Claymore Fan Fiction / Neon Genesis Evangelion Fan Fiction ❯ Neon Genesis Claymore ❯ Stirrings ( Chapter 4 )
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-------------------- Neon Genesis Claymore: Chapter 4: Stirrings
"That’s insane!" Shinji erupted as he sprang from his chair. "There’s no way I could be part youma!"
"Wishful thinking will not change the facts," Gendo said flatly. "Your mother was a Claymore."
"How can that be?" asked Hikari. "Once we undergo the ‘process’ we can’t have children!"
"That’s generally true," Ritsuko acknowledged. "However, Yui was a bit… different… Her ability to reproduce was not compromised specifically so she could breed subjects for the Project."
"Meaning me and Rei," Shinji said with disgust as he sat back down.
"Correct," replied Gendo.
"Does this mean we’re deliberately sterilized?" Hikari then asked incredulously.
Ritsuko nodded. "It does," she said, her sadness at the fact evident. "The Organization doesn’t want its warriors to be able to have children. It would cause too many… complications."
Hikari frowned. "I suppose I can see that, but I still don’t see how Shinji can be part youma. I feel nothing from him."
Shinji’s expression brightened. "See! I am a normal human!"
Gendo shook his head with a smile. "No, Shinji, you are part youma, just as your mother was. However, you are not part youma in the way that Claymores are. That is why you have no yoki."
"What do you mean?"
"Claymores are produced by mirroring the youma’s ability to take on the physical characteristics of one of its victims by merging with its remains. The Organization’s ‘process’ melds the remains of youmas with young girls to produce warriors who are still essentially human. It is because of this merging that warriors have youma yokis."
"You, on the other hand," Ritsuko then continued. "Being the offspring of a warrior and a human father, were apparently not born with such a yoki… This really isn’t all that surprising, since human and youma were fused together in you in an entirely different way."
"But if he was born because a human part of his mother was left intact, doesn’t that make him still completely human?" Misato asked.
Ritsuko nodded. "Semantics asides, that’s actually a good question. In reality we don’t really know exactly what Shinji is yet… The ‘process’ affects every cell of a warrior’s body, so we assume it would affect her offspring as well, but we don’t know for sure what that means. It may be that Shinji is, for all intents and purposes, human, regardless of what his mother was."
"That is what the next phase of the Project is aimed at learning," added Gendo. "We are going to see if the youma part of Shinji, which now seems dormant, can be made to generate the yoki necessary for the Project to move forward."
"And if it can’t?" Shinji asked.
"Then you can go back to your humdrum existence as if none of this ever happened."
Early the next morning Shinji found himself in a small open field just outside the town walls with Hikari, Ritsuko and Maya.
"Why aren’t Rei and my father here?" he asked.
"They had other business to attend to," Ritsuko snapped. She did not want to be there either. "Besides, if we used Rei for what we intend to do today, you’d probably end up dead."
"And just what am I supposed to do?" Shinji asked nervously.
"We’re going to try subjecting your body to a number of stimuli and stresses to see if we can provoke some sort of reaction that Hikari can sense."
"That doesn’t sound too pleasant," Shinji observed morosely.
"It won’t be… We’re going to start with fear and fatigue."
Ritsuko chuckled and then handed Shinji a sword much like the claymore Rei had had him try a few days earlier. "This is a trainee’s standard practice sword," she told him.
"I’m not good with swords," Shinji replied.
"Well, that will just make things harder for you… which could turn out to be good or bad. We’ll see."
Ritsuko gave an identical sword to Maya. "Since Maya is the weakest of us, we’ll have you spar with her."
"Me? Spar with a Claymore?" Shinji asked in disbelief. "I won’t last a minute!"
"Again, we’ll see," Ritsuko replied with a smile and then turned to Maya. "Do it just as we talked about."
Maya nodded and brandished her sword. "Okay, Shinji, here I come."
Trembling, Shinji did his best to wield his weapon, only to have Maya send it flying with her first stroke.
"Dodge, Shinji!" Ritsuko shouted as Maya brought her blade down towards him.
Somehow he managed to comply.
He tried to reach for his sword, but Maya then swung at his midsection, causing him to jump back, lose his balance and fall to the ground.
Before he could get up, she was standing over him, the tip of her blade over his heart.
"Should I?" Maya asked Ritsuko.
Ritsuko nodded. "That performance was beyond pathetic."
Shinji froze in terror as Maya raised her sword. She brought it down and he screamed.
A long moment of silence followed.
Shinji opened his eyes to see that Maya had driven her sword into the ground beside his head.
"Did you sense anything?" Ritsuko asked Hikari, who simply shook her head in reply.
"Oh, well," Ritsuko said with a sigh as she made an entry in a notebook. "So much for fear alone."
"Y-You mean you w-were just trying to s-scare me?" Shinji asked shakily as he got to his feet.
"That’s right… Were you frightened?"
"I thought she was going to kill me!"
"I’ll take that as a ‘yes’, then," Ritsuko answered snidely as she picked up Shinji’s sword. "Now we’ll move on to fatigue," she continued as she handed it back to him.
"Ready, Shinji?" Maya asked as she again raised her blade.
An hour and a half later, Shinji’s arms felt like lead and sweat was pouring from him as he continued to do his best to stay out of the way of Maya’s blade.
