The Conqueror

[21:38] <Minaplo> [Drip. Drip. Drip. Drip.-
[21:40] <Minaplo> [The silence had become absolute the moment Yanmei had entered the dark room. Unable to see anything, unable to hear anything, not even feel anything… She'd lingered in this state for awhile, until finally she began to hear the sound of dripping water. Faintly, ahead of her, she could see that same armoured figure from earlier, facing away from her.]
[21:50] <Yanmei> It was relief - the gloomy sound filtering through the darkness, and the vision of an enemy. They were reminders that she was still here, wherever here was. Stimulation. She set her jaw and tried to approach. "You, there!"
[21:53] <Minaplo> [But the figure didn't turn or even respond.]
[21:58] <Yanmei> "Grr… Don't ignore me!" This too was a relief. The sound of her own voice, and the familiar wave of anger. She reached for where her chainsword had been, speeding up to narrow the gap. "Who are you? You'd better take me back right now!"
[22:00] <Minaplo> [The figure turned slightly, visored head turning towards Yanmei with that same expressionless face. Yanmei had her weapon- and for some reason the stranger did not, her sword gone. She was defenseless.]
[22:05] <Yanmei> A trick? If she moved in close enough, the woman might slip a knife out into the open and try to stick it into her or something. So Yanmei stopped out of her range at the motion, and tossed her hair. "So you -can- hear me? You'd better answer, or you'll be sorry."
[22:06] <Minaplo> ["Hmph." She turned away dismissively, her hair tossing as well, falling in a way that was almost insolent.]
[22:14] <Yanmei> "!" Yanmei's eyes narrowed, and she tossed her own hair again, trying to make it look even more flippant than that of the visor woman. "I'm sorry. Maybe you're just too stupid to understand? I said 'answer, please'."
[22:15] <Minaplo> ["Are threats all you're capable of doing, or is that sword just for show?"]
[22:21] <Yanmei> "Just displaying my generosity, Miss No-Sword. One would think you'd be grateful? But if you really want to fight…"
[22:22] <Minaplo> ["You fool no one. You're looking for an excuse to attack."]
[22:25] <Yanmei> "Oh please. I'm not some barbarian?" Yanmei rolled her eyes. "Anyway? You're the one doing just that. Searching for an opening while we talk, right? Trying to throw me off guard? It won't happen."
[22:28] <Minaplo> ["How can I be searching for an opening when I'm not looking at you?"]
[22:31] <Yanmei> "That's just a ploy to make me think you're defenseless. Like playing dead with a dagger up your sleeve."
[22:32] <Minaplo> ["I hardly need pretend to be defenseless in order to deal with you." Said the figure, who began to walk away.]
[22:36] <Yanmei> "What's -that- supposed to-?!" But she was moving. Yanmei raced for her, trying to circle around to block her path without leaving her own back exposed. "What's your deal, anyway?"
[22:38] <Minaplo> ["You're hostile." Said the figure, who began to walk faster, much faster so that Yanmei would start to have trouble keeping up.]
[22:39] <Yanmei> "I'm cautious!" Yanmei snapped. She was still trying to keep up, fruitless as it was. "You would be too, if you'd had the day I did."
[22:40] <Minaplo> ["Excuses. You would have attacked me already if you weren't mired in fear."-
[22:40] <Minaplo> [Yanmei would find her foot momentarily tripping over something, not enough to send her sprawling, though…]
[22:43] * Yanmei stumbled, glaring back at whatever it was that had nearly caused her to lose her balance.
[22:46] <Minaplo> [It was a leg. A dismembered, bloody, leg- lying a few metres away was the rest of the body, the skin bulging and writhing grotesquely. The face- the face of Atticus Nelson, she'd realise- stared pale and empty at her as the fretful bulges split the skin and bloomed into sickly violet flowers.]
[22:53] * Yanmei stared, perhaps just as blankly back at first in disbelief and incomprehension. And then the horror of what she was seeing swelled fast within her. She backed away. Skimmed around desperately for the visor woman so that she could try again to catch up with her, sprinting if need be.
[22:58] <Minaplo> [The woman was still walking, visible, but she had gained distance. But now the sound of scuffling from behind informed Yanmei that the horrific Atticus had started to move, to crawl after her- and was starting to be joined by others- decaying Kaworus, more decrepit Nelsons. They started to block her path.]
[23:08] <Yanmei> "Nn-! Stay away!" She shrank away, staring after the woman, but unable to follow as the corpses filled the path between them. Nagisa and Atticus… she felt sick. Violently sick. Hadn't they forgiven her? "Stop! Stop, please…"
[23:09] <Minaplo> [But they didn't. They surged forward, threatening to engulf her.-
[23:09] <Minaplo> [The visored woman turned, a cruel smile playing on her lips.]
[23:17] <Yanmei> And Yanmei flailed her chainsword at the wall of rotting flesh and flowers, shutting her eyes to miss their expressions - or lackthereof. "I said GET BACK!"
