This Too Shall Pass 3 1 4

(12:57:32) * Sept stirred with a nagging feeling at the back of his mind. The comfortable bed said "hospital", but his body wasn't crawling with the discomfort from reconstitution. But that was a problem for another time. He kept his eyes closed and nestled tighter between the linens.
(13:03:18) Minaplo: [… some part of his skin, his hairs perhaps, tingled at some unseen but felt presence.]
(13:08:23) Sept: That got him to open his eyes, at least. He was in… his new room. Right. Largely barren, except for the keepsakes he'd managed to rescue on Mars. Also rather woefully devoid of weapons.
(13:10:48) Minaplo: [The sheets to his left rustled.]
(13:13:28) Sept: "Oh. It's you." Sera moved to sit up, pulling up the blanket with him. His glasses were… somewhere around here.
(13:15:09) Minaplo: [Nadiacadenza was lying on his bed, facing the roof- she turned to look at him. She did not help him find his glasses.]
(13:18:34) Sept: "What's up." The table serving as a nightstand was behind her, he realized. "Can you pass me my glasses?"
(13:23:40) Minaplo: ["You will act a Favour."]
(13:24:22) Sept: "They're just my glasses, Nadiacadenza."
(13:26:42) Minaplo: [The glasses shot off the nightstand and into his lap.]
(13:28:36) Sept: "Thank you. I appreciate it." Sera straightened his hair out with a few pats and put the glasses on. "Better."
(13:30:09) Minaplo: [She was now standing by the bed, having skipped the intervening action.-
(13:30:13) Minaplo: ["You will act a Favour."]
(13:31:31) Sept: "Ohh. Not for the glasses?" He got up out of the bed on the opposing side, heading to grab some fresh clothes. "Urgent?"
(13:32:01) Minaplo: ["Define urgent."]
(13:34:55) Sept: "Can the favor only be done - acted? That sounds off. Do I have time for breakfast is what I'm asking."
(13:37:11) Minaplo: [She was silent for a moment.-
(13:37:18) Minaplo: ["Eat."]
(13:41:09) * Sept finished dressing up and half-heartedly fixing his hair. Still the dull, standard uniform. He'd have to get replacements or find out if any of his old stuff had survived. "You could detail your request first so I can consider it over food?"
(13:41:43) Minaplo: ["The shaper of the Favour will speak."]
(13:44:41) * Sept placed one hand on his hip as he stopped to face her. "That's fine," he said, a bit dubious.
(13:45:00) Minaplo: [Nadiacadenza unravelled.-
(13:45:32) Minaplo: [From the top to the bottom, she came apart in a million streams of multicoloured light, swirling like a miniature whirlwind.-
(13:48:17) Minaplo: [A second later, they reformed into another shape. This one was familiar… Although someone Sera hadn't seen in a long time. He was wearing the coat and hat Nadiacadenza had been, but over that was a flour-stained apron and a pair of glasses jabbed awkwardly onto a thin angular face with short black hair.-
(13:48:22) Minaplo: [There was a moment of silence.-
(13:48:34) Minaplo: [Then the Lance-created Malachi threw a sausage roll at Sera's head.]
(13:50:26) * Sept flinched at the display of light, and then at the sausage roll. "L-Look."-
(13:51:37) Sept: "I don't know what corner of my subconscious you pulled that from, but you'll stop throwing those goddamn rolls around or there'll be no favours whatsoever!"
(13:53:56) Minaplo: ["Favour-Boon-Remuneration Serve-Grant-Supply Rescind-Withdraw Life"]
(13:57:37) * Sept crossed his hands. "I've done stupider things. It's- very disconcerting trying to understand your approximation of human interaction. You've got all the information you need, use it."
(13:58:30) Minaplo: [Another sausage roll smacked Sera in the head.]
(13:59:17) Sept: "This is -not- "speaking". I was told there would be speech."
(13:59:54) Minaplo: ["Container-recepticle-holder joy-happiness-cherish."]
(14:03:48) Sept: "Maybe Armin could translate for me?"
(14:05:20) Minaplo: [Malachi frowned.-
(14:05:34) Minaplo: ["Container-recepticle-holder." He said slowly. "Joy-happiness-cherish hold-grab-take."]
(14:08:48) * Sept grunted, begrudgingly going along. "A vessel -of- joy?"
(14:11:04) Minaplo: [He threw a sausage roll at Sera's head.]
(14:13:21) Sept: "THAT TELLS ME NOTHING!"
(14:15:33) Minaplo: [Lance-Malachi stared at Sera for a long second.-
(14:15:47) Minaplo: [He slowly held a sausage roll up and tossed it gently to Sera.]
(14:18:19) * Sept caught the roll in one hand.
(14:20:21) Minaplo: [Lance-Malachi stared.]
(14:21:26) Sept: "-Do you want me to eat it-?"
(14:25:42) Minaplo: [He slowly raised another sausage roll.]
(14:27:27) Sept: "You can nod for 'yes', or shake your head for 'no'."
(14:33:02) Minaplo: [He nodded, then threw the sausage roll.]
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(14:37:33) * Sept caught it, too, and took a tentative bite of the first one.
(14:44:30) * Sept chewed on the roll for a moment before taking another bite. "…yeah, okay, fine. I see what happened here. But what do you -want-"?
(14:45:45) Minaplo: ["Contailer-recepticle-holder. Joy-happiness-cherish hold-grab-take."]
(14:49:51) Sept: "'Happily take' or 'please accept' or something. What kind of container?"
(14:50:20) Minaplo: ["Hold-grab-take joy-happiness-cherish."]
(14:51:29) Sept: "That's describing the container."
(14:53:42) Minaplo: [He stared at Sera.]
(14:55:44) * Sept stared back. "Some kind of present..?"
(14:57:10) Minaplo: ["Hold-grab-take." He said slowly. "Container-recepticle holder joy-happiness-cherish."]
