NEON GENESIS EVANGELION: REDEMPTION

Stage VII: The Nightmare of Life

Asuka drifted in and out of a delirium. A shape hovered over her, speaking words that she could not comprehend. Something warm was wrapped around her, and the shape was holding out a bottle to her mouth. Trembling, Asuka clamped her mouth over the mouth of the bottle and, with infinite relief, gurgled down the water. When the entire bottle was gone, she dropped her head back and fell unconscious, barely perceiving a hand tucking in a soft, worn piece of material over her body. Her last glance showed her the reddened world all around her, outside the small shelter she lay in.

"The world looks like it's bleeding…" she murmured to herself.

'Bleeding…no, it's covered in LCL…'

'But…LCL…is Lilith's blood.'

'That blood…is mixed with MY blood.'

'I, Asuka Langley Soryu…

Was nothing…would it be better if I'd never come back at all? If I'd just gone where I belonged? Nobody loves me… nobody gave a damn when I suffered. Nobody lifted a finger to help.'

Asuka groaned as the hard concrete floor cut into her back despite the thin blanket under her. 'I miss sleeping on a Japanese tatami,' she reflected. 'It's not so stupid…'

In unconsciousness, her repressed memories began to slide back into her mind.

"Who are you?"

"I'm Asuka Langley Soryu! Charmed, huh?" The red-haired girl said cheerfully.

"No! That's not me! Don't make me go through…that violation again!"

"I'm Asuka Langley Soryu! Charmed, huh?"

"Don't be cruel, please! I don't want feel what the Fifteenth Angel did to me again!"

"I'm Asuka Langley Soryu! Charmed, huh?"

"God damn it! Just leave me alone! Go away!"

"…"

A mass of people surged around her. With all her might, Asuka pushed back, unwilling to be swallowed by the crowd. Yet, the sheer numbers soon overwhelmed her, and she fell down. Feet trampled all over her, crushingly strong, merciless, and uncaring.

"You can't make me experience another mind-rape! I'll fight you! I'll fight you every goddamn step of the way!"

Bells chimed, and an unseen train rumbled by.

"Who are you?"

"I'm Asuka Langley Soryu! Charmed, huh?"

"Look at me, damn it! Look at me!"

"No…I won't listen to you. I won't give up…"

"Help me, Kaji! My mind is tainted…"

Pain…abandonment…no one to hold on to, no one to lift a finger to help…

"I don't want to feel that pain any more…I don't want to be left for garbage again. I'll be strong; I won't need anyone. I don't need Papa, I don't need…"

"Don't need Mama?"

"No! I need her! I want her to be with me! She loves me! I know it! I have to be with her…"

"Don't need Mr. Kaji?"

"Kaji…I want you to be mine, too…no…I can't! I can't be all alone! It hurts too much…"

"Don't need Shinji?"

"Of course I don't need him! That goddamn idiot is always so weak! He couldn't even face reality!"

In the Geo-Front, it was dusk.

"Do you dislike pain?" Kaji said.

"I don't like it," Shinji replied, with the melancholy stare that he always had seemed to have.

There was a pause, and then Kaji asked, "Did you find something enjoyable?"

Shinji continued to stare at the melons.

With his casual wisdom, Kaji nodded and said comfortingly, "That's good. Someone who knows pain is kinder to others. That is the opposite of weakness."

A little girl sprinted towards a door, her long hair bouncing behind her, a happy smile upon her face, flushed with joy.

"Mama, Mama! They selected me! I'm an elite pilot, about to protect mankind, the best in the world! It's a secret to everybody, but I'll tell you, Mama! Everybody is so nice to me, that I'm not lonely. I'm okay, even though I don't have a Papa. So look, look at me!"

"Hey, Mama!"

"No…not that! I don't want to remember it!"

Asuka clutched her head and plopped down on the seat of the train car that she was suddenly in, with blood-red light pouring into it from the setting sun. In the distance, a bell tolled the train's arrival to unseen traffic, waiting to cross the tracks.

"Will you just deny my memories and run away, then?"

"What harm could that do?"

"Haven't these old memories returned and torn your heart apart?"

"…"

"You deny your memories, your past. Therefore, you are denying your past existence. Are you now saying that you have never existed?"

