Cherry Blossom Procession 4 2 B

(20:57) <Minaplo> [END OF EVANGELION. 23rd of August, 2018. Location: Blue's Bar and Grill, The Promenade, FNS Dorian Lachapelle. "Cherry Blossom Procession" 4.2-
(20:59) <Minaplo> [The televisions in Blue's were all set to the same channel: the channel covering the British election. From six large screens set around the room, a news programme threw talking heads at the audience, all of them chatting about the ongoing vote-counting, the campaign and the potential outcome. A ticker ran across the bottom, updating viewers on recent electoral events. On the left-hand side of the screen were the current results, which currently showed 4 confirmed seats for Sidney White's Restoration Party and 3 for Alphonse's Unity Party.-
(21:01) <Minaplo> [Blue had played a dangerous game this night. This night and this night only, a special deal was being run. If Alphonse won, then all the food and drinks people had purchased would be declared free… But if he lost, then all of the purchases would double in price. In essence, he was playing chicken with his customer-base, daring them to buy big… Or show they didn't have faith in their golden boy to win.-
(21:02) <Minaplo> [To that end, the crowd was a little uneven… Plenty, it seemed, had lost their nerve.]
(21:08) <Raphael> In a gesture of spite, Raphael had bought more food than he could possibly eat, his table - positioned in full view of the rest of the crowd - heaving with food and drinks. His friends elsewhere in the bar had been unselfconsciously poaching from his selection, and when Euphrasie had returned home a few minutes earlier she'd taken leftovers with her.-
(21:08) <Raphael> He sat with one of the televisions in his field of view and a chicken wing in one hand, his posture relaxed. Every now and again he'd seek out Blue's face in the crowd and stare him down without stopping chewing.
(21:14) * Yanmei was grumbling as she checked the nearest screen between bites of her own modest meal - a basket of fries. For some reason, she had been in a sour mood for the past several days, which was only worsening tonight, since they were at Blue's. Not to mention the flagrant rationing violations going on. She shot Raphael's table a disapproving glance, her frown deepening.
(21:15) <Minaplo> [Chiisana sat at Raphael's side, picking at her own chicken wings; whenever Raphael assumed direct eye contact with his gastropub nemesis, she rolled her eyes as vigorously as possible. "I wonder if Blue would object if I ordered in from Roku's? This… Food is all rather heavy…"]
(21:22) <Raphael> "I doubt he'll stop you," Raphael said. Despite the glares from Yanmei, his food was finding its way to other tables quicker than his own mouth - particularly those unwilling to shoulder the monetary risk. "He'll object, but I wouldn't worry too much."
(21:28) <Minaplo> ["Ho! Raphael! Wing me!" Armin shouted as he took a seat with Sera at Yanmei's table-
(21:28) <Minaplo> ["True." Said Chiisana, patting Raphael on the shoulder. "I've just placed my order. Do you want anything? My shout."]
(21:33) * Raphael glanced over with amusement, before hurling a wing wrapped in a protective napkin right towards Armin. "I appreciate the offer, Chiisana, but if the Chancellor sees me with freshly ordered food any time in the next week I think I might be executed."
(21:34) <Minaplo> ["You could always seek asylum." Said Chiisana, grimacing as she watched Armin grab the wing out of the air with his mouth, crunch down and eat the entire thing whole, bones and all.]
(21:36) <Raphael> "'Why did Raphael Guillory turn his back on the UEF', the historians will ask…" He said, not seeing the catch itself but wincing at the very audible crunch.
(21:38) <Minaplo> ["Be honest, there are stupider tales of defection. I could even tell you a few…"]
(21:41) <Raphael> "There absolutely are," he agreed, smiling. "I'll happily hear you tell some, though."
(22:03) <Minaplo> ["Now." Chiisana tapped the tabletop. "I don't know if it qualifies as stupid per se, but I remember a story of some idiot who betrayed his lord because some rival lord sent him a faked letter in his mother's handwriting telling him to do so…"]
(22:18) <Raphael> "That's a lot of faith to put in a letter…"
(22:18) <Minaplo> ["Yeah, it is. Even better, he arrived, and his mother was so angry at him for falling for it, she killed herself."]
