For Arguing At A Mall

[13:54] <Yanmei> [Montrouge-2 Central Shopping Mall was slowly getting more foot traffic these days as a result of Paris-2's growing population and the upcoming holiday season. Sitting on the edge of a fountain with a bottom speckled with gleaming coins, a young lady with a plaid coat stared blanking at the LCD display of an unmarked cell phone. -
[13:57] <Yanmei> There were already some decorations up in nearby stores: the reds and golds and greens of Christmas, though she was barely paying attention to that. It was almost the meet-up time, so she had to make up her mind on whether to use the phone or not… and in the end, she snapped it shut and put it away for now.]
[14:08] * Aline looked… almost out of place, with how she seemed to look around the mall listlessly. Though the long black (with white stripes) jacket she wore was actually relatively 'normal' in styling. The girl eventually made her way to the fountain, but… Mostly just stood there, looking at who was waiting there. She looked… distant.
[14:13] * Yanmei offered a nod and… paused, suddenly finding the water in the fountain fascinating. She could remember what Isaiah told her before his breakdown, but she was already on the dregs of her own energy. She had to pull herself together, no matter how tired she was.-
[14:14] <Yanmei> "How are you doing, Blanc?"
[14:16] * Aline … sat down, at that, a respectable distance along the fountain. "Right exactly now… okay enough." But she reached a hand back to boredly twirl a finger through the water. "Overall… it's pretty bad."
[14:16] <Yanmei> "I see."
[14:17] * Aline nodded, but looked a bit at a loss. "Mm. I don't know what I'm supposed to say."
[14:18] <Dorian> It would be at this point that the familiar sound of a wheelchair rolling across the mall's tiles would reach the girls' ears. Dorian Lachapelle was heading towards them, a large brown paper bag on his lap.
[14:19] <Yanmei> "Then don't say anything," Yanmei said. "You don't have to if you don't want to." And… Dorian was approaching. Yanmei hefted herself to her feet and waved at him, least he miss them. Unlikely, though. "Hello, Major."
[14:20] <Dorian> "Hello, girls." Said Dorian as he approached. He was wearing a dark burgundy long-sleeved shirt and black trousers. "How's it going?"
[14:21] * Aline started to stammer out a "That's not… it at a-" But THEN SUDDENLY. Dorian turning up gave her a pretty surprised expression. "…Ah… er…" And she just looked down.
[14:23] <Yanmei> "I'm pretty much the same as usual." She grinned to show it, albeit a bit dazedly. "Blanc here has been not so great, though?"
[14:24] * Aline nodded, taking that opportunity to look up once again. "…Yeah. This is such an awkward way to go about saying it though. I don't know what's /better/, either."
[14:25] * Dorian tapped his fingers against the armrests of his chair. "Uh-huh." He said eventually. "Well, I'm sorry to hear that. Let's start working on getting it fixed, and if you don't know what's better than I do. Follow me."
[14:29] * Yanmei was already standing, and so made to follow when told. She wanted to guess that he would pay for stuff they picked out, and tried to fall into her usual brisk pace.
[14:30] * Aline herself stood up slowly, but then walked along in earnest, pulling her jacket a bit tighter by the collar as she followed along.
[14:34] * Dorian rolled along, through the small yet growing crowds, followed by the two girls. It wasn't long before he came to his destination- a table, in one of the food courts. "Alright. I grabbed myself some lunch, you girls can go grab whatever you like, then I'll give the two of you a special present I bought."
[14:37] <Aline> "Ah…" Aline's reply seemed vague, but she tried to pull it together. "What had you wanted, Yanmei?"
[14:39] <Yanmei> "I guess just a drink or something?" She was looking around with not even feigned interest at the variety of food chains around. "I guess I don't feel like eating much today?"
[14:45] <Aline> "Right. I… Well. Had too much time to think." …And as if showing a sudden irony impulse, Aline took a moment to think. "…Yeah, I'll get a little dessert then. If you wanna follow, go ahead, if not, we'll just meet back up." So the girl wandered off to a small icecream cafe, to order a (real little) vanilla-with-caramel thickshake. A pity the significance of the gesture was lost.
