Mazarin S Dinner

[13:14] * Yanmei spotted the VTOL long before it was close enough to land, half on tiptoes from the anticipation. -
[13:18] <Yanmei> She had made many preparations that morning. Isaiah had been called away from their room, which meant leaving Lizzie for a while in someone else's care. After that, she had dressed up, sliding into a neat dark blue business suit, tinted sunglasses, and a sleak, long trenchcoat. -
[13:20] <Yanmei> Lastly, of course, she had met up with a companion for the trip. They stood side by side together now on the deck as the VTOL noisily touched down, blasting the icy March winds around them.
[13:27] <Minaplo> [Ayanami Julie stood at Yanmei's side, wearing her crisp Lieutenant's dress uniform, over which she wore a NERV officer's black greatcoat and a pair of white gloves. She looked up at the VTOL, reaching up to tap her glasses. "Here he is~"-
[13:28] <Minaplo> [The VTOL landed, the side passenger passage sliding open, a ramp lowering. Lucille was standing at the apex, dressed in her usual blue, but with an added coat as well. "Mademoiselle Zhang, Mademoiselle Ayanami. Good evening. We are ready to leave at your leisure."]
[13:30] <Yanmei> "Thank you, Miss Lucille~" Yanmei took the lead up the ramp to her. "Doing well today, I hope?"
[13:33] <Minaplo> ["I am, thank you for asking, Mademoiselle Zhang."-
[13:34] <Minaplo> [Julie followed Yanmei up, preening a little.-
[13:34] <Minaplo> [De Orleans was present as well, and he tipped his head at Yanmei. "A cold evening, no doubt you agree, Yanmei?"]
[13:43] <Yanmei> "Very much so?" She smiled warmly back at him. "But no matter how cold it is, I'm glad that we could meet again. Allow me to introduce Ayanami Julie, my friend."
[13:44] <Minaplo> ["How do you do, sir." Said Julie, bowing, a polite smile on her face.-
[13:45] <Minaplo> [De Orleans chuckled. "Quite fine, Miss Ayanami, quite fine indeed. Come, let us sit down, before this VTOL takes off again…"]
[13:49] * Yanmei did just that, sitting across from de Orleans. "How did things go after we left yesterday?"
[13:53] <Minaplo> ["Mmm… Awkwardly, I suppose. I am so sorry about what happened to Frau Langley- I had no idea…"]
[13:58] <Yanmei> "She seems to be doing better now?" Yanmei offered him a small smile. "We talked a lot afterward. I suppose Doctor von Brandt told you the details from his side, then."
[13:59] <Minaplo> ["He told me some things." Murmured de Orleans.-
[13:59] <Minaplo> [The VTOL's door closed up, and the sound of the engine was very quickly muffled. It dwindled to merely a comfortable background hum within seconds as the craft took off, heading for central Paris.-
[14:00] <Minaplo> ["But, I am glad we have this opportunity now, at least- dinner with Monsieur Mazarin…"]
[14:05] * Yanmei nodded happily. "It's been a long time? The last time we saw each other…" she trailed off at the memory, and suddenly tried to change the subject. "Have you two met the replacement pilots for Paris-2 yet?"
[14:06] <Minaplo> ["We haven't." Said de Orleans. "I haven't had much to do with the new management…"]
[14:11] <Yanmei> "No?" She looked surprised. Then, slightly worried.
[14:18] <Minaplo> ["Growing pains, I imagine."]
[14:22] <Yanmei> "Yes, you're probably right?" -
[14:26] <Yanmei> For a while after that, they chatted about other things. Yanmei gave de Orleans and Lucille a full update on Lizzie and Isaiah, and after that they discussed some of Julie's - and a few other Ayanamis' - military accomplishments. -
[14:27] <Yanmei> Before long, they were settling down on the official Presidential landing pad in all of its splendor.
[14:29] <Minaplo> [There were a pair of soldiers- and a member of the palais household service- there, waiting to guide them.-
[14:32] <Minaplo> [The grand dining hall had not been prepared- instead, they would feast in a smaller, more intimate 'family' dining room.-
[14:33] <Minaplo> [The table was twenty feet long, made of exotic, dark rich wood, covered in a long tablecloth that felt extremely soft and fine. The chairs were high-backed, and covered in ornate carvings, with velvet cushions.-
[14:34] <Minaplo> [A crystal and gold chandelier hovered over the table, an individual candle lighting up the entire room.-
[14:37] <Minaplo> [The walls were lined with gold paper, pillars every five metres; between each pillar were gorgeous, detailed frescoes of French history. Charles Martel, the Hammer, crushing the Umayyad armies at Tours; Charlemagne leading the Frankish armies to victory over the Saxons; Joan of Arc rallying the defenders at Orleans; Louis XIV presiding over Versailles; the Revolution and the Rights of Man; Napoleon marching to victory at Austerlitz; Charles de Gaulle reclaiming Paris from the Nazis; EVA-00 striking down Qaphsiel over the city-line.-
[14:37] <Minaplo> [So all in all, fairly conservative and plain for the Palais.]
[14:41] * Yanmei pulled off her sunglasses, peering more closely at the artwork with the air of someone who had seen it all before… regardless of the reality. She glanced sideways at Julie for a reaction.
[14:49] <Minaplo> ["If the French and Chinese have a trait they share, it's a love of largesse." Said Julie knowingly. "They may do the execution differently, but they both love big flashy displays…"]
[14:53] <Yanmei> "Think so?" That seemed to amuse her, going by her half-grin. Yanmei tossed her hair lightly. "Which style do you prefer?"
[14:56] <Minaplo> ["Can I take a third option?"]
[14:56] <Yanmei> "Hm? Of course?"
[14:57] <Minaplo> ["Japan is much better~"]
[15:01] * Yanmei giggled quietly. "I should have known you'd say that? What's your rationale?"
[15:03] <Minaplo> ["Japan is tasteful and understated whilst being unique and exotic." Julie twirled her hand, letting the sleeve of her left arm fall back a little, exposing the wrist. "Like that~"-
[15:03] <Minaplo> [… Yanmei would simultaneously notice, now that Julie had her coat off, that her uniform had been… Customised a little to make it much more form-fitting.]
[15:04] * Yanmei tsked lightly. "Are you sure that's still regulation, Miss Ayanami?"
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["Speaking of regulations." Came a new, familiar, authoritative voice from the end of the hall.-
[15:07] <Minaplo> ["Security Officer Zhang hasn't reported into her place of work in over a month." Said Mortimer Mazarin, wearing an immaculate tuxedo, a dry smile on his face. "What do we do in such situations, petite-choufleur?"-
[15:15] <Minaplo> ["We discipline them, father~" Said Henriette Mazarin, her arms folded, a mildly disapproving expression on her cold, lovely face.-
[15:17] <Minaplo> [Henriette had gone through an early growth spurt since Yanmei had last seen her. The girl now stood at an impressive 4'6 or 7- if this kept up, by the time she was 15 she'd be tall and imposing, just like her father.-
[15:17] <Minaplo> [She wore a long green dress with a lace trim that fell just past her knees; she wore a fur coat that suggested that it might've been donated by Felix…]
[15:24] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei seemed to take this good-naturedly, spinning and beaming warmly at President Mazarin after the initial surprise. She was trying her damndest not to stare at Henriette… that would only give her satisfaction. "I don't suppose there's anything I could do to earn some leniency?"
[15:29] <Minaplo> ["Beg-" Began Henriette.-
[15:29] <Minaplo> ["Share your company with us?" Offered Mazarin diplomatically.]
[15:37] <Yanmei> "I would be happy to, Mr. President~" She flounced a few steps closer to them… and part of her smugly sugary smile seemed discreetly directed at Henriette now. -
[15:37] <Yanmei> "We probably have a lot to talk about anyway."
[15:38] <Minaplo> ["Indeed."-
[15:38] <Minaplo> ["Would you care to introduce me to your guest…?"]
[15:41] <Yanmei> "Ayanami Julie, of NERV Beijing, the pilot of MP EVA Unit 20."
[15:46] <Minaplo> [Julie bowed. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. President."-
[15:48] <Minaplo> ["The pleasure is mine. Please, let us sit- you too, Gilles, I see you skulking over there…"-
[15:49] <Minaplo> ["Hmph." de Orleans sat down, Lucille at his side. "Skulking nothing. If anything, it is you who skulks…"]
[15:54] * Yanmei coughed delicately into a closed fist, and took a seat of her own.
[15:58] <Minaplo> [And Henriette sat down next to her, whilst Mazarin sat at the head of the table, in the highest seat.]
[16:05] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei tried to sit up much taller… not that her posture had been anything to sneeze at to begin with. "Look at you~ You're not quite as teeny tiny as before, are you?" She reached out and lightly patted Henriette on the head.
[16:06] <Minaplo> ["Indeed." Said Henriette, preening. "If only the same could be said in return without deception…"]
[16:13] * Yanmei started to glare… but the presence of Mazarin and de Orleans was enough to curb that a bit. "I'd say that I've grown in other ways that you can't see?" she said primly. "It's an adult thing. You wouldn't get it."
[16:18] <Minaplo> ["I understand plenty." Said Henriette primly. "I just don't see how it applies to -you-." She said, giving Yanmei a critical look-over…]
[16:27] * Yanmei flushed slightly. Hopefully no one else at the table was paying enough attention to have heard that. "You've just proved that you lack perspective right there. Failing to recognize an amazing adult who's sitting right next to you…~"
[16:33] <Minaplo> [Henriette looked around, conspicuously looking at a point well above Yanmei's head…-
[16:33] <Minaplo> [Mazarin was chuckling. "Like sisters. Come, why don't we prepare for our entrees?"]
[16:42] <Yanmei> S-sisters?! Yanmei somehow managed to keep the shock and dismay off her face. Hastily, she reached for a napkin and spread it over her lap. "S-so, Mr. President! I hear you've been up to a lot during the last month or so?" -
[16:43] <Yanmei> Social redemption through small talk?
[16:44] <Minaplo> ["Indeed." Said Mazarin. "Evacuation and economic re-evaluation procedures, some summits regarding Italy, and… Negotiations involving a certain pilot." He added dryly.-
[16:45] <Minaplo> [Julie was sitting next to Mazarin, and had been chatting with him in a practiced and relaxed way whilst Yanmei had bickered with Henriette. Now she sat back and smiled. "Ah…" She reached over and took Henriette's hand. "Your father's a good man, Mademoiselle~"-
[16:46] <Minaplo> ["Negotiations? Bullying, more like it." Muttered de Orleans cantankerously. "Brinkmanship of the highest degree…"]
[16:54] <Yanmei> "Well, it's bullying that I'm very grateful for?" Yanmei was smiling, now. "I'm going to find some way to repay you someday."
[16:56] <Minaplo> ["I have an idea." Said Henriette warmly.]
[17:01] * Yanmei eyed her politely.
[17:04] <Minaplo> ["You could let me stay with you and Monsieur Gabriel-Wei for a week or two." She said, staring at Yanmei with big, suddenly innocent eyes. "Since I so enjoyed our last time…"-
[17:04] <Minaplo> ["What a good idea." Said Mazarin drily.]
