August 15th

Cafe – Berlin – Early Morning

As I step out of the hot morning sun that shines overhead in Berlin and into the cool air-conditioned space that the café offers I reach up and take off my sunglasses. I look around and see a few people are here already. University students mostly come to study or recover from a night out drinking. Finally, I spot my target, a small and empty seat by the window, a perfect spot for me. I walk over and set my laptop down on the table, plug it into the wall socket and prepare to start my work.

I'm barely able to load up the document before I hear a loud voice from behind me call out my name, "Asuka! It's so nice to see you, your usual?"

I turn to look and call back with a grin, "Of course!"

I see the source of the voice get to work behind the counter. He's the owner of this café, a short, jolly rotund man with a bushy blonde moustache. I always thought he looked a bit out of place running a café like this. He looks more like he'd be at home as one of the Gauls from and Asterix and Obelix comic.

Yet here he is running a café like this, not only does he run it but he is very good at it. It's become quite a popular little place since it opened up about a year ago. I come here frequently to get on with my work.

In barely any time at all I find him stood behind me, setting my coffee down on the table.

I smile politely, "Thank you, is it only you wokring today?"

He shakes his head, "Sofia should be coming in shortly. So, what are you working on?"

I shrug, "Nothing overly important. I'm just trying to finish up a few edits for the book before I send it off to the publishers for review. It's still a bit of a rough draft but it seems they want to make the announcement early and get some previews made. They want to make sure they get the news out of the sequel whilst there is still some hype for the original."

"Oh! How exciting!" He booms, "Does that mean you'll be getting interviewed by the press?"

"No chance!" I exclaim and shake my head, "I'm not even bothered if the damn thing gets published. It was just because a friend opened their mouth to someone the first one got published, I just want to write them."

"You don't fancy even a small bit of the publicity from it?"

"Like I care about something like that!" I snort with laughter, "Why do you think I write under a pseudonym? I don't need to be noticed or popular, other people can do all that."

For a brief moment it seems as though his expression changes to one of disbelief or confusion but in a second he goes back to his smiling self. I suppose I can maybe forgive his confusion, after all it is perhaps strange that someone would go to the effort of working so hard on something like I did and when it's out there not wishing for any publicity but he doesn't know me. He doesn't know the real me anyway.

Maybe once upon a time I'd have welcomed the publicity and opportunity to be noticed. I'd have demanded the publicity and been on hand to sign copies and have my name be known. I'm no longer that person though. Now I just want peace and quiet and for people to leave me alone. I'm not that bratty kid who demanded to be seen and be the centre of attention. I no longer desire for people to praise me constantly and worship the ground I walk on.

I am no longer Asuka Langley Soryu, the brash Evangelion pilot. I'm Asuka Langley Soryu, I live in Berlin and I write teen fiction as a hobby. Somehow, I managed to be quite good at it, a part of me isn't surprised though. It's not as if I don't normally become good at things I turn my hand to.

Of course, to the owner of this café I'm just known as Asuka, a half Japanese, half German 19-year-old who has lived in the city all my life. He knows nothing of who I was, of who I used to be and nowadays no one knows that anymore. I made sure that no one would know where or who I was when I left Japan. I asked for all my records to be replaced with fresh ones, nothing would tie me to what had happened anymore. I asked for all contact to be cut off and to be left alone by the UN or whatever it was NERV would become.

I'm not stupid though, I know that they're still out there watching me. I can sense their presence much in the same way that I could when I was younger. It's not Section 2 anymore but someone else but I know they're there. I was tempted at one point to contact them to tell them to stop and that they didn't need to watch over me but it'd just be more unnecessary hassle that I didn't need. Besides contacting them was a risk, if I contacted them the wrong person might say something and that would lead to people know where I was. So, I'll allow it for now, as long as they keep their distance and no promises get broken.

I'm about to go back to the document when I hear the owners voice again, "Will you be having lunch? Eggs are nice and fresh this morning."

My stomach rumbles at his offer, I skipped breakfast this mornign and it is coming up to lunch time. Maybe I should eat before I start work. I shoot him a smile, "Sound good, eggs it is then, scrambled and with bacon, sausage and toast I think."

