Boyfriend of Steel

A Neon Genesis Evangelion Fan Fiction site

Chapter Twenty-One: Connections

 

 

After having spent months at the GeoFront, by now both Shinji and Asuka had a very good knowledge of the underground sublevels, which ones were often frequented by NERV personnel busily travelling from place to place in their duties and also where the more quiet areas were. At the moment they had managed to find a hallway that was less travelled by the base staff. With Misato away on deployment, both of the pilots had greater freedom to choose how they wanted to spend their time, and at this particular time what they wanted was to spend time with each other. Alone.

Both dressed in the new NERV uniforms, they looked around a corner to see if anyone else was visible. Apart from their escorts, two black-suited security guards that stood close by, no one else was seen walking down the hallway. The guards, they both knew, would just remain as long as the pilots were there and not do anything unless a threat presented itself to any of them. Initially an annoyance, the couple had gotten used to the distant presence of their security escorts and by this point paid them no mind. With no one else the wiser they leaned against the wall, Asuka’s arms reaching up around Shinji’s neck, and gently kissed each other several times in a row.

“You know,” Asuka said to Shinji in a soft voice, “Valentine’s Day is coming up.”

“I know it,” Shinji told her, his arms wrapped around her waist.

“So I was thinking, once the Second-string gets back here we could go out to Hakone.” Shinji nodded in agreement. “Okay. Where do you want to go?”

“How about Ma Maison?”

“The expensive French place?” Shinji said, suddenly wondering if his allowance would cover what Asuka had in mind.

“Hmm-mm” Auska purred as she toyed with Shinji’s hair. “Unless you have something better in mind?”

“Um, no,” he said a little nervously, “Should be alright.” Shinji made a mental note to check his wallet later and make sure that it would. “You think Misato would let us out of here?”

“Well, if the First got to go out to Hakone on her date it she’d better let us go,” she quipped. “Besides,” Asuka told him, bringing her face closer to his, “I miss all those times we were in Germany. We didn’t have to be stuck in this dungeon then.”  Shinji nodded and was about to give her another kiss when something moved awkwardly fast towards both of them.

“Excuse me! Out of the way!”

The couple turned their heads to see the source of movement when they were both plowed into by someone else and tumbled to the floor.  Piled on top of them was Kensuke, who was dressed in a NERV T-shirt, shorts, and runners. Everyone groaned as they picked themselves up off the floor.

“You idiot!” Asuka yelled at Kensuke. “Look where you’re going!” The boy didn’t reply at first, but panted heavily, his face red with exertion. “Sorry about that,” he blurted out.

“What are you doing?” Shinji asked him.

“Getting in shape!” Aida replied, now more calmed down and starting to run in place as he talked to the others. “Got to get in fighting trim, you know!”

“Stupid,” the redhead commented. “None of that is going to help you sync better.”

Shinji was a bit more helpful. “Kensuke,” he told him, “go to Sub-level C. They have a gym there, you can run on the treadmill like the rest of us do.”

“That’s boring,” Kensuke replied. “Besides, I want to see more of the GeoFront and now that I’m a pilot I can run all around this place – all access!” He proudly showed off his ID badge.

“You should go to Terminal Dogma then,” said Asuka with a tint of snark in her voice. “You’d love it down there!”

“Really? Cool! I’ll go down there next then.” Picking up his pace he started running again down the next hallway. “See you later!” He went down the hall and out of sight, and a moment later another security guard, still wearing a black suit, ran after him as the couple looked on.

“That’ll get him out the way for a while.” Asuka sighed as she shook out her hair. “Geez, they’ll let anyone pilot these days!”

Shinji was looking around to see if anyone else was present, hoping to continue his display of affection for Asuka when he saw Rei silently standing there in the hallway looking at the two of them. There was no way of telling how long she had been there. Rei was wearing a test plug suit of blue and white coloration, the mesh fabric of which allowed for Shinji to see a very ample amount of Rei’s midsection.

“Uh, Ayanami!” said Shinji, clearly startled.

Asuka was annoyed with both the interruption and with what Rei was wearing in front of them. “Why does she want to just stand there half-naked looking at us?” Rei just ignored her carping.

“Ikari-kun, after the activation test can I ask you to help me with something?”

Not knowing if Asuka had any further plans for later, Shinji looked at her first with a what should I do? expression on his face. The redhead’s response to him was rather predictable.

“Don’t look at me!” She told him angrily. “If you want to go help some girl showing you all that, go right ahead!” Shinji started to protest but Asuka was clearly miffed at him, and turned around and walked away down the hallway, shooting a narrow glance at Rei as she passed by her. Realizing his faux pas with Asuka too late Shinji slumped his shoulders in defeat.

Rei watched Asuka unemotionally until she was out of their sight, and then put her focus back on Shinji. “Is it a problem?” she asked him.

“No, I got it,” he said with a sigh. “What do you need?”

“Something I want to do for Forrestal-kun when he returns.”

“I’ll help if I can. When will you finish the activation test?”

“If successful it will take approximately six hours. After that should be alright.”

Shinji noticed Rei’s very calm demeanor. “Are you scared about the test?”

 “Functionally it should be no different than syncing with any other Evangelion unit,” Rei replied.

“But you remember what happened with Unit 00,” he reminded her.