The ‘failed’ Claymore, on the other hand, had clearly been holding her abilities in check and seemed completely unaffected by her exertions as she took another swing at Shinji’s sword.
Shinji groaned and sank to his knees as it once again went sailing out of his hands.
"Sense anything?" Ritsuko asked Hikari, who by now was sitting on the ground with her chin in her hands, bored stiff.
Hikari opened her eyes and looked up. "Not a thing."
Ritsuko scribbled something in her notebook. "You sure? You weren’t dozing were you?"
Suddenly, Ritsuko smacked her own face with her book.
"That enough of an answer?" Hikari asked with a dangerous-looking smirk. "With your being so smart, and all, I would have thought you’d be better at keeping your mouth in check."
Shinji sighed. ‘I wish I could just run away…’
"Why are we returning to Sutafu so soon?" Rei asked, as Gendo and she walked down a road on the edge of the Great Eastern Waste. "Would it not have been more efficient for us to have stayed there a few more days in the first place instead of journeying to Lagash and back?"
"It’s not like you to ask questions," Gendo observed.
"I was merely curious," Rei replied. "It is not like you to make us travel unnecessarily."
Gendo nodded. "You are correct, of course. We’re returning to Sutafu at the behest of the Organization. It seems they have information that they feel can only be communicated to me in person."
"I see… But then why am I accompanying you? Would have not been more useful for me to remain with Shinji and the others?"
"I’m going to see if I can get your new equipment completed before we have to return to Lagash. That will require your presence and, if we are successful, it will save us a trip back there in the future. Besides, according to Ritsuko there will almost certainly be nothing for you to do in Lagash until we return in any regard."
Rei nodded. Once again her faith in her father had been reinforced. As always, he seemed to have thought everything through.
‘Why, then, does Shinji not trust him?’
After finally allowing Shinji a short rest, Ritsuko was ready to have Maya begin her work anew. "Simple fatigue seems to be ineffective," the blonde said as she sat making further notes. "I think we should move on the next variation."
"I-I don’t know if I can do that, sempai," Maya answered apologetically.
Ritsuko stood with a chuckle and a shake of her head. "That’s probably why you failed to become a warrior, you know. You’re far too kind-hearted." She reached out her hand. "Here. Give me the sword. You can take down the observations for now."
"Are you sure that’s a good idea? You’re a lot stronger than I am."
"It’s either you or me… unless you think we should let him spar with Her Majesty over there," Ritsuko said, inclining her head towards Hikari, who was now laying in the grass and staring up at the clouds from the tedium of her assigned task.
Maya thought things over for a moment and then handed her sword to Ritsuko. "I really don’t want to do it."
Ritsuko nodded. "Are you ready for some more, Shinji?"
"Would saying ‘no’ make any difference?" the boy asked dejectedly.
Ritsuko raised her sword. "Not one bit."
Resigned, Shinji also raised his sword.
"You awake over there, Sleeping Beauty?" Ritsuko then asked Hikari spitefully.
Hikari sat up. "With that sword in your hand, I could make you cut off your own head, you know," she shot back. "I’m sure the Organization would take my word for it that a failure like you did it from sheer clumsiness… Don’t you agree, Maya?"
The casually haughty tone in Hikari’s voice made Ritsuko’s blood boil. Unfortunately for him, Shinji was the obvious target for her to vent her anger on.
She took a couple of slow swings at the boy that he managed to block, but there was no way a mere human like him could have reacted in time to stop her third swing.
"Ow!" Shinji cried out as the flat of the blade smacked him hard on the upper right arm, causing him to drop his sword.
"Be glad that we’re all carefully trained not to draw blood when we spar," Ritsuko told him evenly. "Now, pick it up."
"Let me guess," Shinji said with a groan as he reached down to pick up his sword. "The new ‘variation’ is pain."
"Correct. It’s good to see that fatigue hasn’t dulled your wits… Now come at me!"
Again Shinji wished he could just run away.
Depressed from what she had witnessed all morning, Hikari was relieved when, around noon, Ritsuko informed them that they were done for the day. She decided that what she wanted most was a hot bath.
‘Watching what they did to poor Shinji made me feel… dirty.’
"I bet Maya feels the same way I do," she muttered to herself as she rounded the last corner before arriving back at her room. Despite what Maya had done to Shinji, Hikari had started to take a liking to Ritsuko’s meek assistant. ‘Poor thing looked so guilty.’
Hikari chuckled. ‘No way she’d ever have been any good at killing youma.’
Coming through the inn door Hikari was greeted not by Touji or his father, but by a small, pale, frail-looking girl with light brown hair.
"Hello," Hikari said as warmly as she could, given her dark mood. "You must be Touji’s sister!"
The girl nodded. "Are you the Claymore who’s staying here?"
Now it was Hikari’s turn to nod. "That’s right. Did Touji tell you about me?"
"Uh-huh. He told me that you weren’t scary at all. That you were really pretty."
Hikari’s mood instantly brightened. "Did he now?" she asked with a sly grin. She knelt down so she was at the girl’s eye level. "So, are you scared of me?"
The girl shook her head. "No. You’re just like he told me you’d be."
Hikari smile widened at that. "Why thank you… You know, I don’t think I’ve talked to someone your age since I was a little girl myself."
"Kids usually keep their distance from us. Don’t my eyes frighten you?"
