Neon Genesis Evangelion Fan Fiction ❯ Evangelion: Inochi no Ki ❯ The Second Move ( Chapter 8 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]
Chapter Eight: The Second Move

For a moment, it felt like his legs would give, and his lungs would burst.

It was him, he was running – stumbling down, his breath coming out in quick successions, through his mouth, gasping as he forced himself to keep moving forth though the night that covered the streets.

Shinji stopped, clutching his sides as he felt blood oozing out of his wounds again, before his eyes focused once more on the steps in front of him, a small sigh of pained relief coming out as the boy realized he was in the abandoned building where his mother had taken him before.

“Mom!? MOM!?”

Shinji’s voice was shrill; the scream echoing against the concrete pillars and walls making the scene feel all the more surreal as the young man grunted, feeling the searing pain from his injuries once more, clutching his side as she felt the dampness of his shirt, thick, like syrup, but the color was a dark red, deep dark crimson that made the side of his shirt stick stubbornly against the boy’s skin.

“She’s dead.” The voice said and once again, Shinji felt a cold shudder down his spine, once more hearing the disembodied guttural sounds here and there and everywhere at the same time, behind and around and to the left and right.

“M-Mom?” Shinji whimpered as he followed the soft echoes of gasping, dying breaths stumbling to his knees and crawling amongst the fetid water pooled there, before his hands touched Yui’s face, as her eyes stared back at her son with a wide, scared look, the skin feeling cold and clammy and slick.

“I just told you, she’s dead.” The shadow whispered again, and Shinji closed his eyes as he felt the sickening laughter in it, taunting him, mocking him with the knowledge there was nothing he could do. “And she’s not the only one…”

Shinji’s heart stopped, literally; it was as if a cold gust of wind had suddenly come, covering the young boy when he realized what the voice was implying, when he saw beyond his mother’s dead body, how Yui’s hand was inches away from Naoko’s.
“A-Akagi-san?” The boy said in a small voice as he wobbled towards where the older woman laid, her normally white, immaculate lab-coat now sporting an ever growing stain of dark red.

“And now, to kill that which you hold dearest.”

It was then that Shinji heard her whimpers; the struggling, labored breathing that sounded as if something was crushing her windpipe, before a sickening crunch made her spasm, as her head lolled to the side, looking like a broken doll.

And then Shinji woke up, screaming, and bathed in sweat.

“Just… a dream?” The boy said softly as he stared at the hand he had used before to cradle his head, hearing the loud rumble of thunder and the soft sound of the falling rain in the distance and up close, before he fell down on his bed once more, covering half of his face with a folded arm, staring up at the ceiling in his room, a ceiling that was something he had seen so often and still felt alien and unfamiliar to him.

The sound of his phone chiming brought him out of his reverie, and Shinji noticed it was only fifteen past six, groaning as he closed his eyes and let his head fall softly against the fluffy pillow, while his phone kept flashing the incoming caller’s name.

Rei.

Shinji looked at the phone, unsure of what to do. Should he take it? Maybe she was calling to check on some homework. But Rei was smart, so that wasn’t likely. Maybe she was calling to check on him, but they had said good-bye about an hour ago, and Rei wasn’t the needy, clingy type.

Maybe she’s in trouble?

Shinji’s eye grew wide as the thought crossed his mind, before he fumbled for the phone, but it was already too late; the call had ended and all that greeted him was a dial-tone that echoed in his room.

---

Rei sighed as she walked home from the corner store, slightly irritated that Kei had decided to leave and go “beta test” with Nagisa, even while a small part of her enjoyed the unexpected quietness that she had gained with her sister’s departure.

The minutes had been spent doing her homework and, once that had been finished, she had walked around the small efficiency apartment making sure things were put away, before a low rumble had made her look outside the window.

Then, it started to rain.

There was something about the rain; the way it sounded, the calming effect is seemed to have, the smell of wet concrete permeating on the Ayanami household that was soothing for Rei, making her walk out to the living room terrace, extending her arm, stretching her hand, catching the drops from the air as the rain started to become a persistent drizzle, not forceful, more like a wet misty gust of wind, dampening the blue-haired girl’s body and clothes, but bringing a small smile to her face.

The loud thunder in the distance, coupled with the way the rain began to pick up made Rei turn inside and go to the bathroom, getting herself a towel and padding herself dry before she looked at the phone.


