While walking the two boys back to the cabin, their guard heard the squad leader call “Fall Back” on the radio. The soldier quickly acknowledged the order but then heard no reply from his sergeant. Then a moment later sounds of gunfire sounded from the cabin.
The soldier readied his assault rifle and shouted at Shinji and Patrick. “You two, get behind a tree,” he ordered as he pointed towards inside the woods. “Now!” Both boys hurriedly complied, running a few more meters into the forest and finding a large tree trunk to hide behind.
The sentry called into his radio as he scanned his surroundings. “OWL THREE TO OWL ONE, come in. OWL ONE?” Movement to his right caught his eye and he saw two man-sized shapes crawl up off the ground. Reacting quickly he held up his rifle and fired a burst at the first man that took him down, but the second intruder also had a rifle and fired at the sentry upon being spotted. Owl Three went down after two three-round bursts entered his chest.
From behind the large tree both of the boys saw the guard go down. “Oh, Shit,” Patrick said. They swung back behind the tree and looked at each other, each of them sensing the extreme danger of the situation.
“Do you have your satellite phone?” Patrick whispered to Shinji. The other boy checked his pockets and then a shocked look came on his face. “No, I left it in the cabin.”
Oh please God I don’t want to go out like this. The American boy swallowed hard and tried to be absolutely still, trying to control the sound of his breathing. He could hear the footsteps of the intruder in the snow, and he knew that the man was approaching where they were. “OK, what now?” he asked Shinji.
“Misato will come,” he whispered back as he began to clutch himself in fear. “She has to.”
Patrick could hear the footsteps get closer to the tree. He looked in his hands and saw the axe that he still held. He closed his eyes tightly, unsuccessfully pushing away at his fear. OK, just think Patrick. It’s just like an EVA fight, except you’re the EVA and they’re the Harpy...they’ve got a gun and you only have an axe…they’re bigger than you are…there’s no AT Field…if you get killed they can’t just fix you and bring you back…oh hell…
Just as the footfalls got right behind the tree, Patrick lurched from behind screaming and swung the axe at the soldier as hard as he could. The swing was wild and missed the man, but instead the blade of the axe landed on his assault rifle and neatly cut the rifle in two. As Patrick swung up the axe for a second time the white-clad intruder kicked him in the thigh, stopping his attack midway. The soldier then swung his right hand behind his back and pulled out an automatic pistol. Breaking his fall with the axe handle Patrick quickly pushed off of it and with all of his speed and strength rammed himself into the larger soldier. With the shock of the blow, the man’s pistol flew out of his hands and into the nearby snow.
Both Patrick and the solider fell down on the ground, Patrick landing on top of him. Trying to bring up the axe, the other man instead grabbed the handle and then pushed back hard, enough to roll Patrick over on his back. The intruder rolled on top of him, taking both hands on the axe handle and pushing it hard into Patrick’s chest.
The boy fought and pushed back with all of his might, but the intruder’s strength and weight was simply too much for him. Patrick gasped for air as the man continued to push the axe handle to crush his chest. He looked on the snow away from him and saw Shinji by the tree, and the pistol in the snow a meter away. “SHINJI! GUN!!!” he screamed.
The boy heaved as the man pushed the axe handle further into this chest, then as Patrick nearly blacked out, the man picked up the axe and swung it over his shoulder. Patrick trembled as he struggled to get free.
As the intruder was about to strike with the axe a shot rang out and a large red spot was visible on his white parka. The man turned around and saw Shinji standing two meters away, the gun in his hands in a shooting stance. He tried to jump away but then there was a second shot and he fell over and into the snow, the axe tumbling out of his hands.
Patrick saw Shinji as he held the pistol. His eyes were wide with emotion and his hands were trembling. “Dude, you okay?”
Shinji didn’t reply but instead dropped the gun onto the ground. Patrick managed to push off the dead carcass of a man from his lower body and rushed to where Shinji stood shaking.
“Thank you,” he said. Shinji didn’t say anything in reply, but just nodded. His eyes were in tears.
