This Too Shall Pass 3 1 5

[22:06] <@Minaplo> ["Beautiful."-
[22:07] <@Minaplo> [Matthias suppressed a delighted little shiver, running his hands across the black glossy finish to play deftly, yet carefully, around the Spirit of Ecstasy. As much as he or others might want to, he wasn't supposed to touch it.-
[22:10] <@Minaplo> ["The Rolls-Royce Phantom Eight." He said, his voice a low purr. "Sixteen-cylinder 1050 horsepower BMW-O25 clean engine with six-speed transmission and double wishbone suspension. Reverse doors are thick enough to repel bullets at close range, glass has its own self-heating system to deter condensation and it produces less carbon than any other luxury car of its size and calibre. Each one costs 450,000 pounds and only needs to be refuelled once every two weeks."-
[22:10] <@Minaplo> [He lowered himself against the smooth metal surface. "No saloon like a rolls-royce saloon."-
[22:11] <@Minaplo> [Two metres away, Ezekiel and Alexandrina stared. Ezekiel's eyes were narrow, whilst Alexandrina's expression was quite cool.-
[22:11] <@Minaplo> ["You're welcome to leave me at home if you prefer, Matthias." Said Lexie airily. "I wouldn't want to play chaperone."-
[22:12] <@Minaplo> ["Er." Matthias straightened up. "No no, I'm good." He carefully studied the white gloves he'd donned, in case they were dirty.-
[22:13] <@Minaplo> ["Everything's in order?" Asked Ezekiel.-
[22:13] <@Minaplo> ["Yeah, it's perfect. Thanks, Ezekiel." Said Matthias, giving him a firm nod. "You put it in my name?"-
[22:14] <@Minaplo> ["That's right. Linden would like to remind you that she will not be responsible for paying any fees incurred due to damages to the car."-
[22:17] <@Minaplo> ["Lexie-"-
[22:17] <@Minaplo> ["Think again."-
[22:18] <@Minaplo> ["Ugh." Matthias scratched his forehead. "Well, whatever. I'm sure I can go an evening in a car without incurring any fees that apparently no one with actual money is willing to pay."-
[22:19] <@Minaplo> ["I would offer." Said Ezekiel. "But Linden forbade it."-
[22:20] <@Minaplo> ["Your overlord is a harsh mistress." Muttered Matthias.-
[22:20] <@Minaplo> [Ezekiel merely smiled faintly.-
[22:23] <@Minaplo> ["How hard could it be?" Asked Lexie, shrugging her shoulders, her palms raised to the heavens.-
[22:24] <@Minaplo> ["Right, yeah." Muttered Matthias. "Ahem."-
[22:30] <@Minaplo> [Matthias walked over to the left-hand side of the car. With an elegant little bow, he opened the front passenger side door- on a Rolls Royce Phantom, the doors were rear-hinged 'suicide' doors, meaning they were hinged at the rear of the door and opened at the front.-
[22:33] <@Minaplo> [Lexie smoothly sat inside, flashing Matthias a smile as she did so.-
[22:39] <@Minaplo> [With that, Matthias took the driver's seat, whilst Ezekiel sat in the rear.-
[22:39] <@Minaplo> [Lexie frowned at the rear view mirror. "Ezekiel, you're coming with us?"-
[22:39] <@Minaplo> ["Only to jaunt you to the surface." Said Ezekiel. "I am far too busy to attend personally."-
[22:42] <@Minaplo> ["Oh."-
[22:43] <@Minaplo> ["Ready?" Asked Ezekiel.-
[22:43] <@Minaplo> [Lexie and Matthias buckled themselves in.-
[22:45] <@Minaplo> [A second later, the looming walls of the Dorian's hangar had vanished, replaced with countryside. They were in a secluded little clearing in light woodland, surrounded by green, healthy trees and pleasant verdant gentle hills. A road sat in front of them, running, to their eyes, left and right.-
[22:47] <@Minaplo> [A second later, Ezekiel, too, was gone.-
[22:51] <@Minaplo> [They sat in the car, saying nothing. They listened. To the silence, to the sounds outside, muffled though they were.-
[00:31] <@Minaplo> [Lexie's long, silvery hair, shimmery and soft after receiving its first wash in two weeks, had been tied back into a long, complicated-looking braid that fell to the middle of her back. She wore a silken buttoned shirtdress, light green with a pretty white tulip pattern. Its sleeves were short. She wore a belt snugly around the waist to give the dress definition, whilst below that the skirt flared out. Her legs were bare, and she wore a pair of army boots over her feet. A short, fitted brown sweater was folded up neatly on her lap, in case the temperature dropped.-
[00:59] <@Minaplo> Matthias, his hair criminally un-gelled, was wearing a short-sleeved navy blue t-shirt with long black trousers, worn over a pair of boots quite similar to Lexie's. He wore a pair of white gloves.-
[01:01] <@Minaplo> [And of course there was the Phantom Eight itself. Its seats were tan, with stylish leather upholstering. The heavy, solid-looking doors had sleek handles and armrests, with power window controls. The very air of the car seemed crisp and fresh and rareified. The seats themselves were quite deep, and Lexie soon realised she could, with a press of a button, recline her seat right back and use it as a bed.-
[01:03] <@Minaplo> [The dashboard was computerised, but it didn't look cluttered or overengineered. There was a powerful music system and a computer screen for GPS instructions, taken directly from regularly-updated internet map databases.-
[01:03] <@Minaplo> ["Fit for a queen, huh?" Said Matthias lovingly. His gloved hand caressed the dashboard gently.-
[01:04] <@Minaplo> [Lexie shot him a sour look. "Anything would be better than Mars. Although these seats feel better than my bed does."-
[01:10] <@Minaplo> ["That's luxury for you." Said Matthias with a grin. "Oh, check this out!"-
[01:10] <@Minaplo> [Lexie sat up. "Hm?"-
[01:11] <@Minaplo> [Matthias pushed a button on the dashboard. The Spirit of Ecstasy- the small statuette of a woman in a wild, open pose with billowing clothes around her based on the nose of the Phantom Eight- slowly recessed into the car, vanishing from view.-
[01:11] <@Minaplo> [His face lit up as though he'd just been told christmas was early.-
[01:11] <@Minaplo> [He pushed it again. The statuette slowly rose.-
[01:12] <@Minaplo> ["That's practical." Said Lexie dryly.-
[01:12] <@Minaplo> ["It's an anti-theft measure. If anyone tries to touch the statuette too roughly, it'll recess down."-
[01:12] <@Minaplo> ["Oh, I see. Is theft an issue for these sorts of cars?"-
[01:13] <@Minaplo> ["Yeah. People will be quite happy to knock off a Spirit of Ecstasy. Of course…" Matthias rubbed his chin. "Some Spirits are made of gold or studded with diamonds, so."-
[01:13] <@Minaplo> ["Sounds gaudy." Said Lexie.-
[01:14] <@Minaplo> ["Well, if you're gonna buy a Rolls-Royce, you might as well go all out." He said cheerfully. He checked to see if the keys were in the ignition.-
[01:14] <@Minaplo> [They were.-
[01:14] <@Minaplo> [He grabbed the key and turned it. With a muffled, barely audible purr, the car started.-
[01:15] <@Minaplo> ["Oh, baby." Murmured Matthias. "Feel that engine. Or don't. One of the most powerful automobile engines in the world and it's purring like a pussy cat."-
[01:15] <@Minaplo> ["Are you sure you don't want to be alone?"-
[01:16] <@Minaplo> ["Oh, shut up." Said Matthias. "I never, ever get chances like this."-
[01:16] <@Minaplo> ["Hmph." Said Lexie, folding her arms and staring out the window.-
[01:17] <@Minaplo> [He accelerated, pulling the car onto the road.-
[01:17] <@Minaplo> ["Gotta love this steering. Big bad car like this and it handles like a Clio." Said Matthias. "Oh yeah, that feels good."-
