Disclaimer: I do not own Neon Genesis Evangelion or any of its characters. All the fictional characters and brands used in the story are purely fictional and any resemblance to real people or brands is coincidental.
Author's Note: I have no clue as to how a real fashion show works, so I'm just really going to wing it in that respect.
I was on a plane for Paris, France. I had never been on a commercial jet before and I thought it would be a nice experience. However, I was proved very wrong indeed. "Rei, is that all?" Misato asked. I nodded weakly, handing over the sick bag to Misato who very reluctantly took it. "This is unpleasant," I muttered.
"It is ironic that you piloted Eva without a hitch, only to find out that you're violently travel sick," Misato chuckled, managing to give the sick bag to an air stewardess.
"Misato, leave her alone," Hikari said from her seat. We were all fairly far apart as we were in first class and I felt very isolated indeed with my motion sickness very much getting the better of me. If this was the experience of commercial flight I had been waiting for, then my sense of eagerness was misplaced.
Ever since Hikari had told me that I was going to Paris, I had been filled with excitement and anticipation for the event. My life had changed so quickly it had been difficult to keep up with all the changes. I had spoken to Tayo about the Paris fashion show and he had told me that it was an opportunity for me to shine and to win his father over so that I would get his support and hence the full support of the Yama-Gucci board of directors. He told me to think of it as an audition of sorts and not to worry about the pressure. I know I can cope with pressure with my former occupation and all but this seemed very different from piloting Eva.
As I lay back in my seat, feeling terribly ill, thinking of Tayo seemed to lift my mood ever so slightly. It was a good lift though, yet a part of me was wondering why it was that I felt better after thinking about Tayo. It something physical in my body that caused it, but in my mind. I struggled to comprehend what it was. Why did the thought of the man who brought me into this business make me happier? I enjoyed being in his company, but I do not know whether that had anything to do with it. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that it wasn't something concrete and fathomable. It was in fact something very abstract. Emotions are indeed abstract things, but I was unsure whether this was an emotion or not. I just, well, thinking about him made me want to be around him more so that I could be happy and enjoy myself in his company. I'm not too sure how to describe it.
"Hey! Air steward!" Misato cried out of the blue. It was the dead of night and I was sure most of the people on the aeroplane were asleep. Misato didn't seem to care however. "Yes ma'am?" an air steward responded.
"Get me a beer," Misato said, as if it were an order.
"Certainly ma'am," the steward said before disappearing. I smiled, knowing that Misato enjoyed drinking beer, often to the point of being intoxicated. Her loud voice had momentarily broken my chain of thought but I don't begrudge Misato at all. She has been really helpful in the lead up to today's flight to Paris. Her official job title was that of my 'Security Officer' but really she is much more like a friend.
Speaking of friends, I had recently spoken to Shinji and Asuka via internet phone and it was good to hear from them again. They were happy for me going to Paris and they even told me that they would be there at the show which made me excited. They were willing to put their plans on hold just to come and see me which was incredibly nice of the both of them. It made the trip all the more better and had me brimming with anticipation. That is, if I made it through the incredibly miserable experience of flying. Despite it being first class and the most luxurious in-flight experience one could ask for, my body had other things to say.
Landing at Charles De Gaulle International Airport was possibly the closest thing to a godsend to me. Being on solid ground made my head stop spinning and my stomach easy. "Ah, France!" Misato said with a beaming smile. "Home of the Eiffel Tower and Euro Disney!"
"Um, is that all you know about France?" Hikari asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Pretty much," Misato said. "I know that they speak French and a lot of them wear berets."
"Don't you wear a beret, Misato?" I inquired.
"Only when I'm being super official at work," Misato said. "Now where's this guy we're meant to meet?"
"Tayo? He said he would be here at 2 o'clock," Hikari said.
"It's 3," I pointed out.
"Are you sure you have the right time? We have crossed a tonne of time zones!" Misato pointed out.
"Yes, I changed it when we landed," I replied.
It was then that Tayo appeared into sight and he immediately announced his presence, "Good afternoon ladies, good to see that you all made it!" He then turned towards me and said, "Good god, Rei, you look awful…awfully ill that is! Was the flight okay for you?" My hair was all ruffled and I was even paler than I usually was. "Motion sickness," I answered, more weakly than I would have hoped.
"That it explains it, I guess," Tayo said. "Well, Hikari, you have the day's schedule, don't you?"
"I do, yes," Hikari replied.
"Okay, good. They're not expecting us at the venue until about 6 o'clock so that we can have a 9 o'clock start tonight. Sorry that we couldn't get you in earlier. It will end up being just getting to the hotel, getting ready, maybe grabbing a bite to eat before heading to the venue. Sorry there was no time for you to look around the city," Tayo explained.
