...A woman fell on the floor.
Her head fell some distance away, crushed to a pulp.
He took a step forward, regretting what he did but knowing that it was necessary.
Another woman struck, swinging a huge weapon with a sadistic glee in her face yet her eyes conflicted in worry, sadism and anger.
The weapon missed entirely, causing the woman to stumble while she vomited blood and her expression changed drastically to that of panic.
The red-headed woman fell beside the headless corpse of her comrade, causing a huge pool of blood to form under her before she could go still, but she nonetheless perished.
He took another step forward, feeling regret and determination.
His goal was near. This bloodshed could come to an end.
The blood on the floor coalesced into a form that sprang up from it like an assassin as soon as he had moved past the bodies, with him taking care to not step on the bodies in order to respect their determination.
The assassin's blades reached for him while the assassin's eyes were dead and lifeless… But before the blades could pierce his back, the blonde assassin-woman's motions wavered.
The blades she used fell to the floor as her her fingers and then her arms dissolved into a slurry, soon followed by blonde woman's looks and body, before finally leaving behind a small red-ish orb that looked dull and cracked with a small hole running through it's very center, resting on top of a pile of motionless slime.
He regretted all of it, but he would not stop. The creatures were not supposed to be here, and he had to make things right.
He pushed a pair of large, decorated doors open.
And he saw what was within.
Yet, it was not there.
And so he laughed, even though he tried his hardest not to.
Kawaru Nagisa woke up and after a moment, sat up.
He looked around and saw that he was in an opened coffin, one among countless others that had been closed and arranged into a huge circle in a huge crater in gray, crater-pockmarked landscape that was crowned with a sky of darkness and stars.
The pale blue planet looked distant and cold as the white-haired teenage boy looked up at the sky, where the world kept spinning in a lazy cycle, like it had done for eons.
"...How curious." Kawaru spoke while looking at the world in the distance, even though the words were lost in the vacuum of the moon.
"Bwah." Asuka let a small burp after downing a can of soda.
"U-umu, Asuka-san… Are you really alright?" Shinji looked and felt a bit awkward as he twiddled his thumbs on the other side of the table. However he got his nerves under control after a moment of mental chant of his 'concentration chant'. 'I can't show weakness, I can't show fear, I must be strong, stronger than fear, stronger than hate, I-'
"Yes, and stop asking. It's getting annoying. Also, no chanting that creepy chant of yours." Asuka growled and tossed the can to the side, where it landed just short of the trash can,
Shinji realized that he must have muttered the chant under his breath. "S-sorry."
Asuka growled even more and got up, scooped the can that had landed on the floor, and put it in the trash. "Stupid Shinji… Stupid eyepiece… Stupid bugs… Should have just killed them all…"
The redhead had scavenged an eye-patch from somewhere and had put it over her eye, even though her eye was alright under the patch. However, the patch was on the side that had been gnawed out in Unit-02, making it obvious why exactly Asuka was wearing it.
Shinji felt sympathetic over the girl's plight as the synaptic feedback between the EVA and the Pilot would have meant that while Unit-02's eye had been eaten, Asuka had felt all of it and clearly felt phantom pain over it.
'...What should I do? P-perhaps it'd help Asuka if I tried to distract her? B-but how? Uuh… What would Suzuki-kun do in this situation… I'm not good at talking to girls in general, and Asuka's a special case of annoying…' Shinji pondered the situation mentally.
Rei, meanwhile, was nowhere to be seen which was making Shinji somewhat worried.
The two pilots were sitting in a freight-container room while wearing thick winter outfits, since while the container was heated internally, it wasn't enough to stop the container from being chilly.
The wind was howling and while dawn was slowly starting to rise, but the blizzard was clearly not letting up since the whine of the wind was causing the container-room to creak and the slowly lifting utter darkness of the outside was making room for long, bale and dreadful shadows as the early morning light light didn't do much to illuminate the surroundings themselves, specifically with all the snowfall that was going on. Not to mention that the sink-hole that had resulted from the Angel's burrowing was letting out a thick steam-smoke as air inside the sink-hole met the freezing air outside.
All in all, it was quite a creepy atmosphere, and it was clear that Asuka was acting extra-hostile out of nervousness.
Shinji was well aware that part of Asuka's nervousness was due to his presence, as Asuka was clearly still acting wary around Shinji- Something that he couldn't fault her for, considering what had happened between the two of them, and considering that the two of them were alone in the 'pilot-container' so there wouldn't be a Kaji to rescue Asuka from Shinji if the previous conflict happened again- Shinji had vowed internally that he'd rather allow Asuka to kill him than to attack her again, but it wasn't as if Asuka could see into his mind or believe his words.
"Do you have any ideas where Rei might be, Asuka-san?" Shinji tried to reopen the conversation as Asuka was rubbing her eyepatch while clearly in a foul mood.
"What? You're already getting withdrawals from not having your sex-toy orbit you all the time?" Asuka growled back, making Shinji a bit angry over how the red-head referred to Rei but the boy calmed down after a moment.
'Calm down, Asuka's just lashing out, she's not like that normally… Well, she is, but the point is that she doesn't mean it… er, although, she's normally like that…' Shinji felt annoyed and it was clear that Asuka saw it as the red-head paled slightly but kept staring down Shinji with a hostile look on her face.
"Asuka-san, please have some respect Rei-san- Just because she isn't like you or me doesn't mean she's not trying her best-"
"I don't care about that. I could care less about what that emotionless doll does or doesn't do. Shut up." Asuka growled and Shinji lifted his hands to give up the conversation.
'Fine, I tried.' Shinji turned to look away, although he caught a glimpse of Asuka letting out a shaky, almost scared sigh before seemingly realizing the sound she had made, harrumphing, and turning away as well while bunching her arms together.
The moment stretched with neither Shinji nor Asuka willing to re-open conversation… And before long a knock came from the door of the recovery-room, causing both of the pilots to jump in fright.
"...Ooaah… It's warm… My face is hundred percent frozen…" Misato groaned with pleasure as she burst into the container, slammed the door closed, and promptly lunged for the electric heating unit in the container to warm her hands against it. "Hi, Shinji-kun, Asuka-chan!"
"Misato-san? What is happening?" Shinji snapped out of his growing resentment over Asuka's annoying behavior in order to try to figure out what was going on. "Where's Rei?"
The trio of EVA's had been evacuated out of the sinkhole by winching them up via the umbilical cables after the Units had loaded the fighting equipment they had used in the watery cavern to a huge cable elevator to recover the equipment, and the EVA's had been put to a kneeling position near the edge of the sinkhole.
Asuka and Shinji had been extracted from them, however Rei had been ordered to remain in her EVA while the two pilots had been carted off.
…And that was the extent of Shinji's knowledge of the situation, making him curious and worried as to what had happened to Rei while he and Asuka had been stuck in the container.
"Rei's doing a special op." Misato explained while preparing a cup of tea on top of the heating element. She then noticed Shinji's expression and waved her hand again. "Don't look so worried, Shinji-kun. Rei's just using Unit-00 to load some gear to the aircraft since it's more convenient to use EVA to lift cargo in this snow, otherwise the loading would take ages."
Shinji let out a breath he hadn't realized he had kept in, and blushed instantly as he realized how incredibly worried he had been over Rei's health. 'R-right, she was just… U-umu, Asuka might have had a point, I'm having Rei-withdrawals… E-embarrassing…'
It was clear that Misato noticed Shinji's train of thoughts as she put her fingers on her lips while her pose practically radiated 'Oho? Shinji's got a girlfriend'-energy, making Shinji blush even harder. However Misato clearly shook the urge to tease Shinji with some effort as her expression hardened.
"However, the situation's gotten a bit serious." Misato took a seat beside Shinji and put the steaming cup of tea on the table. "I don't know how long we have to talk, so I'll be brief. NERV will build a base here, and I'll be staying behind to command it. Meanwhile you three, that is Asuka-chan, Rei-chan and Shinji-kun will probably be sent back to Japan. Or not, it hasn't been decided just yet."
"I see- w-wait, doesn't that mean-!" Shinji paused and paled slightly. "You'll stay here? W-what about Pen-pen? And the apartment? A-and, what about Suzuki-kun?"
