A Pointed and Vicious Critique


teo_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title A Pointed and Vicious Critique
Synopsis Fresh out of the farmstead, Teo drags his famous author husband to a stranger, who happens to be a former Vanguard member of scintillating intellect, who can't know who his tipsy ass is talking about.
Date April 10, 2019

The NYC Safe Zone: Some Bar

The presence of drinking establishments across post-war United States should come as a surprise to no one. There was alcohol on the frontier, through the Gold Rush, a veritable epidemic among displaced Native peoples even in the early years of reservations. Alcohol comforted soldiers through the Civil War of the 1800s, and the country made great account of itself in contemporary history, with microbreweries and shit. These days, alcoholism as a disease has probably taken a bit of a backseat to everything else considered newsworthy, but there's a hearty culture and economy surrounding drinking culture, and a psychological legacy, besides. Places the lonely and unhappy can go to rub shoulders with celebrators. And jackasses to go pick fights.

Teo is on his third beer.

This bar is actually not a complete dive, which corresponds with his telling himself earlier, that he wasn't actually out to go pick fights. It's just a ritual. However, aspects of it feel profoundly unfamiliar— not the least of which is the fact that his jeans, or Francois' jeans, fit rather tightly on him. Despite his salacious choice of trousers, he cuts an appropriately rundown figure, his beard a few days past trimming, a fat lip nearly hidden in its strands, his hair rumpled, his reaction faintly delayed when the woman sits down nearby. He emits a greeting grunt.

In this acceptably non-shitty refuge from the general ruination outside, at least one person is present who is (currently, at any rate) indescribable by any of the above adjectives— Yi-Min is only here today for the bog-standard reason of wanting a drink on the way home. Specifically, one chosen from a wider variety than the serviceable but still only highly basic swill available in the backwoods of Providence, bless them. Her own attire is comfortably unobtrusive enough for the setting: a V-neck sweater that exposes a teardrop locket and the full, silvery length of the chain it dangles from, wide-legged slacks.

A heartbeat of a glance is spared for the stranger who had vaguely acknowledged her, just enough to take in the overall ruffled state of his appearance. "Don't mind me," the little Taiwanese woman says with a cool offhandedness that signals she does not actually much care whether she is minded as she swings her legs into position on the stool. In one hand: a new glass of gin, neat. In the other, Kara's well-kept copy of By the Victors, a thin tongue of a red ribbon protruding as a bookmark.

There are probably worse causes to kill time on.

The book. Teo is slightly too drunk for crazy eyes, or he probably would have zoomed a big pair of baby blues right up on Yi-Min's choice of reading material, as loudly as a face can without actually saying anything. Instead, he just glances blurrily at it for a conversationally awkward length of time, stuffing more beer into his face. He exhales while he's drinking, whiting out the curved wall of the glass with the fog of condensation.

Then Teo puts down his emptied glass and says, "It's a bad title, you know."

Teo is obviously referring to the book that she has with her, but he juts his beard in its direction in case there is any confusion. "It simultaneously admits biased reporting, and assumes exculpation with a cute fucking wink in the process. It's basically the whitest thing to happen since a couple of twenty-something-year-old white guys blew up Midtown." Who says you can't continue to argue with your spouse when he is not present. For a person with astral projection, and a complicated relationship with deception besides, it is basically second nature. In fact his only real impediment is his healing lip, and the anesthesia for that is on its way in the hand of a bemused bartender. (Beer #4.) "I mean—"

hhhhhHhghh. "Sorry. You can read whatever you want. I'm just," he leans his elbow on the bar and gestures at the book with his hand, this time. "I think it's a bad title. Smarmy."

It's not the first time that a semi-drunk interloper has inquired into her reading material at a bar, but it is the first time Yi-Min has been so aggressively accosted by someone’s literary opinion at one. Or anywhere, to be honest. She raises one brow slightly but visibly, her hand hovering a little ways off the countertop with her book in hand as she flashes another look across the entirety of Teo's form— somewhat more judgmentally this time around. The last few inches in the process of lowering it to the surface are… slow. The full glass resting in her other hand touches down in the same vaguely delayed fashion with a clink.

Sure. Yi-Min will go with this, she decides.

