See Chapter 1 for disclaimer.
"OK, Miss Asuka, lie still and let me see what kind of injuries you have," Washu said firmly as she pushed some buttons on the gurney and typed on her holo-laptop. They had just arrived in an examining room after being led into the house and through a door under the stairs. Shinji was waiting outside the exam room door at Asuka's insistence, so he couldn't "catch a glimpse of me naked." He had, however, insisted that the door be open so he could be sure that she was okay. Several small displays appeared in the air over the gurney showing various medical information. After a minute or two of hmm's and ahh's from Washu and beeps from the equipment, Washu's concentration was broken by her impatient patient.
"Well? What is the diagnosis, Miss Washu? Am I going to be all right? What about my eye?"
"Just another minute and I'll have all the data. You aren't going to die any time soon, so relax." Washu leaned in close to her patient's ear and asked in a stage whisper, "are you and Mr. Ikari going to want one futon or two?"
As both Shinji and Asuka turned red, the unfamiliar voice of a young woman exclaimed "Grandmother! You shouldn't ask such embarrassing questions! Look - you've made the poor girl turn as red as her suit, and Ikari-kun looks like he is going to faint!"
Washu cackled, "I'm just gathering important data! Mayuka, this is Asuka Soryu. Miss Soryu, this is my granddaughter Mayuka."
"Nice to meet you, Miss Mayuka," Asuka responded to the black-haired and orange-eyed young woman standing next to the gurney. "And for the record," she glared at Washu, "we'll want TWO futons. So, Miss Washu, how am I?"
Washu clicked at her keyboard for a few seconds, then answered her patient, "You have some nerve damage in your bandaged arm and leg, and your eye will need to be replaced, but don't worry. I should be able to grow you a new one from your own stem cells in a month or so. Your eyesight will be back to normal in no time. The nerve damage can be repaired, also, but it will take a little longer than your eye since I have to do it in situ. Otherwise, you are basically healthy, although you have some cuts and bruises, and a slight case of malnutrition, and you are underweight. Nothing a few weeks of rest, physical therapy, and good food can't take care of. Do you have any questions?"
"You can regenerate my eye? For real? Even NERV had trouble with that."
"I'm not in the habit of bragging about simple things, Miss Asuka. I'll need to get a stem cell sample from you, but that can wait until tomorrow. I think that any other questions can be answered later, as well. How would you like to join us in our onsen before dinner? Mayuka, help me move her to the float chair." Mayuka assisted Asuka onto a floating cushion, as Washu continued, "After a good bath, we'll have dinner and you can meet the rest of the family. Then I think it will be time for you and Shinji to retire until morning. Mayuka, go ahead and take Asuka to the onsen. I'll be along after I examine Shinji. Miss Asuka's bandages can come off, there is no real need for them that I could see. Could you lend her some of your clothes until we can get her some of her own?"
"I can find something, Grandmother. Who will be making dinner if I'm taking care of Asuka?"
"I'll take care of it today, the robots can do an adequate job. I need a bath, too."
"OK, Grandmother. We'll meet you in the onsen." Mayuka pushed Asuka out of the room and back towards the door they came in through, past Shinji.
"Asuka, are you OK?" he asked as he stood up from where he sat on the floor with his back against the wall.
"I'll be fine, Shinji. You're next."
"Where are you going?" he asked both girls, having met Mayuka before she went into the room.
"I'm taking Asuka to the onsen to get cleaned up. You can have your bath after you're finished with Grandmother. My father will come to show you where it is."
"I'm glad you're not seriously hurt, Asuka. I'll see you after we're cleaned up." Shinji said as he turned to enter the exam room. He was puzzled, but he couldn't help feeling comfortable around these odd people. It wouldn't be until much later that he would realize that it was because they treated him and Asuka with genuine care and respect, something he wasn't used to.
His reverie was interrupted as Washu directed him to sit on the gurney that Asuka had been on and gave him a quick examination. After a couple of minutes, Washu declared him fit and prescribed him the same rest and good food that she had prescribed for Asuka.