"It is all right," I said. "There's tomorrow, right?"
"Yes, there is. You'll have the whole day tomorrow to look around. I'll make sure of it. Anyway, we better move; we have to get you booked into the hotel and the traffic is hellish today!" Tayo said.
There was no understatement in Tayo's words. The city seemed stuffed to the brim with cars and there appeared to be no visible movement for almost an hour. I wondered how frustrating it must be to be the owner of a car in such deadlock. You purchase your vehicle to drive it or simply to take you from A to B. When that task becomes almost impossible, it almost makes you think what the point is of owning a car. I'm usually happy enough with the bus but ever since I became a model, it was apparently unsuitable for me to travel by bus and Hikari told me that I needed to get chauffeured around everywhere. It was a hindrance more than a help in my honest opinion but that was just the way things were.
It was another full half hour before we arrived at the hotel and even then, things were falling behind schedule, according to Hikari. It dawned on me that Hikari was much more than just an agent. She also seemed to keep everything organised and in check, much like a personal secretary. That intrigued me so I asked Hikari about it there and then. "Well, I think it's just my personality. I like to be on top of everything, even if that means going beyond what my job title says," she replied.
"Is that why you ended up as class representative for every year you were at school?" I further inquired.
"That's probably it…I'm a control freak!" Hikari laughed. I managed a smile as well. She was always very candid and that was one of the things that I liked about her.
Then there was Misato who kept wanting to window shop and insisted that we had to go wine tasting at some point. "Well, it's free drink, isn't it? Who turns down free drink?" she had said. Her logic was somewhat questionable but I do know that Misato, as with beer, enjoys drinking any drink to the point where she becomes drunk. I didn't see much enjoyment in that but I am led to believe that a good glass of wine is not only good for you, but a pleasurable experience. It is something I must try and what better place than France. I have seen photographs of the large vineyards in the south of France and I am also led to believe that France produces some of the best wines in the world.
I was led up to my hotel room and as soon as my bags were dropped off there, we had to leave to get a meal before heading off to the venue. I had never been in such a hectic rush to get from place to place and through it all, I still felt slightly unwell after that long flight. "Do I have to eat?" I asked.
"Rei, do you remember where most of your meal on that flight ended up?" Misato chuckled. "That's right; in a sick bag. So you really should eat."
"But it feels like this meal will end up in another sick bag as well," I muttered.
Suddenly, there was a man with a camera at our table who had appeared out of nowhere. "What's this?! The new Yama-Gucci model, Rei Ayanami, is bulimic?!" At that point, he attempted to run off had it not been for the intervention of Misato. "Oh, I don't think so Mr Paparazzi," Misato said, grabbing the tabloid journalist by the scruff of his neck.
"Agh! This is assault! I'll sue your ass!" he cried while flailing about.
"This is my summer job, jackass. For my day job, I work for some pretty powerful folks in the UN and I could have you 'disappear' if you want," Misato threatened in a low growl.
"Why should I believe you?! You're going on the front page instead of Rei!" the reporter yelled. "And you're getting sued!"
Misato scowled before saying, "Excuse me, Rei, Hikari. I'm off to re-educate this gentlemen here. I'll be back shortly."
I glanced toward Hikari who was taken aback by Misato's quick action. Or that a member of the paparazzi somehow snuck into our hotel dining room. "Is anything the matter?" I asked Hikari.
"You're not the least bit surprised?" Hikari asked back, looking in a state of astonishment.
"Well, I would be lying if I said I wasn't," I replied. "How did he…?"
"Get in here? Beats me," Hikari said. "Sometimes the tabloid press go that extra mile to make up a story. Anyway, it doesn't matter, Misato's dealing with him."
"Exactly what do you mean by 'dealing with him'?" I asked.
"I don't know. You would have to ask Misato that one!" Hikari chuckled.
At the point, the reporter appeared without saying a word and left immediately. He was empty handed as well, with his camera nowhere to be seen. "Well, what did you say to him?" Hikari asked.
"Oh, enough to make him never come within a ten mile radius of Rei ever again," Misato replied with a smug grin.
"Come on, you have to tell us!" Hikari urged.
"Later…after the fashion show. We'll take about it with a few drinks!" Misato said. "Anyway, eat! Don't we need to be at the venue soon?" Misato asked.
"We do, yes. We're behind schedule as it is," Hikari noted.
With that, I forced that meal down my throat before getting ready to go. Not that it was a bad meal; it's just that eating while nauseas is like throwing a bullet on a fire. There would be a good chance of explosive results either way.
