Neon Genesis Evangelion: Legacy
Episode VII: Awakenings
Chapter 8 – The Magnificent Seven
May 30, 2020 – Tokyo–3 Senior High School, Principal's Office
Lunchtime at the Tokyo–3 First Municipal Senior High School was a busy and hectic affair. Even close friends sometimes lost track of each other in the rush of excitement to take a break from the monotony of class in order to eat, and this was the best time to call students away without anyone noticing. It was just before lunch ended that Hikari, Toji, and Kensuke were quietly pulled from class and brought to the principal's office, unsure of why they were there.
"We're missing class!" Hikari exclaimed under her breath. "Why are we even here? We haven't done anything wrong… or at least I haven't…" Hikari glared at Toji.
"Hey, I didn't do nothing." Toji said. "Haven't had the time with you riding me to study…"
"Don't look at me either, he's the one that comes up what the dumb plans." Kensuke said.
"Yeah… but it's been almost two hours!" Hikari explained. "If we're not in trouble, why in the hell are we even here? School will be over by this rate!"
"Will you relax… maybe it's just a misunderstanding or something." Toji said. "Besides, it's Saturday, we aren't missing anything important."
"But our classwork, our homework!" Hikari explained. "We're going to fall behind! We'll fail our college entrance exams! This is horrible!"
"Look, our friends will make sure we get our shit, babe." Toji said calmingly. "Just relax, we'll figure this out, ok?"
"Fine, but I don't have to like it." Hikari muttered.
As they sat waiting impatiently outside for another half an hour, they were finally called into the office, and upon entering, much to their surprise, Misato, Kaji, and Maya sitting across from them.
"Uh… hi…?" Toji said nervously.
"Hey guys, why don't you take a seat." Misato said.
"Why?" Toji asked nervously.
"We just want to talk." Misato said. "That's all."
"The last time someone from NERV came to talk, I almost died." Toji said. "So excuse me if I don't want to stay."
"Toji, what do you mean?" Hikari asked.
"They're here to ask us to pilot." Toji replied. "Aren't you?"
"Well… yes." Misato said.
"As we're sure you're aware thought either the kids or someone's hacking of NERV's information networks…" Kaji said. "You know we have three additional Evangelions without pilots."
"Yeah, we know." Hikari said.
"Well, you now we're looking for pilots." Misato said.
"And…?" Kensuke asked excitedly.
"Well, we'd like you three to fill out our roster of pilots." Maya said. "Toji you would be back in Unit–03, and Hikari and Kensuke will be assigned to the new Evangelions"
"No." Toji said. "Absolutely not."
"Come on, Toji, at least hear them out." Kensuke said.
"No, I never want to pilot that thing again." Toji said. "I won't do it."
"Well, at least sit down and listen before you refuse outright." Misato said.
"Look, you don't have anything to hold over my head to get me to pilot again." Toji said. "Sakura's not in the hospital anymore, so you can't use that against me."
"Toji, you are Unit–03's pilot." Maya said.
"Find someone else!" Toji shouted. "I ain't doing it!"
"Look, Unit–03's Core is already keyed into your brain waves." Misato said bluntly. "So, either you pilot or we have to find a family member of yours to pilot. So who does that leave, Toji? It's either you or Sakura who are going to pilot Unit–03, and I'd rather not have to ask her."
"S… Sakura?" Toji asked. "Why would you do that?"
"Yeah, Sakura." Misato said.
"Once a Core has been synced to a pilot it is permanently synced." Maya explained. "Only siblings are capable with syncing to someone else's Core. So either you pilot, or we have to ask Sakura to do it in your place."
"But… I didn't…" Toji stammered. "That's… not fair…"
"Wait a second… " Hikari said angrily. "Why am I hearing about this from you? Why didn't Asuka give us a heads up? Why didn't she tell you Toji didn't want to pilot?!"
"Why would Asuka be telling you any of this?" Misato asked. "She's not in charge of these decisions."
"But Asuka promised she'd ague against Toji piloting!" Hikari said. "She promised me he'd never have to pilot!"
"Oh shit…" Kaji muttered.
"Well, not for nothing, but Asuka nor any of the others have been told about this yet. Their input into this decision wasn't necessary, we're the ones in charge, not them." Misato said. "Though she shouldn't have promised you something she knew she couldn't keep, cause she nor the others would never had had any say in the matter even if we told them about this ahead of time."
"Asuka… she lied… to me?" Hikari asked tearfully.
"I don't think she lied to you." Kaji said. "I think she just wanted to protect your feelings"
Ding dong ding ding… ding dong ding ding
"Oh… it's that late already?" Hikari asked woefully.
"It seems to be that way." Maya replied.
"Anyway…" Misato said tersely. "We're offering you the chance to pilot."
"Why us though?" Hikari asked. "Why out of probably a load of candidates, why us?"
"Well… we thought it would be easier if the new pilot candidates were already friends with our pilots…" Maya explained nervously. "Seeing as you seven kids are so close… you were the logical choices."
"And we're not asking for a decision right this second." Kaji said. "Take a week or two and decide if you really want to do this or not."
"What if we don't want to?" Hikari asked.
"Then we'll find someone else." Misato said. "But seeing as we're being honest with each other, we'd prefer you."
"So… uh… are you kidding about Sakura…" Toji asked. "Cause I don't want to do this…"
"Unfortunately not." Misato said. "And I'm sorry it has to be like this, but we need reliable pilots and I'd rather have three kids I know are decent individuals rather than some kids I don't know anything about inside massive war machines."
"I guess we'll let you know." Kensuke said.
"I'm surprised you didn't just say yes now." Kaji said.
"I uh… I really want to, but I… I don't want to do it without them." Kensuke said. "If they agree, I'll agree."
"Ok then." Misato said.
"Thanks for your time guys." Kaji said.
"Yeah, thanks…" Toji said as they left the room.
Hikari closed the door behind them and sighed. "I can't believe this… Asuka… Asuka promised." Hikari stamped her foot. "I hate being surprised like this…"
"Babe, where are you going?" Toji called after her.
"Home!" Hikari called back.
"So what are you going to do?" Kensuke asked.
"I really don't know…" Toji said as he began walking away. "I can't make her pilot… that'd be a dick move."
"Where are you going?" Kensuke asked.
"I'm going home too…" Toji replied. "I have a lot to think about."
"Yeah… we all have a lot to think about." Kensuke muttered to himself.
As the kids left class, Mari was having a great day. In Hikari's absence, Mari took the role of Class representative and thoroughly enjoyed ordering everyone to stand bow and sit like Hikari did. However, the power went to her head, and she assigned three boys to clean the room because they hadn't "respected her authority" properly.
"That was so much fun!" Mari exclaimed. "I can see why freckles does it. It's a total power trip!"
"Ok, Caesar, calm down." Asuka said. "You're not commanding the Roman Legions."
"I may as well be." Rei replied. "They follow your commands like that!" Mari snapped her fingers. "It's fucking awesome!"
"I'm more worried about where Hikari and the others were all afternoon." Rei said. "They disappeared at lunch and never came back."
"Yeah… where did they go?" Shinji asked.
"Who knows?" Asuka replied. "Maybe they were sick or something…"
"Hey, isn't that miso's car?" Mari asked, pointing out the blue Alpine. "I mean, it's not like it's a popular car in Japan."
"It looks like her car." Shinji said. "And those look like NERV SUVs."
"Why is it here?" Rei asked. "And why are those here too?"
"Yeah, she didn't even bother to come say hello." Mari said angrily.
"I don't know, maybe she's sponsoring something else for the school." Asuka said. "Like the festival or some shit."
"Well… our three friends are missing…" Rei said. "And there are three pilotless Evangelions… perhaps…"
"You think she's asking them?" Mari asked.
"That's dumb." Asuka said. "She wouldn't choose pilots without us. She wouldn't dare do that without our input…"
"Well… maybe not." Shinji said. "She kept my piloting a secret, this isn't any different."
"No… I don't believe it." Asuka said firmly. "This is too important."
"No, that seems like something Misato would do." Rei said. "It is not our decision…"
"What are you so worried about, princess?" Mari asked.
"I… I'm not worried." Asuka said unconvincingly. "I'll just be pissed if she didn't even bother to ask our opinions."
"Well, just ask her tonight." Shinji suggested.
"Don't worry baka, I damn sure will ask her." Asuka said intensely.
After they got home, Shinji, Rei, and Mari continued their discussion about the possibility of their friends being selected as Evangelions pilots. Even though the possibility was real, Asuka was worried about Hikari's reaction because she had promised to fight against Toji being asked to pilot again, and said she would give her a heads up.
"I should call her and see what's wrong." Asuka said. "She could just not be feeling well… yeah, that's why they left." Asuka picked up her phone and dialed.
Brrring… brrring… brrring… brrring… brrring… brrring…
"Hi… you've reached Hikari Horaki. Please leave a message and I'll get back to you as soon as I can! Can't wait to speak with you!"
"Uh, Hikari, it's me." Asuka said. "Is everything ok? You never came back from lunch and I'm worried about you… I'll uh… talk to you later."
Asuka hung up the phone worriedly. "Scheisse, scheisse, scheisse!" Asuka muttered as she ran her hand through her hair. "Hikari always answers her phone! Something must be wrong… really, really wrong…" Asuka moaned in frustration. "Gottverdammt, when is Misato going to get home?!"
Several hours after the kids got home, Misato and Kaji arrived back at the apartment. The kids did their best to stay calm, but because Asuka had been obsessing about Hikari still not calling her back she wanted answers, and she wanted them now.
"Why were you at school today?" Asuka asked.
"Huh?" Misato asked.
"I think they know…" Kaji whispered.
"I saw your car, Misato…" Asuka grumbled.