(22:24) * Raphael blanched. "… Now I actually feel bad for him."
(22:26) <Minaplo> ["Yeah, no kidding." Said Chiisana. "That mother was fantastic, though… She threw an ink bottle at the most powerful man in China so that he'd murder her before she could be tricked into doing anything to help him. Didn't work, though."]
(23:11) <Raphael> "What did she end up doing for this man?"
(23:13) <Minaplo> ["Nothing, really. See, the Lord brought her to a house he owned, treated her lavishly, but she refused to help him by making her son defect. So what the Lord did in exchange was send one of his advisors in, and, ah… The advisor just befriended her, spoke with her, and I think he pretended to be sick and had her write letters for him. He then copied the mother's handwriting, sent the fake letter… One stupid journey later and the mother hangs herself."]
(23:57) <Raphael> "Credit to the Lord for lateral thinking, I suppose."
(23:59) <Minaplo> ["He was a lateral sort of fellow." Said Chiisana.]
(00:01) <Raphael> "Evidently," Raphael said, moving his arm to let a techie take a basket of fries on the way to Maya's table.
(00:02) <Minaplo> ["If you want more stories about him, you could ask Yanmei. He was Chinese, maybe she knows a thing or two about their old stories."]
(00:12) <Raphael> "Maybe," he said, picking at his food before shooting a quick glance over his shoulder at the busier table.-
(00:13) <Raphael> "We've been at odds a little too often lately, to tell you the truth," he admitted after ensuring he wasn't about to be overheard.
(00:14) <Minaplo> ["Oh?" Murmured Chiisana.]
(00:17) <Raphael> "Differences of opinion here and there, nothing outrageous. Prime Minister Rustami for a start, along with… well, the Empress," he said carefully. He stole a glance at her face, testing her expression.
(00:18) <Minaplo> [Chiisana's expression went from one of curiosity to one of express amusement. She smirked. "The other me, huh?"]
(00:19) <Raphael> "… I'm still not sure how you're taking it so well, ma'am."
(00:19) <Minaplo> ["Do you want to know my secret, Raphael Guillory?" Said Chiisana, her solemn tone at odds with the twinkle in her eyes.]
(00:21) * Raphael peered at her. "I suppose I do."
(00:23) <Minaplo> ["Ever since she appeared, everyone has been walking on broken glass around me when it comes up. They all look at me from the corner of theire eyes, wondering how I'll react to this awful predicament, but the problem is that everyone's reaction is just so… Unintentionally funny." She let out a smothered giggle. "Hyuga's the worst, he came in one night looking as though the worst thing in the world had happened and he was afraid I would act terribly… I had to cuddle him and give him his favourite kisses to make him know it was alright. It was rather sad." Said Chiisana lightly.]
(00:35) * Raphael paused a moment and then chuckled, even as his brain routed around 'favourite kisses'. "I see the logic to that; You've spent your whole life around your sisters. I suppose the specifics make the whole situation seem different to me, that's all."
(00:37) <Minaplo> ["Oh, the situation's serious, no doubt about it, but my reaction… Hee hee, is not~"]
(01:08) <Minaplo> [She leaned toward him and beamed. "Do I look good as an older woman, Raphael?"]
(01:12) * Raphael made a face and stabbed a chip into a ramekin of aioli. "If that's not the sort of question you keep Hyuga around for, I don't know what is…"
(01:13) <Minaplo> ["Well, he wouldn't know, what with all the vomiting, he's only ever seen lovely young goddess me… But you…"]
(01:17) <Raphael> "I'll send him a photo."
(01:18) <Minaplo> ["Ah-ah, dodging the question means you think I won't like the answer!"]
(01:24) * Raphael sighed heavily, his expression turning solemn. "It's true, ma'am. I can hardly bring myself to speak of it."
(01:26) <Minaplo> ["Go on." Said Chiisana. "I won't get too mad."]
(01:36) <Raphael> The expression vanished and he rolled his eyes in a way that mimicked her reactions not so long ago. "I was joking, Chiisana," he muttered. "She looks fine. A little taller, a little bit sharper in her features. There's not so much to say."
