For The Love Of Life 1 5 1

[22:44] <Sept> Once more, Sera stirred from his strange sleep. Lying down on a bed, normal. The bed felt… more comfortable than the usual ones. He tried moving, sitting up. His arms and sides ached deeply. He felt stiff and his mouth was dry. Cold assaulted his body where the blanket no longer covered him. And he still couldn't see. Not the best start to a day.
[22:49] <Minaplo> [He felt something grab his shoulders roughly, and turn him over. A second later, he felt something solid strike his rear end very hard- it was highly painful.]
[22:51] <Sept> "Gah!" The exclamation brought with it a fit of coughing as he tried to wrench himself away from his assailant, nearly falling off the bed. "Hey, what the hell?!"
[22:52] <Minaplo> ["You asked me to kick your ass later when you were talking to Longinus." Came Armin's voice. "Consider your ass kicked."]
[22:54] <Sept> "What? The fuck did I do?" He was trying to calm down his breathing and recover his blanket.
[22:54] <Minaplo> ["Just following your instructions." The blanket was pulled up over him. "How do you feel?"]
[22:58] <Sept> "Crap. Do I have a fever?"
[23:00] <Minaplo> ["You may be ill. It could be exertion, or a fault with the reincorporisation… You look broadly fine to me."]
[23:02] <Sept> "Fantastic."-
[23:02] <Sept> "So… we made it."
[23:03] <Minaplo> ["Yeah."]
[23:09] * Sept took a few moments to consider that. "But then we had to go somewhere else."
[23:10] <Minaplo> ["We're on the surface of the planet 'Mars'." Said Armin. "I have been informed it is named so in honour of a god of war. Doesn't look very warlike to me."]
[23:12] <Sept> "…no, it's a shitty red rock. So this is still the battleship."
[23:14] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. You're in what remains of the hospital wing. I have found blankets for you, and a pillow, and a large stuffed toy in the facsimile of a giant brown bear. Body heat is important."]
[23:24] <Sept> "Oh, so it's actually fucking cold in here. I see. Mary showed up, the ship barely escaped, and we're stranded." Sera's face was still expressionless as he picked out fragments of memories.
[23:27] <Minaplo> ["Yes. Yes. The temperature here is much, much lower than Earth's. Tsubaki is compensating as best she can, but so far she is managing to keep the temperature at 'mostly liveable' rather than 'comfortable'."]
[23:33] <Sept> "And we couldn't go back to Earth because…" He looked carefully hopeful.
[23:37] <Minaplo> ["Because the Battleship would shake itself apart during the jump, and because Earth is, apparently, supremely hostile right now."]
[23:48] <Sept> "Be-cause- the world ended for us, right? Because Mary took the hammer to our homes?"
[23:55] <Minaplo> ["Yes. And because the risk if she discovers us on Earth is too great."]
[00:03] * Sept sighed in relief and smiled. "About time!" he laughed. "That's… as black and white as it gets. There's no way we're getting back to normalcy from this."
[00:05] <Minaplo> ["Why are you so happy?"]
[00:08] <Sept> "Are people going to look at me weirdly if I act like the world's ending, now?"
[00:09] <Minaplo> ["That's not a good reason to be happy."]
[00:12] <Sept> "Nope. But it's… inevitable. The world's thrown into chaos. Isabelle would understand."-
[00:13] <Sept> A pause as his smile faded a little. "Did she survive?"
[00:15] <Minaplo> ["A question without an answer right now. She was shot many times by the enemy, using small, sharp crystal shards that disintegrate after penetration. They act as an anticoagulant and are also hampering your doctors' attempts to heal some of the injured, Isabelle included. I hope her amazing strength will be enough. I do not know."]
[00:18] <Sept> "Wow. I hope so too. And the last thing she needs in that state is to see my 'implausibly unpleasant' face."
[00:20] <Minaplo> ["You should let her know that you wish her well." Said Armin. "Even if it is in a written or recorded message."]
[00:23] <Sept> "Yeah." Sera took a deep breath. "What about everyone else?"
[00:24] <Minaplo> ["Be more specific."]
[00:27] <Sept> "Ginevre and Anselme?"
[00:29] <Minaplo> ["Ginevre is fine, but Anselme was nearly killed in the fighting trying to protect her." Said Armin quietly. "He's in very much a state like Isabelle."]
[00:34] <Sept> "Damn. Poor guy."
[00:35] <Minaplo> ["It looks like he will lose his right arm."]
[00:41] <Sept> "Ugh. That's tough. Though I'm sure he'd wear a replacement as a badge of pride…"
[00:41] <Minaplo> ["A replacement will be a long time coming." Said Armin. "Who else do you want to hear about, Sera?"]
