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Thread: Revolution #9

  1. #21
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    Jacqueline had inherited from her late father a certain Protestant reticence that was as out of place as her magecraft in Catholic Belgium; for her an evening walk should be serene, the setting of narrow cobbled streets and lighted churches giving a literary quality to her aimlessness. Here in America nothing of the sort could be found: the buildings were imposing edifices of the state rising high with their anachronistic Roman pretensions, and the streets were broad and peopled only by rushing cars.

    In a place like this everyone had a destination in mind, and those that didn’t were swept away. Nowhere Jacqueline had been before felt so much like it was at the forefront of history.

    And everyone here, it seemed, loved to talk - even in her own mind, the last refuge of the socially exhausted, she was no longer safe. Perhaps it was because of their palpable incorporeality that Clemence was so fond of using their voice.

    Having walked uneventful miles through this city, Jacqueline rested by the Washington Monument. Clemence said something, perhaps about this place, but she didn’t catch it, instead studying the enormous stone structure for a while from her seat on a bench.

    “Do you think anyone has ever climbed up that thing and thrown themselves off?” she interjected morbidly. The only structure taller she’d seen was the Eiffel Tower, and she didn’t ask the same question of it - the answer was well-known already - but all the same, the sheer height of this obelisk made her sick to her stomach when she looked all the way up to its pinnacle.

    Clemence seemed to pause to intake that sudden idea. “Perhaps you could be the first.”

    Jacqueline took a deep breath, steadying herself to look up again. Such a jump, naturally, would be fatal even for an accomplished magus. If she really was the first to do so, then she’d certainly make the newspapers. Many people would talk about her, at least for a week. It certainly wouldn’t be a lonely death, and that itself was something.

    “If I died, having yet to find your body, what would happen to you?”

    “I’ve got some theories of my own,” replied Clemence with a mental shrug. “But it’s all the more reason to find me somewhere out there, right? You don’t want to have two deaths on your conscience.”

    A particularly nasty thought assailed Jacqueline just then, and she shook her head to chase it away. If there was a heaven and a hell, she imagined, what kind of cruel afterlife would it be to have this chattering voice stuck in her skull for eternity? For any other failures death could prove to be an escape, but this one threatened to follow her even beyond mortality.

    “Maybe you would leap to another mind, find another host to chatter at while they try to figure out this mystery for you.”

    “What am I, a ghost possessing poor innocent people just to relive the thrills of being alive?”

    “I’m saying, you could have chosen better,” Jacqueline muttered aloud and not just in her thoughts, and now she was aware again of how insane she must look, like a sleepwalker in the midst of a dream. A bad one, she decided.

    “Unfortunately for you, you’re the only person in the whole world who can help me. If you died, well… I’d be at a loss, that’s for sure. I’m lucky to be here in the first place!”

    Jacqueline sighed and stretched her legs, not knowing what it was like to feel lucky in the first place. “That’s right: you’re lucky that I’m naturally curious, meaning the mystery of you in my head gives me something to think about other than my dead-end of a life, meaning I won’t leap off the nearest bridge or roof or obelisk just yet.”

    “You really are nonchalant about dying, aren’t you?” Even the affable Clemence seemed perturbed, but only for a moment.

    “Now, anyway, enough with the morose talk.” Clemence just as quickly shunted those worries aside, focused ever on their goal no matter how winding the path that took them there. “If you’re at the Washington Monument, ahead of you should be the reflecting pool. You said before that it’s a nice, clear night, didn’t you? Then you should be able to admire the stars in the water for me.”

    Jacqueline frowned. “You talk about it as though you remember it fondly.”

    At the same time… she didn’t dare think too deeply on it lest Clemence catch on to her train of thought and cut her off, but Jacqueline knew she didn’t mention the weather. For the most part Clemence spoke and she listened unresponsively, but American-style small talk was far beyond her. What did this seemingly bodiless, senseless voice know beyond what they shared, and more to the point what could they see?

    She could feel the dull pressure of Clemence peering in on her thoughts. “Oh, don’t worry, I can’t see anything. If I could use your eyes, well… we both know how special they are. Most are just windows to the soul, as they say, but yours are a window to a whole world. Opportunities. Regrets. Alternatives…” They trailed off.

    “...but yes, I do remember it, fondly. A lot is bound up here.”

    That seemed like an opening, but Jacqueline knew by now that Clemence would cleverly close it off with all the suddenness of the slamming of a door.

    From ahead, there was the sound of boots tapping on stone. Light steps, not meant to be heard. Jacqueline’s mind cleared up as though Clemence wasn’t there at all, and she focused on the direction of the sound: crossing at a brisk pace to the right, then the crunch of grass underfoot - someone in the darkness was approaching at an angle, not wanting to be seen. Jacqueline felt consciously like prey being stalked, death itching at the back of her neck. She quickened her step. Her eyes shimmered with illumination in every colour of the whole spectrum of visible light, dancing in circles on the infinitesimal magic circuits that spiralled around her irises.

    Her hand was bare and cool in the moonlight; she blinked, and heat licked at her palm, a pale flame of red tinged with green flickering there now like a crackling bonfire. Again she closed her eyes, and envisioned the long pool of water criss-crossed with electric white lines, and when she looked again, so it was: the night was bright, and the figure who had passed like a shadow in the night was lit up like a constellation.

    She was ten metres away, and was immediately striking from her foreign looks and her long, black hair tied low, contrasted by her outfit, something like a grey-green flight suit. Jacqueline figured her for some kind of a soldier or mercenary, and unscrupulous images immediately came to mind.

    She didn’t have long to follow that train of thought, nor to devise a strategy. Something dark and wooden clattered on the pavement; Jacqueline looked down, and when she glanced up and into the fighter’s cutting gaze she saw an arm raised, hand holding a revolver, levelled with her chest.

    The bullet struck before the sound of the shot. It was made with perfect precision and not a moment’s hesitation, the mark of someone who had killed like this before. The fire in Jacqueline’s hand sparked and sputtered until it was no more, her palm and fingers winter-cold and numbing. She grasped for the wound and felt a deep, bloody hole over her heart. Her finger dug into the wound and there was no pain but only the sensation of sharp, cracked bone and steaming-hot metal. When she tried to take in a breath and step forward her body failed her. Another shot would end it, she knew, and in a moment she’d be helpless on the ground.

    Would the newspapers report this, come the morning? Would anyone find her bleeding and dying in serene painlessness here in a shallow pool of water meant to reflect the pure hope of a blissful blue sky?

    The woman walked closer, step by step, as if to get a better look at Jacqueline and maybe recognise her. She had dark skin like the Algerians Jacqueline had seen in Paris protesting the war, but there was no doubt that she was a killer herself. Desperate to feel something, Jacqueline pushed her finger farther into the wretched bullet hole as if she could reach in and touch her heart to feel its last beat, to sense the very moment of death and perhaps just before it arrived see a flash of what came after.

    There was no heart in there, only the hard and twisted ball of a bullet. As her fingertip, stained through with red, touched it again it grew, as though replacing her heart in her soaking chest cavity; it sharpened and lengthened away from the hole, tearing itself out by force unbidden by Jacqueline herself, and from behind half-lidded eyes still dyed dazzling colours she saw her killer take one step back, then another, her dull brown eyes as wide as saucers like she’d become the one shot dead.

    The metal twisted in circle after circle, a black mass now like a blade, hardly resembling the bullet that had struck her. It was as long as a hand before long, and it extended faster and faster; then came the ivory of bone dyed a deep crimson, reaching out from her chest like an arm.

    It lunged out with a mind of its own and stabbed the mercenary woman through, up through her stomach under her ribcage to pierce her heart in the ultimate sympathetic act of shared mortality. Out it bloomed from her limp body, like a stamen from the heart of a scarlet flower.

    A scream echoed into the night that made Jacqueline’s whole body shiver. When she was struck down, she made no such noise; there was no reason to. The fear of death was only the fear of pain, and there was none.

    The glittering stars above now reflected in a pool of blood. There was a sound of scraping against concrete, and of something behind dragged through wet grass.

    Jacqueline, with her final thoughts clearer than ever, wondered again what would happen to Clemence. That part of her mind had gone silent, but she realised too late that now she wouldn’t be sharing this moment with another consciousness, and she now understood the fundamental loneliness of death.

    -~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-

    The bed was a blinding white, and the sun streamed in through light curtains which gently fluttered in a cool morning breeze. The softness of the sheets were like the clouds of heaven, and the sunlight the face of God, but when over that face passed a cloud and the room darkly dimmed, He was nowhere to be seen. The sleeper, now awake, lay content.


