Cherry Blossom Procession 4 1 9

[14:26] <Yanmei> Fatima eventually went on her way, leaving Yanmei by her lonesome once more. Only, she wasn't really alone. The coronation's afterparty was still going strong, and there were still as many enemies milling around as friendly faces. -
[14:33] <Yanmei> She played the part of the dignified dignitary, of course, slowly winding her way through the neutral part of the room, skirting dangerously close to where the UN members were congregated, carefully watching them for reactions.
[14:40] <Minaplo> [The group nearest, of course, was Ezra and Sarah… Who was still cuddling Mana.-
[14:41] <Minaplo> [Ezra's gaze slowly turned toward Yanmei. His expression brightened. "Ah, Chancellor!"]
[14:46] <Yanmei> "Marshal Caine," she said, perhaps a little stiffly. "It looks like you're enjoying yourself? Hello Madame Holt Caine."
[14:52] <Minaplo> ["Hello, Ms. Zhang. I love your uniform." Said Sarah glowingly. "It's very impressive…"]
[14:54] <Yanmei> "What, this old thing?" She started to give a little twirl, but fortunately, she had the presence of mind to stop herself. "Ahem. I mean, thank you. It's a formal occassion, after all? You two also look nice."
[14:56] <Minaplo> ["Thanks." Said Ezra. "But I dunno, Ms. Zhang. I think you're setting a fashion trend…"]
[15:01] <Yanmei> "What makes you say that?" Yanmei smirked. "There's not exactly a shortage of military men and women here."
[15:07] <Minaplo> ["Oh, I'm just observant." Said Ezra. He glanced away… His gaze, which Yanmei could easily trace, had fallen on Sophia, sitting in the corner. Who was still wearing her silken copy of Yanmei's outfit.]
[15:09] * Yanmei cleared her throat. "I can explain that. She's not a big fan of dresses, you see."
[15:13] <Minaplo> ["The dress she had on was lovely, though." Said Sarah with a sigh. "I can see how it might be a nuisance for someone who likes to… Well. Perch."]
[15:17] <Yanmei> "I've been meaning to talk to you about that. Not the perching so much, but other things going on with her. Er." She regarded Mana a little awkwardly. "Pardon me, by the way."
[15:18] <Minaplo> [Mana blushed. "I-It's okay, Chancellor."]
[15:24] * Yanmei nodded, still a little stiff and awkward, but went on regardless. "She's making friends, right? For the most part?"
[15:25] <Minaplo> ["Yes, although it's a little rough going…" Said Sarah. "She's a little clumsy around others, you know, in that way. She's very ingenuous."]
[15:30] <Yanmei> "Yeah… not that honesty's necessarily a bad thing? Especially in a place where there's not a lot of openness to be found in the first place." She did her best to keep from glancing in Mary Caine's direction.
[15:40] <Minaplo> ["True. But it does mean she ends up taking a lot of her queues from Augustine." Said Sarah.]
[15:42] <Yanmei> "Yeah. Earlier she was just talking about how helpful he is to her."
[15:45] <Minaplo> ["And… It's true." Said Ezra. "Augustine spends a huge deal of his free time with her… But, well. I'm not wholly sure if his intentions are pure."]
[15:49] <Yanmei> "I'm pretty sure she's not going to let him make out and stuff."
[15:53] <Minaplo> ["You think so?"]
[15:55] <Yanmei> "Yeah. For better or worse. She seems to feel really isolated still."
[15:55] <Minaplo> ["That might make her vulnerable." Said Sarah.]
[15:56] <Yanmei> "She hasn't let her guard down so far."
[16:00] <Minaplo> ["True enough. You know her better than we do." Said Ezra. "She was so excited, you know, about the idea of seeing you here…"]
[16:02] <Yanmei> "Yeah. We had a lot to talk about…"
[16:04] <Minaplo> ["How'd it go?"]
[16:06] <Yanmei> "Reasonably well. We reached an understanding… as friends."
[16:08] <Minaplo> ["Ah… I see." Said Ezra; he nodded slowly. "Well, I'm glad."]
[16:14] <Yanmei> "She's in quite a difficult spot with the UN. As I said before, she feels all alone, and her self esteem is just in tatters." Yanmei was rushing through her words now. "If I could fix it all tonight, I would, but I can't. What I can do is make sure that she's going to be okay when she has to go back to your ship."
