This Too Shall Pass 3 2 19

[14:19] <Yanmei> Les Fentes d'Argent was a sprawling resort overlooking some very scenic cliffs and the cold, dark churning waters along the northern French coast. Now that it was summer, there was a cheerful sprinkling of brightly-colored boats bobbing on the distant waves, and an irregular flow of tourists and domestic visitors to the resort itself. -
[14:30] <Yanmei> The front lobby provided an overview of available services for those who would take the time to look around. There was a front desk, where one could obtain a lavish overnight hotel room if so inclined. The blare of slot machines and the heavy din of conversation drifted from one of the first floor wings, the occassional guests passing to and fro with brightly colored drinks in their hands.
[14:30] <Yanmei> Of course, there were also pamphlets featuring a young woman with dark brown hair and a serene smile relaxing on a massage table in a swimsuit and a serene smile. "Le Bain Doré," it read. The resort's private five-star spa. -
[14:36] <Yanmei> After she had arrived with her entourage, Yanmei had made a beeline for one of these brochures, exchanged pleasantries with a few staff members, and then returned to her group, happily waving it around. "They have hot tubs~" she said needlessly. "Also massages. And, oh, Marianne, how about a facial? You can get your hair done too!"
[14:47] <Minaplo> ["Ah… Yeah." Said Marianne, giving Yanmei a small, practiced smile. She half-heartedly ran a hand through her hair.-
[14:48] <Minaplo> [At this point it's probably worse outlining just who had been pressed into this entourage.-
[14:54] <Minaplo> [Marianne was there, of course, wearing a sky-blue belted shirtdress. She'd been rather quiet on the way over…-
[15:00] <Minaplo> [Next to her was Ayanami Ni, wearing a sundress patterned with bright summer flowers of orange and white and red. On her hip she wore a satchel bag, out of which peeped a tortoiseshell-and-white kitten. Ni had been practically dragged and/or pushed here, and had voiced more than one protest. Now that she was here, however, she was clearly trying to peer at the brochures without looking like she was.-
[15:02] <Minaplo> [Standing behind Ni was one of the (many) excuses they'd used to bring her; Ikari Shinji, wearing a white polo shirt and a pair of jeans as well as a conspicuous pair of white gloves. He hadn't spoken the entire trip, except to answer questions, and each time his responses were perfunctory, even monosyllabic.-
[15:03] <Minaplo> [Standing out of the crowd (as always) was Asuka, clad in a loose, carefree yellow sundress with red shoes, her (surprisingly voluminous) hair allowed to flow free down her shoulders. She had an oddly triumphant look on her face.-
[15:05] <Minaplo> [She was walking arm-in-arm with the last guest… Augustus Harken. When Yanmei had invited him, he'd rudely cut her off mid-call; it had taken Asuka to pressure him into going. And here he was, standing out due to his height, build and gravitas.-
[15:07] <Minaplo> ["It's been awhile since I've had my hair done." Said Asuka. "Good time for it too; not much chance of LCL mucking it up any time soon."-
[15:07] <Minaplo> ["Quite." Said Ni gingerly.]
[15:11] <Yanmei> "Th-that again? Hmph. We're working on repairs as fast as we can? But this isn't a day to talk about work. How about it, General Harken? Ikari? Gonna get some massages~~?"
[15:14] <Minaplo> ["Mmm." was Shinji's idea of a reply.-
[15:14] <Minaplo> ["No." Said Harken bluntly.-
[15:14] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Hissed Asuka.-
[15:14] <Minaplo> ["No." Snapped Harken. "Drop me off at a bar and pick me up when you're all done."]
[15:17] * Yanmei sighed with a little disappointment. "Will that really help you relax? I mean, I think there's one in the casino section… The noisy, obnoxious casino section…"
[15:18] <Minaplo> ["I don't care for your idea of pampering."]
[15:19] <Yanmei> "You haven't even tried it," Yanmei grumbled. "This spa's supposed to be really great?"
[15:22] <Minaplo> ["Don't listen to his bitching." Said Asuka with a huff. "He'll go in the spa and he'll like it."-
[15:22] <Minaplo> ["I will not."-
[15:25] <Minaplo> ["Then fine." Said Asuka angrily. "Sulk at the bar. I hope they serve you nothing but fruity cocktails for eight hours."-
[15:26] <Minaplo> [Harken and Asuka scowled at each other with such intensity that, if it weren't for the fact that they were arm-in-arm, one would expect a fight to break out.-
[15:27] <Minaplo> [Ni looked on disapprovingly; meanwhile the look in Marianne's eyes suggested that what little enthusiasm she had for this trip was rapidly draining away.]
[15:37] * Yanmei clapped her hands together sharply, like a teacher trying to get the attention of an unruly class. "That's enough you two! General, you may make use of any part of the resort that you see fit? But while we're here, I'd appreciate it if you at least took a look at what the spa has to offer. If you find nothing that intrests you, you can drink and play the slots as long as you want."
[15:39] <Minaplo> ["Fine." He grunted.]
[15:40] * Yanmei nodded, radiating good cheer once again. "That goes for everyone, by the way."
[15:41] <Minaplo> ["Don't have to tell us twice." Said Asuka, tossing her hair.-
[15:41] <Minaplo> [Shinji gave the tiniest of shrugs.]
[15:43] <Yanmei> "In that case, let's go~" -
[15:55] <Yanmei> Le Bain Doré~ It was on the second floor of the resort, closed off behind a pair of glass doors with the name scrawled over a large golden logo of a butterfly emerging from a claw-footed bathtub. The lobby and the part of the spa they could see beyond it was tiled in handsome dark gray stone. Soothing new music song composed mainly of flutes and other pipes that Yanmei couldn't identify
[15:55] <Yanmei> flowed smoothly around them. -
[16:09] <Yanmei> The front desk receptionist, a smiling older lady, gave them all the rundown. There were optional bathrobes available to those who wanted to wear them, and separate changing rooms and saunas for each gender. Of course, as advertised, there were also hot tubs filled with a bubbling, warm 'herbal water mix', massage services that could run from as little as twenty minutes to a full hour,
[16:09] <Yanmei> manicures, pedicures, facials, hair removal, mud baths, regular showers, and even a small pool. Food and drink could be delivered at any time to any station by request. How would would this group of happy soldiers split up?
[16:11] <Minaplo> [Always scout the situation first.-
[16:11] <Minaplo> ["What're you doing first, Yanmei?" Asked Marianne.]
[16:12] <Yanmei> "Quick shower, then the hot tub," she announced happily. "Want to join me?"
[16:15] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, that sounds like a good idea."-
[16:16] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, I'll join you." Said Asuka. "And so will the old man."-
[16:17] <Minaplo> ["Neh." Harken grunted. "Leave me be. I'll be in the sauna instead."-
[16:17] <Minaplo> ["Hmm…"-
[16:17] <Minaplo> ["Then I might use the pool. Satisfied?"-
[16:18] <Minaplo> ["Tch…"-
[16:18] <Minaplo> ["I'll join you as well, Yanmei." Said Ni. "Shinji, did you want to join us…?"-
[16:18] <Minaplo> [He shrugged.-
[16:19] <Minaplo> ["Leave him with me." Said Harken. "Men's business."-
[16:19] <Minaplo> [Yanmei would be able to catch the split-second roll of Ni's eyes. "Very well."]
[16:30] <Yanmei> The hot tub, when they got eventually got to it, looked as if it had ordinary water in it. There was a slight medicinal scent to it, at least, and when Yanmei lowered herself in, she found it pleasantly warm. She was dressed in the swimsuit Asuka had given her many weeks ago - a flattering slivery-purple one-piece.
[16:43] <Minaplo> [She was soon joined by Marianne, wearing a sun-yellow one-piece of her own; Ni, sporting a pink bikini underneath a white shirt and pair of shorts; and Asuka, wearing her red striped bikini. They quickly climbed in, Ni carefully positioning her satchel bag on the edge so her kitten could see them all.-
[16:43] <Minaplo> ["Ugh, about time to relax, I think." Said Asuka. She sank into the water and rested her head back with a long sigh. "Ahh~ It feels good to rest my muscles after all the fighting I've not been doing…"]
[16:51] * Yanmei glared and splashed a little water in her direction. "So Marianne~ Has Katsuragi told you the latest news recently?"
