Neither NGE nor WH40k nor assorted other references belong to me. This work is intended for its mere amusement value. :)
Please set story width to (full 3/4 1/2) to preserve word wrap as like book pages or in Wordpad.
- 2017 edit: It just occurred to me that it is 2017 and this fic was first posted on on 2007. Wooo!
However, it actually begun sometime in 2004. So why do I have that note above about Wordpad format? Wordpad was faster on the ancient laptop I was using, even if it meant giving up autocorrect. There's so much to go through for 3/4th of a million words so... apologies in advance. The content to follow have not been revised since then.
Rise, Young Man
Second Impact was man's attempt to wield the hands of godhood. It brought them low, purging them of their previous petty problems. It reshaped the world and set billions of souls screaming into the night. Those that were left behind had to struggle the shivering remains of their proudest era.
Japan, being an island nation, was among the worst affected. The seas had risen dramatically, drowning their interlocking coastal metropolises. The children who were born following Impact could only know a world vastly reduced, vastly sapped of its vibrant exuberance. The age before them could only be recast into the apex of humanity. It was a time of reckless motion that they might ever achieve again, brimming with ideas and fervor, most of which were taken by the sea or set aside in the call for survival.
Shinji Ikari grew up along the hills, which were now the new coastlines. He lived there with his uncle and aunt, who though cared for him still set themselves remote. They had lost their own son in the Impact, and taking care of Rokubungki's child could not truly fill that emotional void. In a house without smiles, Shinji only learned to be silent and obedient, further deepening the dissimilarity between him and the child they once had, a boy full of laughter and easy tears.
He did not expect much from his guardians. As he never asked for anything, they took it as a sign he was content. That it was how he liked things. He as a consequence grew without lavish attention, without toys, without the competitive bonds of playmates. He watched silently as the others played, bragged and then combined their amusements. Apathy was his proof against envy.
It was before he discovered the cello, the solitary music, and the gentle stirrings of the classicals. Before that, he had the sea. He would walk back then at the edges of bitten cliffs and the new worn beaches, watching the unceasing motion of the tides beating powerfully against rock. Lying there, staring up at the sky, letting the sounds fill him and consume him - he felt a part of something greater. It reminded him that man was small, that such needs and such painful emotions were as nothing at all.
The latter half of the twentieth century was a glittering glut of entertainment. All but vanished as studios sank under the waves and efforts were funneled into the practical. Frivolity was laid to rest beside the gravestones. That left a somber land and a somber people.
Shinji grew up without frivolous TV shows, without the spread of manga or the glorious wrath of Godzilla. The few books around the house and at school were simple texts, intended mainly to be instructional than entertaining.
One day, as he lay there, as if daring the sea to make that surge and swallow him up, it all changed.
For the sea did surge, and the waves did flow over him, and he gasped and flailed and something big and black rose along with the tides to clonk him upside down the head.
He washed back up on shore. Shinji rubbed at his head, and he thought it pitiful that for those brief moments he thought he was going to die it was nonetheless the most exciting thing to ever happen to him. His heart was still pounding, his skin cold and over-sensitive. He felt so thoroughly alive just then.
The waves seemed to push the black object further to him, trying to get him to accept it. Shinji decided to haul what turned out to be a big black suitcase away from the sea.
It was made of tough plastic, and sealed shut with protective hard plaster lining at the seams. He was alone there, as he preferred. It wasn't that far from his house, but in the aftermath of Second Impact many properties still remained abandoned. Shinji gave in to curiosity and decided to open in. In any other point in time he would have sheepishly brought it over to a person in any authority, even someone slightly older. Right then however, he was still filled with his first shot of adrenalin and his head throbbed enough to interfere with common sense. He brought it over to a slab of flat rock, and broke the seals. The suitcase lock had only three digits, and was easy enough to crack.
Inside, were books. Big, colorful books, and utterly unlike anything he had ever seen before. Packed to the side were little figurines in dynamic poses, painted in exquisite detail. Skulls, monstrous figures adorned the contents in many places, but for some reason it hardly frightened him, he who was nervous of little mice. He picked one book up and hesitantly ran a small palm over its glossy cover. Its title was adorned with a strange double-headed eagle. He didn't recognize any of the letters, being that English had yet to be taught to his grade level… but the sight was burned into his mind. He had to know what it said.
He opened the book, the pages crackling with newness. Illustrations, paragraphs, numbers, all there and unfamiliar. None of it made sense. The pictures matched the figurines, though, scenes of conflict and deaths on a massive scale were clear enough.
He did not understand, anything, but knew enough that he held in his hands something epic.
For the first time in his life Shinji learnt NEED. He needed it. He needed to know what it meant. He would never let it go, never give up this discovery. For a time, he considered just burying it as a treasure all his own, but then there was always the risk of someone else finding it and taking it.
Slowly, furtively, he dragged the suitcase back to the house. He felt utter fear. Every shadow was a thief. Up, up, difficult as it was, he wrestled it over stairs and into his room.
When his guardians came, he was so hesitant in his speech that they thought he had stolen it. For the first time he felt anger. He found it by the beach, he insisted, and it was his by right! The seaweed and small cockle-shells clinging to the case convinced them. It looked like it had floated for years through the bloated Pacific.
When he asked what it was, they said it was perhaps too grown-up for him. "This… this means something." he said, suddenly too serious, his face such a focused mask that reminded them all too much of Gendo. Shinji pointed to the title. He took out one of the figurines, and matched it to the frowning helmet on the cover. "I don't know but it's this. What does it say? What is it?"
His uncle sighed. His wife disapproved of the blatantly violent and unchild-safe contents of the suitcase. "It says… Warhammer 40,000. Codex Space Marines." Inside he was bubbling. He saw the hope in Shinji's eyes and shared it. It was in its own way a true treasure. It was something for the men in that house to share, his son would have enjoyed it as much as Shinji would… in that respect he would allow it. It was vintage. He found the contents as damn cool as Shinji did.
'Mine!' he was shouting inside. He did not dare look at his wife. 'Man rights! Man rights! We are never too old for toys!'
"What's that…?" Shinji asked. 'That wasn't helpful at all!'
"It's in English, Shinji-kun. A language different from Japanese. You need to know it to really see what this is all about."
The boy nodded. "Then I will learn this… Ing…-lesh? I want to learn it, uncle!"
The magic word was want. His guardians saw the same self-determination apparent in his father. The boy, young as he was, was ready to give himself over to something separate from himself. If they gave away the suitcase, literally anything might happen. Gendo was unpredictable in such a manner, and his son, so easily following in his steps… it was likewise easier to just tolerate his odd dreams than to give him reason to become even more morose or unstable.
Besides, his uncle really wanted to play with that Dreadnought over there. "I'll help you learn it, Shinji." He smiled. "It's okay." he said aside. "It's… educational…"
The universe of Warhammer 40,000 was already heady stuff for a grownup, and mind-warping to a little boy. For most people it should have remained, even in obsessiveness, as clear entertainment. Shinji was determined to puzzle it out. Not only was it his first exposure to creative entertainment, but of science fiction as well. Everything else he saw was linked to Warhammer somehow. His childish daydreams involved hunting for xenos, Titans in the bushes, the sky above seemingly higher and bluer with the knowledge that beyond that might be worlds like the stories. His uncle grew hooked as well and soon put the books on prized display over at his desk. Armed with dictionaries the two slowly figured out the mechanics of the game.
Laughter rang in that house, for the first time in many years.
"Filthy xeno! You will be cleansed from this planet!" the office worker screamed in badly accented English. "In the name of the Emperor!"
"Waaaagh!" retorted Shinji, pushing a tray full of orkish figures and paper cut-outs to stand for missing pieces. It had gotten to the point that the two would not talk to each other except in English. And in a martial combative style.
His wife hated it. She hated the ugly, warlike setting. She hated the way they laid claim to the kitchen and sections of the living room as battlefield. Most of all she hated how her husband was treating the boy as a replacement for her son. He was forgetting, who it was that he owed his love to. She hated how she was being cast aside, in their rapid exchanges in a language she was not really all that familiar with.
"You're Japanese!" she screeched. "At least speak that in this house!" Nihonto, to be exact. It was as if they were making fun of her ignorance.
One day, while they were away, she took and stuffed all the figurines into a sack. Space Marine and Land Raider, Ork mobs by the whole, Eldar so spindly and fragile, and the horrific Chaos specially… into the bag, out the door. She had to get it all out of the house, she had to take back her life.
Shinji arrived, smiling and polite. He noticed their absence. He looked frantically about, making noises, leaving messes. She snapped at him, told him to do his homework. With such accusing eyes, he looked at her, and he ran upstairs to get it all done.
All too soon he was back down, gasping for breath. He stood there clutching his notebooks and waiting, as she sat by the table and cradled her face in her hands. Minutes inched by, in silence, perhaps she hoped he would go away. Shinji's little body shook, but he stood there, as long as it would take. He did not dare to poke her and see if she was asleep.
"It's gone, damn it! GONE! They're trash! Worthless, useless, trash!" she screamed at him suddenly. "I THREW IT ALL AWAY! YOU'LL NEVER GET IT BACK!"
Shinji let out such a howl and dropped his notebooks, that she feared he might actually attack her. Instead, he cried. He had thought as much. "WHY?" was all he said, between whining sobs. He had stood there long enough that his legs were numb, locked into place. He wiped his face on the sleeves of his shirt, staining it with yellowish snot.
"Stop that!" his aunt shouted. "I have to wash that…!"
Shinji didn't care. He felt malice for the first time. He blew his nose but it just came out in dribbles. He turned back to her, eyes red and sniffling… wetness down his cheeks and out his nose. "Why…?" he asked again.
"STOP THAT!" she screamed again. She launched off her chair and made as if to hit him. He shrank back, though still rooted to the spot. The aunt grimaced and pulled back her hands… she clutched them over her laboring chest, constricting emotions gripping her as well. She sniffled a bit as well, her eyes starting to tear up. The boy's howling never stopped.
She was sure the neighbors, though far enough away, could hear him. "Stop it…" she whispered. "You're not my son…"
"I'm sorry." said Shinji. "Whatever it is, I'm sorry."
"Stop it! No!" She placed her palms over hear ears and squeezed her eyes shut. She considered herself a good person. All she wanted was some peace! "Don't say that!"
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry… I'll try to be a good boy." He coughed as air went down the wrong pipe. "I'm sorry. I know I'm not your son. I won't play with uncle anymore. I'll help out more with the chores." Gendo's son wanted to kneel, but his knees were still locked. He wanted to run away. It was so painful! Why did he have to feel that way? It was better when there was nothing he actually liked!
"I'm sorry!" he shouted now.
She threw herself at him, her eyes glittering madly, and the boy screamed.
However, his aunt was just embracing him. She was crying into his shoulder.
"No, I'm sorry." she sobbed out as well. My face is now full of snot, a part of her mind noted. Being a mother is disgusting, difficult job. Sometimes that what makes it worthwhile, to be so needed. "I'm sorry, Shinji…"
She pulled away at wiped his tears with her apron. She had served the domesticated wife for too long, she even wore her hair in the prim manner so demanded by the role. Every day without her son made it all meaningless, but still did so in a ritual to forget, to immerse herself in being needed that it only heightened her isolation.
"It… is… my fault… I didn't understand. I was selfish, too." she said. She all but collapsed, and Shinji had to support her with his tiny arms. "My son is dead! I can't… every day, I can almost hear his voice. Kaa-san, play with me! Kaa-san, where's father? Mother, look at me!"
Her hair came undone, she touched her forehead to his. Her bloodshot eyes met his. "You are drowning out his voice! When you laugh, it's like he can't be here anymore. It's like he was never here. Your room was his room. Your clothes were his clothes… you look so much like your mother, my sister, and me, it hurts! It hurts me! I can't let you be my son. I can't abandon him…! I have to prove he once was!"
Neither were in any rational state of mind.
"I'm sorry…" Shinji said again.
"Stop saying that!"
"But I am!" he shouted. "I never wanted this! You're not my mother. My mother is DEAD! My father doesn't want me! And I do nothing except cause everybody pain…!"
"All I had was a place where I wasn't myself. It wasn't real… it made me happy because it wasn't real. I hate my life! I hate it! I hate this world!" He was grimacing so much veins in his neck were bulging out. "But over there, without hate you can't live. They're heroes out there. I want to be a hero. I want to die, that I did something that was worth everything before it… and it's not even real!"
He sniffled some more. "I'm sorry… I'm so sorry…"
His aunt drew back, staring at him in mute horror. Children were prone to the dramatic, and in their ignorance could be the cruelest creatures. They were also in their way heartrendingly sincere. A child should not be entertaining such thoughts. She could blame part of that on his violent little hobby… but most of it, in a world and a family that had no affection to spare.
"…humanitas…" he mumbled. "For humanity. It was so big. It was so awesome. It was everything this stupid stupid world should have been…" He looked up, seemingly through her, his young eyes dark and piercing. "I want never having to be alone with the brotherhood of the Space Marine. I want to have a God-Emperor to trust with all my soul. I want the orks and their Waaagh and their joy in being alive, and the Eldar who are all so wise where I'm not. Even the Chaos and their demons made it all seem so worthwhile.
Everything made sense. Everything had a purpose…"
Shinji had actually gained better grades from the box, his drive to learn English and understand the concepts in science fiction made elementary school… well, elementary.
Much like his father, he had let himself become absorbed by something greater than himself. The main difference was the he had swallowed a lie rather than building an edifice of it to entrap others.
"I'm not your son…" he continued. He clenched his fists and quivered in place. "What am I, really?"
"Shinji… I never realized it was…"
"Who is Shinji? Someone please tell me! What am I supposed to be?" he asked in all desperation.
His aunt slowly shook her head. "You're just a child. Shinji… you shouldn't be thinking those things. You can be whatever you want to be, it's still all so far away for you…"
"Whatever else other than your son…" he finished. "I'm sorry. I'm not him. I can't ever be him. I'm sorry you thought I was trying…" he trailed off into silence.
Crickets chirped outside, the room was stained red.
She placed her hands on his shoulder, in a posture to push him away and sighed. "No, you can never replace my son…"
Instead, she pulled and crushed him into a hug. "But I think I can love you anyway…"
The boy began to cry again. He was, after all, just ten.
In the growing darkness they remained, true family at last.
She blinked. That was one of the few English words she knew. What an odd thing to yell out in such a dramatic moment. Shinji struggled to get out of her embrace and she let him loose.
The boy tried to walk and nearly toppled over to smash his head on the table edge, luckily he was fast enough push away with his hands. His aunt was stunned into wide-eyed inaction.
Shinji weaved past the dining table and into the kitchen. He reached into the shadows behind a shelf and brought out a figurine, a bald man, scowling, in thick stubby blue armor. "Hu-waaa." the boy gasped out. "I found it! Master Librarian of the Ultramarines!" He looked wildly around the kitchen. He pointed to another dark area. "Is that… is that, hey!" He rushed to over the refrigerator and pulled out a "Dreadnought-sama!" and "Wah! Tankbusta-dono! You were fighting again!"
