June 6th - 2020
Asuka Langley Soryu stared out of her bedroom window onto the vast gardens of the Langley estate before her. She watched as one of the gardeners employed by the family was making their way from a pond situated towards the middle of the garden towards a bed of delicately placed and brightly coloured flowers.
Much closer to the property, extending out from what would be the kitchens was a paved area. Upon which an arrangement of seating and equipment for outdoor cooking was placed. Further off in the distance a line of solid tall trees could be seen which marked the edges of the estate.
The estate itself was located in the Grunewald district on the western side of the city of Berlin. It was a district containing a vast number of mansions much like the one she lived in. It was one of the parts of Berlin that many thought reserved for the elite that Germany had to offer. Once upon a time Asuka would have thought herself deserving of being in a place like this but no longer.
As she looked up at the clear blue sky, signifying that it'd be yet another hot day she sighed. Finally turning away from the window she took a glance at herself in the mirror. Her red hair cascading down to just below her shoulders. In a past life it was her red hair that made her stand out the most amongst others. Now that had been reserved for the patch covering her eye or the metallic components that made up her arm.
Over the years people had asked her about the arm and the eye but as were the instructions given to her on her arrival she couldn't speak about it. Not that she ever wanted to, the memories of what had happened over the course of those months still too painful even all these years later.
She grimaced as she looked down at the arm and reflexively clenched her hand into a fist before throwing on a plain red jacket to ensure the damn thing was covered up.
She went to leave the room but just before she glanced at the calendar hanging on her wall a final time. It was June 6th, a date on which the significance was not nor would it ever be lost on her. As had been the case for the past four years she had done her best to not think about it as it had approached. Yet every year she had failed and this year seemed especially tough. Once more all she could do was be ensnared by the grasp of those feelings.
One of the worst things about it was that she was completely alone with those feelings. She was unable to talk to anyone else about it not that she even knew if she could. It wasn't like she knew anyone from that time anymore. She didn't even know if any of them had returned and even if they had contact with that place was completely forbidden now. That part of her life was now completely over, as she had been told numerous times.
Yet those people there would be the only ones who could ever understand. Misato Katsuragi, Hikari Horaki, hell even Touji Suzahara or Kensuke Aida would be better to talk to than the people here. They all lived through it, they all saw it. The people here didn't know a damn thing, they didn't see what had happened to them all. They never lived through it.
Her friends here, if she could even bring herself to call them that wouldn't and couldn't understand. Her stepmother might understand but Asuka wouldn't ever want to talk about something like this with her. As for her father, he had made his view clear four years ago when he had told her.
'You should never have been chosen to pilot that Evangelion. That part of your life is over, you're home now.'
So as it was she had no one but the ghosts of the past to converse with. There had been offers of a therapist for her but that was not something Asuka wanted. What she wanted was something she couldn't have.
She placed her finger on the calendar and slowly traced her way to the date before whispering softly, "Happy Birthday Shinji."
Asuka made her way downstairs into the spacious dining room. Her stepmother was already seated at the table reading through what Asuka could only assume was reports from the hospital. As Asuka entered her stepmother turned and greeted her with a smile. In response Asuka put on her best false smile, something she had grown accustomed to, having had to wear one for more of her life.
"Good morning Asuka." The woman said with a smile.
"Good morning mother."
Asuka didn't approach the woman sat at the table nor did she show her any affection beyond the greeting. Instead she chose to sit herself down on the opposite end of the dining table and pour herself a cup of coffee.
Moments later the door to the kitchen opened and a maid brought through a plate containing her breakfast. A mixture of scrambled eggs and breakfast sausages. Asuka thanked the maid who scurried off without a word and then grabbed one of the small bread rolls from the basket in the centre of the table. She spread a small amount of butter on it before taking a bite from it silently.
Her mind wandered to the breakfasts Shinji used to prepare back in Tokyo-3. It was a stark contrast to the type of meal she would have here. Miso soup and fish for breakfast. It was something Asuka had taken time to get used to when she moved over there but thanks to Shinji's skills in the kitchen it hadn't taken long. She only wished now that she had said thank you at least once for his efforts before it was too late.
A sigh from her stepmother broke Asuka out of the memory. She glanced up at the woman placed the report she was reading down onto the table.
