Cherry Blossom Procession 4 2 40

[14:57] <Hopeplo> [She found Kourosh sitting by himself in Roku's. He had been quietly, quickly eating a salad when she'd arrived.-
[14:58] <Hopeplo> [Kou paused, a leaf of crushed rocket lettuce sitting on his fork along with a cube of cheese- the assortment wobbled perilously as the fork sat in the void between plate and mouth.-
[15:00] <Hopeplo> [Go stood a little away from the table, her arms at her sides. Her expression was pensive, almost hesitant- far from the firm, focused glare she usually wore at the Promised Hour.-
[15:05] <Hopeplo> [She wore a navy blue miniskirt and a long-sleeved white button-up t-shirt with a high collar, except the buttons had been replaced with little red ribbon bows, with a large bow fastening her collar together.-
[15:05] <Hopeplo> ["Is it time?" Asked Kou, his mouth dry.-
[15:06] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah." Said Go; she glanced away.-
[15:06] <Hopeplo> ["… Can I finish my salad first?"-
[15:07] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah, of course." Said Go.-
[15:07] <Hopeplo> [And so Kou began to storm his meal, shoving unseemly forkfuls into his mouth without stopping. In a few minutes he'd finished, his cheeks stuffed like a squirrel.-
[15:08] <Hopeplo> ["Oh my God." Muttered Go- and suddenly her hesitation vanished. Her eyebrows drew together, her eyes narrowed and her hands balled into fists. "What are you doing?!"-
[15:08] <Hopeplo> ["Eafng?"-
[15:11] <Hopeplo> ["Like a piglet!?" Snapped Go. "Come on! You're supposed to be our Prime Minister! You're supposed to be dignified and respectful and lofty, what the hell-"
[15:16] <Hopeplo> [But Go suddenly paused. The clientele of Restful were looking at her, either out of the corner of their eyes or just openly watching with wide, amused grins. They were waiting- many of them had seen Go hunt her prey before.-
[15:36] <Hopeplo> ["Oy, Go." Said Roku matter-of-factly from the counter. "Inside voice, sweetie, ok?"-
[15:36] <Hopeplo> [Go flushed in embarrassment. "I-I…"-
[15:36] <Hopeplo> [She snapped a dark look at Kou. "This is your doing, somehow."-
[15:37] <Hopeplo> [Kou's eyes widened in indignation. He swallowed painfully. "How is this my fault?!"-
[15:37] <Hopeplo> ["You… You set a trap!" Said Go. "By choosing to eat here, you knew I couldn't act without embarrassing myself!"-
[15:38] <Hopeplo> ["Sure. You come in here, loom all over me, make me eat fast and then when you begin shouty-shouty at me, it's my fault that you embarrass yourself." Said Kou sullenly.-
[15:43] <Hopeplo> ["W-Well it is! You baited me by eating like a slob!"-
[15:44] <Hopeplo> ["No, I ate like a quick person because you were standing over me and frightening me into hurrying up." Said Kou firmly.-
[15:44] <Hopeplo> ["Mmmmmmmf." Go squeezed her hands together and let out a little, quiet scream of frustration. "I was gonna go easy on you today, but you can just forget that now, you dumb… dumb… Prime Sinister."-
[15:45] <Hopeplo> ["'Prime Sinister'? Is that really a thing you just said with your mouth?" Said Kou, his eyes wide. "Wow. It should be obvious to you now that all you need to embarrass yourself is yourself."-
[15:49] <Hopeplo> ["Why are you being so mean?!" Snapped Go.-
[15:49] <Hopeplo> ["Oh, I'm being mean." Said Kou. "You just called me Prime Sinister, which is insulting because I'm also left-handed!"-
[15:53] <Hopeplo> ["So that's why you're so weird!" Said Go.-
[15:53] <Hopeplo> ["What? No! I'm not weird, you're weird-"
[15:53] <Hopeplo> ["Who're you calling weird?!" Said Go, her voice rising again. "You're just some hobo they found in the mountains-"-
[15:54] <Hopeplo> ["And you're the woman who chases that hobo, strips him and throws him into a bath against his will!" Shouted Kou.-
[15:57] <Hopeplo> [There was silence.-
[15:57] <Hopeplo> [Then-
[15:57] <Hopeplo> ["Ohhh my god." Trilled Maya in the corner, her hands clasped together, her eyes wide and her expression one of glee. "Young passion~"-
[15:57] <Hopeplo> ["Shut up!" Snapped Kou and Go both, their faces burning red.-