Well, he was ten.
He turned around and gave her such a biiig, happy smile, so bright and honest. "That was a dirty trick you pulled, auntie." He wanted to hug her again, but his arms were rather already full. "But I'm glad we had this talk."
His aunt simply sat there, her eyes glazed, her hair frazzled. She managed to get herself to moving just in time to clean up after herself, and present a welcoming face to her husband. Meanwhile, Shinji went around finding Warhammer 40k figurines all over the place. He was having fun in the odd variation of hide and seek. It made him love, for yes he finally identified that feeling, his aunt all the more.
They never mentioned again what happened then. They got along just fine, and it was from her that Shinji learn most of his cooking skills. She never interfered again in the boys' (both ages) playing, and went deliberately out of her way to allow them their time for bonding. The miniatures were always clean and their colors bright and fresh as the day they were painted.
In the grim dark future of the forty-first millennium, there is only war.
Warhammer 40k was perhaps one of the most violent, depressing, over-the-top mindscapes ever created. It dripped with blood, with dreams juiced into unrecognizable slurry, decency and morality stretched to the breaking point. The very intro proclaimed; the worst regime imaginable. There are no innocents, only degrees of guilt.
Shinji basked in it. The boy absorbed it into every corner of his being. There was nothing else at that time in Japan that could compare. The gods had abandoned man, cast him in the fires of their own stupidity. Shinji had no idea of what was behind Third Impact, whether it was punishment or mere random chance. In the grim solace of his pieces and codices, the human struggle from without paled in comparison. It made the living world, to him, bright and new and still worthy of exploration.
It could be some cosmic irony, that a galaxy torn in strife and populated with the worst and best of zealotry, lusts, hatred, fear, deceit, mutation, and just senseless murder… was the one thing that could turn him… normal.
Shinji was, by nature and nurture, a nervous, easily frightened child. The very first blackout he ever experienced froze him in mid-step. There was a typhoon, and the old house groaned as what sounded like a howling army of vicious toothy beasts beat themselves against it. He had suffered through tropical storms before, but it was the first time having read of the dark future and the science behind typhoons, that it struck him all at once how massive the world was and how little he was. Everything was dark and hopeless. He was cold. Unsurprisingly, that realization was how it was all the time to the mere grunts in Warhammer.
A roar, and his window broke from a flung branch, icy air rushed knife-like in, seeming to grasp him in great claws. He screamed. His uncle went rushing in, and his candle blew out.
It took him a few moments to rekindle it, every second sending the over- imaginative boy further into cold shock.
Shinji's aunt led him away while his uncle boarded up the cracked glass window. They boy felt the universe dammed away in the warmth of her arms. "Are you all right, Shin-chan? Maybe you should stay with us in our room." The boy was not her son, and she wished that if he had lived, he would have been so well-behaved.
Shinji shook his head. He didn't want to impose even further. His guardians likewise didn't want to force anything they wanted, even for his own good, to him.
The boy stood alone in the center of his room, the candle-lights sending strange writhing shadows dancing on its wall. Outside the primordial fury still raged. He closed his eyes. Total darkness was actually less scary.
He rushed to a place he was absolutely certain on, where he had stashed his miniatures as the family prepared for the storm. He opened the cardboard box and took out a Space Marine without his helmet. His square-jawed faced and steely gaze held a Space Marine's unfaltering will.
He took that figurine and set it on the desk near his bed. He lay down, with the Space Marine standing between him and the shadows. Its own shadow loomed large over Shinji's bed, and it was good. When the candle died, and all was rage and darkness, Shinji was no longer afraid. He believed, in a child's innocent and utter faith, that the Space Marine stands as a guardian against all darkness, that the light of the Emperor will yet prevail. He stands as the rock upon which the hope of humanity is built.
Shinji never feared the dark again, no matter where it was. As long as his Space Marine stood there, he never had any bad dreams. Scary movies, ghost stories, among the pastime of children, had him listen there unflinching. The kids he played with called him the boy without fear. Graveyards and old buildings were gothic grounds, and in their dark stillness he felt as if welcomed.
His nights would always be safe, thanks to his Space Marine.
Shinji was doing well in class, even going so far as to be on the honor roll. His teachers could not say anything much about him, though. He was still small, he was still so slight of stance and stature that he was easy to ignore. He always seemed to stop just short of pushing himself or getting noticed. He did what was expected of him, nothing more.
That didn't mean he wasn't noticed. His classmates saw his improving grades, how he devoured books that he saw, specially seeking out hard English books. He was becoming a proto-nerd.
He was a weirdo that talks to himself, they saw that. He was weird. Not a cool sort of weird, no one good at class was ever cool at that age. They all felt as if Shinji was judging them somehow, intentionally setting himself apart. That was starting to piss them off.
And actually, he was. Shouts of "Geppie Robo! Combine!" and the frantic rushing about beating on space monsters did not appeal to him. It was the most popular game on the playground. Giant robots and boys naturally sought each other out.
Shinji never indulged in that play. He even refused. He did not really know much about that sort of thing. He could not play along because in his dreams his robots never played.
They were epic.
Their stride was unstoppable, their will indomitable. They did not leap, they did not shout special attacks. They simply were. Their home was battlefield, and where they went they brought it along. They made it with every stride, every glance. The Giant Robo is a little boy's god. They that walked in the vistas of his mind were the Titans of their age, Archetypical, the God-slayers.
Shinji liked the swings, trying to get himself soaring higher and higher, and the fall was the best part. He did not compete with the other children, nor shared any of the playground until he had to. To him, the seesaw remained unused. Those he could call 'friends' were all older than him, and their classes ended at different times.
Shinji got another perfect score on his English test. It was a required subject in the higher grade levels, as the world's devastation forced countries to become more and more interconnected as they shared and traded dwindling resources. His reading ability was nothing short of phenomenal, but his teacher said that his speech was not too good. Unfortunately, neither of them could actually pronounce proper English. Neither could pronounce proper diction.
It was likely that Shinji was further along with that. Where he acquired such an authentic accent, not even he could say.
They followed him that day, three boys skulking along the long deserted path back to Shinji's house. They saw him again talking to himself, his face full of animation absent when at school or speaking to another person.
"Hey!" shouted the token leader of the three. "Hey, you! Wait up!"
They ran up to him. They were all taller than him, and Shinji looked up at him with his customary bland gaze. "Ara, Kobayakawa-kun." He nodded to each. "Minato-kun, Yohta-kun." Inside Shinji was strangely expectant. No one had ever talked to him outside of school before.
"Shut up!" shouted the tallest, and roundest, who was Kobayakawa. "You likes talking down to us, huh?"
"Yeah! You think you're better than us!" put in Minato, a short boy only barely bigger than Shinji. "We don't like that."
"You're uncool, you're a kiss-up, and you're useless." piped up the third.
"So why don't ya say something?" Kobayakawa finished, his round face crumpled into a sneer. He poked at Shinji. "Say something in English."
He poked Shinji again, harder.
"In English, I said!"
Shinji, bewildered, only said "Wot?"
The boys made blanching sounds of frustration. Shinji began to step backwards, preparing to run off away from the insanity, when the leader noticed him having his left hand stuck in his pockets. Kobayakawa grabbed it, keeping him from bolting for it.
"What's that you have there?"
Shinji tried to break free, but couldn't. The pudgy boy tried to get at whatever was in his pockets, but Shinji had enough leverage to keep the hand forced in. "Hey, help me out!" Kobayakawa told his buddies. They managed to pry it loose.
"Hey! Look at this!" said the boy. "It's a monster!" He held up an Orkish warboss to the light. "It's so ugly!"
"That's so cool…" breathed Yohta. He reached for it with his long, dirty fingers but Kobayakawa pulled it away. The boy scowled. "Where do you think he got it?"
"Probably stole it." Minato put in.
"Yeah. That sounds right. He probably stole it." A pathetic loser like Shinji didn't deserve a cool toy like this. Look at those teeth! Is that a machine gun for an arm? "If he stole it it's okay if we have it. That's okay, right? If we share it's all okay." He still planned on playing with it most, though.
"I didn't steal it!" Shinji said, his voice pitching up. "It's mine! Give it back."
"Bii-!" Minato stuck his tongue out at him. "Make us."
"Please give it back." Shinji begged. "I can pay you…"
"Ask it in English." Kobayakawa said haughtily. "Ask for it politely."
"Kood you pleese gib it back to mi?" he ground out. Could you please give it back to me? He even bowed low.
"Hm…" The boys laughed. "No!"
Slowly, ever so slowly, Shinji raised his head. "Gib back da warboss."
They laughed and began to ignore him. They waved it in the air and made growling noises.
"Gibbet!" Shinji said sharply.
Kobayakawa turned to see the smaller boy standing there, half-crouched and eyes all wide. He laughed again. Someone so small and so mad. "No…" he said again, all so slow and deliberate. What could he do?
"WwwwWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGH!" Shinji shouted and launched himself at them.
"AAAH! Get it off! Get it off!"
"He's biting my toes! Oh god why is he biting my toes?"
"The pain! I didn't know there could be such pain!"
Pain? What is this pain you speak of? Shinji had a busted lip, bruises all over, blood spattering his uniform, maybe even a hairline fracture in his left arm. Through it all he had this big, open-tooth, completely happy grin, total joy dancing across his face and out through his fists. The adrenalin, that he only felt once before, he realized then that he didn't have to risk killing himself just to get that feeling again.
"Get away from me!" Kobayakawa managed to push him away, sending Shinji tumbling across the dusty street. He noticed that he still had the figurine in his hand. He looked from it to the small boy slowly rising from the ground, with all the languor of a hellcat.
He scowled and lifted his hand high, to throw the orkish figure down at the ground and stomp on it, winning that way.
Shinji said something low, heartfelt, and threatening. Then, realizing they couldn't understand it, repeated it in Japanese.
"I'll burns your houses, I'll choppas your cars, I'll stomps on yaz where I find yaz. I'll smacks your townz, I'll throws your pets, I'lls rips ya to pieces!" He got up and laughed, his jaw hanging down, in har-har-har manner. "GIMME BACK DA WARBOSS!"
"You're crazy!" Kobayakawa hoarsely shouted back.
"Here!" The boy threw the figurine at him. Shinji ignored it as it went sailing past his head.
He grinned some more and made a lunging motion at them. The boys screamed and fled.
Once they were out of sight, he dropped to his knees, drained and in blinding pain. He shuffled over to where the warboss lay face-down on the concrete. A drop of his blood fell on it as he bent down to pick it up.
"…good…" he whispered, his vision fading to black. "…not a scratch. I did good." He rolled over and lay there by the road. "…I didz gud, dident I, warboss…?"
He decided it was a good time to go to sleep.
His guardians found him there, and in all panic rushed him to the hospital. They screamed at the police, they screamed at the school officials, and the parents of the boys who were telling such out and out lies! After all, there were three of them! And look at how they left Shinji! How dare they try and pass themselves off as the injured party here? Shinji would never, never, attack someone. He was so shy and well-behaved, everybody said so!
And so kind. Shinji actually insisted that the boys not be expelled. He was so firm about it. He didn't want anyone to be in trouble. They had to have learned their lesson.
The reputation of the three boys took a nosedive. No one wanted to play with them. In the end, it took Shinji to approach them. Over time as it seemed he'd forgiven them, they were accepted back into the community of kids. Even if they didn't call Shinji, poor little easily-embarrassed Shinji, anything but Boss. He called them 'da boyz' which, literally speaking, they still were.
School in post-Impact elementary was that it taught history up to, but just short of, Second Impact. The children might ask why the world was as it was, but they would have to know it from other sources. They would not be given official word until the next stage in education.
His final years were about rediscovering the finest stages in humanity's history. This would have been when he discovered the more cultured eras, and classical music. He would have found its haunting patterns more to his liking, instruments uniting and falling, relics of a much more hopeful era. It was dead music suited for a dead world. The past was gone under the seas, with all its frenzied beauty. All that lay in the future for Shinji were ruins and damaged goods.
He would have known this, and was part of what would made him so depressed. He could not imagine in what possible way things could be better. How could it possibly compete to the sheer perfection of these concertos? How could it be anything but a tarnished, imperfect reflection of these long dead? It made him believe that the luckiest died in died at the most glorious portion of humanity's history. They would remain with it, and never know how ugly and uninspired the world could be.
A Shinji Ikari, who saw Titans in the shadows of buildings and walking tombs in the trees, had a much longer view. Compared to the bleakness of the forty-first millennium, it was still so much the better. So very much. He had faith in humanity, he was told how it could rise and fall, burning anew like a phoenix from the ashes. History itself supported this. That a cathedral once gilded now lay moss-stained and ruined was nothing to be sad about. It was enough that the shape still remained. It was all the more impressive to him, that it could still be so defiant against the tide of history.
It was only right and proper that things should fall into ruin. The greater the fall, the farther to new heights they could reach, climbing upon the remains of those before.
TV was a rare pastime as he grew up, filled mainly with cheesy reruns and news reports. The radio was slightly more lively, but the most cheerful of music didn't find its way into the airwaves. J-pop, mind-melting, sugar-filled J-pop, was a vanished piece of Japanese cultural heritage.
Shinji did not need the cello to chase away the silence of his bland hours. He and his uncle played the game less and less, but they shared in its ambiance. His aunt was no longer the remote specter she was, and the house never seemed so tomblike. He had been to tombs, he knew what that felt like.
His hobby, unsurprisingly, was sculpture. There was plenty of clay to be had and there was an oven right there in the kitchen. It was a hit and miss process, and he wasn't really all that good with it. His creations had a tendency to fall apart, as no one had told him about frameworks and bracing. He acted as if it was one big secret, and his guardians were careful not to make too much notice of it. It was certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but Shinji was embarrassed easily. They supposed he was ashamed his efforts looked very little like the miniatures.
"Shinji…" his uncle said finally. "The miniatures are made of plastic, not clay. Maybe instead of sculpting them into something, you can sculpt them out of something." He gave the boy a bar of bathing soap and a utility knife. It was the best gift he could have given, and it was not even his birthday! In a previous time, his uncle would simply have given over money as a token gift during birthdays, in thinking quite reasonably (if callously) that the boy could just go out and get what he wanted.
Affection proved a much better present.
Shinji did not actually improve in his sculpting efforts, but became the cleanest, sweetest smelling boy, ever, in his school.
In another place, Shinji would have saved up his money to buy a cello, being so unwilling to present himself as a bother. Here he was comfortable enough with his guardians to ask them for the money to get one, and so unwilling to lie (it displeases the Emperor!) that he told them why. He was of course, red-faced and stuttering as he said it.
For it turns out, that there was this girl, in the school band…
His guardians shared a look. So, it was about that time, eh? His uncle looked like he had swallowed a prune, and ran out of the room. Shinji supposed it was indigestion. His uncle went right out the house, and collapsed there, completely unable to contain his mirth. Shinji had always been a serious boy, but now he was… GRIMLY serious. He began to roll around.