[01:18] <@Minaplo> ["You know," Cut in Lexie. "Not to interrupt your fawning, but I don't think you told me where you intend to take me."-
[01:18] <@Minaplo> ["Oh, I didn't tell you? Whoops."-
[01:18] <@Minaplo> [Lexie rolled her eyes. "Giddy schoolboy. Is it Paris-2?"-
[01:19] <@Minaplo> ["Not Paris." Said Matthias. "Paris is empty anyway. Nothing to do there."-
[01:19] <@Minaplo> ["If Asuka were here, she'd recommend breaking into the Louvre." Said Lexie.-
[01:24] <@Minaplo> ["Bad idea." Said Matthias. "You don't want to go to the Louvre even when it's open."-
[01:24] <@Minaplo> ["Whyever not?"-
[01:24] <@Minaplo> ["A city constantly at risk of attack is a poor place to keep such a huge collection." Said Matthias. "Most of the art in the Louvre is either copies or holograms."-
[01:25] <@Minaplo> ["What? Oh my, I had no idea!"-
[01:26] <@Minaplo> ["It's true." Said Matthias seriously. "A lot of the Louvre's most famous catalogues have been moved to other museums. One museum took more than the others put together- the Musee des Beaux-Arts d'Orleans."-
[01:27] <@Minaplo> ["Oh, I see." Said Lexie. "Are we going to visit Orleans, then?"-
[19:11] <Minaplo> ["That's right." He said. "Check this out."-
[19:11] <Minaplo> [He cleared his throat. "GPS: directions, Orleans."-
[19:13] <Minaplo> [The computer screen flashed on, showing a digital map of his current location and the path he had to take. "Drive straight…"-
[19:13] <Minaplo> ["Oh, look." Said Lexie. "It has an OTIS."-
[19:13] <Minaplo> ["Please don't kill my dream." Muttered Matthias.-
[19:15] <Minaplo> [They continued to drive- after fifteen minutes or so, the light woodland faded away revealing only open grassland. Below them was a city: Orleans.-
[19:18] <Minaplo> [It was no London-2 or New York; this was a wide city with a low skyline. Even in the urban centre, only the density of the buildings and a moderate height advantage marked it out as such.-
[19:21] <Minaplo> [The city sat hugging the north and south banks of the Loire river as it began the southern curve on its epic southward journey across France. Seven bridges, many of them ornate and sturdy old-world stone constructs, spanned the river and united the two halves.-
[19:22] <Minaplo> ["Here's the thing about Orleans." Said Matthias. "When Paris was destroyed by Impact earthquakes, the government moved to Orleans."-
[19:22] <Minaplo> ["The Orleanais Provisional Government." Said Lexie.-
[19:22] <Minaplo> ["Right. Well, it was only temporary and when Paris-2 was finished, most of the government moved back to Paris…"-
[19:23] <Minaplo> [She watched him and listened silently.-
[19:24] <Minaplo> ["Except once the Angel attacks became more frequent, a lot of the machinery of government went back to Orleans. I mean it wasn't like they didn't have the buildings already."-
[19:25] <Minaplo> ["Mazarin stayed in Paris, though." Said Lexie.-
[19:27] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, well… Mazarin." Said Matthias. "Mazarin's the sort of guy who likes to have the government arguing because it means he can do his own thing and actually run the country. That's how you operate a dictatorship in a democratic framework." Said Matthias. "So Mazarin's super-sensitive to his image. He knows that if he stays in Paris instead of fleeing from something as insignificant as an Angel attack, in the mind of the people it detaches him from the idea of 'the government'."-
[19:27] <Minaplo> ["And it makes him look contemptuous of death." Said Lexie.-
[19:28] <Minaplo> ["That's-"-
[19:28] <Minaplo> [Matthias paused, shooting her a split-second side glance. "That's one way of phrasing it, yes."-
[19:32] <Minaplo> ["Prime Minister Windsor felt the same way." Said Lexie calmly. "He said that people admire few things than someone facing death with cold contempt. That's why they often positioned the King close to the front lines during the Civil War."-
[19:32] <Minaplo> ["That's what I was told, in any case." Said Lexie, turning to face the window.-
[19:33] <Minaplo> ["Ah." Said Matthias.-
[19:34] <Minaplo> ["Are you happy to visit the Musee d'Orleans?" He asked after a minute's silence.-
[19:47] <Minaplo> [Lexie turned back around and gave him a smile. "That's fine. I'm looking forward to it."-
[19:48] <Minaplo> ["Good, good. You don't mind if we eat first, right?"-
[19:48] <Minaplo> ["Oh, you have a reservation for somewhere?" Asked Lexie.-
[20:00] <Minaplo> ["I uh… Don't. That's alright?"-
[20:01] <Minaplo> ["Ah, so you could reserve the car…"-
[20:02] <Minaplo> ["Uh! It's not like that." Said Matthias hastily. "I know a lot more about cars than I do about fo-"-
[20:02] <Minaplo> [She raised her thin eyebrows at him.-
[20:03] <Minaplo> ["Look, Ezekiel seemed busy." Said Matthias. "I didn't want to push the cart too far."-
[20:04] <Minaplo> [Lexie continued to stare.-
[20:04] <Minaplo> [Matthias stared back, a small bead of sweat forming on his forehead.-
[20:05] <Minaplo> [Lexie's stare was silent and pounding. She seemed to revel in drawing the awkward moment out as long as she could, just to punish him.-
[20:06] <Minaplo> [Then she let out a cheerful little laugh. "I prefer non-reservation anyway. That way there's less possibility of the staff discerning my identity."-
[20:06] <Minaplo> [Then, like a carefree child, she turned back to the scenery, her bright eyes taking it all in.-
[20:06] <Minaplo> [Matthias stared at the back of her head before turning his gaze fully back to the road. He was too smart to say what he was thinking.-
[20:07] <Minaplo> [I take it back, Ezekiel. Your overlord was the gentle option.-
[20:15] <Minaplo> [Much of their 30-minute drive went by with them only passing a few vehicles. Traffic picked up steadily, however, the closer they came to Orleans.-
[20:15] <Minaplo> [Trucks at first.-
[20:16] <Minaplo> [Then came the cars and the vans, some of them fully laden with luggage or even furniture. Hopefuls intent on returning home to Paris.-
[20:19] <Minaplo> [Within the city limits itself, buses and smaller cars were by far the most common.-
[20:21] <Minaplo> [The city felt busy today, albeit not overly concerned with rushing. There were crowds, but not huge ones. streams rather than floods.-
[20:21] <Minaplo> [Occasionally these streams slowed as gawkers eyed the Rolls-Royce, many of them trying avidly to catch a peek of whatever no-doubt esteemed personage could possibly be within.-
[20:24] <Minaplo> [Lexie shrank away from the windows, her already slight profile sinking deep into the luxury seats.-
[20:25] <Minaplo> [Matthias shot her a glance- then clicked his tongue. Catching her eye, he turned his gaze slowly towards a specific button on the dashboard, the only illustration being a rectangle- half shaded, half clear.-
[20:26] <Minaplo> [Lexie eyed him, then reached for the button. She hesitated. Then finally she jabbed it.-
[20:26] <Minaplo> [A second later the tint on Lexie's window darkened considerably.-
[20:27] <Minaplo> ["Oh! Thank you." She said warmly.-
[20:27] <Minaplo> ["You're the one who pushed the button."-
[20:27] <Minaplo> ["Mm…"-
[20:27] <Minaplo> [He glanced at her.-
[20:27] <Minaplo> ["What?" She asked.-
[20:27] <Minaplo> ["Nothing."-
[20:27] <Minaplo> ["What?"-
[20:28] <Minaplo> ["No, it's nothing, really." He grinned.-
[20:28] <Minaplo> ["… Do you want me to thank the car?"-