(01:37) <Minaplo> ["Boring. Hmph. Well that's nice." Said Chiisana. "Oh yes, I'll grow up to look fine…"]
(01:39) <Raphael> "There were plenty of other people to ask if you wanted sonnets, ma'am."
(01:40) <Minaplo> ["Yes, well, one person comes to mind, although right now he's trying to win an election." Chiisana glanced up at the television, which now recorded 7 seats for Restoration, 6 for Unity. "Have you seen him around Rei sometimes~? It's adorable…"]
(01:49) <Raphael> "Remember I saw him through courting. Adorable is a word for it, I suppose," Raphael said mildly before he popped a chip into his mouth.-
(01:49) <Raphael> "… The contrast with who he was then and who is is now is remarkable, but that part hasn't changed."
(01:54) <Minaplo> ["Oh?" Said Chiisana brightly.]
[15:04] <Raphael> "His confidence is less of a put-on, for a start," he shrugged. "It was a fragile thing when he first arrived, between feeling distant from the other ODs and working out his feelings for Rei. Boston did him a lot of good in that respect."
[15:07] <Minaplo> ["So he just needed time to find his feet. Professionally and relationship-wise." Said Chiisana.]
[15:08] <Raphael> "Understandably so. He was still a teenager after all."
[15:16] <Minaplo> ["Quite. I really do wonder about that program." She said with a sigh. "Everytime I hear more about it, the more farcical it sounds."]
[15:18] <Raphael> "You're not wrong. Lieutenant Archibald in particular has told me some honest-to-God horror stories about it," he muttered.-
[15:19] <Raphael> "It's coming to something when the NeoSpartans were the functional program."
[15:24] <Minaplo> ["Oh yeah, what'd Archibald tell you?"]
[15:36] <Raphael> "It's not my place to share a lot of it," he said. "The Companion program had a specific goal, but lacked the focus of the NeoSpartans - Which isn't a compliment, just a statement of fact. Some of the behaviour and biological modifications they experimented with I'd consider to be worse than the NeoSpartans, and they didn't even have the dubious honour of working as intended."
[15:37] <Minaplo> ["Mm. That matches up with what she told me as well." Said Chiisana. "What a crazy time…"]
[15:42] <Raphael> "Mmm," he murmured, eyes on his food. "Still a crazy time, when it comes down to it. Iron Guards and Phantoms are nothing if not extensions of the same principles."
[16:19] <Minaplo> ["True. At least most Guard aren't children." Said Chiisana.]
[16:24] <Raphael> "And largely volunteered," he agreed. "It's a different scale, but they'll still suffer all the same if and when the war ends. Their design was near-sighted for anything but the situation we have now."
[16:25] <Minaplo> ["Agreed." She said with a long sigh. "Guard, Phantoms, NeoSpartans, Ayanamis, even Angelspawn. At least the future will be colourful."]
[16:28] <Raphael> "Mmm."-
[16:28] <Raphael> He sighed and glanced up at the front door just in time to catch Alex and Asuka entering. He gave them a wave as they passed by. "That food of yours is taking a while, Chiisana. You're sure you wouldn't like some of mine?"
[16:30] <Minaplo> [They waved back before going to join Yanmei.-
[16:31] <Minaplo> ["Oh, very well." She said with a smile. "Anything particularly good tonight?"]
[16:31] <Raphael> "The reviews on the wings seem to be rather positive," he said with a dubious glance over at Armin.
[16:34] <Minaplo> [Armin beamed.-
[16:35] <Minaplo> ["Then I will have a few, please, yes." She said; she held her plate out toward Raphael. "So long as you aren't… Starving yourself."-
[16:35] <Minaplo> [She glanced at Raphael's expansive spread with a wry eye.]
[16:37] <Raphael> "Oh, I think I'll manage," he said, piling three wings onto her plate along with - before she could complain - some of the potato wedges and aioli.-
[16:39] <Raphael> "And there's no need to be sarcastic," he added primly. "As I've said, this is a gesture of faith in Alphonse and goodwill to my colleagues."