"Second is down there." Misato pointed down. "The sink-hole I mean. Haa… I'm still getting cold sweat and chicken-skin from thinking back… Ahem. I mean, Gendo and I went down there and met Second, and we had a meeting with… uh… Right, so I think it's alright to tell you- We met Demons. Literal Demons. And Second and his kind are not Angels, but Demons."
"D-demons? W-what?" Shinji froze on the spot. "Suzuki-kun is something like that? He wasn't an Angel?"
"Hrmp…" Asuka, meanwhile, just scoffed while looking disinterested. "Well, I suppose that those are yet another enemy that we'll squash, right? Including that red bug thing? Just send me out again and I'll kill it this time."
"Well, we're currently sort of… well, kind of, I guess, allied with them? Or I guess it's like a two-sided mercenary contract sort of scenario?" Misato looked a bit uncertain and sipped tea to calm herself. "Well, the short version is that if Angels attack them, we'll come to their aid if they ask us to, and if we get attacked, they'll come to our aid if we ask them to. And there's a lot of favors and stuff involved with aid on both sides… Anyway, the point is that we won't be at each other's throats for now."
"Phew…" Shinji let a relieved sigh while Asuka let out a disappointed one.
"Speaking of which, it's all thanks to you, Shinji-kun. Good thinking back there. Asuka as well, you fought well." Misato nodded to Shinji and then to Asuka as the red-head had gained an upset expression when Shinji was praised. "That being said, Second will be here soon- He said that he'd like to meet the pilots and thank them or something before you depart."
A knock came from the door and Misato paled instantly.
"Ahem… haa… Right. That might be them. Just… Be courteous, alright? Second is Suzuki-kun, but Second is also a Demon. So keep your heads straight, alright?" Misato reached to grab Asuka's and Shinji's hands and squeezed them briefly. "Asuka too."
Asuka tried to pull her hand off Misato's, but Misato gripped it with enough force to make Asuka wince.
"I mean it, Asuka. This is important- Keep your head straight, behave, and keep your mouth shut if you can't control it." Misato sent Asuka a harsh glare, making the red-head pale and shut up for a change while Shinji paled a bit over the sudden change in Misato's normally-playful attitude. "This isn't a joke or game. Those monsters can wipe us out if they want. Just keep your head down for this one time, and then you are on your way back to Japan while I stay here to keep the lid on the pot- Second literally threatened to kill everyone in Japan if we bother him too much. Do not give him an excuse."
'S-Suzuki-kun did what?' Shinji paled. 'T-that can't be the case, there has to be a mistake-'
"I- u- um…" Asuka paled in front of Misato's glare before she clearly pivoted back to an annoyed 'spoiled princess' mindset. "I'll speak to that man how I want! I am Asuka Langley-Soh-"
A slap rang in the container, and Asuka reached to put her hand on her cheek while looking incredulous and more than a bit scared.
Misato let her hand stay up for a while and Asuka flinched as Misato moved it… And the woman put her hand down on the table.
The woman didn't speak, just looked disappointed as she stared at the red-head, and it looked like the look hurt Asuka more than the slap as the red-head's pose shook and her eyes reddened as if she was holding back tears.
Misato stood up and walked briskly to the door, adjusted her officer's cap, and opened it.
Rei was standing behind the door and was looking forward with a disinterested look on her face while she had a small but constantly growing mound of snow on top of her head.
"Ah! Rei-chan! Come in, here, I made a pot of tea-" Misato grabbed the blue-haired girl, shook the snow off her, and sat her down on the table before pouring her a cup from the kettle that she had left on top of the electric heater.
Rei was looking around in a disinterested manner and spotted Shinji… And promptly grabbed his hands.
Shinji blushed to the color of a ripe tomato in an instant.
"Warm…" Rei mumbled while having a neutral expression but a faint blush, before she let go of Shinji's hands after a moment of warming her hands in his, and turned back towards Misato. "Major Katsuragi, I have been informed that Second will visit-"
"I know, I was there when Gendo approved the meeting. Anyway, are you feeling alright? Not cold? Got the cargo loaded?" Misato waved her hand and then nodded as Rei nodded to the last question. "Alright! In that case everything's a-okay."
Rei glanced at Asuka who was brooding and looking away while letting a vengeful growl under her breath, which didn't hide a small sniffing sound coming from her direction.. "Pilot Langley-Sohryu? Are-"
"Shut. Up. And. Behave. Doll." Asuka growled with clear hostility in her tone, causing Rei to fall silent while turning her head to look ahead at the wall with a disinterested look on her face.
Shinji looked worriedly between Asuka and Rei while Misato looked suddenly regretful before walking to Asuka.
Misato hugged Asuka out of the blue, causing the red-head to freeze up.
"Let go." Asuka bristled instantly while looking decidedly away from Misato.
"I'm sorry, Asuka-chan… I didn't mean to upset you so much, nor did I want to hit you. I wanted to ensure you realize how precarious our position is with Second, but I went overboard and lost my temper. Can you forgive me? Please?" Misato told Asuka in a tone that was not quite speech yet not quite a whisper. "Haa… It's alright if you hate me, but let's work together. For one last time. Alright?"
Shinji suddenly realized that he might be seeing Misato for the last time as the woman's change in mood and erratic behavior suddenly made sense, and made her mention of reassignment click in Shinji's head. 'Misato-san- She's expecting to die here or something? What exactly happened?! Suzuki-kun- He's not like that! R-right?!'
Asuka sniffed and let out a shaky 'hmmph!' before pushing Misato off. "Fine. Whatever. I don't care anymore."
"...Thanks, Asuka-san. I mean it." Misato relaxed just slightly. "Hm… The storm's picking up."
"The change in blizzard intensity is due to super-heavy cargo aircraft lifting off and causing vortex with VTOL-engines." Rei noted with a bland tone. "Transport 'Global Eagle-12' has departed on schedule, Major Katsuragi."
"Ah- oh, right." Misato nodded and moved over to the windows of the container, which had its heat-insulating shutters closed so that they couldn't be seen through and neither would they bleed heat even if they also had traditional double-layer window-glass, and the woman opened the shutters to peer into the storm that was raging outside. There was something big that was slowly lifting off and starting to fly away visible in the distance, but the darkness caused the aircraft to practically disappear to the blizzard once it turned off its spotlights. "Right, so the cargo is off? Great. The EVA's are being loaded to the other aircraft, right?"
"Unit-00 was being attached to 'Kanshou-13' at the time I arrived at the dedicated pilot rest and recovery room, Major Katsuragi. Unit-00 should have been loaded on board by now, assuming the loading process proceeded as usual" Rei continued with the same tone, making Shinji realize something. "However, I am not aware if there are plans to move the transports- From what I've gathered the EVA containers of the aircraft are to be unloaded from the aircraft themselves, once the EVA Units have been inserted to the LCL containers in order to ensure that the blizzard doesn't freeze the EVA's."
"Hey, Misato-san? Did you get a promotion?" Shinji asked and got a somewhat shaky smile from Misato in turn. "Congratulations!"
"Thanks, I suppose. It's nice to advance in my career but this really wasn't how I wanted that sort of thing… I got the promotion and was instantly shoved to a task of literally squatting over a den of monsters, so I think I would have preferred Ritsuko's constant barbs about me being a career babysitter in Japan, no offense." Misato sighed. "Don't mind me, Shinji-kun. I'm a bit on edge."
"I see…" Shinji nodded and distracted himself by getting up and going to fetch some energy bars as he was starting to feel hungry. '...Haa, well, at least Rei seems to be okay…'
Misato got a call and put her flip-phone against her ear after struggling to get it open as it seemed to have frozen closed, and spoke with someone for a few words before closing the phone. "Second has arrived at the base and has a group of followers with him, reportedly including the two that you met in that underground lake. Get ready. Remember, if this goes wrong then this might as well be a case of at least three Angels attacking us simultaneously."
Rei nodded while keeping her eyes aimed at the opposite wall while Shinji gave a resolute nod, and Asuka just tossed her hair while not looking at any of the people in the room.
Misato looked like she wanted to say something to Asuka but decided against it as a knock came from the door. In response the dark-violet haired woman adjusted her uniform and officer's cap before walking to the door, breathing out, and opening the door.