[23:19] <Minaplo> [These were foes the chainsword was made to slay. The sword cut eagerly and enthusiastically through the horde, slicing handfuls of them with every flailing slash and hack. Within seconds they'd either fallen or faded into the shadows.-
[23:20] <Minaplo> [It was easier to see, now. Brighter. She could see that the room went forever in every direction, the distance filled with pikes, on which sat bleeding corpses. Some of them were of Atticus and Kaworu, others were of Angels. A forest of pikes sat around her, on which were bleeding Silas Caines.]
[23:26] <Yanmei> She hadn't had much resembling relief when she realized the horde was dissolving… but even that was brutally crushed as the lighting changed to reveal what it did. She stared at them all. Had those pikes always been there? No, no. Even in the darkness, she would have noticed, surely… -
[23:29] <Yanmei> But whether she had or not, here they were. And she couldn't look away from them. "So I'm a murderer," she said tightly after a long, long moment had passed. Her shoulders were rigid. "You don't think I already know that?"
[23:31] <Minaplo> ["Is that what you call it?" The woman began to approach. "They were enemies. It was you or them. Survival available to one but not to both. Is that not true?"]
[23:35] <Yanmei> "Yes." She didn't respond to the approach itself, her chainsword hanging limply from her hand. "That's why I killed. That's why I'll probably keep killing. To survive and protect. But…"
[23:41] <Minaplo> ["is it not true that you have won great victories? Slain those who would massacre your people. Slain those who would see you erased from the world. These are glorious things, things you should be proud of achieving."]
[23:43] <Yanmei> "That's not how a normal person would react to being confronted with this," she said carefully.
[23:44] <Minaplo> ["Why? What is an enemy?"]
[23:48] <Yanmei> "I shouldn't feel proud about it?" That same careful, controlled tone. "I killed them. I imposed my will on something else and determined whether it could exist or not. That's… that's -serious-, even if they were trying to harm me."
[23:49] <Minaplo> ["So the existence of another is more important than your own existence?"]
[23:55] <Yanmei> "Of course not!" Yanmei pulled her eyes away, returning them to the woman. Confusion rippled across her face, and she looked away again. "But… determining something like that puts me on their level and on the level of people I actually hate. Shouldn't something exist freely, without being controlled or extinguished by something else for convenence's sake?"
[00:01] <Minaplo> ["And what if it's not convenience?"-
[00:02] <Minaplo> [Footsteps behind Yanmei. If she turned, she'd see - none other than Mary Caine, stalking towards her, face cold, eyes like death.]
[00:04] <Yanmei> Yanmei's eyes widened… and then narrowed. Her face became an expressionless mask, and her grip tightened around the grip of the chainsword.
[00:05] <Minaplo> ["If you do not fight, she will destroy you." Said the woman in a whisper. "You have seen what will happen."]
[00:11] <Yanmei> "Destroy or be destroyed." It dawned on her, slowly. "This is not the real Mary Caine, is it?"
[00:12] <Minaplo> ["It's a real threat. It wants what Mary Caine wants. Isn't that enough?"]
[00:15] <Yanmei> "Yes. And if death and survival are the only consequences…" She abruptly adjusted her stance and charged at Caine, fast, chainsword whirling to life again.
[00:15] <Minaplo> [Caine brought the knife up, but knife and Caine all were cut through in a single slice.-
[00:17] <Minaplo> [Other Caines began to appear now, a rapidly thickening horde, all converging on Yanmei and the woman. A black sword appeared in the woman's hand, appearing seemingly from shadow. She began to slice into the Caines as well.-
[00:17] <Minaplo> ["Death and survival! All conflicts, no matter what, are death and survival, nothing else. Once the sword is drawn, you either live, or you die."]
[00:21] <Yanmei> In combat, the mask had slipped significantly. Yanmei's face contorted slightly in concentration, hatred and pleasure ebbing and flowing as blood splattered across it. "Is it all really that simple~?"
[00:23] <Minaplo> ["Once the sword is drawn, death and life is decided." The woman was ferocious. With a single kick she snapped a Caine's spine. "Once the sword is drawn, nothing can sheathe it until all people are judged to live or die."]
[00:29] <Yanmei> A headbutt. "There's always a third option in conflict. But~" A gratifying chainsword tore through a chest cavity. She yelled the rest to be heard over it. "It and your philosophy aren't exclusive. It just means you have to find and take that third option before combat happens!"
[00:31] <Minaplo> [Yanmei's sword swung, embedding itself into the torso of Isaiah Gabriel-Wei.-
[00:32] <Minaplo> [The Caines were gone. There was only the three of them now- Yanmei, the woman, and a bleeding, torn Isaiah, staring at Yanmei with shock and terror.-
[00:33] <Minaplo> ["No. There is no third option in conflict, only another two options- to draw the sword or let it lie fallow." Said the woman quietly. "Once you draw the sword, you bear the responsibility of everything that happens as though you yourself had done it."]
[00:36] <Yanmei> "That's not-" her grip slipped, and the chainsword clattered to the ground. "What is the meaning of this?! Isaiah!!"