Rei said he had a big heart. I can see why it’s such a tragedy that he’s the best pilot.
“Cabin,” Patrick said, trying to be encouraging.
“Right,” Shinji finally answered, still shaking. The boys both started to run uphill when Shinji’s mind finally came to him and he realized they had forgotten someone. “PenPen!”
“Where is he?” Patrick asked. Both boys looked down the hill and saw the penguin ten meters below them. He was just standing there in the snow.
Shinji bolted back down the hill to where the bird was, Patrick following him. They found PenPen by the edge of the trees. He was still alive, although the snow next to him was covered in brown and yellow substance. The bird had frozen stiff in fear.
As Shinji scooped up the penguin in his arms Patrick looked down the hill and saw several more white-clad men climbing up. A moment later there was more gunfire and he grabbed Shinji by the arm and pulled him to the trees. Shinji slid behind one tree, PenPen still in his arms, while Patrick dove behind another one a few feet away. I hope that he’s right about Misato coming, Patrick thought to himself, as he was afraid to go anywhere else.
“Kaji-san!!!” Asuka exclaimed in relief.
“Are you two all right?” he asked hurriedly.
“We’re alright,” the Second Child said. “There’s two more of them in the kitchen that we took care of.” The agent raised his eyes a little in surprise as Asuka gave him a smugly confident look. “What’s happening?”
“SEELE,” Kaji said. “The contact from this morning was part of a diversion to get both Katsuragi and myself out of the way.” Taking a quick look around Kaji noticed the two bodies clad in white inside the kitchen doorway, but also knew something important was missing.
“Where are the boys,” he asked them.
Asuka’s suddenly gasped, her face in an expression of fear. “Shinji!”
“They’re outside getting firewood,” Rei told him, still with composure.
Kaji bounded into Misato’s bedroom and looked out the window. In the treeline to the right of the cabin he could see both of the boys crouching behind trees as white-clad intruders shot at them from a short distance. Shinji was tightly clutching PenPen as he hid behind one tree that was twenty meters away.
The agent spoke into his headset. “Nest secure for the moment, along with Zero and Two. What’s your ETA?”
“Three minutes,” a voice cracked on the speaker, the loud buzzing noise of the snowmobile engine in the background. “I’ve got company behind me!”
“Pick up One and Four in the woods. Get here ASAP, we’ll try to hold them off.”
He immediately rushed back into the living room. Grabbing the larger of the two couches, Kaji pushed it and it fell over backwards. He then grabbed an old rug that had been underneath it and pulled it off the floor. Underneath where the rug lay was a compartment hidden on the wooden floor. He immediately opened the compartment’s doors and pulled out an assault rifle and magazines.
Asuka saw that inside the compartment was an assortment of military arms of all types. Without asking she grabbed a grenade launcher from the space along with a bandolier of grenades. As Kaji rushed back to Misato’s bedroom and the window, Asuka followed quickly behind him.
Rei stood over the compartment, studying its remaining contents. Determining that she was capable of doing something as well, she reached inside for a weapon and then made her way back to the kitchen.
Kaji took the butt of the assault rifle and smashed out the glass on the bedroom window. He then pointed the rifle barrel out the open windowsill and fired several bursts at the oncoming soldiers that were on the steep slope below the cabin. He continued to fire three-round bursts at the group below. Behind the bedroom wall Asuka sat on the floor as she cracked open the grenade launcher and dropped a high explosive round in the breech, snapping the launcher back together afterward.
Taking down several men before he ran out of rounds in his clip, Kaji quickly ducked back down from the windowsill as several bullets hit the wall. One of them shot through the window and ricocheted towards the living room. As he reloaded, he nodded at Asuka and she quickly popped up. She took quick aim at the opponent closest to the treeline and pulled the trigger on the grenade launcher. She felt the “thump” of the shot and rolled back down to the floor without bothering to check to see if her round landed on target. A second later a loud blast was heard outside. Kaji then went up again and started hunting for targets.
“Did I get him?” Asuka asked him without looking as she cracked the grenade launcher open and dropped out the spent casing.