[16:52] <Minaplo> ["News about what?"]
[16:52] <Yanmei> "Sera de Pteres. And the elder Akagi." Yanmei smirked.
[17:01] <Minaplo> ["Oh, er…"-
[17:02] <Minaplo> [But Ni interjected. "That's not news, that's nothing but gossip and rumour. You're not really going to share more of those ridiculous telephone-tales, I hope!"-
[17:02] <Minaplo> ["Mew."]
[13:09] * Yanmei bristled. "You doubt my sources?"
[13:11] <Minaplo> ["Your sources are scuttlebutt and cafeteria wagging, so yes, I do."]
[13:14] * Yanmei scoffed. "Shows what you know? Katsuragi told me during a party, not while we were in the cafeteria."
[13:16] <Minaplo> ["Funny, I remember Katsuragi telling me that you were shacking up with Fontaine." Said Ni.]
[13:20] <Yanmei> "Of course, it's absurd to think she's always right," Yanmei said smoothly.
[13:30] <Minaplo> ["Then don't use her as a source!" Said Ni. "In fact, don't spread rumours at all!"]
[13:34] <Yanmei> "Ugh. You're oddly insistent about this. You haven't been the butt of some recent rumor yourself, have you~?"
[13:39] <Minaplo> ["Not recently, but yes." Said Ni. "Did you forget which NERV base I was assigned to?"]
[13:47] <Yanmei> "Of course not? Hmph. I guess you're still running a tight ship in some ways."
[13:51] <Minaplo> ["It's more than just about discipline." Said Ni curtly. "Rumours do nothing but generate lies and hurt people. They harm reputations and twist perceptions. I'm going to assume you don't like harming people, so don't do it."]
[13:52] <Yanmei> "You sound like Marianne," Yanmei grumbled.
[13:53] <Minaplo> ["I thank you for your compliment." Said Ni primly.-
[13:53] <Minaplo> [Asuka snorted, and even Marianne smiled a little.]
[13:57] <Yanmei> "So!" Yanmei said loudly. "In the interest of not harming people, what absolutely legitimate information or new developments have been sweeping through the ship lately?"
[14:02] <Minaplo> ["I had a look at your magnet spider recently." Said Ni.]
[14:03] <Yanmei> "Did you? It's no kitten, sure, but it has a sort of charm, doesn't it?"
[14:10] <Minaplo> ["Mew!"-
[14:11] <Minaplo> [Ni reached out to scratch her kitten under the chin; for a few seconds there was a warm, fond expression on her face.-
[14:12] <Minaplo> ["I suppose it does." Said Ni a few seconds later. "Well, it has an elegance to it…"-
[14:13] <Minaplo> ["Oh." Ni brightened suddenly. "This might be more your speed. Do you know the waitresses at Blue's bar?"]
[14:15] <Yanmei> "Some of them, yes."
[14:15] <Minaplo> ["Do you know those outfits they wear…?"]
[14:17] <Yanmei> "Unfortunately, yes…"
[14:17] <Minaplo> ["Well." Ni preened proudly. "I was able to help mitigate them somewhat~ Specifically, the heels."]
[14:18] <Yanmei> "Really…? Did you blackmail him?"
[14:20] <Minaplo> ["W-what?" Ni scowled.]
[14:21] <Yanmei> "I'm joking! How did it happen?"
[14:22] <Minaplo> ["One of the waitresses was serving me, when she slipped on her heel and twisted her ankle. Soup went everywhere, all over the pretty clothes Sho made me…"-
[14:24] <Minaplo> ["So I scolded him about it." Said Ni. "Turns out, heels were free with the uniform, but the waitresses were allowed to wear flats… Only, most of the waitresses are soldiers, techies or crewmembers doing part-time work on the side, so the only other footwear they have is military regulation."-
[14:24] <Minaplo> ["So I was able to make him promise to offer free flats as well~"]
[14:30] <Yanmei> "I see! I'm sure those sort of injuries have happened before? But good work on being around this time and doing something about it."
[14:30] <Minaplo> ["Thank you!"-
[14:30] <Minaplo> ["Although on the topic of Sera de Pteres, he showed up mid-way through to make everything worse."-
[14:31] <Minaplo> [Asuka started to laugh, whilst Marianne groaned. "Of course he did…"]
[14:35] <Yanmei> "How, exactly?"
[14:36] <Minaplo> ["Well, his intentions were honest, I suppose. He tried to mediate. Made us move to a more private locale to discuss it." Said Ni.-
[14:37] <Minaplo> ["… But once we'd agreed on terms he started insulting us."]
[14:39] <Yanmei> "I'm… sure he was just trying to help by doing that? Somehow…?"
[14:47] <Minaplo> ["Yes, I suppose… Then he decided to sit with me whilst I ate my replacement lunch."-
[14:47] <Minaplo> [Ni shook her head. "He asked if I scolded Blue out of sadism!"]
[14:48] <Yanmei> "…" There was no defending that. Yanmei just shook her head. "You didn't hit him, did you…?"
[14:49] <Minaplo> ["Of course not."-
[14:52] <Minaplo> ["I had to explain to him in laborious ways just how inappropriate his question was." Said Ni. "Which he took far too long to grasp. He said he "'couldn't agree" with the statement that most people would find that question inappropriate…"]
[14:57] <Yanmei> "And what did you say to that, hm?"
[15:13] <Minaplo> ["I didn't have time to ask why he 'couldn't' agree, as I had to explain to him how questions could be harmful."]
[15:19] * Yanmei folded her arms a little, sinking deeper into the tub. "Ok. But, like. You two eventually reached an understanding, right?"
[15:20] <Minaplo> [Ni's little kitten began to slowly wriggle its way out of her bag…-
[15:21] <Minaplo> ["Yes, in the end, after much nonsense."]
[15:23] <Yanmei> "Progress~ That means something good came from the encounter, right?" She looked around, apparently expecting agreement from Asuka and Marianne at the least.
[15:54] <Minaplo> ["I… Suppose." Said Ni.-
[15:54] <Minaplo> [Marianne didn't seem convinced, frowning doubtfully into the water below.-
[15:55] <Minaplo> ["Heh." Asuka was smirking. "He'd learn faster with a walloping on the side, though…"]
[15:58] <Yanmei> "Are you volunteering for that?"
[15:58] <Minaplo> ["Do you want me to?"]
[16:01] * Yanmei shrugged. She looked more curious than anything. "Given how you somehow manage Harken, I doubt you'd have any problems with him."
[16:03] <Minaplo> ["Well yeah, but surely you think he deserves an asskicking?"]
[16:07] <Yanmei> "Every now and then, yeah."
[16:07] <Minaplo> ["As in whenever he opens his mouth?" Offered Marianne.]
[16:13] * Yanmei tsked. "He's been… better lately. In public. Like, I was sure something would happen at the Summit in Turkey, but it -didn't-."
[16:24] <Minaplo> ["Well it helps if you keep him on the other side of the shore in a hotel, yeah." Said Asuka with a smirk.-
[16:25] <Minaplo> [Marianne, however, was staring at Yanmei with a dark expression. "… Why do you do that?"]
[16:25] <Yanmei> "What?"
[16:26] <Minaplo> ["Defend him, tolerate him, overlook his behaviour so easily."]
[16:32] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei folded her arms again. "It's complicated."
[16:37] <Minaplo> ["Some folks say I'm pretty smart." Said Marianne flatly. "Go on."]
[16:40] <Yanmei> "Ugh." Yanmei glanced around, but didn't really expect much fom those in earshot besides curious stares and possibly some more adorable mewing. There was a rather, long, uncomfortable pause. -
[16:42] <Yanmei> "So the past few years have not been especially kind to him. You all know that, right?"
[16:43] <Minaplo> [Marianne's stare transcended simple flatness.]
(16:46) * Yanmei pressed on in spite of - or maybe because of - that. "And while I can't say I'm responsible for everything that's happened, there are… a few things that still have my fingerprints all over them?"
(16:51) <Minaplo> ["… Like what?"]
(16:52) * Reiska is now known as Cerise
(16:53) <Yanmei> "That business with Viviane, for starters?"
(16:55) <Minaplo> [Asuka started laughing. "Oh fuck off."]
