"Sync ratio 0… I no longer have anything to live for… they've taken away my Eva… I have no purpose anymore. I may as well die."
Asuka bit hard on the side of her cheek and leaned herself against the doorway of the abandoned shack. She was miles away from the city now, in a place where no one would find her. She looked in, all she could see was a ruined bathtub with a damaged shower sticking out from it. Next to it was a toilet. There were some other small rooms in here but it had likely been years since any civilisation had passed by this area.
She stepped inside repeating what she had said just moments before.
"Sync ratio 0… I no longer have anything to live for… they've taken away my Eva… I have no purpose anymore. I may as well die."
She stepped into the ruined bathroom, there was a ray of sunlight covering the bathtub. It would be a fitting location for her to die, bathed in light, just like when she was violated by the Angel. At least this time she would be in control of it, and then maybe… maybe she could see Mama again.
She positioned herself in the centre of the room and slowly began to untie the bow around her neck. She placed it neatly down on top of the toilet lid before taking off both of her shoes and placing them down near to the toilet. This was followed by the removal of her socks and then she started to slip out of the blue dress of her school uniform.
She had only managed to get one arm through before she heard a soft buzz coming from her handbag. She glanced across at it somewhat intrigued. Her phone had not rang for over two days in fact she could have sworn the battery had died by now.
She hooked her arm back through and rummaged through the bag and pulled out the phone. It was Misato calling her. For a moment Asuka thought about ignoring it. Nothing could have come from answering the phone.
It would likely just be another call for her to return to NERV and a berating for running away. Whatever it was it didn't matter, Asuka had no desire to talk to Misato anymore. Not after all Misato had, or at least all Misato had failed to do.
Misato had made it perfectly clear who her favourite was, who the golden child was. She had vouched for Shinji throughout everything he had ever done, every failure and time he went against orders she had just accepted him back without any punishment. As soon as something went wrong for Asuka she was yelled at and told to do better. The first sign of any failure she was threatened with replacement.
It wasn't as if Asuka hadn't tried to play the good girl and housemate for them. She had even tried to reach out to Misato once. A brief moment of weakness had led to her trying to reach out to her so-called guardian only to be shrugged off and told to leave the past in the past.
'Well this is where that got me! I hate you Misato!'
She glanced down at the phone and her finger hovered over the button to cancel the call for a moment. Yet she couldn't press it, instead she found herself tapping to accept the call.
"What is it Misato, I'm… busy." She snapped down the phone to Misato.
There was a pause and the sound of shuffling on the other end of the phone. Finally Misato's voice came, her tone immediately surprising Asuka. She had expected Misato to be yelling and to be angry at her. All Asuka could hear was the sound of shallow breathing and it became clear to her that Misato was crying.
"A-Asuka… please… you have to come back…"
"Why? What's the point of me coming back, you already have a replacement for me don't you?" Asuka shot back sharply.
"A-Asuka it isn't… you aren't going to be replaced… but it's… S-Shinji…"
Asuka's tempered flared up immediately just at the mention of Shinji's name. She should have known, of course it was going to be about Shinji. When wasn't it about Shinji? As per usual Asuka was just an afterthought.
"Oh! It's Shinji? Of course it's Shinji! It's always about Shinji. Idiot runs away and gets welcomed back with open arms. Idiot goes against orders and risks us all and gets welcomed back with open arms. Why should I even care?"
There was a pause and Asuka found herself tempted to hang up. She did however wait and listen to Misato gathering herself at the other end of the line.
"Please… Shinji was attacked… badly. He's… they've got him in the hospital now. He's unconscious and hurt badly. Please Asuka… we need you to come back… I'm sorry for everything that happened but please just come back!"
Asuka did contemplate it for a moment and stared across at the clothing that she had just discarded. NERV needed her and weren't going to replace her anymore. Yet she knew that as she was she was completely useless. She wasn't even able to sync with her Eva anymore. What possible use could she have to them?
"What's the point? I can't even sync with the stupid thing anymore! I'm useless to you all."
"We… that doesn't matter Asuka! We can try something else! We'll get you to sync again Asuka. Please just… come back. I know you've been hurt, we all have but we need to stick together. I know I haven't been much of a guardian to you… I've treated you badly but… I want to make it up to you somehow. Just come back… you're the best we have."
Asuka sat herself on the edge of the bathtub and felt the sharp sting of tears in her eyes from hearing Misato's words. She felt like an idiot for letting the words affect her to this point, especially when she was supposed to hate Misato right now. She felt like an idiot for having cried so much over the past few weeks. Asuka was just fed up with everything.
She gritted her teeth, "Fine… I'll come back but just… make sure that idiot doesn't do something stupid like die. I want to make sure I can see his face when I save you all."
There was a loud sniff from Misato as Asuka heard her break down into tears again, "We… We will… thank you Asuka."
The phone went silent and Asuka looked around the dilapidated room one more time. She let a silent tear fall down her cheek.
"Perhaps today isn't my day to die… Stupid Shinji, you always have to hog my spotlight don't you? Just… don't die alright, I want to make sure you know exactly who it was who saved this stupid world."
She stood up and felt her stomach growl, this was immediately followed by a sharp stabbing pain in that region. She was actually hungry, she hadn't realized it on her travels but she hadn't actually eaten in two days. She slowly put her socks and shoes back on and stuffed the ribbon into her handbag.
As she left the shack her attention was drawn to a humming coming from nearby. She stopped suddenly and listened carefully. There was someone else nearby and they were humming a tune. It sounded like a boy, maybe her age but the tune was strangely familiar. She listened for a few more seconds before realizing what it was.
"Someone is singing… but who?"
She immediately wiped her eyes hoping to hide any signs that she had been crying from this mystery person. Slowly she turned her head towards the source of the sounds and there sat upon a rock and staring out across the landscape was a boy. He provided quite a startling image with his gray hair gently swaying in the wind. He was wearing one of the uniforms from their school.