[15:58] <Hopeplo> ["Wait 'til I tell Makoto about this." Said Maya cheerfully. "Maybe you and he can form a special club of Ayanami lovers~"-
[15:59] <Hopeplo> [Go mumbled incoherently- then clapped her hands over her face.-
[16:00] <Hopeplo> ["I'm not an Ayanami lover, she just treats me like a kid!" Said Kou hotly.-
[16:00] <Hopeplo> ["As opposed to what?" Said Maya.-
[16:00] <Hopeplo> ["A fully grown male adult?"-
[16:01] <Hopeplo> ["One day, Mr. Prime Minister~" Cooed Maya.-
[16:01] <Hopeplo> [Kou seethed.-
[16:04] <Hopeplo> ["Hey, Roku…" Said Dr. Tenma quietly- who was sitting at the table nearest the counter. "Whatever happened to 'inside voices'?"-
[16:04] <Hopeplo> ["Well now I'm having fun." Said Roku lightly.-
[16:07] <Hopeplo> ["A-Are you gonna come quietly or not?" Asked Go, her eyes flitting desperately toward the exit or not.-
[16:07] <Hopeplo> ["'Come quietly'. What do you think, Ibuki? Does that sound like lover talk to you?" Said Kou acidly.-
[16:07] <Hopeplo> [Maya's reaction was to blush and collapse into giggles.-
[16:09] <Hopeplo> ["You know what? Fine." Said Kou shortly, rising to his full height of just-under-Go's hairline. "I'm absolutely certain the 'come quietly' ship sailed under the command of Zheng He, thanks to you, Go, but sure, let's get out of here."-
[16:11] <Hopeplo> [Go was already halfway out the door, her face flaming. Kou had to practically run after her.-
[16:11] <Hopeplo> […-
[16:13] <Hopeplo> ["Well." Said Kou as he stepped onto the elevator. "That may have been one of the single most humiliating experiences I've ever had. I think the only way it could've been worse was if you stripped me right then and there and just threw the water at me."-
[16:18] <Hopeplo> ["I wasn't trying to humiliate you." Said Go, her voice tiny. "But you were eating badly…"-
[16:19] <Hopeplo> ["Because you were rushing me!"-
[16:19] <Hopeplo> ["I wasn't trying to rush you!" Said Go.-
[16:19] <Hopeplo> ["Then next time, try being less loomy. Try sitting down. Maybe order something yourself. Actually show me that I have time to finish what I'm doing before you march me off." Said Kou.-
[16:21] <Hopeplo> ["I wasn't-" But Go bit her tongue, squeezed her hands together and sighed. "I'm sorry, Kou. I didn't think."-
[16:23] <Hopeplo> ["That's okay." Said Kou. "And for what it's worth, I'm sorry that Ibuki went on like she did about- what you do. I didn't think either, and I just blurted it out- embarrassing you as well as me."-
[16:23] <Hopeplo> ["Y-Yeah, that's ok." Said Go.-
[16:24] <Hopeplo> ["I'm gonna get that Root Beer Girl, though." Muttered Go darkly. "Everyone thinks she's so innocent and cute and bubbly, but she's actually super lewd and perverted…"-
[16:34] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah, what a shocker." Said Kou dryly.-
[16:35] <Hopeplo> [Go gave him a suspicious look.-
[16:35] <Hopeplo> ["… About her." Added Kou quickly. "Between you and me, though? I really think she's probably just as innocent and cute and bubbly about her lewd perversions too."-
[16:39] <Hopeplo> ["Bubbly pervert…" Said Go to herself. "Ugh. That's not fair. That just makes her cuter, doesn't it?"-
[16:40] <Hopeplo> ["Mmmhm." Said Kou.-
[16:40] <Hopeplo> [Go shot Kou yet another suspicious look- just as the elevator chimed and opened.-
[16:41] <Hopeplo> ["Oh good." Said Kou, stepping out in front of Go. "Another safe elevator journey with you. That should be a given, and yet it isn't, is it?"-
[16:44] <Hopeplo> ["That dumb Tsubaki." Muttered Go. "I dunno why she did it…"-
[16:44] <Hopeplo> ["It was probably Misato's idea." Said Kou.-
[16:46] <Hopeplo> ["Of course it was." Said Go irritably. "She's the worst of all of them. I don't know how Raffy deals with it all."-
[16:48] <Hopeplo> ["I have a few ideas." Murmured Kou.-
[16:48] <Hopeplo> [Go glanced at him- but before long they'd arrived at Kou's apartment.-
[16:52] <Hopeplo> ["I know I keep saying this, but it's really weird that you keep your room way neater than you keep yourself." Said Go as Kou opened the door.-
