|The 2nd try
Author: JimmyWolk PM
Sometimes, destiny offers people another chance. Sometimes just to undo small mistakes. Sometimes even to avert the end of the world. But sometimes, the price for another chance is higher than anyone could guess...Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Chapters: 13 - Words: 211,044 - Reviews: 288 - Favs: 478 - Follows: 177 - Updated: 07-04-08 - Published: 07-04-03 - Status: Complete - id: 1413558
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer- Author: "No, it's not mine. And this -sniff- mean guys at gainax said -sob- I can't have it." Author runs away, crying.
Jimmy Wolk watches him ashamed. "Damn, why does he always pick me as his avatar..."
The 2nd try
Chapter 1: The 12th
Shinji Ikari, Third Children and designated pilot of Evangelion Unit-01, had just reached a new sync-ratio record.
And as Rei Ayanami suspected, the former holder of this record, known as Asuka Langley Soryu, wasn't very pleased with this. So she didn't pay much attention to the rants of the Second Children, who made obviously ironical statements about the 'great, invincible Shinji' while holding herself; swaying in front of her locker.
Instead, Rei finished changing from the plugsuit the pilots were supposed to wear during their time in the entry plugs of the EVAs or the test plugs, into her casual school uniform. As soon as she was done, she went silently for the door of the female pilots' changing room, whispered "Sayonara" and left.
With the First Children gone, Asuka could finally release all the feelings that tensed up the last hours in a powerful...
She still had problems to play this charade in front of everyone, and it seemed to only grow harder. She wasn't sure if she would be able to keep it up much longer at all. Not while these thoughts disturbed her mind; thoughts of all the things that happened... or will happen soon.
Lost in her worries, she failed to notice someone entering the room, sneaking up to her and suddenly embracing her from behind; encircling her arms with his own.
She tensed up noticeably as she felt the touch, even though (or maybe just because) she knew exactly who the stranger was.
"Hey," the intruder whispered and gave her a small peck on the cheek. "You're alright? You're kinda..."
"Shinji, what the heck are you doing here?" she fizzed nervously, not turning around.
"Wha- what do you mean?" the surprised Third Children uttered dumbfounded, "I just wanted to see..."
"What if someone sees us like this?"
"Rei has already left and I doubt she has seen me," he assured, now more confident. "Besides, who would dare to enter the domain of the great Asuka Langley I..." He stopped, as they both tensed at his mistake. "...Soryu while she's changing."
"Baka, this is NERV we're talking about," she scolded. "You know they have security cams everywhere."
He raised an eyebrow at her somewhat exaggerated theory. "In the girls' locker room?"
"I wouldn't be surprised," Asuka huffed in his embrace. "I bet these old perverts are ogling the screens every time we're getting dressed."
"I think you're getting paranoid," he chuckled a bit before leaning forward again. "But I admit they can be kinda persisting. So...?"
"So, to keep up our cover, I guess you give me no choice but to respond to this situation like I would have back then..." she declared calmly.
Shinji gulped as his eyes widened in fear. "You... you don't mean..."
Now Asuka turned her face around, showing a mischievous grin.
"YOU BAKA HENTAI!!" she screamed in rage.
The surprise of her sudden outburst send him backwards, what made him tripping over the bench and falling on the floor. However, Asuka didn't stop her assault.
"HOW DARE YOU??"
She kicked him, even though not too hard.
"SNEAKING INTO MY LOCKER ROOM!!"
She pulled him up and pressed him against the wall.
"TRYING TO RAPE A HELPLESS LITTLE GIRL, HUH??"
She raised her fist to strike. Shinji flinched, shut his eyes and prepared for the blow...
...that didn't come.
After a few seconds, he dared to pry one eye open to find her grinning again.
"At least wait till we get home," she whispered, gave him a small kiss and left, as if nothing had happened.
Shinji slumped down the wall and sighed.
"Five years and she still manages to scare me like that..."
After the latest sync-tests, most of the staff was already gone; the happy ones heading for home; the not so happy ones working elsewhere on their nightshift in the NERV HQ. Only two were still working on the results of the tests. Well, actually only one. Major Misato Katsuragi just watched, while Dr. Ritsuko Akagi did the work.