    Yet doubts arose again when a figure in ephemeral white, surrounded by a halo of red, came to the bedside - an angel? Blue eyes the colour of the deep ocean looked back with concern and sympathy, and a pale, gentle hand touched the sleeper’s clammy forehead. The angel shook her head and her lips quivered. Her other hand balanced a silver tray, on which was some marble-white cylinder and a saucer. All of it was unknown and unknowable, but perhaps this was the way of heaven. With the angel’s presence the cloudy darkness was dispelled, and the sleeper reached out for the proffered manna.

    “Wait- watch yourself,” the angel, her voice less than graceful, sputtered as a weak, numb hand batted around the tray clumsily.

    Those fingers settled on something ceramic. There was warmth, there, that passed through thin blue veins all the way to the heart.

    The heart.

    “Are you okay? Please, you needn’t stress yourself, miss.” That beatific concern in softly-spoken French brought comfort to the sleeper’s aching body, almost enough to bring about a premature deathbed conversion - if that was even necessary at this point, anyway. Her expectations for heaven had risen exponentially.

    So much for the idea of meeting familiar faces in the afterlife, she thought: this red-haired girl bore no resemblance to any mother, sister, or friend she’d known in life. Gazing around the dreamlike room with bleary eyes, she didn’t even see the one person in her life she’d expected to find in a place like this, and at that realisation the warmth and lightness in her heart vanished.

    With some effort, she parted her dry lips and spoke. “Where am I? And you…”

    The girl knelt down by her side, a gentle smile on her face. “My name is Eleanor Rosemary Richardson and, unfortunately, you’ve come to Washington at a bad time. You’re Jacqueline, am I correct?”

    Jacqueline bolted up in bed, the warm, heavenly haze of the room dissipating like a cloud darkening the sun. “How do-”

    The sudden movement drew out a sharp pain from within her chest and she gasped, going a whiter shade of pale as she clutched at the front of her shift. Her skin felt cool and sweat dripped down her neck. With a soft, warm hand Eleanor eased her back down to rest.

    Still wincing from the pain, she breathed in long and shallowly so her chest didn’t move, and then looked into Eleanor’s eyes. “How do you know my name? And how am I…” The wound in her heart throbbed again, unbidden.

    “Ah. Still alive, you mean?” Eleanor wrung out a damp cloth that lay in a basin beside the bed, and pressed the warm fabric to Jacqueline’s neck and chest. From a stranger’s touch, Jacqueline could tell there was no scar despite the pain that assailed her. “My Servant and I found you near the Washington Monument early this morning, collapsed in a pool of water. From a distance it looked as though you were drowning, and I was concerned; Rider carried you here and I made a bed for you in one of the guest rooms. Your clothes were drenched in blood somehow, too - but don’t worry too much about those. It’s a good day out and the birds are taking care of them for you.”

    Eleanor’s words aligned with Jacqueline’s own hazy memories to form a mosaic of recollection, but still the picture was unclear, out of order. Was she attacked? Was the blood her own, then, or her attacker’s? More to the point, what was she doing in such a place late at night? And Eleanor used a few turns of phrase that only compounded the confusion, not to mention the lingering issue of this girl knowing her name.

    Jacqueline let herself sink back into the mattress, her eyes now staring up at the white ceiling. A slight breeze floated in from an open window, and she could hear a chorus of robins chirping.

    “For an hour or two you spoke with yourself in your sleep, shifting from side to side and grasping your head. It was all indistinct and one-sided, as if you really did have a conversation partner in whatever dream you were having. You said, ‘can you hear me? It’s me, Jacqueline,’ and then asked them about a gun, and a spear, and lastly about your eyes.”

    This was all familiar to Jacqueline, and again she tried to feel for a scar over her heart, but the skin there was far too smooth to have suffered such a brutal injury. The last sight she remembered was, indeed, that of a spear emerging from her chest - certainly that would’ve left an even bigger mark, but there was not so much as a scratch on her. At the same time, despite the forgotten battle she engaged in and the phantom pain that remained now as the only evidence of it, she felt as rested as though she’d managed a full night’s sleep. A new suspicion crept over her as she listened to the birds.

    “What day is it?”

    Eleanor thought for a moment, knitting her brows. “Today’s a Wednesday. August twenty-first, I believe. Are you a recent arrival to the city as well? If you need to get a flight home, I can order a car to bring you to the airport, and a plane from there can take you to New York City and then on to Europe.”

    “Wait-” Jacqueline caught her breath again, and this time sat up much more carefully. “I have a lot of questions, first.”

    “I understand, I’ll answer as best I can.” Sitting properly at the edge of the bed with her hands folded over her lap, Eleanor glanced to the open bedroom door as though expecting someone, then gave her full attention on her guest.

    “First: you mentioned a servant, a ‘rider’. You mean to say a chauffeur? Did he see anyone else where you found me, or any sign of what happened?”

    Something about the way Jacqueline said those words made Eleanor’s shoulders loosen and fall, as if a tension had been building in her small frame and only now released. So, she doesn’t know after all, Eleanor thought to herself, and she put on a new smile.

    “Yes, my servant… Monteith. He would have told me if he saw anything unusual, and certainly would have shared his concerns if he suspected someone was following us. All I can say is that there was a great deal of blood, and it quite clearly came from two people. It was… hard to look.” Eleanor shook her head, red hair cascading over her face. It wasn’t a memory she brought up lightly, and Jacqueline could only imagine the gruesome state her body must’ve been in before every trace of injury somehow evaporated.

    Jacqueline nodded, accepting the answer at face value. Nothing seemed off about this girl so far, as much as her kindness now disarmed her.

    “And you know with such certainty that I’m European and want to go back to the continent?”

    At that, Eleanor stared her right in the eyes. It was getting difficult to keep things up as they were; she wasn’t accustomed to fibbing or playing with the truth. Bluntness - gently tempered, like a velvet glove on an iron hand - suited her much better. Sooner or later she anticipated Jacqueline would figure out what was going on, too, once she’d been given enough information to start making her own deductions.

    “I know you’re a magus, sent here because of the war.”

    Rather than being eased gently, the tension snapped like a wire, and Jacqueline felt the pain in her heart palpitating as she realised she was in the lair of a magus. She’d kept her suspicions open, but let her guard down about the possibility of others like her. Her eyes darted left and right, trying to sense anything that could be a disguised trap or an easy escape that hid a deadly spell waiting to be triggered.

    The very things that made the caring figure by her bedside so convincingly angelic now made her seem all the more sinister.

    Eleanor raised her hand, gesturing for Jacqueline to stop, and then turned her hand around to reveal a set of three ornate symbols etched in a line into her pale skin. They glowed a hot red when their wearer revealed them, then wicked away into her flesh like water, invisible. “Do you know exactly what these are, Miss Jacqueline?”

    Her guest gave a plain ‘no’. At best, it looked to her like some foreign magecraft; she knew of some practitioners of old arts that channelled magical energy through tattoos, but these were fairly small and very specifically located, not the nearly full-body works that dedicated arcane tattooists would weave into their bodies.

    “I suppose that’s for the best. I doubt those who sent you know the mechanical details, so to speak, of this war, considering how rare they are. A chosen few of us command powerful summoned Servants, whose strength is drawn from their exalted place in history and legend, and from the hopes and dreams of those who look up to them. This is supposed to be a competition between nations to crown one the victor, but fairly and without the threat of atomic bombs and innocent lives lost. A bloodless, silent revolution - how does that sound to you?”

    Jacqueline frowned. “This sounds like blind optimism to me, and as a magus I thought you’d be more suspicious of politics. Washington is the confluence of some of the most potent leylines in the world, it’s a nexus of power... do you think this is all some harmless contest?”

    That strong of a rebuke wasn’t what Eleanor expected from this foreign observer - one she presumed was an agent of the Mages Association - and she had to stop herself from biting her lip in frustration. Moctezuma assured her that if she said something along the lines of what she did, then it’d go well and they could have an ally. Was this all a coincidence, or was there some serendipity behind all this that drew this specific woman into her path?

    “What I think is that there’s nothing you can do about it.” Her voice rose and her hands trembled, and as though on cue, Moctezuma stepped in from behind the door, carrying a delicate plate with two ceramic cups balanced atop it.

    With a broad smile he set the plate down on the nightstand by the bed like a peace offering and, knowing his very presence raised more questions than it could ever answer, disappeared back behind the door whence he came.

    Eleanor let out a small sigh of relief: she knew Jacqueline would piece together that this was a Servant, and her mage’s instincts would sense his strength. An unspoken threat.

    “Now, please, take a sip of this. It is new to me, too, but it’s a fantastic delicacy to calm the nerves.” She offered up a cup after taking a small drink from her own, held close to her chest.

