Cherry Blossom Procession 4 1 38

[15:00] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel sat silently in his study.-
[15:03] <Minaplo> [The study was sparse, bearing two plush arm-chairs in front of a fireplace. There were bookshelves, well-stacked, as well as a television and a holo. There was no bed: Ezekiel did not need sleep.-
[15:15] <Minaplo> [By and large, however, there were periods when he was not needed, when the sun had gone down and the night shift had taken over the running of the vessel. In those times, Ezekiel might leave the ship, or he might sit somewhere within the promenade, or he might, if the mood took him, sample something to eat and drink.-
[16:04] <Minaplo> [But tonight he sat by himself, staring into the flames, although it was more accurate to say that he was looking into his own mind.-
[16:18] <Minaplo> [The doorbell sounded.-
[16:19] <Minaplo> [A moment later the door opened; in entered Chiisana, or rather the one they called Empress Chiisana.-
[16:19] <Minaplo> ["Chiisana Himesama." Said Ezekiel quietly.-
[16:20] <Minaplo> ["Ezekiel." She said in response. She crossed the room and sat, a large armchair appearing behind her out of nowhere.-
[16:20] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel glanced at the empty armchair by the fireplace before he turned toward Chiisana. "Thank you for agreeing to meet with me."-
[16:26] <Minaplo> ["It was mostly curiosity." Said Chiisana. "After all, even before I left we did not have much to discuss. And ever since I've returned, they have used you like a threatening cudgel, ready to bash me with you and ensuring that I know that."-
[16:27] <Minaplo> ["They are afraid." Said Ezekiel softly.-
[16:27] <Minaplo> [Chiisana sighed. "Yes, I know. I did not intend to frighten them. But they're just so…"-
[16:28] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel watched quietly.-
[16:30] <Minaplo> ["They're hostile." Said Chiisana. "In some way I admire that, but mostly it is incredibly frustrating."-
[16:30] <Minaplo> ["Hostile…" Said Ezekiel.-
[16:32] <Minaplo> ["Yes. And… Oppressive." Said Chiisana darkly. "They react to me by ensuring that I know they can hurt me. They're constantly trying to find out as much as they can about my life on the other side. I have to watch what I say, what I do. It is- tiring."-
[16:33] <Minaplo> ["That is why you attacked Barzilai Surov." Said Ezekiel. "Was it not? Because he was attempting to access information you wanted kept private."-
[16:36] <Minaplo> ["Yes. That, and because he attempted to tamper with… My onboard computer." Said Chiisana.-
[16:37] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel nodded slowly. "I understand. That sounds most frustrating… I admit, Chiisana Himesama, that I do not enjoy being used as a threat."-
[16:39] <Minaplo> ["You understand that our contexts separate us from the others." Said Ezekiel. "I am, by lilim counting, immeasurably old and have seen things they have trouble comprehending. Your own experiences are alien to them as well. We possess existences that as of yet sit outside their ability to truly grasp."-
[16:39] <Minaplo> ["Indeed." Said Chiisana.-
[16:44] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel nodded slowly. "They are a stumbling people, scared and suspicious of the reality in which they dwell. They stagger from accident to accident, doing their best to avoid catastrophe with the half-knowledge they possess, not knowing whether the way they sway is away or toward that fate."-
[16:50] <Minaplo> ["Humanity is an accident." Said Chiisana slowly.-
[16:51] <Minaplo> ["Yes. Yet I have found in my time here that I have grown rather fond of them." Said Ezekiel. "Their history is one of struggle, against themselves, against reality, against the very entity that spawned them. And now I suspect that entity has made the mistake of underestimating them." He shook his head.-
[16:52] <Minaplo> ["Humanity may be an accident. But things born of accidents are unusually resilient to the careful plans of others." Said Ezekiel. "And that gives me hope."-