“Yes,” Kaji replied. He then began to fire another set of bursts at the incoming soldiers as Asuka dropped in a new grenade.
Hiding in the tree line the boys were unable to move forward, as the intruding soldiers had now gone prone and were shooting into both the forest and the cabin above. Patrick tried to crawl on the ground from the tree and quickly jumped back as shots fired hit the snow a foot from his hand. From behind the tree trunk he felt thumps against the other side and knew they were bullets.
Kneeling by the kitchen window, Rei methodically opened up the window and pushed up the glass from the windowsill. She leaned against a corner of the room and then grabbed the rifle she had brought with her from the living room. It was a sniper rifle of Japanese SDF issue, light in weight with a folding stock. While she had never held a rifle before, her EVA Unit 00 had often used a much larger one in combat modeled on the one she now had in her small hands. She knew the feeling of shooting something with it, from that part now inside her soul that was once known to her as the Me Inside the EVA. Crouching low to keep from being seen, she held the rifle to her shoulder and looked down the scope at the ground below.
Patrick looked at Shinji as he continued to hide behind the tree trunk a few feet away from him. PenPen had snapped out of his shock and now panicked, flapping wildly. The boy tried to keep him under control while avoid being hit by any gunfire. He then looked in front of them by the treeline and saw that one of the soldiers had managed to reach their position. Seeing the rifle the man carried, Patrick quickly turned around the tree and looked on the ground for anything that would work as a weapon. Unfortunately there was nothing but snow. His stomach plunged as his hope faded. Too late.
Ten feet away, the soldier aimed at Patrick’s head behind the tree. A shot rang out and the man felt a massive pain in his right shoulder, dropping his rifle. The soldier turned around at the source of the shot and felt another sharp pain, this one to his left kneecap. He screamed in agony as he dropped to the ground and grabbed it with both hands.
Hearing the soldier’s screams, Patrick turned around and saw him on the rolling on the ground in excruciating pain. In the background there were more shots, bursts of automatic fire, and grenades exploding. Then there was a buzzing sound, followed by other explosions and he knew that somehow the tide had turned.
The buzzing sound got louder until a large red blur came barreling up the hillside and into the forest. Sliding up to Shinji’s tree was Misato. She was riding a snowmobile, wearing a red parka and snowsuit with black sunglasses. A SMG was in her right hand.
“Sorry I’m late,” she said to him.
“Just like last time,” he replied. Without being told the boy hopped on the seat in front of Misato, clutching PenPen in his arms.
“Patrick!” Misato shouted, and the other boy ran over to the snowmobile as fast as he could. He turned to look at the cabin and for a moment he saw Rei’s head peering out of the kitchen window. The mere sight of her gave his spirits a much needed boost. She’s safe!
The boy hopped on the seat behind Misato and she took off as soon as he was onboard. “One and Four with me,” she called into a headset microphone.
“Meet at Evac Point Gamma,” Kaji’s voice came back. “I’ll have zero and two with me.”
Misato gunned the engine and ran the snowmobile through the forest as the boys hung on for dear life. Weaving through the trees, it looked as they eluded their pursuers until other loud buzzing noises were heard behind them. Patrick swung back on his rear seat and noticed two motorcycles, their riders dressed in white, were following them.
“We got company!” he shouted.
“Right pocket!” Misato shouted back.
Patrick shoved his hand into the pocket of Misato’s parka and felt several round objects. He pulled out one and saw that it was a fragmentation grenade.
“You know how to use that?” she asked.
“Yeah, I think so!”
Gunfire was heard behind them and Patrick swung around again. One of the bikers was shooting at them with a pistol.
“Grenade!” Misato shouted. Patrick pulled on the pin and then tried to throw it behind them, but the snowmobile took a large bump and the grenade popped out of his hands and onto the passing ground. Two seconds later a muffled explosion was heard behind them, and Patrick yelped in pain when something hot hit his head.
Misato turned the snowmobile and plunged down a slope that was lined with fur trees. “Again!” she shouted to Patrick. The boy took another grenade, pulled the pin and this time just lobbed it over his shoulder. A moment later he heard another blast followed by a third one. Quickly turning his head he saw the motorcycle lift into the air, tossing the driver and landing on the slope, bursting into flames as it hit the ground.