    Jacqueline frowned at the strange liquid. It was reminiscent of coffee or chocolate, but had the smell of neither. Gingerly she took the cup that was given to her and let just a few drops pass her lips. It was an equal mix of sweet, bitter, and spicy, the tastes mixing and swirling together as it flowed down her tongue. She’d expected it to be boiling hot like fresh coffee, too, but no: it was cool like milk, and with a similar body. The first few sips were hard to get down and her eyes nearly started to water at the strangeness of it - a small part of her even suspected a poison - but before long her cup was empty to the last drop. True to Eleanor’s word, the beverage had cleared her mind and made her feel refreshed, and she breathed deeply and freely for the first time since their conversation began.

    Eleanor eventually finished her cup as well, and set it down on the platter. “It’s xocolatl, an ancient drink. Moctezuma made it for me in place of tea this morning… or was it yesterday? Well, he made it somehow, and I trusted him enough to try it. I’d thought cocoa only became comestible once Europeans took it and mixed it with sugar, but I’m starting to rethink that.”

    “I see.” Jacqueline nodded amicably, but this momentary clear-headedness just made her realise how much she didn’t know. Even the answers she had now contradicted each other.

    “Anyway, thank you,” she continued, trying not to bring attention to the gap in power between them. There was something hiding behind Eleanor’s socialised kindness, but Jacqueline wasn’t sure if the girl herself was aware of it yet - and she didn’t want to be there when she was. “You’ve given me a lot to think about, and again I thank you for your hospitality. But I have to leave, and find some answers on my own. If it’s any assurance to you, Miss Rosemary-Richardson, I mean you no harm as an observer. I… lost touch with the people I used to know, shall we say.”

    “You’re more than welcome, and I understand.” Eleanor let out a melodic whistle like a bird herself, and in through the window like some fairy-tale flew a half-dozen robins carrying the black dress Jacqueline had been wearing last night, or this morning, or whenever she’d been attacked and left for dead only for this helpful young woman to happen upon.

    The more she thought about it, the more the coincidences and uncertainty seemed to pile up and not in her favour. Whatever their source, she felt it was not by chance that Eleanor and her ‘Servant’ were the ones to find her. God and fate were dubious concepts, but magic she knew, and it weaved a thread wholly of its own design.

    Eleanor gave Jacqueline a pat on the shoulder, and let her know that she would be happy to help her through any confusion she found herself in. At the same time, as a manner of paying her back, Eleanor made it explicit that she wanted any information Jacqueline came across regarding the other Masters in this supposed war of which Jacqueline was, perhaps, somehow its first victim. So much for no harm to innocents, she mused.

    She dressed herself and patted down her clothing to make sure no clever little constructions of magecraft were lingering in or on it - and none were, to Eleanor’s credit.

    On her way out Jacqueline gave a smile and a nod to ‘Monteith’ along with thanks for the xocolatl, and felt a palpable relief as she stepped out the swinging front doors of the mansion.

    It was a clear and a fresh day, and she couldn’t feel an ounce of the pain that had struck her down to the bed before. The birds chirped her a goodbye as she walked down the herringbone path that led through the mansion’s gardens out to the street, where the city began to rise before her and greenery subsided as the urban horizon grew nearer. The road to the answers she sought was labyrinthine at its best, but she trusted her analytical mind to make sense of it. Long ago her family had produced and taught some of the most talented theologians the Low Countries would ever know; she liked to imagine herself heir to their intellect, if not their convictions.

    Taking a moment to breathe and collect herself so as to figure out her next destination, a wave of dizziness overcame her. She put a hand to her forehead; her temperature was normal, and not a sliver of sweat wiped off onto her palm. Yet, something in her brain felt like it was on fire.

    Then, the voice.

    “Oh, good! I’d thought I’d lost you, Jacqueline. Now, where were we?”




    Can't believe authors these days who don't have the guts to kill off their characters for real, absolute disgrace

    I hope this chapter of doomer nightwalks and Eleanor trying to be sneaky was an enjoyable one! And the mysteries of this version of the Manhattan Project grail war continue to compound, though maybe soon Clemence can offer some answers... and maybe some advice for Jacqueline to avoid dying next time, that seems to have messed things up a bit.

    For this chapter's choice, things are a bit different! Since we've seen a few faces already, that's going to be reflected on the map: characters who have been the focus of a chapter or scene will appear on the map with little chibi icons beside the icon of their map location choice. Characters who have appeared but either haven't been named or haven't featured as the star of a chapter yet will be marked by little red exclamation marks. Blue question marks are for characters who haven't shown up in any way yet. Jacqueline won't get a special icon unless she's the focus of a whole chapter, since she's kind of presumed to show up anywhere, anytime.

    Map: August 21, 1963, Daytime


    For the record btw since I don't have enough space for longer names on the icons, the Euclid is an apartment building, the Mayflower is a hotel, and L'Ambassade is the French Embassy residence. Make of that what you will!
    <NEW FIC!> Revolution #9: Somewhere out there, there's a universe in which your mistakes and failures never happened, and all you wished for is true. How hard would you fight to make that real?

    [11:20:46 AM] GlowStiks: lucina is supes attractive
    [12:40] Lace: lucina is amazing
    [12:40] Neir: lucina is pretty much flawless

  2. #22
    死徒(下級)Lesser Dead Apostle
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    What a wonderful chapter!
    It just feels so right that Jacqueline is from Belgium. Her nationality explains so much about her.
    But like Kiryu Moeka from Steins Gate, her ennui is somehow a charm point.

    All she could do was slump back in her chair, exhausted at the unknowability of her place in the world.
    Although it's from last chapter, I really liked this line for how unabashedly Jacqueline it is. Who else could slump so expressively?

    A particularly nasty thought assailed Jacqueline just then, and she shook her head to chase it away. If there was a heaven and a hell, she imagined, what kind of cruel afterlife would it be to have this chattering voice stuck in her skull for eternity?
    For any other failures death could prove to be an escape, but this one threatened to follow her even beyond mortality.
    Is that a No Exit reference? Jacqueline really is too much. And I mean this positively of course.


    She could feel the dull pressure of Clemence peering in on her thoughts. “Oh, don’t worry, I can’t see anything. If I could use your eyes, well… we both know how special they are.
    Most are just windows to the soul, as they say, but yours are a window to a whole world. Opportunities. Regrets. Alternatives…” They trailed off.
    Mystic eyes!
    If this were a different time and place (not the nearly-dead fanfiction subforum on BL, but an alternate reality version of Spacebattles or perhaps General Discussion), there would be debates over Jacqueline's mystic eyes and power level.
    "Can Jacqueline kill servants? Was she merely being pessimistic when she said she couldn't survive jumping off of tall buildings? Her losses to ------- and to ------- aren't proof she can't kill servants, she was just jobbing..."


    ***
    I have an entire week off work in mid-November, during which I'll re-read MPII. The chapter before this one in particular confirmed to me that my memory is not what it once was.
    How can I offer accurate feedback about Francois if his voice, worldview, and internal conflicts aren't fresh in my mind?
    It will be a pleasure to reacquaint myself with James, Johana, Caesarko, and friends.

  3. #23
    アルテミット・ソット Ultimate Thot Five_X's Avatar
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    Glad you liked it, and that Jacqueline manages to be something of a charismatic protagonist! I'd always (since I posted that teaser years and years ago) envisioned her as a "hell is other people"-person, but the addition of Clemence I think highlights that. I'd severely underestimated how much easier it is to write internal monologue when a character has a literal voice in their head to contend with.

    I was recently looking over some old MPII discussion, and I definitely tried to stoke some exciting powerlevel discussion! At the time MPII was one of the main fics dealing with new Servants and in an era before FGO, so of course people got mad about strong Servants and stat allocations and stuff. But also reading my posts from back then makes me kind of miserable, because I really was awful. Then again I was a teenager. I'm amazed at your ambition to read that old epic in a single week! I would offer you the literary equivalent of a hazmat suit if I knew of one, but I hope reading through my old writing isn't too painful, and that you get some interesting insights from going back to it in 2021. I double-checked a few things and was a little surprised at how good some parts were; I got a little choked up reading Eleanor's last scene, I'm surprised I managed to write something that moving.

    Speaking of discussion though! I've decided I'll start uploading this story to ao3 and ff.net once I get a chance to. In my hopes and dreams that'll mean more people chatting about the story here, as well as more votes! Democracy!!
    <NEW FIC!> Revolution #9: Somewhere out there, there's a universe in which your mistakes and failures never happened, and all you wished for is true. How hard would you fight to make that real?