[00:45] * Sept pulled the blankets tighter around him, still sitting up on the bed. "You want me to get it all out of the way, don't you? What about civilians? Viviane? Freya?"
[00:46] <Minaplo> ["Viviane is safe. We have not heard about Freya, but that at the least suggests she may not be dead."]
[00:50] <Sept> "Yeah. That's good. Better than a lot of others. Anyone I'm forgetting?"
[00:58] <Minaplo> ["I have been told by fiery Asuka that some of your schoolfriends have been killed or gone missing."]
[01:01] <Sept> "Ah. Of course. They can do that. Which ones..?"
[01:10] <Minaplo> ["Emile Olivier. Lillian Durand. Niles Windsor-Yamato, Emma Rousseau- all confirmed dead so far. Another, Malachi Ansel, has gone missing much like Freya did."]
[01:14] <Sept> "I'll confirm -him- dead if he elopes with her. I didn't really know the rest of them. Were they all there with their families, or separately targeted?"
[01:20] <Minaplo> ["Niles was part of the Asgard Operations Centre crew. He was one of the first to die. He was one of the last relatives that sweet, moonlight Alexandrina had." He said, his tone quiet, gentle, upset. "Emma Rousseau had been hospitalised before this. They killed her with a toxin. And Emile and Lillian were together when they died."]
[01:25] * Sept nodded. "That's cold, yeah."
[01:42] <Minaplo> ["Are you hungry?"]
[01:44] <Sept> "I could do with a snack. We're not gonna starve on this rock, are we?"
[01:46] <Minaplo> ["We lost a lot of our food." Said Armin. "There are plans to maybe source more, but for now we're rationing food very strictly. Is 01 edible?"]
[01:48] * Sept laughed again. "The next great innovation. 'Soylent Green is Evas!'"
[01:50] <Minaplo> [The thoughtful silence that followed that statement boded nothing but ill.]
[01:51] <Sept> "It's probably possible. We're not doing it. Calm down."
[01:53] <Minaplo> [There was a slight rustle. Sera felt the blanket be rearranged around him, and felt the furry face of some stuffed toy shoved into his eyes. "I will be back soon."-
[01:54] <Minaplo> [The sound of footsteps. A door opening- and closing.]
[01:57] <Sept> "I'll be fine, thank you!" he yelled after him.-
[01:58] <Sept> Sera gave Vassa a brief hug and set him back down opposite him on the bed. "You'd never leave me like that."
[02:10] <Minaplo> [A strange scent filled the room.-
[02:16] <Minaplo> [It was… Many things. The warm, inviting smell of hot loaves of bread, straight out of the oven; the ruddy, metallic smell of massive qualities of newly-forged steel, mixed with the earthy, grounded scent of setting concrete; the clean breezy smell of running water, a hint of a taste of decaying organic matter on his tongue; the heavy, burnt smell of gasoline and petrol fume… The smell of a city.-
[02:17] <Minaplo> [All of a sudden he felt heat near his left hand, and a slight weight on the bed. "No." Came a voice, a familiar, yet unfamiliar voice- Tsubaki's, yet…-
[02:17] <Minaplo> ["Our spaces are our spaces now together."]
[02:21] <Sept> "Wh-what?" Sera went for his bear instinctively, a thing he knew was real, to ward off this… this not-Tsubaki.
[02:32] <Minaplo> ["We reached consensus." She said, and he felt the warmth- and the touch of a hand!- on the arm around Vassa. "And sealed our alliance. We will not break that which we reached with consensus, you and us, both us."]
[02:36] <Sept> "Oh. Oh!" Further memories returned, aided by her scent. "Oh, no. I'm an idiot." He tried, subtly, to extricate himself from the being's grasp and get Vassa back safely to his side.
[02:39] <Minaplo> ["Fear not." She said gently. "We are us."]
[02:42] <Sept> "N-no shit. No. Just- god-damnit-. No!"
[02:44] <Minaplo> [The rustling of his visitor moving. He felt her knee against his inner left thigh, and a hand on his chest. The warmth and heat emanating from them was a sharp and pleasant contrast to the biting Martian cold.]
[02:49] * Sept backed up, probably getting dangerously close to the wall, or, as the case may have been, just the edge of the bed. "No. Not alright! He's lewd enough, I -will not- have two of you!"
[02:51] <Minaplo> [All of a sudden, the heat vanished, followed by the myriad smells. Sera was alone. Alone and cold.-
[02:51] <Minaplo> [The door opened.-
[02:52] <Minaplo> ["What was that shouting about?" Armin's voice.]