After a time he turned to face her and she felt a strange sensation run throughout her. There was a chill but this was immediately followed by a feeling of calmness. She also couldn't help but notice just how handsome he was.
They locked eyes for a brief moment and she had the chance to study his features. He was certainly very handsome despite what might have been considered a strange appearance. He had something of a place complexion and striking red eyes, not too dissimilar to Rei. However unlike Rei this boy seemed to be smiling, something she had yet to see Rei do.
After a time the boy spoke, his voice was soft but had an assertiveness to it. He asked her a question, "You know the song?"
Asuka smirked and nodded, "Everyone who isn't an idiot knows that song. It's the Ode to Joy. Besides I'm German so of course I know it."
Her reply only caused his smile to grow wider, "I think music is the pinnacle of Lilin culture. It has the ability to move people in so many ways. It can give people hope when they need it the most and make them feel good. What do you think?"
Asuka merely shrugged, she was too tired and hungry to get involved in such a discussion nor did she really care for the conversation anyway. She did however humour the boy, "Can't really say I've thought about it that much. I'm more of a video game person myself."
He nodded, "I see."
Asuka watched as the boy hopped down from the rock and started to make his way towards Asuka. She wondered for a moment why she hadn't just continued to walk back towards NERV and Tokyo-3. She was tired and hungry and didn't feel like indulging anyone in conversation. Yet for some reason she found herself unable to pull herself away from this boy.
"Am I right in assuming that you are Asuka Langley Soryu?"
Asuka felt her eyes open wider in surprise, this boy knew who she was. Could he have been a student at their school then? It would have made sense seeing as he was wearing their uniform but she had never seen him before.
"How do you know who I am?" She demanded of him.
The boy gave a short laugh, "I am surprise to hear you be so ignorant of your own fame! From what I have been told you seemed to be one for people knowing just who you were."
Asuka raised an eyebrow not sure how to take that, "I'll assume that's a compliment."
He nodded, "Of course. You are Asuka Langley Soryu, the pilot of Evangelion Unit 02. You're something of a hero back home, there are many who are proud of you and look up to you."
His words brought the faintest hint of a smile to her lips. He had said she was something of a hero and that many looked up to her back home. So he was something to do with the Eva's and NERV.
"Really?" She asked.
The silver haired boy nodded once more, "Of course. I am afraid however I have forgotten my manners, my name is Kaworu Nagisa. I am the replacement pilot for the Evangelion Unit 01. I have just transferred here from Germany."
Asuka tried her best to hide any sort of reaction. This boy was the replacement for Shinji, or at least until a short time ago the replacement for her. This boy was going to be the one assigned to her Unit 02. She suddenly felt a desire to leave this place and go back to the apartment.
"So… you're the replacement for that idiot Shinji. Well I look forward to seeing what you're capable of."
She started to make her way past him, "I have to go home. I assume I'll see you at NERV, Mr Nagisa."
She turned away from him and started to make her way back towards Tokyo-3. She had only taken a few steps before hearing him call out to her, "Kaworu!"
"Huh?" She span back around to see he had not moved from the spot, his hands were still tucked into his trouser pockets.
"Please, there is no need for such formality. Call me Kaworu, unless of course you'd prefer me to call you Miss Soryu?"
Asuka gave a small laugh and shouted back with a grin, "I can't think of anything worse. Final I'll call you Kaworu and you can call me Asuka. Now I really have to get home."
She started to take a few steps again but stopped and gave a sigh. She wasn't sure why she was doing this, moments before she had wanted nothing more than to be alone.
"You should probably come back as well, I'll take you to NERV on the way."
She waited but didn't turn around waiting to see what his response would be. After a short while he was next to her, "I would like that Asuka. Shall we go?"
Asuka opened her eyes and looked around the darkened entry plug. She was keeping her breathing slow and steady and making every effort to ensure her mind was clear. That was always the secret to this, to keep the mind clear and allow herself and the Eva to be one.
From inside the entry plug she wasn't sure if it was working. There was nothing in there to indicate her score at this moment in time and there had been no communication from the technicians or Misato since the test had started.
Feeling that the absence of any communication or news could only have been good news she continued to sit on the seat and tense her hands around the controls. She continued to take slow and steady breaths and the continued to try to keep her mind clear.
It was proving difficult to keep her mind clear. She could feel all of those negative things that had happened to her recently nibbling away at the corners. All of the defeats she had suffered at the hands of the Angels. All the pain she had felt from her mind being invaded and her worst nightmares and memories laid bare for all to see.
Weeks of humiliation had led to all of her pride being stripped away bit by bit. Her entire purpose and reason for being torn away from her until it had reached a breaking point. If it hadn't been for Misato's phonecall about Shinji she could have been the one inside that hospital right now. She shook it away. She couldn't think of that right now, she had to keep it all at bay until the end of this test.
She felt her stomach churn and she twitched in the seat trying to ignore it. A small wave of nausea ran over her but she kept focusing on her breathing to keep it back. She couldn't be sick right now, not in here. When this was over she could be but not now.
Asuka instead decided that she needed something to focus on. Oddly enough it came in the form of the boy she had met only hours before. She couldn't exactly explain why but she found herself strangely drawn to him. She found herself latching onto what he had told her at the time of their meeting, that she was seen as a hero back home and that there were many who were proud of and looked up to her.
'Okay Asuka, you don't need their approval and you don't need them to look up to you either… you're doing this to prove to yourself that you don't need anyone but… I'll take it for now. I know I can do this, what happened before was only a blip.
With that in mind she kept those thoughts central in her head. Aside this she also kept hold of the warm glow she had felt when she had encountered Kaworu Nagisa. As she did both these things she felt a calmness within her and the familiar connections with her Eva springing back to life. Although she was not in the Eva she could still feel it there in the back of her mind, a link that had not been there for some time.
'Yes! I'm doing it, we're back in action.'
Despite the initial excitement of feeling those connections coming back to her she kept herself from smiling or fidgeting. Instead she remained calm and focused on the breathing and the warmth of those thoughts.
