For The Love Of Life 1 2

[07:36] <Minaplo> [END OF EVANGELION. Date: 2nd of May, 2018. "For the Love of Life" 1.2-
[07:37] <Minaplo> [Hours to Doomsday: -139:11:45.-
[07:41] <Minaplo> [Ker-crack!-
[07:41] <Minaplo> [One second, they were on the Battleship deck; the next, they were elsewhere, beneath the earth. The four of them had clustered around Ezekiel, who had jaunted them into this new place.-
[07:43] <Minaplo> [If they were expecting sickness, or vomiting, they would be pleasantly surprised to find themselves completely unfazed by the event.-
[07:44] <Minaplo> [The room around them was, bluntly, a large rock box, the walls and ground made up of large slabs of rock roughly held together by force. The only signs that the room had ever seen the touch of a human was the large round stone door to the south, and a pile of torches near one of the walls, with fuels.]
06[07:53] * Aline was, to be honest, expecting sickness. But to be without it was pleasant indeed. But now… now she was in the place. "…Maybe not entirely what I expected, but no idea what I expected to begin with."
01[07:55] <Yanmei> "Certainly is rustic?" Yanmei took a few steps forward, eyeing the door warily. She was dressed from head to toe in her black glossy deatharmor. "Probably rigged with traps," she muttered.
06[07:55] * Aline , it was worth noting, was in the hide of an Angelspawn. Festive. Still, the claws hanging over her hands added a certain charm.
[07:56] <Sept> As soon as Sera was finished with his careful, super-slow breathing anticipating that nausea, he began checking his gear. "Yeah. Let's see if this piece of junk works," he said, flicking his visor on.
[08:18] <Minaplo> ["This is the room I came to after father was hurt." Said Vercingetorix. "We never went beyond this room…"-
[08:18] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel frowned. "I believe we have triggered remote security systems."]
[08:20] <Sept> "Already? Suppose we should get moving, then." Sera packed a couple of the torches in his backpack for good measure.
06[08:21] * Aline looked around a bit. "Should check the door. At this rate, a small dose of paranoia might save our lives."
[08:21] <Minaplo> ["Yes. A massive AT disruption field has begun to operate."]
[08:23] <Sept> "… are you saying we're stuck here?"
[08:24] <Minaplo> ["Until we deactivate the field, yes."]
06[08:26] * Aline stared out a bit, towards the door. "A good incentive to get moving, then." But she paused briefly. "…There's a spike trap at the door."
01[08:28] <Yanmei> "Yes, there is. Let's just set it off, please. If we can see where they come up, we can avoid stepping on them."
06[08:55] * Sept tossed a torch ahead onto it, the sharp points immediately appearing as the door slid open. "I'll… go first, someone follow me on the delay as they reset?"
[08:57] <Minaplo> ["Best if I do." Said Vercingetorix.]
01[08:57] <Yanmei> "I'll go after it resets, then." Yanmei went through her bag, briefly, before finding and tossing a flashlight over to Ezekiel. "Same goes for the people going after me. Who wants to bring up the rear?"
[08:58] <Minaplo> ["I can do that." Said Ezekiel.]
06[08:59] * Aline nodded. "Then I'll follow you, Yanmei."
01[08:59] <Yanmei> "Then we have our order." Yanmei said with a nod. "De Pteres, if you would be so kind?"
[09:03] <Sept> "Mhm," he nodded, taking a running start to clear as much of the area as he could without being in range of the spikes. And with a tumbling landing, he reached the other side of the door, standing up to the side and brushing the dust off.
[09:04] <Minaplo> [And Vercingetorix was after him, clearing the spikes with a single leap.]
06[09:06] * Yanmei was next, waiting for the spikes to reset before making her jump without a hitch.
06[09:06] * Aline quickly followed, somehow managing to dash through the gaps in the spikes!
[09:08] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel was last. He grabbed a spare torch and threw it over the reset spikes. As they launched up, he gracefully leapt through them.-
[09:09] <Minaplo> [They would find themselves in a narrow corridor, an antechamber really; for their lights could illuminate the next area…-
[09:10] <Minaplo> [The next area was a gigantic tunnel, running across their path. And right through the middle of it was a river, the liquid rushing- albeit slower than water would be- and tinted black…]
06[09:13] * Aline looked down at the 'water', and clicked on her own flashlight to see herself. "…Well then."
[09:18] <Sept> "What… is that?"
[09:18] <Minaplo> ["A river of unidentified liquid, barring our way, and most likely possessing negative effects."]
01[09:21] <Yanmei> "…let's try not to think about what's generating it and where it's flowing," Yanmei muttered, peering across.
[09:25] <Minaplo> [She could see the other side, it was about four or five metres away… It was safe, it was the crossing that was the issue.]
[09:26] <Sept> "Yeah," Sera said, grimacing. "I could probably grapple across, but…" He looked around, examining and yanking at one of the torch brackets. "I don't think we can trust these walls to hold our weight. Maybe Ezekiel, since he's not really encumbered here."
06[09:27] * Aline was crouching slightly near the liquid. "I wonder…"
06[09:30] * Aline then carefully backed off. "…Well. At least we know what it is. I thought that black color was a bit telling, but…" Aline looked fairly grim. "Hell if I know where it's coming from but it's basically a cross between bakelite and a flesh-devouring chemical used on Angelic tissue samples."
[09:31] <Sept> "I don't suppose your suit's made of something ultra-light, Shinji? We'll need to get you across before we consider anything else."-
03[09:31] * ChanServ sets mode: +qo Minaplo Minaplo
[09:31] <Sept> "Flesh-devouring. Excellent."
01[09:31] <Yanmei> "So what you're saying is that we -can't fall in this stuff ever-." -
01[09:33] <Yanmei> Yanmei was frowning, directing her gaze upward. "Dumping our stuff to make ourselves lighter isn't really optimal."
[09:34] <Aline> "No, no it isn't. And the only plans other than 'grapple across and hope for the best' are vaguely dumb and involve explosives."
[09:34] <Aline> *plans I have
[09:35] <Sept> "With some precautions, I think we should be able to make sure it's reasonably safe, but we just need to toss Shinji across or something first."
[09:35] <@Minaplo> ["Err, what?"]
01[09:43] <Yanmei> "No tossing," said Yanmei firmly. "What about swinging? Like, from above?" She gestured.
06[09:47] * Aline scratched her chin slightly. "Could work."
[09:48] <Sept> "…yeah, alright. Could get a rope tied up there. Want me to try?"
01[09:50] <Yanmei> "Let's go for it? It's got to be better than trusting the walls."
06[09:54] * Sept took aim and fired his grappling hook at the ceiling, tugging at the cable and then hoisting himself up along it. Feeding some rope from his backpack, he looped it around one of the more uneven bits of rock and tied it up firmly. "That should do it." Descending back down again on the other side, he cut the rope to an appropriate length, and let it swing back across.
06[09:55] * Yanmei caught the rope, and then glanced to Shinji, ready to hand it off. "Let's get you across first, hm?"
[09:58] <@Minaplo> ["…" Shinji, his face covered, was unreadable. Yet his body language said it all. He took off his power fists, threw them across (they bounced against a loose brick, which fell out, smashing into the ground), grabbed the rope, paused- then took a running leap and leapt across, clutching the rope for dear life!-
[09:59] <@Minaplo> [He landed on the other side, a good landing, only stumbling a little. He deflated, allowing himself to breathe again… Before tossing the rope over.]
06[10:03] * Aline caught it. "Alright, I'm coming next!" …And Aline backed up as far as the - rather short - rope would allow, got a running start, and then went across, before tossing the rope once someone else looked ready.
[10:04] <@Minaplo> [Shinji was there to steady her as she landed!]
06[10:06] * Yanmei caught the rope again, braced herself, and was soon swinging to the other side herself! She tossed it back over as soon as she landed. "C'mon!"
[10:12] <@Minaplo> [And Ezekiel took it, gliding along with all the poise of a ballet dancer… If only Minerva could see how his hair flowed.]
[10:17] <Sept> "Right." Sera disposed of the rope, and onwards they went.
[10:19] <@Minaplo> [On the southern side of the room, they would come across three stone doors, one to the far west, one to the far east and one in the middle. Each was marked with strange writings…]
06[10:27] * Aline wandered around, reading each door's markings… "First of all. Above the doors, is a warning that only two may enter any given door. Any more 'we will smite'. Otherwise…" She turned to the others. "Each door's passage speaks of a songbird that would not sing, and those passing are asked how to make it sing. One…" She pointed to the western door. "…speaks of patiently thinking
06[10:27] * Aline of a solution. Another…" Center. "…speaks of killing it." Then the eastern door. "The last, to charm it and persuade it to sing."
01[10:32] <Yanmei> "Hm. How does killing a bird make it sing…?"
[10:32] <Sept> "One way to find out?"
06[10:34] * Aline shrugged. "The implication was as a example or the like." But Aline shrugged. "My guess, is that each is a warning of what is ahead."
01[10:42] <Yanmei> "In that case, we need to be honest with ourselves and go the route that our abilities are best suited for." Yanmei hesitated between the killing door and the charming door, but soon found herself gravitating toward the later. "We split up now, and hope our paths converge momentarily."