That left his wife to just shake her head and sigh. She motioned Shinji to take a seat by the table and explain. Her comforting, serious, motherly manner coaxed the information out of him. She didn't tease him, or give on any tricks to win affection. She made a mental note to make sure her useless husband didn't try anything. Instead she just told him to make friends and find a common interest.
"That's why I need a cello, auntie." he said, nodding and likewise calm. "It's the only position unfilled. If I own an instrument, I can get in sure."
"Ah, Shin-chan, but music isn't so simple. If you don't love music for itself, you'll never succeed. And you would only dishonor yourself and the girl if you build your friendship on a lie."
Shinji nodded. He knew all about honor. It separated humanity from the foul xenos. One had to be ready to go to extraordinary lengths to defend it, even breaking a world was nothing, rather than let it fall into the chaos of falsehoods, broken oaths, sacrilege, dishonor.
His uncle came in, breathless, and saw the two sitting there with their backs straight and hands folded over their laps, with faces placid and polite. All that was missing was for them to be sitting cross-legged, maybe throw a few big banners around, for it to be all out of some samurai drama. He gurgled something that sounded like "Bahah-!" and fled.
His wife shook her head again. Useless.
"Remember, Shinji, if you do go into practicing music, you need to see it through. No matter what happens, no matter how difficult it is, even if you don't make friends. Music is something that requires dedication all through your life."
The boy's eyes widened. She could not have phrased it any more attractively to him. "I won't fail!" he said, puffing his chest out. "I'll give my life if that's what's asked!"
Shinji's aunt couldn't resist anymore. She pinched both his cheeks and cooed. "Shinji's a good boy!"
Her husband finally managed to get back inside, saw Shinji's grotesquely distorted face, and continued to be useless.
Unknown to him, Shinji had gathered a few admirers at school. He was not all that 'cool' to the boys, still something of a nerd, but to the girls he was more appealing. It was by simple matter of selection.
First off, he was clean and orderly. Boys as a rule were dirty, sweaty and rude. Shinji was not merely neat, he did so on his own without seeming to notice and without looking a like a pretty boy. Orderliness without being told was the first sign of maturity.
He was smaller than most of his classmates, but seemed more than them somehow. His eyes were deep and unflinching, and he had a well of silent self-assurance. Whereas he was once a recluse for the lack of it, now he was set apart because he had too much of it.
He was mysterious that way, independent, aloof, they knew those he lived in were not his parents and unfortunately that was fangirl fodder.
A Space Marine feared nothing, and his every step was to purpose. The books however told little about the ways of human interaction, specially towards the opposite sex. There, he was lost. If only she was more like the Adeptus Sororitas! Then there would be no problem. He never thought women would any be weaker than men.
Ever since the event years ago, in which he pulled out a singular Waaagh! that he swore never to repeat, he had learned to keep his figurines at home. They were too precious to risk, despite the emotional comfort they provided. He kept their existence to himself.
In that, he was lost. He had no idea how to relate.
Shinji's little crush was a girl taller than him, and so delicate she looked like made of flowers. He felt himself hesitating every time he even gets close to her. Though he was smaller he feared as if his slightest touch could damage her somehow.
"Shinji?" her opinion of him. "That little weirdo? I don't know, he kinda creeps me out. Always just standing somewhere, staring into the strangest things. I saw him stare at those for like, almost an hour."
"Eeh, Minase-chan? So you WERE looking…" was the reply of another girl, her voice peevish.
"Oh, just drop it, Acchan. Why are you asking me? I don't care."
It was just by accident he overheard. He would swear! He was just walking along the bush. It wasn't stalking! Fortunately he was indeed very good being unnoticeable when he needed to be. Like his father he was prone to possessiveness, and now he had found a new target.
"What should I do?" He paced the room and asked himself. He looked at the figures at his desk and as his gaze rested on each of them could almost hear the Warboss say… 'I dunno', the Space Marine '…have courage', and the Chaos Marine '… you're… actually asking… ME?'
He picked up the Farseer. "You're a girl. What should I do?"
'Shinji, I'm speaking only as a figment of your imagination.' her voice was almost at his head. 'how do you seriously expect me to solve your problems?'
"Aah!" he began to spin around. 'What should I do?'
Learning about the school band was a fortunate turn of events.
He had his cello. He had a manual, and later his guardians would find him a teacher. In the meantime, he put his stick to rest at a string and filled his head with illusions of how he'd show her his skill in music, at how they would create music combining and completing each other…
He slid it against that string and killed his eardrums.
"Aaaagh!" he screamed. It was horrible! It was impossible! She would hate him! Hate him utterly!
He turned to the Space Marine at his desk. "Don't look at me like that. All right, I'm not giving in to despair! I gave my word of honor!" And to the Chaos Marine up on the shelf. "So you can just stop celebrating right there!"
Shinji could not really talk about it to his guardians, and so turned to the only companions he knew he could completely trust. His old friend the Warboss was an asexual being, and could only offer advice about 'Stop overfinkin' and go bash somefin'. A good dose of violence would let him forget ALL about this love foolishness. It's so puny humie of him.
"I AM a human." he retorted.
'Yous a bloddy ork inside-' The warboss seemed to shake. 'And don't you forge' dit. Wez got da blood to prove it!'
The boy sighed and lay back on his bed. "She's never going to like a creepy, violent crazy weirdo like me…"
The Space Marine continued to stare. 'This uncertainty is unworthy of you.' He seemed to say. 'Remember that doubt is for the dying.'
'I agree!' an imagined voice that was harsher, even less forgiving than a Space Marine's put in. 'To lie to oneself is the first step into lying to others! Guard your thoughts, boy. For such thoughts lead to Chaos!'
"Oh, Commissar-san!" Shinji noticed one of the regimental Commissars by the flowerpot. He was orderly except for one thing, he was apt to pick up his figurines and absent-mindedly place them back down one he has finished a 'conversation'. That was the likely reason they were always all over the place. "Thanks. That really cheered me up."
'Yes… sure…' ground out the Thousand Son over at the shelf. 'Gang up on me. I have NOTHING to do with his thoughts, though I follow the Gods of Chaos, even I find such whining disgusting. Why do you think we send so many cultists out as meat shields? We will not suffer even such emos in OUR presence.'
He was still confused, however. He was almost half-asleep when he heard a commanding female voice say 'To look too far into the future leads to madness. To Hope is to be Disappointed. If you must plan, Shinji, then you must define your goal and choose the paths that will lead to it. Choose the best future nearest, and see only that future. Do the steps that will lead you to that. Then the next simple outcome. And the next. Only then will you find that which you seek.'
He turned and saw a skirted figure near his head. "What do you mean, Farseer-sensei?"
The other figurines made outraged noises at that suffix of respect, and various warnings about never trusting an Eldar. Chaos, self-recognizing as evil and misleading, was even the loudest at it. Shinji could almost feel her pride. His eyelids were heavy, and through his wavering vision he could almost certainly see her turning her head and lowering her arm from its salute with a sword. The Eldar placed her hands to her hips as Shinji began to cross that boundary between sleep and wakefulness.
'Time is planning, Shinji. Many believe that the future is what you make of it. You mon-keigh are determined to force fate to your whims.' She radiated amusement. 'Only we Eldar see that the future is already set. The future only calls for events to be altered to suit itself. It is the present that is malleable, never the future. Do you want me to teach you?'
'Eldar witch!' the Space Marine spat. 'I will not have him as your pawn!' The others made similar statements.
'Silence! He is not your Emperor's! Not yet! I will not have his blood spilled just like any other meaningless fighter in a meaningless Waaagh! I will not have his beautiful soul consumed in Chaos! I WILL GIVE HIM WHAT NONE OF YOU CAN GIVE HIM!' She turned to him and spoke softly. His eyes already shut, Shinji could pretend freely he felt the barest of pressure on his nose, like a tiny hand pressed upon it.
'I will give him a Choice. He will know just why it is he so willingly walks into Hell.' said the Farseer. 'I will give you a mind forever voyaging, Shinji. Will you accept me as your teacher?'
"S-sure, Farseer-sensei…" the boy mumbled in his sleep.
The Farseer stood over him, her cloak billowing in the breeze. The world was mist, dense, endless. She stood tall and proud, her armor the fruit of thousands of years of expertise. Her facemask looked even more severe, more disapproving than a Space Marine's. That only made them look Angry, All The Time. The Eldar's pointed chin and frown made him feel his insignificant years.
Maybe it was a bad idea. He knew full well he was dreaming, and even there he felt in complete lack of control. What was a boy to an Eldar, a person thousands of years old, even if it was one he imagined into being?
The Farseer reached into the back of her helmet, and unlatched it. Unseen seams came apart with a hiss. She pulled up a bit, and removed her helmet to the front. As her face revealed itself, with one last flick away from its darkly discouraging mask, Shinji felt his heart stop.
There were illustrations, but they simply did not do her person any justice. She was an Eldar, pointy-eared and arrogant in the supposed perfection of her Race. Three thin red lines were marking the sides of her face, from eyes to chin, as if she had been crying blood. Her lips were as red, as if she'd been drinking blood. Her skin was smooth and seemingly glowing with an inner light, such was its silken fineness.
It was there Shinji recognized why he found Minase attractive. Her delicate, regal features was the closest to living Eldar he had ever seen.
The Farseer smiled. It was an unnaturally beautiful, frighteningly serene smile. "Shinji…" she said, her lips barely moving. "Clear your mind."
"The mind is full of noise, going hither and thither. The mind is a spoiled child. It is without order, without structure. The mind is a journey. Is it freedom to just let the wind and waves take you? To let yourself drift wherever it might take you on its whim? Is to take the helm taking away from that freedom? Freedom, is choice. This has always been the gift of the Eldar. To be able to decide where and when you want to go. To take that future, and only that future you want. You must clear your mind, if we are to begin."
She sat cross-legged on the imaginary ground, a wind helpfully setting her cloak out of the way as she sat. It was a standard meditative seat. "Shinji, please sit."
The boy nodded and complied. He looked at her for a while, so deathly still, so artistically perfect. A comparison to a spider would have been easy, as she was wearing black and bone-white. Shinji could not compare her to any creature, she was just as moonlight to him. Cold, but at the same time elegant light, hiding flaws, enhancing grace, holding secrets.
She opened her left eye and slightly quirked her lips.
Shinji turned red and quickly shut his eyes. "Clear the mind… clear the mind…" he muttered. She was right! It IS full of noise. Everything it seemed passed through the forefront of his thoughts. It didn't help that he had completely memorized all the codices, every angle he could view the miniatures, the sketches, the novels. Everything there, and constantly churned over in his mind, was what made him capable of recreating the personalities of fictional beings so thoroughly.
He began to frown. He began to sweat.
"Aaah! This is harder than it looks!" he had to say. It's unfair that the Eldar could do it so easily. Eldar seemed always at peace with themselves, without the internal struggle of the mon-keigh. It was a point of irritation that the closest thing to it was the simple crude mind, never without any insecurities, of an Ork.
"I would have been surprised if you succeeded in your first try, Shinji." She lifted her right hand and held it palm down in front of her. She then had moved it about in gentle, swaying motions. "The mind is like a butterfly. You can see it resting on a flower, but it leaves. It goes where it will. But it comes back to that flower again.
It is perfectly all right to let the mind wander. As long as it returns. Then, the mind may be taught to remain. All life, is suffering, Shinji. All suffering, is in the mind. Only in the mind can one become free. Take your time, Shinji. Time is meaningless here. We can take as long as what proves necessary."
"Won't I just forget when I wake up?" He began to think of a butterfly. Come on butterfly, don't move. Don't move. Ah! No… bad butterfly! "This is a dream, right?"
"It is a dream, true. But a mind in control does NOT lose control. To wake is not to disappear. To wake, is simply to BE, to exert even greater awareness of the mind, as connected to body."
Eventually, Shinji realized that forcing the butterfly to remain still actually encouraged it to fly away. The butterfly, if left alone, will choose to return to the flower. It would flitter away, then return. Away and back again. By ignoring it, Shinji knew that he actually found the stillness he was looking for. Motion in stillness. Stillness in motion.
Time was indeed meaningless. It could have been minutes, or hours, or hundreds of years before he came to that conclusion. Eons more as he learned to be satisfied with it. That damn butterfly's never going to just stop at the flower. To fly IS the natural state of the butterfly. The flower's natural state IS to provide a place for a butterfly to rest.
"You're teaching me patience, aren't you?" he said after some time. "A clear mind doesn't equal an empty mind. Only that it knows."
"Very good, Shinji. We Eldar meditate to bring out knowledge that we have always known. You have always known this." She stroked at his mind and had him open his eyes. "Now, come sit with me, and we shall learn how to apply it."
Shinji scooted closer and prepared to enter a meditative state again. The Farseer stopped him. "No, I said sit with me."
"Um, so, closer then? Should I sit to the left or right?"
The Farseer patted her crossed shins, and motioned the boy to sit on her lap. Shinji just knew his face was flaming, but the Eldar still had her eyes closed and seemed unconcerned. Reminding himself that it was all just in the imagination, he complied.
She laid her chin right over his head, her long black hair flowing like dark rain to either side of him. She grabbed his hands under her gloves and crossed them over his chest in much the same way Pharaohs would have rested. Needless to say, Shinji had a vastly more difficult time at achieving meditative serenity.
"The future… to reach for it, one must first define your goals. What do you want, Shinji?"
"Want…? I want Minase to like me!"
The Farseer hmm'ed. He could feel the vibrations passing through the chestplate and into his back, going deep and prickling into his spine. "Vague." she said. "That is not a goal, not even an idea. A future must be specific for it to happen."
He closed his eyes again and reached for that timeless calm. "Specific, huh? I want Minase to SAY she likes me."
"Like you? In what way? Or for what?"
"Um, just LIKES me, I guess. I want her to say someday, Shinji I like you…" Wait. He could feel himself drifting. The was muddying the vision. "No… I want her to like my music. She can like me later."
And then, it suddenly came all tumbling into his brain. It was all so obvious, in retrospect. He gasped.
A myriad of possible futures, given what he already know of his classmates, his teachers, his classroom, and what they might be doing. What he had imagined, was hope. It was wish. What the Eldar had were a burden. The future was no mere fantasy. It was a series of specific events happening at specific points in time made by specific people. There is no 'might be'. There was only 'will be' or 'will not be'. An event once past cannot be undone. It only reduces it further, the choices available to it, closer and closer to one eventuality.
He can't predict Minase's movements or her opinions. He can mold events however, to arrive at a specific scenario at a specific time. But to lock on to that ideal would be to ensure it would never happen.
It was an odd paradox.
But there was a way out…
"What future do you reach for, young Mon-keigh?"
"I reach for no future, ancient Eldar. I see it, and it will come to me."
The Farseer kissed the top of his head. "And thus you have taken the first step in a winding road once traveled by the Eldar."
Shinji taught himself how to plan ahead. He drew a line in the sand and took a leaf. He held it above the line and felt the Farseer ask. 'Now, which way will it fall? The right or the left?'
"Left." he decided.
He let go of the leaf. It drifted slowly down, twisting over in mid-air now and then. It landed to the left.