Finally the announcement came from the familiar voice of Misato Katsuragi on their communication channels.
"Okay you three, we're done here for the day. Congratulations, you all did great!"
Asuka breathed an immense sigh of relief at the ending of the test and slackened her grip on the controls. She sank back in her seat and bit back the sudden wave of emotion that had hit her. She could feel the sting of tears in her eyes as the realization was setting in. She had done it again, she was able to synchronize with her Eva once more. She had a purpose.
She quickly wiped away the tears as a request for video communication popped up on her UI. She accepted the request and saw Misato's smiling face pop up.
"Congratuations Asuka! You're back in the number one spot. Fifty two percent sync ratio!"
Asuka grinned, "Well did you expect anything less from me? I did say I was going to come back to save you all didn't I?"
Misato nodded in agreement, "Yeah you did, and you will Asuka. Thank you for this. I'll see you later."
The feed closed and Asuka was left along once again in the dim coolness of her entry plug. Fifty two percent sync ratio, it was far from her best but a long way away from what she had been getting previously. She was surprised it had jumped up that high, in truth she had been expecting mid to high twenties at best.
She looked towards the exit as she felt the plug being hoisted up towards the platform. With her last few moments of being alone she pulled her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them tightly allowing a few tears to fall.
'I… I really did it… didn't I?'
The moment the video feed dropped Misato's happy expression changed to a frown. Something didn't sit right about this situation. She was happy to see an improvement in Asuka's score like that but it didn't make sense for it to have jumped up that much. She glanced at the screen of the technician to her left, Makota Hyuga and spoke quietly to him.
"The increase will give her a big confidence boost at the very least. What happened there?"
She watched as Makoto's fingers darted over the keyboard, a stream of data was brought up on screen and replaced by a sequence of charts and graphs. She could see from the reflection on the screen that he too was frowning as his eyes scanned over the results of the synchronisation tests.
"You were right in being suspicious, MAGI had confirmed that Asuka's data was being manipulated somehow by an external source. It was incredibly subtle so we almost missed it but it is definitely there. Without the manipulation she likely would have been at twenty four percent.
"Her readings were almost double that? What was the cause of it?"
"Not what, but who. It looks like our new pilot Kaworu Nagisa was influencing it somehow. Take a look at this here, the MAGI confirmed that he was able to adjust his own sync ratio and was keeping it at least five points below Asuka's at all times."
Misato immediately felt a wave of dread and panic rush throughout her. She had suspected something might have been up with Kaworu Nagisa from the moment she had been told of his impending arrival. It had all seemed too convenient.
Kaworu had been sent to them directly by the committee overseeing NERV. They hadn't even kept up the pretence of having the non-existent Marduk Institute file reports on him or pretend there was a selection process. They were just told her was coming and to be ready.
With that in mind and the information she had just received she could only ask herself one question.
'Just who the hell is Kaworu Nagisa?'
Her thoughts were interrupted by Hyuga asking her a question, "So what now Major? We get Asuka to retake the test?"
Misato shook her head straight away, "No, under no circumstances do we tell Asuka. The increase in score will be good for her confidence and she needs that right now. No we keep this from Asuka, she doesn't need to know. I'm going to keep an eye on our new recruit."
Asuka finished the process of putting her uniform back on before sitting herself down on the bench and glancing around the empty locker room. She sighed and leaned her head back against the solid locker gearing herself up for going back outside. She would give it a few more minutes before going out there, for now she needed to be alone.
She looked at the space across from her and noticed Rei's discarded plugsuit on the bench. It was strange but she could barely even remember Rei being in the locker room. She had come in, wasted absolutely no time in discarding her plugsuit and putting her uniform back on before leaving. Rei hadn't even acknowledged Asuka's present.
Normally having minimal contact with Rei wouldn't have bothered Asuka. She didn't exactly hate Rei but she didn't necessarily get along with her either. Yet from what Asuka remembered she had noticed something unusual about her fellow pilot today. Rei had seemed angry when entering the locker room.
Asuka wondered what it could have been that was bugging Rei. She wondered if maybe it was because of her return and immediately getting a better score on the sync tests. She thought about it again realizing that that wasn't likely to have been the reason. Rei had never scored higher than Asuka or Shinji for that matter and had never seemed bothered about her scores in the past.
It could very well have been the fact that Asuka had come back. Their last meeting hadn't exactly been a pleasant one with Asuka yelling at and slapping Rei. Asuka shuddered at the memory, it wasn't one of her finest moments. Even with her dislike for Rei she had probably gone too far at that point.
She spent a bit more time thinking about it but eventually shrugged it off. Whatever was bugging Rei it was none of her concern. She had herself to worry about. What had happened today had been good but it was only the first step to setting her back in her rightful place.
She stood up and walked over to one of the mirrors situated on the wall. She gazed at herself for a time and noticed that a small amount of colour had returned to her cheeks. She still looked fairly gaunt and skinny compared to what she had been a couple of weeks ago but that too could be worked on. It was all a side effect from the days spent wandering Tokyo-3 and barely eating, it could be fixed.
Asuka felt her stomach growl again, she still hadn't eaten properly today. She had tried to have something to eat before the sync tests but had only managed a few bites before feeling sick and nearly bringing it straight back up. Now that those tests were over and done with she was feeling more up to eating.
She started to map out a schedule for the rest of her day. She would get herself some food and then get herself a much needed shower and change of clothes. She looked at herself in the mirror one more time and took a deep breath. She put on a smile and stood defiantly.
'We've got this Asuka, let's go and be us again.'
She slung her pack over her shoulder and exited the locker room out into the empty corridor. She rounded the first corner but stopped herself as she caught sight of Rei and the new pilot Kaworu Nagisa up ahead.
She could see the two of them fairly clearly from her and found herself backing off around the corner peeking around it. Kaworu was stood directly in front of Rei, his hands were in his pockets and just as he had been when he met Asuka he was smiling.