[16:18] <Minaplo> ["I'll do my best." Said Ezra firmly. "I'll take care of her. Do you have any advice?"]
[16:28] <Yanmei> "Praise her and thank her regularly, especially when she does something good or clever. Have her watch more media to learn social things. TV, movies, books, that sort of thing. She's… very aware of how she doesn't fit in with conventional society, and it makes her feel bad about herself, so anything you can do to make her feel more normal beyond that would be good. Ask her for advice
[16:28] <Yanmei> occassionally to play up the things she does know. And make sure that stupid psycho Joan doesn't mess with her."
[16:30] <Minaplo> ["Hah, understood." Said Ezra.-
[16:30] <Minaplo> ["Maybe we could ask her to move in with us…?" Said Sarah.]
[16:34] <Yanmei> "You could leave the offer on the table. She might refuse and then show up months later after reconsidering. Or she might refuse and stay away, and feel secretly confused or good about it."
[16:37] <Minaplo> ["Aha! Man, it's pretty impressive that you know her so darn well when she's so quiet and shy."]
[16:39] <Yanmei> "Well. There are things that I didn't even know about her until tonight?"
[16:40] <Minaplo> ["Oh?"]
[16:41] <Yanmei> "Yes," she said evenly, peering back at them firmly.
[16:45] <Minaplo> ["You gotta wonder what someone like her has seen, though." Said Sarah, taking the hint. "Think of all the days and nights she's spent prowling Paris, watching the city, watching you…"]
[16:47] <Yanmei> "You could always ask her," Yanmei pointed out, and then frowned. -
[16:48] <Yanmei> "That is, ask her stuff about Paris' shady side," she clarified.
(16:51) <Minaplo> [Ezra smirked.-
(16:51) <Minaplo> ["Not even the shady side." Said Sarah. "She must have stories about all kinds of things. Random people in the street… Finding that cat…"]
(16:56) * Yanmei nodded, frowning a little more deeply. Was that where she started to feel alone? "She spent a lot of that time hiding away, just observing. But maybe she saw some good things too? She picked up on what Christmas was, for example."
(17:15) <Minaplo> ["Did she get you a present~?" Asked Sarah with a warm grin.]
(17:18) <Yanmei> "Maybe," she said, eyes narrowing cautiously.
(17:20) <Minaplo> ["Ooh. What was it?~"]
(17:21) <Yanmei> "A very nice flower."
(17:22) <Minaplo> ["… Aww." Said Sarah, her expression softening. "That's lovely. I bet it was your favourite one, too, because she'd paid so much attention~"]
(17:28) <Yanmei> "Mmph. A-anyway, just watch out for her. And for that matter, we should be thinking about what to do about her and her phantoms after the war. And all the other primes too."
(17:30) <Minaplo> ["Agreed." Said Ezra. "Sounds like you've taken the initiative."]
(17:35) <Yanmei> "Country farmhouses. Ranches. Or, like, schools. Theraputic places that Phantom squads can call home while they learn to cope with more peaceful times. It seems pretty important that they not feel as if they're alone?"
(17:38) <Minaplo> ["Yet also giving them their own places with lots of free space, away from crowded cities and curious eyes." Said Ezra.]
(17:42) <Yanmei> "That's right. Now, the issue is paying for these ranches and also figuring out which countries would host them."
(17:42) <Minaplo> ["Hmmm. Wouldn't the victor have enough power over their own states to just force the issue?"]
(17:44) <Yanmei> "Even so, it'd be like pulling teeth. Especially if people are scared of the Phantoms by then."
(17:45) <Minaplo> ["Maybe a very wide country with lots of space, then." Said Sarah.]
(17:47) <Yanmei> "China and Russia both have plenty of space," Yanmei muttered. "The Americas too. And Australia."
(17:47) <Minaplo> ["And Canada." Said Ezra, his gaze past Yanmei's shoulder as the Canadian Prime Minister gamely attempted to strike up a conversation with a baffled, wide-eyed Sophia.]
(17:50) * Yanmei blinked and watched this exchange closely. She'd half-forgotten that he'd even come with them.
(17:51) <Minaplo> ["After all, you're making room for the Iron Guard, right?" Said Sarah.]
