He Said Shinji Has Always Been Closer To Her Than To Myself

[20:57] * Aline found herself in the Japanese Minifront today, having carefully called ahead to secure the most open opportunity possible to meet her… well, future father-in-law. She wanted to be extremely cautious because someone that distant probably was not going to take kindly to even his son's girlfriend trying to meet with him. So… It was with extremely frayed nerves that she stood in
[20:57] * Aline the elevator. It just… wasn't the same as the big, supermassive Paris-2 Elevator Ride of Doom to Ginevre's office, but… for this nervous young girl in a simple black dress, the doom was still /rather/ palpable.
[21:02] <Ikari‘Gendo> [The elevator doors opened.-
[21:04] * Ikari`Gendo was sitting at his desk. A mug of tea was on his desk, next to a bowl of fish, noodles, and very neatly made sushi. He was staring -straight at the elevator doors- as they opened.
[21:06] * Ikari`Gendo was sitting at his desk. A mug of tea was on his desk, next to a bowl of fish, noodles, and very neatly made sushi. He was staring -straight at the elevator doors- as they opened.
[21:07] * Aline /already/ felt intimidated, but. "Ah… Hello, I… er. How should I address you? Commander Ikari, I presume? If this is a bad time I can talk to someone to schedule a more appropriate meeting time."
[21:08] * Ikari`Gendo stared.-
[21:08] <Ikari`Gendo> "Come in, Ms. Blanc." Said Gendo finally. "Commander Ikari is fine for now."
[21:11] * Aline slowly walked in. "Alright. Thank you, I had been worried that you were annoyed at the interruption. I…" She knitted her hands together. "I just wanted to try to establish… er… whatever working relationship is appropriate for someone who’s both employed by your organization and, yet… is your son's girlfriend. I apologize for being so awkward, Commander."
[21:14] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Sit." He gestured to the guest chair.
[21:15] * Aline did so rapidly, hands neatly folding on her lap after they helped get her seated in the first place. For now, she just stared ahead, waiting.
[21:17] <Ikari`Gendo> "I’m on break right now." Said Gendo stiffly. "That means I should follow Yui's direction and treat you as Shinji's partner, as opposed to the First Child."
[21:19] * Aline nodded. "Only if it doesn't trouble you, though. I… sorely wish to avoid offending you."
[21:20] <Ikari‘Gendo> An eyebrow creased. "I can tell."
[21:22] <Aline> "Right. It’s… not difficult to see. I suppose most don't… feel appropriate in admitting that your presence can be intimidating, of course." Aline let her eyelids flutter a few times. "What, if I can ask, do you expect from me as his partner, though? That's… probably the worry clearest on my mind, since I know so little about your desires in any field, but especially that one."
[21:24] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Mm." Gendo sighed.-
[21:26] <Ikari`Gendo> "Before that. You haven’t offended me, and I doubt you will. I did have to put one of your colleagues in the brig for 48 hours not an hour ago, and I suspect he will be alone in that."
[21:28] * Aline twitched suddenly, that. "…Ah. I understand. Sera can… be very foolsigh that way. But I don't really feel like dwelling on his mistakes, because it's not really relevant to what we're talking about." But, a gentle smile. "I should really not let my moods get ahead of me like that."
[21:32] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Mm." Gendo unclasped his fingers and picked up a slice of fish, popping it into his mouth. A silence as he swallowed.-
[21:35] <Ikari`Gendo> "Let’s move on then. I expect you to take care of him." Said Gendo.
[21:38] <Aline> "Of course. I already intend to help him through difficulties like learning how to be a pilot - and I mean the psychological, experiential, and similar sides that can't be expressed by proper training." A brief swallow, as Aline shifted in the seat. "That, and in more general terms. Since he… does have a somewhat, ah. Wounded? Personality. I've been through similar enough troubles to
[21:38] <Aline> have… insight to that, too."
[21:41] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Mm. I see." Said Gendo, taking a mouthful of tea. "I suppose he’s lucky."
[21:46] * Aline smiled… a little. "In…deed." For some reason she dwelled on that. "Perhaps highly. Or… well, not really? Lucky that it went this way, but it sort of… depended on my becoming famous, his mother's connections… I guess in that sense, we were meant to meet - his luck was that it became love."