[16:55] <Hopeplo> ["Who asked you?" Muttered Kou as he followed her in.-
[16:55] <Hopeplo> ["I'm just pointing it out." Said Go. "You can replace stuff in your room way easier than you can replace your body!"-
[17:25] <Hopeplo> ["That's true, but I'm not going to lose an arm by being dirty." Said Kou.-
[17:26] <Hopeplo> ["You could. What if you got gangrene or leprosy or something?" Said Go with a frown.-
[17:31] <Hopeplo> ["Right, so, firstly, gangrene is caused by critical lack of blood supply to an extremity." Said Kou. "And secondly, leprosy is contagious, so all I need to do is stay away from leprous people- who probably will be screened out through health checks anyway."-
[17:32] <Hopeplo> ["In fact," Said Kou, his face lighting up, "If you think about it, looking dirty and smelling bad more likely to protect me from leprosy by repelling other people-"-
[17:32] <Hopeplo> ["That's dumb. Get in the bathroom." Said Go firmly.-
[17:42] <Hopeplo> [With a sigh, Kou walked into the bathroom.-
[17:50] <Hopeplo> [He turned the hot tap on- hot water gushed out of the faucet. He waited until the bath was halfway full, then he reluctantly picked up a bottle of liquid soap- shaped like a cute, deformed novelty EVA-04, where the head was also the cap.-
[17:59] <Hopeplo> [Eyeing it resentfully, he unscrewed the head and poured a long stream of thick purple soap into the water.-
[18:01] <Hopeplo> [Within half a minute, the soap began foaming up, filling the bath with a thick purple carpet of foaming bubbles.-
[18:03] <Hopeplo> [Then he rescrewed Bubble-04's head back on, tossed it into the corner, then took off his necklaces and beads. After that he shrugged off his robes, one by one, until he stood naked in the bathroom.-
[18:05] <Hopeplo> [Even with layer after layer of robe, Kou looked scrawny. Naked, he looked positively underfed: he had thin, bony legs, scraggly arms and his ribs were visible just beneath his skin.-
[18:12] <Hopeplo> [He glanced back at the door- then looked down at the water.-
[18:12] <Hopeplo> [Back at the door. Then down to the water. Finally he sighed, grit his teeth, and stepped into the water achingly slowly.-
[18:13] <Hopeplo> [He clutched onto the sides tightly as he lowered himself into the purply, soapy water.-
[18:13] <Hopeplo> ["I'm in." Said Kou.-
[18:18] <Hopeplo> [A minute later, Go entered, holding fresh folded robes in her hand; she shut the door with her AT Field at the same time that she telekinetically picked up Kou's fallen robes and dumped them into a hamper near the door.-
[18:19] <Hopeplo> ["I'll just leave these here for you, ok?" Said Go, placing it down atop the closed hamper.-
[18:19] <Hopeplo> ["You don't have to do that. I'm quite capable of picking my own clothes." Said Kou irritably.-
[18:20] <Hopeplo> ["I know that." Said Go, frowning. "I was just trying to do you a favour."-
[18:22] <Hopeplo> ["Well you're not, so cut it out." Said Kou.-
[18:23] <Hopeplo> [Go scowled. "I-It's the thought that counts! You could try to be grateful…"-
[18:24] <Hopeplo> ["The thought might count, but it's the outcome that adds up." Said Kou. "Imagine if someone just grabbed a bunch of your clothes randomly and dumped them in your bathroom as you were bathing. Would you be grateful, or would you be irritated that they were screwing about with your clothes?"-
[18:25] <Hopeplo> ["I, well-"-
[18:26] <Hopeplo> [Then Go suddenly remembered on Mars- going in for her first bath since the crash, only to find Armin hammering on the door with a spare change of clothes…-
[18:26] <Hopeplo> ["… Sorry." Muttered Go. "I'll put these back."-
[18:27] <Hopeplo> [Kou waved a hand dismissively at her. "Don't worry about it now, those clothes'll do. Just keep it in mind for the future."-
[18:27] <Hopeplo> [A minute passed in silence, except for the little rippling of the water as Kou halfheartedly splashed himself.-
[18:28] <Hopeplo> ["H-How's the bath?" Asked Go.-
[18:28] <Hopeplo> ["Oh, you know. Bath-like." Said Kou, his tone forcibly light. "The bubbles do a great job of hiding the water from sight, but that doesn't help when I can feel it all around me."-
