シン・Leviathan [Evangelion/Godzilla/Other]

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Thuktun Flishithy
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Outside Context, Part I

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Sat May 20, 2023 6:34 pm

CANNOT CONFIRM ATMOSPHERIC ENTRY OF UNIDENTIFIED LSA STOP NOTHING SHOWING ON RADAR STOP

GO OUTSIDE AND USE YOUR FUCKING EYES STOP


- Exchange between two American observation stations during King Ghidorah's arrival on Earth, December 20th 1966

The photo had been projected to the whiteboard wall of the conference room, blown up to the point where the subject of the picture was taller than anyone in the room, yet still paltry to its true size. With all of the observation cameras and drones in the city, they had their pick of pics, but the one they had chosen was rather apt- the giant at a slight crouch, arms crossed as he fired his beam.

Misato frowned and shook her head. It. Its beam. Anthropomorphizing the giant was dangerous territory, even if it was more human-like than any nonhuman she'd ever seen, even more than...

She turned to look at the crowd in the rather small conference room, their faces only illuminated by the glow of the projector hanging from the ceiling. They were all so young -as to be expected after half the planet died fifteen years ago- but the harsh light highlighted the bags under their eyes and the wrinkles of their scrunched brows and made them all look so very old.

Something told her she'd look just as bad, and not only from the stress of a kaiju and Angel attacking at the same time. Driving Asuka and Shinji to the apartment had been so much fun.

"I know it's been a pretty long-" she paused to dramatically check her watch. "-early afternoon."

Chuckles rippled across the audience, more sounds of relief than genuine mirth. That was good. Panic didn't help brainstorming sessions.

"We have a lot on our plates today. Repairs for Unit-01 and the city, specimen retrieval, cleanup, and some Godzilla-sized mysteries, but this one takes precedent."

She reached her hand back and rapped the wall behind her with her knuckles. "Unidentified Giant Humanoid Lifeform One, that's what we're calling it for the time being. One hundred meters tall, twelve and a half thousand metric tons based off its footprint indentations. Where did it come from? We don't know. What can it do? We don't know. What is it doing here? We don't know."

"What we are going to do," she continued, "is find out."

"Is it an Angel?" someone in the crowd blurted out.

It was Ritsuko's turn to talk. The blonde scientist got up from her seat at the front and stood on the other side of the projection.

"Considering what we've seen, we can safely it is not an Angel," she said. "Despite the orb on its chest resembling a core, MAGI analysis of blood patterns returned with code orange. Which is jargon for 'we don't know what it is, but it's not any of those things'. That's not getting into its actions, which are completely unlike both observed and hypothesized Angel behavior."

"Actually, that thing in its chest is a good starting point." Misato grabbed a marker and drew a circle around the giant's orb. "I want to hear ideas on what it might be."

"Could it be an analogous organ to an Angel core?" someone at the back asked.

"I'm not discounting that idea," Misato said. She wrote CORE ANALOGUE on the whiteboard and drew a line to the circle. "Any other ideas?"

"That chime it made along with the flashing, could it be a form of communication?" asked Maya.

"Doubtful," Ritsuko said, which prompted Maya to look at the floor with a blush. "Far too simple for even basic mathematical proofs."

"The way it sped up, it was like a countdown," Hyuuga piped up. "Maybe an indicator of energy reserves?"

"That's possible," Misato said as she wrote it down.

"It might not be power, but something else," Maya suggested. "Maybe it can't survive in our environment for very long."

"That begs the question of where it goes," Aoba said. "Which is also related to where it even came from. It was like it popped out of nowhere."

"Or grew to giant size," Misato added. She decided to write SOURCE near the corner and underlined it. "Footage shows it seemed to rise from a point in the park, as though it was originally smaller."

"Human-sized?" someone asked, unsteadily.

"Wouldn't we have spotted it beforehand?" another retorted. "There should have been sightings..."

"Maybe there have been. The eyes and silver skin are eerily similar to those reports about little grey men we've had since the forties. Maybe the Americans were covering up something at Roswell after all."

"What if it can disguise itself as a human?" Maya piped up.

"I don't want to even think about that. Would we have to start screenings?"

"What can you even screen for? We don't even know if this thing has DNA."

Misato sighed as she continued rapidly scribbling all the ideas on the board. She knew she was going to have to rein it in soon, before it got too out of hand. The fact of the matter was that, whether it was some Angelic sub-species, or a humanoid kaiju, or even a genuine spaceman, they weren't going to figure that out today in this room.

