Nine months later…

The concert hall of Mendelssohn Academy was modest by European standards, just a smaller auditorium provided for the students there to exhibit their work of the past school year for their classmates, teachers, family and a few others, perhaps seating a thousand people at best. It was however, rather ornate for such an intimate setting, with large oil paintings of the schools original benefactors as well as elaborate decorative moldings on the walls and ceilings.

This night, at the end of the school year, the auditorium was slowly being filled by those invited to attend. Dressed in formal wear, the audience filtered into the seats as final preparations were being made on stage for the orchestra and the sound system underwent a final check. One of the attendees was a middle-aged German woman wearing a long, silk red dress together with a white wrap. Her platinum hair was done up high and well, and she had a dignified air about herself. As she entered the auditorium foray he spotted a familiar face standing before the aisles.

"Herr Mueller!" she greeted the gentleman.

Like most of the men in the concert hall Mueller wore a black tuxedo, his being of simple but elegant design. "Ah, Frau Krauss," he returned the greeting. "Good evening." The two of them shook hands politely and walked together down the aisle of the auditorium, making conversation as they did so.

"How are things in the foundation office?"

"Very well. Thanks to our media campaign with Fraulein Langley there's a considerable growth of interest in the school. I think it did well to have a fresh face associated with it, certainly she's more comely than two-hundred year-old masters."

"Certainly…"

"The endowment showed a substantial growth as well, and as you know that always makes the board happy. How are things on the academic front? Will we have anything interesting to hear tonight?"

Mueller smiled just a bit. "I think you might be pleasantly surprised."

"Good. Student orchestras are always a bit rough under the edges but occasionally roses are known to grow among the thorns." The two of them found seats about five rows from the front and promptly sat down.

It took another ten minutes for the rest of the audience to filter in, then the lights dimmed and spotlights were pointed towards the stage. As the light darkened on one side of the auditorium and grew on the other, the crowd quieted in expectation. Precisely at 7:15, an older gentlemen walked on stage wearing a black tuxedo with long tails, his silver hair flowing loosely backward. Conductor and academy headmaster Siegfried von Warner was met with a loud applause as he took the stage. With German precision he smartly snapped to attention and faced the audience. He spoke into a wireless microphone that was worn as a barely visible headset.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, let the Mendelssohn Academy introduce this year's student spring concert performance." The was further applause from the audience as from the sides of the stage came flowing ninety-six young adults, each wearing black tuxedos or black evening gowns. Most carried their instruments in their hands apart from the few that were players of larger things such as drums that were already laid out on stage. The audience clapped harder as the students filed in and took their seats. The lights dimmed slightly on stage as each student settled in, unpacking or preparing their instrument while music stands that were digitally linked displayed sheets of music on LCD tablets in front of them.

As the students of the orchestra prepared for the night, von Warner continued speaking to the audience. "As I'm sure most of you are aware, at the end of each academic year the students are offered to play a composition from one of their own. We here at Mendelssohn take great pride in fostering our student's abilities not only in becoming proficient masters at playing the work of the greats who originally founded this academy, but also in becoming such masters themselves through creativity intertwined with discipline."

Von Warner made a quick glance behind him, at the single seat that was at the focused middle of the stage, a seat that was filled by a young man with glasses and long brown hair tied in a ponytail, holding his cello at the ready. "This year we're pleased to present an original composition from one of our students, entitled 'Angels of Music Adagio #1 for Cello, with orchestra accompaniment.'"

From their seats Frau Krauss whispered into Master Mueller's ear. "Is that the Japanese boy I've heard so much about?" Mueller simply nodded, his focus on his student that was now at center stage.

After the audience finished applauding and the sound of the hall died down, von Warner turned around and stepped up to the conductor's stand, where there was a single thin podium. He had no music display, the old headmaster being experienced enough to not allow it to be a distraction to him. Instead he scanned the orchestra and saw the eyes of all of his students focused on him. All except one, as that student was concentrating on his music and where it would begin to flow.