As Asuka soaked in the bath, barely listening to Mayuka, Washu, and Ryoko, she thought over the events since her awakening on the beach, and wondered if Shinji was right about Misato. Her guardian had driven her crazy, but she just now had realized something she hadn't wanted to acknowledge before: only the people that you care about can aggravate you as much as Misato had bugged her. The sounds of people moving on the other side of the onsen's dividing screen got her attention, and she heard some male voices, Shinji's included. She smiled softly to herself as she realized that Shinji fell into the same category.
Shinji left the exam room and found Tenchi waiting, watching some odd fish swimming in a tank that lined the wall. "I'm ready for that bath Miss Washu mentioned. I'll need to borrow some clean clothes, though. These are really dirty."
"I'm sure I can find you something for that will do until Miss Washu can have her machines make you some clothes that fit. Come, I could use a bath too, and my grandfather wants to meet you," Tenchi said as he led the way out of what Mayuka had called "the lab," emerging inside the house and heading up the stairs. "Do you like hot springs, Shinji? These aren't natural, but not so you would notice."
"Uh, I don't mind. I am sure it will be no problem. Thank you for all of your hospitality. Um, can I ask you a question? About Miss Washu?" Shinji hesitated, not wanting to offend his host.
"Certainly! You can ask, but I may not have an answer. What do you want to know?"
"Well, you see, Miss Washu, is she really your wife's mother? She doesn't look that old. I'm sorry, I don't mean to be rude." Shinji blushed and looked down at the floor as he followed Tenchi into the changing room.
"Oh, she's my mother-in-law, there is no doubt about it. She is much older than she looks. We'll have to show you some family pictures of when she looked much younger." Tenchi explained as the two of them got ready for the bath.
A warm cloud of steam greeted them as they entered the bathing pool, and Shinji was introduced to Tenchi's grandfather, who had been in the bath waiting for them. Yosho Masaki Jurai was another mystery to Shinji, his long dark hair and youthful appearance not fitting his being Tenchi's grandfather. He put his questions aside, though and settled into the comfortably warm water. He started to drift off to sleep to the musical tones of the women's voices on the other side of the screen, but started as he realized that Yosho had asked him a question. "I'm sorry, I didn't hear you, I was falling asleep."
"That is OK, Shinji. I asked you how you and Miss Asuka had come to be alone on the beach in Tokyo-3," came Yosho's deep base.
"I'm not really sure, myself, I think Rei had something to do with it, but I thought only I was going to be coming back. I'm sorry, it's all a jumble in my head."
Yosho digested this answer for a few moments, and decided that it might not be a good idea to ask too many questions right away. Washu had told him that they were safe for now, and he had already sent word to Jurai. It was not an immediate necessity that he get more information from the two survivors of the disaster had befallen the world. Washu's quick responses had saved them from the mysterious events, and while he knew she still did not have all the data, she had assured them it was safe enough for them to emerge from their subspace shelter, and she was, as usual, correct so far. "You do not need to be sorry, Shinji. We can discuss this all at a later time, I think. We are safe for now, and so are you and Miss Asuka. I do want to know more about what has happened, but it is no longer urgent, I think. What is your opinion, Tenchi?"
Even after all these years, Tenchi was still surprised at his grandfather sometimes, "you want my opinion, Grandfather?"
"Yes, Tenchi, I do. It is always valuable to hear another point of view."
"Well, I trust Washu that we are safe for now, and if what I saw in Tokyo-3 is a good example, there is no human activity anywhere. I think we should stay here in subspace, though, just to be sure, since Washu said she didn't have all the data yet. I don't think that there is any reason we can't wait to get more data. And the first relief ship should be arriving soon. Knowing Sasami, she won't wait for Great Grandfather's decision, she'll come right away."
"All good reasons not to hurry into things, Tenchi. I agree with you are about Sasami, and I, too, expect her soon. Tsunami will want to see this disaster firsthand. Sasami has seemed saddened recently, and I believe she had some premonitions of the events that have now occurred."