The girl shook her head.
"Would the sword up in my room scare you if you saw it?"
"My daddy says that people who carry swords are soldiers whose job it is to protect us. Is it your job to protect us?"
"It is. We’re the only ones who can save people from youma."
"Then why should I be afraid?"
Hikari chuckled as the little girl scampered off, only then realizing that she had never asked her name.
"Ow!" Shinji yelped later that afternoon as Misato kneaded his sore shoulders.
"Stay still! This liniment is the strongest I could find. You don’t want to get it on places it doesn’t belong!"
"Ritsuko said I wasn’t supposed to do anything to help my body heal or ease the pain."
"Oh, screw that! I’m not going to sit here and watch you suffer needlessly."
"How much more of this will I have to put up with before they see I’m no use to them?"
"I don’t know, but Ritsuko isn’t the sort of person who gives up easily. Neither is your father, I’d imagine. They won’t leave any stones unturned."
"That’s not the answer I was looking for."
"I’ll try talking to Hikari. Maybe she can convince them what they’re doing is pointless."
Darkness was falling as Asuka approached the gates of the city of Per-Aat.
‘I would have thought Rubel would have come up with a more novel disguise,’ Asuka thought darkly as she gave her outfit a final once over. ‘But noooooooooo… He gives me the standard "religious pilgrim and goods trader" getup… Well, at least he didn’t dress me up like a prostitute like he did the last time. He got a good laugh out of that I’m sure. The bastard.’
As she neared the gate she noticed that the two guards flanking it were eyeing her suspiciously. ‘And, in the end, I don’t look a thing like the locals anyway, so of course they’re curious.’
‘I suppose it couldn’t be helped,’ she concluded. ‘The people living out here on the edge of the Southern Desert are all olive skinned and like to shave their heads… No way I’m not going to stand out.’
Asuka pushed the hood of her cloak off her head and smiled as sweetly as she could at the guards. ‘Guess I have to be on my best behavior. Got to remember to be demure.’
"May I inquire what business a Northern lass like you has here, miss?" one of the guards asked.
"I am here to visit the temple and do some trading," Asuka replied with quiet deference.
"What do you have in that roll on your back?"
‘A freaking huge sword,’ she thought but answered, "Silks."
"That’s an awfully large bundle for a small young woman like yourself to be carrying," the other guard observed.
‘Ah! An opening! Try to look and sound pathetic, Asuka.’ "Yes, and it’s been horrible! The caravan I was traveling in wouldn’t come within less than a day’s walk of here," she lied. "I’ve been slogging under the weight of this pack in the heat since dawn!" she whimpered.
The guard nodded in understanding. "You must be very tired."
‘Now to hit them up for some info…’ "They wouldn’t even tell me why they wouldn’t drop me off here like they promised! Is there something wrong?"
The guards exchanged glances. "There have been some horrible… crimes… in the city of late," one of them finally answered. "A killer is thought to be on the loose."
Asuka tried her best to look shocked. "A killer?"
"Yes," the other guard answered. "The city is under a dusk to dawn curfew as a result. You’ve arrived just in the nick of time!"
‘A curfew, eh? Perfect. That and darkness are just the cover I need to go hunting. Hopefully I can be in and out of here quickly.’
"Thank you for being so open about it with me," she answered honestly. "But it’s too late now for me to carry on to the next town… And I’m so tired… Could you please direct me to the closest place a lady might find suitable lodging?" she asked with a bat of her big blue eyes.
She decided she didn’t like the way one the men was now looking at her. ‘And don’t direct me to your house, either, slimeball.’
Hikari sighed heavily as she came down the stairs from her room. She was not looking forward to watching Shinji’s renewed ‘testing’ that morning.
Her disposition lightened when she saw Touji standing behind the inn’s desk.
"Oh, you’re wearing your armor and sword today," the boy said with a hint of unease.
Hikari nodded. "I really don’t feel right without them on for long anymore."
"Will you be wanting dinner tonight?"
"I don’t think so. What they’ve got me doing doesn’t leave me with much of an appetite. But another hot bath would be nice, though."
Touji blushed a little. "I-I’ll have it ready whenever you ask."
‘He’s so adorable.’ "I’d really appreciate that." She started out the door but then turned back. "By the way, do you really think I’m pretty?"
"I am surprised to see you here, Ermita," Gendo said as the other handler’s small dark figure emerged from the Committee’s chamber. "Why are you not out in the field?"
"The situation is quite grave, as you’re about to find out."
Gendo nodded knowingly as he headed into the meeting.
"Where’s your shadow?" Ermita asked.
"Rei? I sent her to stay in the dorms."
Ermita chuckled. "That should make for some interesting moments."
"Yes, it should," Gendo replied as he went through the door. He stepped into the thin shaft of light in the room’s center with a scowl as he thought about why, as one of the few fully human handlers, he was not permitted to look upon the Committee when it was in session.
"Why have you called me here?" he asked gravely. "You know the importance of my current task."
"That task is precisely why you have been summoned," came a voice out of the gloom. "All timelines we have been considering for the Project must now be set aside, at least temporarily."
"For what reason?"
"We have recently lost contact with Numbers 41, 32 and 18," said another voice.
"That is regrettable, but I fail to see the significance."
"Number 41’s district was along the edge of the Southern Desert."