Rei on the other hand was not smiling. Asuka noted that this wasn't unusual for Rei, she didn't think she had ever witnessed Rei smile during her stay here. What she was seeing however was much stranger than that. Rei was scowling at Kaworu as if she was annoyed with him.
'Are Wondergirl and that new pilot arguing?'
She knew she shouldn't but the listened in closely managing to catch the back end of what Kaworu was saying to Rei.
"You are the First Child arent you? Rei Ayanami? It is a pleasure to meet you, I am Kaworu Nagisa and we are both the same you and I."
There was a brief pause as Asuka tried to figure out what Kaworu had just said. It was a strange greeting to say the least. Rei finally replied.
"No, we are not he same."
Asuka looked on as Rei promptly walked away from Kaworu leaving him alone in the corridor. He watched her leave for a moment before turning his head towards Asuka. His smile grew wider at the sight of her.
"Ah Asuka. I believe congratulations are in order for you concerning your performance during the synchronization tests this morning."
Asuka quickly hid the look of confusion on her face from witnessing this bizarre exchange and instead stood herself up straight and smirked, "Well did you expect anything less from an elite pilot such as myself? I was just setting an example of how it should be done."
Asuka found herself going over to where Kaworu was standing, she nodded her head in the direction Rei had stormed off in.
"So what's with Wondergirl anyway? She seems upset by something?"
Kaworu turned to face the same direction but his expression didn't change.
"I am afraid I might have offended Miss Ayanami in some way. I have not had much contact with people of our age you see so I suppose I am somewhat lacking in proper communication skills. I am sure you have already noticed." He said apologetically.
Asuka nodded and laughed, "Compared to Wondergirl and the idiot, you're a breath of fresh air."
Asuka nodded again, "Shinji of course! Same idiot who has to go and get himself put into the hospital at a time like this."
"Shinji Ikari! Of course, the pilot of Evangelion Unit 01. Yes, I was hoping to meet him when I arrived here but I assume that this is not to be?"
Asuka shrugged and joked, "Not unless you enjoy speaking to people in a coma. Although knowing Shinji you probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference."
Asuka wondered if maybe she had gone a bit too far with her joking as Kaworu seemed to frown at her statement.
"I am to assume you do not get on with the pilot of Unit 01?"
Asuka shook her head, "It isn't like that. I don't not get on with him but he can be... challenging I suppose. I certainly don't want him to be in the hospital either but he's..."
Asuka felt herself trail off and wondered just what exactly it was she wanted to say about Shinji. Again she wondered if she had gone a bit too far in expressing her distate for him in front of Kaworu. She certainly didn't want to give Kaworu the wrong impression that she hated her fellow pilots. If anything Shinji had been her closest friend since she had arrived in Tokyo-3. It was just that so much had happened in the past few weeks she was finding it hard to adjust her feelings.
For a moment she considered confessing this to Kaworu but held back. Kaworu didn't need to know things like that. Instead she just smiled.
"Shinji is just Shinji."
Kaworu seemed to think on her words for a moment before nodding, "I think I understand. You have a complex relationship with your fellow pilots."
"Yeah, you could say that."
"You care about them both deeply but you express this in an unusual manner. Treating them as an adversary or some sort of rival. In a way this brings out the best in you but I think you also use this as a way to bring out the best in them as well."
"I don't know if that's exactly it..."
"Yet you likely feel you couldn't tell them you care about them through fear of being hurt yourself so you keep a distance."
Asuka frowned at his words. Somehow Kaworu had managed to see right through her and yet she couldn't bring herself to react in the way she might have done before. If it had been anyone else she might have yelled or told them to mind their own business. There was something different about Kaworu though.
She didn't really have a desire to confess to Kaworu the reasons why she did what she did. She wasn't going to tell him about her mother or about the pain she had experienced or her complicated feelings for Shinji. She wasn't going to tell him that for her having people around or letting them in would only hold her back and put her at a greater risk of being hurt.
She gritted her teeth, "I do it because I have to. There is no other reason. You're right I care about those people but I certainly don't need them to care about me. They'd only get in my way."
"I see. Humans are interesting creatures don't you think? They fear being hurt and because of this they keep one another at a distance. Yet keeping that distance only causes them more pain in the end, more so than if they let others in. Instead of accepting the pain that might occur along with the good that comes with it they turn their backs on others and end up being hurt more. You yourself have been hurt recently have you not?"
"Perhaps..." Asuka confessed.
"Yet here you stand triumphantly because you decided that instead of turning away you would return to the others who care about you. Your will to come back and carry on is something to be admired. You have gained both my regard and my empathy Asuka."
Asuka raised an eyebrow. Kaworu had admitted earlier that he had not spent a lot of time around people their age so she had expected him to say some strange things. What he was saying now was definitely of that nature, she was not however prepared for the answer she was about to get.
"I mean to say that I love you."
Hospital Room 303
Asuka stood facing the closed hospital room door. She was unsure of why she was even here. It wasn't like she cared about what had happened to Shinji, he was Shinji. He was always in and out of the hospital. He would recover and that would be there.
Yet for some reasons she felt compelled to come here and it wasn't like she had anywhere else to go at the moment. Misato was probably expecting her to go back to the apartment but Asuka didn't really want to go back there. All that was waiting for her there was darkness and bad memories. Hikari had left town along with all of their other classmates. Going to Rei for help was definitely not going to happen and Asuka didn't relish the idea of spending another night on the street.
Most importantly she didn't want to be alone tonight.
So here she was in front of Shinji's hospital room wondering why she was here and what she should even do. She placed her hand on the door handle and slowly made her way into the room. On entering she could see the bed with Shinji in it on the other side of the room. He was asleep and hooked up to a machine that was giving out a steady hum.
As she looked around she saw all the usual things you'd find in a hospital room. A small bin, a potted plant and an ancient looking television. There was a seat set up next to Shinji's bed but it looked as though it hadn't been disturbed since he was brought in.
