Disclaimer: This One (Toriano Flacko) Does not own NGE, Beelzebub, Red Robin, or any other franchise currently in existence.

03: Cloudy Skies

"Once upon a time, in a faraway land, there was a barbaric, ruthless, defiant, demon-like bastard who thought nothing of his fellow man..."

In the middle of a mostly-abandoned city in an almost-empty country, on a continent virtually void of humanity in what could be called an "almost dead" world, a lone, imposing figure stumbles through the gates of what was once Ishiyama High, then Demon High, then, most recently, Ishiyama-15.

As the father figure of Satan's youngest son looks over the remains of his old school, he can't help feeling that he's been through something like this before. If the reason for his confusion came into question, the fact that he hadn't slept for the past few days could be accepted as an excuse.

Still, when he turns around to see half the city leveled in a similar fashion to the school, he remembers just why it looks familiar and-

Hey! What the hell are you doing here? This site ain't open to the public yet!

Huh? The hell? There were other survivors?

Did you hear me, moron? Or do you really wanna have us take over your story?

Chill out, dude, we were just-

Wrong place, wrong time, get the hell out!

Okay, okay, we're going... asshole.

(69)_(69)

Miles away from anywhere in general, in the lower west-side of nowhere, on the coast of reality and the shores of dreams, a form rises from the red sea. It is a bipedal life form, thus a mammal, as fish still haven't developed the constitution to withstand being submerged in LCL without mutating, nor the ability to float, hover, or spontaneously grow functional legs.

A near-nonexistent, air-thin layer of stringy follicles cover nothing in confidence, spread over most of the body from the neck down and only noticeable if one stared, barring strengthened eyesight. On the head, instead, is a mane of brown hair, normally tame and straight, but now puffing up like a cat's tail for no obvious reason beyond possible shock and exposure to moisture and a tepid climate.

Wide, dark-green eyes blink for the first time since returning to human form, she takes her first breaths into her lungs, and slowly but surely, she comes to her full height. All 5'1" of her, considering the absence of high heels or her uniform shoes.

For a few moments, the woman is disconcerted about a few things: why am I nude? Why am I standing in LCL? Where is everybody? Am I under the influence of perspective altering drugs? Why am I standing outside, naked, and waist-deep in LCL? What time is it? Why do I smell smoke? What happened? And why am I nude?

She covers her chest slowly, casually with one arm, while taking in her surroundings with the gaze of a hawk, and ascertains that she is alone before she begins walking for the shore. She doesn't run or skip, feeling the rocks and mutated coral beneath her feet and knowing she's more likely to fall on her face and hurt herself if she rushes things.

Besides that, this could all be a drug-induced illusion that the JSSDF had taken to using on NERV personnel in their invasion (oh, right, that's what happened...), and running anywhere could really fuck up her day with a brick wall. Ooooor a couple of rounds of leaden slugs clearing a path through her chest (and doesn't that just sound delightful?).

Or, assuming that she wasn't tripping out on tear gas and this was reality, she might trip on a sharp rock, poking holes into her legs in the fall, and maybe hit her head on yet another rock when she tries to recoil away from the pain, conveniently stripping her of the presence of mind to breathe properly as she falls under the waves. Which is redundant, since-

"What?" She stops, looking around before tilting her head and squinting as something leaks out of her ear in a steady stream. "... No, there's no way. I have no conscience, I'm just hearing things. Besides, I don't skip... whatever."

She shakes her head when the stream slows, then drips to a stop, and makes her way to the white, sandy beaches of the shore. Once there and taking in the leafless trees, she is hit by a pang of hunger, so she turns around and promptly sits on a rock slightly bigger than her butt to think. Her intent, as of that moment, is formed into steps:

1) Find food.

2) Figure out where I am.

3) Debate with self about what I'm doing here.

4) Find more food.

5) Ascertain whether or not I'm actually dead and this is some sort of limbo or at least get an explanation for what happened, preferably without being chased around by smoke monsters and polar bears.

6) Locate ice cream to deal with the trauma the above is guaranteed to cause.

7) Back to what I'm doing here.

8) Decide whether or not lack of clothes will hinder or help along with social life.

In that. Exact. Order.

Then sunlight hits the less submerged half of the super-sized, decaying face of the First Child, which gives her a wide-eyed stare from at least a mile out in the red sea, and her intent is derailed. Choking on a gasp, she jumps up and away from the vision, tries to gain footing on the rock she was just sitting on, fails, and somehow manages to flip over backwards, landing headfirst on the right-angle edge of yet another rock.

In her eyes, the world turned on a horizontal dime, interrupted by a sickening crunch and sharp pain in the back of her head, moments before her eyesight dimmed.

And the sun continues to creep over the hills in the distance. A new day.

And Lilith smiles.

-^-0-^-

"Soooo..." She scratches her cheekbone as she examines the wooden cabinets above the sink, the ceiling light, the crack in the corner... anything but the ice pack Shinji holds over the baseball-sized knot on his forehead. Or the darkening bruises spotting his arms and back. Or the dented pan on the counter. Or the towel that barely covers the space between his waist and his knees.

Or the blank stare that he's been giving her for the past ten minutes. She tries again to explain herself, drawing on the heat she used to have behind her logic when yelling at him, as she clears her throat.

