This Too Shall Pass 3 4 10

[14:54] <Minaplo> ["… Well, the noodles were messed up and the pan had been totally ruined because of the burns." Said Caitlin awkwardly. "But Raffy told me he'd say he did it so I wouldn't get in trouble."-
[14:54] <Minaplo> ["Yep. That sounds like Raffy." Said Suzie smugly.-
[14:56] <Minaplo> [Suzie and Caitlin had been a little slow to open up to each other- their first few strained conversations had been halting, awkward and tentative as they tried to figure out the other.-
[14:56] <Minaplo> [But before long, however, they'd found a shared interest (embarrassing stories about Raphael); since then they'd been much, much more active…]
[15:05] <Raphael> It was a burden Raphael had borne with a fair amount of grace. He'd had some experience with his embarrassment being used as social currency, after all…-
[15:05] <Raphael> "It didn't stop her from burning the new pan a week later, though," he said, not bothering to turn away from the laptop he'd set up on a nearby desk.
[15:07] <Minaplo> ["S-Shhh!"-
[15:07] <Minaplo> ["Did Raffy cover for you again?" Asked Suzie.-
[15:07] <Minaplo> ["Not that time…"]
[15:08] <Raphael> "Fool me once…"
[15:08] <Minaplo> ["Lucas did it instead."-
[15:09] <Minaplo> [Suzie guffawed.]
[15:10] <Raphael> Raphael laughed, turning his chair to face them. "The kid's a soft touch when you know what you're doing."
[15:13] <Yanmei> Suddenly, they would hear the little intercom buzzer indicating that someone was at the door.
[15:17] <Raphael> "… Are you alright to take a visitor in here, Caity?" Raphael asked as he took a few steps towards the door. He was dressed more casually today, making use of his brief window of leave to test his new wardrobe: Today he wore a simple white polo shirt over a pair of jeans.
[15:18] <Minaplo> ["I… Think so." She said hesitantly.]
[15:19] <Raphael> "If you have trouble just give me a signal and we'll go for a walk instead, alright?"-
[15:19] <Raphael> He gave her a bright, supportive smile as he thumbed the button to open the door.
[15:22] <Yanmei> And who should be standing there but a beaming young woman in a sophisticated back dress and business jacket combo. Tucked under one arm was a gift-wrapped parcel, and her violet-colored hair swung loose, free and easy. -
[15:24] <Yanmei> "Guillory!" There was only the slightest of pauses as she took in his changed appearance. Hearing about it was one thing, but… she tried not to make her staring too obvious, blinking forcefully a few times. "It's been a long time?"
[15:28] <Raphael> If Raphael noticed the staring he politely ignored it, choosing to offer a quick salute despite his casual attire.-
[15:28] <Raphael> "Chancellor," he said. He favoured her with a smile. "I suppose it has. They've been keeping you busy, I imagine?"
[15:30] <Minaplo> [Suzie and Caitlin were, meanwhile, leaning around in their seats to catch a glimpse of Raphael's visitor.]
[15:35] <Yanmei> "It's not that I can't handle it? But the Soviet Union is apparently run by the worst jerks imaginable. Same with China… with the exception of Liu Lin, of course~~" She shook her parcel lightly, and it made a dry rattling sound. "Anyway, I brought cookies for you and the kiddies. How are things going for you guys?"
[15:39] <Raphael> "Oh, excuse me ma'am. Please come in," he stepped away from the door and gestured for Yanmei to come in. The movement also masked the surreptitious wink he sent Caitlin's way.-
[15:39] <Raphael> "They're going… well, I think. Caitlin's settling in after a bit of early culture shock, and Suzie's sharing all the embarrassments she's missed…"
[15:40] <Minaplo> ["There's lots." Said Suzie.-
[15:40] <Minaplo> [Caitlin's eyes were inexorably drawn to Yanmei's hair; her eyes widened a little.]
[15:44] <Yanmei> "I wouldn't mind hearing a few too," Yanmei smirked, stepping inside as directed. Caitlin's stare sent her into some sort of automatic preening mode, but she still remembered her manners. "Hello Suzie. Hello… Caitlin, right? I'm Zhang Yanmei."