"So, anything new yet?" Misato asked bored, leaning against the wall as she sipped on a cup of coffee. Her face contorted into a grimace as long tepid liquid came in contact with the her tongue. A beer would have been much preferable now, but having witnessed Asuka's reaction to the day's results, she was somewhat reluctant to go home just yet.. She could only hope Shinji would survive long enough being alone with their hot-tempered roommate.
"Besides Shinji surpassing Asuka's ratio? No," Ritsuko answered plainly while looking through some printouts, "Nothing that would explain that boost recently."
"I don't understand why you're still making such a fuss about that anyway," Misato groaned rather childishly for a woman of her age and position. "I mean, something similar had happened while they were fighting the 6th."
The head of Project-E gave the Major a glare that seemed to say: 'I'm the one with the lab coat, you want to tell ME something?'
"That was something totally different," Ritsuko explained. "The fight had put them in a stress situation, and as far as we can tell, they synchronized with EVA-02 AND each other for a few seconds which caused that temporary boost of their sync-ratio. This time however, they had been separated in their respective EVAs and were under the usual test-conditions."
Misato still couldn't see the point. "So?"
Ritsuko sighed at the simple-minded Major. "So, it shouldn't have happened! And even if they managed to raise their ratios like that so suddenly, the immediate drop afterwards still wouldn't make sense. It's as though the synchronization had been suppressed at once."
Misato blinked in surprise. "Suppressed? By the pilots?"
That didn't seem to make much sense. Especially Asuka would never suppress something willingly she was so proud of. Then again, that mood she had been in lately...
"Or the EVAs," Ritsuko added quietly, interrupting her friend's thoughts.
'Still hiding secrets from me, huh, Ritsuko?' the Major glanced to her old friend but decided to drop the conversation. Instead she took a look at the watch.
"Wah! It's that late already? Shit! I've got to get home!" she declared, threw her cup of coffee almost over the doctor's desk and made a rush towards the door.
"Oh?" the other woman remarked grinning. "I had thought Kaji would pick you up from here."
Misato stopped dead in her tracks. "How do you...?"
"Or do you want to dress up for your 'date'? I thought it wasn't serious?" Ritsuko continued to tease, seeing her old friend paling even more.
"Eh... No, it's not! The... the children, yeah. They... don't know yet. I've... forgotten to tell them..." she fumbled for a plausible excuse, praying that the blonde didn't know that they had heard Kaji's call on the answering machine.
"Oh?" Ritsuko apparently didn't even think of stopping the teasing. "Why don't you just phone them?"
Misato cursed silently. "Uhm... our phone is broken?" she tried.
"They have cell phones, you know?"
"I... eh..." she trailed off, obviously caught. "You know; I hate you, Ritsuko!" she muttered and went out.
Rushing through the automatic door, she didn't pay much attention where she was going and thus almost ran straight into someone. A fuming redheaded someone, to be exact.
"Asuka, what are you still doing here?" she asked, somewhat annoyed to be stopped by this raging girl in front of her. She was late enough as it was.
" 'What am I doing here?' " Asuka repeated, growling impatiently. "I'm waiting for YOU to drive me home!"
"Why haven't you gone with Shinji?"
Wrong answer! The Second Children just gave her guardian a good ol' 'Glare of Death'; clenching her fists in fury.
'Ah, right, Shinji beat her – she doesn't like being beaten. Better not use the 'S-Word' for a while,' Misato thought, not knowing whether to be angry or to laugh at the behavior of the redhead. But remembering the time, she decided to do neither.
"Alright, alright, come on then," she commanded, motioning her ward to follow as she went towards the direction of which she hoped to find the garage where she had parked her car. "Let's get out of here."
"We're home!" Misato said as they entered the apartment.
"Welcome home!" Shinji's voice greeted back from the living room.
It had been a quiet ride home. Misato hadn't wanted to risk an argument so she stayed silent, while Asuka merely muttered something under her breath now and then.
Misato rolled her eyes. Just like now...
EVA-02's pilot kicked her shoes off and rushed inside while her guardian advanced to her room to get changed.
Nothing too special, of course! Kaji shouldn't think that she wanted him back or something!
Which was of course not the case!
Not at all!
It didn't take long until the first shouting distracted the Major's denials, barely damped by the thin walls.
"HEY, BAKA! WHERE'S MY DINNER?"
"Huh? What do you mean, Asuka?"