[14:47] * Yanmei vanished somewhere on her own and returned with… something in a disposable cup. The scent of coffee wafed from it, the platic lid concealing the amount of sugar and cream she had dumped in, which was not insignificant. -
[14:48] <Yanmei> "So! Major. What's this about a gift?"
[14:49] * Dorian had his own food and drink. Unlike the two wispy little wussy girls, he'd bought -real food-: in this case, two large containers of seasoned chips and a quarter-pounder. And a coke. "It'll be awesome, heh heh."
[14:52] <Yanmei> "…" she eyed him warily, trying not to be too obvious about it. The laugh sounded rather ominous…
[14:53] * Aline …sorta looked at him oddly. "…Er, is that really the kind of tone we should be using…"
[14:55] <Yanmei> "Now, now. I'm sure the Major isn't planning anything troublesome for his two most loyal subordinates. Right?"
[14:55] <Dorian> "What sort of tone would you prefer?"
[14:56] * Aline sighed. "I don't know, actually? It seems weird to ask you to be gentle. Weirder still with Yanmei around, somehow."
[14:58] * Dorian picked up the burger in his hand and took a deep bite out of it. He chewed thoughtfully as he eyed both of them.
[15:00] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei eyed Dorian again. Yup. Definitely up to something. Which meant that it would be time to run right about now. "…am I making the atmosphere weird? Don't mind me, I could always leave~"
[15:01] * Dorian gave Yanmei a dark 'cut the crap' look over the top of his burger.
[15:02] * Aline looked between the both of them, and decided to just play with her straw (while sipping) instead of sending a 'look' of her own. "…It's just me. That's all."
[15:07] <Yanmei> It was hard, trying to look lighthearted when there was a variety of weird shifts going on internally, ranging from annoyed to settling firmly into the range of 'sulky'. "Fine then." And she aborted her attempt to rise. "I wasn't even being serious."
[15:08] * Dorian stared at them both as he put his burger down and put a hand into his big brown bag. He pulled out two smaller bags and put them on the table- they were marked as goods from a local electronics store. "These are for you two."
[15:11] * Aline continued to make little idle motions, at least until the bag reached her. Without much fanfare - or indeed direct looks at anything but the bag itself, Aline went about opening it.
[15:11] * Yanmei accepted a bag with a 'thank you'. Annoyed or not, she still had to be polite, right? She peered inside.
[15:11] <Dorian> [They were shiny new MP3 Players, with earphones.]
[15:12] * Yanmei … uttered another 'thank you' at this, pulling hers out for a closer examination. "This is pretty nice."
[15:13] * Aline looked at it critically, but then allowed a tiny little smile. "Mm, thanks… it is pretty good."
[15:15] <Dorian> "Consider it a bit of a reward." Said Dorian. "As well as an implement."
[15:16] <Aline> Now, confusion. "…Reward?" …said as if she didn't know what for. "…Implement, for that matter?…"
[15:16] * Yanmei had the same sentiments, letting the gift lower and settle on her lap beneath the table.
[15:17] <Dorian> "A reward. For holding out." Said Dorian. "I'm not going to lie to you two. You've both been through some -hell- recently, and I'm impressed, pleased and proud that you're still here, still holding it together and willing to fight."
[15:20] * Aline shrugged her shoulders. "…I have too much invested in it to stop. And holding 'it' together is holding 'me' together, and that's… that's important too. I mean, thanks for recognizing it, but…"
[15:23] <Yanmei> "Right. Invested," Yanmei murmured vaguely in agreement. Like they could just up and walk away with no problems in any case.
[15:25] * Aline did finally /react/, in that she shot a hurt, yet somehow also suspicious, glance at Yanmei, before settling back on her new toy.
[15:30] * Yanmei simply pretended not to notice. "What did you mean by 'implement,' though?"
[15:32] <Dorian> "Hold on." Said Dorian, waving his hand. "No 'buts', sometimes having basic things recognised is important." He tapped the table. "Which is lucky, because I'm recognising pretty basic things right here and now, which is why these things are implements. Implements, because… We are going to use these. Because I am going to start teaching the two of you some high-level tag-team techniques."
[15:35] <Yanmei> "And… we'll need music for these techniques?"