"Actually I saw it…" Mari corrected her.
"Not now, four eyes!" Asuka snapped. "So, why were you there? You didn't say hello to us or anything. So what are you hiding?!"
"I think the jig is up, Misato." Kaji said. "You may as well tell them."
"I was going to… but Asuka confronted me when I got in the door!" Misato bemoaned.
"Well, I'm waiting…" Asuka said impatiently.
"Yeah, the rest of us are curious too." Mari added.
"Very curious." Rei added.
"Shit…" Misato muttered. "Yes we were at your school today."
"For what?" Asuka asked.
"Official NERV business." Misato replied. "We were there to recruit new Evangelions pilots…"
"Who. Did. You. Talk. To?" Asuka asked word by word.
"Ugh…" Misato sighed. "Toji, Kensuke, and Hikari."
"You did what?!" Asuka shouted.
"Asuka, calm down." Shinji said.
"Yeah, we told you that's what was going on." Mari quipped.
"Asuka, I know you're upset because you promised Hikari that you'd tell us to not pick Toji, but you should know better than to promise something you weren't sure you would keep." Misato said scoldingly.
"Well we should have had some input!" Asuka snapped.
"You're not the ones in charge." Misato said. "We are, so you don't get to make the decisions about who pilots and who doesn't."
"You might be the one in charge, but we still have to be able to trust the people you're sending out to fight with us!" Asuka exclaimed.
"What, don't you think your friends are good choices?" Kaji asked.
"I'm sure they are but they don't deserve this!" Asuka replied. "Did you think about the whole Bardiel thing maybe being an issue?!"
"Well of course we did." Kaji said. "And we gave him an ultimatum that could have been avoided."
"No, it was the only way, and he needed to know the truth." Misato said. "Either he pilots Unit–03, or Sakura does."
"Sakura?!" Shinji and Mari shouted in unison.
"The fuck?!" Asuka screamed.
"That seems distasteful…" Rei muttered.
"Well, we had to tell him the truth. Lying about why can pilot Unit–03 isn't something I'm prepared to do." Misato said. "But I am prepared to ask Sakura to pilot, and I will go to her if Toji says no."
"Misato!" Mari shouted angrily. "You can't do that!"
"Yes I can." Misato said. "I just hope Toji agrees to pilot so I won't have to…"
"So you even see that it's wrong!" Shinji exclaimed.
"IT's unfortunate is what it is." Misato said. "And not just about them, for all of you. We ask you all to pilot to protect us from something mankind created themselves."
"No shit." Mari quipped.
"We are aware of why we have to pilot." Rei said.
"And it's not fucking fair!" Asuka growled. "It's not fair to us to have to give up our lives to do this shit again, and its especially not fair to them to have to pilot! They doesn't deserve the burden!" Asuka shouted. "Especially Toji, he's absolutely terrified of Unit–03! Did you even think of that before you asked him? Did you think him nearly dying might make him not want to pilot?!"
"Are talking about Toji, or are we talking about you, Asuka?" Misato asked.
"I'm piloting because I'm not leaving those three without my help against the Angels! But this isn't about me, it's about our friends!" Asuka snapped. "And I actually died, Misato, get that fact straight. But Toji just came close, and it still fucked his head up a lot!" Asuka slammed her fist into the wall. "How can you force them into the same decision we had to make?! Toji never even fought against an Angel! He was just trapped in there while he watched us all get slaughtered! "
"I'm not forcing anyone in to anything." Misato said. "But they are the best choice from the candidates we have."
"No one else should have to suffer the burden of piloting." Rei said. "Why do we even need more pilots at all? We should be perfectly fine with the four of us."
"Rei, we need the pilots." Misato snapped. "No Evangelion can be without a pilot."
"Why do we need the pilots?" Rei asked. "Do we really need to risk a Fourth Impact, or risk being caught unaware with untrained pilots by our side? I trust our friends a great deal, but we don't know how they'll react under stress. We will be fine on our own."
"You don't get to make that decision, rei." Misato retorted.
"Oh, I'm tired of listening to this shit." Asuka snapped. "I'm going to bed."
"Asuka…" Shinji muttered.
"Unless you're coming to bed right now, Shinji, don't talk to me." Asuka said as she stormed off.
"Yeah, I'll be there in a second." Shinji replied.
"You know, I think Asuka has the right idea." Mari said as she and Shinji left. "We can't change your mind, so talking is pointless."
"Goodnight, Misato." Rei said.
"I guess you'll sleep on it then!" Misato called after the kids.
Shinji walked into his and Asuka's room and saw Asuka curled up on the bed. We sat down next to her and began rubbing her back.
"Are you ok?" Shinji asked.
"No…" Asuka said weakly. "Misato made me liar in Hikari's eyes…"
"I'm sure she'll understand." Shinji said.
"No she won't!" Asuka sobbed. "I called her three time, and she didn't pick up her phone! She hates me now because of this!" Asuka sat up suddenly. "I need to go see her right now and explain…!"
"Asuka, it's late." Shinji said. "Just go see her first thing in the morning, once you've calmed down."
"I don't want to admit you're right, baka." Asuka replied. "But I have to fix this."
"Asuka, I'm sure she needs time to cool off too." Shinji said. "I'm sure once you explain what Misato did, she won't be mad."
"I'm not so sure." Asuka said as Shinji got in bed next to her. "But I'm glad you're so hopeful. I guess one of us needs to be."
"Well, Hikari's not someone that stays angry." Shinji said. "But I'm more worried that you're upset and you're not going to sleep."
"Shinji, stop worrying." Asuka said. "I'm fine."
"Asuka…" Shinji persisted.
"Shinji, I know you like to worry, but I'll be ok once I get ahold of Hikari." Asuka replied as she kissed Shinji on the cheek. "It's wonderful that you're so sweet."
"As long as you say you're ok, I won't worry." Shinji said.
"I'm fine, baka." Asuka said. "Just… what are we going to do? I never thought we'd have to deal with other pilots, let alone our own friends…"
"I don't know, Asuka." Shinji said. "I guess it wouldn't be so bad if we had help. I mean, more of should be able to neutralize an Angel quicker, right?"
"I know… Rei's right." Asuka said. "Do we have the right to make people suffer?"
"No, we don't." Shinji said. "But it's their decision, not ours. I won't try and stop them… and Toji… if he doesn't pilot, then what about Sakura?"
"I don't know… it's too much." Asuka said. "This is too complicated to think about before bed…" Asuka sighed. "Goodnight, baka Shinji."
"Goodnight, Asuka." Shinji replied.
May 31, 2020 – Akasaka Apartments
It was very early on Sunday morning when Asuka awoke. As much as she told Shinji the previous night she was alright to stop him from worrying, she was far from it. Knowing that Hikari, Toji, and Kensuke had been asked to pilot an Evangelion was driving her mad, and not being able to talk to Hikari was making her slightly paranoid about how mad her friend was at her. She had promised that Toji would not have to pilot again, and that she would try to talk Misato out of it, both of which didn't happen because Misato didn't want the kids muddling up the decision process.
So, Asuka snuck out of the house while Shinji was still asleep, and drove like mad to Hikari's. Asuka nervously parked her Skyline at Hikari's apartment, and went up to Hikari's door and rang the bell. She heard noise on the other side of the door, and Asuka called out.
"Hikari… I need to talk to you!" Asuka said loudly.
The door slid open revealing not Hikari, but her younger sister, Nozomi. "Asuka, she doesn't want to see you." Nozomi said. "Just go home."
"I just need to talk to her!" Asuka said. "Hikari, I'm sorry, I didn't know! Hikari, I'm sorry! Please, I just want to talk!"
"Do you even know how early it is?" Kodama asked as she came to the door. "Look, my little sister doesn't want to speak with you, so just go home."
"I thought you moved out?" Asuka asked. "And I'm not leaving until I speak with Hikari. I'm just going to stand here until she stops being so stubborn!" Asuka called into the apartment.
"Asuka, it's too early to deal with your shit." Kodama said. "Just go."
"Do you even know why your sister is upset?" Asuka asked. "Because I do, and neither of you two are capable of helping her through this."
"We're her sisters, we can help her through anything she needs." Kodama said snidely.
"Yeah, family first." Nozomi said sternly.
"Yeah, it's all about Hikari, eh?" Asuka shot back. "Cause I'm guessing she didn't tell you what's got her upset, did she?"
"That's none of your concern!" Nozomi said loudly.
"No, Asuka, I didn't." Hikari said solemnly from behind her sisters, looking much less cheerful than she usually did. "Because you're probably right, they wouldn't have any idea what I was asked yesterday… and I honestly thought that you of all people would've given me a heads up…"
"Hikari, go back to bed!" Kodama said. "We can handle her."
"Yeah, we'll make her go away!" Nozomi said.
"No… let her in." Hikari said dismissively. "She was worried enough to run here first thing this morning… so she may as well lay out her case."
Kodama and Nozomi reluctantly moved out of Asuka's way. "So where are we going to talk?" Asuka asked. "Your room?"
"Sitting room." Hikari said. "So they can listen in."
"Really?" Asuka asked.
"Yes, really." Hikari replied as she sat down on the couch.
Asuka nervously walked over to a chair and sat down, with Kodama and Nozomi flanking their sister on the couch. "Hikari… I… I'm sorry." Asuka began, unsure of exactly where to begin. "I… I'm sorry Misato asked you to pilot an Evangelion. It should never have happened…"
"Wait, she what?!" Kodama shouted.
"Why didn't you tell us, sis?" Nozomi whined.
"Because it wasn't your business to know." Hikari said angrily. "It's not your decision to make, is it?"
"No, it's a family decision!" Kotomi rebutted.
"Look, stop and let Asuka finish." Hikari said.