" 'What do I mean?' HOW STUPID ARE YOU? ME – WANTS – FOOD! Did you think the great, invincible Shinji wouldn't need to do such lower work anymore after beating my synch record?"
"I... I'm sorry..."
"AHH, there he goes again!"
Misato rolled her eyes at the sounds of cursing and shuffling, but couldn't suppress a tiny smile either. As annoying as a pissed-off Asuka could be, it was good to hear that, despite this whole synch-rate issue, everything was back to normal again. She had almost feared the girl would suffer a relapse after today – and even though she had never thought she would admit that, but she actually preferred how things were now to those weeks.
Still, it was probably for the best to to intervene before someone (or better said, Shinji) got seriously hurt, so she quickly chose a dress and changed into it before she went to stop the raging red storm.
"Listen..." she began as she opened the door to the kitchen, but trailed off immediately, a frown spreading over her face. Had they just smiled at each other?
"Aren't you done yet?" Asuka growled, standing next to Shinji and looking as if she was ready to strike, no matter what he would do.
"I'm sorry," he muttered. "It takes some time to cook, you know?"
"ARE YOU SUGGESTING THAT I'M STUPID?"
'Nah, must have been my imagination...' Misato sighed, massaging her temples.
Asuka switched the target of her anger as soon as she noticed her guardian, giving her a disgusted look. "Not only you're going out with Kaji, you're going like THAT?"
"Huh?" Misato looked at herself. She wasn't wearing anything too revealing; just a plain, dark blue dress. It was getting a bit tight, though. "Ha, you're just jealous that Kaji didn't ask you out," she figured and turned to her other roommate. "Shinji, what do you think?"
As he looked up from his cooking, she decided to tease him a little. Posing in front of him, she let her hands roam seductively over her voluptuous curves, even leaning a bit down to give him a good look on her cleavage. His face got bright red in an instant, quickly averted his sight and resumed his work. It was just too much fun to tease him.
"I... I think you look fine, Misato," he stammered.
"Figures..." Asuka mumbled–if it was even possible–more peeved than before. "Hentai!"
By now, Shinji had finished his cooking and began filling the plates when the door bell rang.
"KAJI!" Asuka bolted up and stormed off towards the door.
"Wasn't she SO hungry just a minute ago?" Shinji and Misato sweat-dropped, before following their roommate.
"Hello, Kaji!" they heard the exuberant voice of the redhead.
"Ah, hello Asuka," the unshaved agent greeted the enthusiastic teen that was already clutching his arm. "Hi Shinji. Hello Katsuragi." He showed his trademarked heart-breaker smile. "You're ready?"
"Say Kaji, do you really want to go with her?" Asuka cut the Major off. "I would be a much better company for you..."
"Eh, another time, okay, Asuka?" Kaji offered, trying his best to keep his smile.
"We better get going," Misato interrupted, saving Kaji from this obviously awkward situation.
"Yeah, right. Just leave me alone with HIM..." the redhead grumbled, while Misato pushed Kaji back through the door.
"You two better behave. And don't do anything I would do!" she teased, waving good bye.
"Yuck! I wouldn't do anything like that with such a baka hentai even if he was the last man on earth!" Asuka grimaced, while Shinji seemed to ignore that comment.
As soon as the door closed, the Third and Second Children flung at each other, sharing a passionate, seemingly endless kiss. Without breaking off, they slowly retreated lurching to the living room and, after some careless steps, they finally tumbled on the hard floor; just missing the softer pillows. But neither of them cared right now anyway. When they finally broke it, none of them could remember if the fiery meeting of their lips had last minutes or hours, as they now lay still; tightly holding onto each other; panting heavily.
"I've... missed... you," Shinji gasped once enough air returned to his lungs to allow him to speak.
"I've missed... you, too," Asuka answered, still caressing the back of his neck. "We didn't have time for us since... well, THE kiss..."
He chuckled while she rolled her eyes at that particular memory.
"Well, you didn't seem too enthusiastic when I came for you today..." he tried his best to sound offended.
Asuka's only response was a light giggling.
But her smile faded soon, when she remembered what she had thought of before he had surprised her in the locker room.
It didn't go unnoticed to Shinji. "So, will you tell me now what's on your mind?" he asked concerned. "Do I have to remind you again that I'm supposed to be the depressed one?"
"Baka," she called him quietly, averting his gaze. "You know exactly what's on my mind..."