[16:53] <Minaplo> ["Hope?" Said Chiisana.-
[17:00] <Minaplo> ["Yes. The Ancestors were a great people, but at some point their love for the world around them turned hard." Said Ezekiel. "Curiosity and wonder gave way to a craving for order. They planned for the future in such a meticulous way. Seven seeds, four of this type, three of that type, to very specific locations, decided through extensive cognition to be the perfect locations."-
[17:01] <Minaplo> ["I think along the way, the Ancestors lost something essential. Something that shut their minds to so much."-
[17:03] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel smiled a little. "Would it not, then, be the highest of cosmic delights that the dream of the Ancestors be redeemed, not through their lofty plans, but through an accident misbegotten by the breakdown of those plans? It would be sublime, I think. A little like the smile of God."-
[17:04] <Minaplo> [They sat silently for a few moments after that. Eventually Chiisana shook her head. "You're a curious fellow, Ezekiel."-
[17:04] <Minaplo> ["I try." He said earnestly.-
[17:05] <Minaplo> [Chiisana snorted. "Then turn that curiosity my way for a moment. I have something for you."-
[17:05] <Minaplo> ["What is it?" Said Ezekiel.-
[17:07] <Minaplo> [Chiisana smiled; something appeared in her hand. It was a small, clear gemstone, utterly unremarkable.-
[17:07] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel leapt to his feet; his eyes widened, and he went pale.-
[17:08] <Minaplo> ["I thought you'd recognise it." Said Chiisana warmly.-
[17:08] <Minaplo> ["Where- how?" Said Ezekiel.-
[17:08] <Minaplo> ["It was given to me by my first husband." Said Chiisana.-
[17:09] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel stared at her. He had been rendered speechless.-
[17:13] <Minaplo> ["That's the remarkable thing about the Ayanami body, you know." Said Chiisana lightly. "That mix of Angel, Lilim and Lilith in just the right quantities… We're like perfect arks for life."-
[17:15] <Minaplo> ["… The Princes." Said Ezekiel haltingly. "You- you married one. Your children-"-
[17:15] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Chiisana. "He said you'd enjoy that part. Not all of them, of course, just… A lot of them."-
[17:16] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel reached out hesitantly. "May I?"-
[17:16] <Minaplo> ["Of course," She said, holding the gemstone out.-
[17:17] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel took it. "Thank you. I… Will review it later."-
[17:19] <Minaplo> [He sat. "I am- sorry." He said finally. "You must understand that I have awaited this day for three billion years. A sign that the Princes of the Flow had returned to the circles of reality."-
[17:23] <Minaplo> [Chiisana beamed. "It took them long enough to prepare, of course, but it seems I filled whatever need they had… And so, my children and their next generations appear to be one and the same."-
[17:23] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Ezekiel. "I look forward to meeting them, one day."-
[17:23] <Minaplo> ["I'm sure you will." Said Chiisana. She rose to her feet. "I should leave you alone for now."-
[17:24] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel nodded. "Thank you again."-
[17:25] <Minaplo> [Once Chiisana had left, Ezekiel rose to his feet. Gently, tenderly he held the gemstone up.-
[17:26] <Minaplo> [From within the core of the stone came a rainbow corona, its shimmering light filling the room. In its wake, the very air seemed to stand still.-
[17:27] <Minaplo> ["Hello, old friend." Said someone behind him. The words were warm and pleasant.-
[17:27] <Minaplo> [Ezekiel turned…-
[17:27] <Minaplo> […-
[17:32] <Minaplo> [Chiisana walked briskly through the corridors, her smile lingering.-
[17:32] <Minaplo> [For the first time since she'd returned, her spirits were high. Ezekiel had seemed truly touched by the gesture.-
[17:47] <Minaplo> [On a whim, she decided to visit the training rooms.-