Gendo nodded. "I see… And the others?"
"Their districts lay along the most direct route from there to here."
Gendo began to pace. "So you think they have sent a scout of some sort?"
"That is our conclusion," said a third voice.
"And how do you propose we engage him?"
"Lagash lies along his presumed route… You already have Number One and Number Four at your disposal there."
"Unfortunately, there has been no real progress on Rei’s part of the Project, so she will have to fight in her normal state."
"You do not sound like you think that will be enough."
"She is perhaps the most powerful warrior in our annals, but, no, I cannot say with confidence that she will be up to the task, even with the help of Number Four’s considerable abilities."
"We anticipated that you would feel this way," said the second voice. "We have therefore already summoned the single digits we thought might be able to arrive in time to assist."
"Numbers Five, Six and Nine. However, it is unlikely that they will all arrive in Lagash in time, if any of them do."
"Have you sent for anyone else?"
"No. We are of the opinion that any warriors other than single digits would simply be fodder for this intruder."
Gendo again nodded thoughtfully in agreement. "And just when do you anticipate the scout’s arrival?"
"No more than a week from now, perhaps sooner."
"Then I cannot afford to waste any more time here," Gendo said and turned to leave.
"Do not go just yet. We have one more directive for you."
"Whatever happens to Lagash, do your best not to take any casualties. We are shorthanded enough now as it is. We cannot afford to lose any single digits to this ‘scout’, especially warriors such as the Eye and Number One."
"And if this scout therefore gets past us?"
"We are preparing to evacuate the Headquarters temporarily. If their scout makes it this far he will find no one here. We doubt he will linger long under such circumstances."
"A prudent strategy," Gendo said as he again began to leave.
"One other thing," said the first voice. "Why do you think they have sent this scout at this time?"
"They must know something of our plans against them."
"And how do you think they learned of them?"
Gendo stopped in the doorway. "It would seem there is a traitor at work," he said grimly and then left.
"Yes, there does indeed," said the third voice.
"Do you think it could really be Gendo?" asked a fourth.
"We have long suspected he was working to his own agenda. Now, perhaps, we will finally see."
"Who’s that?" an eight-year-old trainee asked one of her elders. "She doesn’t look like a warrior, but she has a symbol."
The other girl looked over at the Claymore who was simply sitting quietly on the floor along a wall. "Oh, she’s a warrior alright, and not just any warrior either. That’s Number One."
"Number One? But she looks so strange. Is there something different about her?"
The older girl shook her head. "I don’t know, but both her and Number Two look a little different. Maybe it’s part of why they’re so powerful."
"No, she’s just a freak, that’s all," a third girl suddenly chimed in.
"Anna! Don’t say things like that. What if she hears you?"
"She doesn’t frighten me."
"You might be the strongest trainee now, but she’s Number One!"
"Feh. You’re just a coward. Watch."
Anna strode over to where Rei was sitting. "Hey, freak, feel like doing a little sparring?"
"Shut up!" Anna turned to face Rei again. "Well, do you?"
"I see no point to engaging in such activities with you," Rei replied disinterestedly.
Anna turned to the others. "See! She’s nothing! She won’t even fight a trainee."
Rei slowly stood. During her own time as a trainee she had learned that there were some slights that simply could not be tolerated. "You know my rank, do you not?" she asked evenly.
"Of course… I’m going to be your successor!"
"A bold prediction," Rei answered as she picked her sword up off the floor. "Let us see what you have to back it up."
"Yes!" Anna exclaimed as she grabbed a training claymore of her own. Smiling gleefully she charged at Rei, who easily blocked her first swing.
"That would have cut me had I not stopped it," Rei observed. "That is not how trainees are taught to spar."
"But it is how warriors fight for rank, isn’t it?"
"You seriously wish to contend for my rank?"
"Sure! What have I got to lose?"
"Very well, then." There was a blur of motion and suddenly Rei was standing behind her foe. Anna’s shriek filled the dormitory as her sword arm hit the ground.
"That is what you have to lose," Rei answered. She then nonchalantly kicked the severed limb over to her opponent. "I suggest you reattach it before it is too late."
The rest of the trainees stared slack-jawed as Rei shook the blood from her sword and returned it to her back.
"Is there anyone else who wishes to test me?"
"Rei," Gendo said with a scowl. "There was no need for you to have injured that trainee. She had a very difficult time reattaching her arm."
"She challenged me for my rank."
Gendo sighed. "I suppose I should be glad you only cut off her arm," he said, his thoughts going back to the first time someone had tried to take Rei’s rank.
It had been soon after she had first become a warrior and had been given her initial rank of Number Seven. The girl she displaced, Rita, had taken umbrage at losing her rank to a newcomer, especially without a fight, and had confronted Rei.
"I’ll show you what it takes to be Number Seven!" Rita had shouted.
Still somewhat naïve and not wanting to fight a fellow warrior, Rei had simply turned her back and begun to walk away. This had only served to send Rita into a rage.
"You can’t ignore me!" she had yelled. She rushed at Rei and cut off her sword hand before she could even grab her blade.
"The fight is mine!" Rita had said triumphantly, only to see Rei draw her claymore with her left hand.
Moments later Rita’s head was on the ground. Rei’s rank was soon raised to Number Five as a result.
