Chapter 1: Copper & Coincidence
Waves of water crashed down on a glistening white seashore; the water, a bright blue color. The wind blew softly across the land, making palm trees dance around and mist from the sea fly onto the shore. Cries of seagulls could be in heard the distance, their squawk so distinct. On the seashore, Shinji Ikari laid, sleeping. His eyes squinted open to a bright sun and a powdery blue sky. He stared at the sky, confused as to how he even got there.
Shinji stood up. ' Where am I?' he asked himself, as he looked all around him. The peaceful setting felt warm and calming to Shinji as he let the atmosphere consume him. ' This is nice, really...' he said to himself. This was much different from Tokyo-03. No Angels, no NERV, no Eva's… just the soothing sounds of the ocean.
'Seriously though… where am I. Where's Misato? Or anyone for that matter?'. He took a deep breath. His nose began to sting from the potent and familiar smell of... copper. ' Where's that smell coming from?'. He began to look around, walking up and down the beach. Trying to pinpoint where the smell was coming from. The scent grew stronger the further he looked. He was close; he was sure of it. A few meters away, he saw what looked like two gargantuan statues toppled on top of each other. Shinji slowly approached the figures. They grew in size as he moved closer. Until finally, he was directly under them.
The two figures looked decayed, like mummies almost. One of the statues was easily recognizable to him. The horn gave it away. It was Eva-01, a discolored, beaten, and scarred version of it. The decayed Eva stood tall with its arm raised and its hand in a clenched fist. Under Eva-01 was an unrecognizable, decayed Eva. Its head was small; Its mouth was gaping. The whole scene was unsettling to him. Something was wrong. The smell of copper was now at its most potent state.
Shinji became curious and approached the back of the unknown EVA. An entry plug should have been somewhere nearby. Much to his surprise, however, there was no entry plug, only an odd white paste-like substance in its place. 'The pilot must have ejected, wonder who it is.'
He continued searching around the two Eva's; moments later, he found the entry plug and was… disturbed by what he'd seen. It was crushed. Pieces of it were scattered all over the place, and it was covered in blood and residual LCL. Shinji hesitantly approached the destroyed entry plug. There was writing on it that said '03' in bold lettering. He entered the mangled entry plug and caught something odd out of the corner of his eye. He turned his attention to see what it was. His curiosity turned into an intense panic in a fraction of a second. In the pilot seat was a torn and bloodied black and white jersey and a familiar one at that.
Shinji grabbed and observed the jersey, 'T-This is… Toji's!' his hands trembled, 'Oh my… d-don't tell me... h-he was… No-no-no. He couldn't have, he's not a pilot!' denial was getting the better of him. The air around him started to feel heavy. He was running out of breath fast. A rhythmic ding played in his head. Calls from the seagulls and the crashes of the tide started to intensify in his ears. Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding. That was all he could hear.
He turned away from the entry plug and gave an agonizing look at Eva-01. He could feel his sanity fading rapidly. The ding's deafening volume felt like it was consuming Shinji. He couldn't take it any longer; his knees began to buckle as he let out a long and hysterical cry to the heavens. Shinji's cries died as he went unconscious and fell onto the sand while the calls of the seagulls and waves kept their roaring volume.
Shinji gasped as he woke back up; instead of there being a blue sky and bright sun, there was a simple gray ceiling and a fan. He looked around him; there was no white sandy beach or watery seascape, just a small closet of a room with a single shelf and dresser. He turned to his side and checked his alarm clock. It read '4:50' on it. Shinji then sat up and let out a sigh of relief.
"...Guess it was just a dream," he whispered. Shinji then emerged from his bedroom. Much like his room, everything was completely normal, not a single grain of sand or drop of water in sight. To fully reassure himself; he wasn't insane, he opened up the balcony door and looked out to the horizon. The ever-active city of Tokyo-03 was still there, thankfully.
He sat down on the balcony seat, attempting to enjoy the view, and proceeded to look out into the city view.
The early morning breeze was peaceful to him, much like in his dream. Usually, Shinji wouldn't have stayed up this early and would have at least tried to get back to sleep. Today, however, would thankfully be the last Monday of the school year for him and his friends. The mere thought of not having to wake up extra early in the morning or not having to slave over the large and tedious amount of homework he received each day made Shinji excited, a rare feeling for him. However, it felt well deserved, especially after what happened two weeks earlier, what with his and his fellow pilot Asuka's fight against the seventh angel, designated: Israfel. That week would forever be cemented into his memory, the day he and Unit-02's fiery, passionate pilot killed an Angel with... a dance routine. It made him chuckle at the pure thought of it, killing a large, world-ending alien… by dancing.