Tokyo 2 – Afternoon

I'm sat nervously in the reception area of the building the UN has here in Tokyo-2. Laid carefully at my feet is my cello case and my eyes keep up a pattern of moving from the case to the clock on the wall and then at the receptionist as she does her work. It's been half an hour since I came in here and this pattern was started. All I want is for Misato to be finished with her meeting so that we can go home.

I don't like being outside any longer than is necessary, if I can help It I barely go outside at all. I'm I'm told to then I will but most of the time I always have to be accompanied by someone. Being outside on my own terrifies me. I'm scared that someone might recognize me, know about me and what I've done.

There is a part of me that is trying hard to reject that. It's there using Misato's words, or the words of my friends to tell me that no one is going to recognize me and even if they did I haven't done anything wrong. They tell me that no one knows any of the pilot's identities and the pilots are the ones who saved the world, especially me.

Yet those voices are so easily surprised by a louder one. It sounds like myself and it tells me that everyone I pass in the street secretly knows who I am and one day one of them is going to hurt me. It tells me that if they did hurt me that I deserve it. It tells me that when it does happen I'll have no one to blame but myself because I was really the one who nearly caused this world to end, I was the one responsible for the Third Impact and for ruining so many people's lives.

I shake my head slightly, no. I mustn't think that. It wasn't like that, I wasn't to blame. I know it. I know I wasn't to blame.

"Mr Ikari?"

I nearly jump out of my seat at the sudden sound of the receptionist's voice. I look up to see her looking at me with an amused look on her face. I start to blush thinking about what an idiot I must have looked like.

"Can I get you something whilst you wait?"

I shake my head, "N-No... No, thank you."

With those words the silence fills the room once more and I go back to my routine of looking from the clock to my cello case. I decide to leave the receptionist out of this now, still feeling like an idiot for jumping like that. In a way I'm thankful for that moment, it stopped the negative thoughts for a moment and now I can work on that.

I need to remember what I've been told. Just slow my breathing and go through it all calmly. I knew something like this might happen today but I just need to remember what I tell myself when I go to school or out to get groceries. This is just slightly different to those times, I'm out longer and in a different part of the city.

I glance back down at my cello case as I keep making an effort to calm myself down. It's been a long time since I've played the thing. The last time was that night so many years ago, a night that is still fresh in my memory for all the wrong reasons. It feels like that night was the beginning or end of something, nothing that followed it was good and it was all my fault. If only I had acted differently then maybe... No... I can't... not again.

I feel my hands clench into a fist, my nails dig into the flesh in frustration as I once again try to get rid of those negative thoughts. It's just so difficult to do that today, I thought it would be but I just didn't know how hard. Why am I remembering that night, it happened years ago and I did nothing wrong. She did nothing wrong we were all... different then. You're not that Shinji anymore and Asuka... well she's gone now so that doesn't matter.

I look up just in time to see the door under the clock open suddenly. I see two people enter the lobby in suits and for just a brief moment I see one of them look over at me with what seems to be a confused look on his face.

He recognizes me, doesn't he? That's why he's looking at me like that! Any moment now he's going to come over here and I'll be...

My fingers dig more into my hands and the pain briefly snaps me out of it. Of course, he doesn't recognize me. He's probably confused as to what a 19-year-old kid is doing in a UN building with a cello at his feet.

I know this, I know all of this. It makes sense and it's so logical but even with that I can't help but be terrified of them as they pass by me. I can't help but be sure I feel their eyes on me, piercing through me as if they know exactly who and what I am. I can feel time slow down as they go past me and I focus solely on the cello case. I feel sick and my leg starts to tremble slightly.

I hate this, I hate this so much. They're just ordinary people walking past. They aren't going to hurt me or recognize me. Yet it isn't until they finally pass through the entrance to the building and out onto the street that I can let go of the breath I've been holding, unclench my fist and start to try to calm down.

This is too much, I should have just gone straight home rather than come here. I thought I was being brave but I'm just hurting myself by doing this. Thankfully I don't have to wait too much longer before the door opens and Misato walks through.