[18:38] <Hopeplo> ["I mean, I suppose that's a good thing." Said Kou. "My skin can feel water still! That's good. Look on the bright side, right? All my nerves working and everything-"-
[18:44] <Hopeplo> [Kou turned toward Go, and his eyes instantly widened. Go tugged the bow-buttons of her shirt open one by one, and the shirt fell open, revealing a vivid red one-piece swimsuit with a white flower pattern along the side. She took the shirt, folded it carefully into quarters, then placed it on the sink. A moment later she shrugged off her skirt and placed it on the sink as well. With that
[18:44] <Hopeplo> done, she stepped into the bath and smoothly sat down, barely causing a ripple in the water.-
[18:45] <Hopeplo> ["Um." Said Kou, acutely aware that his nerves were in fact working.-
[18:46] <Hopeplo> [Go ignored him. She held her hand out, and out of nowhere a novel materialised in her palm; she held it in front of her, opened to a bookmarked page and began to read.-
[19:03] <Hopeplo> [A few minutes later, Go looked up at Kou, her face reddening even as she scowled. "Hey, it's rude to stare."-
[19:06] <Hopeplo> ["I, uhm." Kou sharply turned his head away. "I just- I uh, I wasn't expecting… That, what you just did."-
[19:09] <Hopeplo> ["You did keep talking about it." Mumbled Go.-
[19:10] <Hopeplo> ["I… Did." Said Kou. "I uh, I wasn't… Goodness, this water sure is hot," he said, turning the cold water tap on as hard as he could.-
[19:11] <Hopeplo> ["Hey! You'll ruin the water!" Said Go, turning the cold tap back off with her Field.-
[19:11] <Hopeplo> [Kou stared longingly at the last few dribbles of cold water before he turned back toward Go, then just as quickly back toward the faucet.-
[19:13] <Hopeplo> ["Hey." Said Go. "I wanted to say sorry. I… I thought you were a little kid who hated baths."-
[19:13] <Hopeplo> ["…"-
[19:16] <Hopeplo> ["You and everyone else." Said Kou with a frown. "I'm on the cusp of telling everyone I had hyperthyroid goiter as a kid and letting that solve the problem."-
[19:16] <Hopeplo> ["What's-?"-
[19:17] <Hopeplo> ["Nothing, don't worry about it." Said Kou. "But yes, you thought I was just a little kid… But now you know differently?"-
[19:18] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah. Sorry." Said Go sheepishly. "I only realised you were an adult recently, and… Well, I feel really bad about all the things I did. I just thought I had to be forceful with you- I was the same way as a kid, so-"-
[19:18] <Hopeplo> ["So you did the same thing to me that your dad did to you?" Said Kou, his eyebrows raised.-
[19:19] <Hopeplo> ["W-Well. Maybe." Said Go with a cough. "Point is, when you asked me about sharing your bath the other times, I just thought you were being a pervy little kid about it."-
[19:20] <Hopeplo> ["But when I realised that you were an adult, then… Your not wanting to bathe must've had a good reason behind it." Said Go. "Like you were afraid of the water. And if you were afraid of it, then of course you'd ask for someone to share it with you. So here I am. I guess."-
[19:21] <Hopeplo> ["Here you are indeed." Murmured Kou. "You did seem a little less aggressive this time, so… That seems to check out."-
[19:21] <Hopeplo> [Eventually he nodded. "Thank you, Go. I'm honoured."-
[19:23] <Hopeplo> ["W-Well, you're welcome." Said Go, before burying her flushed face back in the book.-
[19:25] <Hopeplo> [And Kou fell silent. He scrubbed his body down, letting the grime and dirt wash off. He dipped his head under the water to wet his hair, and eventually applied a generous handful of shampoo to the mangled mess before letting it sit.-
[19:26] <Hopeplo> [But his gaze kept returning to Go- and eventually to the cover of her book. He couldn't quite see the title or the illustration- but he saw glimpses. A dashing man with long black hair and a tight, toned chest, revealed as his hanfu fell open around him…-
[19:50] <Hopeplo> ["Stop leering." Said Go hotly; she folded her arms over her chest.-