(17:53) <Yanmei> "In Canada?" Her brow wrinkled in confusion. "That's not something we've actually settled on yet?"
(17:54) <Minaplo> ["No, but in general…?"]
(17:57) <Yanmei> "Yeah. We're working on that." She folded her arms. "All those guys want to seem to do is fight. They're way more coherent than the Phantoms, but… how do we make them happy? It's really tricky?"
(17:58) <Minaplo> ["You mean, how will you make 'em happy when you run out of targets?" Asked Sarah.]
(17:59) <Yanmei> "Yeah, exactly. You've got a couple of them on your side too, so you should also be thinking about that."
(18:01) <Minaplo> ["I have, yeah." Said Ezra. "So I'm happy to share my insights…"]
(18:02) <Yanmei> "Oh yeah…?"
(18:03) <Minaplo> ["A question. Do you think the Iron Guard crave combat, or challenge?"]
(18:08) <Yanmei> "Probably challenge. But that's the same thing at this point, isn't it?"
[14:03] <Minaplo> ["At this point, maybe. But after the war ends…?"]
[14:07] <Yanmei> "After that, then… yeah. Probably all different types of challenges, depending on personalities. Physical, mental, supernatural…"
[14:10] <Minaplo> ["So how do you go about finding those challenges?"]
[14:13] <Yanmei> "Well, first you have to find a rival. Someone whose reputation precedes them? It probably involves keeping a strong network of business and personal connections."
[14:14] <Minaplo> ["Not quite."]
[14:16] <Yanmei> "If you have a better idea in mind, you could always just tell me?"
[14:18] <Minaplo> ["You're not going to be able to tie every individual Iron Guard to a rival." Said Ezra. "Even if you could, too many of those rivals would just be other Iron Guard or Bioexotics, and that's something you want to avoid."-
[14:21] <Minaplo> ["Here's a good tip for you. The broader you get, the simpler you have to go." Said Ezra. "What's the simplest definition of a challenge?"]
[14:23] <Yanmei> "Something that cannot be punched through with ease, of course. A roadblock requiring effort to overcome."
[14:25] <Minaplo> ["Exactly." Said Ezra. "Roadblocks, obstacles… So you find obstacles for them. Stuff that only they can do, or at least, stuff they can do better than others, but is still hard. Hunting down Impact Feral populations. Rebuilding civilization in remote and wartorn areas. Or, if you were really ambitious… Colonising other worlds."]
[14:28] <Yanmei> "Interesting…"
[14:31] <Minaplo> ["Whoever wins this war is going to end up with a world full of potential." Said Ezra. "You yourself know that: consider how easy it is for an Eva or an AT Starship to travel to Mars. It's not a hard leap to imagine the victor being able to explore the stars…"]
[14:38] <Yanmei> "Well yeah. There could be all sorts of resources out there that we don't know about yet? Maybe even more life within traveling distance." She gave a low, wry chuckle. "If they're anything like the Angels, though, we'd probably better avoid them."
[14:39] <Minaplo> ["There probably will be." Said Ezra lightly. "Maybe not nearby, but out there."]
[14:48] <Minaplo> ["Not yet, actually." Said Sarah. "It's so unfair! We got the Damocles after it stopped hanging around in Space…"]
[14:53] <Yanmei> "Too bad. It's awfully peaceful up there~" A small smirk. "Who knows? Maybe you could go on your next day off. I bet Agatha or Augustus could work something out for you."
[14:54] <Minaplo> ["Hahaha." Said Ezra. "Maybe…"-
[14:55] <Minaplo> ["Although how could we convince them to leave us by ourselves?" Asked Sarah, glancing at Ezra; the two of them shared a very fond look for a moment.-
[14:55] <Minaplo> [Mana grinned.]
[15:03] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei glanced away politely, half-certain that they were going to start making out right then and there.
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["The stars would be so romantic." Said Sarah warmly.-
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["I don't need to go to space to see the stars in your eyes." Said Ezra softly.-
[15:05] <Minaplo> [Mana's face began to turn a bright pink.]
[15:07] <Yanmei> "Hey, look over there! Asuka's hitting someone."