[20:28] <Minaplo> [His grin widened.-
[20:28] <Minaplo> ["I'm not thanking the car."-
[20:29] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh." Said Matthias.-
[20:29] <Minaplo> ["I'll admit it's definitely something I could become used to." She said grudgingly.-
[20:30] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh."-
[20:30] <Minaplo> ["Hush."-
[20:30] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh."-
[20:36] <Minaplo> ["So, then. Where will we be eating?" She said quickly.-
[20:36] <Minaplo> ["Keep an eye out for a Roman Pizza."-
[20:37] <Minaplo> ["You're not serious?" She asked, staring at him.-
[20:37] <Minaplo> ["Roman Pizza is President Mazarin's favourite food." Said Matthias defensively.-
[20:37] <Minaplo> ["I'm not President Mazarin! And how do you know that?"-
[20:37] <Minaplo> [Matthias shrugged.-
[20:38] <Minaplo> ["Either way, no Roman Pizza. No franchises. Something homemade. By locals."-
[21:14] <Minaplo> ["As you wish." Said Matthias.-
[21:17] <Minaplo> [Eventually they stopped outside a restaurant called the Starry Maid. It was a single-storey stone affair with large, wide windows, warm yellow light flowing through.-
[21:18] <Minaplo> [The doors were French folding doors, the curtains bearing a pattern of a cartoon maid with big star-filled eyes.-
[21:19] <Minaplo> ["Looks good." Said Matthias.-
[21:19] <Minaplo> ["Mm."-
[21:19] <Minaplo> [Matthias hopped out and walked around to open the door for Lexie. With a smile, she easily glided out, stepping onto the smooth stone tiled sidewalk.-
[21:31] <Minaplo> [The Starry Maid had a solid, polished wooden floor, large round oak tabls and warm homely stone walls, all giving the impression that it had been around for centuries. That didn't stop Matthias from noting the modern lighting in the chandelier or the electric fireplace.-
[21:34] <Minaplo> [Despite the inviting visage the restaurant itself was only modestly filled. This suited Lexie fine.-
[21:35] <Minaplo> [Besides, it also meant that the maitre d'- speaking to Lexie, as her French was better- was quick to seat them, finding them a window seat looking out onto the street (and the Rolls-Royce, of course).-
[21:35] <Minaplo> [The table could seat four, as there were no chairs- rather, the seat was built into an alcove, with a cushioned bench running along the wall on the three sides of the alcove, including the wall below the window itself.-
[21:36] <Minaplo> [Once they were seated, Matthias took a look around… Then nodded. "Yeah, this looks good."-
[21:48] <Minaplo> ["Mmm."-
[21:49] <Minaplo> ["You like fish? We can probably find some good fish dishes here, straight from the Loire." Said Matthias in his quiet, calm voice. "And fruits, too. We should get some cherry liqeur as an aperatif…"-
[21:49] <Minaplo> ["Mmm."-
[21:58] <Minaplo> ["Maybe we can find fouee with rillettes." He said. "And we can probably find some great game meals here too, because of the forests. Partridge and pheasant can be pretty good!"-
[21:58] <Minaplo> ["Mmm."-
[21:59] <Minaplo> ["And the valley's famous for its fruit. Some great white wines can be found here, and I'd be pretty interested in trying out a fruit tart made from local produce…"-
[21:59] <Minaplo> ["Mmm."-
[21:59] <Minaplo> ["Angel attacking."-
[21:59] <Minaplo> ["Mmm."-
[21:59] <Minaplo> ["Lexie, you're not listening to me, are you?"-
[22:00] <Minaplo> ["… Sorry? Pardon." She focused her gaze back on him. "That was rude of me. I was trying to read the picture above your head."-
[22:01] <Minaplo> ["Huh?" he twisted around in his chair, looking at the wall. There was, indeed, a framed picture there with a little plaque underneath. He'd mostly ignored it.-
[22:01] <Minaplo> [But now something caught his eye.-
[22:01] <Minaplo> [It was a photograph, with what looked like the staff of the Starry Maid crowding around a seat. Only it wasn't a seat at all.-
[22:01] <Minaplo> [It was a wheelchair!-
[22:01] <Minaplo> [And sitting in that wheelchair was a tall man with big, curly hair, grinning, looking like he owned the place.-
[22:02] <Minaplo> ["Uh, no way-"-
[22:02] <Minaplo> [The plaque said 'Marshal Dorian Lachapelle sat in this spot on Nov. 19th, 2011.'-
[22:02] <Minaplo> ["Oh you bastard." Muttered Matthias. "Was there anywhere you didn't eat?"-
[22:02] <Minaplo> ["I knew it." Said Lexie gleefully. "I knew it was him, but I wasn't sure."-
[22:03] <Minaplo> ["I don't believe it." Muttered Matthias, turning back around. "You know, there's no less than six restaurants I've been to in Paris that have basically the same thing."-
[22:04] <Minaplo> ["Well, he lived there, and for a man of his status, entertaining politicians or figures of authority is a constant pressure." Said Lexie. "Besides, if he was anything like you he was probably something of a gourmet."-
[22:05] <Minaplo> [Matthias let out a little huff. "Yeah, that makes sense. My mother says he had a big appetite."-
[19:25] <Minaplo> ["Have you always been a big eater, Matthias?" Asked Lexie with a smile.-
[19:27] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, just about." He said. His expression was calm now. "It wasn't a choice on my part, I've just always felt hungry unless I eat a lot. It's a metabolic thing, I suppose, if I get it from dad."-
[19:27] <Minaplo> ["Oh, speaking of which." He smiled now. "Thanks for sharing your rations with me. Back on Mars, I mean. You were a lifesaver."-
[19:37] <Minaplo> ["Ahaha." Lexie beamed. "You're welcome. I couldn't bear to see that sad look on your face every night." She pantomimed him holding an empty bag, shaking it up and down.-
[19:37] <Minaplo> ["I wasn't that bad." He muttered.-
[19:39] <Minaplo> ["You were, take me on my word." Said Lexie. "You were lucky, though."-
[19:41] <Minaplo> ["Lucky?"-
[19:42] <Minaplo> ["Between me and Sarasvati, I mean… You could've had it a lot worse." Said Lexie.-
[19:42] <Minaplo> ["Too true." Said Matthias, frowning slightly.-
[19:44] <Minaplo> [The conversation lulled for half a minute before Lexie continued.-
[20:00] * Zack is now known as ZackSleep
[20:00] <Minaplo> ["You never knew your father, did you, Matthias?"-
[20:00] <Minaplo> ["Nah." Said Matthias. "If he ever knew I existed, he never said or did anything about it that I knew of at least."-
[20:08] <Minaplo> ["I see…"-
[20:09] <Minaplo> [Lexie turned to the window for a moment, frowning, her hands folded over each other in her lap. "I wonder how that makes you feel…"-
[20:20] <Minaplo> ["I don't know, to be honest." Said Matthias. "It never bothered me personally. I was curious, but I didn't spend too much time thinking about it. I had the Norlings, you know…"-
[20:22] <Minaplo> ["Really, things become way more awkward when I run into people who knew him themselves and know how we were related." Said Matthias. "I suppose they expect similar things from me, only they know what that is better than I do."-
[20:24] <Minaplo> ["It's just a load of bother." He said, huffing a little. "Mr. Ikari never seemed to care either."-
[20:24] <Minaplo> ["Mm? Gendo Ikari?"-
[20:25] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. He didn't seemed to expect much of anything like that. He gave me jobs I was good at doing. You know. Shooting things, sneaking around. Driving the giant robot. It's not like he shook my hand then set me to develop a plan to conquer Germany in a month."-
