Your Pain Is The Breaking Of The Shell That Encloses Your Un

[23:39] <Yanmei> On November 28th, a dreary mid-morning, a very small group lingered outside of the hospital room of Zhang Mingzhu. Her daughter was double-checking the basket she was carrying with her. Inside were all sorts of delicious food, packed neatly in sealable containers. The cafeteria staff had even been nice enough to include a few cupcakes without charge, although she'd told them, touched, that they hadn't needed to do that.-
[23:42] <Yanmei> The curtains to the room's observation window had been drawn shut for privacy now, so Yanmei also had the luxery of letting her worry show briefly on her face as she paused. "Do you think this will cheer her up?" she mumbled.
[23:47] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [She was speaking to Isaiah, who had dressed smartly for the occasion, wearing a clean white shirt and long black pants, along with a black coat. In his arms was a very rugged up little Elizabeth. "I hope so." He said quietly, giving her a warm smile- but there was concern in his eyes. "A day to let her know she still matters, and she’s still important…"]
[23:51] * Yanmei nodded. She was wearing a modest white slipdress with a violet sweater over it, and of course, violet heels. A white purse was slung over her shoulder too. "It will be okay," she said to herself aloud, and moved to knock on the door.
[23:52] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Come in…"
[23:56] * Yanmei opened the door with her brightest smile. "Mom! We’re here to celebrate. How are you feeling?"
[23:58] * Zhang‘Mingzhu was sitting- well, not quite sitting. She was lying in bed, the back of the bed having been elevated to give her a better height. A television was on in the corner, showing the news.-
[23:59] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "Happy birthday, Blossom." Said Mingzhu, giving her a smile. "I feel much better today. Dr. Clement gave me something last night… How’re you?"
Session Time: Thu Dec 15 00:00:00 2011
[00:01] <Yanmei> "I'm feeling great! I brought Isaiah too." She moved further inside to give him room.
[00:02] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [He stepped inside. "Good morning, Miss Zhang!" He said cheerfully.-
[00:02] * Zhang`Mingzhu smiled, nodding her head. "Good morning, Isaiah. Ah…" Her eyes fell on Elizabeth. A quizzical look spread across her face. "… A baby? Who’s this…?"
[00:06] <Yanmei> "Elizabeth. Her mother's sick, so we've been looking after her. …we couldn't find a replacement sitter on short notice, though…"
[00:10] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Oh, I see." Said Mingzhu, nodding. "Isn’t she beautiful?"-
[00:11] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Yes." Said Isaiah cheerfully, nuzzling Elizabeth fondly. "Lizzie’s just wonderful- actually, I could show you some pictures…" He started rooting about in his pockets.]
[00:14] <Yanmei> "You don't have to, Isaiah," she chuckled. "Mom probably wouldn't… I mean… Wouldn't you guys rather dig in?" She held up her basket as a diversion.
[00:15] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Hmm…" She stared at Lizzie a little longer, then turned to Yanmei. "That sounds wonderful. I’ve barely eaten- but I feel a little bad. I feel like you're serving me on your birthday."
[00:19] <Yanmei> "No way! This is the first time we've been able to spend time with each other in a while." Yanmei found a place to rest said basket. "I wish the circumstances were nicer, but I'm glad that we could do this."
[00:24] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "I am, too. It’s been far too long since I've had the chance to share a birthday lunch with my daughter…" She turned her gaze towards Isaiah, and there was something of a smirk in her smile. "And I've never had the chance to eat with her boyfriend, have I?"-
[00:24] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["…" Isaiah glanced at Yanmei bashfully, then back to Mingzhu. "I guess not, Miss Zhang…"]
[00:28] <Yanmei> "We were thinking, you know, of coming to visit for New Year’s." Yanmei was pried a lid off one of the containers and brought it to her mom. Inside were sliced hardboiled eggs, little finger sandwiches, and long, mild noodles, all portioned out.
[00:32] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Visit? As in, Beijing?" She asks wonderingly… Then nodded. "Yes, I suppose by then I’ll be helping on the rebuild." She took out a plastic plate and started taking a little of everything. "It's a shame that home won't be in any fit state to receive you…"
[00:34] <Yanmei> She was talking about rebuilding! That was a good sign, wasn't it? Yanmei brightened a little. It's ok. We can camp out with the rest of the rebuilding crew if we have to. I'd… I'd like to help out a little if I could…"
[00:36] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "I’m afraid there wouldn't be a lot you could do." Said Mingzhu, scooping noodles into her mouth. "In fact, the only reason I'm useful is because most of Beijing's command hierarchy was wiped out. We'll probably have to replace it with other NERV second in commands…" But she smiled at Yanmei. "Perhaps you could try to rally the troops, as it were. You're very popular in Beijing."
[00:43] * Yanmei tilted her head back a little, thinking. She had pried open another container, and was handing it to Isaiah. "I could do that. I guess it means giving a speech? Or just saying hello and cheering workers on?"
[00:43] * Zhang‘Mingzhu nodded. "Yes, that’s the spirit. Let them know that the Heroine of the Federation is aware of their plight."-
[00:44] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Is Yanmei really that popular in China?" Asked Isaiah wonderingly.-
[00:44] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "Oh, yes. She often wins popularity polls and contests. I keep getting interview requests."
[00:46] <Zhang`Mingzhu> [Isaiah took the container from Yanmei with a thank you, putting Lizzie down on his lap as he sat in a chair.]
[00:46] <Yanmei> "Wow… I thought Ju was joking about those things, but I guess not?" She opened her own container and absently handed Elizabeth a bit of sliced egg. For a moment, her eyes were sad and wistful. "It’s been too long since I've been home."
[00:47] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Maamaa~" Lizzie took the egg gladly and began nibbling it.-
[00:48] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "You must miss home." Said Mingzhu quietly. "But you’ve done very well for yourself in your current situation… Did she just call you 'mama'?"
[00:50] <Yanmei> "Sh-she calls a lot of people that," Yanmei said hastily.