"Shinji!"

She doesn't hide her surprise at seeing me sat there waiting for her. I know she'd have expected me to go straight home after the lesson, she of all people knows how hard on me it is to be out like this. I half smile at her and nod, "H-Hey Misato."

She rushes over to me looking apologetic, "I'm so sorry I'm late! The meeting ran longer than I expected, have you been here long?"

I stand up, "N-No... not too long anyway. Is everything alright?"

She smiles at me and nods her head, "Everything is fine! I'll tell you about it in the car, I imagine you'll want to just get home now. We'll order food tonight, is that okay?"

I give her a nod and we make our way out of the building towards the car park. A few moments later I'm loading my cello into the boot of her car, a white Mazda Cosmo which she got shortly after we returned from the Third Impact. It was something she got to replace her Alpine and if I'm being honest I much prefer this car.

As I get into the front passenger seat and put my seatbelt on I already begin to feel a lot calmer. Even more so now that Misato is here.

Misato gets into the driver's seat and gives me a sympathetic look. My nervous state clearly not going unnoticed by her, she places a calming hand on my leg and speaks, "I'm really proud of you Shinji, I know today won't have been easy for you."

I hate it when Misato says she's proud of me. I always feel that little sting of tears behind my eyes when she does so. They're just words I was so unused to hearing and that I never thought I'd hear from anyone and I know she means it. I don't know if I can really express how much hearing that means to me from her, even if it is for something as simple as leaving our apartment.

"It... was really hard Misato." I admit to her with a weak smile, "I kept on thinking that at any one moment he was going to realize who I was. I... I don't know if I can do this."

The car starts to move onto the street, she keeps her eyes focused on the road as she talks to me, "Well you've done it once Shinji and that is something. It's really up to you whether or not you want to do it again."

"Do you think I should?" I ask.

"That's not my decision Shinji, that's yours to make. Do you want to continue?" Her tone shifts to sound a bit more serious, I already know what she is going to say next, "I don't want you to be doing this for me or for anyone else. I don't want you to do it because I said it might be good for you. You have to do this for yourself, you know I'll be proud of you no matter what, you're like a... no you are my son Shinji and I love you and want you to be happy."

There is that phrase again and also the reminder that I am her son now. It's hard to blind away the emotion this time but I manage it. I take a moment to think about what she has said though. This is another thing I need to learn on top of not being afraid of everyone I encounter. I need to do things for myself.

"I think I'll continue." I finally say after about a minute of thought, "I did... I really enjoyed the lesson despite being afraid."

"So, it went alright?"

I nod, "The teacher said I was a lot more advanced than he was expecting. He said that I didn't seem to have lost much of my ability over the years I haven't been playing. He could see where I was rusty and said it'll be a matter or practicing and going back over some of the things I've forgotten."

I look around to see an eager look in Misato's eye, "Do you need anything? Books? New string? A new bow? Cleaning products? A stand?"

I laugh at her enthusiasm, "No I don't need anything yet, I made sure it was all in good condition before I went to the lesson. My teacher let me know a website where I can buy sheet music too."

"Well that's good then!"

"Yeah it is! I just…" I trail off as I remember what happened towards the end of the lesson.

Misato of course notices what, "What?"

I try to shrug it off, "No… It's nothing…"

"Oh no you don't!" I cringe in my seat and look towards the window, "What is it Shinji?"

I let out a sigh, "Well it's just… my teacher said that he would like to eventually get me on to playing with other people… Maybe even put on a performance one day."

I turn to see her nod, "I see… and what did you say to him?"

"I kinda…" I shrink further down in my seat, "I said yes."

"Even though you knew it might have been a problem for you?"

"I just…" I start but trail off and let out a sigh, "He seemed happy when he suggested it so I… I didn't mention it might have been a problem for me."

I shake my head as I return to looking out of the window. I know what she is thinking and it's the same thing I'm thinking. For all the progress I might have made over the years I'm still that same old Shinji. I'm still just saying and going along with things just because it'll make others happy with me.

"Is that something you would like to do?"

I hear her ask but I continue looking out of the window pretending I didn't hear her. For doing that she prods me in the leg and asks again, "Shinji! Is that something you would like to do?"

