A/N: This story is dedicated to my friend and fellow fanfiction writer Neferius who, like me, has a special place in their heart for The Angel of Birds.

Domina Amor Vincit

Last Revision: July 11, 2017

Amidst a golden light, the screams of the Second Child echoed. Her spent weapon lay abandoned as she fought with every ounce of her will against a psychic attack that threatened to destroy the very foundations of her psyche.

Show me your pain… show me your life… show me what it means to be Lilim…

Asuka cried out again… She couldn't hear the voice… or perhaps it was that her mind chose not to hear it. She opted instead to continue to resist the energy of her foe, and in seeming retaliation, the power of the Fifteenth Angel only intensified.

Arael, The Fifteenth Messenger, was desperate to know… she simply had to understand; why did mankind struggle against fate… why did they fight… why did they resist? Questions plagued her mind… questions that demanded answers. Why was the All-Father subjugated against his will by the children of Lilith? Why did they declare war against them? Just what is it they hope to accomplish?

Her subject however wasn't about to give up that information… Asuka was a fighter at heart, this The Fifteenth sensed in her. The unfathomable being that rested in low orbit was upset and saddened, but despite the hatred her own kind mustered against the children of Lilith… the so-called Lilim, she did not hate they who inhabited this world. Instead she struggled to know why, why it was they chose to suffer rather than submit in the face of such overwhelming odds. And how has that meager resistance been so successful despite the obvious difference in power.

Arael's four crystalline arms gently adjusted her core, focusing the beam and intensifying her psychic focus on the Second Child. Unlike previous angels, Arael was a living symbol as much as she was an angel. Her core was held outside her body in the gentle grasp of four hands with slender fingers. Arael had no legs, only a lower body that would remind some of a moth or perhaps a butterfly, tapered to a point and of the same living crystal and light the rest of her body consisted of. Her face was featureless save for two ovoid indentations that appeared to serve as her eyes, and a spread of five massive wings that stretched out for what seemed like miles in both directions sprouted from her back.

Despite her inhuman body, she appeared graceful and serene, like a true angel. To Asuka, she was a devil in disguise, one that demanded her torment.

Show me your struggles… show me the meaning of strife…

Arael was beginning to see the images that haunted the girl… but her mind failed to grasp the meaning behind them; she saw a woman hanging from the ceiling next to a doll hung in a similar fashion, heard a disembodied voice asking something dark of the child, and felt the continued stress of trying to become the best… but at what? The images and sounds sparked a strong emotional response from the girl below.

"Please!" she screamed over the music that pervaded her surroundings. "Don't rape my mind!"

But Arael had no concept of rape… within the collective of angels, thoughts were not sacred… all was shared. Though each angel retained individuality, there were no secrets within the collective… pain was non-existent until the time of The Second Impact when Adam was taken from them. With no concept of pain prior to that moment, Arael and the other angels did their best to cope with it, and that only became more difficult as more of them vanished from the collective.

If she had facial features, Arael would be frowning. The Lilim could no more understand angels then a goldfish would have knowledge of astrophysics… unfortunately, Arael realized that the opposite was also true. She could not fathom how the Lilim lived….

As she pondered this she sensed something approaching rapidly, some form of projectile. Annoyed that the Lilim were still trying to sever her connection with Asuka, she threw up her AT Field. It was too late when she realized that the projectile wasn't a bullet or missile… it was Lancea Longini. A brief bit of terror overtook the angel, then there simply wasn't time for more.

A flash of light burst forth from Arael's body as the deadly projectile hit its mark. Her body shattered like glass and its pieces pulled into the central point of impact, bursting outward to rain upon the planet below. But Arael still had a thought left before the inevitable would overtake her…

… She could never understand the Lilim… unless she became one of them…

Archdruid Sephiroth Presents

A Neon Genesis Evangelion Fanfiction Story

Too Human: The Trials of Arael

I: Arrival

Miles away from where Shinji attempted to comfort the second child, a radar station picked up numerous falling objects from orbit, falling all over northern Japan in a seemingly random pattern. NERV would soon dispatch individuals to investigate this disturbance, but for the moment at least, the retrieval of Evangelion Unit 02 was of primary importance. The machine and its pilot, though unsuccessful in the battle, would still have a purpose later.