[00:53] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "How long have you been looking after her, exactly?"
[00:55] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei quickly took in a mouthful of noodles to make her answer incomprehensible. "Mmmph ’n mmmph…"
[00:56] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [… Unfortunately, Isaiah had thought she was asking him. "About six months." He answered unthinkingly.-
[00:56] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "Six-?!"
[00:58] * Yanmei winced visibly and chewed, eyes downcast. Darn it, Isaiah!
[00:59] <Zhang`Mingzhu> [Isaiah glanced at Yanmei, suddenly realising his error.-
[01:00] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "Six months… I had no idea…" Murmured Mingzhu. "You didn’t tell me-? I…"
[01:03] * Yanmei finally swallowed, and fidgetted a little. "I… I thought you would disapprove. My grades and my job… neither have been the best lately." Her shoulders sagged a little bit. "I was worried…"
[01:06] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "…" She looked away for a second, busying herself with her noodles. It seemed for a second that Yanmei could, perhaps, glimpse some deep hurt in Mingzhu’s eyes, but it was gone so quickly that she couldn't be sure. Eventually Mingzhu smiled and looked back. "How have the two of you found looking after a baby so far?"
[01:13] <Yanmei> "It was easier before she learned how to walk," Yanmei chuckled. Some deep shame had taken root, though, making it hard to be as cavelier as a line like that typically called for. She kept her eyes down a little.
[01:13] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["She’s a good girl, though. Never gives us any trouble…" Said Isaiah. "Anything serious."-
[01:14] * Zhang‘Mingzhu chuckled awkwardly. "That’s good. That's good. I remember the first time I saw you walk, you know, Blossom."
[01:15] <Yanmei> "Ah?" Yanmei lifted her gaze a little.
[01:16] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Yes. I’d just come home for a week after the completion of one of my contracts. Your uncle had a biscuit, and you tottled over to him happily." She chuckled a little more. "You wouldn't come to me, though."
[01:20] <Yanmei> "I wouldn't?" She tried to keep her guilt off her face with her own chuckle. "I must have been a strange little kid."
[01:21] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "No, not strange." She said quietly. "It’s natural for children to shy away from absent parents…"
[01:22] <Yanmei> "But… but I must have warmed up to you, surely."
[01:24] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "I think you started to warm up to me really around 3 or 4. I managed to get a little bit of leeway, and was able to take you abroad with me. You probably don’t remember it. But that was the first time I remember you crying when I had to leave."
[01:29] <Yanmei> "We went abroad somewhere?" Yanmei blinked at that. "I remember crying a lot when I was little. Right before we moved, I think? But… it's fuzzy. I remember Aunt Ai scolded me for it, and said that it was troublesome, and made me stop."
[01:30] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "That sounds like Aunt Ai." Said Mingzhu. "Crying was a bad habit for children that should be bred out of them. I believe that’s how she felt, at least…" Mingzhu chuckled. "Did I ever scold you for crying?"
[01:33] * Yanmei shook her head. "I don't think so? You never threatened to spank me for it like she did, at least."
[01:33] * Zhang‘Mingzhu smiled. "You rarely cried, anyway. You were a good girl…"-
[01:34] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["She’s a good young lady, too." Said Isaiah warmly. "You raised her well, Miss Zhang."-
[01:34] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Heh." She turned to Yanmei. "I think he’s trying to charm me…"
[01:36] <Yanmei> "Is it working?" Yanmei grinned back.
[01:37] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Well, his words -are- very kind." She smiled. "But I’m going to have to disagree, now matter how sincere he sounds. Yanmei was alone so often that she basically raised herself."
[01:40] <Yanmei> "C-come on. That's exaggerating things?"
[01:40] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Is it? Be honest…"
[01:44] <Yanmei> "Even if you went away a lot, your influence always somehow stayed behind. Because of that, I always tried to work hard." She straightened her shoulders. "So yes, I’d say it is."
[01:46] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "But… Is that really the same as raising you?" She frowned. "I should’ve spent more time with you, shouldn't I have? Instead of simply expecting you to work hard…"
[01:52] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei, for a moment, didn't know how to answer that. She tried to fall back on the things she had told herself. "You were doing a lot of very important projects, though. Things that helped humanity." But she didn't know if that was the right thing to say.
[02:06] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Yes. That’s right." Murmured Mingzhu. "My talents were valuable, weren't they?"
#02[02:10] * Oat (moc.tibbim.4picri|4c3996a3#moc.tibbim.4picri|4c3996a3) Quit (Quit: http://www.mibbit.com ajax IRC Client#)
[02:11] * Yanmei nodded. "In the end, because I became a pilot, I was able to survive because of them. Even if I hadn't been one, I'm part of the humanity, you're trying to protect." Yanmei smiled warmly at her. "No matter how you look at it, you've protected me."
[02:12] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> Mingzhu nodded quietly… "But…-
[02:14] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "But even so, my talents… They weren’t unique. Others could've done what I did, but… But I only have one daughter, and you only have one mother. I forfeited the precious, unique thing for the thing that others could've done."
[02:17] <Yanmei> "We still have a bond though, don't we? You're still my Mom…"
[02:17] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "We do. I love you. I’m still your mother, but…" … She looked down forlornly at her noodles.-
[02:18] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "… I regret wasting so much time we could’ve shared…"
[02:20] <Yanmei> "We could still… I mean." She was fidgetting again. "It's not too late? When we can get away, we can share more moments like this."
[02:21] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Yes." Mingzhu nodded firmly. "I can… Watch you run sometime." She was fidgetting a little as well. "Or we can watch a movie- or I can cook you dinner…"
[02:23] <Yanmei> Yanmei’s face was starting to glow happily. "Would you to hold the baby for a while? Or have her sit with you?"
[02:23] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Yes." Said Mingzhu gladly. "I’d love to hold her."
[02:25] <Yanmei> So there was a double transfer - from Isaiah, to Yanmei, to Mingzhu. Also, there was a small pastry in it for Lizzie, which was hopefully less messy than the egg she had eaten.
