Foreword: this one's actually a prequel of sorts to a project that's been rattling around in my head in one form or other for seven or eight years now. The main fic takes place several years after this, but there'd be a lot of backstory lost if I didn't do this one too, so…yeah, here we are. Hope nobody objects.
Needless disclaimer: still don't own Eva. Never have, never will.
How Do You Talk to an Angel?
by Elizar Naki
Chapter 1: "World According to Shinji"
Absence made the heart grow fonder. That was how the saying went, anyway. In essence, the saying meant that, the longer a person spent away from something, the more they came to appreciate that something when they were able to partake of it again. Of course, the concept only worked if the thing in question was something the person actually enjoyed. If the person found the something they were missing unappealing, the absence would always be too short.
Somehow, I doubt anyone's ever applied that saying to school, Shinji Ikari thought as he returned to class after far too short a semester break. So far, almost nobody else had shown up; even Hikari Horaki seemed to be taking her time getting to class for a change. For anyone else, Shinji wouldn't have found that unusual, but if the class rep was later than usual arriving, it probably meant something at least marginally interesting was going to happen.
Not that Shinji actually had anything against school. He actually had one of the highest GPAs in his grade, slightly below Hikari, above Mari, and usually a point or two off from Kensuke one way or the other. It was just…he wasn't really that passionate about school. He wasn't that passionate about anything, really—ever since he'd lost his mother to cancer a decade ago, and his father had basically turned his heart off to everyone around him, Shinji had pretty much just existed from moment to moment, not really caring that much about where any of it took him. School was okay-ish most of the time, while his home life was little more than a train wreck in progress. He enjoyed the time he spent practicing the cello, putting in the occasional bit of work on his writing, or cooking dinner and bento boxes for himself and the mostly-absent Gendo Ikari (even if he never expressed any gratitude for it), and he usually enjoyed the time he spent with his friends, but he wouldn't really call himself passionate about any of it.
Not that he had a whole lot of people he could call friends, either. In fact, he could count them on the fingers of one hand with a few to spare. Toji Suzuhara and Kensuke Aida, the jockstrap and military otaku/camera buff of the class, were probably the only two he'd call real friends. Hikari had sort of grafted herself onto their little trio once she and Toji had started dating, and while Shinji had nothing against her, they still didn't talk that much when they were on their own. He'd counted the rather bookish Mayumi Yamagishi as a decent enough friend, but she'd been distancing herself from their group ever since she and Kensuke had broken up last semester.
Then there was Mari Makinami. Her mother worked at the base his father ran, and he and Mari had met at his mother's funeral almost a decade ago. They'd quickly become friends, and at one time he would've called her his best friend. Then they'd hit junior high, and Mari's priorities had changed almost overnight. Being "popular" suddenly became the most important thing in the world to her, and Shinji found that Mari "The Illustrious One" Makinami no longer had time for her socially stunted childhood friend. That had hurt Shinji for a while, but once he saw the exceedingly shallow person she'd grown into, he found that he no longer minded being excluded from her clique-ish social circle.
That, for all intents and purposes, was it. He'd never been good at making friends—Toji had insisted on befriending Shinji after a misunderstanding had led to the jock giving him a black eye, and Kensuke had basically come along as part of the package. He knew other people in his class, of course, and he was polite enough with most of them if he ended up working with them on a project, but his extremely introverted ways kept things from ever being more than just…cordial. It was probably better that way anyway, Shinji had decided long ago; the fewer people he got close to, the less chance he had of one of them hurting him in the end.
"Yo! Shinji!" the aforementioned jock called out as he entered the room, Kensuke close behind with his ever-present camcorder recording the day's events for posterity (or blackmail, whichever seemed more appropriate). "Wassup, man? How was your break? Anything exciting happen?"
Shinji didn't even try to suppress the slight laugh he felt coming on at just how transparent Toji was being. "What do you want, Toji?" he asked with a grin.
"Want?" the burlier boy asked, acting surprised at Shinji's response. "What makes you think I want something?"
"You called him 'Shinji,'" Kensuke answered, still filming the scene for later. "Usually you call him 'Shin-man,' 'Shin-dude,' 'Prof,' or one of any number of nicknames you make up. You only call him 'Shinji' when you need him to help you with something."