[15:35] * Aline tilted her head. "Music'd be better than anything else these'd be useful for, at any rate."
[15:36] * Dorian took another bite of his burger. "Music. Not just music, either. These techniques are pretty intensive. Enough to require a good week or so of solid time. The two of you would be living together, eating together, acting and thinking together until the two of you know each other back to front."
[15:37] <Yanmei> Fingers gripped the packaging a little harder. "…come again?"
[15:38] * Aline …stared blankly. "Are you… are you /trying/ to break me?"
[15:40] <Dorian> "Is there a personal problem?"
[15:43] * Aline fell silent and looked… somewhere between strained and distracted and terribly embarassed and even a bit angry. "…I shouldn't assume people automatically notice. It's shortsighted of me to."
[15:43] <Dorian> "Oh please. I've long noticed the nonsense going on between you two."
[15:45] <Yanmei> "And you're still intending to go ahead with this scheme regardless?" Yanmei closed her eyes briefly. "With all due respect, Major? I'm not convinced this was the best idea."
[15:45] <Dorian> "Shut up, Zhang."
[15:45] <Aline> "F… forcing people to do that at this stage of emotional conflict… Seems wrong…" Was all Aline could come up with.
[15:46] <Dorian> "Get over it."
[15:47] <Yanmei> "So that's that, is it?" she said bitterly. "We have no say in it?"
[15:48] <Dorian> "No. You don't." Said Dorian angrily. "Let me get this thing straight. The both of you are Pilots. This gives you both a rank equal to Sergeant in a conventional force. Let me point that out. Sergeant. Force. In case you haven't noticed, both of you are in a military force. I am your commanding officer, and I have just about had -enough-."
[15:49] * Aline nodded. "…Right. I shouldn't have objected then…"
[15:51] * Yanmei held her tongue, glancing away. She could wrestle with growing temper some other time.
[15:54] * Dorian stared at them both. "Now. You both know that I don't enjoy becoming angry, and I particularly don't enjoy being angry at either of you. I trust you both- I'm fond of you both. You're both good kids." He said in a gentler tone. "But this -has to stop-. Understood? There are soldiers fighting and dying under my command every battle, and they all possess the levels of discipline and espirit d'corps that I expect from soldiers under said command. You will be no different."
[15:58] * Aline nodded again, practically trying to establish a rhythm with it.
[16:00] * Yanmei kept her mouth shut, trying to swallow back that sense of anger until it was no longer visible. She was making decent time with it, with her eyes gradually cooling, and her shoulders starting to relax.
[16:00] <Dorian> "We will begin on the 30th of November."
[16:04] * Aline just flat-out didn't respond, at that point. The nodding had stopped and instead she was just sitting inertly.
[16:05] <Yanmei> "Noted, Major."
[16:06] <Dorian> "Now then." Dorian took another bite out of his burger. "You might be interested to note that the first interrogations of the so-called 'Shadow men' began today."
[16:07] * Aline muttered a brief reply, to that. "Did they use AT detection hardware beforehand?…"
[16:08] <Dorian> "Yes. They read as human."
[16:10] <Yanmei> "And what did they say during the interrogations themselves?" She reached for her coffee again.
[16:10] * Aline breathed a sigh of relief, finally getting out of that screwed-up paralysis she had been exhibiting. "That's good. Not as good as them being back to normal, but good."
[16:17] <Dorian> "It's good, yes. I was worried, myself." Dorian tapped his fingers together. "As for what they said…" He frowned. "All of them changed. I even had Castillo-Delgado look over them, and all of their personalities have varied wildly- yet there are some similarities in between their new personalities and their old ones. Many of their overall ethics remain, for example, but their interpersonal and self-perception are radically altered. The Shadow Men themselves are… Confused, I guess is the best way to put it. They don't remember much about what happened at all."
[16:18] * Aline …slowly nodded, though seemed to look into the distance for a moment. "Hmmm…"
[16:22] * Yanmei was finished with cooldown mode now, and was calmly gripping her cup. "Maybe some more clues will come up with time? Who knows?"
[16:24] <Dorian> "With hope. Despite what data we have, we're apprehensive about what could happen if the Shadow Men were exposed to another Angel."