Suzuki was standing behind it, wearing the same strange violet robe Shinji had seen him wear before, and he was accompanied by the duo of tanned-looking teenagers and a gothic lolita-dressed girl with disproportionately big breasts.
Shinji blushed more than a bit as he stared at the trio of teenagers who appeared almost supernaturally beautiful, before he shook it off as he remembered that the trio were supernatural in the same sense that Angels were supernatural.
Suzuki exchanged a few words with Misato while Shinji was shaking off the effect of the teenage trio's beauty, and the huge robe-clad man practically lunged for the electric heater once he got in.
"Hoo… It's cold outside." Suzuki complained while warming his hands on the heater, in much the same way as Misato, making Shinji sigh in relief that Suzuki-kun was acting normally and everyone had been freaking out over nothing again. "Hi, Shinji-kun, Asuka-chan, Rei-chan."
"Greetings, Second." Rei intoned emotionlessly, earning her a small glare from the trio of teenagers that had accompanied Suzuki, but the expression disappeared from the trio as soon as it had come.
"Welcome back, Suzuki-sama."
Shinji didn't believe what he had heard so he turned his head…
Asuka was beaming with delight and was giving Suzuki a warm smile, and was giving Misato a middle-finger under the table in a way that the table blocked the motion from the view of the guests.
Misato paled instantly.
Ten minutes earlier.
Momonga fought to keep the lingering and rising feeling of resentment and anger from interfering with his decision-making, albeit it was strangely difficult as the fact he kept the emotion down with conscious effort meant that Emotion Suppression wasn't doing it automatically for him.
Seeing NERV laying down barracks and other structures near the sink-hole that remained of the first three Floors of Nazarick made Momonga want to just blow it all away with a [Nuclear Blast], but he retained enough control over himself to not do so as it'd effectively undo his efforts to not turn entire world against him at the same time through attacking NERV.
Not to mention that he had checked the interface in Throne of Kings and using Master Source, and there was no clear 'rebuild' option for the Floors, making Momonga realize that restoring the lost Floors would take more effort than a button-press, even though Albedo had managed to resummon POP monsters while Gendo had been in the Fifth Floor.
Naturally, Momonga had felt a surge of apocalyptic anger towards the Angels due to the travesty, but the feeling conflicted with the equal amounts of worry and paranoia that Momonga felt towards his future and that of Nazarick, not to mention self-loathing due to him not instantly paying up Nazarick's defenses and sallying out to prevent further damage- And the three diametrically opposed emotions clashed enough with each other to allow Momonga to operate mostly normally, at least after a few tens of rounds of Emotion Suppression.
'...In YGGDRASIL the Ainz Ooal Gown opposed all 'good' and 'humanoid' races and guilds on principle, but the situation was vastly different, nor was it real life… I can't afford to roleplay the same role here. One Angel, handled incorrectly, was enough to bore through three of ten floors, and if the next ones are stronger… ' Momonga thought to distract himself. 'Nazarick got lucky, all things considered. If something like that cube-like Illusion Angel showed up and started blasting then the situation might have been vastly different.'
'NERV has loaded the EVA's to the aircraft, I assume…' Momonga glanced at the squadron of positively massive airships that were idling a few miles away, yet the powerful engine-wash was enough to send a huge blizzard raging across the entire area and would have caused visibility to be nearly zero if not for high-power spotlights illuminating the zone.
Momonga had ordered Aureole Omega to form a gate that would take Momonga, Aura, Mare, Shalltear, a reinforced squad of Eight-Edge Assassins and a group of Ice Virgins to the edge of the sinkhole, and he had grabbed the nearest NERV soldier to order her to inform Misato that Momonga would be visiting the pilots.
The soldier in question had almost passed out from terror considering that Momonga still had his skeletal avatar in plain view.
The rest of the observable group that followed Momonga was quite human-like, however, as Eight-Edge Assassins were invisible to naked eye unless they revealed themselves, and the human-shaped Ice Virgins had their body covered by a blue-and-white long-skirted kimono while their face was covered by a white shroud, giving their bodies female appearance while concealing their nonhuman nature.
Momonga had chosen the group with that particular appearance with deliberate intention in mind as he didn't want to spook out the EVA pilots too much since he planned on seeing if he could recruit them to his cause. '...And if the Pilots don't agree to work with me, I could [Control Amnesia] them… Although, I'm not sure what exactly is required to pilot an EVA mentally speaking, ongoing mental effects might affect the pilot's ability to use the EVA. I should have figured out more about EVA's mechanics while I had the chance… Not to mention I need to be careful just how far I go in terms of altering the Pilots. It wouldn't be good if I unraveled the whole deal over a messed-up recruitment attempt. Regardless… [Silent Magic: Message]'
Momonga sent a message to the Eight-Edge Assassins to board the huge cargo airships that were preparing to take off, and the invisible group of assassins skittered off after acknowledging the Message.
'I might have to hijack the ships if I get the pilots on my side- From what I've gathered the EVA's won't work without a pilot, so if I manage to hijack the pilots to my side then I deny NERV the offensive power of EVA's at least until they manage to get new pilots, except for one since I think Mari was a spare pilot or something, but if I don't have access to the EVA Units then having the pilots won't exactly increase Nazarick's combat power either.' Momonga thought about his goals for the meeting with the pilots so that he could better realize them once the time came. 'However, only the external enemy would benefit from Nazarick and NERV infighting too much if it gets to the point where neither of us can harness the power of EVA's- Disabling them won't be too big of a problem for me, but I should refrain from destroying them permanently. As Shalltear found out, the EVA's can be useful in combat if one doesn't have certain tricks to pull against them, and are certainly quite useful against Angels even if they falter quickly against Nazarick. Meanwhile the opposite applies when it comes to Angels and nukes, and Nazarick and nukes…'
'Come to think of it, I haven't seen Mari recently. I wonder what she's up to? And if she'd be interested in working for Nazarick instead?' Momonga contemplated the situation briefly but waved the concern off as he had been pulse-casting [Detect Life] to figure out his surroundings in the blizzard and found out where Shinji's, Asuka's and Rei's now-familiar health-numbers were. "Shalltear, Mare, Aura, are you fine with meeting the Pilots? Don't be too forceful and try to control yourselves if they do something you find strange. Ah, and don't leave my presence unless I okay you to do so. NERV may be a mostly human organization, but they have a number of tricks up their sleeve that makes them dangerous if you let your guard down, and even more so if you underestimate them."
'I'm not sure what exactly would have happened if I had put on that 'DSS Choker'-thing, but the flavor text of that item and the description of its effects definitely mark it as a dangerous item…' Momonga thought back on the time Misato had tried to offer the bomb collar to him, even though he was fairly sure the woman hadn't been aware that it had been such an item. '...Moreover, I think DSS Choker bypasses resistances, which makes it worrying. An attack that deals a hundred percent of your health as damage is not worrying as long as you can reduce it, but an attack that deals ten percent of your health but you cannot reduce it is very worrying, moreso if the opponent can just trigger it whenever. In fact the whole reason [The Goal of All Life Is Death] is such a powerful ability is that it allows me to do exactly that, by using instant death abilities when the opponent thinks they are safe from Instant Death abilities and allow themselves to dip to such a low health that Instant Death can trigger. Nonetheless, the fact NERV has items that can mimic that ability is highly concerning, and if they can just wave the DSS Choker around like that it means they must have a myriad of other items that have the same effect, but kept in secret and reserved when they need a trump card.'
"Yes, Momonga-sama!" The answer came instantly to Momonga's warning and he felt slightly reassured, not only because the group had agreed, but because they hadn't objected to the detail that Momonga had deliberately slipped into the speech- The mention that NERV was a human organization.
'In YGGDRASIL Ainz Ooal Gown was hugely anti-human by the factor of humans being considered a 'good' race, and likewise the humans were hostile to 'evil' creatures like demihumans and heteromorphs, so it's not a stretch to guess that the sentiment has carried over, not to mention Demiurge's report on their attacks on local human settlements which won't be good for PR if they are ever linked to us… Hopefully, if I manage to limit interaction between Nazarick's more impulsive elements and the human populace of this world, I'll be able to keep this cooperation deal going for at least some time. Or at least until I get a supply chain figured out so that Nazarick won't run out of money or food… At the same time, it's not like I haven't done questionable stuff myself just to sate my own curiosity, specifically with the homeless of Kyoto, but they were homeless so it should be okay? T-then again, this world doesn't seem to share Neo-Japan's mentality so maybe not…' Momonga nonetheless feared for the worst, and made a move to equip his 'flesh-suit'.
