That Crazed Girl Improvising Her Music Her Poetry Dancing Up

<Isaiah> PM on a thursday afternoon in mid-January. It's quiet in Raphael's office. He's alone, as usual, and... A stack of neat paperwork sits in front of him. All finished. It wasn't his doing, but at least it means he can head off to pick up Suzie on time...
*Raphael gives the signatures at the bottom of the topmost sheet of paper on the stack a sharp look and sighs. Sergeant Kirishima was getting remarkably good at forging his signature. He wondered whether he should be concerned about that.-
<Raphael> Still, at least he was able to leave on time today. After straightening up what little mess remains on his desk, he fetches his coat from its place on the hook and exits out into the hall.
<Isaiah> [Mana is sitting at her own desk, humming a tune to herself. As Raphael emerges she beams and stands up. "Captain Guillory, sir!"]
<Raphael> "Sergeant." He says, nodding slightly as he shrugs his coat over his shoulders. "I believe I'm done for the day, unless you have any messages for me."
<Isaiah> ["An invitation, sir."]
<Raphael> That stops him for a moment. He glances over at her, one eyebrow raised. "Julien again?"
<Isaiah> ["From me, actually, sir. The squad's getting together to have a hand of cards and we wanted to see if you wanted in."]
*Raphael seems to lose most of his tension the minute Julien's lack of involvement is confirmed. "As much as I'd enjoy that, Sergeant, I've got to leave right now if I'm going to pick up Suzie when she gets out of school."
<Isaiah> ["That reminds me. Rei called, she said that Suzanne wanted to spend some time together, so she's going to take Suzie home to your place for awhile."]
<Raphael> "… That's very fortuitous timing, Sergeant."
<Isaiah> ["It must be fate, sir."]
<Raphael> "So it would seem."-
*Raphael gives her a slightly bemused look. "Well, I suppose I'm out of excuses then."
<Isaiah> [Mana beamed. She stood up. "Let's go then, sir."]
*Raphael simply nods, gesturing Mana to lead on.
<Isaiah> [She led him down into the break room, where there was a wide semicircular table. On one side- the flat side- was a single chair, and on the other side were Hugues, Henri, Blaise, Marie and Euphrasie. There were two player chairs left- one for Raphael, of course.]
*Raphael allows a small smile at the sight of the whole squad arranged around the table, giving them all a quick look or a wave in turn before taking his seat between Hugues and Euphrasie. "Sorry to keep you all waiting."
<Isaiah> ["No worry at all, Captain." Said Hugues. "I hope you brought something to wager, though…"]
*Raphael draws a battered leather wallet from his pocket, thumbing through it for a moment before drawing out a collection of banknotes and laying them on the table in front of him. "Not much, but I'm afraid I wasn't expecting to gamble today."
<Isaiah> ["Heh heh." Hugues chuckles. "No need to wager money if you don't have it. Mana here's letting us wager other things."-
<Isaiah> ["I'm wagering a cake." Said Euphrasie.]
*Raphael grins at that, nodding slowly. "I might stick to cash for the moment. I'm not sure I have much else to wager." He says, pausing for a moment before glancing at Euphrasie. "I'm sure Suzie would like that cake, though…"
<Isaiah> ["Then you'll have to play a good game, huh?"-
<Isaiah> [At that point, a new voice entered the mix. "I'm baaack~" crowed Julien as he sauntered into the room, a box of noodles in one hand and a shiny box- the sort you put action figures in- in the other. "And I have my wager and my lunch."]
<Raphael> By now they would all likely be used to that moment of complete stillness that gives away Raphael controlling surprise… or anger. He stares over at Mana.
<Isaiah> [Mana smiles helplessly at him. She never said Julien -wouldn't- be here…-
<Isaiah> ["Hello hello, Raffy." Says Julien cheerfully, sitting in his chair. "What might you be wagering~?"]
*Raphael keeps staring at Mana for a moment, letting out a sigh though his nose. "… Money, Julien."
<Isaiah> ["A-ha." Julien holds out his box to Mana.-
<Isaiah> [Raphael would get a glimpse of a violet-twintailed figurine, winking and clad in a maid outfit a second before Mana claimed it, placing it under the table.-
<Isaiah> ["Alright." Mana took out her card deck and started shuffling. "We all know how to play blackjack, right?"]
*Raphael 's eyes lock onto the box just before it disappears beneath the table, and he glances over at Julien with a hard look. "Why do you hav-…" He pauses, shaking his head. "Nevermind. Yes, Sergeant Kirishima, I'm familiar with the game."