As these seemingly benign events took place, one of the larger objects in the swarm fell several miles to the north west of Tokyo-3. To all on lookers, it would have appeared to be a comet or meteorite falling from the heavens, but it was falling too slowly for it to be either object. In a dense patch of woods, the object punched though the canopy of trees and slammed into the ground at a steep angle, kicking up dirt and dust for hundreds of feet in every direction. As the surface of the object cooled, cracking sounds could be heard.

The object was a chunk of crystal nearly 10 feet long and 4 feet wide, the color reminiscent of smoky quartz. A mist rose from the surface, hinting at the extreme temperature that built up on the surface despite its apparently gradual descent. Cracks spider-webbed across every surface as the sharp temperature change caused it's integrity to destabilize. With a sound like a massive wall of glass shattering, shards of crystal where thrown in every direction, some sticking into trees, others sticking into the ground for a great distance in every direction. An object rolled out of the crystalline remnants coming to rest at the bottom of the hill. Five great wings unfurled with a sound that was like dozens of wind chimes in a gentle breeze.

While the creature that possessed them looked like Arael though much smaller, it was doing something that was unlike her… crying out in pain. With no mouth, the sound was psionically created but it was no less painful to hear. Two of her slender arms held up her upper body while the others cradled her badly damaged core. A great crack was visible on the outer sphere of crystal which seemed to create a fissure that ran deep, nearly reaching the inner core in places.

Flopping on her side she reached up tentatively with one free hand to the fissure and gently touched it with the tip of her finger. Her hand instantly pulled away as she let out another psychic cry. The lance had penetrated the outer layer of crystal but not the inner one. It was the only reason she was still alive. Slowly she began to calm herself, though the pain was intense on levels she never thought she was capable of feeling. As her body calmed itself she realized two very important things; that she was on Earth, and that she was in danger of being found out.

Looking at her poor damaged core, she mentally frowned. This was going to hurt a lot…. She gently placed the core against her chest holding it with all four arms. Then she clenched her eyes shut and pushed it into her body. Being one of the most unique angels had its cost as she now had to internalize her core. In its damaged state, this was excruciatingly painful. As the core phased into her she desperately tried to stifle another psychic scream, slowly her crystalline flesh yielded as the sphere began to enter her body; this would have simply been uncomfortable if it wasn't for the damage. As it passed the halfway mark she felt the stress against it increase, and the cracks along its surface began to expand, threatening to reach the inner core. Now screaming in agony, she pushed forward finally subsuming the core into her body. As her flesh equalized the pressure and it settled into place, the pain finally began to subside. She curled a bit on her side, unable to lay on her back as her wings were still in the way.

Now that her core was inside, her body began to change. Slowly her wings began to shrink and her lower body began to split into two vertically. The changes made her feel weird and she fought the urge to give up on this path. She knew there was no other way… she had turned her back on the war now, and even if she wanted to go home, she could not. Her four arms began to fuse into two as her muscle control shifted from the second pair of arms to her newly forming legs. Crystalline flesh gave way to pale organic skin, and hair began to quickly grow from her head. It was dangerous for her to use this much energy with her core damaged, but she was still in danger of being discovered. Finally, after a full minute of a somewhat torturous transfiguration, the changes were complete. Slowly she got up to her knees, suddenly feeling quite cold as the air touched her naked skin for the first time. Her eyes hurt so she kept them closed for the moment.

She was no more than five feet tall with long white hair that ended around the small of her back. It wasn't simply "so platinum blonde it was white" but was the pure white of newly fallen snow. Her body was petite and shapely, an echo of the grace she possessed as an angel, with soft, almost doll-like facial features that echoed her relative youth in the collective.

Now with only a dull ache in her chest to remind her that her core was still damaged, she perused what little factual information she was able to glean from Asuka. The Lilim apparently wore clothing made from animal skin or grown fibers… normally the latter. Her crimson eyes finally opened and she looked upon herself for the first time. Considering her options, she thought she would fit in by wearing a similar dress to one Asuka's favorites. Forcing herself to her feet, she focused her energy around her pulling forth material from the Astral Plane and molding it with her mind. The ectoplasmic material began covering her nudity, and blocking the cold breeze which was attacking her. As the material coalesced and thinned to the thickness of fabric, it transformed into a light blue sundress. She attempted to open her eyes to see if she did it right, examining the dress carefully, critiquing her own work and ensuring it matched her memory. It was simple but beautiful and at least in her opinion it looked good on her. Of course, she didn't know for sure but this was one of many details she would need to sort through as she learned how things worked in this world.