I tried to keep such thoughts out of my mind as we were on the move once again, this time in an attempt to get to the fashion show on time. Thankfully, my food seemed to want to stay in my stomach for the time being so that was one worry off my back. However, as the venue came into sight, I became anxious. I had never been involved in a major fashion show before and suddenly seeing the size of the place, as well as the amount of people about was really beginning to make me nervous. "Well, here we are," Misato said.
"Okay Rei, here's the plan," Hikari said. "You're going to be involved in two different clothing categories. They're close together so you'll have to be ready for a quick change. Also, since you're the face of Yama-Gucci, you'll be going on last in each group. I can't think of anything else. That's about it actually. You probably won't be on that catwalk for more than a minute, given the amount of designers and models here."
"I won't be on the catwalk for more than the minute?" I asked in surprise. "It's not much at all."
"Yup. We're only one of about a dozen different designers who want to show off their stuff. It's your job to show it off well. The press here in Europe won't know too much about you but the Japanese press here are expecting a good show," Hikari explained.
"Okay, so all I have to do in now mess up for a minute," I said. It worked to reassure me and I managed to get my mind away from 'what if' and back to just getting it right.
However, what Hikari forgot to mention is the interest the world had taken in my past as an Eva pilot. As soon as I had left my vehicle, I was swamped by a hoard of reporters who were asking a plethora of questions in just about as many languages. "SORRY! REI DOES NOT HAVE ANY TIME TO SPEAK TO ANY OF YOU!" Misato roared as she pulled us away from the crowd and into the venue, presumably out of reach of the press. Misato shut the entrance and leaned back against it as she blew a sigh of relief. "I forgot that you had been an Eva pilot; apparently they didn't," she muttered.
"That's going to make things more complicated," Hikari added. "That scoop they made in Japan must have went global for all those reporters to know about it."
Misato then looked at me and said, "Well Rei, it's up to you to remind them of your new job and how good at that you are."
The next few hours were an absolute blur. While they made the final checks in the main area, I was getting my hair and my make up done. While I was there, several models had asked whether it was true that I had been an Eva pilot. They had to ask in English as that was the only other language I had a grasp of. When I game them their answer, they all became curious about what it was like. I gave them the best explanation that I could, omitting any details that were deemed top secret by the UN. During that time, I was sat down, getting my hair done. Talking about piloting Eva and getting your hair done sure seemed like an odd combination! Anyway, there was only about half an hour until the show started and some models were getting dressed in their given fashions, almost ready to start.
Next game an unbearable waiting game. My time on the catwalk was only later on in the show and I had to sit around, waiting for my time to go on. Time seemed to move so slowly. I heard the announcer call out things in French and watched the models go in and out. It seemed like an eternity before all the other models around me stood up. I jumped to my feet, anticipating something extraordinary. Then, I was on the catwalk, surrounded by bright lights, camera flashes and loud music. I was suddenly back inside the backstage area, that moment having flashed right before me so quickly. "Well done Rei!" Hikari said. "You just need to get ready for your next bit!"
Time then just flew by from that point on. I barely noticed going back on the catwalk again and everything seemed to move so fast. Then, I was back in the backstage area with Hikari and Misato. "That was great Rei. You did a fantastic job!" Hikari said.
"I…did?" I asked.
"You got quite an applause on your second time out as well," Misato added. "Anyway, I bumped into two people you might know."
"Two people I might know?" I asked.
"Follow me," Misato said.
As I followed her, I was slowly coming back down to earth. I was overcome by some sort of euphoric feeling while I was out there on the catwalk. I remember everything clearly, but it all appeared to go by incredibly quickly. I remember strutting down, looking straight ahead of me, having no time to take note of anything I saw. Hikari was right in that I wouldn't spend more than a minute out there but with how quickly it went by, each time I went out felt like a second. Now that my time at my first major fashion show was over, I didn't really know what to make of it all.
I followed Misato to the entrance and standing there were two faces I hadn't seen I quite a while. "Ah, hello," I said.
"Hey there. Good to see you," said Asuka, who was standing beside Shinji.
"You looked great in the show," Shinji added, with a smile.
"You two got in? That's good," I said.
"Well, we didn't have tickets or an invite but…" Asuka began.
"That's when I came in," Misato said with a smile. "Anyway, how about we all go out and catch up?"
"That's the best idea I've heard all day," I said.
We went back for Hikari and so I could change before we all went out the see what the nightlife in Paris was like. Misato picked out what looked like a good bar restaurant and we all went in to have a late meal and a few drinks. "I haven't seen you guys in god knows how long!" Misato laughed, getting right into her first drink of the night. "Where have you been?"
Shinji and Asuka looked at each other before Shinji said, "Well Asuka, will I give them the list of places we've been or will you?"
"I'll give you the honour, Shinji," Asuka said with a chuckle.