"Why?" Nozomi asked. "She doesn't deserve to explain anything to you."
"I said be quiet and let her talk!" Hikari snapped. "Asuka… continue."
"Look, I know that this isn't what you wanted, and I was wrong to assume that Misato was going to ask our opinions… I shouldn't have lied about that… and I'm sorry for that too."
"You should be." Kodama said rudely.
"Kodama, be quiet." Hikari said. "Go on…"
"Look, Misato told us flat out that even if she did ask our opinions it wouldn't have changed her mind." Asuka continued. "But… she did say something else. She wasn't bluffing about Toji. If he doesn't pilot…"
"You can't be serious." Hikari said. "There has to be another way."
"There isn't." Asuka replied. "It has to do with something about the Core… so it's either him…"
"… or her…" Hikari said woefully. "That's not even fair… she's too young…"
"She's not that much younger." Asuka said. "Otherwise…"
"Who?" Nozomi interrupted.
"None of your business." Asuka snapped.
"Bitch!" Nozomi said, jumping onto her feet.
"Nozomi, sit down and be quiet!" Hikari commanded as Nozomi reluctantly sat back down muttering incoherently under her breath.
"Look, its bullshit how this all went down, and it's not fair that any of you got put in the spot like that." Asuka continued, slightly more irritated than she already was by the peanut gallery in the room. "If I had known, do you really think I wouldn't have told you?"
"You would've…" Hikari said. "And you didn't really lie about anything either." Hikari sighed. "Misato just didn't want us finding out ahead of time… it's not your fault."
"And look, you don't have to pilot if you don't want to." Asuka said. "I don't have the right to ask you to fight with us…"
"Asuka, Toji's going to end up fighting." Hikari said. "And I'm not sending him out alone if I can be beside him to support him whatever way I can."
"Hikari…" Asuka muttered.
"Asuka, you're doing it because you want to fight and help Shinji." Hikari said. "don't you think I'd do the same?"
"You can't pilot sis!" Nozomi said incredulously. "Who's gonna take care of us if you're not home?!"
"Yeah, who's going to make lunch and clean and take care of dad?!" Kodama added.
"What are you…" Hikari began.
"Really, that's your fucking take away from all this?!" Asuka said in a quiet rage. "That someone's not going to be here to take care of you?! You've got to be FUCKING KIDDING ME!" Asuka screamed. "You tow are the most selfish, ungrateful, and lazy fucking family in existence!" Asuka stood up and glared right at Kodama. "You're fucking older than her, grow the fuck up and learn to take care of yourself!" Asuka rounded on Nozomi next. "And you're fucking old enough to do some work around the house like cleaning or laundry!"
"Don't you tell us…" Kodama began.
"What, that you're both massive assholes!" Asuka shouted back. "You're so fucking worried about yourselves, you can't even see that your loving and wonderful sister is terrified about what's going on! Your heads are so far up your own asses, you can't see that maybe she needs some support right now. No, you want to know who's fucking making dinner and doing your laundry because you're too fucking useless to figure it out for yourselves."
"You're such a bitch!" Nozomi repeated.
"I may be a bitch, but at least I'm not ungrateful to the person who cared for you ungrateful fucks like a mother since your mother died." Asuka retorted loudly. "She barely had a life outside this house after your mother died thanks to you two always needing something, always using her so you didn't have to do anything for yourselves!" Asuka turned to Hikari. "I'm sorry, Hikari, but I have to leave… I honestly can't deal with their shit anymore… I know they hate me… but I never really like them much either."
"Asuka wait…" Hikari said as Asuka stormed out of the apartment and slammed the door behind her.
As Asuka got to her car, she fumbled in her pocket for her keys, her arms shaking in a rage from what she'd just heard.
"Asuka!" Hikari called out.
"What?!" Asuka shouted without thinking, before turning and seeing Hikari coming towards her. "Sorry Hikari, what is it?"
"Thanks for that…" Hikari said. "I know they're difficult with you."
"They're impossible to deal with." Asuka said. "And it sucks that they can't at least… you know… be cordial or something with me when I come by…"
"Hey… don't worry about it." Hikari said. "I know they're selfish about my time, and it's not fair… I just put up with it for the sake of not having an argument over dinner all the time. But thanks for defending me… maybe they'll think about what you said."
"I doubt it." Asuka replied.
"Well… maybe hearing it from you will make the difference." Hikari said. "But about piloting…"
"Yeah…?" Asuka asked.
"I'm still not sure." Hikari said. "But I would do it so Toji wouldn't be doing it alone." Hikari sighed. "Asuka… tell me the truth. Should I really do this?"
"Hikari… I can't tell you what to do." Asuka said. "Just follow you gut."
"Asuka, you have an opinion about everything." Hikari said. "Please, just tell me what you think…"
"Look, Hikari… I'd rather not see you have to get in an Evangelion." Asuka said. "You or the other two… you don't deserve it…"
"But?" Hikari asked.
"But, if I had to choose… I'd rather have people I know fighting with me than people I don't." Asuka said. "But don't let me dumb ass opinion change your mind and come fighting, got it?"
"I got it, Asuka." Hikari said as she hugged Asuka. "And I'm sorry I got mad at you… you just wanted to make me feel better, and I can't really fault you for something that was outside your control anyway."
"Thanks, Hikari." Asuka replied. "So, are you going to be ok?"
"Well… yeah." Hikari replied. "Once the shock wears off."
"That'll last a while…" Asuka quipped.
"Well, once it wears off you have one hell of a decision to make." Asuka said.
"I know…" Hikari mused. "And it'll be the most difficult decision of my life…"
After getting up some time after Asuka did, Shinji and Mari left with Rei, who went elsewhere, and arrived on Toji's doorstep shortly thereafter. They knocked heavily on the door to get him to answer. When he did, they were faced with an irate Toji who was not in a good mood.
"So, you guys must know…" Toji muttered.
"Yeah… Misato told us last night." Shinji replied.
"Are you ok?" Shinji asked.
"No… no I'm not…" Toji muttered.
"Can we come in?" Shinji asked.
"Yeah…" Toji replied as he walked back indie. Shinji and Mari followed him in and closed the door behind them.
"So, where's the cutie pie?" Mari asked.
"She uh… went somewhere…" Toji said as he paced aimlessly around the room. "I honestly wasn't paying any attention…"
"Toji, you're wreck." Shinji said.
"I know…" Toji replied as he kept walking around..
"Toji do you wanna talk?" Shinji asked.
"What… yeah… maybe…" Toji muttered.
"Toji, sit down." Mari said.
"Huh…?" Toji muttered, snapping out of his stupor. "You said my name… you never call me by name…"
"I'm aware of that, Toji." Mari said. "Now please sit down." Toji, still shocked by Mari using his name, sat down. "So, Misato told us last night what she offered you guys… and she told us about what she offered to you specifically."
"Yeah…?" Toji asked.
"Misato told us she wasn't bluffing about it." Shinji said solemnly. "Either you pilot, or she's forced to ask Sakura to pilot."
"She'll go through with it too." Mari said. "She was very serious about it."
"Have you told Sakura let?" Shinji asked.
"No, because if I do, then she'll get the idea in her head to pilot." Toji said. "And I don't want her to go through that… ever."
"Toji, we'll find another way…" Shinji began.
"There isn't another way!" Toji shouted. "I've failed her once because I did the wrong thing, and I don't intend to do it again!"
"What is he…" Mari began.
"Sachiel, right?" Shinji asked. "I hit a building because I didn't know what I was doing, and the rubble hit Sakura. Is that what you're talking about?"
"Yeah, it is, and you pulled her out." Toji said. "I was too afraid to do anything, and I let my guard down and she fell behind…" Toji whimpered. "I almost lost her that day… and if she goes and pilots… she'll be that kind of danger all the time… I can't deal with that shit every again…"
"Mortal danger." Mari said. "She'd be in mortal danger."
"Mari, now is not…" Shinji began.
"No, Shinji, it is exactly the time." Mari said plainly. "He knows exactly what I'm talking about too. You can't dance around the fucking words you mean, you just fucking say them. Sakura could get hurt like you did, like we all have. Or worse, she could actually up and die from piloting. We've all come close more than once, it's bound to happen eventually."
"She's right, man." Toji replied weakly. "It's exactly what I'm thinking about… Sakura could die if I don't step up…"
"Why do you have to protect her though?" Shinji asked. "She's a strong person."
"Because I made a promise to my mom!" Toji said. "When Sakura was born… my mom told me to promise her that I would always keep Sakura safe, no matter what." Toji sobbed. "If I don't pilot, I'd be breaking my promise and putting Sakura in harm's way. The only way to keep my promise is to go back and pilot… that… that thing."
"Look, Toji, Maya's worked really hard on restoring Unit–03." Mari said. "She would never have declared it battle ready if she hadn't personally gone over Unit–03 with a high resolution microscope and made sure every micron of Bardiel was gone and vaporized."
"That's not what I'm worried about." Toji said. "What if I don't have control again? I don't want to watch you guys get hurt… and I don't want you to guys to not fight either…"
"Toji… that won't happen again." Shinji said. "I won't wait until I lose control before I act…" Shinji sighed. "After seeing Asuka get gutted by those white devils… I never want to hesitate again…no one will ever get hurt again from my inaction."
"You mean that?" Toji asked.
"Yeah, I mean it." Shinji said.
"We all hesitated because you were in there, and didn't want to hurt you." Mari explained. "If we had thought it out, we could have saved you… two of us could have held down Unit–03, and the other two could have ripped your Entry Plug free. Then we could have taken Bardiel out without a problem."
"Huh…" Toji muttered. "So you guys would protect me?"
"If you piloted, we'd protect you the best we could." Mari replied. "We can't promise you won't get hurt… that's… uh… an impossible promise to keep."