[16:40] <Minaplo> [Chiisana sighed good-naturedly as her plate grew heavier than intended. "I do appreciate that you're, well… Putting your money where your mouth is." She said with a smile.-
[16:41] <Minaplo> ["It'll be rather odd to think of Alphonse as Prime Minister, hm?" She said; as she spoke, one of the wings flew into the air. The meat shredded off the bone; some of it then flew into the aioli before turning around to fly into Chiisana's mouth.]
[16:43] <Raphael> Raphael muttered something that sounded rather like 'show-off'.-
[16:48] <Raphael> "It's a little jarring every time I see him on the news," he admitted. "He makes himself look born to it, which I can't say I would've expected a year or two ago. Watching it from so far away doesn't help, I imagine."
[16:56] <Minaplo> ["Do you want to be there?"]
[17:02] * Raphael considered that as he chewed. "… I do, but it's a fight I can't really help them with."-
[17:02] <Raphael> "I suppose that's half the problem," he admitted.
[17:04] <Minaplo> ["Mmm. You just have to sit and watch, and you don't like it?"]
[17:05] * Raphael nodded.
[17:15] <Minaplo> ["Hm." Chiisana settled back in her chair a little. "I can sympathise. We can only do so much once the battle moves into the realm of politics…"]
[17:22] <Raphael> "I offered to deploy the Peaceknight to intimidate their opponents at debates, but they didn't seem to think it was a good idea," he said seriously.
[17:27] <Minaplo> ["They must be out of their minds, then." Said Chiisana solemnly. "I bet that little Mr. White would buckle before the mighty Peaceknight like…"-
[17:27] <Minaplo> [She glanced around.-
[17:27] <Minaplo> ["Like Go before Armin."]
[17:43] <Raphael> "Cruel," he said.-
[17:43] <Raphael> "… not incorrect, but cruel."
[17:49] <Minaplo> [She giggled.-
[17:49] <Minaplo> ["In all seriousness, though, what do you think of their opponent?"]
[18:09] <Raphael> "Mmm. It's hard for me to say. He plays up his normality agressively, but he's smarter and more charming than most career leaders. It doesn't really add up," he said. "Whether it's just the angle he's playing for this campaign or not I can't say."-
[18:09] <Raphael> "… Rei doesn't like him, but he's opposing Alphonse so to some degree that's expected."
[18:16] <Minaplo> ["Mmm, Lexie doesn't care for him either."]
[18:23] <Raphael> "So I've heard," he muttered. "That encounter doesn't seem to have gone very well."
[18:23] <Minaplo> ["It sounds like a disaster, to be frank." Said Chiisana flatly as she flayed another wing.-
[18:25] <Minaplo> ["It's curious, though. White's been playing up the normal angle, and then there's Alphonse, campaigning with the help of an Evangelion and its bioexotic pilot…"]
[18:27] <Raphael> "Microcosm of the options on offer, hmm? Side with the UEF, with all our strangeness, or break away into relative peace and normalcy? The UN takes pains to hide what we wear on our sleeve."
[18:29] <Minaplo> ["Exactly." Said Chiisana with a smile. "Just who exactly is the 'new world order' when the faction claiming to be such a thing hides all the things that define the new world?"]
[18:40] <Raphael> "You're not wrong," he said. He picked a cherry tomato out of the centre of the salad - a lone beacon of green amidst a sea of oil-fried brown - and popped it into his mouth, chewing in companionable silence.
[18:42] <Minaplo> ["Sup, Raphael." Came Asuka's voice as she approached the table. "I'm hungry, but I don't wanna buy anything, so I'm taking some of your food."]
[18:44] <Raphael> "That's what it's here for," he said agreeably. He gestured to the now dwindling spread. "Take what you want - For Captain Fontaine as well, if he'd like."-
[18:44] <Raphael> "You're alright, ma'am?"
[18:47] <Minaplo> ["Sure am." She said, flopping down onto a seat next to Raphael; she grabbed a wing and tore the flesh from the bone with relish. "Mmmf."-
[18:47] <Minaplo> ["Alex's off gettin' some crap, but he'll be back soon. So whatcha up to? You guys okay?"]