However he paused for a moment before he did so, worried that he'd break the illusion of being in control if he appeared different to the NPC's, as appearances were after all very important for influencing people. And at the same time Momonga was keenly aware how frightening his regular avatar was to humans so he figured that he'd have the best chance of recruiting the pilots if he appeared human- But that same human appearance might also cause the NPC's to mistake him as an enemy and attack him. 'Albedo didn't attack me, but then again she's an outlier because of my meddling in her backstory… Alright, I should try to communicate this first:' "Ahem. Shalltear, Aura, Mare. I'll put on a visual item that makes me appear human so that it's easier to influence the humans who we'll talk to soon. What is your opinion on it?"
"Humans are vain creatures, so it's only natural that they'd be completely led astray by something as minor as a visual effect-arisu." Shalltear curtsied as Momonga turned to send the trio of Guardians a glance.
"U-um, is that like a d-disguise, Momonga-sama?" Mare blinked. "I-I see! It m-makes sense, I… suppose… N-not that Lord M-Momonga needs to hide, b-but it'd avoid n-needless fighting w-with worthless opponents t-that'd otherwise a-attack…"
"Yeah, it makes sense to avoid needless aggro." Aura nodded as well while the girl was walking forward with headstrong footsteps and was scratching the back of her neck with both hands. She then adjusted her pose to be more serious as she realized that Momonga was watching her. "I mean-"
"It's alright." Momonga placated Aura instantly as he realized that she might have felt like she acted inappropriately. "Regardless, I'll be putting it on now."
Momonga equipped the flesh-suit, and instantly noted that a open-chest robe of his class-gear was not a good pick for blizzard, specifically when he regained a level of sensory feedback from properly 'equipping' the item as opposed to the vat-insertion method Ritsuko had used when she had designed the suit for him.
His Cold Resistance prevented damage from the environment, but it was still unpleasant to feel the harsh weather. 'I- I d-didn't put any c-cold resistance t-to the class-gear s-since the Undead are n-naturally highly r-resistant to c-cold damage, s-so i-it makes s-s-sense t-that t-the robe is s-super thin! S-so c-cold! N-now then… Hm. I'm fairly certain that NERV has monitoring devices in this suit but it should be alright if I use a few scrolls…'
Momonga put the cold feeling aside after Emotion Suppression pulled the feeling down a peg, and pulled a few Anti-Divination Scrolls from his inventory and used them just to counteract the electronic spying devices in the flesh-suit, before heading off towards the cargo-crate like object where he sensed the pilot's life-signs.
Shalltear hid her disappointment with expert ease as Lord Momonga put on a visual effect of some sort, making him appear human and disguising his alluring bones. However, the effect was at the same time more than a bit exciting for Shalltear. 'Since Momonga-sama has a fleshy disguise now, p-perhaps… S-striptease?'
Shalltear kept her head cool even though her girlish side wanted to sprout blood from both nostrils and fall to her back over the mental image of her peeling the warm flesh off of Lord Momonga's bones like a meat and organ striptease, gorging herself on her lord's blood and flesh at the same time while his bones emerged from their fleshy prison in a orgy of violence, murder, sex and blood.
'L-lewd… T-thank you for allowing me a moment to prepare, my lord, my heart couldn't have withstood this temptation without a warning… Ah, Peroroncino-sama, thank you for making me so that I could experience this… Lord Momonga, I am so happy that you know how I feel, and know my heart so well, I love you!' Shalltear suppressed her raging desire with some effort, although she had to hide her face against Aura's back while she calmed herself as though she was Undead, she was a Vampire and thus didn't have Emotion Suppression that'd do it for her automatically.
The group arrived at some sort of box that Shalltear assumed was some sort of human shack, and Lord Momonga knocked on the door, making Shalltear a bit worried over the power of whoever may lie inside since lord Momonga could have merely walked in unannounced, but took the extra caution to announce his arrival. Moreover he announced his arrival himself, making Shalltear even more confused and worried as it would be more appropriate to have one or more of the Ice Virgins announce their arrival.
The woman who had accompanied the Gee-Em the the Fifth Floor came to view as the door opened after a brief moment, making Shalltear nod internally as it made sense why Lord Momonga would act cautious, since there was no way the dark-haired woman wasn't some sort of powerful familiar if she had been accompanying a Gee-Em, despite appearing and feeling like she was just a normal human.
'I wonder what her blood would taste like…?' Shalltear pondered briefly while Lord Momonga made a show of warming up against some sort of heat source as if he was a human, acting out the illusion of being a human to match his fleshly visual item. 'To be able to replicate the motions of a human so well in order to disguise himself, are there any limits to Lord Momonga's abilities?'
"Greetings, Second." The blue-haired girl in the room spoke to Lord Momonga, making Shalltear feel a surge of anger over the way the girl referred to Shalltear's lord as if he was not the number one, but Shalltear calmed herself down instantly as it'd be unsightly of her to make a scene over the disrespect since she had been more or less directly ordered to avoid making a scene on the way to the shack.
'Why do those things keep calling Lord Momonga 'Second'… How annoying!' Shalltear nonetheless went along and even smiled a bit as the red-headed girl in the room gave Lord Momonga appropriate greetings, even if she used a wrong name. 'Hm, 'Suzuki'? Ah- I see! Albedo mentioned that Lord Momonga had used a cover-name of 'Suzuki Satoru'! Of course! Indeed, it's likely that everyone knows Lord Momonga's name as well that of Ainz Ooal Gown, so using either name would draw unnecessary attention and attacks against Nazarick when it was not needed.'
"Ahem, Shinji-kun, Asuka-chan, Rei-chan, meet Shalltear Bloodfallen, Aura Bella Fiora and Mare Bello Fiora." Lord Momonga motioned to introduce the roughly teenager-sized seeming humans to the Guardians, making Shalltear a bit confused… Before Lord Momonga continued and it all clicked. "You three have already met, although in different conditions- Shinji here is the Pilot of the blue-green, umu, EVA, Asuka there is the pilot of the red one, and Rei there is the pilot of the light blue-white one. Ahem, and Shalltear would be the one who Shinji, Asuka and Rei suppressed in the Fou- back there."
Lord Momonga motioned downwards, making Shalltear realize that her lord was deliberately keeping the location of the battle vague for some reason. She put a mental note on the affair so that she'd remember to conceal the information as well, although Shalltear didn't understand the point of it. 'It's as Demiurge said, the mind-games of Supreme Beings and Gee-Em's are truly mind-breakingly complex even though they appear simple on the outside… I have to be on my guard!'
Shalltear focused her attention on the teenagers as the introductions ended, with her curtsying in response as Lord Momonga mentioned Shalltear. "Indeed, I am grateful that my Frenzy was halted before things could get out of hand. Thank you."
'I'm supposed to be grateful, yes? Even though I didn't need help… definitely didn't need help!' Shalltear didn't manage to suppress a tinge of annoyance at the fact her limelight had been stolen, but she got the feeling under control. 'So those three are the titans that helped us… Hm. As I suspected, they are heteromorphs like us. It makes sense why Lord Momonga pays them attention.'
Everything was quite clear for Shalltear while she curtsied slightly to the red-headed 'girl' who on closer inspection resembled the red titan, even to the point where she wore an eyepatch over the eye that Shalltear vaguely remembered having chewed out during her Frenzy.
'Indeed, in which case… This is all a camouflage operation to conceal their nature as heteromorphs? Wait, Lord Momonga said that "Nerv is a mostly human organization"- Did he mean that in the same context where a large portion of Nazarick's individuals are monsters while a numerically small minority of us are heteromorphic? In which case NERV would, in actuality, be a heteromorphic guild like Ainz Ooal Gown, except that while Nazarick used monsters and undead as the majority cannon fodder, NERV uses humans for the same role for the benefit of a handful of powerful heteromorphic beings?' Shalltear suddenly realized the deep implications of Lord Momonga's off-handed remark that NERV was a 'mostly' human organization- Which in retrospect made perfect in the same sense that Nazarick was 'mostly' undead and monster-filled 'organization', since the undead and monsters made the majority of the rank-and-file, and was led by numerically small group of strong heteromorphs. 'Ah, as expected of the Supreme Being's intellect, even off-hand comments hide deep implications… And I'm certain I'm missing a huge portion of the hidden instructions and that was just something I figured out because it was practically spelled for me. I need to record Lord Momonga's words and then present them to Demiurge so we can figure out more about Lord Momonga's implications and indirect orders- U-unless his words are meant for me, Aura and Mare to figure out and going to Demiurge would be cheating?''
