Shouting at the top of his lungs Shinji called out Ayanami's name three times, each time with no response from the giant. Inside of his mind he recalled every good memory he ever had with Rei, from when he first met her when he first came to Tokyo-3, to the moment he held her hand the day before she died. With tears flowing from his eyes he cried out one more time “AYANAMI!!! PLEASE!!!” and there was a long silence.
Shinji slowly opened his eyes and expected to see the piercing red eyes of the giant. When he did so, the red eyes were there but they were not the ones he had seen before. The eyes he saw now were gentle. The giant's smile was now small and soft, the face kind. It was the face of his mother, and the face of his most true friend.
“Ayanami!” he cried again in recognition, the tears now flowing uncontrollably. She looked upon him and while she didn't speak her smile broadened. Despite her dramatic transformation, she was Rei again.
The boy could feel something reach inside of him but didn't fight the feeling. Rather he let the boundaries of his heart go and he could sense it was Rei herself, or some part of her, that was probing inside his emotions. A rush of memories came through his mind as it seemed like his whole life was being reviewed by her. Flashing before his eyes he could see visions of his early childhood, playing with and being held by his mother. He saw the laboratory accident that took her away and then the subsequent abandonment by his father. The years he spent of lonely, solitary existence at his uncle's house. Then the flashbacks came to his time with EVA and all of the hardships and turmoil he faced. He also saw good along with the bad: the friendships he made and the happiness he felt in reaching out and finding connections to others. There were a cacophony of sounds running through his head as this happened but Shinji thought he could hear cello music play throughout.
His thoughts came to this last and most eventful day of his life. Though him she experienced the death by his hand, the death he had very nearly received, and the deaths and dying of others around him. There was something I needed to tell her, Shinji realized but before he could say it Rei already knew what it was.
Without saying anything the glowing giant gently lowered EVA-01 back on the grounds inside the GeoFront. Asuka, now standing on the shoulder of Unit 02, watched in wordless surprise as Rei let Shinji down. For a moment the giant Rei looked at her and Asuka clutched onto her EVA and started shaking in fear, but Rei just smiled at her and then moved to where Unit 04 lay.
As Unit 01 landed Shinji moved her close enough to EVA-02 for Asuka to jump onto his own Evangelion. When she came on board Shinji released the entry plug and popped open the side door.
Asuka was running on top of EVA-01's shoulder as Shinji called out her name, scrambling out of the plug and sliding down to the EVA's collarbone. They met each other half way as Shinji threw his arms around the redhead and squeezed her tight. She just stood there at first but then as he wouldn't let go she also put her arms around him.
Shinji looked at her face. “Asuka!” he said, still with tears in his eyes. “Are you alright?”
“Of course!” she fired back, acting annoyed. “What are you crying for?”
He smiled at her and hugged her again. “I'm just really glad to see you again!”
She softened her expression and gently smiled back at him. “Hey, you can't get rid of me that easily!” Asuka looked up at the giant Rei and said to Shinji “Is that...that thing the First?”
He nodded. “Yeah, it's her!”
“I always knew she was weird!”
Shinji's joy at seeing Asuka again dissipated as he watched Rei pick up the motionless Unit 04 like it was a rag doll, lifeless in her hands.
“Oh, no,” he said quietly as he still held onto Asuka. “It's too late...”
Patrick lay inside the entry plug paralyzed, unable to move or speak. The interior lights still had some power but the video imaging inside the plug was cracked, and only a small part of it allowed him to see outside the EVA. Multiple alarms sounded inside the plug indicating damage and malfunctions.
He could feel that his breathing was very labored. On his back and inside of his chest there was a horrible burning sensation. Patrick tried to move his hand but it wouldn't budge. He couldn't recall how he had been struck down but could only assume one of the Lances carried by the Mass Production EVAs must have hit Unit 04 from behind.
Because his audio feed was destroyed Patrick was unable to hear anything that Shinji had said earlier. To him, time had slowed down into a crawl. His head felt light, like he was uncontrollably sleepy. He realized that there weren't that many moments left for him.