“Got one!” Patrick shouted. Before they could feel elated more shots rang out as the second motorcycle driver was now shooting at them.
“Hang on!” Misato warned as she took the snowmobile into a clearing outside of the forest. Banking the snowmobile to the edge of the trees, she waited as the other motorcycle shot outside just behind them. Once the second cycle ran into the clearing, Misato swung the snowmobile hard to the right, swerving it into the snow. As the motorcycle rider jammed his boots into the snow to break the cycle and turn, Misato’s right arm came up and she fired the Uzi at full auto into the cycle and the rider. A second later the fuel tank of the motorcycle burst into flames.
Not wanting to stick around, Misato kicked the snowmobile upright and then sped through the clearing and then down another slope. They heard another buzzing sound and all of them looked around until Shinji pointed out another red snowmobile like their own on the other edge of the slope. A man was driving it, one red-haired girl in a red dress holding onto him and a blue-haired girl in a blue dress holding onto the red girl.
“They’re here!” Shinji shouted.
Misato turned the snowmobile and pushed down the hill at full speed. Talking into her headset, she got Kaji to stop his snowmobile in a patch of forest as she caught up to him. A minute later they slid into the forest and arrived where Kaji parked his vehicle.
“Katsuragi!” Kaji called out to her. She panted for a few seconds and then said “they’re more behind those two, maybe two minutes away.”
“Not to worry,” he replied. “On the way here I called in our Alliance friends. Air support is forthcoming.” As if on cue, the sound of helicopters was heard and both Kaji and Misato took their snowmobiles towards the outside edge of the trees. In the skies they could see two green Blackhawk helicopters, one of which was moving towards them.
“Ride’s over,” Misato shouted and both Shinji and Patrick got off the snowmobile. All of them ran to the very edge of the forest as the helicopter landed in a snowfield twenty feet away from them.
More buzzing sounds were heard in the background and Patrick looked through the clearing. He could see more snowmobiles, painted white, running out of the forest where they had been previously. Each of them had two riders, one of which was carrying a machine gun. The new group of intruders didn’t get very far however, as the second Blackhawk immediately let loose with gunfire from its door gunners. Rapid-fire gatling guns raked the snowfield before the enemy snowmobiles could escape and within seconds left four of them as smoldering heaps.
“Go, now!” Kaji shouted as the group ran across the clearing towards the waiting helicopter. A crewmember inside helped each of the children get inside, Penpen still clutching to Shinji as he was lifted inside the cabin. Misato then jumped in and then Kaji behind her, and the helicopter immediately lifted off.
Sitting inside the helicopter’s cabin each of the children just sat there and caught their breath. All of them were silent and just looked at each other. Kaji and Misato sat at the opposite end, talking with the helicopter crew.
“Let’s go back to the GeoFront,” Misato suggested.
“No,” Kaji answered. “Not yet. Get word out to Yoshi-kun, have him set the trap there. If they knew about this place it had to be an inside job, and not all of the pilots are here.” Misato answered and then shuffled towards where the children were seated. Sliding next to Shinji, he released PenPen to her, who happily squawked and then landed in her lap.
“Are you all OK?” she asked. All four of them nodded, Patrick managed a weak smile.
Asuka looked sternly at Shinji. “Next time don’t go outside if you can’t take care of yourself,” she said.
“I’m still here, aren’t I?” he angrily shot back.
“Whatever,” Asuka replied. “Just don’t make me worry about you like that again.” She crossed her legs and looked away from him towards the window.
Patrick looked at Rei, who was seated next to him across from the others. He noticed that she wore no boots, only her tights which were soaking. “Are you ok?”
“I’m fine,” she said. “But you’re not.” Before Patrick could answer she reached inside of a pocket in her sweater dress and pulled out a small handkerchief. Rei reached up to Patrick’s head with the handkerchief and pressed it against the side of his head.