(16:56) <Yanmei> "Wh-?" Yanmei stared blankly.
(16:57) <Minaplo> ["You shot an enemy unit trying to kick your ass during a major battle." Said Asuka. "Wow, what a bitch you are."-
(16:57) <Minaplo> ["Asuka." Said Marianne firmly.-
(16:58) <Minaplo> [Asuka poked her tongue out at Marianne before turning back to Yanmei. "Sorry. I forget sometimes that you're relatively new to this. As a NeoSpartan, what you're talking about sounds kind of…"-
(16:58) <Minaplo> [Asuka raised her hands in the air, her eye squinting into the distance. She made vaguely crab-claw snappy gestures with her hands.-
(17:02) <Minaplo> ["I dunno, like you're being too harsh on yourself." Said Asuka. "You weren't under any obligations to spare that enemy. You didn't even know who it was. Hell, it turned out to be Viviane the mega-murderous sadist. You shot her in the head so hard you purged the horrid shit out of her."-
(17:02) <Minaplo> ["I think you deserve a medal."]
(17:10) <Yanmei> "For giving his girlfriend brain damage?" She was still staring incredulously. "When she was on the verge of pulling out and running off somewhere to get her head screwed on straight? Because that was a thing that was about to happen."
(17:11) <Minaplo> ["And you knew all that, of course, when you opened fire on the hostile mech."]
(17:14) * Yanmei scowled. "Of course I didn't? But that doesn't change the fact that injuring her that badly wasn't even necessary in the end. It's like Atticus all over again…"
(17:15) <Minaplo> ["Chancellor." Said Ni firmly. "I have something to say."]
(17:16) <Yanmei> "Yeah? Just speak freely. God knows everyone else is."
(17:19) <Minaplo> ["When we discussed William Weiss's actions in regards to Natasha, you defended him as doing the necessary thing. I only ask that you hold yourself to that same standard."]
(17:24) * Syntax (||xatnyS) has joined #nervfrance
(17:27) <Yanmei> "The threat level was more severe when William did it," Yanmei pointed out. She clenched her teeth together briefly. "But. I think I can understand your overall point? Easier said than done, though."
(17:29) <Minaplo> ["But beyond that." Said Marianne. She reached out and grabbed Yanmei's hand, gently. "He tried to kill Isaiah… That doesn't compare at all to what you did."]
(17:37) <Yanmei> That silenced her for a few seconds. In the meantime, she responded to Marianne, gripping her hand back. "Hah," she said at last. "I'd never forget that? You'd think this situation would be okay. Like, an eye for an eye, right? Or karma? Only it didn't actually feel like that at all."
(17:40) <Minaplo> ["… Oh?"]
[12:35] <Yanmei> "Viviane didn't have anything to do with that? I never -wanted- to hurt her. And anyway, by that point I'd already taken my anger out on someone else for what happened to Isaiah."
[12:40] <Minaplo> [There was a moment of awkward silence, and Yanmei would note the split-second shared glances of doubt and confusion between the others in the tub.]
[12:45] <Yanmei> "What?" She looked around at them all.
[12:53] <Minaplo> ["Sorry, you're gonna have to explain." Said Asuka. "'Cuz I don't fucking get it."]
[12:57] <Yanmei> "Don't get -what-? Ask me questions."
[13:04] <Minaplo> ["Viviane…?" Asuka made a vaguely loopy-gesture with her hand. "This is really confusing."-
[13:06] <Minaplo> ["We're not saying Viviane had anything to do with what happened to Isaiah, for starters." Said Asuka. "So of course it wouldn't feel like karma?"]
[13:15] <Yanmei> "Right…?" she said cautiously. "Right. But that's what it means to take an eye for an eye, right? Hurting someone the same way they hurt you. In this case, by mortally hurting his girlfriend?"
[13:17] <Minaplo> ["No!" Said Asuka, flapping her hands at Yanmei. "It's totally not the same!"-
[13:18] <Minaplo> [Marianne clapped a hand over her face.-
[13:20] <Minaplo> ["What you did was like… Ugh." Asuka shook her head. "De Pteres planned what he did and went through with it with intent to kill. You probably didn't know that unit even had a pilot! For it to really be the same, you would've had to find Viviane, buy a weapon specifically to shoot Viviane, then shoot her in front of him, deliberately."]
[13:28] <Yanmei> "Oh. Hrm. Yeah, I guess the intent wasn't actually there?" she admitted awkwardly.
[13:30] <Minaplo> ["Exactly." Said Asuka.-
[13:31] <Minaplo> ["Whereas Sera tried and failed." Said Marianne. "And as I remember, treated Isaiah like garbage for awhile afterwards. I remember that because that was the time he started getting on peoples' nerves in general."]
[13:41] <Yanmei> "Also true? For a long time, I never understood why he hated Isaiah so intensely."
[13:44] <Minaplo> ["I'm a little new to this." Said Ni, frowning. "Why did he?"]
[13:48] <Yanmei> "Someone tipped him off about the potential for the libido effect to go horribly wrong once it was established. And then there was that whole near-impact business in Niagara… If he knew about the conditions leading up to that disaster, then he probably considered Isaiah to be extremely dangerous."
[13:59] <Minaplo> [The kitten was mostly out of the bag now; with a final wiggle it slid out onto the floor, where it shook itself off happily.-
[13:59] <Minaplo> ["That's a reasonable assumption." Said Ni.-
[14:01] <Minaplo> ["Sure." Said Marianne. "Only… I don't know if making it personal really helped at all. Besides, in the end, shooting Isaiah like that probably did more to bring you two together than anything… For someone who used to rail at NERV for keeping secrets, he sure does like striking out on his own and keeping his cards close."-
[14:01] <Minaplo> [But Asuka was eyeing Yanmei. "You took your anger out on someone else over Isaiah, you said?"]
[14:02] <Yanmei> "Yeah. But that's a little weird, so let's not talk about it."
[14:03] <Minaplo> ["Start talking." Said Asuka.]
[14:04] <Yanmei> "Nope. I said it's weird! Plus, we came to an understanding, so it doesn't even matter?"
[14:10] <Minaplo> ["Hrm."-
[14:10] <Minaplo> [Asuka sighed. "I dunno. It just seems strange from you? I've seen how you react in other situations when Isaiah's been hurt or threatened. I just expect a more decisive reaction from you, I guess."]
[14:24] <Yanmei> "Don't worry too much about it," said Yanmei distractedly. "It doesn't mean I love him any less? But. Does that satisfy at least some of your curiosity?" She glanced to Marianne.
[14:27] <Minaplo> ["Not really." Said Marianne. "You say he's doing 'better' recently, but he was involved in a public fight with Maya Ibuki, and the other day I hear he stirred Tsubaki up so much that she accidentally set fire to the old abandoned games room, so…"-
[14:28] <Minaplo> ["I don't know. It feels like you're overlooking a lot of his behaviour or excusing it, which isn't fair because everyone else gets to deal with the fallout."]
[14:33] <Yanmei> "Then I have to come down a lot harder on him," she said with a sigh.
[14:38] <Minaplo> [The little kitten began carefully walking around the perimeter of the spa.-
[14:38] <Minaplo> ["Yes." Said Marianne. "Furthermore… I don't believe he has our best interests at heart."-
[14:38] <Minaplo> ["So I think we should look into replacing him."]
[14:40] * Yanmei stared at her in surprise. "With -who-? Or… what?"
[14:40] <Minaplo> ["You know there was only one other person 01 worked with, right?" Said Marianne. "01's Backup Pilot…?"]
[14:45] <Yanmei> "What are you talking about…?"
[14:45] <Minaplo> ["… Freya Solheim?"]
[14:46] <Yanmei> "But she… she's been missing for months? And I was under the impression that her synch ratio wasn't even that great!"
[14:54] <Minaplo> ["Her readings were adequate." Said Marianne. "A little worse than your own at the time- with training, we could bring her up to par…"-
[14:54] <Minaplo> ["And we could find her." She added.]
[15:00] <Yanmei> But Yanmei looked doubtful. "I mean, I don't mind agreeing to search for her, but throwing away a seasoned veteran like that… You said you didn't think he had our best interests in mind. Is it because of what he said at the wedding reception about Caine?"