[10:44] <Aline> "…Yeah." Aline went towards the 'thinking' door, then!
06[10:44] * Aline then paused. "Actually…"
[10:45] <Sept> "I guess this is more my speed, then," Sera said, eyeing the Kill door. "Alright. Good luck, everyone. Yeah?"
06[10:45] * Aline pulled a bunch of radios out of her backpack. "These three, plus one I got my hands on - I didn't anticipate there being five of us, sorry - are all short-range transceivers. I dunno if they'll be jammed or not, but it's a good idea to have them in case we do get lost or something."
01[10:47] <Yanmei> "-Very- good idea," Yanmei agreed, making her way back over to snag one, and then about-facing once again. "Good luck to everyone?"
[10:49] <Sept> "Good plan. I'll see you on the other side, then."
06[10:51] * Aline finished dispersing radios, and then… made it to her door. "So just me for this one, then…"
[10:56] <@Minaplo> [The hand alcove awaited her…]
06[10:58] * Aline placed her hand in it, after taking a deep breath…
[10:58] <@Minaplo> [After a few seconds, it seemed to realise Aline wa alone. The door opened, splitting down the middle.]
06[11:00] * Aline looked through carefully, before proceeding with equal care…
[11:02] <@Minaplo> [And the door snapped shut behind her. It was deathly quiet…]
06[11:07] * Aline looked around cautiously, and listened closely. She didn't say anything, but looked contemplative. Either way, she moved through the hall…
[11:08] <@Minaplo> [She would run into a corner within metres, and turning around, she would see…-
[11:09] <@Minaplo> [He was a tall, strong man, old but not undimmed; his age made him seem fiercer. His hair was silver-white, a groomed moustache on his lip. He was clad head to toe in lacquered samurai Lamellar armour, a katana on his belt, a fan in his hand. He was sitting on a small Japanese fold-out chair.-
[11:10] <@Minaplo> [He looked up to see Aline, letting out a short 'huhn'.]
06[11:15] * Aline looked more than a bit surprised, but soon gave a gentle bow in response.
[11:19] <@Minaplo> [He stared at her, then gave her the low nod that a superior gives to a lesser.-
[11:19] <@Minaplo> ["He said that you would be the one to come." Said the Samurai, his voice deep and powerful. He seemed to be impressed. "He even predicted that you would bow."]
[11:26] <Aline> "Yes… Given the instructions, it made sense? But, I see all the same." Aline stepped a bit closer, but kept a respectful distance, and spoke in measured tones. "I'd say I didn't predict this, but in truth, I didn't make too many predictions, preferring to simply be ready for whatever came."
[11:32] <@Minaplo> ["Huhn. The man who sees one enemy does not see the second? Fair. Tell me, the man who told me all this… Which door would he walk through, do you think?"]
06[11:40] * Aline closed her eyes and concentrated. "I would think this one. He possibly once knew the ways of charm, but more recently would pay it little mind. The art of killing… no doubt he learnt of it, but it didn't seem like his preferred method. Yet, thought? A pasttime, for sure."
[11:44] <@Minaplo> ["Not an uncommon nor unfair assessment, yet it is also true that he was capable of decisive action when called for."]


(13:20:42) Aline: "Yes." Aline said genially, and she put a hand to her side. "I have definitely seen that, too."
(13:23:14) Minaplo: ["I figured so. Huhn." He shifted slightly. "So, what are you waiting for?"]
(13:26:39) * Aline raised her other hand to scratch her chin idly, before smiling very lightly. "Only the solution, right now. But I suppose that looking and understanding are in order."
(13:27:26) Minaplo: ["Hhn. If you want to go past me, I'm not going to stop you."]
(13:31:52) * Aline nodded her head politely again. "I will see what I can do, but I appreciate that all the same." …And she began to walk forward and past him, to see the door!
(13:44:38) Minaplo: [And so she advanced.-
(13:44:47) Minaplo: [She'd find the door. Unlike the previous door, it had no handprints…-
(13:45:14) Minaplo: [The only notable thing about it in fact was that there was a small gap in the middle, surrounded by a sunken circle. That is to say, an alcove that would be a perfect fit…-
(13:45:17) Minaplo: [For a katana.]
(13:50:13) * Aline stared at it for a moment. "…" Her silence was palpable. But eventually, Aline turned back, to go meet with the samurai again. "…A very strange door."
(13:51:10) Minaplo: ["With a very strange key, no?"]
(13:54:09) Aline: "Yes. I imagine you were either patient for me - or whomever else may have come - or there is some kind of problem at hand. Not to be presumptuous, of course."
(13:56:26) Minaplo: ["Oh?"]
(13:59:03) * Aline sweated slightly. "…An instinct of mine is telling me that this is a surprisingly easy solution, if you are willing to accompany me and use said key. I may just be second-guessing myself."
(14:00:28) Minaplo: ["Heh. This old man isn't going to move just because you ask, missy."]
(14:03:02) * Aline smiled again. "Ah, so I was right to have that instinct. What, then, would 'this old man' move for? It cannot hurt to at least inquire."
(14:04:38) Minaplo: ["A good question, but if this little songbird were to sing so easily, that'd defeat the point, wouldn't it?"]
(14:08:42) Aline: "It would." Aline leaned against the wall, and began to think for a moment. "If I may be so bold as to hypothesize out loud… It is obvious you are not in a great hurry, which suggests either a very relaxed character, or that you are at least somewhat comfortable doing what you are now for other reasons."
(14:13:49) Minaplo: ["Your observation stands."]
(14:18:34) * Aline reclined a bit further. "Unfortunately for such calm, I am. The secrets in this place are a necessary part of an attempt to prevent a rather vast catastrophe. Still…"
(14:21:41) Minaplo: ["Oh yes, rushing off to save the world. Mmhmm, if you pass that door, you will definitely find the secret you desire."]
(14:24:17) * Aline nodded. "Good to know. I do apologize for the haste. I suppose I could take some more time to think."
(14:24:40) Minaplo: ["Well, if you are taking time, then come and sit, and I will tell you tales."]
(14:26:52) * Aline smiled lightly, again, and went ahead and sat wherever she could. "I wouldn't mind that. It may give inspiration anyway."
(14:28:10) Minaplo: [He nodded.-
(14:29:14) Minaplo: ["The poem that was on the doors, did you know who it referred to? It is an old Japanese poem. If the songbird doesn't sing, what do you do? The first says, if it does not sing, then I will kill it. The second says, if it does not sing, then I will coax it to sing. The third says, if the bird does not sing, I will be patient and think until it does."-
(14:30:12) Minaplo: ["It refers to the three victorious warlords of Sengoku. The first is Oda Nobunaga, who was brutal and ruthless. The second is Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who was clever and persuasive. And third was Tokugawa Ieyasu, who was patient and worked off the successes of his predecessors to gain total victory."]
(14:36:45) * Aline seemed rather interested now. "I certainly remember those names now that you mention them…" She looked towards the bend in the hall - or the door, whichever worked - and thought for a moment. "Successes of his predecessors… Having allowed them to work through it, then using the opportunity to complete the act."
(14:40:43) Minaplo: ["Indeed. As they say, Oda made the cake, Toyotomi baked it, and Tokugawa ate it."]
(14:44:45) Aline: "I believe that has given me an idea. Thank you." …And Aline pulled out something from her pack - one of the short-range radios! Hopefully, it'd signal properly. So, she tested it, pressing the talk button. "Hey. I had a thought."
(15:07:36) Minaplo: ["What have they told you?"]
(15:11:28) * Aline shook her head. "…Nothing of circumstance - that is to say, that they can't find anything that they could use." She looked a bit disappointed. "…It was a decent idea, it just didn't line up with reality."
(15:20:28) Minaplo: [He began to chuckle.]
(15:23:07) * Aline leaned back slightly. "…I suppose I should think, or maybe listen /and/ think, some more."
(15:30:23) * Aline looked down at her radio and spoke some more! Speak speak speak.
(15:46:32) * Aline looked up at him. "You probably heard that. I'm personally thinking you probably have some kind of available food or… something?"
(15:47:35) Minaplo: ["I am in fact just a man, who needs to eat like any other."]
(15:53:45) * Aline nodded. "Which makes sense. I know you likely can open that door, so there might be food elsewhere in here." But a sidelong tilt of her head. "Hmm."
(16:03:17) Minaplo: [He began to chuckle again. "Let me share with you another fine tale."]
(16:08:07) Aline: "…Sure. I'm sorry."
(16:10:45) Minaplo: ["Don't apologise. I am passing time!"-
(16:15:46) Minaplo: ["Long ago, when a land long united began to divide, Lord Cao Mengde ment Yuan Shao at Guandu. Although Yuan Shao had a mighty army and Cao Mengde's army was small compared, for nine months Mengde held Yuan Shao at Guandu, not giving an inch. Cao Mengde thought of retreat, for his supplies were low, Xu Wenruo, Mengde's strategist, cautioned him to remain: for although weaker, he had gripped
(16:15:46) Minaplo: Yuan by the throat at this place for such a time that surely, this great force must buckle and a crisis must emerge."-
(16:17:55) Minaplo: ["Mengde relented and took Wenruo's advice, and dug in, and patiently awaited a crisis he could exploit. When the time came, he seized it- the enemy's supply line was stretched, and their army's food supplies were placed in an exposed spot. Mengde struck, and destroyed their supplies, and Yuan's mighty army collapsed, and within two years, Yuan was dead."]