[17:07] <Yanmei> "I'd absolutely love to," she said smoothly, "but it seems like we won't be staying in France after this battle? Relocation orders."
[17:10] <Minaplo> ["Oh, that's quite fine." Said Henriette, who took Yanmei's hand and entertwined her fingers with it. "I'm sure I'll manage wherever you're going~"]
[17:15] * Yanmei chuckled. "How sweet~ But you won't have as much fun aboard a boring warship? Especially if Isaiah is relocated elsewhere too."
[17:17] <Minaplo> ["I'm sure I'll enjoy myself with you around." She said, her sweet smile tinted with danger.]
[17:21] <Yanmei> "Maybe that's true?" She met that dangerous smile with dark eyes that gleamed with a challenge of their own. "I could teach you how to do all sorts of military training drills."
[17:21] <Minaplo> ["I'd quite enjoy that."-
[17:23] <Minaplo> ["There's all sorts of interesting people on the battleship right now, you know." Said Julie eagerly. "President Linden, and Princess Alexandrina… Wouldn't it be cool to meet a real princess, Mademoiselle~?"-
[17:23] <Minaplo> ["Hm, Alexy? I've known her for ages." Said Henriette, practically dismissively, before turning back to Yanmei. "We can have the same sleeping arrangement as last time, of course-"-
[17:23] <Minaplo> ["H-Hey…" Julie tried to cut back in.]
[17:32] <Yanmei> "Speaking of interesting people~" said Yanmei rather quickly. -
[17:35] <Yanmei> "Miss Julie was promoted recently? And she's been using her newfound influence - inside and outside of the organization - to branch out into philanthropy back in Beijing."
[17:38] <Minaplo> ["Ah, you heard about that~?" Julie blushed slightly, but in pleasure rather than embarrassment. "I had no idea-"-
[17:38] <Minaplo> ["Oh, that is interesting." Said Mazarin, reorienting himself towards Julie. "Do elaborate."-
[17:42] <Minaplo> ["Oh, well, before I was redeployed to here- or the battleship, I mean- my last big event was a fundraiser in Beijing-2, raising money to aid those survivors of 16/8 who haven't been able to find work or homes yet." She said, talking in a warm, animated way, gesticulating enthusiastically with her hands.-
[17:47] <Minaplo> ["I arrived in an Eva, of course, in full view of everyone, exited and made a speech- then rushed off to change and shower. That LCL is rather distasteful~" She chuckled. "Then I was free to spend the evening hob-nobbing with all sorts of people. The President, the Prime Minister, Zhao Wen- oh, she's an actress and singer, you might not've heard of her, but she's something of a darling in China…"]
[17:48] <Yanmei> Yanmei's eyes widened slightly at that. "You've met -the- Zhao Wen?"
[17:50] <Minaplo> ["Naturally~"]
[17:53] <Yanmei> "I'm seriously jealous, now?" she stared at her wistfully. "I bet she talked all about her upcoming movies…"
[17:55] <Minaplo> ["She talked about all kinds of things, some of which I'm not at liberty to discuss?" Said Julie, her eyes twinkling delightedly.]
[17:59] <Yanmei> "Are you sure~?" Yanmei's face took on a sweet, innocent pleading expression. "That's just way too cruel? We're all friends here, after all~"
[18:03] <Minaplo> ["Not for your ears, dear~"-
[18:04] <Minaplo> [And so time passed- wait staff brought out food for them, delectable dishes on brilliant porcelain plates with silverware; top-quality French cuisine as well as cuisine from abroad.-
[18:05] <Minaplo> ["… But yes, back to Orleans." Said Mazarin, shaking his head.-
[18:05] <Minaplo> ["Orleans was the capital after Paris-1 was destroyed." Said Henriette knowingly to Yanmei.]
[18:08] <Yanmei> "Right. Still, it's just a temporary move, correct? You'll be back in Paris-2 once the dust settles?"
[18:09] <Minaplo> ["So to speak." Said Mazarin dryly.]
[18:14] <Yanmei> "…it's not as if we plan to leave a mess here?" Yanmei felt the need to say.
[18:20] <Minaplo> ["Mmm." The corners of Mazarin's mouth twitched.-
[18:21] <Minaplo> [The door to the room opened once again, a waiter entering to deliver a bottle of wine.-
[18:21] <Minaplo> [He placed the wine down in the middle of the table, turned to leave-
[18:22] <Minaplo> [… And all of a sudden, the light outside switched off. There was the sudden absense of a low-level background hum- the hum of electricity. The only light left in the room were the burning candles.]
01[08:27] <Yanmei> A moment of surprise. Then, with thoughts of the Spectre and the other Solomons rushing through her head, Yanmei stiffened and stood up sharply.
[08:38] <Minaplo> [Yanmei wasn't alone in this. Julie and Lucille both shot to their feet as well.-
[08:42] <Minaplo> ["W-What's this? What's wrong?" Squawked de Orleans, whose back was to the door and so took a moment to realise the electricity was out.-
[08:43] <Minaplo> ["This is highly irregular." Said Mazarin severely. "The electricity in the Palais is not linked to the city power grid- something must've happened to the generators."]
01[08:44] <Yanmei> "We have to get out of here. Right now," Yanmei said sharply. "Mr. President, can you contact your security people?"
[08:45] <Minaplo> [Mazarin took out his mobile phone, quickly punched in a number, and held it up to his ear…-
[08:45] <Minaplo> [A minute passed.-
[08:45] <Minaplo> ["No response."]
01[08:50] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei rubbed her forehead. At least the phone had worked. "All right. You must have a bunker or some sort of safe room, correct?"
[08:52] <Minaplo> ["Yes. Along with escape tunnels in said bunker." Said Mazarin.]
01[08:55] <Yanmei> "Good. We'll make a run for it? Lieutenant, I'm going to need some gear, please."
[08:55] <Minaplo> ["I understand." Said Julie, and she stepped away from the table.-
[09:03] <Minaplo> [A pile of fabric and black, flinty metal fell from the air above her, falling into a pile at her feet. Following that was a bolter, which Julie caught and tossed to Yanmei. Finally, out came a long, sharp sword- Excalibur- which Julie didn't even attempt to touch, her face one of deep dislike as the sword fell out of the air and landed on the ground, not even bouncing- it fell with an
[09:03] <Minaplo> ominous, dull thud.]
06[09:09] * Yanmei swiftly slid the bolter across the table in Mazarin's direction, and then went for the pile at Julie's feet. If she noticed the reaction to the sword, she didn't say anything about it. "Please pardon me…" She knelt and began strapping on the gear as quickly as she could. "Miss Lucille, are you armed?"
[09:12] <Minaplo> ["Always." She said- with a few swift actions her dress had fallen off, revealing a combat vest and bodysuit, along with a pair of guns, some knives and a grenade.-
[09:13] <Minaplo> [Henriette looked around, and although she'd remained calm (and very still) so far the sight of Lucille suddenly being os armed seemed to shock her into action. She quickly hurried to her father's side, letting out a little squeak of worry.-
[09:15] <Minaplo> ["Rei's so much better at this than I am." Grumbled Julie, stepping to her side and stripping off her military jacket and skirt and rapidly shifting- screened by rippling kaleidoscopic colours- into the armoured battle dress of the Ayanamis, albeit green and not pink like Rei's. "Helpful for when you need to change for functions, though…"-
[09:16] <Minaplo> [This was followed by a bolter, which appeared in her hands. It had a scope, and a longer barrel; Yanmei recognised the Stalker pattern modifications…]
06[09:19] * Yanmei raised her eyebrows at it, suitably impressed, before lowering a sleek black visor over her eyes. "We won't have trouble getting into the bunker without power, will we? I imagine there's some sort of tough seccurity measures on the entrance to it…"
[09:27] <Minaplo> ["The bunker's supposed to be used in situations like this, so the only truly formidable measures are on the external exits, not the internal palais ones." Said Mazarin, who put an arm around his daughter's shoulders.]
06[09:29] * Yanmei nodded. She slapped on a final wrist protector, strapped the sheathed Excalibur on, and then stood, ready. "We'll trust you to guide us to it. Is everyone ready?"
[09:34] <Minaplo> [There were general affirmations.]
01[09:47] <Yanmei> "Good." She tossed her hair and put one hand on her hip. "Julie, take point. Miss Lucille, stick with the President and Monsieur de Orleans? I'll keep an eye on our backs." She took a moment to beam confidently at the two politicians before they got started. Maybe, after this, the president would trust her to lead his security team more often.
[09:49] <Minaplo> ["Understood."-
[09:50] <Minaplo> [And so they filed out into the corridor, where their only source of light was Lucille pulling a flashlight out and tossing it to Julie, who led the way.-
[09:50] <Minaplo> ["It's this way." Said Mazarin, in the middle, still leading Henriette along.-
[09:51] <Minaplo> [A few minutes of this passed, with Julie often choosing to stop for a few seconds, seeming to listen to something- but there was no sound, not the sound of machines or footsteps or voices, or even the sound of bugs.-
[09:53] <Minaplo> [Eventually, Julie- led to another room and down another hallway, this one worringly only having two exits and no side rooms- stopped. "I'm searching, Yanmei." Said Julie quietly. "AT Signatures are dimming all over the place. I'm seeing a Blue."]
01[09:55] <Yanmei> Just what she was afraid of… "How close is it?"
[09:56] <Minaplo> ["Sixty metres… Ugh, this is confusing, it's jumping all over the place. It's close. On this floor. Not alone."]
01[09:57] <Yanmei> "Jumping… teleporting, maybe." She cursed softly under her breath. "Ok. Let's just try to hurry? We can make it to the bunker before it catches us."
[09:59] <Minaplo> ["How far's the bunker, Mr. President?" Asked Julie.-
[10:00] <Minaplo> ["About one hundred fifty metres." He said slowly, his voice terse.-
[10:00] <Minaplo> [Julie muttered a curse in Chinese, one involving dogs and a certain type of venereal disease. "Yanmei, advice?"]
06[10:07] * Yanmei switched languages. "We should start running? One of us should slow down and give them a fight or make some sort of distraction. If we can slow them down, just a little…"
[10:15] <Minaplo> [There was a pause.-
[10:15] <Minaplo> ["Surely not-" Began de Orleans.-
[10:15] <Minaplo> ["I won't ask you to do anything you're not willing to do, Yanmei." Said Mazarin slowly, turning to her.]
06[10:19] * Yanmei smiled wryly. "Don't look so worried. It might not look like it, but I have a pretty good shot at this? Plus, experience."
[10:21] <Minaplo> ["… I'll trust you to find us later, then." He said sternly.]
01[10:28] <Yanmei> "Naturally, Mr. President~" She resisted the urge to smirk at Henriette. Was she impressed yet? "Monseiur de Orleans, you have a phone on you, yes? I'll contact you. And call NERV once you're someplace secure."
[10:28] <Minaplo> ["I-I will. Be safe, Yanmei…"-
[10:29] <Minaplo> [Henriette was staring at Yanmei with a clear sort of worry in her expression and eyes, but already Mazarin was leading her away. Julie gave Yanmei a brief, curt nod before they began to move…-
[10:29] <Minaplo> [And soon, Yanmei was left alone, a rearguard.]