"Alright, fine," Toji admitted with a frustrated growl. He hated being seen as predictable, but he had to admit that they had a point this time. "Me and Double-H's anniversary is coming up, and I was hoping you'd help me come up with something really special we could do."
"Well first off, you know she hates being called that," Shinji couldn't help but remind him. "Second, it's your relationship. Shouldn't you be the one coming up with this stuff?" Toji was like that most of the time, Shinji had noticed; he wasn't dumb by any stretch of the word—certainly not as dumb as he sometimes came across—but he rarely got motivated enough to do his own work, whether for class or in his relationship with Hikari. That was also why he had gotten into the advanced class with Shinji and the others but had some of the worst grades in the class.
"Yeah, but you're better at all this romantic stuff than me," Toji countered.
And yet ironically, I'm the only one of the three of us who's never had a date of his own, Shinji thought ruefully. He'd helped set Kensuke and Mayumi up, and he was almost constantly playing Cyrano to Toji's Christian (minus the unrequited love on his end of things, obviously), but he had yet to have a girl take any real interest in him. Some of them had flirted with him for a little while once they'd reached "that" age, but their interest had quickly faded, though whether that was due to a lack of genuine interest on their part or a lack of reaction on his, Shinji couldn't tell and only sort of cared. The girls his age were almost all too superficial for his tastes, and while he would've liked to have had someone of his own to use all the romantic ideas he kept passing off to his friends on, there really wasn't anyone he was interested in enough to even consider using them on.
"Alright, Toji," Shinji finally conceded with a sigh. "But you're really gonna owe me this time."
"Yeah, yeah, sure," Toji said, seemingly having already reached that conclusion. "Whatcha want this time? Two, three thousand yen?"
Shinji pretended to consider the question for a moment or two, taking the time to observe the classroom a little. More students had begun to file in after Toji and Kensuke's arrival, and almost the entirety of their class had arrived by now. Still no Hikari, though, Shinji noticed. Something was definitely up. "Well," he finally said, "there is that new Smash Bros. game that came out last week…"
"WHAT!" Toji exclaimed, drawing the attention of a couple of their classmates for a moment before they went back to their own pre-class discussions. "That's, like, 6500 yen!"
"Yeah," Kensuke said from behind his camcorder. "And this is a really special occasion you want his help with. Can't expect something for nothing in a case like this, y'know."
Blackmail, Shinji decided with a smile. Definitely blackmail today.
"Hmmph," the Osaka-born jock said, crossing his arms over his chest in frustration. "Traitors and extortionists, the both of ya. Fine, we can go get your game after school today—but you're helping me come up with something on the way to the store!"
"Pleasure doing business with you, Toji," Shinji said with a little laugh, "as always. Although," he added with a look around the class, "where is Hikari, anyway? Usually she'd be here by now."
"Dunno," Toji told him, taking a seat on top of his desk. "The teacher pulled her aside on our way into the building, said he had class business to discuss with her. Probably just some new rule they want her to enforce or something."
"Or it could be a new student," Kensuke threw in. "Oh, I hope it's another cute girl!"
"Yeah, like you'd have a shot if it was," Toji threw in.
"I would if the class Cupid helps me. And I've got enough saved up to cover whatever fee you think is appropriate," Kensuke countered, directing the last part to Shinji himself.
Oh brother, Shinji thought with a roll of his eyes. And I thought I was the lonely one here.
Before he could say anything, though, the door slid open, admitting their homeroom teacher into the room. Hikari wasn't far behind him. "STAND!" she directed the assembled class, taking charge as if she'd been there the whole time. "Bow! Take your seats." The rest of the class followed her instructions by rote at this point, putting their various conversations on hold for the time being and returning to their assigned seats. Not for the first time, Shinji marveled at how easily someone as diminutive and cutesy-looking as Hikari could take on the role of class representative with so few problems. Then again, he'd also seen firsthand that looks, in her case, were deceptive.
"Class, we have a new student joining us today," the teacher said once he was situated behind his desk. "Please do your best to make her feel welcome. Miss Horaki, please show her in."
"Yes, sir," Hikari said, returning to the door and whispering something to the girl waiting outside.
The announcement set off a predictable amount of whispering between Shinji's classmates, the guys (and a girl or two) hoping the new girl would be cute and single (and of their orientation), while the girls (and a guy or two) were hoping she'd be interested in joining their club. Shinji figured it didn't really matter what his new classmate was like since it wasn't likely to effect his daily routine that much; after all, one more classmate was just one more person for him to be cordial to when necessary but otherwise ignore and be ignored by most of the time. Nothing beyond that really mattered all that much to him.