No way! He had really, really focused on-
'Do not hope, Shinji. The future is not built on hope.' she admonished soundly. 'An object does not move through time. It is time that flows around an object. The leaf, the wind, even you, and here only you can make the choice and only you can create the future that you desire.'
Shinji picked up the leaf and held it up again, this time much closer to the ground over the left side. "It will fall to the left." And so it did.
'What have you done, Shinji?'
"I saw the future I wanted, and knew the steps that would have it happen. This was the simplest I saw."
'Well done. May your sight serve you well in the days ahead.'
People, because they made choices, were simpler to predict. It is unknown when Gendo himself learned this, but Shinji for all intents and purposes, taught this realization to himself. Information was needed to craft a scenario, for the future was a series of steps, each of which built upon each other, reinforcing each other, until finally there was no choice but to arrive at that outcome.
Shinji visualized a future in which his teacher would arrive and say "Sorry class, I… overslept."
It was just a day after getting his cello. He did so by simply asking his teacher "Hisoka-sensei, why don't we just use China for farming? They've got plenty of space over there that they don't need, and we… we don't have enough people anymore."
"Um… shouldn't you be asking that to your Social Studies teacher?"
Shinji dropped his eyes. "I'm sorry, I just had to ask someone…" He backed away and ran out of the classroom before his English teacher could say anything more.
And because he couldn't say anything so Shinji, had to say it to himself. It got stuck in his mind as he went home. The boy watched him go. Shinji knew that Hisoka-sensei lived in a small old home with a multi-generational family.
And he just knew that he would blurt it out to his wife, as he thought things over on the way home. And also somehow he just knew, that Hisoka-sensei's wife would bring it up over the dinner table. And he could see, though the faces were blurry, Hisoka-sensei's brother saying how stupid it would be, hadn't they learned from history? The father would just shout out to shoot the bastards. All that land, and they wasted it, most of their population died of starvation, not the rising seas. Supply and demand worked like that. Manchuria was warmer now.
But the Chinese might still have (more than a few) nukes stashed away! It would not be wise to rely too much on foreign assets. Even if they buy it, someone else could just take it.
And so do we! Though to be precise, N2 warheads, almost the same anyway. They had the will and ability to preserve their rights. Damn it, he had enough of being forced to feel guilty.
And Hisoka-sensei would have sat there, as his stronger-willed family got to shouting and debating. Each time he opened his mouth to speak, his father or his brother would say something scathing to each other. His wife would just pat at his hand and give him a look that said 'yours is the only word that I trust'.
He would kiss her that night, but try as he might, he would not be able to go to sleep or concentrate on much anything else.
The next day, he did arrive late, his clothes crumpled with hurry. His eyes were bloodshot and weary. "Sorry, class…" he started to say. "You overslept, Hisoka-sensei?" Shinji said suddenly. "It's okay."
The teacher laughed weakly. "Yeah, sorry class. I overslept. People do that from time to time."
The children nodded, forgiving him instantly. They never wanted to get up early either. Until then, they just assumed adults did so because they wanted to, but even they were human. They paid a little bit more attention in class that day.
Shinji caught him again by the end of the day. He felt guilty and just had to give him back his nights.
"Oh, hello, Shinji, about what you said…"
"I'm sorry to be bother, sensei. But I just thought, we don't NEED to go to China after all. We can use their land without taking it from them. That's selfish and bad. Can't we ask for help somewhere else?"
The teacher's eyes widened. "Yes… that's what I thought too. We can just lease it from them. They provide the land, we provide the seedlings, the technology and the expertise. Yes, but the history between us is just too deep. But that approach to America, now that's different! It might be farther away, but they actually have the military power to protect their convoys. There would be less deliberate deal-breaking or lapses in piracy protection." He stared down at the little boy. "That was surprisingly deep of you, Shinji."
"Um… sensei? You said all that stuff."
"Uh. Right. I guess I did." He began to laugh again, at seeing his own ridiculous attention to the question… "But such thoughts you have. You should apply yourself more to schoolwork, Shinji. You're wasting your potential."
"T-thank you, sensei. I better be going now…"
The next day, Hisoka-sensei showed up early, smiling and well-rested.
Shinji had the better part of two months to be at ease, if not proficient, with cello to make the band. It was certain he could improve more, as the whole point of the club was to offer additional instruction, but he didn't want his first appearance there to show him useless.
The first part was not to be ignored.
He didn't care about being noticed. He didn't care about the common interests. First, he must elevate the level of attention. There was nothing about him known, no true opinions formed. Only through his presenting what was expected could he reliably guess at anyone's reaction towards him.
He knew this from his guardians. Were he to become suddenly willful and wild, they would be at a loss on how to react, and most likely choose negatively. In a long stretch of consistent action, though, his simple demands appeared reasonable. In such context he found ways of making sure they could never say no.
For instance, just staying up until midnight. Any normal boy had to have a curfew for school. Shinji had always woken up early, being easy to rouse. Now he did so on his own. He practiced his cello at night, and always stopped on his own. Every day it was a few minutes later. Then, he just stopped playing at night, just when he was getting better at it. In their questioning next morning, he said that there was no way he could get any better given his limited time. Night was no good. He didn't want to be any bother.
"But Shinji, we're not bothered." He could synch his lips with what his uncle was saying. "It's all right to play as you need."
"Yes, you gave your word to me, remember?" his aunt added impishly.
"I'm sorry…" he said.
She responded to that as well as he'd hoped. "Well on weekends you can stay up as long as you like! You wanted this, and you should finish it!"
"I'll make you proud." he said just then.
He managed to barter to almost midnight for weekdays. It went as he had foreseen, barring several changes in phrases and wording. It was a Scenario playing out in his face. It astonished him. It humbled him. He had no power there, he was merely a bit player in the affair, and the results being to his benefit mattered little. His guardians jumped into the scenario of their own volitions, their own logics. He could see other paths, but they never took them. They were false because his plan was too expansive yet, too much being taken in. Emotions AND actions AND events had to be taken into consideration. No, the future should happen at the tips of his fingers, and he should never have had to fear or get excited by it.
As long as the Why escaped him his vision was imperfect.
The goal was not to make them proud. It would be a side-effect, to having achieved proficiency in the instrument. The short-term goal was to gain more time to train his physical movements, to have his muscle memory do all the work, it was the entire point of learning from sheet music.
There was a reason the Eldar called their craft the MUSIC of creation. Music was orderly, notes following notes, motions following motion. Every note was exactly the same as all other notes before it. All the motions to produce these notes too had to be exactly the same. It was the hardest part in learning to play, finding muscular and mental consistency.
Shinji's music teacher remarked that he was astonishingly good. To the boy the simple strains were nothing special. It was unlikely the school would demand anything that much more complicated. It was easy, because of his memory. There was a finite series of movements possible in the cello, and a finite series of perfect sounds. He knew what motions produced those perfect sounds.
He was not fooled by the presence of a 'song' or a 'piece' in the exercise. What mattered was each note. The whole could carry itself. Each note had in his mind the corresponding perfect sound. He no longer needed to hear his cello to know when he was playing correctly. He could practice at any time, at any place, just endlessly repeating those chains of motions, immune to the touch of boredom. School was tedious, with all the lectures and note-copying. Music, with its predictable end, was engrossing in how it kept the illusion of change. Once done perfectly, he had to do it again, for perfection was in itself beauty and worthy of being experienced again and again.
Music was perfect like nothing else could be, except mathematics, of which music was likewise an expression of its universality.
The future he saw was not of being incredibly good in music in such a short time, but it happened anyway. The greatest barrier to the learning of music was the irritation in forgetting the parts, in sour notes, in the sheer repetitive nature of practice. To Shinji, expecting perfection so soon was unwise. Perfection built upon smaller things. His music teacher gave him more and more complex pieces, as he showed a hunger for the classicals. Where in a different time the boy may have played to forget, here he played to remember.
He had no fear the day he showed up for audition. Everything unexpected comforted him in knowing that the future was growing closer and closer to one inescapable end.
He did not believe his teacher's praises. He was no genius. What he did was merely the wraithsong of crafters long since passed away. He merely followed their instructions, shaped by the music as much as he shaped it. Ego was the second most crippling barrier to the pursuit of music.
The music teacher was an old, thin man named Masayuki Asano. He was already there, listening to the audition. He seemed in obvious pain just from the over-enthusiastic thrashings of a trumpet-playing boy.
"This is not that type of band, Asagiri-kun." the old man sighed. "If there is place for you in this band, we will let you know."
"Oh, you're here too, Ikari-san?"
Shinji turned to see a mousy-looking girl with short braided hair standing near him. He nodded, and furrowed his brows a fraction at seeing a cello in her hands. "You're… Mitsugane Ayane-san." he said.
"You know me?" she asked, her eyes widening.
"You're Houko Minase-san's friend." He briefly glanced towards the girl, there too, looking bored. She had to be there though, as the nominal leader of the band.
Ayane's expression fell into guarded neutrality. "Oh. Her. Yes, I am her friend."
"It's good to have friends sharing your hobbies." he put in with a slight smile. "I wasn't aware there was already someone at the cello, though."
The girl looked down at her instrument, and embarrassedly made as if to hide it behind her back. "No, no. I'm just trying out too. This is my first time playing with Minase-chan."
"How long have you been playing?"
"A… year or so now. I only transferred here from Nerima-2, you know. Or maybe you don't know…" she let her bangs fall over her eyes. "I played at for the school there, too."
Actually, he did know. He just could not say so without revealing he'd been going around all ninja stealth Ranger on Minase and all the people she knew, gathering information. At least he wasn't at the peeping, telescoping sight stage yet. Privacy was not something the Eldar valued or respected. Every bit of his time was occupied; this Shinji had little to be bored or despondent about. He felt absolutely wired, as his plans all became tangled into one unfolding scenario.
How had he missed this? He supposed it was simply because he had never heard her practicing. An unexpected hitch to her plans, but then that was the part that delineates a mere Seer from a Farseer.
He went into music for friendship and friendship he shall have. He smiled. "I'd love to hear you play."
"Next!" shouted Asano-sensei.
"Please, go ahead." Shinji stepped aside.
"B-but." She made a slight grimace.
He felt a stirring of what should have been. He allowed the Farseer in pocket to guide his voice. "Music is music, and must be loved where it is found. In sincere hearts and loving hands, it cannot be anything but perfection."
She turned away quickly, and walked over to the front of the room. She faced the teacher, keeping her back to Shinji, and played. The boy closed his eyes. She was good, her practice showed. Her music was fast and lively, and without hesitation. It was perhaps a little rushed in places, but it didn't take away from its spirit. In the tilt of her shoulders he could see she felt it, drew out the music from her soul. She tried so hard, put all her heart into it.
Asano-sensei merely nodded, and bade the other cello-holder to the makeshift stage.
He played a simple tune, there at audition. He showed no expression, no artistic changes of expressions, no impressive flourishes. He stood there, said "My name is Ikari Shinji, and I play the cello." He closed his eyes and called the perfect notes from the warp of his memory.
He closed his mind and let time cease. He just let it flow. Even his hearing closed off, even his tendons did their motions all unknowing.
He didn't know what he played or how long he played it. Asano-sensei's face remained impassive, Minase's almost frowning. Ayane, through her glasses, could only stare at him in mute disbelief.
'Ookay. Farseer-sensei? What in the Warp just happened to my plans? What just happened?'
"Hm… I don't know." The music teacher turned to the pupil he considered his prodigy. "Minase, what do you think?"
The girl shrugged, and flicked aside her long black hair. Her face was still in that pretty, slightly haughty set. "Well, I think I like it."
Asano-sensei nodded and turned back to the boy. "All right, Shinji. You want in? You're in. We'll keep Mitsugane as a backup." He stood up from where he was sitting on a desk and gathered the folders there. He tucked his papers under his arms. "You two report here next practice. Houko, tell them the schedules." He made his way out the door, and left.
"Don't mind him" said Minase. "He acts strict, but really not. Practice is every day at five-thirty, even on Saturdays and Sundays." She stood up and stretched out, her starched white uniform stretching out interestingly. "Well, I got things to do. Coming, Acchan?"
Ayane blinked and looked from her to him. "Um…" Fortunately the sunlight had a reflective glare off her glasses. Shinji nodded slightly, as if thanking her. "Um, sure!" She hurried to pack her cello and was actually the first out the door."
Shinji was left there, alone in the music room. "What just happened?" he wondered again.
The problem of Uncertainty as applied to time was that one can truly know Time, as the fourth dimension, had the special properties of relativity. What something is doing in time or where it is going, but not both. If it seems so clear and apparent, then both parts of the vision are flawed. As he reached the cusp of his scenario, his awareness and control over it vanished utterly even as it reached the conclusion he had wanted. It was this that made FarSeeing an Art, rather than a Science.
"Perfection…" he felt an ancient voice whisper. "A future perfectly arrived at. There are no grand plans, no fortune-telling. There is only the what is, blending into the now. Such is the music of the Eldar."
"My music is the pillar upon which whole worlds have been built…" he whispered back. He understood at last.
Hmm… if was going to play the cello, he thought about getting some white gloves. Perhaps also some orange-tinted sunglasses, if he was going to keep standing out in the dramatic sunset.
Nah, that would look ridiculous. It was so poseur. Who wears stuff like that?
For some reason he also felt that made the Farseer cackle madly.
This was the childhood of Shinji Ikari. It could have been worse, and he was thankful for it. He had friends. He had family. He had friends. He had accomplishments. He had friends (it bears repeating). But soon enough, it had to end.
Years passed, he grew, and graduation time was around the corner. He entered his teenage years. In its confusion not even his plastic advisers, being extensions of his perception, could help. The ork never had to worry about puberty, the Space Marine had genetic enhancements for that sort of thing, to Chaos it was just mutation, and the Farseer was a girl. Strange urges, mood swings, and the world being suddenly so slow… he needed someone other than himself to tell him how things made sense. Books helped, to an extent. But here Shinji realized he needed his father.
Surely his father would come to his graduation, right? As the day grew closer, Shinji became more and more expectant. It's something that only happens a few times in a person's life after all. The boy had actually managed up to second in school, just below Houko Minase in grades and everything else. Many of his teachers believed he could have been more, had he been a bit more focused. He was such an absent-minded kid.
He couldn't visualize that future, as he actually had very little idea of how his father looked like anymore or of what he did.
A few days before graduation, there was a knocking on the door. Shinji answered it, and found there two men standing. They had one crisp black suits, black sunglasses, and each carried a small black suitcase. One seemed older than the other, pale and grey-haired. The other had the tan of someone who spent much time in the beach or open seas.
"Wah! Yakuza!" cried Shinji, at seeing them.
"See? See? That's what I'm talking about." The younger, and taller man said to his companion. "Just once, just once! I'd like to have someone NOT think we're the goddamn Yakuza. Why can't we wear white suits instead?"
"What, and have people go 'AAAAH! It's the Gay Mafia!' It tends to scare them even more."
"… you tried that once, didn't you?"
"… shut up, Jiro. If you've been in this business as long as I did…" He turned to the boy and asked him in a gravel voice. "Are you Ikari, Shinji?"
