The Gauntlet, Part I
This is the Gundam Kaizer speaking, and this is a crossover between Neon Genesis Evangelion and Ghost Rider. I have now FINALLY seen the Evangelion anime (and The End of Evangelion, AND Rebuild, but notDeath and Rebirth). As you know, there have already been some MAJOR CHANGES made to the storyline. Nutshell: Yui comes back to life, Shinji's a Ghost Rider, and is also Oedipus.
In this chapter, Shinji gets some bonding time with Yui, and Mephisto provides lots of exposition, along with some humor.
Also, Cliff/Mephisto's theme song is "Vortex" by Megadeth. It's the only thing I could find that was both sufficiently metal AND had a beat/melody/riff/whatever-you-call-it-because-I'm-an-author-not-a-musician that fit him rather well.
ALSO, I AM VERY, VERY, VERY SORRY FOR MIXING THIS UP WITH B:FW CHP2! Please forgive me!
In the young Shinji's bedroom…
Once Yui Ikari had awoken from her peaceful slumber, she immediately observed three things. First, she could actually move and was inside a somewhat familiar bedroom, indicating that she was not, for some reason, within Evangelion Unit-01. Second, she was, for some reason, not wearing anything. Third, her son (who looked much older than she remembered) was underneath and clinging to her for dear life.
Bearing the analytical mind that she did, Yui set about prioritizing these three details at once, and started by hugging her son back. "It's okay, Shinji. I'm right here."
Smiling from ear to ear, tears streaming down his face, Shinji said, "He really did it! Mephisto said he'd bring you back and he did!"
Frowning a bit, but making sure not to let her baby see it, she pondered, Mephisto? As in Mephistopheles, from the Faust myth? What's going on here?
Looking around, she noted that the room was almost horrifically sparse for a child of Shinji's age (not that she knew how much timed had passed anyway), the only decorations of any sort being a Kamen Rider-themed calendar – with the current month being Kamen Rider Faiz – and a digital alarm clock next to his bed. Moving her gaze to the other side of the room, Yui saw a bookshelf against the far wall that held almost nothing but school texts, the only exception being a few well-used volumes of a manga she didn't recognize, though it was titled Mirai Nikki. Next to it was the debut volume of another series, called Soul Eater.
Deciding that broaching the subject of this 'Mephisto' character immediately would be in poor taste, she prepared to take an equally awkward but (hopefully) less painful route to bonding with her son, when there came a rapping and a tapping at the door.
"Special wardrobe delivery for one Yui Ikari, courtesy of Muspelheim Incorporated! Shinji my man, if you'd be so kind as to slightly open the door for me so I can hold out these clothes for your mother to grab and presumably wear, I'd appreciate it."
In her confusion, Yui absentmindedly let Shinji out of her embrace, and her son obediently went to the door and did as directed, cracking open the door just enough for an arm in black leather to slip through with a hangar and a box.
'What the hell – wait a second, Muspelheim is the closest thing that Norse Mythology has to the Judeo-Christian Hell, and the speaker had some sort of underlying echo to his voice…'
Reaching out to take the offered clothes, Yui coldly asked, "Am I to presume that you're the so-called 'Mephisto' my son mentioned?"
Chuckling benevolently on the other side of the door, the stranger replied, "That would indeed be me. Although I can't figure out where you get the 'so-called' part, as I am indeed the real deal. Or at least the most current one, at any rate. Anyway, Mephisto is more of a title than anything else, as I prefer to go by my original name, Cliff. Or, in full, Clifford Byron Mustaine II. No relation to the main vocalist/guitarist of Megadeth, sadly."
Then, as Yui got dressed (Shinji did have the sense to turn around while his mother changed, though there wasn't really anything he hadn't seen in the past five minutes or so), Mephisto evidently started talking to himself as he said, "Now then, while Yui certainly is quite familiar with putting on female clothes, and I'm certain a number of the readers are too, we want to keep the fanservice under control for a while yet, so it'll have to be glossed over. In the interests of maintaining good taste, I'll make no mention of Yui's undergarments – and I can justify that by explaining that I don't know anything about them either, other than the fact that they are indeed present. I am, however, aware that she's got a knee-length dark blue skirt (non-magical), sandals, a somewhat form-hugging red tee shirt, and a brown longcoat of the sort you'd expect from cliché detective movies. The whole thing ends up as kind of a cross between 'Badass Bookworm' and 'Hot Scientist'. And yes, I frequent TVTropes. You should see the Netherworld, we got free Wi-Fi all over the place. Now then, at this point, Yui should be finished getting dressed and I should be able to enter without the risk of seeing something that Shinji'll gut me for nearer the end of the story, but I'm going to wait until I'm invited in anyway."
Opening the door entirely, Yui Ikari was indeed fully dressed in the aforementioned attire as she asked with a glare, "Just what on earth are you talking about? And what's going on here, anyway?"