"Is everything alright?" Asuka enquired out of politeness.
"It's fine, just a shame that it looks like it's going to be another nice day today and I'm going to end up being stuck in meetings with hospital administrators all day." She replied, a hint of annoyance in her voice.
Asuka simply nodded in an attempt to minimize conversation with the woman as much as possible. It wasn't that Asuka hated the woman in fact it was much the opposite. Asuka did in fact care a great deal about her. Her stepmother had actually tried to reach out to her and attempt to understand what she was going through.
Her stepmother had been responsible for ensuring Asuka had the arm she had right now. Since returning to Germany her relationship with the woman had improved. It was just that today of all days Asuka didn't feel like speaking to anyone.
Asuka did however look around the dining room and observed that one person was missing from the scene.
"Where is father?" She asked.
The woman smiled, "Oh he left earlier. Locked in meetings at the embassies all day again. They're trying to send him out to Japan, some big reconstruction project happening out there. Between his meetings and mine at the hospital today I dare say we'll be around that much this weekend or throughout the week. I trust that isn't a problem?"
Asuka shook her head, it was far from a problem. In fact it would be perfect. She did however raise an eyebrow at the mention of her father being sent to Japan, "So they're sending him to Japan?"
A nod from the woman as she sipped at a glass of orange juice, "Well we aren't sure yet. He doesn't want to go. Says that everything they want to do can be done without his presence but they're pushing for him to go out there."
Asuka lowered her eyes back to her plate and resumed eating her breakfast. Her father would be going to Japan to oversee a reconstruction project there. Asuka could only guess at what it would be. She had tried in vain to keep track of what was happening in the country ever since she had returned to Germany but intricate details were scarce.
From what she had gathered the last few years had become something of a delicate political climate in the country. NERV had been disbanded worldwide with a number of its key officials being brought before a number of courts for crimes against humanity. Details of the Evangelion projects, Third Impact and the Angel's had been kept under wraps as much as possible but she knew that a number of countries had a stake in the rebuilding of Japan if only to get at some of the technology that NERV had utilized.
Her father had been a central part in overseeing the redevelopment of the country. Asuka had done her best to keep a close eye on his activities, perhaps looking for any sign or trace that one of them might be alive and contactable. Yet in the four years that had passed nothing had come of it. It seemed that much like Shinji, they too were gone.
Asuka finished the remains of her breakfast and sat sipping at her coffee in silence. It was not long before the woman spoke again.
"How is the arm?"
Asuka raised her hand and smiled clenching the hand into a fist, "It's good, felt a little bit weird at first but I'm getting used to it."
"Good to hear, if you need anything else don't hesitate to give me a call. It's still quite experimental so there might be a few things to work out but we can get it sorted as soon as possible. "
Asuka nodded, "It should be fine."
She finished what was left of her coffee before rising from her seat, "I think I'm going to go out into town today. There is a new Japanese restaurant open that I fancy trying out."
Asuka shook her head, "No, on my own."
"Do you need me to call one of the drivers to drive you in?"
Again Asuka shook her head, "No, I'll get the train in."
"Fair enough. I should probably get going myself, these meetings won't hold themselves."
Asuka started to move out of the dining room, she reached the door before hearing the woman call after her.
"Asuka... it's... it's his birthday today isn't it? The Third Child, Shinji Ikari."
Asuka stopped and lowered her head, her eye fixed on the ground. Slowly she turned to meet the gaze of her stepmother. This was the first time her stepmother had ever mentioned Shinji Ikari to her. Until now Asuka hadn't even been sure that the woman remembered Shinji was.
"Yes. Yes it is. How did you know?" Asuka asked.
"When you returned to Germany many years ago I made a note to learn as much as I can about the people there, it was sparse such was the nature of that business but I tried to memorize a few key dates. I know you don't want to but I'm always here if you want to talk about it..."
Asuka shook her head, "I know you are but... you know I don't want to."
There was a smile on her lips, "I knew you'd say that. Offer still stands. Go on out and try to enjoy yourself today, I'm sure it's what he would have wanted."
Asuka laughed, "God knows what he would have wanted but I'll try."
"I love you Asuka."
Asuka smiled, "I love you too mother."