    [11:20:46 AM] GlowStiks: lucina is supes attractive
    [12:40] Lace: lucina is amazing
    [12:40] Neir: lucina is pretty much flawless

  4. #24
    Imaginatio vera et non phantastica Leftovers's Avatar
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    There was no heart in there, only the hard and twisted ball of a bullet. As her fingertip, stained through with red, touched it again it grew, as though replacing her heart in her soaking chest cavity; it sharpened and lengthened away from the hole, tearing itself out by force unbidden by Jacqueline herself, and from behind half-lidded eyes still dyed dazzling colours she saw her killer take one step back, then another, her dull brown eyes as wide as saucers like she’d become the one shot dead.

    The metal twisted in circle after circle, a black mass now like a blade, hardly resembling the bullet that had struck her. It was as long as a hand before long, and it extended faster and faster; then came the ivory of bone dyed a deep crimson, reaching out from her chest like an arm.

    It lunged out with a mind of its own and stabbed the mercenary woman through, up through her stomach under her ribcage to pierce her heart in the ultimate sympathetic act of shared mortality. Out it bloomed from her limp body, like a stamen from the heart of a scarlet flower.
    Really well done. This brand of weirdcool is exactly what makes nightwalks such treats. The implication of permanence is interesting, too. The clues surrounding Jacqueline accumulate, but it's still too early for me to tell how closely the premise of Ataraxia will be mirrored. Which, hey, just makes it all the more interesting.

    Yet doubts arose again when a figure in ephemeral white, surrounded by a halo of red, came to the bedside - an angel? Blue eyes the colour of the deep ocean looked back with concern and sympathy, and a pale, gentle hand touched the sleeper’s clammy forehead.
    MAI WAIFU

    I'd wish that were me but Eleanor shot through my heart years ago <3

    Speaking of discussion though! I've decided I'll start uploading this story to ao3 and ff.net once I get a chance to. In my hopes and dreams that'll mean more people chatting about the story here, as well as more votes! Democracy!!
    Good to hear. Despite the hassle, think about archiving MP2 there too. As for little old me, the Euclid seems the place to go to see more familiar faces.

  5. #25
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    I think I enjoy writing Jacqueline/Clemence for the same reason I enjoyed writing Johana in Invocations back in the day: they both have the kind of personalities that make just about any situation strange and interesting. Now, if they met...
    <NEW FIC!> Revolution #9: Somewhere out there, there's a universe in which your mistakes and failures never happened, and all you wished for is true. How hard would you fight to make that real?

    [11:20:46 AM] GlowStiks: lucina is supes attractive
    [12:40] Lace: lucina is amazing
    [12:40] Neir: lucina is pretty much flawless

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    August 21, 1963

    James rolled over in bed with a groan, and caught in the corner of his eye a slender figure radiating a soothing warmth. The light on his bleary eyes was fooling him, he thought, and he covered his face with a broad hand to shut out the intruding morning sun just a little longer. He fell over onto his side again, stiffly sore in every muscle from his shoulders to his shins, yet even when he stretched himself fully and languidly like a cat in the sunlight, the aches persisted.


    Then he felt a shift in the mattress beside him, tugging the blanket over, and only then did he slip his hand away and reassess that vague shape.

    Dark eyes flicked up from the worn pages of a book to glance at him, but only for a moment. Wheat-blonde hair fell messily over tan, Mediterranean skin - more skin than James expected as his own eyes trailed down from that inquisitive, serious face down to a slim waist and the high curve of broad hips, with legs graciously covered by the thin cotton curtain of a white bedsheet.

    At once James trembled with anxious unease at this utter unknown, even as his body couldn’t deny him something else, too, trembling between his thighs with an unbidden rush.

    His exhausted mind was caught between fight-or-flight adrenaline and taboo enticement, yet all he could do was watch the regular flicking of the woman’s eyes as they crossed each page in turn with the same intensity as his crossing the curves of her body. Her slight fingers turned over to the next page, the first sound that touched James’ ears that morning - it echoed through the bedroom like a carillon, deafening him to all else. His quivering hands longed simultaneously to grasp her close and to shove her away.

    What felt to him most perplexing was how familiar an unknown she seemed to be, at once a stranger in the night and a long-lost lover.

    Eventually, though, she’d had enough of his studious examination - or his hesitation - and stared back at him with a surprising vivacity to those dark, near-black eyes of hers.

    “What’s the matter?” she asked quizzically, closing the book with her pinky finger between the pages as an impromptu bookmark - she fully intended to get back to reading once she got her answer.

    The first thing that struck him, before any response or retort, was that she had chosen as her apparent morning-after literature an antique, delicately-bound copy of the collected writings of Thomas Paine.

    So, James thought: if nothing else, this woman was the sort to start her day off not with a coffee or jam on toast but with Revolutionary War pamphlets. He couldn’t deny being fascinated in a dire kind of way he never thought his life would come to. A mosaic of answers to the many questions that swirled around him now began to fit itself together in his mind. His eyes unconsciously turned to the inlaid subtitle of the book that now drooped to the bedsheets: Including Common Sense. Oh, how he wished it did.

    “I just…” he stuttered, earning a smile from his companion. “Who are you?”

    The woman’s tender smile fell apart.

    “I feared this might happen. Oh, where to start…”

    James shrugged. Hearing her voice again, like the sound of the far-off ocean in a seashell, finally set his body at ease. “Anywhere?”

    Reluctantly putting Common Sense down on her pillow, she reached out and touched his hand; reflexively he recoiled at the sensation, at first icy then slowly becoming warm, soft, welcoming.

    We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” She left a deliberate pause, for those words to sink in. No response. All she received was a confused furrow of the brow from her weary bed partner. “I was told to tell you that, and then all would make sense to you. It seems either they lied, or some other power is at work here. Fascinating…” The woman studied James, looking deep into his eyes as though there was something in his soul she could read which would reveal the truth all at once.

    “Whoever told you to say that knew me well, but they forgot to let me in on it. Any other hints they might’ve given you? And… who, exactly? My name’s-”

    “James, I know,” she cut him off. His eyes went wide, but she only sighed. She sat up and gave a quick glance to her book. Every inch of her body was uncovered before James, her low, teardrop breasts rising with each steady breath, though she didn’t seem to care whatever state of dress she was in as though this was simply the established norm between them.

    James immediately looked away, shading his eyes as though looking upon the white-hot glory of the sun. For him, it was only modesty.

    He bunched the bedsheets around his waist. “Could we, ah… get dressed first?”

    She was utterly noncommittal, happy to let him dictate the flow of their conversation so long as there was a conversation, it seemed. Her eyes once again betrayed an uncertain familiarity, and it wasn’t gladly that she picked a shirt up off the wooden floor and slipped it on over her head. James, for his part, donned a nightshirt and some cotton pants, and then he stood with the bed between them both like a safety barricade.

    “I don’t know what you,” he pointed to her, then back to himself, “and I… are, exactly, and as much as I want to find out, there are a lot of questions we need to answer first.”

    The woman nodded, but was silent; now that he was standing in the light she noted how strangely new he felt to her eyes, even though her conscious mind told her that they were already more than familiar with one another. Unmistakable memories were there: her fingers tracing lines through his sleek brown hair; those tense, calloused hands wrapped around hers, fingers entangled in an intimate lovers’ web; the comforting rise of his broad chest under her cheek as his palm stroked her bare back. It all came to her in a rush, but now she feared those memories might not even be her own.

    “Those words are the first I remember hearing, like imagery from a dream that fades on waking,” she said softly. Idly she ran her hand over the bookshelf that stood tall and solitary in the bedroom, her fingers picking out a well-thumbed Hemingway she recalled reading the day before last - if she ever really did.

    James shook his head, sharing no similar recollection. “Before waking up this morning, all that stands out to me is… my dad, telling me how important what I was about to do was. I remember that: we’re here in D.C., right? For the Grail War. I’d just arrived, and… I’d planned to summon a Servant tonight - but for some reason that feels like it was a long time ago now.”

    Verve returned to the woman’s eyes at Grail War and Servant, and she immediately slipped The Sun Also Rises back onto the shelf and paced over to beside James, the bathroom door at his back like the postern gate of a castle.

    “I was hoping you would remember at least that much. I’m your Servant, if there was any doubt.”

    There was, in fact, some doubt. James raised an eyebrow and tried to step back, but his heel dug into the doorframe and he had no easy way out. “I haven’t even summoned my Servant yet, I’m sure of that.”

    He held up his right arm, letting the sleeve of his shirt fall down to his elbow. Icy blue lines traced delicate patterns under his skin like fish just beneath the ocean waves, but there was no other sign there: no triad of command seals which would identify him to any observer in-the-know as a Master in this war, to say nothing of his alleged Servant before him.