"I am Agent Kentaro, and this is Agent Jiro. NERV Section Two. Is your uncle in?" There was nothing there, no expression at all as he talked, only the boy's own nervous face reflected off his sunglasses. "We'd like to talk to him. Official government business."
"I… I'll go see." Shinji bolted away from the door.
As it turns out, they WERE government agents. And they were THERE on official government business. Only this had the stamp of Gendo Ikari all over it.
"We're here to check on the boy." his uncle was told. "How's he holding up?"
"What, Gendo can't even see how it is about his own son? You know he hasn't bothered even once these years to ask, so why should he care now?"
"Mister Ikari is a very busy man." replied Agent Kentaro. "He cannot just drop his important duties for something so small. It would be dangerous to show so much attachment, his child could be used as a hostage against him. This is why he cannot risk coming here and revealing his location."
"Bullshit." his uncle said. "The bastard can't even show ANY attachment."
Agent Jiro looked from the relative to his own partner. "Uh… look, I know he's… difficult to get along with sometimes, but could please not say things like that about our direct superiors to our faces? It might…" He stared long and hard at his partner's cold professional facade. " …complicate things. Mr. Ikari requires respect."
"Phff. The name Ikari used to mean better things…" Shinji's uncle leaned back on his chair, but his hands were shaking slightly.
"Answer the question, please. How is the boy?" the other continued.
"Shinji?" His uncle thought carefully. Gendo wouldn't send his thugs over for something so small, sadly enough about family that was true. "He's a pretty normal kid. That's about it."
"Are you sure? He has not been… mistreated in some way?"
"Just what are you implying?" he bristled.
"Mister Ikari only wishes to make sure that his son receives all the proper attention due to him." Very little, but not too little. It was a large part of his plan. "It would be unfortunate if he was damaged in some way."
Shit. The way they went on about Shinji as nothing more than an object. Just what was going on here? "He's a kid, that's about it. Ask around. Ask him. Gendo threw him here to keep him out of the way, and if that's the furthest he can show about his concern then he can just go fuck himself."
"Please!" said Jiro suddenly. "Not to our faces!"
Crap. 'You're both wired, aren't you?' he mouthed. They nodded.
"Gendo? You're an asshole!" Shinji's uncle shouted at them, his words in no way mistakable to their recorders. "And I thank the gods in heaven that your son is absolutely NOTHING like you!" Then looking up to their faces. "That's it. Now get out."
That seemed to satisfy them somehow. "We'll be in touch."
Hiding and Listening in by the door, Shinji took in deep breaths. He had always believed his father had some reason for leaving him, and sometimes he had bleak thoughts about it. It was his first direct confirmation of being unwanted, though. He was too much a burden.
Silently, he went back up to his room. He just did not know how to feel about that.
In post-Impact Japan, just because school was ending and most of the tests were done, was no reason for the children to start slacking off. The school board devoted the final weeks towards community-building, sending the children out in various cultural pursuits designed to bring them closer to the society they belonged. Usually this meant cleaning up the still-standing pre-Impact buildings, planting new trees, and various other tasks in free labor.
He pitied the boyz outside. Eh, he'll pick up a watermelon later.
Shinji and the others in the music club were luckier in that they were allowed to stay indoors, being part of the artistic side of the school's contribution. He grinned a little at a joke their pianist made. Music was the only real common interest he shared with normal children. He had succeeded in his plan to become friends with Minase, and in her friend Ayane found someone he could more easily talk to. He wasn't blind. He could see her liking for him, but she was just so… plain. Her hair, her glasses, her dress, all made her seem stumpy in direct opposite to Minase's tall lithe form.
He lost what she was trying to say as he saw the agents… well, they were just so nondescript that even he had difficulty remembering their names, agents J and K at the school courtyard. From the second floor, he could just make out that they were talking to his English teacher.
Interrogating most of whom he knew wasn't the sort of attention you gave to someone unwanted. He tuned out the world. It was a paradox, and the Eldar in him hated paradoxes.
After school, he cornered Hisoka-sensei again. It was well know that he favored Shinji above most students, mostly because they seemed to have the same reserved, retiring personalities. He always just let Shinji initiate these little interactions, to himself amusedly surrendering control.
"Do you know my father?" Shinji asked then.
The teacher licked his lips. The boy had the oddest habit of asking such simply-phrased but... difficult… questions. "No, Shinji. I do not know your father."
"Those men you were talking to earlier. They work for him."
He nodded. He had long since stopped wondering how Shinji knew about things. The boy was so naturally curious, his thoughts drifting to the oddest of things. He never imagined it could possibly be calculated to provoke a specific response. "They were asking about you. I tried not to be too effulgent in my praise."
That was a private joke. They both knew just how much Shinji hated to be the center of attention.
"My father sent them. If he wants to start noticing me again, I should know something about him." the bitterness in the boy's voice was unfeigned.
"Shinji…" Why was it that he felt so utterly out of his depth when he speaks to this child, no… young man? It puzzled him and exhilarated him. He shouldn't feel so challenged by someone at least a decade younger. "Your father is an important man. For you to realize how important, know that almost no one knows ANYTHING about him. He doesn't appear on the lists of the world's most important people. He never goes on TV. Very few even know what he LOOKS like. I only know because he tried living here for a while."
"Yeah, at your uncle's house. Your uncle threw him out pretty quickly. It was a short time, while he was between jobs and your mother had to support him." He shook his head at the boy's wide-eyed expression. "Sorry, Shinji. I never even knew your mother. Her sister only married into this town."
The boy flinched as if stabbed, but nodded for him to continue.
"Look, the most I know is that your father is out doing something very very important for a very very big organization." He decided to add something for the boy's sake. "Who knows? It might even save the world."
His graduation was supposed to be a joyous time. Parents were supposed to bask in their children's achievements, and the children in passing that threshold realize how they changed and be prepared to be treated differently. But mostly it was about celebrations. Life in the post-Impact era had little to celebrate, as the planet and its people would take a long time to heal. The progress, the confirmation of a new generation to carry their legacies was well within that reason to exult.
Shinji brought all four of his favorite miniatures to school. He had somehow managed to keep his toys a secret from everyone, the furthest anyone ever went was the boys those years ago… and they were entirely too willing to blank out the experience.
He fidgeted in his seat. The rites were perhaps unnecessarily long, full of speeches about future and glory and hope and coming together and please vote for me next election. He drew emotional support from the presence of Warboss-sama, Space Marine-dono, Chaos Marine-kun and Farseer-sensei. Their snarky remarks all through the proceedings made it all worth it somehow.
It dragged on until it was time to hand out those little slips of paper that would permanently kick them out of their classes. He felt as if electrified until it got up to his name.
He went up to the stage to receive it, met by his uncle who gave him a deep bow. He bowed back. Then, back to his seat.
The feeling didn't fade, not until the very last instant, the very last congratulations, and they were all outside in the sunset. He winced as a sunbeam got into his eyes. Dramatic, yeah right. He regretted not asking for those damn orange-tinted glasses, even if he'd outgrow them rather quickly. Even if he'd look silly in them. He rubbed at his eyes.
He looked around, past every happy parent and simply exhausted young teen. His guardians let him even roam around a little.
Shinji returned, his face an emotionless mask. "He didn't show…" he muttered numbly.
"I'm sorry, Shinji." said his aunt. Shinji looked nothing like Gendo right then.
"I shouldn't have Hoped." the boy continued. "I really shouldn't. I had no way of knowing whether or not he would show up."
Shinji's uncle clasped the boy's shoulder and patted it reassuringly. "Not to worry, we're here, ah? I don't know what your father must be thinking but he's going to regret not being here. Come on, let's get something to eat. Chin up! You're a high schooler now!"
Shinji tilted his head, as if listening to something. His eyes cleared. "Yeah, courage. I'm a high-schooler now!" He even grinned. "Excuse me, uncle. I have to do something."
It didn't take long for him to find Minase and her parents. They were rich and stood out from the sea of sensible clothing. He steeled himself and walked right up to them. "Houko-san!" he shouted, his voice breaking at the end.
Three sets of calculating eyes turned to him. He repressed a squeak. It was like being in the presence of the Inquisition! Shinji turned his gaze down and addressed the girl. "May I talk to you, Houko-san?"
"Mina, who's your little friend?" cooed her mother, almost a jade figurine herself in all that green lace. Her father seemed to look past the boy, instantly dismissing him.
She sighed. "Mother, father, this is Shinji Ikari. Please excuse us, we won't be but a moment."
They moved aside and there the girl waited with narrowed eyes. She'd been brought up to consider her time as precious, specially when it is spent in the company of her parents. It was simply rare when they were all together, a condition shared by many families in the scattered employment of post-Impact industries.
"So, we're like high-schoolers now." he blurted out. "And I thought maybe now we could go out… as friends! As friends! Um, yes. Celebrate and eat strawberries or something." He was feeling a double dose of embarrassment. Not only did he burn in his own daring humiliation, his four other pieces were groaning with and AT him. "We can invite Acchan if you want…"
Minase sighed and looked above his head to where her parents were, their eyes twinkling with merriment. He sighed again and grabbed his arm. She pulled him off to a more private spot, uncaring of how that might look.
And there, she took a deep breath. She looked straight into his oddly hopeful eyes and said, "Look. You're right. We're teenagers now. And I've just had about enough of your little elementary attentions!"
Shinji's mouth hung open.
"I tolerated it back then because it was kinda cute, but it's getting annoying. I don't want you following me around in junior high. Don't take it too hard. Why should I go out with a short little weirdo like you when there's already someone cool waiting for me at the next school? You're only going to make yourself look even more foolish trying to compete. Why don't you just go out with Aachan and get it all over with? You both deserve each other anyway."
She flicked back her hair and walked away. She nodded to herself. Yes, fast, hard, clean. It was the kindest thing she could really do. Better have him hate her a little than pine away uselessly. That way her two friends can actually move on.
It was going to be high school, after all. Things would be a lot different, more people, more things to reach for. She could find better ones, more suited to her.
"Let's go, mother, father." she said in her sweet voice. "Best not to waste any more time here."
"What in the Warp?"
"Waddahel? Wadda wada!"
"I… am speechless. Completely, utterly, speechless."
Well, that was totally unexpected. A miniscule part of his brain prodded him about being totally spontaneous, acting on his feelings. He never saw THAT coming.
The shock was wearing off. And there's the pain. And now the "WHAT DID SHE SAY?"
"None of you will talk. None."
The young teen stalked over back to where everyone else was, his limbs hesitant as rubber. Someone recognized his small frame easily.
"Hey! Boss! Hey!" Kobayakawa gleefully made his way over to him. "How's it feel, hey? We made it! My parents really like my grades now, thanks for that, boss." He nodded, though Shinji had yet to respond. "I saw ya going with Minase. First rank and second rank, sounds good huh? How'd it go?"
Shinji looked up with a hollow gaze. "…"
Though round and considered somewhat stupid-looking, he wasn't that dumb about matters right outside the books. "Ouch." He scowled. "You want the boyz to do something?"
"No." Shinji shook his head slowly, trying desperately to clear his thoughts. "Neva hits a girl. Only puny grots need to slappa someone weaker."
Kobayakawa nodded. He swallowed Shinji's words like gospel. It was he that started the trend of calling Shinji boss. However, it wasn't until the boy forgot and lapsed into another mode of speech that it really stuck in. Shinji was a scary little dude when he had to be. That however was nothing, to da boyz he was scary in how much he knew. Whatever question they asked, he had an answer for. He set them up a standard of behavior that had them using their strength to help others rather than push them around. Da Boyz, as they became known, were anti-bullies. They went around stompin' da respekt back into other would-be thugs.
Shinji was Da Boss. No ifs, no buts. What he says goes. It was very small gang that knew, and that was the secret that bound them together. Outside, the world saw a polite, obedient little boy growing into a fine young man. When around his boyz and no one else, he could relax, laugh and shout. And he told great stories. 'Ere we go!' was Da Boyz chant, as they walked the streets. 'Ere we go, were we go, not gonna knows till we gets dere!'
He owed Shinji more than he felt he could actually repay. He actually got da respect from the littler kids and gud feelins' from those bigga. Kobayakawa could never gotten that the old way of doing things. Da Boyz got their own subsidiary formations of littler boyz, and the Gretz as a messenger squad. It was a community within a community, a select brotherhood of, well… boys (plus a few particularly awesomely ferocious girls), and it felt good.
"She sedd somefin' about a high-skoola waitin' for her." Shinji said absently. "Have a lookat dat."
"Sure thing, boss!" Kobayakawa enthusiastically replied, almost snapping into a salute. "You want us to stomps on him for a little bit?"
"Nah, just… curious. Just gather information." His gaze was so far away again. Da Boss had a tendency to space out like that. The boyz took that as a sign of dismissal.
Da Word passed quickly, and even as they went home they were happy at getting a direct order for a change. Things to do tomorrow, some hearts were singing. Things to do! Purpose and sense of belonging post-Impact fulfilled a most basic human need.
Shinji returned to his guardians, a fake smile plastered to his face. "Okay, that's done. Let's go home."
He was not going to go throwing things. He was not! Mostly because the only things he could throw were his figurines and they were too valuable to waste on some little fit.
Shinji grabbed at the sheets of his bed and pulled at it until almost tearing. "RrraaaaAAHHHH!" he snarled out. He then slammed his face into it, letting it soak his tears.
He had never felt anything so ugly. It swallowed everything. He dimly remembered saying it was better when there was nothing he liked. When you valued nothing, you were like, invulnerable.
'So you would rather not feel anything at all? That is foolishness.' counseled the Farseer. 'Nothing remains unchanged by the music of creation.'
'Leddit out, lil'boz. Nuddin's going to makes ya feel better dan a good STOMPIN'! WAAAAGH!'
"How could she do that to me?" the teen sobbed. "Am I really such a bad person? Sure, I'm scrawny and weak, but…" He wailed. "Shinji is a Good Boy!"
He felt a mental slap.
'Get a hold of yourself, commander! You're getting emo! You're breaking the fourth wall!'
Shinji stopped to catch his breath. He blinked.
"Wait… what did you say?"
'I said… uhm.' The Space Marine seemed to squeeze his face in concentration under the dim night lights. 'Get a hold of yourself. You're granted some ammo. Prayer may cleanse the soul, but pain purifies the body. What does this prove, but that the soul is weak? Only in pain and suffering do we stoke the fires of our spirit.'
'Endure.' said the Eldar softly, as if her pain resonated with his. 'And in enduring grow strong.'
The young teen sat back up on his bed and sat there cross-legged. He took several deep breaths. No. The pain was still there. The rage was still there. Nothing he could do would simply make it go away.
"Why do you all sound little more respectful now?" he asked after a while. "You never gave me titles before."
'Am I not your protector? Am I not born from the depths of your mind? You are the Primarch of my will, the bastion of my discipline! Command me, and I obey.'
'Wez ya thoughts, hummie. Ya saids to shaddap, so we did.' The warboss radiated disdain at the wordy gothic parlance. See? Short, to the point, orky. That was da proppa way to talk.