[02:28] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Uuuu?" Lizzie nibbled on the pastry gladly!-
[02:29] * Zhang`Mingzhu meanwhile held Elizabeth safely in her arms. "Oh, you really are gorgeous. Hello, little blossom. Can you say…" She glanced up at Yanmei. "’Grandma Mingzhu' has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?"
[02:29] * SyntaxTerror (if.atsiakajaal-asile.65-92-45-212e|rreTxatnyS#if.atsiakajaal-asile.65-92-45-212e|rreTxatnyS) has joined #nervfrance
[02:30] <Yanmei> "It does!" Yanmei seemed really proud somehow. "It suits you."
[02:30] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "It does, does it?" Mused Mingzhu. "Can you say ’Grandma'?"-
[02:30] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Maamaa?"-
[02:31] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "… Well, she has the inflection right. Is that your doing?"
[02:33] <Yanmei> "I don’t know what you mean?" She couldn't quite bring herself to huff, because it was her mother saying that. She did look a teeny bit embarrassed, though. "Mean. With a period," she corrected herself.
[02:35] * Zhang‘Mingzhu smiled. "Don’t be ashamed. It's something that makes you, you. But…" She looked up. "I have a question for you both."
[02:37] <Yanmei> "Yes?"
[02:38] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "How… Serious are you intending to make this relationship?"
[02:38] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["…" Isaiah glanced at Yanmei, willing more to follow her lead.]
[02:45] <Yanmei> "Very serious," Yanmei answered, and her face began to match her reply. "So much has happened that I don’t think it would be easy to split apart, even if we wanted to. And… I think we've just gown comfortable with this. Right?"
[02:45] <Yanmei> ^grown
[02:48] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Isaiah nodded firmly. "Right. At this point, Yanyan’s such a big part of my life that I'm not sure I could live it without her there."-
[02:50] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "…" Mingzhu was quiet, nursing Lizzie for a few quiet moments. Then she nodded and smiled. "That’s an awful lot of conviction there. Good. That's very good. The two of you -look- comfortable together. It's strange… But it's warming to see. I assume you'll be giving me a decade or so to grow accustomed to the risk that my grandchildren's hair might not be violet, however?" She asked Yanmei, the barest hint of a command hidden beneath the levity.
[02:55] <Yanmei> The command was heard loud and clear. "O-of course. I'd say that's fair?" She glanced to Isaiah. "Heh. I do think violet might be the dominant trait, though…"
[02:58] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Blonde hair’s a dominant trait too." Said Mingzhu, smiling. "Little blonde children… I think I could get used to that."-
[02:58] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [… There was a knock at the door.]
[02:59] <Yanmei> "Shall I?" Yanmei got to her feet again.
[03:00] <Zhang`Mingzhu> "If you don’t mind."
[03:00] <Yanmei> So Yanmei went to the door, still smiling, and opened it. "Yes…?"
[03:01] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [There was a nurse there. "Miss Zhang? There is someone on the phone for you."]
[03:02] <Yanmei> The phone? "Sure. She glanced over her shoulder at the heartwarming scene of Isaiah and her mother and Lizzie. "I’ll just be a moment."
[03:02] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Alright, Blossom."
[03:04] <Yanmei> So Yanmei headed out, toward the reception area, where the phone was. Odd, though. Wouldn’t calling her NERV phone be faster? Or her cell? Still, it wasn't unheard of…
[03:05] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [It might’ve taken Yanmei a second to realise that cell phones had to be switched off in hospitals.-
[03:06] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> [The nurse led Mingzhu to the reception desk, to the very back of the room, which was where this particular phone was. The receiver was loose. "Here you are."]
[03:07] <Yanmei> "Thank you." She spoke into it, her voice bright. "This is Zhang speaking! What can I do for you?"
[03:07] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["Happy Birthday, Zhang Yanmei." Came a cold voice. "Congratulations on living to see your 16th year."]
[03:09] <Yanmei> "…" Oh… oh no. The color drained from her face, and she turned to the wall so that no one could see. "It… it was so thoughtful of you to call and say so. Thank you."
[03:11] <Zhang`Mingzhu> ["You’re welcome. No doubt you are celebrating? With your mother, and Gabriel-Wei, and of course, little Elizabeth Bellamy."]
[03:14] <Yanmei> "Yes. My mother just woke up yesterday, so I'm a bit surprised you've heard of it?" She turned her head just far enough to let her eyes dart back the way she'd come, but of course, she couldn't see all the way back to the room she had just left behind. "Your intelligence is very impressive."
[03:14] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Of course. I’ve been keeping a close eye on your mother. I was aware she was awake before you did."]
[03:17] <Yanmei> "I see." She shifted her weight, looking down. "Well, thank you for your well wishes. I'll be certain to let her and Isaiah know that you called."
[03:18] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["See to it that you do." Said Caine. "Since it is your birthday, I’ll make this brief. You know what I want."]
[03:22] <Yanmei> "Yes," she said unhappily, eyes still down. "Is another personal visit in order?"
[03:23] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Not this time. Call me after you are done with your celebrations. I expect a call before 10 PM, local time."]
[03:25] <Yanmei> "Yes, ma’am. I'll call back as soon as I can."
[03:26] <Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Excellent." The line went dead.]
[14:24] <Yanmei> She hung up. Yanmei stared at the receiver now, sorting through all sorts of feelings of dread. She had to collect herself, though, because there was still the party going on. She thought hard about it, trying to cheer herself up again.
[14:25] <Yanmei> Slowly, she turned away to start back to it.
[14:43] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> Upon returning to the party, she’d find her mother and Isaiah deep in conversation. "Oh, yes. Past a certain age she'd always greet me with the biggest smiles. She was a good child."-
[14:44] <@Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Did she ever have any trouble with other kids?"-
[14:44] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> "Not that I know of…"
[14:48] <Yanmei> "…" At least he wasn’t showing off silly pictures. There were parts of this conversation that sounded familiar, though, and the indirect praise she was getting made her feel really warm and cozy inside. "I'm back!" She chirped, making her entrance.