"For what it's worth, I agree with you." If the words are choosy sounding, it is only an effect of her accent; tone-wise she is a distant sort of wry. "It seemed to me like a completely unnecessary distraction from the subject matter. I felt that I was waiting for an extra explanation, an extra analysis, that never came. But you'll forgive me for asking: do you have such strong opinions about every book, or only this one?" Read: are you always like this?

To be honest, even in Teo's right mind, he wouldn't know how to answer that. Yes? He's always some kind of way. No, probably not always this way. After all, adultery does merit a special kind of recognition, even if you have a long, graphic history of rappelling up walls and flying helicopters and kicking people in their heads. (If his marital problems could be solved by rappelling, flying, kicking, he would be fine.)

"I read a lot of books," Teodoro says, which is true. "Some of them give me stronger opinions than others. I think fiction tends to be a little more—" he dodges his head side to side, in a gesture parallel to how people would teeter their hand to show middling 'meh' opinions. "Crime and Punishment was light reading in comparison, you know? Any story that features the violation of a human person is probably seeking to trigger an emotional response about that event. But when it's something that really happened, the questions of exploitation and author's intent should get sharper, I think."

It's convenient to pretend that another person wrote Francois' story. A way for Teo to sidestep the guilt about talking shit about it. Anyway, now he has his fourth beer. Cheers. (He is glad that she agrees with him!!!!! About the title!!)

Anyway, Teo offers her his hand. "I'm Ted." Kind of. He kind of is, actually. The Coxes up in the Catskills started calling him Ted, because Teo was not sufficiently American. "What's your name?"

"That is interesting," Yi-Min says evenly, because it is an interesting point to make, and then she takes a drink because that gin isn't going to drink itself— and also because it gives her an opportune distraction to think about a sudden number of things. Her fingertips are at first slow to withdraw away from the smooth divots in her glass. Once they do, they slip straight onto the cover of the offending book sitting next to her, and there begin tracing the name of Filip Mikhailov in its narrow unobtrusive print.

"And are you so sure that this is not fiction? Some certainly seem to think so, given that nobody has seen these journals but the author. That is something which should beg the question of intent, I think."

Without surprise and with only minimal reservation, Yi-Min takes 'Ted's' hand when it is offered with one that is far smaller, finer in shape. He is acting out the part of friendly American well, whatever the actual case. "I am Yi-Min."

Maybe someday, Teo will feel bad about lying about his name. But his relationship with Catholicism means he enjoys a surfeit of things to feel guilty about, right or wrong, and so it's probably kindo of far down on the list. He shakes her hand, and that is sincere enough. He spent a long time in college before he decided to become a ninja farmer, or whatever he is; he has compassion for people stuck reading unpleasant books. (Sorry, Francois.)

"You're right," Teo agrees easily; his is the kind of discontentment that's content to keep breeding. "It could all be lies. That would be even worse, right? Ethically. But at least it'd be ambitious." (Sorry, Francois.)

Teo takes another pull from his glass of beer, uses the time to maybe chill a little on the needlessly aggressive book critique. He likes her idea, actually— bringing a book to a bar. Maybe that's going to be how he excuses the mainstay of his drinking, in the weeks to come. He will file that away in his hazy mind for the future. "Are you interested in writing, yourself? I can't tell if you're in it for the process or the content. I know that's my fault." Teo gestures abstractly, elbow couched on top of the bar counter. The pattern that his hand describes in the air looks like circles, or stabbing, or some mix. Either would probably fit the way that he spoke to her, the moment he saw the book.

But it's fine. Teo remembers how to have conversations. Behold: he's asking about Yi-Min. Taking an interest.

"It would be much worse, yes," Yi-Min concurs tersely, her emphasis of the whole thing transparent, though also for an unstated reason or two beyond the academic concerns implied. "I am 'in' this book for the content, but for reasons that you so skillfully worded, here that is something entirely impossible to separate from the process."

For someone like Yi-Min who does not have the benefit of being intimately in the know, it is an association that makes this particularly frustrating to try and parse— this attempt to try and divorce unadorned fact from muddied intent and artistic liberties taken.

And, speaking of those latter two. "If it is really a work of nonfiction, it should be written in a manner that better fits one," she grouses with an indifferent sort of openness, gently smoothing the threads of the ribbon beneath her longest fingers for several beats. "As it is, certain parts read much more like a book of dramatic verse than an account of truth. Even in the acknowledgements, he cannot be plain. Was it that his ‘love’ found the final journal he needed? What?"

See, normal people just write 'To mom' or similar. Psh.

