Cherry Blossom Procession 4 7 2

[13:26] <CakeyCake> The pathways leading to the bridge of the Gendo were far less crowded than the ones leading to Medical. That was fine, as far as Yanmei was concerned… she had been getting tired of being jostled around. There were fewer wounded grouped around too. At least, fewer people with physical wounds. -
[13:30] <CakeyCake> Kourosh Rustami was not on the Bridge proper, but she managed to pry his whereabouts out of a grumpy and tired Misato in exchange for her very last energy drink. With this new knowledge Yanmei tried the doors to each one of the small offices adjacent to the bridge, one by one.
[13:40] <Minaplo> [She found the Prime Minister in one such office, tucked behind a desk, a series of reports in front of them.-
[13:41] <Minaplo> [He looked- terrible. He was pale and sickly-looking. His shoulders sagged and he shifted the reports around with a lethargic hand.]
[13:49] <Yanmei> "Rustami." She lingered in the doorway, trying to get a bead on how welcoming he would find this intrusion.
[13:51] <Minaplo> [He looked up at her slowly.-
[13:52] <Minaplo> ["Oh, Lady Zhang. Come in, please." He said, giving her a weak smile.]
[13:54] * Yanmei obliged, walking over to the guest side of the desk. "Have you, um. Rested?"
[13:58] <Minaplo> ["As best I can."]
[14:01] <Yanmei> "Good." Her face softened a little more. "We're really glad to have you back?"
[14:03] <Minaplo> ["Mm, I'm glad to be free of Albus, too. From what I hear, we both were imprisoned by him."]
[14:08] <Yanmei> "M-more like I was just keeping him distracted," She put her hands on her hips. "He's lucky his body was the only thing that got destroyed…"
[14:10] <Minaplo> [He simply gave her a long look.]
[14:14] <Yanmei> "…" She sighed and took a seat. "Anyway, what have you been up to in here?"
[14:17] <Minaplo> ["Reading reports… Staying out of trouble."]
[14:19] <Yanmei> "I don't suppose you've found anything really hopeful in those reports?"
[14:19] <Minaplo> ["Sure I have." Said Kou.]
[14:20] <Yanmei> "Like what?"
[14:28] <Minaplo> ["We won't be able to fix everything, but we'll get the Gendo and Dorian back to fighting status within those three days. The Dorian's drill and the Gendo's cannon will need more time, but everything else is fine…"]
[14:32] <Yanmei> "Mmm, that's pretty good? Times like this I wish I was a technician or a medic. Someone who could help speed things along?"
[14:41] <Minaplo> ["Mm."-
[14:42] <Minaplo> ["Promised Land also gave us a decent cache of arms and Superheavies, which is appreciated- although they're rather short on medical supplies." Said Kou. "On a related topic, we should be able to regain two and a half companies of Iron Guard due to regeneration in the time we've been given."]
[14:46] <Yanmei> Promised Land… Yanmei shook her head. "Glad about the extra troops at least."
[14:53] <Minaplo> ["Quite."-
[14:54] <Minaplo> ["Our Eva units have sustained damage, but most of it is fixable, bar Alexandrina's. She's injured regardless."-
[14:55] <Minaplo> ["… And Technical informs me that our plan to innoculate the Ayanamis from external control is ready to go, so we should be able to add their - nine units…"]
[14:56] <Yanmei> "We might have to subtract one more. Asuka might be sitting out."
[15:01] <Minaplo> ["Yes, I heard." Said Kou. "What a difficult choice…"]
[15:03] <Yanmei> "I wouldn't be surprised if she was undecided up until the very last minute? But… we should be okay. We have the Ayanamis back in action."
[15:04] <Minaplo> ["Yes…" Said Kou, drawing his eyebrows together.]
[15:24] * Yanmei regarded him thoughtfully for a second or two more, then she sighed again. "Sorry."
[15:28] <Minaplo> ["No… No. Don't be." He said with a slow wave of the hand.]
[15:31] <Yanmei> "No. It was really thoughtless to say that after those… events. So, I apologize."
[13:18] <Minaplo> ["I was the one who brought them up. You're fine." He said shortly.]
[13:25] * Yanmei simply nodded. "Do you want to talk about it?"
[13:31] <Minaplo> [Kou was quiet for a minute or so, shuffling datapads and reports.-
[13:40] <Minaplo> ["I felt like a child again." Said Kou. "In Morten's eyes I saw the same madness that I saw in Elisha's at Antarctica. The same- awareness that I was the key to their act of mass destruction."-
[13:45] <Minaplo> ["It's… Such a sensation of helplessness." He said, his voice uneven. "They're more powerful than you. They're forcing you to do things you don't want to do. You can't fight them. There was no acknowledgement of the human in me whatsoever."-
[13:47] <Minaplo> ["The Ayanamis are in the same position, of course." He said, straightening up a little. "They were intended to be docile meat puppets. The Ikaris forced people to see them as human beings."-
[13:48] <Minaplo> ["But in that moment, they were nothing but fuel, and in the scene I saw nothing less than inhumanity itself. I wish there were more I could do, but more than anything I regret not destroying Albus before all of this happened."-
[13:49] <Minaplo> ["Saying that, I acknowledge that Albus's act has given us opportunities. We would never have managed the brazen act of raiding the Eternity Drive like he did, and freeing Aline and destroying the Void Asterion has solved a lot of our problems." He said quietly.-
[13:50] <Minaplo> ["But I had to feel those people turn to ash in my hands."]