<Isaiah> ["Good, good. Ok!" She beamed, and started to deal.-
<Isaiah> [The game was quick and cruel. Raphael came close to winning, missing out by the barest of margins to Euphrasie, who was one number closer to 21, and Mana, who got 21 exactly.-
<Isaiah> ["I'm not going to lose at cards to a sixteen year old." Muttered Hugues.]
*Raphael gives Hugues a pat on the shoulder, smirking slightly. "It's hardly the first time you've been hustled."
<Isaiah> ["No, no, that's true. I should know better by now." He sighed. "The missus is going to have my hide."-
<Isaiah> ["Again, then?" beamed Mana.-
<Isaiah> ["Alright, you little monster."]
<Raphael> "Deal." Raphael says, giving Mana a nod.
<Isaiah> [She began to deal.-
<Isaiah> ["So, I was talking to Captain Gosselin today." Said Hugues.]
*Raphael is watching rather closely as Mana deals, hands folded on the table. "What did he have to say?"
<Isaiah> ["He told me something strange." Hugues' brow was furrowed. "Apparently, the Libs got involved in that battle the other day."]
<Raphael> His gaze flickers away from Mana's cards at that, giving Hugues a little more of his attention. "… So it's true, then?"
<Isaiah> ["Aye. A big robot, they said, bigger than an Eva." Said Hugues, frowning. "The thing is, Gosselin told me it was piloted by -Tobias Linden-."]
<Raphael> "Nonsense." Raphael says, glancing down at the distributed cards and checking his own hand. "Linden's been dead for years. Not to be dismissive of Captain Gosselin, but I think he's telling you ghost stories."
<Isaiah> ["Yeah." Euphrasie nodded. "There's no way- if there was, we really would know."-
<Isaiah> ["Who's Tobias Linden?" Asked Mana.]
*Raphael gives Hugues a sidelong look, smiling slightly now. "Linden was a pilot with the Austrian Air Force when it was absorbed into the unified UN forces after Second Impact. He wound up leading some of the most dangerous operations during the pacification campaigns, and wound up becoming a legend for most of us who were serving at the time. Still, he was killed in action years ago."
<Isaiah> ["Shot down by Ethiopian anti-air. Crashlanded in northern Kenya and we never saw him again." Said Hugues. "Still… What if he -did- survive, sir? Theoretically."]
<Raphael> "And he was siding with the LN?" Raphael asks, eyeing the table thoughtfully. "… It could be a problem for us. I don't tend to give a lot of weight to most of the stories I heard about him, but I -definitely- believe he's got the talent and charisma to be a serious thorn in our side, especially if he had command of something like an Eva." He pauses, seeming to remember he's talking out loud. "… theoretically, of course."
<Isaiah> ["Yes, well, it's all true." Said Julien smoothly.]
<Raphael> "… pardon?"
<Isaiah> ["Tobias Linden showed up in the Sahara piloting a T-RIDEN-T. He used dual G-Positron Cannons to vaporise EVA-04's head."]
<Raphael> "…"
<Isaiah> ["I can't believe they stole -my- T-RIDEN-T design." Muttered Julien.]
<Raphael> "I'm… not sure that's our biggest problem, sir." Raphael mutters, giving Hugues and Euphrasie a worried look.
<Isaiah> ["Well, no, I guess not." Admits Julien. "Once you factor in the copilot…"]
<Raphael> "… and who was that?"
<Isaiah> ["From what we can tell- I mean, he -did- call her little mouse- it was his daughter, Minerva Linden. She's probably less famous, but long story short, she's just like Captain Wellesley." Julien forked noodles into his mouth.]
*Raphael has all but forgotten the cards now. Instead all his attention is focused squarely on Julien - perhaps for the first time. "… how in the hell did he get his hands on those two?"
<Isaiah> ["Minerva was part of a UN operation last year with the Indian Ocean Battlegroup. Apparently she was fond of piggybacking with the fighter pilots. Like her father, her jet was shot down over Kenya…"]
<Raphael> "Hmm. Well, I suppose the question to ask is whether they're working with the Libs of their own volition…"
<Isaiah> ["It could've been worse. He could've singlehandedly wiped out 00 and then the war'd be over, but he let 'em go."]
*Raphael nods slowly. "That's true. It's interesting that he didn't."
