Cherry Blossom Procession 4 1 28

[13:27] <Minaplo> ["… And that's that." Said Marianne. "Could've gone better, could've gone worse considering de Pteres was there. Yanmei kept me some of that jupiter wine if you need a glass…"]
[13:40] <Raphael> "… 'Jupiter wine'," Raphael muttered. It was not the first time he'd repeated the phrase.-
[13:41] <Raphael> Raphael's quarters had grown more cramped and cluttered since Caitlin's arrival, but the little kitchen was a zone of tidiness - still Raphael's space, even if he rarely had time to use it these days. Suzanne still enjoyed pointing out that it was larger than the one in their old apartment.-
[13:41] <Raphael> The quarters were open plan, but the screens he used to give the girls privacy around their beds did a good job of partitioning the kitchen off, giving the three people around the table some privacy of their own. A platter of cheese and crackers sat in the table's centre, along with an open bottle of cheap wine.-
[13:44] <Raphael> Raphael paused to make use of the latter, refilling his glass. "… she's liable to eat Yanmei alive if this keeps up," he said quietly. "The Chancellor's capable, but this is something else entirely."
[13:45] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, she's not the only one." Said Misato. "Maya told me Hyuga began vomiting madly when he found out."]
[13:45] * Raphael winced. "She was gentle when she told him, I hope?"
[13:46] <Minaplo> ["Sure, but gentle only goes so far on something like this." Said Misato.]
[13:46] <Raphael> "Mmm…"
[13:48] <Minaplo> ["Yanmei's just foisted her onto Rustami. Maybe she hopes he'll be able to tame her." Said Marianne.-
[13:48] <Minaplo> ["Or more likely they'll wipe each other out." Said Misato, who wasn't able to control the tone of hope in her voice.]
[13:51] <Raphael> Raphael didn't quite hear her; He was still staring at Marianne. "With Rustami? That's…"-
[13:51] <Raphael> He didn't seem to have a word for it, electing to shake his head instead.
[13:53] <Minaplo> ["Not fond of the idea?" Asked Marianne with a tiny smile.]
[13:58] <Raphael> "I'm not fond of pairing two problematic elements at the first possible opportunity," he said darkly.
[14:01] <Minaplo> ["How did you get a job with NERV in the first place, then?" Said Misato lightly.]
[14:04] <Raphael> "I used a VTOL to perform a close-assault on an Tenth Angel," Raphael said airily. He popped another cube of cheese into his mouth, giving Misato a look that was just a little smug.
[14:04] <Minaplo> ["I think that counts as pairing two problematic elements." Said Marianne.-
[14:04] <Minaplo> ["Definitely a bad idea." Agreed Misato.-
[14:05] <Minaplo> ["You can't deny the results." Said Marianne. "Say what you will, but NERV was always an outcome-informed organisation…"]
[14:06] <Raphael> "In the scale of this place's bad ideas I don't think it really ranks."-
[14:06] <Raphael> "… Unless they thought it was an audition," he said, a little horrified by the realisation.
[14:07] <Minaplo> ["A tradition that's been strongly maintained even today." Said Misato brightly. "At least you didn't have to rescue a Superheavy pilot to do it."]
[14:17] <Raphael> "Sergeant Guilford has me beat, certainly," he admitted, smiling.-
[14:17] <Raphael> "But," he pressed on, "Only Yanmei seems to know what Rustami's business here is, and as much as it hurts to say I don't know that we can guarantee anything about Chiisana the Elder yet."
[14:17] <Minaplo> ["What's she like in person?" Asked Misato.]
[14:23] <Raphael> "Hard to say - Chiisana's got an excellent poker face when she need to, but the Elder's is better. All iron fist, no glove," he was frowning again. "It's a lot easier to believe her story once you've met her; I can completely believe that she dominated the world."
[14:25] <Minaplo> ["Scary." Murmured Misato.-
[14:26] <Minaplo> ["Yes, and from the sound of it, trying to tell her to ease up only makes her entrench." Said Marianne. "Honestly, it's why I think having de Pteres there was stupider than usual; he tends to yammer on about things that people like her just don't give a damn about."]
[14:28] <Raphael> "Bringing de Pteres for any first impression meeting is… not the perfect option."
[14:30] <Minaplo> ["I wonder what he and Rustami are like together?" Asked Marianne.]
[14:31] <Raphael> "Ugh."