[16:26] * Aline then… returned her focus to the two of them. She had a strange precision to her voice, and a knowing look on her face - not a smile, but simple certainty. "The 'shadow' appelation might be a bit more accurate than you think. What do either of you know about Jungian psychology?"
[16:27] <Dorian> "Not too much."
[16:27] * Yanmei shrugged.
[16:32] <Aline> "…Yeah, I guess I shouldn't have expected that, but uh… the…" Aline drummed her fingers against the lid of her shake's cup. "The 'shadow archetype' is from that school of thought. The parts of your personality that are suppressed, whether because you reject them for being embarassing or somehow not approved by society… or because of some other personal self-dislike or self-denial."
[16:32] <Aline> She finally /did/ smile, though. "Knowing that they still read as human… mmm, probably means that those personality facets were embodied by the Illusion Field, then the Angel attempted to rewrite their personal fields - souls, you know - and use that rewrite to displace the personality… with what was once suppressed becoming the most open aspect of them. Surprisingly simple, though I
[16:32] <Aline> guess you need my… resources to know."
[16:38] <Yanmei> "…suppressed personality traits." Yanmei had taken on a teeny bit of rigidity, but was quick to smooth it over, taking yet another drink. "In other words, when those people were attacked, they had parts of themselves that they had been carrying with them all along brought to the surface for the whole world to see."
[16:41] <Dorian> "That… Sounds pretty accurate." Murmured Dorian. "Now that you put it like that."
[16:42] * Aline softened the 'knowing smile' back to a neutral expression, as she confirmed. "Mm-hm. Of course, it didn't just /expose/ those traits. It remade them so they'd be the person who'd /naturally/ have those in the open. They're not ashamed, thus. Because only the 'old' or 'real' or 'original' self would've been." Aline put a finger to her lips. "It's disturbing, yet on the other hand it
[16:42] * Aline is… well. It makes it clear its architect wasn't human. A human doing something like that to an /enemy/ would've made it more, well, torturous."
[16:45] <Dorian> "Then the ones who went berserk during the battle and tried to shoot their allies…"
[16:50] <Yanmei> "People who always had the urge to do that, but were repressing it for their own reasons. Likely…" Yanmei frowned now, disquieted. "They're the sort of people who would be prone to doing that now?"
[16:51] <Aline> "That, or it was personal. Maybe just /their/ comrades. Or not… there's too much in the wilderness of that kind of thing." Aline frowned a little. "So to speak. I know mine actually got /confused/ when I spoke to 'her', so I wouldn't know."
[16:52] <Dorian> "Mmmm. Nevertheless, disturbing implications…"
[16:53] * Aline folded her arms. "And definitely no precedent to work off of."
[16:57] <Yanmei> "Hm. You would think that if their fields were re-written, they would have to be re-re-written to reverse the effect. But what can even -do- that sort of thing, aside from that dead Angel."
[17:01] <Aline> "You'd… you'd have to know what they were like before. On a level that /only/ something with that kind of analytical ability would be on." Aline's tone became a bit grim, though. "Human attempts to 'rewrite' people are flawed, as I certainly know."
[17:03] <Yanmei> "And that means what, exactly?"
[17:06] * Aline twitched. "…Nobody told you, did they? It's Shinji. Azariah Caine has him. The guy tries to reprogram people. He has him hooked up to a machine that keeps a sort of mind-image of his dead son, Silas, in Shinji's head. It looks perfect but in fact it's… deeply flawed. Flawed enough that I have hope to get the real Shinji back, but also flawed enough to know that /we/ can't do
[17:06] * Aline anything to fix those soldiers' problems, not with our current abilities."
[17:08] * Yanmei stared a moment, trying to figure out where to begin tugging to unravel this ball of confusion. "Azariah…?"
[17:11] <Aline> "Elisha's brother. He… he's the one behind the attacks. Some kind of disagreement with…" Aline scratched her head. "With… The sister. I keep forgetting her name, probably because neither Sera rants about her nor does she have my goddamn /boyfriend/ hostage. But apparently she had one plan, that Elisha agreed with, that Azariah didn't." She then frowned deeply. "Some crap about the
[17:11] <Aline> evolution of mankind - that's what 'Silas' told me. Yes, I spoke to him. Secure link just brought to me one day, then gone the next. Without that I wouldn't know that there's still a chance to save Shinji, but…" She sighed. "I imagine you… you Dorian, that is… Already know all of this anyway. But you… you Yanmei, you must not. I've been afraid of you ever since all of the… terrible
[17:11] <Aline> stuff, so I didn't get the chance to tell you. And I guess nobody else has."