A natural break in the furor came unexpectedly, when the door slid open and Commander Ikari stepped inside, shadowed by Subcommander Fuyutsuki. The room became as quiet as a tomb as he surveyed everyone within, his gaze betraying nothing of the thoughts behind it. Then, with nary a word, he sat down at the far end of the room, one leg lazily crossed over the other. Fuyutsuki opted to stand instead, straight as a pillar and arms folded behind his back.

When it became clear the commander wasn't actually going to say anything, Misato cleared her throat. "I think we've hit the cap on discussing what it could be. Now let's focus on the other questions. Why did it attack the Angel?"

"If it's a humanoid kaiju, it could be merely territoriality," Aoba offered.

"I don't think it's a kaiju, and I don't think it's territoriality," someone near the back said. "It left Unit-01 alone."

"Maybe it didn't see it as a threat."

"That's not it," Misato said.

Clicking with the remote, she moved to another slide. Instead of a photo, it was a short soundless video, showing the giant as it went into a fighting stance and circled about the Angel. Pausing, she pointed to the image.

"Look where it stopped. It deliberately put itself between Unit-01 and the Angel. It left its back open to the Eva, while simultaneously protecting it. An animal wouldn't do that, and an intelligent being wouldn't do that unless it implicitly trusted us. If that doesn't convince you, there's this."

She clicked the remote again. Another soundless video was now projected on the wall, showing Godzilla looming over the giant as it stood between him and Unit-01. A quiet fell upon the room, an all-too-familiar one that had pervaded history classes for fifty years. Even when just on a screen, the King of the Monsters commanded your attention.

"It stopped Godzilla from destroying Unit-01. It didn't fight him- the reason for that in itself is something we can debate all day, but what's not up for debate is that instead of standing by or even fleeing, it put itself in harm's way with no clear benefit to itself, just to prevent the Eva from getting vaporized. If that's not proof of it being both intelligent and benevolent, I don't know what is."

"How do we know it wasn't a calculated gamble to get on our good side?" Aoba asked. "Intelligence implies belligerence. There's no telling what sort of information-gathering abilities it has- how do we know it hasn't tapped into our most secure systems? It might know how to perfectly counter us, and is just waiting for the right moment to strike."

"If it was hostile, wouldn't it have let Godzilla destroy Unit-01, or even do the deed itself?" Maya countered. "The Second Child egressed from the Unit, a perfect target, but the giant didn't attack her or the Eva."

"I'm inclined to agree with Lieutenant Ibuki," Misato said. "It had its perfect moment to strike. No working Evas, no available pilots, and a hostile Godzilla. It could've let him destroy Unit-01 while it focused on mopping us up. It killed an Angel in under a minute- I think it would've been able to take us out in just as much time. But it didn't."

"Regardless of its... priorities, I'd say we are leaning towards this giant being some manner of intelligent entity," affirmed Ritsuko. She adjusted her glasses. "Now the question is- why the lack of communication? I would say that is currently the biggest argument against assigning benevolence to this giant. A non-hostile intelligence would've attempted to advertise that it is not a threat."

"Perhaps it didn't feel the need to," someone suggested. "It might've felt not killing us was advertisement enough."

"It could be some sort of non-interference clause," Hyuuga piped up. "Maybe it can't talk directly to us mud-covered natives out of fear of cultural contamination."

"I think you're jumping the gun on assuming it's an honest-to-god alien," Aoba retorted.

"Stay focused, please," Misato said tiredly.

Maya spoke up. "Maybe it can't communicate, at least not easily. I don't think that mouth is actually usable, or even a mouth at all. Perhaps it speaks to its own kind via radio or telepathy. That's not very compatible with us."

"That's actually a very good point." Misato started writing on the board again. "I think we should look into alternate means of communication, in case this thing shows up again. Which it might not, for all we know. Which, as this meeting has demonstrated, is still virtually nothing. This... giant is an utter enigma. No one has any prior knowledge to work from here."

"I would disagree, Major Katsuragi."

Misato blinked in surprise as she looked to the far wall, everyone else joining in short order. Commander Ikari remained seated, but even then his presence seemed to stifle everyone else's, demanding the room focus on him and him alone. Not for the first time, Misato was astounded at the complete contrast between Shinji and his father.

"Zoom in on Godzilla's face and replay the video." An order, not a request.

