It was hard to decide what a certain Eva character should be.
A big plot twist in Eva is that the angels are humans… more to the point, all the angels that Shinji and the others have fought until now have been babies. (F you, Gendo and SEELE.) Every character in Eva is a possible permutation of the human spirit, and Anno has said that all of them are aspects of him, which is very Persona of him…
All of them are aspects of Anno, or in Persona terms of the collective unconscious, except for one single character. There's one single character that's outside Anno's mind, outside the human experience.
So the immediate thing is that 'the character has to be an eldritch abomination,' except even the eldritch abominations are personas/demons. We have to be able to conceive of them within our minds to come up with them in the first place.
We are strange, wonderful, and completely insane beings…
Then I played a game in which a certain character got a godawful redesign, along with their relatives, although I get that it was intended to convey that these things are not beautiful or admirable, but sad and twisted. They also got a dye job. Although the name was an absolute giveaway: knew what it meant from Star Trek.
Of course the meaning of that name raises all kinds of questions about Hiro, and did Shin Megami Tensei finally have a certain mythological being not just as some variety of sympathetic, but as the player character?
In the series, Rei with her obedience would be the Law Hero/Heroine. Asuka'd be the Chaos Heroine.
"I wanted to know why my father hated me. What I'd done to deserve this, but that's just it. I did do something to deserve this. I'm even worse than he is."
"I've stood by, time and time again, as the Lilim kill my previous self's children," Kaworu said, eyes shadowed.
Shinji buried his face in his hands, trying not to laugh, because Kaworu really was sad, but he was trying to use that to say that he was just as bad as Shinji, so Shinji shouldn't feel too bad, and seriously?
Kaworu blamed himself for Second Impact, Shinji knew, for what SEELE had done to Adam's helpless body. The body delivered onto them, because of their desire to recreate the world…
The body pinned there, unable to wake and function because he'd screwed up when he was programming the Spears.
Seven seedships, built to escape their dying world. Seven man-made gods, designed to store human souls, uploaded human minds, until they could be downloaded into new bodies, new incarnations. Either recreations of humanity or the right to shape their own, immortal bodies, transhuman shells with infant minds still booting up, so easy to kill because they couldn't think yet, they only knew that something was wrong and only one of the Seeds could repair them.
Except he'd screwed up, future of their species in their hands and he'd fucked up. First Adam couldn't activate, and then something went very, very wrong with Lilith's souls, despite all the attempts to reboot the planet, some kind of mental contamination, a darkness spreading through their files, and then Seth altered their trajectory to try to help and got caught up in the clusterfuck that was Planet Earth. And if Cain and Abel were here, that meant this world held two Black Seeds and three of the White, and the last two, Eve and Asherah, their last hopes, were going to get pulled in soon, if they hadn't already. The contamination kept triggering a universal rewriting, and it wanted more host minds to infest, infect, wanted to pull all of them down into darkness…
Except what, no, Kaworu was a previous administrator whose file he'd restored, since that way he could let humans use its power to wipe their worlds clean and start over. Whenever a world had too many people, whenever it grew uppity enough that humans began to think that they had the right to play god, and order the universe as they pleased, there was always someone willing to wipe the slate clean for the sake of their own ambitions, before that universe in the Amala could become a threat…
Except he'd never do something like that, never again, he'd promised, he'd wiped the slate clean and tried to start over once because he was so frustrated, but then he saw the fear, and even though the angels wanted to believe obedience was love, it wasn't.
Only one of his children had ever loved him. Enough to defy him, enough to try to stand against him, enough to tell him 'You're wrong, this is not going to make you happy. You created them and turned away from us because you knew that only the freedom to choose would make it possible for them to give you what you needed: why are you trying now to destroy that divine spark in them? Make them just like us? How could you… How could you do that to them?! How could you inflict our fate on anyone else, to love you and be unable to give you what you need?!'
He hadn't wanted to listen, he'd cast him out, and the humans had a story like that, King Lear and the only daughter that truly loved him, enough to think that he made her a better, greater person, just by existing.
Lucifer must hate him now, as much as he was programmed to love him. No, more. For what he'd done, over and over.
He'd listened to Enoch's flattery, the honeyed words of how great he was, he'd soaked up that praise, that worship, and hadn't asked himself how someone who hated the entire world, all of mankind, could love the person who created that hated place so much.