(16:25:52) * Aline nodded. "…I see."
(16:34:07) Minaplo: ["Now, let me tell you a story about Take-Minataka…"-
(16:35:33) Minaplo: [About an hour and a half passed as the old man spoke. He never rambled, exactly- he always knew exactly what he was saying, and never had to think or mull it. He seemed to know an ungodly amount of stories and little historical tales…-
(16:37:07) Minaplo: [Eventually, the samurai got to his feet, put his hands on his hips and stretched his legs out. "This old man here is hungry."-
(16:37:15) Minaplo: [He turned and headed down the hallway towards the door…]
(16:38:32) * Aline picked herself up, and followed along diligently~ This was her opening, clearly.
(16:46:43) Minaplo: [He approached the door, and in one smooth action, pulled out his sword, stabbed it into the alcove, and twisted. He pulled it out, and the door slid open…-
(16:47:49) Minaplo: [A corridor was revealed, along with a wide room. By this point the samurai's food stores had been well and truly decimated, and he entered the room with a sigh. "My Wuchao has been burned."]
(16:50:31) * Aline stepped out a bit more, and shrugged. "…Well, at the very least, there'll be food on the outside, no?"
(16:50:45) Sept: "She burned your what?"
(16:53:13) * Yanmei was idly poking at the trapdoor with Excalibur. She'd been in the midst of a shipping discussion with Ezekiel, only now turning when the new arrivals entered. "Ah, hey!"
(16:54:22) * Aline waved politely. "Hi~"
(16:56:55) Minaplo: ["My Wuchao- it is a fine tale, let me regale you with it- later." Said the old man. For Yanmei and Sera's benefit- he was a tall, strong man, his hair pure and white, a well-brushed moustache on his top lip. He was clad in armour with the likeness of Samurai lamellar, and he had a katana on his hip.-
(16:57:05) Minaplo: ["The trapdoor should be unlocked, now."]
(16:58:23) Yanmei: "Eh?" Yanmei blinked and then tried it now, in earnest.
(16:59:38) * Sept , to his credit, had gotten most of the blood off in the meantime, though he still looked like he'd spent a day crawling through the jungle. "Any idea what we've got ahead of us, then?"
(17:03:59) Minaplo: [The trapdoor opened easily, revealing…-
(17:04:11) Minaplo: [A very long, black shaft. The bottom could not be seen at all.-
(17:04:33) Minaplo: ["I do." Said the Samurai. He walked over and peered down the hole. "Jump in."]
(17:07:34) Sept: "Yeah? What's the landing like?"
(17:09:03) * Aline looked down, as well. "Mmmm."
(17:09:30) Minaplo: ["The landing is like a landing." Said the samurai. "Jump."]
(17:10:36) Yanmei: "Mmph." Yanmei eyed the depths critically. "Ms. Helen, you first."
(17:11:13) Minaplo: ["Scared, Plumhead?" Helen tossed her head, pushing Yanmei out of the way. "I fear nothing!"-
(17:12:23) Minaplo: [And without hesitation she leapt into the hole…-
(17:12:47) Minaplo: [… She fell for about five metres, and then her rate of drop slowed to a gentle fall. She slowly floated out of view.]
(17:15:13) Yanmei: "…huh." Yanmei steeled herself and tried it next, encouraged by the lack of resulting horrors. "See you on the other side? Hup!" Down she went!
(17:15:34) * Aline stared all the way. "…Well then." And, after a moment to let Yanmei and Helen pass through, she went down too!
(17:15:42) Sept: "Hmh. Right." Sera followed, glancing at each of the others to make sure no one would be staying behind.
(17:17:20) Minaplo: [Ezekiel followed, then Sera, then finally the Samurai…-
(17:20:33) Minaplo: [After fifteen minutes of floating, they landed in a chamber. It was essentially like the others in shape, with three doors- to the west, north and east- but the stone here was much smoother, with shattered hexagonal patterns running across the floor and wall.]
(17:30:22) Sept: "Familiar decorating style," Sera noted as he took stock of the chamber.
(17:32:55) Yanmei: "Hmm." Yanmei was eying the doors from where she stood. "Which direction are we supposed to head in…?
(17:34:45) * Aline looked around, too. "…I wouldn't know."
(17:38:17) * Sept advanced closer to take a look at the doors themselves.
(17:42:42) Minaplo: [Each door had a dual-handprint system, like the ones before. On each door was a masterful engraving.-
(17:50:41) Minaplo: [On the western door was an engraving of five pllars, each decorated with a symbol- fire, water, air, earth and iron. In the middle of the five pillars was a woman, a snake coiled around her body.-
(17:52:50) Minaplo: [On the northern door was an engraved triptych, the left panel showing a single robed figure; the centre panel showing the figure sliced into quarters; the right panel showed the four quartered parts each replaced with a copy of the original.-
(17:53:21) Minaplo: [and the eastern door possessed an engraved image of two robed women, sitting on thrones, each bearing a sword and sceptre; a crown sat on their heads.]
(18:00:30) Sept: "Well. I guess this one's mine. Then we've got Fifth Element over here and some kind of royals."
(18:02:01) Sept: "Oh, you coming along for these, patient ninja? What was your name, again?"
(18:02:33) * Aline twitched at the word 'ninja'.
(18:03:16) Minaplo: ["My name is Tsukino Haruki. And I will go where I am needed."]
(18:12:23) Yanmei: "Thank you for the assistance, Mr. Tsukino. And. In that case~" Yanmei tossed her hair, and stepped toward the 'royal' door. "We basically pick the door that resonates the most with us, right? Mr. Ezekiel, do you want to continue together?"
(18:12:57) Minaplo: ["I am unsure if I am suitable, but I will do as you say."]
(18:13:35) * Aline strode toward the door with the pillars. "…Yeah, it seems like it."
(18:14:02) Minaplo: ["… Alright." Shinji nodded, and headed towards the northern door, putting his hand in the alcove. "Do it, Sera."]
(18:15:50) * Sept did, wondering what madness lay ahead. Clearly four armored lions combining into a lion mecha, judging by the triptych.
(18:17:22) * Aline looked to Haruki. "Care to come with?"
(18:17:41) Minaplo: ["Very well." He walked over to the door, put his hand into the alcove…]
(18:18:42) * Aline put hers in another!
(18:18:48) * Yanmei hand placed a hand in it's proper alcove as well. She was peering over her shoulder at Helen. "Listen? We're coming right back for you. Don't do anything to infuriate the security system here."
(18:18:57) Minaplo: ["Silence, Plumhead!"-
(18:19:02) Minaplo: [Ezekiel placed his hand in the alcove.-
(18:19:04) Minaplo: […-
(18:19:06) Minaplo: […-
(18:19:16) Minaplo: [The three doors remained firmly unmoved.]
(18:19:35) * Aline blinked rather pointedly. "…Ah?"
(18:22:49) Yanmei: "We messed up?" Yanmei pulled back, frowning.
(18:23:50) Sept: "Mm. Something like that. Let me try this alone?" He motioned Shinji off the second alcove.
(18:27:42) Minaplo: [Shinji stepped back.]
(18:28:43) * Sept took a step toward the middle of the door, placing a hand in both alcoves, however awkwardly they might fit.
(18:30:52) Minaplo: [It was an incredibly awkward fit. Also, it didn't work.]
(18:38:08) Minaplo: [And so they began to try different combinations. At first they just swapped 'companions', then they began swapping pilots…-
(18:38:35) Minaplo: [It took surprisingly longer than expected.-
(18:38:51) Minaplo: [About twenty minutes had passed, and the doors remained stubbornly unmoved.]
(18:41:10) * Aline would, when they seemed to run out of options… look up. Just in case.
(18:44:38) * Yanmei was looking around too. Suddenly, she stiffened, locking in the direction they had floated from. "Something's coming?"
(18:46:53) * Aline backpedalled slightly from where she was. "…Ah?
(18:47:08) * Sept turned to look that way as well. "Must be humanoid to come all the way through there."
(18:53:43) Minaplo: [Three shapes fell out of the chute- all humanoid. Two of them wore non-reflective, ornate, sweeping armour with high-crested helmets; both wore robes. One was red, the other purple.-
(18:55:04) Minaplo: [The third was wearing a black bodysuit, seemingly made of the same material as the armour of the robed figures. She was tall, and imposing; her figure was toned, slim yet powerful and emanated presence. She had blonde hair, tied back into a long ponytail.-
(18:55:23) Minaplo: [It would take them all of a second to recognise the figures- Joan, Scholastica, and Mary Caine herself.]
(19:00:36) * Sept took a step forward at the sight, raising his visor. "…well. That'd be why the system's stuck. Hello."
(19:02:02) * Aline just… stopped rather cold.
(19:03:14) * Yanmei had pulled out the Excalibur replica on instinct, her own visor just barely masking rage, shock and contempt. "What do you think you're doing?" she demanded tightly.