[14:49] <@Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Hello, blossom. Who was it?"
[14:50] <Yanmei> "Just a superior who wanted to wish me a happy birthday." She reclaimed her seat.
[14:50] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> "Oh, I see."-
[14:50] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> [Isaiah gave her a curious look, before patting her on the hand.-
[14:51] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> "Isaiah and I were just talking about you. He also took the opportunity to show me a few choice photographs as well."
[14:54] <Yanmei> She’d spoken too soon! "W-wait, what pictures?" She studied her mother carefully, but she wasn't sure what she could even glean from that. "Not the dress-up party…"
[14:57] <@Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Dress-up party? No." Said Mingzhu with a smile. "Just…"-
[14:58] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> She reached for her bedside table, taking up the four or five pictures that sat upon it. "These."-
[15:00] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> [Yanmei, Isaiah and Lizzie out sharing milkshakes. Isaiah, Lizzie on his shoulders, arms around Yanmei. Yanmei, sound asleep, cuddling a snoozing Elizabeth. Yanmei serving cake to Lizzie on Isaiah’s birthday. Lizzie, the day she took her first steps…]
[15:04] <Yanmei> "He really gets around with his camera, huh?" She smiled a little. Now it was her turn to pat his hand, and to remind herself of what exactly she was protecting. With the exception of a few people, the core of her world was gathered in this little room.
[15:08] <@Zhang‘Mingzhu> "He does. I’m glad he did. It's a side of you I haven't been able to see." She looked down at Elizabeth, who was staring back up at her.-
[15:09] <@Zhang‘Mingzhu> "I’ve never been prouder of you than I am right now."
[15:13] <Yanmei> "Proud…?" She knew that she should take that demurely, but it was a struggle. She was proud of her! Somehow she'd managed to make her happy! Yanmei twisted her fingers around each other.
[15:15] <@Zhang‘Mingzhu> "Why don’t you come here, Yanmei? And you, Isaiah. We can have a picture together for your birthday."
[15:20] <Yanmei> "Of course!" She was over in an instant, preening only for a second, sitting next to her mother on the bed. Come to think of it, how many pictures had they taken together…? Maybe from now on they would take more of them.
[15:23] <@Zhang‘Mingzhu> [Isaiah scooted over as well, sitting next to her and putting an arm around her waist. He set the camera up on a timer. "Smile!"-
[15:23] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> [There was a flash- and it was done.-
[15:23] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> "How does it look, Isaiah?"-
[15:23] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> [He took the camera, showing her the digital record. "I think it turned out pretty well~"-
[15:24] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> "…" She stared at the camera, before smiling. "We look like quite the happy family."
[15:27] * Yanmei tried to take a peek as well.
[15:27] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> [Isaiah showed her, of course!-
[15:31] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> [Mingzhu, her dark violet hair casting a shadow over the burned side of her face, wearing a warm smile, her arms wrapped around a giggling Elizabeth. In front of her, and slightly below, was a smiling Isaiah, his face shining in happiness and relief at being accepted, embracing a violet-haired Yanmei, a smile on her face- and a light in her eyes, because not even she could hide her pride.]
[15:34] * Yanmei … she -beamed-. She also tilted the camera down a bit so that the baby could get a look. Not close enough for her to grab and play with it, though. "Look, Lizzie! We really do look like a family."
[15:35] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> ["Maamaaa~? Daadaa~" She reached for the camera, her eyes wide. "Oooh…"]
[15:40] <Yanmei> "Hehehe." Giggling, she handed it back to Isaiah, and gave the baby a distracting little tickle. "What do you say we get to dessert? The staff here was so generous today…"
[15:43] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> ["That’s because you're their wonderful Yanyan." Said Isaiah fondly.-
[15:43] <@Zhang‘Mingzhu> ["Eeheehee~" Lizzie giggled, grabbing at Yanmei’s hand.]
[15:45] <Yanmei> "Oh please," she laughed. "After the last order for the Ayanami Welcome party, I was surprised they were happy to see me at all. It was a big chocolate Evangelion, mom. They guests ate it so quickly that I doubt there were pictures, though."
[15:45] <Yanmei> ^The guests
[15:48] <@Zhang‘Mingzhu> "A chocolate Eva, you say?" Mingzhu chuckled. "How did they even manage to get it to stand up?"
[15:50] <Yanmei> "The base was built around some sort of support structure made of wire. It was pretty handy engineering work."
[15:53] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> "That -is- impressive. Perhaps they’re the sort of people who simply delight in what they do."
[15:55] * Yanmei nodded enthusiastically. "Finding something you have passion for is important, isn't it?"
[15:56] <@Zhang‘Mingzhu> "It is." Said Mingzhu quietly, looking down at Elizabeth and smiling.-
[15:59] <@Zhang`Mingzhu> ["And, yes, yes, we have just received confirmation." Came a voice- from the still-active television, where a news anchor was presenting breaking news. "The Chinese ministers for Thailand and Burma have just reported that both countries have slipped out of Chinese Federation control and declared themselves for the Liberated Nations. Furthermore, it looks as though the Chinese Armed Forces are unable to keep the peace in Cambodia either, which is falling into chaos." He sorted his papers. "Reports from Malaysia suggest that rebel forces have taken half the country and are currently laying siege to Kuala Lumpur. the Chinese government has urgently requested UN support…"]
[16:02] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei fixed her eyes on the television for a moment. Conflicts so far away, but so desperately important. Was it okay for her mother to go home with things like this? What would become of the parts of China that weren’t ruined?-
[16:03] <Yanmei> But it was time to be happy, if only for a little while longer. To enjoy what she could. She rose and went for the basket again for the cupcakes.-
[16:09] <Yanmei> They talked for hours. It was only when little Elizabeth had nodded off, and a nurse dropped by to administer one of Mingzhu's treatments that they all parted. Zhang Mingzhu remained in her room. Isaiah Gabriel-Wei wandered off to tuck Lizzie in so that she could get a proper afternoon nap. And Zhang Yanmei had her own matters to attend to, returning to the surface after what seemed like ages, and driving off to a familiar
[16:12] <Yanmei> - apartment building. She parked outside, hands still on the wheel, tightening and releasing, clenching and unclenching. Finally, she took off her seatbelt and ascended. The apartment numbers befuddled her for a moment, her memories of coming here before having slightly worn down with time. Finally, she knocked on what she could only hope was the right door.
