They showed us a line graph.
We would be looking at a lot of graphs like this in the days to come.
High above it all was a bright red line. It had its share of seemingly random little dips and spikes, but remained close to the top of the window.
“As expected, I’m still the best!”
Somewhere on the bottom half of the second third, there was a light blue line so straight I would have mistaken it for some indicator line if it wasn’t labeled with a name… and that would be Rei’s. Her performance was pretty reliable, putting out very regular numbers had had only shifted by decimal points in the recent past, but it was nothing exceptional by comparison.
I would have liked to look at this in peace and quiet to see if, by any chance, some of those small shifts corresponded to days on which we’d talked. Or just to know when they occurred at all.
But different as their results were, what they had in common was that both of them had stabilized at around the same value. If you’d wanted to see where their lines started, you would probably have to go back to the early days of their childhood.
Mari, by contrast, was new. Over the brief weeks since her recruitment, the hot-pink line representing her values had shot straight up. She was already closing in on Rei.
The established pilots were marked with squares, while us new recruits were marked with little X-es at the far left end of the graph, clustering near its bottom.
But there were only three squares as far as I could tell: “Wait, where’s Kaworu-kun?”
“He’s off the chart.” Ms. Soryu said, bluntly. “If we zoomed out far enough to show him, we’d hardly see any of you.”
“I’m still the best except for him.” insisted Asuka.
“Of course you are darling~”
Even so, it seems that she would have to cede some of the attention today so that our parents and the technician could entertain themselves with their shiny new research data: They zoomed in even further, so that Asuka’s proud red line was no longer visible either. The little cluster of Xes became more discernible.
“Okay kids, I’ll read out your names, and you tell me what colors you want to be!”
Like that would be our priority rather than our scores.
I understand why Asuka sometimes feels like she’s being babies a bit too much, but who am I to deny an older lady her pleasures?
As they gray X-es transformed into labeled, recognizable squares, patterns emerged. Though some of the most enthusiastic, and hence, the most disappointed, Kensuke (green) and Kotone (purple) got some of the lowest scores, hovering between three and four percent. Marie (yellow) and Hikari (orange) made it to the upper end of the lower digits, and Touji (still gray, but like a cool, darker shade) even made to a respectable 9.8, just .2 points shy of 10%.
And I was… where was I?
Whichever X was still left should be me, but I didn’t see it. Had I screwed this up somehow?
“Okay, Shinji-kun, which color do you want?”
“Uh…” I was still distracted trying to find my X.
“His favorite is blue,” supplied Mom helpfully.
Ms. Soryu entered something into her keyboard, and indeed, a blue square appeared, a darker shade, to distinguish it from Rei’s.
But it wasn’t down there with the other newbies. At 35%, it was closer to Mari’s line than Touji’s lone square.
There was a bunch of wow’s… not just from my classmates, but from the technicians as well.
Everyone was suddenly looking at me, and I couldn’t stand it. Kaworu stopped smiling. Mari stopped grinning. Booth looked at me dead series, up and down again, like they were seeing me for the first time, somehow.
“This is… interesting…” mused Mari. The reflections in her glasses his her eyes. The moment passed, and just like nothing happened, she went right back to one of her usual expressions and turned to Kaworu as if to remark something, but he was only looking at me, with an expression I can only describe as heartbroken. Not that he was somehow mad at me, but he was, certainly, halting fast with sharp realization.
If I’d had any idea how to deal with this whole situation, I would have asked him what’s going on. It was just such a brief, vague moment, a momentous impression, so it was hard to bring up and put into words later, when he was acting like nothing had changed.
For now, my attention was forcefully commanded by Asuka, who was having none of this. “This has got to be another measurement error, right Mama? There’s no way that number’s right. I took me a year to get to that point.”
...a year? Seriously? I saw that it was obviously higher than the others, but was it really that impressive? I was starting to feel a little dizzy here…
“But… but Mari’s score is almost the same… higher even...”