[20:26] <Minaplo> ["Does that happen?" Asked Lexie.-
[20:28] <Minaplo> ["It hasn't literally happened yet, but you get the feeling that they wanna try." Said Matthias. "They'll give a briefing and pause during an operational objective, give me a sidelong glance, then continue when I remain quiet."-
[20:29] <Minaplo> ["Hm. That's unpleasant. I'm sorry to hear that it happens." Said Lexie gently. "I don't suppose you do have any bright ideas on how to bring Germany to its knees, do you?"-
[20:30] <Minaplo> [He gave her a dark look. "Cute. Look, I'm an E-Destroyer pilot. So what do you think I'm really going to propose?"-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["Considering your experience, I predict that you'd ask them to build more D-Titans." She said sweetly.-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["Goddamnit."-
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["Ahaha."-
[20:35] <Minaplo> ["No, look, you rotter. Now's not the time to get into the D-Titan versus E-Destroyer thing." Said Matthias, pouting a little. "My strategy, you know, for these sorts of conflicts is to just shoot all their Evangelions or Dysangelions or whatever. You do that and the war's over. But I kinda think they know that one."-
[20:36] <Minaplo> ["Hm~. But an E-Destroyer pilot like yourself surely must have tactics on how to put down an Evangelion."-
[20:36] <Minaplo> ["Depends on the Evangelion." Said Matthias stubbornly.-
[20:38] <Minaplo> ["What about… EVA-06?" She asked, her eyes shining.-
[20:40] <Minaplo> ["Harassment strikes, wait for you to dump your ammo into that 'Royal Hammershark' thing and then go for the kill. Long ranged sniper shots and critical hand-to-hand attacks to your arms and head." Said Matthias almost automatically.-
[20:40] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[20:41] <Minaplo> ["Problem?" he asked sleekly.-
[20:41] <Minaplo> ["You're a bastard." She said curtly.-
[20:42] <Minaplo> ["Literally true."-
[20:42] <Minaplo> ["And it's called the Royal Heartbreaker." She said, her mouth a thin, dangerous line.-
[20:57] <Minaplo> ["It's vulnerable to quick, evasive targets." Said Matthias. "And once you use it, your defenses are down and you're exposed. Perfect target for a Caesar-type."-
[20:57] <Minaplo> ["Mmph."-
[21:04] <Minaplo> ["You asked."-
[21:05] <Minaplo> ["Fine. What about… EVA-05?"-
[21:05] <Minaplo> ["N2 mines until it dies." Said Matthias.-
[21:05] <Minaplo> ["That's not a tactic."-
[21:05] <Minaplo> ["If it works, it's a tactic!"-
[21:05] <Minaplo> ["But you don't have N2 mines on an E-Destroyer." Said Lexie. "What would -you- do if you had to fight 05?"-
[21:07] <Minaplo> ["Run." Said Matthias.-
[21:12] <Minaplo> ["… Is it really that bad?" Asked Lexie doubtfully.-
[21:24] <Minaplo> ["You big into boxing?"-
[21:24] <Minaplo> ["Not really." Said Lexie.-
[21:24] <Minaplo> ["Uh, alright. Have you ever heard of those boxers whose strategy is to take punches and just soak them up until their opponent is tired, then go to town?"-
[21:25] <Minaplo> ["I suppose I may have heard of something like that."-
[21:29] <Minaplo> ["Okay. EVA-05 is that." Said Matthias. "Except the injuries heal half a second after they appear, don't even break its running stride, and if you're within a hundred metres it'll pounce on you faster than you think is possible, and tear you to pieces with its energy claws. If you're lucky. That jaw isn't just for show. Get a really big, bad, mean dog and toss a rat at it, and it'll grab the rat up, shake it violently then throw it away. That's what EVA-05 does to you."-
[21:33] <Minaplo> ["But… Hrm. You really can't defeat it at all?" Said Lexie quietly.-
[21:34] <Minaplo> ["I don't want to say never, but it's not a winning proposition." Said Matthias.-
[21:36] <Minaplo> ["I see." She was silent for a few seconds. Then she smiled at him. "Thank you for humouring me."-
[21:42] <Minaplo> ["Not a problem." He said, giving her a quick nod.-
[22:11] * SyntaxPhone (~if.elibom-asile.tan-341-1-67-58|xatnyS#if.elibom-asile.tan-341-1-67-58|xatnyS) has joined #nervfrance
[22:14] <Minaplo> [It was at this point that the lights over their table went out.-
[22:16] <Minaplo> [This wasn't a -tremendous- problem as it was 10 in the morning, but their window faced the west- hence it was still noticeable. Lexie and Matthias both looked up at the roof in surprise.-
[22:16] <Minaplo> ["A blown bulb? How sad." Said Lexie.-
[22:16] <Minaplo> ["No, it's just been turned off, I can see the wire… Odd."-
[22:17] <Minaplo> [Matthias heard footsteps approaching the table- and turned.-
[22:19] <Minaplo> [It was a young fresh-faced woman, average height, with curly brown hair and light brown eyes. She wore a black dress over which was an velvety navy apron- a star pattern printed across it.-
[22:20] <Minaplo> [It looked a little strange, but… "Oh right, starry maid." Muttered Matthias.-
[22:20] <Minaplo> [He suddenly paused.-
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["Welcome to the Starry Maid~" Said the Etoile Maid cheerfully. "Oh, look at you two. I can see the stars of love in your eyes."-
[22:24] <Minaplo> ["Er." Said Matthias.-
[22:25] <Minaplo> ["Here are your menus." Said the Etoile Maid, placing them down on the table. "And here is your candle."-
[22:25] <Minaplo> ["Our what-"-
[22:26] <Minaplo> [She placed a large wax candle on the table and, in a flourish of dexterous skill, had whipped out a lighter, lit it, and pocketed said lighter in less than a second.-
[22:26] <Minaplo> [Lexie stared at the candle in obvious confusion. "I don't-"-
[22:28] <Minaplo> ["It's such a shame you didn't arrive later. I know, I know, when you're in this state it can be hard, so very, very, very hard to resist obvious charms." Said the Maid with a sigh. "Love always burns brightest against the backdrop of starry darkness! Everyone is so busy these days! So many moonlight kisses seem to cool in the warmth of the sun!"-
[22:28] <Minaplo> ["Oh my god." Muttered Matthias. "Why are you people here."-
[22:29] <Minaplo> ["To take your order, of course~"-
[22:29] <Minaplo> ["Yes, but-"-
[22:32] <Minaplo> ["And to tend to the flowering buds of love so that they may blossom into flowers!"-
[22:32] <Minaplo> ["… Flowers of love?" Ventured Lexie.-
[22:40] <Minaplo> ["That's right." The Maid gave Lexie a huge wink and made a love-heart with her hands.-
[22:40] <Minaplo> ["Ready to order." Said Matthias quickly. "Right now."-
(19:04) <Minaplo> [And so before long they began to sup, with a small glass of cherry liqeur apiece as an aperatif, followed by a plate of fouee (a local bread) with a small dish of rillettes (a sort of meat paste).-
(19:05) <Minaplo> [Their mains consisted of, for Lexie, a single dish of roast pheasant in a white wine and mushroom sauce.-
(19:05) <Minaplo> [For Matthias?-
(19:15) <Minaplo> [Canard du Muscadet (roast duck in a pan-juice sauce of muscadet wine and butter); fresh sandre in beurre blanc (local river perch cooked in a butter sauce with shallots and a little vinegar); wild forest quail, roasted with a side of noirmoutier potatoes (doused in butter) and roast girolle mushrooms.-
(19:18) <Minaplo> [Between them they had a bottle of chilled coteaux de saumur, a sweet white wine.-
(19:20) <Minaplo> [They ate in silence for a few minutes, Matthias sampling his dishes enthusiastically, Lexie slowly working away at her pheasant.-