(14:59:18) Sept: "You -have- more words than that. Do you want -me- to take something?"
(14:59:39) Minaplo: ["Display-show-present."]
(15:00:18) Sept: "Something I'd present to you, then."
(15:00:51) Minaplo: [He tossed Sera a sausage roll.]
(15:04:17) * Sept caught it. He'd finished his first one by now, and… didn't particularly have the appetite in the midst of this for more. Regardless of how filling imaginary food actually was. He walked over to place both the remaining sausage rolls on the nightstand/table. "Is the sausage roll supposed to be a hint?"
(15:04:39) Minaplo: [He stared.]
(15:05:30) Sept: "Do you want me to get you a sausage roll."
(15:06:32) Minaplo: [He walked over and shoved Sera in the chest.]
(15:09:27) Sept: "Hey! I'm not the one being more cryptic than Elisha and all his allies combined! Am I even getting closer?"
(15:09:59) Minaplo: ["Joy-happiness-cherish!" Shouted Malachi. "Hold-grab-take! Container-recepticle-holder-vessel."]
(15:16:12) Sept: "Something related to Paris? To Mollier?"
(15:16:57) Minaplo: [He stamped over to the door and kicked it.]
(15:19:18) Sept: "And neither of us is going anywhere until we come to an understanding. You could always leave your favor to one of the others."
(15:19:50) Minaplo: [He turned.-
(15:20:10) Minaplo: ["Container-recepticle-holder-vessel." He said, slowly.]
(15:22:31) Sept: "Has multiple literal and metaphorical meanings. A box, a symbol, the cause for the happiness."
(15:23:03) Minaplo: ["Container-recepticle-holder-vessel hold-grab-take."]
(15:24:25) Sept: "The vessel is something you want as a favor. Yes?"
(15:24:52) Minaplo: [He threw a sausage roll at Sera's head.]
(15:26:56) * Sept closed his eyes for a moment again. "Container-recepticle-holder-vessel," he repeated. "I only hear synonyms. Hold-grab-take."
(15:38:35) Minaplo: ["Hold-grab-take joy-happiness-cherish."]
(15:45:47) Sept: "Give me a goddamn moment. Let me process this over again." Sera exhaled.-
(15:47:26) Sept: He turned away from the Malachi and took a few steps towards the foot of his bed again. "Right. Let's go back to the vessel of joy. That, again, sounds like any kind of present to me. Is it something specific you want?"
(15:48:38) Minaplo: [He paused.-
(15:49:58) Minaplo: [He eyed one of the boxes Sera had in the room, and walked over to it. He picked it up.-
(15:50:20) Minaplo: ["Container-recepticle-holder-vessel hold-grab-take."-
(15:50:29) Minaplo: [He then tipped it over, its contents crashing haphazardly over the floor.-
(15:50:49) Minaplo: ["Container-recepticle-holder-vessel empty-hollow-void."]
(15:52:26) * Sept winced at the gesture. "Sure. You're projecting a really damn literal meaning of those words right now."
(15:53:46) Minaplo: ["Container-recepticle-holder-vessel hold-grab-take joy-happiness-cherish."]
(15:55:12) Sept: "Do you want an empty vessel?"
(15:55:29) Minaplo: [He dropped Sera's box.-
(15:55:35) Minaplo: [Then kicked it away.-
(15:55:37) Minaplo: [He picked up the full one.-
(15:55:41) Minaplo: ["Container-recepticle-holder-vessel hold-grab-take joy-happiness-cherish."]
(16:00:03) Sept: "No. Something to hold and cherish? Those boxes have a lot of memories for me, but that's not what you're after, is it? Please put it down."
(16:00:51) Minaplo: [He placed it down, then threw half a sausage roll at Sera.]
(16:01:39) Sept: "A container of something to cherish?" Sera repeated.
(16:02:23) Minaplo: [He threw slightly more than half a sausage roll at Sera.]
(16:03:27) Sept: "A more short-lived happiness?"
(16:04:56) Minaplo: ["hold-grab-take joy-happiness-cherish!!"]
(16:12:31) Sept: "Something cherished of mine or similar to? Would it help if you let me take a look in the box?" Sera hopped onto the bed and spun around to sit on the spirit's side.
(16:12:55) Minaplo: [He pushed the box into Sera's chest.]
(16:14:53) * Sept steadied himself on the edge of the bed, nearly dropping the box. He rifled through it, placing a stack of books to one side to clear room. Various paranoia notebooks, the photos of Akagi family dinners and Paris…
(16:16:51) Minaplo: [He continued to stare.]
(16:21:00) Sept: "These are things I cherish," Sera explained. He showed the Malachi a postcard with a watchful 01 over Paris. "That's what I hear when you say that word. Ginevre gave me that when I'd so much as hinted I was feeling homesick."
(16:23:29) Minaplo: [He eyed the postcard. "Object-material-physical." He said flatly.]
(16:25:03) Sept: "You want something -more- concrete."
(16:25:37) Minaplo: ["Joy-happiness-cherish."]
(16:27:03) Sept: "An item that's important to me in and of itself."
(16:29:23) Minaplo: ["Object-material-physical." He said, shoving Sera's hand- and the postcard- away.]
(16:35:18) Sept: "Not a material object, but something cherished. Memories? Music? People?"
(16:35:44) Minaplo: [He considered this for a moment- then tapped Sera on the head with a sausage roll.]
(16:36:46) Sept: "You want to experience something like that?"
(16:39:08) Minaplo: ["Joy-happiness-cherish." He said. "Hold-grab-take container-recepticle-holder-vessel." He tentatively tapped Sera again with the sausage roll.]
(16:40:23) Sept: "You want to take one of those things from me?"
(16:43:03) Minaplo: [He stared at Sera. He withdrew the sausage roll.]