All I can do this time is muster up a simple shrug, "I don't know… I mean I do like playing and I want to continue but the idea of playing with others I just… I don't think I'm ready for it yet. I don't know… If I'll ever be ready but I also… I don't want him to be mad with me or disappointed."

"Well you have to explain that to him Shinji. I'm sure he isn't going to be mad or disappointed. I'm sure he'll understand, it's not an easy thing for anyone to do." She replied, "I'm sure he's just enthusiastic about his new student. Just… do what is right for you Shinji."

I nod and look back out of the window, "I… I'll try."

Berlin – Early afternoon

I set my coffee down on the table and give my recent edits another quick glance. I'm still not completely satisfied with what I have there but it'll have to do for now, it's something I can send to my publisher at the very least. I swap to my e-mail client and begin to write the e-mail.

Before I click on the send button I take a moment to prepare myself for what will come next. I ask myself if I really want to do this, if I really want to go through that again. The first time was just an accident, it was never supposed to happen. It shouldn't have happened but she… she persuaded me. Appealed to that stupid pride that lingers inside of me.

So I'll send this off and then they'd release the press release. I'd see it in the media with my pseudonym on it. After that I'll start getting the stupid requests to talk to the press, they'll tell me how good of an opportunity it'll be and how it'd be cool for people to meet the person behind the book. Just as with the first book I'll decline it all and stay anonymous. The publisher can handle all of that.

It wouldn't be cool for any of them to meet the person behind the book because of who the person behind the book really is. I don't want to be known, I don't deserve to be known not after… not after everything I used to be. I'm trying to get away from all that and somehow I've ended up with this situation. A part of me wishes I had never been persuaded to take the first book to a publisher. Not people are going to expect things and… I know I'll eventually let them down. Just like I did before.

I sigh and look at the screen trying to force those thoughts out of my mind but I know now will come the other feelings. Those fears that I sometimes get when I look around in crowded spaces and I see other people looking at me. Of course they're not looking at me really but I can't help but think that. Third Impact had that effect on me, for a brief moment I was… we were all linked as one being. Of course I can't remember any of it and I know no one else can. Most of them don't even know it happened but I do and it's enough for me to worry.

What if one of them recognizes me? What if they figure out I was the one who nearly caused the Third Impact? I was the spiteful, hateful person that nearly pushed Shinji towards it. I was the abusive one who failed everyone and took it out on whoever was nearby. I was…

I clench my hand into a fist and bring it down on my knee carefully enough that no one will see it but just enough for me to feel it. The short burst of pain brings me out of this spiral. I look back at the screen, I have an e-mail to send.

I'm about to hit the send button when my phone starts to vibrate on the table top. I contemplate ignoring it but a quick look at the caller ID and I grab it and answer immediately, "Hello!"

A few moments later a very soft and familiar voice is heard through the other end, "Hello Asuka! I was just calling to see how you were?"

I lean back in my seat and smile, "I'm doing fine! I'm actually just about to send out a sample of the next book to the publisher!"

"Oh good!" She replies, "So is it nearly finished?"

"Mostly, I still need to work on some details for the ending and I'm not overly happy with a few of the scenes but it's good enough for them to look at. How come you're calling me now anyway? I thought you said you'd be in America around now?"

There is another pause before she replies, "I was but I'm actually at the airport about to board a plane for Germany. Would you like to meet up?"

I feel myself frown at hearing her say that, my heart rate picks up just a little bit and I grip my laptops mouse a bit tighter in my hand, "Is there anyone with you?"

"No one, I am alone."

"Will anyone know about it? Will you… will you be telling them where you are?"

There is another pause and her voice comes back, it's easy to hear the disappointment, "If you do not wish me to come then I will not. I will not inform them though and they still do not know I am in contact with you."

My frown deepens at hearing her disappointment, "No it's… I want to I just… you know the situations. I-I'm sorry I make you do that but you understand why don't you?"

"I am your friend Asuka and I do understand. It will just be me and I promise they will not get to know unless it is something you want."

"Okay then! We'll meet up. When will you be here?"