    “You have, in fact,” she said more resolutely. She held out her palm flat before him, and from each of her fingertips arose golden lights, each taking its place in concentric circles: a representation of the solar system floating in her hand, joined now by an outline formed from the curves of her hands, filled in with Greek letters, hieroglyphics, and others James couldn’t begin to comprehend.

    She smiled proudly up at him. “You should know me well: in this era, they call me Cleopatra Philopator, though if you wish you could also properly refer to me as ‘The great lady of perfection, excellent in counsel’ or, simply, Isis.” It seemed as crucial in that moment that she now knew herself as herself, as it was that James too could give a name to her.

    “Alright, then,” he nodded, a serious tone to his voice. “I’m glad to meet you, Isis. I hope we’ll make a good team.”

    Her regal bearing and divine poise collapsed in on itself just as her lips crumpled into a smirk which opened into bright laughter.

    “You go along with it so readily! I quite like you, James - and your library, though no Alexandria, has also proven to suit my intellectual tastes.” Once more she appraised him, those dark eyes flitting up and down, then back to the books and at last to James again. “Yes, I think we will get along well… quite well.”

    James’ hand reached behind his back for the doorknob, and with nothing but a slight nod he slipped away into the bathroom with the door shut behind him.

    Looking in the mirror, he saw nothing amiss in his face; he checked his body, too, and there were no bruises or marks, no sign that he’d been tampered with. A story came freshly to his mind from a couple years ago of a couple abducted by aliens somewhere in New England. In the kind of world he lived in as a magus, even an outrageous fantasy like that seemed rationally possible.

    He turned on the faucet, and the refreshing chill of water splashed on his face chased away the exhaustion of a seemingly sleepless night. As he brushed his teeth, questions mounted in his mind. It felt as though he’d lost a whole day, but he couldn’t conjure up a single memory from before waking this morning. To add to that, his body still ached all over, as though he’d spent the hours from midnight to sunrise in vigorous exercise. Was this woman even his Servant, or was ‘Cleopatra’ some clever magus herself?

    That last question made his chest tighten. There was something familiar about her that he could feel in the depths of his heart when he so much as looked her way. Was it nothing more than how a Master was supposed to feel the connection he had to his Servant? Who was she really to him, or him to her?

    He hesitated to look at his left hand, where his finger showed not even a trace of where a ring ought to be. What happened last night to end up with her naked in his bed, he didn’t dare ask just yet. If this was part of some greater ploy at his expense, he wouldn’t risk giving it away with his own suspicion before he could figure out more about what was going on.

    His father had taught him to be prudent, and though he had failed disastrously to heed that advice in the past, it was a mistake that wouldn’t be repeated. Not now, when so much more hung in the balance.

    He emerged from the bathroom to ‘Cleopatra’ laying, as before, with her sharp eyes poring over the pages of Thomas Paine’s philosophical ponderings.

    At the sight of James she rolled over and set the book aside. “Freshened up? I wanted to ask for some context regarding a few phrases here and there…”

    James folded his arms and, modestly, took a seat on the edge of the bed. “How about we trade? You ask your question, I give an answer; I ask a question, you give an answer. Sound fair?”

    “It seems to me that you have more questions than I, but… very well.” She raised her eyebrows, her lips forming a little frown as James sat frigidly far from her.

    “You and this Thomas Paine here are both Americans, if I understand correctly? So, I suspect you could explain the way he intends ‘liberty’ and ‘tyranny’ to be used here.”

    James’ lips parted as though to speak, but he was first for a moment struck by the novelty of this half-naked woman asking him to contextualise 18th century literature. Never before had he met a woman who’d read Thomas Paine. Judging from the books on the shelf that he could tell were out of place, she’d even made it through his boyhood favourite Hemingways as well.

    He shook his head - it was a distraction. “That almost sounds like two questions to me.”

    Cleopatra scoffed. “Are you going to answer them?”

    “America was a British colony when he wrote what you’re reading, and he was born in England, so it’s more accurate to say he was British then. Meanwhile I was born in West Virginia, about four hundred miles due west of here.” He relented to answer her second question, too, without trying his luck again. “Now, liberty, and tyranny…”

    James massaged his forehead, trying to figure out the most succinct way to go about his explanation, with memories surging back of having a half hour left on the clock in his university exams with a full essay left to compose. His professors assured him it was vital to his education, but he doubted they expected that usefulness would materialise in the form of a curious Cleopatra.

    “Liberty, I suppose, is the fundamental right of a person to choose his way of living and government, so long as it doesn’t harm others in their pursuit of the same.”

    “His?”

    He let out a disgruntled sigh, turning away from her. “Look, I know what you’re getting at - that’s just the language of the Declaration of Independence and the rest, alright? In fact, if you want to know what tyranny is, you’re best off reading it right from the Declaration of Independence; the founding fathers saw King George III of Britain as the archetypal tyrant.”

    “Understandable,” said Cleopatra, relenting in her own way. “Where is this document, is there a library where it’s been copied onto a scroll or something, or do you have it in a book like Thomas Paine’s pamphlets?”

    James gave her an odd look. “I’m American, but I’m not so intensely patriotic that I’ve got a copy of the Declaration of Independence hanging on my wall.”

    He glanced at his bookshelf, then sighed. “You know what - let’s head to the archives; they’ve got it on display in the rotunda there. It’s about an hour’s walk from here, are you okay with that?”

    Curling up into a seated position on the bed, Cleopatra nodded her assent. James bundled up some of his clothes from the closet and ushered himself into the bathroom again, away from those prying dark eyes. He took a deep breath as he pulled up his jeans and collapsed his belt, hoping this diversion would satisfy her enough that he’d be able to get in more than his fair share of questions. She owed him at least two, after all.

    By the time he was done, Cleopatra was back on the bed, back in her book, looking as though she’d already been fully dressed the whole time: gone was the linen shift, replaced by a slim green dress, nipped in at the waist, with a neckline that exposed her collarbones; white gloves covered up her arms up to her elbows, though in a departure from the norms of fashion she otherwise followed, she had no hat and her blonde hair touched her shoulders, tied up in the back by a French braid intertwined by a length of red cloth trimmed with gold. Her shoes matched her dress, and had a slim profile with a low, thin heel.

    In that same span of time, James had put on a cotton check shirt and blue jeans. The shirt was one he'd had when he started university four years ago and served him well through exam after exam, but the blue jeans were newer; the dress code of his college looked down on them and so he rarely had on a pair despite his preference for their comfort and ease of wearing. While he admired Cleopatra's surprisingly modern style, he grabbed his grandfather's Bulova watch off the nightstand and slipped it on, briefly checking the time. It wasn't yet noon; he let out a breath of relief. Gesturing to Cleopatra, he headed for the apartment's kitchenette and made the two up a pair of ham and cheese sandwiches before they left on their journey to the archives.

    Out in the morning sun, they headed south from the Euclid apartments where James was renting. The air still held a dewy coolness that would be soon betrayed by the sweltering afternoon heat, but for now the walk was a sweet and pleasant one. It was nice enough that, for a while, dressed as they were and acting as they were, walking down the street like any other two people - James wondered if the Grail War and Masters and Servants were just an imagination, a dream that had bled into reality.

    “Anyway, what I wondered was,” James began, returning to their earlier back-and-forth, “How do you Servants work? Do you get tired, hungry? And where did you get those clothes?”

    Cleopatra raised two fingers. “Aha, you asked two questions as well! The second has the simplest answer, so: I conjured them. Probably any Servant could do the same out of necessity, but as you saw I can conjure plenty of other things, too. As for the first, yes, we experience sensations like hunger and exhaustion - I accepted that sandwich you made, after all - though in ways different from you. We Servants are, in a sense, spirits inhabiting physical vessels, close to how you would imagine your soul residing in your body: if one fails, so too does the other. I couldn’t starve to death, but my physical form could crave nourishment, or my muscles could be overtired and need rest. With some application of magical energy I could negate those sensations - or you could, through different means - but I think most Servants, myself included, would consider that a waste of resources. After all, wouldn’t you say eating and sleeping feel good?”

    “Sometimes I feel like if I didn’t have to eat or sleep I’d get a lot more done in life, though,” James said with a shrug. They rounded a corner, now onto a street that would take them straight south past the White House. He didn’t even hint at it to her, but James had a secret spark of hope in his heart that when Cleopatra saw the National Mall and its architecture, she’d stop dead in her tracks in awe at his country’s beautiful capital.

    “It has been two millennia since I last lived and breathed, James; all those simple things make me feel truly alive again, and you cannot know how precious that is to a spirit like me.”