[15:45] * Raphael was watching the exchange from a step behind Yanmei, the encouraging smile still on his face.
[15:46] <Minaplo> ["H-Hi." Said Caitlin shyly.]
[15:52] <Yanmei> "How do you like the ship so far? I'm happy to answer any questions about it that you might have?"
[15:56] <Minaplo> ["It… It seems really cool." Said Caitlin. "Um… I like your dyejob."]
[15:57] <Raphael> … Raphael managed to hide his wince.
[15:59] * Yanmei chuckled gently. "Ah… it's natural? My mom's is also like this. Your hair is really pretty too."
[16:04] <Minaplo> ["O-Oh, I'm sorry…"]
[16:05] <Raphael> "It's nothing to apologise for, Caity," Raphael said quickly. "I thought the same thing until I met the Chancellor's mother."
[16:05] <Yanmei> "Y-you did?"
[16:06] <Raphael> "… Oh." Raphael blinked. "Uh… yes, ma'am. I admit I did."-
[16:06] <Raphael> "I liked it, though?" He added, sounding a little hopeful.
[16:11] <Yanmei> "Well thank you." But she frowned ever so slightly, facing him. "By the way, Guillory…"
[16:11] <Raphael> "Yes ma'am…?"
[16:13] <Yanmei> She reached out, lightly tapping the end of his nose with her index finger. "Boop."
[16:15] <Minaplo> [Suzie and Caitlin giggled.]
[16:15] <Raphael> "…" Raphael stared down at the point of impact, leaving him looking momentarily cross-eyed.
[16:15] <Raphael> "… Miss Chiisana and I will be having words."
[16:16] * Yanmei grinned, apparently cheered. "She was right, though? It is fun."
[16:16] * Raphael gave his sister a sidelong look. "Our glorious leader, Caity."
[16:17] <Minaplo> ["Hehehe. She's really cute!"]
[16:19] <Raphael> "Mmm."
[16:20] * Yanmei beamed. "I think you and I are going to get along just fine, Miss Caitlin~" She opened up the package she had brought with her, and offered it to her and Suzie. "Want some sweets?"
[16:20] <Minaplo> ["Yeah!"]
[16:22] <Raphael> While the girls dug in Raphael busied himself by dragging over a chair for Yanmei before he took a seat on the edge of one of the beds.-
[16:23] <Raphael> "I told Caitlin just a little bit about you while we were exploring the battleship, Chancellor. She was very impressed that we had a woman in charge, I think…"
[16:28] <Yanmei> The sweets in question were fluffy meringue cookies, a mix of lemon flavored and chocolate flavored. "Well, I'm in good company? There's a European Princess on board, and the President of the United States, and Liu Lin, the best general ever." She sat down in the chair, murmuring her thanks. "Are you girls getting aspirations to lead a country yourselves one day?"
[16:30] <Minaplo> ["Nah." Said Suzie. "I'm gonna be a robot pilot."-
[16:30] <Minaplo> ["I'm still learning about everything." Said Caitlin, nibbling on a lemon meringue cookie.]
[16:31] <Raphael> "Suzie's plans involve putting Rei in control of the UK and ruling by proxy, I'm told." Raphael said conversationally.
[16:37] <Yanmei> "Through her boyfriend, huh?" Yanmei rubbed her chin thoughtfully. "Valid idea. You'd have to figure out a way to deal with all the princesses standing between her and rulership, though."
[16:37] <Raphael> "I suspect that's where the robots come in."
[16:37] <Yanmei> "I see…"
[16:41] <Minaplo> ["We already got Lexie." Said Suzie firmly.]
[16:46] <Yanmei> "Well, we do and we don't. Her robot's still smashed up, remember?"
[16:47] <Minaplo> ["Exactly, so she can't stop us."]
[16:48] * Raphael wagged a finger at Suzie. "No plotting coups of sovereign nations, young lady."
[16:50] <Minaplo> ["Hmph."]
[16:57] <Minaplo> [Caitlin had still been quietly nibbling away, not deigning to intrude on this mystifying exchange.-
[16:57] <Yanmei> "Not for a few years, anyway~" Yanmei grinned. She seemed to save a special smile for Caitlin, though. "Sorry. You probably haven't met half the people we're even talking about, right?"