The balcony door suddenly slid open. A fiery redhead peered out from the door, with her arms crossed and an exasperated yet tired look in her eyes. 'Speak of the devil.' Shinji thought, amused. It was Asuka Langley Soryu, his roommate and fellow pilot.
"You woke me up, third…" she said. "so you better have a damn good reason for it..." her left eye twitched as she spoke in a sleepy tone.
"And if I don't?" asked Shinji in a snarky tone, also rare for him.
"...if you don't, I'll… I'll…" Asuka tried to think quickly, "...I'll throw you off the balcony and watch as you fall seven stories below." she said sadistically. "So start talking, idiot!"
Shinji rubbed his temples. "I came out here to make sure I was still in reality, you know?." said Shinji, hesitant to explain the details of the dream. Asuka doubted what he said and inched closer to him, looking ready to throw him clean off the balcony. However, she stopped halfway and sat back next to him, still carrying her doubtful look.
"I want to throw you off the balcony…" Asuka yawned. "...But it's too early, so you live for now." Shinji shook his head and smirked, continuing to stare onwards. It also had been two weeks since Asuka moved in with him and Misato. He was still getting used to having yet another person in the house beside a penguin and a purple-haired drunkard.
"So, care to share what happened?" asked Asuka. "In the dream?" Shinji winced at the question, reluctant to share the strange dream. He then sighed and began to explain what happened: The sky, the endless ocean, the two petrified, motionless Eva's. As he was about to mention the trashed entry and Toji's jersey, Shinji caught Asuka sleeping soundly. She must have fallen asleep either out of boredom or exhaustion. The sight of her sleeping next to him reminded him of the night before he and Asuka's fight, the night she somehow 'sleepwalked' her way next to him as he slept. He still remembered the adrenaline rush of panic he got upon opening his eyes to Asuka, and he especially remembered the weird compulsion to lean in closer to her and kiss her and what she said in her sleep. 'Mama…' her words echoed within his mind.
Shinji didn't take much thought into what they meant at the time. For some reason now, however, he felt the urge to find out why she said it. 'Who was Asuka's mother?' he thought to himself. He recalled the many times she would get calls from her back in Germany, but the way Asuka acted told him otherwise: the way she talked to her, the immediate look of disdain on her face after each call. He knew he couldn't just outright ask her after. After all, he, himself, wouldn't like it if someone asked about his father without warning.
As the minutes passed, he, too, felt tired. He yawned loudly and grabbed two of the extra blankets they kept outside. He carefully draped one of the blankets over Asuka, hoping that she wouldn't wake up and throw him off the balcony. He then bundled up in the other blanket and began to doze off into a peaceful dream. All while the ever-active city of Tokyo-03 kept chugging along.
Shinji and Asuka were abruptly woken up a few hours later by the sounds of cicadas and the beating light of the sun. Both of the pilots slowly opened their eyes and turned to each other. The two immediately leaned away from one another out of shock.
"[THAT'S IT, IDIOT, COME HERE!]" barked Asuka in her mother's tongue as she reached for Shinji's collar. Before Asuka could finish what she started earlier that day, the sounds of muffled chuckling from a familiar purple-haired woman. The two looked over to the entrance of the balcony. Their guardian and commanding officer, Misato Katsuragi, was standing there with one hand over her mouth, trying not to laugh.
"Um… How long have you been standing there?" asked Shinji.
"Long enough to see you almost fly off the building… Now quit fighting and get ready for school. I'm starving here." she answered.
Both obeyed her and got up, not before Asuka gave Shinji a quick smack across the head. Shinji quickly made breakfast for the four of them, counting their penguin Pen-Pen, and gave them all their bento wrapped lunches. The door buzzer rang a little after the two finished getting ready. Shinji opened the door. As expected, it was his close friend, Kensuke Aida. Before Shinji could even greet his friend, however, Kensuke peered his head out from the door and greeted Misato enthusiastically, Prompting both Shinji and Asuka to roll their eyes. The two pilots shortly left after. Asuka went ahead of the two so she didn't have to deal with 'Idiot Shinji' and his 'Four-eyed stooge' friend.