With a wave of his baton, von Warner started the concert. The first notes came from the back, as the players of two harps began a gentle set of notes that eerily sounded like footsteps. Da-daa-da-dum-da-da-daaa….Da-daa-da-dum-da-da-daaa…

Strings then joined in followed by the wind instruments, an accompaniment that set the stage for the soloist on cello. As he listened to the music behind him Shinji counted the beats in his head and readied his bow, and at the precise moment took over as the orchestra stopped and the only sound was the oak richness of the cello. In his mind he concentrated on the image he wanted: a girl in bandages, her eyes red like a lone wolf, silent yet powerful. Notes came out of his cello in harmony as he pushed forward.

The composition had three parts, each about seven minutes long. The first was named "Angel of the Moon," and was a soft and subtle piece but with both major and minor themes, reflecting the dual nature of its inspiration. Shinji's cello would play for part of the segment then the orchestra would join in to give the music texture and backdrop. As he played he thought of her, and of the moments good and bad he experienced in those first few weeks together.

The second part was entitled "Angel of the Sun," and unlike the first segment this portion was more lively and active. The beat of the notes grew faster, the music suddenly rose in liveliness, even playfulness. Shinji took the lead and the orchestra followed him as he played with a strong confidence. His mind remained focused, thinking about those times together when they fought and played, and talked, and how both challenging yet liberating it was. He could feel the warmth from her just by playing and thinking about her beauty in his mind. But there were dark paths hidden in shadow, and the segment made a gradual drop in tone, bottoming out in low notes as trumpets and horns sounded from the orchestra while base drums beat ominously. He struggled to concentrate, as the most difficult part was to come.

Shinji let his mind blank everything else out and just look at one thing. In the wreckage of the city, he remembered the first time that he saw him. Sitting on the remains of a marble statue and humming the bars of Beethoven's Ninth, from the fourth movement, the theme in the original composer's own words, of Universal Brotherhood. Shinji wasn't afraid to steal it either, and a few notes from the Ninth found its way into his own piece, but then it veered off into a new direction.

"Singing brings joy and revitalizes the human soul…Don't you agree…Shinji Ikari?"

"Angel of the Stars" started out soft like the first segment, but warmed up considerably like the second albeit at a slower pace. Sweetly notes came out of Shinji's cello but he didn't notice. He couldn't. The memories, long covered up, were coming up to the fore of his mind again.

"You know pain is something that man must endure in his heart. And since the heart feels pain so easily some believe life is pain. You are delicate like glass, that is, your heart is."

And then later on…

"I think that I was born just to meet you."

He remembered the boy's face, the inviting eyes. Red like Rei's but warmer and softer. He remembered the openness he felt, the complete lack of fear in getting to know someone new, and how that winter night they both looked out among the stars above Tokyo-3. And how it all went to complete and total hell just a few hours later.

"Final Safety System Penetrated! They've reached Heaven's Gate!"

The music shifted dramatically, the notes from Shinji's cello now came out frantically, almost in a frenzy. The feeling of live and death on the line. The fear of total destruction, and despair of knowing the end was near. You couldn't remember pain but you could remember fear, and he remembered just how much fear was even possible in a human. But then, something happened.

"In truth, death may be the only absolute freedom there is."

"I don't understand what you are talking about, Kaoru."

"This is my wish: please destroy me. Otherwise you will be destroyed…You need the future, it is that you live for."

"Thank you, Shinji. My life was meaningful, because of you."

He felt the grip in his hands. He heard the music play in his head, the crescendo crash over him as all pieces came together at the end. The orchestra then suddenly stopped and all that remained was the sound of one cello, sorrowfully giving out music in sadness. In his memories, he felt the grip tighten, the boy grasped in his hands. He felt the life come out of the body.

Why did I do it? Why? Even now I can't figure out why. If I could have just said something or done something to save him. Why?