Rei always liked it when it rained. In fact, when asked, Kei would sometimes say her sister was only happy when it rained; it took away the feeling of humidity and heat, it made the day more enjoyable, lulling Ayanami into a sense of comfort as it cleansed and washed away the dirt and the dust like it was washing away the sins of people, making hope grow anew.

But right now, at this moment, Rei felt a sort of longing, a desire so powerful to reach for the phone and call Shinji’s number, she saw as if it were from a different perspective as her hand did just that; slowly reaching for the small item, flipping it open, and pressing the buttons with such practiced ease.

Rei was holding her breath, not really aware or knowing why as she held the phone against her ear, not really sure of why she was calling, or what she would say, even as the only thing greeting her was the tone as the other line rang and no one answered, and Rei was still waiting patiently, even as the ringing kept going on and on, a million thoughts on in her head.

Because even if she hardly knew Shinji, she couldn’t stop thinking about him, finding herself drawn to the boy; staring curiously at his eyes, a sif they were trying to say something in words that eluded her, trying to keep up with him even if she didn’t know where he was going.

Slowly, Rei pulled the phone away from her ear, pressing the button to end the call, realizing that even if she followed without thinking, she didn’t truly know what Shinji felt, because she didn’t know how to ask.

Perhaps I should be more… open with him. Rei thought to herself as she looked at the phone before walking to her room to grab her toiletries with the intention to take a quick shower.

---

Asuka mumbled against herself as she stood under the arched hallway outside the building, watching the rain fall, adding insult to injury as she realized she’d have to wait for the rain to stop before she could leave this place, even though the professor had sent an e-mail to cancel the class.

The fact she had received that mail just as she had neared the building wasn’t funny enough, and neither had been the loud rumbling thunder that had been the preamble for the downpour that was now keeping her in here.

“Hey there.”

Asuka turned from her spot watching the rain fall to see the guy from her class approaching her, one hand jammed inside his jeans while the other held the strap of his back pack, hefting it against his shoulder and his mouth held a smirk and a half smoked cigarette, making the teenager wrinkle her nose at the smell of tar and nicotine and ashes.

“He cancelled the class.” Asuka said before turning back to see the rain fall down, while the he let out a small sigh and walked next to Asuka, sitting down on a bench near the wall, and Asuka could smell the smoke in his body, mixed with the sandalwood that was his aftershave, even if he still have a stubble, like a 5 o’clock shadow that somehow went well with the way his hair was tied in a ponytail, evoking the image of a bad boy who lived by his own terms.

“Wanna play a game?” The guy said with a twinkle in his eyes, and a playful smirk tugging at his lips before he pulled out a small folded board from his back pack, along with two small boxes and began setting them on the nearby table, turning to Asuka and motioning for her to come closer, which the redhead did after sighing, realizing the rain wasn’t going to let up anytime soon, walking across the cobblestone floor and sitting in the proffered chair.

“You know, you’ve never even told me your name.” Asuka said after a long wait, making him shrug his shoulders while pulling out another cigarette from the pack, putting it between his lips and lighting it before inhaling, taking his time and enjoying the moment before looking at Asuka’s eyes with the smirk firmly in place.

“You can call me Kaji.” He said finally, still sporting the same smirk, as he made the first move.

“Is it like checkers?” Asuka asked, frowning as she looked at the board, not really that familiar with the game he was playing.

“No, this is called Go.” Kaji said simply as he made a pass with his outstretched hand, signaling the two boxes in front of him “I’ll let you chose first.”

Asuka frowned at the pieces; they were small and round, colored in black and white and for some reason the redhead felt the need to dig inside them, running her fingers and palms over the small round pebbles, the feeling of the stones coming out as soothing for the girl, picking it up between her nimble fingers and placing it on the board, making Kaji chuckle.

“Ok, if we’re gonna play, I need to teach you some etiquiette.” He began as he grabbed his own piece and placed it on the board.

“One; It’s considered respectful of the opponent to place the first stone to the player's upper right-hand corner.”

“Really?” Asuka said as she watched Kaji move his piece, placing it just where he had said, as the German teenager ran her hands across the small basin full of stones again, humming softly as she felt and heard the clickety-clack of each stone against another stone until Kaji placed his hand gently on top of hers, and still smirking his usual smirk.