Well, I guess I knew this was coming. Vance you were right, it's more important to hit the target than to worry about getting hit yourself. At least Shinji and Asuka made it. Third Impact stopped. Mission Accomplished.
Erin, I'm so sorry. I just had borrowed time left to me. I hope one day you'll find out everything, and then you'll know...you'll know I did this for you, too.
Patrick had to work to keep his eyelids open. The power in the plug started to get lower and the lights went from white to red. He could feel something rocking the EVA from outside but he didn't know what it was. He felt it was harder and harder for him to breathe, and he rolled his head to the side and looked at the one remaining part of the video feed that was still working. Through the sliver of the monitor he saw her: the beautiful face, pale white skin, and bright red eyes looking down at him. She held him in her hands and brought him into the sky.
Rei...you really are my angel Please take me home...
He then closed his eyes and gave himself to the darkness.
Rei held EVA-04 in her hands and looked curiously at it. Then she pulled both of her hands towards her, pressing the Evangelion through her chest where it was absorbed into her being.
She saw herself standing naked in the middle of a giant orange-colored lake. The horizon was also orange-red, like the LCL that she was standing in. In the distance crystalline formations moved slowly around her, each one taking the shape of herself. Floating just above the LCL sea was a girl who looked like Rei, dressed in a blue and white school uniform. Next to the floating Rei was a teenaged boy with silver hair and red eyes, dressed in a white and navy boys’ uniform. His face was the same as Kaworu Nagisa. Both of the children looked at her as she stood in the lake.
“Do you know where you are?” the girl asked her.
“Yes,” Rei replied. “These are the confines of my heart.” Rei looked at the girl who floated above here. “You are the one inside of me, the one they call the Second Angel.”
“That was the fragment of my soul inside of you,” the girl said to her. “Now I have been made complete again.”
Rei turned to the boy. “You are the one called Adam.”
He smiled. “Pleased to meet you!”
“We have been joined together,” Rei said to them both.
“That which was being used to further the ends of others is now being used to furnish our own ends,” the girl said to her.
The boy joined in. “We have ourselves become the masters of our own destiny, and the world’s.”
“This is Third Impact,” said Rei.
“Of a sort,” the girl answered. “At this juncture all pathways are now open to us. It is simply up to us to make the decision of which direction to go.”
“This world can be ended or began again,” the boy chimed in, “to the method of our own choosing.”
“The Third Child, was it not his choice after all?” Rei asked.
“His choice was made in another way, at another time,” said the girl. “These are the effects of it. It was his wish that you would have this chance.”
“The decision is for the three of us together,” said Adam.
“But yet we are not ourselves alone,” Lillith replied as she looked across the lake.
Not far from where they spoke Rei looked upon the lake and saw a boy lying naked in shallow water, being held by another girl. Without walking she glided through the LCL and arrived near him. The boy was naked and appeared dead, a gaping wound through his chest. Rei saw that the boy was Patrick Forrestal.
Clinging to the boy and sitting in the shallow water was girl that looked Rei’s age, but she was Caucasian. She had short blond hair and bright emerald eyes framed by round glasses, and she was wearing Rei’s school uniform. Like the boy she too had a gaping wound through her chest and out her back. The girl held Patrick in her arms with his head resting upon her chest, and she moved her fingers gently through his hair as she sobbed softly.
Rei addressed the girl. “You are the EVA”
“What has happened?”
She spoke to Rei as she continued to caress Patrick’s hair. “He didn’t want to go at first. I knew he had to but he didn’t want to leave, until they pulled him out. Once he was outside he knew what was required of him…the price he had to pay!”
Behind Rei both Lillith and Adam appeared again, floating over the sea. “Do you know him?” Lillith asked Rei.
“Yes,” Rei replied as the memory fully came back to her now. “The boy from far away.”
“You know, I could never reach his heart,” the girl said, looking up at Rei. “But you could! When he first saw you it touched him deep inside, and he never could let go. You were his hope, the one thing in his life that said things would be alright for him.”
Rei looked away from them, “I never intended this.”
“But yet you allowed it!” Lillith said to her.