[17:13] * Dorian stares at them both, quietly working on one of those hot chip boxes.
[17:15] <Yanmei> "…I've been busy, to be fair?" Yanmei's face had contorted ever so slightly in… anger? Further confusion? She slowly tried to adopt a more nuetral expression, blinking down at her napkin for a moment or two. "Mary Caine. I'm sorry about Shinji. And that's a -terrible- reason for not telling me."
[17:22] * Aline shook her head. "I've not exactly had the ability to do things for good reasons lately. If I felt better, I wouldn't have backed off. But… but you… you'd say things to upset me and not even realize it, or… decide to hide things or act cold when I wanted warmth, and I… I-I…" Aline drooped onto the table. "I've been /really/ hurt lately. Both by the stuff with Shinji and by
[17:22] * Aline that Angel. If I ended up suddenly breaking down or going silent or saying something crazy-sounding, you'd end up not understanding then getting angry at me reacting weirdly because /I/ didn't understand and we'd both feel worse and I just thought the damage was too severe to risk it." …Aline's face was the opposite - not contorted, but festooned with a wide, distraught frown.
[17:27] * Yanmei …took a deep breath. Self control, self control. "Fine, then."
[17:27] <Dorian> "Yanmei." Dorian peered at her. "You really don't have the grounds to act so entitled."
[17:28] * Aline stared with uncomprehending confusion. "…Entitled?… Er, sorry, go on."
[17:30] <Yanmei> "Maybe not? I said 'fine, then'. I dont mind that I was left out of the loop because Blanc was clearly agitated. I do wonder, however," she glanced to Dorian, "just what you've been learning from Section-2 with a remark like that."
[17:32] <Dorian> "Then I suppose you can keep wondering." Said Dorian. "And don't give me that. I'd think -you-, Zhang Yanmei, of all people, would have some sympathy for a person who just lost someone close to her."
[17:34] * Aline began stirring the nothing in her empty shake-cup, making sure to do so /deathly quietly/. She needed a distraction. Idle movement would have to do.
[17:39] <Yanmei> "I'm not unsympathetic. How much support can I really offer her if I don't even know what's going on? I knew about the initial kidnapping, and offered my sympathies then. I just got a ton of additional information dropped on me, and I accepted the reason why."-
[17:42] <Yanmei> "I know there's a lot of bad stuff going on, but I've barely had time for myself. This is the first time I've even run into Blanc since the last battle."
[17:47] * Aline stared up. "Then can you at least /sound/ nice? You asked me to meet with you today, and then you just go 'fine, then', and you don't even register my /telling/ you why I feel bad and awkward." …Then her tone actually hardened, a mix of sadness and frustration. "Why is it that I can't even get the barest acknowledgement of /anything/ I say about my feelings? Should I just go away
[17:47] * Aline and never talk to you again because little miss crazy and actually-needy is too much trouble for you? Am I just so worthless to you that I'm a waste of time?!" Her hands were braced on the top of the table, as if she were holding herself up by them alone.
[17:52] * Yanmei cocked her head. She was not going to slink back under a wave of visible anger. And she was not going to give in the sudden rising urge to try to tear her to ribbons with her own tongue. Her commanding officer was standing right there, after all. -
[17:58] <Yanmei> "I apologize," she said simply. "It seems that I'm better at hurting people than I am at consoling them. That's something that I need to start coming to terms with myself."
[18:00] * Dorian sighed, rubbing his temple with his left hand. "Right. I know what I need to do."
[18:01] * Aline snapped her attention to Dorian, starting to strain against her own arms. "…What…?"
[18:03] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei glanced at him herself.
[18:04] <Dorian> "Perhaps Isaiah will be useful in resolving this issue. I'll have him assist in the tag-team exercises. Perhaps he'll teach you to act like a human being."
