The Last Temptation/Bloody murder [24]

 

[Intro track — Fallen Angel : Blve Öyster Cvlt]

[Scene: The Tokyo-3 lake by night. Lights on the far shore cast thin tracks of glitter across the dark waters. There are stars under broken cloud, but the moon has set.

[We see Asuka in silhouette. She is wearing her plug-suit, sitting on a crag of fallen masonry, her face in her hands.]

Asuka

It is getting cold — the night breeze is blowing across the lake. I'm shivering. I should have eaten, hours ago. But I don't care. It doesn't matter any more. Nothing matters any more.

It all started here.


[Flashback begins. Same location, late afternoon, the sun blazing a golden road across the water. Asuka is in her red and black, sitting reading.]

Asuka

The war had really come home. I was skipping school with a clear conscience, knowing that it wasn't there any more. I'd seen Hikari off at the station.

I could tell how bad things were, since while we were waiting for the train, Misato turned up, and pressed a basket containing an indignant Pen-Pen into her arms, and started giving her a full lecture on the care and feeding of warm-water penguins.

After the train had chugged away, Misato offered me a lift back to what was left of town, but we rode together in silence. We were both waiting, in our own ways, for the hammer to fall.

I got out at a sensible point to finish the hike to Maya's, but I was feeling too restless, ended up ambling down here.

Then I realise I'm not alone. Someone is singing — or whatever it is one does to emulate orchestral music not scored for voice — the opening bars of the EU anthem. I squint into the glare a bit, and spot a young man sitting on top of a broken statue, a few metres out from shore.

He spots me, too, and stops.

“Singing is good,” he says, “It brings joy, revitalises the soul. Song — the greatest achievement of human culture.

“Don't you agree, Ms Soryu?”

“There's nothing so sublime it can't be used to sell cars, or garnish a bureaucracy.

“I am glad to see that my reputation precedes me — but you have the advantage, Mr…”

“Nagisa — Kaoru Nagisa. One of the Chosen like yourself. The Fifth Child.”

“Number five? I hope you have better luck than number four, Nagisa-kun.”

“Kaoru, please, Ms. Soryu.”

“Asuka, please.”

There is something about this man that fascinates me. I pick myself up, and try to find my way out to where he is sitting — but by the time I get there, he has vanished with the setting sun.


The frisson remains next morning, when I turn up for the next round of tests to find that Kaoru will be being tested in Unit 02 today in my stead. I suppose it was inevitable, until another Eva is completed — with Unit 00 gone, the Ayanami has nothing to pilot, and Misaki is the only one the Commander would let take Unit 01. I feel a quiver of anticipation at what I might feel next time I synch, to feel his flavour.


Maya

Another pilot delivered with no warning, and we are having to start his synch tests without even a profile to reconfigure Unit 02 with. Well, it all keeps us busy.

When Asuka got in last night, I could see that something had happened to her — and now I can see what. She's smitten by the new pilot. Perhaps I shouldn't have teased her about that little accident with Rei.

Nagisa-kun's test results turn out good. Too good. We should only be getting calibration data for profiling at this stage, but he's actually reaching positive synch. It shouldn't be happening — but since it is, that's more work for us to do to investigate.

After the tests, I see him encounter Misaki for the first time. He looks genuinely surprised to see her, though I don't know why. I can also see her hackles rise — if she were one of Senpai's cats, she would be walking stiff-legged with her back arched. I wonder what set that off. We can do without anything to happen to disrupt the already fragile state of morale.

I wonder if Misaki might not have the right of it. I know I don't want Asuka to be hurt.


Asuka

I know I shouldn't, but I can't help it. After the tests should be over, I'm hanging around outside the main access concourse, hoping that I might see him, to “just happen” to bump into him. But instead, I'm met by Maya, who whisks me off to a little restaurant for supper. And before I know what's happening, I'm getting the Talk — as if I don't know not to get stupidly pregnant — it's not as if I want kids anyway. And then I realise what I'm thinking. I'm considering doing it. With him.

I'm well off into la-la-land when suddenly the smoochy music that is playing in the background of the restaurant resolves into words.

