Cherry Blossom Procession 4 2 44

[12:36] <Yanmei> After bidding farewell to her secretary, Zhang Yanmei took off down the hallway with long, quick strides. It was a good day! Sure, her entire body ached like the devil and there were still bruises all over from the previous day's trip into the unknown Black Moon, but she now had a few hours out of the office. It was time to play~ Or at least have a good time while investigating this and
[12:36] <Yanmei> that for some official duties or whatever.
[12:37] <Yanmei> Her first stop… the living quarters of one of the Ayanamis. Hopefully she would be at home. It was hard to tell, given that she wasn't really scheduled for anything important to do around the ship at that exact moment. -
[12:39] <Yanmei> Yanmei wandered into the appropriate residential hallway, checked her datapad once or twice, and then pressed the buzzer next to a certain door that didn't look too different from all the other surrounding ones.
[12:40] <Hopeplo> [The door lock-light turned green, and a voice carried out from over the intercom. ("Come in~")]
[12:42] <Yanmei> So Yanmei did~ "Morning~ Long time no see?"
[12:48] <Hopeplo> ["Oh hey, Yanmei." Said Julie Ayanami.-
[12:50] <Hopeplo> [Julie's apartment was neat and tidy- there were no stray toys here or defiant strands of red fur lying around. She had a bookcase filled with photographs and knicknacks, and a wardrobe that was open and full of colourful and lovely clothes- which Julie was currently going through.-
[12:50] <Hopeplo> [The only thing that clashed with this image of living neatness and homeliness was tucked away in a corner- a collection of broken porcelain shards, as though a vase had shattered there.]
[12:54] <Yanmei> Yanmei's eyes lingered on the broken vase, but she didn't say anything about it. Are rare clumsy moment in private, perhaps? -
[12:54] <Yanmei> "Hmm. I don't suppose I've caught you picking out outfits for the banquets, have I~?"
[12:59] <Hopeplo> ["Hahaha. That reminds me, I should co-ordinate with you on that. But no, I'm just cleaning out my wardrobe."]
[13:06] <Yanmei> "Hm. Just sick of everything, in the closet huh? I get like that sometime too?"
[13:07] <Hopeplo> ["Oh yeah?"]
[13:10] <Yanmei> "Yeah. Replacing the stuff I throw out is a challenge now, so I can't give into that feeling very often nowadays."
[13:13] <Hopeplo> ["How come?"]
[13:18] <Yanmei> "Because I can't run out to the mall for something I need just whenever. Security gives me a hard time about it? I either have to send someone to pick it up or order it remotely, and both are a hassle."
[13:25] <Hopeplo> ["Why not just go to Blue's?"]
[13:29] <Yanmei> "I do, sometimes. This uniform is from Blue's, and he's designed some top notch formal dresses? But he's just one person. It's not the same as having an entire mall to choose from, it's more like hiring him for specific events as they come up."
[13:30] <Hopeplo> ["True. Do you go to the clothing stores during the citizens' fairs?"]
[13:32] <Yanmei> "I try not to attend those." Yanmei folded her arms.
[13:34] <Hopeplo> ["No…?"]
[13:37] <Yanmei> "Just to be on the safe side? Hidden assassins and all that."
[13:39] <Hopeplo> ["Hidden assassins?" Said Julie dubiously. "You're worried about that? I thought the fairs were your idea, why'd you bring them on if you thought there was a risk?"]
[13:42] <Yanmei> "Technically they were Rustami's idea. And yes, I checked to see if they were safe, and they are, according to Simon's planning. But it only takes one slip-up…"
[13:47] <Hopeplo> ["Alright then~"-
[13:49] <Hopeplo> [She took a dress out of her wardrobe and held it up critically. It was a long, sleek, sequined cocktail dress, floor length, in flowing patterns of black and green. "They were selling this the last time, though… Maybe there's poison in it~?"]
[13:52] <Yanmei> "M-maybe." Yanmei looked it up and down, and then looked away sharply to conceal any obvious envious gleams in her eyes. "You might want to give it away to someone."
[13:55] <Hopeplo> ["Hmm? No, I'm keeping this one."]