    Indulging her curiosity, James described in detail the various cuisines he could replicate in his mind’s eye and the memories of his palate: Guatemalan tostadas served in family diners in Columbia Heights; the juicy, fried street food of New Orleans; state fair hot dogs in white buns as soft as their cotton candy; Midwestern fast-food hamburgers, straight from the grill to your car, and many more delicacies all to be found in the finest nation on Earth.

    “Hmm.” Cleopatra nodded with eyes closed, trying to envision this foreign cuisine. “You make a good case for ‘hamburgers’ and ‘hot dogs’ in particular. I will be sure to include them in the victory feast when we have won this war, once you have introduced me to them. Beef was only ever a small part of my diet in Egypt, but on the rare occasion I had a taste I found the flavour to be agreeable.”

    To James they were just burgers, but now he started to consider how many strange new experiences the modern world - and America in particular - must hold for a Servant.

    He told her a bit more of the food he grew up with, and in turn she shared extravagant stories of peppered squid, ten-pound honey cakes, and whole ostriches stewed in rich wine and fish sauce. James didn’t want to hold anything against her, but once she began detailing a course of sheep’s brain he swiftly drew her attention to a peculiar architectural landmark of the city they were about to pass: the Freemason temple headquarters, constructed after the ancient model of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus in Anatolia, complete with Ionic columns and a pair of guardian sphinxes flanking a foreboding black door. All that indicated that the structure wasn’t a Hellenistic ruin brought to life in downtown D.C. were its electric lights and conspicuous American flags.

    “So Americans do have a flair for the monumental after all!” Cleopatra exclaimed, striding over to one of the sphinxes and climbing its plinth to stroke its stone mane. “I’ve seen the original mausoleum with my own eyes - it’s far grander, naturally - but I am glad to see that admiration and emulation of Hellenistic aesthetics did not end with the Romans.”

    James laughed, enjoying her enthusiasm. “Just wait until you see the Capitol, or - no, even better, you’ll get a glimpse of the Washington Monument soon enough. I can’t wait to see your expression then.”

    He had a broad, excited smile on his face, but at the time he didn’t fully appreciate how honest this feeling was. Cleopatra was fun to be around, and there was a spark of amity between them as they continued to walk and talk and smile and laugh that James thought could only belong to people who had known each other for years. Willingly or not, he didn’t notice his prior suspicions and uncertainty drying up in the warm afternoon sunshine; amidst their friendly banter, even the pain of his aching muscles vanished.

    Along the way south they passed scores of other buildings that intrigued Cleopatra in all their own ways: some were neoclassical like the temple, others Neo-Gothic, Romanesque revival, colonial, or Georgian. Such an eclectic city reminded her of Alexandria, she told him - of home.

    They reached Dupont Circle, not far from the White House, and at the park at Lafayette Square just before the presidential residence, the towering pinnacle of the Washington Monument peeked into view ahead.

    “Gods! How tall is that? I expected something no higher than the mausoleum, but…” Her words trailed off as her eyes fixed on the sky, trying to measure it, but tree-tops and roof-tops obstructed her view and her calculations.

    James beamed proudly. “Over five hundred feet - the tallest obelisk in the world, and we built it ourselves; it’s all-American.”

    “Taller than the pyramid of Cheops… incredible. The Romans plundered their glories from Egypt rather than erecting their own, as soon as that upstart Octavian saw the beauty of my homeland. I am starting to admire your country and people, James - I hope you don’t end up disappointing me.”

    He laughed. “I’ll try not to.”

    Their path took them tantalisingly close to seeing the full splendor of the obelisk, and as James was about to lead them down Pennsylvania Avenue toward their original destination of the National Archives, Cleopatra bid him stop. They were too close now to the Washington Monument, and she wanted to see all of it. James, meanwhile, had hoped her eyes would fall on the White House and her naturally inquiring mind would ask him about it, and he’d get the chance to extoll the virtues of the Republic, but perhaps it hadn’t the lofty monumentality she sought.

    Very soon, the two could see the whole of the Washington Monument, soaring into the blue sky. Cleopatra closed her eyes and collapsed her hands together, as though in prayer.

    “It’s beautiful…” she said, barely above a whisper, almost drowned out by the busy sounds of an urban landscape.

    “This is our pride and joy,” James told her, gesturing to the whole of the National Mall that lay before them, a thriving garden crafted with supreme precision; it was the heart of the American Republic like the solemn forum of its ancient antecedent - but where Roman monuments aggrandised the wealth and power of deified emperors, these monuments honoured past paragons of flesh and blood, its temples not to capricious gods but to the ideals of reason and virtue which every citizen ought to embody. But whether one stood at the Capitoline Hill or the White House, the idea impressed upon the observer was the same: this place, more than any other on this Earth, stood for the pinnacle of what humanity could accomplish.

    It was the fate of the city upon the hill, to have the eyes of all peoples upon it. James, for all his earnest love of country, had to wonder: was it the weight of that same gaze that toppled mighty Rome? Would Washington, too, someday have its Odoacer?

    “If you don’t mind,” he said, interrupting Cleopatra’s contemplative vigil before the obelisk, “I’d like to go to the Smithsonian. I’m feeling… nostalgic, kind of. It’s a museum, and there’s some Greek and Egyptian art there too that you’ll like.”

    Her eyes fluttered open, and she turned about to face him. “Is that so? Does something in particular call you there, or just a feeling?”

    James shrugged. “Lately, I don’t know why, but my thoughts have been drawn to Rome.”

    “You are far from the first,” she said with a knowing smile. “In my time, all the people I met only ever had one of two opinions on Rome: either it was a great beacon to which they were inexorably drawn, or it was the enemy of all people, for the way it threatened that which they held most sacred and dear.”

    “And yourself? What did you think of Rome?”

    Cleopatra laughed. “You forget that I am not a person, but a goddess, the spirit of Isis made manifest. And a goddess cares not for the politics of men, only for those who ensure her sacred spaces are never empty - and centuries after the last pharaoh’s solar barge departed to the realm of Osiris, the Romans built me temples anew.”

    “Well, we’ve got Cleopatra’s Needle here in America, so that’s close enough, right? It’s in New York City, though.”

    For James that was just an aside, but it immediately garnered Cleopatra’s attention, and she looked at James with eyes aglimmer.

    “Then take me there, not this ‘Smithsonian’!”

    James’ face fell, neatly betraying the apprehension he felt at having to deliver her a fresh disappointment: “I’m… afraid that’d be a day trip, even if traffic was light. Maybe if the war gets quiet we can head there, but it’s a big enough place to keep anyone busy for weeks. If you think D.C. is big, you won’t believe New York.”

    “I will believe it if and when I see it,” she said with a frown, steepling her fingers together as she reluctantly acquiesced. “The Smithsonian will do, for now.”

    They kept walking, the famous natural history museum not too far from the Washington Monument and on the way to the archives anyway. James checked his watch and, seeing the time, grumbled to himself: it was past two in the afternoon. The archives would close at the same time as the museum. However, he didn’t want to get in the way of Cleopatra having a good time; it was her first day here, after all. Not to mention, he had his own motivations for wanting to be amidst the ancient artifacts of a time and place he felt so strangely connected to.

    At the museum admissions desk James handed over cash for two tickets, and they passed into the Smithsonian rotunda, a tall, stately room with glistening polished floors, which could easily be mistaken for the entrance to a high government building if not for a massive African elephant which stood in mid-stride to greet visitors.

    Cleopatra looked up, down, and all around at the hall’s architecture, occasionally glancing down to a map she’d picked up to get a sense of the whole structure’s scale. With every step she seemed to be appraising the room, with its ornamental balconies, classical columns, and Romanesque window arches high above. James, who had memorised the Smithsonian’s floor plan as a boy and so ably led his guest around, noticed a sharp light of admiration in her eyes as she took in this eclectic space.

    Her enthusiasm had ebbed before stepping into the museum, but now that she was here she wanted to see everything it had to offer. James had to tell her the museum would close before then, he explained with a sigh, and she accepted this with her usual disappointed noblesse, picking up her pace to compensate.

    “To think, you Americans even emulated my Alexandria’s great musaeum in the construction of your own splendid city. I really must thank my ancestors for laying the foundations of such an influential metropolis - and yours too, I suppose, for having good taste. Though, I understand it was that eccentric Octavian who in his older years first had the idea to exhibit the bones of ancient creatures such as these here.”

    That tidbit surprised James, and as he walked his usual route to the rooms of Greco-Roman antiquities, he had to wonder how much of what she knew was never recorded and so would never be recorded by modern scholars. Even the prestigious Smithsonian’s displays only told so much of the true story, a collection of imperfect interpretations ever at the mercy of time.