Hikari returned to her seat, allowing the new girl entry into the room…at which point Shinji was forced to revise his opinion about how the class's newest addition would affect things for him. The new girl looked to be around his height, with short, unruly blue hair, brilliant red eyes, and skin so pale it nearly shone in the light. He normally didn't care that much about other people's appearances, but this girl was so stunningly beautiful that he actually found himself having trouble looking away, her unusual pigmentation only adding to the almost otherworldly beauty she possessed. At the same time, though, there was something in the girl's demeanor that also caught a part of Shinji's attention. Her expression appeared carefully neutral, but while he thought he could see something beneath that neutrality, it was hard to make out just what. Sadness, perhaps? Frustration? Confusion?
"Hello," the girl said when she reached the front of the class. "I'm Rei Ayanami. It's nice to meet you all." Her tone, like her expression, was carefully neutral, making it hard to tell if she really meant what she was saying or was simply being polite.
"Thank you, Miss Ayanami," the teacher told her. "Please take an empty seat so we can get started."
"Yes, sir," Ayanami replied, walking down an aisle of desks to find herself a seat. Shinji noticed her gaze shifting back and forth, seemingly taking in the classroom and its inhabitants. His breath caught as her crimson eyes locked with his sapphire ones for a moment—it might have been his imagination, but her gaze seemed to linger on him a moment longer than on the rest of their classmates—before she found herself a seat near the window, hanging her bag on the desk and proceeding to turn her attention outside.
Once again, the whispering commenced. Some of their classmates seemed to find Ayanami interesting by way of mysterious, while others seemed to think her weird-looking because of her abnormal hair and eye color, and still others began writing her off as "frigid" (along with several choice words that Shinji chose to ignore) due to the tone she'd introduced herself with. Shinji still couldn't keep his eyes off her. There was something about her that simply…drew him to her. He didn't know what yet, but he hoped he'd have the opportunity to find out.
Kensuke, meanwhile, watched all this with mild amusement. He thought the new girl was hot, too, but Shinji's reaction to her was far more interesting. He immediately decided that Shinji deserved to make his own attempts for this Ayanami girl's affections. After all, he so rarely expressed an interest in any of the girls their age, and he was being so obvious about it this time that it just had to be something more than simple teenage hormones, and Kensuke wasn't about to do anything to spoil that.
Toji, on the other hand, wasn't nearly so observant. "Man, what's her deal?" he whispered to the still-entranced Shinji from his seat behind him. "Looks like this one's a real ice queen, huh Shin-man?" Shinji, of course, had too much of his attention focused elsewhere to respond, which only served to confuse the burlier boy. "Shin-man? Shinji? Yo, Prof!"
"Huh?" Shinji asked, having finally registered that Toji was saying something to him. "Oh, uh, sure, you can borrow my notes during break." He then returned his attention to Ayanami, leaving Toji to scratch his head in confusion.
Outside of the new distraction in his class life, the rest of the school day went by relatively uneventfully. Shinji, Toji, and Kensuke left as soon as they were able and headed for the local game store, where Toji ended up using most of his allowance for the month buying Shinji his new game. Shinji, in turn, offered his services as cook/waiter at a private dinner for the jock and Hikari at Toji's place. Toji figured he could get his dad and little sister out of the house for a night pretty easily, especially if he explained the situation, but he still needed a way to keep Hikari distracted for the day while Shinji got things ready. Since they hadn't come up with any ideas for this by the time Shinji had to head home, he just told his friend not to worry about it yet; they had until the weekend to work out the details of the plan, after all.
Once home, Shinji set about getting dinner ready, switching the television on for background noise. He had a few shows he liked to watch, but none of them were on just yet, so he contented himself with listening to the news while he cooked. There was almost nothing in the way of good news, he noted sardonically. There hardly ever was; good news didn't bring in ratings, it seemed.