Deciding she needed to get on that sooner rather than later, she attempted to take a step forward and her legs collapsed beneath her as her balance was lost. Having never had to walk before, she was awkward. She pushed herself back into a kneeling position and blew her hair out of her face, frustration only visible by means a forehead crease that would have seemed familiar to anyone who had ever seen Rei in a similar mood. Determined, she tried again and met with more success though for a few minutes she remained a bit off-kilter.

Arael decided it would be best to take it nice and slow for the time being… but knew she had to at least get clear of the area; it was only a matter of time before the Lilim came to investigate her crash site, and she couldn't hide what happened here. They would know that she was on Earth soon enough, but that she felt confident she could deal with when the time came. Even with her apparent sense of urgency, she didn't make it to Tokyo-3 that evening, only getting as far as an outer suburban area. Here, she decided it would be best to start getting used to the way Lilim did things, and as a psychic creature, she had the perfect tool to gather intelligence. Though it was dangerous in her condition, she scaned the minds of those nearby, peeking only at the surface as risking further would potentially alert them to her presence. Passively, she collected information, peeked into the everyday lives of people around her and started teaching herself how the world worked. Though the information would be useful in fitting into the society at larget, nothing she learned could answer her deeper questions.

Eventually, a new feeling overtook her… fatigue. As she moved back into the wilderness outside of the city, deciding she would have to venture into the city itself to gather the information she needed. She found a place to bed down for the night between the thick roots of a great tree. Though she wondered as to the myriad of strange sounds coming from the forest around her, her fatigue made it impossible to worry or care about that.

Tokyo-3, The Next Day

Although Arael was a bit dirty when she woke up, she didn't mind it too much. She did notice that her body felt tight for some reason. Carefully standing up, she stretched out her limbs and back feeling the muscles and tendons expand. Suddenly she heard a popping noise and quickly relaxed, thinking she might have hurt herself. But she quickly realized nothing was wrong and she was feeling better. Ignoring the pop as inconsequential, she made her way towards the city.

Upon reaching the city, her excitement grew. Here was a massive living area with many tall and wonderous looking structures. Sunlight glittered off of the windows and exposed metal. It was a breathtaking sight to her.

But that excitement waned when she reached the city proper. Much of it was deserted, which unfortunately left fewer individuals for her to study. She expected it to be a more cheerful place, but the few people she saw on the street had worry running though their minds and within their hearts. Most where on their way out of the city it seemed, with plans to leave for other cities like Kyoto and Tokyo-2. Many had lost family already being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Fear and anxiety were rampant, and it was all because of her brethren. That thought made her sad… none of the people she scanned the minds of knew anything about the war beyond what they had been told. And Arael knew what was told to them was lies, disinformation pushed upon them by higher athourities such as the Diet, the Human Instrumentality Committee and even local government officials. Though she knew little of the titles, she understood from the feelings invoked by they who did that they were few but powerful, and important.

"My brothers and sisters have been trying to destroy the entire human race, because of the actions of a scant few?"

Billions of people lived on this world, a myriad of lives and experiences that her family would simply snuff out of existance…The thought actually made her a little sick. All this time, only a handful of people were behind what was done to the All-Father, and her brothers and sisters were all hell-bent on destroying the entire human race because of it. Wasn't that wrong? How could anyone judge an entire race by the actions of a few?

As she continued to move into the most populated area of the city, she picked up on a lot of things, but nothing that brought her closer to her goal. None of these people know the truth and so they didn't understand. From their perspective, her brethren were an invading force that had to be eliminated. She felt the hate and fear around her and it made her feel horrible, knowing she was party to such a thing.

"We are the cause of this…."

She decided it would be best to block it out for now since she wasn't getting anywhere. But when she tried to, she found she couldn't. Perhaps it was her transformation into a human form, or perhaps it was the sheer number of voices that surrounded her broadcasting negative psychic energies that interfered with her ability to use her powers, but whatever the reason, she couldn't tune them out. Worse yet… the number of voices she heard began to increase. Overlaping psychic signals and thought noise assailed her mind from every conceivable angle... a feedback loop that was powering itself, causing her to hear mental echoes from even further away.