"I did not mean to kill Number Eight," Rei said, guessing at her handler’s thoughts. "It was just the way the fight unfolded. She left me little choice."
Gendo frowned. He did not like it when Rei lied to him.
"Just don’t let it happen again. The organization has a hard enough time keeping its ranks filled with warriors as it is, without you injuring them."
"As you wish."
Following Gendo, Rei soon found herself in an area of Sutafu that she had only visited briefly twice back when she had been made a warrior.
"I have not been to the armory since I was first outfitted," she said. "Why have we come here?"
"To see how your new equipment is coming along."
Rei nodded. ‘I should have surmised that,’ she chided herself. ‘He did say something about it on our way from Lagash.’
As they proceeded, Rei noted that the whole area was abuzz with activity, mostly men loading various things into horse-drawn carts.
"They are preparing to leave," Gendo said as he noted Rei’s curiosity.
"We can talk about that later, for we’re here," he said as he turned into one of the doors.
Rei followed and found the large room filled with all manner of paraphernalia, some the likes of which she had never seen before.
"What is this place?"
"This is where the Organization researches and develops new equipment."
Soon a short, stocky balding man Rei recognized as Que, the armory chief, came hurrying towards them. "Gendo, sir! Gendo, sir! This way! This way!" he said, gesturing for them to follow him. He then led them to the very back of the room, where Rei could see several unusual outfits hanging on the wall.
"How many do you have ready?" Gendo asked.
"Only just this one," Que answered, as he picked up some folded clothing. "We made it the same size as what she currently wears."
"I suppose that will have to do," Gendo said curtly as he took the clothes and passed them to Rei. "Put these on."
Rei looked at the black shirt and pants she had been given. "A new uniform?"
"Yes," Gendo answered.
"Would you like somewhere to change?" Que asked.
"That is not necessary," Rei said as she began to strip.
Blushing, Que turned around until she was done.
"The material feels different," Rei observed as she gently stroked one of her sleeves.
"Have you ever seen the uniforms worn by warriors who can extend their limbs?" Gendo asked.
Rei thought for a moment. "Yes. If I remember correctly, Number Five and Number 19 have that faculty. Their uniforms are black over their arms and legs."
"That’s right," Que answered. "Your new uniform is made out of the same material, which can stretch to a remarkable degree. It keeps warriors who can extend their limbs from shredding their uniforms every time they use that ability… Even though it is quite expensive to make, it saves the Organization a great deal of money in the long run."
"I cannot extend my limbs. Why do I need such a uniform?"
"We wanted to give you something to wear that will survive any transformations your body may undergo when you awaken," said Gendo.
Rei nodded in understanding. "That is sensible."
"Now come this way," the man said as he headed off again. "We’ve got your new armor ready as well."
Rei was actually disappointed with what she was given. "It is the same as my current armor, only black."
"That’s not quite true," Gendo informed her. "The steel is of a much higher quality. Again, it is hoped that it will be able to survive any changes to your body."
"And speaking of higher quality steel," Que said, "The best is yet to come!"
They then went over to an area where several claymores were hanging on the wall.
"Take that one down and tell me what you think of it, Rei," Que asked, pointing. "We’ve taken the liberty of already putting your warrior’s mark on it."
Just looking at the blade Rei could tell the sword was extremely unusual. "It is quite light," she said as she took hold of it.
She swung it around with increasing speed and deftness for a minute. "It handles very well," she concluded.
Que nodded. "Would you mind giving me your own sword?"
Rei drew the sword from her back and handed it over. She watched as Que secured it in a vise.
"There is nothing extraordinary about your current sword," Que said. "It’s a standard-issue warrior’s blade… Now, try striking it hard with your new sword."
Puzzled, Rei brought the new sword down as instructed. Gendo smiled in satisfaction when Rei’s old blade shattered. "Impressive."
Rei inspected her sword and found it had not been damaged in any way. "How is it able to perform like this and yet be so light?"
"It’s made from a very, very special steel imported from a land far to the east," Que told them.
"I did not know there were any other lands across the Great Waste," said Rei.
"And you are not to mention the existence of such places to anyone," Gendo said gravely, as he gave Que a disparaging look for having mentioned them at all in the first place.
"I understand," answered Rei.
"Um, anyway," Que then continued. "The steel in this sword is light but incredibly strong and resilient. It can even hold a much sharper edge than the steel we make here. Our being able to work it at all is an advancement we take great pride in. Indeed, we call it our ‘progressive’ blade."
"Will all warriors be given such a sword?" Rei asked.
"Oh, no, no, no… At least not for the foreseeable future. This steel is incredibly difficult to come by and costs a fortune! We’ve only been able to make four of them!"
"I see," said Gendo. "I want the other three swords and whatever additional materials you have for us loaded into a horse cart. Mark them accordingly. We’ll be leaving with them first thing in the morning." He turned and started out of the building. "Come, Rei."
That evening as Rei walked through the door of the dormitory, Anna accosted her.
"How could you do that to me, you fucking bitch!" the girl screamed.
Rei regarded her with distain. "You knew my rank and yet you challenged me for it. You also knew that warriors do not fight over rank the way that trainees spar." She began to walk past the younger girl. "You have only yourself to blame."
Anna grabbed Rei by the shoulder and spun her around to face her.