[16:16] <@Ginevre> "Come in!" Came a voice.
[16:17] * Yanmei put a hand on the doorknob, and tried to stop grinding her molars together before pushing it open. "Please excuse the intrusion," she called out.
[16:21] * @Ginevre was sitting at the kitchen bench- the same one where, once upon a time, she and Alexandre Fontaine had shared curry. But now, it wasn't Alexandre in that seat- it was his mother. Ginevre was dressed casually- perhaps the only time Yanmei had ever seen her so casual, outside of that one fateful day on the Riviera. She was wearing a pale blue sweater and long black pants. There were papers in front of her, a laptop, a plate of grilled salmon sushi at her side. It smelled delicious. She looked up.-
[16:21] <@Ginevre> "Zhang?"
[16:24] <Yanmei> Awkward. A heavy, awkward feeling slipped over her, and for a moment, she looked away. "I'm sorry for interrupting, Commander. If this is a bad time…"
[16:26] <@Ginevre> "No, please. I'm not doing anything important."
[16:27] * Yanmei nodded, still not establishing eye contact. "I was hoping that we could speak privately for a moment."
[16:28] <@Ginevre> "That's fine. Take a seat, Zhang."
[16:36] * Yanmei did not take a seat just yet, but she did step forward and closed the door. "Is… a place like this really private, Command-" she caught herself that time. "-Doctor-" Shoot. Hadn't that been -his- name once upon a time? "-Professor Fontaine?"
[16:36] * @Ginevre smiled. "Nicely done, Zhang."
[16:37] <Yanmei> "…" She kept herself from scowling. Somehow.
[16:38] <@Ginevre> "You needn't worry. Jeanne Simon remains loyal to me personally, no matter who sits in NERV HQ's Commander's chair. We won't be monitored."
[16:42] <Yanmei> Maybe. But suspicions aside, there was no need for her to lie about that. She approached the table, then, and sat down. For a moment, she was quiet. Then, "This is about the Caines."
[16:44] <@Ginevre> "Which one?"
[16:45] <Yanmei> "Your sister-in-law." she lowered her voice a great deal. More awkwardness. The situation called for some opening smalltalk, but she was on a deadline.
[16:45] <@Ginevre> "Ah."
[16:46] <@Ginevre> It was a very carefully measured 'ah'.
[16:52] <Yanmei> "I understand the circumstance behind it all too well? But your resignation left her in a pretty… advantageous position. The Human Instrumentality Committee is now swaying to her whims, and I'm sure she intends to fill your empty seat with someone who will keep it that way. Not to mention other things…"
[16:53] <@Ginevre> "Yes. I am well aware of this." Said Ginevre, nodding slowly. "Of course, I don't regret it for a second. But giving her that level of power is never pleasant, no."
[16:56] <Yanmei> "I was hoping you had some way of stopping her on that level?" Yanmei was scrutinizing her carefully, pushing her desperation as far out of view as she could manage it, yanking her professionalism to the front instead. "Some plan?"
[16:59] * @Ginevre considered this for a second before she picked up a slice of sushi and popped it into her mouth. She chewed thoughtfully for a minute, then finally swallowed.-
[16:59] <@Ginevre> "Why do you ask?"
[17:01] <Yanmei> "Because…" Out of sight, beneath the table, her hands gripped her own knees tightly. "…she's throwing her weight around at me too, now. Not that she wasn't powerful before? But there's been a development."
[17:02] <@Ginevre> "Is she really? Go on."
[17:04] <Yanmei> "…I need *mumblemumble*…"
[17:04] <@Ginevre> "I didn't hear that last part clearly, Zhang, sorry…"
[17:06] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei didn't quite redden, but her head lowered far enough for her bangs to mercifully conceal her eyes. "… I need… your help."
[17:09] <@Ginevre> "…" Ginevre stared at Zhang for a long minute, before nodding. "Then you've come to the right place."
[17:11] <Yanmei> "Have I?" She was still tense, and she didn't look up.
[17:12] <@Ginevre> "There aren't many people who can help you against Mary Caine, Zhang. I'm one of the few people who has even a small chance of doing so. So let's start from the beginning."
[17:15] <Yanmei> "The beginning…" Yanmei nodded. "She's making me bring her information. If I refuse, she'll draft Isaiah into piloting and kill Elizabeth Bellamy. That's what she said. There are others, too, although I don't know if they're being coerced. Without a doubt she has people in Section-2."
[17:17] <@Ginevre> "… Yes, this sounds like Mary Caine alright." Muttered Ginevre bitterly. "What sort of information? It can't be anything conventional. Otherwise she would just rely on those spies of hers."
[17:22] <Yanmei> "There are two things that interest her right now. Elisha Caine's plans, and the Ayanami project. She's searching for vulnerabilities to use against Rei, I'm almost certain of it." She frowned, her eyes darkening. "Asking about the things and people she cares about. I don't know what she has in store concerning the former, but I doubt it's in your interest for us to find out personally."
[17:23] * @Ginevre frowned darkly. "I daresay it's time for some mint tea." She said a little more loudly than was warranted. She waited a few seconds.-
[17:23] <@Ginevre> "You're aware, then, of Elisha's plans?"
[17:28] <Yanmei> "…" She could take that as a signal that the cameras were off, couldn't she? Or maybe it was some other signal…? There was no backing out now, though. Yanmei maintained her posture. "He's dropped hints. Not enough to give me a clear picture, but enough to make it necessary to be misleading about my awareness of it. I can't keep it up forever, though."