[13:59] <Yanmei> "Yeah," said Yanmei mournfully. "I can't even feel gratitude for his results. Or even relief that he's gone? He got off too easy."
[14:03] <Minaplo> ["Perhaps he did." Said Kou. "Perhaps he should've been stripped of his power and chased through the wilderness like a deer."-
[14:04] <Minaplo> [He said a short phrase- devoid of hostility- in a language Yanmei didn't understand.]
[14:05] <Yanmei> "…sorry. I didn't catch that?"
[14:08] <Minaplo> ["'Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds'." He said. "A religious proclaimation. We are charged with doing good, to create a more perfect world. It is our life's duty to defend good against evil. We have destroyed Albus cleanly, and so our duty regarding him has been discharged. We need do no more about him, and we should take a sense of catharsis from that. Let us discuss him no longer."]
[14:10] * Yanmei frowned. Did that mean no more fantasizing about his death? It sounded like it… -
[14:13] <Minaplo> ["Yes, it does."]
[14:14] <Yanmei> "Ugh. Fine. Let's talk about-" she stopped. "Did… did you just read my thoughts?"
[14:16] <Minaplo> ["No. I just predicted them. Don't forget who I am."-
[14:17] <Minaplo> ["There are important things that shouldn't lost in the shuffle of war preparations. I mean, specifically, what we should do about Tsubaki."]
[14:22] <Yanmei> "Mmph." Yanmei shut her eyes, trying to focus again. "Yeah. Akagi. This whole time, I was thinking she'd be demoted and put on trial. But we need her help with the stuff we have to do next."
[14:25] <Minaplo> ["So it seems." Said Kou. "What do you believe her eventual punishment should be?"]
[14:27] <Yanmei> "How much of her did you see during your imprisonment? She wasn't coerced or forced into doing what she did, right?"
[14:28] <Minaplo> ["It's difficult to say. In some ways, she was an active participant. It wasn't as though Albus had wires plugged into the back of her head or anything." Said Kou.-
[14:36] <Minaplo> ["It was also obvious that she was in deep emotional pain. She was… Immensely bitter toward us, particularly the Ayanamis." Said Kou. "I think sometimes we forget that Tsubaki is a NeoSpartan, too. One who suffered tremendously once she became a pilot."-
[14:38] <Minaplo> ["Albus was a master manipulator. That sort of weakness would be shockingly easy for him to twist around." Said Kou. "On the same note, it's also obvious to me that Tsubaki was only working with half of Albus's script, as it were. She seemed astonished and guilt-stricken when the raid on the Drive killed the Ayanamis…"-
[14:40] <Minaplo> ["It is obvious that Tsubaki made a massive, devastating mistake." Said Kou. "But I think it is also obvious that she was not acting with her full faculties, and has not been acting with such faculties for most of her life. I think it unjust to punish her unduly, when it is also the fault of so many others that she became like this."]
[14:46] <Yanmei> "That complicates things," Yanmei muttered. "But I don't think she can be completely forgiven for what she did. Even if she was misguided, a lot of people died because of her actions? I'm not saying we should throw her life away, but there has to be a balance between that and a light slap on the wrist."
[14:50] <Minaplo> ["Of course. But there has to be a degree of redress." Said Kou. "You understand, they threw her life away before she was really even born?"]
[14:58] <Yanmei> "We have a number of child soldiers here. She's not the only one who never had a chance to grow up normally. You should know this…"
[15:01] <Minaplo> ["How many of them had to play host to half of Lilith?" Asked Kou. "How many of them were plugged into an Eva that reacted to them by overpowering them with intoxicating, mindnumbing emotion, so much so that they had to be physically dragged, week after week, screaming, from their entry plugs?"-
[15:04] <Minaplo> ["There's no gain to generalising Tsubaki's case. In many ways, it is unique and thus uniquely awful." He said. "In truth, I do not see much difference between her betrayal and the things I did for Elisha, except that my acts killed many more people, including the family of many on this ship. I was a child, but in many ways, so is Tsubaki."]
[15:19] * Yanmei grit her teeth together. "I'm… amazed that you have this much compassion for her. With me… I'm too angry right now to feel bad for her past, but I can acknowledge that this is something that resonates with you? Maybe I need some distance from it all."