In all of the confusion of battle and escape Patrick didn’t realize that he was hit. He felt with his right hand where her handkerchief was and noticed it was sticky. Examining his hand he saw that it was bloody. The side of his head felt numb but not sharply in pain. “Is it bad?” he asked Rei.
“You’ll live,” she replied without emotion. Patrick couldn’t help but smile at her attempt at humor. Rei continued to apply pressure to his head wound, and gently put her other hand on top of his. She looked up at him and gave just a very small smile in response, but it was enough to make the boy forget any pain he might have felt.
Shinji felt himself becoming more cold and moved closer to Misato. She put her arm around to comfort him. He looked up at her face and said to his guardian “I guess playtime’s over, isn’t it?” Misato nodded and held him close to her, squeezing him tightly as the helicopter flew through the cold afternoon air.
Jiro Watanabe quietly walked down the dark passageway to the lower levels of the GeoFront, checking several times to make sure he wasn’t being followed. The instructions given to him by the others who had contacted him earlier were clear: if you want your family to live, do exactly as we say. It was in terrified fulfillment of the rest of their instructions that he had brought himself down to the sub-levels.
Watanabe was an environmental engineer who had started working for NERV the previous year, his main responsibilities were the proper functioning of the water and power of the lower parts of the massive GeoFront complex. The job gave him access to the sub-levels, unique for just a lowly engineer considering the importance of all that NERV was doing. But like many at NERV, once Tokyo-3 city was destroyed in Unit 00’s self-detonation, he felt discretion was the better part of honor and he took his young wife and headed back to his family home in Kobe.
When he had heard NERV was being rebuilt by the Alliance, he returned to get his job back. They had only taken a brief look at his background, so he thought anyway, and given their lack of expertise it was easy for him to come back. Because of the unavailability of family housing in the GeoFront he was forced to come alone, leaving Keiko-chan in Kobe. A week later however, dangerous men called him on his mobile phone and sent him photos of his wife taken from inside their house without her knowledge. Their threats were clear, and they wanted him because he had clear access to a particular part of the GeoFront: the deeper level that held the pilot apartments.
His mission was straightforward: use his engineer position to access the pilot suite level under the ruse of his job and then locate the one remaining EVA pilot who was living on that level. He was then to kill the girl and then fashion his escape through access tunnels that were known to an environmental engineer such as himself. When Watanabe asked why he, who was just a lowly engineer, was being assigned this task, he was told only that because of his soft-spoken manner and slender appearance, he wouldn’t at all be suspected by NERV and Alliance security. When he asked what he should do if he was captured, he was told to think only of the harm that would come to his family should he cooperate with the Alliance.
Two hours before his given task a blonde-haired man approached him in the GeoFront, dressed as an Alliance soldier. He handed him a small handgun and a fake tooth, and said nothing further to him as he left.
Watanabe reached the sub-level that contained the pilot apartments, using a stairway access that was located in the extreme western side of the level. From here he would walk along the gangway towards the pilot suites on the other side. Along the way he passed by two uniformed guards who only gave him a cursory glance. Dressed in his khaki utility coveralls and carrying a large tool kit he looked like any other NERV technician and so would not arouse suspicion.
It was as he walked towards the end of the hallway that he saw the brunette girl. She was dressed in a European-style school uniform with a white blouse and plaid skirt, her legs clad in burgundy stockings. She was about to board the elevator alone when he saw her, and he hurried up to catch the same elevator.
As the doors closed, he nervously eyed the control panel and quietly entered a high floor number. Only one other number was punched, and that led to the top of the GeoFront. The girl stood facing the doors and smiled politely as he stood next to her.
Knowing he had little time to act, he pushed down all of his fear and emotions and tried to think of the harm that might come to Keiko if he failed at his task. Could he trust the men? No, but clearly it was better than just reporting it to security and then seeing her die.
He silently lowered the tool bag to the floor as the elevator made its long way upward. For security reasons the pilot elevators were exclusive to them and the few others with access to their floor, so the ride would probably be uninterrupted and take seven to eight minutes. Enough time for him to do the dirty task and be gone.
