Neon Genesis Evangelion: Legacy
Episode V: SEELE Strikes Back


Chapter 9 – Dissolved in a Sea of Light
August 2, 2016 – NERV HQ, Medical Wing

Rei was lying in bed, covered in bandages. Her arms, legs and head were heavily bandaged. She had an IV in, and was sleeping somewhat comfortably. She hadn't woken up since she was knocked unconscious by Zeruel's vicious attack. Rei however was starting to stir. She opened her eyes slowly and blinked rapidly when the sunlight hit them. She held her hand over her face and flexed it and stared at intently it.

"How am I still alive…" Rei muttered. "I am still me… I should be different… yet I am still the same…" Rei stared at the wall. "Wait… Shinji… did you save us?"

"Yeah, he did it again." Kaji said, which startled Rei quite severely. "Mr. Kaji? Why are you here?"

"Well, I came here to give you some news when you got up." Kaji said. "Shinji did indeed save you… we heard the alarm, and I led him back to the Cage to launch. He fought and defeated the Angel after a fierce fight."

Rei's lip quivered. "What about Asuka and Mari? I know they were hurt."

"Asuka's home now…" Kaji said. "But she's not talking to anyone… and Mari's still in a coma. She took a few more attacks than the rest of you."

"No…" Rei said worriedly. "What happened to Shinji?" Rei asked. "If I was decimated so easily… and Asuka and Mari were also bested, Shinji must have had issues…" Rei's eyes went wide and she started to shiver. "Is Shinji… has he… died? Did he die to protect us?"

"No, not at all." Kaji said. "He's not ok, but he's alive… we think… he's trapped inside of Unit–01's Core. His sync rate went too high and he, well his A.T. Field collapsed. They don't know if they can bring him back, but everyone is trying their best to bring him back. I just wanted to tell you myself…"

"Shinji…" Rei said tearfully. "He's… he's gone?"

"Yeah… he's gone Rei…" Kaji said. "But he's not dead…"

"Yes, but…" Rei said as tears rolled down her cheeks. "It is my fault. My plan failed… if I had killed the Angel… Shinji would not be… he would not be… gone!"

Kaji stepped forward and hugged the crying girl tightly. "Rei, it's not your fault that Shinji's trapped." Kaji said consolingly "It's no one's fault, Rei… these things just happen, there isn't any way to predict that would have happened. You don't have to cry, Rei…" Kaji wiped Rei's tears away. "I don't think Shinji would like you crying though…"

Rei sniffled. "I believe you are correct." Rei smiled. "It just seemed like an appropriate reaction."

"It was, Rei." Kaji said. "But I just don't like seeing girls cry."

"Do you believe Shinji will be alright?" Rei asked.

"Yeah, he always pulls through…" Kaji said. "He has luck on his side."

"I believe you…" Rei said. "But I still feel sad that he is gone."

"It's alright to feel sad, Rei." Kaji said. "You're allowed to feel you know."

"No… I cannot." Rei said. "I do not handle emotions well… I am not used to them."

Kaji smiled. "Rei, I think you handle your emotions just fine."

"When may I leave the hospital?" Rei asked.

"Probably a few days." Kaji said. "The doctors said they want to keep you for observation. You did get knocked around quite a bit."

"Yes, I was…" Rei said.

"Rei… you had a wonderful fight, I saw the whole thing from Unit–02." Kaji said.

"How did you see the whole fight?" Rei asked. "Were you in the Geofront?"

"Yeah, I was." Kaji said. "I got Shinji to the door to base, and then went and helped Asuka and Mari. What you did was very brave. It was a great plan too."

"It was reckless." Rei said. "I was desperate to kill that Angel. I wanted to save everyone. But I was unable to."

"Rei what you did bought time for Shinji to get into Unit–01, and Asuka and Mari gave you time to get into Unit–00, you all saved us from dying. Every second you were fighting was one more second people had to get out of the base. It was one more second the Angel couldn't finish its plan and start Third Impact. You didn't fail anyone, Rei, you did what you were supposed to, fight your hardest."

"So you don't think I failed?" Rei asked.

"No, I think you did great." Kaji said. "Why are you asking? You've never asked before to my knowledge."

"No… I have not." Rei said. "I have only done what I was told before… I have never acted of my volition."

"Well, maybe it's time for you to do that more often." Kaji said. "I think you'd be better for it, really."

"Why do you say that?" Rei asked.

"Well, sometimes all you can trust is your gut." Kaji said. "Now, I've got to go check on Misato, she hasn't been doing great…"

"Because she loves Shinji like her child." Rei said. "She admitted as much when he was forced to leave… we all care about Shinji… he is… special."

"Yeah… he is special." Kaji said. "Now, just relax, I'll come by to see you later, ok?"

"Thank you, Mr. Kaji." Rei said as Kaji walked out of the room. 'I just hope you are right about Shinji… I'd like for my big brother to be safe…' Rei thought.

–––

Shinji was floating in nothingness. Lights and shapes spiraled around him. Shinji had returned to normal from his controlled berserk state during the battle.

"Where am I?" Shinji asked.

"You are here." A voice responded.

"Where is here?" Shinji asked. "The last thing I remember was being in the Entry Plug."

"You are here." The voice repeated.

"But where is here?" Shinji asked. "And who are you?"

"You are here with me." The voice said. "And you know who I am."

"Who are you?!" Shinji shouted.

"You are not ready yet." The voice said. "In time… you will find out. You are very close, Shinji."

"How do you know my name?!" Shinji shouted into the abyss. "Who are you?!"

"Goodbye for now…" The voice said.

"Wait, don't go!" Shinji cried out. "Don't leave me alone here, I'm afraid!"


August 3, 2016 – Comfort 17 Apartments

Kaji was staying over at Misato's apartment. He had been staying over every night since Shinji was taken by Unit–01. Misato was still fast asleep when Kaji woke up. He blinked a few times at the morning sun. Pen–Pen was sleeping on the other side of the bed, and Kaji chuckled silently. Kaji stroked Misato's hair for a few minutes before he got up as silently as possible so he didn't wake her up.

'She needs the sleep…' Kaji thought. 'She's barely slept since it happened.'

Kaji slid Misato's door open and closed silently as Misato rolled over and started snoring loudly. He walked out into the kitchen where takeout food wrappers and other garbage were strewn around. Kaji looked at it and realized why they were there.

'Damn… she's right back to how she was before Shinji got here… takeout every night.' Kaji thought. 'You don't realize how much that kid did here until he's been gone a few days. I haven't ever seen Misato so… depressed.'

Kaji walked out of the kitchen and saw a similar mess in the living room.

'Damn…' Kaji thought. 'This place looks like a war zone… maybe I should pick some of this up… after I check on Asuka though.'

Kaji walked right by Asuka and Mari's empty room to Shinji's closed door.

'Man, Asuka is taking this so hard… she's locked herself away in his room… I don't even think she's come out since she went in there… which seems impossible… yet she's in there… all alone…'

Kaji knocked on the door. "Asuka… are you up?" Kaji asked. "Do you want to talk?"

"Go away!" Asuka shouted. "Just leave me alone!"

"Asuka, I just want to help you." Kaji said. "Please let me come in…"

"No, I don't need anyone's help!" Asuka shouted. "I'm fine being alone! I don't need ANYONE! JUST GO AWAY, I DON'T NEED YOU!"

Kaji looked crestfallen as he stared at the door. "Asuka… I know you love him… and he'll be fine, I promise you that."

"JUST GO AWAY!" Asuka screamed.

Kaji sighed. "Asuka… if you ever want to talk again… I'm here for you." Kaji said as he walked away.

Kaji walked into the kitchen and saw Misato heating up some leftover curry. "Hey… Kaji, you ok?" Misato asked.

"Oh, you're up…" Kaji said. "Sorry, I thought you were asleep."

"I've been awake forever." Misato said. "I just faked it for your benefit."

Kaji smirked. "I hope your sleeping is the only thing you fake for my benefit."

"Kaji…" Misato shook her head. "I've never faked an orgasm in my life."

"Well… good to know." Kaji said. "But why fake being asleep."

"I don't like seeing you worry." Misato said. "You worry about everything so much, me… Asuka… Shinji… you needed to relax."