<Isaiah> ["I heard some stories about Linden." Said Euphrasie slowly. "They say he was cut off during the Bosnian Campaign but somehow took down a whole squadron of New Yugoslav fighters by himself."]
<Raphael> "There's no shortage of stories, that's for sure. Who knows if they're true." Raphael says with a frown. "Still, I once heard a story about him taking damage to his fuel tanks during a mission in Estonia. To hear them tell it, when the engines started to fail he just aimed his plane at the fuel depot they were targeting and ejected."
<Isaiah> ["That's cold." Mutters Henri.-
<Isaiah> ["Definitely efficient though." Said Blaise. "Fighter jet fuel and a depot? Oh yeah. That'd make some fireworks."-
<Isaiah> ["… This man sounds like quite the legend for sure." Said Mana dubiously. "What was he like when he wasn't an action movie hero?"]
*Raphael chuckles. "I can't say for sure. I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person, even though we served on some of the same tours. Did any of you…?"
<Isaiah> ["Aye, I did." Said Hugues. "He was quiet. Had a picture of his little girl on his cockpit."-
<Isaiah> ["That's bad luck, that is." Said Henri.-
<Isaiah> ["That's just superstition. I've got a picture of my folks in Dread-02." Said Marie.-
<Isaiah> ["Yeah, but it takes more than bad luck to put -you- down."]
*Raphael smiles a little, but glances over at Julien. "How old would she be now? His little girl, I mean."
<Isaiah> ["About as old as our dear Mana here. But hardly as pretty, I'd expect."-
<Isaiah> ["Oh Julien. You should know better than to flatter a teenage girl~"]
<Raphael> "Indeed." Raphael murmurs, glancing down at his cards.
<Isaiah> ["Nevertheless." Continues Julien smoothly. "That should make her about sixteen or so- not old enough to vote, but old enough to conquer a country."]
<Raphael> "… I wonder if Captain Wellesley heard about this."
<Isaiah> ["I suspect he'll find out sooner or later." Said Julien. "This is quite the thing to know, so the ODs will likely to be briefed on it soon."]
<Raphael> Their attention slowly wanders back to the cards after that, and the grim discussions are quickly replaced by friendly chatter and laughter after a hand or two.-
<Raphael> As the cards are dealt a third time, Raphael peers at his hand and glances over at Hugues. "How's Angeline getting by, Sergeant? I haven't seen her lately."
<Mana‘> ["Oh, she’s goin' well, you know." Said Hugues, staring down at his cards. "She's picked up a new hobby, though. Hit me, Mana."-
<Mana‘> "Yessir." She tossed him out a new card, which promptly saw Hugues bust.-
<Mana`> ["Damn."]
<Raphael> "She’s given up on painting, then?"
<Mana‘> ["Yeah. It was kind of a shame, but it was only natural really. Now she’s into pottery."]
<Raphael> "Mmm. A hit, please, Miss Kirishima." He says. "… So is she having as much trouble with the pottery?"
<Mana‘> "Of course, sir~"-
<Mana`> [A 2, pushing Raphael to a total of 20.-
<Mana`> ["Actually, she’s doing pretty good." Said Hugues, as though the words he spoke surprised him. "She's got the help of some young man from the crafts group she goes to. Comes around and helps her."-
<Mana‘> [Hugues’ moustache waggled as he spoke. "I don't like 'em."]
<Raphael> "Please, Hugues. I hardly think anything's going on." Raphael says, smiling at the Chief Sergeant. He eyes his cards for a brief moment before laying them face-down on the table. "I'll stand."
<Mana‘> ["Yeah, yeah, I know. He’s just got this weird voice is all."-
<Mana‘> ["A weird voice seems like a bad reaason to dislike someone." Said Marie. "Julien’s voice is ridiculous, but we all like him."-
<Mana‘> ["I’m right here, you know."]
<Raphael> "What's so weird about it?"
<Mana‘> ["It’s way too soft and gentle. Every time I see him I keep finding myself staring at his throat."]
*Raphael raises an eyebrow. "I've never known you to be petty, Hugues."
<Mana‘> ["I’m not petty." He muttered. "it's just… Brrr. The voice gives me the chills."]
<Raphael> "… well, keep an eye on him, I guess. Still, it's not as though Angie can't take care of herself. You're probably worried about nothing."