As she approached she observed the small amount of scarring and redness on his face. From what she had learned most of the damage was on his body, it wasn't life threatening but it was going to be a painful road to recovery for him. Aside from that he actually looked peaceful as he slept. Yet Asuka couldn't help but clench her hand into a fist with anger at the sight of his injuries.
Shinji didn't deserve to have been hurt like this. Even at her most volatile she wouldn't have dreamed of doing this to him. Even when she screamed at him and told him that she hated him or she had shoved him she wouldn't have gone this far. So why did someone who didn't even know him have to do this? He was an Evangelion pilot, he had saved their lives so why attack him?
She took the seat by his bedside and looked him over again. She couldn't understand why she was here or doing this but she felt like this place was the only place she could come to at this point in time. Everyone had left, Rei and Misato were not people she wished to approach and whilst there was Kaworu she was still unsure of how to react to him.
She still had his words from earlier spinning around in her head. Kaworu had actually told her that he loved her but he surely couldn't have meant that sort of love. The two of them had known each other for less than a day and people just didn't fall in love that quickly.
It must have meant something else. Kaworu had told her himself that he didn't know how to interact with people that well. Yet even he must have known the implications of that word. She didn't exactly know how she felt about Kaworu. It was certainly true that she felt a strange feeling of calmness around him, like she could actually trust him and even confide in him if she wanted to.
"Hello idiot." She started to speak, fixing her gaze on Shinji's sleeping face.
"They told me what your injuries were and what happened to you. That you were jumped by three of them and you actually tried to fight back. You're an idiot, why didn't you just run away? That's what you do isn't it? You run away! If Section 2 hadn't intervened you'd have been killed."
She paused for a moment thinking over what she had just said. She played those words back in her mind and narrowed her eyes at Shinji. Dark thoughts ran through her mind, Shinji was just like her in many ways. She had tried to hide from that but she knew it was true. If she was thinking of doing a certain thing to herself then Shinji was certainly capable of it as well. Yet she didn't think Shinji was truly capable of going through with it but if it just happened to happen.
'No... You wouldn't have done. You wouldn't have let them hurt you like that just so you could die? You idiot!'
She wondered for a moment if maybe Shinji could hear her. She had heard somewhere before that people in a comatose state could sometimes hear the voices of others.
"You know, I don't even know why I'm telling you this, it's not like you can hear me but if I find out you did this on purpose I'll make sure you're punished for it. You'll be doing all of my laundry, cooking all of my meals and cleaning my room for a year."
She smiled, "Just make sure you do wake up alright? Just take your time, there is no rush. They managed to get me back just in time and I'm going to make sure I save everyone and I'm going to make sure that when you do wake up I'll be the first thing you see. So that I can thank you for saving my life and then you can thank me."
She stood up from the seat and gently adjusted the sheets on either side of his shoulders making sure he was covered up. She turned and left the room and continued walking until she was out of the hospital and back in the entrance to NERV.
She paused for a moment and noticed Kaworu was already there in the lobby. Was he waiting for her? Did he know that she was going to be visiting Shinji?
"Well if it isn't the fifth child, are you lost?"
Kaworu grinned, "No I'm not lost. They had a number of additional tests they wanted to run before letting me go. I trust you are going home now?"
Asuka nodded sullenly, "I suppose so, not that I really want to."
"But you do have a home to go to, that is a good thing?"
'Not this home.' Asuka thought to herself.
"It would be normally but with the idiot in the hospital and Misato working late there isn't going to be anyone there and its so boring with no one in the city."
"I understand. Well then if it would be alright with you I would happily extend an invitation for you to join me at my apartment. Having just moved in it is a bit sparse but I can offer food and a shower for you. Unless that would make you uncomfortable?"
Asuka thought it over for a moment. Normally she would have rejected any invitation to go back to a boys place especially one she had known for less than a day. Yet she really didn't want to be alone tonight so to hell with what she would usually do.
"Fine, it's not like I have anywhere else to go."
She shrugged trying to act nonchalant about it, yet secretly thankful that she wouldn't have to spend another night on her own.
Asuka rolled onto her back and opened her eyes to look straight up at the ceiling. It felt weird being in a bed once again after her days spent wandering Tokyo-3. Even stranger was being in a bed belonging to a boy she barely knew. She of course was not sharing the bed with him, instead he was lying on a spare bed down below this one.
Asuka smiled thinking about what her friend Hikari might have said about something like this. She remembered the reaction from her classmate when she learned that Shinji and Asuka had to live together, if she knew Asuka was sharing a room with a boy she'd flip out. She let out a small laugh which seemed to catch the attention of Kaworu.
"You seem to be in a good mood."
"Hah, just thinking about my situation. If my friend learned I was sleeping in the same room as a boy she'd go insane. She was a bit prudish in that sense."
"I see, if you would rather I sleep in the other room I can happily do so. I do not wish you any discomfort."
"I'm fine with it, after where I've been sleeping the past few days I'd have been happy sleeping on that chair in Shinji's hospital room."
"You ran away from your home?"
Asuka felt herself nod in the darkened room, "Yup. They had no use for me anymore back there so I ran. Not that they would have noticed anyway, it was always about Shinji to Misato and the others. I was just a tool to be used as they saw fit and discarded."
"Is that how you see yourself?"
"When I lost my ability to pilot Eva I lost my purpose. No one can understand that. They didn't even try to help me or give me a chance to recover. Instead Shinji got everything, he ran away and got welcomed back. He defied orders and got welcomed back. I fail once and they all turn their backs on me… all of them except for Kaji and… he's gone. They didn't even have the guts to tell me."
'Why am I telling all of this to Kaworu? I've never opened up like this to anyone before…'
"So you felt betrayed by the others and you ran away. How was it when you arrived here?"
Asuka shrugged, "It was normal I suppose. I was expecting to live on my own but then I ended up moving in with Misato and Shinji. It was alright, Shinji is a bit of a pushover but he… he cares I suppose. He did everything in the apartment from the cleaning to the cooking. He didn't try to argue whenever we told him to do it. It always really annoyed me."
