
[14:47] <Minaplo> ["Alone."-
[14:47] <Minaplo> [Feng eyed her. Then let out a small puff of flame from his mouth before taking wing and flying away.]
[14:49] <Yanmei> "Heh. You know, it's not like he can talk?"
[14:52] <Minaplo> ["He's intelligent enough to understand speech." Said the Empress. "And Rustami can probably understand Feng through body language and other gestures."]
[14:53] <Yanmei> "Yeah?" Somehow, her worry didn't make it to her face. "Well, how about that?"
[14:53] <Minaplo> ["Mmm." the Empress conjured up an armchair and sat.-
[14:53] <Minaplo> ["How are you going?"]
[14:58] <Yanmei> "Oh, you know me?" Yanmei took to the railing again, clearly taking a more relaxed cue from Empress. "What about you? I'm surprised you're not more exhausted."
[14:59] <Minaplo> ["I'm… Fine." She said. "It seems as though events are drawing to a close."]
[15:02] <Yanmei> "At long last." Yanmei gave her another smile. "After this next one, maybe we won't have to fight for a while."
[15:02] <Minaplo> ["Maybe."-
[15:02] <Minaplo> [The Empress was silent for a time.-
[15:03] <Minaplo> ["We've done well to come this far." She said. "Perhaps now is the best time to tell you about myself."]
[15:10] <Yanmei> "Really?" Yanmei leaned forward. "You feel okay doing that? I'm… honored."
[15:15] <Minaplo> ["Mmm."-
[15:16] <Minaplo> ["So what do you know about my world, then?"]
[15:22] <Yanmei> "The one you cultivated? I know that it was peaceful. And that you had a clearly very long life ruling over it, along with your descendents."
[15:39] <Minaplo> ["Yes…"-
[15:39] <Minaplo> ["As some of you know, I haven't told you the whole story."]
[15:43] * Yanmei nodded polutely, waiting for her to gather her composure and continue
[15:43] <Yanmei> ^politely
[15:52] <Minaplo> ["You mentioned my descendants. All of them Ayanamis in their own fashion. But some of them were more…"]
[16:01] <Yanmei> "More…?"
[13:13] <Mianplo> ["I travelled through time and ended up in an alternate universe, one behind our own." Said Chiisana. "Not many things can do that. When someone does… Those things notice."]
[13:17] <Yanmei> "Those things," Yanmei echoed, her brow furrowing. "Like that giant friend of ours that was helping Mortons…?"
[13:18] <Mianplo> [Chiisana shook her head. "No. That was just a weapon of Metatron."-
[13:20] <Mianplo> ["The people I'm talking about call themselves the 'Princes of the Flow'." Said Chiisana. "They were one of the original 170 Peoples of the First Federation. One of the only three to survive."]
[13:22] <Yanmei> "They… showed up to speak with you? Peacefully?"
[13:24] <Mianplo> ["One did." Said Chiisana.]
[13:25] <Yanmei> "What was he like?"
[13:29] <Mianplo> ["Comforting." Said Chiisana, and she smiled a little. "He understood my plight. In a way, our plights were similar."-
[13:29] <Mianplo> ["You saw the Void Asterion. You remember that it adapted to our attacks, becoming stronger the more force we used against it?"]
[13:30] <Yanmei> "How could I forget?"
[13:31] <Mianplo> ["That power was based off the one exhibit by the great Enemy, all that time ago." Said Chiisana. "But the Enemy's power was greater than that."-
[13:33] <Mianplo> ["The Princes safeguard time. In the day of the First Federation they travelled through time freely, even into the future- although doing such a thing is incredibly dangerous, because endless futures exist and it is easy to get lost in them. But they managed it."-
[13:34] <Mianplo> ["When the Enemy came, the Princes found that the moment it entered reality, it suddenly existed at every point in time- a constant presence. So they waged war on it throughout all of time."-
[13:36] <Mianplo> ["But it grew stronger for their resistance." Said Chiisana, her voice calm. "So the Princes tried to trap it, tried to make the flow of time more rigid…"-
[13:38] <Mianplo> ["But the Enemy tricked them. The Princes' home was at the beginning of time, and the Enemy twisted their trap around. All the dangers of time travel we now acknowledge came from that confrontation, and travelling to the future became impossible… Which means that the Princes were trapped at the beginning of time, forever. They had trapped themselves."-
[13:38] <Mianplo> ["All but a few."]
