Ode to Joy

Disclaimer: EVA pwns me; Bleach pwns me; hell, this story pwns me!


"Thank you all for coming," said Hitsugaya as he surveyed the gathered Shinigami. There was quite the varied group gathered there in front of his desk. The so-called "Children of Tokyo-3" were the foremost of the group; Rei of 6th, Asuka, Touji and Mana of 11th, and Kensuke of 12th. There were also a number of adults present; chiefly Dr. Akagi Ritsuko of 12th and Fuyutski Kozo of the 13th. All were apprehensive, as it was rare to be summoned to conference by the captain of the Special Tactics Division. Finally rounding out the group was Katsuragi Misato and Matsumoto Rangiku.

All were gathered to discuss just why this Tokyo-3 place mattered so much.

"I will start off with this question," said Hitsugaya. "What happened to Tokyo-3 to make it look like such a disaster?"

"The world died there," answered Fuyutski after clearing his throat. "As did we all." He gestured to everyone besides Hitsugaya and Rangiku in the office. "When 3rd Impact occurred, the world was to be reborn as predicted in the Dead Sea Scrolls." He reached into a satchel by his side, pulling out a collection of worn parchments. "Obviously, these aren't the originals," he went on as he gave them to the child captain, "but these were the notes I made from what I remembered of them after coming here."

"Invasion?" asked Hitsugaya as he skimmed over the scrolls. His brow furrowed as he read.

"The Japanese Strategic Self-Defense Force was authorized to take Tokyo-3 by storm to gain control of NERV by forceful occupation."

Hitsugaya nodded. A sizable fraction of the newer Shinigami had come from Tokyo-3, and had worked at this "world-saving" organization called NERV. He read in silence for several minutes, his gaze narrowing as he read on, like a dragon preparing for battle.

"This NERV was never intended to save the world, was it?" he said quietly. It was inconceivable! That anyone could try something so foolish! So disruptive to the cosmic order!

How could Soul Society have missed this?

"That is correct."

Hitsugaya looked up from the scrolls. Rei had finally spoken up, sitting in silence on the couch, an odd wrapped object in her lap.

"NERV was never intended to prevent Impact," said Rei. "It was intended to gather the necessary components and initialize the process of Instrumentality. The Rapid Evolution Initiative, Project R.E.I., was designed to create a means of controlling Impact."

The frosty captain raised a brow at the girl. "That's a rather interesting acronym, Ayanami-san. I take it that's a rather touchy subject to you?" Rei silently nodded.

The door slid open suddenly, causing some people to jump. In walked a man with a plain black haori and a bad haircut, his zanpakuto loose at his waist.

Misato growled. "Kaji. What are you doing here?"

Scratching the back of his neck, Kaji loosed a laid-back grin. "Sorry I'm late folks. SoiFon-Taichō kept me a little longer than I'd planned."

"Trying to work your way up?" Misato asked, her left eye twitching. Everyone knew that Kaji was just a 2nd grunt.

"Nah, I like everything intact and right were they are, thanks. Besides, she's still mooning after Shinhoin." he said, his grin still in place.

Hitsugaya examined the stubble-faced man. While the moron was still her fukutaichō, SoiFon had finally replaced Omaeda as her lieutenant in the Onmitskido. And for all his devil-may-care attitude, scuttlebutt said that the man was magnitudes beyond his predecessor as what Katsuragi called a 'covert operator'. Especially since that apparently no-one had found out yet of Kaji's placement as 2IC of the Onmitskido.

Of course, Misato didn't say anything else, which made Hitsugaya suspicious. By now, he'd already sussed out that they had once been in a close personal relationship with each other, and that they had later split up. "So Kaji-san, what interest do you hold here?" he asked. Considering his suspicions about the man's past, Hitsugaya felt that blunt was probably the best approach with the man.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Kaji raised a brow. So this was the prodigy captain of the 10th. He didn't look like much; then again, Shinji hadn't looked like much either. Poor kid, getting set up to fall like that; didn't sit with him at all. Sure, he'd made some bad choices, but the 3rd Child had been innocent; sculpted and molded to want to die, so he could take the rest of the world with him.

He also knew about both the Winter war and that mess with the dispute over Hyorinmaru awhile back; he might be somewhat new to the job, but Hitsugaya had definitely proved himself beyond a doubt in Kaji's book.

And that meant the unvarnished truth.

"There were many people involved in 3rd Impact, Hitsugaya-Taichō," he finally said, "more than just NERV. Hundreds of thousands from all over the world believed at one point or another that they had a stake in the Apocalypse." He dropped his head slightly. "Not proud to say I was one of them."

Hitsugaya's gaze narrowed. Quietly, Kaji swallowed a nervous lump in his throat. "I was just a Special Inspector; not very high up." Hitsugaya's brow rose. "Basically, I was a watchdog, my job being to make sure things stayed on track."