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["That doesn't help his case, but I was thinking more about the time he kept critical information from us that could've saved lives." Spat Marianne, her tone straining with venom. Her face was tight and her mouth a thin, pale line of anger.]
[15:20] <Yanmei> Yanmei paused, watching carefully. The urge to give her a hug was there, but the situation didn't quite seem right. "I see. No, that's completely fair."
[15:31] <Minaplo> ["He wasn't even touched by it." Said Marianne softly. "He didn't lose anyone. I remember someone telling me he even seemed happy."-
[15:31] <Minaplo> [There was a deep silence.-
[15:32] <Minaplo> [The only interruption came from the kitten, who had finished padding over to Yanmei. Now that it was here, it began batting at her bright hair.]
[15:37] <Yanmei> "We should have-" Yanmei blinked at the little cat in surprise, and then gingerly tried to pet it with a wet hand. "We should have launched a more thorough investigation on him when we first started getting reports like that. Well. Now that things on board the Dorian have calmed down some, I can actually do that."
[15:46] <Minaplo> [Marianne didn't reply.-
[15:47] <Minaplo> [She stared off into the deeps of the tub for a few long seconds- then she shuddered and, with tears bursting from her eyes, started to sob.]
[15:53] <Yanmei> "?!?" Kitty completely forgotten now, she sloshed closer to Marianne, and tried to embrace her.
[16:09] <Minaplo> [Marianne quickly folded into Yanmei's embrace, pulling her closer and tighter and sobbing into Yanmei's shoulder.-
[16:20] <Minaplo> [Asuka's gaze was downcast; a few seconds later she too scooted over, putting her arms around Yanmei and Marianne both.-
[16:20] <Minaplo> [Ni sat to one side, looking deeply awkward.]
[16:37] * Yanmei said nothing, waiting for Marianne to finished her much-needed cry. She hadn't been like this since they had returned to earth. How much stress had she been carrying around in her…?
[16:39] <Minaplo> ["It's not… fair." Said Marianne, the words gasped between sobs.-
[16:40] <Minaplo> ["I lost everyone, and… And he… He doesn't care!"-
[16:40] <Minaplo> [Her sobs redoubled.-
[16:40] <Minaplo> [Ni finally acted, quickly scooping up her kitten- which had been mewing in distress- and hastily pushing it into Marianne's hands.]
[16:52] <Yanmei> "Everyone else cares," Yanmei murmured. "Don't think about dumb Sera. Focus on yourself."
[16:57] <Minaplo> ["I want to go home…"]
[17:02] <Yanmei> "T-to the Dorian?" Yanmei clarified. "We can call someone and make arrangements."
[17:03] <Minaplo> ["No! I don't wanna go to the Dorian! I wanna go home!"]
[14:05] * Yanmei hesitated. "We can arrange for that too? But…"
[14:07] <Minaplo> ["But you can't." Choked Marianne. "Mary Caine killed my home, and he helped her do it!"]
[14:40] * Yanmei was at a complete loss. She stroked Marianne's hair. "Listen," she murmured. "It's going to be all right, ok?"
[14:52] <Minaplo> [Marianne…-
[14:53] <Minaplo> [Just sobbed. Head against Yanmei's shoulder, arms unconsciously cuddling Ni's little kitten.]
[14:55] <Yanmei> "…" She glanced over at the others. "Maybe we should get out. Ni, could you ask one of the attendents for a spot that's quiet and out of the way?"
[14:57] <Minaplo> ["Sure." Said Ni. She quickly climbed out and walked off, leaving a trail of water in her wake.-
[14:58] <Minaplo> […-
[15:00] <Minaplo> [After hunting down some alarmed and unprepared attendants, Yanmei and her coterie were offered a spot outside- an open-sided drink and food bar overlooking the beach. Luckily, this bar had private, secluded little booths made of solid, homely wood with lockable doors, a firm table and a bench.-
[15:01] <Minaplo> [They sat around it now, Marianne on one side, still sobbing, still holding onto Yanmei; Asuka sat on Marianne's left, her own arm around Marianne's waist. Ni sat opposite, having at some point taken back her kitten.-
[15:01] <Minaplo> ["I'm sorry." Mumbled Marianne through her tears. "I'm- I'm ruining everything."]
[15:04] <Yanmei> "Don't be silly? This is, like, a healthy healing thing." Yanmei nodded firmly. "No one would expect you to be one-hundred-percent okay."
[15:12] <Minaplo> ["I just feel so pathetic…"-
[15:12] <Minaplo> ["M… Maybe you should have something to eat." Offered Ni. "Something to drink. To calm down…"]
[15:15] <Yanmei> "That's right. We're at a snack bar, after all. Smoothies? Or, maybe something with alcohol…?" She wondered if Harken had discovered that they served liquor here.
[15:22] <Minaplo> ["…" Marianne took a deep, shaky breath. "I… I… Okay…"]
[15:27] <Yanmei> Yanmei was the one who called someone over, rubbing Marianne's shoulder comfortingly. Before long, four orders of a flatbread dish, three smoothies, and a mudslide were on their way.
[15:43] <Minaplo> [Marianne sniffled as she started on her mudslide, but at least she wasn't crying so hard that she had to gasp for air anymore…-
[15:43] <Minaplo> [… Silent. Awkward silence.-
[15:43] <Minaplo> ["I wonder what the boys are doing." Said Ni.]
[15:45] <Yanmei> "I was wondering the same thing? They were starting out at the pool or the sauna, right? With guy talk? Whatever that is…"
[15:47] <Minaplo> ["Typically, it's about girls." Said Ni with a sniff of disdain. "… But for some reason I have trouble seeing those two commit to that topic."]
[15:58] * Yanmei snorted with laughter. "There has to be something they have in common. Does Harken like music or anything?"
[15:58] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, some." Said Asuka. "But none of that weirdo J-Pop stuff that Ikari probably listens to…"]
[16:10] <Yanmei> "What about… um. Well, they both like Evas, right?"
[16:10] <Minaplo> ["I don't think Shinji likes Evas at all." Said Ni.]
[16:16] <Yanmei> "Well maybe they're talking about us," Yanmei said.
[16:21] <Minaplo> ["Us? What about us?" Asked Ni.]
[16:24] <Yanmei> "Like about how Asuka's so bossy, and you and Marianne are so professional, and how I'm so awesome~"
[16:26] <Minaplo> ["How come I'm the bossy one?" Grumbled Asuka. "Ni gave you the big dressing down, and I'm bossy?"-
[16:26] <Minaplo> ["Hmph." Ni huffed. "I'm not bossy, I'm setting an example…"]
[16:32] * Yanmei chuckled, and then glanced over at Marianne to make sure that she hadn't started tearing up again.
[16:36] <Minaplo> [Marianne was still quietly drinking her mudslide.-
[16:36] <Minaplo> [She gave Yanmei a small, watery smile.-
[16:39] <Minaplo> ["… Then again, maybe you're wrong?" Said Asuka smugly. "I know for a fact that Ikari's a giant pervert. I bet he's in there, fantasising aobut us…"-
[16:40] <Minaplo> ["… He's my brother." Said Ni, looking aghast. "And Harken's all old and gross!"]
[16:42] <Yanmei> "I'm with Ni. It'd be kind of weird? Harken probably just sees us all as grandkids. Especially you." She pointed at Asuka with her straw.
[16:47] <Minaplo> ["He doesn't see Marianne as a grandkid, I bet." Retorted Asuka.-
[16:48] <Minaplo> ["Ugh." Ni shook her head. "Great, so in your hypothetical world, my brother is fantasising about four women, one of whom is his sister, another is married and another is two decades his senior."-
[16:48] <Minaplo> ["Well…"-
[16:49] <Minaplo> ["This is just the worst." Said Ni firmly.]
[17:00] <Yanmei> "What would you do in this hypothetical situation? Maybe track him down right now and tell him off about it?"
[17:01] <Minaplo> ["Yep." Said Asuka darkly. "If I could rely on the Old Man to keep standards…"-
[17:01] <Minaplo> ["Come on." Said Ni with a sigh. "Shinji isn't fantasising about anything. He's probably just wallowing in his own grief…"]
[13:26] <Yanmei> "Probably true," said Yanmei a bit stiffly, and lapsed into a brief, awkward silence.