[17:48] <Minaplo> [They were quiet at this time of night; only two dozen people or so spread out through all the facilities. A few were swimming, some were sparring, others were going on runs or using the shooting galleries.-
[18:29] <Minaplo> [Chiisana chose the pool.-
[18:29] <Minaplo> [There were just a few people within, swimming lengths; along the sidelines sat Iron Guard, shouting friendly encouragement.-
[18:31] <Minaplo> [With hardly a thought, Chiisana cached into a full-body white swimsuit. She stepped toward the pool-
[18:32] <Minaplo> [The Guards' encouragement had died on their lips as Chiisana had changed. The three of them now stared at her, eyes narrowed, brows furrowed into frowns… One was even baring his teeth.-
[18:35] <Minaplo> [Even the swimmers had stopped. They gawked at her, not bothering to hide their fear; as carefully as they could they began to drift toward the edge of the pool.-
[18:36] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[18:40] <Minaplo> [Just like that, her cheer vanished, replaced by the welling of rage that had bubbled so close to the surface ever since she'd returned.-
[18:41] <Minaplo> [She met the eyes of the closest Guard. The thought of surging lightning through his body was, for a moment, wildly tempting. Her hands curled into fists, the fingers cutting deep into her palm.-
[18:41] <Minaplo> [She abruptly turned and left, her dress caching back onto her body.-
[18:43] <Minaplo> [As she went, she drew looks from all across the training rooms; from the runners, the sparrers, those lifting weights, even some of the shooters.-
[18:43] <Minaplo> [One of the shooters watched Chiisana right up until she left.-
[18:43] <Minaplo> [With a tight sigh, Michael took off his earmuffs, holstered his pistols and took his own leave.-
[18:43] <Minaplo> […-
[18:46] <Minaplo> [Thirty minutes later, Michael stood outside Empress Chiisana's quarters. Tucked under his right arm was a bow and a quiver of arrows.-
[18:48] <Minaplo> [Eventually the voice came over the speaker. ("Enter.")-
[18:52] <Minaplo> The door opened, and Michael stepped inside. "Excuse me, Ms. Chiisana."-
[18:52] <Minaplo> [Chiisana was sitting in a chair, back straight, a book in her hands. "William Weiss, yes? What is it?"-
[18:52] <Minaplo> ["Ah. It's Michael, now. Michael Leon." He said.-
[18:53] <Minaplo> ["You changed your name?"-
[18:53] <Minaplo> ["Not so much. Michael is- my real name. William was a false name I'm not interested in tolerating any more." Said Michael.-
[18:53] <Minaplo> ["You sound like you've rehearsed that." Said Chiisana.-
[18:54] <Minaplo> ["Funny thing about this sort of place is that you tend to be known by a lot of people." Said Michael. "I've had to explain my name so many times that it may as well have been rehearsed."-
[18:55] <Minaplo> ["I see." She said, her tone cool. "What is it you wanted?"-
[18:55] <Minaplo> ["Well. I wanted to return this." He said, taking a step forward and offering the bow and quiver.-
[18:56] <Minaplo> ["…" Chiisana stared at it uncomprehendingly for a few seconds before looking up at him. "This is not mine."-
[18:57] <Minaplo> ["I'm sorry, Ms. Chiisana, but I'm afraid it is." He said. "Do you remember the operation to go kill Metatron?"-
[18:57] <Minaplo> ["Yes?" Said Chiisana.-
[18:58] <Minaplo> ["Well, that's one advantage you have over me. See, before the operation, I kind of blew myself up."-
[18:58] <Minaplo> ["…" Chiisana's eyes narrowed. "Yes. I remember your apartment being bombed, but- you did that yourself?"-
[18:58] <Minaplo> ["Guilty as charged."-
[19:00] <Minaplo> ["What a stupid thing to do." She said coldly.-
[19:02] <Minaplo> ["… Yes, quite." Said Michael sheepishly. "Anyway. The point is… A few weeks before then, I borrowed these from you, because I wanted to practice with them. I figured… It was time I returned them to you."-
[19:03] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[19:04] <Minaplo> [Chiisana stared at the bow once more. For a long minute or so she was silent, her expression unreadable.-
