From The Ashes A Fire Shall Be Woken A Light From The Shadow

[15:34] * Yanmei was alone with her thoughts for the first time in a long while, but she wasn't making much use of the time. She was achingly tired, to the point of slouching in her chair, eying the bed in front of her and wondering if there was room in it for two. It was a typical white hospital bed, already occupied, and this was a typical private hospital room. It was almost funny how similar it was to the ones they had in the P
[15:38] <Yanmei> - Paris Geofront.
[15:40] <@Tobias‘Linden> [The occupant was none other than Isaiah… He’d been lying there for a few hours.-
[15:41] <@Tobias‘Linden> [The last time he’d ended up in a Boston bed, it'd been after his first real piloting experience- EVA-08 had gone berserk. He'd lain in that bed peacefully…-
[15:41] <@Tobias‘Linden> [But this time was different. Once in awhile, he’d groan, or whimper. And thus it was that at this moment, he was starting to cry out in fear. "N-No…"]
[15:48] * Yanmei creased her brow and leaned over at that, catching his shoulder and gently shaking it.
[15:52] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["Ngh- no-!"-
[15:52] <@Tobias`Linden> [His eyes opened. "Uh…"]
[15:57] * Yanmei peered closely at him. "Isaiah? …are you okay?"
[15:58] <@Tobias`Linden> ["Oh…" He let out a quiet sigh, and reached out to take her hand slightly frantically. "I was- a nightmare."]
[16:03] * Yanmei moved her own hand toward his. "Pretty intense nightmare." She tried to smile at him. "It’s okay now. You're in the hospital, and you're going to be fine."
[16:11] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["What happened…?"]
[16:17] <Yanmei> "Well, ah… it berserked again."
[16:17] <@Tobias`Linden> ["Did we win?"]
[16:19] <Yanmei> "Yeah, somehow? We were down to the last few, but then their commander surrendered. I think Blanc had something to do with it?"
[16:20] <@Tobias`Linden> ["Ah…" Isaiah nodded. "Well, I’m glad." He smiled a little. His right hand clenched, as though expecting to find something in it. He looked down at it, frowning. "… Yanmei?"]
[16:21] <Yanmei> "Yes?"
[16:23] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["Where’s Excalibur?"]
[16:24] <Yanmei> "Why?" A little guarded now.
[16:25] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["It…" He shook his head. "It’s dangerous. I think it…"]
[16:28] * Yanmei stared. "So then… You felt it too?"
[16:31] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["Felt… It?"]
[16:32] <Yanmei> "You must have. It was all…" She lowered her voice. Threw a quick, embarrassed glance at the empty doorway. "Like, foreboding. Creepy."
[16:34] <@Tobias`Linden> ["… I felt more than that. Excalibur- I don’t think any of them realise, Yanmei."-
[16:34] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["It’s not a weapon. Or… It's more than a weapon. It's… It has a will of its own."]
[16:38] <Yanmei> "What do you…? What will?" Yanmei shook her head. "Why would it have something like that?"
[16:40] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["I don’t know. But it was… Speaking to me." He said quietly, agitated.]
[16:45] * Yanmei went rigid. "Oh.. oh no. Oh Isaiah…" She clenched his hand harder. "You can't listen to it, okay? Whatever it said to you was probably just it's own version of psychological warfare. Nasty nasty tricks."
[16:51] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["I know, I know." Isaiah shook his head. "But… The things it showed were so awful and vivid. It… It showed you dying. It told me that I needed it to protect you."]
[16:55] <Yanmei> Wasn’t she supposed to protect him? Supposed to, but… she kept failing at it so miserably. "But I'm fine, see?" She raised her other arm in a silly little halfhearted bicep flex.
[16:57] <@Tobias‘Linden> [Isaiah let out a little chuckle. "I know." He smiled wanly. "It’s nothing. Just some stupid sword."]