[19:51] <Hopeplo> ["Huh- oh." Kou straighted up and shook his head, sending shampoo flicks in all directions (one nearly struck the cover of Go's book, only to be deflected away by an AT Field). "I was just trying to look at your book cover- I mean it!"-
[19:52] <Hopeplo> ["You could just ask." Said Go.-
[19:54] <Hopeplo> ["I didn't want to be annoying, though." Said Kou. "I'm a big reader and I hate it when people do that, and that goes double when I keep returning to it and they don't take a hint…"-
[18:28] <Hopeplo> ["Especially on trains." Said Go with a frown.-
[18:28] <Hopeplo> ["Trains-?" Asked Kou, his own train of thought interrupted.-
[18:43] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah." Said Go. "I was on a train once going into town, and I was reading a book, and then this guy just walks over to me -on the train- and goes, 'what're you reading'?"-
[18:43] <Hopeplo> ["What, just out of nowhere?" Said Kou.-
[18:44] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah." She said darkly. "I told him the name, and then I went back to reading as hard as I could, but he just ignored that. He was like, 'what is it about'?"-
[18:48] <Hopeplo> ["That's really rude." Said Kou. "What did you say?"-
[18:49] <Hopeplo> ["I didn't really want to tell him what it was about, so I just said something really vague, then went back to reading." Said Go.-
[18:49] <Hopeplo> ["As clear a signal as any." Said Kou. "Did he go away?"-
[18:53] <Hopeplo> ["No." Said Go, her frown growing into a scowl. "He just kinda loomed for a minute, then was like, 'you know, you're very pretty'."-
[18:53] <Hopeplo> ["Oh no." Said Kou; he grimaced.-
[19:22] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah. It was really, really creepy." She muttered. "I felt my skin crawl and everything…"-
[19:22] <Hopeplo> ["What did you do?" Asked Kou.-
[19:22] <Hopeplo> ["Well. At that point I'd been in Germany for about a year, and both mama and Asuka told me what to do in this situation." Said Go.-
[19:22] <Hopeplo> ["Which was to beat him up and let NERV handle it?" Said Kou.-
[19:23] <Hopeplo> ["… Yeah, how did you know?" Asked Go.-
[19:23] <Hopeplo> ["Lucky guess. Please continue." Said Kou.-
[19:48] <Hopeplo> ["A-anyway, I felt that was too much of an Asuka solution, so I just… I just told him that he was being rude and to please leave me alone." Said Go.-
[19:48] <Hopeplo> ["That's a pretty assertive response." Said Kou. "Did it work?"-
[19:49] <Hopeplo> ["Kind of." Said Go. "At first he was like, 'wow, you have a lot of bite for an Asian girl', but then I just stared at him for awhile like this-" Go fixed Kou with a very cold, cutting look- "and then he mumbled something and went away."-
[20:07] <Hopeplo> ["Holy crap." Said Kou, his eyes wide. "'a lot of bite'… What a horrible thought. I'm glad you were able to scare him off, but it sounds like the sort of thing that'd sour a nice day out."-
[20:17] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah." Said Go with a sigh. "I spent the rest of the day trying to sit as far away from other people as I could help…"-
[20:38] <Hopeplo> ["That hardly seems fair." Said Kou quietly.-
[20:39] <Hopeplo> ["It isn't." Said Go.-
[20:39] <Hopeplo> [There was a pause, and Go looked back down at her book- then quickly flicked her gaze up at Kou. "B-But that wasn't what you meant, was it? You just meant random curious people and I bet it's never happened to you, and I just went and talked about it completely out of nowhere-"-
[20:51] <Hopeplo> ["Huh?" Kou stared at her, completely at sea as she talked faster and faster.-
[21:05] <Hopeplo> ["I haven't told anyone about that- well not everyone anyone, I told Asuka, and she was like, 'you shoulda set him on fire', but I don't know if she meant it and oh you're probably gonna think she's a crazy homocidal person now-"-
[21:06] <Hopeplo> [Kou opened his mouth- then simply sat back in the bath and waited.-
[21:07] <Hopeplo> ["I mean you probably thought that anyway but in case you didn't- not that she is, she's actually very caring, she's gotten a lot better recently, you didn't see her on Mars where she helped a lot of people-"-