"What?" Rei asked icily. "Instead of being angry you should consider yourself lucky."
"L-Lucky? You cut off my arm!"
"I could just as easily have killed you… Regard this as an important lesson in your training: Do not overstep your abilities. That path will always lead a warrior to ruin."
Rei pulled herself free and headed into the building without another word.
"One day… I will kill you," Anna muttered.
Later, as she sat preparing to bed down for the night, Rei had another visitor, the eight-year-old who had witnessed her duel with Anna.
"What do you want?" Rei asked indifferently as the little girl stood at the foot of her cot, looking at her with undiluted adoration.
"I want to know how to become a great warrior like you."
Rei turned her head to regard the girl. "Wanting to be as strong as you possibly can be is an admirable desire for a warrior to have."
The girl beamed.
"How did you come to be here?" Rei asked as she removed one of her boots.
"I-I’m like most of our sisters. A youma killed my family."
"So, you were brought here as a slave girl."
"And, now, would you like to get away from this place and be a normal human again?"
The girl shook her head. "I want to kill as many youma as I can… for them."
Rei smiled slightly. "You have the desire and the motivation. Keep them in mind as you train. If you do that and work your hardest you will grow strong."
Again the girl smiled. "Thanks," she said and started off, but then turned back. "Can I ask you something else?"
"Yes, but I do not promise to answer."
"Did you come here the way I did?"
Rei shook her head. "No. For as long as I can remember I have been part of the Organization."
"But what about your family?"
"I never had a family." ‘Until recently,’ Rei added to herself.
"So, in that way," Rei continued after a moment. "You already have an advantage over me as a warrior."
"You have the memory of your family to spur you on, but I have always been nothing more than a soldier. I fight solely out of a sense of duty. It is what I am."
The girl nodded thoughtfully. "I think I understand."
"Is there anything else you wish to ask me?"
"Why do you look so different?"
Rei was taken aback by the question. None of her sisters had ever dared to ask her before now. "I-I do not know," she managed. "I have always looked this way."
"So your hair and eyes didn’t change when they put the youma in you?"
"I do not remember that happening. I was very, very young… Perhaps that is why I look the way I do."
"So you are a special warrior."
"I am anything but special."
"Well, I think you’re really special," the girl said. "Thanks for talking to me."
"Wait. Before you go, tell me your name."
"I am Rei. I hope we can fight together someday as warriors."
As midnight approached Asuka looked out the open window of her room. ‘Good. It’s gone cloudy. That’ll hide the moon and help keep me from being seen.’
She checked the straps on her black body suit and short cape, and made sure her two long knives were firmly in their scabbards.
As she hurled herself out the window she caught a quick glimpse of her reflection in the glass. ‘My eyes have gone back to being silver. That means I have all my powers again. Damn pills.’
Bounding along the rooftops towards the huge sandstone temple at the city’s center, Asuka noted that the streets were completely deserted. ‘Not even any patrols to watch out for… People must be really scared.’
When she got within a few blocks of the Temple, however, she saw that the situation there was very different. ‘It’s surrounded by guards… Stupid. Protecting a building and ignoring the streets where people actually live.’
She settled down in a secluded corner of the roof she was on. ‘Can’t risk going any closer with all those guards. I’m sure to be spotted. I’ll have to start my search from here.’
Sitting still she quieted her mind to see if she could feel her quarry’s presence.
‘Nothing,’ she concluded after a short while. ‘It’s not nearby.’ She sighed. ‘I wish Hikari was here. She’d probably have been able to pinpoint where the youma is from outside the city walls.’
She stood again. "No use bitching about that now," she whispered to herself and set off across the rooftops once again.
Several hours later, having worked her way out from the area of the Temple in a spiral pattern, she returned to her inn.
‘Fucking waste of time that was,’ she concluded sourly as she bolted the window. ‘This city is huge… In the morning I’ll have to go see the client and see if he can give me any useful information, otherwise it could take me forever to find the youma.’
Shortly before dawn, Anna crept through the dorm as quietly as she could, claymore in hand.
‘She won’t notice me when she’s asleep,’ the trainee thought as she headed towards Rei’s bed. ‘I just have to keep my yoki in check.'
Even in the dim light Anna’s youma-enhanced eyes could clearly make out Rei’s form as she lay on her side on the thin mattress.
She raised her blade. ‘This is what you deserve, bitch!’
She brought it down with all her might and neatly sliced the bed in two.
An arm wrapped sinuously around her neck from behind.
"Is there no end to your foolishness?" Rei whispered in her ear, seemingly unperturbed.
Rei shoved Anna to the ground. "I should kill you. You have become an annoyance."
Anna sprang back to her feet, sword still in hand. "Is that all you’ve got to say? I nearly had you!"
Rei shook her head. "It is surprising that a trainee as supposedly strong as you could be so oblivious. It is a wonder you have survived this long."
Anna screamed in fury and charged.
Rei easily dodged her blade and punched her in the gut as she sailed past.
"Do you understand yet?" she asked as she stood over Anna, who was now curled up gasping on the floor. "I do not even need my sword to defeat you."
Rei picked up her new claymore and put the tip to Anna’s neck. The girl hissed as the razor-sharp edge bit into her skin.
"It is unfortunate, but killing you now would cause a commotion that would unacceptably delay my returning to my mission, and I cannot allow that," Rei said as she pulled her sword back. "However, the next time you try to attack me I will slay you, orders or no orders."