Shortly before he'd finished dinner, the door creaked open again, admitting Gendo Ikari into the apartment. He and Shinji exchanged cursory glances—the closest thing to a greeting that either of them was usually able to manage—before the elder Ikari took a seat at the dining room table, picking up the morning paper and resuming reading it where he'd left off before going to work at the base. A minute or two later, Shinji had finished dinner, and he began to bring the food and dishes to the table. His father didn't help him at all—he never did, and Shinji had long since stopped expecting it…though he at least made the effort to dish up his own food. "Itadakimasu," Gendo said as he folded his hands, the first word either of them had spoken since he'd gotten home. Shinji repeated the gesture a moment later, at which point the two of them began to eat.
"How was school today?" Gendo asked a minute or two later, the newspaper he still had open showing just how much he was actually paying attention.
"It was okay," Shinji replied. He knew, of course, that his father was only asking because it was expected of him, but he didn't object since it was the closest he was likely to get to having a father who actually cared about him.
"Anything interesting happen?"
"Not really, although we did have a new student join us today." This, naturally, brought thoughts of said new student back into Shinji's mind, causing him to space out slightly.
"Oh?" Gendo said, his grip on his paper tightening in surprise. "What was she like?"
Shinji was too busy daydreaming to notice his father's use of a pronoun he shouldn't have known to use, just as he'd missed the crinkling of the newspaper when Gendo had gripped it a little tighter, and he only barely noticed that this was more interest than the elder Ikari usually expressed in his son's day. "She's…quiet, I guess. She spent most of the day staring out the window, and she barely talked to anyone, even when they asked her something." Shinji wasn't really sure what to make of that. Ayanami hadn't exactly been shy in the brief conversations their classmates had tried to start, and while she hadn't really been rude either, her responses had been far more concise than was normal for a girl her age. Maybe she's even more socially stunted than me, Shinji thought, part of his mind wondering how that was even possible.
"Hmm," was all Gendo had to say on the subject. Shinji had heard that grunt enough times in the past to know that their brief father-son time was over. When he'd been younger, he'd tried turning the conversation around and asking his father how work had gone, but the most he'd ever gotten were vagaries like "Things are proceeding ahead of schedule" or "One of our projects hit a slight snag." Usually, he'd just been told "That's classified" and that was the end of it.
Of course, Shinji understood that his father's work was important, but in all honesty, who was he likely to leak any of the Project's major secrets to? Mari? Her mom would likely tell her any secrets Shinji would be privy to before he could blab them himself, even if they had still been on speaking terms.
Hikari? She never seemed interested enough in stuff like that to do more than listen politely.
Mayumi? They never talked anymore, either.
Toji? It was debatable whether or not he'd understand half of what he'd be told about Gendo's work, anyway, or even make the effort to understand the other half.
…Okay, Shinji could see him being a potential problem. As hardcore as he was about all things military, Kensuke would probably hound him relentlessly if he even suspected Shinji of hiding any juicy secrets about his father's work—most of which would likely end up on any and every chat board the otaku visited within a matter of hours. Fortunately for both of them, Shinji only knew marginally more than the public at large about the true state of the world and the role Project NERV played in it.
Fifteen years ago, a micro-meteor traveling at nearly the speed of light had struck the South Pole, flash-melting the entirety of Antarctica. The gargantuan tsunamis caused by the explosion, along with the massive coastal flooding that followed, resulted in the deaths of more than two billion people in a matter of minutes. The Earth had also been knocked off its axis, locking different parts of the world into various seasons—Japan, for example, was now in a state of perpetual summer—and wreaking havoc on the world's agricultural centers. Global war broke out shortly after what had come to be called Second Impact; some nations began fighting each other over the world's remaining resources, while others simply took advantage of the chaos to renew old ethnic or religious grudges. By the time the Valentine Treaty had been signed nearly five months later, the world's human population had been halved, and thousands of plant and animal species had become nearly or completely extinct.
But humanity as a whole refused to give up and die. Through hard work and perseverance, mankind managed to come back from the brink of destruction, rebuilding the tatters of their society into more or less what it had been before Second Impact, even managing to make impressive technological strides in the meantime. And now, as a testament to human ingenuity and mastery of science and technology, mankind was building a massive mobile space station with which to venture out into the cosmos and, ideally, discover new worlds to colonize in order to secure humankind's place in the universe.
That, at least, was the official party line, and while a great many people knew more than what the governments were telling them, most of the world's knowledge of the purpose behind Project NERV ended there. What they weren't told, though, was just how much damage Second Impact had really caused.