"What?" Teo mumbles tipsily, lagging behind a few sentences at this point. "I thought— whoever edited it must have taken out a lot of his love, l. Let me look at that." He isn't SUPER uncivilized about it, but she did put her book right there, and they're talking about it, in an intellectually active, interpersonally— civilized kind of way, so he reaches over to pull the cover open with his fingertips.

The reality is, Teo has probably read this book a dozen times. If you're going off the total word count, it's more than that, probably; he was gentler with excision recommendations than the professional editor, but he went over some of the cuts made several times in order to help Francois decide whether or not to fight her on it. If he weren't so manly, he would have teared up the first time he read through the passages that discussed the torture Francois has endured, or the long dismal wandering in that time he stopped pursuing Volken. But Teo is very manly, you see.

So manly that he forgot to actually read the acknowledgments, because the first time he noticed the copy of the published book in the bag he stole from Francois, he just got mad at having had to read it so many times already. And about having been tricked into small talk, for some minutes before marital infidelity was disclosed to him.

with thanks

to my guardian angels

on pale and dark wings

and my love

for finding the end of the story

"Hmm," Teo says, not recovering as quickly as he would like to. He deflates somewhat, releasing the book, scratching his eye. "If she did, she probably deserved to be named. There was a HypeFeed article a few years back before the war, talking about how authors' wives get really fucked over for credit."

Patient, Yi-Min grasps her glass to take an idly generous sip from it while she is waiting, but then slinks her arm beneath Teo's nose to thoroughly reclaim Kara’s book more or less the second he is done with it— he has seemed harmless so far, but he is still a trashed stranger laying his large, grubby hands on borrowed property. That sequence of reactions is noted, also, but at this point it's easy to dismiss most of it as flowing from the exaggerated spontaneity of being drunk. So this is what she does.

"That point is true enough. It is isn't often that wives receive the credit they deserve," she says, raising a composed eyebrow while she situates the recovered item roughly the way it had once once been. "But you are so certain it is a wife." Statistical assumptions aside, 'love' is a pretty gender neutral term.

"Just statistics," Teo acknowledges, after a moment's thought. What a progressive young lady to express such fine points. Well maybe she's not straight either, he knows. "Well, that and there aren't very many articles yet written about the under-appreciated husbands of writers of either sex. Also because of… statistics, I guess." And privilege, systemic problems, et cetera. But Teodoro is either not drunk enough, or too drunk to make a holistic treatise on that particular subject.

Teo leans his elbow on the bar again, passes his fingers wearily through his own hair. Something about this subject makes him sad. Not just the #state of the world, but because— Francois, obviously. He probably should have expected his husband's incredibly productive accomplishments and byproduct celebrity to follow him even into drunken oblivion, and yet.

"I'm sorry. I'm— you're interested in the content, primarily." That would be the point of interest, Teo thinks; he suspects that the process aspects, she's accommodating him on mostly out of politeness. And as a token of his appreciation, he's happy enough to turn the conversation back to… what was that book about ag— right. "Volken, his personality complex. Or the mystery? The investigation, the hunt. Or you really like world history as it interrelates with Evolved issues…" He sucks in an uneven breath, obviously suppressing a hiccup.

"Here I’m going to stop guessing." Teo gestures at her, inviting her to speak. Privately, he imagines there is a great deal of intrigue about Volken— we do tend to enjoy our psychopaths, or his counterpart, the ghost, would never get laid.

'Young and progressive' are really two of the nicer things anyone has thought of Yi-Min in some time. What a nice American this Ted fellow is. It is a decent assessment about humoring him as well: in fact each and every one of these is a topic that Yi-Min finds both highly relevant and thought-provoking in its own right, but with a more categorical distraction in mind, she is becoming bored with the wandering pace of the proceedings.

Nevertheless, "don't be sorry," she says, waving a dismissive hand into Teo's face. "Yes, like I already said, the content. It was intriguing to get a read on Volken from a different perspective—" Different than what had been written from other well-established sources, one would reasonably assume. But she doesn't specify. "And let's be real, it would be a fascinating account to any. Uselessly flowery though it is, it is a well-told story; and even if it were not, the subject matter would probably be more than enough to make up for it."

This is punctuated by sudden silence as Yi-Min drinks more of her gin, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand afterwards.