Arael winched and held her head as she tried desperately to get it under control. A few individuals nearby took notice as she stood on the sidewalk, and their thoughts only intensified the noise; "Who is that?" "Why is her hair like that?" "What's wrong with her?" "Man… I don't need this right now." "Should I call the police?" "Get this bitch out of here, she's bothering me." "Why are her eyes red?" "Hump… must be a druggy." "She should be at school." "What is wrong with her?" "Someone needs a half-way house."

The overwhelming psychic feedback sent jolts of pain though her head. Realizing the problem was in her immediate vicinity, she ran down street, trying to get distance. At one point the pain caused her to squeeze her eyes shut as she suddenly became light sensitive, but her feet refused to stop moving. At that moment, the door to a shop opened ahead of her… she didn't see it in time.

With a crash, the person she slammed into fell back as she did. She hit the concrete hard, the sudden jolt of pain in her back and physical pain to the back of her head caused her to see stars. Stunned she tried to shake it off and suddenly realized the psychic noise had stopped. She opened her eyes as she sat up and saw a boy around her apparent age getting up. He wore dark pants and a white button up with short sleeves. He rubbed the back of his head, checking though his dark hair for any blood.

"S-s-sorry!" Arael blurted out.

"Huh?" the boy replied, clearly quite confused. "Oh! S-sorry! It was probably my fault."

Arael shook her head. "No, it was mine. I wasn't watching where I was going." The boy got up as she tried apologizing and dusted himself off before offering the girl a hand. As she reached up and took it, the physical contact triggered something, and a feeling of calm washed over Arael. Her crimson eyes met his cobalt ones and her heart started beating rapidly.

"What… what is this? What am I feeling?"

The boy seemed to look at her strangely. "Are you ok?" he asked.

"I…" Arael couldn't find words. She didn't know what was happening to her. She could feel her skin heating up, and her heart fluttering madly. But none of it made any sense to her. "What is it about this Lilim that is making me feel this way?"

She cleared her head a moment to accept his help back to her feet. Her outfit had gotten dirty sleeping in the wilderness and now it was fraying and looked damaged from her fall. She mused she should try to fix it but the pain in her chest reminded her that any more use of her power to draw astral material could be dangerous.

"Well you seem ok now," he said at length. "Sorry about this." The boy collected a small bag he left the story with and began to walk away. Arael wanted to say something… anything, but… Suddenly the psychic cacophony began to fade back in around her. This confused her as it was gone only a second ago….

"That boy… what is he?"

She quickly followed him, picking up the pace so she could get closer. As she expected, the closer she got to him the weaker the psychic noise became was until it was completely gone. Whatever he was, she needed to be near him now, otherwise the psychic noise would drive her insane.

"Hey! Wait!" she called out hoping he would at least slow down.

The boy stopped, looking quite confused. Arael knew she had to say something… anything… She'd loose his attention again if she didn't. Arael had to find an excuse to stay near this boy…

Just then a new feeling overcame her… hunger. From what she managed to skim from the minds of those around her, it was a natural part of life as a Lilum… you have to eat to survive. The boy in front of her seemed to sense her need and spoke.

"You… you look hungry. Are you sure you're alright?"

Arael sighed. "I wish I were," she whispered. "I don't know where I am or where I should go. I've been traveling south for a while now." She felt perhaps small talk might be the way to go, though she had little experience with such, simply repeating what sounded good.

"South?" the boy asked, then his mind filled in the blank for Arael. "I wonder if she was anywhere near Matsushiro a month ago…"

Arael picked up that thought that went through the boy's head. She gently grasped that mental thread and pulled… she didn't get much but just enough to know that that was the location her brother Bardiel started his attack from. The city was decimated. She backed out of his mind before he could notice.

"I…" she breathed hard, trying to steady herself. This boy did move fast when he wanted to apparently and she almost had to run to catch up. "I used to live in Matsushiro. Something happened there… I don't know what, but… everything was gone…. No one came to help, so I left the city. I've been on the move ever since."