[21:51] <Ikari‘Gendo> "…" Gendo took another mouthful of tea. "You don’t think you were 'meant' to fall in love, then?"
[21:53] * Aline sighed confusedly. "I actually don't know. I know I kept hearing talk of being 'the one', in regards to him, so… maybe I was? But that doesn't quite work with luck, though. It's something, at any rate. I do have more of a feeling of… being shoved into the path of destiny very hard, about my life in general, so I'm not so quick to dismiss any of that."
[21:58] <Ikari‘Gendo> "It matters less about how you came together and more what you intend to do in the future."
[22:01] <Aline> "…That’s simple. Overcome all hardships that come our way, try to figure out what /we/ want to do with our lives once this part of them is over, then… try to capture happiness however we can."
[22:05] <Ikari‘Gendo> "And what do you think he wants to do with his life?"
[22:11] * Aline took immense pause at that. "I… don’t know. I don't even know if he does. I almost feel that, when I first met him, he needed to first be convinced he even had a future to plan for." Aline closed her eyes, tone gaining obviously sorrowful notes. "So I'm not sure. I know he has some passion for music, and his life has already been affected by becoming a pilot, to a far greater
[22:11] * Aline extent than the duration might suggest. That imprint seems to have left skills, too, so he may… have talents he literally never had before. I know he's now fluent in French, for starters."
[22:18] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Mm. That isn’t surprising." Said Gendo. "What do you think he should do?"
[22:22] <Aline> "Spend time finding what he /truly/ has a passion for, and learning it. Even if it means that he isn't in command of a powerful organization, or advancing human understanding… I'll make sure he's still worthy of whatever he truly does - that, if say he chooses music, that he will become talented enough to deserve being remembered. That sort of thing."
[22:28] <Ikari‘Gendo> "I see." Said Gendo. "And yourself?"
[22:32] * Aline took this question a lot swifter. "Science, especially metaphysical biology and physics. I might not have the… academic credentials yet, but I have experience on levels that few can speak of. Possibly even comprehend. So it… seems surprisingly easy to do, as far as things I enjoy go."
[22:34] <Ikari`Gendo> "Yes. I suppose that’s appropriate." Said Gendo. He started on his noodles.
[22:37] * Aline nodded, though her tone sounded a bit… lost? "I suppose it is. That… I suppose that makes it clear, then? What my intentions are."
[22:38] <Ikari‘Gendo> "It does." Said Gendo. "It’s not surprising that he would fall for a girl with the same career aspirations as his mother."
[22:43] <Aline> "No, I suppose not at all. Or for that matter, one so clearly associated with motherhood… Constantly. Not that I /mind/." Aline's tone was the slightest bit more casual, but… we must emphasize, 'slightest'.
[22:51] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Yui has told me that you would make a good mother." Said Gendo. A slight smile creased his face. "Shinji has always been closer to her than to myself. I can see the similarities between yourself and Yui…" He frowned and looked down at his hands.
[22:57] * Aline smiled, turning sympathetic in tone. "I imagine it must be difficult for him to relate to you - or you, to him. I’d offer advice from my point of view, but… it's…" Aline took her turn to frown. "So very much not the same. You may recall some of the problems my mother lives with - they… have made me familiar with the idea of… only knowing half of my family. But, hers is a
[22:57] * Aline matter of old wounds that run deep, so it's probably rude to make too many comparisons."
[23:05] <Ikari‘Gendo> "…" Gendo took a sip of tea, still frowning. "I suppose that’s another parallel. But it was not "Impact Disorder", as the psychologists call it, that created that gap." He sighed, clasped his hands together. "He always preferred his mother as a child, and as he grew older I had to take more work, after Elisha died. 'I was too busy', I supposed, but I never had this problem with Rei. She was always so easy to connect with."
[23:09] * Aline …nodded again. "I don't know how much I can fix, now. It might not even end until our work is done. Possibly not even then. I'll… try to do what I can, though." But the change of subject… ooph. Sympathy joined melancholy. "…I know all too well. Yanmei's… … …soulmate was hurt by her loss, too. Because they bonded so well. It's a pity that now, I've lost any bond I might
[23:09] * Aline have had with her. He probably has too - only Shinji, and possibly you, remain."
