Cherry Blossom Procession 4 1 2

[21:08] <Minaplo> ["… Now that you mention it, no, I haven't seen Alex or Asuka around for awhile." Said Misato.]
[21:17] <Raphael> "Hopefully they're not getting into any trouble," Raphael muttered. He stood with his back to one of the elegant columns lining the edge of the audience hall, watching the few instances of the UN and UEF sides interacting. Of those only Sarah and Mana (Ezra having been drawn away by the Canadian PM) seemed to have any enthusiasm to their discussions.
[21:20] <Minaplo> ["Mmm… Although now that I'm looking, I can't see Yanmei anywhere either."]
[21:23] <Raphael> "No," he agreed. "I don't like that we don't have our own security presence here. The PSB agents wouldn't be worth a damn against Phantoms."
[21:25] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. You'd hope they'd have something special in reserve, like… Well, Iron Guard, but I really doubt it." Said Misato.-
[21:26] <Minaplo> ["It's fairly alarming, yes." Said Chiisana. "Especially when there's people here with a history of attacking functions such as this."-
[21:27] <Minaplo> [And with this she nodded toward someone standing somewhere between the UN and Non-Aligned spaces of the room: Juno Winter-Lorenz.-
[21:35] <Minaplo> [Winter-Lorenz was a young woman of above average height, seeming taller due to her wiry build. She had long, wavy blonde hair tied back into a ponytail with a royal blue ribbon that matched her eyes. Her face sported a pensive expression, and when she thought no one was looking she would turn, lean against the wall, withdraw a book from the inner breast pocket of her uniform jacket before
[21:35] <Minaplo> cracking it open to a certain page. Then she would read for a few minutes, obscuring her book with her free arm; then she would dog ear the page, put it back, and look around to see if someone nearby looked as though they were interested in talking.]
[21:58] <Raphael> "No. I don't think she's a threat here," Raphael said with a shake of his head after a moment of assessment.-
[21:59] <Raphael> "Interesting idea of light reading, though. Some sort of philosophy book? I don't have enough practice in German."
[22:01] <Minaplo> ["Philosophy?" Said Roku. "That's an odd pick for a reception. I wonder if she's shy?"-
[22:02] <Minaplo> [Chiisana shook her head. "She looks quite sociable whenever she's speaking, so I don't think it's that."]
[22:10] <Raphael> "Hmm. Couldn't hurt to speak to her, I suspect."
[22:13] <Minaplo> ["Oh, you're gonna say hi, huh…" Said Chiisana with a small smile. "That'll be interesting. Good luck~"]
[22:21] <Raphael> "'Interesting', eh?"
[22:23] <Minaplo> [Chiisana's smile became very sweet indeed.]
[22:26] <Raphael> "Mph," Raphael gave her a dark look before reaching out, giving Misato's hand a quick squeeze and then stepping out of the circle.-
[22:29] <Raphael> He made his approach relatively obvious as he closed in on Juno's position, giving Mana a quick wave as he passed by Mana and making a promise to return shortly.
[22:32] <Minaplo> [Mana gave him a wave and a smile in return, as did Sarah.-
[22:33] <Minaplo> [Juno saw him approaching, and well before he finished she was looking at him directly, meeting him eye to eye.-
[22:41] <Minaplo> ["Sir Guillory, I presume?" She said, in fluent French; she had a rosy, warm voice that sounded as though it might flow into laughter at the lightest provocation.]
[22:51] <Raphael> "Yes, ma'am," he said, a small smile on his lips as he offere out his hand. "And you're General Winter-Lorenz, correct?"
[23:00] <Minaplo> ["The one and only." Said Winter-Lorenz. She had pure, bright lips; she gave Raphael a pretty smile.]
[23:04] <Minaplo> [She also took his hand and shook it firmly.]
[23:06] <Raphael> "I hope I'm not intruding. I couldn't quite tell whether you were looking for company or actively trying to avoid it."