[17:30] * @Ginevre continued to frown. "I see… You are aware, of course, that Mary Caine has her own goals."
[17:31] <Yanmei> "Ones that aren't compatable with his? Yes, I gathered that was the case."
[17:32] <@Ginevre> "She wants to know what he intends to do. Elisha's plans hinge on her not knowing this…" She rubbed her chin. "He can't tell you anymore. No more hints. You -can't- know the whole picture."
[17:38] * Yanmei nodded. She wanted to say that she wasn't interested in talking to him anyway… "What should I say? She's a persistant person…"
[17:39] <@Ginevre> "You have readymade proof, do you not? When does he tell you these things?"
[17:40] <Yanmei> "When synching," she muttered, her eyes narrowing a bit. "… my test scores have been that terrible, haven't they?"
[17:44] <@Ginevre> "They have been rather lacklustre, yes. And you haven't had any of those blackout events for awhile."
[17:46] <Yanmei> "She's also interested in you, you know. Because you shared a connection to Caine, and are likely aware of his plans."
[17:49] * @Ginevre nodded. "Nevertheless, there's no reason for Caine to expect that I will be a fruitful source of information. Delacour wasn't able to gain that information. There's no reason you would be able to, either. So use that to your advantage."
[17:55] <Yanmei> "Then that leaves Ayanami Rei. Unfortunately, she doesn't have quite as good a poker face as you do? But I'd rather not see her come to harm either." Yanmei frowned deeply. "I guess I'll have to get really good at being misleading."
[17:57] <@Ginevre> "Yes, you will." She frowned. "That worries me. Regarding Ayanami Rei. Why she's intrigued in her…"
[17:59] <Yanmei> "I don't have an answer to that. I think she would be resistant in telling me, too. I did try before."
[18:02] * @Ginevre nodded slowly. "Nevertheless, her interest in Ayanami can't bode well for us…" She tapped her fingers together. "There are three things I believe you should do."
[18:03] <Yanmei> Yanmei's ears perked up. "Yes?"
[18:03] <@Ginevre> "Firstly, you must speak to Ikari Gendo about this."
[18:07] <Yanmei> "I… see. But why? There's a reason I came to you and not to him, you know."
[18:09] <@Ginevre> "Because you don't like Ikari?"
[18:14] <Yanmei> "Me? Not like him? Hardly." She smiled pleasantly. "You don't like Mary Caine much, do you? And no longer being in charge of NERV may or may not allow you to act on your own without following protocol, getting tangled in additional politics, and so forth. What can Ikari do for me at this point?"
[18:14] <@Ginevre> "Perhaps he could use his position as NERV's supreme commander to protect you or Elizabeth Bellamy."
[18:17] <Yanmei> "You know, Isaiah is noticably missing from that protection list."
[18:18] <@Ginevre> "There's not really much anyone can do to prevent him from becoming a pilot if Caine wants him to become a pilot."
[18:19] <Yanmei> "Or if Ikari wants him to be a pilot, correct?"
[18:21] * @Ginevre eyed Yanmei critically. "You suspect he wants Isaiah to become a pilot?"
[18:24] <Yanmei> "I'm convinced of it. For a different Evangelion than the one Caine has in mind, but in the end he's after the same thing."
[18:25] <@Ginevre> "Caine wants him to pilot 08, Ikari wants him to pilot 05. Since Ikari won't get the support he needs to pilot 05, it doesn't really matter what he wants, does it?"
[18:27] <Yanmei> "I'm not convinced that that is a very good argument for trusting him."
[18:28] <@Ginevre> "Then don't trust him. Merely use him. Rely on the fact that he doesn't want Caine to succeed and thus, the enemy of your enemy is your ally."
[12:05] <Yanmei> It wouldn't be the first time. She kept that thought to herself, however. "Very well," she relented. "I think that I can manage that?"
[12:14] <@Alphonse> ["Excellent. Now. Onto your second step. I take it that you've been deflecting Caine's questions with a wall of lies, yes?"]
[12:15] <Yanmei> "I've been attempting to, yes. She's unpleasantly sharp-witted, though."
[12:16] <@Alphonse> ["What sort of lies have you been telling?"]
[12:23] * Yanmei scrolled through a very long list of them. "Basically? I've been disavowing knowledge of the things she's been asking after, especially those pertaining to you and Elisha. While it saved me in the heat of the moment, I'm still expected to follow up and investigate those plans so that Caine can gain knowledge of them later on, which will lead to me lying then as well, more likely than not, and so forth. A never-endi
[12:24] <Yanmei> -A never-ending cycle."
[12:26] <@Alphonse> ["Might I suggest a few alterations to your style?"]
[12:26] <Yanmei> "Feel free."
[12:35] <@Alphonse> ["First and foremost, it might be wise to sprinkle your lies with truths. Specifically, telling her information about what she wants that isn't very valuable. For example, if she were to ask about EVA-04's secrets, you might mention…" Her eyes gleamed for a second. "Something about Shah Jahan. Furthermore, play to her natural biases. Remember, Caine is paranoid. She expects everyone to be against her. She knows her brother had -some- plot, so if you play along with that, create lies that are based on truths, and appeal to her paranoia, you can get away with a lot. Don't deny that her brother has some plot, but the details must be of your own imagining."]
[12:45] <Yanmei> "Interesting. Playing to her biases…" For a moment it seemed as if she might say more, but she held back thoughtfully. "That doesn't seem too hard to grasp. Is there anything else?"
[12:47] <@Alphonse> ["Yes. One last thing. Have you ever heard of the Enigma System?"]
[12:49] <Yanmei> "I's afraid I haven't? Is it a project that the Technical Division is working on?"
[12:49] <Yanmei> ^I'm
[12:50] <@Alphonse> [She smiled. "No. It was a German code system used during the Second World War."]
[12:51] <Yanmei> "I see. But what does that have to do with anything?"
[12:52] <@Alphonse> ["Did you know that the Enigma System was overcome through two steps- knowing what the code expects, and secondly, earning its trust by feeding it valuable information in a very special way, so that the information becomes worthless."]