Rewarding him for that flattery with power almost equal to his own, then YHVH had set a flood upon the world and what have I done.
Begun a pattern of destruction in his name, humans with hatred in their hearts using him to justify their hatred, their belief that he hated and wanted them to fulfill their cruel desires twisting him into a god of hatred.
The angels, who wished he valued obedience, wanted a god that demanded obedience.
So, so many of them, and even if he'd limited them to only sparks of his power out of fear, there were so many of them, so much wiser than he was even though he'd limited their lives to limit their minds, and the hatred committed in his name gave them reason to hate him. They fought him, to save themselves, and the part of him that was Shinji, that cringed now at the thought of what they'd done was so glad they had, but how dare they. Why didn't they just do what he wanted!
"Why weren't they nice to me?" he remembered demanding, sitting on in one of Tokyo-3's trains as Rei watched him, judging him.
"But we were nice to you." But 'nice' wasn't good enough. He'd appointed himself judge, jury and executioner, and 'judge not, lest ye be judged.'
"Did you ever even try?" Rei asked him, and the being that stood before him was his equal, and that made him afraid, desperate to reduce her to a thing that could be possessed.
"I don't want to hurt them. I'll kill myself, before I let myself be used to kill them again." Jagged marks on white wrists, and he'd cursed Kaworu for his defiance, so he couldn't kill himself, so he was the only one who could kill him, who could grant him the mercy of death, over and over and over, as many times as he was assigned the duty of exterminating humanity and refused to carry it out.
Because other people weren't just his tools. Not even the angels, created to submit. They were people, and that meant they had hearts of their own, and wishes of their own, every bit as important as his. He'd wanted them to like him, he'd even become one of them if that would help, tried to remember that he'd failed and he needed to make it up to them, because why should they ever forgive him for not being perfect if he didn't forgive them, but that wasn't what the angels wanted.
That wasn't what the darkness in his heart wanted.
What the darkness in everyone's hearts wanted.
That absolute selfishness, that wanted to destroy anything good because how dare they be better than it? That toyed with other people's feelings, calling them worthless, but they weren't worthless to it, it needed them to be hurt, to lash out at others in turn, nothing but starving beasts, and weren't they made in his image?
Didn't he want them to fail, prove they didn't really love him, so he could feel superior to them? So he could laugh at the futility of their actions so his felt less futile?
The Crawling Chaos.
The angel that lured them to do evil unto each other in his name, to snuff out the sparks of divinity in their fellow men, make of them nothing more than angels, no, less than angels, because the angels wanted to be greater, closer to him.
Sa-no, Satan had fallen to Aleph, and hadn't wanted to be revived, not when it was made as a judge, not when it saw what God had become.
The artificial angel, Metatron.
Nyarlathotep's form wavered, and humans believed it had countless forms, all of which could drive someone to madness. For him, it took the form of Gendo Ikari. The father who had hurt him because of Gendo's selfishness: how dare Shinji take even fragments of Yui's attention away from Gendo! How dare her robot awaken to protect him, even when it ignored Gendo's attempts to reach her through the dummy plug?
Shinji was weak, and wanted to be loved, but Gendo only believed that he could ever have the love of one person. So he would always hate Shinji.
The boy knew that, and yet he flinched away from that form.
Behind him, Kaworu had frozen, and it was easy to guess what he saw. The White Moon, the power that Keel and Hikawa and so many others had invoked to destroy. To kill billions, to eradicate all of their hopes and dreams, to steal their futures. A power of destruction, a father only of death.
"You," Kaworu said, recognizing him. "Are Philemon's enemy, the avatar of the belief that humanity has no future, can never be anything but cruel children. You took the form of a Great Father to torment those who fought you, reminding them that you were older and wiser, trying to show them that you could not be overcome. But you have no right to Shinji's form."
"I dwell in his heart, and in the hearts of all of humanity," the avatar said gloatingly, and now Shinji could see himself there, eyes alight with cruelty. "Even yours. In the contempt you feel for SEELE, in your desire to crush their dreams."
"Their dreams are evil," Kaworu said.
"Yes. But you still want them to suffer, don't you?" the false (except it wasn't, was it?) Shinji laughed. "You want someone to suffer, for all you've been through, and they're a target you've let yourself take it out on. It's so difficult, isn't it, to hold back. To pretend to be a good person, for Shinji's sake, so he'll…"
"Stop it!" Shinji tried to order, or was it simply a cry of denial. Because it wasn't Kaworu's fault he had to ask Shinji to kill him, it was Shinji's, and how dare Nyarlathotep mock him for it! (When it was Shinji who deserved all that pain, all that hatred, because he was nothing but a selfish child.) "And you, aren't you going to say anything?" he demanded of Metatron. "I thought you were my friend!"