01[10:34] <Yanmei> She pulled out Excalibur and held it steady, waiting, tense. She skimmed the hallways, waiting for some sounds to signal the enemy's approach.
[10:41] <Minaplo> [No sound…-
[10:41] <Minaplo> [Nothing.-
[10:41] <Minaplo> [Nothing at all… Had they somehow bypassed her? Or…-
[10:43] <Minaplo> [A blade materialised out of nowhere, swinging at Yanmei from her left. A milisecond later, a heat shimmer gave away the assailant- white, agile and sleek body armour from head to toe, a smooth helmet, and glowing red lenses…-
[10:44] <Minaplo> [The heat shimmer was met by two others, the wavering aura making it hard to see them perfectly, but Yanmei knew what she was fighting now regardless.]
06[11:08] * Yanmei didn't have time to deal with her incredulity. She had thought that it would be Angelspawn. Spawn she could handle! -
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01[11:15] <Yanmei> But running wasn't an option now. With her best scream, she swung her blade straight at the closest one. "Death to the Caine Empire!!"
[11:26] <Minaplo> [The sword slashed through the Phantom's helmet, the blade momentarily disturbing the haze field; he stumbled backwards, not dead, but the sword had cut dangerously close to the neck. He sheathed his blade, bringing about a long, slender and sleek-looking rifle around, the tip gleaming for a second before a small, near-silent dart fired, narrowly missing Yanmei's leg.-
[11:27] <Minaplo> [But the other two didn't pause at all, instead immediately lashing out at Yanmei with their curved, wicked-looking thin swords, slashing through Yanmei's arm and leg and practically ignoring her armour.]
01[11:38] <Yanmei> Dripping blood, she pushed back desperately. Slash, slash, slash! She could barely see where she was aiming with that disorienting camo, but she felt the hits land against the the transparent shimmers.
[11:50] <Minaplo> [The blade sang as it cut through the air, and the shimmers did nothing to stop the onslaught. Both phantoms fell, one losing an arm, the other cut through half the torso.-
[11:52] <Minaplo> [The remaining, wounded phantom levelled his rifle at Yanmei, and this time her midnight cloak didn't protect her. The gun fired a hail of glowing white darts, one slicing directly across Yanmei's cheek- in exactly the same way Yanmei had cut him; the other cut through her hand, coming far too close to severing her thumb.-
[11:53] <Minaplo> [The darts, she saw- briefly- were like very tiny, miniature snowflakes, oddly… Yet each surface sharp to a monomolecular edge.]
06[12:00] * Yanmei cried out and her sword clattered to the ground. That… turned into a more angry scream just a split second later as she lunged for it again, and then launched herself at the last Phantom to take her revenge. Every blow sent agony cascading over her own hand! But as for the unfortunate person she was attacking…
01[12:01] <Yanmei> Well. It was much worse for him. -
01[12:02] <Yanmei> After a while, she stopped, panting, her damaged hand shaking, and she drew away from the body and the pool of dark blood beneath it. She tried to collect her thoughts. -
01[12:06] <Yanmei> Had she really won? Against those guys? It was hard to believe. Back in the Synfront, they had seemed so much more impossible. She looked beyond them, carefully, trying to keep her surroundings in mind as she backed off further. Surely, the others must have reached the bunker by now. She'd just saved them. -
01[12:06] <Yanmei> Yeah. She was a total hero? Slowly, she went for her phone.
[12:12] <Minaplo> [As she did so, the bodies… Vaporised. They all glowed for a moment, incredibly brightly; then simply disintegrated into ashes, including their weapons.]
06[12:19] * Yanmei stared and then eventually shuddered. No, they couldn't be like regular bodies, they had to do something completely weird on top of everything else! No wonder Julie had recognized them as a pattern blue. -
01[12:21] <Yanmei> Tiredly, she leaned against a wall and warily put Excalibur away so that she could dial Gilles de Orleans' number with her good hand.
[12:22] <Minaplo> [The phone began to dial.-
[12:23] <Minaplo> ["de Orleans." Came his voice, sounding weary.]
01[12:25] <Yanmei> "It's-" But she stopped suddenly, stiffening. She stared, far down the hallway that the Phantoms had come from, searching, her face twisting slightly in confusion.
[12:26] <Minaplo> ["Yanmei?" de Orleans's voice. "Yanmei, are you there?"-
03[12:27] * ZackSleep is now known as Zack
[12:27] <Minaplo> [But something was emerging from the oppressive gloom of the darkened corridor.-
[12:30] <Minaplo> [A pair of glowing red lenses. After that- tall, ornate, elegant and graceful bone-white armour clad in blue robes; armour stunningly similar to the armour the Spectre wore. A large red gem was set into its helmet's forehead, the rest of the helmet sweeping up like a stylised wave. Blue lines emanated from the gem and the eyes like starbursts; and yet they gave off the impression of tears.
[12:30] <Minaplo> The visage was one of sorrow.-
[12:30] <Minaplo> [But the aura was terrifying.-
03[12:31] * Zack is now known as ZackAFK
[12:33] <Minaplo> [It raised two hands, both clad in that same bone-white armour, blue robe retracting as it did so. In the left hand was a thin, single-edged curved sword, just under two feet in length; it looked light as a feather. In the other hand was a straight, double-edged sword, a little longer, a little heavier-looking, yet still looking incredibly light and graceful.-
[12:34] <Minaplo> [Yanmei could see the entire thing now, and from the way it held itself to the way it looked, there was no doubt as to what it was. When Julie had sensed a pattern Blue, she hadn't meant the phantom warriors.-
[12:34] <Minaplo> [She'd sensed a Solomon Prime.]
01[23:26] <Yanmei> "…I will call you back," she said numbly, and slid the phone away into a pocket. -
01[23:29] <Yanmei> She regarded the Solomon Prime with an intense stare from that spot, without moving closer, and very warily grasped the Excalibur replica again. "And which one are you supposed to be?"
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[23:46] <Minaplo> ["Augustine. Fifth and last." He said, his voice quiet. "Are you going to oppose me?"]
01[23:51] <Yanmei> "You're a guy…?" -
01[23:52] <Yanmei> She paused and then shook her head. "What're you after, anyway?"
[23:53] <Minaplo> ["The death of Gilles de Orleans and, if possible, Mortimer Mazarin."]
Session Time: Fri Oct 18 00:00:00 2013
01[00:03] <Yanmei> "Caine's orders, huh?" She tossed her hair. "And if I said I wouldn't oppose you, what then? Am I supposed to believe you'll just let me walk away from this?"
[00:04] <Minaplo> ["I will." Said Augustine. He had the uncanny habit of being able to stand perfectly still, which gave the illusion of his voice coming from thin air.-
[00:05] <Minaplo> ["I will even offer a compromise."]
01[00:06] <Yanmei> "Oh yeah?"
[00:07] <Minaplo> ["Step aside and allow me to pass. In return, I will only slay one of my targets. You may even choose which one is to die."]
01[00:15] <Yanmei> "Declined," she said flatly. "You might call it a compromise, but it's an extraordinarily cruel choice?"
[00:21] <Minaplo> ["The choice is between allowing one to live or letting both die. Logic dictates you take my compromise."]
01[00:27] <Yanmei> "Or I could keep you from killing either of them?"
[00:28] <Minaplo> ["How?"]
01[00:29] <Yanmei> "…combat?"
[00:31] <Minaplo> ["You cannot win." Said Augustine quietly.]
01[00:40] <Yanmei> "Then why bother give me a choice to begin with?" Yanmei's eyes narrowed and her scowl began to deepen as the picture pieces slowly fell into place. "Wait. You're actually, like, not getting a thrill out of this."
[00:43] <Minaplo> ["I have no desire to fight you." Said Augustine. "There will be times where I will require your help, so engaging in combat is unnecessary."]
01[00:44] <Yanmei> "Require my…? What's that supposed to mean?"
[00:46] <Minaplo> ["Assistance with my personal goals." A pause.-
[00:46] <Minaplo> ["And a repayment of the debt you owe me."]
01[00:49] <Yanmei> "I owe you something now?" Yanmei laughed, humorlessly. "That's news to me?"
[00:51] <Minaplo> ["…"]
01[00:58] <Yanmei> Yanmei lost focus, paling slightly. When the moment passed, she could feel a thin layer of perspiration forming along her forehead. "You-!" she breathed. She gripped Excalibur even harder.
[01:01] <Minaplo> ["Be honest with yourself." Said Augustine gently. "In your current state, you cannot defeat me, not even delay me by that much. Is it not better to keep one of those men alive? If you fight me, and lose, will you have enough strength to live with your actions, knowing you had the choice to save one of them, and threw it away?"]
01[01:03] <Yanmei> "That's not fair!" she burst out. "They both helped me! You're asking me to let one of them die without doing anything!"
[01:04] <Minaplo> ["Without doing anything? Is that what you see?" Murmured Augustine. "I see it as you allowing one to live."]
01[01:07] <Yanmei> "It's picking one over the other. I have a responsibility to both of them; I don't get to choose like that."
[01:09] <Minaplo> ["Very well."-
[01:10] <Minaplo> [His swords vanished into nothingness.-
[01:10] <Minaplo> ["No Castor and Polydeuces when fists will suffice. Come, then."]
01[01:41] <Yanmei> Her eyes flashed with sudden anger, and she pulled Excalibur out sharply. "Fine!" she snarled, and closed the distance between them with a dash and a thrust, aiming for his left shoulder with all of her speed and strength. "Don't blame me!"
[01:42] <Minaplo> [The sword struck mid-air as the Prime dissolved into cloud.-
[01:42] <Minaplo> [Yanmei felt a push of air behind her- but there wasn't time.-
[01:42] <Minaplo> ["One strike."-
[01:43] <Minaplo> [He lashed out, hitting her bad leg- it'd been awhile since she'd thought of it as that, since the surgery- yet…-
[01:43] <Minaplo> [She was reminded of it now. The foot struck home, enough to actually bend Yanmei's leg out forwards against the joint of the knee for a split second. She felt the leg break beneath her, felt herself become momentarily weightless- before she fell.-
[01:44] <Minaplo> [Agony. Waves of absolute mind-shattering burning pain, worse than anything she could remember, in her bones, in her nerves, in her very soul. She felt the resentful, dark pain of her leg suddenly spring back into life, returned- and stronger than ever.]
03[01:47] * Zack is now known as ZackSleep
01[01:54] <Yanmei> All she could think about was the pain, as she lay on the ground, twisting clutching at her thigh just above where the fractures began. She was -screaming- a shrill, raspy sound that hurt her own ears. -
01[01:55] <Yanmei> Her vision throbbed, and the darkness around them suddenly seemed that much blacker and all-consuming.
[01:59] <Minaplo> [She felt something around her jaw, a hand- it turned her head, gently, but the movement made her head throb with agony.-
[01:59] <Minaplo> [His voice in her ear. "Agree. Agree to meet me when I call for you, and I will spare one of them."]
01[02:08] <Yanmei> "Ffffgghh…." she glared at him through a veil of uncomprehending rage, and tears. She tried to grasp his wrist, but only got as far as the sleeve to his robe.