[19:05] <Minaplo> ["Why me?" She said eventually. "Why not return them to your own Chiisana?"-
[19:06] <Minaplo> ["Do you remember giving these to me?" Asked Michael.-
[19:06] <Minaplo> ["Yes, but-"-
[19:06] <Minaplo> ["Then as far as I'm concerned, they're yours." He said.-
[19:08] <Minaplo> ["…" Chiisana shook her head. "I suppose that's true. Just- just put them down anywhere…"-
[19:09] <Minaplo> [Michael placed them at the foot of her chair before returning respectfully to the door.-
[19:13] <Minaplo> [Chiisana was still for a moment before placing her book aside and picking up the bow. It was a modern thing, made of composite materials- including the odd crystals they'd used to focus her AT Field.-
[19:14] <Minaplo> ["Hah. Look at this thing. I barely remember using it myself." Said Chiisana. "I always preferred using my Field. Or my sword."-
[19:14] <Minaplo> ["Play to your strengths, right?" Said Michael.-
[19:15] <Minaplo> ["Quite." Said Chiisana; she leaned back in her chair. "So."-
[19:15] <Minaplo> ["So." Said Michael.-
[19:15] <Minaplo> ["So why did you bomb your own room?" She asked.-
[19:16] <Minaplo> ["Oh, that?" Michael chuckled. "It's a long, stupid story…"-
[19:16] <Minaplo> ["I have time." Said Chiisana, a touch wryly.-
[19:16] <Minaplo> ["Oh? Well in that case, how about over dinner?" Asked Michael innocently.-
[19:19] <Minaplo> ["…" Chiisana opened her mouth, paused, closed it, then opened it again. "Do you mean like a- date?"-
[19:19] <Minaplo> ["Sure do." Said Michael.-
[19:19] <Minaplo> ["Aren't I a little old for you?" She asked drily.-
[19:20] <Minaplo> ["Not as much as you think."-
[19:20] <Minaplo> ["… What do you mean by that?" Said Chiisana.-
[19:21] <Minaplo> ["It's a long story." He said with a knowing grin. "Which I'd love to tell you-"-
[19:24] <Minaplo> ["Over dinner, yes." Said Chiisana, smirking a little. "You're very bold, but I accept. When am I to expect you?"-
[19:24] <Minaplo> ["Right now?" Offered Michael.-
[19:24] <Minaplo> ["Now? Isn't it rather late?"-
[19:30] <Minaplo> ["Well, yes. But that's not too bad, is it? It means we'll have everything to ourselves!" Said Michael.-
[19:30] <Minaplo> ["And if nothing's open at this hour?" She asked.-
[19:33] <Minaplo> ["Well. We simply go to a different hour." Said Michael.-
[19:33] <Minaplo> [She narrowed her eyes. "Time travel?"-
[19:33] <Minaplo> ["No. New York." Said Michael. "It's four in the afternoon right now in the United States. Everything should be open by my count."-
[19:36] <Minaplo> ["Hah!" She rose to her feet and smiled. "Now that is the sort of thinking I've been hoping to run across for days. Very well! To the promenade, and then-"-
[19:36] <Minaplo> ["New York!"-
(15:22) <Minaplo> […-
(15:33) <Minaplo> [The promenade was practically empty this late at night, and those people who were around were clustered within Blue's Bar and Restful. Chiisana promptly beelined for Blue's, and Michael followed.-
(15:34) <Minaplo> [Within were a smattering of people, including a few Guard; they glanced up as the door opened then turned back to their meals and their games.-
(15:35) <Minaplo> ["Welly well, late night customers." Said Blue; he stood up straight but, on seeing Michael, promptly slouched back down onto the bar. "Oh, it's just you."-
(15:39) <Minaplo> ["Yeah, thanks." Said Michael. "You should be grateful for anything you can get."-
(15:40) <Minaplo> ["You talk as though I'm a desperate man." Said Blue wryly.-
(15:40) <Minaplo> ["Aren't you?"-
(15:40) <Minaplo> ["Not that desperate." Said Blue with a snort. "Go siddown already, dumbass."-
(15:46) <Minaplo> [And so they did, taking a seat near the door.-
(15:46) <Minaplo> ["Why is he desperate?" Asked Chiisana.-
(15:47) <Minaplo> ["It used to be that outside of the military cafeteria, Blue's was the only place you could eat without paying and making it yourself." Said Michael. "So he had the ship to himself- a captive audience, it's the only sort of audience he can handle…"-
(15:54) <Minaplo> ["Man, fuck you." Said Blue from the bar.-