“Yes. And even if it’s soothing and pleasant, doing what you do can be noisy and unnerving to one's opponent.” Kaji said as he motioned to Asuka’s hand, taking a gentle hold of it and making the redhead blush as she felt his hand on her own, so big and warm and strong.

“Now, Go is a game of strategy and anticipation.” Kaji began as he placed a stone on the board, making the sound echo in the small alcove they were in. “The object of the game is both to capture the most pieces, as well as to make sure you are in a favorable position to influence the game.”

Asuka sat there nodding as she watched Kaji move his piece into place before he turned to her and gave the redhead a small nod. “Go ahead, you move again.”

For some reason, being in the company of this strange man, playing this game with him, Asuka didn’t mind being in the middle of the rain.

And for the first time in a long time, her mind wasn’t thinking of Shinji and Rei.

---

Misato walked humming to herself along the corridors of school, drinking every now and then from her cup of coffee while making sure there were no students outside of their assigned classrooms, turning around a corner before she came face to face with Shinji, who judging from the expression in his face of pained labored breathing had just ran all the way from his place to school.

“Hey Shinji, you’re kind of late.” Misato said slyly as she took another sip from her cup, while Shinji simply nodded, still trying to catch his breath.

“What’s up? Lately you’ve been getting here by yourself.” Misato turned to ask Shinji with the same tone as they both began walking to class room 2-A. “Troubles with the neighbor?”

“No! I mean… Asuka… she just stopped coming over to wake me up.” Shinji said in what seemed like a neutral tone, devoid of any actual feeling, while Misato looked at the boy, before shrugging.

“Well, it’s not like you should worry about her, you could always ask Rei to wake you up.” Misato said with a satisfied smile, glad she could help her students in any way possible.

“Rei lives on the other side of town, asking her that would mean she would have to wake up about 2 hours earlier to get ready and come pick me up. Plus she and Kei walk home.” Shinji answered before adding the last part as if it was an afterthought.
Misato said nothing as she opened the door to Shinji’s room, letting the boy inside but not before whispering to him.

“We need to talk after school about your mission.”

Shinji looked at his teacher for a brief moment before nodding, quickly making his way inside, just as the class began, making his way to his seat while Misato walked in to check on the self-study session, making sure the students were doing exactly that, before she looked over at Asuka who had taken out a different book, working on some problems while checking some notes on her notebook.

“Hmm that doesn’t look like your math class work.” The lavender-haired woman said in a low tone of voice as she peered over Asuka’s shoulder. “Advanced differential equations? Is that your college course?”

Asuka simply nodded while chewing on the tip of her pen, not realizing this had made several of her classmates turn to the redhead, murmuring with themselves, commenting on the fact that the redhead was taking college classes, making Rei look neutrally at the redhead before turning to look at her own book of basic arithmetic and frown.

“Well, in that case, since all you guys are doing the self-study, get together in groups and help each other.” Misato said with a cheerful voice as she began to walk outside the room. “I should be back in a couple of minutes, so in the meantime, Miss Horaki is in charge.”

Just as the teacher was about to leave, however, she bumped into Nurse Akagi, both crying in surprise before Ritsuko nodded at Misato.

“I came to pick up the Ayanami siblings for a regulation test, as well as Nagisa.” Ritsuko said blandly, while Misato gave her friend an indecipherable look before blinking quickly as if catching onto something.

“Oh right! Rei, Kei, and Kaworu, please go with Dr. Akagi.” Misato said, prompting the three kids to stand up, Kei and Kaworu exchanging concerned looks while Rei shot Shinji a quick glance, before passively following the blond nurse.

“Alright, in the meantime, all of you keep studying.” Misato added before she too exited the room and the only sound that was heard was the sound of pages flipping, pencils and pens scribbling and the low hum of students conversing.

Shinji, sighed before he turned to his book, but he couldn’t stop thinking about Misato’s words, making the blue-eyed boy turn to look at Asuka every now and then, feeling the familiar sense of trepidation, almost like anxiety he always felt when doing that, like being in the verge of being caught, the muscles of his neck creaking with anticipation before he would quickly turn around to avert his gaze from the redhead, just in the exact moment as she would look at Shinji out of the corner of her eyes.

Until the sound of Asuka closing her book loudly made Shinji stop remembering, as the German-Japanese turned to Shinji with her eyebrows twitching in anger before she closed the space between them two, her hands firmly planted against Shinji’s desk-table while staring him down.