"My flight will arrive late tonight in Germany, so tomorrow morning. Do you still live in the same place?"

I nod, "Yeah I do… I'll be in all day so just… let me know when you're on your way."

"I will… Thank you Asuka, I look forward to seeing you."

"I'll see you tomorrow, goodbye Rei."

As I set my phone down my hands are trembling and I take a few moments to calm myself down from talking to Rei. I take a quick drink of my coffee and look back at the e-mail, I quickly finish it off and hit send my thoughts now turning towards seeing Rei tomorrow.

Rei is not one of, if not the only friend I actually have. Of all the people from my past life she is the only one I actually have any contact with. A rather bizarre turnaround for anyone who might have known me back then. I can just imagine what that younger Asuka would say to think that she was friends with that same girl she considered a rival that girl that she swore she hated.

Of course I didn't really hate Rei back then. I hated myself but I just took that out on everyone else. It didn't matter who it was be it Shinji, Misato, Rei or even Hikari. I just ended up hurting others because I couldn't deal with who I was. That's why I'm alone now, that's why I want to stay alone and not have anyone around me because I know if I even dare to let someone in I'll hurt them and maybe just maybe in the off chance I don't… they'll find out who I was and leave me.

I know I'm being stupid. Rei has told me as much when I apologized to her the last time, I think that was apology one hundred and fifty two or something. Yet it doesn't stop me from remembering and thinking all of that and I know that tomorrow I'll apologize to her again.

I look back at the document, I know I'll do no more work today. My thoughts are all jumbled up, I need a distraction. I'll go browse that music shop I like and maybe go and look for a new game. Something to get away from my thoughts.

Tokyo-2 – Evening

I enter the apartment and go straight into my room to put away my cello and get changed. As I do so Misato's words continue to ring in my ears and I start to wonder what I should do next. I try to separate what it is I think other people want from me and just what it is I want to do.

It's a question I ask myself quite often, it's not as if I want to be like this. I don't want to be afraid of people but I am. I don't want to just go along with others to make them happy but I do. I won't want to be in the habit of putting my own happiness to the side so that I can hear some praise from others but I can't break that habit.

The problem is even if I do try to do something for myself I start to question it. When it comes to taking lessons on the cello I wonder who am I really doing this for? Is it just something to make Misato happy, so that she can see me being out and about and doing something? Is it so that she'll say she is proud of me?

I let out a sigh of frustration with myself. I know Misato would be proud of me no matter what I chose. I'm like her... well I am her son now I guess. Shortly after Third Impact she made it official, she adopted me and become my mother. I just... the way her face lit up when she suggested it... how could I have said no?

Even the story of why I play the cello is frustrating. I only started playing it because of my teacher and guardian at the time suggesting it to me. He thought it'd be good for me to learn to play an instrument, said it'd help me develop some confidence and told me an appreciation for music is always a good thing.

Strangely enough when I think about it, it was actually me who picked out the cello. I can remember it quite clearly, we were in the music shop and looking at the variety of instruments. Drums, guitars, piano, violins and so much more. Something about the cello appealed to me though. The shopkeeper gave us a demonstration and I just... I become attached to it. I took lessons and it did make my teacher happy that I was doing something.

I did enjoying playing it though. I know deep down I wasn't just doing it for him but because I wanted to. I liked it and yes, I did want him to be proud of me and say that but I liked playing. I liked the way I could lose myself in what I was playing. I liked exploring the range of music composed for it and even trying to compose my own.

I let out another sigh as I sit on the edge of my bed. I look down at the cello and go back to thinking about the lesson. My instructor had been a nice man. He was a lot younger than I expected. He did actually tell me that he also worked with a number of students and that I would fit right in. I couldn't help myself but say yes as soon as he asked if I'd be interested.

I couldn't help myself but he seemed so happy and enthusiastic about it and he offered praise. I'm like some dumb moth crashing into a lightbulb. I know I'm not ready for that sort of thing yet, I'm too scared to meet other people but I can't really explain that to him. How can I explain that I'm part of the reason Third Impact happened and that now everyone terrifies me?