[17:01] <Yanmei> "Yeah." Yanmei lowere her hand to her lap again. "When 08 woke up, he threw it away. One of Alphonse's first orders after the battle was to recover it, though."
[17:04] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["I guess it’s pretty important." He smiled, shifted over. "You look tired. You alright?" He patted the space made on the bed.]
[17:11] * Yanmei slid onto it gratefully. "It's been a long day?" she admitted.
[17:12] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["Yeah…" He put an arm around her waist. "Yanmei… Is everything alright?"]
[17:17] <Yanmei> "I don’t know. Not a lot of things have gone alright lately."
[17:18] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["Yeah?" He frowned. "Let me help, hon…"]
[17:32] <Yanmei> "I dunno if it’s the sort of thing that -can- be helped," she muttered.
[17:33] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["What do you mean?"]
[17:39] <Yanmei> "Ugh." She stared up at the ceiling. "Did you ever have one of those times when you just felt trapped? By a bunch of things put together? Like you were a puppet and a lot of people were taking turns making you move?"
[17:40] <@Tobias`Linden> ["… Yeah." he said quietly. "Why? What’s going on?"]
[17:45] <Yanmei> "It's that dumb committee. It's being here, now, with the evacuation cancelled, and knowing what's going to happen next, and knowing what else could be taken from me if I'm not careful." She fell silent for a little while, listening to some distant noises in the hallway for a moment or two before continuing. "Isaiah?"
[17:46] <@Tobias‘Linden> [Isaiah had pulled her a little closer when she’d mentioned the cancellation of the evacuation. He knew what she meant. "Yes, sweetheart?"]
[17:49] <Yanmei> "If you were ever in the position, you wouldn't… I mean, freedom's important to you, isn't it? Yours and mine?"
[17:52] <@Tobias‘Linden> [Isaiah blinked, then frowned. "Yeah, of course. What was it you once said? You were… You were worried that you were taking away my freedom, or something like that. You said you didn’t want to make me do anything unless I wanted to do it." He gave her a smile. "You and me both have been puppets of people for a very long time. All I want is freedom. For you, and for me. And…"-
[17:53] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["… I admit, I still find it a miracle that you’d spend that free life with me."]
[18:01] * Yanmei chuckled, sliding closer. "You remember all that, huh? I wish you'd give yourself more credit, but I'm happy that that stayed with you."
[18:03] <@Tobias‘Linden> [Isaiah smiled, resting his head on her shoulder. "Yeah. I am, too." He said quietly, gently. "Yanmei? Have… Have I done something wrong?"]
[18:06] <Yanmei> "Wrong?" she looked at him in surprise, and then it registered that she shouldn’t have been so surprised after all. "No, no. I've just not been feeling like myself lately. It's not you, I promise."
[18:12] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["I see…" He said quietly. "… Yanmei, I… I’m going to trust you." Said Isaiah quietly. "I love you. I'd do anything for you- I'd die for you-. So I'm going to trust that if you need my help, you'll ask for it. Alright? Just please don't try to do this by yourself if you can't."]
[18:19] * Yanmei stared at him, touched. "I don't want you to die," she murmured, "even for me. So if you promise me that you won't, I'll promise not to take on too much without you."
[18:22] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["Alright. I promise I won’t die." He said, kissing her. "I want to live and help you become as happy as you deserve."]
[18:33] * Yanmei kissed back. Touched her forehead to his, and felt a certain comfort seep in. "It'd be great if we could run away together. When are we going to see each other again?"
[18:35] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["I don’t know." He said sadly. "I'll try to see you as much as I can. I'll call every day."-
[18:35] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["I, ah… I actually brought something along. I want you to have it."]
[18:36] <Yanmei> "Ah?"
[18:37] <@Tobias`Linden> ["Ah…" He looked around, and pointed at his jacket, which had been left over a chair. "In the inside breast pocket."]