[13:59] * Yanmei sighed deeply. "It's your decision if you want to risk it…"
[14:05] <Hopeplo> ["Maybe I'll wear it to the banquet."]
[14:08] * Yanmei grumped, arms still folded, and then blinked. "Oh. That reminds me? We don't quite have enough volunteers for it at the moment. I'm here because I wanted to ask if you'd help us out with some things."
[14:10] <Hopeplo> ["Oh?"]
[14:13] <Yanmei> "We need more entertainment, specifically."
[14:16] <Hopeplo> [Julie's eyes crinkled in amusement. "Oh dear, you're asking me to put on a show?"]
[14:17] <Yanmei> "Rumor has it that you're a peerless dancer~ Won't you please grace our guests with a performance?"
[14:22] <Hopeplo> ["Hmm…" Julie smiled, but it seemed to Yanmei that her face fell.]
[14:23] <Yanmei> "Is everything ok? We won't force you if you have other plans…"
[14:25] <Hopeplo> ["Oh, well. Yeah, I'm okay, I guess?" Said Julie with a small shrug.-
[14:26] <Hopeplo> [But then her smile fell too. "It's been rough coming back to life."]
[14:27] <Yanmei> "Something happened," she guessed, frowning slightly.
[14:45] <Hopeplo> ["Heh, well. Waking up from death is no picnic?" Said Julie, sitting down on her bed and patting the space next to her. "Imagine waking up one day, not knowing how you got there, and then realising that your body was ever so slightly… Off."]
[14:53] <Yanmei> "Mm." Yanmei walked over to the bed and took a seat. "It sounds scary?"
[14:57] <Hopeplo> ["It is." Said Julie, grasping her hands together in her lap. "Then you get into all the really messy details. Did you know they 'refresh' our upgraded bodies every so often?"]
[14:58] <Yanmei> "Wait. What does that involve?"
[15:08] <Hopeplo> ["Well, first they take samples. Then they do memory scans… also do measurements and healthchecks- so that your body's as accurate as possible." Said Julie. "Think about it- if we never upgraded the bodies, then if I died, I'd have to go back to my 15 year old body… And, well, my real body's changed since then."-
[15:09] <Hopeplo> ["So then they try to modify the backup bodies to match- accelerate growth, do some muscle therapy, whatever you want to call it… Sometimes it fails, though, and then a spare body gets cut up for organ donations, and a new body's grown from scratch."]
[15:15] <Yanmei> "Bleh. Like, I'd imagine, even with all that, it wouldn't be a 100% match with your old body. There are too many odds and ends that contribute to the way your body grows."
[15:16] <Hopeplo> ["They do a pretty damn good job? But there's some things that happen to a body that's not from growing."]
[15:20] <Yanmei> "Scars and injuries," Yanmei agreed with a knowing nod.
[15:21] <Hopeplo> ["Mmmhm."-
[15:21] <Hopeplo> ["So yeah, that's pretty… Yeah." She muttered.]
[15:25] <Yanmei> "And you're a dancer too," Yanmei muttered. "So you have to figure out how to get your new body to stretch the old way, and you probably have to build up callouses all over again."
[15:27] <Hopeplo> ["Heh. That's not so much an issue- that's part of the 'refreshing', I suppose. Besides, Ayanami bodies, you know…"]
[15:28] <Yanmei> "Oh, right…"
[15:35] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah."-
[15:36] <Hopeplo> ["And of course, after you come back everyone's kind of not sure how to treat you." Said Julie. "I mean, Rei and the others, they're always great, Rei's in with big cuddles~"-
[15:36] <Hopeplo> ["But everyone else, they're kind of on tip toes."]
[15:37] <Yanmei> "Dying is traumatic. They're probably really worried?"
[15:40] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah." Said Julie with a small smile. "But I think what I wanted most was a quick return to normal."]
[15:49] <Yanmei> "Did you tell them that?"
[15:51] <Hopeplo> ["Kinda…"]
[16:38] <Yanmei> "Is it at least getting better in some way?"