[02:55] * Sept gathered up his blankets hurriedly and hugged Vassa. He puffed.-
[02:56] <Sept> "What's wrong with you people?"
[02:56] <Minaplo> ["Nothing is wrong. What's the matter?"]
[03:00] <Sept> "How hard is it to construct a personality that's just… normal? I understand we had to compromise with you, to make sure the important parts were right, but. Is it just because I picked her?"-
[03:00] <Sept> "Longinus was here. Is here."
[03:01] <Minaplo> ["Longinus?" Armin's voice became dark. "The spirit that took on Tsubaki's appearance. She spoke to you?"-
[03:02] <Minaplo> ["… What's wrong with my personality?"]
[03:06] <Sept> "You make -comments- about women all the time!"
[03:12] <Minaplo> ["You will need to explain why that is bad."]
[03:17] <Sept> "Well, I don't know, I- I obviously haven't -seen- anyone's reaction to you, but it wouldn't make -me- any more comfortable!"
[03:21] <Minaplo> ["The comments are for your benefit, since you are blind." Said Armin patiently. There was the sound of a scraping chair. "I would not wish to discomfort anyone. I simply take pleasure in praising the internal and external beauties I see, especially when others cannot or do not, such as with lovely, hidden Go."-
[03:21] <Minaplo> [There was a pause.-
[03:21] <Minaplo> ["This talk of Longinus troubles me. I do not know what I could do to stop her visitations, however."]
[03:23] <Sept> "Of course not. I made the deal."
[03:24] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Armin. "You did. And I kicked your ass for it as requested."-
[03:25] <Minaplo> ["She may be reluctant to appear if I am around. If this is the case, then I will be by your side neverending."]
[03:30] <Sept> "But why is that?"
[03:31] <Minaplo> ["There is a possibility that I might be able to perceive her. If so, she would naturally try to avoid me."]
[03:34] <Sept> "And what if I need input from the both of you?"
[03:35] <Minaplo> ["I may be wrong. Or she may come if you call, regardless. Or she may show up before you call."-
[03:35] <Minaplo> ["I found something for you to eat."]
[03:36] <Sept> "Oh? Oh. Thank you. What is it?"
[03:36] * Sept extended a hand out, relinguishing his tight defensive hold on his blankets.
[03:43] <Minaplo> ["Hold on, it's in a package. 'Meal, Ready-to-Eat, Individual, #24: Mexican Chicken Stew'." Said Armin. There was the sound of some packaging being torn open. "We have a tray of 'Mexican Chicken Stew'. A side dish of fried rice. A-" he sniffed. "A fudge brownie. A box of corn bread, with bacon cheese spread to go with them. Strawberry dairy shake powder. A plastic spoon, a flameless heater, chewing gum, three small satchels of salt, and towelettes. What do you want?"]
[03:44] <Sept> "That's… pretty impressive. The bread, I guess?"
[03:45] <Minaplo> ["This is supposed to be your entire daily ration, so keep that in mind." He felt something placed into his hand. "Do you want me to spread the spread for you?"]
[03:49] <Sept> "Yeah, thanks. The human body is fine with just water for like a week."
[03:52] <Minaplo> ["Water is also rationed at the moment. We had to towel you down."]
[03:55] <Sept> "Ah. But water's easier to come by, surely."
[03:55] <Sept> "When scavenging."
[22:08] <Minaplo> ["Is it?"]
[22:12] <Sept> "Yeah. Just teleport down and… steal a lake, I don't know. And isn't there water on Mars?"
[22:14] <Minaplo> ["Polar ice." Said Armin. "And stealing lakes- where would we put all the water? We would need to build a giant dam on Mars. Unless we teleported several thousand water containers."-
[22:15] <Minaplo> ["But then we would have to boil them just to be safe!" Said Armin, his tone fiery and… Involved. "So we would need to make a giant dam… But the water would freeze immediately outside. So it's back to the water containers, but we would have to boil them one at a time, which seems inefficient…"-
[22:19] <Minaplo> ["We could boil the -lake-, but that could attract a lot of attention…"]
[22:21] <Sept> "We're not going to be here for a year, calm down. I just meant to say we'll be fine."
[22:23] <Minaplo> ["Oh. Well, I am glad to see that you are keeping your spirits up."]
[22:32] * Sept took a breath, still in a wary state after his brief encounter with the lance spirit. It had most certainly been up. "You know me. How bad is it out there? Have they managed to sweep most of the bodies out of the way?"
