Neon Genesis Evangelion Fan Fiction ❯ Evangelion: Inochi no Ki ❯ An Afternoon Interval in the Life of Ayanami Rei ( Chapter 3 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Chapter Three: An Afternoon Interval in the Life of Ayanami Rei

Rei sat down on a bench near the basketball court and pulled a book out of her bag. She carefully opened the book to where she’d left off (she had no need for bookmarks, she remembered page numbers perfectly), and began reading. She wasn’t especially interested in the book today, but she needed something to keep her busy until Shinji-kun and his friends arrived.

Surprisingly, they did not. She checked her watch sometime later. Half an hour had passed. Rei frowned to herself. Katsuragi had said “a moment”, hadn’t she? Rei sighed and stood up.

Every day the boys came here to play, she was sure of that. She also knew (quite certainly) that they only didn’t go when Shinji or Toji was ill or otherwise engaged. Since Toji hadn’t mentioned anything to Shinji that day…

What on Earth could be keeping Shinji so long? She’d come to watch him and everything.

She rose angrily, stuffing her book into her bag, and marched away, disappointed. Still, she reminded herself, today was Thursday, and only the second day of the school year. Shinji would play basketball again, and she could cheer him on then.

Kei did not see it that way, however. “How could you give up so quickly?” she asked when Rei related the story to her.

“Half an hour is quick?” Rei did not understand her sister sometimes. Most times, really.

Kei sighed. “Okay,” she admitted, “So maybe you did wait awhile, but why didn’t you just follow Toji? You could have known for sure that way!” Kei always managed to be enthusiastic about these things. No matter what emotion Rei’s twin had, she had it twice as much as would be expected. Happiness, sadness, anger (very rarely, but on occasion). Rei sometimes wondered if, somehow, Kei had not just her own emotions, but Rei’s as well.

“I did not think it would be necessary,” Rei admitted. She sat down at the dining room table carefully. “I see our parents still aren’t around,” she remarked.

Kei shrugged her shoulders. “Haven’t seen ‘em,” she admitted. “I expect there’s some big research project or something going on. They’re always busy this time of year anyways.”

“They’re busy no matter the time of year,” Rei corrected.

“Yeah, fine,” Kei responded. “So they’re busy all the time. What’s the big deal?”

Rei had no response. She couldn’t say exactly what it was that bothered her about her parents’ constant absence, but there was something about it. Something that didn’t make her feel very comfortable. Unlike the parents of Shinji and Asuka, hers were quite distant. She rarely saw them, even during holidays.

Kei didn’t seem to be bothered. She cooked, she made Rei clean, they somehow kept the apartment intact from day to day. With no reason to spend much time there, neither of them really stayed there either. Kei found dozens of activities to dive into; Rei hid herself in her books. In fact, they barely saw each other, they were so out of contact.

So Kei was hardly surprised when Rei stood up and announced “I’m leaving for awhile.” She didn’t even ask where Rei was going off to. Rei couldn’t even be sure herself until she saw Shinji’s apartment building.

She walked into the apartment building and down the hall. She passed only one person, a woman dressed all in black. Rei hardly paid her attention as she knocked on the door. The woman stopped at a door and pulled out a key, fumbling with it.

Shinji opened his door. “Oh!” he exclaimed in surprise. “Ayanami!”

“Shinji-kun,” she said. The woman down the hall was still struggling with the key in the lock. Rei vaguely wondered why she was having so much trouble. “Is it alright if I visit awhile?”

“Er, of course…” Shinji said. “It’s a bit short notice, but I’m not doing anything anyways.” He smiled and moved aside so she could enter.

“Thank you,” she said. She looked around as she entered. The hall was not especially impressive, containing nothing but a few simple decorations and Shinji’s jacket, holding some active electronic in its pocket (she could see a faint glow). Shinji paid it no mind. Down the hall, the living room was visible. Rei couldn’t help but smile a little when she saw the pictures on the wall of the three Ikari’s. A proper family. The sort of thing she didn’t really have.

She was just about to comment when they heard a crash outside. Shinji rushed to the window, Rei a bit behind him. Nothing.

Shinji frowned. “Weird,” he remarked. “I guess some kids threw something against a wall nearby.”

Rei nodded in agreement. “So…” she said. “Those are your parents?”

Shinji nodded. “Yeah… I think they work for the same company your parents do. They’re busy tonight,” he added. “I suppose yours are too?”

“They generally are.”

“Both of them?” Shinji asked in surprise. “Usually Dad is around to hang out and stuff, even if Mom is busy.”

Rei shrugged. “I’m used to it,” she said. She sat on the sofa awkwardly. “So… um… what do we do now?” she asked.

“I guess we hang out,” Shinji answered. “Wanna play a game?”

Rei nodded. “That sounds nice.”

Shinji went to one of several bookshelves in the room and pulled a board down from it, placing it gingerly in the center of the floor. On the board was a bag, whose contents Shinji poured out onto the floor. Black and white game pieces were soon in a pile, and Shinji began separating them by color. Rei helped.