[14:32] <Minaplo> ["Maybe if we put Rustami, Chiigun and de Pteres in a room together…" Began Misato.]
[14:33] <Raphael> "We'll have our new diplomatic wing?"
[14:34] <Minaplo> ["I was thinking we might have to rebuild a wing of the ship, but close enough." Said Marianne. She sighed. "There's always another problem…"]
[14:41] * Raphael gave her a thin smile. "Always."-
[14:41] <Raphael> "… There's a lot of questions I wasn't willing to ask her. There was no mention of a war like ours, or Angels. It raises a question regarding what she did about it."
[14:42] <Minaplo> ["Her Eva had some major armour damage, though." Said Marianne.]
[14:45] <Raphael> "Mmm. She fought -something- large enough to scratch an Eva, but she claims to have been in a world without war under her supervision. I won't say it's impossible that she fought and destroyed the Angels alone, but we know exactly what caused their release. Chiisana's too smart to let that happen twice."-
[14:46] <Raphael> "So there's the question of what she was fighting."
[14:46] <Minaplo> [There was a trill as the door's 'bell' rang.]
[14:49] * Raphael glanced over his shoulder, unsettled by the timing. He didn't rush to stand, taking a moment to rub his face and grab a cracker from the platter. "The girls must've left their key. Won't be a moment…"-
[14:49] <Raphael> He exited the kitchen and hurried for the door.
[14:50] <Minaplo> [The door slid open. Raphael, who had been expecting one of the girls, would no doubt have angled his head downwards. As it turns out, that worked out just fine, because Kourosh Rustami was very short.-
[14:51] <Minaplo> ["Hi." He said, pulling a strand of shaggy, wavy black hair out of his face.]
[14:53] <Raphael> Raphael's brow bent into a small but noticeable frown. "… Hello, sir."
[14:56] <Minaplo> [Kourosh held a moderately sized parcel in military-issue packaging out to Raphael. "Quartermaster Redspring sent this along."]
[14:57] * Raphael took the parcel warily. "Suppose that one sets everyone to work."
[14:58] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, suppose. Can I come in now?"]
[14:59] <Raphael> "… You hadn't said you wanted to, sir."
[14:59] <Minaplo> ["Why else would I have intercepted your parcel?"-
[15:00] <Minaplo> [Not that it mattered. Kourosh was now inside.]
[15:02] * Raphael stood by the door, very literally biting his tongue to hold back his first response. After a second or two he shut the door and turned to his 'guest', a little more composed. The parcel was quickly discarded on the sideboard.-
[15:02] <Raphael> "Can I help you, sir?"
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["Can you get me a chair, please?" Said Kourosh carelessly as he headed toward the table. "Hi."-
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["Prime Minister." Said Marianne archly.-
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["Don't stop at just a chair! Do you want a booster cushion too?" Asked Misato sweetly.-
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["Why, have you got one?" Asked Kourosh.]
[15:10] <Raphael> Raphael had, by the standards of the UEF, a fairly long temper, but every action Kourosh took was cutting that fuse shorter and shorter and he was having difficulty hiding it.-
[15:10] <Raphael> "If you have business with us we'd be happy to speak later, sir," he said, words a little too clipped to be polite. "It is not easy to arrange a time for the three of us to get together."
[15:18] <Minaplo> ["I know, so whenever you do it must be pretty important." Said Kourosh. "So I'm guessing… Shadowmen, Empress Chiisana, Shadowmen and Empress Chiisana, the battle in the Ardennes, the upcoming battles, the mission to Tokyo, or the election in Britain. Which is it? I have thoughts on all of these things."]
[15:25] * Raphael glanced at Misato, estimating whether she was likely to kill him. It could have served to make his life easier.
[15:27] <Minaplo> [Misato's expression was carefully cheery, but it was the little hints- the clenched hand, the tapping foot, the faint hit of a pulsing vein in her temple- that displayed her anger.-
[15:27] <Minaplo> [Marianne however was much more carefully neutral, and was looking at Kourosh with an expression that did a good job of suggesting polite respect.]
[15:30] <Raphael> "How did you know we were here, sir?"
[15:32] <Minaplo> ["Tsubaki."]
[15:34] <Raphael> "Why were you looking for us?"
[15:34] <Minaplo> ["To talk."]
[15:48] <Raphael> "But not about anything."
[15:49] <Minaplo> ["Sure. To talk about what you're all talking about. That's not nothing."]