(19:28) <Minaplo> [Eventually she spoke up.-
(19:28) <Minaplo> ["Matthias, why does everyone seem to believe we're a couple?" She asked.-
(19:28) <Minaplo> [He crooked an eyebrow at her, his mouth full of fish.-
(19:29) <Minaplo> ["The waitress." Said Lexie. "Zhang, before the attack on the Moon. Before we returned, Asuka brought it up…"-
(19:34) <Minaplo> [He swallowed.-
(19:35) <Minaplo> ["From what I've seen, it's the default assumption to make if you see a young man and woman spending time together." Said Matthias. "Unless you know or think they're related, and we're not, nor do we look it."-
(19:37) <Minaplo> ["But do we really look like we're courting?" Asked Lexie. "Aren't couples supposed to kiss and embrace each other and all that nonsense?"-
(19:38) <Minaplo> ["Not necessarily." Said Matthias. "Especially if the couple's going on some early dates, testing the water, stuff like that- being overly touchy on a first date can ruin the whole thing. And some cultures have very strict taboos on public displays of affection."-
(19:50) <Minaplo> ["So that's all it takes." Said Lexie. "Just a man and woman being seen together…"-
(19:50) <Minaplo> ["Yeah. It doesn't take a lot for rumours to start flying. NERV was rife with them, you know, especially about Guillory and Zhang."-
(19:51) <Minaplo> ["… Oh my, there were rumours about them being together?" Asked Lexie, eyes wide.-
(19:51) <Minaplo> ["… Er, no. Sorry. There were rumours about their romantic entanglements. Separately."-
(19:51) <Minaplo> ["Oh."-
(19:58) <Minaplo> ["Actually, Zhang should've known better than to jump to conclusions." Said Matthias thoughtfully. "For a long time she insisted that her relationship with Gabriel-Wei was purely platonic…"-
(20:08) <Minaplo> [Lexie scoffed.-
(20:08) <Minaplo> ["Yeah, I think that was the general reaction at the time." Said Matthias. "But Zhang had her own reasons for being hesitant about romantic commitment…"-
(20:17) <Minaplo> ["Oh?"-
(20:18) <Minaplo> [Matthias shook his head. "You don't need to know the reason, only that she has one."-
(20:18) <Minaplo> ["Oh, pardon me-"-
(20:24) <Minaplo> ["Don't worry about it. Just keep it in mind." Said Matthias with a smile.-
(20:27) <Minaplo> ["I will."-
(20:28) <Minaplo> ["Say, Matthias. How does all this romantic speculation drivel make you feel?"-
(20:35) <Minaplo> [He shrugged. "It's annoying. I wish people would keep to themselves more, honestly, instead of jumping to conclusions…"-
(20:36) <Minaplo> ["I can understand that." Said Lexie quietly.-
(20:36) <Minaplo> ["Does it make you uncomfortable?" Asked Matthias.-
(20:36) <Minaplo> ["A little uncomfortable." Said Lexie. "I feel like whenever it's mentioned, I'm being judged."-
(20:40) * Zack is now known as ZackSleep
(20:40) <Minaplo> ["Judged, eh?"-
(20:41) <Minaplo> ["Yes. When I used to live in England, my relationships were very closely monitored. The king was very disapproving of anything that might hint of a romantic attachment."-
(20:49) <Minaplo> ["Ah…" Matthias nodded slowly. "I understand."-
(20:49) <Minaplo> [There was a lull in the conversation. An awkward pall.-
(20:49) <Minaplo> ["How's your pheasant?" Asked Matthias.-
(21:00) <Minaplo> ["It's lovely, thank you. This was a fine choice." Lexie said with a smile.-
(21:00) <Minaplo> ["Good, good. Have you ever gone hunting yourself?"-
(21:01) <Minaplo> [Lexie shook her head. "The king loved hunting, but I never had much time for killing animals."-
(21:06) <Minaplo> ["Fair enough." Said Matthias. "Mr. Norling used to take me hunting quite a lot, though."-
(21:06) <Minaplo> ["So that's why you're such a skilled marksman?"-
(21:06) <Minaplo> ["Well…"-
(21:12) <Minaplo> [And so they whiled away the time, eating and talking. They exchanged pleasant (or unpleasant) stories of the past. Discussed some of their fellows, often with Matthias explaining some facet that Lexie had overlooked.-
(21:17) <Minaplo> [They paid the bill (which was higher than Matthias had anticipated) and left the lovely little restaurant behind…-
(21:17) <Minaplo> [The encouragement of the etoile maid still ringing in their ears as they left.-
(22:52) <AdEvaGM> ["Love is dead." Huffed Lexie, slamming the car door behind her.-
(22:54) <AdEvaGM> [Matthias winced.-
(23:00) <AdEvaGM> ["So. Where to next?" She said quickly and sharply.-
(23:01) <AdEvaGM> ["Museum?" Offered Matthias.-
(23:01) <AdEvaGM> ["Excellent."-
(23:01) <AdEvaGM> […-
(23:30) <AdEvaGM> [The Musee des Beaux-Arts d'Orleans was pleasantly quiet.-
(23:55) <AdEvaGM> [It wasn't deserted. Lexie and Matthias were never far from another viewer or couple of viewers, at least. Nonetheless, the visitors were spread out and kept to themselves.-
(00:33) <AdEvaGM> [They made… Slow progress, in a way. But that was alright.-
(00:33) <AdEvaGM> [Lexie was the cause…-
(00:43) <Minaplo> ["… Forced to destroy some of her royalist art after the Revolution." Said Lexie, pointing at a portrait of Robespierrre by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard. "She found plenty of time to paint the new leaders…"-
(00:53) <Minaplo> […-
(00:53) <Minaplo> ["Oh, this one I recognise. That's Joan of Arc." Said Matthias.-
(01:15) <Minaplo> ["Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingles." Said Alexandrina firmly. "Remember Liberty Leading the People?"-
(01:15) <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh?"-
(01:17) <Minaplo> ["Eugène Delacroix. He and Ingres didn't think much of one another…"-
(01:17) <Minaplo> […-
[20:39] <Minaplo> [One section of the museum hosted a temporary exhibit dedicated to famous art from all across Europe…-
[20:39] <Minaplo> [Awkwardly, many of the pieces were now from enemy nations, something which seemed to fascinate Lexie.-
[20:41] <Minaplo> ["… And naturally it's created a massive fuss, even though we're at war and honestly, they shouldn't be expecting much in the space diplomatic niceties." Said Lexie haughtily. She held her left arm tightly across her chest, gripping the elbow of her right arm; her right hand, of course, was resting on her chin.-
[20:41] <Minaplo> ["So we just… Keep it?" Asked Matthias.-
[20:42] <Minaplo> ["Yes. Well, until we graciously return it once the war is over. Or put the pieces back personally." She smiled slowly.-
[20:42] <Minaplo> [… But a second later something had caught her eye. She let out a low 'oh my' in surprise.-
[20:42] <Minaplo> [Lexie hurried over to one certain work, Matthias quickly following behind.-
[20:52] <Minaplo> [The painting was a colourful, bright, golden piece. At its core were a couple, male and female, entwined in embrace, about to kiss; over their bodies were robes of gold leaf. Around their feet were wildflowers.-
[20:54] <Minaplo> ["'The Kiss'." Said Lexie. "Gustav Klimt. It's considered to be a real classic of Austrian Art Neauveau."-
[21:02] <Minaplo> ["Ahh. You know, I think it looks familiar." Said Matthias.-
[21:04] <Minaplo> [Lexie smiled. "What do you think of it?"-
[21:04] <Minaplo> ["It looks very… Shiny." Said Matthias.-
[21:04] <Minaplo> ["'Shiny'?"-
[21:06] <Minaplo> ["Well, er… It has something of a mosaic feel to it. The gold patterns, you see." Said Matthias.-
[21:06] <Minaplo> ["Well yes. But what does it evoke for you?" Asked Lexie.-
[21:06] <Minaplo> ["…" Matthias was quiet for a few seconds.-