‘Merchants Guild,’ Asuka read as she looked up at a building’s façade in the bright morning sun. ‘I should probably have gotten here earlier.’ She shook her head. ‘Right. And just when would I have gotten any sleep?’
Asuka was not pleased about the office she was directed to. Even without her usually-heightened senses she could smell its occupant before she walked through the door. ‘Yuck,’ was all she could think when she saw the corpulent greasy-haired man who had sent the request.
"What brings a Northerner like you to Per-Aat?" he asked.
‘God, are they all so suspicious here or what? Eww… And he’s leering at me too!’
"I was told that I had to see you for the permit I need," Asuka said after taking a deep breath to calm her urge to lop off his head.
"Well, that depends on what business you want to do here. Where are you from?"
One edge of Asuka’s mouth curled into a smile as the man went pale.
"T-That means you’re…"
Hikari couldn’t help but grimace as she saw Shinji collapse to the ground once again. It had become clear that his testing had moved on from ‘fatigue’ to ‘complete exhaustion’ sometime during the morning.
"Don’t you think he’s had enough?" Hikari asked. "If he hasn’t responded by now, what makes you think he ever will?"
"I’m beginning to agree with you," Ritsuko answered to her surprise. "I think it’s now pretty obvious that mere physical strain is not going to give us what we’re looking for."
"Then we can finally stop?" Shinji asked hopefully.
"I didn’t say that. There are still a few avenues we have yet to explore."
"Like what?" he asked, crestfallen.
"You’ll see… tomorrow."
"So we’re done for the day?" Hikari asked with relief.
"Yes," Ritsuko said. "I’ll leave it to you to see the boy back home."
"My God!" Misato exclaimed as Hikari helped Shinji through her front door. "What have they done to you?"
"Just more of the same," Shinji replied as he tumbled into a chair, all his energy spent.
"I’m sorry," Hikari said. "I asked them about giving up, like you wanted me to, but Ritsuko apparently still has things she wants to try."
Misato sighed. "Yeah, I’m not surprised… Damn her."
"Hopefully tomorrow will be the end of it. I can’t see Shinji being able to take any more than that."
Misato nodded. "That’s what worries me."
Hikari decided she couldn’t face Shinji any longer and headed for the door. "I’m really sorry about all this. If I could stop it, I would."
"It’s not your fault," Shinji told her.
"But it is the Organization’s, and I’m a part of it."
"Don’t be too hard on yourself, Hikari," said Misato. "We know you’re doing everything you can for Shinji."
"If only it were enough," Hikari mumbled to herself dejectedly after the door had shut.
Asuka moved through the now-quickly-thinning market crowd as she waited for dusk to fall. ‘Good thing this cape goes to my ankles… If anyone saw what I was wearing under it…’
She milled around inconspicuously as everyone else headed home before the curfew. After a while she slipped into a dark alley she had noted earlier.
After checking to see no one was watching her, she leapt up onto one of the adjoining roofs to hide until nightfall.
‘That giant slug of a man told me that the killings were centered around the area of this market… No wonder the Merchants Guild was concerned enough to send for the Organization. It can’t be good for business to have a youma walking around.’
As darkness fell Asuka was not surprised to see patrols of soldiers moving through the streets. ‘Just as I expected… At least they do sweep the city before they settle down to guard their precious temple.’
Soon, though, the patrols were gone and darkness settled over the city.
Asuka again tried extending her senses. ‘Damn it! I can’t feel a thing. That last pill I took hasn’t worn off yet.’
She sighed in resignation. ‘No sense sitting around up here then. Time to use myself as bait.’
She jumped back down into the alley and headed back out into the street. ‘I’ll start by working my way out from the market just like I did with the temple last night.’
For over an hour Asuka walked slowly through the city. There were no patrols to disturb her on this moonlit night. To her it was almost as if she had the place to herself. Every now and then she would stop and try to feel the youma’s presence, but it was to no avail.
She was thinking further dark thoughts about the yoki-suppression tablets when she thought she spied a figure in the shadows.
"What are you doing out?" a deep voice rumbled.
"I suppose I could ask you the same thing."
The tall, hulking figure stepped out into the street. "Why, I’m looking for dinner," he said with a smile.
Two of his fingers suddenly shot out towards Asuka.
‘Yes! The youma!’ she thought with delight as she easily dodged the attack.
"You move pretty quickly," he noted. "But it won’t help you… You’re mine."
Asuka flicked off her cloak. "Guess again," she said tauntingly as she drew her two short swords.
"My, what an unusual outfit… But don’t think for moment that those blades frighten me."
Again he shot his fingers out towards Asuka, who effortlessly deflected them.
"That all you’ve got?" she asked snidely.
"You are a strange one, aren’t you? Pity, but I’ll probably have to kill you before I eat your entrails."
"The only thing you’ll be eating is steel," Asuka said as she charged towards the youma. However, her movements, though still superhuman, were far too slow for her to reach him before he jumped aside.
The youma laughed. "Pathetic. Now die!"
He swatted Asuka with the back of one of his hands as she went past, sending her flying against a nearby wall. Then, before she could right herself, the fingers from one of his hands shot towards her.
