ULTIMATUM/I BEHELD A PALE HORSE, AND ITS RIDER WAS DEATH…
Instrumentality was bloody weird, Harry reflected to himself. Here he was, in some strange metaphysical ocean, naked, with an equally naked Rei straddling him. What was more, the flesh of their bodies was partially fused together. It would have been disturbing, nightmarish, but there was something about the experience that was pleasant, even erotic. He certainly felt more serene than he had for a long time, at peace.
And he realised he could see her memories, and she his. Not all of them, lest they be driven mad. But there was a unity of their minds, or at least an overlap.
"Is this Instrumentality?" Harry asked quietly.
"Yes. We are currently at its core, a Sea of LCL," Rei confirmed. "A fusion between human souls, one that will, unless we do something about it, encompass the entire world."
"…Is this what SEELE wanted?"
"Yes. All humanity fused together, their weaknesses made irrelevant by the pooling of their strengths. An immortal group consciousness. That is their final goal."
"…Huh." He looked around at the landscape around them, like being underwater. "…Nice as it is, well, it's a bit boring, isn't it?"
After a moment, Rei said, "Yes, it is. All my life has been leading up to this moment. I was expecting oblivion, and welcoming it. Or even if I became part of this…well, I would accept this. But you, and Shinji, and Sohryu…so many others…I find myself desiring more life. More experiences. Even if they bring pain. Because loneliness…I don't want to experience that ever again. I have you…and I don't want to be alone again…"
"…I don't want you to be alone, Rei. But are we alone here?"
"Yes and no. We're only maintaining our individuality temporarily. The Chamber of Gauf is opening, the souls of the living and the newly dead are mingling. Soon, Impact will cover the entire world, and reduce all humanity to primordial soup, and the souls will merge into one. But…with that power Third Impact can bring us…I think we can channel that into something else. We can save this world…but to do that, we need to channel that excess energy somewhere. And given that I am now one with Lilith, that I am effectively Lilith…I think we can go home…to your home."
Harry was surprised. "You'd do that?"
"You miss them, Harry. And you're afraid of what will happen if Voldemort is allowed to run free. And, well, I want to see your world too. A world untouched by Second Impact. Many of us do. I intend to take NERV over to your world, and from there, we can have a new beginning…"
Rei watched her prey with narrowed crimson eyes. The truth was, she wanted nothing more than to turn this person into a liquefied mess of LCL, but she needed them for a purpose.
So once her prey was alone (something that was difficult), she used the powers of Leliel, using a portal to bring him to her, and she gripped him by the throat. "Sshhh," she hissed at him quietly. "You are going to do something for me."
Her prey glared at her, and tried to say something, only for her to tighten her grip. "No. You do not speak. You listen. You may think because of your lineage, you hold more power than anyone. I think the same thing, only I am right. I could flay your mind with a thought, allow your sins to eat you alive, or I could liquefy your body, and pour you down a drain, and nobody would ever know what happened to you. I could even drop your body into a portal into a Dirac sea. Do you know what that is? No, your being a Pureblood precludes that, I would imagine. Think of a magical trunk, with no gravity, no air, no way out save for what I make. Nobody would find you. Now, I am going to talk, and you are going to do what I say. I have a message for the…thing that you and your father worship. I have a message for Lord Voldemort."
Crimson eyes met blue ones, the latter flashing in fear, loathing and fury. "I am not your messenger boy," Draco Malfoy choked out, before Rei tightened her grip.
"Yes you are," she hissed. "You will write a letter to your father. That's what you frequently threaten to do. 'Wait until my father hears about this'," she mocked. "Harry was so informative. In any case, you will tell Lord Voldemort that I am sick and tired of the killing. In exchange for sparing the lives of Harry and his friends, along with my allies, I will grant him the secret to immortality."
"How would a Mudblood know?" Draco sneered.
"NERV was working on it back home," Rei retorted. "I was the key to the secret. I will meet Voldemort at a time of my choosing. I will grant him the immortality he seeks, and in return, he will stop attacking my friends and allies."
"You don't demand anything of the Dark Lord, you stupid…GURK!"
"I can and I will. Now, run along bawling to your father, Draco. Or I will turn you into primordial soup."
She released him, and he scurried away in a rather undignified fashion. A nasal voice rang out from nearby. "A dangerous gambit, Ayanami."
Rei winced. She should have realised Snape would be nearby, as he emerged from a dark alcove in the corridor. "Back home, we engaged in missions with appallingly low chances of success. Or maybe you would like to relay the message yourself."
"Better that I confirm your words than act as a messenger boy," Snape said. "Draco will tell his father, who will relay it to the Dark Lord. But do you think you can best him?"
"Yes," Rei said bluntly. "No more will good men like Mr Weasley be killed because of this. I may not be able to purge Blood Purists from this country, but I can rid the world of the man they rally around." She looked over at the dark-haired man. "And what of you? Whose side are you really on?"
After a moment, the dour, greasy-haired Potions master said, "You ask the wrong question, Ayanami."
There was something about the man that reminded Rei of something, now that she came to think about it. There was something that reminded her, unpleasantly, of Gendo. The cold pragmatic attitude, the disdain he held for others…she was tempted to unleash Arael's power on him, strip his secrets bare. He was a deeply unpleasant man.