“What game is this?” Rei asked.

Shinji seemed amazed Rei didn’t know. “It’s Go. You’ll place a black stone down, then I’ll place a white stone down, and we’ll keep doing that in a way that’s designed to surround the other’s pieces.”

“Uh…” Rei couldn’t quite see what Shinji meant.

“Well, if there was a white stone here…” He placed one at a random spot on the board. “…and then you had black stones to its left, right, above and below it, I’d have to take my black stone off the board. We play until there aren’t any more places to put stones.”

“I see,” Rei said. “What a strange game… Who taught it…” she trailed off. Shinji was looking out towards the hallway, like he expected someone to knock at the door. “Er… Shinji?”

He turned back to her. “What? Sorry…”

“Who taught you how to play?” Rei repeated.

Shinji grinned. “Dad did, when I was young and he didn’t work so much. Now though…” he frowned a little. “We don’t play so much.”

Rei couldn’t think of anything to say, so she instead placed a black stone on the board. Shinji looked down at the board for a moment, and then placed a white stone down. The game began.

Rei at first thought that Shinji was going a little too easy on her, but then she realized he kept making bad plays because he spent all of his time staring over at the hallway. After a game of this, Rei became quite frustrated and wondered if she should leave.

Soon, the artificial lights were the only thing still illuminating the world beyond Shinji’s window. “Perhaps I should go back,” Rei said. “It was most pleasant,” she lied, “but we have school tomorrow.” She rose up. “And school Saturday morning… Perhaps that afternoon…?”

Shinji grinned. “Yeah. We can hang out again,” he said.

“Very well. Goodbye, Shinji-kun,” she said, walking through the hall past the decorations and the jacket and stepping out the front door. The hall beyond was poorly lit, as was the area close the apartment building. Rei shuddered slightly. This place seemed much creepier at night, and she was quite relieved to get to the streetlights by the road. From there, she began her walk home.

At night, the city was mostly deserted. Rei was vaguely aware of someone behind her, and so she hurried, but she wasn’t concerned. Probably just another nighttime pedestrian.

When she felt a rush of air and a sudden pressure on her neck, she realized she was wrong. Then the attacker lifted her off the ground with just one arm! His fingers felt so brittle and thin Rei was amazed he was strong enough. Or, she would have been, had she not been panicking. The attacker spun her around adeptly.

She looked down at him. He seemed to be one of the homeless; thin and empty, his ribs visible despite the clothing he wore.

“Ayanami Rei,” he whispered. “An honor to meet you.”

“H- how… do you… know my… name?” she rasped out. He didn’t seem to actively strangling her, but breathing seemed harder than usual.

His neck tilted. He leaned in and sniffed a little. Rei shuddered. She wondered what had possessed her to go wandering alone. She knew what would happen next.

“Put her down!”

The man turned. Rei couldn’t quite see her savior, but she knew who it was. Shinji!

And then Shinji stepped into her field of view. He was wearing the jacket she’d seen hung up in the hall, but the glowing object wasn’t in his pocket anymore, it rested in Shinji’s hands. The glowing object was a simple pistol, shining in the moonlight, similar in design to a Jericho, although it bore no identifying marks. Rei wondered for a brief moment where he’d gotten it from, and how it could glow.

The attacker scoffed. “That’s all?” he asked. “A kid with a gun?”

He let go of Rei. She fell to the ground in a heap. She rose quickly, of course, but she felt too shocked to do anything but watch.

And, to her horror, Shinji fired the gun. The man… simply wasn’t where he’d been a moment ago. He was now a few meters away. Impossible. He hadn’t had time to move…

The man charged eagerly. Rei could see the bloodlust in his eyes. She felt too dizzy to even wonder why he’d be so eager to attack two children.

Shinji’s eyes were wide with terror and he fired quickly. This time, the bullets from the gun connected, but only to the man’s leg. The attacker stumbled horribly and nearly fell over, but he regained his balance.

Shinji had already retreated to a safe distance. Both had forgotten about Rei in their life and death struggle. Rei wished she could do something, but… She knew that without a weapon of her own, she’d only get in the way of Shinji’s bullets, or become a hostage, or worse.

How frustrating to feel so useless.

Shinji continued to fire his gun, but most of his bullets missed or hit the man in such a way that it hardly could be damaging. The man, meanwhile, wasn’t having luck getting any closer to Shinji. A stalemate. Rei wondered what would happen when Shinji ran out of bullets, but he never did.

But then, between the bullets and the charges and the expletives and Shinji’s frantic yells, the battle suddenly, and horrifically, shifted. The man jumped into the air, seeming to defy gravity with how long he stayed in the air, and then came down on Shinji hard. The gun was knocked away, Rei couldn’t see where.

And the attacker grabbed Shinji, holding him up like he’d held Rei up, but it was clear he was strangling Shinji. The boy struggled desperately, but he soon passed out, and the man tossed him aside, before turning back to Rei.