“Last night I dreamt that I found love — It lingers, immortal…”

“Huh?” It seemed to capture my mood exactly. I start to actively listen — and the song actually seems to be in Italian. But the coincidence warms me. Perhaps the world is conspiring to go right for me, at long last.

And next day, I'm there waiting for him again.

Everything seems to have gone quiet, everyone departed. I'm afraid that I've missed him again.

And then, there he is, stepping out of the gate next to where I'm sitting, and smiling that gentle smile of his.

There is something about him that reminds me of Ayanami, and not just those wine coloured eyes. But what in her is cold and dull, in him seems to be smouldering and profound.

He walks up to me.

“You were waiting for me, weren't you?”

“Not especially.”

“What, then?”

“Well, these days, there aren't really all that many people left to keep me company. I don't really fancy just sitting at home by myself.”

“They say that home is where the heart is. If you are happy in your home, then that is good.”

“You think so? Well, right at the moment, I think I fancy a coffee.” Will he take the hint? I catch myself fiddling with my hair, and slap the offending hand down by my side.

“I'd like to talk some more. May I accompany you, if you don't mind?”

Result!

I find us a quiet table at the back of a nearby coffee bar, and spend the time taken to drink the first cup just listening to him philosophise about love and loneliness. I could just sit for hours, listening to that voice.

And I do.

Without my noticing, it has become late. Maya will be expecting me back.

“I have to go soon, to bed.”

“With me?” He is alarmingly direct, but guileless. I almost say yes, but I know my body's messy rhythms, and they tell me that now is not a good time to start. Damn the curse of Eva.

“No,” I say, indignation in my voice, but not enough to mean “Never.”

He places his hand on mine. His fingers are delicate and cool.

“Man always has a pain in his heart. Since he feels pain, he experiences life as a pain.”

Ah, sweet prince. But I think he's talking about more than a personal yearning.

“Yes. We have no Cure for the World's Pain. My ancestors lost it with the rest of the family silverware a couple of centuries ago.” There are meticulous records of my ancestry, and I was amused to discover that I am descended on a distaff line from the notorious von Bek family of Mirenburg. I have an ancestor who was either the most unlikely Grail-Knight of them all, or the prototype of the more famous von Munchhausen.

“You are strong, Asuka, but your heart is tender. You would want such a cure. That thought earns my sympathy.”

I cock an eyebrow.

“Yes. Or in other words — I love you.”

I lean towards him, pull his face to mine, and kiss him. His lips are cool, and his breath tickles like a caress. And then I pull back, startled at myself, standing up, not quite knocking the table over.

“Got to go.” I say, and flee, leaving him sitting there, looking slightly saddened.

I think I have my composure back by the time I get home — but I needn't have worried. Maya is sitting up, busily working at something, and probably would hardly have noticed it I'd staggered in drunk, or half-naked, or something.

She just notices enough to tell me that I have synch tests in the morning. Unit 02 — after him.


Morning. I meet up with Misaki on the way, but apart from vague hellos, there's not a lot I feel like talking about. She should understand — she and Shinji, they had their passionate romantic phase. I just feel like I'm walking on air.

I even smile at Dr. Mihara, when he arrives to take charge of the tests in Ritsuko's absence.

We've just changed, when all hell starts breaking loose.

Something has activated my Eva — but I can see from Maya's console that she'd not even begun to set up the relay plug we'd be using for the tests. And then it gets worse.

“AT field in Central Dogma — pattern Blue!”

And there's not a lot I can do. Lockdown procedures are going on around me, and I am useless as Ayanami, another pilot without an Eva.

“Scramble Unit 01.” The Commander comes on-line, “Keep the target from Terminal Dogma at all costs. Do you understand?” But Misaki is already in motion.

I just stand here, forgotten, by Maya's chair — then Misato leans over me.

“I'm sorry,” she says, “That boy, Nagisa, is the Angel.”

I don't want to believe her. But I know it is true. I start to run. I don't know where. Just away. Somewhere where people will not be there to see me in tears.

And there is a strong hand on my wrist. Freya stays me in my flight. I start to struggle.

“Come,” she says, and leads me off.