Shinji sighed and nodded slowly. He leaned closer and gently pulled her face back to him, so their eyes could meet again. "Hey, you know I miss h..."
"It's not just that," she clasped him tightly, quickly cutting him off before he could finish that sentence. "I was... I was thinking about tomorrow. It will be our first since then. And it just has to be this one of all."
"Shh," he tried to soothe her. "It will be alright, just like last time."
"The heck it was!" she spat, pulling back a bit. "You barley came out alive." He could see some tears dwelling up in her eyes. "And now you're going to do it again, just like that."
"Asuka," he brushed a few strains of her unrestrained hair out of her face. "We have already talked about this. There is just this way. The only other idea they had come up with was to drop almost 1000 N2-Mines on it. Not to mention with minimal chances of success."
"I know, I know..." she leaned her head against his chest, just enjoying the steady rhythm of his heart. Yet even that didn't seem to be able to ease her mind this time. "But what if it doesn't work? What if you..."
He silenced her with another kiss. "Then we should make the best of the few hours we have left for ourselves."
These were the last words that were said for the next hours, while the two pilots shared their closeness and their kisses; forgetting EVAs and Angels; forgetting NERV and school; forgetting friends and foes, forgetting guardians and pets; forgetting the past and the future; forgetting meals, chilled long ago...
"...nothing further. Approach carefully, observe its reaction and, if possible, lead it outside the urban area," Misato's voice droned through the comm.
Thinking of the sphere-like Angel waiting in the city, Shinji tried to relax in his seat as much as he could. But that was easier said than done. He had suffered so much by piloting the EVA and not just by the fierce attacks of the Angels. This thing had caused him pain in so many ways already. But as much as it had hurt to fail and to be hated despite only trying to do his best, to be ignored for anything that didn't involve this damned beast, not to be acknowledged by his father at all... that all seemed almost ridiculously insignificant now compared to the pain that...
'Not now,!' he chided himself. 'I've got to concentrate now!'
"Alright, alright, Misato. I think Shinji should go ahead!"
He smiled faintly as he heard Asuka's voice, dripping with sarcasm. Even though they didn't remember their exact conversations, they had managed to keep the essence of them, as far as he could tell. At least until now.
"You know; that's a job for the man with the highest sync ratio and all," she continued slightly menacing after a short pause.
'Shit! Forget to play my part!' he scolded himself.
"Eh... I don't think, Shinji should..."
"It's all right Misato!" he blurted, interrupting his guardian. "I'll do it!"
A collective "Huh?" went through the comm.
"I'll show you how to do this, Asuka!" he declared.
"Wha- What was that??" As to be expected, EVA-02's pilot didn't sound very delighted at the 180 degree-turn of the 'expected' result of her mocking.
"Ehm, Shinji..." the Major tried to interfere.
"Misato, haven't you said yourself: 'You are number one!'?" he gave an assuring thumps-up to the camera.
"No buts!" he interrupted his commanding Officer maybe a bit too drastic. "As Asuka said: 'That's a job for the one with the highest ratio!' "
"Men!" Asuka muttered, "Unit-02, providing back-up!"
"Unit-00, providing back-up as well," Rei confirmed.
He couldn't help but grin as he imagined Misato's reaction at the Children's rebellion.
"Are you there yet?" Shinji asked. EVA-01 hid behind a building, watching the zebra-like textured Angel around the corner.
"Not yet," Rei's plain response came over the comm.
"You know an EVA can't move that fast!" Asuka scolded. "Damn!"
'Ah, yes, her cable got stuck now...' he reminded himself.
The farther they advanced, the more nervous he got. He had to do it soon; otherwise he would endanger them as well. It was kind of strange; he could almost swear that he was more anxious than he remembered to be.
He suddenly noticed his hand clenching and unclenching.
'Looks like old habits are indeed hard to break,' he mentally slapped himself as he stopped the almost mechanical movement.
He took a deep breath.
He hurled his EVA around, took aim and shot at the sphere-shaped Angel...
Hearing Shinji's screams for help as his EVA was sucked into the shadow, Asuka had a hard fight to maintain her calm.
'Relax! He knows what he's doing,' she told herself, gritting her teeth as his last scream was abruptly disrupted with static. 'At least, I hope he knows what he's doing...'