"What I am interested in above all, however, is how verifiable said content is. Mikhailov speaks of the 'gift' and the 'curse' in his book as few others do. There is nothing comparable to these terms in Wolves of Valhalla. I would kill to be able to speak with him, or read his sources."

That's considerably more serious than your average reader, Teo observes. More serious than even your average serious reader. He has the inclination to be helpful, because she seems like a nerd, and he is a little bit of a nerd under the butch overcompensation for heavy personal trauma. Sense of alliance, you know.

I mean maybe she's up to something, don't get Teodoro wrong; he is aware that there may be any number of maladjusted fiends in the multiverse whose special interest in Volken, Francois, and the rest of the Vanguard's international and trans-generational cast may be based on maladjusted, fiendish motivations! But you know. Better a better gatekeeper than to hope that actual fiends or harmless scholars never find one. "I bet I know," declares the most competent gatekeeper of all, who just incidentally happens to be drunk. "You should write him-her some fan mail. Here— can I look at the book? Thanks"

If she gives 'Ted' the book, he will find the publisher company on the second page, and then stab it into his phone. He actually has absolutely no idea where Francois is supposed to receive fanmail. It would be a profoundly strange thing to receive at the Wolfhound bunker. If there is any lesson for Teo to learn from the past few months, it's that he needs to learn how to better support his fancy war hero celebrity husband (and maybe, but not necessarily, stop roasting him with strangers too).

"Although," Teo says, busy prodding through the screen, "you probably want to come up with a little bit more on that flattering, 'Wolves doesn't even compare' side, and less on the 'is this actually real, bro?' theme. You know."

Literal fiend or well-meaning scholar. Why must those be the only two options, and porque no los dos? Theirs is, and has been, a world whimsical enough to accommodate the most weirdly-mixed cocktails of both.

Slightly more obligingly this time, Yi-Min gives the book a nonchalant little prod over in Teo's direction, dark and watchful eyes never leaving what he is doing while in possession of it. It occurs to her, while she waits for him, that she is apparently so starved for leads that she is willing to accept one even from a half-drunk unknown in a shitty bar (sure, it could be shittier; that's not really the point here)— and this is not something that makes her feel the greatest about her current predicament.

But fate has an odd way of doing things, she knows. "I will keep this in mind," she says, dry. "But I intend to be as truthful as I can be about my opinions. I have had enough of literary dishonesty for one book." This probably says far more about herself than the already profoundly-maligned work in question, not that she bothers to make this clear in any form.

Teodoro does his best not to chortle more, maliciously, at his husband's extent. Fan hatemail!! no that's not a very good revenge for adultery by anybody's standards, not even the most drunk, spiteful spouse. It's fine. Despite the blur in his head and the sporadic twinge of pain from his jaw, Teo manages to find the string he's looking for. "Here is the E-mail address," he says. "For the editor. I'm sure he'd know where to forward any message you sent along. I mean, it's a long shot—"

Mostly, Teo is using his imagination. Getting lost, for an instant, in the notion of actually writing to one's literary heroes in search of original sources, a personal correspondence. In his nerdy years at Columbia, he never would have had the stones. Not one destined for academia, certainly. He is profoundly bad at networking. Killing people, sure. Networking, less so. (This has been raised more directly and under less charged circumstances by Francois before, too. How the fuck did you end up a farmer, Teo.)

"How things are now, I bet they don't get too much fanmail." A lot of people are busy either drinking their post-war woes into oblivion (Exhibit A) or fighting for their survival (Exhibits: everywhere else). "I feel like you got a pretty good chance of getting some kind of response. You gonna be real sad, if they don't want you to get your hands on like. The original journal, or whatever?"

Teo genuinely has no idea of how all that is regarded now, in current day. Antiquities? Legal, physical evidence of war crimes? Are they going to end up in a museum, years from now, memorializing the horrors of the war? Time is a flat circle. His inebriated mind seesaws over the possibilities, then snaps back to the present with queasy abruptness. Strange to reconcile that with, you know. His cheating husband.

"I mean, I would not be surprised if they didn't," Yi-Min remarks over the lip of her glass, scrutinizing the form of the e-mail address that Teo has given her before tucking it aside. "I'm not the first to disapprove of how closely the journals are being held to the chest of the author. And I suspect I wouldn't be the first to ask for them." Given this, the odds of a random messenger bearing fan hatemail being allowed a peek, especially one with no other particular literary credentials other than curiosity, seems rather low. "No, all I can hope for is an honest response."