The sadness came forward and the auditorium was silent as a graveyard save for the single voice of the angel that came from the stage.

Yet as the body dies the spirit became free. He needed me to do that for him…and I needed him to set me free too.

At the very end there was an uplift in the tone of the music, rising from sorrow to life again. Flowing with energy the notes carried upwards and into the air above. The harmony came forward and the music echoed throughout the concert hall.

Everyone finds love in the end…

And then he finished. Exhausted.

There was silence as Shinji caught his breath, wiping the sweat from his forehead. He felt himself trembling all over his body. There was something in his eyes and on his cheeks and used his handkerchief to wipe it, realizing that as he was playing he had also been crying. He looked up and saw the audience was just as stunned as he was. Then slowly, one person clapped followed by another, and then another, and then many, many more joined in. Then one man stood up, and then another, and then a few others, and in the space of the next few seconds the entire concert audience was on its feet, clapping and even cheering what they had just heard.

Shinji turned around to look behind him. Nearly every student in the orchestra was also on their feet and clapping hard for him. The conductor, professor von Warner, also clapped and smiled at him. Shinji looked at the student group for one person in particular and found her. Seated up front with the string section, and wearing the same black evening gowns as the other ladies in the orchestra was Asuka, her blue eyes shone brightly in pride at him as she applauded enthusiastically. Tired but happy and very relieved, Shinji gave her a faint smile back and she gently blew him a kiss as the others continued to applaud.

In the audience Frau Krauss clapped along with everyone else, speaking to master Mueller as she did so. "Amazing! You could really see he put his whole heart and mind into it!"

Mueller simply smiled and applauded along with the others.

The woman asked the master next to him, "How does he play like that?"

The old master just turned to her and said "He played to remember."

THE END


SPD - When I completed this story and had it initially read by beta readers, the general feedback was that it was good but felt just a bit short, like I could have taken the concept of Shinji and Asuka at the music school and ran off with it for another dozen or so chapters. It was tempting to do that actually, and I did in earlier drafts of this story have other characters that were scattered about, mostly to lay a foundation of any future work. In the end though I really thought the conclusion needed to be short and sharp, and avoid distractions otherwise it would feel like so many manga or anime stories that exist well beyond their initial reach. Shinji finds his rhythm in the end, and grows up in the way that many of us who are fans of EVA sort of wished he could.

Some of the readers who've come here are no doubt a little perplexed by the background setting, which is the Blue Rose's alternative universe for EVA. I try not to give away too much here if you're new to Blue Rose, but certainly now that you've finished this piece and if you liked what you read then by all means know that there's more stories out there like this for you to enjoy. If you're a SxA fan in general there's a fair amount of that in Blue Rose as well, although Rei is the centerpiece of those stories.

If you like this story (or not) please feel free to leave me feedback it's always welcome both here and at my Facebook page. While eventually I'll have my own original works out there in the meantime I'm still working on EVA stories and would very much like to hear from readers. Thanks very much for everyone who took time to read this and I do hope you're happy with the story.

Special Thanks to Ghost Man for beta review and edits, and to Horsit for general guidance for the whole project.

Odd notes and tidbits: 1) Yes, that last quote "everyone finds love in the end" was taken from Hikaru Utada's song "Sakura Nagashi", that I could not resist. 2) There is a Mendelssohn Conservatory in Leipzig, it's actual name is the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig. It's one of several music schools in Leipzig, which is sort of a nexus of classical music in Germany. 3) The Colonel Sanders "curse" in Osaka is an urban legend, where a Col. Sanders statue was thrown in the Dotonbori river after the Hanshin Tigers scored an upset victory in the Japan Baseball championship in 1985. The curse is that Osaka will not win another baseball championship until the KFC statue is completely recovered from the river. 4) There's nothing in GAINAX's background info for Shinji Ikari to suggest he lived with his uncle in Yamaguchi prefecture before coming to Tokyo-3. Ube is however Hideki Anno's hometown so I figured it worked. -spd