Disclaimer:

Neon Genesis Evangelion is the creative property of GAINAX, who created this wonderful anime/manga series. Anything not attributed to GAINAX belongs to their respective owners, such as references to Rozen Maiden that is the creation of Peach-Pit, Full Metal Panic! is the creation of Shikidouji and Shouji Gatou, Shakugan no SHANA is the creation of Yashichiro Takahashi, The Karas is the creation of Tatsunoko, and vice-versa. This story is written purely just for fun, guys; please for God's sake, don't sue me! I'm just a college student with too much free time on his hands! On the other hand, any specific author created characters I created for this fic (despite how unoriginal they may be at times) are mine. So without further adieu, let's get on with the show!

The Surgeon General's Warning:

Read at your own risk. Multiple pairings inside folks, not to mention some definite parts for Mayumi Yamagishi, Mana Kirishima, and more to come.


Where Infinite Time Stood Still, The World Consumed in Flame

Ore wa jankku ja ne/ I'm not junk!

Chapter 05:

First Impressions

A Super-sized NGE fic by James "Ray" Edwards


The bowels of somewhere, elsewhere, anywhere, and nowhere all at once was not a place to be taken likely by the common man. In this black chamber illuminated by the radiant pool of a long table, long enough to seat twelve altogether, the most powerful, influential, and wise council to be ever be seated. Here: prophets, apostles, visionaries, presidents, prime ministers, generals, emperors, kings, lords, tyrants, and dictators have all made their presence known before the "Old Men."

Standing at the edge of the light, visible only by the gleaming white glare reflecting off his glasses, Ikari Gendo, however, was none of the above. Better yet, he was above all that, higher than any mere foolish man for he was the man who would become God. A supreme being, perfect and all knowing, and using that power he would set right all that was wrong beginning with the most important thing in the entire universe:

Yui.

Everything was for Yui, including the murder --- no --- the disposal of that worthless trash, Ikari Shinji. Today's battle proved through and through, that the boy was unfit to live, something meaningless, fatuous, and absurd, his existence unnecessary. It was an unexpected setback in the scenario, but no matter, a suitable replacement could be found quickly enough, and as long as he still had Rei and Lilith in his possession, everything would go as planned. All that remained was to acquire Adam and see to the boy's funeral...

"We failed," spoke a disembodied voice, reverberating throughout the ambient chamber.

Silence.

"What?" Gendo replied to the voice, cold as death and harder than steel.

The voice continued to speak, unfazed and unhurried by his dominating presence, beautiful beyond even the best of tenors known in the world, and to think it really belonged to a man, "Your son is much more tenacious and resourceful than you believe him to be, Gendo-kun. In fact, he may not be what he appears to be at all, and by far, much more."

"I have no son, Director."

"A-hahaha, fair enough, but if we assumed for the sake of argument, at least we know where his survival instincts come from. A hard man just like you, isn't he? To think he managed to cause enough damage to one of my Alastors' to prompt its self-preservation protocol is simply phenomenal, and he was armed with only a butcher knife too."

"Contingency plans?"

"Don't worry, we at Amalgam will address this concern in due time. Nothing rash for now, as Shinji-kun will undeniably be on the alert, that is if he manages to pull himself out of the wreckage of the Mazda RX-Nine he just so happened to plunge into along with Alastor. I wonder if somebody's called Nine-One-One yet?"

"I could order an overdose in the ICU."

"Uh-uh, Gendo-kun, I did say, 'Nothing rash for now,' didn't I? Remember, the Old Men still have the impression that they're the ones in charge, and we can't have you giving us away now, can we?"

"I see..."

"We're still analyzing the battle data from Alastors's databanks and how to best approach Shinji-kun's liquidation next time, but in the meantime, may I suggest you keep safe, Gendo-kun?"

"It will be his last mistake."

"Ah-hahaha, so you say, but don't make the greater mistake of underestimating the boy --- twice."

"Do we have a replacement?"

"The two pilot candidates you mentioned to the Old Men: Suzuhara Touji and Aida Kensuke will be satisfactory. We can have Unit-Three ready by the end of the week."