[13:29] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[13:29] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[13:29] <Minaplo> ["…"]
[13:31] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei clapped hand against the tabletop, nearly upsetting her portion of their flatbread snacks. "Ugh. That's not acceptable? Let's find those two."
[13:36] <Minaplo> ["Eh? Why?" Said Asuka.]
[13:40] <Yanmei> "He's been sitting with that grief for weeks as it is? When we go back to the Dorian, he'll be sitting with it for a while still." She eyed Marianne's dessert for a moment, and her eyes slowly began to light up. "We could give him a few drinks. You know, to take the edge off for just a few hours?"
[13:45] <Minaplo> ["Would that even work…?" Asked Ni doubtfully.]
[13:48] <Yanmei> "Why wouldn't it?" Yanmei cast an increasingly smug look around the table. "If all else fails, we can offer him a delicious dessert, like the one Marianne's eating."
[13:49] <Minaplo> ["Adam?"]
[13:49] <Yanmei> "…"
[13:49] <Minaplo> ["Oops." Said Marianne.-
[13:49] <Minaplo> [Ni just shook her head. "Seriously…"]
[13:56] <Yanmei> "I-it'll be ok! We'll just give him a ton more than normal? In fact, I bet we'll run out of money way before he goes from the 'nicely buzzed' phase to the 'roaring drunk' phase. If Sarasvati was here, she could probably calculate just how much would do the job."
[13:56] <Minaplo> ["What if he doesn't want to get drunk?" Asked Ni firmly.]
[13:59] * Yanmei tossed her hair and flashed her most charming smile. "I haven't been butting heads with stubborn politicians for nothing! We'll persuade him! With logic and words!"
[13:59] <Minaplo> ["You're forgetting one thing, baka." Said Asuka smugly.]
[14:00] <Yanmei> "You're the baka. What is it?"
[14:01] <Minaplo> ["He's with the Old Man?" Said Asuka, tossing her hair confidently. "If the Old Man can't make Shinji drink, what chance do you have, eh?"]
[14:02] <Yanmei> "Assuming the old man offers? He's so grumpy he's probably hoarding it for himself."
[14:03] <Minaplo> ["Heh, that's not how he thinks?" Said Asuka. "For the Old Man, booze is best when everyone's drinking it. He likes to share it around."-
[14:04] <Minaplo> ["Besides, maybe he's not even moping." Offered Ni optimistically. "It'd be strange if we went to cheer him up and they were already having fun?"-
[14:05] <Minaplo> [Ni paused for a second, a split-second expression of horror crossing her face. She put a hand to her lips worriedly.-
[14:05] <Minaplo> ["Hmm…" Asuka was frowning doubtfully.]
[14:09] <Yanmei> Yanmei's eyes narrowed. "That doesn't sound fair at all," she muttered.
[14:11] <Minaplo> ["Call it instinct," Said Marianne. "But I feel like if we did go to speak to them, we'd end up just eavesdropping on what they were already doing."]
[14:14] * Yanmei eyed Ni suspiciously. "You don't have some sort of… code or principle against eavesdropping, do you?"
[14:15] <Minaplo> ["Well… Sometimes it's necessary." Said Ni awkwardly.]
[14:16] <Yanmei> "Well then~ We could give it a shot then, right?"
[14:17] <Minaplo> [Ni frowned, but she didn't deny it.]
[14:18] <Yanmei> "Let's hurry and finish so we can find them!" Yanmei took a very long drink from her glass and went for the snacks again.
[14:19] <Minaplo> […-
[14:27] <Minaplo> [They would find Harken and Shinji sitting in a pool of cold water. It was otherwise similar to the spa in other respects.-
[14:29] <Minaplo> [They were sitting with their backs to the door; they hadn't heard the quiet girls come in. Both of them wore a pair of swim shorts and nothing else- Yanmei would see the numberous scars and knots, large and small, that made up Harken's back.-
[14:29] <Minaplo> [They were quiet.-
[14:29] <Minaplo> [Then Yanmei would see Harken lift a beer bottle (drinking beer in a pool!) to his lips, drink for a few seconds, then speak:-
[14:30] <Minaplo> ["She's a real handful." Said Harken. "But her heart's in the right place."]
[14:35] * Yanmei nudged Asuka knowingly, but she kept a careful eye on them both, staying quiet, waiting curiously to see where the conversation would lead. At least they -were- talking. And - hah - he was hogging the beer after all.
[14:38] <Minaplo> ["Of course we've come to blows." Said Harken. "I think anyone who's known her for long enough has. Especially anyone who loves her, or she loves. That's just how she is."-
[14:39] <Minaplo> [Behind Yanmei, Asuka frowned; an embarrassed red was starting to fill her face.]
[14:40] <Yanmei> More nudges. Also, all the grins~
[14:48] <Minaplo> ["When I first met her, she was just a slip of a girl, full of vinegar and anger. Now she's a woman." Said Harken slowly. "She's happier, wiser and more mature by far, too, despite hanging around me."-
[14:49] <Minaplo> ["Still hasn't lost that spark, though. Still a fighter. Still stubborn as hell. I would've loved for her and Wilhelm to have taken up with each other…"]
[14:59] * Yanmei muffled a gasp! She… hadn't seen that coming.
[15:12] <Mianplo> [Shinji didn't reply, so Harken kept talking.-
[15:15] <Mianplo> ["I'm an empty man now, Shinji."-
[15:18] <Mianplo> ["Wilhelm needed me." Said Harken. "But I also needed him. We were all that remained. Now he's gone and I'm just a useless old man."-
[15:19] <Mianplo> ["The world doesn't need useless old men like me. It needed boys like Wilhelm. It needs women like Asuka. The only reason I'm even here is because she's too stubborn to let me go. I might need her, but she doesn't need me."-
[15:20] <Mianplo> ["I shouldn't be weighing her down."-
[15:32] <Mianplo> [An awkward silence fell.-
[15:33] <Mianplo> [Next to Yanmei, Asuka was staring down at the ground, rapidly blinking her one eye… Even as her hands balled into fists. She began to take a step forward-
[15:33] <Mianplo> [But…-
[15:35] <Mianplo> [Shinji muttered something Yanmei couldn't hear. But she saw Harken turn sharply towards him.-
[15:35] <Mianplo> ["What did you say?" Said Harken.-
[15:36] <Mianplo> ["I said, you're a coward". Snarled Shinji.-
[15:36] <Mianplo> [Behind Yanmei, Marianne and Ni's eyes widened at the same time.-
[15:37] <Mianplo> ["All day today you've told me how you don't feel anything." Said Shinji. "How you're not afraid anymore. But that's just a lie."-
[15:41] <Mianplo> ["Only someone afraid of themselves hurts themselves until they can't feel anything." Said Shinji. "That's not jadedness or experience, that's just you running away. Instead of standing up to everything you should feel, you pretend you can't feel it anymore."-
[15:41] <Mianplo> ["Boy-"-
[15:43] <Mianplo> ["Wilhelm is dead." Said Shinji. He got to his feet. "He gave you a lifetime of memories and happiness. That pain you're feeling? You owe it to him to feel it. To feel it as long as you can. Not to just cut and run."-
[15:45] <Mianplo> ["I've felt like that once." Said Shinji lowly. "I've felt like running away, been afraid of feeling, and now that I am who I am I can't say I ever want to go back to that."-
[15:45] <Mianplo> ["Numbness is not a strength."-
[15:47] <Mianplo> ["My father, my sister, the woman I love were all killed." Said Shinji. "And it hurts every day. It hurts so much that sometimes I can't think of anything else. But I need to feel it. I need to know that it meant something. That they meant something."-
[15:48] <Mianplo> [Shinji stepped out of the spa. "If he really meant so little to you that you can just ignore that, then go ahead."-
[15:49] <Mianplo> ["But I'm going to be different to you. I'm going to find my father and the woman I love, and I'm going to pull them out of the hell they're in, because I owe it to them all to fight as hard as I can, to put everything I have on the line, to bring them back."-
[15:49] <Mianplo> ["If that's not the sort of person you are, then you're welcome to watch other people do your job."-
[15:49] <Mianplo> [Shinji quietly walked away.-
[15:49] <Mianplo> [… Harken was silent.-
[15:49] <Mianplo> [After a few seconds he bowed his head.]