'Never have we been anything but your helpers, Shinji.' The Farseer seemed to curtsy. 'What pleases you, pleases us. What hurts you, hurts us.'
'We felt it all.' came an oily presence. 'All of us. Your pain! It is OURS.' Shinji looked up at the Chaos Marine standing on the shelf, its bolter still crossed over its chest. Its scarred face still looked fierce, but also oddly at peace. 'She HURT you, and we know how it is to hurt. The only way to make it go away, is for HER to hurt back.'
Imaginary shouts erupted all around the room. 'Foul spawn of Chaos!' The Space Marine was understandably the loudest among them. 'I knew this! I knew this day would come. I knew you would wreak your temptations, but I say NAY! You will not succeed this WAY!'
'Wot da zog?' The Warboss seemed to stare cross-eyed at the lyrical turn. 'Look, just come down so I can stabs ya.' he told the Chaos Marine. 'Ma lil'boss is no squig-head to go stompins no puny feemale.'
'He will not turn' the Eldar said in all confidence. 'It is easy to See the failed methods of Chaos.'
Shinji hadn't realized it until then, but it was raining outside. In a brief flash of lightning, the Chaos Marine seemed to turn its head and sneer.
'So he is to just accept it? Become a whipping boy? He is meant to be abused and be glad for it, a martyr without a cause?' The Chaos Marine began to laugh, booming for such a tiny figure, competing with thunder outside. 'Where is the respect, ork? Where is the justice, astartes? And where, you soggy old witch, is his choice?'
The three could not answer.
'She disrespected you, bright lord, and it is only justice to let her see the error of her ways. It is your choice to be a WIMP or heed the call of POWER. Your education is incomplete, intentionally so. THEY wanted to keep you WEAK.'
'That is a lie!' screeched the Farseer. 'I taught him all that he needed to know!'
'Did you? He may have needed only that much THEN, but this is NOW. Can you teach him all that he CAN do?'
'Just because one can… does not mean one must…'
'PAH! You all disgust me. I can complete your education, bright lord, and show you how to command rather than be commanded, to take rather than be deprived, to be revered rather than reviled!'
'Um… isn't all that like, evil? I'd rather not do anything that will get me throw in prison, thanks anyway.'
'You know us, Shinji. Evil is a LABEL that only given by the other side. It cannot be TRUSTED to be impartial. People will tell you that evil is a slippery slope, and good a mountain. It is hard to do good, while so many do evil. This only says the natural state of man is EVIL.' The Chaos Marine seemed to grin. 'Are YOU evil?'
"Hell, no I'm not evil!"
'It can also mean INSTEAD that there are great goods, little goods. Great evils, little evils. There are many things, EVIL THINGS one can do to serve a Greater Good, but one must ask WHOSE good? The Imperium and its corpse of a God, the Orks and their ongoing wide scale murder, the Eldar and the many souls they so easily send to ignorant doom - MANY might call us ALL evil. We are only GOOD in the sight of those we serve. Methods are equal, it is the goal that casts it all in its light.'
"Those are excuses. I'm not going to start worshipping Chaos and wishing harm to Minase-san." said Shinji with conviction. "I don't like the Dark Gods you serve."
The Chaos Marine laughed even more. 'Bright lord, it is YOU that I serve. I am only EVIL if and when you are evil. I am your SERVANT and only your will is my CREED. I am CHAOS! I am neither Good nor Evil. Chaos bids me serve you, and serve you I SHALL. I ask for NOTHING. I require for you to do NOTHING. I give you ALL, for such is the favor of CHAOS. It is already IN you, my bright lord, and it is how I speak. It is in you my bright lord, and it is the POWER that you SEEK.'
"W-why do you keep calling me bright lord?"
'Are you like the Dark Gods I once served? You are bright and limitless my lord. I will not ask as to their GOOD or EVIL, you shall shine either way. Ask for justice, and I shall give you justice. Nothing more. Nothing less. CHAOS shall serve you well.'
Shinji was dumbstruck. He knew these conversations were all just in his head, he knew he did so to entertain himself, he knew their advice so far had been useful as they opened up possibilities he normally wouldn't think of. ACCURATE is the only way he could have described them thus far.
Outside the rains still fell, and the unrestrained sounds of a wounded nature continued to be the breath of an enraged wolf at his windows.
He had never expected his fantasies to turn out to be so thorough. He HAD been doing it for years now. He exhaled and sat up. "What can you do?" he asked it.
He could feel its triumph. He could also feel the truth in every single thing it said. Chaos was not an evil separate from him. His figurines could not, ever, force him to do any action against his will. It was his delusion, and it was only his choice to allow said delusions.
'The last half of what the Eldar has wrought. That which continues to escape you.'
The young teen stood up.
'Wassat? Whys you lissnen' to dis Chaos-boyz? No need to make stuff all complicated and wot. Just bash somefin'! You'll feel betta, you'll see.'
'Commander, no! Chaos promises many things, and always have they led into ruin. Even the greatest of us all could not stand uncorrupted by its touch. Do this, and forever will it hold a piece of your soul.'
'Shinji! Remember!' the Farseer cried out, the most desperate among them. The Eldar knew its warping influence. Against it even their Sight could avail them not. Only the mon-keigh and their defiance of fate seemed able to beat it back, but always at cost of in themselves being the monsters they battle. 'We may only offer our advice, but ultimately it is you who must do these things. It is you and only you that must suffer. Turn back now and or these thoughts will consume you!'
"I don't care!" shouted Shinji. He shot up to his feet and snatched the Chaos Marine off its shelf. He walked over to the window and stared at the howling darkness outside. He put the figurine down.
He stared at his own reflection in the glass. He was barely more than a boy just yet, his frame without physical power. The Chaos Marine stood there in mute steadfast obeisance.
Lightning flashed. Everything in nature, everyone he has ever seen, seemed more capable and more powerful than he was. No one truly wanted him, his guardians ached for their son, his father had no need for his own, and the first one he ever opened his heart to ripped his hopes to unrepentant shreds.
'As YOU desire, bright lord…'
He slept well that night, no dreams at all. He stewed in his own newly-discovered brand of hate. In another time, he would have known of it much earlier. But only here was it pure and malleable.
It was a bright and fresh morning. There was nothing like a little light rain to make the world seem clean and new. Colors seemed more vibrant, the air clear and sweet. Shinji woke up late, for once. His guardians had let him sleep in as a recognition of his slow change. He was no longer a child to be coddled so.
He woke up and all was silent. "…guys?" his looked over to his plastic miniatures, and in the morning glow they were motionless plastic. It was the first time in many years that Shinji was alone in his thoughts.
Even the Chaos Marine had nothing to say. Fear gripped Shinji.
"Oh come on. Do you all hate me or something?" There was no response. The young teen sighed. He shook out the last scales of sleepiness from his body and walked over to the window. He opened it up and let the air in. He took a deep breath.
The world was all anew. Yesterday seemed so far away. Yes, he supposed he was just being silly. He could easily live without Minase. He was to be a high-schooler. He supposed he was just growing up, and no longer had to rely on something else to do his thinking for him.
"Congratulation, Shinji." said his uncle over breakfast. "How do you feel?"
He paused and really thought it over. "Empty, somehow."
The man smirked. "Yeah, it's because you've been doing the routine so long that you don't know what to do without it. But change is good, Shinji. Now you can do exactly only what you want. You're going to go back to the old habits when the classes start again anyway." He waved at the air. "Best to enjoy this while you still can."
Shinji nodded, agreeing utterly.
Mitsugane Ayane knew where Ikari Shinji lived. She been over to it a few times, but it as the first she would head over alone and on her own volition. Her nerves were at a chaotic frenzy as she walked the path. "What will I say?" she asked herself. "Oh, this is so hopeless." She barely had any concentration left over to avoid puddles in her path.
Music drifted from Shinji's window. It was fast, as usual perfect in its chain of notes, but somehow now held more passion… angry, bursting with energy, was the only way she could describe it.
She didn't know what expect at seeing him, and was relieved he looked calm and without puffy eyes. Of course, she thought, boys don't cry themselves to sleep as she had. She wished if only she could suffer it for him, oh my could it have actually worked?
"Mitsugane-san, hello." Shinji smiled politely, but he seemed diminished somehow."
"Uh, we're out of classes now, Ikari-kun. There's no need to be so formal."
Little bits of amusement showed in his eyes. "Kinda hypocritical of you isn't it, Ayame-chan?"
"Oh you, Shinji-kun." She looked away and fought off a blush. She looked at him from the corner of her vision, and his relaxed stature. Maybe even too relaxed? Was he in denial somehow?
"So, what brings you around, Ayame-san?"
She huffed. She supposed that was the most she could get out of him. "Can we… talk?"
Shinji looked back over his shoulder. His guardians had seemingly all but vacated the premises. They were giggling like mad when a girl came to visit him. He supposed grownups were weird that way. So easily amused. It was pathetic, really.
"Oh, Shinji. I heard about what Minase did to you. That was such a mean, nasty thing to do! You deserve better than that!"
"Oh. So I suppose she told you, then?"
She hesitated. "Well, it wasn't that much, but everybody saw the difference in how you looked before and after your talk. Oh, Shinji!" she felt her eyes tearing up. "Everybody knows!"
He winced. And he imagined Kobayakawa would have gone blabbering on about it to his closest friends, and with a Gretchz nearby it was certain a rumor would be flying all over the town.
He shrugged. "Oh, well. There's nothing to be done about it."
"You shouldn't say that!" she almost yelled. "Just because she's pretty and rich doesn't mean she gets to treat the rest of us like we don't matter. What she did to you was just… wrong. Why not you? You're kind, and smart and gentle… and cute…" And she was actually now crying. "…and you don't deserve to have your feelings thrown aside just like that! You should… you should know that you're not disliked by everybody. You should know that there are others who can care for you as much as… you were so brave, at least. I wish I could be so brave…"
"Oh, I'm sorry, but-"
"I already know."
She looked up sharply, her eyes wide behind her frames. "What?" she gasped. Her face burned. Of course he would know. But then, why didn't he ever say anything before? That was cruel, too.
"But there's really someone else."
The girl nodded, and took out a handkerchief. "I know that too. I just can't compete can't I? I'm not as smart or pretty or sophisticated and…"
Shinji can sense she was about to enter into familiar territory and decided to head her head off at the pass. "No. MINASE has someone else." He shrugged. "So I can't stand in the way of that."
Ayane looked up again, her face open with shock. "She does?"
"She does." Shinji didn't know exactly why, but gave her word for word what happened. He relished it, though he had been humiliated he felt some delight at sharing the ugliness of her personality.
"T-that's scandalous! How long do you think this has been going on?" The supposed best friend stood up and began pacing. "Seriously! What could she have been thinking! We're too young. You only asked her out to eat…"
"Eat strawberries." the girl nodded. "That wasn't a date. To have someone waiting for her already in high-school? What is she thinking? What is she doing?"
Shinji shrugged again. "Likely, she initiated it. It's a status symbol for her, to reach above her apparent social caste. The other, I think, would just enjoy having someone of her family status linked to him. Both don't really know what they're doing." He sighed. "We are too young."
"You… don't sound young." said Ayane. That had always been what drew her to him.
Shinji laughed, but sadly and at himself. "A part of me always feels like ten thousand years old." He took a deep breath and leaned. "Or it might just be undigested cheese."
The girl did not know what to do with this more casual, more playful Shinji. She felt guilty, but it was perfect. It was like everything was made for this chance.
"No, I don't think we should be going out." said Shinji, still with his head slumped back over the chair and almost asleep.
Ayane felt her heart stop. So THIS is what that felt like. She could finally, truly emphasize.
"What are we, Ayane-san? Friends? We ARE too young, why change that? Why mutate this comfortable distance we have to something we can't really See?" He raised a hand, and made little flitting motions. "Feelings are like butterflies… let them fly as they wish, and they return to that flower time and again."
She smirked. How so utterly, wisely Shinji-kun of him. "Usually people say that about horses, set it free and if it returns, it's yours forever."
He lifted his head. "They do? I didn't know that."
She giggled and sat back down, kicking her shoes. She copied his lazy slouch on the chair.
"So… what should I do?" she asked him, while staring at ceiling too.
"Yeah, you're free, Shinji-kun. Whatever you want, let's do it. What you want me to do, I'll do it. We're friends and that's what friends do."
"Umh, you're describing more like a minion, actually."
"Then command me, your most loyal minion!" She giggled again.
Shinji sighed and let his eyes remain closed. He was pretty sure he had one of that already, but said nothing to spare her feelings. The future was closed to him. What did he want? Others made it their choice to make his wants their wants. The more accurate question would be what could he possibly want from another?
"I need you to go now." He didn't need to see her face to know she looked hurt. "I need you to go out and tell Minase I don't hate her. I need you to tell her to be careful. No, don't stand up. Not exactly now. Go home and think carefully about what you'll say. We both know she's not going to take it kindly. She will mock you. She will mock me. So prepare yourself well."
The words, the MANIPULATION, it was so there and so obvious and she couldn't see it. She refused to see it. What could only be described as sheer determination filled her. Joy, at simply being needed. Power, as if his will and wisdom was pouring into her being.
"I will…" she said. "T-thank you, Shinji-kun."
Still looking up, still distant in his gaze, he smiled thinly.
Sometime later, it was Kobayakawa who arrived. He bounded into the house with his usual fervor, moving deceptively quickly for someone so large. "Hey, boss! Got news boss!" he called out after being shown in.
"More of your friends, Shinji?" said Shinji's aunt. "I have some more rice cakes. Would you like some?" he asked the rotund boy. The expected happy nod pleased her.
"I think we should take a walk. Please wrap a few in a plastic bag."
Shinji led him a good ways out from the house, near beaten cliffs over-looking the devouring ocean. Kobayakawa followed content in having rice cakes to munch on. He waited patiently as Shinji stared off into the distance.
"What have you found?"
Oh, so it's to be THAT sort of Shinji, eh? Well, he could not expect Da Boss to be fun about this sort of thing. "We gots the Gretchz workin' boss. One'a dem saw Minase stop at a call booth to phone someone instead of using her cell phone. She ducked into a store and came out looking different, hair up in bun and everything. Dude in a bike came by and took her off."
"You know, I SHOULD be feeling some dismay at how you have kindergarten kids stalking people, but I just can't seem to raise it right now. I'm impressed though, they're surprisingly patient and hard to fool."
Kobayakawa lifted his double chin up. "My Gretchz are da best, boss. No one ever notices a little kid. Have four of dem squatting in a corner and nobody cares what dey do. It's like derr invisible. If dey look playing, they can do anything."
"Good job. Now what's about dis runty squig? I don't think the Gretz can follow dem on a bike, can they?"
"No need ta, boss!" His voice then brightened. "We gots dis little Gretz, we call 'im Bike Boy. He knows the bikes of EVERYBODY in dis town. If its on two wheels, he knows it. Dat cause his brudda runs da bike shop. He works da Gretz on messenger service. We gots him and other shops on it, so we always haz a stash of candy for all da boyz back at da hut. No toyz is too expensive if ya can share it. No one messes wid da mob without da rest chippin' in."