[16:40] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah, mostly." She said. "But not in every way. In one way it got…"-
[16:40] <Hopeplo> [She shrugged, took out a mobile phone and handed it to Yanmei. "Read the last message."]
[16:43] * Yanmei took it, holding it closer, peering at the text.
[16:43] <Hopeplo> [It read:-
[16:43] <Hopeplo> [In Chinese, that was…-
[16:43] <Hopeplo> ["Julie"-
[16:44] <Hopeplo> ["It isn't smart for us to keep going out. Sorry, but this is becoming too serious now and it's no good when you're going to be fighting all the time far away."-
[16:45] <Hopeplo> ["Feel free to keep everything I gave you."-
[16:45] <Hopeplo> ["- Zhao Paihu"]
[16:48] <Yanmei> "…" Something in Yanmei's eyes darkened.
[16:49] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah…" Said Julie, laughing hollowly.]
[16:51] <Yanmei> "You can't even smack him for it. Because he's too far away," she said bitterly.
[16:54] <Hopeplo> ["Yep." Said Julie. "'Feel free to keep everything'… Ugh."]
[16:56] <Yanmei> "I know! What the hell. Did you tear him a new one?"
[16:57] <Hopeplo> ["What's the point? He's not gonna answer anyway."]
[16:59] <Yanmei> "No, but it might make you feel better. Get it off your chest? It'd be better to do it in person, though."
[17:03] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah, maybe." Said Julie with a sigh.]
[17:04] <Yanmei> "…I'm sorry this happened. It's the worst? I'm speaking from experience here too."
[17:06] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah?"]
[17:08] <Yanmei> "It wasn't long after I moved to France. I was furious. Cried a lot. Lashed out some. It was a rough time overall? I was struggling with the training and the language on top of everything else. Just a mess."
[17:11] <Hopeplo> ["Oh no…" Said Julie, her face crinkling into a sympathetic frown. "Aw, honey, that sounds awful."]
[17:15] * Yanmei shook her head. "That was eons ago, I'm fine now. I guess I realized that he didn't know how to handle things either… he even admitted it later. Said he felt bad about it."
[17:17] <Hopeplo> ["You hit him anyway, right?"]
[17:18] <Yanmei> "Oh yes. Hard. A couple of times."
[17:21] <Hopeplo> ["Good. Did you scold him in front of his family?"]
[17:22] <Yanmei> "Ooo, that would have been a good idea. But they weren't around when I last ran into him."
[17:23] <Hopeplo> ["Hrm, shame. Did you cut off his manhood?"]
[17:23] <Yanmei> "'fraid not. I forgave him."
[17:27] <Hopeplo> ["Hrm."]
[17:31] <Yanmei> "You don't have to," Yanmei added quickly. "I didn't even think I would until we met up again and talked. I carried that grudge for… what? At least two years?"
[13:55] <Hopeplo> [Julie nodded. "Yeah, that's not surprising…"-
[13:55] <Hopeplo> ["I think it's worse for you, honestly. I have people here I can rely on, but, well… You'd really been dumped into the deep end."]
[13:58] <Yanmei> "Not completely. I had Marianne back then. We didn't always understand each other, but she always tried her best with me."
[14:00] <Hopeplo> ["That's true." Said Julie. "But it still would've been hard. How else did you cope? What'd you do, who'd you speak to?"]
[14:05] <Yanmei> "My friends from home. We texted each other, and that helped some, and I worked out a lot. Then I broke my leg and had to stop that. But there was physical therapy afterward, so it wasn't for long."
[14:07] <Hopeplo> ["Geez, your leg too?"]
[14:11] <Yanmei> "There was an earthquake. A small one. Let's just say that some useless debris fell on me at the time. If you think about it, I was pretty lucky?"
[14:18] <Hopeplo> ["Debris?" Julie's eyes widened. "Holy hell, Yanmei, you've been dodging death and disaster for years…"]
[14:24] <Yanmei> "The warm up for my professional career," Yanmei sighed. "It's funny. I don't remember having any close calls like that until after I came to Paris-2."
[14:27] <Hopeplo> ["City of adventure, huh?"]