Shalltear closed her parasol and put it to her Inventory to hide her sudden nervousness as Lord Momonga sat to the table so that he was beside the red-headed girl and opposite to the black-haired boy and the blue-haired girl, and then motioned for the dark-violet haired woman to have a seat, and then motioned for the Guardians to sit as well, who obeyed instantly although while feeling a bit awkward over sitting on the same table with their lord instead of standing, as would have been proper for servants such as they.
"So… You're Shalltear, correct?" The girl who had been introduced as 'Asuka' sent Shalltear a friendly look, and Shalltear nodded cordially. The red-head's expression didn't change but she had an angry vein pulsing on her forehead while she covered her eyepatch with her other hand and continued her speech. "You are the one who ate my Unit-02's faceplate?"
Shalltear wondered what 'Unit-02' was, but nodded as she figured out that the girl might refer to the armor on the titan and not her face. 'Ah, indeed. Hm, since she's a heteromorph I should have an idea how she thinks if I think how I'd think if I were in her place… Hm… Lost faceplate… Why is she so fixated on that… Wait, if the armor she wore had been given to her by her creator, like how my armor has been given to me by Peroroncino-sama, then she'd naturally care more about the destroyed item than her flesh!'
Shalltear felt a twinge of sympathy as it was clear that the red-head was grieving over losing a piece of equipment that had been entrusted to her by her creator, whoever it might be, and since Ainz Ooal Gown and NERV were allegedly allied then Shalltear forced herself to care, even though it was somewhat difficult.
"I'm sorry for your loss. I won't make excuses nor offer apologies as I was not in control of my actions, but you have my sympathies." Shalltear pondered for a moment what would be an appropriate emotion to show, and finally bowed her head just minutely as a show of sympathy for the lost.
Naturally, if NERV and Nazarick had been hostile then Shalltear would have used the chance to gloat, but as it was she had to hold the instinct back since Lord Momonga had ordered them to be courteous. Even though the red-headed girl was pulling off her act of pretending to be a human quite convincingly.
The red-head merely glared at Shalltear in turn, making her wonder if the girl was just plain ungrateful or if being annoying was part of her nature as specified by her unknown creator, but Shalltear didn't press the issue… Which she thanked herself for as Lord Momonga spoke and confirmed Shalltear's suspicion that the annoying glaring was something built-in within the girl.
"Don't mind Asuka, Shalltear-san. Asuka-san, don't worry about Unit-02's condition. I'll help in repairing it, alright? It's the least I can do since you three came to assist us. Moreover, I have some ideas to strengthen it further if you don't mind me sharing." Lord Momonga waved his hand, causing the red-head's annoyed expression to turn intensely curious.
"Hoo? In that case-" Asuka began, but the deep-violet haired woman interrupted her.
"Second-kun- Hm, Suzuki-san?" The woman paused as Mare, Aura and Shalltear sent the woman a glare and the woman changed the nickname. It was not optimal but nonetheless Shalltear let her glare wane just slightly. "Suzuki-san, please remember that Unit-02 is NERV's property. You are not cleared to alter any of the Unit's without NERV's oversight, if you want our cooperation to continue."
"Indeed. But I feel like it would be appropriate for me to show my sympathies and gratitude for the pain Asuka has gone through to assist us. After all, since NERV didn't seem to need our consent or request to come and assist us, I figured it'd only be fair to do the same." Lord Momonga pointed out, drawing a scowl from the woman and a beaming smile from Asuka even if Shalltear could tell that the red-head was not entirely genuine in her smile- Not that she could fault the girl, since her human-acting had been quite immaculate to that point so some slippage would only be natural.
"That is great! Shall we get straight to it? I want Unit-02 fixed as soon as possible!" Asuka stood up.
"Asuka-chan, no. And please take this seriously…" Misato sent Asuka a stern glance, and the red-head responded by giving her a 'bleeh' expression of defiance, earning the red-head more points in Shalltear's eyes.
"Yeah! Back off!" Aura pointed her finger at the woman while standing up as well, causing Misato to cough to her hand and inch her other hand closer to something inside her coat.
"Hm…" Lord Momonga glanced at Aura and the dark elf must have realized that she was acting out of place as she paled a bit and sat back down. "Anyway, Shinji-kun? You seemed to get along with Aura and Mare. I hope that our cooperation continues."
"U-umu, thank you, Suzuki-kun… I hope we'll be able to continue to be friends in the future as well." The boy, Shinji, replied while looking a bit awkward and blushing. "N-nice to meet you again, Mare-chan, Aura- a, ah, sorry, I mean, Mare-kun, Aura-chan. Thanks for letting me talk and so on, you know, back there."
"Sure thing! Thanks for the help!" Aura gave Shinji a thumbs-up. "Your big form's pretty cool too!"
"B-big- ah, you mean Unit-01. I… I guess, yeah, it's pretty cool… S-scary but cool…" Shinji seemed to be a bit awkward in face of Aura's cheer, making Shalltear suspicious that something was going on. Before she realized that the boy was clearly mimicking the actions of being embarrassed, or perhaps dumbstruck. The boy's next sentence, however, clarified the whole thing for Shalltear- And also made her realize what Lord Momonga had intended with the whole meet-up. "Umu… W-would you like to see it again? I think I could-"
'...Is that boy trying to seduce Aura? That was quite a weak attempt…' Shalltear thought with a polite smile on her face but growing disdain in her thoughts.
"Shinji-kun, you can't just invite whoever to see Unit-01. You may be a Pilot but that sort of authorization has to come from higher." The dark-violet haired woman interjected again. She then narrowed her eyes at Lord Momonga as the lord had started to stroke his chin with his fingers and was glancing between Shinji and Aura.
'I see, in other words, this is a recruitment attempt on both sides. Lord Momonga clearly tried to coax 'Asuka' to join us, and 'Shinji', in turn, tried to seduce Aura to their side… I'm guessing that this 'Misato' then attempted to put a roadblock on Shinji's attempt in hopes that trying to block the seduction would make Aura think it's not planned on their side!' Shalltear nodded internally while the blue-haired girl turned her head towards Shinji. The emotionless-looking girl's disinterested expression had disappeared to make space for a slightly suspicious expression as she glanced between Aura and Shinji, and as soon as she spotted Shinji's blush, the blue-haired girl reached for Shinji's hand… And she pinched it a bit, causing the boy to blink as if he had woken up and jump a bit. 'Oho? So Aura had managed to turn the seduction attempt around and struck out in turn, so the blue-girl had to intervene…'
'I see, I see…' Shalltear nodded internally while she turned her head to face the red-head who was giving Shinji a disdainful expression, and Shalltear nodded to Asuka.. 'In other words… You are to be my opponent, while Lord Momonga handles that Misato-woman or distracts her from our recruitment attempts. Ah- I see, that woman has already stopped our recruitment attempt once, so Lord Momonga must be tiring her out before he strikes the decisive blow!'
Shalltear kept an eye on the balance of power, even if her brains were threatening to overheat from exertion from trying to understand the subtle power-play, and even though she was on the opinion that if Lord Momonga had wanted to recruit the trio of 'Pilots' then he should have just grabbed them, ordered Shalltear, Aura and Mare to make a distraction, and then teleport the trio of titans to Sixth Floor to be broken in the Arena before being sent to Neuronist to be broken in other manners, before finally being recruited as cannon-fodder through either Demiurge's mind-controlling abilities or other such thralling mind-magics.