"I don't need to relax, Misato." Kaji said. "I just want Shinji back for you, for Asuka, for everyone. You guys are all so worried about him, and I care about all of you, so I'm just worried. It's what I do."

"Kaji… you don't have to worry about me." Misato said. "I know, Shinji will be fine… Asuka's the one to worry about. She's holed up in his room, and I'm not sure why."

"I don't know either…" Kaji lied. "But she's in there, so she must miss him. And she doesn't want to come out."

"I don't know why…" Misato said. "I just wish she'd talk to someone."

"She'd probably talk to Mari or Shinji if they were here." Kaji said.

"Yeah, but Mari's still in a coma, and Shinji is…" Misato said sullenly.

"Currently unavailable." Kaji said. "I hope Mari wakes up soon. Asuka needs someone to talk to, someone she can trust."

"What about Rei?" Misato asked.

"I don't know…" Kaji said. "I've never really seen them being friendly."

"Well, Rei's awake, perhaps she could come and visit." Misato said.

"Yeah, Ritsuko isn't letting Rei out of the hospital." Kaji said. "And I don't think Asuka's in any condition to leave the house. She's not exactly going to school."

"Yeah, you're right…" Misato said. "Is she ok?"

"No, well… you heard her." Kaji said.

"Yeah… she's hurting, and she won't tell anyone." Misato said. "You'd tell me if you were hurting, right Kaji?"

"Why would you even ask me that?" Kaji asked. "I'm not the one that fakes being asleep."

"Fair enough." Misato replied. "But do you really think Shinji will be ok? I mean, he's been absorbed into the EVA… can he even come back?"

"Yeah… Shinji will be fine." Kaji said. "He's a lucky kid, and he got out from inside the Twelfth Angel, he stopped the Tenth Angel, he's done so much… but clearly everyone cares about him… let's just let Ritsuko and Maya work and I know Maya will keep her honest. We just need to be patient."

"I don't want to be patient, I want him back." Misato said.

"I know, you want your boy back." Kaji said. "He'll be fine, I know he'll come back."

"How do you know?" Misato asked. "How can you know?"

"I trust him." Kaji said. "I know he'll be fine, he always is."

"What about Toji?" Misato asked.

"Well, he's still in a coma." Kaji said. "And his girlfriend keeps trying to see him. She says she's worried about him. Is there anything you can do about that?"

"Well, I can see about security." Misato said. "Maybe that girl can visit Toji's sister too. She's been pretty much alone the last few weeks."

"Yeah, she's a nice girl." Kaji said. "And her name is Sakura by the way. I've looked in on her a few times, and chatted with Rei… and Mari's still out… but maybe Toji's girlfriend… uh… Hikari is it… maybe she'll make the girl smile a bit more."

"Did you tell Sakura about Toji and Shinji?" Misato asked.

"No… just about Toji." Kaji said. "I don't want her to worry too much, she's already got a lot of stuff to worry about. Hopefully Shinji will be back before I have to tell her."

"Yeah, well, I hope Shinji comes back before Toji or Mari comes to." Misato said. "I don't want to have to tell them. Toji will be devastated… and Mari…"

"Mari will be worse off than Asuka." Kaji said. "I mean… Rei cried when I told her. And Rei's not the emotional type."

"Do you really think Mari will be worse off than Asuka?" Misato asked.

"Yeah, Asuka likes him a lot, but Shinji is Mari's best friend." Kaji said. "They have a very special bond… she won't be in a good place… she may even kick Asuka out of Shinji's room, and the last thing we need without Shinji here is those two fighting."

"Yeah, he's the only one that keeps them in check." Misato said. "That and he keeps this place so clean… and he always makes sure I'm tucked in too…"

"So… he's more like the parent in this house." Kaji said as he enveloped Misato in a hug.

"I'd like to say no… but you're not wrong." Misato said as she snuggled against him. "He really is the glue that holds this place together… I want him back…"

"I know, Misato…" Kaji said as he squeezed her tighter. "I know…"


August 5, 2016 – NERV HQ, Medical Wing

Mari had been in bad shape. She sustained a lot of sympathy injuries to her body thanks to Zeruel's brutal attack. Because of these injures, she's been totally unresponsive when she was brought into the medical wing. She hadn't required life support, but she was under close observation in case anything went wrong. Kaji came in to check on her at least twice a day, usually before and after he visited Rei and Sakura.

Today, Mari, instead of lying there like she had been, she awoke somewhat suddenly and looked around groggily. Kaji happened to walk into the room as Mari started looking around, and she caught sight of him.

"So… finally gracing us with your presence, eh Makinami?" Kaji asked.

"Yeah…" Mari said rubbing her head. "Did anyone get the license plate on that truck that fucking wrecked my ass?"

"Yeah, it had a big "14" painted on it when it ran you down." Kaji said.

"So… how long have I been out cold?" Mari asked.

"Well, five days or so." Kaji explained. "You got it pretty bad."

"No shit…" Mari said. "So, what are you doing here? To tell me how the fight went after I got put down? I'm guessing the princess or the blueberry fucked that thing in its ass?"

"Well… that's not quite how it went down." Kaji said. "Everyone did give it their all though."

"So, what happened then?" Mari asked. "Don't keep me in suspense, scruffy."

"Well, you went down, and then Asuka went down…" Kaji explained. "You both fought pretty well, and you slowed the Angel down a bit. Then Rei came up with two N2 warheads, and she tried to nuke the Angel."

"So, Rei killed it?" Mari asked. "That's awesome!"

"No… the Angel blocked the blast and took Rei down, but she's ok, she awake and everything." Kaji explained. "Then, Shinji came out in Unit–01. I grabbed him and got him down to the Geofront, and saw you and Asuka go down. So Shinji ran off to the Cage, and I went to help you guys. He killed that thing dead, and wrecked the bas and the Geofront to do it. I should show you the footage sometime… you'd be impressed I think."

"Shinji came back then…" Mari said. "So, where is the puppy? I need to thank him properly for pulling that win out of his ass."

"Ah… well, that's a little hard to explain." Kaji said.

"I'm not an idiot, scruffy." Mari said angrily. "What happened to Shinji, I want to know."

"Mari, this is going to be a bit of shock, especially considering your history." Kaji explained.

Mari's eyes widened and her half a smile turned into a quivering lip. "Is he dead?" Mari asked tearfully. "Please, please tell me he's not dead…"

"Mari…" Kaji said sullenly. "He's been absorbed by the Core of Unit–01."

"What…?" Mari said as tears started rolling down her cheeks. "He… he can't have been! You're lying to me!"

"No, Mari, I not." Kaji said. "I'm sorry I have to tell you about this… it isn't fair., but that's what happened after the battle, Shinji pushed it too far to kill the Angel and became one with Unit–01. But he saved us all, don't forget that."

"Yeah… but he's… he's trapped…" Mari said. 'He's inside of a Core… it's the worst possible thing that could happen…' Mari thought. 'I was trapped there for 6,178 days… I can't lose him… I can't let Yui down… even if he's with her… he deserves a happy life… one without conflict… and I failed him… I let him and Yui down…'

'I figured she'd take this hard…' Kaji thought. 'Her having been trapped in a Core herself… she must be extremely worried about him…'

As Mari kept crying helplessly in bed, Kaji walked over to her. "Mari… are you going to be ok?"

"No… no I won't!" Mari shouted. "Shinji's gone, and I can't do anything to help him! I'm the worst friend in the world!"

"Mari… you did your part." Kaji said as he enveloped her in a hug. "You fought the Angel… you held it at bay as long as you could. Shinji was angry that you got hurt… that's what drove him to fight again… to avenge your injuries. To save you all…"

"Shinji's a… a good person…" Mari stammered between sobs. "Why couldn't I be better?!"

"Mari you are better." Kaji said. "That Angel required a deep sacrifice to defeat, and Shinji did that. And considering your injuries, I think if you had been given the chance, you would have done the same thing."

Mari wiped her eyes. "You really think so?"

"Yeah, I do." Kaji said. "Any of you kids are capable of doing that, but Shinji just happened to be the first to get there."