“Even Mari took three weeks to reach that number.” remarked mother. Neither of my parents was looking the least bit surprised. Father was unabashedly grinning like some impish fiend.
“That can’t be. Right Mama?”
Ms. Soryu had placed her hands on her hips and was pouting in such a way that made it all to apparent that she was Asuka’s mother, despite all the superficial differences in their demeanor. She was almost certainly not pleased. “Well, this would be the third ‘impossible’ thing that we’ve encountered in the span of a month. At this point we just ought to admit that it’s about time we reworked our theories… Back to the drawing board, everyone!
I mean, just look at that score! With that sort of number, we could plopp him inside an Evangelion right now, and it would probably work straight away, no training required!”
I would really rather have training before fighting monsters of unknown origin. Please don’t scare me like that, Ms. Soryu… “...is that not how it usually works?”
“Not all all! It’s honestly quite rude for you to go smashing up all our theories like that, young man! It’s like Yui and Gendo didn’t teach you any sort of manners!”
Ms. Soryu was no less versed in the art of dramatic sighs than her daughter.
“And we just had to come across the proverbial Black Swan at such a time, right when we were about to move on to stage two of our plan…”
“Stage...two?” Whatever that was, I didn’t want to have ruined it somehow with my outrageous numbers.
“Yeah. The part of the plan where we start putting you all through that new training regimen we’ve been cooking up! I’ve had Asuka put through some basic military-style training in the 3rd branch back in Europe, but in the end, EVA isn’t exactly a normal weapon. So Yui-san, Dr. Akagi and I have been tinkering with a special program just for EVA pilots. And having all these new recruits seems like the perfect opportunity to test it…
Well, I suppose getting more data to collect is only going to help us patch up our theory…
Still. We were hoping of course to speed up the process somewhat when we designed the training routine, but the earliest we were expecting to get a useful spare pilot out this was, like, in six months at the earliest… and that was was the optimistic prediction. Which is probably all wrong, because, apparently, we don’t know anything about what’s possible here! It’s just not fair… ”
Mother decided that this was a good point to gently steer the topic
“Of course, you’ll be excuse from school whenever your training will keep you indisposed, but we’ll try not to cost you too many days of class…”
“Geez!” lamented Asuka, “School is gonna be boring with a third of the class gone.”
“Actually dear, you’ll be participating, too.”
“What? You’re going to make me do the same stuff as the newbies?!”
I suppose then that this goes for Rei as well.
“You’re already great at piloting dear, but I think even you might still gain some benefit from our more comprehensive training regimen~ Besides, it’ll be lots of fun!”
Become an EVA pilot, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.
“And I’m sure your new comrades could benefit from the guidance of a veteran like yourself~”
That was a rhetorical gimmick to make it appealing to her, and Asuka knew it:
“That just sounds like extra work….”
Ms. Soryu’s chipper mood was not the least bit deterred: “Okay kids, who wants to get some cake in the cafeteria? It’s the least you deserve after such a hard day of work~”
“We’re not babies who need to be convinced with sweets, Mama.”
“Believe me dear, as you get older, you will notice that deep down, everyone can be convinced with sweets, no matter their age. I want cake too!”
“One question first,” said Mari, raising her hand before anyone could race to the exist. “Speaking of room and board, could we discuss my accommodations?”
“You must be living somewhere, right?” answered mother.
“Yeah, but it’s not exactly within the city limits, and it looks like I’m going to be coming here a lot, so I’d like to have someplace nearer to stay.”
“That’s no problem, we could get you quarters right next to Kaworu’s…”
“Actually, Yui-san, I’d rather not. I don’t really like being all by myself all the time. I have lots of cats and dogs at home, but I couldn’t exactly bring them on a plane with me. Isn’t there someone I can stay with?”