[15:52] * Raphael now looked annoyed and mystified, which could potentially be seen as an improvement. "… Right."-
[15:53] <Raphael> Still, he set the spare chair down by the table a little harder than he needed to - separating Kourosh's chair from Misato's - and another wine glass with it.
[15:55] <Minaplo> [And Kourosh sat down. "Thanks." He looked expectantly around at the others, fiddling idly with the wine glass.]
[16:03] <Raphael> "We were discussing Chiisana, as a matter of fact," Raphael said. His tone almost sulky - he'd considered lying out of spite, but no suitably innocuous topic had lept to mind.
[16:11] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh. You know she's been assigned to my command?"]
[16:14] <Raphael> "I do. What do you intend?"
[16:15] <Minaplo> ["What do you all think I should do? I value your advice. Especially you, Raphael, you know Chiisana better than I ever could."]
[16:23] * Raphael seemed fairly unmoved by the comment, and busied himself with pouring wine for the table. "I know Chiisana, not the Empress. I'm learning, but I don't have much to teach yet."
[16:24] <Minaplo> ["Anything would help."]
[16:30] <Raphael> "Mmm." He didn't say anything more until he was done with the glasses. Then he sat back down, hands folded and expression hard.-
[16:30] <Raphael> "She's going to run roughshod over anyone who lets her. It was already a fault of our Chiisana's, but leadership and two hundred years seems to have made it defining. There's a line to walk between respect and strictness if you want her to listen to a word you say."
[16:33] <Minaplo> ["So she's convinced she knows better and won't even bother listening unless you're very specific about approaching her?"]
[16:33] <Raphael> "Yes."
(18:53) <Minaplo> ["Sweet. Tell me about Chiisana the everyday princess."]
(19:33) * Raphael drained his glass before he answered. "… She's been the most mature of the sisters from the outset, socially. She was one of the quickest to build her own sense of self - her princess routine is affectation, but it's an affectation she enjoys. That it tends to throw people off is something of a side-benefit, I think."
(19:36) <Minaplo> ["Haha." He grinned.-
(19:38) * Raphael (ua.ten.letxof.dlq.052-87-291-271-epc|leahpaR#ua.ten.letxof.dlq.052-87-291-271-epc|leahpaR) Quit (Ping timeout: 180 seconds)
(19:38) * Raphael (ua.ten.letxof.dlq.052-87-291-271-epc|leahpaR#ua.ten.letxof.dlq.052-87-291-271-epc|leahpaR) has joined #nervfrance
(19:40) <Minaplo> ["She's rather good at throwing people off." Said Marianne. "She's only just stopped using her pheromone cloud effect…"-
(19:44) <Minaplo> ["It's a Field effect, pheromones aren't really a thing, but gosh, imagine what she could do with that in a pinch." Said Kourosh. "The most mature… So the most likely to have the sort of morality that leads to, uh… Empress Chiisana."]
(19:52) <Raphael> "Give our Chiisana the option to play God-Empress to the planet and I don't think she would. Unfortunately this placed her under extraordinary amounts of pressure, while removing her support network and sense of connection to the civilisation she was inhabiting. Not ideal circumstances."
(19:53) <Minaplo> ["You got it."-
(19:54) <Minaplo> ["The world she's described so far." Said Kourosh. "One you'd live in?"]
(19:55) <Raphael> "Hard to say. I don't think she's telling the full truth."
(19:56) <Minaplo> ["I don't either. What's your take?"]
(20:10) <Raphael> "She's describing a level of," he frowned, "Polite oppression, let's say, that I can't see meshing with the purely positive details she's shared. When she told the nations of the world war was prohibited, what did she do when she was ignored? How harshly did she send that message?"
(20:11) <Minaplo> ["Assuming she was ignored." Said Misato.]
(20:13) <Raphael> "It's a hunch," he shrugged, "But I can't see our Chiisana assuming complete control of the world from the outset. Given humanity and the era… I think it would've happened."-
(20:16) <Raphael> "And that's hardly the end of it. She suggested she was restricting scientific research into things like weapons, altering the balances of society… even if it was all to the most positive ends, people would've overstepped the line. Trying to enforce your will on that scale to that degree, I just can't see it working without an element of fear."
(20:19) <Minaplo> ["And she would've had access to fear aplenty." Said Marianne. "An Evangelion… Not even if you put every soldier and gun of the 18th century in one place at one time would you so much as slow her down."-
(20:21) <Minaplo> ["Fear and love." Said Misato. "It's still Chii, after all… She knows how to endear herself."]