"So… what's going to happen to him?" Mari asked. "How are they getting him out of there?! What's being done?!"

"Maya and Ritsuko are working on a solution…" Kaji started.

"I don't trust that Akagi bitch!" Mari shouted. "She'll hurt Shinji just to get back at me and Asuka for being rude to her! She'll leave him to die! I can't trust her!"

"No… it's in her best interests to get Shinji back." Kaji said.

Kaji chuckled. "Well… let's just say Misato threated to make Ritsuko regret being born if she didn't get Shinji back, and Maya seconded that… incentive…"

"Well… add me to the list of people that'll fuck her up if she fails." Mari said. "But I get first dibs… to make her pay."

"That's the spirit, Mari." Kaji said. "Just channel that anger into something constructive and use that to get better."

"So… how's Asuka taking this news?" Mari asked. "I know she's uh…"

"I know Asuka likes Shinji." Kaji said as he stepped back from Mari.

"Well… she doesn't just like him…" Mari said. "She kinda loves him…"

"Well… that fits…" Kaji said. "It explains her being holed up in his room and refusing to come out."

"So… she's not handling it that well…" Mari said. "I need to see her… I have to tell her he'll be fine…" Mari tried to move, but aggravated all her injuries. "Motherfucker! That hurts!"

"Hey… don't try to move!" Kaji said. "You'll just hurt yourself!"

"Yeah… just learned that the hard way…" Mari muttered. "I'll have to figure out how to help Asuka from here."

"Well, give it a few days, then maybe you can get out of here." Kaji said. "Just lay back down and rest up… I'm sure you'll get out of here soon enough."

"I hope so…" Mari said. "I don't think Asuka will be ok on her own for long…"


August 8, 2016 – Comfort 17 Apartments

Mari had just been released from the hospital. Her first order of business was staggering home with her injuries. Kaji had offered her a ride, but she refused, saying she could make it to the train station. After a short ride on the train, she made it close to home. After a painfully short walk she made it to the apartment. Mari was glad the elevator was working and made it inside. She could hear Misato snoring in her room and saw that her own room was empty. Looking down the hall, Mari saw Pen–Pen sitting outside Shinji's closed door, and Mari could hear muffled crying.

Mari walked up to Pen–Pen and patted him silently on the head. "Thanks for keeping an eye on the princess…"

The bird nuzzled Mari's leg and nodded at her, and then disappeared towards Misato's room. Mari, without any hesitation opened Shinji's door to see Asuka face down on Shinji's bed, her face buried in his pillow. Her hair was matted and greasy, like she hadn't showered in a few days.

"Asuka…" Mari said quietly. "It's me…"

"What do you want…" Asuka said weakly.

"I'm just making sure you're ok…" Mari said. "Clearly you're not…"

"No…" Asuka said. "I'll never be alright… I failed Shinji… I don't deserve his love, I never did. I'm a failure as an EVA pilot, I don't deserve to have Unit–02… I don't deserve anything… I should just be allowed to die alone…"

"Well, unfortunately for you, I'm not leaving you to die alone." Mari said. "Now, come on, sit up… I don't need you suffocating on me."

Asuka lifted her head weakly and looked at Mari. Her eyes were swollen and bloodshot. She had dark circles under her eyes, and dried tears and snot all over her face.

"Asuka…" Mari said. "Here, sit up…"

Mari sat on the bed next to Asuka and helped her up. She wiped Asuka's face and wiped her face off, then brushed Asuka's hair out of her face, and Asuka collapsed into Mari's arms and started crying.

"I… I can't believe I failed him again…" Asuka cried out. "I let him down… I should have fought harder! I'm a failure! I… I…"

Mari wrapped her arms around Asuka and tried her best to comfort her. "No, Asuka… you're letting him down by not getting back out there…" Mari said. "He'd be saddened to know that you're here crying instead of trying to improve for the next fight… the next fight where you'll save Shinji from getting hurt. Don't you want that?"

"I shouldn't be anywhere near and Evangelion…" Asuka said sullenly. "I'll just let people get hurt… I should have been the one to get kicked out of here… not Shinji… I love someone I don't deserve to be with…"

"Asuka… Kaji said we did our best out there… didn't he tell you that?" Mari asked.

"I don't think he got the chance…" Asuka said. "When I heard Shinji was absorbed, I just started screaming and ran home…"

"So he didn't get to tell you why Shinji was so enraged when he fought the Angel?" Mari asked.

"No… I never let him…" Asuka said.

"He saw us get taken out…" Mari said. "Kaji said he got so enraged he ran off to get to Unit–01 and showed that Angel why he shouldn't mess with us… he was so and that you got hurt… and that I got hurt… he just wanted it to all end… he wanted to save us…"

"Shinji wanted to save us?" Asuka asked. "Does that mean he doesn't think I'm useless…"

"I don't think Shinji could ever think that about you, princess…" Mari said. "Asuka, you need to remember one thing, Shinji is a kind person, he doesn't care about anything other than you being his friend…"

"But does he love me?" Asuka asked. "I don't think he'll ever love me…"

Mari paused for a moment and couldn't bring herself to break Shinji's confidence. "Asuka, I told you already to ask him out… you'll never know if you don't ask him."

"But when will I ask him?" Asuka asked. "He's… he's gone…"

"If you don't believe he'll ever come back… how can you ever ask him what he really feels about you?" Mari asked. "Just have a little bit of hope, Asuka… and he'll come back, he always does. He'll never leave us alone…"

"I hope you're right…" Asuka said.

"I'm sure I am." Mari said. "Shinji would never let us down." Mari squeezed Asuka a bit. "Now, it's time to get you into the bath. You'll stay in there and clean off while I go check on Rei, when I get back, I'll bring dinner, ok?"

"Wait… you're leaving me…" Asuka asked. "Please don't leave me Mari… I… I lied to Kaji… I don't want to be alone… I hate being alone…"

"I know, princess…" Mari said consolingly. "I'm not leaving you… I just think you'd be better off taking a bath first, I'll let Rei know you're ok."

"As long as you promise to come back…" Asuka said as she hugged Mari tightly.

"I promise I'll come back, Asuka…" Mari said consolingly. "And I promise Shinji will come back to you too."

–––

Mari was limping her way to Rei's building to talk to her. After her somewhat successful talk with Asuka, Mari needed to make sure Rei was ok. Mari walked up the stairs and knocked on Rei's door. Rei opened the door and stared blankly at Mari.

"Oh, hello Mari…" Rei muttered. "I am glad you have been released from the hospital."

"Yeah, just got out this morning, still not all better." Mari said. "But I'll get there."

"So, is there something you wish to discuss?" Rei asked. "I am extremely tired."

"Yeah, I just wanted to see that you're ok, blueberry." Mari asked.

"I will be fine when Shinji returns." Rei said. "Until then… I am not fine. How is Asuka?"

"Asuka's the same as you are…" Mari grimaced. "Blueberry…" Mari said. "You don't love him, do you?"

"I do love him… but in that way…" Rei said. "More like a sibling… and I wish for his safe return, so I will do as I am told and keep going through every set of tests that Dr. Akagi give to me."

"Is that why you're so tired?" Mari asked.

"Yes…" Rei replied. "And I cannot sleep."

"Why not?" Mari asked.

Rei sighed. "Shinji is missing, and I miss his presence… without him, things feel uneasy…"

"I know what you mean." Mari said. "Would you like to come back to my place? Maybe being with us will make you feel better."

"No, I cannot go back to that place until Shinji has returned." Rei said.

"I could stay here…" Mari said.

Rei smiled and hugged Mari. "I wish to be alone until then Mari… I hope you can understand that…"

Mari kissed Rei on the cheek. "I understand." Mari smiled. "I'm sure Shinji will be fine… and I hope you're not mad at me for interrupting you…"

"I am glad you came to see me Mari…" Rei said. "I have… feelings for you too…" Rei blushed. "Perhaps… perhaps after Shinji comes back we can become closer friends… but for now… I am too worried about Shinji to focus on other things…"

"I'm glad to hear that… I have feelings for you too…" Mari said somewhat happily. "I'll see you later, blueberry… I can't wait to get to know you better…"

"I will see you tomorrow, Mari." Rei said. "We have a sync test in the morning… seeing as you're out of the hospital I believe you will be required to attend."