However, since the Supreme Being had shown interest in acting out the recruitment in cordial fashion, Shalltear would not go against her lord's wishes. Not to mention that since Lord Momonga had chosen to take this action, it naturally meant that the other alternatives would have resulted in worse outcomes. Not to mention that trying to figure out what was happening was taking approximately hundred percent of Shalltear's brain-power, and could only really figure it out because lewd things, including seduction, were sort of her specialty. 'I wonder if that was why I was allowed to accompany Lord Momonga and not Demiurge? Demiurge would be more intelligent, but then again he might not know as much about seducing than I- Oh, I see. Demiurge would have found a 'practical' solution to the problem, but since Lord Momonga seeks a shadowy seductive solution, Demiurges' problem-solving abilities wouldn't work. Not to mention that his [Command Mantra] failed already when dealing with that Gee-Em man, so it's possible that the woman faked her being affected by the [Command Mantra] to throw us off! It makes sense now- Those three must be immune to mind-control like I am!'
Shalltear resisted the urge to gasp in surprise at the revelation born in her overworked brain, but didn't manage to stop herself from freezing up slightly.
Lord Momonga glanced at Shalltear, which wasn't missed by her. And since Lord Momonga would know how Shalltear thought, it was clear that he intended the glance to be a deliberate acknowledgement that she was on the right track.
'Rest assured, my master, I shall not fail!'
'I wonder if Aura and Shinji could become friends? They seem compatible, sort of. Although I'd have suspected that Mare would be more interested in becoming Shinji's friend, since they seem to be equally awkward… Then again, Shinji can put that awkwardness aside if it's necessary so I might be wrong on that.' Momonga glanced between Aura, Mare and Shinji.
He hadn't been around Aura and Mare for long so he couldn't tell how the NPC's would behave in the new world, but if Momonga's memories of YGGDRASIL kept up then Bukubukuchagama's NPC's would be at least easier to manipulate into interacting with humans cordially. '...It feels as if I'm watching over the children of my friends, and seeing if I can introduce them to my wards to have both become friends with each other… It's not a bad feeling. Moreover, Aura and Mare are children, I think, so it might be a good thing if they had some friends of their age… I'm not sure if I should be finding friends for Aura and Mare, but it shouldn't hurt their development. Still, I should still keep in mind that they're Floor Guardians under that childish look and acting so if I break character they might just betray me…'
'Shalltear, on the other hand, seems to be dealing with the situation quite well. I was worried she'd think of humans as cattle or something because she's Vampire, but it looks like she's getting along with Asuka. That's good- Not to mention that Asuka looks very eager to spite Misato and go with me, so I think it's likely she'll come with me if I pressure her to choose.' Momonga thought about his recruitment attempt and took advantage of Shalltear speaking with Asuka and Aura casually handwaving something Shinji said with blushed-red face by sending a silent [Message] to the Eight-Edge Assassins, instructing them to find where Unit-02 was stored and getting them to keep an eye on it so if Momonga's recruitment effort was successful he could teleport to the NPC's, cast [Gate], and move the Unit-02 to Nazarick for storage- Or at least as close as he could, but if he cooperated with Aureole Omega then Momonga was confident he could get the EVA's teleported in. 'Pilot without a Unit is useless, but likewise is Unit useless without a pilot. I can just explain that I need the Unit to be in Nazarick in order to improve it, and that I can just [Gate] it back to wherever it needs to be if the Angels attack again.'
Momonga considered pitching the idea of storing the Units in Nazarick's Fourth Floor as it would enable him to use them as expendable specialized buffer for Nazarick in case of Angel attack and put pressure on NERV by having the EVA Unit deployment be dependent on Momonga [Gate]'in them around, but he was roughly hundred percent sure Gendo wouldn't agree to having all three Units under his thumb, with two being a stretch, and one being a possibility as conciliation or compromise. 'Out of all the three I'd probably be most interested in having Asuka here, because Shinji seems to be very sympathetic with me and my cause so it's likely that even if he is forced to board Unit-01 and to fight against us, he'd probably switch sides to mine or most likely try to end the fighting, like how he ended the fight on the Fourth Floor. Asuka, meanwhile, seems to go to whoever manages to stroke her ego best, and having her here would enable me to knead her head and ego for long enough that she won't just switch sides if, say, Kaji pleads for her to reconsider her allegiances. Shinji's a done deal, I feel, but Asuka is still work in progress…'
Momonga snuck a glance at Rei who was glaring at Shinji from the side for some reason while Shinji was trying to strike a conversation with Mare, which didn't go anywhere as both were too busy stammering to one another for the conversation to go anywhere. 'Rei is likely to take NERV's side no matter what since she used to be Gendo's personal property, I think, and is currently NERV's property. Ownership is relevant for clones as they are, er, or at least in Neo-Japan they were, usually embedded with behavioral chips and other means of control so it's likely that if she does end up going against NERV's commands, they'll just remotely blow her brains with micro-explosives or something. And based off DSS Chokers, I don't see Gendo not having such an insurance policy in case Rei goes nuts while piloting an EVA. In any case it'd be waste for me to spend resources coercing Rei to join us if she ends up dying anyway- And while it'd be possible to resurrect her, spending a resurrection item on a clone is counter-productive because resurrections can't do much to death by old age, at least from what I found out during my Kyoto-experiments, and clones only lived for few years at best… I'm guessing that's Gendo's reason for making Rei one of the pilots, to ensure that he'll always have at least one expendable Pilot on hand.'
The Eight-Edge Assassins sent a [Message] back, saying that they had found a red creature matching Momonga's instructions. '...Huh, wait? The EVA's have been put in containers… But unloaded?'
Apparently while the EVA's containers had been inside the massive air-transports initially, the containers had been unloaded to the snow and hooked up to temporary generators some distance away which would power them, or at least Momonga got the impression of that being the case as the vocabulary of the Eight-Edge Assassin's didn't exactly translate perfectly since things such as 'nuclear reactor' and 'thrust-vectored airship' hadn't been exactly common in YGGDRASIL.
'...What is Gendo planning? Leaving EVA's and the pilots here… I appreciate the gesture, I guess, but doesn't that just leave NERV Japan incredibly open for attack? Or is Gendo counting on my goodwill to teleport the EVA's around, or thinks that having those huge transports on the standby is enough? Gendo outsourcing the logistics of the EVA's to me was my 'best case scenario' but there's no way Gendo would just hand me something like that?!' Momonga felt an incredible surge of paranoia practically permeate through his every fiber of being. 'Something is seriously wrong! Either Gendo has figured out something crucial, or he has not only discarded the pilots but the EVA's as well?! It doesn't make sense to leave behind magical items, er, those things! Either they are trapped… Wait, that doesn't make sense either… Or Gendo has figured out a way to mass-produce EVA's? But didn't Misato insinuate that EVA's were incredibly hard to make and upkeep, and took enormous amounts of energy to just operate let alone fight?'
Momonga glanced at Misato who was giving him a stern glare, or rather was exerting herself to try to glare at both Shalltear and Momonga at the same time.
Momonga had been around the woman long enough to know that she was likely trying to conceal her own nervousness under that glare, but at the same time he was also fairly certain that Misato would be in control of her mental faculties enough that she wouldn't just blurt out what Gendo was planning- And assuming that she knew what he was doing in the first place. And considering that Misato had been somewhat unceremoniously dumped to keep tabs on Momonga and Nazarick, he didn't think that it was likely that Misato knew what Gendo was up to. 'It would make sense to not leave any information with someone who's expected to be near the enemy… Or I suppose, near a conditional ally.'
"So, you've spoken to the Pilots, is there anything else or shall I escort you back to your ho- ahem, your abode?" Misato clearly caught herself mid-sentence, which was good as Momonga was fairly sure that she would have referred to Nazarick as a 'hole', and if she had done so, Momonga wasn't sure if he could hold himself back.
'...Misato-chan, please don't make this harder than it needs to be. I'm struggling to control myself as it is, with the whole TRAVESTY- ahem, with the situation of the first three Floors and all, I don't need any more provocation…' Momonga felt as his Emotion Suppression activated upon him thinking about the current state of the first three Floors of Nazarick, and the effect enabled him to calm down enough to think rationally- Even if it was a close call, as Emotion Suppression had showed signs of slowing down as of late due to excessive use. 'Does Emotion Suppression have a daily use limit? I hope not… Or is the ability malfunctioning? I'd be the first one, but I can't rest assured that such a thing isn't possible…'
It looked as if his angry tick showed on his face as Misato's face grew as pale as paper and she slid her hand deeper into her uniform while her other hand began to shake.