[15:56] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei had been left stunned, staring at the cold spa. After a moment she recovered enough to give Asuka another more gentle nudge in Harken's direction and to raise her eyebrows in inquiry.
[12:23] <Minaplo> ["…" Asuka frowned for a few seconds, then slowly walked out into the open.-
[12:23] <Minaplo> ["Old Man?" She said quietly.-
[12:23] <Minaplo> [He didn't respond.-
[12:24] <Minaplo> [Asuka strode to the side of the pool and stepped in; a second later she sat at Harken's left side.-
[12:24] <Minaplo> [They were still for a while… Then Asuka took his hand with both of her own.-
[12:24] <Minaplo> [Harken broke.-
[12:25] <Minaplo> [His powerful shoulders heaved as he wept. His sobs were deep and painful to hear.-
[12:25] <Minaplo> ["… We should probably go." Said Ni quietly.]
[12:26] * Yanmei nodded hastily. As quietly and swiftly as she could, she backed off to the exit.
[12:27] <Minaplo> […-
[12:28] <Minaplo> [More out of inertia than anything, Yanmei, Ni and Marianne found themselves back at their little restaurant.-
[12:28] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[12:28] <Minaplo> ["D… Do you think Shinji did the wrong thing by saying that?" Said Ni.]
[12:34] <Yanmei> "I don't know?" Yanmei muttered. "The best person to judge that is in there, still talking to the old man. I'm hoping it's the shake-up he needs…"
[12:34] <Minaplo> ["I wasn't expecting Shinji of all people to bust out such a speech, though." Said Marianne.]
[12:35] <Yanmei> "Same here. He was actually a little cool."
[12:36] <Minaplo> ["A little… cool?"]
[12:39] <Yanmei> "Like, really pumped up? All that stuff about saving Blanc and Ikari? He's been so quiet lately. Who knew that's what he's been thinking about all this time?"
[12:40] <Minaplo> ["Hmm…"-
[12:40] <Minaplo> ["I admit, it's pretty surprising." Said Ni. "And a little scary."]
[12:41] <Yanmei> "Scary?"
[12:41] <Minaplo> ["I felt like… He wouldn't let anything stop him or get in his way." Said Ni quietly.]
[12:47] <Yanmei> [22:44] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei smiled. "It's better than completely giving up? Right?" She looked to Marianne for confirmations.
[12:48] <Minaplo> ["It's definitely one way to cope with it."]
[12:50] <Yanmei> "It'll be okay," she assured them. "After all, his wounds are still fresh. He could eventually mellow out some."
[13:45] <Minaplo> ["Yeah…"-
[13:45] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[13:45] <Minaplo> ["I uh… I'm gonna go for a walk, ok?" Said Marianne. "You two stay here if you like. Is that ok?"]
[13:50] <Yanmei> "Ok. Have fun…" Was it really going to be a 'fun' walk? That… weirded her out a bit.
[13:50] <Minaplo> [Marianne gave her a small, slightly shaky smile; she kissed Yanmei on the top of her head as she went. "See you soon."-
[13:50] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[13:51] <Minaplo> [Ni fidgetted slightly with her hands. "So this trip is kind of awkward, isn't it? I mean… Everyone here seems to have lost someone or something, except, well."-
[13:51] <Minaplo> ["Me."]
[13:53] <Yanmei> "Is that really true…? I mean, wasn't Ikari like your dad too?"
[13:58] <Minaplo> ["Yeah. And I feel a little sad when I think about him, but we weren't really… Close close." Said Ni. She petted her kitten gently. "This kitten might be named Gendo, but it was Kyuu who decided that, not me."-
[13:58] <Minaplo> ["Mewmew!"]
[13:59] <Yanmei> "I… guess I can't say I'm surprised? But things haven't been too easy for you either way, right?"
[14:01] <Minaplo> ["Oh, absolutely not." Said Ni with a sigh. "I really hated being assigned to Leningrad-2. You were only there for a holiday, so you didn't see all the really bad bits."]
[14:03] <Yanmei> "You mean the paperwork," she guessed with a little grin.
[14:12] <Minaplo> ["No, not just the paperwork. That was dull, but it wasn't…"-
[14:13] <Minaplo> [Ni shook her head. "Ugh, let me give you a story. You ever used public transport in Paris?"]
[14:13] <Yanmei> "Of course. All the time?"
[14:14] <Minaplo> ["Ever had a train break down for two hours?"]
[14:16] <Yanmei> "Yes. Well. Maybe not for quite that long?"
[14:16] <Minaplo> ["Mmm, I have."-
[14:16] <Minaplo> ["Ever been groped on a train?"]
[14:21] <Yanmei> Yanmei's eyes darkened dangerously, and then seemed to remember something else to counterbalance the rage. "Briefly."
[14:25] <Minaplo> ["That so?" Ni let out a small sound of sympathy.-
[14:26] <Minaplo> ["What did you do?"]
[14:28] <Yanmei> "I may have flashed a weapon at him for just a second," she said, now well and truly cheered. "Sheathed, of course. It's not like I'm a -criminal-."
[14:29] <Minaplo> ["Oh."-
[14:29] <Minaplo> ["Well." Ni coughed.-
[14:29] <Minaplo> ["Mother always told me that if a man touched me inappropriately without my permission I was to break his arm- or leg- in three different places and let NERV take care of the charges."]
[14:31] <Yanmei> "Oh." The was a pause, and then Yanmei nodded firmly, quickly coming to terms with this sensible advice. "Did you have to?"
[14:33] <Minaplo> ["Yes. After that, I began taking lifts with S2, though."]
[14:38] * Yanmei nodded again. Sensible. "A lot easier in a few ways, I bet. Were your assigned agents nice?"
[14:39] <Minaplo> ["They were." Said Ni. "A little overly familiar at first, I suppose, but they'd been set to watch me long before I knew them, so…"-
[14:40] <Minaplo> ["That was also around the time my security detail was increased, because there were reports that Russian organised crime groups or terrorist bands were planning to capture or hurt me or the other pilots…"]
[14:42] <Minaplo> [Gendo the kitten began padding away from his mother now; he headed toward Yanmei. "Mew! Mew!"]
[14:46] <Yanmei> "You guys got it over there too? I bet they didn't come close." She leaned down and attempted to pick up the cat, if he would let her.
[14:49] <Minaplo> ["Hmmm? Oh, wait… There was an incident in Paris, right? I only vaguely remember it."-
[14:49] <Minaplo> [Gendo was fine with Yanmei picking him up. "Mew!"]
[14:53] * Yanmei absently held him so that he looked over her shoulder, the way one might a baby or a small toddler. Also, there was petting. "They were following us and making threats and trying to corner us. Dumb Blue was heavily involved. It was a real mess, because that cult stuff was happening around the same time, and S2 was being run completely ragged. Of course," she puffed up a bit, "I
[14:53] * Yanmei helped to crack the mystery of the cultists personally~"
[14:57] <Minaplo> ["Oh really? That's pretty impressive."-
[14:58] <Minaplo> [Gendo was right where he wanted to be. He began batting curiously at Yanmei's hair. "Mew!"]
[15:04] <Yanmei> "Isn't it~ Urgh." She held Gendo a little further away from her prized hair. "There was an investigation with tracking down the leader, and I totally took the lead and very purposefully tried to lure him out into the open. We only got some minions and some other scraps of information, but we managed to piece a lot together."
[15:04] <Minaplo> ["I see. Not bad."-
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["They just kept me on the downlow for two months." Said Ni. "After they'd cleaned out all the little cells, restrictions were relaxed…"-
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["… Then came all the problems inside the base."-
[15:05] <Minaplo> ["Mewmew!" Gendo kept trying to bat at her hair, even though he couldn't reach.]
[15:09] <Yanmei> "Ah, yeah. I'm sorry that happened…" She was still firmly holding him away, although it was harder to keep a grip with him squirming.
[15:10] <Minaplo> ["It was horrible." Said Ni with a sigh. "Like, even before everything went terrible, there was constant tension with the government."-
[15:10] <Minaplo> [Gendo began licking Yanmei's fingers.]
[15:11] <Yanmei> "What about the government? Ah. That was because they secretly wanted the Evas for themselves, right?" She resumed petting, but that meant holding him closer to her again.