As the two boys walked to school, Kensuke turned to Shinji. "Hey, did Toji say anything to you yesterday?" asked Kensuke. Shinji simply shook his head,
"No, why?" asked Shinji in response.
"Well, I went over to his place earlier, and no one was home." he elaborated. The dream from last night came back to him. A shiver of fear ran down his back, worried if the nightmare from last night was an indication of something. Kensuke took a quick note of Shinji's sudden anxious look.
"Something wrong, Ikari?" he asked, waving his hands in front of the distracted pilot. Shinji quickly snapped back into reality.
"O-oh no, I'm fine. Didn't get that much sleep last night, that's all," he replied nervously.
The two boys arrived at school not long after. They entered their classroom and sat down, waiting for school to begin. Much of the class was quite empty; many students started to transfer out due to the recent amount of Angel attacks. Who could blame them, really; the city turned into a full-on warzone. Only the most stubborn of people would even think of staying. Shinji examined the class loosely and noticed Rei Ayanami, a fellow pilot, and friend - to an extent- sitting in her usual spot, idly looking out the window.
Kensuke noticed what he was staring at. "Huh... looks like Ayanami decided to show up today. She beat Toji, that's a first" the classroom door slid open, revealing a familiar and an especially tired-looking, jersey-wearing student. Shinji felt a small feeling of relief go over him as he saw Toji Suzuhara, standing in the doorway. The student sluggishly made his way over to Kensuke and Shinji and plopped down next to them and put his head on his desk.
The two boys looked at him with concerned eyes. Another student approached them. It was a girl, holding a collection of papers and a stern look on her face. It was the class representative: Hikari Horaki. She noticed Toji and looked at him with an annoyed and disappointed look on her face.
"Suzuhara!" she said. Toji turned his head.
"Jeez, can we not today, class rep?" Toji groaned. "I was at the hospital all night, remember?"
Kensuke raised his eyebrow. "Wait, what?" asked Kensuke.
The tired student gave Kensuke a confused look. "My sister was getting surgery on her knee done yesterday," said Toji. The two other boys shook their heads. "Didn't I already tell you guys to tell her?" he asked. Both Shinji and Kensuke shook their heads.
"Heh, guess I should get better at doing that..." he said.
"Is she okay though, was the surgery...?" asked Hikari, worried.
"Oh yeah-yeah, she's fine, nothing went wrong," Toji said with a quick nod. "There's still a lot of work that's gotta be done on her, though-"
Before Toji could further elaborate, however, the school bell rang. All of the students scrambled into their seats and awaited the teachers' arrival. The school intercom abruptly clicked, making all of the students looked up to the speaker above the chalkboard.
"Can Aida Kensuke, Horaki Hikari, and Suzuhara Toji, please report to the principal's office with their belongings…" said the woman over the intercom. "...Again can Aida Kensuke, Horaki Hikari, and Suzuhara Toji, please report to the principal's office with their belongings. Thank you." said the women over the intercom.
The class immediately turned their heads to where the three students mentioned sat. Hikari gave the two boys an exasperated look.
"What did you two rope me into?!" barked the now angry class rep. Toji quickly rose from his seat, also wearing an aggravated look.
"Quit assuming stuff. We haven't done jack shit! As far as we're concerned, we should be the one asking you that question." barked back Toji as he and Kensuke gathered their stuff. As they left, Hikari and Toji continued their shouting match, while Kensuke gave an unamused look on his face.
The whole class- save for Rei- stared at the door, unsure of what to make of what they saw. "...And they call us newlyweds," Shinji said.
The three were now making their way to the principal's office. Toji and Hikari's shouting match was still raging on. However, the argument had devolved from the two fully shouting at each other to them quietly shouting at each other. Their fighting died down as soon as they arrived at the principal's office. They entered the somewhat spacious office. Toji, Hikari, and Kensuke all bowed and introduced themselves in a formal tone.
"Ah, you must be them," the three students looked up to see an attractive, blond young woman wearing dark-tinted sunglasses sitting across from them. "If you don't mind, Mr. Takao, I would like to speak with them privately." The bald principal nodded and exited the room, leaving the three students with the mysterious woman. She motioned for them to take a seat.
"Please take a seat, you three. We have much to discuss." said the woman, clipboard in hand.
Do toasters breathe?