[13:45] <Yanmei> "Like your friend. No wonder he went to investigate you? Maybe he thought you were one of his people who managed to escape."
[13:46] <Mianplo> ["Heh. Either way, we found each other- I, lost in the past, he, lost in the future." Said Chiisana. "We saw something in each other… I was special, something he'd not found in his travels before. Do you understand what I mean?"]
[13:53] <Yanmei> "Yes~" Yanmei beamed. "Despite the circumstances, I bet you two were pretty happy together."
[13:54] <Mianplo> ["Yes, I suppose we were." Said Chiisana with a small smile. "But I bore him twelve children, Yanmei, children with the power of manifest AT Fields and the power of the Princes in one."]
[14:00] <Yanmei> "Heh. Your kids sound kind of hardcore? I bet it was difficult sometimes. Like, when they were little and threw tantrums and refused to go to sleep or take baths?"
[14:14] <Mianplo> ["Quite." Said Chiisana, shaking her head slowly. "But we were good parents, and they were good children. They grew up to be wonderful people. But their father was not around forever. It was… Not a personal thing. He had to travel, and they went with him to harness their abilities."-
[14:15] <Mianplo> ["The Princes of the Flow are trapped in the past, so my children and their father are the only hope for their species- to undo the trap, or at least carry on their powers."]
[14:18] <Yanmei> "Oh," she said softly. "I'm sorry. That could not have been easy?"
[14:19] <Mianplo> ["It wasn't." Said the Empress.-
[14:20] <Mianplo> ["But then, there were many hard things about my world." She said. "It… Was not as peaceful as I had hoped you all believed."]
[14:24] <Yanmei> "Uprisings?" she guessed with a hint of bitterness.
[14:25] <Mianplo> ["There were those, especially early on when I was establishing my power. Then there was a long stretch of peace, as people began realising that the world genuinely was better off under my rule."-
[14:27] <Mianplo> ["Things… Changed in the last 60 years, though. I'd limited weapons development, outside of that which I used to maintain my Evangelion. No one could threaten me and the world was more prosperous than ever." She said. "But people noticed my children- not my twelve children of time, but the others. I had many, many children as you know, and they of course had children, and so on. And the child of an Ayanami is as much an Ayanami as their parent."-
[14:28] <Mianplo> ["We were millions strong. And that frightened some people, who knew that their descendants would inevitably become Ayanamis, too. People who wanted to keep their descendants 'human'."-
[14:29] <Mianplo> ["At that time, I became the victim of my own success. For all my power, my nation was just too big for me to be everywhere at once."]
[14:35] <Yanmei> "Ah. What happened? You were clearly able to protect yourself, right?"
[14:54] <Mianplo> ["They awakened Adam."]
[14:56] <Yanmei> "W- How?!"
[14:57] <Mianplo> ["More or less the same way they did in your world." Said Chiisana. "Except, properly. They exhumed Adam, took her off-world, and… Synchronised with her."]
[14:59] <Yanmei> "A-and… Second Impact?"
[15:03] <Mianplo> ["Well it was off-world, wasn't it?" Said Chiisana. "And besides, Adam didn't explode, so there was no Second Impact."]
[15:04] <Yanmei> "Yes. But. Something must have happened?"
[15:11] <Mianplo> ["We fought."]
[15:16] <Yanmei> "Toe to toe? Did you win?"