[15:13] <Minaplo> ["Not only that, but they seemed to resent having us there at all." Said Ni. "We weren't sure how many of the staff were government spies- or spies from other countries- but there was more than just a few."-
[15:13] <Minaplo> [Gendo began rubbing his fluffy cheek against Yanmei's hand…]
[15:15] <Yanmei> "They're such a pain? Why can't the Soviets be more like France? We -knew- who their spies were."
[15:16] <Minaplo> ["Seele. They had less control in the Soviet Union than in other countries." Said Ni. "In fact, during the battle in Finland? They wouldn't even let NERV assume control of the military units deployed!"]
[15:20] <Yanmei> "That damned useless Romanov. Oh well." Yanmei sighed. "They at least… seem like they're taking care of our civilians. Probably for leverage, but still."
[15:20] <Minaplo> ["Tch. Probably." Grumbled Ni.-
[15:22] <Minaplo> ["… I hated that place." Said Ni firmly. "It was remote and cold and awful in the winter, it was lonely and glum and no one was happy. I'm glad to be done with it."]
[15:24] <Yanmei> "Don't celebrate just yet. You and the Princess and the others still have to rummage around in the UK soon. It won't be a picnic either?"
[15:25] <Minaplo> ["We will…?"]
[15:27] <Yanmei> "I promised I'd let her go home? But one of the conditions was bringing her squad with her for help and protection. Of course, that business with those dumb Angelspawn have complicated matters a little."
[15:35] <Minaplo> ["Mmm…"-
[15:35] <Minaplo> ["Um…"]
[15:36] <Yanmei> "Hm? Something wrong?"
[15:37] <Minaplo> ["Uh…"]
[15:38] <Yanmei> "You don't want to go…?" she guessed.
[15:38] <Minaplo> ["No, it's not that, it's…"-
[15:38] <Minaplo> [Ni flushed. "It's not gossip, okay? It's not. But it's about your husband."]
[15:39] <Yanmei> It was totally gossip. Yanmei stayed calm, though. "What about him?"
[15:39] <Minaplo> ["Uh, well. It's not about him exactly, except it kind of is…"-
[15:40] <Minaplo> ["Umm…"]
[15:41] * Yanmei sighed. "Does this have something to do with Kyuu?"
[15:41] <Minaplo> ["Uhh!"-
[15:41] <Minaplo> [Ni flushed again. "W-Well, uh…"-
[15:41] <Minaplo> ["You've noticed, then." Said Ni with a sigh.]
[15:42] <Yanmei> "She's not subtle. But she's been no worse than usual, right?"
[15:43] <Minaplo> ["I fear you don't know the full extent."]
[15:44] <Yanmei> "Then, please enlighten me."
[15:45] <Minaplo> ["It's not gossip." Clarified Ni. "It's actually closer to a warning?"-
[15:45] <Minaplo> ["Kyuu's… Obsessive."]
[15:46] <Yanmei> "How obsessive? I mean, I know she hovers around sometimes…"
[15:47] <Minaplo> [Ni squirmed.-
[15:47] <Minaplo> ["Tearing-heads-off-Yanmei-dolls obsessive…?" She offered timidly.]
[15:48] <Yanmei> "…"
[15:51] <Minaplo> ["She didn't like it when you and he married." Said Ni slowly. "She, um… Feels like you've coerced him. Into marrying you. Like… I dunno, through blackmail, or pregnancy, or the Libido effect? She believes Isaiah really loves her, and you're just dominating him."]
[15:56] <Yanmei> "Should I talk to her? Face-to-face, properly?"
[15:57] <Minaplo> ["I dunno if you should." Said Ni awkwardly. "I feel like- once she's rebodied, that is- she should be given psychiatric care."]
[16:01] <Yanmei> "If you think that'll help…" Yanmei trailed off a little worriedly.
[16:02] <Minaplo> ["I dunno if you confronting her about it would do anything. She's convinced that you're… Well."]
[12:10] <Yanmei> "Hm. I feel like I'll have to sometime. Or… maybe fight her? In a simulation or an Eva. That's a good way to settle differences."
[12:14] <Minaplo> ["… What?"]
[12:15] <Yanmei> "You're right. An Eva fight is way too expensive? It'll have to be a simulation."
[12:19] <Minaplo> ["Why aren't you taking this seriously…?" Said Ni. She was frowning, and her mouth was pushed into a thin line.]
[12:24] <Yanmei> "I… am? It really works."
[12:25] <Minaplo> ["I just told you, confronting her wouldn't work!"]
[12:30] <Yanmei> "I'd assumed you said that because she's likely to flip out and try that whole head-ripping thing in real life."
[12:32] <Minaplo> ["No!" Said Ni angrily. "I said that because she's not going to listen to you, and all confronting her would do is entrench her delusion!"]
[12:33] <Yanmei> "Oh. I guess that is a concern, yes."
[12:36] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[12:37] <Minaplo> [Ni's hands gripped the strap of her bag and wrung it.-
[12:39] <Minaplo> ["It's not Kyuu's fault." Said Ni tightly. "She's not a bad person. She's sweet and funny and playful and clever- she's just lonely, and her environment and upbringing have made her sick."-
[12:40] <Minaplo> ["She's my sister. I only want to help, but I can't help her by myself!"]
[12:52] <Yanmei> "Then we'll work together to help." Yanmei's voice was calm. "A change of scenary is a good start, right? Along with psychiatric treatment. We're practically halfway there."
[12:55] <Minaplo> ["…"-
[12:55] <Minaplo> ["A-Alright." Said Ni. She turned away for a second to rapidly rub at her eyes.-
[12:55] <Minaplo> ["Sorry for… Uh, becoming a little hysteric."]
[12:58] <Yanmei> "That's hardly the most hysterical outburst we've seen today?" Yanmei smiled at her and offered the kitten back for comfort. "Besides, it's ok. You're just worried."
[13:00] <Minaplo> [Ni took Gendo back and gave the little kitten a cuddle.-
[13:01] <Minaplo> ["Yeah, I am…" Ni sighed.-
[13:09] <Minaplo> ["Between this, all the other things my sisters have been up to and the war, I'm a little frayed."]
[13:15] <Yanmei> "Yeah. I'm sorry about, well, a lot of things that have happened. I hope it's not as bad as being an acting OD for your own squad, though."
[13:19] <Minaplo> ["That was nightmarish. It would've been easier if I had help, but that was lacking in Leningrad."]
[13:28] <Yanmei> "Well, you'll probably never have to go through it again. I mean, not unless you want to once your Evas are up and running again."
[13:30] <Minaplo> ["Would I have to go back to Leningrad?" Asked Ni with a grimace.]
[13:33] <Yanmei> "Honestly, I don't know. Maybe."
[13:33] <Minaplo> ["Ugh."-
[13:35] <Minaplo> ["Well, whatever." Said Ni with a huff. "So long as I don't meet that Premier again? He toured the base once, and do you know what he said?"]
[13:36] <Yanmei> "What?" Yanmei was already scowling at the thought of the man.
[13:45] <Minaplo> ["'You have how many sisters?'"-
[13:47] <Minaplo> ["I said 'eleven'. He said 'Would your mother be willing to make a million more? It would make inspection so much more enjoyable. The Soviet Army: Beautiful and deadly!'"]
[13:49] <Yanmei> "Ugh. Gross…"
[13:53] <Minaplo> ["Very. My skin was crawling…" Said Ni, shuddering.-
[13:54] <Minaplo> ["Judging by your expression, your experience hasn't been pleasant either…"]
[14:04] <Yanmei> "He made an offhand remark about youth and beauty or somesuch the last time we met? Mainly, though, he just oozes something that makes you mistrust him. I'm not sure what it is, exactly."
[14:05] <Minaplo> ["Sleaze."]
[14:06] <Yanmei> "Yes. Yes, that would be it."
[14:12] <Minaplo> ["Eurgh."-
[14:12] <Minaplo> ["… Hey, can I ask you a political question?"]
[14:12] <Yanmei> "Sure."
[14:15] <Minaplo> ["What's your plans for the Soviet Union?"]