For starters, the world's natural resources were drying up. That in and of itself was no surprise, except that after Second Impact they seemed to have begun drying up faster than before. Massive deposits of oil, coal, and natural gas began to disappear faster than their consumption rate warranted while others simply vanished overnight with no explanation, and while enough remained to keep the world running even up to now, enough of a scarcity had been created to cause a serious shift toward alternative fuel research.
On top of that, the mineral deposits in the soil had also begun to suffer. The massive climate shift Second Impact caused had forced the world to abandon several of its useless former breadbaskets in favor of newer, recently fertile landscapes, but that fertility wasn't lasting as long as it should have. Scientists were doing everything they could to keep the soil fertile, from standard crop rotation to mineral ultra-rich dusting solutions, but while all of it was helping to some degree, none of it was having the effect it should have.
The most dangerous problem, though, was a new chemical compound the meteor strike had introduced into the atmosphere. Dubbed Armisite by some Christian scientist with a sense of humor, the chemical was odorless, tasteless, colorless, and had no direct effect on human physiology. Indirectly, though, the medical profession had noted a slow but steady decrease in the average birth rate ever since Second Impact, and Armisite had been judged relatively early on to be the cause (once it had been detected, anyway). Scientists had devoted much of their efforts to finding a way to eradicate the foreign compound from the air, as well as studying those couples who successfully managed to become parents post-Second Impact in the hopes of finding a solution, but so far results had been minimal at best. Methods had been found to eliminate the Armisite to some degree, but those methods were all either too costly and/or inefficient to be implemented on a global scale or were generally fatal to those involved. As for the post-2I parents, scientists had yet to find any sort of common factor or special immunity to explain their success—as far as anyone could tell, some couples simply "got lucky" while others didn't, and the ratio of lucky to unlucky couples was shifting towards the unlucky side at an alarming rate. The world's governments, meanwhile, were doing what they could to increase the odds in humanity's favor—reduced age of consent, residential and financial incentives for young couples to start families, laws rendering things like birth control, abortions, and homosexuality as varying levels of criminal offense in some countries…Shinji had even heard of more desperate nations instigating enforced breeding programs or more lax definitions of what constituted incest—but again, the effect these measures had on the situation as a whole was marginal at best.
In short, Second Impact had turned the planet itself against its human occupants. Fossil fuels and other natural resources were expected to be completely depleted within thirty to fifty years. The soil's mineral deposits were projected to dry up before the turn of the century. And even if mankind managed to adapt to these adversities, the Armisite saturating the atmosphere was expected to render the human race incapable of reproducing within three to five generations, depending on whose study was being cited.
But while most of the world's leaders and scientific experts had attempted to find ways around these problems, it had been Gendo and Yui Ikari—recently parents themselves—who had presented a more pragmatic solution: if the planet had turned against humanity, then perhaps it was time to abandon it in favor of a new home. To that end, they had proposed the construction of the New Earth Reconnaissance Vessel (referred to by most as NERV-1), a massive mobile colony station (whose residents would undergo the safest Armisite purification treatments available) that would ferry the best and brightest the world had to offer from nearly every field of study, along with a random selection of civilians, on a journey across the cosmos to find humanity a new place to live. Once successful, NERV-1's crew would tie their communication systems into the station's FTL drive (the method supposedly existed, even if Shinji didn't understand the science behind it) and send back word of their success. After that, Earth's remaining population would be transported to their new home by the New Earth Relocation Vessels (NERV-2 and up, as needed), which were being constructed simultaneously with NERV-1 but at a slightly lower priority.
Though viewed as cold-hearted and even unpatriotic by some, Project NERV eventually won the support of the UN. Backed by a small group of wealthy individuals calling themselves SEELE, the project entered full-scale planning in 2003. Shortly into the planning stage, though, Yui was diagnosed with melanoma, and even though she received treatments for it, her condition continued to deteriorate. She continued to work as diligently as possible until the cancer overwhelmed her two years later.
Everything changed for Shinji after that. In the wake of his wife's death, Gendo Ikari became cold, distant, and generally more interested in his work than his son. He was never overtly abusive, and he did what he could to provide for Shinji; he just wasn't there to be a father for the boy when he needed one the most. While the elder Ikari oversaw the project that would hopefully become mankind's salvation, his son was left to fend for himself, forced to find ways to cope with his mother's death on his own (at a far younger age than anyone should ever have to go through something like that, especially alone) in addition to keeping things together at home. He became responsible with his studies because it was expected of him, learned to cook and clean up around the apartment simply because he had to, played the cello in the school orchestra and wrote a few short stories on the side because he'd discovered a knack for them and because they earned him praise from his teachers and classmates…but none of it really mattered that much to him, because none of it got the attention of the one person whose attention he truly wanted.