[23:08] <Minaplo> [She laughed easily. "Two is always better than one when it comes to enjoyment, but let's just say I have some bad habits."-
[23:09] <Minaplo> ["I have a hyperactive mind; sometimes fodder's a little thin on the ground at these kinds of occasions. In that case, it's best to bring your own."]
[23:11] * Raphael grinned. "If I bore you too badly please feel free to pick yourself up with a paragraph or two."
[23:13] <Minaplo> ["The bar's set at Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, my general."]
[23:22] <Raphael> "I'll endeavour to best it, then."
[23:24] <Minaplo> ["Good." She winked. "So then, why me?"]
[23:29] <Raphael> "You were alone, and as far as I know there's no bad blood between us," Raphael said as he cast a glance over his shoulder. "Right now you're one of the few that fits the criteria."
[23:30] <Minaplo> ["Ah." She tapped the side of her nose. "I saw your altercation with Director Gadhavi."]
[23:31] <Raphael> "'Altercation', hmm? I believe it was quite polite, under the circumstances."
[23:33] <Minaplo> ["My general, you're not much of a politician." Said Winter-Lorenz. "A politican can condemn a world to war whilst speaking politely; trust me, it was an altercation."]
[23:43] <Raphael> "Mmm," Raphael acceded. His hands - until then folded at his back - found their way to his pockets.-
[23:44] <Raphael> "He's certainly keen to share some… interesting opinions."
[23:48] <Minaplo> ["Yes, I've heard." Said Winter-Lorenz. "If I'm being honest, I find them distasteful. No doubt you found them to be much worse- anyone can see you care for those young women fiercely."]
[23:50] <Raphael> "No ma'am, I am simply under their witch's spell," he said seriously.-
[23:50] <Raphael> He winced. "… Excuse me. A joke, but one in poor taste."
[23:51] <Minaplo> ["A little, but you're entitled to sarcasm." Said Winter-Lorenz with a smile.-
[23:53] <Minaplo> ["It's a striking turn of phrase, though." Said Winter-Lorenz. "The witches' spell. The power of seduction and subversion…" She shook her head. "A theme too common when it comes to demonising powerful women, my general; I'm sure you noticed."]
[00:02] <Raphael> "Quite…"-
[00:02] <Raphael> He frowned down at his shoes, more aware of himself after the minor gaffe. "If you'd like to change the subject I'd understand. Altercation or not, I don't think it's useful to speak ill of your colleague."
[00:08] <Minaplo> ["Mmm. I believe in speaking one's mind, my general, but at the same time knowing when to say it and how is important." Said Winter-Lorenz. "So you're quite wise to think so, but honestly I'm interested in this topic, so what the hell."]
[00:13] <Raphael> "Alright, ma'am."
[00:14] <Minaplo> ["Unless you're uncomfortable?"]
[00:20] * Raphael shook his head. "No, I don't think that's it. I'm just trying to keep a certain amount of… diplomacy, I suppose."
[00:20] <Minaplo> ["Fair enough, my general!"-
[00:21] <Minaplo> ["I'll let you know, then, that I'll give you a pass if you say something stupid." She gave him a wink. "So out with it."]
[00:29] <Raphael> He still gave it a moment of thought before he finally caved. "… It concerns me that the UN seems to have placed a man who speaks about bioexotics as if he's genuinely ill in command of one of the most dense clusters of them on the planet."
[00:33] <Minaplo> [Winter-Lorenz sighed. "Yes, I know what you mean, my general. In truth, the bioexotics at the Synfront, or so I hear, are not completely under his command; you could say they're only ever answering to Mary Caine, and she lets others 'borrow' them for awhile. There's limits of what he can do with them, but… It seems counter-intuitive. Perhaps that's why they recruited Ezra, so they could
[00:33] <Minaplo> slowly transfer command to him. It'd make sense; you're probably aware, but Ezra has a special touch when it comes to cases like them, my general."]