[16:58] <Minaplo> [Suzie eyed her for a second, then: "Hey Caity, Fox Squadron should be doing practice now, you wanna go check 'em out?"-
[16:58] <Minaplo> ["Huh? Oh… S-Sure." Said Caitlin. "Is it okay, Raffy?"]
[17:00] * Raphael eyed the two of them for a moment and then nodded slowly. "If you'd like," he said, glancing at Suzie. "Give me a call if there are any problems, alright?"
[17:02] <Minaplo> ["Uh-huh. Seeya, Yanmei."-
[17:03] <Minaplo> ["G-Goodbye, Ms. Chancellor." Said Caitlin nervously, getting to her feet and offering Yanmei an awkward little curtsey.]
[17:04] <Yanmei> "See you guys later." Yanmei gave a little wave. "Ah. You can just call me 'Yanmei' you know."
[17:04] <Minaplo> ["O-Okay. Thank you for the cookies."-
[17:05] <Minaplo> [With that, Caitlin and Suzie quickly headed off, leaving Yanmei and Raphael alone.]
[13:11] <Raphael> Raphael took a cookie as the pair left and gave it a few tentative nibbles as he watched the pair hurry out the door. Even once it was shut he stared at it for a few seconds too long.-
[13:11] <Raphael> "Sorry, Chancellor," he said, turning his attention to Yanmei. "Caitlin's still having trouble adjusting to all the newness."
[13:18] <Yanmei> "That's expected?" Yanmei had spent that moment of silence quietly appraising both his expression and the door. Now she snapped her focus to Raphael properly. "Um. She's not unhappy, though, is she? Like, in general?"
[13:21] <Raphael> "… No. At least, not to the degree I feared she might be," he said eventually. "She's scared about the change in her appearance, and she doesn't know what to make of things like Angels and AT Fields, but most of the time she's just… herself."
[13:28] * Yanmei nodded. "That's good? Honestly, Angels and AT Fields are hard to grasp at first, so it's no wonder. Seems like she's gotten used to staying with you and Suzie pretty quickly, though~"
[13:32] * Raphael smiled. "Mostly. We're still working out some of the specifics, of course, but that's to be expected. Rei's been helping me with the adjustment process."
[13:36] <Yanmei> "Heh. Rei's pretty awesome when it comes to these things? I bet she's been giving all sorts of good advice. Probably while spoiling her. Although I doubt I should talk." As if to make a point, she nabbed one of the cookies for herself.
[13:39] <Raphael> Raphael let out a gentle laugh and shook his head. "We've been keeping them apart for the moment until Doctor Delgado's helped to explain everything to her. Their similarities might raise some questions."-
[13:39] <Raphael> "… Hopefully that won't take much longer."
[13:48] <Yanmei> "Hmm." Yanmei chewed thoughtfully. "Katsuragi says you have family temporarily staying with the civilians in Russia. Do you want to move them permanently to the ship? That way, you can all be together!"
[13:53] <Raphael> He gave her a surprised look. "That's a kind offer, ma'am. I'd thought about asking, to be honest with you."-
[13:53] <Raphael> "I could certainly put the offer to them. It's hardly the safest place on Earth, but it's better than the alternatives…"
[14:00] <Yanmei> "Well, the main alternative would be… you and Suzie being sent to Russia again. Probably to make nice with our warm, Soviet friends in a non-combat capacity, seeing as how they dislike our troops so much."
[14:01] <Raphael> "…"-
[14:01] <Raphael> "Bringing them onto the ship sounds like an excellent idea, Madame Chancellor."
[14:04] * Yanmei smirked. "I'll have Miss Lucille send you guys the paperwork, when I get back to the office, then."
[14:05] * Raphael nodded. "It sounded as though you'd been getting your own introduction to the joys of our Soviet allies, ma'am."
[14:11] * Yanmei rubbed her face, quickly losing her smirk to a more grumpy expression. "Hmph. Premier Kuzmin has been having screaming matches with President Zhou Xunhan. And I have to mediate the dumb thing by phone, otherwise they'll kill each other. Sometimes I wonder if I should let them."