“If you have something to say then say it instead of staring at me, idiot.” Asuka said in a low growl, making Shinji blink quickly, opening his mouth in two quick successions before looking at the other students and shrinking down, but not saying a word, while she gave him a small sideway glance, before harrumphing noisily, turning back to her college class, her red hair flailing about.

The rest of the self-study time was spent by Shinji forcing himself to work on his book and not look anywhere else.

---

“Naoko? Are you here?”

Yui’s voice echoed inside the chamber as she entered, looking for the eldest Akagi, yet unable to find her in the vast space that was the inner sanctum; the cavernous space seemed to be endless, no walls seemed to be needed to hold in the dimension, no angles or lines seemed to be present, and the only thing that stood up was the tree itself, standing tall and proud, with a glimmer of light outlining it, green pasture covering a small diameter around it, the only color in the otherwise gray room.

That and the person that was kneeling next to the tree.

“She’s not here, Yui…” Kyoko Soryu said in that heavily accented voice of hers, turning over from her spot at the base of the tree, near the small growing buds while the brown-haired woman walked towards her, hands digging holes in her pocket.

“I thought it was her time to check for the tree’s progression.” Yui said unaffectedly as she looked down at the pulsating little sprouts, remembering that one time she had gone to a nearby vineyard, and witnessing how the grape stalk would entwine around the reefs, becoming one with the other.

“She had to go talk to the committee.” Kyoko said simply, like she always did in these cases; not another word more than was needed to explain something; giving the auburn-haired German-Japanese woman an air of focused professionalism, of drive, something that was much more obvious by the professional cut of her hair, bangs as short as Yui’s, but with enough length behind her neck to tie it into a small ponytail, taking off her glasses as she walked to the nearby computer station, typing the data in with quick keystrokes, never missing a beat.

Yui frowned while Kyoko worked, wondering why the older Akagi had been summoned by those men… why not her, as it usually was, before she felt the tingling sensation in her fingertips once more and remembered why she had come in the first place.

“Kyoko… what do you know about Eva contamination?”

Soryu blinked quickly, looking up from the computer terminal.

“It’s a possibility given the stress the conduits face every time their evas are used, given the theoretical approach that their mind, body and soul become one, and the eva becomes an extension of their will.” Kyoko replied detachedly, before her face lost its stern, librarian-like appearance and her voice became more and more lively.

“The closest we ever came to witnessing something like that was with Ritsuko, when she attempted to use the mirror; the strain became too much for her and the mirror cracked, and the ensuing situ–”

“I know what happened in the aftermath.” Yui cut her neighbor and co-worker quickly, in part because she knew once Kyoko began talking about the other projects, she would lose herself, submerged in a tide of facts and figures and knowledge and theories that the other woman liked so much; structure and purpose for a mission handed out from generation to generation given form without any of the mothers actually knowing full well how the chosen children would be affected, or for how long.

But also because there was a sense of kinship amongst Kyoko and Yui, both the brightest members that had been handpicked by the chairman himself to compliment Naoko Akagi as the new generation of mothers, now that the time was close.

And there was also the soft, barely-there, whisper of fear that tickled Yui’s ear, soft-spoken voices that only she could hear, that carried so much unknowns in it Yui wasn’t even sure what would happen if she was, indeed, infected by her son’s eva.

“Then what’s this about?” Kyoko said as her voice and face slowly regained the calm composure of the scientist she was, looking at Yui as she put her glasses back on and took down the small ponytail, running her hands on her hair and cracking her neck before sighing blissfully as she felt the tension leave with every small snap and pop of bones and muscles.

Yui faltered for a moment, looking left and right before she slowly took out her hands and sighed, realizing this had to be shown to Kyoko, otherwise, the other woman would think this was a simulation scenario that had been run.

“The first time Shinji fought Sachiel… I intervened…” Ikari began in a small voice, rolling up the sleves as Kyoko’s eyes began to grow bigger and wider with each expense of skin shown, noticing the black little blemishes, like sun-spots or freckles that appeared in Yui’s forearms, going past the bend of her elbow, from her wrist all the way up as Yui slipped the coat from one shoulder to show the barely-visible marks reaching around her shoulder, and travelling below the shoulder blade while Kyoko stood up and got a closer look, looking attentively to the skin, inch per inch so as not to miss something crucial.