[23:13] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Mm." … "Soulmate?"
[23:16] <Aline> "It’s weird, but that's the only word I can even think of. Isaiah Gabriel-Wei, who works as her personal nurse, and with whom she shares a very deep love, but… Not sexual or completely romantic." Aline had a helpless look on her face. "Maybe it's just because of the nature of /my/ relationship, but it's very hard to describe theirs."
[23:18] <Ikari‘Gendo> A quirked eyebrow. "I suppose your relationship with my son encompasses both of those things by now, doesn’t it?"
[23:20] * Aline suddenly blushed. This should be no surprise. "…Oh, ah… well…. yes." She almost looked like she was curling up into a defensive ball. "I… I assure you that it was consensual and safe and that he enjoyed it very much. Indeed, on the topic of safe, the last thing he needs is to be a father while we're both still pilots, or for me to be pregnant while dealing extremely directly
[23:20] * Aline with Angels and unit 00 alike."
[23:24] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Agreed." Said Gendo. "The pilots are already sensitive to the pressures of their position as it is." The other eyebrow joined its twin. "He was too shy to find protection for himself."
[23:28] <Aline> "Aheh, that… doesn’t surprise me. I did end up providing it, because I could feel that it was getting close to the… time for that." A disarming smile, though Aline… certainly hadn't /stopped/ blushing. "It'll probably do his psyche good in the long run, at least while mine holds out."
[23:30] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Mm." Gendo remained still for a moment. "But to other matters. You said this Gabriel-Wei had a bond with my daughter?"
[23:33] <Aline> "Yes. They had fun together, and she gave him a little pet-name, and he’d do things like let her perch on his back and… so many things. He's not /as/ shy as your son, but he still has a quiet and gentle air to him, so he certainly didn't intimidate her either. Yui was around for some of that anyway, so I'm sure you could ask her if she…" Aline let a ghost of a frown appear, but it faded
[23:33] <Aline> quickly. "…can stand the topic. Since I know she has been hurting severely, too. But no, he was very kind to her and she was happy to be with him - a good custodian for her, I guess you could say. The bond… probably now has the same form for her, that mine's no doubt turned into."
[23:36] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Aggression?"
[23:37] * Aline nodded glumly. "Yes. We haven’t… tested that, but given how hard he took her death, I sincerely doubt anyone should."
[23:38] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Why do you think aggression?"
[23:43] <Aline> "Because, even before I knew it was her, she rather clearly showed it to me." Aline took a deep breath, obviously remembering something mildly traumatic. "As doubtless you already know, I’m able to have a unique impression of the event." She… shivered slightly. "I could /feel/ the murderous desire."
[23:49] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Yes." Said Gendo, nodding. "I read the report. Shinji has reported that he feels Gogouki is highly protective of him as well." Gendo clasped his hands together. "What if the same goes for Gabriel-Wei."
[23:50] * Aline suddenly… realized. "Prot… oh right, how stupid of me. Protective of him, so it was jealousy. That means…" She gained a look of mild shock. "…It’d be directed at Yanmei. I should… try to keep that in mind. She'll probably think Yanmei's taking Isaiah away from her too… Ugh, to have to deal with this…"
[23:55] <Ikari‘Gendo> "It also means that Gabriel-Wei could probably pilot Gogouki." Said Gendo quietly. "If the situation became dire…" He frowned. "Rei’s pet name for this boy was 'Zaizai', wasn't it?"
[23:57] * Aline …twitched. "…It was… it…" But then her expression changed. "I assume by 'dire', you mean 'if Shinji cannot', yes?"
[00:01] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Yes." Said Gendo. "Gogouki is an extraordinarily temperamental unit, but it is also very powerful. However, much like 04 or 01, it rejects all but one pilot." The man drained the rest of his tea. "’Zaizai' was the last thing Rei said. Gogouki would probably accept him as well."