"You have preferred him to argue with you?"
"Not argue but just… stand up for himself. He's a boy isn't he? He shouldn't let people push him around so easily. Although… he was a really good cook." Asuka grinned remembering what it was like the first time she tasted Shinji's cooking. She hadn't expected anything from it but had been pleasantly surprised. Not that she ever told him that.
"I made friends here but I always kept them at distance I guess. I don't need anyone."
"Not even your family?"
"I don't have much of a family. Mother died long time ago and… I guess there is my father and stepmother. I don't hate them but it's just what they have to do isn't it? They care because they have to."
Asuka shifted in the bed pulling the sheets up to her neck still wondering why she was opening up in this was to Kaworu. Surely he wouldn't have wanted to hear this from her and it wasn't like she had ever wanted to open up to anyone before. Yet here she was and it felt perfectly natural.
"The human heart is a fragile thing. It can break so easily especially when one is or feels they should isolate oneself from others. The fear of being hurt only leads to more pain but this can be repaired by embracing others."
"I don't want to be hurt. I hate being hurt. I want to be strong again like I was before. I don't want to rely on others for that. Yet… I don't want to be alone anymore either."
She opened her eyes to see Kaworu looking at her. Their eyes met and he gazed deeply into her provoking the same calming sensation she had felt earlier when around him.
"You know… I think I was born to meet you."
Misato had not been surprised that Asuka hadn't returned to the apartment that night. What had surprised her however was to find out that she had spent the night at the apartment of Kaworu Nagisa.
There was little Misato could have done about it though. She couldn't have interfered and forced Asuka to return to their apartment or not stay there. To do so would not only have tipped Kaworu and the committee off that sher and NERV suspected something but it also would have further soured the relationship between Misato and Asuka.
She sipped from her small thermos of coffee and felt a gentle breeze blow past her. She shuddered from the cold wondering how just how far they had all fallen recently. She wondered where it all started. Kaji, Asuka, Shinji, Ritsuko and so many others. Their lives had fallen apart so swiftly, seemingly overnight and Misato wondered if there was ever the chance that it could be repaired.
She wanted it to be repaired and she was willing to try. Shinji being taken into the hospital was a wake up call for her. When this was coupled with the report from Section 2 of where exactly Asuka was at the time of the phone call she knew something had to be done. When this was over she'd try to make it up to them.
She'd take Asuka out. Anything Asuka wanted, shopping, a steak meal or even to just hang out. She'd try to rebuild that bridge. Asuka's words from yesterday were haunting her. That it was always about Shinji. Misato couldn't deny that. Since his arrival everything had been about him, or at least that was how it had seemed. In truth it was about herself and what Misato wanted. She was just trying to use Shinji to get back at the Angels.
When he was awake she'd make it up to him as well. Whatever he wanted. She owed the two of them that much.
For now all of that would have to wait. For now she had work to do. She held up the binoculars and scanned the beach again. It was not even dawn yet and there he was standing on a rock facing out towards the sea.
'What sort of person wakes up at this time of the morning to come out here and talk to themselves? Just who are you Kaworu Nagisa?'
Misato panicked and dropped the binoculars as he turned his head immediately after she thought of his name. His eyes seemed to look directly at her.
'What! He can... No, he can't possibly see me can he? That's impossible?'
Asuka scrambled into the entry plug of Evangelion Unit 02 and closed the hatch hastily behind her. The sound of sirens was deafening as she sat herself down on the seat and grabbed hold of the controls.
It had happened so suddenly, one moment she had been asleep and then she heard the sirens rousing her from it. It had taken some time for her to adjust as she realized she was in Kaworu's apartment. She could remember the sick feeling she felt when she realized he was no longer there.
As she had rushed into NERV no one had given her any details on what had happened. She was going into this blind. She took a few deep breaths as the LCL washed over her and continued filling the plug.
An incoming video message came in for her to accept and Misato's face popped up on screen.
"Asuka! Your target is Evangelion Unit 01 and the fifth child Kaworu Nagisa. We're sending you directly into Central Dogma. Kaworu Nagisa has been reclassified as an Angel. Asuka we need you to terminate him immediately."
Asuka opened her eyes and scrambled forward in shock.
"WHAT? KAWORU IS AN ANGEL? THAT... That's not possible! He can't be an Angel!"
Asuka didn't want to believe it, she couldn't have believed it. That boy, the one she had opened herself up to last night, the one who had said he loved her and the one who gave she a feeling of immense calmness unlike anything she had felt before. He couldn't really be an Angel, it just didn't make sense.
Misato replied, Asuka was hoping that maybe it was to correct herself or give new information about it being a mistake. Unfortunately for Asuka is was not a mistake.
"Asuka, it's the truth. Kaworu is an Angel, he has to be stopped. We're launching you now... I'm sorry."
Asuka narrowed her eyes in anger and gripped her controls tighter. It was the truth, she had been betrayed. She was going to make him pay. She glared back at the video screen unsure of whether or not Misato could hear her and snarled, "Don't be."
A moment later her Eva had been launched and was on its way towards Central Dogma. She clenched the right hand into a fist and began to descend the huge circular tunnel towards her targets, Evangelion Unit 01 and Kaworu Nagisa.
She kept descending a few levels until finally they came into view, the purple behemoth that was Evangelion Unit 01 and the white haired boy called Kaworu Nagisa. He was floating downwards the Evangelion alongside him, his hands were in his pockets. Kaworu was no longer wearing the smile she had seen so much of over the past day. The smile that on seeing it had filled her with warmth and comfort.
Instead on his face was pure disdain, instead of feeling warmth and comfort all she could feel was rage and pure anger.
"KAWORU!" She yelled out and sped up her descent.
As she approached she saw him look up and smile.
"I have been waiting for you Asuka."