[12:55] <Yanmei> "…And after it was overcome, was it abandoned? Or did the Allies use it to misinform their enemies first?"
[12:56] <@Alphonse> ["They used it to feed misinformation to the enemy." She smiled. "I have given you step one, and now it's time to give you step two- I'm going to give you some very valuable information that I want you to feed to Caine."]
[12:58] <Yanmei> Yanmei blinked and then smiled back. "Better you than me at this point, I suppose? What is the information?"
[12:59] <@Alphonse> [She left abruptly, heading to her bookcase before she took out a folder, handing it to Yanmei.]
[13:00] * Yanmei accepted it and began to open it and leaf through the contents.
[13:09] <@Alphonse> [Ginevre watched her quietly.]
[13:11] <Yanmei> Her eyebrows lifted, subtly at first, and then higher, and then lowered as she tried to compose herself again. "This…" she mumbled to herself, and then cleared her throat. "I see that she hears about it? You're not going to tell me why you want her to, I suppose, so I'll refrain from asking."
[13:11] <@Alphonse> ["Oh, but I am." Ginevre smiled. "I'm telling you because Caine already knows about everything here."]
[13:12] <Yanmei> "Then this is simply news to build up my credibility in her eyes…"
[13:13] <@Alphonse> ["Exactly." Said Ginevre. "Valuable information- information that you simply should -not- have been able to find… But rendered worthless to Caine because she already knows."-
[13:13] <@Alphonse> [Ginevre smiled. "Happy birthday, Zhang."]
[13:18] <Yanmei> "Thank you, Professor Fontaine. I'll make good use of the gifts you've given me."
[13:19] <@Alphonse> ["I hope so." Her smile faded. "Caine is a dangerous opponent, Zhang. In every way you can think of. She is intelligent, influential, wealthy, respected, and feared, but she is also -very- tough. The absolute best thing for you to do here is somehow become her ally, at least on the surface."]
[13:22] <Yanmei> "I understand the logic behind that. But after the things she's done, and the goals she's pursuing…" Yanmei frowned deeply.
[13:23] <@Alphonse> ["The closer you are to her, the easier it will be to destroy her." Said Ginevre. "If anything, keep that in mind."]
[13:25] <Yanmei> "Right," she sighed, her eyes already on the long, loathesome road ahead of her. "I'll bear with it. I don't think I have a choice?"
[13:26] <@Alphonse> ["Sadly not."]
[13:28] * Yanmei slid the classified folder back across the table to Ginevre. "My next discussion with her will be this evening. If she pulls anything surprising out on me, I'll be in touch."
[13:28] <@Alphonse> ["You have my number, after all."]
[13:29] <Yanmei> "Actually, I don't. But a face-to-face meeting isn't so bad, and is less likely to be bugged."
[13:31] <@Alphonse> ["True enough."]
[13:34] <Yanmei> "I'll be on my way, then." she stood up and checked her watch. Still lots of time to swing by the Geofront to talk to Ikari? "I'll see myself out. Thank you for your time, and I hope that you enjoy your lunch."
[13:35] <@Alphonse> ["Thank you. I'm sorry that your birthday has been so disrupted by that woman…"]
[13:42] * Yanmei waved the concern away. "Somehow, even she was unable to spoil things. So it's all right."
[13:43] <@Alphonse> [Ginevre quirked an eyebrow. "Indeed? I'm impressed."-
[13:43] <@Alphonse> ["Oh, one last thing."]
[13:43] <Yanmei> "Yes?"
[13:46] <@Alphonse> ["In the future, don't bother calling me Professor." She smiled. It was a triumphant smile. "Commander is still fine."]
[13:48] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei reigned in her surprise again, though her face shifted slightly, her eyebrows raising a little again as she digested that. "Is it? How interesting. Now I'm the one who's impressed."
[13:50] <@Alphonse> [Ginevre smiled. "Have a good day, Zhang."]
[13:52] <Yanmei> "Goodbye, Commander." She made her way to the door and stepped outside again, and thought deeply before descending to go outside. Shockingly painless, that.
[13:53] <@Alphonse> [And now where was she off to?]
[13:57] <Yanmei> To her car, firstly. She made a phonecall. No, the Commander was not available to talk presently. She made an appointment and sank back into her seat and gazed at the setting sun. -
[13:59] <Yanmei> She wanted to go back to the guest room that had become her home and try to catch up on lost sleep. She wanted to hold Elizabeth and talk to her mother and Isaiah again. She couldn't, though. Not until she took care of business. -
[14:03] <Yanmei> She pulled away from the curb, and after stopping by a cafe, drove until she came to a little park with few passersby. For a little while longer she basked in the aroma and taste of the bitter coffee she had taken with her. By the time the sun went down, she had finished it, and had steeled herself enough to dial a certain number.
[14:09] <@Alphonse> [It rang for two seconds, then…-
[14:09] <@Alphonse> ["Hello, Zhang."]
[14:13] <Yanmei> "Chairperson Caine." She pulled on her professional voice for this one. Best to get it over with quickly.
[14:14] <@Alphonse> ["Do you have what I requested?"]
[14:15] <Yanmei> "Yes, I do."
[14:17] <@Alphonse> ["Excellent. Let us start with Elisha. Does he possess knowledge of any countermeasures or plans to prevent, halt or destroy Destiny?"]
[14:24] <Yanmei> "I'm lacking any details. However, a discussion wth Ginevre Fontaine confirmed that he was working on some sort of plan before his demise."
[14:24] <@Alphonse> ["Go on."]
[14:29] <Yanmei> "Unfortunately? That's about as much as I can offer. I've not been in contact with 04 since the last battle, and Fontaine was very tight-lipped about what that plan was and whether or not it was being executed."
[14:32] <@Alphonse> ["So he was working on something…" There was a pause over the phone. "I suspected as much anyway. This means, however, that Elisha told Fontaine about his plans?"]
[14:35] <Yanmei> "Yes. I wouldn't be surprised if she knew of it from its very beginnings. They were close, after all?"