[00:41] * Raphael nodded a little. "I wondered that myself, actually."
[00:42] <Minaplo> [Winter-Lorenz nodded.-
[00:42] <Minaplo> ["By the by, when you say 'genuinely ill', you mean mentally?"]
[00:47] <Raphael> "I suppose I did," he admitted, frowning at the floor again. "And obviously that would be none of my business, nor would it be a real problem… if his paranoid delusions did not just lead him to tell me he'd have the Ayanamis killed after nearly kicking Roku to death not that long ago."
[00:49] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Winter-Lorenz. "I think that's what I find most distasteful, my general- how's he supposed to overcome his problems when he's forced to interact with them day after day?"]
[00:52] <Raphael> "Mmm. I suppose it's best to hope that you're right, and that Marshal Caine is destined for the job."
[00:53] <Minaplo> ["I agree."-
[00:53] <Minaplo> ["… There's something I'm curious about, though, my general."]
[00:53] <Raphael> "Ah?"
[00:54] <Minaplo> ["If that truly is the case with Director Gadhavi, and he was able to improve himself, would you find it in your heart to forgive him his attack on Roku?"]
[01:02] <Raphael> He mulled that over for a while, frowning slightly.-
[01:02] <Raphael> "I don't know," he admitted. "Still, would I like him to overcome any problems he may or may not have for his own benefit? I don't see why not."
[01:03] <Minaplo> ["That's a reasonable answer." Said Winter-Lorenz. "And who knows, maybe you would. You don't seem to bear any grudge to me, yet I tried to firebomb two of your allies…"]
[01:14] <Raphael> "It seemed more polite not to mention it, given the circumstances."
[01:15] <Minaplo> ["It's a little hard to avoid, let's not deny that."]
[01:21] <Raphael> "A little, ma'am," he agreed. "Still, you served time for it - I'd like to believe that counts for something - and I couldn't claim to know how you felt about any of it. It seemed simpler to give you the benefit of the doubt."
[01:22] <Minaplo> ["Cheers to you, my general." She said, quickly grabbing a glass of wine from a nearby table and toasting it at him. She smiled, dimples appearing in her cheeks, before downing the glass in one fell swoop.-
[01:23] <Minaplo> ["Let's be honest, though." She said with a wink. "You'd not miss Kuzmin if he'd cooked."]
[01:28] * Raphael did not smile this time. He said nothing, filling the silence with a drink of his own.-
[01:28] <Raphael> Finally: "I'm told one of the other dignitaries was your father, General?
[01:30] <Minaplo> ["Yes, that's right." She said, gesturing with her flute towards a man on the other side of the room; he was currently talking to Alexandrina Wales and Matthias. Lexie was listening to what he said, seriously and solemnly, whilst Matthias hovered over her shoulder, calm and dignified.-
[01:30] <Minaplo> ["Keel is his name." Said Winter-Lorenz. "A man who doesn't begrudge his little girl a mess or two…"]
[02:02] <Raphael> "Most worthwhile parents don't," Raphael said seriously. He took another sip of his wine.-
[02:02] <Raphael> "Did you both enjoy the ceremony?"
[02:04] <Minaplo> ["Well enough." Said Winter-Lorenz. "I dislike monarchies. And I've heard a few disturbing things about the new Emperor."-
[02:04] <Minaplo> ["But I'll not deny her grace and poise. She… Held up perfectly, despite how she must feel inside. I can't help but admire that."]
(15:48) <Raphael> "Mmm. It one of the required skills for royalty, by my understanding."
(15:50) <Minaplo> ["For competent royalty at any rate." Said Juno. "And this one has quite the history- I'm not sure you're aware."]
(15:51) * Raphael shook his head. "I have a passing knowledge at best, I'm afraid."