The man gently pushed the bag behind the girl and reached into it, grabbing the pistol in his hands. It was small and plastic in construction, but just powerful enough to kill a teenage girl at point-blank range.
Watanabe took a deep breath and held the pistol with two hands, pointing it behind the girl’s head. She stood there not noticing him, just standing in front of the doors and waiting patiently. Would it really be so easy as this? He wondered. He tightly closed his eyes and forced himself only to think of his lovely Keiko.
“I’m sorry, miss,” he said as his finger wrapped around the trigger. At that the girl swung around and looked at him directly, gasping a little. His pistol was pointed right at her forehead.
“Then I’m sorry, too! “ Mari said. At that moment a panel popped out of the elevator ceiling and a woman in combat fatigues jumped down and landed on the metal floor.
Wantanabe swiveled to see who had jumped down and raised the pistol at her, but Wellington knocked the pistol out of his hand with one karate chop, and then took both hands and flung the smaller Japanese man against the elevator wall, Mari stepping aside from the and moving to the control panel to stop the elevator. Before he could move away from her she pressed herself against him and pinned him down against the side of the wall.
“Looks like we caught a rat,” Moira said as the man trembled in fear. “Good work, Mari. You’re as brave as ever.”
Mari looked at Watanabe and said “He doesn’t seem like a hit man.”
“I think that was the idea here, not thinking we’d suspect anything.” The elevator stopped and Mari was immediately pulled out by a security guard. Agent Hideyoshi Kikuchi, dressed in a dark suit and wearing sunglasses, quickly moved in.
“You know this bloke?” Wellington asked him.
“It’s Watanabe from Environmental,” he answered in a gruff voice. Kikuchi immediately frisked the man, pulling out his ID card, wallet and coin purse. He checked the man’s pockets for something else. “No phone,” he reported. “Wellington, check his mouth!”
As Watanabe heard the agent he panicked and immediately tried to bite down on the fake tooth he was given. Fortunately the Alliance officer saw what was happening and punched him in the mouth twice, after a second time a tooth fell out of his mouth and hit the floor, foaming as it did so.
“Amateur,” she scowled as she again threw him against the wall.
Kikichi put his face right up next to Watanabe’s. “You’re no assassin. Who put you up to this?” Watanabe didn’t answer right away but just shook in fear, his face was as pale as a ghost.
“What did they do, threaten your family?”
The prisoner spoke in hesitant, stuttering tones. “T-t-they gave me no choice! They’ll kill my wife if I didn’t do this!”
“I got news for you, mate!” Wellington told him. “Thanks to you, she’s already dead!” Watanabe howled in despair as he heard her.
“If you don’t want to go down in history as a child murderer, I suggest you cooperate and tell us who helped you out here.”
“I don’t know who they are!!!”
As the captive resisted, Wellington took her tribal blade out of its holder. Kikichi waved her off for a moment. “They need him intact for interrogation later,” he said.
“Why wait?” she replied, and then shoved the man against the wall one more time. Turning him around to face her, Wellington ripped down the man’s uniform and then swiftly placed the blade in her right hand against the man’s genitals.
“You see this tattoo of mine, mate?” she asked him, pointing to her ornately decorated chin. “This is a Maori custom, we get that when we’re thirteen. It’s really dug in there by needles, no pain killers or anything like that.” The prisoner said nothing but just looked at her with eyes wide open, his body shaking violently.
“Now us Maori have a thing with pain. Pain is our friend. Pain is our schoolmaster. Pain is our purpose.” She lifted the knife and put it in front of his face, toying with him a bit. “I don’t suppose you have any experience with pain like that, do you?” Watanabe continued to shake, closing his eyes tight and saying under his breath. “I really don’t know anyone!!!”
“Well, you got that gun from somebody, didn’t you?” she countered. “Do you know what Maori women do with captive prisoners who try to have their way with little girls?” She moved the knife back to his genitals. “They split their John Thomas from stem to stern and then they eat it right in front of them!” she ran the knife along the side of his manhood, just to make the point.
“So,” she looked at the man with a wide grin. “What’ll it be?”