[14:29] <Yanmei> "City of disaster is more like it. Don't tell Mazarin I said that…"
[14:31] <Hopeplo> [Julie chuckled. "I won't, but he'll probably hear it anyway somehow…"]
[14:34] * Yanmei glanced around suspiciously, but gave up after a few minutes. She sighed again. "Anyway, you're in a better position than I was in back then. And you're probably a little more mature, so that will help too. But if you want someone to lend you an ear, I'm around, so just let me know?"
[14:36] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah, sure." Said Julie, wrapping an arm around Yanmei's shoulders. "Thanks, Yanmei~ you're a bit of a sweetheart at times, huh?"]
[14:40] <Yanmei> "Well, I try~" she tossed her hair with a little grin.
[14:41] <Hopeplo> [Julie rested her head against Yanmei's shoulder and smiled a little.-
[14:41] <Hopeplo> ["It's weird, though…"]
[14:43] <Yanmei> "What is?"
[14:46] <Hopeplo> ["A lot of people I spoke to, friends or acquaintances or whatever, always told me… 'It seems like he's way more into you than you are into him'. In fact he seemed practically fawning? He sent me gifts, all the time… Pretty expensive ones, too. I used to just sell them, honestly." Said Julie with a shrug. "I never really wanted them. Everyone seemed to predict that if we broke up- and
[14:46] <Hopeplo> we probably would- I'd be the one to start it, not him."]
[14:52] <Yanmei> "But you liked him, right? At least a little?"
[15:04] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah, I liked him." Said Julie. "He was pretty smart, and he could be sweet… Even endearing. Plus it seemed like he trusted he. He used to complain about his problems with his father, the Chinese corporate world…"]
[15:09] <Yanmei> "I guess his dad was some bigshot, then, if he could afford all those gifts."
[15:14] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah. His dad owned this huge Chinese shipbuilding company. They even had contracts building warships for the Chinese Navy… They were mega-wealthy. Met him and his dad both at some function for the government."]
[15:23] <Yanmei> "Warships… I see. What sort of things did you guys like to do when you went out on dates?"
[15:28] <Hopeplo> ["Oh, man. Eat? He was a big eater, and I'm not so bad myself." Said Julie with a laugh. "Or we'd go see movies… Basic stuff like that, usually. A lot of our 'dates' were just more, y'know, functions, like special dinners or banquets… We'd go around and play socialite, y'know? Speak to the mighty… He liked that, the sort of hobnobbing side of things, too. I think I helped make us more
[15:28] <Hopeplo> exclusive, heh…"-
[15:29] <Hopeplo> ["He was also into architecture and that sort of thing, so every so often we'd go out and look at buildings, old and new. He sort of got a kick out of watching Beijing rebuild." Said Julie, a sort of rawness entering her voice.-
[15:33] <Hopeplo> ["Our last date… Was about 3 days before the Metatron mission. I got special dispensation to leave… Y'know how it is. Just in case, wanting to say goodbye and all that. Watched some fireworks, went over to his penthouse in New Shanghai. He cooked, or so he said. It was alright. We watched some movies. I danced for him, because I'd been given some kudos for it at the school. Then we made
[15:33] <Hopeplo> love- it was my first time, it hurt, he wasn't very good at it, kind of a mess overall." Tears were starting to form in her eyes now. "Next morning I went back to Paris, and that was the last time I saw him before…"]
[15:37] * Yanmei silently put her own arm around her now and gave her a little squeeze.
[15:45] <Hopeplo> [Julie fell into that embrace as the tears began to fall. "I-I thought it was safe." She mumbled. "That I understood what was going on, but- I didn't. Did I do something wrong? Or w-was he just using me for as long as possible?"]
[15:50] <Yanmei> "I don't think it's either of those things," Yanmei said quietly. "Don't assume the worst, okay?"
[15:53] <Hopeplo> ["N-no…?"]
[15:59] <Yanmei> "You'll hurt yourself more if you think like that. You have to be constructive and you have to be kind to yourself. Moreover, his family might be under a lot of stress right now? Everything over in China has gotten crazy lately, even in the government."
