For Dealing With Grief

[13:27] <Yanmei> On a cloudy, blustery, winter morning, a young lady showed up for work by train, her guardian having not been around to drop her off or to accompany her in her own car, as were the rules for those with learners permits in that country.-
[13:30] <Yanmei> She was dressed nicely. Thick stockings, ruffled skirt, dress blouse, a thick overcoat… but it was only a matter of time before she was trading that for another outfit, in a locker room tucked away within the massive structure that was NERV headquarters. -
[13:31] <Yanmei> It was still some time before she had to move to the cages, but she changed anyway, moving almost mechanically without thinking about it, her dark eyes vacant.
[13:32] <Asuka‘> [It was quiet and still in the locker room. Yanmei was certainly alone, and that’s probably how she liked it.-
[13:33] <Asuka‘> Or was she alone? There was a faint rustling of… Clothing? Something, behind her.
[13:44] <Yanmei> "…?" It took a while to notice it. A long while. But when she did, she clutched her unzipped plugsuit to herself quickly, struggling to hide any visible scars! She whipped around-
[13:47] <Asuka`> "Hah." Came a familiar voice. Asuka was in the doorway, leaning casually against the frame, dressed in her own bright red plugsuit, with a white coat over the top. "You’re taking your time, aren't you?"
[13:58] * Yanmei didn't relax completely. It was Asuka, but they were still in -public-. Sort of. "It's not like I'm on the clock just yet?" She averted her eyes, but only for a minute. "So I hear you've been sleeping at Fontaine's place…"
[13:59] * Asuka‘ stretched as she walked in. Unlike Yanmei she seemed completely relaxed. "Alex’s place is pretty big, and there's plenty of room to go around, especially since the Commander never uses her bed. You should come over some time~"
[14:01] <Yanmei> "I'll pass!" She sounded -annoyed- at that suggestion, turning back to methodically dressing herself. "But you should visit my place, even though it's a little more crowded. Seems like it's been a while since we bumped into each other."
[14:03] <Asuka‘> "Your place, eh…?" Asuka sat down on one of the changing benches, crossing her legs. "I’ll take your room. You can sleep on the couch! Thanks~"
[14:08] <Yanmei> "Eh?" She slipped both arms into the sleeves of her suit, and searched around for the zipper. "What a gracious guest you are…"
[14:09] * Asuka‘ stood up and grabbed the zipper. "You should be thanking me. Asuka the Great, staying at your place~ You should be treating me like the queen I am."
[14:16] <Yanmei> "Hm." she didn’t have much of a retort for that, so she just held still for her. She wondered if she should address the elephant in the room. Asuka didn't seem any more distressed than usual, but… Yanmei's eyes glazed over for a moment
[14:16] * Asuka‘ zipped the plugsuit up. "Hey, you’re going for a training sim, right?"
[14:18] <Yanmei> "…" Wait. She was saying something. "Huh?"
[14:21] <Asuka‘> "Hell-oooo-. Idiot Yanmei!" She knuckled Yanmei’s scalp. "Aren't you gonna do a sim today?"
[14:25] <Yanmei> "Easy!" Yanmei complained, flinching a little and ducking away. She raised a hand to her head. At least it wasn't a headlock this time. "Yeah, they're making me do that today." -
[14:25] <Yanmei> She did her best to sound professional about it. Why wouldn't she? It wasn't her first time, after all.
[14:26] <Asuka‘> "Then…" Asuka stepped back and gestured at Yanmei dramatically. "I challenge you to a simulated duel!"
[14:28] * Yanmei stared at her.
[14:29] <Asuka`> "One on one! The dashing beautiful Asuka versus the plain plum Yanmei~ Who will win? It’s obvious~"
[14:30] <Yanmei> "I think you have the titles reversed?" Yanmei tossed her hair, and then settled on a changing bench. "You really want to fight, huh?"
[14:32] <Asuka‘> "Hmph." Asuka folded her arms. "That’s right. I've been waiting a long time to teach you your place~"
[14:37] <Yanmei> "My place is towering above yours, Asuka dear. That should be obvious." She pressed a switch on the wrist band of the suit, and it formed abruptly to her body with a whooshing suction sound. She didn't quite meet her friend's gaze, though. There was a strange raw eagerness there, but pain, too.
[14:39] <Asuka‘> "You say that now. Come on!" Said Asuka, stampeding off towards the door. "When this is over, -I’ll- be on top."
[14:41] <Yanmei> Reluctantly… brimming with savage anticipation… Yanmei rose from her seat and decided to follow.