[00:07] <Aline> "…Right." Aline vaguely looked off to the side, but then back to Gendo. "I'll make sure Shinji is always in peak condition mentally and physically when he needs to be, then. We have enough morale problems just from the stress of fighting, without having to worry about Yanmei going insane because of Isaiah being a pilot. I know better than to fight on the 'negative' proposal of keeping it
[00:07] <Aline> from happening. I'll just work the 'positive' angle of ensuring it will not be necessary." She sighed, again. "I do apologize for that if it came off as… strange. But no, I understand the problems with highly tempermental units, so I know you… don't always have options." But then Aline got a bit of a strange expression. "Odd that 00 is the exact opposite of tempermental. It took an…
[00:07] <Aline> /incident/ for it to even /resemble/ being berserk, and it seems like it'd take any pilot candidate without complaint. For it to be in the 'special' three protecting the GeoFront… hmm."
[00:14] <Ikari‘Gendo> "…" Gendo started on the sushi. "Every unit is unique. Even the Production models. 00 was a prototype, and has its own quirks."
[16:17] * Aline looked… neutral again. She wanted to smile or nod, but it was just not quite happening. "I can imagine. I know it’s the most mutated from 'baseline' for an Eva, and is… astoundingly calm. I think I just assumed that volatile or tempermental were the kinds of quirks that seemed to make it fit in there. Probably just some emotional reaction based on not seeing what I see Sera or
[16:17] * Aline Yanmei feeling about their units, in mine."
[16:24] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Calm…" Gendo was still for a moment. "Mm."
[16:26] * Aline raised a brow. "…You sound surprised, somehow?"
[16:32] <Ikari`Gendo> "Not really." Said Gendo. "I feel you have come to the wrong conclusions, however."
[16:33] * Aline folded her hands on her lap. "Ah, then perhaps you can correct me? If there is one mystery that continues to evade me, it’s 00's personality."
[16:38] <Ikari‘Gendo> "EVA-00 was the first unit to be successfully developed, although it’s first activation was after 01." Gendo's hands were clasped together. "As such, it was pioneered almost completely by Caine and Fontaine, and even now very few facts are known about it to the greater part of NERV. There is one thing that -is- known, because it was unable to be hushed up…"
[16:40] <Aline> "…Yes? I… I am also aware of the mysteriousness of it - Commander Fontaine did not seem to know much at all, either. But… I'd be grateful to hear the one thing that is known."
[16:43] <Ikari‘Gendo> "EVA-00 is perceived strangely by both NERV and civilian. It is sometimes perceived as the ’weak' EVA lacking 01's toughness and 04's strength. Sometimes it is perceived as the 'smart' EVA, but such titles are not really accurate. If I had to give 00 any specific label it would be the 'Dangerous' EVA."
[16:47] * Aline seemed to be taking time to… digest that. "I do understand that. While… it's as much my ability to learn the correct techniques as it is its own AT field capabilities… Even without the inside knowledge you possess, I know well enough that when 00 doesn't look 'weak' due to my mistakes, its power can do the impossible."
[16:59] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Any EVA can do the ’impossible'." Said Gendo. "AT control is not unique to 00, not even to 00's extent. Rather. The first time 00 was activated, it went berserk and nearly absorbed its pilot. In truth, EVA-00 nearly started Third Impact." Said Gendo coldly. "The only reason it stopped was because it -chose- to stop. Greater technology was applied to it to reduce the chance that it might berserk. However, the reason EVA-00 is the dangerous one is because we truly do not know if any of it works. In fact, out of all the Evangelions, 00 is the one that might very well not need its restraints weakened to berserk- we do not control it unless it desires us to."
[17:06] * Aline …stared, her eyes rather wide. "W… well. I…" She frowned heavily. "I'm sorry I myself allowed it to go again. Though that… that's, as I implied, and you again probably already know, not even 00's doing. Which I suppose I should be very thankful for, since… while it's been very nice to me so far, I can only imagine what would happen if that suddenly changed." The fear in
[17:06] * Aline her voice made it clear that that was not a good imagining.
[17:07] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Mm. It could probably dissolve you instantly."
[17:10] <Aline> "…I can imagine. Regardless of what what I am /means/, it definitely leads to being… easy to dissolve." Aline shook her head again.
[17:11] <Ikari`Gendo> "You are human." Said Gendo. "We are infinitely small compared to Eva."