"Asuka! Rei! Rescue Unit-01! Hurry!" Misato's order finally came over the comm. The pilot of EVA-02 rushed forward, watching the ground carefully.
"Asuka, watch out!" Ritsuko warned, but she had already leaped up as soon as she saw the ground blackening. She got a hold on the nearest building, using her axe and Prog Knife to climb up to its top. After she reached the currently safe roof, she turned to the direction where EVA-01 had stood just a few minutes ago.
'You better come back!' she thought as she watched the city sinking more and more into the shadow. 'Or I'll come in and drag you out!'
"Asuka. Rei. Withdraw..."
"Now it's just the two of us!" Shinji grinned at the white space in front of him.
Gripping the controls, he prepared to fight his way out. He forced the EVA's right fist forward, trying to hit the Angels surface, to grasp it and rip it apart.
But it just went through an empty space.
"What?" His eyes widened in surprise and a growing panic.
He brought up his AT-Field, hoping for any effect on the 12th.
"DAMN IT!" he cursed as he quickly switched to life-support mode. But having used so much energy, he knew he wouldn't even have 10 hours left.
"Damn it, mother, how did you do it? Come on!" he pleaded, as if that could get any reaction out of his unmoving Unit. "You've done it the last time! Do I really have to die before you can help me?"
As to be expected, he received no answer...
Asuka resisted nervously tapping her plugsuit-clad feet. With the Angel "shadowing" a large part of the city, NERV had hastily shifted their combat staff and necessary equipment to a provisional post just outside of Tokyo-3, from where they would strike as soon as they analyzed situation and came up with a plan to defeat the enemy and, at least as far as the currently commanding officer was concerned, rescue Shinji. But once the command changed... The redhead barely swallowed a sigh.
She currently stood silently near Misato; leaning her back against the railing of the outlook platform. The Major was watching the city while discussing the current situation with Hyuga and Aoba, while Asuka did her best to resist the urge to grab some binoculars and watch over there, to the spot where Shinji had vanished as well. She knew she was actually supposed to mock him by now, but she just didn't feel like it. It had already taken long enough to make it obvious that his plan hadn't worked.
'And now he doesn't have much time left. Damn it, baka! I've told you it's too dangerous!'
"...supposed to set us under pressure," Misato finished, lowering her binoculars when she noticed the Second Children staring at her feet. "Asuka?"
"Hmm?" The redhead tensed as she was suddenly addressed, but didn't change her position.
"You're worried?" her guardian asked surprisingly serious.
Asuka, however, tried her best to snap back to her role. She couldn't let it slip again... "Worried? Ha! Why should I be? It was his own fault that he's trapped in there!"
"I haven't even mentioned Shinji..." she gave a tired smile, before frowning again. "Yes, it is his own fault, since he acted without permission. And I'll have a word with him as soon as he gets back..."
Shinji looked at the watch as the last minutes passed by. He could barely keep his eyes open; his sight dimming due to the missing purification of the LCL. The persisting smell of blood filled his nose.
"So this is it, huh? I've really thought I could finish it off easily this time," he confessed. "And instead, I'm the one who is going to die. I'm sorry, Asuka, for not keeping my promise..."
That last thought grieved him even more.
They had lost so much recently; each other was all they had left to depend on. And now, he would take even that from her...
He glanced at the watch just as it reached the last zero.
Yet he smiled.
He could feel her again.
"Mother..." he whispered. "Are you helping me now?"
Despite not being able to see or hear her; he could feel her affirmation.
"...dropping 992 N2-mines within 1/1000 second, while using the AT-Fields of the two remaining EVAs..."
"MAJOR!" Hyuga's excited voice interrupted Ritsuko's briefing. "Something's happening with the Angel!"
Everyone bolted up at the news, rushing to the monitors to get a view at the announced spectacle. What was displayed at the screens shocked most of the attendees.
Two hands, obviously EVA-01's, tore the now blackened sphere in two. Blood sprayed the surroundings like a crimson rainfall as the purple giant fought its way out of 12th, ripping it literally apart. As it landed crashing on the street, the EVA looked more like a bloody demon than a savior of mankind. The deep, horrid howls of the berserk Unit just confirmed this image, as it managed to send shivers through the spines of the whole NERV staff, even while being several miles away from the beast.
Only one failed to hide her smile.
'About time, baka!'