The projection shifted. Godzilla's face dominated the wall now, burning eyes the size of dinner plates as they glared at the giant. Misato couldn't help but feel a slight tightness in her throat at the sight.

"Take note of his countenance," Commander Ikari said. "Godzilla's facial expressions are almost as complex as those of primates in terms of conveying emotion. There is displeasure there, yes, but this particular expression is one used only when the source of his displeasure is not something he deems a threat. He has made similar and well-documented displays whenever irritated by Rodan or Anguirus, kaiju with whom he had formed social bonds."

"Something which doesn't happen overnight," Misato said. "He's encountered this giant before."

"And does not deem it a threat, either to him or this planet. See how he turns away. Head tilted slightly upwards, in a dominance display that simultaneously exposes his throat."

"He did not back down from this giant out of fear." Commander Ikari stood up, and adjusted his glasses. For a moment, the orange glint of the lenses made his gaze mirror the one on the screen. "He did it out of respect."

Misato nodded slightly. "Thank you for your insight, commander."

"As for this discussion, I think it has served its purpose for the day," he said, seeming to disregard the pleasantry. "We have much to do today, and ultimately the Angels are our highest priority. I will assign personnel to research this newcomer; in the meantime you are to focus on restoring NERV to combat readiness."

With that, the commander left, Fuyutsuki following after him. Misato let out a long sigh, and looked to the gathered staff.

"Dismissed."

The crowd quietly got up from their chairs and filed out of the room. Ritsuko mentioned something about needing to supervise the dissection of the Angel and followed in short order, leaving only Misato.

A hand went to her cross, thumb gently rubbing the slightly textured steel as she sat down in one of the now-empty chairs. With the other hand, she used the remote to move to another slide. Once more the silver giant dominated the wall, one arm raised skyward and the other bent upwards at the elbow, fists clenched. In that photo at least it seemed less some mysterious alien entity, and more a hero of old rising to slay the evils of the world.

Her eyes fell to the text at the bottom of the photo.

UNIDENTIFIED GIANT HUMANOID LIFEFORM ONE
TENTATIVE NAME:

ULTRAMAN​

Thuktun Flishithy
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Outside Context, Part II

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Fri Jun 16, 2023 7:59 pm

"An idiot," the Sohryu girl said. "That's what you have to be, washout."

Shinji scratched the back of his head. "I didn't know it had glass in there."

She knelt down and opened the cardboard box, before tapping on the side. "It says 'fragile' right here. Right. Here."

Shinji looked at the supposed indicator, but instead saw ZERBRECHLICH stenciled onto the box. That couldn't be a real word.

"I don't speak German," he said to her, hesitantly.

"And whose fault is that?" she retorted.

"S-sorry."

She eyed him, as if she had expected something different, then snorted. She began to rifle through the box, pulling out what Shinji presumed were perfume bottles and makeup boxes. For each one she would spent a few seconds studying it like a slide under a microscope, eyes narrowed as she looked for cracks or chips in the glass, then she would be seemingly satisfied and set it neatly on the floor next to its brethren.

Just as she scrutinized her massive stockpile of cosmetics, Shinji took the lull to study her without fear of some cutting remark. She was utterly different from just about any girl he'd seen before. She was tall for her age, but where most tall kids seemed like they'd been stretched out into skinny beanpoles, she had a surprising amount of muscle on her, and he could see them flex rather impressively on her neck and shoulders as she continued to examine her beauty products.

Perhaps this was what an Eva pilot was actually meant to look like. A growing hero, one whose looks were meant for statues and murals, something the people could admire and aspire to be. Nothing like the frightfully pale ghost that was Ayanami, or the short and unremarkable boy that was Shinji Ikari.

Oɴʟʏ ᴏɴᴇ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇᴍ ʜᴀs ᴅᴇғᴇᴀᴛᴇᴅ ᴀɴ Aɴɢᴇʟ, Sʜɪɴᴊɪ.

"Nothing broken," Sohryu declared, with an ever-so-faint accent. "Somehow you managed that, at least."

She stood back up, dusting her hands off before planting them on her hips as she turned to him. Once again, Shinji found himself entranced by her eyes. They had been the first thing he'd noticed about her, when they had first met after the Angel battle- not that she had known it was him. Even from a hundred meters below they had drawn his attention, the sky blue of her irises a perfect balance to her red hair. He'd never seen blue eyes in person before, save for the mirror.

Sohryu made a face. "What are you staring at, washout? We still have plenty of boxes."