[21:07] <Minaplo> ["… I'm happy for them." He said eventually, waving a hand at the portrayed couple. "Look like they're having a good time."-
[21:09] <Minaplo> ["Hmmmm."-
[21:09] <Minaplo> [A silence filled the space between them.-
[21:09] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[21:09] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[21:09] <Minaplo> ["You know, I've never been kissed." Said Lexie suddenly.-
[21:10] <Minaplo> ["That so?"-
[21:10] <Minaplo> ["Mmm. What about you, Matthias?"-
[21:10] <Minaplo> ["Uh… Yes. I have." He said.-
[21:11] <Minaplo> ["Aha. That's not a surprise. May I ask when you had your first kiss?" Asked Lexie.-
[21:11] <Minaplo> ["I was fifteen."-
[21:14] <Minaplo> ["May I ask what it was like? What she was like?"-
[21:15] <Minaplo> ["It was messy." Said Matthias. "And it was thrilling. And it was a 'he'."-
[21:16] <Minaplo> ["… Oh." Said Lexie. Her cheeks suddenly began flushing red. "I-I had- I mean-"-
[19:14] <Minaplo> [Matthias placed a hand on top of her head. He gently tousled her hair. "Breathe."-
[19:17] <Minaplo> ["…" Lexie looked away, stopped talking and did as she was told.-
[19:17] <Minaplo> ["… Sorry." Said Lexie.-
[19:18] <Minaplo> [Matthias withdrew his hand. "What for?"-
[19:30] <Minaplo> ["I made assumptions." Muttered Lexie.-
[22:18] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh." Said Matthias, giving her a gentle shove in the back. "C'mon, don't we have some post-cubists or whatever to look at?"-
[22:20] <Minaplo> [Lexie glowered at him.-
[22:25] <Minaplo> […-
[22:25] <Minaplo> [A few minutes later, they'd moved into a section given over to British art- primarily pieces that had been hurriedly rushed to the Continent whilst the Metatron virus set the island ablaze.-
[22:26] <Minaplo> [Lexie was doubly at home.-
[22:38] <Minaplo> [Lexie's attention, however, would inevitably be drawn to a single portrait- a tall dark-haried man in a red marshal uniform, arms folded with light stubble on a strong chin.-
[22:49] <Minaplo> ["So what do you think?" Asked Lexie.-
[22:49] <Minaplo> ["… It's a portrait." Said Matthias, his tone hesitant. "It looks good…?"-
[22:50] <Minaplo> ["Do you know who this is?" Asked Lexie.-
[22:50] <Minaplo> ["Not a clue, Lexie." Said Matthias. "He looks pretty sure of himself, though…"-
[22:52] <Minaplo> ["This is the 1st Duke of Wellington, Matthias." Said Lexie patiently.-
[22:52] <Minaplo> ["Oh."-
[22:52] <Minaplo> ["Oh." He said, frowning.-
[22:53] <Minaplo> ["Doesn't much look like him, does he?" Said Lexie thoughtfully.-
[22:54] <Minaplo> ["You mean Wellesley?" Said Matthias. "Uh… No, not really. I mean, they're both good-looking, but… The resemblance is kinda faint. Maybe around the eyes…"-
[22:55] <Minaplo> ["I hear it's not a comparison Alphonse enjoys, at any rate." Said Lexie.-
[22:56] <Minaplo> ["Now that you mention it, I do remember someone taunting him with the title." Said Matthias, squinting slightly. "It was in Blue's, right, and there was this American in there shouting 'Wellington' at the top of his lungs-"-
[22:57] <Minaplo> ["Alphonse hates the monarchy. He thinks Britain should be a republic." Said Lexie. "That's why he doesn't like his title."-
[22:57] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[22:58] <Minaplo> [Matthias let out a low cough.-
[22:59] <Minaplo> ["I mean, well. That doesn't mean he hates you specifically." Said Matthias. "Wellesley's a very understanding-"-
[22:59] <Minaplo> ["I know that!" Snapped Lexie. "It's just a little- nevermind."-
[23:00] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[23:03] <Minaplo> [Matthias gently put a hand on her head. "Sorry. Sounds like it's still a sensitive topic."-
[23:08] <Minaplo> [Lexie shrugged. "Still something I need to handle."-
[23:10] <Minaplo> ["Something you want to handle on your own." Said Matthias.-
[23:10] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Lexie. "… If I'm being honest, I had a lot of horrible thoughts about the matter. I don't like dwelling on it."-
[23:11] <Minaplo> ["I understand." Said Matthias.-
[23:11] <Minaplo> ["Thank you."-
[23:11] <Minaplo> […-
[23:17] <Minaplo> [The sun had sunk deep into the west; only a dusky, rosy glow hidden behind buildings and trees remained.-
[23:18] <Minaplo> ["That museum was pretty great." Said Matthias cheerfully. "Learned loads about art…"-
[23:18] <Minaplo> ["Mmm, it was very refreshing." Said Lexie with a smile. "Thank you."-
[23:19] <Minaplo> ["Don't mention it."-
[23:19] <Minaplo> ["So are we heading home now, or do you have yet another surprise awaiting me?" Asked Lexie.-
[23:19] <Minaplo> ["Uh-"-
[23:19] <Minaplo> [There was a loud, yet distant cracking sound- followed by another dozen. Lexie started.-
[23:20] <Minaplo> ["What on earth-"-
[23:20] <Minaplo> ["Oh." Lexie coughed and reddened slightly. "It's just fireworks."-
[23:21] <Minaplo> [And indeed there were; a very regular pattern of fireworks bursting into the sky above the city centre. Burning reds and vivid purples and neon green sparks filled the sky; with every minute that passed, the sun surrendered yet more of the sky to the fireworks, the stars and the moon.-
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["Pretty." Said Lexie. "Is there a festival?"-
[23:22] <Minaplo> [But Matthias was frowning.-
[23:22] <Minaplo> ["Don't like fireworks?" Asked Lexie playfully.-
[23:23] <Minaplo> ["I like fireworks just fine." Said Matthias coolly. "But these ones- here, close your eyes and listen."-
[23:23] <Minaplo> [Lexie scowled for a second, then did as Matthias said.-
[23:23] <Minaplo> [A minute passed. Another round of cracks and pops and bursts.-
[23:23] <Minaplo> ["I don't-"-
[23:24] <Minaplo> ["Concentrate." Said Matthias quietly.-
[23:24] <Minaplo> [Lexie did. One minute, then another… The fireworks went up every 30 seconds, a very routine and regimented pattern.-
[23:24] <Minaplo> [But once she knew the pattern, she could hear the irregularities. The deeper, dull thudding before each burst, distant, yet audible…-
[23:25] <Minaplo> ["…" The smile fell from her face. "Artillery."-
[23:25] <Minaplo> ["That's right." Said Matthias. "The fireworks are trying to hide the sound of the guns."-
[23:29] <Minaplo> [Lexie was silent.-
[23:36] <Minaplo> [The wind blew, catching the tails of Lexie's shirtdress. It was chill and biting; Lexie shivered.-
[23:37] <Minaplo> ["C'mon, let's go." Said Matthias.-
[23:37] <Minaplo> [They headed back to the Rolls-Royce (Lexie quickly tugging on her fitted sweater)- and then Matthias began to drive.-
[23:51] <Minaplo> ["Where are we going?" She asked.-
[23:51] <Minaplo> ["You'll see."-
[00:16] <Minaplo> […-
[00:16] <Minaplo> [The fireworks were muffled pops here, although they could be clearly seen.-
[00:22] <Minaplo> [Matthias had taken them to a riverside park, although they remained inside the warm and cozy Rolls-Royce. Outside they could see the Loire below, gently flowing westward… The fireworks continued to burst dazzlingly into the air.-
[00:24] <Minaplo> [Lexie was alone for now- Matthias had stepped out for reasons most secret. Considering the blast of icy wind that had most unhappily filled the car as he'd left, Lexie was perfectly happy to remain behind, holding her hands firmly in front of the heater vents.-
[00:25] <Minaplo> [… All of a sudden, there was a rap against her window.-