[16:06] <Hopeplo> ["But he came to me for help." Said Julie sadly, the tears coursing down her face. "Why would he push me away if he needed help even more?"]
[16:11] <Yanmei> "I don't know," Yanmei admitted. "Maybe he just couldn't this time."
[16:16] <Hopeplo> [Julie didn't say anything in response- she just wept quietly.]
[16:26] * Yanmei continued to hold her, giving her a chance to let it all out.
[16:34] <Hopeplo> [A few minutes later, after the tears' flow had slowed, Julie coughed a little and began to speak. "So be kind to myself, huh?" She muttered.]
[16:35] <Yanmei> "Exactly," said Yanmei firmly.
[16:39] <Hopeplo> ["Like how?"]
[16:41] <Yanmei> "Like, for starters, trying not to overthink what just happened and trying to make yourself feel good by doing things that are either comforting or that you've always wanted to try doing."
[16:48] <Hopeplo> ["Alright…" Said Julie, nodding slowly.]
[15:26] <Yanmei> "So that begs the question~ What do you want to do the most right now?"
[15:30] <Hopeplo> ["Like right right now, this minute? Or right now, this… Period generally?"]
[15:31] <Yanmei> "More generally, I mean."
[15:37] <Hopeplo> [Julie let out a sigh. "Uhm…"-
[15:37] <Hopeplo> ["I want to… Start going out more again. I think."]
[15:38] <Yanmei> "Going out, like, leaving the ship? Or dating people?"
[15:40] <Hopeplo> ["I don't know." Said Julie; she frowned. "I think like… Heh, well, like going to parties and outings and stuff. I used to go to a lot of those before I died."]
[15:44] * Yanmei didn't wince at those last three words, to her credit. Instead she smiled. "What we need around here are more parties in general."
[15:48] <Hopeplo> ["Yeah. Those fairs are a good start, too."]
[15:50] <Yanmei> "If you like cloaks, daggers and spies," Yanmei muttered. "I'll send you to a higher profile party the next time one comes up."
[15:51] <Hopeplo> ["Thanks." Said Julie wryly, giving Yanmei a watery smile.-
[15:52] <Hopeplo> ["Need to focus on that sort of thing… I guess I should do what Rei does and try to look on the bright side." Said Julie. "Maybe I will start dating again- I bet the men here are way better than that little brat was."-
[15:52] <Hopeplo> ["That Prime Minister of yours called for? Maybe I'll try to seduce him with my dances~?"]
[15:53] <Yanmei> "I thought you were looking for someone who wasn't bratty?"
[15:54] <Hopeplo> ["Hey, he's putting on great fairs and parties, plus he's high up the chain… Alright in my book."]
[15:59] <Yanmei> "He and Go might end up together though."
[16:07] <Hopeplo> ["What, really!~?"]
[16:08] <Yanmei> "Keep an eye on them at the banquet. I'm sure they're going to run off together~"
[16:09] <Hopeplo> ["Oh dear~ I had no idea Go was even making a move." Said Julie. "I wonder if she needs pointers…? Oh, that reminds me."]
[16:10] <Yanmei> "Hmm?"
[16:16] <Hopeplo> ["First of all- I rolled snake eyes this time. Between you and me, I'm really not looking forward to losing my bodily virginity again." Said Julie with a roll of the eyes.-
[16:16] <Hopeplo> ["Secondly- I'm out of the loop. Chronically out. Time for you to fix that, Mon Chancellor."]
[16:23] <Yanmei> "Oho~ Then lend me your ear and I will tell you tales of the mighty Yanmei and all the new evils lurking aboard the ship."
[16:23] <Hopeplo> ["New evils? C'mon, Go isn't evil!"]
[16:24] <Yanmei> "I was referring to a certain horrible stupid evil Prefect! Although, to be fair, Go is way more interesting?"
[16:26] <Hopeplo> ["Oho, my bad, I'll let the storyteller-in-chief handle the story~"]
[16:31] <Yanmei> "Ahem. It all started on a seemingly bright and sunny day," Yanmei began, her voice low and mysterious.

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