The worst thing about it is that deep down if it wasn't the fear of it I do want to do that. I want to be part of that group and I want to play cello with them. I want to be part of productions with audiences coming to see us play and I want to write and compose but I'm too damn messed up to admit or do anything about it.

I just wish I could move forward! Every day since Third Impact has been some stupid struggle and I'm sick of it. I'm fed up of being afraid of people. I'm fed up of knowing I have no reason to be. I'm sick of having those old feelings of uselessness or feeling that people are going to abandon me. It isn't fair, none of it is fair! I just... I just want to be happy, don't I deserve that?

I can't help but shake my head sympathetically as I watch Shinji slip into his room and close the door behind him. I take this chance to go into my own room so that I can get changed into something more comfortable.

These past few years have been tough for those of us who were at the center of what happened. I know it's been especially tough on Shinji though. I can't even begin to imagine just what it is he is going through. He literally had the fate of the world in his hands at one point and for a brief few seconds it almost went. God only knows what it must feel like to be him.

Shinji has made some progress over the years though. We suffered a slight setback when Asuka left. He was heartbroken to see her go but it wasn't entirely unexpected. Yet it was a shame, I had hoped that maybe they would realize their feelings for each other and something would happen. Still maybe it was for the best, maybe the chance for them to be apart and find themselves will help them more. I just wish she hadn't cut off contact completely from us all. I'm sure she is alright but I don't know where she is now or anything.

Shinji did seem to get over it eventually though. I don't know if he still thinks of her, I imagine he does. We talk about her from time to time, wonder what she is up to and if she is alright. I'm careful to not tease him about her. I enjoy a joke but I've come to realize that there are some jokes that shouldn't be made.

As I slip my suit jacket off I hear my phone start to ring. I let out a laugh as I pick it up and see Ritsuko's name on the caller ID, right on cue Rits.

"Hey Rits! Calling to check in on us, are you?"

I hear her let out a laugh on the other end, "I just wanted to make you didn't blow your big meeting today, I know it was an important one."

She can't see me but I pout, "You have that little faith in me huh?"

"Actually I have complete faith in you which is why I know I can make a joke about it. So how did it go?"

I shrug, "About as well as could be expected for a first meeting on this sort of subject. A lot of people introducing themselves and telling us why they're important. A lot of discussion about the objectives on the meeting followed by setting estimated dates on when objectives should be confirmed by. This was followed up by discussing the arranging of further meetings between different departments to confirm more dates for meetings. A load of bureaucratic bullshit really."

She lets out a chuckle, "So no word on whether or not you guys will be allowed into Tokyo-3 or what will happen to the Emergence Facilities?"

"Nope, nothing yet. It seems we have some competition when it comes to wanting to go back into Tokyo-3. Each one has different goals. Some want to do a full sweep, take as much technology from NERV that they can and build from it. Some think that they should go in, take what they can and destroy it all. Reuse the land for housing or whatever. We're somewhere in the middle."

"Well that's surprising, I'd have thought you'd want to see the entire thing destroyed."

I shrug, "Initially I did but after talking with Maya and some of the others they persuaded me that some of it might be of use to us. We had some pretty advanced technology and it'd be a shame for it to go to waste if we can help people. Also in the back of my mind I keep thinking… what if… well…"

"They're gone Misato, there won't be anymore." He voice comes through loud and clear and is in a very stern tone, "The Angels, SEELE… it's done."

I let out a sigh, I know she is right of course but I still feel a need to say something, "I know that but… say someone tries to carry on the things they did or… I don't know we messed something up and an Angel like thing appears. Maybe… just maybe having some of the heavier stuff around would be useful."

"And how exactly would you define what is or isn't the right sort of stuff? It's one thing when it might benefit mankind, you're right our medical tech was far beyond what we have now as was our energy production tech but the military stuff… the Eva's…"

"I know…"

"Do you want my opinion?"

"Always."

"Destroy the lot of it Misato, get rid of it all and use the land for something else. The medical tech… the energy production all relied on what we got from the FAR. Keep the Emergence Support facilities open and just let NERV and SEELE go, what happened… it can't happen again, what they need is gone so we should just get rid of the rest."