<Mana‘> ["Yeah, I know." Muttered Hugues.-
<Mana`> ["I think Sarge is just worried about her, yeah?" Said Marie.-
<Mana`> ["Haha. It’s cute." Said Henri. "The Sarge falling in love again~"-
<Mana‘> ["Burgh…"]
*Raphael concentrates on the cards in an attempt to hide his laughter.
<Mana`> "Speaking of love." Mana leans forward now, having busted Euphrasie, Julien and Blaise. She’s staring at Raphael innocently.
*Raphael looks up slowly, looking Mana right in the eye. "Sergeant…" He mutters, the tone of warning carrying quite clearly.
<Mana‘> "What? I was just going to say that I had a date next Monday, so I was hoping I might be able to leave the office early."
<Raphael> "…"-
<Raphael> "… Oh."
<Mana`> "I would never spread information about your private life, sir." Said Mana seriously. "For example, I have yet to tell anyone about the poem Suzie wrote at school about you."
*Raphael stares blankly at Mana, eyes slowly widening in horror. Poem…?
<Mana`> ["…" Euphrasie leaned forward. "How adorable~ Aren’t little kids just the best?"-
<Mana‘> ["Well, go on, then. Tell us!" Said Blaise.-
<Mana`> "Oh no, I couldn’t do that…"
*Raphael looks around the table, a frown beginning to crease his brow. "Quite right, Sergeant."
<Mana‘> "Suzanne promised me that Raffy would be the first to hear it. And I stick to my promises~"
<Raphael> "Thank you, Mana."
<Mana`> "Not a problem, sir." Mana flipped over her final card, revealing that once again she had scored exactly 21. She beamed.
*Raphael looks from the cards to Mana and back again. "… how do you do that, Sergeant?"
<Mana`> "How do I do what, sir?"
<Raphael> "That’s three wins from as many hands."
<Mana‘> "Oh, well." She chuckles. "I guess I’m just lucky."
<Raphael> "Clearly."
<Mana‘> ["Where did you learn to play cards, anyway?" Asked Euphrasie.-
<Mana`> "The same place I learned my… Well, that’s a secret~ <3"
<Raphael> A slow smile spreads across his face at that, and he leans back in his chair. "… Is it a secret you'd wager?"
<Mana‘> "… Sure." She smiles. "But on one condition."
<Raphael> "What’s that?"
<Mana‘> "If I wager a secret, then it’s only fair that we all wager secrets. Equivalent exchange and all that."
<Raphael> "… Hmm." Raphael murmurs, looking over at Euphrasie. "What do you think?"
<Mana‘> [Euphrasie rubs her chin. "Fair enough. But how are we actually going to do this?"-
<Mana`> "I think, we can either have everyone tell secrets except the winner, or have the winner pick who tells their secret. What do you think, sir?"
*Raphael chews on his lip. "… Letting the winner pick sounds fair. No sense in everyone losing." He says, smiling slightly. "… Although I do have one additional rule. Whatever’s shared here shouldn't find its way to NERV's rumor mill. Understood?"
*Mana‘ lets out a laugh. "Agreed."-
<Mana`> [Another hand. This time, Mana flunked out hard. Followed by Henri, then Euphrasie. Finally, it seemed as though Raphael’s hand of 15 would win because everyone else had busted.-
<Mana‘> [… Then Julien got a 19.]
*Raphael stares at Julien’s cards in disbelief for a moment, paling ever so slightly.
<Mana‘> ["Hmmm. Raphael or Mana…"]
*Raphael waits in silence, watching Julien like a hawk.
<Mana`> ["… Sir Raphael."]
*Raphael coughs. "… Are you sure?"
<Mana`> ["Certainly. Unless…"-
<Mana`> ["You have something to offer me that will make me change my mind?"]
*Raphael hesitates for a moment before gesturing towards his share of the pot rather hopefully. It can’t be much more than a hundred francs.
<Mana‘> ["Not money. I don’t need money, dear boy~"]
*Raphael gathers himself for a moment, letting out a small sigh. "… What do you want, Julien?" He asks grimly.
<Mana‘> ["Tell me… When did you first get into cosplay?"-
<Mana`> "W-What? Sir Guillory does cosplay?!"-
<Mana`> ["Oh yes."]
<Raphael> "I most certainly do not." Raphael says.
<Mana`> ["I have evidence."-
<Mana`> "You do?!"
<Raphael> "That was for Rei’s birthday!"
<Mana‘> "Who did you go as?!"
<Raphael> "I don’t know, Sergeant." Raphael says, some of his calm beginning to slip. "It was some cartoon character. Rei mentioned… I think his name was 'Orange'? It involved oranges, at the very least."