[00:25] <Minaplo> [Lexie started, letting out a very tiny squeak-
[00:25] <Minaplo> [… It was just Matthias. Lexie scowled and rolled down the window. "What, did you lock yourself outside?"-
[00:29] <Minaplo> ["Rude." Said Matthias. "No, I brought you something. Here."-
[00:30] <Minaplo> [He held an ice cream cone out to her; it was a dark brown waffle cone, on which sat a round scoop of orange ice cream.-
[00:30] <Minaplo> [Lexie stared at it.-
[00:30] <Minaplo> ["What?" Said Matthias, frowning.-
[00:31] <Minaplo> ["… I've never eaten ice cream in a cone before." Said Lexie. "Won't it fall off?"-
[00:31] <Minaplo> ["Only if you're an idiot." Said Matthias. "It's mango sorbet, you know-"-
[00:31] <Minaplo> ["Ooh."-
[00:32] <Minaplo> [She took it. Matthias wasted no time in rushing around to his side and quickly hopping back in; in his own hand was a cone with two scoops of ice cream, both chocolate chip.-
[00:37] <Minaplo> [… And so they sat in silence for awhile, satisfied with licking at their ice cream, watching the fireworks.-
[00:38] <Minaplo> [Eventually Lexie broke it. "I hope they finish 06 soon." She muttered.-
[00:38] <Minaplo> ["Eager to get back into it, eh?" Said Matthias.-
[00:39] <Minaplo> ["I don't know if I'd say that." She said. "But… I've had a lovely day. And I'm going to go back to a safe warship soon and sleep. But out there on the front, the guns are killing people."-
[00:42] <Minaplo> ["It doesn't feel fair." Lexie said with a sigh. "Not only to them but to the other pilots. You ship out to Russia in a few days, and I'm left here feeling useless. Not only that, but half our working corps is made up of Ayanamis. It's a lot of pressure to put on one family!"-
[00:43] <Minaplo> ["It is." Said Matthias. "You want to take some of the pressure off 'em?"-
[00:43] <Minaplo> ["Yes." She said.-
[00:43] <Minaplo> ["… Say, Matthias. Have you had a lot to do with the Ayanamis?"-
[00:43] <Minaplo> ["Not a whole lot. Why?"-
[00:44] <Minaplo> ["Do they seem like… Urhm." She paused, frowning at her ice cream. "Like… A family should be?"-
[00:45] <Minaplo> ["Uh… They all seem to love and support each other as far as I know. Maybe a few rivalries here or there but they lean on each other. Is that what you mean?" Said Matthias.-
[00:45] <Minaplo> ["I suppose I do." She said quietly.-
[00:46] <Minaplo> [They fell silent.-
[00:46] <Minaplo> [… a minute or two later, Lexie spoke up again. "I used to resent Rei."-
[00:47] <Minaplo> [Matthias paused slightly; he turned to look at her. "Yeah?"-
[00:48] <Minaplo> ["Mmm. Resentment and contempt." Said Lexie.-
[00:48] <Minaplo> ["Hmm. When did that start?"-
[00:48] <Minaplo> ["… It would've been a little after I fell for Alphonse." She said. "So I suppose there's some jealousy in there too."-
[00:48] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh."-
[00:56] <Minaplo> [Lexie sighed. "It was petty of me. Silly and cruel. But I used to hate the fact that… She had his heart. Or rather, that a fake, designed person could win his heart when I couldn't."-
[00:57] <Minaplo> ["I see." Said Matthias. "It stung, huh? Losing to someone 'artificial'?"-
[00:57] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Lexie. "It's- I don't like talking about it. I don't think like that any more, of course…"-
[00:58] <Minaplo> ["Not that I really had a chance to begin with. His heart was won long before me."-
[00:58] <Minaplo> ["Mmm. What changed, Lexie?"-
[00:58] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[00:59] <Minaplo> [Matthias kept his eyes on her, his expression relaxed and calm.-
[01:00] <Minaplo> ["… I realised something. Rei's not really a fake person." Said Lexie. "She loves, is loved, and has a close family. She was created for a purpose, but love played a part in her creation. Why else would she look like that?"-
[01:03] <Minaplo> ["It dawned on me that I was in no position to judge." Said Lexie quietly. "In fact, I realised that if anything, I was the fake. I was born naturally, but the only reason they had me was to fill out the ranks. For most of my life I've had exactly as much worth as one of Rei's empty backup bodies."-
[01:06] <Minaplo> ["I'm no longer just a spare." She said. "It only took the deaths of all of my brothers and sisters for that to stop being true."-
[01:07] <Minaplo> ["…" Matthias was silent. He gently reached out, took her left and and tenderly squeezed it.-
[01:07] <Minaplo> [Lexie squeezed back. She turned to look at him.-
[01:07] <Minaplo> ["I don't want to be queen." She said.-
[01:09] <Minaplo> ["That's alright." Said Matthias. "You don't have to be if you don't want to be."-
[01:09] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[01:11] <Minaplo> ["I know that's not what other people will tell you." Said Matthias.-
[01:12] <Minaplo> [Lexie nodded slowly.-
[01:13] <Minaplo> ["If you turn away from the crown, then there'll be people angry at you." He said. "They'll say all kinds of things. They'll call you a coward."-
[01:14] <Minaplo> ["But you'll never hear me say that." Said Matthias. "Whatever you choose, wherever you go, I'll support you. You have my word."-
[01:15] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[01:16] <Minaplo> [They were quiet.-
[01:17] <Minaplo> [When Lexie finally spoke, there was a slight quaver to her voice. "Why?"-
[01:17] <Minaplo> ["Why what?"-
[01:18] <Minaplo> ["You… There's something about you. You seem to go out of your way to help weaklings like me or Kirishima. Why?"-
[01:20] <Minaplo> ["…" Matthias frowned for a second. "Is that a fair thing to say? Both of you have lived through extraordinary challenges. You've had to face… Mmm, things I'd know nothing about, not even a little. Things that would cause people to snap."-
[01:20] <Minaplo> ["To me it feels like I'm the weak one." He said.-
[01:20] <Minaplo> ["You? Weak?"-
[01:22] <Minaplo> ["Lexie, I don't know what to do with my life." Said Matthias. "For most of my life I've just done whatever seemed best at the time, or just went wherever someone else told me to do. I have no ambitions, no… Lifelong dreams. I never knew what I wanted to be as a kid. I ended up in military school because I was good with a gun and the Norlings said it was a good idea."-
[01:24] <Minaplo> ["Now I'm part of a massive war." He said. "Everything feels like an accident. Whenever I dare to think about the long-term I panic. I tunnel-vision on the here and now because I have no idea what to do with myself in the long run."-
[01:26] <Minaplo> ["So I do what I've always done. I cling to people like you, people with passion and strength, ideas… You have direction, an urge to do something with yourself that I've never had. If I follow you, I'm free of the burden of having to think of that stuff myself."-
[01:26] <Minaplo> ["… Oh." Said Lexie quietly.-
[01:27] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[01:27] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[01:27] <Minaplo> ["We're a fine mess, aren't we?" Said Lexie, smiling weakly.-
[01:28] <Minaplo> ["Yep." Said Matthias, chuckling half-heartedly.-
[01:31] <Minaplo> ["Oh, you're the worst! Knowing all that…" She shook her head. "I don't want you to feel like that… But now I'm afraid that one day it'll hit you and you'll leave me behind. I don't want that."-