Shinji nodded approvingly. Da Boyz were actually loved by the merchants downtown. Let them grow up a bit more and that cut off an entire generation out for 'protection'. Da Boyz would actually protect these people.
"We gots some bad news for ya, boss. Da squig's Kotaru Jishin, he's in high school, third year. Now HIS brudda's Yakuza. He's in prison right now so the squig's behavin'. He's 'ard though. Runs da junior high mob, nutting like OUR mob." Kobayakawa seemed to shrink into himself. "If we gets at him, a lot of da boyz are gonna get hurt."
"So? Don't. I only asked you for information."
"But you're DA BOSS! Who hurts ya hurts all da boyz. Who don't respects da don't respects da boyz! We should stomp him! STOMP HIM GOOD! W-"
"DON'T!" Shinji turned, his eyes glittering madly. "That word is NOT to be used so lightly, so foolishly. Do you understand me?"
Kobayakawa took a step back. "Uh, sure boss."
"The Waaagh! is sacred. It is not for the boyz to waste. Da Waaagh! Is to be done when and only when da world needs turnin' back to the right and proppa. You smacks someones, you stomps someone. But you don't call Da Waaagh! without a warboss! And you don't have a warboss until you HAVE A WAR! Do you hear me?"
"Boss! I hear yas!"
"When you calls a Waaagh!, I expects there to be nothing left! You will stompz da target until it is gone, you will breaks der stuff, you will digs der landz up until nobodys can remember where dey once waz, you will send da boyz and da boyz will not stops until da odda side is all right and propa and OURS! DAT, IS DA WAAAGH! Do you getz it?"
"Y-yes, boss. I getz ya, boss." Kobayakawa had an expression which could only be described as religious awe. "You Da Boss."
Shinji stepped back, and sighed heavily. "So, don't say it."
"…not gonna say it."
"Something has to be done about this Jishin. He's got that broody bad boy image young girls love." Shinji steepled his fingers, and held it up to just under his nose as he thought. "He wants her money. He wants her body. He will use her, he will break her. I can See it."
And I can just let it happen. Wouldn't that be perfect?
He sighed again. "Send someone to follow him and Minase around, ready to call the cops." Crap. He had sent Ayane out. "You know Mitsugane Ayane? She's my friend. I need you to watch out for her. If she's in trouble, I don't care what, jump in. Protect her."
"Yes, boss. Sure thing boss…"
Shinji turned and smiled now. "Auntie makes good rice cakes, doesn't she? It's the sliver of cheese she puts on top. Come on, let's get you some more."
Shinji was still waiting. The silence in his skull was deafening. For years now he had imagined life into those little plastic people, and filled his bland moments with the joyful noise of their bickerings. He had made them the companions who would never disappoint him, would never abandon him.
He took deep breaths and tried to clear his mind. He went out into the beach where he found them and listened to the waves. A constant pattern in the background helped him concentrate, he had no need to time his breathing. He breathed in with the surf, out with the riptide. No wonder so many temples were built near the shore, he realized.
Though it all there was only the serenity, the utter and artificial silence within his mind. He was starting to loathe it. He would seek that meditative state to help him think, but now that he could reach it so easily he found himself preferring the chaos of their little voices batting away thoughts back and forth.
He made them as the ones who would never betray him, so the logic was that he betrayed them. They did not leave, but were shut away. How? He had no idea, just as he didn't know at what point it time they crossed from mere voices in the head into distinct seemingly self-sufficient personalities.
He thought that he should have brought the figurines, they helped him focus. But really, did they reside in all that plastic? He had used them as a crutch for too long.
"I STILL NEED YOU!" he shouted into the silence. "COME BACK!"
There was no response. If this was what it meant to grow up and decide from oneself, he could do with remaining a child for a while longer.
He stood up and looked down at himself. Black pants, white shirt. Even out of school he preferred those simple clothes. No wonder Minase found him weak and boring.
He kicked off his shoes and began to walk over to the shorelines. He stopped right at the water's edge and let the waves lap at his feet. The horizon stretched out to beyond time, the sky vast and infinite. Under it, his problems faded into their temporal insignificance.
"Was it the pact with Chaos?" he asked the silence. "But… Chaos doesn't exist…!" Even then, shouldn't his Chaos Worshipper remain?
What happened while he slept? He missed them, missed them terribly.
"What will you take for them, oh sea? You brought them to me from your depths. What can I offer so you can bring them to me again?"
The winds blew but there were no answers. The waves rushed on, but it was no reply.
Shinji bent down and scooped up some water in his palms. He splashed it into his face. He scooped up another handful and drank in its salty tang. He let most of it dribble down.
He fell back and lay down there on the beach, much like he did all those years ago. He felt the same pointlessness, the same sourceless sadness. "What am I doing?" he whispered. "This is so worthlessly dramatic. I'm brooding. Brooding, damn it!"
He slapped at the sands on either side of him, palms up. "They were awesome." He felt that if he could touch that, that thread of awesomeness once more, he could follow it and pull his miniature companions out of whatever box they were sealed in.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Waves up. Waves down. Clouds grew and shrank in his vision. He had a feeling of timelessness, as if in the future he would lie down on a shore again, always in sunset with all that dramatic red. The waters were all orange, the sky as red as blood.
He felt something watching him. Like a big floating head. He looked down, suddenly cold, but the post-Impact sea was still wine-purple, eternal and uncaring of humanity. The sky was starting to darken even, though. He saw a single star weakly twinkling out in the distance.
"I'm sorry." he said, but there was no one to hear it.
He clenched his fists. "But this is pathetic. I am my own person! If the future is closed to me, then I'll break it open with my bare hands! I will teach them all to respect me! I'll take my own justice! I'll never be afraid again! Thank you for everything you've done. If we never talk again. I think I'll be fine somehow."
Shinji got up and walked back to his house. He still had his own life ahead of him. He felt more powerful than he had ever before.
He found there a child waiting by the front door. The boy stood up, and looked at him doubtfully. "You're scrawny." he said.
Great. Now I'm being criticized by a being even bonier than I am. He actually chuckled a bit. Being made fun of by tinier things was familiar. "And you're little." he said back. "Who are you?"
"I'm da Gretz" the little boy proudly said.
"I thought there was more than one? Collectively, you're Gretchin."
His eyes widened. "You don't look like one of Da Boyz. But you're right. We're all da Gretchz, but nobody knows dat secret name…" He scowled. "But I'm the Gretz here and I have a message. I've gotta make sure."
"Um, okay. What do I have to do?"
"You gots to prove you're one of Da Boyz."
"How do I do that?"
The child put both hands behind his head and half-turned away. "I dunno." He said casually. "If you're one of Da Boyz, you know."
Shinji blinked. All things considering, he wasn't actually one of Da Boyz. He'd never been part of their meetings, he had no idea of their initiation rites or how they identified each other. His contact with them were limited mostly to the three other kids who had legitimate reasons to fear the heck out of him.
He slapped a fist down into an open palm in the common Japanese expression of 'eureka!'. "Wait here." he said, and rushed into the house.
When he returned, he had his cello. The little kid squinted at the spindly, fragile-looking instrument. It didn't look properly 'ard and awesome like the boyz would use. Shinji smirked a bit, and mouthed 'try this'.
He held the cello improperly, head down like a fiddle. He stomped his right foot down on the concrete, hard. Then, twice more, faster. He began to play. It was a simple melody, repeating, rapid, violent. He went at those strings as if he wanted to rip them right off the wood.
When he finished his hair was all mussed up, his eyes were wide and his teeth were bared in a feral grin. He held the cello up to the sky like an axe. "Ere we go. Ere we go. Were we go? NOBODY KNOWS TIL WE GETS DERE! ERE WE GO. ERE WE GO! WHAT WE DO?'
"Nobody cares til we gets dere…!" mumbled the child. "That was awesome! You ARE Da Boss!" He kicked his heels and stood up straight. "Gots a message for you, boss."
Shinji made a wearied 'heh-heh'. "So wot's Da Word?"
"Something's going down at da old Salt Park, boss. Boss'yakawa's already dere. He tolds me to come gets ya. We gots to go!"
"Then what's with all the dancing around for? We should hurry."
"Da Word was for Da Boss. I had ta be sure. If you're the boss I shouldn't be wasting your time." The boy sniffed. "But if you're not Da Boss, then you're a squig-head wastin' MY time, and I don't gots to show you any respect."
Shinji sighed. He went back indoors only long enough to shove his cello into his aunt's hands and mutter a quick "Sorrygottago!" He ran back out again, but stopped after a distance. He looked back to see the Gretz scampering to keep up on his stumpy little legs.
He crouched down and motioned for the child to get up on his back. Though he did look scrawny, Shinji was relatively fit for his age. He bore the burden well as he went off at a steady lope towards the town.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"Dunno. I was tolds to come gets ya just as he was headin' in. My feet were already moving, so I hads no time to ask."
Shinji tried to turn his head. "Wait, are you telling me you RAN all the way from the Salt Park to here?" At the boy's nod, he added with simple wonder. "You had better be getting lots of candy…"
"What, are you crazy? I should be expecting candy for this?" the child's indignation threatened to topple him off his feet. "Da Boyz needed me and I was dere. Da Boyz are always happy ta do what da boyz gots to do."
Shinji groaned. Such fanatic dedication. How many young lives had he inadvertently corrupted thus far?
The Salt Park was actually Mamoru Community Park, half-swallowed by the sea. It was one of the most secluded portions of the town, with weeds barely kept at bay hiding it from the road. Behind its tangled reeds opened up a clearing with several benches, with an excellent view of the sun sinking into the sea. It was a properly romantic spot, remote and intimate and mostly unknown to the grownups.
Shinji dropped the Gretz upon reaching town. "Go gets the boyz. Bring food and rocks. Big sticks. Nothing bladed or could stab, all right?"
He arrived at the Salt Park to see it no longer unknown. Police cars ringed the place, their siren lights bathing everything in harsh flickering colors. There were already a few curious people milling around. They were outnumbered by blue-garbed policemen though, who kept everyone away from the police line. Behind that yellow barrier was an ambulance, and Kobayakawa surrounded by cops. The round teen seemed unafraid though, and easily broke away from them to get to Shinji.
He ducked under the tape and bounded over. "Hey boss! Good thing you got here boss. Da cops were getting annoyed I wouldn't talk, but I had to tell it all to yas first." He grinned. "I dids what you wanted me to, boss. I saw Ayane-san and followed her, but without her seeing me, you understands. I heards some yelling and her screamin' so I went right into da park. Dere I saw Minase, and she was naked and cryins' and that grot Jishin gots Ayane-san, and he was just abouts to slap her. So I jumped him, boss! I jumped him good like you told me to!"
Kobayakawa's face was a mass of cuts and bruisers, his left eye purpled and shut. His grin only made it look even more grotesque. "He gots me a few times but I didn't really feel it." He patted his belly. "All dese fat's gotta be good for somefin' ha!"
Shinji's was surprised at his own tone. It was cold and calm, and yet he still wanted someone to tear apart. "What happened next? What happened to Jinshin?"
"Dat's whats awesome, boss! We was muckin' about dere and Minase just up and gets him at back of a head with dis big 'ard rock! He turns around and looks all confused and he sees her and she's cryin' and she bashes him AGAIN with rock at the side of his head. He makes dis little spin in the air as he falls over. Minase falls down too, and cries there for a little bit, then she gets up and STOMPS ON HIM IN DA GROIN and den Ayane-san hugs her and the girls can gets on so some propa cryin'." He nodded and looked proud. "I coulda looked, but I didn't wants me groin stomped too. We was gonna sneak her back into town but it turns out da Gretz went to da cops first before headin over to yas. Da cops came by and dey was actually scary for a while until Ayane-san yelled at them. They led us away and gave us blankets and coffee. I think I like coffee, boss. It's bitter, but you need it to fight the sweet of the round cakes we was supposed to dunk into it."
Kobayakawa shook his fists over his face. "We stomped dat Jishin good! Da boyz rule!" Shinji looked behind his follower to see a covered stretcher being loaded into the ambulance. He didn't have the heart to correct the statement, not just Stomped but Stomped Ded. "Now I gots ta talk to the cops. Thanks for gettin' here, boss."
Shinji watched him go, and hoped the police would get something more substantial out of him.
Intellectually, he knew about rape. He could understand the reasons behind it, the biological imperative, Minase was quite well-developed for her age and without ever even seeing Kotaru Jishin's face could deduct to some extent why he'd taken this particular day to lose it.
But emotionally? He got it all as Minase emerged from the Park, bundled in a thick warm blanket and flanked by her parents, her hair matted, her skin bluish pale, and gaze hollow.
Life on returned to those eyes when she saw him, and all the shame and the horror there could likely be matched only by his own.
"Don't look at me!" she shrieked and hid herself behind her parents. "Not him… anyone but him." she said into their embrace. Her words came out in sputters. "Just yesterday I told him… I never wanted to have anything to do with a short little weirdo… when I had someone cool waiting for me." She wailed. "I didn't want to be seen with someone like him. Now even he would never have anything to do with me!"
"Mina-chan…" her mother hugged her well. She looked at Shinji standing there, whose young face was stricken with grief. "Such a pity. He seems like such a nice boy."
Minase continued to sob. They went into their expensive new car, and drove away.
The future might have been closed to him, but the past was not. He knew that somehow, that he could have prevented this.
Next to come out was Mitsugane Ayane, escorted by policemen as her parents hadn't arrived yet. Her frightened expression abruptly brightened as she saw him, numbness faded from her joints as she abruptly rushed him and fell into his arms. "Shinji-kun!" she sobbed into his shirt. "Shinji- kun. Shinji-kun." She repeated his name as if it would drive all the bad things away. "It was so horrible, Shinji-kun."
"What happened, Ayane-san?"
She looked up with tear-stained eyes, her glasses gone, and said. "I thought about what you said, and what I would say. I just knew Minase would just ignore me if I went over to scold her, so I had to go where she couldn't escape what I would say. So I came here, because I knew she would come here… and I was hoping that someday we would go here too… and she did arrive. She had her boyfriend and he was older than her. And they were celebrating her getting out of elementary, she was saying he couldn't feel so guilty anymore. I was hiding and I can see his eyes and I knew the he wasn't ever guilty of anything. They were doing things, Shinji, things we shouldn't be doing yet and I just had to get out there and say it to her!
"And I went out there and said it! It was wrong! She should be ashamed. It was all wrong, and it would end wrong, and how could she throw aside the good that you would have brought her?" Ayane gripped his shirt tightly and pulled herself closer to him, grimacing with heartfelt pain she spoke it to his face. "And she stood up and spat out what was in her mouth and told me I was a child. And you were a child. And that she wasn't anymore and that she didn't have to listen to us. Going here and there, crying and asking for help, we're so useless. She was better than us. She didn't have to listen to us."
She collapsed into sobs. "She said it, like I knew she would, she didn't care about any of us at all. That's where I slapped her. That's where I told he she might not need to listen to me, but she had to live with her parents."