"Shinji! Shinji? Shinji!" he heard Misato calling. He squinted his eyes to adjust to the change of brightness as the plug was opened. He felt his guardian embracing him immediately.
"It's okay... Misato... I'm fine..." he said tired with half-closed eyes.
"Didn't you say you would have a word with him?" he could hear a female voice in an sarcastic tone behind the sobbing Major.
As he moved his head to the entrance, he saw Asuka smiling at him. Weakly, he managed to smile back, before he passed out.
Slowly, he opened his eyes. He knew immediately that he was back in hospital when he saw the blank ceiling.
'It's really been a while...' he grimaced.
As he turned his head, he saw Rei sitting by his bed, reading a book while waiting. She soon noticed his awakening, but remained silent for several seconds
"You can rest for today," she announced eventually as she took her satchel from the floor and stood up. "We will handle everything for you."
"Thank you, Ayanami. But I don't think that will be necessary."
"Yeah, I'm fine," he nodded approving.
"Well, that's good for you."
Shinji shivered involuntary at her familiar words, but it was unlikely that the blue-haired girl had noticed on her silent way out. As she left, his mood instantly brightened though; he actually hardly suppressed a laughter, as he saw Asuka jerking away from the opening door.
However, once Rei was out of sight, the redhead entered Shinji's room. Seeing him almost bursting out laughing, she began to growl.
"And what's so funny, Third?"
"You know you didn't have to do that," he answered chuckling.
"I was just maintaining my role," Asuka tried to explain, but she didn't sound very convincing.
At least not to Shinji. "You just can't help but to eavesdrop, can you?"
She glared at him as she came closer. For a while, she just stood there by his bed; hands on her hips. The unusual silence and her uninterpretable facial impression filled him with dread of what was about to come.
Without any warning, she slapped him.
"That was for making me worry!" she explained angrily.
Just as surprising, she then crawled onto the bed, leaned over to him and gave him a deep, desperate kiss.
"And that was for coming back alive," she whispered as they finally parted after many seconds.
"Hmph. You were afraid of cameras in the girls' locker room and then you're kissing me like that in a room that is monitored for sure," he teased, but she just pointed up. Following the direction of her finger, he saw the remains of the security-camera, hanging shattered from the ceiling.
"They will notice that, you know," he told her, chuckling.
"Not yet," she shrugged, smirking. "So, I guess it didn't work like you intended, huh?"
"Weeell, not exactly..." he flashed a wry grin, but it faded soon. "I'm sorry for worrying you."
"Shh... It's okay now," she soothed him, while she gently ran her fingers through his hair. "Weren't you afraid in there?"
"A bit, yes. But deep inside, I knew mother wouldn't let me die," he admitted as he hold her even tighter. "I'm actually more afraid of the next one..."
A/N: First of all: Yeah, I know, fics like this has been done before, but I think I've planned a few twists and turns, that will make this one at least a bit unique (If you haven't figured out yet, what kind of fic this is, well, I'm not gonna tell you ).
And ain't I evil? Leaving you with a bunch of questions and I'm not going to answer some of them before chapter 11 (of 13)!
I may add, despite working on several fics at once, I will focus on this one, so I hope it won't share the same sad fate of discontinuation as many fics out there...
For questions regarding my style, read my authors notes for "A Happier World".
So, what will happen in Chapter 3? Will the Angel take over EVA-03? Will Toji get out in one piece? Will he even survive? Or maybe he won't even be chosen as Fourth Children? And why am I talking about Chapter 3? Well, you'll see...
Revise A/N: I could have sworn I wrote these already the first time I revised the chapter. Guess not.
Anyway, in the wake of releasing the remaining chapters soon, I had to update this one a bit to fit better after "repeat" and decided to get some more errors out while I was at it (will also do some spell-/grammar checking for the other old chapters soon – I'm far from being perfect, but I like to think I've gotten better). It's pretty amazing to look back at this and see what four years can do. While this had always been my most serious attempt at fanfics, this chapter was still much closer to AHW/Ikaris-kind of humor and also characterizations... especially Asuka acted a bit too much like the PMS-biatch cardboard-cutout she's all too often portrayed as, at least while in her "role". Chapter 2 also suffered partially from this, but it fortunately degraded some over time.
I refrained from changing too much though – there are still some people new to this and we don't want to tell them too much, do we?