(19:08:28) Minaplo: [Caine stepped forward, her own expression cold. She held up a hand. "I'm not here to fight."-
(19:10:27) Minaplo: [There was a a heat-shimmer behind her, and a multitude of figures suddenly appeared out of nowhere like a chameleon uncloaking. Nine Phantoms- the lithe figures Yanmei had slain in the Palais- and three new figures, all uniformed the same, wearing plainer versions of Joan and Scholastica's armour. They all wielded swords.-
(19:10:42) Minaplo: ["Although if you wish to offer battle, I am more than capable of returning the favour with interest."]
(19:15:40) * Sept relaxed his stance, letting go of his weapons. "You know we are no strangers to being cornered."
(19:16:13) * Aline more or less just… sighed deeply.
(19:16:42) Yanmei: "You didn't answer my question," Yanmei snapped, although now she didn't dare loosen her grip on her own weapon. "If you're 'not here to fight,' then why are you here?"
(19:17:50) Minaplo: ["The same reason you are. To find information regarding the last shard of Cassius."]
(19:23:04) Sept: "Why is that… necessary? It will be used on the egg, whoever forges it."
(19:25:36) * Aline opened her mouth to speak, but reconsidered.
(19:27:49) * Yanmei glared.
(19:31:09) Minaplo: ["It is necessary because your capabilities to successfully find, reforge, reignite and use Cassius are not 100%. And if they are not 100%, then it is only fitting I try to bring it as close to that number as my resources allow. Once again, Metatron and her ilk are determined to give us a common enemy, and this is far too important to leave to only one side."-
(19:31:19) Minaplo: ["And more prosaically, those doors won't function without us."]
(19:33:41) Sept: "…how would you know that?"
(19:33:44) Yanmei: "Who leaked our coordinates to you? There's no way you found this place on your own."
(19:33:56) Aline: "It's like him to do it this way." Aline muttered, mostly to herself.
(19:35:07) Minaplo: ["Ikari's soul was quite damaged, somehow, but this information I managed to retrieve." Said Caine. "Now, let us not waste time."-
(19:35:26) Minaplo: [Next to Sera, Shinji's right power fist tightened, little arcs of energy running between the knuckles.]
(19:41:25) * Sept glanced at him. "Don't do anything stupid," he told him in a low voice, probably still audible. "Well, there's one way to find out if that's true. Can the rest of you behave here if we split up ahead?"
(19:42:27) Yanmei: "No," said Yanmei firmly. "There was no point in him even being this careful about hiding the shard if he'd programed his doors to open with their presence. Her story is beyond absurd, and I don't believe a word of it."
(19:46:25) Minaplo: ["You don't understand Ikari." Said Caine. "He wasn't hiding the shard to keep it safe from me."]
(19:46:58) Sept: "There's no way she could've manipulated whatever AT mechanism they run on, surely. We tried everything already."
(19:53:13) Minaplo: ["Zhang, the eastern door. Let's move."]
(19:56:35) Yanmei: "You're both seriously considering this." She ignored the order, frowning at Aline and Sera, her incredulity clear.
(19:58:53) Aline: "You'd prefer Metatron making most of the Earth uninhabitable and /probably/ just outright extinguishing all of humanity afterwards? It's not optimal, but it's the solution we have."
(19:59:26) Sept: "Tch. It's -Ikari's- game, not ours. If this is how we get through, that's how it works."
(20:01:41) Yanmei: Yanmei's frown remained. She regarded the Shinji and the rest seriously. "We'll be back soon. If anything happens, don't hold back when defending yourselves."
(20:03:21) Sept: "Mm. Where do you stand on this, Helen, Tsukino?"
(20:04:09) Minaplo: [Helen shook her head. "The door opens, the door opens."-
(20:05:37) Minaplo: ["I am of the same view." Said Tsukino. "When Oda fought Imagawa at Okehazama, it was the mad option that brought him victory, not the conventional."-
(20:06:17) Minaplo: [Mary turned to look at her Phantoms, then stepped towards the eastern door. "Two queens." She noted.-
(20:06:34) Minaplo: ["I like the new look, Yanmei." Chimed in Joan, her voice mocking.-
(20:06:47) Minaplo: ["Not now, Joan." Said Mary curtly, placing her hand in an alcove.]
(20:07:03) Sept: "You going to take sides if this turns into a brawl back here?" Sera continued.
(20:09:24) Minaplo: ["I already have." Said Helen grimly. "But I won't be the one to start it."-
(20:09:50) Minaplo: [Scholastica remained silent. She was holding a large crozier in her hands…]
(20:12:37) * Aline drummed a few fingers on her knee. "…Such is life."
(20:18:00) Yanmei: "'s good enough. Thanks," Yanmei murmured. She gave Ezekiel and Shinji parting nods… significantly more worried about the former if the situation did indeed turn hairy. She turned, walking slowly for the eastern door.
(20:20:19) Sept: "Joan and Scholastica part of this, too? I can't imagine he'd be satisfied with a single exception."
(20:21:19) Minaplo: [A second after Yanmei put her hand in the alcove, the door lit up, then promptly slid open. Caine nodded, not even having the courtesy to look self-satisfied.-
(20:22:11) Minaplo: ["Yes. Joan, with Sera. Scholastica, with Blanc."]
(20:22:51) * Sept looked at Joan, nodding sideways at the door.
(20:24:09) Aline: "Ah. About how I figured it." She craned her head a bit.
(20:28:41) * Yanmei side-glanced at Caine just once, regarded the other pilots of the Trinity to see if they too were entering their respective doors, and then took a step inside her own.


Aline's Adventure:[]
Sera's Adventure:[]
Yanmei's Adventure:[]


[06:57] <Minaplo> [The darkness finally diminished completely, and…-
[06:57] <Minaplo> [Sera would find himself waving an arm a few feet away from Aline's face. Conversely, Joan would find herself staring at Yanmei and Mary Caine…-
[06:58] <Minaplo> [For the doors Aline and Yanmei had faced respectively had led into this room, and had depended on Sera's success.-
[06:58] <Minaplo> [Ikari had a sick sense of humour.]
06[07:00] * Sept did his best not to seem like he was recovering from a marathon. "Oh, hey."
06[07:01] * Aline eventually paused and stared at Sera. "…Ah. Very well then."
06[07:02] * Yanmei was glaring back at Joan, before shifting her gaze at the familiar voices. "All together again, huh? How was it?"
[07:03] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, it was alright." Said Joan warily.]
[07:04] <Sept> "Nailed it," said Sera. "Teamwork."
[07:05] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, sure."-
[07:05] <Minaplo> ["As was Ikari's intent, of course." Said Mary.]
01[07:11] <Yanmei> "We'll see what he intends for us next, then?" Yanmei said carefully, glancing around for more escape routes.
06[07:12] * Aline strode forwards as well, seeming to make up for her current lack of words with a sense of purposeful walking.
[07:12] <Sept> "Yeah. Don't really have time to make camp and rest up."
[07:23] <Minaplo> [There were two unopened doors; one to the south, and one to the north. As they all entered the middle room, the door to the north creaked open…-
[07:32] <Minaplo> [Within was a long gleaming chamber, the walls and floors completely different in look and feel to the corridors and rooms they'd just left. Light shimmered off crystal-white floors; the reflective crystal walls showed an infinite Yanmeis, Seras, Marys…-
[07:32] <Minaplo> [The door at the end of the chamber was in fact open, but as they started towards it, it shut closed, along with the door behind them.-
[07:34] <Minaplo> [The room seemed to be featureless; the walls were smooth, the light was bright, and the room smelled sterile and clean, hospital-like. The only thing of note was near the entrance; a dozen or so solid, metal rectangular shields- similar to the old Roman pattern- sat piled up.]
06[07:37] * Aline immediately wanders over to one of the shields, and at first pokes it… before going ahead and picking it up. "Hm."
06[07:41] * Yanmei shook Excalibur experimentally at the reflections, her face set in a deep frown. Her eyes darted around with incredible suspicion. "Anything unusual about those?"
06[07:42] * Sept stowed away his weapons, grabbing two of the shields, as there seemed to be plenty, cursorily examining them before turning his attention to the room itself.
[07:47] <Minaplo> [The shields, they would find, were particularly heavy and reinforced; large vertical leather straps ran on the inside, intending to bind the shield to a person's arm.-
[07:48] <Minaplo> [Mary wordlessly slapped on a shield herself, followed by Joan and Scholastica. "Ikari would intend for these to be used…"]
06[07:48] * Aline nodded calmly, and attached her taken shield to her arm, and looked around.
[07:49] <Minaplo> [Infinite Alines looked around also.]
01[07:52] <Yanmei> With one last frown, Yanmei wandered over and snagged a shield for herself, strapping it on after a moment of hesitation as she waffled over having to sheath Excalibur and the remotest possibility of looking as if she was following her orders.
[07:55] <Sept> "No ideas? Shall we scout ahead?"
01[07:59] <Yanmei> "Scout ahead where? You mean examine the walls or something?"
06[07:59] * Aline shrugged a bit. "Quite probably."
01[08:00] <Yanmei> "Let's fan out, then? See what we can find…"
[08:01] <Sept> "I meant there was an invisible force in the last room as well, be careful. Even if we can get the door open, we have to get through in one piece."