[18:38] * Yanmei followed the instructions, climbing out of bed to the dismay of her weary body and going over to the chair. "You didn’t have to do something like this…"
[18:42] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["But I wanted to."-
[18:42] <@Tobias`Linden> [Within the pocket, once she reached it, she’d find a small jewellry box.]
[18:44] * Yanmei stared down at it. She could feel a lot of blood suddenly rush to her face, making her dizzy.
[18:52] <@Tobias‘Linden> ["Go on. Open it." He said, grinning.]
[18:53] * Yanmei did. Slowly… nervously… fingers even shaking a little.
[18:56] <@Tobias`Linden> [A ring. A band of gold, within which was set a brilliant soft pink-purple diamond.]
[18:57] <Yanmei> "Ah…" She found it suddenly hard to breathe. "B-beautiful."
[18:59] <@Tobias`Linden> ["Would you like to read out the engraving?"]
[18:59] * Yanmei lifted the ring out of the box, squinting at the band for the words.
[19:00] <@Tobias`Linden> [It was engraved with Yanmei’s name in Chinese- and after that, in miniscule French, 'My guardian, my ray of light']
[19:02] <Yanmei> "Guardian…" He still thought of her as that. It made her heart bloom with happiness. "The most incredible thing. This… the gift I was planning for you doesn't even come close to this. I couldn't even finish it in time…"
[19:07] <@Tobias‘Linden> [Isaiah smiles, clearly delighted at her happiness. "Zhang Yanmei?"]
[19:09] <Yanmei> "Y-yes, Isaiah?"
[19:10] <@Tobias`Linden> [He smiles even broader, and beckons her to come closer.]
[19:11] * Yanmei did so, still anticipating, but now a little puzzled too.
[19:13] <@Tobias`Linden> [He gently took the ring from her hand and, taking that same hand, slipped the ring onto her finger. "Will you give your heart to me, if I give mine to you? Will you protect me, and allow me to protect you? Will you choose me, as I have chosen you, of your own free will? Will you marry me?"]
[19:18] <Yanmei> "My own free…" Her eyes were glassy, and the room was absolutely spinning. It felt like her face was burning. "Do you mean that?"
[19:18] <@Tobias`Linden> ["Absolutely."]
[19:21] <Yanmei> "I ha-ha-" She made herself start again, trying to take a deep breath. "Have to tell you something. The Libido Effect."
[19:22] <@Tobias`Linden> ["…? What is it?"]
[19:28] <Yanmei> "E-genes and … and control, and…" She stared at his happy face - confused face - then down at the ring. "W-what I want…"
[19:29] <@Isaiah> "Yanmei…" A concerned, worried look crossed his face. "Slow down and explain this properly…"
[19:31] * Yanmei tried. She tried taking deep breaths and shutting her eyes and then opening them when she felt the floor seemingly settle beneath her feet. -
[19:33] <Yanmei> "Th-there’s a downside to the Libido Effect. I still need to confirm it, but you have to know b-before we do something like this."
[19:33] <@Isaiah> "A downside? What is it? Is it dangerous?"
[19:35] <Yanmei> "Not deadly. Dangerous, yes. It… I… I don't know how to fix it!"
[19:36] <@Isaiah> "What is it, Yanmei? Please, tell me!"
[19:40] <Yanmei> "Right." She swallowed, trying to take charge of herself again. "It's control. The puppeteer and the puppet. After a while the relationship s-starts to look like that."
[19:41] <@Isaiah> Isaiah's eyes widened. "… You-… You're afraid you're… You're going to become my puppet?"
[19:46] <Yanmei> "You should know about this. Before we do a-anything. It's something that could happen w-without us being aware of it." Yanmei shook her head. "But you said that you cared about my freedom too. So you wouldn't…"
[19:51] <@Isaiah> "… Are you saying, if I gave you a command right now, you'd -have- to obey?"
[19:53] <Yanmei> "I don't know…"
[19:54] <@Isaiah> "Yanmei." He said, urgently. He reached out and took her hand. "There is only one command I would ever give you. And that would be to be free. I would -never- hurt you. I would never, ever force you to do anything. I… I refuse to believe this can just 'happen'."-
[19:54] <@Isaiah> "Where did you learn this, anyway?"