[14:13] <Raphael> "And you're making house calls to save your sanity?" Raphael surmised.
[14:19] <Yanmei> "I am an Eva pilot. My duty comes before my sanity." Another cookie. "Actually, I was just curious about how things were going along. It's not the first major break I've taken from the office."
[14:23] <Raphael> "Well, I appreciate it," he smiled. "The amount of support I've been granted through all of this hasn't gone unnoticed, ma'am. It's come from some… odd places, at times, but all the same…"
[14:24] <Yanmei> "Odd…? Ah. Surov."
[14:30] <Raphael> "Surov," he agreed. He turned over a cookie in his hands.-
[14:30] <Raphael> "We're still waiting to hear more about Sarasvati, hmm?"
[14:33] <Yanmei> "We are. We might be waiting a while?"
[14:45] <Raphael> "Seems that way."-
[14:45] <Raphael> He shook his head as if to clear it. "If I may say so, ma'am, she deserves a medal when she gets back."
[14:52] <Yanmei> "I think a lot of people would agree? I'll see what can be done when she wakes up."
[14:55] * Raphael just nodded and - after a moment - let out a low laugh. "… Excuse me for being a little maudlin, ma'am. I don't mean to place my worries on you."
[15:04] <Yanmei> "Don't worry about it too much? You've been through a lot."
[15:06] <Raphael> "Mmm."-
[15:06] <Raphael> "And what about you, Yanmei? How are things - aside from your duties, of course. I haven't seen Isaiah or Lizzie in a while"
[13:13] <Yanmei> "They're both fine. Isaiah's been spending his non-Eva hours helping out in medical again. And Lizzie's as energetic as ever? I'm getting a bit worried about her, though."
[13:13] <Raphael> "Oh?"
[13:17] <Yanmei> "When I think about it, when I was three years old I could always play with my cousins whenever I wanted. But she doesn't have very many people her own age on the ship? Not that the older kids haven't been great with her. Suzie and Henriette Mazarin especially. And Daji and Anita-Margaret also play at lot with her." She frowned thoughtfully, leaning back in the chair a bit. -
[13:19] <Yanmei> "I dunno much about how little kids develop social skills, but is this okay enough…?"
[13:28] * Zack is now known as ZackAFK
[13:30] <Raphael> "Hmm." Raphael finished gobbling down the rest of his cookie as he considered that. "I wouldn't call myself an expert on parenting either, but it's not unusual for children to grow up in an environment without kids their own age. It seems to me like Lizzie's being perfectly socialised - she's friendly and polite and even-tempered."-
[13:30] <Raphael> "There's always the risk that she could be a little lonely, but it doesn't seem like that's the case."
[13:36] <Yanmei> "I guess that's true. She's usually pretty happy?"
[13:40] * Raphael nodded. "There's no younger children amongst your family? Zhengsheng mentioned he had younger sisters."
[13:42] <Yanmei> "The youngest is around eleven or so. And anyway, both sisters are staying in Russia right now. That dumb Zhengsheng was the only one who insisted on staying behind?"
[13:47] <Raphael> "To 'see the sights', I'm told," Raphael said with a tiny eyeroll.
[13:48] <Yanmei> "I told him he'd get the boot if he seduced any pilots. Luckily that hasn't happened yet? Not that there aren't a bunch of other people for him to pester."
[13:50] * Raphael chuckled. "I wouldn't worry too much, ma'am. He seems like a good man under the bluster, and he's certainly been a good caretaker for Blue's."
[13:51] <Yanmei> "I hope you're right," she grumbled.
[13:57] <Raphael> "He's not getting too far out of line with Sergeant Holmstrom right behind him, I'm sure," he said.
[14:00] <Yanmei> "Holmstrom… has he seemed distracted to you lately?"
[14:07] <Raphael> Raphael gave Yanmei a brief, curious look. "Maybe a little? I didn't give it much thought, but he's been rather quiet."
[14:14] <Yanmei> "We had him try synching with an Eva a few days ago," Yanmei said quietly.
[14:22] <Raphael> … Raphael's silence stretched on a little too long as he examined the Chancellor. "You're considering replacing Weiss-Xylander?"