"Won't that be suspicious?"

"Not to worry, Gendo-kun. Have we ever let you down when it mattered?"

Gendo did not reply, but it appeared that the glowing lenses of his glasses flashed brighter at the remark. "Hmmm..."

"Fufufu, but before I depart, have you decided which one shall pilot yet?" the Director asked him with a husky chuckle. Though he would never admit it aloud, Gendo privately hated this man with a passion: the nerve of that man, but if it was for Yui, there was nothing he could not endure. "After all, we only have one machine, don't we?"

"I shall do as the organization asks."

"Now, now, that's no fun, isn't it, Gendo-kun?"

"Hm."

"How about a game of chance?"

"Chance?"

"That's right. Heads: Touji-kun. Tails: Kensuke-kun. Who shall the lucky hot-blooded boy be?"

"Agreed."

The fateful crisp ring of metal reverberated through the air carrying with it the lives and fates of millions in the gravity of one toss. Who shall become the chosen one? Who shall open the gates of the stairway to Heaven? Who will it be?

Snatch.

"Well, well, what do you know? I always did like war-minded mecha otaku. Hot-blooded. So full of life and righteousness, a hero of yore and legends waiting to come out into reality given the power."

"Aida Kensuke."

"Yes, Aida Kensuke-kun it shall be, and I expect nothing but the best for him, understand, Gendo-kun? Firearms. Battle tactics. Physical training. Martial arts. Medical care to clean out any defects. Everything. Nothing but the best. If a pauper cannot do it, then a prince shall."

"Understood."

"Oh and one more thing..."

"Yes?"

"Break it to him in person, won't you, Gendo-kun? I'm certain he'll be quite impressed --- in fact, show up at his school with a full entourage. Black limousines. SUVs. Sedans. A UN hovercopter. Arm slaves. Do it all. Make it like a dream come true. An anime. The stuff of fiction and epics. I want this young man to be --- blown out of his socks, understood?"

That bastard.

"Aye, Director Leonard Testarossa."


When he came to finally, Shinji found himself face to face with several unexpected realities: there was the unexpected ceiling for starters, and the unexpected lack thereof an --- unpleasant bed of jagged aluminum alloy jabbing every centimeter of his flesh. In its place, was the unexpected presence of a relatively pleasant mattress with the covers and pillows exactly where they should be for his needs. To top it off, there was not a scratch on him, making it seem like last night never happened. Of course, if he dared to believe in such a trivial thing, would he not just be deluding himself and proving true the notion that he really was crazy?

Well, duh, I'm crazy. At least, about love anyway, the young man reminded himself as he sat up and took stock of his situation in greater detail.

The curtains had been pulled shut, dampening the blazing light of the rising sun to a dim trickle, just enough for him to make out the things in the rooms. It was fully furnished, of course, as promised but there was peculiar oddity, that is someone had gone through the trouble of unpacking all of his things and arranging them as he preferred. In fact, it was exactly to his tastes, such as his cello case set against the book case right where he would have wanted.

Whoever had done this knew him all too well, and there was only one person he knew of --- a girl --- who knew him better than himself. The silver rose ring on his left hummed with a faint amethyst light, pulling his senses towards what he sought. She was sitting on the dresser, slumped against the attached mirror in apparent deathly repose, with her orgel's case wide open beside her. At first glance, Suigintou might have seemed to be an imitation, a doll masquerading as a girl-child, but she was so much more than mere appearance.

I wonder how she managed to move without me winding her up? Shinji wondered as he rose out of the western-style bed and padded over, taking the slumbering little angel into his arms lovingly. So enthralled by the moment, he did not even notice that his clothes had been changed to more casual "sleepwear" either: a set of boxers and a tank top undershirt, and various bandages. Long sleeps still tend to make her atrophy up some, despite all the flaws we corrected from Rozen's madness. Damn her Father and his foul magic, but I guess --- wonders'll never cease with her. My Black Angel.