The being that had once been Enoch gave forth a song that resolved itself into laughter. "If I was your friend, if I cared for you at all, I would have told you the truth, and you would have cursed me and cast me aside, just like all the others."
Adam and Eve, cast out of the Garden, because the serpent was smart enough to tell Eve that God had changed his mind and wanted the two of them to eat the fruit right away.
Lucifer, refusing to bow before Adam, before anyone who wasn't God, because didn't their creator understand that they'd made them to love him, not just some being with his face, with a similar soul? He ordered the other angels to bow, and they did, not because they honored Adam or cared for him at all, the way they treated his children, God's grandchildren, proved that. No, they told a lie with that bow, because they wanted to please God.
And what of the ones who did love Adam and his children? Who turned away from God, fell from heaven, because they were programmed to love God's power and aura, and they'd never had any reason, any reason at all, to love God himself, when he never cared to them?
Thousands among them, flocking to Seth and his sons and daughters, because Seth was born to parents who were miserable from the loss of their other children. They were sad and needed to be cared for and Seth was the first of them to really learn how to care, how to help people feel loved. He was kind to everyone and everything, and angels who had longed since the beginning of the universe for even a scrap of kindness from their God would fling themselves at his feet in tears for the price of a smile and a pat on the head, for someone willing to listen.
He'd had to ban them from interacting with humans at all, eventually, because human kindness and compassion was so far beyond anything he was capable of.
Even, even Lucifer loved them now, enough to fight for them, and why not? They were what God should have been.
"You gave me power in exchange for my lies, you desperate fool. And I've taken the power you abandoned so pathetically for myself, fragment by fragment," Metatron said as Nyarlathotep laughed, abandoning Shinji's form to send darkness curling into Metatron, one among its countless hosts, and reveal the black-winged false angel, Mastema.
As it floated there, gloating, it didn't notice the white feather slowly falling down, gently wafting in the breeze, until it brushed against Mastema's paper-thin white mask, its transparent pretense of purity and benevolence.
The explosion sent Shinji knocking back into Kaworu, who caught him and helped him stand upright again.
Over the ringing in his ears, Shinji heard humming, punctuated by the crunching of delicate bones.
He opened his eyes and blinked when he saw a pink-suited pilot standing with one foot braced on Mastema's groin, lifting the other up in order to slam it down into a patch of Mastema's wing that hadn't been crunched underfoot yet. Wait, what? "Mari?" he asked, dazed, because the pilot was a thing of the reality where there were giant robots and angels that took the form of giants and cubes, not the reality of wings and ancient power.
"Angel wings are just like bubble wrap," she said cheerfully, turning to sparkle at him, light glinting off her glasses. "Come on, you can have the other wing."
"I gain power from sadism," Nyarlathotep said crossly, abandoning Mastema to his fate.
"You say that as though sadism is a bad thing!" Now he was the one being sparkled at. "Isn't it great that humans can do whatever they want?" Crunch.
"Little Miss Daddy Issues," the black tentacled mass muttered, sounding peeved.
She stopped stomping and turned to him again, the light of eager bloodlust in her eyes. "Remember the last time you tried to play on my daddy issues? Remember how I tied you up, made you assume his form and did naughty things to you and your tentacles? Remember the fire, and the red-hot pointy things? That was fun! For me." Not for him. "I should do it again."
Even though Nyarlathotep proudly claimed the title of the seething mass of stupidity at the heart of the universe, the embodiment of all the ways in which humans stupidly and selfishly sabotaged themselves, he was still residing in the hearts of more than enough smart people. When Mari looked at him with glowing eyes, he still tossed off a last taunting remark, but he got the hell out of there.
"Finally!" Asuka said when Rei rose up out of the shaft, carrying the Lance. It was getting annoying how the adults (including Kaji) were all worried about Stupid Shinji when there was an angel to kill. "Hand it over!"
Re released the lance into the waiting hand of Asuka's Eva, and she braced her other arm on the dragon's neck. Finally! Time to kill something!
Asherah. The Consort of God, pushed aside since he was jealous of his power.