The screaming was heard all the way down the elevator shaft.
After the decision was made not to go to Tokyo-3, Kaji made a couple of calls and then directed the helicopter pilot to fly to another destination close by. Within fifteen minutes the Blackhawk landed next to an old wooden lodge that was down the main highway from Mt Fuji.
As additional troops arrived and secured the grounds, Kaji spoke with the manager of the onsen and after some formal apologies and a great deal of cash, obtained the use of the hot springs lodge for the night for their private party.
Like most traditional hot springs, the water pools here were themselves segregated by gender. Kaji and Misato divided up the rooms, giving two rooms to the pilots and one for themselves in between them. The girls quickly went up to their own room to clean up and the boys did the same. As they lost their luggage in the cabin, the bathrobes that were provided by the lodge were all the clean clothes they had for the moment.
After helping him change the bandage on his forehead, Shinji led Patrick down to the men’s spring pool. They were followed by two Japanese guards as Kaji waited for them in the lower spring area. As he was about to go into the pool, Shinji panicked and then hurriedly explained to Patrick that he needed to shower first. There were showers right by the poolside and stripping off their robes the boys both sprayed themselves off of dirt, sweat, and blood. They spoke only a little to each other as each of them tried to rinse off the bad memories of the day in the hot shower water.
Cleaned off and still naked, Patrick slipped into the warm waters of the onsen. Kaji was already in the water, relaxing and playing with PenPen as the bird backstroked through the pool water. Shinji wandered to where he was and started a conversation with him, as Patrick moved further into the spring pool to explore.
The water was shallow, and there was the rush of a large fountain on the outside wall. Another wall was made of long bamboo reeds and Patrick could hear the voices of Asuka and Misato chatting away like nothing had happened. The spring was dimly lit with only a few torches on the sides and one electric light at the top of the room above.
As he gently moved through the warm water Patrick closed his eyes and concentrated on where he was. He slowed down his breathing and tried to register each noise he heard in the pool, the fountain, the rush of the water, the voices of the others as they spoke out loud, the windchimes that were attached to the outside wall. One by one he filtered each noise out as he searched for one particular sound, and as he found the quietest spot along the bamboo wall he found it. Patrick gently turned his back to the wall and leaned against it.
“Rei? Are you there?”
“Yes,” she said, her soft voice coming from behind the bamboo wall right behind where he was leaning.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m well,” she said simply. “And you?”
“I had the shakes for a bit but I guess I’m alright now.” Memories still tried to enter his head, memories of being shot at and having an axe handle pushed into his chest. “I could have done without that today.”
They were both quiet for a while as he breathed the cool air deeply and finally allowed himself to relax. Patrick pictured the image of her against the other side of the wall. Like him, he knew she wore nothing and inside his mind imaged the beauty of her naked body floating in the same water as his. “Rei?”
“You know,” he said to her, “maybe I’ve just been trying too hard, just thinking about what I want and not considering anything else. Do you know what I mean?”
“I understand it,” she replied.
Patrick looked above through an opening in the roof above them and saw bright stars in the night sky. “Maybe I should just stop trying so hard” he sighed.
“Is that how you really feel?”
“I think maybe I just make things so complicated. After today, and I really don’t want to think about today anymore, I just want to keep life as simple as I can. I mean, if you really don’t want me to keep trying, then…”
“No,” she said, “I don’t mind anymore.”
He raised his eyebrows at that. “Really?”
“Yes,” Rei told him, her voice gentle and sure.
He closed his eyes and let out another deep sigh, his muscles all relaxing at once. “Then let’s forget everything else and just start over,” Patrick said to her. “How about we just have tea in Hakone one night and just…talk. Just like that.”
There was silence for a few seconds. Then her voice said from behind the wall “I’d like that.”
Patrick didn’t feel excited after hearing Rei say that, but instead opened his eyes and let out a deep breath, his gaze on the stars above. Somehow he also knew that she was looking at the same sky he was. It was their shared moment despite the wall that separated them, and for the first time he could feel that wall being taken down.
Go on to Chapter Sixteen