"Well, then I guess it won't be so bad with four veterans covering me." Toji said.
"Well, if I'm being honest… it's kinda nice that if you guys do decide to pilot, we can actually trust you." Mari said.
"You mean that?" Toji asked.
"Of course I do, right puppy?" Mari replied.
"Right." Shinji said. "So do you feel any better?" Shinji asked.
"Not really." Toji replied. "Even if I'm ok with it, it's still not easy to think about going back inside an Evangelion… especially one that I almost died in."
"I don't think anything will ever make that feel better, Toji." Mari said. "You just have to be brave and think of your sister."
"I know…" Toji said. "But I need to tell Hikari that I'm going to pilot."
"What do you think she'll say?" Shinji asked.
"I don't know… she's probably expecting it with Sakura being involved now…" Toji said. "I hope she says no. I don't want her near this."
"Hey, freckles is a wonderful and strong person." Mari said. "She can pilot if she wants to."
"I know that, but I don't want her to get hurt either." Toji said. "I mean Shinji here must always be a nervous wreck when Asuka fights."
"I mean, I still get worried if that's what you mean." Shinji said. "But Asuka's trained forever… she's more than capable to fight without my help… even if I'm too stubborn or worried at times to see that."
"Aww, Shinji… that's so cute." Mari said. "She's lucky to have you."
"I'm lucky to have her." Shinji replied.
"See, this is why I don't want Hikari fighting and all." Toji replied. "I'm gonna worry more about her than myself."
"It happens." Shinji said. "You just have to balance the worry with your concentration."
"Is that all it takes?" Toji asked.
"It's not as easy as it sounds, you know." Mari said.
"I'm sure it's not… but I hope I can avoid it altogether." Toji said worriedly.
"What about Kensuke?" Shinji asked.
"I'm damn sure he's gonna pilot. That's like a no brainer." Toji said. "He's had a hard on for the Evangelions since forever… he's always wanted to pilot one… and him piloting one… he'd probably consider it his girlfriend or whatever."
Shinji and Mari laughed nervously. "Yeah… his girlfriend…" Mari quipped.
"So… have you seen it lately?" Toji asked. "Unit–03?"
"I haven't." Shinji said. "Not in a while anyway. Last time I saw it still didn't have arms, or much armor."
"I saw it a couple weeks ago." Mari said. "It looked just like it did before, same colors and everything. It was just missing some armor."
"Oh… so it's still black and gray…" Toji muttered. "Cool…"
"Well, not everyone can have pink as their color." Mari joked. "Or purple for that matter."
"I guess…" Toji replied.
"Hey, it looks kinda cool." Mari said. "Not as cool as say, a pink Evangelion, but buts at least imposing or whatever it is."
"Mari, we get it, you like pink." Shinji said.
"Yeah, and it looks fucking amazing on Unit–05." Mari quipped.
"Still, I'd rather not be piloting it, no matter the color." Toji said. "But I guess I don't have any other choice… I'm piloting to protect Sakura."
Rei had met Shinji and Mari on her way out of the apartment. As they took off in Shinji's Ferrari, Rei went to her own car a blue Hyundai Tiburon and drove off towards Kensuke's apartment. She and Kensuke were not close by any means, but knowing that Asuka had run off to Hikari's and that Shinji and Mari were going to talk to Toji, Rei felt obligated to speak to Kensuke herself to see how he was doing. As she parked at his apartment, she went up to the door and kicked, with Sakura answering it.
"Hi, Rei." Sakura said. "How are you this morning?"
"Hello, Sakura." Rei replied. "I am doing fine… but I wanted to speak to Kensuke."
"I figured as much." Sakura said. "It's been a long night for him you know."
"I assume he is somewhat elated at the opportunity." Rei replied.
"He is, but he's also doubting himself too." Sakura said. "Maybe talking with you will make him feel better."
"I don't know if what I can tell him will make him feel better." Rei said honestly. "But I promise I won't lie to him about anything."
"That's fine." Sakura said. "I'm just glad you came to see him."
"We may not talk a lot, but we are still friends." Rei replied.
"How come you're not with your brother?" Rei asked.
"He was too distracted to even talk to, and I figured my boyfriend could use me more." Sakura replied as she led Rei into Kensuke's room. "That's all."
"Hi Kensuke." Rei said. "How are you?"
"Hi Rei…" Kensuke said. "I'm uh… I'm doing ok."
"I would have thought you'd be doing better." Rei replied.
"Well… I mean, I'm surprised I was even considered." Kensuke said. "I didn't think this would ever happen… I used to dream about it all the time… and now it's actually happening… I could be an Evangelion pilot…"
"Are you in shock?" Rei asked.
"A little." Kensuke said.
"We're all in shock." Sakura said. "Kenny–kun told me everything that happened yesterday."
"That Toji and Hikari were offered the same punishment?" Rei asked.
"That and how my brother is being forced to choose between piling or them making me pilot." Sakura explained. "I'm not very happy about it."
"It is an impossible decision for anyone to make." Rei said. "Though I would prefer that no one else had been asked to pilot."
"Why?" Kensuke asked.
"No one else deserves to suffer as an Evangelion pilot." Rei said. "We have suffered enough, I would not wish it upon anyone, even an enemy."
"So this wasn't your choice then." Sakura said.
"No, we were not consulted." Rei said. "Misato chose them all on her own."
"So, are you upset we got picked?" Kensuke asked.
"I am not upset you were chosen." Rei said. "I'm upset that you may have to pilot, which as I said is unfair."
"Don't you want the help?" Kensuke asked. "I mean, you four could use all the help you could get. Maybe it would make things easier on you."
"It may, but it would put you three in unnecessary danger." Rei said. "And you don't deserve that. You deserve to be happy."
"But… I am happy, I really am." Kensuke said. "I want to help, I really want to help."
"Why?" Rei asked. "What would you get out of piloting?"
"I… well…" Kensuke stammered. "I've always wanted to pilot. IS there any other reason?"
"Are you sure that's what you want? Do you know what you're getting yourself into?" Rei asked. "And are you sure that's what Sakura wants?"
"I… I don't know what Sakura wants…" Kensuke said as he turned to Sakura. "I… I didn't even think about what you'd want me to do."
"Well, I don't really want you to go." Sakura said. "I already know I'm losing Toji to this piloting thing, and then I'm sure Hikari will follow him because that's how she is, and then my boyfriend wants to go off and fight like some kind child solider fantasy."
"It's not…" Kensuke stammered. "That's not the only reason why, Sakura."
"Then what are the reasons, Kenny–kun?" Sakura asked tearfully. "Because I don't want you to get hurt unless you have a damn good reason to!"
"I… I don't want to pilot just because I've always wanted to." Kensuke explained. "I'd be abandoning my friends if I were the only person to say no… I can't do that."
"That cannot be your only reason." Rei said bluntly. "If it was, it was not very convincing."
"It's not." Kensuke replied. "I just…"
"Then what is it?" Sakura repeated. "Please, I just want to understand what you're thinking, Kenny–kun."
"I've always been… weird." Kensuke explained. "I'm not as smart s my friends, I'm not as cool, or attractive… I'm just a nerd who likes the military. So… what do I have to look forward to in life with my mediocre grades? I'm not going anywhere… I'm not going to make anything of myself…"
"Kensuke, don't say that!" Sakura said angrily. "You're not weird at all!"
"Maybe not to you, Sakura." Kensuke said. "But a lot of other people… you don't hear what they mutter about me under their breath. I'm just the freak who hangs out with the EVA pilots, I'm the weirdo always hanging around Hikari, I'm the guy who's probably some sort of fag." Kensuke shook his head. "Even my dad the past few years avoids me whenever he can. He just works and ignores me… I'm a disappointment to him… and he says my mother would be disappointed in me too…"
"That's not true…" Sakura said. "You'd… you'd have told me about that…"
"I… I didn't know how…" Kensuke said.
"I believe Kensuke was trying to shield your feelings, Sakura." Rei said. "A common occurrence to make sure the ones we love do not worry constantly about us."
"I guess…" Sakura replied. "But why does all that matter?"
"Because, out of the three of them, Kensuke's extensive knowledge of NERV, the Evangelions, and its operations would be a great asset in the long run." Rei said. "Anyone who can memorize such facts is not in fact useless, but very intelligent, just unfocused…"
"Thanks, Rei…" Kensuke replied.
"I was only telling the truth." Rei said bluntly.
"I meant Kensuke, Rei." Sakura said. "But thank you for that." Sakura turned to Kensuke. "Why is anything you said important? It didn't make any sense."
"Because if I pilot an Evangelion, it'll probably be the only change I make in the world in my life." Kensuke said. "The only important thing I'll do that will ever make a lasting difference… beyond that… I'm useless…"
"You're not useless, Kenny–kun…" Sakura said tearfully. "You make me happy… isn't that enough?"
"It is… but if you had the chance to do something that could change the world… do something more… become extraordinary, wouldn't you take it?" Kensuke asked.
"I… I guess I would…" Sakura said. "But I still don't want you to get hurt…" Sakura turned to Rei. "Rei, if he does pilot, can you… protect him?"
"I will do my best, Sakura." Rei said. "I can promise nothing more."
"Thank you, Rei." Sakura replied.
"So, Sakura… is it ok for me to pilot?" Kensuke asked.
"Yes, Kenny–kun, it is." Sakura said.
"Then I guess we're colleagues now." Kensuke said.
"We are." Rei replied. "I just hope you know what you're getting into."
"Well, being friends with you guys… I do know." Kensuke said. "It won't be easy, but anything worthwhile rarely is."