[02:09] <Minaplo> [Another hand, around her shoulders. Lifted. Her head was lying on something soft.-
[02:09] <Minaplo> ["De Orleans or Mazarin? Which will live?" He said quietly, urgently.]
01[02:18] <Yanmei> "I-Aahl…" she swallowed, trying hard to shape proper words, "ifff you l-let 'em b-both… go…"
[02:25] <Minaplo> ["I cannot. I have a mission. One of them must die. Choose."]
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01[02:44] <Yanmei> "…" She stared at him and slowly dropped his sleeve as despair began to set in. The tears had never really stopped, but now her face seemed to crack even more and an odd hiccup jerked her speech around. "M-Mazr'n. Let'im go…""
[02:51] <Minaplo> ["I understand." He reached down, and gently held his forehead to Yanmei's.-
[02:52] <Minaplo> ["It is not so bad. He will die gently, peacefully."-
[02:53] <Minaplo> ["I am sorry." He let her go, gently lowering her back onto the floor. Within seconds, he was gone, swallowed by the gloom.]
01[02:58] <Yanmei> "…" -
01[03:01] <Yanmei> Yanmei lay there. There was no taking it back, even if she had been able to drag herself after them. So she lay there, feeling her senses grow slower and dimmer.
[03:04] <Minaplo> [It wouldn't take long before the peace of fatigue and unconscious darkness took her.]

[13:39] <Yanmei> When she opened her eyes again, the pain was gone. -
[13:46] <Yanmei> Yanmei was no longer stretched out on the hard, dark floor of the Palais hallway… she was on rich, prickly grass, and the sun beamed down onto her warmly. The air was fresh and clean, erupting randomly into the gentlest breezes that played with her hair and with her new grassy bed. -
[13:50] <Yanmei> The sky above her was impossibly blue and cloudless, reflected at ground level just a short distance away thanks to a surface of a pristine lake. All around her, tiny flowers danced and swayed as if in greeting. -
[13:51] <Yanmei> It was calm here. Yanmei felt calmer herself. She sat up, drew her knees up to her chest, and dazedly took it all in.
[14:06] <Minaplo> [She wasn't alone, but this time it wasn't Isaiah who shared this space with her.-
[14:07] <Minaplo> [The Marionette was standing by the lake, the sword held in its long, clever fingers, the entire body still, the smiling, gaping face staring into the lake.]
[14:10] <Yanmei> The calm receded somewhat at that sight, a wary nervous feeling flowing into its place. She watched it carefully for sudden movements or threats… and eventually stood up and crept closer, slowly.
[14:12] <Minaplo> ["Defeat." Said the Marionette, his voice toneless, every letter precise and clear. "A single strike to your weakest point."]
[14:21] <Yanmei> "…" She stared at him with clear resentment now, backing off slightly again. He wasn't wrong. And now the panic and desperation she'd felt back in Paris-2 touched her again. "It's my fault? I should have come up with something."
[14:32] <Minaplo> ["There was nothing you could have done."-
[14:35] <Minaplo> [The lake shimmered, the surface changing to provide a picture, Yanmei facing down Augustine. The picture was like a movie, showing her actions… And then a dozen other potential actions she should've taken, all at once, each ending in the same way- defeat.-
[14:35] <Minaplo> ["If you were faster, if your leg were not so damaged, then perhaps things might have changed."]
[14:39] * Yanmei frowned down at the leg in question. "I've tried? The surgeries, the physical therapy and routine training… I thought I'd already overcome that."
[14:42] <Minaplo> ["It did not work." The Marionette swept a hand slowly, in a measured way, over the lake; the images vanished. "The only true solutions would have been to your dislike. Bionics. Cybernetics. Cloning."]
[14:47] <Yanmei> "What am I supposed to do, then?! How do I fix this? De Orleans is…"
[14:48] <Minaplo> ["You would have to prevent the injury from ever happening in the first place."]
[14:50] <Yanmei> "Impossible." The images were gone, but she stared at the lake regardless, shoulders sagging slightly.
[14:55] <Minaplo> ["If it were not?"]
[15:03] <Yanmei> "But it is," she said levelly. "…isn't it?"
[15:08] <Minaplo> ["'Impossible' is a lilim word." He said as reply.]
[15:15] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei thought quietly for a moment. "No one would pass up the opportunity to fix this mess. Not to mention the unpleseantness of the actual accident?"
[15:16] <Minaplo> ["Then touch the pool."]
[15:18] * Yanmei stepped forward and knelt down at the lake's edge. She cast one last wary glance at the Marionette, and then dipped her fingertips into the water.
[15:21] <Minaplo> [She heard sounds, muffled and indistinct, yet familiar in some way, like from a long-forgotten memory.-
[15:22] <Minaplo> [But the water stuck to her fingers, and began to exert a pull, her hand growing much heavier, pulling her in…]
[15:23] <Yanmei> Panic! She resisted, trying to pull free, but…
[15:28] <Minaplo> [But she felt her entire body starting to lurch forward, now, towards the water…-
[15:35] <Minaplo> […-
[15:35] <Minaplo> [She was lying in a bed.-
[15:36] <Minaplo> [The air felt cool, and a clock was lying on the table next to her, as was a calendar.-
[15:37] <Minaplo> [10th of March, 2018. The clock said it was afternoon- the same day she was to meet de Orleans and Mazarin…-
[15:37] <Minaplo> [… But this wasn't her bed.-
[15:38] <Minaplo> [It reminded her of a NERV hospital bed, actually. And a NERV hospital room…-
[15:38] <Minaplo> [There was a pain in her side, strangely enough, but her leg was fine.]
[15:40] * Yanmei sat up slowly, pulling the covers off and peering down at whatever she was wearing. A hospital gown…?
[15:41] <Minaplo> [A hospital gown.]
[15:44] * Yanmei inspected her leg. It was smooth, the skin free of scars, surgical and otherwise. She moved her hands over it slowly, wonderously. -
[15:48] <Yanmei> Eventually, the ache in her side became too much of a distraction in that position. She stood with a grunt, and lifted her gown high enough to see the bandages plastered over her side and to search for the horrible burn scars that she had gotten long ago.
[15:51] <Minaplo> [The scars were still there, although the contour and path they took had changed.-
[15:54] <Minaplo> [The door had a computerised console built into the frame, and it trilled suddenly. "Pilot Fontaine requesting permission to enter," came a computerised voice.]
[15:55] <Yanmei> "…?!" She looked up sharply, dropping her gown back down at once. "Fon… -Alexandre- Fotaine?"
[16:03] <Minaplo> ["Pilot Fontaine requesting permission to enter." It repeated.]
[16:04] <Yanmei> "Y-yeah, sure, whatever. Let him in?" She rested uneasily on the edge of the bed, peering around one last time.
[16:06] <Minaplo> [The door opened, and Alexandre stood in the doorway.-
[16:08] <Minaplo> [He was wearing a NERV jumpsuit, his hair a little messy. He had been polishing his glasses, but now he stopped, put them back on, and stepped through. A slow step at first, then another, faster step. He sat down next to her with a fatigued smile.-
[16:08] <Minaplo> ["Hey."]
[16:10] <Yanmei> "Hey." What was with this weird casualness? "You look tired."
[16:12] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, I am." He said. "She… No, you probably don't wanna hear what's going on with the way you are now. Forget I said anything."]
[16:14] <Yanmei> "How am I supposed to forget? Come on, tell me!"
[16:16] <Minaplo> [He sighed. "She broke through the fourth and third defense line after you went down. The Second Auxiliary tried to buy us some time to retreat, and it didn't go well. Yamagishi and Aida didn't make it out, and we don't know if Suzuhara is going to last the night. We stopped her with a PPN, but…"]
[16:20] <Yanmei> They were all names she didn't know. She stared at him levelly, waiting for him to say something that made sense. "Um. What's a PPN?"
[16:21] <Minaplo> ["… What do you mean, what's a PPN?" He frowned, shifting to face her straight on. "You… You didn't hit your head during the battle, did you?"]
[16:23] <Yanmei> "Did I? You tell me. I don't remember…"
[16:23] <Minaplo> ["Precision Positron Net." He said slowly. "Does that ring a bell?"]
[16:35] * Yanmei shook her head. "But if the name's a clue, it's a neat idea? Something capable of stopping an Angel besides an Eva…?"
[16:36] <Minaplo> ["… T-This isn't funny."]
[16:42] <Yanmei> "I'm… not trying to be?" -
[16:44] <Yanmei> She smiled awkwardly. Maybe she shouldn't have said anything. "…we -are- talking about an Angel, right?"
[16:44] <Minaplo> [He grimly shook his head. "You should know I'm not."]
[16:46] <Yanmei> "Then…?"
[16:48] <Minaplo> [A pained look. "Her. The Empress."]
[16:52] <Yanmei> "W-who's that?" Not the Silver Empress, but someone else?
[16:55] <Minaplo> [He didn't answer, instead looking down at his lap. His right hand moved to her left, entwining his fingers.]
[16:57] <Yanmei> That startled her, but she went along with it, patting his hand with her free one. Good thing Asuka wasn't here to see it…
[16:59] <Minaplo> ["I don't like talking about this." He muttered. "Just… Forget about it for now. I came to see if you were alright."-
[16:59] <Minaplo> [Alex shifted over a little, and shifted hands, his left taking her hands and his right going around her shoulders, drawing her close.]
[17:08] <Yanmei> "Fontaine…?" Her face was a mask of confusion. She could recognize the signals… and they were sending very intense ripples of horror through her. He wasn't…. they weren't…
[17:13] <Minaplo> ["Save that for when you're in uniform." He admonished gently, the hand around her shoulders playing idly with the strap of her hospital gown. "… Or is it something I've done?" He asked suddenly, worried.]
[17:17] <Yanmei> "…" The most awkward. Thing. Ever. -
[17:23] <Yanmei> She very gently removed his hand from her hospital gown. Reason dictated that she hit him, but there was something way too off about this. He looked way too sincere. "Um. We've obviously got a desperate situation on our hands and… I need some time to sort out my head?"
[08:03] <Minaplo> ["… Heh, alright." He looked strange, his expression. A little bit of surprise, a little bit of hurt. But also understanding.-
[08:04] <Minaplo> [The door chimed once again, that fake computer voice speaking again. "Pilot Gabriel-Wei requesting permission to enter."-
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[08:04] <Minaplo> ["Ah. That's my cue, I think." Said Alex with a chuckle. He stood up.]
06[08:07] * Yanmei stood up with him to see him out, trying hard to ignore the twinge in her side as she did. Her heart had leaped into her throat. Would Isaiah freak if he saw them together? -
01[08:10] <Yanmei> No, no way. They hadn't even done anything! "See you later, ok? I… hrm. Sorry…"
[08:11] <Minaplo> ["Don't worry about it." He said, giving her a small, weary smile.-
[08:12] <Minaplo> ["I'll see you later." He opened the door and stepped out, giving a nod to someone as he went.]
06[08:14] * Yanmei sank back down onto the bed's edge with a sigh. "Come in," she called to Isaiah.