“Looks like sunburn.” Kyoko said after a while Yui nodded but said nothing, before the German-Japanese quickly changed back to her scientist persona, looking for causes and effects.

“Does it hurt?” Kyoko asked in a very cold, clinical tone, almost as if she were taking mental notes at every possible answer, while Yui shook her head as a response. “Are there any symptoms? Have you felt lethargic, sleepy, losing consciousness?”

“N- Yes…” Yui said, catching herself quickly. “I mean, it’s nothing big, I’ve just been feeling somewhat lightheaded, but I assume it was from the workload… When Gendo saw it, he said it looked like I had spent too much time out in the sun.”

There was something about the way Yui spoke, the way the words came out in a docile way that made Kyoko purse her lips; almost as if she were an older girl trying to comfort a playmate when she had scrapped her knee, unable to understand why she was crying if it was nothing huge.

But before the auburn woman could say anything, a small beeping alarm cut through the silence, prompting Kyoko to look up and walk to where the sprouts were, noticing one had began to vibrate and shake, pulsing with something inside, growing slightly larger, looking like a pale green eggplant that was twice the size it should be and was about to burst before the sprout finally opened, a small tendril sliding out, quivering, before it became more and more solid, and after a moment, defined in appearance.

“What’s that?” Yui asked as Kyoko knelt and grabbed it, feeling the energy coursing through her, before she snapped it with a flick of her wrist, hearing the whistle and crack of the sonic boom it made before her lips curled into a triumphant smile that was part-smirk, just like her daughter would do so often..

“It’s an eva.” Kyoko said as she played around with the whip, admiring the way its shape became a fluid motion, going from limp to taut in the blink of an eye; changing, evolving… becoming a staff, then a whip, then a sectioned staff, bending at some parts before it coiled down at Kyoko’s feet passively, one of the edges peeking out and see-sawing to and fro, like a snake primed to strike.

“You know what that means.” Yui said softly as Kyoko patted the tendril as it behaved like a tame pet, almost looking for the caress of the older Soryu.

“Yes.” Kyoko said, even as a small shudder passed through her spine, feeling the energy of the eva as she imprinted on it, before standing up and patting her skirt, as the whip-like entity suddenly froze and then lay in a heap, all traces of life gone.

“The tree has spoken… it has chosen the new conduit.”

---

Ritsuko muttered as she felt her hands trembling once again, the reminder of the time she had been close to dying once again troubling her mind, feeling her fingers clench themselves tightly around the plastic cap of her pill bottle, whimpering as the loud buzz in her head became stronger and stronger.

“N-not again…” The blond cried softly as her eyesight began to grow fuzzy and distorted, the sound of her own breathing coming out as if it was being broadcasted on a megaphone, making the blood coursing through her veins sound amplified, like a jackhammer pounding against her skull.

Shouts… screams… a pressure like nothing she had ever felt. Too many thoughts, too many feelings… Something has to give; someone is trying to break it, something pulling her in. No. Don’t let get… please don’t let go! I don’t want to lose you! Please don’t let me go!

Shakily, Ritsuko managed to get the cap untwisted. Painfully she was able to make the two small tablets pour out before greedily taking them in her mouth, tilting her head backwards and opening her throat with practiced ease to swallow them both, breathing slowly, focusing on the air coming in and out as the pounding gradually subsided, and the school nurse finally managed to open her eyes wearily.

A cacophony of sounds, curses and shouts and damnation all around, a warm rush of air, like a typhoon going around her body, under her skirt, between her legs… intimate, dirty, feels like those times mother told me about, Shame… why is it so hard for me to see them both? Why didn’t you choose me!?

Staring straight ahead at the face of Misato Katsuragi.

She was saying something, that much was obvious given the way her lips were moving, mouthing Ritsuko’s name along with a question regarding her well being, while the blond numbly stared at her friend, unable to rationalize this concern into an answer.

A cracking sound, like a shell breaking apart… I’m that shell; it’s me… I’m pouring out, pouring in, I’m being taken. Don’t let go! I don’t want to let go! Please don’t let go! Stay with me! I can’t look at you! Don’t look at me! Stop staring at me! I don’t need your pity!

Before Ritsuko’s senses started to come back to her little by little.

“I’m alright.” Was all Ritsuko managed to say softly as she noticed her head was resting on Misato’s lap, the memories slowly taking the place of reality. Memories of that moment in time, the moment everything came tumbling down, like a house of cards so well-crafted and secure and steadfast all it took was one little gust of wind to make it fall down.