[19:08] <Raphael> "We're alright, ma'am" he said, as he placed some more salad on his plate. "Just taking the chance to catch up while we're both in one place. What about you?"
[19:09] <Minaplo> ["Here to watch Wellie win." Said Asuka. "Bit of a lull down in tech, and Root Beer said she'd cover what I had to do to give me a chance to be out with Alex."]
[19:10] <Raphael> "Oh. That's ni-"
[19:10] <Raphael> He stopped abruptly, frowning. "… who is 'Root Beer'?"
[19:11] <Minaplo> ["Maya." Said Asuka with a toss of the hair. "Maya Ibuki?"]
[19:11] <Raphael> "…"-
[19:11] <Raphael> "Why?"
[19:11] <Minaplo> ["Have you met her?" Said Asuka with a frown. "She's all bubbly and cheerful and perky and shit. She's in her mid-twenties but she acts like a peppy schoolgirl. She's Root Beer Girl."]
[19:13] <Raphael> "What do you mean, 'have I met her'? How would I make that cross-country leap of logic, ma'am?"
[19:16] <Minaplo> ["I think it's pretty obvious. Don't you, Chiisana?"-
[19:16] <Minaplo> ["I don't even know what root beer is." Said Chiisana loftily.]
[19:21] <Raphael> "It tastes like someone wanted the flavour of antiseptic in a less poisonous format."
[19:22] <Minaplo> ["That's the thing with root beer." Said Asuka. "If you drink enough of it, you grow to like it. Just like Maya."-
[19:22] <Minaplo> [Chiisana was squinting down at a lone wing. "… That so?"]
[19:25] <Raphael> "It's not. You shouldn't drink Lieutenant Ibuki," he said gravely, spearing a few lettuce leaves with a fork.
[19:28] <Minaplo> ["Hmph." Asuka scowled. "You don't like a baka anymore, so I can't even tease you about that. What a gyp."]
[19:30] <Raphael> "We all have our crosses to bear, Colonel."
[19:30] <Minaplo> <look like*>
[19:31] <Minaplo> <I think we can all agree that Raphael still likes Misato>
[19:31] <Raphael> <Yeah, he's still with- shit>
[19:32] <Minaplo> ["Hmph."-
[19:33] <Minaplo> ["Anyway, she's been extra perky recently." Said Asuka darkly. "S'part of why she was so happy to take my work. Ah, well."-
[19:33] <Minaplo> ["Mostly just stuff on remote synch tests anyway."]
[19:34] <Raphael> "How's that faring?"
[19:44] <Minaplo> ["Oh yeah, it's going alright. Some are better at it than others…" She said with a smirk.]
[19:44] <Raphael> "Oh?"
[19:45] <Minaplo> ["Well, Sophia and Tsubaki are doin' real well. Isaiah's okay at it too, not a surprise, but Yanmei's finding it tough."]
[19:47] <Raphael> "Ah," he said. "Well, I'm sure she'll improve. The others are specialists, it's no wonder they're taking to it naturally."
[19:48] <Minaplo> ["Yep." Said Asuka. "Actually, we found something real weird with Yanmei's results."]
[19:50] * Raphael raised an eyebrow as he chewed.
[19:50] <Minaplo> ["So one of the tests is enviro-emotional affect, basically like seeing how people's ratios differ if they're in different places they have connections with."]
[19:51] <Raphael> He nodded slowly as he finished his food. "Alright."
[19:52] <Minaplo> ["So we found, for example, that her synch improves in her bedroom, in her office, in her favourite resting spot… In fact there was only one place it didn't."]
[19:53] <Raphael> "… her Evangelion?" he ventured.
[19:55] <Minaplo> ["No, actually." Said Asuka. "We found out that she had real trouble with it in the little spot where they cook stuff in her room."-
[19:55] <Minaplo> [Chiisana frowned.-
[19:55] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Asuka solemnly. "Yanmei has a bad case of 'everything but the kitchen synch'."]
[19:56] <Raphael> "I'm cutting you off from the rest of my food."