[08:14] <Minaplo> [But it was Rei who stepped into the room, wearing a blue dress and a pair of black leather shoes.-
[08:14] <Minaplo> ["Hey, Meimei…"]
01[08:17] <Yanmei> "Rei!" Confusion swept across her face. She craned her neck slightly to catch a glimpse of the hallway behind her. Was there anyone else standing beyond her? Say, an Isaiah?
[08:18] <Minaplo> [The hallway was empty.-
[08:19] <Minaplo> ["How're you feeling?" She asked, giving Yanmei a smile. Like Alex's, her smile was tired too, but that Rei-ish sincerity was still there. She shut the door behind her.]
01[08:20] <Yanmei> "I'm…" she hesitated. "I'm fine. I feel fine, physically? But I'm really confused, too."
[08:23] <Minaplo> ["Confused, Meimei?" Rei walked over, sitting down next to Yanmei, but on her right side.]
01[08:26] <Yanmei> "Everything's all messed up. Fontaine was in here just a second ago and he was saying stuff that didn't make sense? Who's this Empress we're fighting? Where are we, anyway, even? This -is- the Geofront, right?" -
01[08:27] <Yanmei> She couldn't bring herself to mention the other stuff. It was too embarassing. "W-where's Isaiah?"
[08:28] <Minaplo> [Rei was looking at Yanmei with a sad, vaguely pitying look. "Zaizai's off helping with the preparations of the Second Defense Line. Sorry, Meimei. Did the computer make you confused?"]
01[08:30] <Yanmei> "A little." A touch of defensive indignation there. What of it?
[08:30] <Minaplo> [Rei looked a little abashed. "Sorry… They really should make it so it says full names."-
[08:30] <Minaplo> ["But Meimei, are you alright? It sounds like your memory's all messed up."]
01[08:37] <Yanmei> "I don't know." She kicked her bad leg out a few times, lazily and casually. How did fixing one injury lead to all this? Alexandre and Isaiah and Rei…? This Empress. There was only one other enemy they were fighting who could possibly have that title, but the possibility was too sickening to consider. "I've been awake for ten minutes, and I feel like I don't know anything?"
[08:38] <Minaplo> [Rei stood up, holding a hand out. "Maybe if I explain some things to you, it'll jog your memory, Meimei. Why don't you come with me, ok?"]
06[08:47] * Yanmei blinked up at her. She took a deep breath and then took the hand, standing up alongside her. "All right. Let me see if I can throw something on first?"
[08:48] <Minaplo> ["Alright, Meimei."-
[08:48] <Minaplo> [There was a ring on the offered hand…]
01[08:48] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei stared at it. She -stared-.
[08:50] <Minaplo> ["M-Meimei?"]
01[08:51] <Yanmei> "N-nothing." She dropped the hand "It's nothing."
[08:51] <Minaplo> ["…" Rei looked concerned, but didn't say anything.]
01[08:57] <Yanmei> After a quick request, a nurse brought by some clothing. It wasn't much to look at - a pair of slippers and warmer set of blue pajamas, essentially - but beggers couldn't be choosers. Soon, she was trapsing after Rei in the hospital hallways.
[09:01] <Minaplo> [Rei led her through the corridors. It was hard to tell for sure, but Yanmei would suspect that this wasn't the Geofront after all…-
[09:01] <Minaplo> [Rei took her to a large room, most of it divided into tables and seats, the tables containing built-in computer consoles. In the very middle of the room was a holographic projector, currently projecting an image of the Earth.-
[09:02] <Minaplo> [It was a strangely-coloured earth. Most of Europe outside of Russia was coloured red, as was northern Africa and the eastern half of Canada and the US, whilst the rest of the world was green.-
[09:03] <Minaplo> ["Do you know where we are, Meimei? We're in ESA HQ."]
01[09:10] <Yanmei> "What's ESA?" She was eying the map warily. She remembered similar displays from the LN war all too clearly, as well as the aftermath with the cultists. Whatever they were looking at showed that they had lost a fair bit of territory to this new mysterious enemy.
[09:15] <Minaplo> ["The Earth Security Alliance." Said Rei. "It's headquartered here, in Tokyo-2. This used to be a NERV branch, but after NERV collapsed, what was left of the UN made an alliance with the LN, and the ESA was created. That's who we work for, Meimei." Rei tapped the green part of the map, which included Japan.]
01[09:24] <Yanmei> "All right," she said slowly. "NERV collapsed. The LN still exists in some form in this merged entity. So, right now, together, we're fighting this Empress?"
[09:30] <Minaplo> ["That's right." Said Rei, subdued. She pointed at the red. "The Imperium, and its Empress."]
01[09:31] <Yanmei> "Mary Caine and her people?" she guessed, eyes narrowing slightly.
[09:32] <Minaplo> ["M-Mary Caine?" Rei blinked, clear surprise on her face. "… Why would you say that, Meimei? Councillor Caine-sama is one of the leaders of the ESA."]
01[09:35] <Yanmei> "W-what?! We still work for her?" She scowled at the map. "You're sure she's not. Um. Leading a double life? Maybe she's -their- leader too. She'd seriously benefit from seeing as many people killed as possible in these conflicts?"
[09:38] <Minaplo> ["… Meimei, what are you saying?" Rei was frowning. "The leader of the Imperium is the Empress. Caine-sama is one of our greatest assets…"]
01[09:40] <Yanmei> "But who is she? Where did she come from?"
[09:42] <Minaplo> ["…" Rei looked away.-
[09:42] <Minaplo> [She walked over to the holo-display and began punching in a command. A few seconds later, the image dissolved, to be replaced by a new one.-
[09:46] <Minaplo> [It was someone Yanmei recognised.-
[09:48] <Minaplo> [She was paler, much paler. Thin tendrils- veins?- snaked around her temple. She was wearing a strange, militaristic outfit. It consisted of a tight-fitted dark red tunic, with a black belt, over a red skirt that fell to the woman's knees, under which were long white trousers tucked into high black boots. A thick ermine cape had been draped around her shoulders.-
[09:50] <Minaplo> [In both hands, the point planted against the ground, was a sword, identical to the one Yanmei had wielded against Augustine.-
[09:50] <Minaplo> [The woman had a cybernetic eye, a glowing blood-red lens built into a socket of metal. She had long red hair.-
[09:51] <Minaplo> ["She only goes by the name of 'the Empress' now." Said Rei quietly. "But before that, we knew her as the German pilot, Asuka Langley-Soryu."]
01[09:53] <Yanmei> "Oh." -
01[09:57] <Yanmei> Yanmei was gazing at the image in clear bewilderment, as if she didn't understand what she was seeing. The cybernetics could be accounted for if her injuries were the same in this universe as they had been in Yanmei's old world. The veins were… odd, though. And Excalibur…-
01[09:59] <Yanmei> Still, she doubted the Asuka in either world would be unhappy with invading country after country with an army under her command. "What is she even after? World domination?"
[10:00] <Minaplo> ["Maybe. We don't know." Said Rei.-
[10:01] <Minaplo> ["The only thing we do know is that this all started in Eden Base. A test went wrong there, and you, de Pteres, Aline and her were sent to investigate."-
[10:01] <Minaplo> ["You guys went quiet, then EVA-02 emerged, and since that day… This. EVA-02 is unstoppable. It never runs out of power, and its AT Field is stronger than any Angel. It destroyed Paris-2 and took up a powerful sword there."-
[10:02] <Minaplo> ["… You were the only one to escape alive from Eden. No one else, not even Raffy…" Rei looked away, suddenly choking.]
01[10:10] <Yanmei> "…" -
01[10:12] <Yanmei> The rest of her squad was dead. Isabelle and Adrian were gone. Asuka was their enemy. She was hearing the news, but there was like some barrier between it and her brain. It was impossible. How could she even absorb it? -
01[10:13] <Yanmei> "What happened to Elizabeth Bellamy?"
[10:13] <Minaplo> ["… No one knows except you, Meimei. And you never talked about what happened in Eden."]
01[10:15] <Yanmei> "But Alexandre…?" she stopped herself, confused. Eventually, she shook her head. "Sorry."
[10:25] <Minaplo> ["Alexandre wasn't at Eden, Meimei."]
01[10:28] <Yanmei> "Why not?! What was he doing? He could have helped her!"
[10:29] <Minaplo> ["Alexandre was in Paris-2, Meimei, with you, remember?"]
01[10:31] <Yanmei> "That's another thing! Why was he being all cuddily earlier in my room?"
[10:31] <Minaplo> [Rei stared at Yanmei in absolute bafflement.-
[10:32] <Minaplo> ["… Meimei, don't you remember at all? Alexandre and you are a couple…"]
01[10:33] <Yanmei> "!!!" She looked around sharply. Cameras? Cackling bridge bunnies watching or listening to this? -
01[10:34] <Yanmei> "About the Angels," she said, quickly trying to veer the topic of conversation away to lesser horrors. "What happened to them?"
[10:37] <Minaplo> ["We don't know, exactly. We know they're still around, but they don't attack anymore. One of them attacked after Eden Base- Ramliel. EVA-02 flew into orbit the moment it appeared, ripped through its field and ate the Angel all up."-
[10:37] <Minaplo> ["They've never attacked since then. It was how the Empress was able to build up her forces so quickly once she reappeared. She took credit, and people began flocking to her. With that Eva, she was able to knock over governments and things like that."]
01[10:38] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei rubbed her face. She felt suddenly tired at hearing that. "Oh Asuka…"
[10:41] <Minaplo> ["Things aren't very good right now." Said Rei quietly. "We keep losing. We can't even fight EVA-02 on even terms, and we don't have many bases left. She destroyed Boston, Paris, took over Berlin, and we had to evacuate Beijing. So…"-
[10:41] <Minaplo> ["And… I can't even fight anymore." She added angrily, sadly.]
06[10:45] * Yanmei looked up worriedly. She didn't look injured… did she?
[10:46] <Minaplo> ["… You don't remember that either, Meimei?" She said, a note of resigned despair in her voice.]
01[10:48] <Yanmei> "W-wait. You're-!" Not injured, but… She stared at the girl's midsection, her mouth falling open.
[10:49] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. It makes my Synch Ratio go all over the place. It's not stable enough to rely on." She said quietly, finding a chair and sitting down.]
01[10:52] <Yanmei> "When?!" She demanded, almost angrily and then flushed slightly immediately afterward, realizing how dumb that sounded if taken the wrong way. "I mean… a few months ago, obviously? But when did you and Isaiah get together?"
[10:55] <Minaplo> [Rei blushed.-
[10:57] <Minaplo> ["W-Well, we started dating a little after I arrived in Paris-2. February, March 2016… Then we hit it off, and once we realised how bad the Empress was, we figured we might not have much time, so… We got married a year ago." She said quietly. "You were there. You were my maid of honour…"-
[10:57] <Minaplo> ["… And then about four months ago I conceived." Her blush reddened. "Z-Zaizai was careless."]
01[11:01] <Yanmei> "I can see that," she fumed. "That… that idiot!"