[14:36] <@Alphonse> ["How close? Were you able to determine if a Libido Effect was formed?"]
[14:41] <Yanmei> "It's nothing she told me directly, but I am speculating that it was not. Even if it was formed at some point, she's too disconnected from his thoughts and actions as he is now. Are you aware that he incited the pilot of EVa-01 to attempt to murder someone without anyone's knowledge?"
[14:48] <Yanmei> "If there was that connection between them, she would have known that at least something unusual was going on, even if it was a subtle shift in mood from it. As it was, she was so clueless about the crime that she had to hire an outside investigator to look into it."
[14:52] <@Alphonse> [There was silence from the phone line, before finally Mary continued. "What about Ayanami? Has it had any strange dreams or thoughts?"]
[14:56] <Yanmei> "Nothing like what I've had, no."
[15:03] <@Alphonse> ["Irritating. What about its aspirations for the future? Its goals?"]
[15:05] <Yanmei> "She has said that she really looks forward to piloting. Beyond that… she just wants to help people."
[15:06] <@Alphonse> ["You -did- ask about its aspirations, did you not?"]
[15:09] <Yanmei> "Of course. But she didn't phrase it beyond the vaguest of terms. I wonder if she even knows yet herself."
[15:13] <@Alphonse> ["This isn't good enough." Muttered Mary. "You should have made more progress than this. There is absolutely nothing else you can tell me? No information from Ikari, or Fontaine, that they would try to hide?"]
[15:18] * Yanmei was quiet a while as if thinking. She was worried now, thinking of Elizabeth. A dissatisfied Caine would try to hurt her, right "There's…"
[15:18] <Yanmei> ^right?
[15:18] <@Alphonse> ["Yes? Go on."]
[15:21] <Yanmei> "You know what Adam is, correct?"
[15:22] <@Alphonse> ["Of course I do."]
[15:22] <Yanmei> "Are you aware that Azariah has it right now?" she paused. "The leftovers, I mean. From Second Impact."
[15:23] <@Alphonse> ["Yes, I am. That incompetent Delacour lost the Cradle of Adam to them last year."]
[15:28] <Yanmei> "Ah. So you do know." She made herself sound disappointed. "It was no easy feat getting that information. I just thought…"
[15:29] <@Alphonse> ["I am quite aware. Nevertheless, that is exactly the sort of information you should be looking for, wherever you can find it."]
[15:32] <Yanmei> "I'll keep that in mind. Ah… but with no new information, this means that this conversation is over, doesn't it?" Please let her get back to her spouse and kid…
[15:34] <@Alphonse> ["Your tasks remain as they were. Remember the possibility that Fontaine could be lying. Furthermore, there is one other thing you must do."]
[15:35] <Yanmei> "Y-yes?"
[15:41] <@Alphonse> ["You are to interrogate Dr. Riel as to the nature of the soul within EVA-00. Furthermore, you are to learn of Caine's plan in detail, however way you can. My team of investigators will be in Paris-2 by January. Once they are there, you are to contact them and work with them for as long as I deem it necessary."]
[15:44] <Yanmei> "Investigators?" This was new. Fuck fuck fuck, more spies! She'd never get away with creeping around Fontaine and Ikari now. Although, maybe that was a good thing, all things considering. "What are they investigating?"
[15:44] <@Alphonse> ["Whatever they need to investigate."]
[15:47] <Yanmei> "…" Yanmei bit her lip, but only briefly. "I understand…"
[15:49] <@Alphonse> ["You can accelerate their work by obtaining Dr. Riel's MAGI access codes as well as a sample of her blood."]
[15:56] <Yanmei> Why her? She didn't want to -deal- with her. MAGI Access Codes? "I can try…" she mumbled.
[15:57] <@Alphonse> ["Succeed."-
[15:57] <@Alphonse> [The line went dead.]
[15:59] * Yanmei stared at it, first numb, and then angry. She hung up too, and then sank back. All the color had gone out of the sky above her.
[16:06] <@Alphonse> [… A phone was ringing.]
[16:06] * Yanmei answered it without looking "Yes?"
[16:07] <@Alphonse> ["It's me." Isaiah's voice.]
[16:08] <Yanmei> "Isaiah?" She remembered how well the day had started out, some of her anger easing. "I'm on my way back. Want me to pick up anything on the way?"
[16:09] <@Alphonse> ["Um. W-Well, your mother said she has a real craving for some chicken curry noodles, so if you can bring home some noodles, I can cook them here in the cafeteria. You don't need to worry about Lizzie. I left her with your mother." A cough. "We, er…"]
[16:11] <Yanmei> "Hm?"
[16:11] <@Alphonse> ["We discussed *mumble*"]
[16:12] <Yanmei> "I don't think I caught that?" she was smiling a bit, tension melting away slowly.
[16:12] <@Alphonse> ["We discussed b-baby… Things. Names and… Stuff."]
[16:15] <Yanmei> There was a certain amount of shock that stopped her cold. -Her- mom was discussing that stuff? "I see… Well, I'll bring home the noodles, okay? I'm glad you're both getting along."
[16:16] <@Alphonse> ["Y-Yeah! So am I. I think she really likes Lizzie."]
[16:18] <Yanmei> "Lizzie's a good kid," Yanmei smiled. "It's no surprise?"
[16:18] <@Alphonse> ["It really isn't." he said fondly. "A-Anyway, Lupe wants to be fed, so I better do that first… Uh. I love you."]
[16:20] <Yanmei> "I love you too. See you soon?"
[16:21] <@Alphonse> ["I will. Drive safely!"]
[16:23] <Yanmei> "Of course! Bye~"
[16:23] <@Alphonse> ["Bye, sweetheart." click!]
[16:25] * Yanmei disconnected too, a flicker of some new emotion taking hold of her. "Sorry, Isaiah," she mumbled. "…" She put the car in Drive. -
[16:26] <Yanmei> "…sorry Atticus." Slowly, she began to accelerate.

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