01[08:08] <Yanmei> "Oh." Yanmei seemed thoughtful. So the challenge might be just getting to the door without being attacked by something? "I understand? Proceed with caution."
06[08:09] * Aline nodded grimly.
[08:10] <Minaplo> [… And so inevitably Sera would trigger whatever nasty trick Ikari had left them.-
[08:11] <Minaplo> [As he walked forward, there was a harsh whine at the end of the chamber; a metallic series of clicks and whirrs. Six hatches- three per side of the door- slid open, revealing six long barrels…-
[08:11] <Minaplo> [Sort of like cannons, really-
[08:14] <Minaplo> [The cannons warmed up, and fired in unison, a devastating salvo containing six streams of incredibly pressurised water in a sleeve of force. They struck Sera unerringly, the force taking him and slamming him against the back wall. It left much of the chamber soaking wet… And Sera a little bruised, obviously.-
[08:15] <Minaplo> [Aline was less affected, as she was outside of the cannons; auto-targeting radius. She ended up being splashed with water thrown about wildly by Sera's flailing shields and clothes as he sailed by, however.]
06[08:18] * Aline instinctively held up her shield, backing off a bit now. "…Great."
[08:21] <Sept> "Gh." Sera picked himself up, shaking the water off and shivering. "Precise."
01[08:22] <Yanmei> "You all right?"
[08:25] <Sept> "Yeah, fine, thanks," he said with another forceful shake of a hand. "No way any one of us could take that force, let alone advance through it."
01[08:26] <Yanmei> "So… if three or four of us advanced? They'd either have to focus on one of us or spread out their force to hit us all?"
06[08:27] * Aline sorta shook her head. "You also weren't even pointing the shields the right way."
[08:28] <Sept> "Worth a try," he said, nodding to Aline.
[08:29] <Minaplo> [Scholastica tilted her lead, looking towards Mary, who nodded.-
[08:30] <Minaplo> ["Even one cannon by itself is enough to destabilise a person." Said Scholastica. "Furthermore, the crystalline surface is naturally slippery and is wet."]
06[08:33] * Sept tapped on the ground with his shield. Was it too hard to be tampered with?
[08:34] <Minaplo> [It was pretty hard. Enough solid force might break through it, perhaps, but it was hard to be sure.]
06[08:34] * Aline scratched her chin a bit. "So either we find some way to reduce the impact, and/or find some way to increase traction."
01[08:40] <Yanmei> "We can do it." Yanmei was frowning. "We just have to make a turtle-like formation with the shields. Tightly packed together, low to the ground, shields interlocking…"
[08:43] <Sept> "Oh, one of those. Doesn't sound too difficult."
06[08:47] * Aline tilted her head for a second, before smiling lightly. "Mm."
01[08:53] <Yanmei> "Everyone fall in? The three in the front line defend from the shots ahead. Second line keeps their shields up to defend from any shots from above. This might take multiple tries, since we can't tell for sure where the second wave will be coming from." Yanmei stepped forward, holding her shield forward, ready.
[09:03] <Minaplo> ["I'll cover your back, Yanmei." Purred Joan, practically skipping towards Yanmei.-
[09:04] <Minaplo> ["Joan, to my six. Scholastica, to my three." Said Mary immediately, walking up alongside Yanmei, adopting the low formation, her shield interlocking with Yanmei's.]
[09:04] <Minaplo> [Joan complied, but she nevertheless shot Mary a dirty look- one that was hidden under her helmet.]
06[09:04] * Aline formed up behind Scholastica, and set up her own shield in place…
[09:06] <Sept> "We'll all cover each other, of course, Joan." Sera readied himself.
[09:07] <Minaplo> ["Tch. I bet you'd like to cover a lot of people here, wouldn't you?" She muttered mutinously.-
[09:07] <Minaplo> ["We'll follow your lead, Zhang." Said Mary. "Give the word."]
06[09:09] * Yanmei cleared her throat. "Stay together and don't break formation. Step forward on my count, ok? Ready?" Deep breath. "One! Two! One! Two! Right! Left! One! Two!"
[09:16] <Minaplo> [The cannons reoriented towards the centre mass of the group, firing a potent salvo. The water striking the shields sent shockwaves throughout the group, and the slippery floors caused several people to almost lose their footing- but the slightly sloped sides of the shield mostly deflected the water, and the formation remained standing.]
06[09:17] * Aline kept pushing, making sure not to overwhelm the person in front of her, while holding her shield tightly!
01[09:21] <Yanmei> "Dig in!" Yanmei screamed. "One! Two!"
[09:25] <Minaplo> ["Grr! Push, damn it all!" Growled Joan.-
[09:25] <Minaplo> [They managed a single bloody metre, then another- then another! They were surging forward!]
[09:26] <Sept> "Keep going! Watch out for additional attacks!"
06[09:31] * Yanmei kept counting desperately. More than halfway there, now! Her arms and legs burned from the strain…
06[09:32] * Aline was holding tight, tighter still, keeping the shield in place! She didn't even think of anything else, just supporting her erstwhile quasi-clone's weight to keep the formation-at-large intact.
[09:33] <Minaplo> [Their progress was speeding up. It was fast or famine- either they were forced to a halt by a particularly fierce broadside, or they surged forward…-
[09:35] <Minaplo> [Sera was dreading it, though. They all were in their own way. The left hook to the cannons' jab, so to speak.-
[09:36] <Minaplo> [Something dropped silently from the roof, bouncing off Yanmei's head and falling at her feet. It was a small metal canister, easily hand-holdable…]
06[09:39] * Yanmei recognized it at once before it went off. "No… NO!"
[09:46] <Minaplo> [Psssshwaaaaaa.-
[09:47] <Minaplo> [A faint cloud of purplish gas floated into the air. It was blown away by the next spray… Mostly.-
[09:47] <Minaplo> [But for Sera…]
02[09:49] * Aline (902.721.681.27|enilA#902.721.681.27|enilA) Quit (Ping timeout)
03[09:51] * Aline (902.721.681.27|enilA#902.721.681.27|enilA) has joined #nervfrance
[09:56] <Sept> "-merde. Above us!" Sera reached out towards the ceiling of the chamber, trying to reach it, jumping. "Gah, it's just out of..!"
06[10:01] * Aline looked back at Sera for a moment, causing a brief slip… before pushing ahead a bit further! "Maybe it'll shut off when we make it!
06[10:02] * Yanmei floundered, but somehow managed to keep her balance, coughing from the last traces of gas. "D-damn… it's too late for him…"
[10:06] <Sept> "Forget it, it's a way out, just -go up-!" What does a 160-pound Sera dream of? The deep blue sky. "The whole city is ours! WE CAN BE -FREE-" he screamed.
01[10:07] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei reoriented herself with a little bit of difficulty. "Push! One! Two!"
[10:13] <Minaplo> [They pushed forward, Yanmei fighting against the slippery floor, Sera's voice behind her… The water strength was redoubling, trying to strike them down, push them away-
[10:13] <Minaplo> [They surged forward one last time, their strength starting to flag. The door was in front of them- two hand prints. Yanmei's. Mary's. All they needed was a few more seconds…!]
01[10:20] <Yanmei> "Hold!" Yanmei braced herself, both legs bent, shoulder against her shield. Gasping, she prepared to blindly flail out toward one of the hand panels with her free arm.
06[10:21] * Aline braced. "A bit more…!"
[10:23] <Sept> "To the skies!"
[10:24] <Minaplo> [The cannons… Stopped. They recessed into the wall…-
[10:24] <Minaplo> [And the door in front of them trundled slowly into the ground.-
[10:26] <Minaplo> [There were several sharp, heavy -clunk clunks- behind them as the entrance door grudgingly slid open… As did the one before it, into the room which still held Shinji and the others.-
[10:28] <Minaplo> [The room ahead was stone, rough, patterns chiselled into the floor and walls… Jutting out of the middle was a tall staircase, made of a hundred or so stairs, seeming to rise into the gloom and darkness… An inviting red carpet had been laid down the middle.-
[10:28] <Minaplo> [One last little sarcastic jibe from Gendo Ikari.-
[10:30] <Minaplo> [Heavy THUNK THUNK THUNKS as their allies arrived- Vercingetorix, Helen, Tsukino Haruki and Ezekiel. Behind them came Mary's phantoms- in contrast to Helen, they were utterly silent.-
[10:30] <Minaplo> ["You guys are ok!" Said Vercingetorix in relief, sagging a little as he reached them.]
06[10:33] * Sept still looked somewhat jittery. "Hm? Oh, yeah. Took some work. Almost didn't make it up he-" he glanced over Shinji's shoulder, toward the corridor. "I mean. Huh."
06[10:33] * Aline turned to see him, still a bit wet from the water cannons, and… "Yeah. Yeah, we are!"
[10:34] <Minaplo> [Vercingetorix smoothed Aline's hair out with his power-fist, the meaty gauntlet accidentally covering most of her face as he did so. "You're dripping wet… What was it?"]
06[10:36] * Aline turned a bit, sort of… twitching a little bit. "Water cannons."
06[10:36] * Sept was going to interject with an answer, but figured there was a strong possibility he was wrong. He was comforted by the answer being what he thought it was, though.