June 1, 2020 – NERV HQ
Misato was sitting in her office, upset at recent events. Not only had the pilots she wanted to join NERV rebuffed her offer, her current pilots were upset that they weren't informed of the decision ahead of time, and would have liked to give input on who was to be selected. Misato didn't think any of this would happen, and was over focusing about how they gone about informing them. Maya and Kaji were with her, trying to help her make sense of things.
"Why were they so upset?" Misato lamented.
"Well… we did spring it on them." Maya said. "That wasn't necessarily the best way to go about it I think."
"Well, the direct approach is always the best." Misato said. "I don't want to be like the previous administration."
"Look, Misato, you didn't do anything wrong." Kaji said. "At least with the new pilots."
"Kaji, we've been over this already… I don't want hear it again." Misato said tiredly.
"Misato, he's right." Maya said. "We both told you we should have discussed it with our pilots first. It wasn't fair for them to find out afterwards."
"Yeah, but their opinions…" Misato began.
"They matter." Kaji said. "Asuka was right with what she said. They may be our pilots, but those kids are the ones in the field, so anyone being picked should at the very least be brought by them for their opinion."
"What you do with the opinion is up to you, but they deserved to know first." Maya added.
"I doubt it would have made a difference with their reactions." Misato replied.
"Maybe not." Kaji said. "Maybe they would have helped talk to their friends and made this all so much less stressful on all of us."
"Yeah, and then the other three wouldn't have been so upset about not getting a heads up." Maya said.
"I don't think it would have gone down like that…" Misato muttered.
"Is that because you really believe that?" Maya asked.
"Or is it because you don't want to admit the two of us were right?" Kaji asked.
"I… I don't know why I talk to guys about anything." Misato retorted.
"Misato, you have to realize that maybe we fucked up by doing things the way we did them." Kaji replied.
"We definitely could have done better." Maya said.
"Well… maybe I should have listened more to your opinions." Misato said. "But it's over now, so what do we do?"
"We hope our kids can convince them to pilot, because I don't really think anyone else would mesh with them." Kaji said. "What do you think Maya?"
"Those three are our best bet at a cohesive pilot corps." Maya said.
"Well, at least made the correct decision in that regard." Misato said. "Now we just have to hope for the best."
"That's just your average Tuesday here at NERV." Kaji joked. "Just waiting for an Angel to attack."
"It's Monday, Kaji." Misato said.
"Whatever…" Kaji retorted. "It's still just your average day here at NERV."
The kids had just gotten home from school after a very long and silent day. Even though they had all spoken with their friends individually the day before, there was still a bit of general unease about the whole situation from all seven of them. As they got home, the kids got to talking about improving the situation, though they weren't sure how.
"That sucked." Mari said bluntly. "I mean we barely spoke to them all damn day."
"That's to be expected, Mari." Rei replied. "They've had quite a shock."
"Still…" Mari replied. "We should have at least tried to talk."
"No, we need to give them space." Shinji said.
"Do we have to?" Mari asked. "We should be asking how they feel?"
"Mari, do not pester them." Rei said. "Is that understood?"
"Yes, ma'am." Mari replied.
"Still… I was wondering about something…" Asuka muttered.
"What about, princess?" Mari asked.
"Well…you know how Shinji and I sync to our mother's souls…" Asuka asked. "Well… our mothers died in accidents… but… what would they be syncing to?"
"Huh… that's a good question." Shinji said.
"I never really thought about it." Rei said.
"Well… that's a stumper of a question…" Mari said. "You don't think…"
"Look, a lot of fucked up shit was done under the old administration of NERV." Asuka said. "No offence Shinji."
"My dad was a crazy asshole, its fine, Asuka." Shinji said.
"Well… we can't let them pilot without knowing the truth." Asuka said. "Right?"
"But we do not even know the full truth." Rei said.
"Well, there is one person who know the full truth." Mari said.
"I do not think Maya was privy to everything that she needs to know." Rei said. "As intelligent as she is, she is most likely missing some unscrupulous details."
"You don't mean…" Shinji said.
"Yes, puppy, I do." Mari said. "I think we need to take a road trip in the morning…"
"And miss school?" Asuka asked. "Hikari was upset the last time we missed school, and I don't want to piss her off again."
"Would you rather sit in school all day or find out the truth?" Mari asked.
"I…" Asuka stammered. "Gottverdammt…"
"I would also like to find out the truth." Rei said.
"Well, it's settled then." Mari said. "Looks like we're taking a drive…"
June 2, 2020 – New Yokosuka Maximum Security Prison
The kids were up early on this particular Tuesday morning, however it wasn't so they could get to school, but it was so they could pay someone a very special visit. They were sitting in an enclosed visiting area at the prison, waiting for the prisoner to be brought to them. The door opened with two prison guards escorting Kozo Fuyutsuki to see them.
"Oh my…" Fuyutsuki said tiredly. "I didn't realize it was to be all four of you."
"Well, we didn't either until yesterday." Mari said. "How are you, sensei?"
"Oh, you know… taking it one day at a time." Fuyutsuki said.
"Did you get the art supplies we sent?" Shinji asked.
"Of course I did, and thank you so much for them. They do help pass the time here." Fuyutsuki said happily. "But I do believe you're next visit wasn't supposed to be for a few weeks with school and everything… and come to think of it, shouldn't you be in school right now? Is something the matter?"
"Well, there have been some changes as of late." Mari said. "A lot of changes."
"What kind of changes?" Fuyutsuki asked.
"Well, the Evangelions have woken up for one." Asuka said.
"And The Second Branch has reappeared from its Sea of Dirac." Rei added.
"Oh, and we've killed two new Angels." Shinji added.
"Oh, and there are seven Evangelions sitting in NERV HQ." Mari said. "And three of them need pilots."
"Oh, is that all?" Fuyutsuki asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Uh… I feel we're missing something." Mari said. "Guys…?"
"Misato's been promoted to Commander." Shinji said.
"And the United Nations has been cleared of SEELE's supporters." Asuka added.
"And Kaji has returned from the grave." Rei said.
"Wait… Kaji is… alive?" Fuyutsuki asked.
"Yes, he was in hiding the past three years." Shinji said.
"My word…" Fuyutsuki said. "This is a lot to process…"
"I'm sorry we have to dump this all on you at once, sensei." Mari said. "But we need your help with something."
"Mari, I know you enjoy jokes, but I'm in prison." Fuyutsuki said. "How can I be of any help to you?"
"We need to know something about the Evangelions." Mari said. "Something only you and a few others would know."
"Well, I daresay Maya has all the notes from the doctors Akagi and your parents, and even myself on the subject." Fuyutsuki explained.
"It's not going to be in the notes." Mari said.
"It about the other pilots…" Asuka said. "How… how are they chosen?"
"How…?" Fuyutsuki asked nervously. "Children, why is this so important?"
"Well…" Shinji said. "Three of our friends have been selected to pilot the other Evangelions… Toji's back to piloting Unit–03, and the other two… well…"
"We were curious how they would be able to sync to Evangelions." Rei said. "We understand the theory, but we are unsure how they specifically are able to do this."
"Well… this isn't a pleasant story, I'm afraid." Fuyutsuki said. "But I'm guessing you want to know so you can tell your friends exactly what they're getting into."
"Yeah, exactly." Mari said.
"Well… where to begin…" Fuyutsuki said. "As you are all already aware, the Evangelions do not have souls in them, they are simply very large, empty shells."
"Yeah." Asuka said.
"Go on." Shinji said encouragingly.
"In order for an Evangelion to be useable, it needs a resident soul." Fuyutsuki explained. "With this resident soul, the pilot can connect with it and move the Evangelion as an extension of their own body."
"Makes sense." Rei said.
"Well, after Yui and Kyoko were swallowed up by the Cores, piloting for those Evangelion became possible with two people." Fuyutsuki explained, motioning to Shinji and Asuka. "Now, with your mothers souls present within your respective Evangelions Cores, you are able to sync and pilot. The prevailing theory on pilots are that there has to be a bond to the soul, whether it be maternal or some other kind of love, it should enable a solid synchronization between pilot and Evangelion. Shinji can pilot Unit–01, but Rei may also be able to pilot because she was born of Yui, and Mari…"
"I would be able to pilot because of the deep affection me and Yui had…" Mari replied.
"Yes, that would be the case." Fuyutsuki said.
"So, without our mothers, how are Rei and I able to sync exactly?" Mari asked.
"Yes, I have been wondering the same thing." Rei said.
"Well, Rei, you are piloting with a Core hat contains a fragment of your own soul, taken quite unceremoniously by Gendo after your first death…" Fuyutsuki said sullenly. "I did not wish for it to happen, but it was nonnegotiable. So, you are able to pilot a version of yourself, being compatible with your own soul."
"How did I even get a soul?" Rei asked. "I… I have always wondered."
"Well… when a recovery attempt was made on Yui… uh… a biologic mess was reconstituted, but within that, some of Yui's soul was also either captured or copied." Fuyutsuki said. "I lean towards the ladder explanation, otherwise I doubt Unit–01 would have been as stable as it was. Then your soul was accidently combined with that of Lilith's, recovered from her Core before Mari experimented on it during Project Alcion."
"Oh…" Rei said. "I did not anticipate… that."
"Rei, whatever you were born from, you are still unique." Fuyutsuki said. "I am just sorry things were not easier for you…"
"Thank you for saying that…" Rei said sheepishly. "Thank you for indulging my question."
"It is the least I can do, Rei." Fuyutsuki said.
"So… how exactly do I sync, sensei?" Mari asked.
"Well, you're using Lilith's original Core." Fuyutsuki said. "The one recovered in Antarctica by Dr. Kenji Katsuragi's expedition way back in October 1997."
"Ok…" Mari said.