[17:12] * Aline nods. "That incident in storage with… with her, made it clear. But aren’t I even more… malleable, right?"
[17:17] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Mm." Said Gendo. "A trait that one can presume is uniquely human in its existence."
[17:24] * Aline paused. "Uniquely human…" She muttered the last few syllables, as if out of disbelief, before she continued. "Right, that… reminds me. If you don’t mind just one personal question about you, related to me, I… would have one to ask."
[17:28] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Go on."
[17:31] <Aline> "Thanks. I… when you met us arriving in the city, I… recognized you. As in… it felt like I knew you before I ever became a pilot, got involved with your son, and so on. I know your wife had intervened in my life at least once for medical purposes, but… could you tell me… what circumstances might have lead to you being around me earlier in my life?"
[17:32] <Ikari`Gendo> There was a pause, as if Gendo was thinking. "There are none."
[17:39] * Aline blinked multiple times in surprise. "I’ll believe that, Commander. I suppose I'll have to resolve the difference between memory and acknowledged history some… other way." A regretful look, accompanied by a sigh. "I'm used to my life feeling unreal, I'll manage, I guess. Thank you for answering, though."
[17:39] <Ikari‘Gendo> "You’re welcome."
[17:41] * Aline then blinked again. "…Wait. Sorry to trouble you about it, the answer came to me when I was trying to process what you said. 00 conversed with me in your form - mentally, of course - for a moment some time ago. During the attack from Sephirah, the Seventh Angel. When I was unconscious."
[17:46] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Indeed?"
[17:49] * Aline nodded. "Indeed. At first I was thrown off because of Yui having been involved in some of my upbringing. But… it took that form after something else it took made me uncomfortable. The beard, the clothing, the eyes… Distinct, unique. It, er. Appeared as Shinji beforehand, but in a way that I was not able to talk coherently with. But it was… very intelligent, and extremely serene
[17:50] * Aline in demeanor, as well. Somewhat of an interesting contrast, the smiling serenity versus your more contemplative reservedness."
[17:57] <Ikari`Gendo> "Diplomatic. Yui merely calls me grumpy."
[18:00] * Aline giggled softly at that. "Well, to be fair, I haven’t been actively annoying you like Sera did, so you actually have just looked like that to me. There's probably /something/ causing it, but it's intensely rude to psychoanalyze someone like that to their faces. So… really, it's just that you're quiet and restrain a lot of your emotional reactions. Simple enough, ne?"
[18:01] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Mm." Gendo finished off the fish. "It’s rude to hint at the need for psychoanalysis, too."
[18:02] <Aline> "Actually, I personally believe everyone has something behind them that might ask for it. So it… well, it is, but yet at the same time isn't."
[18:11] * Aline stammered a little, blushing. "S… sorry. I don't have anything further to say, then. Was there anything you wished to say or ask, or should I leave you to the remainder of your time?"
[18:13] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Mm. Two things."
[18:14] * Aline took a breath, once again feeling nervous. "Alright, go ahead."
[18:19] <Ikari`Gendo> "I believe you’re a good match for my son." Said Gendo. "You are gentle but not as passive as he is, and every relationship requires at least one active party. However, you seem determined to take on challenges and confront other people's problems, which is admirable, but your attitude is highly unfocused, which when combined with your sharp intelligence, gives you a painfully histrionic edge to your actions."
[18:21] * Aline slowly nodded, though… at least some aspects of it gave her a bit of a confused look. "Unfocused? How would I… re-focus?"
[18:25] <Ikari‘Gendo> "When you leave an apple out, go away, and come back, and the apple is gone, you do not know what has happened, but the simplest explanation is that someone has taken your apple. You do not conclude that the apple has gained telekinesis and fled back to the orchard. Simply put, you overthink things, reaching for extraordinary explanations when your information base is too limited to actually sustain your theories."
[18:28] <Aline> "Oh. That makes sense, then. Thank you. I… get so bothered by the anomalies that I forget that. It’s… clearly a flaw." A soft - and yes, nervous - smile. "I'll work on that."
[18:33] * Ikari‘Gendo lowered his hands and smiled. "Good. The Ikari family only has room enough for one brilliant thinker prone to the odd flight of fancy, and she is not yet willing to relinquish her title just yet."-
[18:33] <Ikari`Gendo> "Secondly. Why do you pilot?"