She leads me through a labyrinth. Doors open to her where I don't even see any door. And then we're in a tiny elevator, plummeting into the very bowels of the Earth. The doors open at long last, and suddenly I recognise where I am.

Across a lake, hundreds of meters away, the crucified Angel.

This must be Terminal Dogma, the last redoubt.

But there is no time now to look and wonder — Freya is still dragging me, along a path by this underground sea. “Xanadu,” she says, by way of explanation, “That is where we must meet him.”

We stop at a point in front of the Angel, maybe twenty meters from the shore, where a wide path leads amongst the natural rock formations. There are marks in the dust that I suddenly resolve as Eva-size footprints.

Above, and afar, now we are stopped and I have regained my breath, the echoing sounds of Titanic struggle.

Dwarfed by distance, I see the two Evas, Units 01 and 02, tumble from a shaft at the far end of this road, locked in combat. Their impact throws up a great cloud of debris, but I can see them still struggling.

And I can see him, glowing like a star.

My Angel.

I don't know what designation the Commander will have given him, but in this moment, to me, he is Samael, Son of the Morning, the bright Morning Star, fallen into the depths of the Pit.

With the battle still echoing behind him, he approaches, floating through the air, his feet just clear of the ground.

“I've been waiting for you, Nagisa-kun, you rat-bastard.” I tell him when he gets close enough. And I hurl myself at him.

An all too familiar prismatic display.

“An AT field?”

It catches me by surprise, and I go sprawling.

“That is what you Lilim call it. It is the pure light of the soul, the veil of the Temple, that marks the sacred space where none may intrude.

“Don't you Lilim know? Everyone has one.”

Everyone, huh?

He starts to move past, ignoring me, ignoring Freya who has stepped aside, and then he looks up at the Angel.

“Adam, fountainhead of all our being. Born of Adam, I return, to end this Music that was Man.”

My skin crawls. This is Third Impact, and I'm here at its Ground Zero.

Then something makes him halt.

“No!” he says, “This is Lilith!

“Ah! — I understand you Lilim now.”

And while he is distracted, I spring. AT Field? I know how to deal with one of those, now he's given the secret away. We are rolling, struggling in the dust, a messy uncoordinated cat-fight.

And then we are at the edge of the lake, under the seven-fold gaze of Lilith, and I'm kneeling on top of him, and I can just push his head under.

The struggle goes out of him before I do.

“It was my function to live, and destroy human existence. But I would prefer to die here. Destruction of the ego — the only true freedom.

“Asuka-chan, this is my true will. Destroy me, or be destroyed. Only one may pass the gate that is to come, and inherit the future beyond. You are not the one who should perish. Your flame is the stronger. The future will belong to you.

“Thank you. You gave my life meaning.”

He smiles at me, and then up, over my shoulder. I don't turn my head. I just hold him under the surface until all motion ceases.

But my tears alone would have sufficed to drown him.

There is a gentle hand on my shoulder. It is Freya.

“It is over,” she says, gently. And I pick myself up.


[The flashback unwinds.]

Asuka

As soon as I was back in territory I knew, Freya let me depart. I just walked without aim. And here I find myself back where it started.

I would have been his, would have offered myself to him. And then he made me do what I had to do. So cruel.

I have to be cold. There is no choice but that I must make that which has not killed me give me further strength.

But still I mourn.

“Kaoru-kun — why?”

[Outro track — Silent Pain : Yuki Kajiura]


Reference

The song Asuka hears is Canta per Me by Yuki Kajiura — there is a mondegreen at the start of the second verse (more obvious in the original Noir — Soundtrack #1 version than in the revoicing on Fiction), if you are listening to the Italian in English. This wouldn't actually work for Asuka who'd either be expecting German or Japanese, but I though it was too nifty a gimmick not to include…


© Steve Gilham 2004
© Mr. Tines 2004

#include <std::copyright> — most of the characters and situations in the fic belong to GAINAX/Project Eva, and almost all the rest to the ladies of Clamp. It's just this form of words that is mine.


[23] Greater Love/The Wonders of the Hidden World

[25] The Day of Wrath/All Strings Awry

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