"Ahhh!" Asuka screamed as two of the fingers hit home, one piercing her side and the other going through her leg. She brought one of her swords around to cut them off but the youma easily pulled them back before she could strike.
"I like seeing blood," the youma quipped as it moved towards her. "I’m sure yours will be especially sweet."
Asuka forced herself up. ‘Damn it. I’m Number Two! I can’t let this pissant win!’
"Oh? You’re still able to stand? How can that be?"
Asuka grinned ferally through the pain. "Something wrong?"
"Nothing that can’t be dealt with."
Anticipating the timing of the youma's attack, Asuka charged under it instead of leaping to the side to avoid it. "My turn!" she said as she swung one of her blades, neatly slicing through one of the youma’s arms.
"What the hell are you?" the youma cried as his purple blood spewed from the wound.
Asuka smiled as her eyes changed back to silver. "Why, I’m a witch," she said proudly as she felt her yoki begin to surge through her once again.
Her eyes turned to glowing gold and she leapt into the air. "Time to die!"
"You… You’re a Claymore!"
"You only just figured that out, stupid?" Asuka asked as she passed a blade cleanly through her target’s neck.
"That was a little too close for comfort," she concluded as she landed.
The next morning Hikari once again found it difficult to will herself out of bed. The thought of watching what was, to her, quickly amounting to torture made her limbs feel leaden as she walked through the streets of Lagash.
She arrived at Shinji’s door and knocked halfheartedly.
"Hello, Misato," she said morosely when the older woman opened the door.
"Hikari," she answered in a similarly subdued tone. "Shinji will be ready in a minute."
Far too soon for Hikari’s liking she found herself back outside the city watching Ritsuko put Shinji through his paces for the day. The greatly increased levels of verbal abuse that Ritsuko had decided to heap upon the hapless boy this morning only served to upset her further.
"Is this really necessary?" she asked Maya as the failed warrior made some notations in Ritsuko’s logbook. "All you seem to be doing is making him suffer needlessly."
"The protocol was designed to be very thorough," Maya answered with more than a hint of embarrassment. "The stakes of the Project are too high for any part of it to be slipshod."
"And just what are the stakes really?" Hikari asked pointedly.
"Perhaps the survival of the human race."
Taken completely aback by Maya’s answer, Hikari fell silent.
She remained that way for most of the rest of the morning, until, after a yet more sparring, Ritsuko suddenly slapped Shinji.
"What did you do that for?" Hikari asked pointedly as she jumped to her feet. She rushed over to Shinji, who had fallen to his knees in tears.
"Are you alright?" she asked as she knelt over him.
"Yeah, I-I’m okay," he answered weakly.
"Get on your feet, you little twerp!" Ritsuko barked. "If you think I’ll go easy on you after that dismal performance, you’re sadly mistaken!"
Hikari had heard enough. "Must you yell at him like that?" she asked sharply as she stood. "You’ve already tortured his body; do you have to torture his psyche as well?"
"You should be quiet and do as you’re told," Ritsuko responded coldly. "Like a good soldier."
Hikari grabbed the hilt of her sword. "I’m putting a stop to this right now!"
"No, you are not," came a deep voice behind them.
Hikari wheeled around to see who it was.
"F-Father," Shinji stuttered as he stood. "Father," he repeated more forcefully as his hand tightened around his trainee’s sword.
Hikari’s eyes went wide. ‘No… I did not just feel that, did I?’
Sorry that this chapter took so very long. Real life, etc, etc. I plan to start work in the next chapter once I finish the final chapter of Rei-Bane. If the next chapter of this fic takes anything like as long to finish as this one I think I’ll have to just give up on the whole thing.
As far as I can remember, we never learn the name of Touji’s sister in NGE, so I kept it that way here.
As for Rubel dressing Asuka up like a whore, Clare makes a reference to this sort of thing in the manga, where she tells Raki that part of her training for undercover work involved learning to "smile like a prostitute."
Clearly, the Organization is the analogue of SEELE in this story.
Like Hikari, Rei has also been hardened by her life as a Claymore. I don’t think the NGE Rei would have paid any attention at all to being taunted, regardless of her prior experiences. This Rei cuts a girl’s arm off. Of course, for a Claymore that’s usually only a minor inconvenience. Offensive types can reattach limbs. Defensive types can regenerate them.
Claymores in general seem very antagonistic towards each other. Most seem to always be spoiling for a fight, especially about rank.
In the Claymore manga we see Alicia and Beth wearing all-black uniforms. When Alicia returns from her awakened state Rubel notes that her uniform saves the Organization from the expense of having to give her a new one all the time. Likewise we see that Helen had a uniform that is black on her arms and legs, and which could also survive her extending her limbs. Here I’ve just surmised that the black fabric in both of their uniforms is made from the same ludicrously elastic material.
Yes, Que’s name is a play on Q from James Bond. After all, they’re both in charge of making the cool gadgets.
I’ve outfitted Asuka much like Clare was for her undercover mission in Rabona.
In the manga, Rosemary/Rosemarie is Number One until Teresa replaces her.
Chapter 79 of the Claymore manga has thrown a bit of a monkey wrench into the overall plot I had in mind for this story. I'll have to think about how to accommodate it, or not as the case may be. I've made one change to this chapter because of it. I honestly don't see yet how Claymore 79 fits into the timeline the manga has already laid out.