And then, her expression changing from mild scorn to incredulity, she continued, "And… is that a mullet?"
Shrugging, Cliff replied, "Nothing you need to worry about, ma'am. Just talking to myself about business for beings on a higher plane of existence – like myself, demigods and quasideities, fanfic authors, the aristocracy of Hell, and so on. I'll fill you in on the events of the prologue chapter while Shinji's at school, a place which he needs to leave for at, say, the end of this conversation."
Narrowing his eyes, he added, "And to answer your other question, YES this is a mullet. Is that a problem?"
Raising her hands to the ceiling, Yui shouted, "It's – what, 2010 now? What sane person goes around with a MULLET and expects to be taken seriously? A MULLET, for crying out loud!"
Indignant, Cliff pretentiously shook his hair and said, "Hey hey hey, mullets are cool! Besides, even if you're not flexible enough to think so, I'M THE KING OF HELL, DAMNIT! If I want a goddamn mullet, I think I've earned the right to have a goddamn mullet! Besides, who said I was sane in the first place? Name and place of residence, I'll set him straight."
Looking over at the clock and observing that it was indeed a school day for Shinji – a Monday, to be precise – Yui relented and sent Shinji off to school. Normally, she would have walked him there, but a) she didn't know where itr was in relation to their current location, b) a strange woman suddenly dropping him off at his school would probably raise a lot of unwanted attention, and c) she had matters to discuss with the alleged King of Hell.
Once Shinji was on the street, hurriedly running to his education, Cliff began, "Let's go for a walk, shall we?"
Then, leadiung the way outside, Cliff allowed the recent resurrectee to ask questions at her own pace. "Now before we begin, I have a few rules. One, no Netherworld politics. Two, you may not trash talk my mullet. Three, you can ask about pretty much anything else, other than those two points that I mentioned. Now, shoot."
Frowning, Yui began with the most pressing question. "All right then, who are you exactly? You claim to be a demon called Mephistopheles. Can you prove it to me?"
Smirking, Mephisto turned around and, while walking backwards, said, "Well for one thing, you're alive in a more conventional sense than you were, you're self-aware, and currently reunited with your son. How much more evidence do you need?"
Glaring, Yui scolded, "That doesn't necessarily mean that you did it."
Head falling a bit with his spirits, Cliff replied, "So in other words, you want me to show you some power. Sorry, but I can't. Here, on Earth, my power is greatly limited. I can't use my powers just willy-nilly. No, seriously. If I manifest in this world, I'm essentially a normal human – the only caveats being that I'm still immortal, and that I can use my other powers under very, very special conditions. I can't use magic – well, magic isn't really the BEST word, but it's the closest – to take anything for myself without paying for it, and I can't use it to benefit anyone else without taking something in return. You can't just take a little of column B and a little of column C, Yui. Magic A is Magic A. It was a restraint placed on the previous Mephisto, so that he couldn't take mortal souls without giving them something in return. Of course, being the evil bastard that he was, he'd still find ways to screw them over afterwards. Even though I'm a lot nicer and generally better than he was, the Living Tribunal won't lift the restrictions. And while it sucks, I admit that it's for a good reason – if I can erase the old Mephisto, then who's to say another evil one won't be able to erase me? Anyway, here, I only really have the power of compromise, which sucks."
Eyes blazing with fury, Yui demanded, "So then you made some sort of deal with my son?"
With his face in shadow, "Hey, you see a little kid alone – in the dark and in the world – asking why his mother left him, could you bring yourself to friggin' ignore him? You died somehow, and so I offered to bring you back, but the nature of my powers forced me to exact a price from him in exchange. If I had my way, there wouldn't be an orphan in the world – I'd bring all the happy families back together, free of charge, but I can't. I may be the King of Hell, but I don't like seeing innocent people suffer."
Crying now, he continued, "Without even a moment's hesitation, Shinji sold me his soul to have you back, even AFTER I told him what it meant. Even knowing that he'll rarely have a moment's peace, that he'll suffer time and time again, that he'll serve as my enforcer for a decade or two… it doesn't matter to him. YOU are more important to that kid than the entire world. How could I not do everything I can to help him?"
Laughing, but more in despair than in mirth, he concluded, "I'm friggin' pathetic. I mean, just look at me. All the power in the world, and I can't use it to help even ONE person without making them suffer for it. The things that people have suffered because I tried to help them... make me lie awake at night sometimes. The only reason I still do it is because I can't make myself stop trying to help, and because I have to make sure that someone who genuinely TRIES to ruin lives doesn't take my place."
Surprised to find herself feeling sympathy for the devil, Yui asked, "Well, is there any way that you COULD use your full power in this realm?"