(16:44:20) Sept: "That's fine. Share something from my past with me?"
(16:45:59) Minaplo: [He walked away from Sera, back over towards the door.]
(16:46:58) Sept: "You want -me- to experience something like that," he said, setting the box aside again.
(16:47:25) Minaplo: [He stared at Sera again. No sausage rolls were offered.]
(16:53:28) Sept: "You added 'vessel' in there. You don't- are you talking about the body when you say that?"
(16:56:33) Minaplo: [A sausage roll was propelled at Sera's head.]
(16:57:31) Sept: "My body?"
(16:57:37) Minaplo: [Silence.]
(16:58:30) Sept: "Cherish- appreciate other people..?"
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(17:00:14) Minaplo: [He turned his back on Sera and kicked the door again.]
(17:03:18) Sept: "I think you want me to go outside, but I'm not being seen with you outside."
(17:04:37) Minaplo: [He kicked the door again.]
(17:06:27) Sept: "Would you like me to open the door?" said Sera measuredly, with a bit of a grin. Maybe a little too slowly for genuine empathy.
(17:07:11) Minaplo: [Another pastry smacked Sera in the face.]
(17:08:27) Sept: "Gh. Fine, fine." Sera left his things unpacked on the bed and headed out past the Malachi, hitting the door controls.
(17:09:02) Minaplo: [The door opened. The Lance Malachi walked out quickly, looked left and right- and then looked back at Sera.]
(17:09:25) * Sept stepped out into the corridor. It was a wonder there wasn't a crowd gathering with all the noise.
(17:11:56) Minaplo: [Funnily enough, no one seemed to care- then again the walls were very thick.-
(17:13:11) Minaplo: [A crewman walked down the corridor, right past the Malachi- he didn't even look at him. The Malachi followed for a few footsteps, then stopped, giving the man a flat look.]
(17:17:38) * Sept followed after the spirit, spreading his hands. "You're interested in people. But I don't know what you want me to do with them." He made sure his room door was closed properly.
(17:18:31) Minaplo: ["hold-grab-take joy-happiness-cherish." Repeated the Malachi. He began pacing back and forth between the two options.]
(17:23:41) Sept: "It's some kind of seize-the-day message. You want me to go after -him-?"
(17:24:47) Minaplo: [He stopped, turning at Sera, and just stared stonily at him.]
(17:29:16) Sept: "See, Armin occasionally uses sarcasm, but I'm forced to take that as a no. D'you want to go meet people?"
(17:29:50) Minaplo: [He turned to face the left path.-
(17:29:55) Minaplo: [Then he turned to face the right.-
(17:30:03) Minaplo: [Then he looked back at Sera.]
(17:31:08) Sept: "Yeah, the ship's pretty empty." He headed to the right, either way. "Paris isn't much better right now."
(17:31:55) Minaplo: ["Choice-option-selection."]
(17:34:57) Sept: "Cafeteria's always got people," Sera suggested for a destination. "Wonder if they've got all the wedding decorations down yet."
(17:35:55) Minaplo: [He began smacking the sausage roll against Sera's head.]
(17:36:48) Sept: "And that means you'd like to go there."
(17:38:39) Minaplo: [The smacking continued.]
(17:41:02) Sept: And it probably would until morale improved. Sera led the way up and down the stairs and through corridors, passing the occasional person moving boxes of leftover blankets and rations from rooms that were being cleared out.
(17:42:07) Minaplo: [And Malachi followed. He eyed every person they passed, a solemn frown on his face. One person- a sleepy-looking child helping her father- he almost reached out for, then paused and continued on.-
(17:43:17) Minaplo: [The cafeteria was fairly busy- or at least had about fifteen to twenty people in it. The decorations had been removed, and people were sitting at tables, enjoying food that had clearly been procured locally. At one table people ate salads and fish and steaks; at another, several marines shared in six or seven Roman Pizzas.-
(17:44:06) Minaplo: [Mr. Blue was still tending bar, and was currently in conversation with an animated Ayanami Rei, who was flicking through pages of a sketchbook and showing them to Blue, who seemed quite interested.]
(17:52:33) * Sept stood there admiring the space for a moment, glancing up at the ceiling with a smile, before heading for the bar. He gave Blue a hesitant wave.
(17:58:40) Minaplo: ["Oh, here's Sera." Said Blue.-
(17:58:47) Minaplo: ["Hi, Sera." Said Rei brightly.-
(17:58:56) Minaplo: [Malachi followed them over, eyeing Blue and Rei.]
(18:00:15) Sept: "Hi, Blue. Hi, Rei. Everything okay?"
(18:04:18) Minaplo: ["Mmhmm!" Said Rei happily. "I was showing Blue my sketches."]
(18:06:28) Sept: "Sketches of what?" Sera inquired. "D'you have some water, Blue?"
(18:06:47) Minaplo: ["Yeah. Got sodas too."-
(18:07:03) Minaplo: [As if to illustrate the point, he gestured at Rei's glass, which was full of cola.-
(18:07:24) Minaplo: ["Oh, anything." Said Rei. "You can have a look if you want." She held it out to Sera.]
(18:12:39) Sept: "I'd love to. Just water is fine, though." Sera made a show of wiping dust off the bar before placing the sketchbook on it and flipping through the pages.