(16:07) <Minaplo> ["She has a history of being more politically involved than one in the Imperial Family ought to." Said Juno. "She's known to exercise more or less full control over the Prime Minister's full cabinet… Gained through a web of favours, threats and blackmail. She's highly popular with the people as well, and she's used her history in the Diplomatic Service to build up support among the civil servants."]
[15:42] * Raphael considered this, shooting a glance over his shoulder as though Sakurako might have appeared behind them. "… That would explain the trouble both delegations are going to, I suppose."
[15:46] <@Minaplo> ["Yes. Sakurako's support is necessary for Japan to join either faction. Of course, I don't think they'll be committing any time soon."]
[15:49] <Raphael> "There's more power in neutrality for the time being."
[15:51] <@Minaplo> ["Yes. I expect them to remain so up until the Chinese break." Said Juno. "Remove that regional threat and Japan will be all too happy to declare for the UN."]
[15:53] <Raphael> "When and not if," Raphael noted, giving her a small, humorless smile. "Quite confident."
[15:59] <@Minaplo> ["Let's not play coy, my general." Said Juno with an idle smile. "Nearly half your states are still rebuilding from the Angelic and LN Wars. The other half have consist of corrupt governments burning themselves out trying to oppress their neighbours. You're stemming the tide so far, but French arms and industry will only last so long."-
[16:00] <@Minaplo> ["One decisive battle and the edifice falls. My general, your Federation needs a miracle."]
[16:09] * Raphael chuckled. "Most of us served in NERV, ma'am. It's not an unfamiliar feeling."
[16:17] <@Minaplo> ["Fair enough, my general." Said Juno with a warm smile. "I saw Berlin burn when the Sixth Angel attacked. I won't begrudge the soldiers of NERV their courage."]
[16:29] <Raphael> "… I wonder if you'd indulge my curiosity, General?" Raphael asked after a moment of thought.
[16:32] <@Minaplo> ["Hm?"]
[16:33] <Raphael> "Why do you think this is all happening?"
[16:36] <@Minaplo> ["I suppose the war began when most of NERV went rogue."]
[16:37] <Raphael> Raphael persisted. "And why do you think -that- happened?"
[16:40] <@Minaplo> [She took a sip of wine, then smiled, her eyes twinkling. "Now that I couldn't possibly say. Perhaps the idea of all that power at their fingertips went to their heads…"]
[16:51] <Raphael> "Mmm, I think you're too smart to believe that," he said politely. "As you so astutely pointed out, fighting the UN is a… difficult proposition. It's not as though we were about to crush the Synfront under heel. The evidence suggests rebellion, not world domination."
[17:02] <@Minaplo> ["I'm not so sure the evidence is that decisive." Said Juno. "There have been plenty of grabs for hegemony that were in hindsight doomed- Napoleon's Hundred Days, the Third Reich, the Libyan Caliphate during Impact… And it's not as though you're espousing breaking away from the UN, exactly. The Liberated Nations espoused that, at least at first, but everything suggests your people
[17:02] <@Minaplo> are trying to present an alternative to the UN. United Earth Federation. It's in the name."-
[17:02] <@Minaplo> ["It may very well be that you started off as rebellion, but when you intend to launch revolution against the one world government, rebellion and world domination are the same thing."]
[17:12] * Raphael /me mulled this over in silence for a second or two, before raising his glass in respectful agreement. "I see your point, General. Perhaps my terms were poorly chosen; I'm afraid my experience with politics is incidental at best."-
[17:12] <Raphael> "In any case, I'm not so foolish as to think I'm capable of turning your alleigance. I really was just curious as to what you thought… it seems I have my answer?"
[17:12] <Raphael> «minus one /me*»
[17:14] <@Minaplo> ["Come now, my general, you can't give up yet, not when we're just getting to the meat." Said Juno with a grin. "Overlook my pedant's streak for a second, tell me about why you think your people went rogue."]