[15:22] <Minaplo> ["Maybe."-
[15:23] <Minaplo> ["Anyway, I feel like I have an outcome in mind for her that will suit all our demands- it will help set her on the road to rebuilding, but it will also satisfy those who want to see her face retribution."]
[15:24] <Yanmei> "Oh yeah?"
[15:28] <Minaplo> ["We strip her of her piloting position and sever her connection with the Evangelion." Said Kou. "It ensures she becomes far less powerful and influential. It vastly diminishes the risk she poses. And it means she gets out of the game, so to speak, that's caused her such ill."]
[15:33] <Yanmei> "Ah. That's similar to what I had in mind when I mentioned the demotion earlier. It would be insane to let her continue piloting like normal? But what do we do with her beyond that…? Let her stay with the UEF?"
[15:34] <Minaplo> ["With the military part of the UEF? Maybe not. It might be better to find a place for her in civilian life…"]
[15:31] <CakeyCake> "Civilian life… Hmm. Think Blue'll hire her on as a waitress?"
[15:34] <Gerblo> [Kou had a helpless expression on his face. Simply helpless.-
[15:34] <Gerblo> ["Probably, I mean, yeah…"]
[15:38] <CakeyCake> "But, um. That might not be safe. For her. Since she'd be waiting on a lot of people she and Albus held captive?"
[15:46] <Gerblo> [Kou gave her a sincere, slightly sympathetic look and nodded.]
[15:48] <CakeyCake> "Mmph. Don't worry. We'll find something for her. Even if it's pushing papers around in an office of something."
[15:52] <Gerblo> ["Maybe it's something Sera should handle…"]
[15:53] * CakeyCake frowned at that.
[15:55] <Gerblo> ["Or we could leave it in the hands of people who barely know Tsubaki, that sounds good too."]
[16:03] <CakeyCake> "Look. There are a lot of ways that this can still be misinterpreted by people who don't know Akagi's past. A cushy job instead of prison time or a firing squad? It already sounds like she's being coddled. Leaving her placement up to her best buddy in the whole wide world isn't going to help with that perception."
[16:13] <Gerblo> ["Fair enough. But at the very least, we need Sera's input on this."]
[16:15] <CakeyCake> "All right. I can live with that?"
[16:39] <Gerblo> ["Good." Said Kou.]
[16:45] <CakeyCake> "On that note, do you have any other concerns regarding our recovered personnel, so-called allies, or prisoners right now?"
[16:48] <Gerblo> ["You don't trust Ezra?"]
[16:51] <CakeyCake> "Not completely, no. But he hasn't made a habit of stabbing us in the back, and we are not in a position to strike out against him."
[16:56] <Gerblo> ["Fair enough. I understand your concern. It's prudent. But so far he has been nothing but honourable with us."]
[17:00] <CakeyCake> "Yes, so far," Yanmei echoed with anothe frown. "Do you trust him?"
[17:01] <Gerblo> ["Sure."]
[17:07] <CakeyCake> "Because of his past honorability?"
[17:11] <Gerblo> ["It's a factor." Said Kou. "He knows how to be deceptive, misleading and treacherous, but he himself isn't those things- they're tools for him, not who he is as a person. I think he's upright and honest in principle."-
[17:12] <Gerblo> ["Most importantly, though, I believe he simply has more to gain from remaining loyal to us."]
[17:20] <CakeyCake> "You don't think it's likely that he - or whoever his hypothetical boss is - has arranged things so that we'll see him like that and let our guard down?"
[17:21] <Gerblo> ["If he did, he would have to be extremely good at it to fool me." Said Kou.]
[17:32] <CakeyCake> "Ugh. None of my other advisors seem to worry about him much either…"
[17:33] <Gerblo> ["Why do you worry about him?"]
[17:36] <CakeyCake> "Because the opportunity for him to ruin us is right there. It would be easy for him to do it. If anyone was in that position, no matter who it was, wouldn't you be concerned about it?"
[17:41] <Gerblo> ["Enough to evaluate them, sure." Said Kou. "I evaluated and came to the conclusion that he could be trusted."-
[17:41] <Gerblo> ["If you fear people simply because they have the opportunity to ruin you, then you should probably fear everyone in High Command, too."]
[17:49] <CakeyCake> "…" Yanmei suddenly started to look a little apprehensive. "Do you think I should? Like… some of them I've known a long time, but…"
[17:51] <Gerblo> [He sighed.]
[17:51] <CakeyCake> "What…?"
[17:52] <Gerblo> ["Aren't they like family by this point?"]
[17:53] <CakeyCake> "Of course? That's why I hadn't considered them betraying us until now!"
[18:02] <Gerblo> ["You shouldn't suspect your family without good reason. Everyone has the opportunity to harm, very few do, and thinking otherwise is toxic."]
[18:10] <CakeyCake> "You're starting to sound like my former therapist now?"

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