[21:08] <Hopeplo> [Kou nodded slowly.-
[21:08] <Hopeplo> ["She's actually really smart and she even has a degree in physics and-" Go stopped.-
[21:08] <Hopeplo> ["Ohmygod I'm rambling-"-
[21:41] <Hopeplo> ["It's okay." Said Kou.-
[21:41] <Hopeplo> [Go stopped- and eyed him with what Kou read as suspicion.-
[21:55] <Hopeplo> ["I mean it." Said Kou sincerely.-
[21:58] <Hopeplo> ["But I completely took us off-topic." Said Go. "You were talking about… Well, people asking about books, and instead you got this long dumb story about a creeper on a train."-
[21:58] <Hopeplo> ["Conversations are supposed to go off-topic." Said Kou.-
[21:58] <Hopeplo> [Go eyed him. "What?"-
[22:05] <Hopeplo> ["Sure. All of my favourite conversations have gone off-topic. We start with one, but we get so caught up in talking that we cover a dozen different subjects over four hours…" Said Kou.-
[22:05] <Hopeplo> [Go gave him a bleak expression. "I don't remember the last time I talked with someone for that long. I don't think I have."-
[22:13] <Hopeplo> ["Well. Have you ever read for four hours?"-
[22:13] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah, of course." Said Go.-
[22:14] <Hopeplo> ["Well, that's sort of like having a conversation for four hours." Said Kou.-
[22:15] <Hopeplo> ["Is it?" Asked Go doubtfully.-
[22:23] <Hopeplo> ["Sure." Said Kou. "I like reading as much as I like talking to people, so that makes them similar in a way, doesn't it?"-
[22:26] <Hopeplo> ["I don't think it does." Said Go with a frown. "Reading is quiet. If you get confused about a book you can just reread a line, but it's a lot harder to reread people in the middle of talking."-
[22:32] <Hopeplo> ["That's true." Said Kou.-
[22:32] <Hopeplo> [Go eyed him for a few moments, then continued. "Don't you get tired, talking all the time?"-
[22:37] <Hopeplo> ["Of course." Said Kou. "It's enjoyable, exciting, refreshing- I get a little carried away to be honest- but after awhile… I need time with myself."-
[22:42] <Hopeplo> ["Enjoyable…" Go muttered. "I can't say the same. I always make so many mistakes when I talk…"-
[22:45] <Hopeplo> ["Mistakes?" Said Kou.-
[22:45] <Hopeplo> ["Well, like you saw…" Said Go.-
[22:45] <Hopeplo> ["… May I give you some feedback?" Said Kou.-
[22:45] <Hopeplo> ["… What is it?" She said warily.-
[22:45] <Hopeplo> ["It sounds to me like you think your first mistake was talking about the incident on the train at all." Said Kou. "But I didn't mind that at all. It comes off as though you thinking it was a mistake is what actually made you screw up."-
[22:48] <Hopeplo> [Go frowned. She was still clutching her book to her chest. "So… I messed it up by thinking I messed up?"-
[22:48] <Hopeplo> ["Exactly." Said Kou. "If you'd just continued without a care in the world, then we'd probably still be chatting away."-
[17:42] <Hopeplo> [Go remained silent. She put her book aside and halfheartedly splashed water onto herself.-
[17:43] <Hopeplo> ["People say I overthink things a lot." Said Go eventually.-
[17:44] <Hopeplo> [She trailed her hand through the water's surface.-
[17:44] <Hopeplo> ["But then there are times like that where I feel like I just rush on faster than my brain can handle." She said.-
[17:51] <Hopeplo> ["I feel like… Out of sync with everyone else a lot," muttered Go. "I don't really know what to do or what they want from me, and it's a struggle to try to get into their frame of mind, and usually I screw it up anyway and embarrass myself."-
[18:03] <Hopeplo> ["It's pretty stupid, actually. I can follow convos and stuff in books, but in real life, it's a lot, lot harder. Probably because people don't stop to let you reread what they just said." Said Go.-
[18:13] <Hopeplo> ["Do you think it'd help if you could?" Said Kou.-
[18:19] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah. Try to keep up with other people and all I do is scatter myself." Said Go with a helpless shrug.-
[18:37] <Hopeplo> ["I could do that if you like." Said Kou.-