"Destroy everything?" I ask in surprise, "Even the MAGI there?"

"Especially the Tokyo-3 MAGI, if there is anything left of it." She replies, "That's… what I'd do anyway."

"I don't know… if I could do that. The medical tech… it could help a lot of people…"

"I know and that's why you're the one who'll make the decision Misato and not me. You… always knew the right way to do things."

I smile faintly at hearing her words, "We'll see what happens when it's all documented. It could be that there is nothing of use there at all. It's been years since anyone actually went into the ruins but… I think it's worth looking at and I think it should be my people."

"I'm sure it will be." She pauses for a moment, "So how did things go for Shinji anyway?"

Another sigh escapes me, "I think they went well. He seemed to enjoy the lesson but…"

"He was scared of being recognized?"

"Yeah…" I confirm to her.

"That's understandable, I think it's something we're all dealing with in our own way."

"I'm just worried about him Rits. I don't want him to feel like he has to do this for me or for anyone else I want him to do it for himself not because I said it might be a good idea."

"It's entirely possible that Shinji doesn't even know himself." Ritsuko says, "He probably wants to make you happy but he also enjoys playing the instrument. Our reports on him indicated that he was a natural talent with it and his teacher even said that Shinji would spend a lot of time practicing when he was younger."

Hearing her say that lightens my heart somewhat, "So he does enjoy it?"

Ritsuko chuckles, "I don't think you get to be the level Shinji was at without enjoying it. Just give him time and encouragement. I'm sure he'll figure things out for himself. He said the lesson went alright though?"

"Yeah." I nod my head, "Well… He did mention that the instructor suggested at one point that Shinji join a group of them who all play."

"And Shinji immediately said yes didn't he?" Ritsuko asks with some hint of amusement in her voice.

"Of course." I confirm to her, "He didn't want to disappoint his instructor."

"Well that's just a part of who Shinji is. Maybe it'll be good for him in the long run though, he can always stop if it's too much."

"Maybe… I just don't want him to get hurt or feel he has to do things to please others. I want him to know he has a loving home and friends who won't abandon him."

"Deep down he will know that but it's not exactly easy to break those old habits. It's something I think we're all learning but I'm sure he'll be alright."

"I hope so… I really do." I stare down at the ground, "So how was your day anyway?"

"Not too bad, I have a lot of marking to do this evening and I need to plan for next week's lessons but nothing I can't do. Still… if I'm being honest I do understand what Shinji is going through. I keep on thinking when I see the students and their parents that maybe one of them will recognize me… It's not as if the Akagi name is hidden away."

I nod again, "I know… It's the same for Katsuragi. I have that feeling too from time to time but it won't happen."

"No it won't." She reassures me, "Anyway I'd better go. Maya is due back any minute. Good luck to the both of you. We should arrange something soon."

"Yeah… I'd like that. Goodbye Rits."

I can't suppress the smile on my face as I glance down at the forms in my hand once more and walk through the wonderful streets of Berlin. It's been almost six months since I arrived in this country and this city I now call home.

Most of my time is spent working for Fuyutsuki. I assist him in an array of administrative tasks from filing basic progress reports for his staff, taking notes during meetings he is in, I arrange appointments for him and compose e-mails for him. It's not overly difficult work but I enjoy it.

Since I arrived Fuyutsuki has been careful to slowly educate me on the state of this world since I was last in it. He explained to me exactly what has happened since the Third Impact and the little ways in which the world has changed. He told me what it was he now did and also informed me of the status of organizations such as NERV and the group who handled me, SEELE.

It seems that after Third Impact and people returned information was released to the public and world governments about SEELE and their role in the whole thing. Names were kept away from the public eye but it was enough that the world knew the truth about who was the true enemy. If anything I was pleased to learn that the people who were a part of NERV were alive and well.

There are certain subjects I have dared to not ask about as of yet. These particular things have been the subject of numerous nightmares I've experienced since returning. I dare not ask what happened to Shinji Ikari, Rei Ayanami or even the other pilot who was there in my short stay. I assume from what Fuyutsuki told me about former NERV personnel being alive and well that they are okay but I don't dare go any deeper than that.