[14:16] * Yanmei sighed. -
[14:21] <Yanmei> "I hate to say it, but they're one of our most stable allies at the moment. We need their resources. We need their land as a place to temporarily hide our civies and to launch our attacks from. Right now we're at their mercy, and after the war is going to be hell. They want the Evas. The Evas might not be around any longer by then. They want to keep their territories and squash rebellions,
[14:21] <Yanmei> but it's not going to easy for the UEF to turn a blind eye to that. I don't know what's going to happen in the long term between us."
[14:23] <Minaplo> ["I don't know if we can trust them." Said Ni. "We need their resources, but the USSR's been using us, too. My gut tells me they want us to be the winning side for as long as it takes for us to defeat the UN… But they want us weak enough by the end that we can't threaten them."-
[14:26] <Minaplo> ["I'm… Worried." Said Ni. "We might win this war, but the period directly after our victory'll be a nightmare. We might end up vulnerable… Drawn into another war."]
[14:34] <Yanmei> "We absolutely will if we we don't do something about it soon. I think I should talk to General Liu about it some more. She's the Queen of Unificiation, you know. Might have some advice."
[14:36] <Minaplo> ["There's a simple solution." Came a voice from the door.]
[14:37] * Yanmei turned sharply, defenses way up!
[14:40] <Minaplo> [Ni turned as well, startled.-
[14:42] <Minaplo> [Shinji stood in the doorway, his hands by his side, his expression calm.]
[14:46] * Yanmei exhaled with obvious relief. Thank god. It wasn't a spy or a random eavesdropping politician. "Hello Ikari. You have an idea?"
[14:48] <Minaplo> ["You're thinking like a statesman of the 20th century." Said Shinji quietly. "So're they."-
[14:48] <Minaplo> ["All you need to do is advance your thinking."]
[14:48] <Yanmei> "I'm… not sure I follow?"
[14:52] <Minaplo> ["You of all people should understand."]
[15:08] * Yanmei hesitated, her frown twisting slightly before she spoke. "Okay, look. I don't know if that's something we can pull off now. If I get the ball rolling, who's going to finish it?"
[15:17] <Minaplo> ["All the pieces are still there." Said Shinji. "Isn't that why you're fighting this war? If you had everything you needed, it wouldn't be an issue."]
[15:27] <Yanmei> "You're not wrong," Yanmei admitted quietly.
[15:29] <Minaplo> ["Does your heart doubt it?"]
[15:34] <Yanmei> "Heh. Always has? Just a little. But that's irrelevant. I've chosen my side, and I'm going to fight my hardest for it, doubt or no doubt."
[15:37] <Minaplo> ["I don't… Understand." Said Ni, scratching her right ear.-
[15:42] <Minaplo> ["You fear the Soviets and these other groups, because of what will happen after the war." Said Shinji. "But they won't exist after the war. When the war ends, all countries will be destroyed, and rebuilt harmoniously."-
[15:42] <Minaplo> ["… Eh?"]
[15:49] <Yanmei> "Hm. Ni, would it be okay if Ikari and I talked privately for a bit?"
[15:50] <Minaplo> ["… Will I get answers when I come back?" She said firmly.]
[15:55] <Yanmei> "Yeah. I'll explain everything? Don't worry."
[15:56] <Minaplo> ["Mmmm."-
[15:56] <Minaplo> [Ni stood up with a slight huff and left the little room, leaving Shinji and Yanmei alone.]
[16:08] * Yanmei was then free to continue. "I don't want to think of our endgame as a magic reset button. If I did, then everything we're doing outside of fighting Caine becomes completely meaningless, no matter how wonderful or terrible those actions might be."
[16:23] <Minaplo> ["It's not a reset button." Said Shinji. "We will still be challenged. You will still be called on to give leadership, but the challenges will be different. We will carry our experience and knowledge into the new world."-
[16:25] <Minaplo> ["But we'll definitely destroy much of society as it is now. The nations of the world aren't relevant anymore. Once it's done, we'll have to undertake the hard task of rebuilding, but the product will be much better than what we have now."]
(13:51) <Yanmei> "You don't seem worried about this at all?" Yanmei observed. "Why is that?"
(13:58) <Minaplo> ["Worried?"]
(14:08) <Yanmei> "Suppose it doesn't work out that way? Suppose we've been misinformed about the end result of the plan, or they left out some important bit of information on purpose? Suppose reality becomes worse off somehow?"
(14:10) <Minaplo> ["Suppose, suppose." Said Shinji quietly.-
(14:11) <Minaplo> ["I'm beyond 'suppose' at this point. If such problems exist we'll either find out about them adapt, or we won't and it won't matter."]
(14:23) <Yanmei> "Tch." She folded her arms. "To make matters worse, Ni and the others don't know much about this yet. It's like the blind leading the blind. Completely ridiculous?"
(14:26) <Minaplo> ["Why are you so worried?" Said Shinji calmly. "You have access to so much knowledge. My mother, me, Ezekiel, Albus, your Evangelion, my father's records- any of these would be enough. What is it that you're afraid might happen?"]
(14:39) <Yanmei> "I'm responsible for everyone now. Everyone. That means I have to protect them. If they die for no reason, or because I was duped into doing something terrible, it's completely my fault? So it's better to be 100% sure, but that's -impossible-."
(14:42) <Mianplo> ["All true."]
(14:49) <Yanmei> "So it makes sense to worry constantly." Yanmei nodded firmly. For a moment, she couldn't help glancing around and holding back a sigh. The spa was supposed to be relaxing, but using a good old punching bag would have really let her burn off some steam.
(14:53) <Mianplo> ["Except it doesn't help your chances. Worrying constantly hinders them."]
(15:00) <Yanmei> "It's not like I can switch it off!"
(15:01) <Mianplo> ["Have you tried?"]
(15:02) <Yanmei> Yanmei narrowed her eyes suspiciously. This somehow sounded irresponsible.
(15:09) <Mianplo> ["This preoccupation of yours is not a strength." Said Shinji.-
(15:10) <Mianplo> ["People will die on your watch, in their millions. There's nothing you can do about it. If you try to defend everything, then every loss you suffer is going to chip at you and break you down. It's your duty as Chancellor to try to control yourself."]
(15:17) <Yanmei> "Hmph. Why do you suddenly know so much?"
(15:21) <Mianplo> ["I ask the right people the right questions, I guess." Said Shinji.]
(15:26) <Yanmei> "Ezekiel, I bet."
(15:28) <Mianplo> ["Or your presidents?"]
(15:37) <Yanmei> "Maybe. Mazarin does owe me for several things."
(15:46) <Mianplo> [Shinji didn't say anything.]
(15:51) <Yanmei> "You can ask me for advice too sometimes, y'know."
(15:52) <Mianplo> ["What for?"]
(15:56) <Yanmei> "Because I'm good at it? Granted, it looks like you've figured out your own way of coping with recent… events."
(16:04) <Mianplo> ["Oh."]
(16:06) <Yanmei> "Are you?" she asked quietly.
[08:09] <@Minaplo> ["Well, I don't need any help coping if that's what you're asking."]
[08:17] <Yanmei> "Oh. Good," she said, hiding her awkwardness beneath a layer of good cheer. "If you want any more spa days to get away from it all, let me know and I'll make arrangements? I's good to relax every now and then."
[08:21] <@Minaplo> ["I see."]
[08:24] <Yanmei> "Please let your mom know that goes for her too?"
[08:25] <@Minaplo> ["I will."]
[08:28] * Yanmei nodded. "Which one of their services do you think you'll try next? Everyone else's off doing their own thing. Hmm. I know! Have you ever gotten a pedicure before?"
[08:29] <@Minaplo> [Shinji held up his left hand- gloved, to hide Adam's Cradle- and stared at her flatly.]
[08:32] <Yanmei> "You're thinking of a manicure," Yanmei explained. "That's when they pretty up your hands. A pedicure focuses on your feet instead?"
[08:32] <@Minaplo> ["Why would I…"]
[08:35] <Yanmei> "Because it feels good and it makes them look nice. Also the nailpolish is optional? Although I'm sure they have a huge selection of colors if you really want to."
[08:39] <@Minaplo> ["Pass."]
[08:45] <Yanmei> "Aw." Yanmei frowned, obviously disappointed. "All right. Let's just find Ni and her cat. We can decide what to do together."
[08:46] <@Minaplo> ["Alright, then."]

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