“Because I was curious…”
“Because you wondered who you really were,” Adam added. “Were you just like the others, or were you different?”
“You remember what happened that day?” Lillith asked her.
“Yes,” Rei said. “We talked. We ate ice cream.”
“For the first time, you laughed,” Adam told her. “And you ran with him, and held his hand.”
Rei looked up at Adam. “I wasn’t myself that day…
“Actually,” Lillith said as she floated directly in front of Rei. “You were.”
Adam also appeared at Rei’s side. “The one day in your life when you weren’t the First Child, you weren’t the Pilot of EVA-00, or the descendent of Yui Ikari, or even the host of Lillith. You were just Rei.”
“Yes,” she replied, thinking about everything that was said. “And I remember that I was happy.”
“He asked you what you wanted, for yourself,” Lillith said.
”I couldn’t answer him then.” Rei looked again at the boy lying in the LCL. “But each day afterward I thought about it. I wondered what was possible.”
“And when the moment came where it mattered most,” followed Adam, “you had the answer you sought.”
“I wanted to be me.”
“And it was your faith, and his,” the EVA said to her, “that made you complete.”
Rei stood there for a long while, considering everything that she felt. “If it had not been for him,” she realized, “I might not have made the choice that I did.”
She knelt down next to the dying boy, looking at his face. In this state he seemed so very peaceful to her, like he was just sleeping and not dead. “What can be done for him?” she asked the others.
“It is within you to make him whole,” Lillith replied.
“He can return,” Adam said, “and live again.”
Lillith moved towards Rei, now kneeling next to her. “As for you, we can give you peace.”
“No one has suffered such as you have,” Adam said to her as he also knelt down in the shallow LCL, “brought into the world as an empty shell made in the image of others and enslaved to the will of others. Yet you accepted your place without fear, without anger.”
“And despite all of the coldness in your life,” Lillith continued, “you learned to manifest in your heart an emotion such that you did not even know what to call it.”
“The emotion called love,” Adam followed.
“As a result you have been blessed above all,” Lillith said to with a gentle expression. “And bound with us you can fulfill the greatest of all destinies, if it is your will to do so.”
Rei looked up on both Lillith and Adam. What she was being offered was the fulfillment she had sought, a way to fill up the inside space of her that had always seemed so empty. Joining with the First and Second Angels would give her purpose, she knew, but yet something tugged at her heart. Throughout her short life she had made connections and experienced many things both good and bad, and had felt the hearts of others. She wanted the chance to explore that as well. She couldn’t have both.
She looked at the boy’s face and gave her answer. “I just want to be me.”
“Then there is a path that can take you back,” Lillith replied. “You can once more be together with the others.”
“It is not easy, however,” Adam continued. “You will never be the same as them. You will always stand apart. They will taste death and still carry the burden of their lives.”
“But with you,” Lillith said, “their burdens can be made just a little bit easier.”
Adam smiled as he carried on. “And the world can start to be made whole again, as it was before.”
Lillith looked at Rei with the concern of a parent. “It is a difficult path for you, fraught with uncertainty and peril. There will be times of joy, but also of loneliness and even despair. But the hope is there, for them, for you…and for your children.”
“I know that it will be difficult,” Rei answered softly, “but I still want to try.”
Lillith smiled. “Then your heart has already chosen.”
Rei looked at both of them. “What will be become of you?”
“We will do as we are bidden,” the Second Angel replied. “To watch and guide, as was our appointed roles here before.”
“But now in harmony,” Adam joined in, “and not in conflict with each other. Through your body Man and Angel have become united as one!”
“And you will become our link to this world,” Lillith concluded, “but you will still be you. That is our promise.”
“Then let it be done,” Rei replied. She moved her hand gently to Patrick’s chest and touched it where the wound was. As she touched the wound, the boy’s skin seemed to come alive, and quickly worked to repair the tissue until the damage was gone and the boy’s chest was whole again. Rei looked at the EVA and her wound was healed as well, and she smiled at her as tears ran down her face. Then Rei noticed that Patrick was stirring. He slowly opened his eyes and for a moment he saw her smiling face.
Go to Chapter Twenty-Three