[17:42] * Raphael tapped one finger against the side of his wine glass. "Alright. As you say, perhaps the action was more accurately an attempt at a military coup than simple rebellion. And with that framing, a simple power grab would be a reasonable first assumption," he said. "So let's leave the possibility on the table for now."-
[17:42] <Raphael> "I can't effectively argue politics with you, I'm afraid, but I think we can both assess the argument from a military perspective," he said, his tone a little more assertive. "Any threat that coup could realistically pose rested on the backs of our Evangelion corps. Would you agree?"
[17:51] <@Minaplo> ["On your Eva corps and that of your Angel, I would say." Said Juno.]
[18:08] <Raphael> "Agreed. So if we were solely rebels grabbing for power and that grab relied on our Evangelions, committing the full weight of our only trump card to a fight with Metatron when the UN wasn't inclined to do the same seems like an interesting choice."
[18:16] <@Minaplo> ["You still rely on conventional forces and industry to maintain your trump card." Said Juno. "Maybe confronting Metatron was necessary to win their support. Flying the NERV banner, so to speak. Rallying the home front."]
[18:31] <Raphael> "In that we wanted to continue having a home front?" Raphael replied.
[19:04] <@Minaplo> ["If that's what does the job." She said, taking another sip from her flute; her deep blue eyes peered at Raphael over the rim of the glass lip.]
[19:09] * Raphael waved a hand as if to accept the suggestion. "Plausible, though. I could tell you that wasn't the case, but I wouldn't expect you to take my word for it."-
[19:11] <Raphael> "If it were a question of PR and morale, I'd certainly suggest that we came out of the exchange looking better than the UN." He was watching her as well, assessing each reaction.
[19:16] <@Minaplo> [Juno expressed an air of unruffled calm. Her polite, pleasant smile was still there, her eyes were still wide and interested. "But the point you're making is that it isn't a question of PR and morale. I'm still waiting to hear what the question is of, then, my general."]
[20:16] <Raphael> "NERV's mandate was always to guard humanity against existential threats. You seem to assert that something about this changed - that the rogue elements wanted to use their power as a political and military cudgel. To me the fact that the rogue elements broke away from the UN and then immediately returned to its mission at the risk of annihilating its fledgeling power base suggests that the schism was not some simple grab for power, but some concern with the UN itself."-
[20:16] <Raphael> "Given that the UN's response to our good faith agreement to cooperate against Metatron was perfidy in the Damocles Ambush and a targeted massacre that left upwards of ten thousand civilians dead, I feel the argument has some weight."
[20:31] <@Minaplo> ["From that, then, I can assume that if the situations were reversed- say, the UN had defeated a major threat, but was now weakened, and you had a chance to attack and destroy Mary Caine and her Evangelions and her commanders and her battleship, end the war in a single blow, you wouldn't take that chance if it meant the act would be one of perfidy?" Asked Juno.]
[20:43] <Raphael> "Without hesitation," Raphael said flatly. "Truthfully the perfidy doesn't bother me in quite the same way. I see the logic to it. It's still an evil that ought to be weighed, especially given the context, but it is at least an act of war."-
[20:43] <Raphael> "That the perfidy was used to kidnap, murder and brainwash Aline Blanc is a different matter," his voice grew a few degrees colder. "The fact that my daughter watched her best friend shot to ribbons by troops who never attempted to follow the laws of war is a different matter. We could debate the difference between war and sadism all day, but I think the deliniation there is very clear, General."
[20:46] <@Minaplo> ["Of course, my general." Said Juno. "And by all means, don't think for a second that I think such acts acceptable."-
[20:47] <@Minaplo> ["But there's one problem with all of the things you've mentioned so far…"]
[20:49] * Raphael waited for her to proceed without response.