With those words she turned to leave the room and the mansion making a stop in her room one last time to pick up a small SDAT from a drawer. She clipped it onto her jeans and put in the two earphones before setting it to track 26. Instantly the sound of classical music filled her ears and she smiled softly once again placing her finger on the date on the calendar.
"Well then Shinji, shall we go then?"
Asuka entered the crowded restaurant, paused the SDAT and took her earphones out. She had heard about this place, it had only recently opened so at the moment was crowded with a mixture of intrigued locals, tourists and fans of Japanese culture and cuisine.
The place had been decorated much as these places would be in order to add to the authenticity. The interior here was supposed to make it look like some sort of 'traditional' Japanese temple. The seating and benches were all a solid wood with square lights overhead.
She made her way towards the back of the queue and studied the list of ingredients. Each one was written in German but next to the ingredient was the appropriate translation into Japanese.
The place was far too crowded for her liking, given the choice she would probably have chosen to have a quick toasted sandwich and sat outside of one of the quieter cafes in the town but this seemed like a more appropriate place to come for lunch.
For most in here a bowl of ramen would just be indulging in a taste of another culture. A curious little oddity to say they've tried and enjoyed. For her it had more significance, it was a reminder of one of her happiest memories. The time when they all trekked out to a ramen cart late at night after Misato promising them a dinner for beating that Angel. It was a reminder that they could all have been happy if things, or at least if they hadn't have been so messed up.
She nodded to herself as she decided on what flavor she would have and continued to wait in the queue until eventually getting to the cashier.
"Shark fin ramen please."
Moments later she had her bowl and had seated herself in an empty booth near the back of the restaurant. She picked up the chopsticks near to her and began to make her way through the meal. As she did she held onto her memory of that day.
January 2nd 2016 – One day after Third Impact
When she awoke the first thing she noticed was the faint rumble of a vehicle. Groggily she looked around to see she was lying on the backseat of a seven seater SUV. There was a thin blanket draped over her keeping her warm and a small pillow for her head.
Asuka wondered what had happened. It was obvious that she was no longer on the beach and judging by what she could see he was also no longer near to her.
Everything in her head was a bizarre jumble of events and she struggled to put anything together. She could pain running through her body. She was hungry and thirsty and incredibly unsure of anything. She tried to put together what had happened since she had returned.
She had woken up on the beach. It wasn't so much like waking up it was more like being transported. She couldn't remember what had happened but she remembered by somewhere. A place where she was happy but a place where a feeling of emptiness followed her everywhere. It was like a very powerful dream that she knew had an impact on her but had been forgotten so quickly.
When she opened her eye on the beach she recalled seeing him next to her. Next thing she knew he had been on top of her with his hands around her throat. She hadn't resisted it. A part of her felt it was the least she deserved for what she had done to him in her life, another part of her wanted him to do it and end her misery once and for all but mostly she was just too weak to force him to stop.
She didn't want to die though, if she had let him do that to her then what would be the point of her coming back? Why else would she have returned but to live? So she made that choice to stop him. She used what little strength she had to raise her bandaged arm up and softly caress his cheek. This simple gesture of affection had gotten him to stop and almost immediately afterwards he came to his sense and realized what he was doing. He did the only thing he could have done at the time and broke down in tears.
Asuka remembered her feelings of disgust as his warm tears fell onto her face and trickled down her. Disgust not only at him and at the state of the world but also at herself whose tears had mixed with his to fall down onto the soft sand below. She didn't try to stop though though, instead pulling him towards her in an embrace and falling asleep holding one another.
Now however she was no longer on that beach and as far as she could see Shinji was no longer with her. Her heart started to pound as scenarios started to flash through her mind as to what might have happened or what was going to happen. She kept herself perfectly still and tried to look around the vehicle.
Her vision had been impaired by the bandage over her eye but she was still able to see quite a bit from her position.
Occupying the vehicle were three people. Two men in the front seats and a woman sat in the seat directly in front of her. Each of them was wearing some sort of plain military uniform and Asuka panicked for a moment remembering the assault by the JSSDF on NERV moments before she had woken up.
She quickly calmed herself realizing that these weren't JSSDF troops. That did leave her to wonder just who they could be. The woman suddenly turned around causing Asuka to close her eye but it was too late. She had already been spotted and Asuka heard the woman speaking to the others, surprisingly in German.