[14:45] <Asuka‘> [They passed through the corridors, Asuka moving pretty quickly all told. The Evangelion cages were… Different. Or rather, their contents had changed. The newly repaired EVA-04 was there, of course, but it was flanked by the red and orange EVA-02 on one side and the gold-yellow and red EVA-03 on the other.-
[14:48] <Asuka`> [It didn’t take long for them to convince the simulation team to run a dual scenario (or should that be duel scenario?). Before long, both girls were in the Plugs, immersed, and synchronised. Their Evangelions had been shifted into separate simulation rooms, and both were connected into the same simulated server. A low-res digital copy of Paris-2 surrounded them.]
[14:54] * Yanmei gripped two weapons. One was her favorite rifle and bayonet combination… and the other was new to her, bulkier, though it came with its own shiny melee part.
[14:54] <Asuka‘> > EVA-02 stared at her from nearly a kilometre away. Yanmei could see a shiny red chainsword in one hand- and a pistol in the other, reminiscent of her own new weapon. "You ready for this, Idiot Yanmei?"
[14:56] <Yanmei> "Who’s an idiot?" she grumbled, but it was an automatic response by now. Her mind was elsewhere, her expression on the video feed distracted.
[15:00] <Asuka‘> The air around 02 shimmered for a moment, before it started to walk forward.
[15:02] * Yanmei slipped back into the present situation just in time to mimic Asuka’s move.
[15:03] <Asuka‘> And then… Boom. EVA-02’s slow stride started to turn into a jog, then a run, then a full-on sprint, the digital air glitching and forming akin to a sonic burst. "Hyaaaaah…"
[15:12] <Yanmei> "Really. Attacking head on, like some comic book hero?" Yanmei smirked. Her AT field shimmered a little, setting off a chain-reaction in Asuka's, and she raised her new Bolt gun. "Too ba—aaah!" The recoil was hard enough to jerk her whole arm back, and the shot skimmed just over Asuka's shoulder, only to impact with an unfortunate digital representation of the Lourve. "W-what?!"
[15:20] <Asuka‘> "Can’t handle the rocket, huh? Lame…" Smirked Asuka, the Evangelion leaning to the side, before swinging its chainsword horizontally towards EVA-04, followed up with a point-blank pistol shot.
[15:25] <Yanmei> "Ngh-!" She felt the simulated impact of the sword, even though the pistol shot exploted harmlessly off her AT field. "You-!"
[15:28] <Asuka‘> "Too easy!" Asuka moved with the momentum of her sword blade, the Evangelion rotating about to deliver a smashing roundhouse kick straight to EVA-04’s head.
[15:35] * Yanmei dropped like a three-story brick, the pavement buckling under the weight of 04's collapse. But she was only on the ground for a split second before rolling forward and slashing wildly with a bayonet, fueled by manic desperation, her eyes and face tense.
[15:42] <Asuka‘> "Eh-?!" EVA-02 and its pilot were completely unprepared for Yanmei’s quick rise, and as such had only a little time to block. One attack went wide, but the other two dug into 02's torso and right arm. "G-hh. Damnit…" She quickly brought the bolt pistol up to open fire on 04's head, but missed. "DAMNIT!"
[15:46] <Yanmei> Having found success at something, Yanmei sure as hell wasn't stopping now! Slash, slash!
[15:55] <Asuka‘> "Agh-! That’s- enough-!" Momentarily hobbled as bayonet blades cut into 02's legs, Asuka slashed upward with her chainsword, taking off EVA-04's left arm in a single slash, straight off the shoulder.-
[15:56] <Asuka‘> [Meanwhile, the command crew watched in awe. "Hey, hey, get a look at this-" "What, are Zhang and Langley going at it? Awesome!" "Someone get the popcorn-" "50 francs Zhang wins!" "Hell no! 100 francs on Langley!"]
[16:05] * Yanmei tensed, scowling in concentration. It was rare for her to attempt these sort of things, but - Asuka would suddenly find the strength of her AT field returning… only for something hard and intangible to smash into both it and EVA alike, as a shimmering sphere surrounded 04 and surged outward in a blinding split-second flash.
[16:08] <Asuka`> "Ah-?!" EVA-02 threw its arms up and hunkered its head down, digging into the digital turf below. "Unnng-" As the force finally passed by, EVA-02 lifted its head- and not just its head. With its newly liberated AT Field, it flipped high into the air…
[16:11] <Yanmei> "And what are you trying to do up there?" It wasn’t her AT trick that got her moving… but she couldn't help but feel smug at the apparent retreat
[16:13] <Asuka‘> With a smooth motion, EVA-02’s body slid into what was unmistakably a flying kick, right leg held out long, left leg tucked into the side. "Chuuuuuuuu-" The Evangelion hung in midair for a second, before hurtling down towards Yanmei at breakneck speeds. "NOOOOOOH! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEH!"