(20:21) <Raphael> "Mmm."
(20:26) <Minaplo> ["There's definitely something she's not telling." Said Marianne. "And not in the 'some things get overlooked in 200 years' sense. I mean in the 'she's deliberately omitting something'."-
(20:27) <Minaplo> ["Ohh yeah, by the way. I asked Yui about it, and apparently the Ayanami lifespan's good but it's not that good." Said Misato. "She should be dead of old age, not looking like she's 26."]
(20:33) * Raphael didn't exactly look enthusiastic about any part of that news.
(20:36) <Minaplo> ["Maybe she cloned herself." Said Marianne. "Or there's something about the Eva…?"-
(20:37) <Minaplo> [Misato snorted.-
(20:37) <Minaplo> ["What?"-
(20:39) <Minaplo> ["You're not meaning that stupid rumour about LCL longevity, right?" Said Misato.-
(20:39) <Minaplo> ["I- no!"-
(20:41) <Minaplo> ["You shoulda seen the crap that went down back at home over that." Said Misato, her tone cheerful as it usually was when discussing an idiot's misfortune. "'LCL keeps you young forever', and then some people got busted trying to peddle it on the black market, and there was a whole thing, Rits was furious."]
(20:45) <Raphael> "… I'm taking that to mean it doesn't?
(20:45) <Raphael> "
(20:47) <Minaplo> ["No." Said Misato with a smirk. "That'd be stupid."]
(20:49) <Raphael> "Chiisana was allegedly just sent through time, and that's just the latest stupidity. Hard to dismiss it out of hand right now."
(20:50) <Raphael> He sounded a little morose. Perhaps it was the wine?
(20:50) <Minaplo> ["Sure, but if it works out that it's true, you can be the one to tell Asuka she's a teenager forever."]
(20:51) * Raphael winced.
(20:51) <Minaplo> ["Maybe LCL is the answer." Said Marianne suddenly.-
(20:51) <Minaplo> ["Come off it-"-
(20:52) <Minaplo> ["No, shush. Yanmei dissolved into LCL and came back with a transformed body." Said Marianne. "What's not to say Chiisana did the same to keep herself young?"]
(20:52) <Raphael> "… Intentionally?"
(20:53) <Minaplo> ["Yeah." Said Marianne.-
(20:53) <Minaplo> ["That's not really something you do lightly…" Said Misato.]
(20:54) * Raphael sighed. "She would do it."
(20:55) <Minaplo> [Kourosh, meanwhile, had pulled a wheel of soft cheese out of his robe and was taking bites into it.-
(20:56) <Minaplo> ["Who knows what happens if an Ayanami tangs in her own Eva…" Said Misato. "Actually, maybe she learned something that made it a whole lot less risky."]
(21:06) <Raphael> "Possibly. And there's still the possibility that she's something else entirely - due respect to Ezekiel, but I'm not entirely willing to take that off the table yet."
(21:08) <Minaplo> ["Who knows what Isabelle'll see." Said Kourosh lightly.]
(21:08) * Mogatron (~ten.dshqrabme.pchd.85-252-6-67-ho|alliztahc#ten.dshqrabme.pchd.85-252-6-67-ho|alliztahc) Quit (Quit: ChatZilla 0.9.92 [Firefox 43.0.1/20151216175450])
(21:14) <Raphael> "… I suppose that's a sensible next step," Raphael said carefully.
(21:17) <Minaplo> ["Yep." Said Kourosh. "Any suggestions on how to handle those two?"]
(21:19) <Raphael> "Honestly I don't really know Isabelle well. I met her husband, but she and I have never really spoken," Raphael said.
(21:21) <Minaplo> ["Be patient." Said Marianne with a shrug. "Isabelle's got a sharp tongue- you'll feel how sharp- but so long as you be patient and respectful…"-
(21:22) <Minaplo> [Misato was silent. A frown had spread across her face at the reference to Adrian.]
(21:29) * Raphael gave her a pat on the knee, the gesture hidden by the tabletop.
(21:30) <Minaplo> [Misato started slightly. She turned and gave Raphael a small smile and shook her head lightly.-
(21:37) <Minaplo> ["Alright, I can do that." Said Kou with a light yawn. "Having Empress with me helps a lot, actually."]