[22:36] <Minaplo> ["No." Said Armin, his tone cooling faster than the hypothetical water on a Martian dam. "We have yet to establish a surviving head count at present, either. Right now the focus is on trying to clear the debris, and to move the fallen as we go."]
[22:42] <Sept> "Right! You should probably help out where you can, huh. They don't need me bumping into walls out there."
[22:43] <Minaplo> ["I have been helping, yes. Fortunately, the gravity helps with clearing debris, and the several dozen armoured giant-men that everyone calls "Iron Guard" helps as well."]
[22:46] <Sept> "Ah. As long as you drop in to keep me informed if things start happening."
[22:46] <Minaplo> ["Like what?"]
[22:51] <Sept> "Finished crew count, and consequently estimates on our situation?"
[22:56] <Minaplo> ["Alright."-
[22:56] <Minaplo> ["Should I cook this stew for you?"]
[23:02] <Sept> "Nah. I'll survive for a while on the cornbread. The cooker's simple enough, isn't it?"
[23:04] <Minaplo> ["It isn't hard if you can read the instructions. It does require using water. It also calls for a rock or something to prop the cooker on."]
[23:11] <Sept> "Could you AT Heat it with water?"
[23:18] <Minaplo> ["I don't see why not."]
[23:20] <Sept> "You should've been with us on Skald."
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["Skald?"]
[23:28] <Sept> "It's this shitty island in the middle of the Nowhere Ocean, with a bunch of Caine history and angry wildlife on it. They used to dump kids there as part of their NeoSpartan training. No rules. A lot of stuff happened to a lot of people." Sera rubbed his fingers, looking down, still with a hint of a smile. "Yanmei had to lead me and Aline through a shorter visit there, too. Without murderous
[23:28] <Sept> competitors, of course, other than the wildlife."
[23:30] <Minaplo> ["So you had to survive on your own skill and ability. Harness the land in its rawest form."]
[23:33] <Sept> "Yeah. Aline almost got eaten, I got lost a bunch, rat floods kept taking our supplies…"
[23:39] <Minaplo> ["This sounds like quite the adventure." Said Armin enthusiastically. "We must do this! Not only you and me, of course, but others as well. Bold Yanmei and her Isaiah, and fiery Asuka and her Alexandre, little moon-kissed princess Alexandrina and her loyal Matthias, and of course sweet, gentle Go." He said in a deep, solemn tone. "I assure you, my friend, such an exciting, engaging and challenging as a brave expedition into untamed wilderness, for such expeditions warm the blood, empower the mind and bring out the true beauty of already-dazzling women, shining like dewdrops in the moonlight."]
[23:42] <Sept> "Eh, calm down. You're doing the thing with women again. AT powers would sort of ruin the 'challenge'. Besides, I think the others have had enough."
[23:44] <Minaplo> ["Well obviously I would not use my light. To keep it fair." He said.-
[23:44] <Minaplo> ["And you should consider that perhaps appreciating the loveliness of women is something you should do more often?"]
[23:52] <Sept> "I appreciate a lot of people, and that's my own business!"
[23:55] <Minaplo> ["Yes, but do they know you appreciate them, or do you just go around and be grumpy all of the time?"]
[00:00] <Sept> "Leading question, your honor."
[00:00] <Minaplo> ["Witness is hostile." Snapped Armin. "Bold Yanmei has taught me -some- things."]
[00:01] <Sept> "Does the UEF constitution have a Fifth I can plead?"
[00:04] <Minaplo> ["The UEF Charter on the Rights and Liberties of Humanity fulfills your current desire." Said Armin.-
[00:05] <Minaplo> ["But this is a major problem." Said Armin quietly. "I must teach you the rightful path in all things. Including other people and especially women."]
[00:08] <Sept> "The 'rightful path'? Not even as a joke. Knock it off."
[00:13] <Minaplo> ["Rude."]
[00:14] <Sept> "They know I appreciate them, alright?"
[00:17] <Minaplo> ["I'm sure some of them do, deep down." Said Armin. "Others may not. Either way, being open with one's appreciation is often appreciated in return."]
[00:24] <Sept> "I resent that!" Sera replied, seriously. "Ginevre knows how grateful I am for -everything- she's done. Yanmei and Aline know how far I'd follow them and how much I value them, Ritsuko and Tsubaki know -I know- I'd be infinitely worse off without them! That's worth more than your cheap words of praise!"