But he had Dumbledore's trust. And while Rei didn't quite trust Dumbledore as much as Harry did, she at least acknowledged the man's experience and power, and that he was on Harry's side, even if he had a funny way of showing it. So she would give Snape the benefit of the doubt.
She headed to the Chamber of Secrets, feeling the gaze of Snape on her back as she left. He could glare all he liked, but Rei could glare better. Plus, she had the power of the Angels at her disposal…
Snape watched the blue-haired girl stalk away. Given what Dumbledore had told him, he was glad to not be the target of her wrath, even if he daren't admit such a thing. Plus, there was what she did to Umbridge. And with Arthur Weasley dead, she was on the warpath.
It was little wonder the Potter brat had fallen for her. While their personalities were different in many ways, Rei reminded him somewhat of Lily. But whereas Lily's temper was fiery, Rei's was cold as ice, though it reminded him a little of what Lily was like when she truly got mad…like in the aftermath of the 'Mudblood' incident. And she had to have something to her to pilot those metal monstrosities they were supposed to have piloted in this alternate world, and against monsters.
Asuka reminded him more of Lily, though, in terms of character. True, Asuka was more crass and egotistical than Lily, and less empathetic, but she definitely had Lily's fire and thirst to prove herself. Actually, Lily was closer to that Kyoko woman.
Anyway, Arthur Weasley was a Muggle-loving fool and a henpecked husband who had foolishly had far too many children for his resources. In addition, for someone supposed to know about Muggles, he knew less than Snape did. Snape knew, at least in broad terms, how electricity worked, the basic principles of radio and television, as well as chemistry that even few Potioneers bothered to read up on. But Arthur was still…well, Snape hesitated to say good man, as the man was a staunch supporter of Dumbledore. But Arthur was dedicated to stopping Voldemort, and Snape could get behind that. He was sick of being beholden to two masters, and he'd be glad if he was able to live the rest of his life with at least one of them out of the picture.
Still, he had overheard Rei's ultimatum that she wanted Draco to deliver. He had to wonder, did she truly have what it took to deal with Voldemort? Given what little he had heard about what NERV and SEELE were up to, he had an inkling of what Rei intended for Voldemort. But would it be enough?
Snape allowed a sardonic smirk to touch his lips. Perhaps if he was lucky, he might be soon divested of one master. And perhaps the other would finally unchain him. Perhaps he would be free from teaching these brats. Perhaps he would be free to live his life the way he wished…
The members of NERV looked up when Rei walked into their headquarters in the Chamber of Secrets. Kith and kin all, only it took her gaining new bonds to realise it. Bonds Gendo discouraged. But here she was. They looked at her, not as the monster they had been trying to fight, but as their friend and comrade.
"I have told Malfoy to send the message," Rei said softly.
"Will Voldemort take the bait?" Misato asked.
Remus nodded. "Even if he suspects a trap, he's supremely confident. Anyway, by killing Rei, he'd hurt Harry. I still don't feel right about this. Rei's taking an awful risk."
"That's why we will be there," Yui said, Kyoko and Kaworu nodding. "As Angelic beings, even if only partly, we can either amplify or negate the effects of Impact, effectively containing it. The Mass Production EVA Units were intended to help direct the effects of Impact. But we can only do so safely over a relatively large area. And there's of course the problem that, once the Chamber of Gauf is open, closing it is going to be difficult."
"And I will be there too," Harry said. As Rei looked at him sharply, he said, "Rei…I may not be an Angel, Nephilim-like heritage aside, but I'm not standing on the sidelines. You brought me into Impact safely last time…I acted as your anchor then. I will do it again. Plus, Voldemort will want to see me dead. I will help ensure he's around."
After a moment, Rei nodded. "Very well. But…I don't want to sacrifice you, Harry."
"And I don't want you to sacrifice yourself, Rei. You may be the nearest thing this world has to a god, but…well, I don't think that means you're invincible or immortal."
"I know. Harry…remember, before you met me, I was all too-willing to die, to end my existence. But Shinji began to change that, and so did you. You both helped me find something to fight for, other than defining my existence through being an Evangelion pilot."
Shinji smiled, as did Harry. "I'm glad you think that way, Rei. I'm…I'm getting used to life without the Evangelions. A life where I can be myself. I'm…glad we got a fresh start here. But Rei…I don't want you to die," Shinji concluded.
"Neither do I," Rei said. "Trust me…"
Voldemort sneered at the letter Lucius had brought him, like a lowly messenger. This Ayanami girl had dared to claim she had the secret of immortality? It was a blatant falsehood, though the slim possibility that it was true was intriguing. But even more intriguing was that Ayanami was close to Potter. Which meant that she could either be used as a hostage, or killed outright. Voldemort personally leaned towards the latter. Through Draco's previous letters and the brouhaha in the press, Voldemort learned of Ayanami apparently attacking Umbridge and getting away with it, so having her as a hostage was potentially dangerous, to the Death Eaters if nothing else. Voldemort, after all, was utterly assured of his own invincibility.
He didn't know it, in his arrogance, but he was on the verge of beholding the Pale Horse, the horse whose rider was Death. Or perhaps a fate worse than it. Instead, he said to Lucius, "Write to your son, Lucius. Tell him that we will meet Ayanami at the following time and place…"
CHAPTER 17 ANNOTATIONS:
So, the climax is fast approaching. What will happen?
Incidentally, sorry about the long wait for the chapter. Inspiration was lacking.
No numbered annotations this time.