Ayane buried her face into the folds on his shirt. "I told her it was wrong, and her parents would find it wrong, and they would do something about it. She slapped me back. She told me I wouldn't dare. She told me no one would believe an attention- seeking brat like me. She was afraid." The girl continued her tale in between wordless desolation. "She grabbed my hand and told me she would find some way of making me regret it. I wouldn't tell anyone, would I? Would I? Her parents would lose face, and a word to the right people MY parents could lose their jobs. The Houkos are a proud family, they wouldn't see it as a favor. She pushed me away and told me to go away. And, I did! I left her there and I shouldn't have!"
And Shinji could see it. Minase's words hurtful aside, she must have reconsidered. She must have thought over how continuing her charade at being grown-up could harm her later. She had forgotten one thing. Other people had their pride too.
He could almost hear it:
'Who do you think you're talking to?' she would have said with her chin up in the air. 'Just because I grace you with MY attentions is no reason for you to think you're actually WORTHY of me.'
'What, should I be scared of you now? I won't go away like a dog, not while I still have this here.'
'You SHOULD be. My parents will-'
'Your parents aren't here, you little bitch. Now get down and finish it!'
She would have resisted, but she would find her strength was nothing against his. They were alone, she had made sure of that.
'Let go of me!'
'You're not better than me! You're the one that wanted this, you were the one who threw yourself at me. This! Take it! Take it! You want to be treated like you're grown up! This is what grown-ups do!'
Shinji wanted to gag. Experiencing many emotions simultaneously was something he had cultivated a little with his imaginary conversations, but never to such an extent! His imagination was running away from him! No way it could it be that accurate!
"But… Ayane-san, if you left her… then what are you doing here now?"
"Because I thought of you!" she said back, such hurting in her face. "I thought of you and how you were brave and I was such a coward. I was almost home when I thought of you saying it was all just alright that I couldn't do anything when it wasn't! I should have been able to DO something! I shouldn't have just run away. You wouldn't have run away. I mustn't run away! I turned around and went back. She wasn't going to get rid of me that easy. I would drag her out of there, it was for her own good. She was MY friend! I had to help her. You wanted me to help her!"
She had already ran out of tears. She was shaking. "But I didn't really expect them to still be there! He was just zipping up his pants, and told her she would enjoy it more next time. She was naked, Shinji-kun, and she was… bleeding! There was blood!" She screamed her words. "I screamed. I was scared! And he looked at me, and I couldn't move. He was so angry! I couldn't do anything! I was completely worthless!"
She stopped and looked down. "And that's… when he arrived. He jumped and wrestled him away from me. I never really noticed Kobayakawa-kun before, but he was really bigger than the rest of us. He was fighting that high schooler without any fear, no hesitation whatsoever. He was laughing, Shinji-kun 'Stay away from Ayane-san!' he was shouting. 'Dis is for Da Boss!' I never knew he could be so fast or so brave… "
Ayane shook her head. "It wasn't enough. I saw him almost beaten but he was still saying You don't mess wid friends of Da Boss!'. He was going to keep throwing himself to the fight until he died! I could see that he could, he would! His enemy was going to kill him just to keep him down!" She shivered.
"But he was so intent on beating Kobayakawa-kun that he didn't notice Mina-chan get behind him. Mina-can had this… this rage, this despair, and she hit him with that. She hit him again! She kicked him. She killed him. He hurt her and she hurt him back. But I could tell it wasn't enough to take the pain away. That's where I saw she needed me. I tried to help her, Shinji-kun. I helped her the only way I knew how. I took off my own clothes and gave it to her. I cried with her. I stayed with her. I told her I'd never leave her again."
She sniffled, and her eyes upon him held some emotion he couldn't decipher. "Kobayakawa-kun stood guard until the police arrived. He was so brave. He was so strong. He wouldn't let me look at his wounds. He told me Da Boss sent him to protect me. His Boss wanted to make sure that nothing ever harms me. He didn't care about anything except that I was safe. I didn't care about anything except that Minase was safe."
She whispered directly to his ear. "You're his Boss, aren't you? You sent him."
Shinji could only nod.
She gave him a bone-crushing hug. "I'm sorry, Shinji-kun! You're so kind and good and I know this must be hurting you! It's not your fault! You had nothing to do with it."
But it IS my fault! he wanted to scream. Don't you get it? If I hadn't sent you out to confront Minase, you wouldn't have set this in motion. It was all so premature! I could have planned to separate them instead of this! I didn't want her hurt!
…but you did. You wanted her to hurt as you have been hurt. The how was irrelevant. Your will is ABSOLUTE, can you see it, bright lord?
That voice, its return filled him with equal parts relief and simple understandable terror.
Ayane stared at him, and he realized that without her glasses and with her hair down, she could be even… beautiful. Her face held such strange trust and serenity in it now. "Thank you, Shinji-kun. Thank you! I'm sorry for being so useless…"
"Y-you're not useless, Ayane."
"Yes I am! Please don't be too kind to me. I can't bear it! Shinji-ku… Shinji-san." She put her head to his shoulders again. "Shinji. From now on I… I…"
The girl lifted her head and turned. There behind them stood a big police officer, his thin moustache keeping his face looking always fierce. "Dad!" she yelled with renewed relief. "Oh, dad…"
She looked up at Shinji, waiting for his approval. At his slight nod, she fled from his embrace and into the waiting arms of her police chief of a parent. "My little Acchan…" said the big man gently. "You're safe now."
"I've always been safe, Dad." she mumbled. Ayane turned to look at Shinji. Her father noticed it and frowned at her attention towards a boy. Well, any member of the opposite sex. He was predictably protective that way.
"That's Shinji-san." said Ayane. "He's my friend."
"He's Da Boss!" piped up Kobayakawa form nearby.
The father's expression lightened up seeing him. "Ah, you're the one I have to thank for saving my daughter! Thank you, young man! You're a hero!"
Kobayakawa looked down and wrung his hands. "It was nuttin'. Ayane-san is friends o' Da Boss. His friends are friends o' da boyz. Da Boyz are always ready to help their friends."
His frown returned a fraction. "Boyz, huh? And he's the boss. How is he the boss? Can you tell me?"
Kobayakawa, simple and unsuspecting, went on. "Sure! He tells us whats to do. He shows da boyz da right and proper way of things. He's told us that the use of strength is to protect da weak, and da weak can be strong when they needs ta be." He nodded. "Da Boss is NEVER wrong."
"Shinji's my FRIEND, dad." Ayane added.
The policeman's face softened, up at that boy… no, a young man, who still stood there with his head bowed, his shoulders shaking in grief. A natural leader, eh? He looked back down, and saw that beneath layers of fat was a good heart and a good policeman in the making, maybe even Chief someday. His daughter could be anything she wants to be, maybe even the Mayor! That one over there, he had a feeling, would be Very Important Someday. With such kids around, the future didn't seem so bad. "He sounds like a nice boy."
"Yes." Ayane whispered fondly. "He is." She waved at him one last time. Shinji only looked back with such sheer misery in his face, before he fled.
"I never wanted this…" he said under his breath.
But see! He that has stolen from you has paid for it with his LIFE.
She that set herself above you now lies humbled and broken, the BLOOD of that she once loved on her hands.
He that follows you is now a HERO, respected by many.
And she who once held you in high regard, now WORSHIPS you.
Chaos IS. And in CHAOS all things are possible.
His guardians arrived only soon enough to see him run past back to the house. His aunt made as if to call out to him, but a hand on her shoulder kept her silent. Shinji's uncle had already learned of what happened. "No, let him be. He needs to be alone." he said sadly. "Shinji is just too kind, he needs to be alone to deal with knowing not everyone can be as naturally good as he expects them to be."
"That poor boy."
The Boyz broke into the scene, shouting something that sounded like 'Huuwaaaaaaaaaaaaaa- " and ground to a halt at seeing all the policemen. They sheepishly put away their useless rocks and sticks. The snacks were not useless, and in between grateful munches Kobayakawa regaled them of his tale of heroism and the confirmed infallibility of Da Boss.
The boyz offered some snacks to the policemen, who accepted it with a smile. It was a simple act that would have far-reaching symbolic consequences.
Shinji ran until his lungs burned. He ran until his legs began to burn. He ran until he felt as if he could breathe fire and still didn't stop.
He arrived at the house gasping for breath, feeling his entire body screaming. He fumbled angrily at the locks. He stumbled in, leaving the door hanging open. He clung to the wall as he climbed up to the second floor. His heart threatened to leap right out of his chest, and his head seemed about to burst.
He kicked open his door and laid bloodshot eyes at a single figure alone in its shelf. "YOU!" he snarled.
He leapt over and snatched it from its place. His hands shook as he gripped it, slowly adding more and more pressure. As plastic deformed under his grip, it looked as if the Chaos Marine was bowing its head.
'Someday you will NEED me again, bright lord. Someday, you will call out for me again. Someday, when you can set aside this petty morality. And on that day I will grant you POWER beyond your wildest imaginations.'
Shinji snarled and tightened his grip. He felt so immense just then, and the figurine in his hands a little person, red-eyed and so willing to just let him crush it/him in his hands…
He collapsed to his knees and punched at the floor.
"What am I doing?" he breathed. "What am I doing?" He opened his palm to reveal the figurine all bent of shape, its lacquer cracked in places. It didn't seem irretrievably damaged, though. He could push things back into place and slap on a fresh coat of paint. "Why am I so angry at this thing?"
"You're just a lump of plastic!" he said, his heart lifting. He got up and placed it back on the shelf. Shinji sat on his bed and cradled his face in his hands.
"I… did it." he failed to hold back his tears. "I'm a horrible person."
'No, you are not.' he felt another familiar voice skim through his mind. 'It was not your fault, Shinji. What did you really do, clear your mind and admit it to yourself.'
"What I did I do? I wanted her to hurt! Did I cause this to happen? I took her pain and loved it. Oh, gods, I loved it."
'No, yaz didn't!' Shinji could feel a massive stomp echo through his consciousness. 'She was weak, and you hated anyones who abuses da weak.'
'You must not lie to yourself, commander. Consider exactly what your influence in this matter brought. As much as it pains me to admit it, the chaos-pawn had done you right. You SAVED a life, commander, and it was not by your hands that an evil one was destroyed. It was by your will that one was saved from that evil.'
'Did you plan it? Such is the way of Chaos that it prevents any attempts to truly control it.' The Farseer in his mind stroked with her white-gloved hands from the cheek of her helmet, down to her neck, past her chestplate and down to her hips. 'You did nothing to her. You must understand this. You are not a God. Not everything is within your control. Her fate is hers alone.'
"I don't want anyone to suffer…" Shinji cried. "I don't want to be evil! I don't want anyone to suffer ever again."
'If that is your desire, bright lord.' the Chaos Marine actually had the gall to interject. 'Then let it be written upon the flesh of destiny.'
'Be silent!' screeched the Eldar. 'You have had your say. Be silent unless your loathsome opinion is asked for.'
'I obey Chaos, not you, witch. But for the bright lord's sake for now I shall do as you say.'
Shinji bent his knees up and went into a sitting fetal position. He had touched something today, something vast and powerful and his. The Ork said it was nothing more than his "Inna bad-ass". Both the Farseer and Space Marine counseled for him not to worry about it, and it would be a LONG time before he'd swallow so easily anything that Chaos would say.
He no longer felt powerless, though. He learned that day that when one's physical strength fails, let the mind triumph. When the future is closed to the mind, then it is the point of decisive action. When all is dark, is when the light of the soul shall reveal itself.
His physical form was not the all of what he was.
I am Shinji Ikari. he said to himself. This is what I am.
The day arrived when he received the letter from Tokyo-3. It had one word in it: COME.
Shinji Ikari stared disbelievingly at it, all else blank paper but for the NERV letterhead and his father's signature. How hard can it be to write one other word? PLEASE COME.
Or YOU ARE NEEDED, COME.
Or just I'M SORRY?
"No father would write this!" he said to himself. "This is something specifically designed to piss me off!" he gasped. "And it's working!"
"You don't have to go to Tokyo-3, Shinji." his aunt said softly. "You can just stay here. You can be happy here, can't you?"
"Yes, don't give the bastard the satisfaction of having the son he so ignored come running at his earliest call… what's there for you anyway?"
He could just stay. In a town which actually loved him. Where the boyz were being treated like the minor militia. Where someone stood beside him, and strangely a best friend/confidante/personal secretary did vastly simplify his life. Where, once, when no one was around, Minase actually knelt down and kissed his shoe as if his mere touch could purify her. Then she laughed at the panic in his face.
Life was good. With his own efforts he could believe he deserve a little bit of happiness, right? It was a nice, normal life, and yet somehow...
He could see it in their eyes. Even as his guardians asked for him to stay, they already knew that a part of him was meant for bigger things out in the world.
Shinji crumpled the letter, if it could even be called that, in his fist. He looked up and the weight of ages were in his eyes. "I HAVE to go to Tokyo-3. It's time my father and I talked things over."
"Give him a punch him in the face for me, would you?" his uncle said with a grin.
"If he deserves it!" he replied with a similar, wide expression. Shinji Ikari had all the outward signs of a happy, emotionally healthy child.
changes in Sn40k:REWRITE:
Very little. Tightened up some of the wording and altered the ending.
Shinji Ikari grew up somewhere in Sendai. He was 4 years old when Yui 'died' from the contact experiment. At such an age, he would have been aware of being abandoned without yet being able to comprehend why. His memories of that day may not be clear, and whatever Gendo may have done or said; he wouldn't remember.
This is the first major change from the previous version, which indulged in Gendo-bashing for the lulz of it. Shinji now knows that he has totally no data about his father, or what he should feel about their broken family bond.
ADEVA Campaign notes:
A pilot may have been raised in relative isolation and ignominy for his or her own protection. A 'normal' person. While under mental attack, a pilot may be viewed by his or her own much more innocent past self or even try to futilely pass instructions to the child that he or she won't be able to understand yet. Realizing that the childish imaginative 'dream' of those days actually happened may fracture the pilot's psyche even more. Or, if somehow the child does remember and take heart the message, realizing that it was all in futility.
Only in Evangelion would space-time silliness be useful only in terms of furthering maximum suffering.
A scenario may also be set near this hometown, like a triumphant homecoming of sorts. The residents who remember the child may treat the pilot with pride and pomp, for one of the chosen few who defend humanity comes from their community. And yet, now it's under threat. There are also those who fear and resent this. While normally fighting to defend a Fortress City (such as, say, Tokyo-3, Boston-2, etc) is harrowing enough, now failure may become much more personal. There is also the problem of the surrounding area not having any real defenses, for Commanders to deal with. Another possible mission is to rush to keep the potential pilots from being assassinated.
Also, humaniform Angels walking around trying to 'understand' can lead to all sorts of Silent Hill shenanigans.
Or as a town with a dark secret, while normally you'd play AdEva like you're Godzilla, you could also now play it as if you're a Kamen Rider by chance stumbling into a Gorgom plot. After all, you -could- also choose to channel Eva technology into small-scale personal armor and weapons; tokusatsu also includes metal heroes.