After all, those can be quite a rare commodity to come by these days. 'Ted' would no doubt know.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't respond to me at all. As you say, it is a long shot. But it does not hurt to try, no?" Hers is an optimism that is perhaps smoothed along by the fact that her motives aren't academic, per se, and that she too would honestly rather just kill people than network. Places to be, and all that.

Truer words were never said for a range of topics, Teo thinks, nodding his head. "Damn right." It is perhaps this moment that shall be credited hereafter with his next few botched attempts at repairing his marriage, so stay tuned for that hot mess. But long shots aren't always impossible, and these days, people are increasingly proficient with firearms. …or something.

"Hey. What do you do when you're not critiquing non-fiction?" Teo asks. "You seem to know a lot about it. I'm a farmer," he adds, volunteering, so as not to be creepy. "We read a lot more than people give us credit for." This is actually true. Something to be said about the way that conservative, traditional values have somehow grown in this recent era, to include reading books. Physical ones, with paper and covers. They're up for trade quite often. One way for people to socialize, in rural areas where remote geography nonetheless did not spare them from the increased distrust and suspicion of the civil war.

Farmers do, Teo believes, drink as much as their general reputation has it, though. He pushes away his empty pint glass.

What a compliment. If unabashed disparagement of a singular book counts as 'knowing a lot about non-fiction,' then Yi-Min will take it, she supposes? Maybe he is just being nice. She has met with this sort of overly charitable generalization from certain brands of Americans while here, so it is possible.

It is also not something she cares enough to spend time speculating on, especially as she moves onto answering the other segment of what he had addressed. "I do various jobs in the town of Providence out in the Pine Barrens, so I have dealt quite a bit with farmers of late," she says after she drains the remainder of her own drink, setting the depleted glass down beneath her with a neat little nudge that somewhat parallels Teo's motion, if several seconds late. As she does, she reconsiders the label she had used. 'Town' is generous for a place that houses a population numbering in the several hundreds.

"Settlement’s more accurate," she corrects herself a touch belatedly, but doesn't stop to linger. "Where do you do your work?" His is not a face she associates with those who frequent the more well-traveled parts of the Barrens, so her mind drifts towards the otherwise limited knowledge she has of local geography. Post-war urban farmer, perhaps?

Teo isn't just being nice! She's read at least two books on the Vanguard and is after primary sources, which certainly proves her as better than a casual reader. But he is also: being nice, in between taking pulls of his next beer. He should really get less hammered as a coping mechanism, but really, it's one of the less harmful strategies that he uses.

"I worked in the Catskills. But that's over for now. I have to figure out some shit with my family." He rubs his fingers over his forehead, feeling the odd chill from the tips of his digits, not sure if that means he should have eaten more recently. (Probably.) In a demonstration of virtue, Teodoro refrains from barfing marital angst on this bystander who kindly works with farmers in the more proximate regions— a virtue of her own, if you ask him. SOMe people with Vanguard-related interests, who shall not be named (but are French and married to him), are very snooty about the importance and benefit of agriculture. Boo, Francois, boo.

No it's fine at least the booing is all in Teo's head. "I thought about looking for work at Providence. It'd be familiar, I guess. Don't know why I haven't." He knows perfectly well why he hasn't. He is avoiding his old life still; it's the kind of outpost where former Ferrymen, maybe even PARIAH and Phoenix members, would have found solidarity. His being here, tonight, represents just a gradual dip of a toe back into that whole— thing. "What's the leadership like there? There some kind of Council?"

Yi-Min shakes her head sedately, the hand resting on the counter doing a barely perceptible twitch towards the (empty) glass as if she had been just about to reach reflexively to pick it up, only to grunt a breath in subtle irritation when she realizes. Teo isn't the only one sitting at this counter with a history of being generous on the alcohol side of things.

"There is nothing so formal, no. The community doesn't really have much in the way of defined leadership, and from what I have been able to tell, most who live there prefer it this way. It is a different but nice way of living." This last part is added after one extra beat— she may as well make it known that she counts herself among the number who share this opinion.