(18:16:20) Minaplo: [There were a lot of them.-
(18:17:54) Minaplo: [There were sketches of cats- especially of one kitten, repeated sketches of it tracking its progress as it slowly grew larger and larger. Sketches of flowers, trees. Of rooms, too, some Sera recognised- a Dorian bedroom, NERV Operations in the Geofront…-
(18:19:26) Minaplo: [Ban-Ban was here, as was little Eevi. She wasn't the only person either. Sera would see sketches of Yanmei, and Isaiah, and Minerva, her dark lustrous hair heavily shaded. There were some of her sisters- Sera had trouble telling them apart, unless it was obvious- like Chiisana was.-
(18:22:07) Minaplo: [… And of course there were plenty of Alphonse. Lots of Alphonse. Alphonse with short hair, at least a year or two ago. Alphonse with considerably longer hair in his neat military uniform. A sketch of his head and shoulders in a frame made of vines and flowers. Alphonse sleeping peacefully. Alphonse on a horse, sword in hand. Alphonse cooking dinner.-
(18:22:09) Minaplo: [Alphonse burning dinner.-
(18:22:51) Minaplo: [The quality at first was average, but it was obvious she'd been doing this for awhile. By the time he'd caught up to the present day, the sketches were quite excellent.]
(18:26:18) * Sept chuckled to himself a few times flipping through them, but refrained from commenting further until he'd finished a minute or two later. "They're very good." He pushed the sketchbook back towards Rei. "Do you do them from memory or not?"
(18:27:31) Minaplo: ["Some are memory. Some aren't. Usually, if whatever I've drawn looks busy, then they're probably from memory…"]
(18:28:23) Sept: "Mm. Tough to get it right on first try like that?"
(18:35:00) Minaplo: ["It is." Said Rei. "Well. Depends on what I'm drawing of course. Some things are easier to remember than others…"]
(18:36:02) Sept: "Like Alphonse." Sera sipped at his water.
(18:41:59) Minaplo: [Rei blushed, but she was beaming nonetheless. "Like Al~"-
(18:42:31) Minaplo: [Malachi, who had been staring at the sketchbook, suddenly looked over at her. He raised a hand towards her- and touched her on the shoulder.-
(18:43:39) Minaplo: [There was a split-second coruscant shimmer of light around the touch, although Sera couldn't be sure if anyone else saw it. The light reminded him of an AT Field- it appeared, flowed into Malachi's hand and was gone.-
(18:43:43) Minaplo: ["…"-
(18:44:01) Minaplo: [Rei's smile vanished. She suddenly leaned forward, going even paler than usual. "U-Ugh."-
(18:44:06) Minaplo: ["Everything alright, Miss Rei?"-
(18:44:15) Minaplo: ["I-I just had a dizzy spell. I don't…"-
(18:44:22) Minaplo: [She shook her head. "I don't feel well."-
(18:44:30) Minaplo: [Malachi took a step back, and smiled.]
(18:45:16) Minaplo: [It was a slow smile. Maybe a little too slow for genuine empathy.]
(18:54:22) Sept: "…"-
(18:59:22) Sept: "Make sure she's comfortable. Something's up." Sera got up, one hand fishing out the chain around his neck as he immediately headed for the exit. He found his whistle before he found the corridor outside. First stop, the Archivist's office.
(19:02:51) Minaplo: [Malachi dissolved a second later, and then…-
(19:03:15) Minaplo: [… The office, with its rich dark wooden floors and the impressive, statesmanlike desk…-
(19:03:33) Minaplo: [Archivist was here too, standing by the door. She looked a little sad.]
(19:05:40) * Sept continued his stride a step and a half into the less real space, too. "Really?! Your consensus decided that was the thing you needed to bring about your ultimate goal?"
(19:07:33) Minaplo: [Her shoulders sagged, and she bowed her head. She held a book out to him, open to a page coloured dark blue.]
(19:09:33) Sept: "Yeah, too bad, huh. You took something from her. Is it permanent?" He demanded.
(19:16:41) Minaplo: [Archivist shook her head desperately.]
(19:22:59) Sept: "Then what? What is it you needed so badly that you had to cause this? You brought an outsider into -our arrangement- and it's -my- head on the block when you do that!!"
(19:26:41) Minaplo: [Archivist shook. She began flicking through several books at once, trying to find something that'd solve the problem-
(19:27:11) Minaplo: [… Quite suddenly, she dissolved into thae same coruscating cloud of light from earlier. In her place appeared Nadiacadenza, looking perfectly unruffled.]
(19:29:18) * Sept straightened himself, his mouth a hard line. He stared ahead at the spirit girl, unmoving.
(19:32:19) Minaplo: [Nadiacadenza stared at him straight on, not moving either.]
(19:32:48) Sept: "It's my price to pay. This is unacceptable."
(19:44:05) Minaplo: ["Accept it." Said Nadiacadenza simply. "It is paid, in exchange for what we have given. The power that is yours and ours both."]
(19:45:20) Sept: "What did you do? I need to know -exactly-."
(19:51:10) Minaplo: ["We took her emotion of joy and made it real." Said Nadiacadenza. "Then we drew it into us and you."]
(19:55:43) Sept: "She's an important figure on the ship. So much as diminishing her light for a moment…" Sera left the words hanging.
(19:58:52) Minaplo: ["It served our purpose. She will recover." Said Nadiacadenza. She lifted her left hand, and a spark of light burst into existence. "Consensus- the chance to find this rarity was worth the cost. We and you can do much with it."]


(14:50:51) * Sept stared back at her for a while longer. "You know my objections. But you agreed this was the best time, place and target for it."
(14:55:11) Minaplo: ["Yes." Said Nadiacadenza. "She is sent to fight in the greatest battles. Currently, your cause has imposed an enforced breathing period on your foe in which the risk to any one of you is reduced. The longer we and you waited, the smaller that period becomes and the greater chance of her and others being injured or killed. That would reduce our chances to obtain this rarity."]
(15:02:49) * Sept tapped a finger on his arm impatiently. "The UEF can't ever exile me, but I don't know if they won't. Or what they'll decide to do instead whenever you and Mary complicate matters."
(15:09:29) Minaplo: ["Our aid could help with that."]
(15:15:29) Sept: "Shut up," Sera said tiredly. "You know better than to offer deals for problems you've caused. Or made worse, whatever. Let's just manage the current incident first. I'm going to Ezekiel with this."
(15:17:04) Minaplo: ["Why?"]