"It's quite alright, don't worry. Now then, I'm sure that you have more important things to deal with, and I feel that the Pilots would probably like to rest, so I'll excuse myself… Ah, unless, are you three interested in seeing where I live? Shinji? Asuka? Rei?" Momonga used the opportunity Misato gave him by trying to dismiss him.
"I do not have a permission for exiting NERV-controlled areas." Rei commented, making Momonga nod internally.
'Either she's just stating a fact of her orders, or she's covertly trying to get me to admit that Nazarick is NERV-controlled area- Something that I am not willing to do even as a cover-up. Maybe if the situation was different I could lie in order to accomplish my objectives, but disgracing Nazarick, the fruit of our labor, goes too far… Then again, Rei is fairly blunt when she speaks so it's likely she's just stating the fact.' Momonga thought while turning his eyes to Shinji.
Shinji looked at Rei, glanced at Misato who was still glaring at Momonga and was giving Shinji a small shake of his head, then the boy glanced at Aura who was lifting her eyebrow while leaning back precariously on her chair, glanced at Mare who was tilting his head, and finally looked at Momonga. "I… S-surely it wouldn't hurt to just go and visit for a while? After all, Suzuki-san has visited Misato's apartment multiple times so it'd be only fair?"
Momonga blinked and nodded joyfully as Shinji had played into Momonga's court with that reminder of Momonga visiting Misato and Shinji in their apartment, if it could be called that since NERV had given the whole building to him. "Indeed, there is no problem. It would only be fitting."
Shalltear froze a bit and then turned her head slowly, shakily towards Misato who was blushing a bit and growling at Shinji.
The vampire then snuck a glance at Momonga while her eyes were as wide as saucers, before finally homing in on Asuka… Who was giving Misato a disgusted glare.
Shalltear seemed to find camaraderie with Asuka with that, making Momonga a bit happy. 'Is Shalltear getting along with Asuka? It'd be nice if those two could become friends as well… Moreover, Third Floor is far away from the Treasury so it would minimize the chances of Asuka and Pandora's Actor meeting one another and causing a chuuni singularity.'
"What about you, Asuka-san? Would you want to go and visit? I think that you three are going to be stuck here for a while so we might as well hang about a bit." Momonga turned his attention to Asuka. '...Hm, since the Units are in here anyway, it'd be better if I move them inside Nazarick- That way, since the generators would be here, it would be hard for NERV to power the Units if they plan on using the EVA's to attack me. And if an attack comes our way, I can just teleport the EVA's back topside using [Gate]. I think there's enough space for them on the Fifth Floor, and if that doesn't work because of the cold, I can probably put them on the Sixth… After I prepare some space for them so that they don't flatten the trees.'
"Hm… Very well! Assuming that you'll fix Unit-02 as soon as possible!" Asuka pointed her finger at Momonga, causing Shalltear to have a small tick of vein in her forehead but Momonga pat Shalltear's back to calm her down.
'Haa, it won't be good if Shalltear breaks her budding friendship with Asuka because she thinks that Asuka has offended me somehow… I need to have a talk with the Guardians and tell them to cut some slack with the Pilots, they're just teenagers so it's natural that they're a bit more informal with me. Besides…' Momonga had been subjected to the absolute reverence of the NPC's for a while, and if he was being honest, Asuka's unabashed straight-forwardness was quite relieving. 'Haa, it feels a bit like how I felt bantering with my friends in YGGDRASIL… There's no way Asuka and the other Pilots could replace them, but at least they don't see me as some sort of CEO or something like that. It is more than a bit stressful to be looked at that way, not to mention that the NPC's seem to think so highly of me that if I break character they might get disillusioned… Demiurge's assumption that Gendo is a 'GM* is actually a godsend because it allows me to pretend that I'm just being careful when I'm not forcing the Pilots etcetera to bow and scrape before me…'
"Very good. In that case, can I ask Aura and Mare to show their place to Shinji?" Momonga nodded happily while sending a silent [Message] to Aura and Mare, instructing them to give Shinji a small tour of the Sixth Floor but not let him see the exits, entrances, or the overall layout of the place in a way that the boy could then use against Nazarick- In the best scenario if Gendo became aware of the Sixth Floor, he'd thusly assume that the 'Sixth Floor' wasn't actually in Siberia but that the NPC's were spread all over the world, forcing NERV to spread their scope.
"Yes! Momonga-sama! I got it!" Aura's immediate response was quite spirited, making Momonga a bit warm inside that Aura was looking forward to showing her place to her new friend. Mare's response followed the same lines but contained a bit more stammering.
"Hey! You can't just-" Misato started to object but Momonga had turned his head towards Asuka and Shalltear already.
"Shalltear, would you show, hm…" Momonga realized that the first three Floors would likely not be good for the human psyche, considering their mostly undead contents, and since Shalltear's boss-arena and a huge chunk of the floors had been demolished by the Angel, the vampire couldn't even really show it to Asuka. 'Not to mention, the first three floors are so chock-full of traps that Shalltear would not be able to even show the place to Asuka without either her triggering some of the traps or compromising the defenses of the floors by giving intel away.'
Momonga, however, realized that if he hesitated then Misato would have a chance to intercept and draw Asuka away. So he went for a bit of a drastic solution. "...Would you like to show the Fifth Floor to Asuka? Ah, it's a bit cold there so I'll lend you something to keep the cold at bay, please don't misplace it."
Asuka lifted her eyebrow a bit sarcastically. "Sure? I have a winter coat, so… Surely your home can't be colder than this hellhole?"
Shalltear looked like she was about to bristle a bit so Momonga sent her a silent [Message]. "Shalltear. Do not worry if Asuka says something that would be discourteous towards me. Or others, for that matter. It's how she operates normally- That is, she doesn't often bother with useless chit-chat and speaks her mind. That being said…' Momonga finished the [Message] with the same instructions that he had sent to Aura and Mare, except aimed it at Fifth Floor and with a caveat that if Asuka was getting uncomfortable then lead her to Sixth Floor as well, all the while he waved Asuka's worries aside in speech.
"Well then, shall we?." Momonga opened a [Gate] near the door of the container-room, and offered a [Ring of Resist Cold] to Asuka. 'It's not an expensive ring, and I'll just recover it later if need be…' "Here, Asuka. Please give it to Shalltear once you leave."
Aura kicked the chair she was on back and stood up alongside Mare, and Shinji stood up as well on instinct, and Rei sent the boy a harsh glare while remaining seated.
"Wait- I'm com- erh…" Misato got a call as soon as she opened her mouth. She then glanced at the phone, answered quickly… And closed the flip-phone as quickly after receiving a few words from the phone, all the while she began looking a bit shaky. "Sure, fine. Just bring the pilots back alive, alright, Suzuki-kun? Rei, you can go accompany Shinji if you want."
Momonga was incredibly paranoid over Misato's change in mood but disguised it under a shrug. "Sure, Rei?"
"I'll accompany Shinji-kun." Rei stood up and instantly flanked Shinji… But instead of taking his hand as Shinji turned it towards her, Rei pinched the back of Shinji's hand.
'...Hm?' Momonga wondered a bit about the changing social climate between the two Pilots, but he was well aware that he was a bit pressed for time for his next task before he could get back to figuring out how to restore the first three Floors. "Well then, I bid you three good visits- I'll join you soon, I have to take care of some administrative affairs."
The Pilots nodded, although Asuka looked a bit conflicted between being disappointed and relieved when Momonga said he wouldn't be joining them outright, and the trio entered the [Gate] with the Guardians in tow.
The [Gate] would being the group to the entrance of the massive sinkhole, from where Shalltear could send a [Message] to Aureole Omega to have her open a [Transportation Gate] to one of the Floors of Nazarick, since one couldn't just teleport into or out of Nazarick without being intercepted- Except if one had the Guild Ring of Ainz Ooal Gown. An item that Momonga was very much not keen on giving to anyone, even if he had forty-one of those, to the point that he would think thrice before giving it off to even the NPC's much less anyone else.
"Now then, this has been a fruitful discussion. I'll excuse myself, Misato-chan." Momonga stood up from the table as he and Misato had been left alone in the container room.