"No! I existed, I still exist! I'm alive! I don't want to die!"

"Live on…I won't let you die."

"I won't lose…I won't…die…" Asuka muttered. Shinji touched her forehead again. 'The fever's going down.' He smiled wearily. 'She's been like this for so long…days…thank God…'

"I've fought…I did my best…you can't ask any more of me…"

"No one can, Asuka. Nobody can deny what you did…for the whole world. Don't give up; don't lose now." Shinji said. He clasped her hand. "Don't give up on me…I'm begging you."

Hyuga stopped cold at the sight of the decomposing man. His brains were strewn about the rubble, and a rising stench emanated from his body.

"Damn! Who the hell did this?" Aoba exclaimed, backing away quickly. "He's been dead for days!" Beside them, Hikari retched emptily, averting her eyes.

"Who's there?" a voice asked from behind them, along with the click of a pistol being cocked. All three whirled around, coming face to face with an equally startled Shinji.

"Shinji…is that you?" asked a horrified Hikari. The Shinji standing in front of her looked like a hunter wild animal; his sunken eyes, dirty clothes and sallow, hollow cheeks made him look like a desperado at wit's end, not to mention the yellow bruises all over his visible skin. She strode forwards and whipped the pistol out of his hands. "Idiot; haven't you been taking care of yourself?" Shinji stared, open mouthed, and then grabbed Hikari by the shoulders.

"Hikari!" he gasped. "Please, Asuka's hurt; I don't what to do…help me!" Hikari's eyes lit up. "Asuka's back, too! Oh, oh…"

"There are emergency stores at Nerv?" Shinji asked. "And you want me to get it with my Eva."

Aoba averted his eyes. "Well, y'know, we need it, and there's stuff that'll help Asuka, too. Plus, we can get everyone underground where it's safe, and, there are the Magi systems…Nerv's reactor should still be going…and Eva should be safe enough…you get the idea. But if you don't feel well enough…"

"I'll do it…for Asuka…"

"Thanks…we owe you one."

"No problem."

"Don't look so depressed; we're all counting on you. It wasn't your fault that Third Impact took place, and you ended it, remember?"

"Yea…"

"So, Shinji's gonna go an' pilot again?" Touji asked.

Kensuke nodded. "He's going to help us like he said. That's the kind of guy Shinji is: always worrying about other people and not himself, even if the other person is Soryu." Touji bit his tongue in thought. "And what 'bout Soryu?"

"Gunshot; she had a 9mm through the shoulder. Tore through the muscle but didn't hit the bone. Apparently, it got infected, and she's been in a fever for days." Kensuke informed him.

Touji winced.

"Ow…dat's bad, even for someone like her."

The ground rumbled as Eva Unit 01 rose shakily to its feet. Her armor was in extremely bad shape, with the horn on her head bent; scorch marks all over the metal plates and no shoulder pylons. The ground rocked as the Eva's feet crunched through tons of rubble. The inhabitants of the tiny camp glanced fearfully at the behemoth trudging towards them. As Unit 01 passed over the group, however, someone hurled a rock at her. The rock clacked off of Eva's armor, followed by a shrill screaming.

"Give my baby back, you monster!" a previously unresponsive woman screamed. Her eyes shone with desperate fury, blood vessels rimming the whites, and her pupils were dilated in animal hatred. "She never came back…you son of a bitch, why didn't you fight? Why do I have to lose my child? WHY?"

The camp fell silent. The Eva rumbled on, looking only at her destination, the remains of a lift cover. The woman fell to her knees, sobbing in plain sight. Unable to hear, Shinji walked on towards the lift, intent only on the task at hand.

'This…all this…is…my fault.'

'It's because of my cowardice that this destruction happened…I'm the one to blame…'

'I don't have a right to be happy; not after this.'

Eva 01 raised her head. A flash of light came into life, burning like an incandescent candle, and the lift exploded in a cross-shaped beam. Oohs and ahhs swept through the crowd, along with oaths and whispers of amazement. The Eva walked on.

'All I can do with this thing is to destroy…is that…my only purpose?'

'If that's right…then I'll destroy everything…until the bitter end.'

A shining halo ignited over Unit 01's head as she floated into the launch chute.

End Stage VII