[16:15] <Yanmei> "… …!!!" Yanmei's eyes went wide. She brought her one remaining rifle up quickly to block, just barely making it.
[16:16] <Asuka‘> [A thundering crack shook the air, nevertheless…]
[16:16] <Asuka`> EVA-02 did a backflip a moment after impact, landing back where it had been before.
[16:22] <Yanmei> "Guh-!" The dust was settling, metaphorically. 04’s poor arm… it was still attached, and she could stil move her trigger finger at least. "Hup!" She leaped… slowed in mid-air, arching in graceful backflip and aiming, just as she was right above Asuka.-
[16:24] <Yanmei> "Too bad," She winked at her, impressed with even her own cool stunt, the muzzle just a stone's throw from 02's face.
[16:25] <Asuka‘> "Eh-!!!"
[16:25] * Yanmei pulled the trigger! CLICK
[16:25] <Asuka`> "…"
[16:26] <Yanmei> "…"
[16:26] <Asuka`> EVA-02 quickly raised its bolt pistol, the green eyes flashing for a second-!
[16:31] <Yanmei> Welp. Yanmei made a break for it, flipping upright, and soaring away a good hundred meters or so. No way in hell she would hit her from that distance.
[16:34] <Asuka`> Thud! The sound of a bolter retort, different to the bolt pistol… Yanmei would see Asuka opening fire with Yanmei’s own damn gun! And a second later, Yanmei's AT Field started to collapse…
[16:42] * Yanmei kicked her legs out beneath herself, feeling the loss of altitude, and skidded the last few yards of her flight. -
[16:43] <Yanmei> On the ground, she took a deep breath, and pivoted on a leg with a knee that creaked and groaned in a most disturbing fashion, and sprinted this time back at Asuka, her only bayonet raised determinedly.
[16:45] <Asuka‘> "Charging head on? Hah…" Asuka swept her chainsword out to parry- but the blade went wide, and EVA-02 was sharply impaled in the left arm, which spasmed, the bolter clattering onto the pavement. "G-guh…"
[16:48] <Yanmei> "Hey, Asuka?" Yanmei kept a grip on the bayonet, clinging to dear life. "May I ask you something?"
[16:49] <Asuka`> "Huh? What, right now?"
[16:50] <Yanmei> "Why not?" Yanmei twisted the blade a little. "Why did you really insist on fighting?"
[16:52] <Asuka`> "Eh? Geez… It’s not enough that I just like fighting, huh?" EVA-02 grabbed onto EVA-04's remaining arm with the left. "You really wanna know why…?"
[16:54] * Yanmei tried to resist, shifting her weight, but she was already off balance. "..!"
[16:54] <Asuka‘> EVA-02 lifted its left leg, and in one simultaneous action, kicked EVA-04 straight in the chest whilst bringing the chainsword straight through the shoulder, separating it cleanly and sending EVA-04 stumbling backward.
[16:56] * Yanmei fell backward hard after the first few stumbles, and stared up in… awed disbelief. She could allow herself that muc before the embarassment set in. People were -watching- this!
[17:02] <Asuka`> EVA-02 stepped over to Yanmei, and she could just -see- the cockiness in that pose, before it tossed the chainsword away. "The answer’s actually really simple, Idiot Yanmei." EVA-02 nudged 04's body around with its toe, before it hunched down, sitting on the beaten Evangelion. "Fighting feels -good-. It gets the blood flowing. It's sort of like a release, like crying, or…" EVA-02 gave the torso a solid punch, because why not? "But it's more appropriate for us. Because sometimes, we feel angry, or sometimes we just feel like beating the crap out of something, you know? Or sometimes getting ourselves beat, but that doesn't really matter so long as -something- happens, and that at the end of it, you feel worn out, sweaty, but you feel good about it, and you can look at your opponent and know that you just nearly killed each other, but there aren't any hard feelings there, because we're like sisters, even if you -are- a big idiot."
[17:09] <Yanmei> "You're the" -oof- "idiot." She wasn't resisting the blows. There was no way to do that, exactly. "I already knew that stuff. But thank you. It's nice to be indulged."
[17:11] <Asuka‘> "Hey, turn off your public comms for a minute."
[17:12] * Yanmei followed her suggestion by flipping something on her control panel. "Yes?"