“Hm…” mused Mom, “I’d ask you to stay with us, but I’m afraid our spare room is occupied at this time…”
That’s when Hikari cleared her throat. “...maybe she could crash at our place? I’d have to talk it over with my parents first, but our house is big enough. I already have two sisters, so one more person won’t make that much of a difference…”
“Fine by me! I’m going to have to get some clothes, too, most of mine are still in England...”
I was still in a daze when we left, dimly aware of a very impressed Kotone gushing to a mildly annoyed Asuka somewhere in my vicinity. “To think that you were working so hard to save us all from the Angels the whole time! No wonder you had no time to show me your study tricks… I look forward to learning as much as I can, Asuka-sempai! ...it’s okay if I call you that, right? Since we’re comrades now!”
“...do what you want.”
“Thanks so much!”
I was just… going wherever people were telling me to go at this point, to be honest. I had no energy left to bother participating much.
I told Touji and Kensuke that I wouldn’t be long, but before I knew it they were long gone and I was somehow still not finished with buttoning up my uniform shirt.
I was getting lost in the awareness of just how much the world I believed to live in had changed in just a single day when I felt a sense of warmth making its way across my upper back.
Kaworu had decided to put his arm around me – it would be just like him to notice whatever look I had on my face: “Is everything alright, Shinji-kun? It must be a whole lot to take in…”
I was reminded by this unprompted consideration of his that I had not asked him what was the matter earlier. I wasn’t sure how to approach this; The best I could do was to start talking somehow.
“...so, you knew all this already… this whole time…”
Feeling its weight now myself, I could not help but appreciate it. What a thing to be burdened with. “How was it for you, when you first found out?”
“I cannot recall a time in my life when I didn’t know.”
“...so even when we were children…?”
He nodded, slow and deliberately.
I could assume then, that the same must be true for Rei and Asuka.
Alas, I couldn’t really get the words to come out in a way that didn’t make it sound like I was making this about me or something.
“...are you mad at me?”
“Now why would that be?” he asked, serene as ever.
“You told me earlier that I shouldn’t want to be a pilot. Yet here I am. Was that why you were upset, earlier, when we got our scores?”
“I was just… thinking.” he answered. He seemed, if anything, minded to brush aside whatever that was about. I wondered if he’d already figured that I wouldn’t be of any help.
“What I meant to say was, I suppose, that I’m very grateful. To have gotten to meet you, to spend time with you, like any other person. To go to school with you, and everyone else – that’s precious to me. I didn’t want you to think that it is somehow unimportant compared to the project. I am very grateful for the chance to experience this world – and out of everything in it, and all the people I met, you were, perhaps, one of my favorites –“
What a thing to drop on me, so casually, in a subordinate clause. “...and it was for your sake as well. I don’t width to scare you now that it seems that you, too, are going down this path, but it is not a light burden to bear. I didn’t want you to get caught up in our fate. But, from what I’ve seen just now, it appears that you have your very own fate.” he said, thoughtfully, as a strain of regret entered into his voice. “It seems like, probably, you were meant to come here one way or another, regardless of what I said… If I were upset about anything, it would be that.”
I had the most ominous feeling, cold and close on my back.
“But to think, that you, too would be one of the Children chosen by fate…”
“Each of us here is meant to fulfill a particular role.”
“You mean, while piloting EVA?”
“For example, yes.” but he said that like it was beside the point.
I’d never seen his lip trembling before. Or his fingers.
What sort of friend was I supposed to be, if I could not remotely follow what he was trying to get at-
“I always knew someone would have to play your part, I just didn’t know who it would be. I knew I’d probably meet them – it seems only right that I should, despite. But to think, that you were right beside me all along, this whole time-… that all along, it was going to be you-”
I’d never once witnessed how his words failed him, not until now.
“Such cruel fate.”
“I don’t understand… I don’t understand what you mean, Kaworu-kun...”
“...what I mean is this:” and this he said with a straight face, matter of factly, like it was a simple truth of the universe: “I think I may have been born to meet you.”