Asuka finally brought herself level with Evangelion Unit 01 and without being given time to think quickly raised her Eva's hands to counter Unit 01s attempt at grabbing her. She felt the recoil from the two Unit's locking hands and gritted her teeth as she rocked around on her seat. She snarled out an apology to Shinji.
"Shinji... I'm sorry!"
Asuka pushed back and broke the grapple. In an instant she released the progressive knife from the shoulder holster on Unit 02 and brought it down. Unit 01 mirrored her action also bringing its progressive knife forward. An array of sparks flew around the circular shaft as Asuka was nearly deafened by the noise.
"KAWORU! What the hell are you doing? How the hell are you doing this?" Asuka yelled over the noise.
She didn't have time to look across at him, her focus being entirely taken up by the fight with Unit 01. She was sure however that he would be smiling.
"Your Eva's and I are composed of the same matter. I am born from Adam, therefore I can synchronize with it as long as there is no dominant soul. The soul of Unit 01 has regressed into itself as has its pilot, thus it now belongs to me!"
Angrily Asuka shoved Unit 01 back against the wall. This moment was her opportunity, she swung the knife around aiming it directly as Kaworu's torso. There was a huge flash of light and sound as knife collided with the impenetrable barrier of an A.T. Field. Unable to hide her shock Asuka yelled back.
"Bastard! You have an A.T. Field?"
Kaworu merely nodded, "Yes. This A.T. Field as you Lilin call it is the light of my soul. It is a sacred territory in which other others may not enter. Aren't you even aware that the so-called A.T. Field is just a wall and encloses the mind of all which exist?"
"OH SHUT UP AND LET ME KILL YOU!" Asuka growled at him not understanding nor caring for his explanation.
She readied herself to swing at him again but was caught off guard by an attack from Unit 01. She felt the pain rush through her shoulder as Unit 01 plunged its knife deep into the body of her Eva. In agony she dropped her own knife and used all her focus to try to wrench Unit 01s arms away from her.
Feeling the knife move slowly out of Unit 02s shoulder she reached forward grabbing onto Unit 01s shoulders positioning it below her. The end of the central shaft was finally coming into view. Below them was a vast body of red water. Asuka gritted her teeth reading herself for the impact and doing all she could to keep a struggling Unit 01 from breaking her hold.
Finally the two bodies hit the water. Unit 01 hitting it first, being plunged underneath and hitting the floor with a huge thud. Huge waves of water were send out in every direction washing over the rocks nearby and throwing the small boats Asuka observed around as if they were children's toys.
Without any hesitation she reached into the water and pulled out the progressive knife she had dropped earlier. For her there was no time to lose, she could still see Kaworu floating and making his way towards a huge metallic door. Unit 01 had been dealt with, now there was only Kaworu left.
She waded through the water and called out, "GET BACK HERE NOW!"
She had took maybe a few steps before the hand of Unit 01 grasped itself tightly around the ankle of Unit 02.
She spun around and tried to wrench herself free. She aimed a kick at the downed body of Unit 01 only for it to roll out of the way and bring itself back up to full height. This was not what she needed. She didn't know what lay beyond that huge door but she did know that if Kaworu got past it than all of this would be over. It wouldn't just be her who lost it'd be everyone.
She took a step back to avoid an attack from Unit 01s progressive knife. In response she ducked forward aiming her shoulder at the Evangelion's midsection. Steel armour collided with steel armour and the deafening sounds of their battle echoed through the huge cavern.
Focusing all the strength she could muster she lifted Unit 01 up into the air before driving it down onto its back into the water. She immediately brought the knife up and punched it into the chest of Unit 01. The knife slid through the armour with ease and she held it there driving it down firmly.
Seconds past until finally Unit 01 stopped struggling and collapsed back down. All signed of life within the Unit vanished as its eyes went from a bright yellow to blackened.
"I'm sorry for what I had to do to Unit 01 Shinji, but it was me or it." She muttered, before turning her attention towards the huge open door. Kaworu was there stood in front of something. She fixed her gaze on it before gasping.
It was some sort of creature, an Angel but then why would NERV have an Angel down here? Asuka scrambled through all she knew of NERV and its history. She had not read or seen anything like this before, she had snooped through private files and folders even her mothers stuff but never seen anything like this. Yet there was something inherently familiar about it.
She stared at its body for the moment, a huge mass of white nailed to a cross. Upon its face was a grotesque seven eyed mask. It was like something out of a nightmare.
She approached the entrance way just in time to hear Kaworu muttering something to himself.
"No... this is Lillith! Of course..."
She turned around to face her just as she snatched him up in the hand of Unit 02.
"Asuka... I am glad that you were able to take Evangelion Unit 01 from me. It is as they said, you have skill beyond compare, to defeat a being of such power. Indeed the true nature of it was hidden from me until now."
A compliment from Kaworu in his time of defeat. There was no pride for her in hearing his statement, only emptiness. If this was a victory it didn't feel like one. In a moment all her anger at his betrayal suddenly subsided. What was left was unease and confusion.
"Why... why are you doing this Kaworu?"
"It was supposed to have been my destiny to live forever, even though that destiny would have seen the end of mankind. Yet it is possible to kill me and whether I live or die makes no great difference. The truth is Asuka, death might be only absolute freedom there is."
Asuka thought back to yesterday morning before her phonecall to Misato and before her meeting with Kaworu. His words had hit uncomfortably close to her. Was that what he really believed? That dying would bring freedom to him? What that what she had believed yesterday? That dying in that place would have brought her the freedom she wanted or just an end to her pain. She shook her head.
"No! That isn't... Death isn't freedom it's just the end! It's..."
She could see Kaworu's smile soften in the grasp of Unit 02.
"Asuka, this is my wish. The continuation of my life will only result in the end of yours and everyone else's. I cannot go on with that knowledge, please I ask you to destroy me. Claim your victory and end the life of the final Angel."