"Sorry." Shinji broke his gaze and turned away.

"Jesus, you really are a doormat."

He tried to ignore that as he walked out of her room. Standing in the hallway, he surveyed the veritable legion of cardboard boxes stacked against the walls and grimaced.

"Why did you bring so much stuff?" he asked.

"What are you talking about?" Sohryu said, brushing past him to grab a box. "This is only half of what I brought from Berlin. It's not my fault I have to share one of these tiny Japanese apartments with a floozy and a washout."

"Why do you keep calling me that?" he mumbled tiredly as he grabbed a box himself.

"Because that's what you are," she said, matter-of-factly. She set the box down in her room and began to unpack, not even looking his way. "Faulty equipment? You just can't sync with the Eva. The only reason you haven't been sent back home is because your daddy's the commander and he can't lose face by admitting you're not fit to be a pilot."

For effect, she waved her arms as if to gesture to her room. "Case in point. The actual pilot gets the bigger room."

"You mean my old room?" he said.

She shrugged. "It's just the natural order of things. It's not your fault you can't pilot. To be a pilot for the Evangelion is to be the cream of the crop, a one in a billion standout. You can't just get some random boy and stick him in there."

She stood back up and walked over, hands on her hips as she grinned. She might've only had two centimeters over him in height, but she seemed to be able to milk it for all its worth and loom over him.

"Think on the bright side, washout. You can rest easy knowing a real pilot is here to actually fight the Angels and save the world. Honestly, you should be thanking me for relieving you of that burden."

Shinji frowned. What did she know about burdens?

"I thought you didn't kill the Angel?" he blurted out.

Cᴀʀᴇғᴜʟ, Sʜɪɴᴊɪ.

Her grin faded. "What are you talking about."

"Misato told me some giant silver... man guy thing killed the Angel instead of you," Shinji replied. "She said it saved you."

Sohryu's face twitched before setting into forced blankness. "That thing didn't save anything. I had that situation under control, no matter what Misato says."

"I-"

"What do you know about being a pilot, or-or fighting Angels, washout?" Sohryu said. The faint accent became a little more pronounced. "You shouldn't even be here."

"Maybe I shouldn't," Shinji said, quietly.

He turned away and left the room, marching towards his new room. Behind him, he heard her step out into the hallway.

"Where are you going?" she called after him, impatiently.

"I'm taking care of my room," he said, not looking behind. "You can do the rest. After all, I'm just a washout, right?"

"You-" A pause. "Know what? Go huddle in your closet, washout. Wouldn't want you going through my underwear anyway."

Shinji ignored the baseless barb and ducked into his room, sliding the door shut behind him. Closing his eyes, he let out a frustrated sigh, then opened them to survey his new abode. Which was actually a repurposed supply closet less than half the size of his old room, thanks to the oh-so-vital pilot. Staring at the lone box containing his things, with his cello case leaning against it, he began to rub his temple.

"She-" he muttered angrily to himself.

Is sɪᴍᴘʟʏ ᴀ ᴄʜɪʟᴅ.

Shinji blinked, then frowned. "Don't tell me you're taking her side."

I ᴅᴏ ɴᴏᴛ ᴅᴇɴʏ sʜᴇ ɪs ᴀʙʀᴀsɪᴠᴇ ᴀɴᴅ ᴇɢᴏᴛɪsᴛɪᴄᴀʟ. Hᴏᴡᴇᴠᴇʀ, ᴡᴇ ᴀʟsᴏ ᴄᴀɴɴᴏᴛ ᴅᴇɴʏ ᴛʜᴀᴛ sʜᴇ ɪs ᴀ sᴛʀᴀɴɢᴇʀ ɪɴ ᴀ sᴛʀᴀɴɢᴇ ʟᴀɴᴅ ᴡʜᴏ ɴᴇᴀʀʟʏ ᴅɪᴇᴅ ʟᴇss ᴛʜᴀɴ ᴛʜʀᴇᴇ ʜᴏᴜʀs ᴀɢᴏ.

"She can join the club," he muttered.

Pᴇʀʜᴀᴘs sʜᴇ ᴄᴀɴ. His guest sounded earnest. Vᴇʀʏ ғᴇᴡ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ɢᴏɴᴇ ᴛʜʀᴏᴜɢʜ ᴡʜᴀᴛ ʙᴏᴛʜ ᴏғ ʏᴏᴜ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴇxᴘᴇʀɪᴇɴᴄᴇᴅ, ᴀɴᴅ ᴜɴʟɪᴋᴇ ʏᴏᴜ sʜᴇ ʜᴀs ɴᴏ ᴏɴᴇ sʜᴇ ᴄᴀɴ ᴛᴀʟᴋ ᴛᴏ.