[17:14] <Asuka`> Asuka opened a 1-to-1 channel to Yanmei, visual. The girl was looking, indeed, sweaty and exhiliarated. "I’m only gonna say this once, so don't forget it, ok?"
[17:16] <Yanmei> "What's that?" Yanmei was slightly less sweaty than her counterpart, and was wrapping something of a composed air around herself… but there was a noticable spark in her eye now, from excitement or something else.
[17:18] <Asuka‘> "I know that it hurts, to do what you did in Algeria. It was a really shitty situation. Casualties suck, but when it happens like that… You keep asking yourself, did I do the right thing. It’s not fair." Asuka leaned forward. "But I really admire you. Even though it probably hurt like hell… You did what was necessary. That doesn't make you a monster or anything, so don't get any ideas. But it just takes a lot of guts to do that…"
[17:25] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei looked away from the feed for a moment. But she couldn't ignore something so seemingly heartful from Asuka, even if they stung in an unintentional way. "Thank you, Asuka. I'm not sure if it was anything admirable, but… th-that means a lot."
[17:26] <Asuka‘> "Of course it does." Said Asuka smugly. "I said it. You’re probably going 'Geez, why isn't Asuka more angry at me?', right?"
[17:28] <Yanmei> "Not really? You -did- just tear both of my arms off."
[17:28] <Asuka‘> "Idiot! I didn’t mean that." Wham! A solid punch to the head. "I meant, about Atticus."
[17:31] <Yanmei> "… you're like Alexandre," she observed quietly. She'd barely registered that last punch, save for a slight sympathetic head jerk in the plug. "I hate to admit it, but I don't get it."
[17:36] <Asuka‘> "We’re trained… Strangely, Yanmei." Said Asuka. "We're trained to expect that our teammates, our comrades will die one day, from the very start. We're also taught to form bonds despite that…" Asuka frowned. "Before you guys left for Algeria, Alex, Atticus and me, went out to a restaurant, and we had a good time, and we said goodbye, because we knew he might die out there. We knew he was in a very dangerous situation, but he had all the help he could. It just simply was his fate." Asuka shrugged. "We're still sad. But we know how to cope with losing teammates." A pause. "… Atticus told us to look after you, that night. No matter what happens. I think in some way, he sort of anticipated that what happened… Might happened. I think he would've wanted you to take him out in that case."
[17:43] <Yanmei> "You were prepared for this." It wasn't a question, and there was, in fact, a sort of tension there. "The three of you, anyway."
[17:44] <Asuka‘> "That’s right."
[17:47] <Yanmei> "So that's why Fontaine was so nosy the other day? And this fight was your way of 'looking after me'."
[17:52] <Asuka‘> "Yup. You -aren’t- trained like us. You're a civilian inside. You probably don't even like voicing the idea that you could die." Said Asuka. "But it's more than just because Atticus asked, you know… You don't have a 'family' like we do, or like the other pilots do. Your Isaiah's great and all, but sometimes you need a different perspective. Basically, we actually care about you, and we wanna let you know that it's ok to feel hurt, and you sure as hell didn't do anything wrong."
[18:01] * Yanmei gripped the controls tightly for a moment, and then sagged in her seat as if defeated. "I know that. I don't need it repeated over and over. I'm… I'm no Neospartan, but I'm at least stronger than you guys think I am!"
[18:02] <Asuka‘> Wham. Another punch. Asuka sighed. "Idiot! I know you’re plenty strong. Didn't I say I admired you? Urgh." A second punch. "But you're a double-super idiot if you think you're so strong that our help isn't needed."
[18:09] <Yanmei> "I never said that either! Just…" She couldn't ignore the stab of mortification that she was feeling. "Just let me up for a minute. Let me -think- about this stuff."
[18:12] <Asuka‘> "Tch, fine." EVA-02 stood up and pulled EVA-04 to its feet.
[18:21] <Yanmei> So 04 was on its feet again, however unsteadily, the pilot inside veiling her eyes behind shadows. "I think we’re about done with this simulation, wouldn't you say? I'll call you later, Asuka. If you're not sticking around for more tests, that is…"
[18:23] <Asuka‘> "Yeah yeah." Said Asuka. "I’ll be at Alex's place, so call me on my mobile." Asuka stretched. "You should head home. Make that boy of yours cook you a three course meal- I know I'll be making Alex do that~"-
[18:24] <Asuka‘> [There was a flicker, before the scenario’s server closed, and Yanmei found herself in the Entry plug, an intact EVA-04 around her.]

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