Misato held quiet, her eyes mirroring the turmoil in her soul, like they always did every time she remembered that moment, the moment she failed her friend, the moment she failed them all; an obstinate silence that seemed to anger Ritsuko more than any words she could ever say.

“I told you I’m alright Misato!” Ritsuko said loudly, making her friend flinch as she nodded, before the younger Akagi slowly rose up from Misato’s lap, lifting her hand to her forehead, relishing the coldness of the nurses office while Misato remained kneeling with her legs tucked under her.

“You still suffer from the contamination.” Misato said softly as Ritsuko stood up and walked to her desk, opening a small drawer and extracting a cold can of iced tea, pressing the already damp can against her forehead. “I thought you were getting better.”

“It’s nothing… sometimes when it’s too hot, I get them.” Ritsuko’s tired voice came after a moment of silence, while Misato stood up and sat in front of her friend with an indecipherable look in her face as both friends fell silent again, each with their own thoughts in their heads, silent, save for the even breathing patterns of each woman.

“Was there something you wanted?” Ritsuko said finally, flinching inwardly just like Misato did at her tone of voice, but keeping the outside exterior of steely cold resolve.

“Was there something in the tests you ran?”

“Yes, it’s being analyzed by mother as we speak, I sent her the data, but she’s saying we might need some time to know what is going on.” Ritsuko nodded as she clicked on her computer, frowning when she read the newest mail from Kyoko Soryu. “Looks like there’s a new eva.”

“Yeah, I read.” Misato nodded as she sighed, hearing the last bell ringing before she stood up and gave Ritsuko another look, only this time it was a different look, a guarded look, like a bronze shield trying to cover the mauve-haired woman’s soul before she finally spoke.

“Kaji contacted me a few days ago.”

Ritsuko held her blank stare and uncaring tone of voice, and Misato wondered for a moment if her friend had heard her.

“I thought he was dead.”

Misato shrugged as she stood up, a made her way to the door.

“Seems like he wants to be close to the conduits in some way.” Katsuragi said as Ritsuko rose as well, walking side by side, hearing and seeing the various students leaving their rooms, making their way to the ground level, ready to leave the school grounds, and Ritsuko noticed how every time Misato spoke about the former conduit, her fingers danced around the cross on her choker necklace, making the blond narrow her eyes.

“He walked away. It was his choice.”

Misato sighed and nodded in silence while Ritsuko pushed the memories to the back of her mind. Loosing count of how often she had done it for this day.

---

If this had been planned as a joke somehow, Shinji doubted he would be laughing or anything.

Asuka was ignoring him as she took out her shoes from the shoe locker, slipping off her slippers and putting them away, and Shinji was trying hard not to stare or breath or do anything, fully aware the redhead needed very little to launch herself in one of her infamous shouting benders.

So instead Shinji decided to wait for Asuka to either finish, or to approach him, because if there was one thing Shinji knew about Asuka Langley Soryu was that unless she wanted you to be close, you should watch your place.

Asuka, on the other hand was trying hard not to give into the familiarity that was having Shinji next to her, o staling to him like she used to do, of hanging out, joke and tease, bicker and smile at each other before she sighed and realized Shinji was, as per usual, waiting for her to take the first step.

Once an idiot, always an idiot.

“Are you going home?” Asuka asked out of the blue, making Shinji blink as he looked up from his school bag, staring at the redhead who was giving him a sideway glance with narrowed eyes.

“Uh… yeah.” Shinji stammered before he saw Asuka closed her shoe locker and turned to him, eyebrows knitted together as she crossed her arms under her chest, leaning against the row of shoe boxes.

“You’ve been standing there, looking like a moron and doing nothing.” The redhead’s bratty tone was clear, making Shinji jump on the defensive.

“I–I mean… I can be here if I want.” The boy said as she turned to his shoe box, opening the lid and hiding as much of his face as he could behind it. “I’m not doing anything wrong.”

“If you’re gonna stay around to talk with me the least you can do is speak face to face and drop the attitude.” Asuka said matter-of-factly, inspecting her nails. “You’ve been pulling out and putting in books you don’t even need for tomorrow or for homework, not to mention you’ve been staring at me.”