[19:56] <Minaplo> ["Seconded." Said Chiisana in disgust.-
[19:57] <Minaplo> ["Like hell you are!" Said Asuka in between raucous laughter.-
[19:58] <Minaplo> ["Oh no." Said Alex deadpan as he returned. "Judging from your looks and her gaiety, she just reiterated her 'kitchen synch' bon mot, didn't she?"]
[19:59] <Raphael> "She's been shameless enough to inflict that on multiple people?" Raphael said, clearly scandalised.
[20:04] <Minaplo> ["I wish I could say I was the first, but I was not. That dubious honour goes to Lieutenant Ibuki, who has done nothing to anyone and did not deserve such." He said heavily, dropping a plate of Soryu Pizza (which was noticeably smaller) in front of Asuka, along with a beer.]
[20:08] <Raphael> "Clearly jealous of her…" he sighed, "'Root beerness'."
[20:09] <Minaplo> ["Asuka, you cannot keep calling her that." Said Alex.-
[20:09] <Minaplo> ["M'gonna!"]
[20:10] <Raphael> "I'm so glad you agree, Captain."
[20:13] <Minaplo> ["Soda Pop is clearly the better name." Said Alex.]
[20:14] <Raphael> "Now you're just toying with me."
[20:23] <Minaplo> ["A little, sir. Might I partake in your bounty?"]
[20:30] <Raphael> "So long as you're not sharing with Colonel Langley-Soryu," he said pleasantly.
[20:31] <Minaplo> ["I don't suppose I can persuade you to overlook her crassness this once?"]
[20:33] * Raphael let out a long, mournful sigh. "That would depend on her contrition, I'm sorry to say."
[20:33] <Minaplo> ["Hmph." Asuka scowled. "Tell you what, give me some food and I'll overlook your previous, er, transgressions."]
[20:34] <Raphael> "I'm going to regret asking this, but… what transgressions, ma'am?"
[20:35] <Minaplo> ["There was that time you and Baka were spying on me bathing."-
[20:35] <Minaplo> [Alex's eyes narrowed.]
[20:36] <Raphael> "That is a gross distortion of the facts!"
[20:40] <Minaplo> ["Explain." Said Alex.]
[20:46] * Raphael sighed, shooting Asuka a poisonous look. "Pilot Ikari had orders to assess the Colonel's training regimen in the lead-up to Thunderdome. Shinji, being sufficiently terrified of both Asuka and Misato at the time, needed help. She was in the public Geofront lap pool when she caught us."-
[20:46] <Raphael> "And for the record my back was turned," he added.
[20:50] <Minaplo> ["That true, Asuka?"-
[20:51] <Minaplo> ["Well." Asuka snorted. "They were still being sneaky pervs, no matter what they say."-
[20:51] <Minaplo> [Alex sighed.-
[20:51] <Minaplo> ["Alright, will you give it up if Raphael shares his ridiculous spread with you?"-
[20:51] <Minaplo> ["Yes?"]
[20:53] <Raphael> "Your insistence that I spy on underage women has really softened my stance, you're right," Raphael said blandly.-
[20:53] <Raphael> He still pushed a bowl of chips in her direction, even as he gave Chiisana a disbelieving look.
[20:54] <Minaplo> [Chiisana just shook her head slowly and gave Raphael a sympathetic look.-
[20:54] <Minaplo> ["Mmh." Asuka took the bowl greedily; she grabbed a fistful and dumped them into the soup, before eating them.-
[20:54] <Minaplo> ["Also, I've told you, don't call me that." She added.-
[20:55] <Minaplo> ["Oh." Said Alex, looking up at the nearest monitor. "Wellesley's won his own seat!"]
[20:55] <Raphael> "Wha-" he began, only to break off as Alex spoke. He looked at the monitor and grinned. "Good news."
[20:57] <Minaplo> ["Good on him." Said Asuka. She squinted up at the monitor. "Oh, with 71% of his local vote. Cool."-
[20:58] <Minaplo> ["That's hopeful." Said Alex. "But I'm sure White will win his seat as well."]

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