[11:02] <Minaplo> ["I know." Said Rei, shaking her head. "But we'd managed to get the PPN working for the first time, and we drove the Empress off, so he was really excited, and I was really excited, and… W-well, Zaizai doesn't carry that kind of stuff on him all the time, you know…"-
[11:02] <Minaplo> ["It just happened." Rei sighed.-
[11:04] <Minaplo> ["It's so frustrating. I want to fight! I want to be able to help out, because we're running out of capable Evas and we're having to rely on Solaces and Strike Suits more and more. But I can't do anything…"]
01[11:07] <Yanmei> "Who's left?" she growled. Stupid, stupid Isaiah! Stupid Rei and… Alexandre. Elizabeth… her happy little family! -
01[11:08] <Yanmei> She stayed standing. Her injuries hurt, but if she actually sat down, she might have been tempted to lower her face into her hands.
[11:10] <Minaplo> ["Alexandre, Zaizai, Volkova-chan, Chiicchin, Julie-chan, Shin-chan…" Rei sighed. "Not all of my sisters have units, either. Some of my sisters are on the Empress's side, too. Hachi. Ni."-
[11:10] <Minaplo> ["She destroyed EVA-03, and we dunno what happened to Tsubaki-chan. Captured, we think."]
06[11:13] * Yanmei nodded slowly. "From one impossible situation to another…" -
01[11:14] <Yanmei> "Are we… I mean, is Colonel Lachapelle…?"
[11:15] <Minaplo> [Rei moved to speak- and then the earth shook.-
[11:16] <Minaplo> [A voice blared over the comms. "This is General Lachapelle! We are under attack! The base is now at condition one! All hands to battle stations, all pilots to their units, support team to the bridge!"]
01[11:18] <Yanmei> "-General-?!" She was dazed, staring up at one of the room's speakers. When was the last time she'd heard him snap orders like that?
[11:18] <Minaplo> [Since the Ramliel battle…-
[11:19] <Minaplo> [Which hadn't happened in this world.-
[11:20] <Minaplo> ["C'mon." Said Rei, grabbing Yanmei's arm. "Let's get to the bridge."]
01[11:24] <Yanmei> "R-right." She was content to let her lead. After all, Rei knew the layout of this base way better than she did.
[11:27] <Minaplo> [It wouldn't be long before they arrived on the bridge… Which looked familiar, with a few changes.-
[11:27] <Minaplo> [The first, obvious change was the commander. Dorian Lachapelle. He was standing- yes, standing on his own two feet, watching the holographic viewscreens.-
[11:29] <Minaplo> [The second was the content of those screens. They were split into five displays. A central display was a top-down strategic grid, showing Tokyo-2, as well as the two remaining defense lines, with a large red dot labelled 'EVA-02'. There were other dots there as well, such as EVA-08, EVA-06, EVA-05, and a few other MP-EVA dots. There was also a cluster of dots that Yanmei didn't know,
[11:29] <Minaplo> labelled things like 'BB-CY' and 'BB-AC'.-
[11:29] <Minaplo> [The second screen showed EVA-02. It, like Asuka, had changed.-
[11:30] <Minaplo> [The basic shape was still there, but now it had six arms, not two; a halo of energy surrounded its head, which had grown a thick armoured carapace studded with gemstones. It bore twelve long wings, each at least forty metres long. And the true Excalibur was held in one of its hands.-
[11:31] <Minaplo> [The third screen showed the Evangelion detachment. The Evas looked… Mostly the same, but some had strange technology, stuff Yanmei didn't recognise. And some of them looked worse for wear.-
[11:31] <Minaplo> [The fourth screen showed a collection of mechs- mostly Solaces, with some other units that reminded her of E-Destroyers.-
[11:32] <Minaplo> [And the fifth screen showed a fleet- a true fleet!- of Battleships, five of them. One of them had a drill head- that would be their battleship. Three others she didn't recognise, but the fifth…-
[11:32] <Minaplo> ["Admiral Silas Caine reporting in. Preparing the Doomsday Cannon for deployment! All units, stand by!"]
06[11:37] * Yanmei ….made a sour face on reflex. Apparently Dorian wasn't the only one to still be alive. Still, there were more important things to worry about. EVA-02 was visiting them personally? -
01[11:39] <Yanmei> She took in the displays almost frantically, settling on the Battleship fleet in particular. All that firepower should have been enough to take down any conventional Angel. What was so special about this enemy? Was it Excalibur?
[11:41] <Minaplo> [The next few minutes…-
[11:41] <Minaplo> ["PPN at 3% of operational capacity! Target is en route!"-
[11:42] <Minaplo> ["Doomsday Cannon 54% charged!"-
[11:43] <Minaplo> [She saw the Evangelions move in to intercept, saw Alex's unit circle around EVA-02… Only for EVA-02 to suddenly divide, appearing in four places at once. Each duplicate sliced once, and Alex's unit fell to the earth in five pieces.-
[11:44] <Minaplo> [The battleships were opening fire with conventional weaponry, and now Yanmei would see the problem. Several Positron Cannons hit EVA-02 directly, ripping it clearly in half-
[11:44] <Minaplo> [Only for the Eva to vanish, and then reappear as five duplicates, each completely healthy. Another barrage ripped through the EVA-02 swarm, nearly destroying three…-
[11:44] <Minaplo> [Only for all of them to suddenly change, perfectly fine.-
[11:46] <Minaplo> ["Change firing solutions!" Snapped Dorian. "Remember that the swarm will re-synchronise and take on the form of the most healthiest unit every 3.5 seconds! We need to hit them all at once!"-
[11:47] <Minaplo> [An EVA-02 rammed into an MP-EVA unit, sticking its hand directly through the chest. Instead of ripping through it like a hole, the hand -melted- into the flesh, like adding water to water. A second later, the MP-EVA began to twitch and shudder, red light swarming over its flesh- before it disengaged, turned, and slammed its sword into EVA-08.-
[11:49] <Minaplo> ["Fuck, it's introducing Deific Primacies into the unit! Pattern White!" "It's exerted sovereignty! EVA-14 has been assmilated!"-
[11:50] <Minaplo> ["Chiicchin…!" Rei shook, and now that Yanmei looked, her eyes were wide, terrified…]
01[11:54] <Yanmei> Yanmei's own eyes were wide. She could follow -that- easily enough. And now Isaiah was in danger…!
[11:55] <Minaplo> ["Ikari, Gabriel-Wei, pull back!"-
[11:57] <Minaplo> [EVA-05 and 08 moved to do so, but 05 wasn't fast enough. EVA-02 caught it, its hands ripping into the flesh, which was absorbed- in a way that reminded Yanmei of a snake eating a rat- in huge gobs of flesh travelling down the arms into the chest. Finally, it grabbed the core- and pushed it into its own abdomen.-
[11:57] <Minaplo> [The effect was instantaneous. EVA-02 mutated, its body becoming larger, thicker, two more arms bursting out of its side…-
[11:58] <Minaplo> ["EVA-05 has been devoured! Target is undergoing mutation!" "Estimate 21% increase to physical abilities!" "Pilot Ikari is gone!"-
[11:58] <Minaplo> ["Shin-chan…!"-
[11:58] <Minaplo> ["Doomsday Cannon at 100%! All hands, prepare to fire!"-
[11:58] <Minaplo> [The Independence's cannon prow began to glow, white light flashing down the entire ship as energy was collected into this cannon. The cannon Yanmei had seen fired at Almeria…-
[11:59] <Minaplo> [But she also saw EVA-02's duplicates vanish, the Evangelion reforming into a single entity. It gripped Excalibur, lifted it above its head.-
[11:59] <Minaplo> [Yanmei knew what was happening before she saw it. Excalibur began to shine with negative energy.]
01[12:04] <Yanmei> "No!" A panicked cry. "She's going to-!"
[12:05] <Minaplo> [There was light.-
[12:05] <Minaplo> […-
[12:06] <Minaplo> [The Marionette stood before her, bathed in the light of the explosion that had seen the Doomsday Cannon, struck with Excalibur's beam, explode, sending unimaginable energy in a wide radius around it, wiping out the fleet, the base…-
[12:07] <Minaplo> [But all of that was frozen in time. The bridge, the right-hand part of it, was being vaporised, but the transfer of energy had stopped. Dorian was still in a pose of horror and dismay. Rei was covering her face, but never moving.-
[12:07] <Minaplo> [It was just the Marionette and Yanmei.]
01[12:15] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei's arm had been outstretched toward the monitors. It took a second, but she eventually lowered it, peering around the bridge in disbelief and naked fear. Her eyes, still bright, settled on the Marionette.
[12:16] <Minaplo> ["Not what you expected when you changed the past."]
01[12:17] <Yanmei> "Why?" she gulped, taking a step back. "Why everything?"
[12:18] <Minaplo> ["You wish me to show you why?"]
01[12:20] <Yanmei> "It was just one injury? It shouldn't have effected anyone else but me and…. maybe de Orleans."
[12:25] <Minaplo> ["One injury can change everything. Imagine if you went back a thousand years in time and, through one injury, made it so a person might have been less attractive to one mate and more attractive to another. Their offspring is different to what that person would have had, the same for that offspring's offspring, until you reach the modern day- millions of peoples' lives, history itself, all
[12:25] <Minaplo> changed to a single injury."]
02[12:29] * Aline (~ten.nozirev.soif.lfpmat.542-641-19-27-loop|un#ten.nozirev.soif.lfpmat.542-641-19-27-loop|un) Quit (Ping timeout)
01[12:30] <Yanmei> "B-but…" How was she even supposed to contest that? She'd ended up with Alexandre Fontaine of all people in this reality. -
01[12:34] <Yanmei> "What, then? Am I supposed to accept the way things went with that Solomon because of this horrible alternate reality? Humanity isn't doomed, but I still caused a friend to die! Again…" -
01[12:35] <Yanmei> She swallowed, took a deep breath, and forced some control into her voice. "Why did you show me this?"
[12:36] <Minaplo> ["Do you want me to show you the path your life took? It will illustrate many things."]
06[12:37] * Yanmei hesitated. Did she really want to see? "Yes."
[12:38] <Minaplo> [The scene changed, rippling away-
[12:38] <Minaplo> [… The Evangelion hangar.-
[12:39] <Minaplo> [Time was frozen here. Yanmei and Aline stood on a gantry. Young Yanmei, the way she had been before the earthquake, barely 14 years old…]
06[12:40] * Yanmei stared in wonder. She could barely recognize herself! So young and unsuspecting…
[12:46] <Minaplo> [Marionette and Yanmei watched this, slightly distant from the scene. They stood on nothing but air…-
[12:46] <Minaplo> [Time began. The earth began to shake.-
[12:47] <Minaplo> ["It began with an earthquake. The first Evangelion sought to protect its chosen, and in your past, it hurt you doing so. But in this time…"-
[12:47] <Minaplo> [Young Yanmei had moved at the first sign of the earthquake- and when a piece of roof caved in and fell towards the gantry, was nowhere near EVA-00's hand when it came down. No hand to crush her leg.]
06[12:48] * Yanmei breathed a sigh. Relief…? Despite knowing that this would lead to the horrible future she justs saw?