    The hall of Greco-Roman, Egyptian, and other ancient artifacts was small, nothing like the collections of the British Museum or the Louvre, but it was close to home.

    Cleopatra got as close as she could to the sarcophagus that had been placed on display. A member of staff came up to her to ask if she had any questions, but without a word she shook her head and waved him off.

    “Is that a relative of yours in there?”

    “James,” she sighed, tearing her eyes from the sarcophagus for the single moment she needed to glare at him, “The gulf of time between when I was alive and when whoever was interred in this stone died is as vast as that which separates my era from your own. Think of that, whenever you think of Egypt. The Romans would have been ecstatic to have maintained their empire for even half as long a time.”

    Before James could make his retort, his eyes were drawn to the small section on Roman antiquities.

    It wasn’t much: a few busts, household goods, and a set of worn coins. One bust was the head of a noblewoman, and another was of an emperor; he’d taken some courses in the classics in university, but never had the depth of knowledge needed to properly appreciate the context of these scattered relics. What caught his attention most of all, though, was a coin only about the size of a penny, rendered a rusty brown from extreme age, most of its features indistinct. What was most clear was the image of an elephant on its face, above the word ‘CAESAR’.

    James’ breaths turned shallow, his mouth cotton-dry. A small card beside the coin explained that it was minted during Julius Caesar’s first dictatorship, around 48 BC.

    He turned to look back again at Cleopatra, but he found that wetness had welled up in his eyes and all he could see was the blurry image of her, of dark blonde hair tied with a red ribbon, her back to him. Part of him was glad that she couldn’t see him in such a state, but another part of him wanted her to see, to understand, so that he’d have to begin to explain the feeling of reminiscence that had such a grip on his heart.

    The disquieting sense of familiarity that had reared up in the back of James’ mind when he awoke in the morning and saw Cleopatra in that moment became a realisation as sudden and as hard as a kick between the eyes.


    There are a handful of MPII characters I've had to think a great deal about how to introduce them into this story. James and Caesar were two of them: I knew that to copy and paste them from the end of that story, as war-bonded lovers, because it'd be hard to really do much more with them. On the flip side, reverting them to the relationship they had in the very beginning would feel like potentially retreading the same ideas over again, which would be even worse. While I was coming up with Revolution, the thought came to me: what if James remembered Caesar, but she didn't remember him, or vice versa? Then that developed into this. Maybe straight-up cutting one of the main two protagonists of MPII is a bit too bold, but I'm interested to see where it goes.

    Also, in this chapter I tried to do some justice to the urban landscape of Washington, DC. Incredibly, I still haven't been there, but I do what I can through research and everyone's best friend, Google Maps. I've written enough about it by this point that in Highwayman's alternate universe where MPII has a huge following, I could give tours of the city showing off all the places where different exciting moments took place, like the anime pilgrimages people do.

    At the very least, I hope people have been enjoying this story so far, and I hope to see more people commenting in the future! I'd love nothing more than for there to be some active banter here about what's going on with the plot and characters, even if we're still in the beginning stages yet. We can only grow from here!

    Map: August 21, 1963, Nighttime

    I am proud to present today: the Revolutionary Chibi Set! Behold! In the top-left you have Cleopatra (standing in for herself and James) and in the middle you have Eleanor (standing in for herself and Moctezuma). The exclamation mark, as before, is an unnamed character who has shown up in a chapter already. Happy democratising!
    <NEW FIC!> Revolution #9: Somewhere out there, there's a universe in which your mistakes and failures never happened, and all you wished for is true. How hard would you fight to make that real?

    [11:20:46 AM] GlowStiks: lucina is supes attractive
    [12:40] Lace: lucina is amazing
    [12:40] Neir: lucina is pretty much flawless

  7. #27
    Imaginatio vera et non phantastica Leftovers's Avatar
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    While reading I took down some notes on what I vaguely felt was off about James' muted, somewhat aimless disquiet, but reading on I found it quite appropriate that I didn't know what to make of these characters I haven't seen in a long time as much as they weren't quite sure about each other. There's something to be said for the simple joy of walking around during a Grail War, just taking in the sights, that takes you by the hand like Rin on her first date and lets you simply vibe. Also, as someone not counted among James and Saber's greatest fans, I can only approve of your breathing some fresh air into their dynamic. My lack of confidence in whether this is Saber assuming a nostalgic nom d' amour or the genuine article is, intended or not, doing things for me. Straight-up cutting, you say? A return at the very end after a fic's worth of pining would certainly be dramatic, and even if I find it hard to believe I still want to buy it nonetheless. Speculating is fun, but at the end of the day when a fic is fun enough to raise genuine questions I enjoy just being taken for a ride.

    So this is the first difficult choice. I do want to see more of, aight, I'll just call her Cleopatra for now, and science has not been able to identify a limit to man's recommended consumption of Eleanor content, but there's just so many more characters to see. I'm leaning towards Uptown, but only just, and can be easily swayed if the populi voxes towards a different direction.

  8. #28
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    Now that you've mentioned notes, I can't not be curious about them!

    I'm happy to have satisfied a Saber/James skeptic, though I'm also kind of glad that they're not universally beloved, either as a pairing or as individuals. It makes me excited to see the results of Highwayman's re-reading of MPII, to see if there's any reassessment there, since I know he's on the opposite side of the spectrum as you on Saber/James.

    Speaking of switching, I've edited a few lines in the first chapter for clarity and grammar, and added a good number of lines to the Francois chapter to enhance his inner monologue and motivations, and to explain a bit more of his concern with the Nigel Threat. To me, at least, it makes the chapter feel a lot more organic and fleshed-out.

    Last, but not least, an exciting announcement: I've ported Revolution #9 over to AO3! You can look at it here, though it's the exact same as on BL minus the maps: https://archiveofourown.org/works/35...pters/87413305
    I can only hope and pray that this catches some eyes and brings some people here. The original MPII was quite notorious for inspiring people to de-lurk after all! Also, I've found that AO3's posting functions are a lot more advanced and accessible than FFN's, so it might not be too much of a hassle to get MPII on there, if their importing function works as I assume it does.
    <NEW FIC!> Revolution #9: Somewhere out there, there's a universe in which your mistakes and failures never happened, and all you wished for is true. How hard would you fight to make that real?

    [11:20:46 AM] GlowStiks: lucina is supes attractive
    [12:40] Lace: lucina is amazing
    [12:40] Neir: lucina is pretty much flawless

  9. #29
    Imaginatio vera et non phantastica Leftovers's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Five_X View Post
    Now that you've mentioned notes, I can't not be curious about them!
    They slipped away the moment I closed the txt file, ahaha!

    But well, they were mostly about how smoothly James went from "huh, naked woman in my bed" to "oh ok HGW right" to "let's go to the library" without a whole lot of resistance or confusion coming through - hence muted disquiet, though disquiet isn't exactly what he seemed to be feeling either. But then again, I'm not sure what he's supposed to be feeling!

  10. #30
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    Part of that is Cleopatra's powerful capital-C Charisma (which is hard to describe in terms that don't take you out, tbh, but I tried to get it across by describing her as very easy to get along with and such), but the most significant thing is James slowly remembering his attachment to Saber and projecting it on Cleopatra, whether he's right to or not. James is the kind of guy who's just terribly unlucky with women and love, really.

    Oh! As a side-note, everything described in this chapter is real and exists (or existed), including a burger joint they were going to have a scene at before I cut it for space. The coin James gets emotional over is specifically this one: https://www.si.edu/object/nmah_1841190
    Last edited by Five_X; November 12th, 2021 at 10:50 PM.
    <NEW FIC!> Revolution #9: Somewhere out there, there's a universe in which your mistakes and failures never happened, and all you wished for is true. How hard would you fight to make that real?

    [11:20:46 AM] GlowStiks: lucina is supes attractive
    [12:40] Lace: lucina is amazing
    [12:40] Neir: lucina is pretty much flawless

  11. #31
    Imaginatio vera et non phantastica Leftovers's Avatar
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    Having to settle for Cleopatra, you really feel for the guy :V

  12. #32
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    It ain't much, but it's honest work.
    <NEW FIC!> Revolution #9: Somewhere out there, there's a universe in which your mistakes and failures never happened, and all you wished for is true. How hard would you fight to make that real?

    [11:20:46 AM] GlowStiks: lucina is supes attractive
    [12:40] Lace: lucina is amazing
    [12:40] Neir: lucina is pretty much flawless

  13. #33
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    Speaking of switching, I've edited a few lines in the first chapter for clarity and grammar, and added a good number of lines to the Francois chapter to enhance his inner monologue and motivations, and to explain a bit more of his concern with the Nigel Threat. To me, at least, it makes the chapter feel a lot more organic and fleshed-out.
    A much more fitting reintroduction for Francois. Having just finished re-reading an MPII chapter featuring him (the still-very-amusing cornflake breakfast chapter at Eleanor's mansion), I can say that your edits were a success.