"Well… yeah that sounds fun…" Mari said. "But I guess I'll see you in the morning now."

"Goodbye, Mari…" Rei said as she blushed. "Tell Asuka I'm glad she's ok."

"Don't worry…" Mari said. "I'll make sure to tell her…"


August 9, 2016 – NERV HQ

Mari was wondering around NERV after their sync tests. She was in a pretty sullen mood. After being berated by Dr. Akagi for all of their sync scores having fallen, with Asuka's plummeting almost 8 points, Misato had to step in and tell her that the emotional turmoil of having a missing friend was weighing on their minds, and until Shinji was recovered, no more sync tests would be performed. So, while Asuka and Rei went silently to the locker rooms, Mari walked off to be alone.

After a while, Mari found herself in the Isolation Cage with a partly armored Unit–01. She could see the hulking mass inside through the window. Mari fiddled with the keypad and got it to beep open. Mari walked inside, plugsuit still on, and looked directly into the uncovered face of Unit–01.

"So, this is that's under that hefty armored plating." Mari said. "Heya Yui… how's Shinji?"

Unit–01 did nothing but stand there imposingly.

"Yui, are you still in there?" Mari asked. "Is something wrong?"

Unit–01 kept standing there.

"I know you're probably mad at me…" Mari said sullenly. "I know I failed Shinji… and I let you down too… I'm really sorry…"

Unit–01 blinked once, and its unbandaged eye moved and focused on Mari.

"Oh, so you're still awake in there…" Mari said. "Is Shinji ok?"

Unit–01 blinked once, indicating Yui was saying yes.

"Good…" Mari said. "We all miss him a lot… me… Rei… and Asuka… he all just want him back… we can't even concentrate properly on our synchronization because we'll all so worried about him… please tell me that Shinji can come back… we all want him back with us… please Yui… can Shinji come home."

Unit–01 blinked twice, indicating Yui was saying no.

"Why can't he come home?" Mari asked. "Isn't he able to?!"

Unit–01 blinked once.

"So he doesn't want to come back to us?!" Mari shouted. "Tell me!"

Unit–01 blinked twice.

"So if he can come home if he wants, and wants to come back to us, then what is I Yui?!" Mari screamed. "Is he not ready yet?!"

Unit–01 blinked once.

"So… he's not ready yet…" Mari said. "Please, Yui… just get him home to us… he and Asuka are really close to getting together, and he's happy here… and I… I miss the puppy… I just want to hug him and tell him everything will be ok…"

Unit–01 blinked once.

"Thanks Yui…" Mari said as she's walking away. "I'm sorry for yelling… I'm just stressed without him here… he makes life so much better by just being around."

–––

Rei had left the locker room to go home. She had heard Asuka crying in the shower, but thought better to leave her be, as Asuka disliked being caught having emotions. Rei herself had cried in the shower and decided she would be better off being alone again at home.

It took Rei only a little while to get home, as she walked at a fast pace. By the time she got back to her dingy apartment, her eyes were welling with tears, and as she walked to her bed, she stripped off her clothes and collapsed crying onto her bed.

"Why am I crying?" Rei asked herself. "Is it all because I miss Shinji… Shinji my brother?" Rei reached up and grabbed her Mew plushie from above her bed and brought it close to her chest. "Why do I feel this way? Why am I so sad that Shinji is gone… will he be alright? Is he safe?"

Rei looked over at her darkened apartment. "I have never felt this way about anything before… I have never had these emotions where I felt the need to cry…" Rei sniffled. "I feel a love for Shinji that I cannot explain… he makes me feel safe, and without him here… I do not feel safe… even with Mari and Asuka here… Shinji's presence makes me feel like I cannot die, like I am irreplaceable…" Rei paused. "Asuka makes me feel happy… she has done so much to be kind to me lately… and Mari makes me feel… warm… I do not know why I feel that way… but it is nice… with Shinji being back… I will feel happy safe and warm again…"

Rei turned over in her bed and clutched Mew tightly. "Please, Shinji… come back to us soon… I… I need you…"


August 15, 2016 – NERV HQ, Medical Wing

Hikari was sitting quietly beside Toji's bed. After a lot of string pulling by Misato and Kaji, Hikari, as Toji's girlfriend, had been allowed to visit him whenever she wanted. This had been the fifth day she'd been sitting by his bedside, relaxing quietly and waiting for Toji to show some signs of life.

He still smelled of LCL, which was used to accelerate the healing of his fractured bones and bruised or ruptured organs. His skin had been ripped apart, leaving it a mess, which happened when Bardiel's tentacles had ripped free of his body during the sadistic Angel's death throes.

So, Hikari sat quietly and stared at him breathing quietly, the wounds on his face having been healed, and his other wounds having been mostly repaired. He was breathing on his own, unaware of the world around him.

"Well, you're looking better today, Toji…" Hikari said quietly. "I wish you were awake… I really want to talk to you… it's been too long…"

Toji stayed there quietly, breathing as he slept.

"I don't know… maybe if I kiss you…" Hikari said. "Kinda like Sleeping Beauty…" Hikari leaned over Toji and kissed him lightly on the lips. "Come on… that should have worked… you're such a jerk…"

"No I'm not…" Toji said weakly.

"Yes you are…" Hikari replied without thinking. "Wait… Toji…?"

"Yeah… why are you being so loud?" Toji said.

"Cause you're awake dumbass!" Hikari said as she slammed into him with a bone crushing hug. "God, you're an idiot!"

"Ow! Hikari, back it up… you're hurting me." Toji said.

"Quit being a baby…" Hikari said. "I missed you."

"Yeah but how are you in here?" Toji asked. "You don't work for NERV."

"Kaji and Misato got me in here to see you." Hikari explained. "I told you, I was worried about you."

"How could you have missed me, it's only been what, a day or two. You didn't need to be worried." Toji said. "I left for Matsushiro yesterday, right?"

"No, Toji…" Hikari said. "That was 18 days ago. You've been in a coma since the accident…"

"What happened?" Toji asked. "All I remember was… I activated the EVA… and then I remember talking to the Angel… the Angel… that freak spoke to me… he tortured me…" Toji's body shivered. "He tried to kill Asuka, and Mari, and Rei, and Shinji…"

Hikari crawled into bed next to Toji and held him. "It's ok, Toji… you don't have to be afraid. Everything will be alright."

"No… it won't… the last thing I remember Mari stabbing the EVA… I felt it… I started bleeding… I kept telling Shinji to kill that thing, but he wouldn't fight back… he said he didn't want to hurt me… he almost died…"

"But he saved you…" Hikari said. "He did his best to save you."

"How did he manage that?" Toji asked.

"No one explained it to me." Hikari said.

"Well maybe I can help." Kaji said. "Nice to see you're up, Toji…"

"Yeah thanks…" Toji said. "So, do you know what happened, Mr. Kaji?"

"Yeah, what are you doing here, Kaji?" Hikari asked.

"Oh, just here visiting young Sakura, then decided I'd come and see how you're doing." Kaji said. "She's a nice kid, she'll be glad to hear her hero of a big brother is awake."

"Wait, she knows what happened to me?" Toji asked.

"Nothing specific." Kaji said. "Just that you got hurt fighting an Angel, I didn't think the rest of it was relevant."

"So, do you know what happened?" Toji asked.

"Yeah, you work here, you must have seen it all happen." Hikari said.

"I did see it…" Kaji said. "There's a record of it too."

"Really?" Hikari asked.

"Yeah, I can show you the video feeds from the battle." Kaji said. "That is if you're up for it of course… it's not exactly a happy feed."

"What does the feed include?" Hikari asked.

"The Entry Plug footage and external fixed cameras from around the battle zone." Kaji explained. "It also has the audio feeds from everyone too. Are you sure you're up for it Toji? I don't want to you to see this if you're not ready."

"I'm ready… I want to see what happened." Toji said.

"Toji…" Hikari said.

"Babe, I'll be fine…" Toji said. "I wanna see it."

"Ok, kid." Kaji said. "Just don't be too shocked by what you see."

"I won't be." Toji said.