(15:58) <Minaplo> [Michael allowed himself a satisfied little smile. "But now that Roku's opened up her restaurant, suddenly he has competition."-
(15:59) <Minaplo> ["It ain't just that." Said Blue, saunting over to their table. "Rationin' sucks too."-
(15:59) <Minaplo> ["Well we're at war." Said Michael.-
(16:00) <Minaplo> ["No shit? Explains all the soldiers I guess." Said Blue bitingly. "Now, I'm not sayin' I have any long-term worries about Roku's threat to my business and all, but it is kinda, uh… Interesting that she just so happens to have a menu big on a lot of products with weak rationing limits."-
(16:01) <Minaplo> ["Naturally." Said Chiisana. "Your menu is full of meat dishes- meat's always the first to be rationed. It's a luxury food."-
(16:01) <Minaplo> ["Hey, where I'm from, meat's your bread and butter." Said Blue sanctimoniously.-
(16:05) * ZackAFK is now known as Zack
(16:20) <Minaplo> ["Then I'm sure your people are rediscovering actual bread and butter at a miraculous rate." She said.-
(16:21) <Minaplo> ["Man, tough crowd tonight." Said Blue. "Alright, alright, tell me when you wanna fuckin' order and I'll be over there, faithfully tending my fuckin' bar."-
(16:29) <Minaplo> [Blue slunk back to his bar, leaving Michael and Chiisana alone.-
(16:30) <Minaplo> ["So Roku's restaurant is going well?" Said Chiisana.-
(16:31) <Minaplo> ["Yes, quite well, in fact. I think she's surprising a few people with just how good." Said Michael.-
(16:32) <Minaplo> ["Good." Said Chiisana firmly.-
(16:33) <Minaplo> ["We could always try it later if you like." Said Michael.-
(13:42) <Minaplo> ["… Yes." Said Chiisana. "Perhaps much later."-
(13:43) <Minaplo> [Michael simply nodded.-
(13:45) <Minaplo> [A few minutes later, they'd made their orders and had been given their drinks- a bottle of lager for Michael, and a glass of wine for Chiisana.-
(13:48) <Minaplo> ["So." Said Chiisana.-
(13:48) <Minaplo> ["So." Said Michael.-
(13:49) <Minaplo> ["Let's hear this story of yours." Said Chiisana. "You've had your fun being coy, of course, but as it turns out, you made me genuinely curious."-
(13:57) <Minaplo> ["Well." Michael took a swig of his lager. "Let's start with bombing my own room."-
(14:09) <Minaplo> […-
(14:10) <Minaplo> [Over the course of the next forty-five minutes, Michael's story burgeoned into one detailing most of his life story: his adoption into the Templars, his role in their crimes, his 'one wish', the fact that he'd still served as a Templar when he joined NERV… Culminating in his foolhardy attempt to shift blame away by bombing his own room.-
(14:23) <Minaplo> ["… That was a truly desperate response." Said Chiisana.-
(14:23) <Minaplo> ["You're not wrong." Said Michael. "It didn't really work, either. But in truth, I think a part of me hoped I'd screw it up somehow and the bomb would kill me…"-
(14:38) <Minaplo> ["… I had no idea things had become so grim for you." Said Chiisana. "Not that we spoke often, but if I had known then I hope I would've tried to help."-
(14:48) <Minaplo> ["I was good at hiding it." Said Michael with a wry grin. "Templars are good at hiding how messed up they are."-
(14:49) <Minaplo> ["Speak for yourself." Shouted Blue. "I make sure every fucker knows I'm crazier than a cat in a tea kettle."-
(14:49) <Minaplo> [Michael rolled his eyes.-
(15:15) <Minaplo> [Chiisana watched the two of them with a small smile of her own, but before long she was focusing on Michael exclusively. "So you never had a childhood of your own."-
(15:17) <Minaplo> ["No, not really." He said. "I, ah… I'm trying to get things back on track, though. I gave up my Templar name- that's obvious, of course- but it's also a few other things."-
(15:17) <Minaplo> ["Like what?"-
(15:21) <Minaplo> ["Like trying to live a little more honestly." Said Michael. "To trust myself a little more, and… To actually help and care for others, like I've always said I've believed is a good thing."-
(15:26) <Minaplo> ["That's a curious statement." Said Chiisana.-
(15:26) <Minaplo> ["Is it?"-