"Well, it was the basis that we used to design our own Core copies, the ones the Evangelions use, minus your own, Mari." Fuyutsuki continued. "After Lilith's soul was extracted, a contact experiment similar to Yui's own attempt was made, and as you know, you were absorbed."
"I know this part…" Mari said impatiently. "I lived it…"
"I am sorry, let me get to the point." Fuyutsuki said. "As you found out, a piece of Lilith's soul was left by the extraction process. So the Core was not entirely empty. When she sent you back, you left your own imprint upon the Core, linking you to it."
"You mean my souls is…?" Mari asked.
"No, you have your entire soul." Fuyutsuki said. "What I mean is that your presence marked the Core, syncing it to your soul. With the piece of Lilith's soul present in addition to that, the creator of all mankind, you sync through that special relationship."
"That is so convoluted…" Asuka muttered.
"Well, if you had a degree in Metaphysics, you'd understand." Mari quipped. "Thank you, sensei, that clears a lot of things up."
"So, can you get back to explaining how other people can even be considered to pilot?" Asuka asked. "Please?"
"Well, without any souls, the Evangelions would not move." Fuyutsuki said. "So Naoko Akagi had a bit of a problem… with more Evangelions to be built, there had to be other souls harvested for the task."
"So… how did that work exactly?" Mari asked. "Did she go Frankenstein and dig shit up in a graveyard for souls?"
"Unfortunately no…" Fuyutsuki said. "Children were chosen from across the globe to be allowed to pilot, many of them were sent here to Tokyo–3 to protect them with the power of the Marduk institute. Though many countries like the United States and some other European countries wanted to assign their own pilots to their Evangelions, so if they built it, they were supposed to assign the pilot from their own country, from their own personal stock of souls."
"So… how did they get chosen?" Mari asked.
"Please say it was natural causes…" Asuka muttered.
"It was not." Fuyutsuki said. "In order to get the requisite souls, they were directly targeted. Women were chosen who had children around the same age as you and they were usually killed in some horrific way… and then Naoko Akagi would harvest the soul and store it." Fuyutsuki shuttered. "It was… not necessary to do this… and I wish it had been different… but it was not… some two hundred fifty women were killed and used to fill out the potential pilot rosters around the world, with some thirty five being kept in storage by us."
"All… murdered…?" Shinji muttered.
"Mien Gott…" Asuka murmured.
"That… is… horrific…" Rei said shakily.
"What happened to all those souls?" Mari asked. "How… what was done with them?"
"After Third Impact, the United States and the other countries liquidated their soul stocks, and destroyed the matching Cores. This was all confirmed by the various NERV Branches around the globe shortly before I turned myself in." Fuyutsuki explained. "NERV HQ was left with the only usable stock of souls, and even that was narrowed down significantly to around fifteen…"
"Which somehow included our friends mothers souls?" Asuka asked.
"If they were still considered for being pilots, yes." Fuyutsuki replied.
"Are you sure the Cores were all destroyed?"
"Yes, the Cores were all destroyed." Fuyutsuki said.
"With the souls still in them?" Mari asked. "Because we know souls can be removed…"
"And Misato mentioned a huge pile of people to go through." Asuka added.
"I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case." Fuyutsuki replied. "I don't know where they would hide them, but the excess souls should be released so they can be at peace."
"Well… I guess we'll have to tell Misato." Asuka said.
"Yes, but do be careful." Fuyutsuki said. "You don't want to draw anyone's unwanted attention."
"I think as Evangelion pilots we already do that." Rei said.
"Five minutes." One of the guards said, reminding them time was short.
"Wait, can souls be exchanged from Cores?" Mari asked.
"No, once a soul has been imprinted on a Core, it can only be removed and stored." Fuyutsuki said. "The soul that was imprinted can be put back in, but a different soul cannot be added."
"But, sensei… Lilith…" Mari protested.
"Mari, you are a special case." Fuyutsuki said. "You were in an original Core, we don't know what rules govern that relationship. All we know is the Core copies are all only capable of being given one soul to look after."
"Oh…" Mari said. "This is so confusing."
"I know, right?" Asuka asked.
"No, literally, it's irritating." Mari replied. "I'm a metaphysical biologist, and I'm barely understanding this shit…"
"Don't be so hard on yourself, Mari." Fuyutsuki said.
"Yeah, this has still been really informative." Shinji said.
"And somewhat disturbing." Rei added.
"I hope you kids don't think less of me with what happened." Fuyutsuki said.
"No we don't blame you, sensei." Mari said. "At least I don't."
"I do assign him some of the blame." Rei said. "You may not have been directly at fault, but you could have done more to stop it…"
"No, in this case it would have been nearly impossible." Asuka said. "A worldwide murder conspiracy? No one person can stop that."
"Still, Rei's right." Fuyutsuki said. "I could have done more."
"No, Rei's not entirely right." Mari said. "You may be partially to blame about a lot of what happened, but you aren't to blame for the harvesting of souls through murder. You objected to the idea, so it's not his fault."
"Mari, he could have done more." Rei replied.
"Guys, this isn't the time or the place to argue." Shinji said.
"Yeah, let's try and be happy for his sake." Asuka said.
"Oh, it's alright." Fuyutsuki said. "Even the bickering is nice to hear."
"Two minutes." The guard warned.
"We should wrap this up." Mari said.
"Thanks for letting us see you." Shinji said.
"Yeah, and thanks for indulging our questions too." Asuka added.
"It's the least I can do." Fuyutsuki said. "And if you ever need more help, you know where to find me."
"Yeah, it should be too hard to track you down." Asuka joked.
"Bye, sir." Shinji said.
"Stay safe, alright?" Mari said hopefully.
"Goodbye, Sub–Commander." Rei said.
"Goodbye kids." Fuyutsuki said. "Thanks for taking the time to see me."
"Time's up, inmate." The guard said to Fuyutsuki. "Let's go."
"Right." Fuyutsuki replied as he was led away by the guards. "Good luck out there… and stay vigilant."
The ride back to Tokyo–3 was mostly a quiet one. Mari was sitting in back with Rei, while Asuka was driving and Shinji was staring out the window.
"So… that happened…" Shinji muttered.
"Yeah…" Mari said. "That was darker than I was expecting…"
"I'm not as surprised as you'd think." Rei said.
"Well, you were there a lot longer than the rest of us, Rei." Asuka said. "You've seen more fucked up shit than the rest of us…"
"So, are we still telling them?" Shinji asked. "I mean… this is… dark…"
"We have to, Shinji." Asuka said. "If they're going to make the right choice for themselves, they need all the facts."
"Even the super fucked up shit." Mari added.
"Especially that." Rei corrected.
"I figured as much…" Shinji said. "Now we just have to figure out how exactly to tell them."
"Less how and more when." Mari said.
"Well, we can't tell them today." Shinji said. "We need to process things a bit, don't we?"
"Yeah, I'm still too shocked to really explain this." Asuka said.
"Perhaps we just wait a few days." Rei said. "The information has been secret this long, a few more days won't make a bit of difference."
"So it's settled." Mari said. "We tell them the whole truth in a few days once we wrap our own minds around it, agreed?"
"I'm not seeing an issue." Rei replied. "I agree."
"Works for me." Asuka replied.
"Sure." Shinji replied.
"Good… now how about stopping somewhere to eat…" Mari suggested. "I don't know about you guys, but after all that, I'm fucking hungry."
June 4, 2020 – Comfort 17 Apartments
It was late afternoon and the kids had arrived home from school with their friends in tow. After several days of mutual avoidance, Mari approached their mildly estranged friends and invited them over to the apartment to hang out and talk about what had been going on as of late. While Shinji and Rei did not agree lying to them about the reason to invite them over was the best plan available, Asuka begrudgingly agreed that if they told them the real reason to call them there, Toji may not want to show up. As they all settled in, they looked awkwardly at each other, not sure of what to say.
"So, how has everyone been?" Mari asked, breaking the silence. "Are you guys… uh… doing alright?"
"As well as can be expected." Toji said. "But we've been doing a lot of thinking…"
"We're going to become pilots." Hikari said assuredly.
"But we're not doing it to help NERV." Kensuke added.
"We're doing it to help you guys." Toji finished.
"Really?" Asuka asked. "But you don't even know everything about the Evangelions."
"What else is there to know?" Toji asked.
"Yeah, I have all the data I could find on them." Kensuke said. "We know what they're made of and whole bunches of other stuff…"
"Look, not everything is in what you hacked, Kensuke." Rei said.
"Some things were kept very secret." Shinji said.
"That's why we asked you here today." Mari finished.
"What are you talking about?" Kensuke asked.
"We found some stuff out about the Evangelions we need to share with you." Mari said.
"Which is why we missed school the other day." Shinji added.
"It's not fair for you to pilot and find out after the fact like we did." Asuka said.
"So we're going to tell you everything we know and let you decide if you still want to pilot." Rei added.
"Would the information really keep us from wanting to pilot?" Toji asked.
"I mean, how much worse could it be?" Hikari asked.
"Well… where should we begin…?" Mari said.
After prompting the conversation, the four of them explained everything they knew about the Evangelions, their creation, their purpose, their true purpose, and everything that Fuyutsuki had told them a few days earlier. Toji, Hikari, and Kensuke's jaws dropped hearing all the information about the Evangelions, though they became disturbed when they got to the part on how they are actually able to sync with their Evangelions, which was decided to be mentioned last as it was such a shocking revelation.
"Are… are you telling me that… that my mother… is inside Unit–03's Core?" Toji asked bewilderedly. "I mean… you're fucking lying, right? Please be lying…"
"And my mother too…?" Hikari asked.
"That's the long and the short of it." Asuka said. "My mother's in mine, and Shinji's is in his. That's how we sync."
"But… our mothers were murdered?" Kensuke asked.