[14:29] <Yanmei> "No. Well. We were considering it before, due to the coma, but never acted on it. Weiss-Xylander is still a pilot and will remain one for a long time?"
[14:30] <Raphael> "… I hope I'm not overstepping my bounds, ma'am, but his loyalties are clear?"
[14:39] <Yanmei> "I don't think we have to worry about him anymore. He's rejected the UN, has been forthright with us since waking up, and is increasingly clear-minded. Did you know that he's going by a different name these days?"
[14:41] <Raphael> "Ah, no I wasn't. Blue and Medea mentioned his real name, but I wasn't aware he was returning to it officially."
[14:44] <Yanmei> "Yeah. 'Michael Leon'."
[14:46] <Raphael> "Hmm. I'll do my best to remember."-
[14:49] <Raphael> "And I suppose I will take your word on his recovery, ma'am," he added.
[14:51] <Yanmei> "You can visit him yourself one of these days. He's been released from Medical. You'll find him hanging out with our ship's special guest…" Her brow furrowed. "You did hear about the Pope being on board, didn't you?"
[14:54] <Raphael> Raphael's lip twitched at one corner. "No ma'am. NERV's rumour mill sees fit to inform me of the romantic intentions of every officer with a pulse and a few without, but somehow the Pope being onboard has escaped its notice."-
[14:54] <Raphael> "I have been failed again," he said solemnly.
[14:55] * Yanmei smirked. "Well, now you know. He's on board. And he's kind of a know-it-all? But…"
[14:55] <Raphael> "But?"
[14:59] <Yanmei> "His job is make sure we're not doing anything unethical? Even though we aren't -strictly- violating any treaties or human rights laws, there's still a lot he could get all judgey about."
[15:05] <Raphael> "Well…" Raphael said slowly, "A certain degree of 'judginess' is actually useful to us, ma'am. We're a step removed from the people we're supposed to be representing, and without oversight that can easily lead to a certain kind of moral disconnect. Especially when we're working with powers of this scale."
[15:07] <Yanmei> "You're too right," she mumbled. "Did you know I had to try to break up a peace march this week? A peace march."
[15:15] <Raphael> "I know," he said. "You did it as gently as you could, for what it's worth. It would have been easy to deal with it with blood or cruelty - As I'm sure people suggested - but you at least took the higher road."
[15:25] <Yanmei> "Still sucks, though. The people who were there only want to live their lives in peace and freedom? Just like the LN. The part of it made up of rebelling territories." She sighed. "You know what I mean, right?"
[15:35] <Raphael> "Of course. Of course I do," he said quietly. "In some ways I think it's good that you're still new enough to this to experience that guilt. Not because it's pleasant, but because it gives you some context that I think some of our other leaders lack. It's good that you aren't quick to accept the necessity of these sort of actions."
[15:45] <Yanmei> "But it'd be easier to protect the UEF and its goals if I had that sort of quick willingness to accept? Or at least the quick decision-making that comes with it…"
[15:52] <Raphael> "Maybe. A certain degree of that acceptance is probably required, given we're fighting an enemy with exactly that mindset." He admitted. "On the other hand if it's a choice between guilt and following her example entirely…"
[15:54] * Yanmei shuddered a little. "Ok, yeah. I think I see your point?"
[15:59] * Raphael smiled. "Happy to hear it."-
[15:59] <Raphael> "From a personal perspective, ma'am, I think you're growing into your role rather well given you were thrown into the deep end."
[16:04] <Yanmei> "Well, thank you." She offered a half-smile back. "I'd like to make fewer mistakes from this point on."
[16:04] * Raphael raised an eyebrow. "How so?"
[16:10] <Yanmei> "Well I don't know -how- yet. But I think a lot of the trouble we've run into politically and… with horrors like the massacre… are because we've been too easy to predict. I have to stop that."
[16:14] <Raphael> "… Mmm. This week might've shown that flaw stretches further than you, but I still agree with the inclination."-
[16:14] <Raphael> He gave her a thin, humorless smile. "I've spent a good deal of the last few days thinking about my own predictability and passivity, to be honest."
[16:16] <Yanmei> "You have?"