(15:31) <Minaplo> ["Honesty, trusting oneself, living to your ideals." Said Chiisana. "That sounds like you've found confidence in yourself."-
(15:37) <Minaplo> ["…" Michael scratched his neck slowly. "I suppose that's rather true. It's odd, because I don't feel more confident."-
(15:57) <Minaplo> ["Hm. Of course, that's just how it looks to me- as you've shown, that doesn't mean much." Said Chiisana.-
(15:57) <Minaplo> ["Mmm. But… But… No, I think you're onto something." Said Michael; he leaned back in his chair. "More confident…"-
(16:08) <Minaplo> ["Now that you're thinking about it, I am certain you'll find more proof of your confidence." Said Chiisana. "Signs you hadn't realised before."-
(16:29) <Minaplo> ["Huh. Well, that sure is encouraging if nothing else. Thank you, Chiisana." Said Michael; he gave her a warm smile.-
(16:32) <Minaplo> ["You're welcome." She said, giving him a smile in return.-
(16:32) <Minaplo> [A shadow fell over the table, however.-
(16:35) <Minaplo> [A trio of Iron Guard were leaving for the night, apparently; on the way, however, the paused to hover threateningly over Chiisana.-
(16:35) <Minaplo> ["…" She stared up at them. "Yes?"-
(16:36) <Minaplo> [The tallest Guard glared back, spat on the table, then walked away; the other two followed.-
(16:44) <Minaplo> [Chiisana stared at them all the way out the door.-
(16:44) <Minaplo> ["… What was that about?" Said Michael.-
(16:44) <Minaplo> ["You may have heard of an altercation the other day. Surov attempted to perform unauthorised activities on my Evangelion. I stopped him; some Guard got in the way, so I dealt with them."-
(16:45) <Minaplo> ["Dealt with- oh, huh. You killed them?"-
(16:45) <Minaplo> ["No. Just collapsed their chests." Said Chiisana.-
(16:45) <Minaplo> ["Oh."-
(16:46) <Minaplo> ["…" Michael frowned. "So they all bear a grudge against you now?"-
(16:47) <Minaplo> ["So it seems." Said Chiisana. "They're pathetic. The Iron Guard warrior cult's world famous, but as it turns out, they only respect resistance and strength from those they believe they can defeat. Give them a foe that's beyond them and they quickly become resentful."-
(16:48) <Minaplo> ["Hmm, is that so?" Said Michael thoughtfully. "There are a few people here with reputations as Guard-busters, but the Guard don't seem to worry about them…?"-
(16:49) <Minaplo> ["That's because each and every Guard has seen those people and secretly thought, 'I could handle this one'." Said Chiisana contemptuously. "Of course, none of them can hold that illusion with me."-
(16:53) <Minaplo> ["Strange…" Murmured Michael. "Still, no excuse for rudeness. Want me to go sort 'em out?"-
(16:53) <Minaplo> ["Sorry?" Said Chiisana.-
(16:54) <Minaplo> ["Y'know, go out there, stare 'em down…" Michael made one-two punches into the air. "Show 'em a thing or two about respect."-
(16:56) <Minaplo> ["…"-
(16:57) <Minaplo> [Chiisana stared at him for a few seconds; then she giggled, then began to laugh fully and properly.-
(16:57) <Minaplo> ["Wow." Said Michael, although he was grinning too. "You don't think I can do it?"-
(17:00) <Minaplo> ["I-I think you could try." She said, wiping a few tears away from her eyes. "I don't think you'd get very far!"-
(17:00) <Minaplo> ["True. Security would probably pull us apart first." Said Michael thoughtfully. "Lucky for them."-
(17:00) <Minaplo> ["Pffft."-
(17:01) <Minaplo> ["It's true, though. The other night, Jeanne Simon took me aside and said, 'Michael, I understand that the Iron Guard are truly the gazelle to your lion, but you have to stop bullying them, it's hurting their self-esteem'. So this once I'll let them slide."-
(17:01) <Minaplo> ["You… You are a very dumb person." Said Chiisana, still laughing.-
(17:02) <Minaplo> ["Seconding that." Shouted Blue.-
(17:03) <Minaplo> ["Have it your way~" Said Michael airily, leaning back in his chair.-
(17:04) <Minaplo> ["But in all seriousness," Said Blue, vaulting over the bar. "S'a shitty thing for 'em to do. Not all Guard are like it, but some got a real chip on their big dumb shoulders. Want me to ban 'em, Ms. Chii?"-