[12:50] <Minaplo> ["The damage was not localised to your direct area. Other areas were affected by the earthquake. You ran."-
[12:50] <Minaplo> [The scene changed. Some NERV Hallway, Yanmei in a corridor, not injured, but clearly frightened and worn out. Both doors were sealed, one looking damaged.-
[12:50] <Minaplo> ["You were uninjured, but you found yourself affected, like most people in the earthquake. You were cut off, by yourself for many hours."]
01[12:52] <Yanmei> "I… see." Her forehead creased. "But eventually, I was rescued?"
[12:52] <Minaplo> ["Yes."-
[12:52] <Minaplo> [The scene changed, rippling forward several hours- Yanmei looking exhausted and dirty and cold, the door being wrenched open. The first person through the breach- Alexandre Fontaine.]
01[12:56] <Yanmei> "Y-you're kidding?!" she shifted back a step or two, clearly uncomfortable. "Ugh. I thought I had a little more pride than that? But I guess we became closer after that."
[12:56] <Minaplo> ["An oversimplification."-
[12:57] <Minaplo> ["Your injury did more than damage your mobility. It took away one of your most favoured activities."-
[12:57] <Minaplo> [The scene changed to Yanmei, running with the track and field team- including Alex.-
[13:00] <Minaplo> ["Without something as simple as this, your resentfulness grew and festered until you hated and blamed them for your injury and situation. In this timeline, you were not stopped from running. You continued to run, with Alexandre Fontaine at your side, and you enjoyed it. It made you happier, and your resentfulness lessened. You saw in Alexandre Fontaine a sporting rival- and with his
[13:00] <Minaplo> association with NERV less problematic for you, you became friends. You saw a new side to him, the nature beneath the confidence and arrogance. You found that nature attractive. You and he became more than friends."]
06[13:02] * Yanmei was watching the race with pain and undisguised envy mingling on her face, her arms folded. "They really look happy, huh?"
[13:03] <Minaplo> ["Yes. It is easy for Lilim to forget the power of constant low-level stimuli over a long period of time. This changed you."]
01[13:04] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei looked away. "What happened after that? He and Asuka never got together, clearly."
[13:08] <Minaplo> ["Alexandre Fontaine was happier with you alleviating his loneliness, and felt less compelled to torment others, and the same happened to you. You and Isaiah Gabriel-Wei became friends, but he saw your happiness with Alexandre Fontaine and did not try to subvert it- but was ever loyal to you nonetheless. When the battle with the Child you call Qaphsiel occured, it was Alexandre Fontaine
[13:08] <Minaplo> and Isaiah Gabriel-Wei both who took to the field to rescue you."]
06[13:10] * Yanmei blinked hard. "They were working together back then? I… wow."
[13:10] <Minaplo> ["Yes."-
[13:11] <Minaplo> ["In the aftermath of the battle with that Child you were taken on a holiday, and your friendship saw Isaiah Gabriel-Wei come with you. There he met Ikari Rei, who left a strong impression on him and him her. Your relationship with Alexandre Fontaine deepened."-
[13:12] <Minaplo> [Images of the snow, Isaiah and Rei playing. The riviera. Alex and Yanmei, snuggling together on a couch, watching television. Something silly and mundane…]
01[13:14] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei was trying very hard to focus on the playing and not the snuggling. It was downright disorienting!
[13:17] <Minaplo> ["There were adverse effects."-
[13:18] <Minaplo> [Your relationship with Alexandre Fontaine meant that Asuka Langley-Soryu was never able to rekindle her own with him. Already damaged by her defeat to the Child, whilst you became happier, she became correspondingly more bitter."-
[13:19] <Minaplo> [The scene changed. Asuka, pacing up and down a room- her living room? Her frame shaking with anger, not at anyone or anything but just raw unaimed anger- Yanmei would know the feeling. Like having pressure inside you that you need to expel…-
[13:19] <Minaplo> [Asuka throwing a punch at a wall, putting a hole in the plaster. Lowering her head.-
[13:19] <Minaplo> ["Bitter and alone."-
[13:22] <Minaplo> ["Alexandre Fontaine never left for Eden Base, instead preferring to remain with you in Paris-2. Without his conditioned expertise on the Fruit of Life, the ability to control and limit its power, the experiment with Evangelion 07 went catastrophically wrong. With the flesh of the Mother and a fully realised Fruit of Life, it was four times as powerful as when you confronted it in your own
[13:22] <Minaplo> history."]
01[13:23] <Yanmei> Yanmei's heart clenched. "So that's why everyone died. And Asuka…?"
[13:28] <Minaplo> ["She was already easy prey in your timeline, so in this timeline she was completely unable to withstand the effects of the uplifted Evangelion. It fed on her bitterness and loneliness, that same loneliness that forced her to become self-reliant, that forced her to convince herself that she was lonely because she was superior to others."-
[13:29] <Minaplo> ["It worked too well."-
[13:29] <Minaplo> [The scene changed. That horrible graveyard, EVA-00 destroyed, torso ripped open, its core shattered, plug crushed. EVA-04 disabled, buried beneath a pile of Evangelion corpses.-
[13:30] <Minaplo> [EVA-01, making a last-ditch attack on EVA-07, bouncing off the field, then scoring a lucky hit, a hand just managing to pierce the force plane. Using the only weapon it had left-
[13:30] <Minaplo> [EVA-01 self-destructing, the sheer force greater than an N2 mine. EVA-07 was off-guard…-
[13:31] <Minaplo> ["Asuka Langley Soryu was defeated first. She watched the battle, impotent, and grew furious. Her emotions awakened something in her Evangelion."-
[13:32] <Minaplo> [EVA-02, rising from its position on the ground, its eyes flaring to life, its sealed jaw ripping open, its severed leg regenerating, letting out a demonic roar.]
01[13:34] <Yanmei> "Berserked…" She had never seen 02 like that before, come to think of it. Unsettling, even without guessing at what was to come. "She didn't… devour 07 did she?"
[13:36] <Minaplo> ["Yes. Along with the unlimited Fruit, and the souls of Asuka Langley Soryu's Neospartan companions. Taking it inside herself gave her tremendous power- and drove her mad. The voices of the Neospartans convinced her to go to absolutes. That is where her life as Asuka Langley Soryu ends and her life as the Empress of the Imperium begins."]
01[13:41] <Yanmei> "Rei told me about the war." Yanmei closed her eyes mournfully. "I still can't believe it. That's -horrible-."
[13:44] <Minaplo> ["The Empress devastated Paris-2 before anyone could react. She consumed the body of the mother of the Lilim, claimed her Security Device and also the Slaying Sword." Said the Marionette tonelessly, despite referring to himself. "With those she became unstoppable. The war would last for two more years before the Empress would finally defeat your ESA in Tokyo-2, and in doing so, consume
[13:44] <Minaplo> Azariah Caine and the body of the Mother- and with both the body of your mother and the Mother, become a true god. Your planet was only the start of a fire that would consume the stars."]
01[13:46] <Yanmei> "Even worse?" she said flatly, and rubbed her forehead. "Countless would either die or be dissolved."
[13:47] <Minaplo> [The Marionette turned to look at her. "Now you see the story. The rest is obvious- Isaiah Gabriel-Wei connecting with Rei Ayanami instead of you. The survival of some, the deaths of others."-
[13:47] <Minaplo> ["Do you know why I saw fit to show you this?"]
01[13:48] <Yanmei> "…it's this your way of trying to cheer me up?" she said almost hopefully.
[13:48] <Minaplo> ["No."]
01[13:48] <Yanmei> "Then why…?"
[13:50] <Minaplo> ["First: do you agree now that a single action can lead to drastic outcomes?"]
01[13:51] <Yanmei> "Yes? How could I not?"
[13:52] <Minaplo> ["Second: Imagine, then, an entity with the ability to perceive all the actions of all the members of your species, then influence those actions."]
01[13:53] <Yanmei> "…you mean like Lilith?" she said slowly. "Or some other god?"
[13:54] <Minaplo> ["I mean the mother of the Lilim. The power you call Destiny."]
01[14:02] <Yanmei> "Destiny, then! But bringing that into this means, what? That my hurt leg turned out the way it did because that entity willed it to be like that? And… that going against it would lead to disaster?"
[14:06] <Minaplo> ["Your people have had no ability to resist Destiny until the creation of your Evangelions." Said the Marionette. "Consider the outcomes of your decision to avoid the accident. If a single binary choice can have so many drastic outcomes, then moreso a billion or trillion. If your Mother is both aware of and capable of influencing the actions of your people throughout their history, then is
[14:06] <Minaplo> it not logical to conclude that the action you took, and all the actions leading up to it, by both you and everyone else, was her doing?"]
06[14:10] * Yanmei made a small protesting noise, her gaze sliding slightly aside. "Was it her influence that caused the Evangelions to be built, then? How does that benefit her?"
[14:15] <Minaplo> ["You may guide an arrow with your hand, but once the arrow has left your hand, you must rely on its own power guiding it to its target." Said the Marionette. "Your Mother is doing the same. She knows she cannot influence actions properly once the Evangelions are created. But she also knows she cannot become fully restored without them. If your people were to continue without creating the
[14:15] <Minaplo> Evangelions or finding our Mother, the mechanisms to revive her would be undiscovered forever."]
06[14:17] * Yanmei shuddered deeply. "Damn it…"
[14:18] <Minaplo> ["Even the actions of Elisha caine, Mary Caine, Azariah Caine- her doing. If they had not existed, someone else would have played their same roles." Said the Marionette.]
01[14:24] <Yanmei> "You're starting to sound like Ikari?" she muttered. "If it's inescapable, then what do we do?"
[14:25] <Minaplo> ["Consider your action that brought you here." Said Marionette. "The choice of saving Mortimer Mazarin over Gilles de Orleans."-
[14:25] <Minaplo> ["If your Mother planned for this, then you made that action in accordance with her plans. Correct?"]
01[14:26] <Yanmei> "I guess so…"
[14:27] <Minaplo> ["Then you should go back now, change your answer to save Gilles de Orleans. Correct?"]
01[14:29] <Yanmei> "What would happen if I did? Would it lead to something worse happening, like in this timeline you showed me?"
[14:30] <Minaplo> ["Nothing, because nothing has happened yet. It is not the outcome here that is important, but your choice. Should you go back now and change your answer?"]
01[14:32] <Yanmei> "I don't… I don't know… I didn't want to make that decision in the first place! To go back and change it around again…"
[14:35] <Minaplo> ["It is simple. You took the option you took, and we agreed that you took that option due to your Mother's influence. To break her influence, you take the other option. Correct?"]
01[14:36] <Yanmei> "If we were being logical about it? Yeah."
[14:38] <Minaplo> ["But if your Mother can influence your actions so, what is stopping her from predicting this very exchange between you and I, and predicting that you would change your answer? It would mean that by changing your answer, you are still doing her will. Correct?"]
01[14:39] <Yanmei> "Yeah. That too. S-so what's the right answer?"
[14:39] <Minaplo> ["By this logic, whether you choose the first option or the second option, you are doing her will. Correct?"]
01[14:41] <Yanmei> "Yeah." Her shoulders drooped a little again.