[20:58] <@Minaplo> ["All of these events take place after your rebellion, my General." Said Juno. "If you wanted to illustrate how brutal the UN and Mary Caine can be toward those who betray it, then trust me, I needed no help. It's illogical to argue that your rebellion was justified by events that hadn't actually occured yet and that you had no prior knowledge would happen. Which still leaves open the
[20:58] <@Minaplo> first question as to what caused the rebellion in the first place…"-
[20:59] <@Minaplo> ["… Especially since, as you noted, NERV's mandate was to protect the earth from Angels, yet whatever triggered the rebellion was apparently so severe that your people couldn't wait until after Metatron was defeated."]
[21:09] * Raphael stared at her in silence for longer than would typically be considered polite with the slightest of frowns formed across his brow.-
[21:13] <Raphael> "You've worked with Solomons and Phantoms, from the sounds of it?" He finally asked.
[21:15] <@Minaplo> [Juno's smile widened just a smidge. "Of course."]
[21:15] <Raphael> "A good number of them?"
[21:16] <@Minaplo> ["Two of the Primes, and their Phantoms of course, and some others."]
[21:17] * Raphael nodded.-
[21:17] <Raphael> "Are you told where they get their souls?"
[21:18] <@Minaplo> [Juno chuckled, took a mouthful of wine, then leaned in slightly.-
[21:18] <@Minaplo> ["Of course I have. I'm not an idiot." She said in a hushed voice.]
[21:22] <Raphael> "If I thought there was the remotest chance you didn't I wouldn't have started," Raphael said coolly.
[21:25] <@Minaplo> ["Good instinct, my general."]
[21:27] * Raphael just nodded.-
[21:27] <Raphael> "No point in playing coy about why we splintered, then."
[21:31] <@Minaplo> ["Now I'm satisfied." Said Juno; she gave him a wink. "Of course, if I didn't know, then trying to convince me otherwise would be a fool's errand…"]
[21:36] <Raphael> "I'm aware. It seemed unlikely you wouldn't know given Marshal Caine does."
[21:38] <@Minaplo> ["Who do you think pulled the strings to have me released?" Said Juno with a grin. "Being in debt to one's ex-fiance is rather embarrassing, admittedly…"]
[21:38] <Raphael> "I'm sure you'll endure, ma'am."
[21:52] <@Minaplo> ["Yes, I suppose I will." Said Juno, casting her gaze toward Ezra and Sarah- the latter still cuddling with Mana. "Look at them. They act so carefree…"]
[22:15] <Raphael> "Depending on the circumstances," Raphael said. "Marshal Caine seemed to have a good deal on his mind during the Istanbul summit.
[22:15] <Raphael> "
[22:22] <@Minaplo> ["You're right, my general. Maybe he just knows to take the chance to cut loose when he gets it."]
[22:23] <Raphael> "Good for him."
[22:24] <@Minaplo> ["Mmm. If only we all knew how to do the same."]
[22:25] * Raphael gave her a small smile. "At least it gives you a chance to read."
[22:26] <@Minaplo> ["Hah! There is that, at least."-
[22:26] <@Minaplo> ["Well then, my general, you managed to be more entertaining than a book. Good work."]
[22:27] * Raphael bowed his head. "It's all about achieving the little goals, ma'am."
[22:28] <@Minaplo> ["Says the man trying to overthrow the world government…"]
[22:31] <Raphael> "Incremental steps towards something better," he laughed.
[22:32] <@Minaplo> ["Raphael~" Called a voice. A sweet voice- Minerva Linden's voice.]
[22:36] * Raphael cast a quick look over his shoulder, making a be-right-with-you gesture before turning back towards Juno.-
[22:36] <Raphael> "That will be my cue, I'm afraid," Raphael said, offering his hand. "Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, General."
[22:38] <@Minaplo> ["You're quite welcome." Said Juno with a warm smile.]
[22:39] <@Minaplo> [And she took his hand and shook it.]
[22:40] * Raphael gave her another respectful nod before hurrying off to diplomatic encounters unknown.

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