[19:57] <Yanmei> "… someone with access to the MAGI system told me that it was in one of its files. I've known about it for all of a day! I haven't even had the opportunity to confirm it."
[19:59] <@Isaiah> "They're- wrong." Isaiah looked away. "At the very least, they're wrong about us. About me."
[20:01] <Yanmei> "What should we do?" She looked sad. More than sad… At least she wasn't crying.
[20:04] <@Isaiah> "I won't let you become a puppet." He said quietly. "I'll stop it at any cost. Even…"
[20:08] <Yanmei> "I…" Yanmei was staring at him intensely. "I'll fight it too. Because it's also my life. I won't give up."
[20:12] <@Isaiah> "I know."-
[20:12] <@Isaiah> He was staring at the wall still, his shoulders slumped. He looked… Weak. A sort of weakness that Yanmei had probably grown used to -not- seeing on him anymore.
[20:17] <Yanmei> "Isaiah…" she reached for him. "I don't intend to let you go either? You know that, right? How important you are to me."
[20:20] <@Isaiah> "I know." He said sadly. He took her hand, and looked about, tears starting to course down his face. "Y-you know, I… It wasn't my idea to buy you that ring. Not yet. After the hearing, dad had a chat to me, and he said, he told me, he… Told me to get it, and he gave me the money…"
[20:22] <Yanmei> "Your dad did?" There was no way for her to hide the surprise "I thought he hated me… You two… you two talked after that day?"
[20:23] <@Isaiah> "Yeah. He wanted to give me mum's old ring, but I couldn't take it. It hurt him just to offer, I could tell."
[20:25] <Yanmei> "I don't understand him," she mumbled. She moved in closer, wrapping her arms around him. "But I'm very grateful."
[20:27] <@Isaiah> "Yeah…" He clutched onto her arms tightly. "I'm sorry."
[20:28] <Yanmei> "No, I am." Her voice started to shake a little. "I wish it could have gone more smoothly. I was h-happy. Really, I was."
[20:31] <@Isaiah> "What…" He bowed his head a little. "What does that mean, Yanmei?"
[20:33] <Yanmei> "Didn't I… doesn't this ruin things? It's not the way a proposal is supposed to go…"
[20:34] <@Isaiah> "You owe me an answer."-
[20:37] <@Isaiah> "And I'm not going to wait, not again. Yes or no, here and now. Either you can accept that fear you have, that worry about what this might mean in the future, whether you made the right decision, or whether it was some other alien influence and thus wall it off. Or you can confront that fear with defiance, and decide to trust me, and trust yourself, that whatever happens, love, trust and freedom will prove stronger than control or coercion."
[20:42] <Yanmei> "You're still…?" She stared at him. She could see her mother's face already, taunt with disapproval, and the complications from their current living situations. She could see her ex-boyfriend's long-ago deleted breakup text and the crushing sadness that followed.-
[20:45] <Yanmei> But she could also see his clear blue eyes, still a little teary, but firm. A future with him. The strong pull of that word… 'defiance'. Her own promise to not give up. She stared down at her ring.-
[20:47] <Yanmei> It was of course more complicated than even that. But what did she want? What did she really want, here?-
[20:49] <Yanmei> She breathed in through her nose, long and deep, and turned her gaze back to him. "Let's do it."
[20:50] <@Isaiah> "…!" He stared at her for a long time…-
[20:51] <@Isaiah> Then he smiled. A bright, broad smile that cleared his head, banished the sadness he felt and erased the anger.-
[20:51] <@Isaiah> He didn't say anything to that. He just pulled her towards him and kissed her as deeply as he could.
[20:55] <Yanmei> And Yanmei kissed back with abandon, half-mad with terror and joy. They could do this. Together, no one would ever stop them.

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