Hitsugaya leveled a skeptical glare at the ex-triple agent. "So your job was to keep this...3rd Impact going the way it was supposed to go?"

"More like I was a mole, an informant," said Kaji. "I would pass along what I observed to the Japanese Ministry of the Interior and the UN Security Council."

"And NERV was supposedly unaware of this?"

Kaji shrugged. "Officially, I was there at the behest of the UN as a go-between for NERV and the Security Council. Unofficially, I was SEELE's eyes and ears on NERV operations."

"SEELE," said Hitsugaya, testing the word. "German for 'soul', yes?" He snorted. "Not very subtle, were they?"

Kaji shrugged. "As far as names? No, not really. Actions? If Aizen hadn't been soul-born, I'd have said that at least one council member was related to him."

"So, power then?" said Hitsugaya.

"Sums them up pretty nicely."

Behind his desk Hitsugaya closed his eyes, deep in thought.

"What I am about to tell you," he said finally, "is not to leave this room." He gestured briefly, activating spells to seal his office.

"Only a few hours ago, Yamamoto-Sōtaichō granted me access to a little-used, highly restricted section of the Archives. To my surprise, it contained references to a reference to an ancient ritual. A ritual, he said, had a great deal to do with the Royal Key."

Matsumoto flinched, gray eyes coming alight with worry. She remembered all too clearly the incident in which her captain had been briefly branded a traitor, to be hunted down and executed. But wait...the Royal Key? What did destroying a world have to do with the Royal Key? Just to create one required 100,000 souls...

"Ah, and now you see Matsumoto," said Hitsugaya, seeing shock race over his Lieutenant's face. "Kaji-san; what were the estimated number of casualties of 2nd Impact?"

Kaji scratched his stubble. "From what I remember, a hair over 3 billion people. What are you saying?"

"I'll get to that in a moment," said Hitsugaya. "Now tell me, what were the exact casualties from 3rd Impact? I know you know this, Kaji-san, and I'm well aware of your less-than-legal trips to your world."

"Hey, somebody had to cover Tokyo-3 when the shit hit the fan," said Kaji, nonplussed. "Anyways, the stuff I got into said the final tally was about two-and-a-sixth billion."

"So, what do you get when you add the two figures together, Kaji-san?"

"Psh! That's easy, you'd get 5 billion, 167 million..."

A spark of insight hit Kaji, its implications making the hardened former-agent weak in the knees. He swallowed dryly, coming to grips with his realization. "Y-you mean to tell me...the Old Men weren't bullshitting? That they really could have become gods?"

"That's exatly what I'm saying, Kaji-san," said Hitsugaya, noting the horror and shock making itself known on the other's faces.

"Then the Angels..." started Rei, cradling that odd object to her.

"Were alike unto Hollows on a scale beyond what was believed possible,"said Hitsugaya, rising from his seat. "They represented the power Aizen craved."

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

"I'm still not sure about this..."

"Go on Shirō-chan," urged Kyoraku Shunsui, captain of 8th Division. "It's not like you've got anything to lose."

Friend of old and fellow captain, Ukitake Jushirō felt his cheeks undergo a heat-wave as a deep blush made itself known. "But it's not like that!"

Shunsui gave his friend a look of the 'I-don't-believe-you-and-you-don't-either' variety. "Suuure Shirō-chan, keep telling yourself that." He patted Ukitake's shoulder.

"And just what are you saying?" he asked, still flustered from Shunsui's suggestion.

"What I'm saying is that you – yes you Shirō-chan, and don't deny it – have a crush on the good Dr. Ikari."

Ukitake sputtered, not quite willing to admit his friend was right. That didn't mean he wasn't, though; Dr. Ikari had a classic Japanese beauty augmented by green eyes, a rarity amongst Japanese. As for the woman beneath the flesh, it was like walking into sunlight after a lifetime of chill rain. Smart enough to make 5th Seat in the 12th Division, and yet looked after younger or newer Shinigami as if they were her own children. He could easily imagine the woman as a clan matriarch, given the way she looked out for Nemu when her 'father' was particularly cross.

He often wondered, in his idle moments, if Dr. Ikari and Unohana-Taichō were related, seeing as she could even intimidate SoiFon-Taichō and Zaraki-Taichō with a glare. Much less Kurotsuchi-Taichō, who generally avoided his 5th Seat when he could. Seeing as Dr. Ikari as nearly as much a prodigy as Hitsugaya-Taichō, this was a rare feat for Kurotsuchi, especially since Dr. Ikari was his leading researcher into new soul-tech gadgets and gigai.