[00:37] <Minaplo> [Isaiah fell to the ground, gurgling blood.-
[00:39] <Minaplo> ["Life and death. Once you draw the sword, no one is safe." Said the woman. "You might draw the sword to protect those you love. You might draw the sword because it feels good to attack, to destroy those who threaten you. But whenever the sword is drawn, these are the consequences. Every time, you will lose something of yourself."-
[00:40] <Minaplo> ["If you keep fighting, Zhang Yanmei, if you keep drawing that sword… No matter the reason, a part of you will die every time. Eventually, the urge to protect yourself, the urge to protect others- will destroy you. The very actions you take to protect them will be the very actions that lead to their deaths."]
[00:44] * Yanmei gazed down at Isaiah with her own wounded, horrified expression. "What am I supposed to do, then? Tell me!" She whirled around at the visor woman angrily. "I'm damned if I don't fight, and I'm damned if I do! And you said yourself that there were only two choices in conflict. What, should I just try to -avoid- conflict, then? That's impossible!"
[00:45] <Minaplo> ["Why is it impossible?"]
[00:48] <Yanmei> "Because I'm already knee-deep in it! Because it'd be impossible to avoid even if I wasn't. It's everywhere. To avoid it, I may as well just stop talking to other people and shut myself off from reality."
[00:53] <Minaplo> ["Once the sword is drawn, then it cannot be sheathed until it is ended. There is no reason for you to try to sheathe the blade before it is ready." Said the woman. "But there -is- reason to never draw that sword again. You know it for yourself. You drew it once, unreasonably, and it saw you die, your lover die, everyone around you. They offered to die for you, and they did. But you are the one who drew the sword, in the end. You killed them. You killed them. But you didn't learn. You came back and decided to do the same thing, decided that if you could you would draw the sword again without realising that nothing will ever change- the only option you have is to draw or not draw. That is the option you have, and when you draw the sword to protect another, to protect yourself, you are drawing it for the wrong reasons. Swords cannot protect, Zhang Yanmei."]
[01:01] <Yanmei> "Then what can protect? Since you know so much," she spat. "If I gave Mary Caine a hug, do you think she'd stop her plans? Ha!" She shook her head. "You're telling me not to draw, but Caine already has. She drew her sword a long time ago. She's no different than those piked people."
[01:05] <Minaplo> ["Do you truly think I have the answers? You think me wise in areas I know I am not, Zhang Yanmei. I am the Conqueror, the one who drew her sword and became nothing but death and destruction. I do not know how to protect."-
[01:06] <Minaplo> ["But I know what happens when you draw the sword, and it is -not- protection. It is -not- salvation."]
[01:12] <Yanmei> "You're telling me to survive some other way." Yanmei stared down at Isaiah's body again, something pained working back up to the surface of her face. "But I have no idea how to either. I have no idea!"
[01:13] <Minaplo> ["To not know of another way is different from no other way existing." Said the Conqueror. "I want only one thing for you. Do you know what that is?"]
[01:15] * Yanmei shook her head quietly.
[01:20] <Minaplo> ["I want you to think." Said the Conqueror. "To pause before you draw that sword. To make sure you understand all of the consequences of that one action. You must never draw a sword without accepting that someone will -die-. That someone could be you, it could be someone else, but someone will suffer, and the drawing of one sword can lead to the drawing of many. Someone else may do a wrong, but that does not mean you should answer it with more. Do not turn to pride or fear or hubris or even love. Draw the sword only when you know it is to kill, and when you do so, understand that your sole purpose is death. There is no other reason but death. When you draw the sword for any reason, understand this-"-
[01:20] <Minaplo> ["To draw the sword is to choose death when there is the possibility of life. There is no other reason."]
[01:29] <Yanmei> "I will try to remember that. To be careful because there are consequences," she said. It looked as she might kneel down next to the slain Isaiah, but she thought better of it, staying on her feet instead. "Who are you, anyway? It sounds like you have a stake in me learning this too?"
[01:31] <Minaplo> ["…" The woman looked away, up at the endless pikes. "I am a part of you, the part which drew the sword and slew ten million men. I am the part of you that lives forever in a reality of blood and pikes, not as a celebration, but as a reminder of what it means when we give into that urge. I am the Zhang Yanmei that mistook war for salvation and death for freedom."]
[01:37] <Yanmei> "I didn't think-" she began defensively, and then stopped herself, fully aware of the level of absurdity in the following remark. "Well. I didn't think," she said again instead. This time, the tone was apologetic.
[01:41] <Minaplo> ["I know." She said sadly. "There must be other ways. We have to find them, every single one of them before we draw that sword again."]
[01:44] <Yanmei> "Yeah." She regarded the pikes herself now. There was nothing left to say. "I'll try my hardest. And I'll think of you if I slip up…"
[01:50] <Minaplo> ["I know."-
[01:52] <Minaplo> [The world began to fade, the horizon fading into a fog of purple and black. Before long it began to swirl around Yanmei as well, and for a second, she saw and heard nothing…]

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