No one had ever said something like this to me before. I didn’t even think that this was something people said, outside of stageplays and movies.
Why in the world…?
At some point, his other hand had found the one of mine that wasn’t currently still fiddling with my shirt. I made a valiant token effort to squeeze it right back.
“...is… is that synchronization rate thing really such a big deal?”
...this was getting way to overwhelming. Everyone was acting so strange about this, I think Asuka was mad at me, things had been oddly tense between my parents ever since Mom said that thing about me and Unit One, and now this-
Kaworu regarded me gravely. He let go of me.
Then, he reached forward, and finally got those pesky shirt of mine into some semblance of decency.
He stood up from the bench with a smile that seemed not quite so effortless anymore.
“Let us go. The others must be waiting.”
We got home late that day.
For the first time and god knows how long, we were actually all home at the same time, all four of us.
Normally I would have been glad about this, and maybe suggested that we have dinner, or watch a movie together, but today, I was beyond spent.
I mumbled some pleasantries to my parents and Rei, and flung myself unto the couch. She, at least, wasn’t acting like anything’s different. Just this morning, I was hoping to impress her or something, but now, I was really damn glad that nothing seemed to have changed, and that we could still share the same quiet company.
She crouched down on the floor with her school bag placed next to her, retrieving a plastic case from it… now that is new. But, I’d just been told that aliens are real and that I might possibly have a talent for controlling biomechanical monsters, so what’s one little more surprising event?
She pointed at the dusty old viodeo game console which I’d gotten for my 11th birthday and mostly only used when Touji, Kensuke or Asuka were coming over. “That is yours, right?”
“Can I use it?”
“Sure, fine… “
“Is something the matter?”
“No, it’s just the first time you’ve asked.”
“A literature club member lent this to me. He says it’s similar to a book that I liked.”
“Ah, that’s great, have a good time!”
Now the game looked pretty cutesy but it started with a disclaimer about how it’s ‘not suitable for people who are easily disturbed’. “Sounds like the sort of thing a literature club member would like.”
“I’ve been told that the story itself takes place in a literature club.”
“Sooo meta!” I meant for that to sound funny, but it probably came of rather awkward. I was way too tired to try being funny today. I wasn’t exactly gifted at that art even at the best of times.
“I’d stick around, but I’m no good with any of that horror stuff.”
I got her my spare headphones – the huge, gamer-looking ones that Kensuke once got me, which really did have much better audio quality just like he said, but which I never used ‘cause they’d take up too much space in my bag. It wouldn’t do to wake up my parents with any unexpected jumpscare noises. And a spare lollipop I had laying around in that same drawer, just for good measure. It was blueberry-flavored. That was my idea of being charming.
I should never try to be charming when I’m tired.
She plopped it in her mouth like it was part of the equipment.
I helped her get the console booted up and, since she was new to this, explained the basic layout of the controller to her.
She clicked herself past the opening screen with a surprisingly focused look on her face.
I’m not even going to pretend that I didn’t think she looked very, very adorable.
At the risk of sounding like an old man at the ripe old age of 28, I’ve learned to appreciate the small mercies.
Or is it 27? Is it June yet? Does the concept of June even still hold any sort of meaning? It’s hard to keep track of time when you’ve been fourteen-and-a-half for over a decade, like the guy from Twilight, and everyone hates you so much they won’t tell you so much as the bloody date, also like the guy from Twilight. If there’s ever a movie made about my life, I presume the actor who plays me will hate me as well, or worse, talk at length about what sort of crazy method acting he did in order to even get close to comprehending the depravity of my mind. And to think Asuka once thought we’d get, like, parades, action figures, and maybe an Anime or two. With the state of the world right now, she’ll be lucky if she gets an epic poem passed on through oral history, and I’m most certainly going to be the villain of it. And Rei won’t be mentioned.