(15:19:08) Sept: "Because someone's going to come asking about it eventually, and he can take care of her properly."
(15:19:45) Minaplo: [There was a glint in her eye.-
(15:20:07) Minaplo: ["You fear the consequencies more than you fear the Emissary?"]
(15:23:59) Sept: "What's he gonna do? Kill me? Not help her? The UEF's the one we can't replace."
(15:26:56) Minaplo: ["The Emissary could trap you."]
(15:30:14) * Sept spread his arms incredulously. "And people would accept that? Two Lances could do nothing?"
(15:32:27) Minaplo: ["We could." Said Nadiacadenza. "But the other one would be inclined to assist the Emissary."-
(15:33:53) Minaplo: ["Besides, the Emissary is the Emissary. There is a possiblity that if the Emissary were to order us not to interfere, consensus would be to respect what the Emissary desires."]
(15:35:28) Sept: "So instead you avoid letting him know about the issue."
(15:39:15) Minaplo: ["We are bound by no code save to carry out the will of the creators." Said Nadiacadenza. "We act of our own will so long as our will advances their own. But the Emissary could invoke the existence of pacts and laws that could still bind us. It is better to willfully ignore the Emissary and keep the answer to the question nebulous, allowing us freedom, than to force an answer and risk
(15:39:16) Minaplo: sealing options."]
(15:49:01) Sept: "I understand. But if you're going to act the same way with me, it becomes necessary for me to find third parties to ascertain everything you tell me, to speculate what you might do given the slightest autonomy."
(15:50:39) Minaplo: ["What if that harms your cause in a way more than our actions could?"-
(15:51:44) Minaplo: ["We have granted you required and important abilities. In exchange we have taken something and caused but temporary harm."]
(15:57:18) Sept: "Of course you have! That's what you do, you play nice with everyone right up until the point where it's too late to change anything!"
(16:09:15) Minaplo: ["Outcomes known to you and we." Said Nadiacadenza, her expression impassive. "You know this Federation needs you. Whatever mistakes you make, you cannot be dispensed with until your one role is absolutely satisfied. So long as you perform that one role, it does not matter what else you do, no matter how ill-conceived or damaging. You know not to push so far as to contravene your role."-
(16:10:18) Minaplo: ["Do not pretend to not understand us. We work in this manner, you and we, because our situations are the same. You would not tolerate us unless you needed us. You understand fundamentally that to ask permission means inviting the potentiality of receiving an answer in the negative. In ambiguity, we find absolutes."]
(16:28:59) Sept: A deeply angry expression flashed across Sera's face, but when he shifted his weight, looked away from her and back again, it was gone. "…correct."-
(16:29:00) Sept: "That's how we've got this far. I wish I had something to threaten you with, other than throwing it all away. I wish I could lie to you, if only just you. Even at my worst times, the realities have always remained clear. You're not duplicitous, but you -are- dangerous beyond anything. What kind of power over you do I have in this form? None."
(16:29:49) Minaplo: ["Untrue. You possess one power over us."]
(16:30:50) Sept: "Is that right."
(16:33:20) Minaplo: [She crossed the distance and wrapped her arms around his chest, resting her head on his shoulder. "We are in your space, and your mind lets us from your space into physicality. But it is reliant on you. You have freedom of movement, and we are forced to occupy the physicality around you and no farther."]
(16:44:05) Sept: Just when he'd called her unduplicitous, too. Sera didn't move to disentangle her, though, ruffling the hair behind that ridiculous hat instead. "Not much of a weapon. And I'll still have to deal with this situation. I'm not covering it up."
(16:47:59) Minaplo: ["Your choice." She pulled away, her expression still neutral. She instead turned to studying the 'Joy' in her hands.]
(16:52:31) Sept: A deep breath as he turned halfway from her, as if to leave through the solid wall behind him. "If it's that rare, I expect you to check with me about what we'll do with it."
(16:53:03) Minaplo: ["You will be our benefactor. There is enough for multiple uses."]
(17:00:52) Sept: "Yeah. We'll see." And no time later, he was still on his way out of the cafeteria, to… where? He hesitated for a moment.
(17:03:20) Minaplo: [He was holding the whistle, Malachi was gone- well, he was standing outside the canteen.]
(17:03:24) Minaplo: <cafeteria*>
(17:17:23) * Sept headed further into the corridor, trying to get rid of the problem by virtue of sheer distance. What about Armin? Get to him next. Or get him here. What time did his guard shift start..?
(17:17:57) Minaplo: [At 2 PM. It was currently…-
(17:18:01) Minaplo: [Wait, did Sera even have a watch?]
(17:20:10) Sept: Maybe once upon a time. It was a military ship, though, surely there's clocks all over the place. At the mercy of Silas' designs…
(17:23:37) Minaplo: [There was in fact a clock near the cafeteria door. 2:05.]
(17:47:46) Sept: Fucker. That left… maybe Surov and Ezekiel? Both terrible options. But this wasn't a caper set up by a mastermind. "Ezekiel, then." Would he still be based out of the Liberty Bell? Sera might be able to locate him by strength of signature, but how fast?
(17:54:50) Minaplo: [A single ping would reveal a handful of powerful signatures- three of them were on the ship. One was guarding Joan- that'd be Armin. Two others… One in Engineering, and the other was in Medical.]
(18:00:43) Sept: Had to be the one in Medical. Sera headed straight down the corridor to the nearest stairs.
(18:10:51) Minaplo: [And indeed, in Medical - which was busy due to the recent battles- Sera would see Ezekiel, expertly attending to a patient.]
(18:15:56) * Sept took a deep breath and stood by at a polite distance, getting Ezekiel's attention if he acknowledged him in some way. A hint of sweat showed on his brow, but otherwise he was keeping it together well enough.
(18:18:15) Minaplo: [Once Ezekiel was finished, he packed up his medical kit and turned, in the same smooth motion, towards Sera. "What is it that you need?"]