A glance at the black cat-faced clock on the wall revealed, unfortunately, that he would not have much time to spend with her this morning. He had a good hour left to get to school, but before then, he could spare some time to at least wind her up properly. After all, Suigintou would be very displeased, if he let her sleep too long, as she plenty of things to do as well. The young man suspected her experiments would become that much more outlandish with the great harvest of "Layze," the power of existence, he had recently acquired by defeating that fake "Angel" that NERV feared so much.

The wind up key was in her orgel as always, a golden exquisitely crafted piece that perhaps would have been more suited to open some kind of treasure. Then again, Suigintou was a treasure more than worthy of such a device. Seven turns was all it took to spin her up, a familiar musical whine accompanying the turning of the magical gears and clockwork, and what his angel preferred. Seven for the seven Rozen Maiden dolls; it was to remind her of a battle she had yet to finish, but something that could be won at anytime with him at her side.

After all, he was her Chevalier: the person, the meister, the man truly destined to be by her side, always, and not just some trial medium. As long as he was with her, nothing could kill him nor could anything dream of harming her. He was immortal as was she, and only if Death claimed them both would they ever be apart.

Setting the golden key aside back into the orgel, Shinji watched with silent fascination as the little black-winged angel in his arms stirred. The limbs and wings of her artificial body twitched and convulsed, the weak flow of mana strengthening into a sudden surge, her beautiful twisting and turning, while the delicate amethyst eyes beneath those eyelids roamed, awakening from a long slumber. Finally, there was the climax of breath, a gasp of life as she rose up, eyes wide and piercing, a beautiful feral snarl on her face, before falling limp in his arms once more, weary and tired.

"Dreaming weren't you?" he remarked amiably, smiling when he saw her expression soften at the sight of him.

Suigintou spoke in a hoarse whisper, her rich feminine voice strangely weak, "...Shin-ji?"

"Aa, I am."

"Shin...ji..."

"Wow, you must've worn yourself out last night, Suigintou. Sorry, about the car and turning myself into a bloody metal mess, and on top of that, you had to set the apartment in order. Oh, I just noticed the bandages. Thanks!"

"C-Car... Bloo-od... A-Apart-ment... Ban-dages..."

Shinji frowned. Something was wrong with this picture, granted his angel could be a little dazed waking up from a long sleep, but that was rare and far. Suigintou was meticulous at keeping track of time, her memories sharper than a razor edge, and weakness even in herself was not something she tolerated for long. What was wrong with her? She seemed almost --- feverish?

"Hey, Suigintou, do you remember any of last night?"

"Last...night..."

"Do you?"

"N-No... Shin-ji...I don't re-mem-ber."

"...you're joking, aren't you?"

"No... I-I..."

"Suigintou, are you all right?"

"Tir-Tired. Re-rest... So much...Layze. I need more --- rest."

"Wait, don't sleep yet."

She frowned at him in open irritation, a spark of her former strength returning for a brief moment, before relenting with a sigh, "Shin-ji?"

"S-Sorry," Shinji apologized habitually with a blush, which only made her frown again. Curses, why was he acting so much like "Ikari Shinji" at a time like this? No, he must not waste her time. Suigintou was weak and she needed her rest now! "Ack, it's just that-sorry!"

"Quickly --- speak --- Shin-ji."

"All right, um, just look: if it wasn't you who did this? Then who?"

She did not say a word, she did not know, and if she did not know, it could only mean one thing:

Trouble.


The constant rambling hum of conversation, the conspiring whispers, and the amateurish "I'm-really-not-looking-at-you-but-I-am" glances were starting to honestly, definitely, and undeniably --- irritate the hell out of him. At least, those two black guards from NERV's security division had the decency to keep to themselves as they escorted him to school and settled him in promptly with little mess and great efficiency. They knew well enough that getting attached was a mistake, but these kids, well, apparently they never got the memo.

Torches, a temporary replacements for humans eaten by Tomagara. Why are there so many of them? Shinji ruminated in barely restrained disgust, as he surveyed the bustling classroom with the timid uneasiness of "Ikari Shinji."