Kaji pulled out a tablet and set it in front of Toji and Hikari and hit play. The video started just before the EVAs intercepted Bardiel and Unit–03. Toji gasped at every punch and kick that was thrown, Hikari was near tears as everyone tried their best to save Toji. Finally, the Dummy Plug activated, and that's when Hikari cried and Toji got worried. They heard Shinji's speech, and saw the battle end, but Kaji had added in extra video, video that ran all the way through Shinji destroying the pyramid in a fit of rage. When the video stopped, Hikari and Toji were in tears.

"Did Shinji really get that mad?" Toji asked. "Like, I've never seen him angry at all…"

"Yeah… Shinji was beyond pissed." Kaji said. "If the EVA hadn't shut down, he would have destroyed the Geofront himself. Hell, his father arrested him and threw him out."

"Why did he do that?" Toji asked.

"Well… Shinji beat his father up pretty bad for trying to hurt you." Kaji explained. "I mean, it was brutal, Shinji didn't want to stop until he was dead."

"I didn't know Shinji could get that violent." Toji said.

"I did." Hikari said. "He only piloted to protect his friends. He told me that a long time ago… he would let himself die to protect the people he cared about."

"Wow, you guys really are great friends with him." Toji said.

"Well, Shinji has that effect on people." Kaji said.

"I have a question though, why was everything so violent?" Hikari asked. "I mean, that Angel was in the EVA, right? How was it in the EVA?"

"It was a very violent Angel." Kaji said. "A parasitic Angel that tried to kill Toji. Whatever happened, it could have ended up a lot worse than it did. I hear you're going to make a full and complete recovery within a few weeks."

"A few weeks, huh?" Toji asked. "I guess that could be worse." Toji chuckled. "Hey, where's Shinji now? I wanna tell him thank you for saving my hide."

"Hikari, did you get to that?" Kaji asked.

"No… not yet…" Hikari said. "It hadn't come up yet…"

"Shit…" Kaji said. "Hikari… you should explain that… he should hear that from you… I've already given that news to too many people…"

"What happened to Shinji?" Toji asked.

"Yeah… why don't you just go?" Hikari said. "I'll handle it… you told me everything anyway… it'll be easier."

"Yeah, sure…" Kaji said. "See you later guys… I'll let the girls know you're ok. Hikari, Sakura said she wants to see you too. So don't forget."

"I won't." Hikari said as Kaji left the room.

"Hikari, what happened to Shinji?" Toji asked. "Is he ok?"

"No, he's not ok, Toji…" Hikari said. "He got… uh how did Kaji explain it. He was absorbed by Unit–01 against the Fourteenth Angel."

"What this happened during our fight?" Toji asked.

"No, that was the Thirteenth Angel." Hikari said. "This was a separate Angel, the Fourteenth, it nearly wiped out the Geofront… and Shinji saved everyone, risking his own life to do it. He's trapped and can't come back… he did it to protect his friends."

"So, Shinji's dead?" Toji asked.

"No, not dead, just trapped." Hikari said. "Kaji kept assuring me while I cried that Shinji's a tough kid and he'll be back soon enough."

"Do you really think so?" Toji asked. "I… want to be able to thank him…"

"You will." Hikari said. "I know they'll get him back, for all of us."

"Man… after all this I'm kinda tired…" Toji said.

"I figured that." Hikari said. "My big strong boyfriend."

"So, you still love me after all this?" Toji asked.

"I would love you even if you were missing a leg, Toji." Hikari said. "I'd love you no matter what happens."

"Well that's sweet." Toji said. "But I'm glad I have all my limbs, especially considering how violent that fight was."

"Well, I guess you owe Shinji a thank you when he gets back." Hikari said.

"Yeah, I do…" Toji said. "But, uh… I'm assuming you're going to see Sakura, right?"

"Yeah, so you can sleep a bit." Hikari said.

"Does she know about Shinji?" Toji asked.

"No, Kaji decided to only tell her a bit about you." Hikari said. "He's right, she'd be too worried. She may understand, but she'd be so worried about him."

"Well, he's right." Toji said. "Why don't you go see her. Tell her I'm ok, and that I miss her so much."

"Don't worry, I'll let Sakura know about you waking up…" Hikari said. "But I'll keep everything on Shinji quiet… she doesn't need to know yet. We'll tell her when Shinji's back safe and sound."

"Well… maybe in a few days I can go see her myself." Toji said. "Tell her about Shinji myself."

"Not likely, you're still in bad shape. You need to rest and get better, Toji." Hikari said. "But I'm just glad you're alright…"

–––

Mari was in Shinji's room with Asuka. Asuka was sleeping somewhat peacefully with Mari snuggled up against her. Mari had been able to calm down Asuka after her latest fit. But Mari was unable to sleep. She couldn't help but think about Shinji and what had happened to him, and what he was going through.

'I just hope he's not in the same position I was in…' Mari thought. 'I know my time in the Core was shit… Lilith was a fucking cunt… she tortured me… but Yui is with Shinji, so he should be mostly safe… I hope.' Mari grimaced. 'I just hope he doesn't get disoriented in there… he might think its reality in there if his mind gets a hold of him.'

A tear escaped Mari's eye and rolled onto Asuka's cheek. 'I just want him to come back… that way I can get these two together. They deserve to be together… they'll be so happy when they finally realize they're in love with each other. I just want to see them be happy together, without the threat of Angels or Evangelions… just them, together, and happy…'

Mari stroked Asuka's hair. 'I'm sorry, Asuka… I wish I could do more for you, but you're so sad right now… I know you miss him, but he'll be fine… I think… I'll never tell you this, but part of me thinks he can't come back… he might never be able to escape… I was let out by Lilith… ad he might not get that option. Being in one of those things does stuff to you, it changes you… I just hope the Shinji we get back is the one that left…'


August 18, 2016 – Tokyo–3 Junior High School, Class 2–A

Kensuke was sitting alone in class. Hikari had called him last night to tell him a bunch of stuff. They stayed on the phone a very long time, and Kensuke was shocked to have heard everything he was told. So, like he had the last few weeks, he'd gone to school alone, and sat alone in the classroom with no one to talk to.

'All my friends are all busy… and I'm stuck here all alone…' Kensuke thought. 'I can't believe that Toji was Unit–03's pilot… and that Shinji's trapped in an EVA… so much has happened, and I've been left I the dark, and now I'm alone. All my so called friends aren't even here… and I can't even go see them. Hikari said they're all a mess, and that she's the only one allowed to see Toji…'

Kensuke sighed. 'I'm not even and that Toji was the pilot of Unit–03… I'm just glad he's ok. I mean, I guess Shinji was right, the EVAs really are dangerous. I don't think I want to pilot one anymore, not if it can be taken over by an Angel… that and it almost killed all my friends. Then I'd really be alone…'

Kensuke grimaced and stared out the window. 'I just hope Shinji gets back safe… that way things can get back to normal. I can't get through the day alone like this again.'

One of their classmates walked by, and poked Kensuke in the back of the head.

"Hey, what was that for?" Kensuke asked.

"What, your friends aren't back yet." The kid said. "Hell, even the Class Rep isn't here to keep you from getting teased like the weirdo you are. None of your pilot friends are here either, so you're on your own."

"Great…" Kensuke said. "Just go away."

"Or what, your friends will beat me up?" The kid said. "Fat chance considering they ever show up to class. Get used to it, you're my new target."

Kensuke grimaced as the kid walked away. 'Great, now I have to go through this again… I haven't had to deal with this shit since Toji became my friend…' Kensuke thought. 'I wish he was here right now. I wish any one of my friends were here with me…'


August 19, 2016 – Comfort 17 Apartments

Asuka was alone in the bathroom. She was soaking in the tub and also hiding in the tub to get away from the overly clingy Mari. Asuka was tired of being watched and cuddled, as the only person she wanted near her was not even close by or even remotely available.

"Shinji…" Asuka muttered. "Why did you have to leave me… why can't you just stay near me in case I need you… I mean… I do… I do need you…" Asuka teared up again. "Shinji… I love you… and I… I need you with me… I just want to kiss you… but you're gone because I failed you, and I can't get what I want… which is you…"

Asuka buried her head in between her legs and cried quietly so Mari wouldn't burst in and try to console her while she was naked. "I hate myself for letting Shinji down…" Asuka sobbed silently. "I don't deserve someone I can't protect… he protects all of us without thinking… but I can't even pull myself together long enough to kill an Angel and protect the boy I… the boy I love!"