Shinji swallowed hard as he realized the ruse was up, closing the lid to realize Asuka was bending down her waist, staring into his eyes.

“It’s unnerving, and creepy, and makes you look like a stalker.”

Shinji blinked quickly, looking from Asuka’s eyes, to her lips, focusing on her face as a whole before the rustle of cloth made him stare further down, noticing her current pose made her shirt slouch forth, giving him a nice peek of the whiteness inside against creamy white ski–-

“You better not be staring down my blouse, or I’ll make sure you pay for it, perv.”

“I-I’m not!” Shinji managed to say in an outraged tone as he got up and checked his book bag once more. “Why do you always say things like those? It’s like you’re the one thinking about them!”

Asuka rolled her eyes before she walked away and Shinji followed, both kids slipping effortlessly into the routine they had stopped sharing for the past days with such an ease, it felt like a natural river running its course, a small smile blossoming on Asuka’s lips with each whiny tone Shinji made just as the boy smiled without realizing it which each snide comment the girl in front of him did.

“Yeah, yeah… You’re not a perv; You just stand there while a girl tries to be friendly and you stare down her shirt.” Asuka said as she got to the soda machine and held out her right hand while Shinji’s left went automatically to his pocket, extracting some change and giving it to the redhead as she purchased a lemonade, before wordlessly giving it to Shinji who accepted it.

“It’s not my fault you were flashing! You should have a tighter shirt.”

“Pig.” Asuka said as she took the can from Shinji and gave it a drink. “Always knew your secret fantasy was to see me in a tight shirt.”

“It’s…” Shinji began before he realized what was happening and slowly started to giggle before the giggle became a small chuckle, just like Soryu’s, both children unconsciously mirroring their actions with such synchronicity it seemed like it had been rehearsed over and over until it was drilled on their body.

Before Asuka’s laughter died in her lips, and the brightness in her eyes was reduced to nothingness as they harrowed into tiny slits.

Before Shinji heard Kei’s rushed chatter and Rei’s calm responses to her hyperactive sister.

Before Shinji realized Rei was staring at him, and he felt Asuka stand up and walk away, muttering something about having to go to school and just like that, it was all gone.

“Is something wrong?” Rei asked in a calm voice, while watching Asuka’s figure nearing the exit, taking a hold of Shinji’s hand and looking at him, making the boy blush deeply before he spoke.

“No. I was just...” Shinji trailed off before he shook his head, as if clearing his thoughts. “Let’s go.”

---

“I’m sorry, what did you say your name was?”

The young woman simply smiled a lovely smile, dull brown, almost black eyes, as dark as the clouds hanging over the city twinkling back.

“You can call me Asa-chan” came the lively response, followed by hasty fingers digging inside the coat and lifting her companion’s shirt, running her nails over his back enticingly, giggling childishly, staring with wide, curious eyes that gave Asa a child-like appearance, even more so when her blond hair ended in reddish-brown tips.

He chuckled drunkenly, squealing softly as he felt her hands pressing over his shoulder blades, warm skin against sweaty skin while Asa pressed her cheek against his chest, sighing softly.

“I’m bored. Let’s do something fun.” Asa said with a giggle as she pushed him down an alley, away from the populated street, ducking around a corner as she began to jerk lightly at his belt, desperation making it obvious what she wanted.

“W-wait a minute!” He said in a hushed, hurried tone as he looked around, trying to keep his belt on while Asa kept tugging at it.

“Come on! I need it! Give it to me already!” She whined, brushing her bangs away, using her mouth to steal away the protests before they even formed, making soft wet sounds that mixed with the low groans coming from her companion’s throat, which suddenly began to increase in tempo and volume, as his hips began to shake back and forth quickly, rapidly before his mouth opened without being able to shout anything, slumping on his back, while Asa got up, licking her lips.

“Distasteful.”

Asa smirked, without turning around, knowing full well who it was.

“Hey Arael, long time no see.” She said as her right hand flickered, transforming into a gray colored organic tendril that flashed with blinding light before impaling itself on the chest of who had, until a few seconds ago, been her companion.

“Don’t you ever plan on growing up, Shamshel?” Arael said with a bored tone as she floated to the ground while Shamshel pulled out a small compact mirror, checking her looks. “Are you still using that ridiculous name?”

“Hey, the best way to blend in with these meat-sacks is by becoming one with them.” Shamshel said in an unconcerned tone before turning to her sister, her back shifting, evolving into a set of rudimentary wings. “But I guess you’re right… the outfit gets tiring after a while.”