When Gendo's work took him too far from home for too long, Shinji was left in the care of Misato Katsuragi, a young lieutenant in the NERV Defense Force who was being groomed for the position of Tactical Operations Director. Shinji felt bad for her having to take care of him at first, despite the violet-haired twenty-something telling him repeatedly that she didn't mind the company. After his first visit, though, his opinion of the lieutenant shifted quite a bit. On the one hand, she was incredibly attractive and seemed to enjoy spending time with the younger Ikari, whether it be simply talking, watching TV, or playing games on whichever console Shinji brought with him on any particular visit. On the other hand, she was an incredible slob whose lifestyle made Shinji wonder just how much of a death wish the older woman really had. Her apartment always seemed to be in shambles when Shinji arrived, and her diet consisted almost entirely of snacks, badly-prepared instant food, and beer. Shinji was basically forced to do pretty much all the cooking and cleaning during his stays there, though this was primarily self-imposed as he wasn't sure how long his health or his sanity would last under Misato's normal living conditions. On top of that, she usually pranced around the apartment in short shorts and loose tank tops while off-duty—and while the hormonal part of Shinji's brain didn't really mind this, the rest of him wondered what kind of woman would dress like that with an adolescent boy living in the same space. Their relationship gradually developed from wary cohabitants into a solid friendship heavy on the teasing (mostly on Misato's part, and especially on the subject of girls), but it was only by way of her "private personality" that the lieutenant didn't become Shinji's first crush.
It was also through Misato that Shinji got to know a handful of other members of the NDF. Dr. Ritsuko Akagi, Misato's faux-blonde college roommate, served as the interim head of NERV's technical/scientific branch; the position had been left empty when Ritsuko's mother, Naoko Akagi, committed suicide seven or eight years prior by throwing herself off a ledge and onto one of the three MAGI supercomputers she'd programmed, though Ritsuko was expected to be chosen as her mother's official successor before NERV-1's launch date. Ryoji Kaji, Misato's on-again-off-again boyfriend, currently worked as an operative in Section 2, NERV's security/intelligence department, though Misato often pointed out how likely a candidate he would be for head of that department due to his knack for duplicity and, in her own words, "shoving his nose where it didn't belong." Rounding out the primary bridge crew were Shinji's father, who held the rank of Commander of the NDF; Vice Commander Kozo Fuyutsuki, a former professor at the college Shinji's parents had attended; Makoto Hyuga, a bespectacled private who, despite moonlighting as a secondary operative for Section 2 on top of his bridge duties, wasn't especially subtle about his crush on Misato; Shigeru Aoba, a long-haired techie who also played guitar in a local rock band; and Maya Ibuki, a computer operative trained under Ritsuko herself, though some of her fellow bridge crew had a running bet going as to whether her admiration for Dr. Akagi was purely professional or far more personal than she let on.
Shinji's musings were cut off when he heard his father's chair scraping across the floor as he got up, a further reminder that their time together as a family—no matter how limited or superficial—was over. "I'm returning to work now," he told his son needlessly. "Be sure to—"
"Clean up the dishes, get my homework done, brush my teeth, don't stay up too late, don't burn the place down," Shinji cut in as he started clearing the table, knowing his father's half-hearted attempts at being a real parent by heart. "Yeah, yeah, I know."
Gendo stared at his son for a moment, his expression unreadable as always. For all Shinji knew, his father was seething at his slightly rebellious attitude, or possibly was just surprised by it; then again, for all the emotion Gendo was showing, he might actually have been proud of his son for remembering to be responsible in his father's absence. Even though he'd craved his father's attention and praise as a child, he was beginning to reach the point where he simply didn't care anymore. A moment later, it no longer mattered, as Gendo turned and exited the apartment again, leaving Shinji alone for the rest of the night.
A/N: I was originally gonna have another school scene after all that, but I think this chapter's long enough. I'll be working on the next chapter of this and Ayanami Chronicles at the same time after this, and unless you guys show a significant interest in one over the other, whichever one gets done first will get updated first. 'Til then!