[01:32] <Minaplo> ["I'll take that as the charmingly tactless compliment it's meant to be." Said Matthias, giving her a crooked smile.-
[01:33] <Minaplo> [Lexie glowered at him.-
[01:35] <Minaplo> ["You fool." She muttered. "What are we going to do with you? How do I help you…?"-
[01:38] <Minaplo> ["I don't know if you can, Lexie." Said Matthias. "Maybe it'll come to me one day. Or maybe it won't, and I'll live the rest of my life not knowing what I ever wanted to do with it."-
[01:41] <Minaplo> ["… I'm still going to try." She said. "Every day, I'm going to try! I won't stop until we find something. I promise!"-
[01:41] <Minaplo> ["Hahaha. So is your purpose now to find me a purpose? That's kinda funny."-
[01:43] <Minaplo> ["Don't tease me!" She said hotly. "I mean it!"-
[01:44] <Minaplo> ["I know you do." He said, giving her a warm smile. "I appreciate it a lot, Lexie."-
[01:47] <Minaplo> ["… You know I care about you." She muttered.-
[01:51] <Minaplo> ["Of course." He said with a chuckle. "Oh, did you see this?"-
[01:51] <Minaplo> [With a bit of awkward shuffling, he pulled his left arm out of his coat and held it out for her to see. Lexie peered.-
[01:52] <Minaplo> [Tied around his bicep was a silver ribbon.-
[01:52] <Minaplo> ["Oh, you kept it!" Said Lexie, her eyes widening. "You didn't have to-"-
[01:55] <Minaplo> ["I admit, I had my doubts about the whole thing." He said. "But you know… It was actually kind of nice to have in battle. Especially when everyone else is being blown apart and set on fire…"-
[01:59] <Minaplo> ["… It sounded pretty intense." Muttered Lexie.-
[02:01] <Minaplo> [… It took them a second to realise the fireworks had stopped.-
[02:02] <Minaplo> [They could hear the dreadful, muffled thudding, however. The guns of Paris, of Verdun and Mets and a dozen other places…-
[02:03] <Minaplo> ["… It's hard to believe that so many people are dying on a night like this." Said Lexie.-
[02:05] <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Matthias. "It won't stop. It'll keep on like this for another six months, twelve… Two years, maybe more. Every day and night."-
[02:06] <Minaplo> ["No wonder they ordered the fireworks." Said Lexie.-
[02:13] <Minaplo> ["Yeah…"-
[02:13] <Minaplo> ["… I wonder what we'll be like when it's all done." Said Lexie. "I wonder if we'll even live through it all."-
[02:14] <Minaplo> ["… Are you worried?" Said Matthias quietly.-
[02:15] <Minaplo> ["More than I used to be." She said with a brittle smile. "That's probably a good thing."-
[02:15] <Minaplo> ["A good thing?"-
[02:17] <Minaplo> ["Heh. I'm told I was a little disturbing when I first showed up. I don't remember much of that time, honestly, but I was told that people thought I might suddenly begin shooting people or somesuch rot…"-
[02:17] <Minaplo> ["Who said that?" Said Matthias, his eyebrows rising.-
[02:17] <Minaplo> ["Asuka."-
[02:17] <Minaplo> ["Oh. Oh, huh."-
[02:18] <Minaplo> [… The guns continued to pound in the far distance.-
[02:19] <Minaplo> [For the next few minutes, they quietly finished off what little remained of their dessert in silence.-
[02:19] <Minaplo> [Night had fallen properly now. The limp light of the moon hung in the air. It had come over rather cloudy…-
[02:20] <Minaplo> ["Well." Matthias sighed. "Should we head home?"-
[02:22] <Minaplo> ["I suppose Anita-Margaret will be missing me by now." Said Lexie. "So we may as well."-
[02:23] <Minaplo> […-
[02:24] <Minaplo> [They drove home. Or at least, back to the patch of forest where they'd first arrived.-
[02:24] <Minaplo> [They weren't there for a minute before Ezekiel appeared in the backseat. A second later, they were quite suddenly back in the Dory hangar; two seconds later, Ezekiel was gone.-
[02:25] <Minaplo> ["Busy bastard, isn't he?" Muttered Matthias.-
[02:26] <Minaplo> [Lexie quickly hopped out, but Matthias lingered a little, running a hand across the dashboard with a sigh. "We'll meet again some day." He said wistfully.-
[02:27] <Minaplo> [Eventually- especially considering Lexie's unbreaking stare- he pulled himself away from the beautiful machine.-
[02:28] <Minaplo> ["Want me to walk me to your room?" Said Matthias.-
[02:29] <Minaplo> ["If you please."-
[02:30] <Minaplo> [It wasn't far to Lexie's room, but she was stifling yawns long before they arrived.-
[02:33] <Minaplo> ["I know how you feel." Said Matthias. "I think I might crash too after I swing by Blue's."-
[02:33] <Minaplo> ["Blue's?"-
[02:33] <Minaplo> ["Feeling peckish."-
[02:33] <Minaplo> ["Glutton."-
[02:33] <Minaplo> ["Hey!"-
[02:34] <Minaplo> [Lexie beamed.-
[02:36] <Minaplo> [It only took another minute more for them to arrive. Lexie quickly opened her door, revealing her room- fine and clean as usual. Anita-Margaret, wearing a cotton pink nightgown patterned with rubber ducks, snoozed quietly in a tiny bed at the foot of Lexie's own.-
[02:37] <Minaplo> ["Oh, someone's already put her to sleep." Said Lexie, a small gasp slipping out.-
[02:37] <Minaplo> ["She looks pretty comfy." Said Matthias.-
[02:38] <Minaplo> ["She does, doesn't she?" Said Lexie, turning to look at her little annihilator. She smiled warmly. "It's… Mmm. It's strange, but she's sort of grown on me."-
[02:38] <Minaplo> ["I can tell, but go on."-
[02:39] <Minaplo> ["Hmph." Lexie huffed. "Well, I mean… She seems so helpless, barely knowing what's going on around her. If I'm being honest, I feel… Tender about her. Is that unusual?"-
[02:39] <Minaplo> ["I don't think so." Said Matthias.-
[02:39] <Minaplo> ["Mm." She turned to face him. "In any case… Thank you, Matthias. I had a lovely day. We should do it again sometime."-
[02:40] <Minaplo> ["Agreed." Said Matthias brightly. "I wonder if we can reserve the Rolls-Royce again?"-
[02:40] <Minaplo> ["Matthias!"-
[02:41] <Minaplo> ["Kidding, kidding." He said, grinning.-
[02:41] <Minaplo> ["hmph." Lexie sighed.-
[02:41] <Minaplo> ["I hope my company was enjoyable, though." She said.-
[02:42] <Minaplo> ["Always, Lexie." He said warmly.-
[02:43] <Minaplo> ["Glad to hear it." She said.-
[02:43] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[02:43] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[02:44] <Minaplo> ["… I don't know if I wanted to come back." Said Lexie slowly. "Sitting with you in the car by ourselves- I liked how that felt."-
[02:45] <Minaplo> ["Yeah…"-
[02:46] <Minaplo> [Lexie stepped out of her doorway and wrapped her arms around his middle tightly, her head against his chest.-
[02:48] <Minaplo> [Matthias embraced her in kind. She was rather tiny and frail-looking, and she felt a little cold to the touch as well for whatever reason…-
[02:49] <Minaplo> ["… I'll see you tomorrow." Said Lexie eventually, reluctantly pulling away.-
[02:49] <Minaplo> ["You too. Don't sleep in too much."-
[02:50] <Minaplo> ["Don't eat too much at Blue's." She said instantly.-
[02:50] <Minaplo> ["Hah. No promises."-
[02:50] <Minaplo> ["I wasn't holding my breath."-
[02:50] <Minaplo> ["Good."-
[02:50] <Minaplo> ["… Hahaha. Goodnight, Matthias." Said Lexie.-
[02:50] <Minaplo> ["G'night, Lexie."-
[02:50] <Minaplo> [With that, she stepped inside and closed the door.-
[02:51] <Minaplo> ["… Hm."-
[02:51] <Minaplo> ["A purpose of my own, huh?" Muttered Matthias to himself. He smiled a little.-
[02:52] <Minaplo> [With that, he turned around and, at his own amiable pace, walked away.]

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