Maybe… Maybe one day I'll work up the nerve to find out but not until I know I'm ready for it. I'm still trying to adjust to this life, one I didn't think I'd ever have. I've been given a gift, a chance to explore so many things I never knew before.

Music had of course been my first port of call. I've been able to explore numerous eras and genres beyond the classical material they forced me to listen to. The playlist Kodama gave me was a huge benefit. I took notes of each artist to listen to moments and pieces I enjoyed. It seems she put a lot of work into making that playlist, managing to cover a variety of genres, eras, artists from around the world.

With my background in classical music and playing the piano I did find myself drawn towards the progressive genres of rock. I enjoy the longer tracks and slightly complex arrangements these songs offer. I also like how they made a habit of utilizing a wide array of instruments in their songs although admittedly they could be a bit obtuse lyrically although I suppose knowing the way I speak is probably another reason that the genre appeals to me.

Beyond that I have found I don't have much of an affinity for sports. I appreciate what various athletes and sports stars are capable of, I just don't really enjoy watching them. In fact I don't find myself watching much television at all nor have I had the chance to see a movie in a theater yet. I would like to but I don't know what it is I would watch.

I have also found that I quite enjoy the human act of cooking too. In my previous life I did not get an opportunity to partake of this particular pastime. As an Angel I didn't require as much food as a regular human would and being under the care of SEELE meant any meals were carefully monitored and structured to provide what my body needed. It was usually bland and functional,

Unfortunately learning to cook came with some dangers. There had been one incident involving an errant pan and my apartment nearly burning down and another in which some undercooked meat had given me a night I don't wish to experience ever again. Yet I suppose it is a part of the learning process, I will not be the first nor the last to under-prepare meat like that.

I turn onto another street and see a small coffee shop come into view. I decide that it would be a shame to go straight back to my apartment now and this place looks appealing so think it'd be a good idea to head inside and grab something to drink and relax. I clutch the forms I'm holding tightly in my hand and walk down the street.

The forms I'm holding are application forms to help me on my first step towards become a music teacher. Fuyutsuki had given me the idea a few weeks ago after hearing me play the piano. He had at first suggested I find overs to play with but admittedly I do not think I would mix well with a group at this time and being honest being in larger groups scares me somewhat.

Yet the more I thought about it the more I realized that one on one situations might be better suited to me and I would like, if anything, to share what I have and maybe inspire others. Fuyutsuki liked my idea and helped me find a means to getting the correct qualifications.

I look at the forms again, there are still a few things to fill out on there. My name and address are at the top but there are other questions on there. How long have I been playing? My inspirations and prior qualifications. Nothing complex but I'm very eager to fill it in and get this all started.

I continue to walk forward my eyes still focused on the paper until finally I hit something, not something but someone. I feel a sharp pain in my head as I connect with them, I hear a loud scream from them as I'm sent falling onto my backside and the form flies out of my hand.

I rub my head with my hand and hear an angry voice yell at me, "Idiot! Weren't you watching where you were going?"

I shake my head and my vision starts to come back to me, the pain however does not subside, "I apologize… are you hurt?"

I slowly start to get to my feet and hold out a hand to help the fallen girl to her feet.

"Yeah well… just be more careful! Could have broken something!" She remarks as she gets to her feet and picks up a small laptop bag she dropped. I take a step back and for the first time I actually see the girl I walked into.

Almost immediately I feel my eyes get wide with fear. I feel that sickly feeling in the pit of my stomach as I take in all of her features. Her shoulder length red hair, her bright blue eyes, a soft but angered expression and a thin scar over her left eye. She's older than I remember seeing her but there is no mistaking who this is.

"N-No…" I stutter, "I-Impossible…"

She looks at me in confusion, "What? Never saw a pissed off redhead before?"

I shake my head, "N-No… I…I'm sorry… I have to go!"

I immediately turn around and run away from her as fast as I can. I don't stop to look back at any point until I'm several streets away. I don't know if she called after me or if she recognizes me, all I know is I have to get away from her. I have to get away from Asuka Langley Soryu, The Second Child.