"This... this isn't a victory! This is just an excuse you're... you're a coward!" Asuka spat back in anger. She could feel the burning of tears in her eyes. She couldn't kill him like this, there had to be some other way. Yet he was her enemy, he was an Angel. If he were to go on living would it really end humanity? Was there not some other way.
"There... there has to be another way."
"I wish it were so Asuka. I would wish to get to know you more. I would wish to get to know the Third Child Shinji Ikari and many more. Yet I am afraid it is not to be. Only one of our species can exist on this planet and it is not mine that should go on. It is humanity that needs the future, so I ask you once again. Please, destroy me."
Kaworu seemed to look up for a moment towards something. Asuka turned to see the figure of Rei Ayanami staring down at the two of them. There was a glow radiating around her and her eyes were fixed onto Kaworu.
Asuka turned again to face Kaworu. His attention was back onto Asuka now.
"Thank you Asuka, because of you my life was meaningful."
Asuka bowed her head and started to slowly squeeze the controls. There was no choice anymore, this was what she had to do. Defeat the enemy and become a hero. Reclaim her spot as an elite Evangelion pilot and give her life meaning once again. She had beaten the last Angel just as she said she would. She could go boast about her victory to Shinji afterwards as he lay asleep in that hospital bed.
A tear trickled down her cheek as she closed her eyes not daring to look ahead at Kaworus figure as she felt his body get crushed by the hand of her Eva. Finally after what as an eternity for her there was a violent pop followed by the crashing of something landing into the water below.
It was done, the final Angel had been defeated. The war against the Angels was over. Asuka brought her knees up to her chest and let more tears flow down her face. This wasn't a victory, it was just an ending.
'I feel sick'
Asuka stared out across the vast body of water. Just away from her a damaged sign post finally had too much and fell into the water creating small rippled throughout. In the distance she could see a number of ruined buildings that had fallen from their previous battles.
She became aware of a figure making their way beside her, she glanced upwards to see it was Misato who was wearing a sympathetic expression.
"You know... Kaworu said he loved me. I've never had anyone say that to me before."
Misato stared ahead, "How did you feel about him?"
Asuka shrugged, "He was a bit weird I guess but... maybe a part of me loved him too. I felt different around him. Like he understood or that I could tell him anything but now I realize... maybe it was because he was an Angel..."
"I always used to feel good when we defeated an Angel. When me and Shinji defeated them I felt great but now this time. Kaworu was a person... I had to kill someone Misato and... I don't feel good about it."
"Would you rather it have been you?" Misato asked.
Asuka contemplated it for a moment. It was just yesterday she was actually prepared to die herself. She was ready to die until that phone call had pulled her from the brink.
"Hah, I'm not ready to die just yet but I do feel like maybe he was a better person than I am. Look at what I've done since I've got here... If I had died would anyone have missed me?"
Asuka felt Misato's hand rest softly on her shoulder, "Asuka you shouldn't say that. You are a good person and of course we would have missed you. Shinji would have especially, you know he was out every day looking for you when you ran away?"
Asuka felt herself blush on hearing that. He had been looking for her every day whilst she was away? She hadn't expected something like that. She smirked and laughed.
"Hah that idiot couldn't find his backside with both hands!"
"At least he tried though. It was more than what I did."
Asuka looked up at Misato who was biting her lip. There was a pause before she finally spoke again.
"Asuka... I can't make it up to you. I've neglected you since you arrived here. Yeah I gave you somewhere to live but when it came to supporting you I... I wasn't a very good guardian. A while ago you came to me and you asked me if I knew what had happened in your past, do you remember?"
Asuka nodded, "Yes."
"Well I do know, every bit of it but back then I told you to leave it in the past. That was wrong of me but it's because that's what I did. Everything about my own parents about my father I just hid in the past because I didn't want to face it. I thought that was the right way to deal with things and I was wrong... I should have been there for you Asuka."
"So what you want me to talk about it now?"
Misato bowed her head, "If you want to."
In response Asuka shook her head, "I don't... not right now. I'm not ready yet not after... but yeah you're right... I did come to you and you didn't help me and when things went wrong for me no one helped me. Everyone was so concerned with Shinji and his problems that I just got overlooked."
"I know... and I'm sorry."
"I hated you for it, I hated him for it too. Strange isn't it that I used to tell him to stop apologizing for something that wasn't his fault yet I hated him for something that wasn't his fault."
"Do you still hate us?"
Asuka shrugged, "I don't think so but don't think this means I like either of you again. You've got a lot of making up to me."
Asuka looked out across the lake once more. For the first time since arriving her she noticed a statue sticking out of the water just to her left. It looked strangely like an angel, the biblical kind. For a moment she could just imagine Kaworu sat on top of it looking out across it.
It still seemed unfair the way he had to die like that. Was that really his only choice or could thee have been another way? If he had have just walked away would it only have been a matter of time before something within him forced him to try again. Asuka contemplated for a moment the people who had sent Kaworu to them. She had long suspected something wasn't right at NERV, maybe it was a fact that if he hadn't have been killed by her then those others would have seen to it that he died.
"I think Kaworu was a good person Misato, he didn't deserve to die like that even if he was an Angel. There had to have been another way."
Misato looked to be deep in thought about it for a moment. Asuka wondered if maybe Misato had similar suspicions as regards what would have happened to Kaworu if he hadn't have chosen death.
"To die in that way was Kaworu's choice Asuka. He knew what he was and he only saw one possible option and that was death. It could have been that there was another way for him but ultimately we'll never know and Kaworu didn't have the will to find it. Of course knowing what he was and his nature maybe he thought it was safer this way, regardless at least he made the choice for himself and it was a valid one."
Asuka fell silent looking out again. Misato was right yet her words gave Asuka no comfort whatsoever. The only person to show her kindness in the past few weeks was now gone within only a day of meeting him. Now she faced an uncertain future, the war against the Angels had finished but there was still an incredibly tense atmosphere around NERV and the ruins of Tokyo-3. They were on the precipice of something and Asuka did not know what it was but she would remain and see it out. If she had to she would fight and she would win.