"Hm?" Momonga turned to glance at Misato who looked somewhat contemplative, even though for the past few moments she had been on damage control mode.
"Just to clarify… You're trying to recruit the EVA Pilots to your cause, right?" Misato glanced at Momonga. "That much is obvious. Just say it."
"Not exactly. I'm trying to convince them that exterminating us wouldn't be a good thing." Momonga lied while sitting back down. "But yes, I'm trying to get us to have amicable relations."
"I see… In that case, I'd like to remind you about a few things." Misato nodded and Momonga braced for another round of Gendo-like threats. However, those didn't come. "They're just kids. Teenagers. They shouldn't be pawns in games like these. I know you're a demon so it makes sense that you wouldn't care, but… The fact of the matter is, is that they're Pilots not because we like them to be, but because humanity needs them to be. I've tried my hardest to ensure they get to experience a childhood despite that… And I'd like to ask you to try to ensure they have such a thing as well. I know you won't care about human lives, but at least care about the strength of the EVA's- For whom the Pilots are a critical part."
'Huh. I didn't exactly expect an appeal to emotion… But I can exploit this as well, while garnering goodwill from Misato… Having my 'observer' be friendly to me is better than having her be too paranoid.' Momonga adjusted his face to a stern expression, and nodded to Misato. "It's as you say. Moreover, I have my own objectives that require the Pilots to be happy and have a childhood. So rest assured that I won't use them as pawns like you say."
'Well, that is a blatant lie. Although, I might have gone a bit too hard on it- Misato's going to figure it out-!' Momonga kept the stare up with the woman even as her eyes widened just a bit.
"I… I see… I suppose it's something like that for you as well?" Misato seemed to figure something out. "That woman who appeared in Toyo-3, she didn't look like a child, but… Those three… Are they your children? Or the children of other Demons?"
'Hm… Misato seems to refer to me as a 'demon', so it's likely that she has figured out that I'm not an angel. Progress, I suppose, but when the opponent is making a mistake then it's poor form to correct them.' Momonga put the odd way of reference behind in order to focus on Misato's other words. "You can think what you want of them. But-"
"Are you trying to ensure they also have a childhood and friends?"
'Dammit, she found me out.' Momonga sweated internally while hoping that Misato's words were just a shot in the dark, a fluke, but he realized that he was too quick as he denied her words. "No, not at all! I mean, maybe, but-"
"...I see." Misato seemed to relax just slightly. But only slightly, as her expression was still quite severe. "I believe that I know you a little better now… Well, regardless. I'll be staying here. I expect the pilots to be back at barracks by the end of the day. The EVA's will remain here, but I suspect you knew it already- You mentioned that the pilots would be staying, so you know the EVA's are here as well."
"...I was serious when I was saying that I can improve the EVA's, you know?" Momonga ignored the jab and waved his hand at Misato, but she didn't look like she would budge. "Hm… Let's put it like this- I'll loan Unit-02 for a while, and repair it. Let's call that a compromise." 'Having one Unit is enough. It's a chunk of their combat power gone, and I can have the NPC's analyze the Unit to figure out more about them… Possibly even get enough data that I can replicate making them. They seem to be effective against Angels…'
"...Fine. It's not like I can stop you anyhow, not without escalating this situation far above what both of us are comfortable with." Misato pulled her hand just slightly out of her pocket, and Momogna guessed that she had some sort of nuclear dead man's switch in there. "Fine. But I'll have to ask Ritsuko to go over the Unit afterwards so that it hasn't become defective as a result, and through that, to force Asuka to give up Piloting. It would crush her."
"I'll keep that in mind. Don't worry." Momonga stood up. "Now, if you'll excuse me."
"...And before you go, we are supposed to have an instant communication channel." Misato reminded Momonga. "I take it that you're not a fan of taking a phone with you and having a cell tower built into your home?"
"Correct… How about I leave one of my servants here to relay information?"
"That would hardly be instant communication." Misato narrowed her eyes. "Likewise I need a way of contacting you, not just you contacting me. I know you can telepathically project words or something so that won't cut it."
'Hm…' Momonga thought about giving a magical item that would enable the use of [Message] for the woman, but at the same time it was a huge security flaw as NERV would no doubt analyze the item, not to mention that [Message] couldn't be pre-tailored to be only able to call one person.
"Fine. I'll test the range of the phone." Momonga figured that if he put the phone somewhere in First Floor, then had some undead with their finger on the 'receive' button at the ready and a [Message Microphone] next to it, he could link the phone in a manner that he could receive calls from Misato in a way that wouldn't necessitate NERV structures inside Nazarick nor giving away magic items.
"Here." Misato offered a phone from her pocket, as she had clearly prepared on in advance. "Oh… And since you've been honest with me, I think, I'll be honest with you- Gendo thinks that the Angels will attack her again. Soon."
"Thank you. I appreciate your help." Momonga was honest for once. '...Figures. And it's not like he needs to tell me, since our cooperation hinged on me asking for Gendo's help, or Gendo asking for my help, so preemptive intel wouldn't fall within the lines of the contract Haa… Well, I should next grab Unit-02 and start preparing Nazarick. I need to set up a long-range surveillance network, early warning systems, and so on…'
Momonga nodded to Misato and Misato nodded back, somehow making Momonga think that the woman was a bit less frigid towards him than at the start of the meeting.
That was when Momonga realized that he had, once again, forgotten that his anti-divination Scrolls had run out during the conversation.
"It's done. I gave clearance for the Pilots to enter Second's realm" Fuytsuki told Gendo while putting the phone away after having called Misato. "Is it really alright to leave the Pilots and the Units to Siberia, and even allow the Pilots to enter Second's realm?"
"It's fine. If those three can delay Second by drawing its attention then they've accomplished their mission there." Gendo was standing in calm ease.
Fuytsuki had come to Siberia on board the huge air-transport that was currently on its way back to NERV Japan… Alongside its cargo.
Gendo looked at the huge cracked red orb that was tied down in the transport's cargo-bay.
A hour ago:
Unit-00 paused it's work as the trio of EVA's had been clearing away their fighting equipment from the lake-like hollow inside the sink-hole in Siberia.
"...Understood." Rei's voice was emotionless in response to Gendo's orders, and the view of the command center showed as Unit-00 approached the dead Angel's carcass, which had bled so much that the lake had turned from deep blue to vibrant red.
There were strange creatures swimming in the red liquid, so Unit-00 had to conceal its motions as it dragged the container that had been used to store the discarded shells and pieces of Prog-Blades that had been scattered in the hollow… And Unit-00 grabbed one of the prog-blades that had been stuck in the Angel after Unit-02 had sliced its guts open.
The strange creatures of the lake seemed to disperse as a huge gout of blood came from the Angel's carcass, washing across the lake… And Unit-00 entered the dead Angel's torso through the slash-wound, longside the cargo-crate.
It was, of course, all a cover so that Unit-00 could grab the red orb that had been pierced by the AD-Rifle, and move it to the cargo container without being seen.
Half an hour ago:
Unit-00 hauled the cargo container with the Angel's heart to the aerial supercarrier with hasty motions as Gendo hurried Rei along, intending on having the plane depart before Second's visit to the Pilots.
"What are my orders, sir?" Rei asked with a dead look in her glazed-over eyes after she disembarked from the Unit-00, having managed to stuff the cargo container to the aerial superfreighter just in time for a guard to report that Second had arrived at the edge of the sink-hole.
"Delay the demons as long as possible. Sacrifice yourself if necessary. Cause drama and strife- But do not allow it to be linked back to us." Gendo's orders were curt, and Rei nodded her head laconically before turning to enter a transport car that was waiting for her, which would take her to the other Pilots.
Gendo looked at the red orb. "Fuyutsuki. With this… Our objective grows ever nearer. Second might have been able to deny us this prize thrice, but now… Our options grow ever wider. The Dummy Plug Program near's its completion- And with this, we'll have the means of producing both the Pilot, and the EVA."
"The Mass-Production EVA series…" Fuyutsuki whispered while looking at the orb from beside Gendo.
Gendo said nothing, so Fuytsuki finished the sentence by himself with a dry mouth.
"...God help us all."
Gendo merely scoffed.