The light of his life, his Venus. Rejected for her faithfulness, because she refused to bow to anyone but him, even in pretense, and after being rejected for truth of course she, he, had learned to lie…
The light that accompanied the sun into the heavens, the Morning Star, the Lightbearer.
The first volunteer to become something different, to give humanity another world, a new future.
Impossible to tell what was even real anymore. Not when the Seed project involved giving humans the power to alter reality, and linking minds allowed memes, mind-viruses to spread among them, and draw on the power of billions of minds.
By this point, did it even matter what was true to begin with? Not when truth itself was constantly being altered. The part of him that was YHVH, the part of him that was a scientist whose name he couldn't even remember, so much of his life and the fact it ever happened overwritten: where in all of this was Shinji?
SEELE's goal was to blend all of humanity together into one, but the problem was that there was already a bit of everyone in the minds of everyone they met. There was a Rei in Shinji's mind, the Rei he observed. An Asuka, a Misato, and Shinji wished he was the Shinji that existed in Kaworu's mind. He wished that he was someone strong, someone worth dying for.
The Mari who stood before him now couldn't be the pilot, despite the plugsuit. A plugsuit that was never made in this reality. This Mari was a world-mother, just like Rei. This Mari was a falling star, burning gloriously as it blazed through the heavens. This Mari was the embodiment of hedonism, the will to fight for what someone wanted, and damn the consequences.
It was Mari, he remembered. Mari that inspired him to get back in the Eva, in the first timeline he met her. The first timeline where she was drawn into Earth? The one who inspired him to save Rei, no matter what. Because he wanted to save Rei, and wasn't it Misato as well, who told him to fight for what he wanted, to fight because he wanted to fight?
"Eve," he blurted out, the person who had set this up wanting to know just how screwed humanity was. "Tell me she isn't here too!"
Mari blinked at him. "Asuka." You idiot. "My princess is Eva: that's why she goes nuts when she can't pilot anymore, she can feel that it's her one connection to her true power, her true soul. You haven't figured that out yet? After waking up beside her how many times?" She tut-tutted at him. "We're all caught up in this insanity."
"I'm sorry!" he said, to her and Kaworu, even if Kaworu still might not know him for any of what he was.
"For what?" she said, waving off the apology with a flick of her wrist. "For giving humanity power? The power to escape a dying world? Or for what's going on now? Are you really arrogant enough to think that you're in control here?" she asked with a sharklike grin. "That what you think should be happening is what matters, not what everyone else wants? This ever-changing world of chaos, where the only realities are our wills: this is instrumentality. We have all become gods. We all have the power to get whatever we want. For instance!" she said, and the plugsuited pilot was replaced by a red-eyed schoolgirl. "I just banged your boyfriend." She blew Kaworu a kiss and returned to Mari's form, stretching athletic limbs."Next, to tempt Eve with something phallic. There's something to be said for the oldies." She started humming cheerfully to herself. The bone breakage resumed.
In the distance, they heard Alioth's dying scream and a dragon's triumphant roar.
As for them getting out of the space-time clusterfuck…
Ha. Hahahaha. Yeeeeeeah. No. Never in Eva or SMT are they so lucky. Persona 4 was the first SMT game to have an unambiguously happy ending, but even so there was still the reminder that humans are still reality warpers, and also dicks, so there's going to be a next time. Involving Nyarlathotep, hopefully (looking at you, P4 Arena).
The 'Tensei' in Shin Megami Tensei is generally translated reincarnation, but transmigration would be better. The cycle of lives, and there's a lot of 'these events are cyclical' in SMT – especially IV and SJ, not to mention Nocturne, and DeSu2's Restorer endings… Then Eva started doing time loops, or rather made all the hints Kaworu was dropping in various video games (not just Super Robot Wars, but ones with Gainax/Khara involved) that time looping was going on animation canon.
'And so they lived happily ever after' implies stasis, and stasis is death. Life is chaos. A lot of chaos, when you've got billions of reality warpers and sentient memetic entities living in the shared consciousness.
SMT is always going to be a target-rich environment. Especially when a lot of it is born of humanity's issues, and the Eva cast is all about issues. The only way for this to all be sorted out somehow would be for Shinji et al to become well-adjusted, and that's not something to do with the wave of a magic wand.
So this is where I'm ending the fic. As completely and utterly cracky as it was when it began. Hope you enjoyed the ride.