[00:32] <Minaplo> ["And what about Asuka? Does she know of your admiration, truly?" Asked Armin. "Or your leaders? Marianne Amatore-DeForest? Misato Katsuragi? Do they know that you appreciate their support? Yes, you are grateful to Ginevre, and she knows it deep down. Yes, Yanmei and Aline know how loyal you are. Yes, Ritsuko and Tsubaki know you know that you need them. You have planted a seed. That is admirable. But now you need to water the plant." The slight creak as Armin shifted about in his seat.-
[00:36] <Minaplo> ["A lack of positives is quickly perceived as an abundance of negatives." Said Armin. "If one lover tells the other that they love them, and the other never responds in the same, then it can hurt. It can cause upset. It can cause doubt. Yes, they both know they love each other. But the lack of the positive reaction can be taken as a slight, or an insult, or a sign of negativity. Yes, what I say may not be world-changing. It may be nothing better than 'maintenance', but that maintenance is still appreciated nonetheless and at the very least, it makes a person feel good about themselves."]
[00:46] <Sept> "Y…yes. Of course. And another matter I always arrive back at, is what about when I have to do something to endanger those people? It'll obviously hurt them more that way."
[00:51] <Minaplo> ["Do I understand you correctly when I say that it sounds like you believe being, to some degree, aloof or distant makes it easier on them if you have to endanger them?"]
[00:52] <Sept> "And on me."-
[00:52] <Sept> "Obviously."
[00:52] <Minaplo> [There was perfect silence.]
[00:57] * Sept turned his head from one side to the other, trying to figure out if he'd just left. "…your counterargument, Armin."
[00:57] <Minaplo> [The silence continued. Unbroken. Eerie.]
[01:00] <Sept> A cigarette would've been the perfect weapon against the silence. Sera didn't have one. "This is how these talks usually end. Only this time, I was accosted by foreign thought beings -beforehand-." He shifted on the bed.
[01:02] <Minaplo> [The silence… Still continued.]
[01:07] <Sept> "Fine." Sera lay back down with a bamf, immediately regretting the quick movement as the cold air penetrated the folds of his ablative blankets.
[01:07] <Minaplo> [A second later, he felt a flick against his nose.-
[01:08] <Minaplo> ["Doubt hurts more."]
[01:10] <Sept> "You think?"
[01:13] <Minaplo> ["I do. People are blind when it comes to these affairs, being forced to rely on what has been there in the past to guess what is there now. The sound of a voice or the touch of a hand does a great deal to reassure people that it's still there. If I intend to leave, I will tell you. I will not vanish suddenly. That would be poorly."]
[01:16] <Sept> "Poorly what?"
[01:17] <Minaplo> [Another flick of the nose.]
[01:18] * Sept twitched back, clearly unappreciative of noseflickings. "…"-
[01:20] <Sept> "I'll take it under consideration like always. And your displays of appreciation are unfairly limited to women."
[01:22] <Minaplo> ["The distribution of gender in the people we associate with is weighted towards women." Said Armin. "You just mentioned Ginevre, Yanmei, Aline, Ritusko and Tsubaki. Name a man you appreciate, and I will tell you how I appreciate him."]
[01:24] <Sept> "I see."
[01:27] <Minaplo> ["Name one."]
[01:30] <Sept> "Edgar. Alexandre. Adrian."
[01:48] <Minaplo> ["Edgar. A man of shining steel. No matter how hard he is beaten, he shines ever brighter for it. Alexandre, a man who is calm and clear like a bright sapphire, and just as cool to the touch. And Adrian…" Armin paused. "Adrian was gentle and warm, and he touched the hearts of people whom I hold dear. I appreciate him for that."]
[01:50] <Sept> "And I agree on all of those things."
[01:59] <Minaplo> ["Good. Then I will keep saying them, and you will begin to say them."]
[02:10] <Sept> "Fine. We'll see who breaks first. I've done this before."
[02:12] <Minaplo> ["Why must one of us break?"]
[02:16] <Sept> "It's a figure of speech! I'm not going to start doing something just because you insist on it!"
[02:18] <Minaplo> ["Of course not. You're going to start doing something because it has a good chance of improving your relationships with, and the happiness of, the people around you. Like a good man."]
[02:27] <Sept> "And I'll think about it, okay!"
[02:28] <Minaplo> ["Well good."]
[02:31] <Sept> "Right!"
[02:32] <Minaplo> ["You'll be fine by yourself here, then?"]
[02:33] <Sept> "Of course. Go help people."
[02:41] <Minaplo> [There was a chuckle from Armin- then footsteps, the sound of the door opening, then- it shutting against its frame.-
[02:42] <Minaplo> [Silence.]
[02:46] * Sept lay there for a moment, Thinking About It in the quiet of the half-dead ship. Before he could do anything close to drifting off to sleep, though, he remembered he wasn't alone.-
[02:47] <Sept> And wasn't likely to ever be.

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