"What is there to even talk about?" Shinji said, leaning against the wall. "I'm just the average boy, remember? I'm not unique."

Wᴇ ᴀʀᴇ ᴀʟʟ ᴜɴɪᴏ̨ᴜᴇ ɪɴ ᴏᴜʀ ᴏᴡɴ ᴡᴀʏ.

"You sound like a preschool teacher saying that."

Tʜᴇɴ ɪғ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀʀᴇ ɴᴏᴛ ᴜɴɪᴏ̨ᴜᴇ, ʏᴏᴜ sʜᴏᴜʟᴅ ᴛᴀᴋᴇ ᴄᴏᴍғᴏʀᴛ ɪɴ ᴛʜᴀᴛ. Iᴛ ᴍᴇᴀɴs ᴛʜᴀᴛ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀʀᴇ ɴᴏᴛ ᴀʟᴏɴᴇ. Iᴛ ᴍᴇᴀɴs ᴏᴛʜᴇʀs ᴄᴀɴ ᴜɴᴅᴇʀsᴛᴀɴᴅ ʏᴏᴜ, ᴀɴᴅ ᴛʀᴇᴀᴛ ʏᴏᴜ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴛʜᴇ sᴀᴍᴇ ᴋɪɴᴅɴᴇss ʏᴏᴜ ᴄᴀɴ ᴛʀᴇᴀᴛ ᴏᴛʜᴇʀs ᴡɪᴛʜ. Iᴛ ᴍᴇᴀɴs ᴛʜᴇʏ ᴄᴀɴ ᴛᴇʟʟ ʏᴏᴜ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴇᴠᴇʀʏᴛʜɪɴɢ ᴡɪʟʟ ʙᴇ ᴀʟʀɪɢʜᴛ, ᴀɴᴅ ʏᴏᴜ ᴄᴀɴ ʙᴇʟɪᴇᴠᴇ ᴛʜᴇᴍ ʙᴇᴄᴀᴜsᴇ ᴛʜᴇʏ ᴀʀᴇ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀɴᴅ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀʀᴇ ᴛʜᴇᴍ.

Shinji's expression softened, and he thought back to the redhaired girl down the hall. "But she doesn't have that."

Sʜᴇ ᴄᴏᴜʟᴅ, ɪғ sʜᴇ ʟᴇᴛ ᴅᴏᴡɴ ʜᴇʀ ʙᴀʀʀɪᴇʀs. Iᴛ ɪs ɴᴏᴛ ʏᴏᴜʀ ʀᴇsᴘᴏɴsɪʙɪʟɪᴛʏ ᴛᴏ ᴇɴsᴜʀᴇ ᴛʜᴀᴛ. Sɪᴍᴘʟʏ ᴋɴᴏᴡ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ʙᴇɪɴɢ ᴜɴɪᴏ̨ᴜᴇ ɪs ᴀ ʟᴏɴᴇʟʏ ᴛʜɪɴɢ. The voice quieted. I ᴀᴍ ᴜɴɪᴏ̨ᴜᴇ, Sʜɪɴᴊɪ. I ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴍᴇᴛ ᴍɪʟʟɪᴏɴs ᴏғ ɪɴᴅɪᴠɪᴅᴜᴀʟs ғʀᴏᴍ ᴛᴇɴs ᴏғ ᴛʜᴏᴜsᴀɴᴅs ᴏғ ᴄɪᴠɪʟɪᴢᴀᴛɪᴏɴs, ᴀʟʟ sᴄᴀᴛᴛᴇʀᴇᴅ ᴀᴄʀᴏss ᴛʜᴇ ᴜɴɪᴠᴇʀsᴇ ʟɪᴋᴇ ᴍᴏᴛᴇs ᴏғ ᴅᴜsᴛ ɪɴ ᴛʜᴇ ᴡɪɴᴅ. Yᴇᴛ I ʜᴀᴠᴇ ɴᴇᴠᴇʀ ᴍᴇᴛ ᴀɴᴏᴛʜᴇʀ ᴏғ ᴍʏ ᴋɪɴᴅ. I ᴀᴍ ᴜɴɪᴏ̨ᴜᴇ, ᴀɴᴅ ᴛʜᴜs I ᴀᴍ ᴀʟᴏɴᴇ.