The boy looked hurt and momentarily she thought she had made a mistake, but then she sensed something that felt more like empathy rather than adversion. "I… see," he responded at length. "Then… your family?"

This she didn't have to lie about. "Most of them are dead…. I don't know where the others are."

"By Kami… I'm sorry," the boy said sadly, tears welling up in his eyes.

The more Arael thought about the meaningless deaths of her kin, the more it upset her. Watching the boy's eyes begin to water at the thought of her family's fate triggered something within her in a sympathetic response. For the first time since she arrived she felt something leave her eyes which momentarily clouded her vision. She closed her eyes and felt wetness pass over her cheeks. The liquid traced down her face and dripped from her cheek onto her hands. Opening her eyes, she looked at her hands, her sight quickly clouding over as the tears interfered with her ability to see but she did see the drops of water for a moment before she lost sight again.

"What's happening to me? Are these tears? Am I… crying?"

It happened so quickly… her angelic mind was only beginning to incorporate the emotions and thought patterns of the Lilim, and suddenly she was slammed by one overwhelming powerful emotion… sadness. She shuddered as she experienced this terrible force for the first time, her normally logical thought patterns suddenly smashed under this tsunami of misery she felt. Before she realized what had transpired, she threw herself into the arms of this boy she didn't even know.

Arael felt him tense up beneath her grasp, but she didn't care. This action seemed right to her and she really wasn't in control of herself any more. Now openly crying, she clung desperately to him even though she didn't know why she did.

The boy was at a loss… he didn't know this girl from anyone else on the street. She seemed weird to him, with her snow-white hair and her crimson eyes… but those eyes reminded him a lot of another he knew. Now suddenly she was clinging to him, a complete stranger for comfort.

He didn't know what to do, resisting instinct because it seemed wrong somehow. In the end however, he relented. If she wanted to hit him later for touching her like a certain red-head always did to him, he would take it. His arms moved of their own accord, wrapping around the tiny frame of this unusual girl. Arael tensed momentarily as she was uncertain as to what he was doing but realized almost instantly this simple act was making her feel better somewhat. She suddenly clung harder to him, realizing she needed this physical contact with this boy. Said boy could feel her tears soaking into his shirt, as she lamented the loss of her family. Deep down, he could feel his own heart breaking for her as he too was familiar with the loss of a family member.

After a few minutes of light sobbing, she had relaxed a bit but she refused to let him go. He was ok with that though, something felt oddly right about having this girl attached to him. For Arael's part, she felt a little better but she couldn't explain why she did. Unaccustomed to verbal conversation she struggled with what to say next. As it happened, her savior spoke first.

"Do you have someplace to stay?" he asked, earning a slight shake of her head to indicate a negative response. "You should come with me then." This earned him a slight nod as she had no other options.

Arael didn't feel like talking at the moment as she tried to understand why the deaths of her kin caused her to act like that. She didn't have this reaction when the angels were dying before, because as an angel herself she was able to accept that things were the way they were. Now exposed to the gamut of human emotion, her mind couldn't completely deal with it. She was sure she would have done some damage to her own psyche had this boy not been here to comfort her when she broke.

Carefully he switched to holding her by the shoulders and he walked with her though the streets back towards his apartment. "By the way," he said, trying to change the subject, "My name is Ikari Shinji."

Arael froze mentally. Did the Lilim know the true names of the angels? Her mind went over the names of the people in the suburb from last night trying to find one that seemed like it suited her, but she didn't know what would. She had to work fast though, and said the first one that appealed to her.

"I'm Kotori Ayame," she said. "If you like… you can me by Ayame."

"Ok," Shinji replied, "but if we are going to be a bit informal with each other, you should call me Shinji then."

She smiled slightly. "A-agreed."

"How does he do this? How does he affect me so?"

Arael didn't understand it… something about this boy made her feel good. His mere presence blocks the psychic cacophony of the city, his touch makes her heart do odd things, and his smile makes her feel like she's back in the collective…

…safe and comfortable…

No one else around her had the same effect on her, so it must have been some great power he had. But she sensed no psychic ability from him. Sure, his mental strength was well above average, but something about him was just different on a level she couldn't comprehend. Arael promised herself she would get to the bottom of this mystery.