(18:24:21) * Sept didn't hesitate with his reply, though his distaste was somewhat evident from his voice. "It's Rei. She was exposed to Longinus. I need you to ascertain she's stable."
(18:25:38) Minaplo: [Ezekiel stared for a moment, his eyes narrow.-
(18:26:32) Minaplo: [Then all of a sudden Medical was gone, replaced by the cafeteria once again. Their appearance startled a nearby table full of off-duty soldiers.-
(18:32:52) Minaplo: [Rei was still sitting at the bar, although her head was bowed, and Blue had helpfully placed a blanket around her shoulders. She was shaking quite visibly.-
(18:33:15) Minaplo: ["Oh, you brought him. Good thinking." Said Blue. "The phone wasn't working-"-
(18:33:44) Minaplo: [Ezekiel ignored Blue, instead sitting down next to Rei. "Rei?"-
(18:34:17) Minaplo: [Rei slowly turned to face him. Her face… Her expression was one of utter disappointment. Her face was wet with tears, and she was biting on her bottom lip.-
(18:36:04) Minaplo: [Ezekiel placed a hand on Rei's shoulder. She flinched, and bowed her head again.-
(18:36:27) Minaplo: [Ezekiel was silent for a moment- then turned to look at Sera. His eyes narrowed yet again.]
(18:46:22) * Sept looked back, expression neutral, but fighting to stay so. "From what I gathered, it should be limited to temporary psychological damage. But damage or modifications to her AT Field wouldn't be… unthinkable." He turned to face Rei, keeping eye contact with his head bowed. "I'm sorry, Rei. I'll explain later, but what you're going through now is my fault. We'll make sure no harm comes to you while you recover. And you will."
(18:49:20) Minaplo: ["Yes, you will." Said Ezekiel quietly. He reached up and stroked Rei's hair gently. "For now, you need plenty of sleep, and to be away from the public. Mister Blue, you will guide her back to her quarters."-
(18:49:59) Minaplo: ["Uh, sure. Come on, Rei."-
(18:51:00) Minaplo: [And so Blue crossed the bar, put his arms on her shoulders and started to guide her away, making sure to push the sketchbook into her hands as he did so.-
(18:51:26) Minaplo: [Once they were gone, Ezekiel stared at the bar for a second, his expression calm. He then stood up and walked over to Sera, offering him an arm.-
(18:51:31) Minaplo: ["Let's go for a walk."]
(18:59:27) * Sept stayed back with a vaguely apologetic expression and let Ezekiel handle it. "Let's," he said as he grabbed the arm.
(19:01:08) Minaplo: [The cafeteria was gone.-
(19:01:10) Minaplo: […-
(19:04:31) Minaplo: [They now stood on a gently rolling grassy hill, its curves edging along a large green forest. The battleship was visible only as a pinprick, only if Sera was really -looking- for it. They couldn't even see Paris-2 from where they were. They could see a town nearby, though, nestled along one of the long national highways. The town itself looked quite old, although it was clean and well-cared
(19:04:32) Minaplo: for. An impressive stone church sat at a crossroads in the middle of the town, where traditional old buildings clashed with the utilitarian lines of the new- a petrol station, a convenience store…-
(19:04:51) Minaplo: [The sun was high in the sky, and it was pleasantly warm. The air was fragrant and clean, and cooling on his skin.]
(19:10:33) Sept: The grass looked inviting, but Sera stayed standing, spinning around to face the village. "…christ, Ezekiel. This is a bit overkill for privacy."-
(19:12:15) Sept: The scenery was disgustingly majestic to Sera's eyes. A wistful sigh escape him, unbidden. "You know I'll insist everything's under control. We can cut past that if you'd want."
(19:13:24) Minaplo: ["Of course. This is not just for privacy, either. This is a chance for you to eat the sort of good food you haven't in awhile. To feel the sun on your face."-
(19:13:34) Minaplo: [Ezekiel started off towards the village.]
(19:17:58) Sept: "Oh." Sera headed after him, listening to the sharp sounds of the grass under his feet. The idea of Ezekiel making him drop his guard had occurred to him, but…
(19:20:54) Minaplo: [Ezekiel was silent during the walk. The only sounds Sera heard were the crunching of the grass, the lazy whistling of the wind and the excited tweeting of nearby birds in the forest.-
(19:21:46) Minaplo: [Once they arrived in the village, they'd find themselves the object of distant, polite scrutiny. Sera was especially scrutinised, probably because people recognised him on some level but weren't sure from where.-
(19:22:32) Minaplo: [Once there, Sera would be allowed to buy whatever he wanted, funded by Ezekiel. There was a bakery, a butcher's, the convenience store, a charming, small little restaurant, the air around it rich with the aroma of sauces and herbs…]
(19:32:28) Sept: Hesitantly, Sera agreed the local bakery should by all reason have excellent ingredients due to their proximity to the butcher's. And soon enough, Sera was getting started on his own double-meat triangle sandwich, the hungry eyes of a small family of sparrows stalking him from the vantage point of the bakery's marquise. "Sit down at the terrace or head out somewhere quieter?"
[21:36] <Minaplo> ["The terrace will do fine."]
[21:40] * Sept took a seat and set down his… lunch? by him on the table. He was trying his best to not let the familiarity of the scene throw him.-
[21:40] <Sept> "You're freaking me out more than a little."
[21:41] <Minaplo> ["Why?"]
[21:44] <Sept> "I've seen you be upset at children playing with cosmic forces. This isn't it."
[21:48] <Minaplo> ["The last time you saw me upset, those children risked destroying at least the entire galaxy. I can afford calm in this instance."-
[21:48] <Minaplo> ["Tell me what happened from start to finish."]