(17:06) <Minaplo> ["Like you can afford to ban people." Said Michael.-
(17:06) <Minaplo> ["Fuck you!"-
(17:07) <Minaplo> ["Haha. Thank you, Mr. Blue, but I'm fine. I don't care too much about the hurt feelings of a few Guard." Said Chiisana. "If they become a real problem, then I can handle them myself. I'll even take it outside first."-
(17:07) <Minaplo> ["Oh, well, I mighty appreciate that, Ms. Chii." Said Blue. "You show an uncommon courtesy that maybe zero Neospartans or Guard actually have."-
(17:08) <Minaplo> ["Oh yeah, wasn't there a fight in here last week?" Said Michael.-
(17:09) <Minaplo> ["Sure was. Pham beat up some Chinese soldiers." Said Blue with a sigh. "Knocked over four chairs, three tables and a waitress doin' it, too. Damn annoying. This here place is s'posed to be classy."-
(17:10) <Minaplo> ["It is…?" Said Michael, his eyes widening.-
(17:10) <Minaplo> ["Know your place, boy." Said Blue, flicking Michael in the ear. "I'll have you know I modelled this place on the finest drinking establishment east of Istanbul: the Long Bar in Singapore."-
(17:21) <Minaplo> ["Hm. What is it like?" Asked Chiisana.-
(17:22) <Minaplo> ["Oh, well. It's real classy." Said Blue. "Lots of brass, and you can see your mug reflected in the wood, it's so polished and deep. Also your face."-
(17:22) <Minaplo> [Michael rolled his eyes.-
(17:23) <Minaplo> ["It's got big sunny windows and it smells of success." Said Blue. "Ah, I loved it. Used to tend there, y'know."-
(17:51) <Minaplo> ["Perhaps one day you could show me." Said Chiisana.-
(17:51) <Minaplo> ["Ah, well, Ms. Chii, I'll keep that in mind." He said with a wink. "But I'll leave y'all alone now."-
(17:51) <Minaplo> [And with that, he headed to the back of the room, flipped the owner switch on an arcade machine, and started to play.-
(17:56) <Minaplo> [Chiisana chuckled as he left. "That was a kind thing to do. The both of you, I mean."-
(17:56) <Minaplo> ["Ah, well." Michael gave her a light smile. "Least I could do to help, Chiisana."-
(18:07) <Minaplo> ["Hm~"-
(18:07) <Minaplo> ["In truth, the Iron Guard do not bother me overmuch themselves." Said Chiisana. "They are… Part of a larger problem."-
(18:11) <Minaplo> ["Oh?" Said Michael.-
(18:11) <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Chiisana. "I don't feel respected here."-
(18:30) <Minaplo> ["I'm no fool," She added. "I wasn't expecting the same level of respect that I possessed in my realm, but I expected some level of respect. Genuine respect, not addled fear."-
(18:34) <Minaplo> [Michael nodded, his attention fully on her now.-
(18:39) <Minaplo> ["I've been treated like a threat." Said Chiisana. "But more than that, they treated me…"-
(18:40) <Minaplo> ["… Like NERV does its pilots." Said Chiisana. "I arrive, and they talk of canvassing my Evangelion, of even sabotaging it."-
(18:40) <Minaplo> [Michael took a mouthful of lager; he remained silent.-
(18:41) <Minaplo> ["Perhaps they don't really grasp what they mean when they say that." She said. "Are you aware that the Ayanamis' souls are divided? Half for the pilot, half for the unit?"-
(18:41) <Minaplo> ["I am, yeah." Said Michael.-
(18:42) <Minaplo> [Chiisana nodded. "Good. That, however, isn't true for me anymore. Over the centuries, I made many modifications to my Evangelion, and eventually… That division healed."-
(18:45) <Minaplo> ["My Evangelion isn't just some war machine, or some tool. It's me. It's my body." Said Chiisana. "It's as much me as this." She gestured toward her own body. "I see from these eyes and those eyes, I feel through these nerves and those nerves. Yet when I tell them no, you will not interfere with me, their reaction is somehow though I'm in the wrong for exerting the most natural of rights."-
(18:46) <Minaplo> ["Ah." Said Michael; he nodded. "I get it. So they don't really understand."-
(18:47) <Minaplo> ["No, they don't." Said Chiisana. "But that doesn't absolve them, either. Their whole attitude is… Why do they treat Evangelions no better than animals? There's such arrogance, such presumption in that perspective- even thinking about it makes me angry."-