[18:38] <Hopeplo> ["What do you mean…?"-
[19:01] <Hopeplo> ["Look, our… Er, interactions, let's call them, haven't exactly been… Great?" Said Kou. "I mean, we've traded sharp words, you've called me Prime Sinister…" He shrugged. "So let's make a clean go of things. When we converse from now on, I want to help you feel comfortable, totally comfortable. That means if you want me to pause, slow down, resay what I've said, explain it- go ahead."-
[19:01] <Hopeplo> [Go eyed him with what felt like suspicion, so he continued.-
[19:08] <Hopeplo> ["Maybe we can help each other." Said Kou. "It sounds like you're not confident conversing with people, you want to slow down, make sure you're saying the right thing. Understanding people has basically been my life, whether I like it or not. If you can become comfortable with me, then given time, I can help you be a little more comfortable with other people too. Make sense?"-
[19:16] <Hopeplo> ["You mean you won't care if I make mistakes or not and stuff?" Said Go.-
[19:17] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah, exactly." Said Kou. "Hopefully, with time, you'll be able to tell the real mistakes from the ones you just think you're making, for example… Good idea, right?"-
[19:37] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah, I guess." Said Go. "Seems kind of childish, though. Needing help with something so simple, I mean."-
[19:52] <Hopeplo> ["I don't agree, but." Kou flapped a hand at her idly. "I'm asking for something in return that's probably more childish."-
[19:52] <Hopeplo> [Go's gaze sharpened suspiciously.-
[19:52] <Hopeplo> ["I mean, it's not a secret- even to me, sadly, anymore- that my personal hygiene habits are a little, y'know. Not-okay."-
[19:57] <Hopeplo> ["'Not-okay'." Muttered Go.-
[19:59] <Hopeplo> ["I have my reasons," Said Kou, a little defensively, "But it's obvious that I need to do better, if for no other reason than other people find it a bit easier to respect me. You, ah, seem to have the hygiene thing all handled, good for you. Maybe you could help me? Y'know… Clean me up a bit?"-
[20:15] <Hopeplo> [Go eyed him silently for a little longer- then gave him a serious nod. "Alright, I can do that."-
[20:16] <Hopeplo> ["Great." Said Kou warmly. "I mean, I knew I'd have to do it sooner or later, but I think it'll be better with your help."-
[20:20] <Hopeplo> ["Mmm." Said Go. Then- "Tomorrow we're gonna go see Sho."-
[20:20] <Hopeplo> ["Sho? Why?" Asked Kou, nervousness creeping into his tone.-
[20:22] <Hopeplo> ["You need new clothes that aren't… Old."-
[20:22] <Hopeplo> ["You mean traditional-"-
[20:22] <Hopeplo> ["No, I mean old and rubbish and teary." Said Go firmly. "And you need a haircut or a hairstyle or something with that mess on your head-"-
[20:22] <Hopeplo> ["Now hold right on, I don't mind doing this but can't it wait for a few weeks?" Said Kou quickly.-
[20:23] <Hopeplo> ["We need you to be ready for your banquet." Said Go. "So sooner the better."-
[20:23] <Hopeplo> ["Then wouldn't it be better to do it just before?" Said Kou. "That way I can arrive all neat and tidy and take them all by surprise."-
[20:33] <Hopeplo> ["Hmm." Go frowned, then nodded. "Alright, that makes sense-"-
[20:33] <Hopeplo> [Kou let out a sigh of relief-
[20:33] <Hopeplo> ["But you still have to be fitted clothes-wise tomorrow so Sho has time to make them."-
[20:34] <Hopeplo> ["Damnit, you're right." Said Kou.-
[20:35] <Hopeplo> ["Yep." Said Go. "And for now, you can start by washing that hair- under you go."-
[20:35] <Hopeplo> [Kou hesitatated. "But I don't want to."-
[20:35] <Hopeplo> ["You have to. Down you go, or else I'll dunk you." Said Go.-
[20:35] <Hopeplo> ["…"-
[20:36] <Hopeplo> [Kou let out a defeated sigh, then slowly, ever so slowly began to slink down into the water.-
[20:37] <Hopeplo> [Go watched him carefully as his greasy, shampoo-streaked hair merged into the hot, soapy water- then nodded in satisfaction and took up her book once more.]

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