[18:05] * Aline actually looked pretty shocked that he went to the length of saying that, but stayed conspicuously quiet.
[18:07] * Yanmei folded her arms. "I," she said, "would be perfectly fine with that. If he agrees, naturally."
[18:08] <Dorian> "Good." Dorian finished off the rest of his burger.
[18:18] * Yanmei stood after a moment or two of since, reaching for her own drink. "I'll be leaving, now. Thank you, Blanc, Major, for an enlightening lunch. I'll see you on the 30th. Or during work."
[18:20] <Dorian> "See you later then, Zhang."
[18:21] * Yanmei nodded. Started off.
[18:21] * Aline turned her head about listlessly, but… managed to at least bring herself to say /something/. "…Bye."
[18:24] <Yanmei> It was only after she had rounded the corner, had found the ladies room and ducked inside one of the stalls within that she began to… whip out her phone from before, and to open the mostly bare address book. She sagged against the side of the stall, waiting for the rings to end. "Hello? Cap- er, Atticus? When you get this message? Give me a call…"
[18:33] <Aline> On the other hand, Aline turned right to her commanding officer, sighing again. "…Sorry for the outburst. It really has been worse than anyone might guess. I'm sure Dr. Clement must've written something down to see about on that, but…" Aline looked well, concerned. "My relationship with Yanmei has been strained, but this… This seems like something else." She… then got a very worried
[18:33] <Aline> look. "It almost feels like the berserk incident might've had some kind of… effect."
[18:34] <Dorian> "Some kind of effect?"
[18:35] <Aline> "Impressions. Or maybe just focused abuse. I can't say I know what else has happened in her life since last we met, but…" Aline drooped yet again. "How cold she was… felt /unnatural/."
[18:37] <Dorian> "It's not." said Dorian with a sigh, leaning back in the chair. "Unfortunately, it's just that Yanmei is stressed. Stressed and tired and worn out, just like everyone else. I don't know the details, but I hear Isaiah's been… Very unwell recently, and he's only just gotten out of hospital, so…"
[18:39] * Aline …stared dumbfoundedly. "And acting like she hates me is her way of being stressed?"
[18:39] <Dorian> "That's enough." Muttered Dorian. "The truth is you're both as bad as each other when it comes to this."
[18:42] * Aline nigh-instantly folded. "S-s-sorry. But I don't know what to even do. I keep trying but even when I get advice, I mess it up…"
[18:44] <Dorian> "Well. We'll have to give it time. It's not only your personalities." Dorian ate another hot chip. "But it's also circumstances at play that're grinding you down. -That's- why the Tag-team idea isn't just this cruel idea. It's actually there to remove what role circumstances play. You'll have to learn to like, or at least learn to tolerate, the other, no matter what. -That's- why I decided to bring in Isaiah. It's a little odd, but the boy's a calming influence on people."
[18:47] <Aline> "…Yeah. He's actually the person I got the advice from. But I guess once I got left to my own devices… Enh." Aline shrugged her shoulders. "Enough of that indeed."
[18:51] <Dorian> "Mm." Dorian started work on his coke. "I suspect I should have a word with Sept, too."
[18:56] <Aline> "I guess." She knitted her fingers together. "I guess. He probably has his problems, but… he almost seems less damaged. Somehow."
[18:58] <Dorian> "Maybe. I think the only person who could give you a definitive on that would be Freya."
[19:01] * Aline tap-tapped her empty drink. "Sounds about right. Mmm. I guess that's all I can think of. I don't really think too many weird questions are worth it."
[19:03] <Dorian> "Mm. Will you be off, then?"
[19:04] <Aline> "Think so, yeah. Sorry for… making as much of a scene as I did."
[19:06] <Dorian> "Apology accepted." Dorian took another mouthful of coke. "Let's hope we get your boy back soon, hmm?"
[19:09] * Aline paused at that, but then stood up. "Indeed. Let's hope what he did to him is as fixable as I hope." …She paused again, thinking… before turning around. "'Bye, Commander." And off she went!
[19:10] <Dorian> "'Bye." Said Dorian, leaning back in his chair. "Poor, poor girls." He murmured sympathetically, reaching into his brown bag and pulling out a second quarter pounder.

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