But one thing he noticed above all else is the woman's constant melancholy. Almost every time he saw her, she was looking off into the distance, as if she was looking for something. Or someone. He almost shook his head, the 'baka' echoing in his brain. She'd said many time that she had a son, a child for who she had sacrificed everything; of course she would look for him.

Apparently, the child had never made it into Soul Society.

He would never admit it, but he had made some discreet inquiries himself once he discovered Ikari-san's dilemma. In fifty years, no-one save those that had come from Tokyo-3 had ever even heard the child's name before.

"Ahh, lovely lovely Kyoko-chan, such a pleasure it is t-"

"Don't try that on me, Kyoraku-Taichō," said the tall redhead, slapping him with a folded fan, "or I'll tell Ise-san."

"So cruel..."

Ukitake had to smile, watching his friend's antics. He would expect such an attitude from Kyoko Zeppelin Soryu, mother of the 11th Division's spitfire 7th Seat. "Soryu-san. What brings you here?" he asked, gesturing towards their surroundings. Due to his tuberculosis, Ukitake was allowed to remain at his family home for most of his administrative duties. Indeed, there were several piles of reports that he would have to examine on his low writing table. He heard a splash. With a sigh, he stood up, looking out towards the koi pond. Sure enough, his co-3rd Seats were hip-deep in the now-crowded water as they argued who was the better 3rd Seat.

"Are they always like that, Ukitake-Taichō?"

"Very nearly," he said with a smile. He winced as Kotetsu Kiyone was knocked over by a giant koi that jumped in her face. He remembered when he found out that Yachiru had transplanted them from the Kuchiki compound.

With a sigh, Kyoko dropped the bright smile on her face. She turned towards the snow-hair captain. "I'm worried, Ukitake-Taichō."

"What about?" asked Shunsui, all levity gone from his voice. Both he and Jushiro knew that Kyoko had been part of Project E; if something was wrong, she was often one of the first to know.

She dropped heavily into a chair, seemingly exhausted. "I'm worried about Yui."

Dark brows furrowed, Jushiro fetched a tea set. Pressed a warm cup into tense fingers. "What is it."

A shallow sip to calm her nerves, Kyoko replied. "She's starting to crack." She turned towards the two captains. "She had been trapped in that monster for more than ten years. Ten years with only that indescribable beast." She stared blankly into her cup. "Its not something I can tell you about. Sōtaichō has ordered that no-one knows about it, and those that did were sworn to secrecy."

Ukitale met his friend's glance. Suspicious? Him? The last time Yamamoto-Genryusai kept something like this under wraps, it nearly resulted in the total destruction of Karakura Prefecture in Tokyo. Not to mention the decimation of Soul Society in general.

If he were to be honest with himself, Ukitake could understand where Sōtaichō was coming from; he'd tolerated the existence of Ichigo and company due to the acute crisis already underway. Aizen, Tosen and Ichimaru had openly broke from Seireitai; the loss of three Captains had been devastating, not just to the Gotei 13 in general, but to key personnel as well; Kira of 3rd Division had never truly gotten over Ichimaru's betrayal. Add in the threat of the Espada, and a newly-awakened Vizard was very much the lesser issue. Even now, he privately suspected that Yamamoto-Genryusai was waiting for Ichigo to make a fatal mistake; he would then come under the jurisdiction of Soul Society and the worlds of the dead and the living would be once again separate.

This "3rd Impact", according what Yui and Kyoko had been able to tell him, was at least as big a crisis as the Winter War had been. And because it had only been discovered after the fact, it had been all the more dangerous.

That brought him to the bunch that Dr. Ikari considered friends. The Children of Tokyo-3 were an unusual bunch; unusual that they had all died so young, and yet were well-versed in the art and ways of battle. As far as he knew, using children as soldiers was frowned upon, considered to be taboo, by today's standards.

Something, as Ichigo sometimes quoted, was rotten in the state of Denmark.

Like Hitsugaya, he also had asked to examine what little documentation they had on the "Impact" phenomenon. Unlike Hitsugaya, he'd been turned down.

Another thing that Kyoko had been able to imply was that Yui had been essential to the effort to counter Impact when she had been alive, as had her son Shinji. There was no Ikari Shinji documented anywhere.

And it was eating the woman from inside out.

Not two months ago, he'd been able to arrange for a "field mission" for Dr. Ikari, assigning her to monitor Karakura Prefecture for spiritual and dimensional instability. In that time he was able to get her to speak to Urahara Kisuke; his remarks on that visit were ominous, but in hindsight not a surprise.

"She's close, Ukitake. It may be a week, it may be a decade, but she's close. I know many things, and seeing someone so spiritually screwed that that Vizardization is only a paper's width away is not something I have ever seen. Not even with the others. It's certainly not helping that, next to the Ayanami girl in 6th, she's the closest to bankai."