The Wheel of Prophecy was an artifact from ancient times. It was found in cave, quite similar to the one that housed the Dead Sea Scrolls and appeared to be from that time period. It was a stone disk about 3 feet across, etched with ancient tools yet designed to perfection. Engraved into it was an ancient diagram similar to the Sephirothic System which was prominently displayed in the office of one Ikari Gendo, Supreme commander of NERV. Surrounding the outside where symbols which represented the 15 divine messengers that were to come after The Second Impact, with only Adam and Lilith being absent from the disk's design.

This artifact did not belong to Ikari Gendo however but rather resided in the hand of one Keel Lorenz… and it was this man who watched as it changed with the death of each angel in kind. As the messengers were defeated, their symbols began to glow crimson red on the disk itself. It was as if the disk was designed to monitor the spiritual lock over the world that prevented the Red Earth Ceremony from commencing.

That ceremony was the ultimate goal of Keel's organization, a secret society known only as SEELE. In this ceremony, mankind would rise and join together, their souls becoming one as they shed their mortal forms to merge into a new god. This was the final goal… Human Instrumentality. The artifact was little more than a tool however, an indicator to assure those who understood the significance of the crimson light.

It was this fact that had Keel perturbed now as he know well what the symbols meant. His cybernetic eyes, forced on him long ago, gazed upon the stone surface of the artifact. Twelve symbols were brightly light in crimson, however there were but two angels left… so why were there three names that remained dark?

Arael's symbol never began to glow. Although the footage sent to Keel by Commander Ikari showed that the angel was destroyed, the fact remains that the artifact now told a different story. With the video already proven to be genuine, it left Keel with only two possibilities. The first being that the artifact is malfunctioning somehow, but he knew that was impossible. Ancient religious artifacts do not simply stop working like an overheated CPU… which left only one possibility.

"She's not dead," he whispered, the raspy sound of his voice betraying his advanced age. Somehow the Angel of Birds avoided her own demise, which didn't bode well for him or the rest of the committee. For SEELE to enact The Red Earth Ceremony, all 15 of the messengers had to be destroyed, otherwise the only ceremony that could take place was the White Earth Ceremony… the one where the angels win and humanity is annihilated.

"This wasn't part of the scenario," he whispered to no one. The plan was now in jeopardy, a plan many years in the making, and he didn't know why. His chair turned and faced his monitor, which was looping the replay of the Lance of Longinus impacting the angel. It appeared that her physical structure was destroyed in the hit… so her being alive is not possible… yet the Wheel did not lie. Letting it play, he noticed something odd. It almost looked like part of the central portion of the angel did not get caught up in the vortex created by the lance impacting her core. But he couldn't see what happened next.

He needed the rest of the tape…

Tokyo-3, Later

"I'm home!" Shinji called out as he entered the apartment with his guest. But he knew no one would be home. Misato would be stuck at NERV doing a veritable mountain of paperwork and Asuka would still be in debriefing possibly pertaining to suspension of her piloting. He didn't know how she would react but knew it couldn't possibly be good. As it was, she spent little time at home, running to Hikari's every chance she got. He was glad of that much… no awkward questions for the moment at least.

Arael/Ayame looked around at the apartment. Though she knew little about the living spaces of the Lilim, she could tell this one was barely in good condition as far as its level of cleanliness and organization. She did get the impression it had more to do with Shinji's Guardian… this Misato Katsuragi he told her a little bit about on the way home. The woman was another mystery for the angel to solve.

"Wait here, I'll get you something," he said to her. She nodded her reply and sat on the well-used couch.

Arael knew that humanity itself was 18th Angel… the myriad of infinite variations and possibilities that the angels themselves could have been, but she also knew they had to have some unifying factor between them all. The key to her self-imposed mission would be to learn what it was to be Lilim, though she wasn't a Lilim herself. She was still an Angel, just one in human form.

The young angel heard a beeping sound coming from another room and wondered just what it was. From what she saw in the city, she knew the technology of the Lilim was complex and to her at least, amazing to behold. In time she would learn it all, but she knew doing so would take time. Within moments, Shinji came out of the room holding a bowl that was steaming softly. Arael picked out a new scent in the room that suddenly overpowered the plain and homely smell of the apartment. Though she had never eaten before, her senses were none-the-less stirred into life by what he had brought her.