Tenchi and Yosho continued talking in low tones as Shinji mind drifted into his memories, images from Instrumentality running through his mind's eye until he was gently shaken by Tenchi, who had been sitting next to him in the water. "Shinji, time to get out of the bath and get ready for dinner. How are you feeling?"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Masaki, I'm very tired, and still very confused. Dinner won't be long, will it? I may not be able to stay awake for much longer."
"Don't worry, dinner will be very simple tonight, and you have already met almost everyone who lives here," Tenchi assured the boy as he helped him out of the bath and got him some clean clothes which consisted of a hakama and gi, like a Shinto priest would wear. Shinji dressed quickly, as did the older men, and soon they were ready to eat. They entered the large dining room, and Shinji realized that this was a very traditional family: the table was low and everyone would have to kneel, unlike Misato's table which had been a western style sit-down table. It went along with the clothes he had been given, too.
The men did not have to wait long for the others to arrive for dinner. Tenchi had started to set the table when they had arrived, and was almost done by the time everyone else had come in. Shinji and Asuka were introduced to Tenchi's father, Noboyuki, who had been busy when the teens had arrived, and also to Ryo-Ohki, a strange cross between cat and rabbit that the Masaki's called a cabbit and treated as well or better than Misato had treated Pen Pen. Shinji wondered if Pen Pen had survived Third Impact and made a mental note to ask his hosts to look for him. They ate a quick, simple, but well prepared meal, and everyone tried to make sure that Shinji and Asuka felt welcome. It was a pleasant meal for both of them, and when it was over, Tenchi and Mayuka showed the two teens to a medium-sized room on the second floor of the house, divided by a large screen down the middle, with a futon in each half. Tenchi's explanation was that it was the only room they had that was not being used, and with the screen there should be more than enough privacy for them.
Asuka wanted to object to sharing a room with Shinji, but she did not have the energy to do more than forcefully tell her companion "come over to my side of the screen and you're history, Third Child," before she fell asleep on her futon in the sleeping robes that Mayuka had lent her. Shinji himself just said goodnight, and fell asleep himself. Both teens were too tired to notice any bad dreams, if they had any.
- § -
Asuka was awakened by the sound of knocking on the door to the room she had shared with Shinji. Mayuka stepped in and closed the door, going over to the closet on Shinji's side of the room. "What time is it?" was the first coherent thought that Asuka could voice as she sleepily rubbed her eyes and looked around the room. She noticed that there were no windows which gave her a good enough view outside to tell, and there was no clock in sight.
"Good morning, Asuka. It's about nine-thirty or so. Did you sleep well?"
"Better than I have in a while, I think, thanks. Which way is the bathroom, again? I was so tired last night, I don't remember if you showed me or not," asked Asuka as she sat up and looked around. "Where's Shinji?" she asked before Mayuka could respond.
"He's downstairs, in the family room. He was waiting for you to get up before he had breakfast. He's been up since eight," Mayuka replied. "The bathroom is on the left as you leave the room, the first door on the left before the stairs down. I'll put out some clothes for you, Grandmother managed to get some for you overnight. If they don't fit, she can take care of it after breakfast. If you need help, let me know, I'll be in here tidying up."
"Thank you, Miss Mayuka. You and your family have been very kind to us, I don't know how we would have managed if you hadn't come for us."
"You're welcome, both of you. We have a long tradition of taking in those in need. You and Ikari-kun are just the latest, and I'm sure you won't be the last. Now go clean up, Ikari-kun is probably starving."
"Yeah, that sounds like him. I won't be long." As she carefully made her way down the hall to the bathroom, Asuka couldn't help but think that she was lucky to have been rescued by such nice people.