[10:37] <Minaplo> ["Hey!" Joan walked over, grabbing Sera by the fabric of his cape. "Way to flunk out there, flyboy. Man, you were doing so well, too!"]
06[10:38] * Yanmei tossed her hair, though the effect was ruined by it being heavy and soaked. "Leave him alone."
06[10:42] * Sept turned back on Joan without hesitation. "Yeah? I couldn't tell with how easily you were carrying us through on the front line."
[10:46] <Minaplo> ["Tch." Joan turned her back on Sera haughtily, giving Yanmei an insolent… Handflick? "You shutcha face."-
[10:46] <Minaplo> ["That's enough. Let's finish this." Said Mary curtly.]
06[10:49] * Yanmei glared at Joan with obvious contempt, and then turned with a loud 'hmph', stalking toward the red-carpeted room.
06[10:50] * Aline sighed openly, and waited a bit to catch her breath first.
02[10:52] * Oat (~ua.moc.tensutpo.wsn.lsd.201-351-501-85d|leahpaR#ua.moc.tensutpo.wsn.lsd.201-351-501-85d|leahpaR) Quit (Quit: )
[10:54] <Sept> "Of course. Think it's finally over?"
[10:55] <Minaplo> ["Let us hope." Said Mary quietly. She, too, headed for the staircase.-
[10:59] <Minaplo> [The staircase was… Really high. Damn that Ikari.-
[10:59] <Minaplo> [It only -looked- like a hundred steps. It was actually closer to four times that. How high were they going?-
[11:05] <Minaplo> [The staircase terminated in a landing; the floor was shiny, like burnished gold; the walls were bright white, marble-like, with green veins running under the surface. At the end of this landing was a door. It was thinner than the others, and smooth, and more obviously technological. As they approached, it obediently slid open for them.-
[11:07] <Minaplo> [It led to an intersection; a corridor going to their left, their right, and finally ahead of them. The intersection itself was a six-by-six square room; in the middle of the room was a bronze statue… Identical to the armour Shinji now wore.-
[11:07] <Minaplo> [There was a hand-print at the base of the statue, awaiting Sera's hand.]
06[11:10] * Sept caught his breath at the top of the landing, going ahead of the group as invited by the handprint. This time, he forgot about the traps littering each of the other rooms they'd faced. He paused in front of the print. "Ready?"
06[11:12] * Aline took a deep breath. "Ready."
06[11:13] * Yanmei nodded, wiping wearily at her forehead. "Do it?"
06[11:13] * Sept nodded, placing his hand in.
[11:21] <Minaplo> [The eyes of the statue lit up, and a recorded voice- the voice of Vercingetorix- began to play.-
[11:22] <Minaplo> ["If you are hearing this message, then it means you have passed through the gauntlet, which required you to work with your most bitterest of enemies for a goal greater than all of us. I congratulate you. More likely, however, this message will never be heard."]
06[11:24] * Yanmei scowled at the statue, clearly irritated. "Thanks for the -confidence-."
[11:25] <Sept> Always with the redundant self-aggrandizing interjections. So petty. He should've known Sera would always make it through.
[11:28] <Minaplo> ["If this message is, in fact, being heard, then the situation is grim. Humanity is in danger, a danger so great that the only solution is co-operation. Not just in this gauntlet. Whatever the situation, if it requires going to this extreme, then the only solution is by necessity co-operation, now and in the future. I doubt this sentiment will remain. The moment the situation is ended,
[11:28] <Minaplo> you will all go back to each other's throats."-
[11:30] <Minaplo> ["It was my deepest desire that humanity see beyond its own petty conflicts and learn to trust each other. For Caine and non-Caine alike to embrace their common interests. In this I go to my grave a failure. Humanity will suffer the fate it deserves until it grows beyond its conflicts."-
[11:30] <Minaplo> ["In spite of this, however, I offer you my final beneficence."-
[11:33] <Minaplo> ["Mary Caine. If this message has been activated, then you must be here, listening to it. There are no traps here, no weapons to destroy you in your most vulnerable state. All I have for you is a plea and a warning. First a plea: put aside your goal of instrumentality. I know that you seek an end beyond the promise of gestalt consciousness you feed to the old men of SEELE. That end will
[11:33] <Minaplo> not grant you what you seek. It will condemn us all to an Enemy beyond anything we understand."-
[11:36] <Minaplo> ["Second a warning: your hand is not as strong as you think it is. Some of them are already beyond your grasp. When the time comes, you will raise your flag, and you will find fewer in its shadow than you anticipated. I know only you will understand this message, hoping that it persuades you to take heed of my plea."-
[11:36] <Minaplo> [Mary Caine didn't reply, but her face became grim; her eyes narrowed, her mouth thinning in distaste.-
[11:39] <Minaplo> ["Sera de Pteres, the man who will bring about Lucifer's rise. In the room ahead, you will find a long, fine spear embedded in a pedestal inside an electronic contraption. This is the Key of Cassius. A mighty weapon in its own right; your possession of it will signify your sovereignty over the Lance of Cassius itself. When you remove the Key, the AT Dampening Field will deactivate, and
[11:39] <Minaplo> the final shard of Cassius will reveal itself. You have been chosen to wield this weapon, de Pteres; a shattered man to wield a shattered weapon, with the hope that both can be reforged into something godly."-
[11:40] <Minaplo> ["If and when the Spirit of the Weapon is woken once more, I implore you to cherish it and trust it. It will return your trust tenfold."]
06[11:42] * Sept chewed on his lip, his attention focused on the statue or, alternatively, focused away from the others.
06[11:42] * Aline pursed her lips, wondering, mostly, what the warning /really/ meant…
[11:47] <Minaplo> ["Aline Blanc, the woman who will bring about Eden's return. In the room to your left, you will find my final creation. It is unique, and it is for you and you alone. For years you have struggled between the overwhelming divinity of the Evangelion and the crippling mundanity of your unshielded human form. My final gift to you, as a father-in-law to his only daughter-in-law, is not the
[11:47] <Minaplo> answer to that dissonance… But nevertheless something you will appreciate greatly."-
[11:50] <Minaplo> ["Aline. I will not ask you to protect my son, or my family. Any request I make will have no bearing on your actions. I only implore that you do not shy away from the past, nor the present, nor the future, and fulfill the promise that is your hidden potential."]
06[11:52] * Aline but a hand on her heart, and looked at the 'new' Vercingetorix briefly, before taking another deep breath to center herself.
[11:57] <Minaplo> ["Zhang Yanmei, the woman who will bring the flood to cleanse the world. I offer you two things. In the room to your right, you will find a final gift from me. It is something you fear, or feared, but it is nothing I add, but rather something I merely reveal to you. Ways to reveal that which you know exists within yourself, to bring forth the power that you wielded as you bent history to
[11:57] <Minaplo> your will again and again."-
[12:00] <Minaplo> ["Secondly, I offer you apologies. For concealing things from you, for reasons beyond your control. No doubt you already understand what Isaiah was and is. Yes, I knew. I kept it from you for a greater good, but I know that does not soothe your anger. I do not know what will, except my apology. I do not ask for your understanding. Only your forgiveness."]
01[12:02] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei exhaled sharply, glancing aside, an expression of frustration building and then submerging again. Finally, she faced the statue again with knit eyebrows.
[12:08] <Minaplo> ["To Tsukino Haruki. I have this to say: the debt is not yet paid. You will find yourself in the service of Zhang Yanmei from this moment on. You are to treat her as your lord, or, failing that, your boss. Be her bodyguard, her retainer, and if need be, her hand-picked assassin. Your killing instinct has only become sharper over the years, hasn't it?"-
[12:09] <Minaplo> ["Being sworn an oath from a man beyond the grave." Muttered Haruki. "What true man would deny that from a faithful superior?" He turned to Yanmei. "I am in your hands now, it seems! Huhn."]
06[12:12] * Yanmei looked up at him with startled eyes, and briefly toyed with the armor covering her arm. "Thanks? Er…" She seemed to not know excatly what to say to that.
[12:13] <Minaplo> ["To Shinji. I know that you have watched me die. I know that I have given you a terrible burden. You are now a dead man."-
[12:13] <Minaplo> ["…" Shinji looked away.-
[12:14] <Minaplo> ["Whether you act to save the world, now, or you act to save yourself, to reclaim your life, it does not matter. It is two names for the same road. One begets the other. Shinji. You doubt yourself. You doubt me. If you hate me, I understand. I was, to put it bluntly, a bastard."-
[12:16] <Minaplo> ["I apologise for stealing your future away from you. And now I challenge you to become the man you are and take your future back."-
[12:17] <Minaplo> ["Shinji. I chose you because I was like you, once. I could not trust anyone to bear my burden except myself. I entrust it to you, in the hopes that you will become strong enough to bear it with time. It is not a happy path. But you will simply have to get over that."-
[12:17] <Minaplo> ["… Seriously…?" Growled Shinji under his breath. "This is what I get?"-
[12:22] <Minaplo> ["I could have done things differently. I could have given you happiness, Shinji. But part of being a man is in finding happiness on your own terms, not on someone else's. I have total faith that you will achieve such a thing. Until then- be what you are, a dead man inside a hollow shell, bearing a name, which is an idea, and thus immortal. The idea of resistance, even resistance without
[12:22] <Minaplo> hope.-
[12:22] <Minaplo> ["I will see you again soon."-
[12:22] <Minaplo> [Shinji bowed his head, motionless, not saying anything… His left hand slowly began to clench and unclench.-
[12:23] <Minaplo> ["Before you go to your places, allow me to share a story."]