Asuka wiped her tears. "But Mari's right, Shinji wouldn't want to see me crying… I need to be strong for when he comes back… and maybe I can work up the nerve to ask him out… then maybe I'll find out if he likes me back…" Asuka smiled. "It'd be nice to find out that he likes me. But do I really deserve to be that happy? I've been so mean to people for so long… I can't possibly deserve the happiness I want…"

Asuka teared up again. "It's payback from the universe… for all the mean stuff I've done… it took the one thing that means the world to me… not my EVA or my stuff… but Shinji…" Asuka looked up at the ceiling. "If he comes back, I swear, I'll never be mean again… if the universe gives me back my baka… I'll atone for all the things I said about my half siblings and step mom… all the things I did to them… I just want Shinji back… please… please give me my baka Shinji back…"
–––

Shinji was still in the nothingness. He didn't know how long he'd been there, or what had happened around him. He just floated there, bored out of his mind, hoping that someone would come to talk to him.

Shinji sighed. "Well… this sucks. I haven't talked to anybody since I got… well wherever the hell this is."

"Why not talk to me?" A voice that Shinji recognized said.

"Not again…" Shinji said. "You're not Asuka!"

An apparition of Asuka in her school uniform appeared. "Oh, so you recognize my voice, baka?" Asuka smiled. "That's sweet of you…"

"Who are you?" Shinji asked.

"I'm the Asuka in your mind, baka." Asuka said. "The Asuka you dream about when you're lonely… the Asuka that you know will say I love you… "

"Why are you here?" Shinji asked.

"Baka, you are so damn dense." Asuka said. "I'm here to make you feel better. Don't you want to feel better? I won't try and trick you, I'm not Leliel…"

"Well, yeah." Shinji said. "But not this way… I don't want it to be this way…"

Asuka moved forward and hugged Shinji. "Baka… you're so sweet. Instead of talking to me in your head, you should ask me out in real life. I bet you'll find the answer is the one you're looking for. Why don't you try it?"

"I'm afraid to ask her… you…" Shinji muttered. "She's not you, she doesn't like me."

"Shinji, not everyone can be your fantasy girl." Asuka said. "But if you don't ask her, or at least tell her how you feel, you'll regret it for the rest of your life."

"But…" Shinji said.

"No… don't tell me that…" Asuka said. "You have a real shot with the real me, you just need to get brave and take the chance."

"Are you sure that if I ask her, it'll work?" Shinji asked.

"Well, I can't tell you that it'll work." Asuka said. "But you have to try. You have to try and get back there to ask her."

"I don't know how to get back." Shinji said. "I'm trapped wherever here is."

"You know where here is, Shinji…" Asuka said. "You've seen this before. You know what happened to you inside Unit–01."

"No I don't, I was fighting in the Angel, and I ended up here!" Shinji shouted.

"Shinji, you've seen it before…" Asuka said. "The day your mom disappeared. Don't you remember? You've seen Unit–01 before too, that day… the day of the test."

"No, I don't remember!" Shinji shouted. "I don't want to remember!"

"Shinji, you need to remember…" Asuka said. "You have to… it's the only way you're getting out of here…"

"NO, I DON'T WANT TO!" Shinji shouted.

Flashback

Naoko was monitoring her screen and continued to read out the pertinent data. "Link stabilization at 99% and holding… copy rate is at 25 GB/s… process is estimated to be 2% complete." Naoko reported. "Readings are stable… no change in the subject… hold on, there is a fluctuation in the A.T. Field strength of the subject and in the Core! The Core is trying to overpower the subject! SDU has been forcibly shut down by the Core, and its linking directly with the Link Tube!"

"Increase the EM stabilizers and ATF Modulators to compensate!" Gendo and Fuyutsuki shouted in unison.

"EM Stabilization now at 40%… ATF Modulators focused on lowering the Core's A.T. Field to acceptable levels… no response!" Naoko shouted.

"PUT THE DAMN THINGS TO OVERLOAD IF YOU HAVE TO, I'M NOT GOING TO LOSE HER! IF THAT DOESN'T WORK, CUT THE FUCKING POWER!" Gendo roared. "YUI!" Gendo called into the mic. "CAN YOU HEAR ME?!"

All Yui could hear in thee Link Tube however was static. "Gendo, what's going on, I'm feeling funny…" Yui said in a panicked voice. "Gendo? Can you hear me? Gendo?!" Yui started to sound increasingly frantic. "GENDO, HELP ME, PLEASE!" She screamed. "I was expecting this, but now that's it come, I don't want to go through with it, please someone help me!" Yui cried out.

"EM Stabilization and ATF Modulators increased to 250% output to compensate… no response… the subject's AT. Field is nearing the critical limit… it's past the point of no return! We can't save her…" Naoko said, doing her best to sound surprised. "Cutting the power to the Link Tube…" The large power cord attached to the Link Tube fired a retro rocket to eject, and fell loudly to the floor of the test chamber. "No effect… the Core is supplying enough power to complete the task!"

"Attempt emergency deactivation sequence Omega–055." Fuyutsuki said. "Now!"

"Initiating forced emergency ejection… command failed… it was rejected by the Link Tube…" Naoko said, a note of surprise in her voice.

Gendo cried out, banging his fists against the glass of the control room. "YUI!"

Inside the Link Tube, Yui had begun to calm down as she accepted her fate. She could feel herself begin to degrade into nothingness as her A.T. Field collapsed. "I should have thought this through better…" Yui said, seeing a code flash up on her HUD labeled "Omega–055" and a countdown clock. Yui looked at it and moved her fading hand towards the controls. "I'm too far gone to be saved, Gendo, Fuyutsuki, I'm sorry, but I can't stop what's already been put motion." She keyed in a code to deny access to the Link Tube by the control room before her hand dissolved into the LCL. "Goodbye."

In the control room, Gendo was beside himself "OVERRIDE THAT LOCKOUT, NOW!" Gendo screamed.

"I can't, Director, we've been cut off." Naoko replied.

"DAMN IT ALL, I'LL DO IT MYSELF! OUT OF MY WAY AKAGI!" Gendo roared as he moved to the control console.

However, as he did so there was a brilliant flash of light and then silence. The displays in the control room began to display "SIGNAL LOST." The control room went dead quiet, and everyone had a look of horror on their faces. Gendo fell to his knees and held his face in his hands. Shinji kept looking out the window of the control room, wondering where his mother was.

"Where's mommy?" Shinji asked. When he got no response from anyone, he spoke louder "WHERE IS MY MOMMY!" He screamed.

"She's gone, Shinji, she's gone…." Gendo replied hollowly as he got up and left the control room.

End Flashback

Shinji was shaking and crying.

"Shinji?" Asuka asked. "Shinji, are you ok?"

"NO!" Shinji roared as he shook Asuka's apparition. "DO YOU KNOW WHERE MY MOTHER IS!"

"I don't… I'm sorry…" Asuka said as she hugged Shinji again. "But you do…"

"NO I DON'T!" Shinji shouted. "MY MOTHER'S DEAD, HOW COULD SHE BE ALIVE! I SAW HER DIE!"

Another figure showed up behind Asuka and stared at Shinji from the shadows. "Because, I've been here all along."

Shinji started at the shadowy figure. "Who… who are you?"

"Who do you think I am…" The figure said.

"Mother?" Shinji asked.

"Hello, Shinji…" The figure said.


August 26, 2016 – NERV HQ

Gendo, Ritsuko, and Fuyutsuki were in Gendo's office. They were going over the final plans to deal with Shinji's recovery. And the other repairs going on around the Geofront. Gendo was sitting and staring intently at Ritsuko. Fuyutsuki was looking over the documents Ritsuko had brought with her, and he looked less than enthusiastic about what he was reading.

"How are the plans coming, Dr. Akagi." Gendo asked.

"Everything is almost in place." Ritsuko said. "We're rigging up the Entry Plug now with the equipment."