"Well, it's not like it's my fault, right?" It totally was, no matter how she twisted it. "How was I supposed to know it was you in the shower?" Besides the part where he was the only one around both times she had been awake before, and if she actually thought about it, she could remember him talking to her... a lot. "All I knew was, there was somebody I didn't know doing something suspicious in the other room."

"Well... that may be true..." He bought it? She sweat-drops as he rubs his nose. "But still. You should have been able to tell it was me after you got a fifteen hit combo on my face. I never wanna wake up like that again, I swear."

"Uh... well..." You counted? I mean, think, Asuka, think! You didn't get through college using your body like everyone else did! "... At that point, really, your face looked more like raw meat than anything, so..." Plausibility! You can't deny my opinion! Even if I am digging a hole in my own guilt, you can't prove it! Ha!

He takes a moment from glaring to yawn, and she shivers at the grinding crackle his jaw makes. I mean... even though I feel like apologizing now, I mean, damn...

"Even after that," he grumbles, rubbing his eyes. "I don't think you had to knee me in the gut and do an orbital drop-kick on my 'nads. Just sayin'." She feels the beginnings of a rage tic forming at her temple, even as she turns to the sink to avoid looking at him altogether.

"... To be honest, I didn't think I hit you that hard," she claims after a moment. I mean, even though I thought I saw flames coming off my foot at one point, you're able to talk now, so maybe I held back? He grunts, and she suppresses the urge to dodge-roll into the hallway. Maybe I should have hit you harder and oh god why am I thinking about this?

"So you did kick me? To be honest I was way out of it at that point, so I thought I was hallucinating. I mean, you were on fire and everything..."

-()-()-

The morning of that first day was actually clear, as opposed to how it came about, even how it ended. Where the day before, around the time that the 18th Angel fell, the skies burned dark like a soggy scab, today the sun rose into a sky like any other. There were clouds, scattered and thin, but enough to veil patches of grass and LCL. A halo effect was shining from behind a cloud bank on the horizon, detailing every other sunbeam as the planet revolved to face the day.

The only major difference between this day and any other, in the way of sight, was that this sky is filled with green, purple, and blue waves of aurora. But there was nothing he could do about that (as if he wanted to), so he simply took it in stride as he made his way through a residential district, on the outer limits of his city.

Okay, so it wasn't quite his yet, and it wasn't like he actually wanted it. Sure he had called dibs (accident), and been the first to arrive (accident), and stated his claim as Emperor of Japan in the New World before anyone else could have (didn't count unless there were witnesses)... but until he had proper inhabitants for his city, it could not be defined as "his" nor a "city," as defined by the Boss's rules of play.

Besides, if he stayed away from his throne for long enough, some snot-nosed sucker might claim it in his absence. The how, why, and when didn't matter. As long as they were strong enough to put up a good fight, and had the balls of steel it took to risk being made his near-eternal servant, he could wait.

In the meantime, he would be marking the boundaries of his territory. If he happened to gain a following of surviving natives while he was at it, it could only be a plus. Even if they were domesticated. And somewhat stupid.

"Gentlemen," he pauses in his march, turning on the heel of his sandals into the position of attention. He waits the extra minute for his small convoy to stop molesting his legs and licking themselves before he clears his throat.

"Uh, comrades...?" His leading general regards him for a second with one drooping eye before turning to roll around in a nearby patch of grass. A number of his soldiers follow suit. He tilts his head to the side until a joint pops, then takes a deep breath... then cups his mouth and whispers to the side:

"Reeeeed Robin." Over the course of three seconds, the entirety of his minion population is sitting up as straight as physically possible under their respective conditions, yowling and whining in pitiful synchronization. He appreciates the attempt, but still throws one arm out ahead of him before they can get the response right.

"BEHOOOOOLD! The conquering of a new holy land is upon us! But a short while ago, this world faced a number of deconstructions at the same time, in what your former masters thought to be the 'Apocalypse.' Our duty here, of course, is a matter reconstruction and containment, in the case of subplots rolling on a loop, however...! The Boss has taken it into consideration, that this might as well be the Almighty's Divine Judgment! Ergo, it is our job to set up a solid foothold in this branch of reality, in preparation for our time!

"And if it just so happens that we weren't supposed to come this early, oh, well, we got a head-start on everyone else..." 'Depressing thought, that', he thinks as he crosses his arms. 'More challenges as time goes on, yes, but less excuse for epic battles.' "ANYWAY! Some of you may be wondering what we've been doing for the last couple odd hours, besides recruiting and wandering aimlessly... just so happens, we were looking for a functional base of operation while we were at it!"

One of the newer privates mewed loudly. "Why not somewhere in the city you ask? Too obvious." A long yowl. "Yes, I did figure there was some kind of underground structure from all the sinkholes. We are not currently taking up residence there because it does not seem important at this time." A subsequent facepaw. "The point is, I found a place that can hold all of us, maybe more, and it isn't even on fire yet! Or flood-damaged! If that's not enough for you, then too bad. Deal with it.

"Now, as I was saying... conquering, maggots, uh, breakfast... right, a house, a base of sorts. Now, I've had a suspicion for a while now that not all of The Enemy's forces have evacuated as they were supposed to. Of course, if we're as early as I think we are, this is no big deal," he shrugged, hands up in the air with an air of indifference. Then he grinned, eyes wide and glowing red. "What this is is an opportunity!"

33#_#33

AN: That took a lot longer than I thought it would. Yes, that's all I'm putting up this time.