[15:08] <Minaplo> [Had Asuka and Alex even returned from their vanishing act yet? Apparently not. Not that Ezra was paying attention.-
[15:11] <Minaplo> ["Asuka hitting someone happens everyday." He said Ezra, leaning toward Sarah. "But you're one in a billion…"-
[15:12] <Minaplo> [Sarah was all too happy to reciprocate, leaning closer (and dragging Mana toward it as well). "Hmm~ Tell me more about my eyes…"]
[15:15] <Yanmei> "Well! I'll leave to two to um… yes," she said, backing away. "Enjoy the rest of the festivities?"
[15:25] <Minaplo> ["Ever since I met you, my love has been nothing but a festival." Purred Ezra…-
[15:25] <Minaplo> […-
[15:25] <Minaplo> [Where to now, Yanmei?]
[15:29] <Yanmei> To the old man Minerva Linden had pointed out to her earlier. Keel Lorenz. Was he chatting with diplomats? Drinking all the wine?
[15:34] <Minaplo> [He was in fact drinking some wine, but he was chatting to someone- the Canadian Prime Minister who, after a few minutes, headed away.]
[15:40] <Yanmei> The path was clear. Yanmei tossed her head, and sauntered right up to him. "Lovely gathering, isn't it~?"
[15:48] <Minaplo> ["Hrm." Keel Lorenz was a broad-shouldered man, tall and unbowed by age. He had a firm, tough face: the lines along his cheek and mouth gave it the faint impression of a bulldog's jowls.-
[15:49] <Minaplo> ["You're Zhang Yanmei. The UEF Chancellor." He said with a frown. He had dark blue eyes.]
[15:51] <Yanmei> "Yes, I am?" She flashed him a winning smile. "And you're the influencial Keel Lorenz."
[15:56] <Minaplo> ["So you know me."]
[16:00] <Yanmei> "Well. I know your reputation. And that you're apparently throwing your hat in with Mary Caine and the UN."
[16:03] <Minaplo> [He didn't say anything to that; he just continued to stare at her.]
[16:25] * Yanmei kept up her smile, tilting her head slightly. "Am I wrong?"
[16:27] <Minaplo> ["Do you think you're wrong?"]
[16:28] <Yanmei> "No. Although I'm sure there's a good reason for it."
[16:30] <Minaplo> ["Oh?"]
[16:32] <Yanmei> "Yes. Like, maybe you're not backing the UN so much as you're trying to protect your home country."
[16:33] <Minaplo> ["Possibly."]
[16:39] <Yanmei> "Or you could simply believe in the Caines' vision for the world's future."
[16:40] <Minaplo> ["Also possible. Which do you believe?"]
[16:47] <Yanmei> "I believe it's for a far more complex reason than either of those."
[16:52] <Minaplo> ["One that you understand?"]
[16:54] * Yanmei sighed reluctantly. "Maybe not, no."
[16:55] <Minaplo> ["Hm."]
[14:35] <Yanmei> "Of course, if you felt like talking about it I wouldn't mind listening."
[14:39] <Minaplo> ["Appealing to a lecturer's bias to lecture, hm?" He said with a smile.]
[14:42] <Yanmei> "Nothing wrong with that, is there?" she said with a smile of her own.
[14:46] <Minaplo> ["No, no…"-
[14:46] <Minaplo> ["Alright, then. If you were in my position, can you guess my reasons for, at least, not supporting the Federation?"]
[14:48] <Yanmei> "Less firepower, fewer personal connections, the home country situation I mentioned earlier, and Caine's rampage against… certain representatives in the United Nations."
[14:50] <Minaplo> ["Keep going."]
[14:52] <Yanmei> "Disapproval over the UEF's own members, I suppose." She glanced across the room for Mazarin. Was he still unfirebombed? "Or maybe you just disagree with our ideals in general."
[14:54] <Minaplo> [Mazarin remained blissfully unimmolated.-
[14:55] <Minaplo> ["Disapproval of your clients is… A strong contender." Said Lorenz. "Now, if you could recite your ideals for me…?"]
[15:08] <Yanmei> "To continue protecting humanity from threats against its continued existence, including those machinations set in place by the current and former heads of the United Nations."
[15:09] <Minaplo> ["And what machinations would those be?"]
[15:11] <Yanmei> "Surely, you have a better idea of that than even I do."
[15:16] <Minaplo> ["Assume that I don't."]