- § -
The commotion by the front door got both teens' attention as they sat at the dining room table finishing their meal. Before either could investigate, Ryoko came in, followed by two women that hadn't been at dinner the night before: a woman with long dark blue hair and pink eyes, with two small circles on her forehead, and an older woman with long very dark purple hair and eyes that were violet. Both were wearing what looked like very formal kimonos, but they were in a style neither Shinji nor Asuka had ever seen. Ryoko was in the middle of a sentence as they walked in, "...like Washu said, it's just us left, besides the two we rescued. You'll have to ask Washu if you want more details. She said it was safe to leave the lab, but since there is no-one out there, I'm not in a hurry, and neither are Tenchi or the old man."
The younger, blue haired woman looked very sad, but determined at the same time, as she entered the dining room, "I have looked myself, and Washu is correct, there are no more people left. The animals and plants are no worse off than after Second Impact, so the Earth is not dead, just lacking people, for the time being. Thankfully, they are not completely gone, their souls still exist. And neither Ryu-Oh or Funaho seem to have been affected. I have much work to do here, though, if you decide to stay."
The purple-haired woman put a hand on the other's shoulder, "Sasami, you don't have to do it alone, we will help as much as we can. You know that, sister." As they entered the room, the woman noticed Shinji and Asuka for the first time, "Ryoko, are these two young people the ones you rescued?"
"Yes, Ayeka, they are. I haven't had any children since you went back to Jurai for your Father's Jubilee last month. They are Shinji Ikari and Asuka Soryu. Kids, this is my sister-wife, Ayeka, and my sister-in-law, Sasami. They just arrived from Jurai a few minutes ago."
The proper introductions were made, and the three women went off in search of Washu. The two teens finished up their breakfasts and something that Ryoko had said suddenly hit Asuka's awareness. "Shinji, when Ryoko introduced Ayeka, what did she call her?" she asked her companion, not wanting to make a fool of herself if she had heard wrong.
"I think she said 'sister-wife.' I wonder if that means what it sounded like?" was the boy's thoughtful response.
"I thought that was what she said, what does it mean to you? I've never heard the term."
"Well, since Ryoko and Tenchi are married, maybe Tenchi is married to Ayeka, also? Back in ancient times, noblemen occasionally had more than one wife."
Tenchi came in as Shinji was giving Asuka his theory, and sat down at the table. "You are correct, Shinji, I am married to both Ryoko and Ayeka. We'll all be getting together in a little while in the family room, and we will give you some explanations then. Are you both done?"
The two teens nodded and then looked at each other, shadows of their synchronization training making them look like twins. They got up and followed Tenchi into the family room, where almost everyone else had already gathered. Tenchi went to sit with Ryoko, Ayeka, and Mayuka on one sofa, Yosho and Noboyuki were on another with Washu between them, and Sasami was sitting on the third sofa holding Ryo-Ohki in her lap, leaving a couple of chairs for the teens. Yosho cleared his throat once everyone was settled and began, "Now that we are all here, I'll summarize my view of our situation, and then we can discuss what we will do. First, and most importantly, the family is safe, and there are no immediate threats to be dealt with. Both of the trees are well, and we have ample supplies and transport if needed. Thanks to Washu's rapid response, we also still have our home," he nodded to Washu, who blushed. "We have rescued the only two other human survivors, and Sasami and Ayeka have come to help. Welcome, sisters. Washu, can you tell us what you know about what occurred yesterday?"
Washu stood as Yosho sat, and snapped her fingers. Her keyboard appeared and a holoscreen popped into being behind her head with what appeared to be a live shot of Earth from approximately halfway between the Earth and Moon. Washu began typing and the image zoomed in until the view was centered over Japan. "At approximately 3:15pm yesterday afternoon, there was a battle in Tokyo 3 involving at least eleven of the entities known as Evangelions as well as some forces which I have not yet identified. As a result of, but possibly coincidental to the battle, the souls of every human being on the planet (with the exception of those sitting here) were merged into one. I still don't know how, and that, frankly, scares me. I will continue my research. Sasami, do you have any information on this?"
"Yes, Washu, I think I can help you somewhat, but there is much to go over and it can wait. You need not worry."