[14:41] <Minaplo> ["Then we see her weakness." Said the Marionette, stretching to his full height.-
[14:41] <Minaplo> ["I showed you that the act of preventing your injury changed the world and the stars beyond. Your actions have power and weight."-
[14:42] <Minaplo> ["So how is it logical that your Mother could plan for you taking -either- option, if your actions are so consequential?"]
01[14:47] <Yanmei> "Maybe she's waiting until after the action is made to wrap the consequences around in a way that suits her wants. Maybe the end result of the Empress's conquest and the end we're heading for in our world are the same, but reached through different means?"
[14:50] <Minaplo> ["No. The Empress would have the power to harness the full ability of the Security Device. A being of that power could use it to become greater than even a Mother. I do not think your Mother's plans succeeded in that timeline."]
01[14:53] <Yanmei> "Then… she can't plan both decisions? It's impossible…"
[14:55] <Minaplo> ["Correct. Logically, we have concluded that she is capable of predicting you taking the first option. We have also concluded that she is capable of predicting you taking the second option. We have also concluded that your actions have the power to disrupt her plans. But if that is true, then she is -not- capable of predicting you taking both options."-
[14:58] <Minaplo> ["Either both actions fulfil her plans, or neither action fulfil her plans. Since neither premise is true, the conclusion is that either action has the potential to fulfil or foil her plans."-
[14:59] <Minaplo> [The Marionette bent down, bending like paper at the waist, mask to face. "Logically speaking, Destiny now no longer has any bearing on any actions you make." Said the Marionette.]
01[15:03] <Yanmei> "That doesn't…?" She stared back at him, confused, and a little frightened again. "I don't get it? Why? How? If I'm human, I should be effected no matter what? Isn't that how it works?"
[12:56] <Minaplo> ["Before, you might have worried that you were only making a choice because Destiny was compelling you to make it."-
[12:56] <Minaplo> ["Now, you know that your choice is your own."]
[13:00] <Yanmei> "That doesn't answer my question! How long have I been like this, and why? Have I always been outside of Destiny?"
[13:04] <Minaplo> ["You are not outside of Destiny. The situation has not changed." Said the Marionette. "What has changed is your perception of the situation."]
[13:11] <Yanmei> "…oh." She seemed to calm down a little, thoughtfully. So there was nothing else to blame for the decisions she made… not that she would have made excuses either way.
[13:29] <Minaplo> ["The arrow has left your Mother's hand." Said the Marionette. "She has arranged events, trying to find the right actions to lead to other actions, and create the chain reaction that brings about her revival."-
[13:37] <Minaplo> [The face came closer, until all Yanmei could see was the mask, the eyes, and the smile. "But for the first time in the history of your people, she is not omniscient. We have concluded that every action you take has the potential of bringing down her plans."-
[13:39] <Minaplo> ["The actions you take are yours to own. They are made of your own will and their consequences are also yours to own as well. It is responsibility, but it is the responsibility of freedom."]
[13:47] <Yanmei> "I understand," she said dully. "I don't suppose you have any advice on how to handle that responsibility?"
[13:50] <Minaplo> ["Yes. Avoid taking responsibility for actions that are not your own." Said the Marionette. "Feel that you have condemned Gilles de Orleans to death. But it is not your hand that wielded the knife. Apply responsibility to yourself, and apply it to others. Own only what is your own."]
[13:51] <Yanmei> "I can try?" she muttered. "Thank you again…"
[14:00] <Minaplo> [The Marionette didn't respond…-
[14:00] <Minaplo> […-
[14:00] <Minaplo> [It was dark. But she was warm… So very warm. It wasn't cold anymore- what…? Where?]
[14:03] <Yanmei> Where indeed? She opened her eyes and gingerly tried to move.
[14:09] <Minaplo> [The battleship. Her bed… The covers had been tucked up to her chin.-
[14:10] <Minaplo> [Isaiah was sitting in one of the nearby chairs, his arms folded, looking down at his lap.]
[14:19] * Yanmei stared at him silently. -
[14:22] <Yanmei> Her heart sank hard. How much time had passed? Which Isaiah was this? -
[14:24] <Yanmei> But the more she stared, the more that resentment from before began to stir back into existance. Isaiah and Rei… he even gave her that ring! -
[14:25] * Yanmei pressed her lips together and sought her pillow, hoisting herself up shakily on one arm.
[14:26] <Minaplo> [He looked up. "You're awake." He said dully.]
[14:27] * Yanmei hesitated. She had drawn her other arm back as if to hurl the pillow at him, but something about that greeting… -
[14:28] <Yanmei> She could feel him, too. Through the Libido Effect. "You… you didn't get Rei pregnant," she realized.
[14:36] <Minaplo> ["… What?"]
[14:36] <Yanmei> "You. Um." -
[14:36] <Yanmei> … -
[14:37] <Yanmei> "I love you?"
[14:39] <Minaplo> ["… I love you too, but what's this about getting Rei pregnant?"]
[14:41] <Yanmei> "Bad dream," she mumbled, looking down at her sheets.
[14:42] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[14:42] <Minaplo> ["How are you feeling?"]
[14:46] <Yanmei> "…" She tugged the blankets off a bit. "De Orleans and Mazarin…"
[14:47] <Minaplo> [She'd been put into a nightgown. Her armour and sword- no idea where it was…-
[14:47] <Minaplo> ["We brought Mazarin, Henriette and Julie up onto the ship." Said Isaiah quietly. "But the Solomon Prime abducted de Orleans."]
[14:49] <Yanmei> Abducted? She froze for a second. Did that mean there was still a chance to help him? Her fingers clenched the bedsheets a little harder. "Miss Lucille went after them?"
[14:53] <Minaplo> ["Abducted into a Dirac Sea. We don't know where they took him." Said Isaiah dully. "Lucille's been taken with an escort to de Orleans's chateau to retrieve Padma and some important documents."]
[14:58] <Yanmei> She didn't look at him. Just kept staring down at the sheets. "Will they come back here, then? Padma and Miss Lucille?"
[14:59] <Minaplo> ["Yes."]
[15:01] <Yanmei> "I see. I can apologise, then."
[15:02] <Minaplo> ["You should apologise to me, first." He said, his voice becoming hard.]
[15:03] <Yanmei> "…?" She blinked up at him.
[15:03] <Minaplo> [Isaiah stood up.-
[15:04] <Minaplo> ["What the hell were you thinking?!" He snapped, suddenly bristling with anger. "You threw yourself into danger with an enemy you didn't understand without a second thought, and you did it alone, without any support! Do you think that makes you clever? Because all it does is make you an idiot."]
[15:11] * Yanmei recoiled slightly. "What was I supposed to do?! Without anything to slow it down, it would have been on us all in a seconds! I bought them time! I was trying to protect them!"
[15:13] <Minaplo> ["You shouldn't have stayed behind by yourself! You should've stayed with Julie and the others, instead of trying to take them all on yourself! Did- did you not care about your own safety?!"-
[15:13] <Minaplo> ["You're more important than they are! Your safety was supposed to come first, not last!"]
[15:21] <Yanmei> "You don't understand? I can't think that way! Not when they're always helping me and teaching me things even when they'd be better off not doing that. What's wrong with paying them back?"
[15:22] <Minaplo> [Isaiah walked over to her and grabbed her by the front of her nightgown.-
[15:23] <Minaplo> ["Tell me. Tell me what you would've thought if it had been me who had stayed behind. Then tell me what I'm supposed to think when I hear you do shit like this."]
[15:25] <Yanmei> Her scowl started to melt. -
[15:28] <Yanmei> That… was a good point. If it had been him, wouldn't she be furious too? She looked away, a little more abashed now.
[15:34] <Minaplo> [He stared at her, his eyes angry.-
[15:34] <Minaplo> [And then he forced them shut, pulled her up and kissed her with rough, furious energy.]
[15:37] <Yanmei> "Mmph?!" Hadn't expected that. Startled or not, she went along with it.
[15:45] <Minaplo> [He pushed her back, one arm behind her back, the other arm at her side. He pulled away for a moment, shaking his head- Yanmei saw the tension tears starting to bubble in his eyes- before he kissed her again.]
[15:49] * Yanmei kissed back. By the time they parted for air again, her own tears were staring to well up and her arms were around him, clinging to the back of his shirt.
[15:51] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[15:52] <Minaplo> [Isaiah pressed himself against her, his head against her shoulder. "I was scared…"]
[15:52] <Yanmei> "I know," she choked, holding him. "I'm so sorry. I'm so, so sorry…"
[15:57] <Minaplo> [Some time passed. Isaiah lay there, holding her and being held, his body radiating warmth.-
[15:58] <Minaplo> ["I… I'm sorry. Are you alright?" He said eventually, pulling away a little.]
[15:59] * Yanmei started to move with him. He felt entirely too good and too warm. -
[16:00] <Yanmei> "I'm… a little better? You're right, though. I wasn't too smart today."
[16:05] <Minaplo> ["You weren't." He said, finding himself moving back down at her pull. "I-I haven't forgiven you yet." He mumbled. "But I'm glad you're alright."-
[16:05] <Minaplo> ["How's your leg?"]
[16:10] <Yanmei> "It doesn't hurt much? But it feels… weird. Was Kenzo the one who treated it?"
[16:13] <Minaplo> ["I did." He said. "It was a bit weird. I…" He stopped, abashed.]
[16:18] <Yanmei> "Hm? Well if it's you, you probably did a good job. <3" She pulled the blanket off completely, expecting some sort of cast.
[16:19] <Minaplo> [There was one of those NERV 'limb mittens' there, but…-
[16:20] <Minaplo> ["… I-I was pretty shaken up after you went down. My emotions went a little nuts. I started… I mean, my AT Field…"-
[16:21] <Minaplo> ["I-I wasn't able to do a total job. But I repaired some of the bone fractures and muscular damage. You won't be able to walk properly for a few days, b-but it's better than the alternative."]
[16:28] <Yanmei> "The alternative. Cybernetics. Cloning?" she sighed deeply. "Thank you. But using your AT Field is dangerous? Please be careful."
[16:33] <Minaplo> ["I will."-
[16:34] <Minaplo> ["… The others, they're on board… Do you want me to take you to see them? Julie, Mazarin…"]
[16:39] <Yanmei> "Maybe later. It feels like I could use some time to clear my head?"
[16:41] <Minaplo> ["Alright. Should I go, or… Are you hungry? Thirsty? What should I do?"]
[16:43] <Yanmei> "Get some rest. And cuddle Lizzie for me?" She patted his arm. "You've been up a long time worrying. I can tell."
[16:49] <Minaplo> ["I could bring Lizzie here, if you like. We could all sleep together…"]
[16:54] <Yanmei> "That sounds good." She shut her eyes. "I'm glad she's still healthy and alive."
[16:56] <Minaplo> ["… Of course she is." He kissed Yanmei again, and pulled himself out of her clutches. "I'll be back soon, alright?"]
[16:58] <Yanmei> "Yeah," she murmured. "Of course?" she rested back against her pillow. "I'll be waiting."
[17:04] <Minaplo> [He tucked her in, pulling the covers up. "I love you." He murmured gently- before going for the door, slipping out.]
[17:10] <Yanmei> "You too," she said to the closing door. -
[17:10] <Yanmei> Then, alone in the dimly lit room, her forehead creased with worry.

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