"Let's go, Rei…" Gendo urged her, face the epitome of calm but the excitement barely restrained in his voice.
The girl lowered her white-haired head, her crimson eyes pinning to the ground.
Yes, she had to go.
Because this was the moment they had been waiting for.
Because this was the moment she had been created for.
It was her destiny, her fate, so she had to go now…
"This is the moment we've been waiting for…" Gendo echoed her previous thought in a tone that was almost cajoling.
She didn't notice.
Because she was too caught up wondering why when he said it, it was a phrase full of meaning and loaded with feeling but when she thought it, it rang distinctly untrue.
'We're different, but we are quite alike all the same.'
Why did that guy's words suddenly spring up in her mind just now?
'You and I are both made from the same matter. We both appear like children of men… made to live on this planet. But what is different are the people we have come across and how we have lived our lives up to now. You and I are very similar… but we are not the same.
'You told me that once. Don't you remember?'
The only time she'd seen him, the Fifth Child, she'd instinctively felt a strong feeling of kinship to him.
But the reasons he had given her were incomplete.
Because he'd omitted the most important one of them all.
'We were both born—created—to die.'
Before seeing him die by the hands of Commander Ikari's son's hands, Rei had never even begun to think there might be something wrong with a life goal like that.
'You were made for this day – the day when you will cease to exist as an individual.'
A few days ago this would not have bothered her in the slightest. After all, if she died fulfilling her mission, her destiny, there shouldn't be anything to complain about, should there?
Because this is what she was born to do.
She was born in order to die today.
It was rather strange, really. Nothing had truly changed in those short few days – neither NERV, nor Rei herself…
…But she couldn't help hearing the undertone bitterness of that thought even in her own mind.
She did not fully understand life or its value at all but was it really so little that it was acceptable to resign oneself to a fate of death when one felt like one had just been born yesterday?
This was the moment they had been waiting for, he had claimed and believed it was the truth.
But it wasn't.
Because she had not waited for this day to come.
Because she had not at all anticipated for this moment to come.
Because she did not want to die.
She had been born for this day, for this destiny. She had been born to die and take humanity as we know it with her.
But she did not want to die.
Not for the sake of this selfish person who could not be bothered to stop and ponder what exactly it was he was asking of her.
Strange… Noting should have changed.
And yet thoughts that would have never crossed her mind were not deeply rooted in her head, impossible to ignore. As though they had always been there.
Where were they coming from?
Where did those feelings stem from? Feelings she knew for a fact she had not experienced herself and yet knew just as certainly that she recognized first-handily?
Were they the feelings of the second?
Is that why she could recall them so well, even though she wasn't supposed to have felt them herself? Because they had impacted the second so greatly?
Because they had etched themselves into her soul?
Was it really the right thing to do to ignore them in a moment as crucial as this if they had been so important to the second her?
Was it really right to just march to her doom as she is orchestrated, following a man who couldn't care less what she wanted or thought whilst she trampled all the desires and feelings deeply etched into her very core?
'This is my destiny.'
'I was created as a child for this very moment.'
He had said something like that himself, hadn't he?
She knew now why that memory had popped up in her head.
'But… I too have my own will.'
Did she even have that anymore?
'And it is possible to defy fate by following your own will.'
'My life has always been in their hands.'
Yet another similarity he had failed to mention.
Her life had never been hers to begin with either.
That's why she was the third.
That's why they—he—would not let her stay dead when she had chosen to give up her life to protect the thing she wanted to keep safe at all costs.
That's why she had been resurrected and robbed of her own free will by being denied the complete array of memories of the second.
Because the end she had met could not be allowed to repeat itself with the third.
'In the end, all I have left is the chance to choose freely… on my own terms, how I will die.'
She had not thought much of him in the short time she'd known him, Tabris, Angel of Free Will.
But she found his words a well of inspiration in this turning point of a moment in her life.
'No. We are not the same. You and I may closely resemble each other, but we are not the same.'
She had been supposed to be robbed of her free will but she wanted to be more like him.
Kaworu Nagisa. The Fifth Child.
The one who resembled her the most.
The one whom she resembled the most.
The one who had chosen how and when he would die.
The one who had defied his destiny with his own free will.
If she did not have the will to change the terms of even how she died, what made her any different than a walking, breathing marionette?
'You just do as you're told without ever saying or questioning anything? You're just a puppet! I don't want to be lectured by the likes of you!'
She would prove Second wrong.
Because Second was wrong.
She wasn't just a puppet that mindlessly did as she was told.
She had thoughts and feelings and her own desires, too.
And she would ignore them no more.
"Let's go, Rei," Gendo said to her again.
She looked up at him and there must have been something different in her gaze then because he flinched back at the look she had given him before she had even spoken.
"No," she said curtly, clearly, and his eyes widened almost comically. Before he had a chance to demand what she was going on about, she continued virtually listlessly, her face betraying no emotion; "I am not your doll. I will not do as you say anymore."
She left him behind, awestruck and horrified, stupidly calling her name over and over.
She did not turn around even once because what he said or did no longer mattered. Since it had never mattered to him what she said or did.
She had something more important to protect now.
Someone more important.
Someone who had been worth giving her life for.
Someone still worth giving up her existence for.
"Ikari-kun…" she mumbled numbly as she advanced subconsciously in a very familiar direction down a path that should've felt completely new to her.
She would let him choose what he wanted to become of the world and humanity. Because, to her, what mattered the most was what he wanted.
More than her own will, she wanted him to be happy.
She wanted to create a world he would be comfortable living in.
She wanted to give him a world he would accept.
The deformed masked giant on the enormous crucifix stood—almost expectant—before her seemingly blank gaze.
'Welcome home…' she heard in her soul from the gargantuan body.
"I'm back…" she murmured before the body swallowed her whole, finally making for a complete being when the AT field of her soul melted down.
'You and I are very similar but we are not the same. You told me that once. Don't you remember?'
She was forever in his debt.
For showing her the way to defy destiny.
For giving her back her free will.
For freeing her from the fate of forever remaining a mere doll, a tool for a selfish man's even more selfish endeavor.
She would not forget him.
Not as long as the sun, moon and Earth existed.