"Dr. Akagi, I've read your plans." Fuyutsuki said. "They seem awfully familiar."

"They are a modification of my mother's unsuccessful plans to recover Yui Ikari." Ritsuko said. "Whatever she used, it didn't work… I've… I've reworked the algorithms to isolate a soul's signal, and I have redesigned the A.T. Field Modulators for this operation."

"How did you redesign them?" Gendo asked. "Those modulators are quite good at what they do, Dr. Akagi."

"Not for this kind of recovery, that's what my mother got wrong. It was like she didn't want to recover her…" Ritsuko said. "Anyway… I have set up concentric rings around the Entry Plug. Coupling that with increasing the pressure of the LCL and hooking Unit–01 directly to the MAGI, we should be able to do it. "

"Not the MAGI." Gendo said. "Use EVE instead."

"Why would I use an outdated system?" Ritsuko asked.

"Having a fully dedicated system to run computations would be far more useful." Gendo said. "As I recall, EVE is a very powerful system on its own, it doesn't need to make any decisions, just run computations."

"Fine… but sir, what about the rest of the plan?"

"It appears that it should work." Fuyutsuki said. "The theory is sound, this all comes down to execution. Do you think it will work?"

"I honestly have no idea if it would work or not." Ritsuko said. "I read the reports about the last recovery attempt, and I wasn't exactly pleased with what happened. All I can say is my method is a vast improvement, I think it will work."

"Then we will have to trust your method, Dr. Akagi." Gendo said.

"So, what about the other Evangelions?" Fuyutsuki asked. "How are they coming along?"

"Well, other than the obvious issues of being in the middle of a recovery attempt, Unit–01 is fully armored again, and once the operation is complete, it will be combat ready."

"Unit–01 is to be pulled from active duty and kept in cold storage." Gendo said. "It has become too unpredictable to keep in active service."

"What's become too unpredictable?" Fuyutsuki asked.

"Unit–01 and her pilot." Gendo said.

"Fine, sir, Unit–01 will be kept in cold storage, on standby in case of emergency." Ritsuko said. "Is there anything else?"

"Yes, what about the other three Evangelions?" Fuyutsuki asked.

"Unit–XP's mechanical limbs have been restored properly." Ritsuko explained. "It took some work, but they've been properly repaired. Its main body has been repaired as well, and the limbs are being reattached as we speak. Unit–02's arms and head have been reattached, its armor has been completely repaired, its combat ready. Unit–00 on the other hand… well, the head has to be completely rebuilt, and its armor was damaged pretty badly by the explosions. Unit–00 is about 75% complete, another few days and it'll be back online."

"What about Tokyo–3?" Gendo asked.

"The buildings have been reattached." Ritsuko said. "Thankfully they weren't damaged in the fall… but they were designed for such contingencies. The armor plating is proving a bit more difficult to repair. We have the ceiling of the Geofront repaired, and we're working on repouring the armor belts from the bottom up. We have belts twelve to twenty–five repaired, and we're working on completing the last eleven now. The surface of the city is being repaired mostly for the sake of appearances. The civilians have been lodging a lot of complaints, and several hundred employees have already evacuated their families due to the clear and present danger living in this city causes."

"Well, less civilians means that the fight's collateral damage will put less people in harm's way." Fuyutsuki said. "Perhaps we should set up a mandatory evacuation order in case the Angel attacks become more… devastating…"

"Yes, that would be for the best." Gendo said. "And Fuyutsuki, you've been in charge of the base repairs, give me an update."

"The pyramid has been half reconstructed. The damage to the main shaft and Central Dogma has been mostly rectified. Within the next month, we should be able to get the Main Command Center back online, and we should have repaired the Geofront's landscaping."

"Is the landscaping really relevant in the repairs?" Gendo asked.

"Yes, for the morale of the staff, if the grounds look normal, the staff will feel at ease." Fuyutsuki said.

"Fine, just make sure the necessary repairs are completed before the extraneous ones." Gendo said. "Other than that, I believe we're done here. Dr. Akagi, when will you be activating the recovery operation?"

"The 31st, Commander." Ritsuko replied.

"Good." Gendo said. "Get it done."

"Understood Commander." Ritsuko said as she left.

"Ikari." Fuyutsuki said. "What are you hoping for from the recovery operation?"

"I expect that Yui will let Shinji come back." Gendo said. "We need Shinji for the next phase, for our endgame."

"Yes, but at what cost to him?" Fuyutsuki asked.

"There is no cost to him." Gendo said. "He will do anything to protect his friends, as we've seen the past few times, so if his friends are in danger, he will do whatever it takes to protect them."

"So by risking the girl's lives…" Fuyutsuki started.

"We get Shinji to carry out our plans." Gendo said.


August 31, 2016 – NERV HQ

Unit–01 was in the Cage. It was in a prone position, and was attached directly to a computer system. The Entry Plug itself was ejected almost all the way, and was surrounded by several thick, metal rings. The room had been mostly cleared of personnel, but several people were still inside, hiding from the view of the control room. Asuka, Mari, and Rei were all standing

Asuka, Mari and Rei were all in the Cage, standing away from each other, their focus directed to Unit–01's exposed Entry Plug.

Rei was looking straight at the Entry Plug from its left side. She had a worried look on her face, and stared at Unit–01 intently. Rei bowed her head and closed her eyes. "I… I want my brother back. Please, Unit–01, give him back to us."

Asuka was standing high above Unit–01 and staring sullenly at the Entry Plug. "Shinji…" Asuka muttered. "I'm sorry… if you care about me at all… you'll come back… I just hope you have the same feelings for me that I do for you."

Mari was standing level with Unit–01's face. She stared directly at its eyes and looked angrily at the restrained Evangelion.

"Yui… you better let him come back." Mari said sternly. "He's needed here… he has a life here, don't keep him away too much longer… please."

"The recovery operation will commence in five minutes." Maya said over the intercom.

"Come on, let this work…" All three girls mumbled to themselves.

Shinji was staring at his mother's figure while an apparition of Asuka was hugging him.

"Mother?" Shinji asked.

"Yes, Shinji, it's me." Yui said.

"How… how are you here?" Shinji asked.

"You should know." Yui said. "You saw what happened, didn't you?"

"Wait… do you mean the day you died?" Shinji asked.

"Yes, Shinji…" Yui said. "I was absorbed by the Core of Unit–01… I didn't die, I was trapped in here. I…"

"You what?" Shinji asked. "How?"

"I can't tell you that quite yet, Shinji." Yui said. "But I can tell you a few things. That girl you're holding… she's out there, blaming herself that you're in here."

"Wait… Asuka's blaming herself?" Shinji asked as the Asuka he was holding disappeared. "Why would she do that?"

"Because she probably likes you." Yui said. "You've clearly made an impression on her."

"No I haven't…" Shinji said. "She only tolerates me."

"Well, Shinji…" Yui said. "I guess me being around hasn't helped you very much… I'm so sorry sweetheart…"

"Why, it's not your fault you're in here." Shinji said.

Yui sifted slightly. "Well, anyway, Shinji, do you want to go back? Your three friends are waiting… they are very worried about you…"

"Of course I do…" Shinji said. "Wait, who?"

"Rei, Mari, and Asuka." Yui said. "Who else?"

"How do you know all their names?" Shinji asked.

"I know all about your life Shinji… I learned it by being close to you… I could you're your thoughts. Shinji… the other thing I have to tell you is…" Yui said. "I am the one inside of Unit–01. The soul you connect to is me. That's what you saw that day… me becoming the soul inside of Unit–01's Core."

"Wait… you're the warm feeling I have when I'm inside the Entry Plug." Shinji said. "That's why I feel so safe… you're there with me… you're the one that's been helping me all this time…"

"Good job, Shinji…" Yui said. "I knew you'd figure it out."

"So… what does that mean?" Shinji asked.

"That means every time you get into Unit–01, all you have to do is ask me for help if you're in trouble, and I'll be there to help you…"

"Wait… you'll help me?" Shinji asked. "Haven't you done enough already? I mean, you helped me defeat three Angels."