"It looks like she's woken up. Let's pull the car over, it'll make this slightly easier."
"We're not far out from the airfield ma'am, can we not just…" Replied what Asuka assumed was the driver of the vehicle. The woman immediately cut him off.
"We're not on any sort of schedule nor is there anyone else around. Please, I'd rather do this in a stationary vehicle than a moving one." She replied, a hint of annoyance in her voice.
Asuka felt the car slow down and then eventually come to a stop. She opened her eye again to look around and found herself looking at the woman. Asuka said nothing but shrank back and evaluated her options. Her stomach churning with worry as to what would happen next. The Japanese government and JSSDF had tried to kill her. She was alive so clearly that wasn't what these people wanted but then what did they want?
She looked around wondering if she could scramble for the door handle. She could open it and run but she quickly realized there were several problems with that. In her current state she probably wouldn't get very far. Nor did she know where she was or where anyone was. She could get away and just end up roaming a wasteland until she died. The chances were though, that even if she did run they would probably catch her very quickly.
Finally the woman spoke to Asuka, her tone sympathetic, "Miss Soryu, can you hear me?"
Asuka slowly sat up not keeping her eyes off of the woman and nodded her head.
"Good, my name is Doctor Karolin Hoffman, I'm a doctor working with the UN. We've been sent here by your father to extract you and escort you home."
Karolin nodded, "Yes, your father. Please understand Asuka, we are not here to hurt you but I do need to ask you a few questions. Is that alright?"
Asuka nodded again.
"Okay good, first of all can you please tell me your full name and your birthday?"
Asuka obediently gave the details to the doctor, "Asuka Langley Soryu. December fourth."
"Okay that's good. Can you tell me if you're in any pain right now?"
Asuka nodded raising her bandaged arm, "Arm… hurts and my eye."
"Any dizziness or nausea?"
Asuka nodded again, "Both."
The doctor took out a notepad and began to take some notes as Asuka watched on. These people had been sent by her father. He must have known, the world must have known something had happened in Tokyo-3. As soon as he heard he must have sent them to save her. They must have found her on the beach and loaded her into the vehicle while she slept.
She looked outside for any other vehicles but could see no other vehicle nearby. Had they found and rescued Shinji as well?
She looked back up at the woman and asked her, her voice incredibly weak, "T-The other person with me… the boy… where is he?"
Asuka waited for the reply, to hear that Shinji had been loaded into another vehicle or something. She realized that she had to see him again and she had to see him right now. As soon as she saw the doctor's eyes lowered themselves towards the ground she realized however that that might not be a possibility.
Karolin looked towards the two seated in the front of the vehicle and then back to Asuka, "Asuka… I'm really sorry but… there was nothing we could do…"
Asuka was sure the woman was continuing to speak but any attempt at processing the words was failing. Another wave of nausea washed over her as she placed a hand on the car door readying herself to dash outside to be sick.
'He… he's gone… no. He can't be, not after… he came back. He came back damn it! How can he just be gone like that? How can that idiot do this? How can he leave me again? How can he abandon me again?'
Before she knew it Asuka had forced open the car door and had leapt out just in time to empty the contents of her stomach on the side of the road. Pain was shooting through her body due to the violent reaction to the news and she slumped backwards against the vehicle.
Karolin exited the car herself and knelt down near to her. Asuka felt a bottle of water being passed into her hand and she drank it down without any complaint. She sat frozen in place unable to move or process anything.
She felt a comforting arm wrap itself around her and guide Asuka back into the back seat of the vehicle. Once inside she pulled the thin blanket up around her as the car once again started to move towards its destination.
Karolin reached into a bag and grabbed something out of it handing it to Asuka.
"We found this when we got you."
Asuka reached forward and took the small black device from her. Asuka turned it over in her hands, this wasn't hers. It was Shinjis SDAT.
The car started to pull away and Asuka held the device closer towards her, she felt her chest start to tighten and she did the only thing she was capable of doing anymore.
Even if there were people around she didn't care anymore. Asuka had seen too much, experienced too much and right now she just wanted to go home. She let the grief and sorrow of it all overtake her. She brought her legs up to her chest, covered herself with the blanket and sat sobbing into it.