At the mention of the possibility of Teo looking into Providence for work, Yi-Min regards his face as she tacitly arranges the unspoken thoughts that arise in her head. Now may not be the best time, there are giant robots on the rampage and murdering farmers is not really something she can say to this random and very admirably friendly stranger in bumfuck, barsville. And the robots have only murdered one family so far. It should be fine really. "It is a worthy place to come to. A refuge for many kinds of people,” is what she describes instead, as though she had read his mind. There is a shrug in her tone, but it is not unkind. “If you did drop by, I am sure you would be welcomed.”

Giant robots is a really strange problem to have, Yi-Min, do you not know that? Even Teo would know that. Fortunately, he doesn't. He just imagines that Providence is a very apt name for something that holds such promise; he associates farming that promise, one of those things that operates in his mind even when he doesn't happen to be drunk. She uses the word refuge, and he decides that he likes it.

"Thanks. That's encouraging." Truly, it is. At least that much, he can put words to, parse, understand, despite the ambient chaos of his thoughts the rest of the time and how it periodically emerges, stupidly, as book critiques and longing inquiries about nearby farmland. "And I will buy you a drink."

Teo waves at the barman and instructs him accordingly. And somehow in a few weeks Teodoro will be stressed about money again, and somehow, not be sure where it all went. It's a mystery. You might suppose this is again, representative of overly-friendly behavior, but in reality, Teo is just like this. Also, men have bought women drinks under far less appropriate circumstances. Speaking of. "She wants a— wait. Do you want another one? Only if you do."

He's taking out his wallet, already. Slow preparation to leave. He could probably have fit another five, six beers in him, but that would be a greater deficit of wisdom than Teodoro needs to have, tonight.

Oh Teo. If only you were aware of the hysterically strange problems rampant in Yi-Min's life and the problems they are causing. This is why she can't tell people like you, and why she is happy to leave alone that silent assumption that Providence is full of promise— because technically speaking it is!

Providence promises many things overall, just not all of them a glowing draw.

The (in)appropriateness of getting a free drink is rarely a concern for Yi-Min, but sitting here drinking would be more of a temptation were it earlier in the day. As time draws on, driving back while tipsy is a concern that has grown in relevance. "No," she says in one short, placid word, observing as he begins going through the motions of payment. Before he can complete this and leave for good, however, she leans on her elbows and threads her fingertips beneath her chin. "Thank you for the talk, however. And the address." Something about the way she quirks her eyebrow up when she says this last thing, just so, gives the definite impression that it shall not be going unused.

Teo nods, his mouth bent into a frown that means he thinks her decision is probably a good idea. Congratulations, between the two of us, one of us has good ideas, and that is you, at least until Teo finds out about the giant robots that plague her preferred place of employment. He puts down the money that he owes and a handsome tip, besides. "You should tell him," he pauses. "Or her—" What was it she said about gender ambiguity? He's forgotten already.

"You're welcome," he says. "It was nice to meet you, Yi-Min. I'll ask for you when I get my ass up to Providence." Teo knocks his knuckles gently down on the counter-top, and turns for the doorway. But there he pauses, the sleepy circles of his mind taking him back for just a moment.

Teo glances over his shoulder at her, elegant and poised over the edge of the bar, with her book in hand. "You should write some of it in French, if you know how," he says. "I feel like that'd get you past the first gatekeeping." That is, you know, if you didn't already have the author's dopy drunk husband here to talk you up, once upon a conversation, days from now.

When Teo mentions he might look her up in the future, Yi-Min makes a small noise from her nose that could probably be construed as some kind of positive assent. She has had odder visitors to her lab, and less pleasant ones.

"I know very little French, unfortunately." It does not take long to reflect on what she does know: skeleton-like snippets caught from time spent in European countries in years past, nothing more — hardly the basis for a (hopefully somewhat) effectual letter. There is some amount of consideration that enters the look she shifts to Teo over the cradle of her intertwined fingers, as she observes him lingering there in the doorway. "Why do you say this?"

Teo's shoulders rise and slope in an easy shrug. "He's gotta speak French, if he used the journals," he says. "Thought it'd make you seem more serious. But I wouldn't worry about it.

"You seem pretty serious, as it is." For an academic reader, Teo means. Not for a gun-wielding crazed assassin war-monger, which is the default range for his personal concept of serious, so it's nice sometimes, to dabble in: it's just books and E-mails and source verification, words words words, no one has to die. He pushes the door open, his reflection darting out of the pane of glass as he moves it out of angle, too quick for him to notice again that his jaw is still bruised. "Have a good night, Yi-Min," he calls back.

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