"Sorry it's so simple," he apologized. "Left over miso from last night. It should still be good though. If you'd like, there is a recipe for Tori that I've been meaning to try."

"That sounds enjoyable," she said. Though she didn't know what Tori was, a brief look at Shinji's surface thoughts told her it was a form of onion soup. Arael took the bowl carefully, noticing parts of it were very warm to the touch, and using the spoon she was given took a sip of the warm soup. Instantly her eyes widened as the subtle spices and flavors of the soup assaulted her taste buds. It was unlike anything she ever experienced before, and she felt an overwhelming urge to chug the entire bowl. But she knew if she did that, she would likely burn her throat and the taste would be gone too quickly. Instead she sipped carefully, taking in every bit of the flavor she could.

Shinji watched her drink the soup, and instantly felt even more sorry for her. She probably hadn't had anything real to eat in a while and yet she still ate slowly and carefully. He wondered if her body had weakened during the month she spent trying to find help. He couldn't imagine the horrible things she'd witnessed, and hardships she faced as a young girl on her own in a unforgiving world. He resolved that he would do everything he can to help her feel safe again.

"How is it Ayame?" he asked.

"It's very good," she said softly, trying not to sound too surprised or shocked that such sensations as taste were within the grasp of Lilim. "Did you make this?"

Shinji chuckled sheepishly with a hand behind his head. "Y-yeah," he said modestly. "It's a recipe I've been working on since I arrived in Tokyo-3."

Arael thought for a moment, realizing this was her chance to learn more about this boy. It took a few seconds to formulate how to go about it. She knew from her skims that random small talk about seemingly inane subjects was all part of their communication, a way to get others to feel comfortable around you, and she was about to try her hand at 'small talk'.

"So you haven't lived her your whole life?"

Shinji blinked a moment. "No. I lived far from here. The city was still being constructed when I was born. Um… do you know why this city was built?"

She shook her head no, wondering what she said that was wrong.

"Oh… I guess not everyone knew about it then. This city was built as a fortress against Angel attacks."

"Angels?" She asked innocently. "Aren't Angels good things? Why would you need to fight them?"

"I don't think they're really angels per se," he explained. "I think they are something else entirely, perhaps aliens. I know how crazy that sounds but in my opinion, a real angel wouldn't try to destroy us like this." His voice held a bit of masked resentment in it, and Arael took note of this. "And they wouldn't be like that…." The last part was almost a whisper.

"You sound as if you speak from experience," she noted. "I'd imagine everyone would go underground and hide during the attacks."

Shinji sighed. "You really aren't from around here. Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt to tell you… I've seen the attacks first hand, because I've fought the angels. You see, I'm the designated pilot of Evangelion Unit 01."

"Evangelion… the false spawn of the All-Father that the Lilim use to fight us…This child is a pilot? How can that be? He's…innocent!"

"You pilot it?" she said surprised. "I mean, I'd heard of EVA's but I assumed that you'd have to be older to control something like that."

"Only children born after The Second Impact can, at least that's what I've been told. They never really explained why that was to me."

"Goodness," she whispered. "I've heard stories about giant monster battles in Tokyo-3 but I thought they were just stories! I didn't know it was actually happening. Is that why there are so few people here?"

Shinji nodded. "Many left considering the damage done to the city from previous battles. A lot of good people died… and the people I care about keep getting hurt."

Shinji didn't know why he was so open with this stranger… something about her was comfortable though, not comfortable in the second mother Misato way or the odd relationship he's had with Rei kind of way. This was completely different… as if their meeting was destined. It was a thought that worried Shinji a little. He knew he wasn't in control of his own destiny, but was this meeting a good thing or a bad thing? He didn't know the answer to that, all he could do now was ride the tide and see how things turned out.

"I… I'm sorry," she replied. "This war has caused the Lilim much pain and sorrow. Up until today, I didn't know what those feelings were…but now…"

Shinji sighed, standing up and walking towards the window. "Nothing you could do," he replied. "Sometimes… sometimes I wish I never came to this city… sometimes I wish my father never called me here."

Arael raised her head. "Called? He's someone important in your organization?"

Shinji nodded, looking down after doing so. "My father is Ikari Gendo… he is The Supreme Commander of NERV, the organization that maintains the EVAs and is in charge of the safety of this city."