[21:52] <Sept> "Fine." It wasn't a long story. Barely longer than an artisanal small-town sandwich. Sera conveyed the broad terms of the agreement that had led to this particular day, rarely forgetting to mention his own precautions and reasoning.-
[21:55] <Sept> He mentioned Malachi, Mr. Mollier, their attempts at communicating, and how clear it should've been in retrospect.
[21:59] <Minaplo> ["I had inferred as much." Said Ezekiel finally after the tale ended. "Trying to understand such an abstract concept through a broken line of communication is a situation that offers the chance for much ambiguity. And the less certain you are about its intentions, the more Longinus is free to do under the guise of your compact with it."-
[22:00] <Minaplo> ["Now might be time to tell you something of the history of Longinus. Particularly in relation to the entity you encountered today."]
[22:04] <Sept> "It's no surprise to me, I expect it from her. Everyone with power always speaks in riddles, I find."-
[22:04] <Sept> "Go ahead."
[22:07] <Minaplo> ["Emotion Harvesting is an ability that I would estimate has not been seen in three billion years." Said Ezekiel. "It is not an ability indigenous to the Ancestors. It belonged to a people known as the Harvesters, who lived seven billion years ago."]
[22:11] <Sept> "Conquered, I suppose?"
[22:19] <Minaplo> ["Not conquered but rather destroyed." Said Ezekiel. "The Harvesters were extremely powerful and extremely cruel. They had subject peoples- their harvest- and they would use their Emotion Harvesting on these peoples as frequently as was efficient. The emotions gathered were forged into physical objects with potent abilities. Imagine a shield made of hope, or a sword made of hate."-
[22:22] <Minaplo> ["You saw what the Harvesting did to Rei today. Imagine that inflicted on her constantly, taking every emotion she possessed. The harvested quickly became empty husks."-
[22:27] <Minaplo> ["In fact, their empire once used to include this world." Said Ezekiel. "It used to be the home of a subject people. When we found the Harvesters, they attacked us and tried to subjugate us. In exchange we destroyed them and freed their subject people, who joined us as Friends. One of 169."-
[22:28] <Minaplo> ["We did not like how the Emotion Harvesting had been used, but we knew it was, as an ability, one with unique uses. We did not wish to propagate its use, but we did not want to eradicate it forever. That is where Longinus enters the story."-
[22:31] <Minaplo> ["One of the Ancestors created the Harvesting Shard, inscribing the ability to it then placing it within Longinus." Said Ezekiel. "Spiritually, you could consider the Shard to be much simpler than a Lilim, but much more powerfully focused.
[22:33] * Sept nodded along with the story. "Which is why it lacks in other areas. Yeah, I see."
[22:39] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Ezekiel. "Understand that this is what defines Longinus. It is a congregation of hundreds of thousands of shards. These shards represent a great multitude of things. Forbidden knowledge, techniques and abilities considered obselete by the Ancestors, specific memories of events past, or base creations formed from the sea of thought. Many of the shards are utterly trivial, but some are very dangerous."-
[22:40] <Minaplo> ["The Ancestor's name for Longinus is difficult to render in Lilim tongue, but I believe it trnaslates into something close to 'The Being Consisting of Things Others have Thrown Away'."]
[22:42] * Sept laughed, all too loudly. "Of course. Of course it would."-
[22:43] <Sept> "Hahh, phew. If I had perfect knowledge of those shards, it would be much simpler to predict any of its actions. But it doesn't seem to me like finding or learning that information is feasible at all."
[22:46] <Minaplo> ["Longinus would actively impede any attempt on your part to catalogue the shards." Said Ezekiel. "In truth not even I know the nature of even more than 20% of the total."-
[22:47] <Minaplo> ["Knowing of its composition is a good way to understand why it acts as it does: 'consensus'."-
[22:48] <Minaplo> ["When confronted with the need to decide a course of action, every shard in Longinus proposes a solution. Very often, these solutions are based on their nature. To give an example, it is very likely that for every single problem Longinus has ever faced, the Harvesting Shard has proposed using Emotion Harvesting to solve that problem."-
[22:52] <Minaplo> ["Naturally, some shards are more suited to a specific problem than others. The shards might have singular natures, but they have some reasoning skills. When confronted with another solution superior to its own, a shard will adopt that solution henceforth and spread it to other shards. In essence, it confronts problems by brute force suggesting hundreds of thousands of solutions, then adopting the solution most suitable."]
[22:55] * Sept waited patiently for the end of the explanation. "That's all in accordance with what she's told me, and what I saw of it in the Egg. Again, I don't expect full authority over it. In a way, that's preferable."
[22:57] <Minaplo> ["It is true that Longinus functions most efficiently when left to its own devices."-
[22:57] <Minaplo> ["However, there are two important caveats to what I've just told you."]
[23:01] <Sept> "Mhm?" Sera glanced at some peasant parking his car a short way down the road and offloading the day's shipment of fresh produce. "What would they be?"
[23:02] <Minaplo> ["Archivist is one."]
[23:06] <Sept> "How so?"
[23:15] <Minaplo> ["Archivist is not a shard." Said Ezekiel. "When the Enemy attacked the Ancestors and the 169 Friends, only the Ancestors and two others remained. One of those saved were the Archivers- they became Archivist, the collective consciousness of an entire people rescued and hidden inside Longinus. Archivist is very powerful, and lacks the simplistic nature of the Shards. However, Archivist is considered to be 'within' Longinus and not 'a part' of it. They may operate together, and Longinus draws on Archivist for advice and power and vice versa, but Archivist is not part of consensus."]
[23:18] <Sept> "Oh." A hint of redness crept up on Sera's face. "…well, that makes me look like some kind of asshole, huh."
[23:19] <Minaplo> ["You mistook Archivist as being part of and thus partly responsible for Longinus and its actions?"]
[23:21] <Sept> "Something like that. It's not like she's entirely disconnected, but."