With a little concentration, the false images gave way to transparent containers in the shapes of their former human bodies where a bright blue flame hung suspended in mid-air. Wherever he looked their were Torches, and he suspected the school's principal and much of the staff were the same, though he had yet to look into the conditions of the NERV personnel or --- Father. Everyone in this room was already dead...

"Excuse me, Ikari-san?" a girl's voice prodded him, calm and confident, drawing his attention away from his many growing problems. This had better be good.

...addendum: there was someone else still alive in this room.

Shinji blinked at the sight of the her: the brown hair, freckles, two short ponytails hanging off the back, and not to hard on the eyes either. He supposed she was an all-around "nice" girl, the sort most young men would have taken home to their mothers, but she paled in comparison to Suigintou. If it were not for the requirements of his character as "Ikari Shinji," he might just decide to have a little "fun" with her, as uptight girls like this freckled tart needed to learn to --- loosen up some.

"Ikari-san, why are you staring at me?"

"Ye-Yes...Ack! S-Sorry, I-I --- I didn't-"

The flutter of laughter and catcalls was expected, "Oh, look! The new kid's making a move on Horaki-iinchosan," but it was not something he minded. Human behavior was predictable, and since this girl was the class representative, her reaction was just as scripted:

"Ignore them, please, Ikari-san. OBVIOUSLY, Kitamura-kun over there can't get himself a girlfriend!"

"Ah, h-hai, Iincho-san," Shinji reacted with a weak chuckle, as everyone else gave a loud "Ooooooooo! He got told!" to the unfortunate target of the Horaki girl's anger. Still, he had to wonder how she knew his name already? "Um, excuse me, but-"

"You are Ikari Shinji-san, Student Number Thirty-One of Class Two-A, aren't you?"

"Uh, I --- well, yeah, I guess."

"Thank goodness! You just suddenly got added to the class roll at the last minute all of a sudden, and I was worried I wouldn't be able to meet you in time before Arisaka-sensei got here. I'm the class representative of Two-A, Horaki Hikari: nice to meet you, Ikari-kun."

"Uh, y-yeah, nice to meet you too, Ho-raki-san."

Hikari beamed openly at him with a bright smile, "Please, 'Hikari-san' will be enough, and if you ever need any help figuring out how things work around here, just ask me. It's my job to look after the other students, after all!"

How can she smile so easily over a troublesome thing like that? Che, she must have siblings or something that she takes care of, that Horaki-san, thought Shinji warily with a weak smile. "H-Hai, I'll be sure to remem-"

"OI! Iincho, wha'cha doin' over there?" another voice interrupted before he could finish.

There were two boys approaching his desk: the tall athletic one clad in a track suit from head to toe that he pretty sure was not uniform standard, while the shorter bespectacled one looked like a mess with his shirt untucked, his trousers rumbled, and his hair wild as if he had just woken up. "Four eyes" seemed harmless enough with his easygoing smile, a digital camera in one hand and his school bag in the other, but the "Jock" was a different story altogether. He did not look like it, yet something about the air he carried and the sparks flashing in his eyes that he was not happy in the slightest bit. Of course, Shinji supposed it figured somehow that these two were still alive too.

"Oh come on, Touji, you know Hikari doesn't like to be bothered when she's working," chimed in the messy-haired kid.

"Touji" the jock, apparently, could care less and barged in any way, much to Hikari's obvious growing displeasure. There was a figurative black cloud hovering over her head complete with storm winds and lightning bolts that Touji never saw in the slightest bit, "Eh, whatever, Kensuke! It's just Hikari, ain't that right, Iincho?"

"Su-zu-hara-KUN!" she deadpanned in a seething voice, pressing her hands to her hips, arms akimbo style, as she radiated a most deadly serious aura of feminine indignation that managed to sent the jock hopping back a foot or two. So it seemed, even he was not that stupid when he saw somebody was ticked off at him. However, a foot or two was nowhere near far enough as Hikari snatched him by the ear and began to tweak, much to his loud agony.

"Ack! OW! Hey, what the he-OW!"

"Don't you dare say that word when I'm around Mister Suzuhara Touji-SAN!"