My greatest fear is that all that I’ll accomplish with these memoirs is that she’ll make it into the narratives as some sensational cautionary tale or a bug-eyed pulp fiction creature.
Dear people of the future, I beg of you, please just don’t.
That was always her fear – that she’d just disappear without anyone even noticing. Or that what little traces she’d left in memory would be supplanted once the secret was out, understood only as a poor imitation at best, and at worst, a mere vessel.
If only you could see her before you as I did then… well, it wouldn’t mean the same thing to you. It couldn’t possibly – different people notice different things, filter them through different guiding principles and string their new observation into different preexisting thought patterns, but. You know. You can probably figure.
After lingering on the sight of her for a few fond moments & checking that she was doing just fine with all the buttons, I retreated to my room, made my way to my bed and clicked through whichever cassette was already in my Walkman until I found something to my satisfaction. It wasn’t that I was picky about the song, quite the opposite, I was looking for something worn-out and familiar that wouldn’t require me to do much processing – I had left all my brain juice in the simulation plug. That, or I was still in shock over the news of that impending alien invasion.
Probably both. Which must be why I just completely spaced out the moment my muscles got the chance to relax upon the support of the bed.
I have no idea how long I spent just staring at a crease in my bed sheet, but it was a good while.
Synchronization can leave you a bit scrambled if you’re not used to it yet, you know, almost like human brains weren’t exactly made to command giant cyborgs.
I couldn’t get myself to do anything, but I couldn’t really sleep yet, either. Turns out that requires brain chemicals, too. I’d call it a trance, except I recall hearing somewhere that that’s defined as a state of both relaxation and focus, and I wasn’t really either of those things. Can’t say I was daydreaming either, since I wasn’t really… going anywhere, and I’m someone whose mind tends to drift off pretty quickly normally.
Even the music felt like a bit too much, but the sounds of the house were somehow even more exhausting, you know, the floorboards unpredictably creaking because my parents were walking around somewhere. Even the lowest setting on the volume felt too loud, though. I wished there was a setting between that and total silence.
Still, you’d think that I’d have managed to drift off to sleep eventually, right?
When my parents first began raising their voices, I first thought I’d imagined something, or that whatever I’d heard must be something unimportant, like Rei going to the bathroom.
I tried dialing up the volume and pulling the blanket over my head.
The noise was, however, insistent in asserting its own existence.
“This is NOT what we talked about! Did it ever occur to you to tell me, instead of presenting me with a fait accompli?!“
“I am telling you right now.”
It would be an understatement to say that I was beyond surprised. I could recall only a handful of times where my father had ever raised his voice like this – and never once at my mother.
She, however, was remaining frighteningly calm. During the whole confrontation, she never went beyond the self-same firm-but-restrained tone that she would use when she would chastise me.
I swear I wasn’t going to eavesdrop – I tried at first to ignore it. Put then I picked up something that drove into my heart like a spike of ice and compelled my attention.
I pressed pause on my Walkman. I would slip into standby mode before I’d even think of turning it back on.
“...what do you propose then, that we send him off to my brother?!”
“I know you’ve always been an optimist Yui, but your brother is an insipid little toad who has resented you as long as you have lived, and his own child is always going to come first. I do believe him capable of shutting our son in his garden shed. His one saving grace might be that he wants as little to do with your parents as you do, but the only reason I’d ever leave Shinji at his mercy is if I deliberately wanted to torment him for some reason. It would be only marginally better than dumping him off at some overcrowded orphanage.
I’m thinking of your old tutor. Shinji already knows him, and moreover, he knows enough of both us and our case to make sure that your father and the rest of the old men don’t get their hands on him. We’d have to be discreet about the payments, but we could have the two of them on a train to the countryside by next morning. I’ve already had accommodations prepared for Rei, so we might as well sell this whole damn apartment.”
“My god, you’re serious – Gendo, we are not sending our son off to the countryside.”
“Many people do, when there is a war coming. A war that is going to require nothing less than our full attention.”