<Mana‘> ["It was Jeremiah-"-
<Mana`> "Eee! I bet he looked -so- handsome-"-
<Mana`> ["He had the swords and -everything-"-
<Mana`> "Oh my God! Do you still have the outfit?!" Mana was leaning over the table now, her eyes shining with starry enthusiasm. "There’s a con coming up in March -take me with you-~"]
*Raphael edges back slightly, the look on his face seeming to suggest he's allergic to such raw enthusiasm. "I… I think Rei has the costume… I'm not sure what this 'con' is, but I think it's safe to say I don't plan on going." He says, looking to Hugues and Euphrasie for support.
<Mana‘> ["Come now, sir. It’s always nice to have a hobby." Says Hugues, because he's little more than a gregarious, but cruel bastard when it comes down to it.-
<Mana‘> ["Maybe we should all go. Could be fun. I could bring Simon along for the ride…" Said Euphrasie, seemingly to herself.]
*Raphael turns his gaze to Marie and Henri, a little more panicked now.
<Mana`> [Marie and Henri looked at each other, clearly unsure how to handle the situation. Eventually they looked back at Raphael. "Vote?" Offered Henri helplessly.]
*Raphael sighs. "… I should have just offered the secret."
<Mana`> "Cheer up, sir! I have a consolation prize for you!"
<Raphael> "Mmm?"
<Mana`> "Because I’m so generous, you can ask me about -my- secrets too~"
<Raphael> "… Are you sure, Sergeant?" Raphael asks, giving her a dubious look. "That doesn't seem very fair to you."
<Mana‘> "I don’t mind, sir. Really!"
<Raphael> "Well… if you say so." Raphael nods. "So where -did- you learn to play cards, then? And what were you on the verge of telling us earlier?"
<Mana‘> "Well, I learned how to play cards back in training. And that secret? Is that I’m actually a ~wizard~."
<Raphael> "I knew it." Raphael murmurs seriously.
<Mana‘> "Wait, really?! I thought I was hiding it…"
<Raphael> "One does not become part of the Legion d’Honneur without knowing how to spot a wizard, ma'am."
<Mana‘> "I guess that’s true…" Mana scratches her chin thoughtfully.-
<Mana‘> [Hugues leaned over to Raphael. "Sir?"]
*Raphael turns to face Hugues, the smirk still tugging at his lips. "Chief Sergeant?"
<Mana`> ["I think she actually means ’Magician', sir. As in, the sort that can hide cards up ones' sleeves."]
<Raphael> "I'm able to spot those too, Hugues." Raphael says, not missing a beat… although the smile does disappear. "The training was quite comprehensive."
<Mana‘> ["Ah. Right you are, sir."-
<Mana`> "They considered things like sleight of hand and illusion to be an integral part of my training. Along with a few other things~" She chuckles, shuffling the decks. "They didn’t really consider me to be good at piloting, so they sort of trained me in investigation."
*Raphael nods slowly. "Is that how you wound up with the Thruster team?" He asks, not quite smiling.
<Mana‘> "Sort of. They wanted someone who would work as a countryspy." Says Mana. "Not that I was very good at that."
<Mana`> <Counterspy*, ffs>
<Raphael> "’They' being NERV, in this case?"
<Mana‘> "The Thruster team themselves, actually."
<Raphael> "… really?" Raphael asks. "I didn’t think NERV would allow their assets to become free agents like that."
<Mana‘> "Well, it was NERV they asked for help."
<Raphael> "Ah, I see. And this work… is it what you want to be doing with your life?"
<Mana`> "Well, yes and no." Mana laughed lightheartedly. "It’s certainly interesting, and I meet a lot of people, but it's not what I want to do for my whole life."-
<Mana‘> [The others were watching this with interest, although Blaise looked a little embarrassed and Euphrasie’s brow was creased ever so slightly.]
*Raphael reaches across the table and retrieves the deck of cards and begins to deal again. If he's noticed the interest from the others he's not showing it. "So what do you want to be doing?"
<Mana‘> "I don’t know, actually."
*Raphael nods. "That's fine, so long as you don't forget to work it out."
*Mana‘ laughs a little. "I promise I will, sir."
<Raphael> "Good." Raphael says, finally giving the girl a smile as he deals the last card. "Now… I believe there’s still a cake to be won. Let's see if I can defeat our little wizard…"

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