[12:24] <Sept> "…" Sept took a step away from the statue, idly examining the rest of the room, but still concentrating on the recording.
06[12:26] * Aline …peered at Shinji for a moment.
06[12:26] * Yanmei was still a little adrift in her confusion… but she nevertheless folded her arms, regarding the statue with something akin to stern expectancy.
[12:32] <Minaplo> ["Have you ever wondered why they are named Evangelions?"-
[12:38] <Minaplo> ["The word is Greek. It means 'good news', a Christian term referring to what is known in English as the Gospel. What's the good news? Let's start with the bad news: there will be a day where man is held in judgement. Man was made to be perfect, in communion with the Creator. But we broke with the Creator. We fell. And on the day of judgement, we will be judged, and the standard to which
[12:38] <Minaplo> we will be held is to be perfect. It is a standard we cannot hope to meet."-
[12:40] <Minaplo> ["That is the key to the good news. The evangelion, as it is, offers us a second chance. We will not be perfect, but if we trust in the evangelion, put our faith in it, we will be redeemed."-
[12:40] <Minaplo> ["Evangelion does not exist to make humanity perfect. It exists to ensure we don't have to be."-
[12:40] <Minaplo> ["End recording."]
06[12:46] * Sept took a deep breath, at that. A moment of silence. "Valid." He took a few steps towards the north door. "Anyone have anything left to say?"
01[12:46] <Yanmei> "Not me." Yanmei still seemed to be puzzling it all out, arms still stuck in that folded position.
06[12:50] * Aline tilted her head a little bit. "…Well then. I don't really have much more."
[12:53] <Minaplo> ["Then we should move." Said Caine. "Let's go to the Lance room. De Pteres can remove the lance, and we can leave, allowing you all to explore as you wish."]
01[12:55] <Yanmei> "Fine. We will be taking the shard of Cassius, of course, so that it and the rest of the pieces will stay together."
[12:56] <Sept> "Surely you can grab your stuff as well, Aline. We'll be up here." And he headed for his door.
[12:56] <Minaplo> [Caine nodded. "It would take too much time and effort to transfer the shards to my control, anyway. Once we are gone, I will contact you regarding our earlier deal. When you are ready to act against the egg, contact me, and I will commit forces to aid you as necessary."]
06[12:58] * Yanmei nodded slowly. "Agreed?"
[12:59] <Minaplo> [Another short nod, then moving up towards the middle door after Sera, which was of course guarded by a Sera-print.]
06[12:59] * Sept placed his hand in it, satisfied with the discourse thus far.
06[13:00] * Aline nodded a bit faster. "…Yeah." But she did briefly look at Sera, and considered what he said to, overall, be a good idea. "Then I'll head that way." And she went towards the room to the left, thusly.
06[13:01] * Yanmei followed after Sera and Caine, intent on seeing that everything went accordingly.
[13:01] <Minaplo> [Shinji went after Aline, whilst Ezekiel followed Yanmei.-
[13:02] <Minaplo> [Aline's door was guarded by a hand-print, of course.-
[13:04] <Minaplo> [Sera's room… It was as Ikari had described. It was wide, mostly empty, but for a 'contraption' in the centre of the room. A clear cylinder, about two metres high, built into a raised altar, which itself was 75cm high. The cylinder's top itself was connected to a larger contraption, which was like a tree stump, albeit upside down and with the roots exposed; a huge metal construct, with
[13:04] <Minaplo> dozens of ribbed tendrils flowing in all directions across the roof.-
[13:08] <Minaplo> [Within the cylinder was a spear, the shaft of which gleamed like brilliant diamond; dazzling white asteria patterns adorned the shaft in a helical pattern. The spear's point consisted of the thrusting tip, which was about 15cm long, and made of a bright white metal that seemed to emit a faint light. Where the point and the shaft met, the tip seemed to 'unravel', like a spinning ribbon, or
[13:08] <Minaplo> perhaps more like a drill head.-
[13:09] <Minaplo> [The tip of the spear was embedded into the altar; as they entered, the glass slowly recessed upwards, leaving the spear within reach.]
06[13:13] * Sept approached with no hurry and took hold of the shaft, yanking it upwards.
06[13:15] * Aline would, meanwhile, place her hand on her own handprint, after politely waiting for descriptions to process.
[13:18] <Minaplo> [The door to Aline's room opened, revealing… Another room! There was a pedestal in here, and a door directly ahead; the pedestal had a handprint, her own.-
[13:19] <Minaplo> [But Aline wouldn't quite get there without impediment. Shinji, following her, caught up, and… Placed his arms around her, squeezing her gently into himself.-
[13:19] <Minaplo> [Sera grabbed the spear, pulling it out of the stone.-
[13:22] <Minaplo> [A warm breeze blew throughout the room. A beam of sunlight suddenly struck him and the spear; the spear lit up, the sunlightb becoming a rainbow, a million colours in a corona that flowed throughout the room.-
[13:24] <Minaplo> [The sunlight came from above and ahead, as the back wall of the room started to recess away. Out there was sunlight, and silver clouds; trees, and pure fresh snow, interrupted here and there by green grass. The smell of trees and flowers and the sea reached them.-
[13:26] <Minaplo> [They had emerged onto the side of a mountain. In the distance they saw gentle slopes and wide green plains and rolling hills; farmland, roads, cities. They saw an ocean, dazzling in the sunlight. Little dots- boats and ships- bobbed along its surface.-
[13:28] <Minaplo> [A smaller mountain sat opposed to their own; as the wall on their side lowered, so did a side of the other mountain, although this side was quite large and shallow. Within was a large cone-like object… A glimmering white spear tip.-
[13:28] <Minaplo> ["The field is gone." Said Caine. The air around her, Scholastica, Joan and Ezekiel suddenly shimmered, their AT Fields spreading instantly.]
06[13:33] * Yanmei looked rather unsteady, but she didn't say anything. She simply nodded to Ezekiel, as if to say, 'go do your thing'.
06[13:33] * Sept ran his fingers along the spear, turning it around for a moment. "Are we going to do this again sometime?"
06[13:36] * Aline paused at the embrace from Shinji… then let out a gentle puff of air. "It wasn't the best thing to hear, no…"
[13:41] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel tilted his head at Yanmei.-
[13:41] <Minaplo> ["I don't think so." Said Mary, turning to Sera.]
01[13:48] <Yanmei> "We need to contact our people immediately to give them the coordinates for the pickup," she explained to him out loud. "Would you do the honors?"
[13:49] <Sept> "That's comforting to hear. But we should…" Sera paused to look for words. "Look, I don't want either of us to end up like Azariah or Jeremiah."
[13:50] <Minaplo> [Mary's eyebrows rose. "In what way?"-
[13:50] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel nodded. "I understand."-
[13:51] <Minaplo> [Shinji, meanwhile… One hand left the embrace, in order to tear off his helmet, which he dropped carelessly to one side. He rested his bare head- his hair a mess- against her shoulder and neck. "I don't even know what to think. About anything…"]
[14:00] <Sept> "I may be on thin ice talking about them, I was never there, but. Who's gonna look back and say, 'yeah, I'd like to be that guy'? How many people besides you know anything about them anymore? People will look back on us. And -we'll- look back on us. I'd like us to not be so far apart that we couldn't pick up each other's banners if something happened."
06[14:02] * Aline remained silent for a few moments, thinking about what to say to him. Eventually… "I can't say that things are, really, going to go well and be comfortable for a good while now, but…" A hand raised to stroke through his hair. "There'll be a light at the end of the tunnel. Fight for it, if you have to."
01[14:07] <Yanmei> "Thanks. I'll look in that other chamber as soon as we get word from someone." She glanced briefly at Mary Caine and Sera, but politely did nothing to intrude.
[14:07] <Minaplo> [Mary let out a hollow chuckle. "I think I would prefer it if no one wished to be like me, or you, or them. For their sake. But what you say is not without its own merit. In some ways we're already holding the same banner. Unfortunately, not in the same way, perhaps. There is one consolation: your wish will come true, one way or another."-
[14:09] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel nodded, then a few moments later, spoke. "Coordinates sent, and acknowledged. They're dispatching a unit to retrieve the shard."-
[14:10] <Minaplo> [Shinji's grasp tightened, Aline's caress seemed to soothe him even as it intensified his emotions. "I don't know… If you'd be happy to be in that light or not, in some way. Maybe be it."]
[14:13] <Aline> "…And say no to finally getting some happiness and satisfaction after all this fighting? Pfff."
06[14:14] * Sept was still on his pedestal, looking a little too defensive with the spear in his hands. He tried to disarm that image, stepping away from the center of the contraption. "Right. I'll… be in touch if I need help with something. It's taken a lot of work to get back to this, you understand."
06[14:16] * Yanmei nodded. As promised, she turned away, discreetly, to take her leave.