"Yeah… I know that's really fucked up…" Mari began.
"But my mother died in an accident!" Hikari protested.
"And mine died of some crazy form of cancer!" Toji said.
"And what hospital did your moms use?" Rei asked.
"Uh… well, I think it was NERV's…" Toji said.
"Yeah, mine did too…" Hikari said.
"So, they could say whatever they wanted about how your mothers died." Mari said.
"And we trust the source this information came from." Asuka said. "Your mothers… no, our mothers were targeted and trapped."
"My mother wasn't targeted… she got hit by a black SUV…" Kensuke said. "I never… I never got to say goodbye…"
"A black SUV?" Mari asked. "Like the ones NERV uses?"
"I don't know… probably…" Kensuke replied. "But that would mean that… why would someone choose her?"
"Because of us." Asuka said gently. "Mothers with kids about our age were targeted as the most viable subjects… we just don't understand why people our age were wanted."
"Because you still needed to love your mom." Mari said. "That's the reason. Adults don't always get along with their parents, or they grow apart when they're older." Mari sighed. "By taking your mothers away from you while you were young, you longed to love your mother and be with her again… and… and that would help the sync ratio…"
"Is that your expert opinion or something?" Kensuke asked.
"No… just something I can relate to." Mari said. "Just trust me on that…"
"Ok…" Hikari said. "So… people were murdered and we became pilot candidates without our knowledge."
"Which is how we're being forced to pilot." Toji said. "Our mothers' souls were some of the ones that were spared."
"Yeah, basically." Mari said.
"Well… I'm not changing my decision." Kensuke said. "I'm still going to pilot. You four can't do it on your own, and it's unfair of you to have to shoulder this burden yourselves."
"Yeah… as weird and disgusting as this is…" Hikari said. "I think I can still do this."
"Right, this changes nothing…" Toji said. "I have a sister to protect."
"So all three of you…" Asuka said. "Even after hearing all that?"
"Well, it's still really fucked up." Hikari said. "But we can't change what some crazy assholes did."
"No offence, Shinji." Kensuke said.
"None taken." Shinji replied.
"But we can still effect the future." Kensuke said. "And hopefully, it will be for the better."
"This is still really fucked up though." Toji rebutted.
"We're not denying that." Rei said.
"We're actually glad you know that up front." Shinji said. "Saves a lot of shock and aggravation later on."
"Oh, you don't know the half of it." Kaji said from the doorway.
"Jesus, Kaji, what the hell?!" Asuka snapped.
"I was eavesdropping." Kaji said. "Obviously."
"How are you that quiet?" Hikari asked.
"We didn't even hear you come in…" Kensuke said gleefully.
"Years of practice." Kaji replied. "Anyway, you kids certainly know a lot of juicy details on some pretty fucked up shit."
"We've been through it once already, Kaji." Mari quipped. "We're aware of how fucked NERV can be."
"Aren't we all." Kaji retorted. "Anyway… so you three want to pilot?"
"Yeah, we've… uh…" Toji stammered.
"We've made our decision." Hikari said. "We're in."
"Yeah… against my better judgement." Toji added.
"I'm actually kind of excited." Kensuke said.
"Well, at least you three found a good reason to fight, and aren't just doing it because you were told to." Kaji said happily. "That makes things easier when your back's to the wall, you know exactly what it is you're fighting for."
"Family." Toji said defiantly.
"Love." Hikari said shyly.
"Friendship." Kensuke said proudly.
"So, do you want to tell Misato the good news?" Kaji asked.
"Is she coming home soon?" Asuka asked.
"No, she's under a mountain of paperwork." Kaji said. "But I'd be happy to escort the newbies down there."
"Yeah, that could be great." Hikari said.
"Thanks, Mr. Kaji." Kensuke said.
"Don't thank me." Kaji said. "I should be the one thanking you guys for doing this." Kaji turned to the others. "I'll also mention that soul business to Misato… so it can be rectified accordingly."
"Thanks, Kaji." Shinji replied.
"No problems kids." Kaji said. "Things like that shouldn't be left undone… it's unsettling when that happens."
After a very quick ride to NERV, Kaji used his security access to get Toji, Hikari, and Kensuke through security without a hitch. He led them quietly to Misato's office, while Kensuke looked around gleefully, taking in all the sights around him. As they got to Misato's office, Kaji knocked lightly on the door.
"Enter…" Misato said unenthusiastically.
Kaji opened the door and led the three of them inside. He wasn't kidding about the amount of paperwork Misato had to contend with. She had stacks of paper on her desk almost two feet high, with different colored sheets of paper sticking out of the stacks at odd angles.
"Hey, Misato." Kaji said.
"Kaji, unless it's important…" Misato said as she took her gaze from the paperwork in front of her to look at Toji, and saw the three kids with him. "What… what are they doing here?"
"That's a silly question to ask." Kaji said.
"You don't mean…" Misato said as she turned to the kids. "Are you going to pilot?"
"Yes, we're agreeing to pilot." Kensuke said
"But we have some conditions first." Hikari added.
"Conditions?" Misato asked. "This isn't a negotiation…"
"Yes it is." Hikari said. "We just want some promises."
"They're nothing major." Kensuke added.
"Well… what are they?" Misato asked.
"First, we need to know that doing this isn't going to interfere with school." Hikari explained. "Barring Angelic intervention."
"It won't." Misato said. "We've structured the schedule to avoid that issue."
"Good." Hikari replied. "But we'll need notes excusing our absences from school when it does interfere, and they have to be signed by someone in authority."
"That would be me." Kaji said. "I'd be your boss."
"Why wouldn't Misato sign the notes?" Kensuke asked.
"She has enough paperwork to do." Kaji said.
"That's very true." Misato replied. "And Kaji is in a position of authority, so that's taken care of… what else?"
"I want Sakura to be able to come onto the base." Toji blurted out.
"Your sister?" Misato asked. "On a military base?"
"Just so she doesn't have to sit home alone all the time when I'm here." Toji said.
"I guess that can be arranged." Misato said. "Is there anything else?"
"Uh… no, that's it." Hikari said.
"Wow, that was pretty simple." Misato replied. "So…"
"So, all our conditions will be met?" Hikari asked.
"They will be." Misato replied happily. "And you'll agree to pilot?"
"Starting immediately." Hikari replied.
"Whenever you want us to." Kensuke replied.
"Yeah, I'm ready…" Toji said.
"Good." Misato replied happily. "So, you won't be doing any pilot stuff right now. There are some psychological and physical tests you have to pass first, which take about a week. Plus we need to make you plugsuits and do some other stuff as well, but you'll begin your training soon enough."
"A week?" Kensuke asked.
"Yes, it's a screening process we ignored the last time around, but I want to be sure you three can handle the stresses of doing this job." Misato said. "Is that alright?"
"As long as we can pilot, I'm fine." Kensuke said.
"Works for me." Toji said.
"Yeah, I can handle that." Hikari said.
"Good." Misato said. "And I'm guessing the others already know?"
"Yeah, they told the others first." Kaji said. "That's where I found them."
"Well then, I guess all I have left to do is welcome you to the team." Misato said happily.
June 7, 2020 – NERV HQ
The four kids had just finished their most recent round of sync testing. They were waiting for their results, as per usual, after having showered and changed from their LCL soaked plugsuits. As they waited, they relaxed, or in Mari's case, got so comfortable and fell asleep at the table. As Maya walked in, she rolled her eyes at Mari's napping, and gently shook her awake.
"I have your results." Maya said.
"Well, how did we do?" Asuka asked. "Are we beating the new pilots?"
"They haven't begun sync testing yet." Maya said.
"Why not?" Rei asked. "They have agreed to pilot, haven't they?"
"They have." Maya replied. "But they have some preliminary testing to go through first, then they can join you four."
"So why do they have to do testing?" Asuka asked.
"To make sure they're up to the task of piloting." Maya said.
"We never did that shit." Mari said.
"Yeah, why start it now?" Shinji asked.
"Misato wants to do things differently this time." Maya said.
"Then why aren't we taking the tests?" Rei asked.
"Well, you're already qualified pilots." Maya replied. "We know you can handle it."
"We can?" Asuka asked. "Huh… that's news to me."
"You know what I mean, Asuka." Maya said. "But you've been able to handle the stress much better than anyone else could have up to this point."
"Thanks…" Asuka muttered. "I guess…"
"So, what about our scores?" Mari asked impatiently.
"Well, Rei, you're doing much better." Maya said. "You're closing in on 80%, so keep up the good work"
"Thank you, Maya." Rei said humbly.
"Mari, you're much closer to 90% with your newest score." Maya said. "You're doing really well!"
"Did you expect anything less?" Mari asked.
"And you, Asuka." Maya said. "135%, you're closing in on Shinji's score! Great job!"
"Really, I'm that close to Shinji?" Asuka asked.
"Yeah. Shinji's score has been 150% for a while, and it's still steady." Maya replied. "And steady is good, Shinji, keep it up."
"Oh… I think I can handle it." Shinji said.
"Well, you better watch out baka." Asuka joked "Cause I'm catching up with your lazy, bum ass."
"Asuka, it's fine." Shinji said. "I'm glad for you."
"Why?" Asuka asked.
"I know you can catch up, Asuka." Shinji said. "You're a better pilot than me."
"That was never in question." Asuka said. "But finally the numbers will prove it."
Maya was sitting calmly in her office going over more of the data recovered from the Second Branch. As she continued her analysis, Misato and Kaji walked in to see her.
"Good afternoon." Maya said brightly. "Anything I can help you with? Did you see the most recent sync score report?"
"Yeah, the kids are doing great!" Kaji said proudly. "And now that we're working on clearing the other three to actually pilot, you're going to get a lot busier."