(21:41) <Raphael> "Is that so?"
(21:42) <Minaplo> ["Yeah, I reckon with her I should be able to get by with just two Evas, maybe even just her."]
(21:45) <Raphael> The line of Raphael's lips tightened for a moment. "That sounds needlessly reckless, sir."
(21:46) <Minaplo> ["Well yeah, we'll have a trial period first."]
(21:48) <Raphael> "Not really the point I was making."
(21:49) <Minaplo> ["Oh?"]
[16:08] * Raphael sighed a little. "Belgium was a tremendous success, but even there you seemed keen to expand the margin of error by denying extra support. I can't say I understand it, and more than that I can't say I trust it."
[16:10] <Minaplo> ["Extra support here means less support elsewhere." Said Kourosh with a shrug. "It's a pretty simple concept."]
[16:20] <Raphael> Raphael's hand - still resting on Misato's knee - tightened involuntarily. "Be mindful of your condescension, Mister Prime Minister," Raphael said cooly.-
[16:21] <Raphael> "That's half the story. I understand the math of troop deployments perfectly well, but all you're doing is shifting the weakness to your front."
[16:25] <Minaplo> ["If this war had a third participant who could take some heat, then we could focus our forces to cover all fronts just fine. But it doesn't, so we can't. One front's gonna have a lack of support." Said Kourosh.]
[16:30] <Raphael> "Certainly, but I don't think that's an accurate depiction of what you've done so far. You could've taken extra Evangelions in Belgium - we had them available, and it wouldn't have drawn strength from the other major battles. You elected not to."
[16:35] <Minaplo> ["Belgium relied heavily on baiting enemies into traps by showing weakness when there wasn't any." Said Kourosh. "Deploying more force than was needed would've been a waste of resources and could've jeopardised the strategy. Not to mention that a lack of battles doesn't mean a lack of places where an Eva is useful- investigating Ethiopia, campaigning in Britain…"-
[16:35] <Minaplo> [Marianne was starting to rub one of her temples in frustration.]
[16:39] * Raphael looked similarly annoyed, but Marianne's movement in the corner of his eye made his stop. "… Fine, sir."-
[16:42] <Raphael> He stood instead. "Hopefully we've been of some help regarding the Empress, sir, but we wouldn't want to keep you for too long."
[16:45] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh."-
[16:46] <Minaplo> [Kourosh drained his glass of wine, stuffed his unfinished cheese back into his coat and then, as an afterthought, tossed a thick Spanish sausage onto the table. "Thanks."-
[16:46] <Minaplo> [He put the glass down then left.-
[16:46] <Minaplo> [Marianne sighed.]
[16:47] * Raphael just stood there staring at the sausage as he heard the door click shut.
[16:49] <Minaplo> ["What a pain in the ass." Muttered Misato. "Should we bin it?"]
[16:50] <Raphael> "What's the alternative, ma'am? Were you hungry?"
[16:52] <Minaplo> [Misato gave him a sour look before she gingerly pinched the sausage and dumped it into the wastebin under the sink.]
[16:53] <Raphael> "… sorry, Misato" he muttered.-
[16:54] <Raphael> "God, Yanmei's made de Pteres Prime Minister."
[16:54] <Minaplo> [Marianne winced.-
[16:55] <Minaplo> ["It's like a big joke, isn't it?" Said Misato. "She vanishes off the face of the earth to find some guy Dorian recommended, and then it's just de Pteres without a haircut…"]
[16:58] <Raphael> Raphael's laugh was utterly lacking in humour. He slumped back into his chair and grabbed the wine. "Excuse me for letting him in. I was… a little caught off-guard."
[16:59] <Minaplo> ["More like he put you off-guard." Muttered Misato.-
[17:00] <Minaplo> ["Regardless, he's here to stay." Said Marianne with a sigh. "And it'd be a load off Yanmei's mind if we accepted that as quickly as possible."]
[17:04] <Raphael> "I'm making an effort, but everything about the man seems to rub me the wrong way," he said. "Still… you're right."
[17:06] <Minaplo> ["I know he does." Said Marianne gently. "I'd be lying if he didn't irk me a little too, but so it is."]
[17:06] <Raphael> "Mmm. We'll see."
[17:17] <Minaplo> ["Mmm."-
[17:18] <Minaplo> ["I'll go get us a bit more wine." Said Misato, her voice becoming forcedly cheery. "Take the edge off…"]

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