(18:52) <Minaplo> [Her hands curled into fists. "My Evangelion belongs to me. My sisters' Evangelions belong to them. No one else. We are not anyone's dolls."-
(18:53) <Minaplo> [A heavy silence filled the air. Although Chiisana had not been shouting, the few other occupants- bar Blue- were now staring at her as though she'd been bellowing like a bull.-
[14:55] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[14:56] <Minaplo> [Chiisana sighed. "I don't mean to lose my temper."-
[14:56] <Minaplo> [Michael shook his head. "No, I understand what you mean. I agree."-
[15:38] <Minaplo> [She gave him a slow, measured nod.-
[15:39] <Minaplo> ["Is there anything I can do to help?" Asked Michael gently.-
[15:39] <Minaplo> ["…" Chiisana frowned thoughtfully. "… Perhaps."-
[15:58] <Minaplo> ["What is it?"-
[15:59] <Minaplo> ["You seem to understand my situation." She said. "If you could take your understanding and share it with the Federation leadership, they might moderate their stances."-
[16:09] <Minaplo> ["That seems like the least I can do." Said Michael. "I'll do my best for you, Chiisana."-
[16:09] <Minaplo> ["Thank you." She said. "I do appreciate it, greatly."-
[16:09] <Minaplo> [Michael nodded.-
[16:10] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[16:10] <Minaplo> ["Now that that's… Out of the way." Chiisana leaned forward a little and smiled, trying to smooth out some of the frown and edge that she'd had since her outbust. "I don't suppose I can interest you in going halves for another pizza?"-
[16:21] <Minaplo> […-
[16:22] <Minaplo> [It was nearly 1 AM before Blue finally shooed them out of his establishment.-
[16:22] <Minaplo> [Of course it was supposed to close at midnight- a fact that Michael appreciated.-
[16:25] <Minaplo> [Chiisana had walked Michael back to his quarters; they'd chatted through most of the walk back, interrupted by no one- only the odd technician or guard on the night shift was up this late.-
[16:25] <Minaplo> ["Well then." Said Michael as he opened his door. "Next time- New York?"-
[16:25] <Minaplo> ["Next time, New York." She said with a smile. "I'd take you this time, but you're simply not well-dressed enough for a night on the town."-
[16:36] <Minaplo> ["Ouch." Said Michael. "Here I thought I looked rather presentable."-
[16:36] <Minaplo> ["Well, you'll have plenty of time to prepare." She said. "Perhaps we could make it after our invasion of Germany."-
[16:37] <Minaplo> ["I'll make a note of it." He said with a smile.-
[16:37] <Minaplo> ["Hm."-
[16:38] <Minaplo> ["… Thank you. For tonight." Said Chiisana. "I was in a poor place. In fact, I was seriously considering leaving before you arrived."-
[16:38] <Minaplo> ["Leaving." Said Michael. "Just going away somewhere…?"-
[16:40] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Chiisana. "Leaving and staying away. I can't return to my timeline, but that doesn't mean I have to tolerate feeling miserable here."-
[16:40] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[16:42] <Minaplo> ["You gave up a lot, coming back, didn't you?" Said Michael quietly. "I know… Leaving this time must've been painful. Missing the people here. But… You were there for so long. You had a life… A life you're proud of living."-
[16:43] <Minaplo> ["…" Chiisana turned away.-
[16:43] <Minaplo> ["Chiisana?" Said Michael softly.-
[16:43] <Minaplo> [She turned back toward him.-
[16:44] <Minaplo> ["I appreciate what you're doing for us." He said. "I promise your decision won't be in vain. Trust me, it won't be."-
[16:44] <Minaplo> ["…" Slowly, Chiisana smiled. "Thank you, Michael. That's kind of you to say."-
[16:45] <Minaplo> [He nodded, not quite sure what to say to that.-
[16:45] <Minaplo> ["Goodnight, Michael." Said Chiisana.-
[16:45] <Minaplo> ["G'night, Chiisana. Sleep well."-
[16:45] <Minaplo> [With that, she left.-
[16:46] <Minaplo> [Michael watched her go until she was out of sight; then with a sigh, he stepped inside and shut the door.]

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