"I'm fine with that." Maya replied. "We're getting ready for it."
"Well, I was wondering if you'd made any progress with your data analysis." Misato said.
"Well, the Second Branch's data is extensive, but I'm getting through it alright." Maya replied. "But I've gotten through almost all of it, and I have a few theories I'd like to run by you if that's alright."
"Well, I'm open to any theories you may have." Misato replied.
"Ok, so… the Sea of Dirac that was formed was definitely no accident." Maya said. "The Core was definitely damaged and deployed the Sea of Dirac as a safety mechanism to allow it to repair itself in a safe environment."
"Why though?" Misato asked. "Other Cores have repaired themselves."
"This was deeper, molecular damage from Unit–01's Progressive Knife." Maya said. "Damage that was unseen and caused the S2 Engine to get dangerously unstable."
"So what's your theory?" Kaji asked.
"Well… if it the S2 Engine can deploy this field, maybe it's the reason we can't ever find the Angels until it's too late." Maya explained. "The Angels use it to hide themselves until they emerge wherever they want and then they creep up on Tokyo–3."
"But doesn't the Sea of Dirac have a similar particle field to the wormholes?" Misato asked. "Like you explained before, they bridge the void between universes? Wouldn't that be detected on our sensors sooner?"
"Not necessarily." Maya replied. "There is a threshold that has to be exceeded for certain things to be picked up. Like a Pattern Orange for instance… it's like the background radiation of our universe, but it's in low concentrations, we're talking parts per billion. Until it hits a threshold of something like one part per thousand do any alarms start going off. It would probably be the same with the Sea of Dirac, it has a low threshold, and if it's small enough it may be undetectable with our current sensors."
"Can you lower the threshold?" Misato asked. "So we can better detect it?"
"I presume so." Maya replied. "But it'll take some work."
"I have a question." Kaji said. "If the Angels use it to transport themselves safety, why didn't they just use the Sea of Dirac to open a portal right in front of where Lilith was being held, or why didn't they all use it as an offensive or defensive weapon when the Evangelions engaged them? It seems too convenient for everyday use… almost like it's for grave emergencies only. But even that doesn't make sense…"
"Yeah, why wouldn't they all use it?" Misato asked.
"I honestly don't know, Kaji." Maya said. "Maybe the Sea of Dirac opening was a fluke caused by the damage to the S2 Engine caused it to open by accident, like Shinji accidentally ripped a hole between universes."
"So, you know the cause of the Second Branch's disappearance inside that hell, but you don't know if the cause can be repeated?" Misato asked.
"Yes…" Maya said woefully. "What we're dealing with is beyond the confines of modern science's understanding. It's just difficult to ascertain what if anything could cause a Sea of Dirac to form without tracking each individual instance…"
"Which I'm guessing isn't very possible." Misato said.
"Very much so…" Maya said. "My work is subpar… I just wish I could find more answers for you…"
"Hey, this is great work, and it's certainly not subpar." Kaji said kindly. "I wouldn't understand head nor tails of this stuff… "
"Yes but still… there has to be answers as to why." Maya said. "There is always an answer somewhere…"
"Not every question in the world can be answered." Kaji said. "We still don't know where the Angels are hidden, or stored, or wherever they come from and suddenly attack us."
"And we don't know why they keep coming here." Misato added. "It's nothing to be upset about. We can't know everything."
"No, we can't." Maya said. "And I don't have any ideas about where the angels are coming from per say, but I do have theory on why they keep attacking us."
"You do?" Misato asked.
"Yes." Maya replied. "It has to do with something Kaji mentioned a few weeks ago…"
"What did I mention?" Kaji asked. "I say a lot of things."
"You said that Adam's body was brought here on the same trip that saw Unit–02 transported from Germany to Japan, right?"
"Yeah, it was encased in transparent Bakelite in its embryonic form." Kaji said. "No idea what Ikari needed it for, just got it for him and handed it off. Though I guess it had something to do with instrumentality."
"Not what exactly was Adam?" Maya asked.
"As far as I can remember from what Ikari and Fuyutsuki had said, the Dead Sea Scrolls referred to them as the First Ancestral Race." Kaji explained.
"Yeah, and Lilith defeated Adam to create life on this planet." Misato said. "What we call First Impact. What are you getting at, Maya?"
"Right… so these Seeds of Life, they have immensely powerful A.T. Fields, right?" Maya explained. "The most powerful we've ever seen. When Lilith was reborn, the sensors went off the charts. So these A.T. Fields, we know the Angels are drawn to them, because that's what they were searching for, the Seeds, so they could connect to them… for what purpose, we don't really know, but they were searching for them, which led them to Tokyo–3."
"But with Adam and Lilith both destroyed, what are they searching for now?" Kaji asked.
"The highest concentration of S2 Engine signatures in the world." Maya said. "We have seven Angelic S2 Engines just sitting downstairs in the Cage."
"But why would they be drawn to that?" Kaji asked.
"Well, Unit–01 has Zeruel's original S2 Engine, with copies of it installed in Unit–02, Unit–05, Unit–06, and Unit–07, Unit–3 has Bardiel's S2 Engine, and Unit–04 has Shamshel's S2 Engine." Maya explained. "Now that their parents are gone… whatever Angels are left, how many we don't really know, they're now looking for their brethren."
"So the objects that we've wanted for so long to make the Evangelions even more powerful…" Misato began.
"Are drawing the Angels to us." Maya finished.
"Fuck…" Kaji muttered.
"Yeah…" Maya said. "It's the best reason I can come up with."
"Well, it makes sense." Kaji said. "They were seeking out their family before, and now they're still seeking them out."
"And what's worse, we're the best quipped city to handle this." Misato said. "We're the only one with an entire system meant to intercept and destroy the Angels."
"Speaking of, have the upgrades been completed on the AIS?" Kaji asked.
"All weapons have been connected to the power grid and to the main targeting array." Maya said. "And for added redundancy, we've added independent targeting sensors and backup generators to all the weapons buildings in case the main power or targeting array is down or otherwise damaged."
"So even if someone sabotages our power…" Kaji began.
"We can still fight back." Misato finished.
"Right." Maya said. "Added redundancies will save us so we're never caught off guard again. Inspector Iwasawa got that funding for us from the Security Council."
"Well…" Misato said. "Thank you, Maya. I have an appointment to keep… so I'll see you later."
"Buy Misato." Maya said. "Bye Kaji."
"Later kid." Kaji said kindly. "And keep up the good work."
As Misato and Kaji got back to her office, Misato was fuming about Yuki's continued interference within NERV.
"I can't believe it!" Misato bemoaned. "She's still doing shit!"
"Misato, will you stop." Kaji said. "She seems nice enough, and the fact she's pulling in funding from the Security Council to get us more shit is all the better."
"But… she's a pain in the ass!" Misato said.
"Look, she's the official U.N. liaison." Kaji said. "She's here for the long haul, you'll have to find some way to work with her."
"I know… I just… don't like it… or her." Misato said angrily. "She just rubs me the wrong way… like she's hiding something."
"Would you like me to look into it?" Kaji asked. "In an unofficial capacity?"
"Yeah… I guess…" Misato said. "Thanks, Kaji."
"No problem, Misato." Kaji replied. "Though I don't really see her as an immediate problem, we do have one to deal with…"
"What problem is that?" Misato asked.
"The Angels." Kaji said. "Mayas theory is pretty solid. If they're drawn to the S2 Engines, we could be in some deep shit."
"Aren't we always neck deep in shit around here?" Misato asked.
"Yeah… I just wonder how many Angels are left out there…" Kaji mused. "And when the next attack will happen."
"Oh, one will happen soon enough." Misato explained. "Because if we've learned anything since the Angels arrived, it's to never get complacent."
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 – 150.0% (No Change)
Asuka – 135.0% (+10.0%)
Mari – 86.4% (+8.6%)
Rei – 78.4% (+7.7%)
Toji – Pending
Hikari – Pending
Kensuke – Pending
This chapter is named in honor of the film Seven Samurai, starring Toshiro Mifune. While I didn't go on the nose with the title like others I have chosen on the past, naming it Seven Samurai wouldn't have made any sense in context, so I used the Western adaptation of the film's name instead. I chose this title as the now seven pilots are facing a great evil, and will rise to the challenge with heavy odds set against them.
So, Toji, Hikari, and Kensuke are the new pilots. Though Toji's inclusion isn't exactly a surprise, I never had any intention to have any OC characters take these roles on. I've been planning this reveal for a very long time, and while it may have been an obvious choice, I saw it as the only choice I could make.
While his chapter covers a lot, my main intention was to focus on the new pilots and their issues with deciding whether or not to pilot. Toji was easy to find a reason he'd be unwilling to go, with Hikari's tying into that because their dating. However, Kensuke was the difficult one because he's always wanted to pilot, yet now he has the opportunity, so I saw it as a great way to explore why he's always wanted to pilot, beyond his boner for military hardware and war games that is.
Asuka's relationship with Hikari's sisters Kodama and Nozomi is not one of friendship. They see Asuka and the rest of the pilots as a distraction of Hikari taking care of them and their father. Basically, they can't do it for themselves, and Hikari is stuck playing the mom because her family are, in essence, mooches. They also dislike Toji for the same reason, but still direct their ire at Asuka for partly convincing Hikari to get together with Toji.
As for the discussions of the souls being harvested, it's clearly a theory that has been discussed before, but never mentioned in the show or elsewhere. But given NERV's track record for human rights violations, a few murder cover ups to harvest a few hundred souls for potential pilots seems like something in their wheelhouse.
Finally, with the theory behind why the Angels are still drawn to Tokyo–3, in all honesty, it seemed like the most logical thing that would draw them in, the presence of their brethren, or so they think anyway, draw them to the city.
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.