“Shinji belongs here, with us.”
“With us? Or with out empty apartment? How many times have either of us even spoken to him this week? It’s time that we accepted the limitations of our resources and began to set priorities. We don’t have the time to look after him, Yui. Not properly. We should allow him to have a normal childhood for as long as we can, and not mess this up any more than we already have.
Consider that maybe, just maybe, we should just do nothing and stop meddling with his life any more than we already have?
I understand the need for sacrifices, and you know that. Have you ever known me to waste time with hesitation? There is nothing I would not make use off in order to win the coming war and rewrite the old men’s scenario, even if it meant spending the blood of our children.
But there is no need to involve Shinji at this point. That’s what Rei is for. You know as well as I that she’s never going to need any ‘backup’.. Besides, this whole ‘Raising Project’ nonsense is just a vanity project of Soryu’s. Once we get the dummy plugs working, all of it will be obsolete.”
“Look, Gendo. I’ve listened to you about Rei, and about your dummy plugs; Now it is time that you listen to me.”
“I am listening to you! There is not a single wish that I have ever refused you. But if I had known that it would come to to this, I never would have agreed to something as irresponsible as putting a child into a world that is about to end!”
“...Gendo. Darling. When you became my husband, you knew as well as I what that might mean for us, or our future children. I wished, as much as anyone, that Adam would not be found within our lifetimes. But that seal has been broken now. Some misfortunes can be prevented, but there are some that cannot. I believe that our son is the one who shall lead our people to salvation, and as his parents, it’s our duty to pave the way for him. This is his destiny – some might say his birthright. Would you leave him unprepared for it?”
“...alright, Yui. Let’s include him, just in case.”
It’s possible that they spoke some more, but it got too quiet for me to hear.
I didn’t know what to think of this.
What was I supposed to think of this?
I didn’t know what half these words mean, or are referring to. I had no idea where I’d be going the next day.
Here’s the thing: Grownups never expect you to hear. They’re used to the days when you were a hapless infant who didn’t even understand human language. And if, by any chance, you have feelings about any damn thing you heard, like that’s not your whole existence that they’re speaking up, you’ll just get scolded for listening.
You can close your eyes, but ears don’t have lids.
No, even with eyes, this was like the sort of horrible accident that you can’t look away from – your brain is, after all, designed to detect threat. So you can’t make yourself unaware of a bloodthirsty tiger. And what greater threat could there be than the moods and caprices of this pair of people that you’re totally dependent on?
The ones that buy your food?
Seriously man, this is not a darned game to me. It’s my life. The only life I have so far. The only one I’ll ever have.
Don’t pretend it’s some lesser, silly thing, or just a matter of politeness. I get that teaching politeness and respect of boundaries and all that is a worthwhile endeavor.
I get that this isn’t fair. I was never meant to hear this. They’re allowed to have feelings of their own and conversations that aren’t sanitized for me -
No, actually, I don’t get that.
Certainly not the me from back then. I would have recited that as the expected socially accepted polite answer, but that was just an ape aping other apes.
you don’t just ‘politely’ let the government mind its own business, because it’s business is yours.
This is my life they were discussing here, my future, that I wasn’t being consulted for and might not be able to do anything about...
For a visual on Mari’s bathing suit, see this artwork → https://imgur.com/D8NNcUC
Always liked that one best out of all the swimsuit Maris we’ve gotten, ‘cause it’s a little something unique.
Rei & Asuka are supposed to be wearing something like their early proposal suit designs.
Shinji doesn’t quite get the 41% he had in canonland yet because EVA 01 doesn’t have Yui in it at this point. Though I suppose it’s inevitable that I’d have to tweak the lore here & there to make this idea work. For now we’re going with the idea that having a compatible soul in the EVA helps a lot, but isn’t strictly necessary.
...i kinda wonder if anyone's actually reading this on here, but eh, I'm having fun.