"Well, we went to China, Hong Kong, India, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia. We were about to head off to Australia when we heard that you were doing a fashion show in Paris so we just had to see!" Shinji explained.
"So how is the fashion business working out for you?" Asuka asked.
"It is a bit odd, seeing my photographs and hearing about me on the news or in magazines," I said. "Apart from that, it is good fun."
"Good to hear," Asuka said. "I say we give a toast to Rei, our new supermodel friend!" We all raised our glasses and each took a sip of our respective drinks. "Thank you everone," I said. "It's really good seeing you again."
"You should have came travelling with us!" Asuka cried. "Then again, if you did, then you wouldn't be here! That decision worked in your favour!"
"Yes, that's true!" I chuckled. "So, Shinji? Asuka tells me that you two are a couple. Is that true?"
"Well, uh...Asuka, is it all right to say?" Shinji asked.
"What are you, stupid?! She just said that I told her that!" Asuka snapped.
"Sorry," Shinji said feebly.
"They haven't changed at all!" Hikari laughed.
"This is going to be a grand old night, this is," Misato said. "And the drinks are on me!" As soon as Misato declared that, I knew that it would be a very, very long night...
I woke up with a sore head in my hotel room and I was lying on the floor. I sat up and rubbed my eyes before looking around. Asuka was lying next to me on the floor, which was odd since I don't remember her coming back with me. I stood up and found that Shinji was lying, dressed only in boxers, on the bed. It wasn't a pretty sight, I will admit but then again, what can we expect if we all drank that much? It was mostly Misato's doing, buying the lion's share of drinks for all of us. It would have been rude to refuse, although it quickly became a silly amount of alcohol. Then again, by that time, I no longer thought it was silly.
I went for a shower and by the time I was done, Shinji and Asuka were both still soundly asleep. I was considering waking them up when a phone call I got did the job for me. "Shinji…turn the alarm off," Asuka muttered.
"I…I can't reach," Shinji replied weakly. Their exchange was enough to bring a smile to my face before I answered the phone. On the other end was Tayo. "Good morning Rei," he said.
"Good morning," I said.
"Listen, I need to have a word with you. Can you meet me in the hotel lobby in five minutes?"
"Yes, that will be fine," I replied. And then the line went dead. I knew immediately that something was wrong because usually when I spoke over the phone with him, he would ask me how I was and we would normally have a short conversation. This time, there was nothing, just a request and that had never happened before.
I went down to the lobby and quickly saw Tayo waiting for me in the waiting lounge. I walked up to him and he smiled when he saw me, although he didn't look all that happy. "Sorry for the short notice, Rei," he said.
"It's all right," I said. "What is it you wanted to speak to me about?"
"Well, first off, I think you did a brilliant job last night," Tayo said. "However, there's something else."
"What's that?" I asked.
"Well…you've been getting a lot of press about your past, being a former Eva pilot and everything," Tayo began, "and although I don't make a lot of it, my father and the board of directors, are."
"So…what's going to happen to me?" I said.
"They want me to look for somebody else to be the face of Yama-Gucci," Tayo explained.
"I see. Then that's it?" I asked without really showing that much in the way of emotion.
"I thought you'd be a little more bothered about it," Tayo noted.
"Well, if it ends, then it ends. There's nothing I can do about it," I said.
Tayo smiled. "You really are something else, Rei. Anyway, that's what would have happened, had I not bought a majority stake in the company under the noses of the board!"
"What?!" I exclaimed.
"That's right! I officially own it all! My father and his board have nothing on me now! And since it's my call, there's no way that I'm letting you go!" Tayo said, suddenly all animated.
"So you were just pulling my strings before?" I asked.
"Yup, nearly got you, didn't I?" he chuckled. "I finally became sick of their meddling. They weren't letting me run the company the way I wanted so I took control."
"That's great news Tayo," I said. "So I can continue being a model?"
"Definitely. And not just because you're a pretty face, but because you're such a interesting character, different from any I've dealt with in this business!"
"You…think I'm pretty?" I asked, suddenly becoming nervous.
"You're gorgeous Rei," Tayo replied with a smile.
His compliment made my face go the colour of my eyes, which was incredibly embarrassing in front of Tayo. "Anyway, didn't I promise that you could look around the city today?" he said.
"Yes, I believe you did."
"Well, I'm free all day. How about we call it a date?"
"I would love to."
And who would have thought that a day of unsuccessful job searching brought me this? I felt like the luckiest girl in the world and I suddenly realised why so many would kill to be in my shoes. It took a while, but I think I'm finally getting the grip of living, with a bit of luck on the way. I've gone a long way from being Rei Ayanami, the designated pilot of Unit 00 to Miss Rei Ayanami, my own person with my own life. I could think of nothing better.