    As for the latest update, I mourn Caesar's absence and admit I am not quite ready to give Cleopatra a fair chance, but I agree that it would be a mistake to retread old ground. And MPII has a lot of Caesar--she was to MPII what Nero is to the Extraverse. Speaking of faces of the franchise, do you plan to post faceclaims again? I have no artistic talent myself, but it would be fun to commission some fan art of Revolution #9 characters. Perhaps of a certain melancholy Belgian?

    “This is our pride and joy,” James told her, gesturing to the whole of the National Mall that lay before them, a thriving garden crafted with supreme precision; it was the heart of the American Republic like the solemn forum of its ancient antecedent - but where Roman monuments aggrandised the wealth and power of deified emperors, these monuments honoured past paragons of flesh and blood, its temples not to capricious gods but to the ideals of reason and virtue which every citizen ought to embody. But whether one stood at the Capitoline Hill or the White House, the idea impressed upon the observer was the same: this place, more than any other on this Earth, stood for the pinnacle of what humanity could accomplish.

    It was the fate of the city upon the hill, to have the eyes of all peoples upon it. James, for all his earnest love of country, had to wonder: was it the weight of that same gaze that toppled mighty Rome? Would Washington, too, someday have its Odoacer?
    This passage says a lot about James - his motivations in the war, his worldview, etc. - but what I like most about it is how it captures the optimism of early 1960s America. Set this story in, say, 1974 or our own decade and all this talk of reason, virtue, and cities on hills would sound bizarrely naive. But instead I feel a sense of nostalgia for a prelapsarian America. I have visited the National Mall before and may visit again one day, but I can never see it through James' eyes or experience quite the same love and pride that he does.

  14. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by Highwayman View Post
    A much more fitting reintroduction for Francois. Having just finished re-reading an MPII chapter featuring him (the still-very-amusing cornflake breakfast chapter at Eleanor's mansion), I can say that your edits were a success.
    I just checked, and holy hell you've read fast!! That's about... 1/6 of the story done? Impressive!

    Looking back on it, that's a surprisingly good chapter! "Magical communism... that's the worst kind of communism." Maybe my early writing wasn't so bad after all, huh? I'm glad Francois is true to his original character!

    As for the latest update, I mourn Caesar's absence and admit I am not quite ready to give Cleopatra a fair chance, but I agree that it would be a mistake to retread old ground. And MPII has a lot of Caesar--she was to MPII what Nero is to the Extraverse. Speaking of faces of the franchise, do you plan to post faceclaims again? I have no artistic talent myself, but it would be fun to commission some fan art of Revolution #9 characters. Perhaps of a certain melancholy Belgian?
    She'll win you over soon enough just like she did James, I'm sure of it! As for faceclaims, I have a couple for Jacqueline, and I'll post one later - I think it came up years ago when I first teased Manhattaraxia, but that's in the time before memory now. I really wish I had the money to commission some art again, for her especially, but I haven't got the cash to splash like I used to. Someday, hopefully!

    This passage says a lot about James - his motivations in the war, his worldview, etc. - but what I like most about it is how it captures the optimism of early 1960s America. Set this story in, say, 1974 or our own decade and all this talk of reason, virtue, and cities on hills would sound bizarrely naive. But instead I feel a sense of nostalgia for a prelapsarian America. I have visited the National Mall before and may visit again one day, but I can never see it through James' eyes or experience quite the same love and pride that he does.
    I'd hoped I got that across successfully! It's very crucial that MPII and this story take place before Kennedy's assassination: even with the trauma of the Cuban Missile Crisis, there's still an undiluted sense of positive American exceptionalism. Kennedy's administration being posthumously dubbed "Camelot" carries immense symbolic weight - on a Type-Moon forum we should probably know that well! For one of my seminars I get to read a whole lot about American foreign policy of the 50s and 60s, and it really is remarkable how Americans even at the highest levels fully assumed that American liberal democracy represented, as it's referenced in the story, "the pinnacle of what humanity could accomplish." The end of history and of linear time, in other words. It wasn't so different than the Marxist understanding of history that the Soviets had. Soviet achievements in space exposed the cracks in American thinking; Kennedy's assassination tore off its idealistic facade; and the joint crises of Vietnam and civil rights collapsed optimistic Americana irreparably.

    Speaking of! We're currently at the end of August 21st, 1963. I'll leave you to look up what happened in Washington, D.C. on August 28th...

    Don't forget to vote again, monsieur Highwayman! Perhaps you can sway Leftovers from inciting more Cleopatra content??
    <NEW FIC!> Revolution #9: Somewhere out there, there's a universe in which your mistakes and failures never happened, and all you wished for is true. How hard would you fight to make that real?

    [11:20:46 AM] GlowStiks: lucina is supes attractive
    [12:40] Lace: lucina is amazing
    [12:40] Neir: lucina is pretty much flawless

  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Five_X View Post
    For one of my seminars I get to read a whole lot about American foreign policy of the 50s and 60s, and it really is remarkable how Americans even at the highest levels fully assumed that American liberal democracy represented, as it's referenced in the story, "the pinnacle of what humanity could accomplish." The end of history and of linear time, in other words.
    I admit I'm jealous, that sounds fascinating. I always associated this point of view with the 1990s and America's unipolar moment at the end of the Cold War, probably because Francis Fukuyama is so well known even to laymen like me (and such an easy target--he gets straw manned more than Norman Angell).

    My vote goes to the mysterious T.R. Island. Maybe some new AO3 readers will break the tie.

  16. #36
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors
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    Heh, it seems James has fallen in love with both sides of Caesar's Civil War, in a way.

    I do hope he and Cleo can regain back their familiarity and such. It was really sad what happened to Saber in MP II.

    I'm enjoying all of this Five_X.

    And how do we vote here? Because I vote for more James & Cleo right now.

    And where did you get the faceclaim chibis?
    Last edited by warellis; November 14th, 2021 at 04:25 AM.

  17. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by warellis View Post
    Heh, it seems James has fallen in love with both sides of Caesar's Civil War, in a way.

    I do hope he and Cleo can regain back their familiarity and such. It was really sad what happened to Saber in MP II.

    I'm enjoying all of this Five_X.

    And how do we vote here? Because I vote for more James & Cleo right now.

    And where did you get the faceclaim chibis?
    A commentator!! Welcome! I'm glad you're enjoying the story, coming off of MPII as well!

    It'll be more or less up to you, the collective readers, as to what happens with the characters. If you repeatedly vote for choices that feature a character, then that character will become more central to the story as a whole. Basically, choosing who the protagonists are. You vote by choosing one of the map marker options (so this time: Uptown, T.R. Island, The Mall) you want to see as the "scene" for the following chapter. I'll make a note of any choices that lead to specific characters, like how tonight's choice for Uptown leads to James and Cleopatra, and The Mall to Eleanor/Moctezuma.

    The chibis I made myself off a website! One of those paperdoll-type ones where you stick clothes, expressions, hair, etc. on a character and can save the image. I've made a fair few by now, and I think they're a pretty good representation of how the characters are supposed to look.
    <NEW FIC!> Revolution #9: Somewhere out there, there's a universe in which your mistakes and failures never happened, and all you wished for is true. How hard would you fight to make that real?

    [11:20:46 AM] GlowStiks: lucina is supes attractive
    [12:40] Lace: lucina is amazing
    [12:40] Neir: lucina is pretty much flawless

  18. #38
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors
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    I vote for Uptown.

    As for Boudica, did you base her off of FGO's version in looks, if not in clothing? Because I notice Cleopatra's looks aren't the same as FGO's.

  19. #39
    アルテミット・ソット Ultimate Thot Five_X's Avatar
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    Madame Boudicca looks like Boudicca from MPII, where she ignominiously died in one of the early chapters in 2011. Cleopatra looks like the below:

    Spoiler:

    Very familiar...

    On that note, here's a very very old faceclaim for Jacqueline, as well as her chibi icon:

    Spoiler:

    <NEW FIC!> Revolution #9: Somewhere out there, there's a universe in which your mistakes and failures never happened, and all you wished for is true. How hard would you fight to make that real?

    [11:20:46 AM] GlowStiks: lucina is supes attractive
    [12:40] Lace: lucina is amazing
    [12:40] Neir: lucina is pretty much flawless

  20. #40
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors
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    Jesus. Cleo looks almost identical to Julia. No wonder poor James is having trouble, especially with how sad his parting with her was.

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