"That must be one of the people behind the subjugation of the All-Father. This poor child's father is one of the Lilim responsible for starting the war."

"I see… you couldn't refuse?"

Shinji shook his head no but kept his eyes outside. "I never even considered it when I got his letter. Seeing the power my father wields now though… I know what would have happened had I refused."

Arael shuddered as a mental image popped in her head of gruff looking men armed with killing implements alien to her and all wearing the same clothing. In her mind, they were forcing this poor child into a black vehicle of some kind, taking him to a dark room where a gruff looking man in red tinted glasses and folded hands covered in white gloves waited… She thought her imagination was getting the better of her, then suddenly she realized the truth… these weren't her thoughts, they were Shinji's.

"How am I seeing this? I shouldn't be able to unless I was probing his mind…"

Shinji's head rose up again and he turned towards her, looking very concerned. "Are you alright?" Shinji asked her.

He asked this despite there being no outward indication of her being uncomfortable, as if he simply knew something was bothering her. It seemed to her as if he was sensing her mental distress and reacting accordingly, an ability he should not possess.

"S-sorry," she apologized again. "I'm not feeling like myself I guess."

"Understandable," he replied. "If you wish to rest, I'll let you use my bed. I promise I won't disturb you." His mind followed that up with, "I hope she doesn't think I'm a pervert like Asuka does all the time. I wouldn't do anything like that."

Arael froze almost instantly. She knew that name… it was the first Lilim she tried to establish a link to, the one she was interfacing with just before the lance damaged her core. That girl must live here too. Arael knew she probably shouldn't overstay her welcome and avoid contact with the girl, but she also knew to try to escape so suddenly would only arouse suspicion… and at this point, she had no real intention of leaving this boy; he was the only thing keeping the chaos around her at bay.

"I couldn't impose like that," she replied. She didn't want to seem too easy about it either. Something told her that wouldn't be right.

"It's ok… really."

Arael paused a moment before replying. "Ok." She stood up handing her now empty bowl to Shinji.

"Let me show you the room," he said. He placed the bowl on the table for the moment and led Arael into the room. Arael looked in and saw that unlike some other rooms in this house, this one was just shy of Spartan. It was also quite small.

"It's not much but it is home," he replied on seeing her thoughtful expression as she considered the room.

"It's more than generous," she replied as she walked in.

"I'll leave you to it then. Rest well Ayame…"

"Thank you, Shinji-kun."

Shinji smiled thoughfully before leaving her in privacy. When he closed the shoji door, Arael sighed. Though he was further away now, extended contact seemed to have strengthened the range of his unique talent of shutting out psychic noise. She stripped out of her dress, leaving her in her bare skin and slipped into the covers. The warm sensation of soft cloth around her made her feel comfortable, and the scent of the boy was also enveloping her, intensifying the feeling.

"It seems we have become linked on some level… but how? Was it because he was the first Lilim to show me kindness after I became separated from the collective?"

That was a traumatic experience for her, the first part of her pain. The moment the lance pierced her core, she was torn from the Collective. The voices of her remaining siblings, Armisael and Tabris, went completely silent. Angels need their connections to each other to keep themselves balanced. Only Tabris, Angel of Free Will, seemed able to spend considerable time away from the collective without suffering any kind of side effects, likely due to his nature. But as Angels were dropping from the collective as they were dying, most of the Angels did seem to become less enthusiastic, though she didn't realize how it had affected them all.

Arael kept her pain buried so far that it wasn't until she arrived on Earth and turned herself into a Lilim that the barriers over her emotions had begun to crumble. Out of instinct and need, her soul latched onto the first kind hearted soul it could find. At least that's the excuse she was using to describe what was happening to her. While part of it might be true, she knew there had to be more too it then that…

…but what?

These thoughts followed her as she snuggled under the blankets, taking in the softness and warmth against her skin and letting the scent of Shinji permeate her senses as she drifted off into sleep for the first time.

Her dreams were anything but agreeable…

Checkered by the dawn, enslaved in life enthralling

Swept up by the mortal waste of my enslaved emotion

Agents of the cross in argentine frailty

Hopefully you'll stop him and delay the conquering angina

Hopefully you'll stop him and delay the conquering...

-Tristania, Sequel of Decay