Regaining his composure, Cliff answered, "There is exactly one way I can use the full extent of my power in this dimension – someone has to perform a ritual to summon me. Even though my power in that situation doesn't have any restrictions on it, I still can't do anything without the summoner's approval. But to command all that power, the summoner must pay a high price indeed: thirteen sinners of the worst kind, and a virgin soul – that is to say, pure of heart – freely given. The process is actually somewhat common knowledge in the occult, but almost nobody ever uses it. The fact that prospective summoners have trouble meeting the sacrifice requirement is one of the main reasons why. The fact that I drive insane anybody black-hearted enough to even try it probably has something to do with it too."
Trying to get back to her original train of thought, Yui then asked, "Okay then. Temporarily accepting that you can resurrect the dead, how is that possible in my case? I was actually still alive, in a way."
Nodding with a smile as the conversation went back into more comfortable territory, Mephisto replied, "Normally, I would just pluck the soul out of whatever afterlife it's in, restore the body to its condition at the time of death (in perfect health, of course), and reunite them. You, though, were indeed a special case. Because your soul was actually still in this world, I could skip that part – I just need the body and soul to be in the same dimension; even if someone's soul is on the other side of the planet, as long as it has some sort of connection to the body, life is still possible. However, you didn't have a body for me to restore, so instead I simply made a new one out of raw materials. Given the… artificial nature of your body, and that you have an abnormal bond to your soul, I think it's a bit more accurate to classify you as a homunculus than as a human. Don't worry, you still have human form, and physiologically you function the exact same way you did before your death, the only differences are that you don't age and your body automatically repairs any damage inflicted upon it."
Nodding, and somewhat surprised that she was taking this so well, Yui then asked, "I think I can accept that. Any reason why you resurrected me naked?"
Abruptly turning around to hide a minor blush, Cliff replied, "A number of reasons, actually. 1) the plot required it for reasons best left to Sigmund Freud, 2) the readers wanted fanservice, even if it wasn't explicit, 3) I'm a lazy ass and couldn't be bothered to craft clothing out of the elements, and 4) I found it amusing. At least I delivered you some nice threads the next morning, though, give me that much credit."
"Indeed you did. The thought of a demon lord shopping for women's clothing, though, gives me pause."
Shocked, Mephisto said, "You think I went shopping for your clothes? Of course not! I'M THE KING OF HELL, DAMNIT! When faced with a task I don't feel ready for, I delegate! In this instance, to a succubus!"
"You had a succubus shop for my clothes?"
Proud of himself, Cliff nodded.
Yui, however, was confused as she asked, "Not that I'm complaining, but how did you convince a literal sex demon to get me a wardrobe this… tasteful?"
Smirking, Mephisto said, "As I keep saying, I'm the King of Hell. When I give someone a direct order – which isn't all that often, really – they obey it or risk a brutal punishment."
"But how the hell do you punish a sex demon who's into every single fetish at once?"
"Two words: Enforced. Abstinence."
"That's… actually rather inventive."
The odd pair was, at this point, sitting on a bench.
After a few minutes, Yui asked, "You said something earlier about my son being your enforcer. What does that mean?"
Sighing, Cliff explained, "By selling his soul to me for a gift – in this case, you – Shinji effectively volunteered himself to be the Ghost Rider, a spirit of vengeance that hunts down the souls of the wicked and sends them to Hell. In other words, he's my superpowered bounty hunter. Fortunately, though, since your soul was already in this world, I was able to fudge the terms of the deal a bit. Normally, a Ghost Rider serves for life, but since I had to do less work to bring you back than I normally would, Shinji only has to serve temporarily. If he goes at the pace of the average Rider, it'll be around twenty years, but that's far from life given how young he is. But if he takes to his role with gusto, and can distinguish himself as an example to future Riders, then his term will shorten. It's like drafting a kid for the Vietnam War, but everyone's in it based on merit. The best I can hope for is that he'll make it through with minimal trouble, and yet in order to retire early, he needs all the trouble he can get. The whole thing sucks, really, but at least he's happier now."
Frowning, Yui said, "Damnit. So if I want my son out of danger, he has to be in as much danger as possible first? That's so fucked up."
"I know. At this point, sadly, the only other thing I can really do is start teaching him about his powers."
Sighing, Yui thought for a few moments before asking, "In that case, is there anything I can do?"
A small smile coming to Mephisto's shadowed visage, he replied, "Just do what comes naturally – be there for him. You are his reason to exist. Raise him as you would have, make damn sure he never crosses a line he shouldn't, and never let him forget just how beautiful life really is."
There are reasons that I gave Shinji the manga that I did. I will leave it at that.
Beyond that, I'm sorry that Mephisto/Cliff dominates so much of the dialogue, but, well… he's a ham, and I wanted to try and get some characterization and exposition out of the way. There was originally going to be a lot more stuff in this chapter, but I decided to end it here, largely because I like keeping my chapters at a somewhat constant length, and I don't normally like getting longer than this.
Also, for fans of Devourer, I have a poll on my user page, in which you should vote.