[18:39] * Aline stared back for a long time. She was highly unsure of how to answer that, actually, and even when she spoke up, her voice wavered a bit. "Well, I didn’t choose it initially, but then I… uh… I don't know entirely. The closest I can think of is that it gave me a sense of purpose, a duty I should do, a chance to not be so sad and weak all the time, and to feel that my actions
[18:39] * Aline actually meant something in the history of the world at the end of the day. It's immensely painful a task, but I… I'd rather live in a world where I'm relevant and capable of the unimaginable, than one where I'm nothing of consequence and only the smallest handful of people even care that I lived at all."
[18:43] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Mm." Gendo stood up. He was capable of looming without trying. "Those are worthy reasons to do anything in life. Or were, but Eva is different. You’re piloting for the wrong reasons."
[18:45] * Aline twitched instinctively, and sank further into her chair. "Then uh… what… are the… right reasons?"
[18:47] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Eva is special." Said Gendo. "From the moment man was given the Fruit of Knowledge it was destined to one day build Eva." He pushed his glasses further along the bridge of his nose. "Personal reasons- are irrelevant. The only right reason you pilot is because you were -meant- to pilot."
[18:53] * Aline remained… deathly silent, for the longest of times. Eventually, she mustered a response, but it was… very empty-sounding. As if it were soul-crushing to consider this. "I… see. Destiny’s already something I've learnt has consumed almost all of my life, so while the philosophical reason is a surprise… the condition it relies on, is not. I guess I'll just do what I was meant
[18:53] * Aline to do, and keep what I need for my emotions where it is."
[18:56] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Mm." Said Gendo. He walked over to his bookshelf.-
[18:56] <Ikari`Gendo> "Someone once told me that destiny is immutable only because man is too weak to resist the pull of its tides." He pulled out a book and placed it in Aline’s hands.-
[18:56] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Only Eva can give humanity it’s freedom."
[18:58] * Aline looked down at the book, and while she didn't /brighten/, the gloom seemed less so. "Given what I know… I can understand that. Thank you, again. It… at first felt despairing, but I can see all of why it'd have that potential."
[18:58] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Mm. Read that book."-
[18:58] <Ikari`Gendo> [… The book was in a language she couldn’t understand…]
[19:02] * Aline clutched it gently, anyway, and stood. She bowed politely. "I will, even if it's with difficulty." Understatement of the day… "Please, have a better remainder of the day, especially considering how you had been harassed a few hours back by Sera." She prepared to walk out, going slowly just in case she was suddenly doing something wrong, to have time to correct it.
[19:04] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Mm. Oh." Gendo paused.-
[19:07] <Ikari`Gendo> "Yui is cooking a lovely feast on Saturday and she would like you to be there, so please do not make any plans on that day." He said, returning to his seat. "She would also like you to invite Zhang and her friend along too. I probably won’t see them, so if you run into either Zhang or her 'soulmate', please pass along that message."
[19:09] * Aline turned enough to look back at him, and nodded with a smile. "Alright. I can manage that fine, and I'll make sure to get to her soon - she's more of one for making plans well in advance. Thanks again, and goodbye." …Beep beep goes the elevator button.
[19:10] <Ikari‘Gendo> [The elevator doors opened.]
[19:12] * Aline walked in, and with a - okay a slight shift of her arm, she wasn’t about to wave cutely, that'd probably be overdoing it - she pushed the inside button to go back down and leave, book wrapped under an arm. She'd have to keep it safe, whatever the hell it is.
[19:12] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Mm." Gendo finished off his sushi. "She didn’t even ask what the language was…"-
[19:14] <Ikari‘Gendo> "Now. Without any interruptions." Gendo picked up his phone. "Sensei. Please come to my office."
[19:16] * Aline took a deep breath while she was in the elevator, staring at the book. A part of her - as evidenced by the sudden twitch - realized the same thing Gendo had, but… then she stared at it more intently. "…He’s very intimidating, but… if there's hope in here…" The girl clutched the book tighter, maybe even telling herself it was some sort of surrogate hug that the man himself
[19:16] * Aline wouldn't have accepted.

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