[16:29] * Retrieving #nervfrance modes…
[16:30] <Raphael> "It…" He frowned at his feet as he searched for the right words, "I thought my fault was emotional weakness at first, but I don't know that I could change what I did. Saving Caitlin - or even just June - was the right thing to do. My fault was passivity. She sent a dying Ayanami to us with one method to save her, and instead of giving her the credit she deserved and examining her motives I walked right into her trap. And if I don't stop to consider why I'll walk right into the next one."-
[16:30] <Raphael> "That same problem runs through the UEF like a fault line. Remaining defensive and passive will kill us all and I don't intend to maintain the position."
[21:48] <Yanmei> "Mm." Yanmei gravely nodded her understanding. "It's hard to change, but I think you're right. We're at a disadvatange as it is? We should be the ones setting clever traps to balance things out, not her."
[22:01] <Raphael> "I intend to put together an internal group to start investigating our options," Raphael said, and for once it didn't seem to be a request. "We have information and resources we aren't using efficiently, and the ODs have their hands full with the war proper. This is what the SOS was made for, after all."
[22:06] * Yanmei looked a little surprised. "Interesting. Will the group just be SOS members, or…?"
[22:13] <Raphael> "SOS, ISF and Technical, I believe. Probably Ezekiel, if he'll allow us to pick his brain," Raphael added. "Limited numbers to limit the possibility of security leaks, but the Eternity Tears mean we can work with a little more confidence. We won't be compromised by a single, random death."
[22:18] * Yanmei nodded again. "What'll you guys call yourselves?"
[22:20] <Raphael> Raphael seemed to stumble over the question, squinting slightly. "I…hadn't really given it much thought, ma'am."
[22:25] <Yanmei> "The Caine-Busters," she suggested seriously.
[22:28] <Raphael> "…" He stared at her blankly. "Not the most clandestine of names, Madame Chancellor."
[22:34] <Yanmei> "Maybe not…" She relented. "Well. I guess I'll let you think about it, since it's your brainchild? But I approve of the idea."
[22:36] * Raphael nodded. "I appreciate that, ma'am. I'll keep you apprised, of course."
[22:46] <Yanmei> "Thank you. I'm going to think very long and hard on my end for strategies too? I hope we'll be able to come up with something together."
[22:56] * Raphael reached out to snag another cookie. "It's not as though we have another choice. We're well passed the point of simple 'do-or-die' now."
[23:06] <Yanmei> "…" Looking sober again, Yanmei grabbed another cookie for herself as well. "I hate to say it, but I wish Ikari was still around. He always knew so much."
[23:12] * Raphael nodded slowly, and for a moment he wouldn't meet Yanmei's eye.-
[23:12] <Raphael> "Strangely enough I know what you mean," he said. "We'll just have to find our way without him."
[23:17] <Yanmei> "I guess. At least we still have Fontaine. I should pester her more."
[23:18] * Raphael chuckled. "Not a bad idea. Maybe that's your place to start?"
[23:22] * Yanmei nodded with a determined face… that was promptly spoiled as she finished off the rest of her delicious cookie. "Mmm~ I think I'll do that right now? She's been working on the Evas, so I know exactly where to find her." She stood up, stretching a bit. "Thank you for the conversation, Sir Guillory. Next time I'll bring some coffee too."
[23:26] <Raphael> "Sounds like a plan, Chancellor," Raphael said as he stood as well. "I imagine I'll see you again before we leave for Asgard, but if not… all the best with your political woes."
[23:30] <Yanmei> "Thanks. And good luck with Asgard itself? Although I doubt you'll need it. We'll definitely win!"
[23:33] * Raphael offered a guarded smile in response. "Of course, ma'am. We have General Liu with us."
[23:40] <Yanmei> "Very true~" She grinned. "But even without her amazing awesomeness, your team always seems to get the job done?"
[23:42] <Raphael> "We do our best."
[23:44] <Yanmei> "Heh." Yanmei strolled toward the door. "Take care, ok?"
[23:46] <Raphael> "And you, Madame Chancellor." He gave her a more genuine smile this time, snapping off a quick salute.
[23:49] <Yanmei> And Yanmei returned it with one of her own before quietly slipping out into the hallway.

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