"See, I told you so. Now, say cheese! This is a crowning Kodak moment by Aida Kensuke-sama, you know!"

"H-H-HEY, Kensuke, don't-"

The flash photography predictably ignited gales of laughter from the rest of the spectating classroom at "The Legendary King and Queen of Class 2-A," that is one Suzuhara Touji and Horaki Hikari. Shinji at the time was not privy to such knowledge and would not have cared to know, but the mention of the loud jock's full name did irk his notice. However, any attempt to put two and two together in regards to "Suzuhara Touji" and "Suzuhara Mari" was promptly put on hold when his nose picked an eerily familiar scent.

The smell of roses, a strong sweet enthralling scent he had come to know so well was permeating through the air, but this was not just any ordinary smell. There was magic in this too, a kind of signature the Dollmeister Rozen had put into the rosa mystica of his seven daughters that only those who studied sorcery in order to attain true magic or the mediums themselves could sense. Of course, he was Suigintou's Chevalier and he had engraved her scent into his heart: a strong, elegant, yet possessive essence that grasped his senses and promised never to let him go, a double-edged sword. This one, however, was completely different. She was graceful and light, the strength of command and responsibility fit to be a empress, warm and compassionate, such was the love of the red rose.

Red.

No.

The bandages this morning.

The smell of red roses.

No.

No! It could not be, could it?

It was difficult to say when his body had begun to move, but Shinji could recall briefly the rush of air, the slap of warm supple flesh in his left hand, before a single stunning blood red eye met his own furious blue eyes. The phantom from his hallucination the other day had returned once again, sky blue hair and all, her right arm in a cast a sling as an assortment of bandages marked her body from head to toe, including one that obscured one of her eyes, and yes, she was human, still alive just like Horaki, Suzuhara, and Aida. However, none of that mattered to him in his enraged psyche, just the focus of the twin silver rose rings: a resonance of red and amethyst calling out to each other.

"You --- You're that Ayanami Rei from the other day, aren't you?" he breathed harshly, the world gone from his senses. Here and now, there was only himself and this wretched freak of a girl, who had dared to lay her hands on him. "Yes, you're the ONE, aren't you?"

Rei whispered emotionlessly to him in reply, not fazed by the grave situation in the slightest, "Hai, I am Ayanami Rei, Third Child."

"Who is SHE? WHO is the one who gave you this?"

"That she is Fraulein Rose --- Shinku the Fifth Rozen Maiden Doll."

Shinku. Fraulein Rose. The Fifth Rozen Maiden Doll. His Suigintou's hated rival and younger sister.

He was right: there was going to be trouble, after all, but he had no idea how much worse it was going to get...


To Be Continued...


Author's Notes:

Yes, I know I'm late, but better late than never, right? w00t, and episode 5 of Infinite Time is here. Things are building up as always. Gendou tried to assassinate his own son? Sheesh, what a prick, and on top of that, he's working with Amalgam's Leonard Testarossa, AKA Tessa's twin brother? Ouch, that's some crazy stuff, but wait, it gets better? Kensuke is going to be an EVA pilot? Kensuke Aida, the Fourth Child? Say WHAT? And what happened to Suigintou? Is she sick or something from all the power of existence Shinji absorbed from the 3rd Angel? Wait, REI is Shinku's medium? WHA! She went and patched him up last night after his "fall"? Who else knows about last night? Does Misato know? Will MITHRIL make an appearance? Does Kensuke know he's going to be a super robot pilot? Is he worthy of becoming a Yuusha? How will Shinji deal with Touji when Touji finds out that he's responsible for putting his kid sister into the hospital? What's gonna happen next?

Well, we'll just have to wait and see, eh?

For those of you who have tuned in, I'd like to thank you all very much for your patronage, and I always encourage each and everyone of you to feel free to comment, review, and/or discuss the story. Your comments can really make a difference, I assure you, and if you're up to it, feel free to ring me up on AIM, or even send me an e-mail (although you really don't need to boost my ego too often).

Well, that wraps it up, folks, so until the next time we meet (probably in April): Enjoy Break y'all!

Tsudzuku!