Shinji slowly slid to the floor and hugged his knees to his chest. "I'm sorry."

I ᴡɪʟʟ sᴀʏ, sʜᴇ ɪs ʀɪɢʜᴛ ᴀʙᴏᴜᴛ ᴏɴᴇ ᴛʜɪɴɢ. Yᴏᴜ ᴀᴘᴏʟᴏɢɪᴢᴇ ᴛᴏᴏ ᴍᴜᴄʜ.

Shinji chuckled quietly to himself. "I don't know why I do it. I guess it's, I dunno, almost like I'm afraid of not saying it."

Wᴇʟʟ, ʏᴏᴜ ᴅᴏ ɴᴏᴛ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴍᴜᴄʜ ᴛᴏ ғᴇᴀʀ ɴᴏᴡ, Sʜɪɴᴊɪ.

The boy smiled. Then he heard a shriek, and what sounded like someone in the process of falling.

"Stupid washout," Asuka muttered to herself. "I didn't need help. I don't ever need help."

How did he even know about the silver giant? Did Misato seriously give that boy pilot-level security clearance? He wasn't even a real pilot. He was just the commander's little nepotism project, nothing more. Oh, if he actually got preferential treatment because of that...

She ground her teeth for a split second before she stopped herself. Her teeth were too perfect to ruin, especially over someone like him. He was just a washout, not even real competition.

Better to focus on actually setting up her room. Her room, singular. That alone was an insult that needed rectifying- did they deliberately decide to put their only real line of defense against extinction in worse quarters than before, or were they just stupid? She almost didn't want to unpack before she put her foot down and got a transfer, but she was not one to wait in an unfinished room like a jackass.

She found a ladder simply enough, and leaned it against the wall before climbing up so she could hang her diplomas. No hammer -she doubted these paper thin walls could withstand an actual nail anyway- so she made do with a command strip.

She was still applying the strip when something pinched her bare foot, and she let out a yelp of surprise, violently turning to see the culprit. An honest-to-god penguin was biting at her toes, clawed wings flapping as it warked loudly. She twisted, trying to bring her foot up out of its reach, and quickly realized that was a mistake as the ladder leaned back and she fell-

-right into Shinji's arms.

She blinked dumbly for a moment, staring in surprise into the boy's eyes. He had a look of worry on his face, but aside from that he didn't seem winded or strained in the slightest. Now that she could actually feel his arms, she realized the scrawny washout felt like he had steel under his skin. Of course, learning that meant him touching her, and she fought to keep her face from reddening.

"You can put me down now," she said, a little unsteadily.

"Oh."

Shinji gently lowered her so she could step off, and she hastily smoothed out her dress and composed herself before looking back to him. She hadn't even seen him enter the room, let alone move to catch her.

"Are you alright?" he asked.

She brushed the thought of her mind. "I'm fine. Just got attacked by a feral bird."

The bird in question had waddled behind Shinji, seemingly to use him as a shield against her wrath. Smart move. Shinji craned his neck to look at it, then back to her.

"Oh, this is Pen-Pen." He scooped the bird under an arm, despite its loud objections. "He gave me a scare too."

"How did you get here?" she suddenly demanded.

"Oh..." the boy blushed. "Well, I finished with my room, and I was wondering if you needed any more, um, I mean..."

"Oh," she said, taken a little aback. "Well, you can handle the heavy boxes. Don't go through my delicates."

"I wasn't planning to," he said tiredly.

He left the room. Asuka watched him for a moment, then cleared her throat.

"Hey, washout."

He poked his head back into view, brow furrowed.

"Thanks for the assist," she said quickly.

"Oh, um, you're welcome, Sohryu," he said.

She folded her arms. "Goddamn Japanese politeness. If we're going to be roommates, you're calling me Asuka."

He nodded. "Asuka."

"That's more like it."

Shinji disappeared from view, and Asuka sucked in a breath. Something about the way he stared at her still felt strange. Not in the creepy sense that normally came when men stared at her, but something so out there she couldn't even put it to word.

The boy came back with a box in hand, then set it down. He started to open it, then paused, as if in thought.

"Misato said you killed a kaiju today," he piped up. "She didn't say much else about it though, which I thought was weird. What happened?"

A grin broke out on Asuka's face.

"Well, if you want to hear about how I just undid sixty years of kaiju supremacy..."


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