"Well, that last one…" Yui said. "I only gave you the power… you killed the Fourteenth Angel yourself. If you ever need that kind of help again, all you have to do is ask." Yui stepped forward and hugged her son tightly. "Now, are you ready to go back home to everyone who cares about you?"

"Well, yeah… you said they're all worried about me." Shinji said. "Mom… I have one question… if you're the soul I connect to, who do the others connect to?"

"Well, the only one I know about is Unit–02… and that has Asuka's mother's soul in there… Kyoko Zeppelin Soryu… she's doing the same thing I am… but Asuka isn't as open as you are. She's in need of some help, Shinji. When you get back young man, you need to tell her how you feel about her."

"But… I don't know how she feels about me." Shinji said.

"Shinji… I don't want to interfere or anything, but considering she seems to be crying as she looks at Unit–01, I think she's in love with you."

"How do you know?" Shinji asked.

"Mothers know these things." Yui said. "Now get back there and tell her you love her."

"Mom, I'm going back… but I'm not ready to tell her yet." Shinji said. "She'll probably be mad that I haven't cooked for her since I've been gone."

"Oh, Shinji…" Yui said. "I'll see you the next time they have an activation test."

"Bye mom…" Shinji said.

"Oh, and Shinji… keep the secret about the souls in the EVAs a secret." Yui said. "No one needs to know what you learned."

"I promise, mom." Shinji said as he hugged his mother one last time. "Goodbye…"

"No, Shinji… it's until next time…" Yui said as a flash a light enveloped the both of them.

–––

Misato was standing behind Ritsuko and Maya. They were preparing for the recovery operation to begin.

"Maya, prep the ATF Modulators." Ritsuko said. "And set the EM Field to max. How's Unit–01 doing?"

"Right." Maya said. "Unit–01 is normal… wait… power spike!" Maya shouted. "Unit–01 is coming online!"

"What?!" Ritsuko shouted.

"Shinji!" Misato said as she ran from the room.

–––

The three girls all felt the room start to shake. They all looked up to see Unit–01 glowing. The Entry Plug opened, and the LCL spilled out, along with a naked figure who fell to the floor with a wet thud.

"SHINJI!" Asuka shouted happily.

"PUPPY!" Mari screamed exuberantly.

"Brother…" Rei mumbled.

The three of them ran down and met Misato on the way. Shinji was laying naked, face down in a pool of LCL. He was unconscious and not moving, which caused a lot of concern for everyone.

"Medics!" Misato shouted.

"Well, that's definably Shinji." Mari said.

"How the hell can you tell?" Misato asked. "He's facedown!"

"That cute little ass of his." Mari said. "It's hard to forget…"

"Jesus Christ, four eyes!" Asuka said. "You sound wetter than the floor!"

"No… I'm not that wet." Mari said.

"Is this really the time for sexual banter?" Rei asked. "Shinji is unconscious on the floor. Can this wait until later?"

"Well, a lot of things can wait till later." Mari said.

"I know what I said, Mari." Rei replied. "But Shinji is my main concern right now." Rei reached down and felt Shinji's wrist. "He is alive, his pulse is weak."

"Thank whoever…" Asuka said.

"Yeah, but how did he come back?" Misato asked. "Ritsuko didn't even start the test."

"It's just a miracle…" Mari said. 'Thanks Yui…' Mari thought.

"Yeah, some kind of miracle…" Misato said. "Did the EVA do this?"

"We're not the experts here…" Asuka said. "That bleach bottle blonde up there should have some answers rattling around that empty head of hers."

"Asuka…" Misato said.

"What?" Asuka said. "Like I said anything everyone else wasn't thinking already…"

"Yeah, I thought it." Mari said. "But with more swear words, like cunt or asshole."

"I have to agree with Asuka"

The medics arrived and put Shinji onto a combat stretcher. "Hey, where are you taking him?" Misato asked.

"Medical Wing, Colonel." The medic said. "Where else?"

"Oh, yeah, right…" Misato said. "Girls, go with him, I have to ask Ritsuko some questions…"

Asuka, and Rei followed the medics, and Mari hung back. "Just, uh… don't kill her."

–––

Misato cornered Ritsuko in the control room after everyone had left.

"What the hell was that?!" Misato asked. "He came back without you doing anything?"

"I have no idea, Misato." Ritsuko said. "Unit–01 did what it always does, it did something it wasn't supposed to."

"So, Unit–01 did this?" Misato asked.

"Yeah… that's my initial guess." Ritsuko said. "I have to review the data for the Commander, so if you'll excuse me…"

Misato blocked her path. "You're not getting away from me that easily." Misato said. "You better not be lying to me again."

"No, I honestly have no idea what happened in there." Ritsuko said. "But I'm glad he's back safe and sound."

"Yeah, so am I." Misato said. "Just find out what happened in there, Ritsuko, and no more lies, got it?"

"Yeah, whatever…" Ritsuko mumbled as Misato walked out. "I don't know how to quantify an out of control EVA and its resident soul fucking things up."

–––

The girls were all sitting in Shinji's hospital room. Shinji was resting comfortably, and was otherwise unaware that he had returned.

"Well, at least he's ok." Mari said.

"Yes…" Rei said. "Shinji is once again safe."

Mari looked at Asuka, who was still feeling down. "Hey, princess, why are you so quiet, he's back. He's all safe and sound."

"I couldn't do anything to help…" Asuka said. "But I'm glad he's back…"

"I bet you are." Mari said. "So, are you going to tell them?"

"What does Asuka need to tell him?" Rei asked. "Is it important?"

"Yeah, kinda blueberry." Mari said. "But it's personal, so don't ask her about it."

"I see…" Rei said. "So, Asuka is in love Shinji."

"What?!" Asuka said. "Four eyes, you told!"

"No… no I didn't!" Mari said.

"Asuka, I figured it out all on my own." Rei said. "I am not as naïve as everyone thinks I am. Shinji has explained many things to me"

"So, how long have you known?" Asuka asked.

"Definitively…" Rei said. "Not until a moment ago… however I have had my suspicions since the Twelfth Angel. Your reaction was most heartbreaking to watch."

"So… you figured it out…" Asuka said sullenly. "Why didn't you tell Shinji?"

"It is not my business to interfere in personal matters of the heart." Rei said.

"Thanks, Rei…" Asuka said. "I appreciate it."

"I do have one question though…" Rei said. "Why haven't you told Shinji yet?"

"I… I'm not good enough for him." Asuka said.

"Yes you are, Asuka." Rei said. "You are a smart, beautiful girl, I am sure Shinji will be happy if you ask him out."

"Great… now wundergirl is giving me dating advice." Asuka said. "Just wonderful…"

"Hey, listen to her, princess… she's telling you the truth." Mari said. "And… wow, blueberry, we really don't give you enough credit about things."

To Be Continued


A/N: I do not own Evangelion or any of the characters, GAINAX and the other distributors of NGE related material do. I am simply using them as a backdrop for my fanfic.

Sync Score Rankings!
Shinji – 73.6% (No Change)
Mari – 67.1% (-2.5%)
Asuka – 63.8% (-7.9%)
Rei – 62.6% (-4.5%)

Well, there you have it, a chapter that throws out a lot of exposition on things. Shinji wasn't featured heavily, mostly because he's in a far better place than he was in the series. So, his journey of self–discovery is basically changed to him talking to his inner Asuka, and finding out his mother is inside Unit–01.

As for everyone else, they go through some stuff, mostly dealing with Shinji being gone, but the lack of Shinji shows that everyone else (save for Hikari and Toji) are somewhat dependent on him, and with him being gone for a month, cracks start to show. Especially if you notice how far Asuka's sync level has dropped the past few chapters. The beginning of the steep and slippery slope in her sync scores, yet the reason has changed to her being concerned she's failed Shinji.

Toji is also mostly ok. He's still in recovery, but still has all his limbs, and he won't be losing any of them. And Kensuke doesn't have it so easy either, with all his friends being gone and not around.

The next chapter… it's not a happy one. Arael is coming up, followed up by Armisael, so there will be a lot of painful moments coming up, be ready.

As I said before, and will always say at the end of chapter, please leave comments, as I would like to try to improve the story going forward any way I can. And, hell, constructive criticism is a good thing.


つづく