“Staying with these lilim has made you behave like them.” Arael uttered under her breath as she sighed shaking her head at her sister’s antics.

“If you came here simply to annoy me, save it.” Shamshel said swiftly, her arms once again shifting into the tendrils, shifting from side to side, almost as if they were twitching, unable to stand motionless.

“No… I came to check on your progress.” Arael said as she gave her younger sibling a sultry smile, sitting down in the air and crossing her leg, smirking. “Have you have made any finding where Ygdrassil is?”

---

He ducked his head just in the nick of time, barely missing the tree branch and the pointy leaves and thorns from scratching him, but he still felt the sharp graze of the bark against his cheek and the pounding of the blood against his heart, feeling the beating of that muscle against his chest, the air rushing though his lungs, as his legs groaned and complained demanding for him to stop and catch his breath even while the adrenaline in his body urged Shinji to keep running, to not stop, to keep going forth.

After he had seen Rei and Kei off at the train station Shinji decided to walk the short trek home, crossing through the nearby park, feeling the need to be alone with himself, to think, thoughts about the dream he had been having coming over and over, finally allowing himself to face the absolute terror he had felt, grateful he had the brought his jacket today as half way through his walk rain began to fall; thick, heavy drops like tears from the sky, at first a light patting sound against the grass and dirt and cobblestone that quickly became a rumble, loud and unyielding as the water drenched everything in sight, obscuring Shinji’s sight as he jammed his hands on the coat and pulled the hood over his head, walking across the muddy road, before he heard the round of someone running; quick pitter patters behind him, and Shinji turned to see who it was, only to see the road behind him vacant.

And then he heard the sound of running to his left, behind thick brushes, leaves rustling and water falling at uneven speed and Shinji realized this wasn’t some kid running to get home, this was something else, this was someone charging, not stopping for breath, running straight forth; the rustle of leaves and sound of rushing feet making Shinji stare at the space in front of him before he saw a silhouette cut against the falling rain, and Shinji realized he had to do something.

So he ran.

But Shinji was now feeling weak, and his breath was coming in short while his legs refused to keep on moving and the impact of the muddy ground against his knees felt like someone stepping on mashed potatoes, and whatever it was that was behind him was catching up and Shinji’s shout was caught in his throat, almost as if someone had poured sand on his mouth, muffling it, like a huge wad of cotton bulging against his vocal chords.

Fight.

The word came out of nowhere, whispered against his ear, burned against his eyes, etched on his mind and suddenly, Shinji felt a familiar rush of coldness on his right hand; something within waking up, pouring out from his skin like an oily blot, covering his whole arm, from bicep to elbow to wrist to fingertips.

And now it was expanding from his shoulder all around his neck and under his jaw, covering his chest, sliding down his navel, around his thighs and down his legs, absorbing his clothes, coat, pants, underwear and sneakers into the blackness, while the fingertips of his right hand kept growing and collapsing onto themselves, imploding around each other before defining the shape and size and weight and form.

Before Shinji held in his hand Eva 01, and his whole body, from neck to toe was encased in some sort of jumpsuit, contouring around his body as intimately as if he were naked, the portion on the back of his neck digging against his thin, fine brown hair, like wires crossing before two small bumps formed near the back of his head, peeking over the short hair.

Without thinking twice, without stopping to admire the change that had taken place in seconds, Shinji pulled the trigger and fired quickly at the origin of the rushing sound, the blasts of his weapon cutting with elegance against the rain and leaves and foliage, hearing the blasts impact against something with dull, dead sounds.

And then, from on top of him, the figure clapped slowly, making Shinji train his sights against the cloaked humanoid shape standing on top of the tree branch, as the rain slowly began to stop, the once deafening sound of water falling now a soft murmur that soon dissipated into silence, before the figure grabbed it’s hood and pulled it back.

“Well, at least you managed to make it cover your. You’re getting slightly good.” Kaji said with a somewhat mocking voice as he shook his head, letting his wet hair drop the excess humidity, before he slicked it back, collecting the length and tying it with something into a messy ponytail sitting at the base of his neck, easing his bangs back and jumping down, landing in front of Shinji with ease, before he stood up to his full height, looking down at the boy in front of him.

“You still need to train.”

Chapter 7
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