[14:16] <Minaplo> [Mary nodded. "I do. You've been chosen to bear a tremendous burden, but I know your shoulders are strong enough to take it Zhang Yanmei a word if you please."]
01[14:17] <Yanmei> She stopped short. Frowned. "What is it?"
06[14:20] * Sept laughed and nodded to her at that. It sounded even more condescending coming from Mary.
[14:21] <Minaplo> [Caine withdrew- slowly- her blade. She held it out to Yanmei, hilt-first. "You fought well. Consider this a token of my apprecation regarding today and our response to this situation."-
[14:22] <Minaplo> [Shinji let out a strange choke-chuckle. He turned Aline around, so she was facing him- and kissed her. "I've missed you."]
06[14:24] * Aline would give her own kiss back, and smiled at him. "Let's try to make sure there aren't too many more stretches of that."
01[14:24] <Yanmei> "I understand the underlying sentiment? But I can't accept."
[14:28] <Minaplo> [Scholastica let out a derisive snort.-
[14:29] <Minaplo> ["Very well." If the rejection upset Caine, she showed no sign of it. Caine sheathed the blade in a single action. "Then I take my leave. Sera. Zhang." She marched out of the room, Scholastica and Joan behind her. She met up with her bodyguards- and with a single -crack-, they were all gone.]
[14:30] <Minaplo> ["Agreed." Murmured Shinji. It was hard to tell if it was sweat or tears on his cheek. "I-I'm going to try to be with you as much as I can from now on. I… I feel that's best."]
[14:30] <Sept> "That… went well?"
06[14:31] * Aline turned what was just a hand laying there on his head, into a small rub again. "It probably is. It's still a few hard steps left, and being together will make all the difference."
01[14:31] <Yanmei> "Well. It didn't go badly," Yanmei slowly agreed. "How's the new weapon?"
[14:34] <Minaplo> ["Let's hope so." Shinji almost seemed to lean into the rub…-
[14:34] <Minaplo> [A few minutes of silence. "… H-heh. Let's see what he left you, huh?"]
[14:37] <Sept> "Friendly. Figures. I'm sure your Excalibur's got some noticeable hint of a soul?"
06[14:39] * Aline gave one last little hair-fuzz for good measure, and then turned to face the pedestal. "…Indeed!" And put her hand on the /second/ print.
01[14:39] <Yanmei> "Well, it did. It's been quiet for a while now. Might have gone dormant or gotten broken during the battle we had with Metatron and that dark giant and God-Blanc."
[14:42] <Minaplo> [The door opened for Aline, revealing… It was basically a 'bay'.-
[14:42] <Minaplo> [A mechanical frame around an object- the frame pulled away, allowing the object to emerge, reveal itself.-
[14:46] <Sept> "Mm. Yeah, I see. Well, time will tell how comfortable I get with it." Sera nodded back towards the room with the statue. "Check out Aline's thing, or d'you want to wait for her?"
01[14:47] <Yanmei> "Neither. I had a gift of my own waiting for me too. Want to come with?"
[14:48] <Sept> "Fine by me." Sera headed out into the central room.
06[14:50] * Yanmei did the same, gesturing to let Ezekiel know that it was fine to come too. She would head to the right side door once they made it.
[14:53] <Minaplo> [It stepped out with its left leg, a leg long, smooth and red, an organic movement for an organic limb, yet the leg seemed armoured and outwardly mechanical. The body came next. A slender, long armoured body, with a wide chest but a narrow waist only a little wider than Aline; yet powerful, tense and compressed like a trebuchet waiting to fire. Then the arms. Long, but not gangly; toned
[14:53] <Minaplo> and muscular, but not bulging. It had clever, dextrous fingers. As it emerged, its left arm swung out, ripping through some cables still connected to its back. Finally, there was the head- a head halfway between a bestial, pantherish form and an insect one. It had a dozen small eyes, positioned over a wide maw lined with sharp teeth. Its jawline extended backwards, terminating as two pointed
[14:53] <Minaplo> blades jutting outwards. All in all, it was about five and a half metres tall, and its armour was red, head to toe. Aline didn't need to be a genius to identify the similarities.-
[14:54] <Minaplo> [Atticus Nelson had been reborn as an early Iron Guard, and had been designed as the Tactical Evangelion. But this thing in front of her?-
[14:54] <Minaplo> [Seemed like a far more fitting claimant to that title.-
[14:55] <Minaplo> [It tensed up, its hands balling into fists, its arms raised- then it released that energy in a mighty beast-roar, powerful enough that Aline could feel the heat on her face, the force in her hair.-
[14:56] <Minaplo> [Yanmei, meanwhile, would be accompanied by Ezekiel as well, although Tsukino remained with Helen, who had already drawn her sword in alarm at the sound of the bellow.-
[14:57] <Minaplo> [Providing Yanmei didn't suddenly turn and run towards the source of the sound, she'd find her room easily enough. Within was a pedestal, containing not a door, but a pendant on a golden necklace, the pendant containing a perfectly round red stone set in gold. The other other thing in the room was a body-length mirror.]
06[15:00] * Aline had this… vaguely-unflapped look, even as she closed her eyes and felt her hair blow around with the roar. "…Hi."
06[15:00] * Yanmei was… tempted, lingering in the doorframe at first, and peering over her shoulder. "He gave her a pet monster…?!" She waited for screams of horror or agony to follow.
[15:01] <Sept> "Another one?"
[15:05] <Minaplo> [The Tac-Eva approached Aline, its long legs allowing it to cross the space in quick-time. When it was a few metres away from here it crouched, leaned back- and its chest -opened-, revealing a rather… Cramped seat, which slid out of its body. Cramped was it was, it was one that would nevertheless fit her. Something akin to a headset hung from the top of the chair, although there were no
[15:05] <Minaplo> arm-rests… And it looked like once she was in the thing, her arms would be pinned to her side.]
06[15:08] * Yanmei frowned, listening… when those screams didn't come, she hastily entered her own chamber, making for the pendant. She carefully examined it before touching. He'd mentioned her being afraid of this, but… it was just a necklace? -
06[15:08] * Aline then, very definitely, tilted her head. "Huh. Well, I don't expect to do anything dangerous right off, but I do thank you for showing that all the same." So polite.
01[15:08] <Yanmei> Very carefully she picked it up and held it closer for a better look.
[15:09] <Minaplo> [It let out a hot 'huff', sliding the chair back into its body, closing the cavity up. It tossed its head in a way that could be described as 'proud'.-
[15:09] <Minaplo> [Shinji was watching it with a very odd expression. "… How… Hold on. Once you get into that seat, it slides up- wouldn't you be inside the ribcage?"-
[15:10] <Minaplo> [The necklace was quite pretty. The ruby orb caught the light in a pleasing manner.]
06[15:14] * Aline tilted her head left and right. "As it were, I'm going to put some faith in the design."
[15:14] <Minaplo> ["I… I see."]
01[15:15] <Yanmei> [15:12] * Yanmei blinked, and smiled a little. "No idea that the guy had an eye for this stuff. Not bad, Ikari…" With a lighthearted bounce to her step, she moved closer to the mirror and slipped the thing on.
01[15:25] <Yanmei> …and she stared at her reflection. And then, jumped slightly, grasping for something on her shoulder and whirling around to stare behind her.
[15:32] <Minaplo> [Only Sera and Ezekiel there.]
[15:33] <Sept> "Hm?" Sera said, not entirely innocently.
01[15:34] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei faced the mirror. "It's a pendant," she said slowly, trying to steady out her shaking voice. "A -haunted- pendant."
[15:36] <Sept> "Yeah, haunted by what?"
01[15:36] <Yanmei> "By me?"
[15:37] <Sept> "By you you?"
01[15:38] <Yanmei> "By a past me." A long pause. "He's saying there are other past me's in there too? Oh what the hell how does this even…?"
[15:40] <Minaplo> ["A focus." Said Ezekiel. "To amplify past memories, conceptualise them as those figures."]
01[15:42] <Yanmei> Uncomfortably, Yanmei pulled off the necklace. "I… see." she glanced down, frowning.
[15:42] <Minaplo> ["He did say you would find it confronting."]
[15:43] <Sept> "Hah, of course. That's one way to -make- you confront it."
01[15:44] <Yanmei> Yanmei's frown was turning into a pout now. "If he was around, I'm sure he'd be laughing at me," she grumbled.
[15:47] <Minaplo> ["This is a boon, Yanmei. Please do not shy away from it too quickly." Said Ezekiel. "It was not easy to construct with what I had on hand."]
[15:47] <Sept> "Yeah, he'd also sleep easier knowing you had it."
01[15:49] <Yanmei> "Ah…?" She eyes Ezekiel carefully. "So it's a gift from both you and Ikari, then~ I'm sorry for being rude. You're both probably right."
[15:49] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel nodded.-
[15:50] <Minaplo> [There was a loud -crack- from the Lance Room. The sound of a jaunt.-
[15:50] <Minaplo> ["The unit has arrived." Said Ezekiel. "The shard is ours. We may leave when you like."]
01[15:51] <Yanmei> "Right." Yanmei quickly pocketed the pendant, back to business. "Let's get to it."

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