"Thank you, Sasami, we can talk later this morning, I guess. I would also like to talk to our two guests about what they know of the yesterday's events." Washu looked over at the two pilots as if she expected some sort of reply, but as the silence went on, she resumed her speech in a lighter tone, "That can wait, too. As for immediate concerns, we don't have to worry about supplies or transportation. I can literally whip up any supplies we need, and Ryo-Ohki and Tsunami are here to take us wherever we need." The small brown-furred cabbit myahhed in response.
Asuka, who had been following the speech closely, interrupted, "Miss Washu, what do you mean that Ryo-Ohki can take us where we need to go?"
"In her ship form she can hold all of us who are here, more in a pinch, and although she doesn't look like much right now," the scientist paused as Ryo-Ohki gave her a glare and a 'humph', "Sorry, daughter, but remember that our guests have never seen you in any other form. As I was saying, Ryo-Ohki can transform herself into a spacegoing ship, suitable for very long range travel. Also into humanoid form," and there was a soft pop as Ryo-Ohki demonstrated by transforming into a furry young woman.
Both Asuka and Shinji stared, as Ryoko quietly leaned over and elbowed Ryo-Ohki, whispering, "show-off!" which got everyone else smiling and broke some of the tension. The cyan haired woman turned her attention to her mother, "Anything else, Mom?"
"There is one other thing, yes. I left many sensor devices in Tokyo 3 where we picked up Shinji and Asuka, and I have preliminary indications that other humans may separate from the merged whole and re-appear, so to speak. Shinji and Asuka also mentioned this possibility yesterday. My sensors should pick up any new human activity anywhere on the planet, so we will know if anyone re-appears within minutes of their emergence." Washu sat back down on the couch, and her accessories faded from view.
Yosho stood back up and asked, "Does anyone have anything else they want to add? I think Washu summed up our situation accurately." No one spoke up, so he continued, "My biggest question to ask all of you, is this: should we stay here on Earth or relocate to Jurai? I have my own opinions of this, but we must all have a say in a decision of this magnitude. I believe it would be prudent to relocate for a time, until the situation here is clearer. If more people return, we could have a small rescue station set up to assist them as needed. Tenchi?"
"I also think we should relocate to Jurai for a time. I do want to return as soon as we can, though. This is our home."
One by one, the other Masaki family members voiced their opinions, with only Noboyuki not wanting to leave. He was not much of a space traveler and he reasoned that someone needed to stay in order to help those who came back. Ryoko was reluctant to go to Jurai, but otherwise had no problem with leaving, as long as she was with Tenchi. After the Masaki's had all had a chance to voice their opinions, Yosho turned to Shinji and Asuka. They had been quietly observing the whole process and wondering what "Jurai" was, and both of them were somewhat confused. "Miss Asuka, Shinji, do you have any questions?"
It was Asuka who asked the question both were thinking, "Where is this 'Jurai' you people keep talking about? I've never heard of it, and you said there were no other people on Earth."
"Jurai is a planet several hundred light years from here," Yosho began, and a few minutes of questions and answers later, both of the teens had a much clearer picture of their situation, and of the decidedly strange family that had taken them in.
Once the former pilots had had their fill of new information, Washu took Asuka into her laboratory space to begin the process of healing her injuries while Shinji helped Mayuka clean the dining room. "Miss Mayuka? How long would it take to travel to Jurai?" he asked as they carried the breakfast plates to the kitchen.
"A week or so. It's been a few years since I have been there - we went during a summer school vacation and stayed for three weeks, with a week of travel there and back. It was one of the most boring trips I have ever taken, all that pomp and ceremony and not being let out of compound without too many escorts and servants and flunkies. But I did make some friends while I was there, a couple of the girls were nice," Mayuka blushed slightly, realizing she was rambling. Nevermind that Grandfather Yosho had not mentioned anything about the "family business" during the earlier question and answer session.
Shinji stared at Mayuka as he put the dishes next to the sink, "That sounds like your family is really important or rich or something. What does your family do on Jurai?"
"We rule it," was Mayuka's answer.