"If she starts to crack, get her here to me. I don't care how, but get her here. Sanctuary for a Vizard is hard to come by, but it's easier for some than others."

Grim news indeed. Kisuke had been lucky enough to get Hirako and the others out as it was; he doubted Yui would be so lucky. It looked like that he might soon have to take the former 12th Captain up on his offer-

A mountain, crushing him to oblivion. A fiery chill like a solar flare, incinerating all of creation. A cross of white fire, rising like a sun in the distance. 'Thats 12th Division!'

"YUI!"

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

'She is going to be replaced!'

It was the only thought in his head, ringing throughout an already devastated mindscape.

'Asuka's...dead!' It was like a never-ending nightmare. Failure after failure; each one was his personal responsibility. One by one, the Children had fallen. To Angels, to EVAS, to fellow human beings...throughout it all, he was rendered useless.

"The Dummy Plugs will suffice for 00 and 02 for now," the doctor continued on, seemingly unaware of his anguish. "With 01's core gone, we'll have to install another. Perhaps someone from the 2-A reserves." She reached down, smoothing her charge's hair. "You don't have to worry about Angels anymore; they're no longer your responsibility," she said gently. "This place is no place for children."

Naoko stood abruptly, turning away. The spirit monitor was beeping wildly. In many ways, it resembled a heart monitor, with the ubiquitous oscilloscope-like display. Only this time, it measured the reiatsu of whoever it was hooked to; the display was jammed to the top of the display, the small machine actually smoking. "Irresponsible child, breaking everything he touches." She walked over to a speaker by the door. "Dr. Akagi. I would like to speak with Kurotsuchi-Taichō-"

The woman's words were lost in a haze as his breathing changed. Hands flexed savagely, tearing into the mattres and sheets. His breath came in gasps, as if he'd run a marathon sprint. His eyes bled over to black. Then red, going through the spectrum until it settled on green.

"Embrace. Shogoki."


Author's Notes:

Well, that wraps up Ode to Joy, the 4th chapter of Memento Mori. Yare yare, another chapter.

Finals and increased homework had played some merry hell with my writing, but I finally got this out.

To James Rei's Guardian:At this point, I'd just be repeating last chapter's response to you. All I can really say is thanks for noticing, it helps me keep on track.

To Fifth Horseman: Yes, Shinji's attitude will mess with more than a few heads (I have a few ideas as to what'll happed when he finnaly makes it to Karakura). As for Gendo, he's Rokubunji now, not to mention thoroughly cowed by his initial encounter with Yui in Seireitai; he's still a schemer, but he's quite loyal to 2nd Division, if only to please Yui. As for Yamamoto, think about it from his perspective; you've just found out about a fast track to Godhood. You'd want to keep it under wraps too, I'd bet.

To justanotherguyathiscomputer: Yes, this will be a Shinji/Rei eventually.

To SithKnight-Galen and Lord Edric: Kaoru? As an Angel, his consciousness was obliterated in 3rd Impact, when Adam fused with Lilith. Yes, there is considerable time-distortion between T3 Earth and the 'Bleached' Earth. And yes, they do patrol alternate dimensions. That's why I love the 'Soul Society' concept, as its sort of an afterlife and therefore a bridge between dimensions. As for Asuka? 11th. Definitely 11th; you think she'd fit anywhere else? And yes, it is implied that both Rei and Yui are close to bankai. Asuka too is close to bankai. As for Aizen? For now, don't expect him. Assume that he was killed as the conclusion of the Winter War; I'm trying to keep this as close to Bleach canon as I can for now.

To 6thChild: No, Yui's not going to cut her way though Seireitai for Shinji, as Yui/Ukitake is a secondary pairing here.

To Invincible Shinji: The Angel War veterans (not to mention everyone in Soul Society) will definitely notice Shinji's presence; that's next chapter. As for the Vizards, yes they will become involved eventually, as will some of the surviving Espada (won't say who, yet).

To Weapon-VII: Shinji's zanpakuto is the Lance of Longinus. Like in NGE, the Lance can alter its shape depending upon the intent of its wielder. And yes, Asuka knew what it was from the start; she just couldn't believe it.

To Reikson: Thanks for the name; where'd you get it? As much as I'd like, I don't know Japanese. As for the Impacts, most of those who died had been consumed in the S2 that the Geofront had become in End of EVA; only very few had been able to escape it's pull to make it to Soul Society.

To The Fanfic Stealer: As explained above, Yamamoto firmly believes in the separation between the living and the dead. Deathberry got off because of the crisis already underway (Winter War). Harem? Writing Rei is going to be hard enough. Maybe a lot later, if this goes on for that long.

I hope that answered all your questions for now.

Next up, Shinj's presence is rather forcefully announced by his Ressurrecion. And trust me, Soul Society has never dealt with anything like this before!