[15:24] <Yanmei> "…" -
[15:28] <Yanmei> "It's a really long story. There's the Eternity Drive, for starters…"
[15:29] <Minaplo> [Lorenz took a mouthful of wine.]
[15:31] <Yanmei> "Which is a device or a system that traps the souls of the dead in a horrifyingly large scale?"
[15:43] <Minaplo> [Lorenz paused slightly in his swallow.-
[15:43] <Minaplo> [Then he lowered his glass. "I see. Yet more references to 'necrotech'."]
[15:45] <Yanmei> "'Yet more'…? Excuse me. I don't remember referencing this before?"
[15:55] <Minaplo> ["You're not the first one to reference necrotech, no." Said Lorenz. "I was referring to other references to it I'd heard from others."]
[16:02] <Yanmei> "So this is like an elephant in the room. More people know about it than we'd both expect?"
[16:05] <Minaplo> ["Well, you understand that this "Eternity Drive" is not the only entry in the Necrotech category, yes?"]
[16:08] <Yanmei> "Judging from its name, I'll assume you're referring to any technology that involves housing or transferring souls."
[16:08] <Minaplo> ["That's right."]
[16:11] <Yanmei> "That's not necessarily common knowledge for everyone, but yeah, I'm sure about half the people here know about it?"
[16:13] <Minaplo> ["And you of course would know better than most, considering your career."]
[16:15] <Yanmei> "Of course? It's the first time I've actually heard that term, though."
[16:17] <Minaplo> ["We're keen to invent new terms to categorise the proliferation of new things we've run into over the past few years." Said Lorenz. "Bioexotic, Necrotech…"-
[16:17] <Minaplo> ["But, Chancellor, let us remain on-topic." Said Lorenz. "Do you oppose Necrotech, then?"]
[16:21] <Yanmei> "I oppose this form of it? Its application to individuals raised enough ethical questions as it is. Now it's being used on just about every person on the planet."
[16:24] <Minaplo> ["So it's a question of scale, then." Said Lorenz. "The UN's use of necrotech is bad because it affects everyone, but the Federation's use of necrotech is acceptable because it only affects a few."]
[16:36] <Yanmei> "The circumstances are different. Our necrotech is more like a legacy from the time when it and NERV were one and the same. It's still every bit as dubious, but it's basically become a necessary evil in order to keep going. If there's a justification behind what the UN's doing, I haven't heard it."
[16:37] <Minaplo> ["I'm sure the UN has one." Said Lorenz. "Perhaps it feels it necessary to defeat the Federation, just like, regardless of their status as a 'legacy' or not, you still choose to use the Evangelions due to their necessity."-
[16:41] <Minaplo> ["All of this hinges on whether you believe such a thing as a 'necessary' evil ever truly exists as anything less than an evil." Said Lorenz. "Here, allow me to demonstrate. Choose an evil act, one that in your eyes, is never justified."]
[16:44] <Yanmei> "Attacking and killing unarmed children."
[16:45] <Minaplo> ["Very well." Said Lorenz. "Now then, if you had to choose, who would you align yourself with? One who had killed twenty unarmed children, or one who had killed a million unarmed children?"]
[16:51] <Yanmei> "And there's no third option? Just one or the other?"
[16:54] <Minaplo> ["So if given the choice, you would prefer to side with neither party."]
[16:58] <Yanmei> "Why not? Who benefits from it either way? And if I or someone else is getting something out of it, is it massive enough to betray my ideals?"
[17:00] <Minaplo> ["Then you understand that when it comes to events, scale is secondary to the evil of the act itself." Said Lorenz. He didn't continue; he just gave Yanmei a long, penetrating stare.-
[17:01] <Minaplo> [… Then someone suddenly grabbed Yanmei's arm. A tall, elegant, beautiful blonde someone with lustrous, twinkling blue eyes.-
[17:01] <Minaplo> ["Fa~ther~". Said Juno Winter-Lorenz. "You aren't bullying sweet Chancellor Zhang?"-
[17:01] <Minaplo> [Lorenz gave her a dark look.-
[17:01] <Minaplo> ["It looked like bullying." Said Juno with a sweet smile.]
[17:10] <Yanmei> "Hardly." Yanmei flashed a bright smile at her. "We were just having a friendly chat?"

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