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["Quite."-
[23:25] <Minaplo> ["The second caveat is the Overseer." Said Ezekiel. "Longinus's representative shard. Overseer's role is- that of an emissary." He smiled wryly. "And so is the easiest shard with which to commune. However, Overseer acts as a meta-intelligence for Longinus. Not directing Longinus's actions, but it stores Longinus's collective memory and acts to prevent deadlock in consensus if it ever happens."-
[23:27] <Minaplo> ["However, one of the deceptions it has worked on you is the misconception that Longinus 'has' to change between shards in order to use its powers. This is false. As Longinus's emissary, Overseer acts on behalf of the consensus. Overseer may use any shard's ability freely as part of that consensus."-
[23:28] <Minaplo> ["Overseer did not need to force you to speak to the Harvester Shard in order to carry out the Harvest, but it knew it was more likely for you to agree to it if you were kept confused."]
[23:33] <Sept> "I understand that. She and Archivist made big deals out of securing agreements, but the Harvester's freedom was covered enough under the one I had with Nadiacadenza. I- selfishly assumed I had enough to give that Longinus wouldn't need to look elsewhere," he hesitantly admitted.
[23:36] <Minaplo> ["I see."-
[23:37] <Minaplo> ["In the future, it is wise to have- Nadiacadenza- tell you the full details of the Favours in advance, lest she parley the communication barrier into an advantage again."-
[23:38] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel turned to face Sera, narrowing his eyes slightly. "I suppose you're expecting some punishment or retribution on my part?"]
[23:43] * Sept faced him squarely, with an equally serious expression. "To be entirely truthful, the threat of it will work better for all of us. I -expect- you to be reasonable."
[23:45] <Minaplo> ["Fear not." Said Ezekiel. "There is much I could do, but I felt explaining to you the nature of the entity with which you entreat would be more mutually beneficial."-
[23:46] <Minaplo> ["Besides, you have gained power, the price of which has been paid by an innocent person. Which was not your intent, and so perhaps your guilty conscience will be punishment enough."-
[23:48] <Minaplo> ["Beyond that, of course, is the fact that the innocent person in this case was Ayanami Rei." Said Ezekiel. "Once people understand the consequences of this particular case of negligence, then people who once tolerated or at worst, mildly disliked you will now hate you."]
[23:53] <Sept> "Which is unfortunate." Sera's eyes drifted off Ezekiel again. "But it doesn't close any doors." He bit on his lower lip, considering it. "A war hero adored by the people has no more power to stop an army on the march."
[23:54] <Minaplo> ["Zhang Yanmei did, two hundred years ago."]
[00:00] * Sept raised an eyebrow at him. "I'm sure this is different. That wasn't Zhang Yanmei. I don't know… what her place is in this, now."
[00:03] <Minaplo> ["Her place in this is the same place she has tended to occupy throughout most of history." Said Ezekiel. "To bind the wills of many to her in order to reshape the world to her liking. She has been defeated about as many times as she has succeeded, but each time has been dynamic and era-defining."-
[00:04] <Minaplo> ["Only time will tell where this conflict falls on that record."]
[00:08] <Sept> "Maybe balancing that with all the other era-defining factors is too much to ask. Without Aline, there's too much up in the air."
[00:12] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel's eyes closed, and he smiled a little.-
[00:12] <Minaplo> ["Are you still hungry?" He asked, taking a pamphlet out of his robe. Sera only caught a glimpse of the cover, which featured a glossy photograph of a car.]
[00:13] <Sept> "I, well. A little?" He was caught off guard by the gesture, again.
[00:14] <Minaplo> ["Then we have an hour before I must go procure a rented lilimcraft automobile." The pamphlet opened up seemingly by itself, whilst a small wallet of money flew out of Ezekiel's sleeve onto the table in front of Sera.]
[00:19] <Sept> "The hell d'you need a car for?" Sera reached for the wallet, wondering what kind of budget he had. "We still had money?"
[00:24] <Minaplo> ["The Bell keeps large stocks of lilim currency in its stores." Said Ezekiel. "And the vehicle is not for me. It is for Matthias Holmstrom."]
[00:24] <Minaplo> [There was about 500 francs(!!) in this wallet.]
[00:28] <Sept> "Another top secret mission, I'm sure."
[00:29] <Minaplo> ["He wants to give Alexandrina a chance to relax."]
[00:33] <Sept> "Mm." Sera's smile laxed a little. "Must be the plan for a lot of people. This is your car budget?" Sera played with the wallet in his hands.
[00:34] <Minaplo> ["No."]
[00:36] <Sept> "You keep more than one wallet on you?"
[00:36] <Minaplo> ["I keep many wallets on me." Said Ezekiel. "Filled with seventeen different lilim currencies."]
[00:44] <Sept> "Good target for a pickpocket. Wherever you stick your hand, you'll find one. Or get sucked into a Dirac Cache."
[00:47] <Minaplo> ["My caches are sealed." Said Ezekiel.-
[00:47] <Minaplo> ["Order your food." Said Ezekiel. "…"-
[00:48] <Minaplo> ["Regarding our predominant issue, I would consider it reasonable for you to try to pay Ayanami Rei back twofold for her suffering she is about to endure."]
(16:52:39) * Sept considered his freedom. He'd never been very good at spending money. "Of course. I wouldn't know where to begin, but I can find something."
(16:55:09) Minaplo: ["I'm sure."]
(16:59:39) * Sept pocketed the wallet and stood up, pushing the chair back with a scraping noise. "Fresh fruit?"
(17:07:23) Minaplo: ["A greengrocer." He pointed down the street without looking up.]
(17:07:45) Sept: "Do you want some," Sera corrected with a smile.
(17:08:13) Minaplo: ["No, thank you."]
(17:12:38) * Sept nodded and headed off, hands in his pockets, on a quest for apples and/or oranges, in a sunny village far away from his and humanity's problems.

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