[15:18] <Mianplo> ["… Not exactly." Said Chiisana. "I was able to use the Lance of Longinus to disable Adam, but the damage was done. In the chaos, there was a general uprising, and furthermore, Adam created Angels. I was injured and needed time to recouperate…"]
[13:14] <Yanmei> "You went undercover? Or… you escaped? To our timeline?"
[13:16] <Minaplo> ["I escaped and hid, yes. But then they- forced me out of hiding." She said, her voice tightening.]
[13:20] <Yanmei> "H-how?"
[13:28] <Minaplo> ["They began exterminating my children."]
[13:31] <Yanmei> "…"
[13:40] <Minaplo> ["So, I had to fight them." Said Chiisana. "But I wasn't winning."]
[13:46] <Yanmei> "Did you have to retreat again?"
[13:47] <Minaplo> ["In a way. I… Decided on a desperate gamble."]
[13:47] <Yanmei> "…oh?" she said cautiously.
[13:49] <Minaplo> ["Travelling to my world raised the alarm for the Princes of the Flow, for the father of my twelve special children." Said Chiisana. "Perhaps travelling back would… Raise the alarm again, and he would take notice and return."]
[13:58] <Yanmei> "That… really must have been incredibly hard. Did you have a way of ever getting back to where your children are, just to check on them?"
[13:58] <Minaplo> ["Have I gone back there since I arrived?"]
[13:59] <Yanmei> "Right. I'm sorry…"
[14:01] <Minaplo> ["I don't know if it worked. He certainly hasn't appeared to me." Said Chiisana bitterly.]
[14:08] <Yanmei> "Maybe he still will," said Yanmei hopefully. "Like, soon."
[14:11] <Minaplo> ["Maybe. I wish he would hurry up." Said Chii, standing and walking over to the railing, gripping it tightly. "I'm grateful that I was able to help you all. And to see you again. But I hate it here."]
[14:19] <Yanmei> "We're glad to have you here too, of course. And I understand. Anyone would want to go back with that situation going on? How did you make it here to begin with? Maybe there's a way to send you back with our help."
[14:20] <Minaplo> ["You don't remember?" Said Chii. "The portal I went through, in Ethiopia… The rule was that it only re-opened on the same day. For me, that was centuries away, but it did open up on that day in this year… I came through. The portal is gone."]
[14:34] <Yanmei> "For a long time now, we've been dealing with all sorts of things that can distort time and space in ways we barely understand. Like this time bubble? Maybe there's a way to cheat and send you back without that portal."
[14:37] <Minaplo> ["Maybe." Said Chiisana.-
[14:37] <Minaplo> ["Who knows. Maybe I'll go back to find all my children dead."]
[14:49] * Yanmei hesitated, losing sense of what to say with just that sentence. She reached out and gently patted one of Chiisana's hands.
[14:52] <Minaplo> [Chiisana looked down at Yanmei's hand, then after a moment's hesitation, took it.-
[14:52] <Minaplo> ["Do you know what I don't understand?"]
[14:53] <Yanmei> "What?"
[14:55] <Minaplo> ["My world… Was a paradise. Everyone was fed, clothed… There were lots of medicines, the technology was advanced beyond what we have here. The world was clean, nature was respected and the environment cared for. There were no wars, little violence…"-
[14:56] <Minaplo> ["And yet they still revolted." She said, spitting the words. "Why…? Was it just my children? My children were- were better humans, stronger and more powerful, why did they object so much to that? Why did they decide to destroy it all?"]
[15:01] <Yanmei> "I don't have any answers for you," Yanmei said quietly. "Maybe that's just the way humans are. Collectively, I mean."
[15:02] <Minaplo> ["Maybe."]
[15:16] <Yanmei> "Scared. Contrary. Willing to wreck a paradise to find autonomy…" Yanmei gave her hand a little squeeze. "It's frustrating? You can yell about it if you want. Or cry. Or kick something. I won't tell anyone."
[15:20] <Minaplo> ["I'd rather have their heads." She said, but she squeezed back all the same.]

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