“That circumstance was different. There was a conflict of identities at first. That is not the case here.”

“But these things tried to kill us just a couple of months ago,” he warned, clearly worried about her. Rei thought to reply again with facts but she realized that Shinji’s protests were not illogical. She needed to remind herself that his emotions were a normal response of concern.

“I will be okay,” she reassured him, her voice tone warming up just a little.

“Just be careful,” Shinji replied. Without thinking he reached for her hand and held it, squeezing it a little as he looked at her, hoping that she was indeed as correct as her confidence indicated. Rei  said nothing, but looked up at him with a small smile and gently squeezed his hand back.

 

Provisional Evangelion Unit Seven was once known as EVA-12, and was originally built as one of the Mass Production Series of EVAs that were used by SEELE to try to initiate Third Impact in Tokyo-3 six weeks before.  After the defeat of the Harpies in the battle of Tokyo-3 the Alliance recovered seven of the Mass Production Series in various states of destruction, and on the orders of Scientific Director Viraat place them in a deep cold storage unit until he could engineer a plan to recover as many of the parts from the enemy EVAs to both repair existing NERV units and also deploy new ones if the chance permitted.

One unit, the former EVA-09, was mostly intact after the battle except for its destroyed dummy plug and Viraat gave that unit as priority. Still having the active core of Mari’s Unit 05 remaining from her destroyed EVA, Viraat repaired the damage on the Harpy and inserted the core of Mari’s unit. Fortunately the combination worked immediately despite the EVA not having a functional set of arms, and during the rest of January Viraat supervised repairs to give the new EVA-05 complete operability.

Pieces of five other units were currently being painstakingly stitched together to provide two other operational EVAs: Unit 08, which was nearly complete and would be assigned to Kensuke Aida, and the new Unit 09, which was still several weeks from operability.

Dr. Foch had asked Viraat if he could use one of the recovered EVAs, and Viraat designated the old EVA-12 for Foch’s research. ’12 was chosen as its damaged abdomen was unable to take in a new core and would be useless for Viraat’s recovery efforts except as spare parts, even though it too was fairly intact. Foch however believed that he could get the unit to activate without a core– but only if the First Child was the pilot.

Now designated “provisional”, the EVA, now designated as the new Unit 07, stood inside the Unit Major Initiation Complex.  A giant white tiled room  that was  over  ninety meters in height, this was a large room within the GeoFront that was designed and used by NERV to conduct initial activation tests with the Evangelion units.  It was the same room that Unit 00’s initial activation had been conducted some months before and where Rei had been badly injured as a result.

 

Dr. Foch stood in the control center, a large glass-walled room that overlooked the Major Initiation Complex and ran through several sets of data that he had called up on a computer system he stood in front of.  Also present in the room were scientific director Dr. Viraat, Foch’s assistant Beatrix, and the newly promoted Captain Maya ibiki.

The diminutive Dr. Viraat walked over to where Foch was standing, his hands behind his back. “Well, Bernard, you’ve got your toy working now, have you?”

“We will see in a few moments, my dear Raj,” Foch replied without looking up from his display.

“My development staff says you’re crazy to consider trying to sync a pilot to the EVA without a core.”

“Well,” Foch said with a chuckle, “what’s the point of being a scientist if at times you can’t be a bit mad!

Viraat scoffed a bit at the French scientist’s hubris. “They also said that if you try to contact the Mass Production with the First Child there’s a 47.5% chance she’ll initiate Third Impact instead.”

“Then aren’t you the optimist that you’re standing here now?” Foch told him, a skeptical look on his face.

“I’m just here to monitor your test, Bernard,” Viraat parried back. “But if you don’t succeed I’ve got dibs on this EVA’s parts.”

The unsaid meaning of Viraat’s statement was of course that Foch would have only one chance to activate Provisional Unit 07, otherwise the director would scavenge it to play Doctor Frankenstein with the other EVA units. Foch looked down at the director. “One way or another Raj, I assure you that after today you won’t be disappointed.” He then walked to Maya’s computer station.

“Doctor,” Maya reported, “all systems are at green. Do you still want to keep the S2 off line?”

“Yes,” confirmed Foch. “Using power from the umbilical should be sufficient for an activation test. Besides, let’s not push the envelope too hard.” He then looked over at Beatrix, who would be monitoring Rei’s physiological and psychological responses during the test. “Pilot status indicates as nominal,” she said.

Nodding with approval, Foch walked over to his own computer station and pressed a button. “Mademoiselle Ayanami,” he said to Rei over the speaker, “are you ready?”

“Yes, doctor,” her voice came back in a flat tone.

“Very well. We shall commence with the activation test.” Foch gave a hand signal to Maya and she initiated plug entry into the EVA. Walking over to her station while he watched Rei’s entry plug being moved into position, Foch whispered to Maya “remember, if things get a bit bumpy during the test, don’t eject the plug or start Bakelite injections until I give the order.”

“I understand,” Maya replied, “but the First Child has had some prior experiences doing this that didn’t go well for her.  If there’s anything that might endanger her, I’d rather…”

“I know your concern, Captain, but I’ve discussed this at length with Pilot Ayanami and I have every confidence in her capabilities. Now let’s get started.”

 

The control center had a view of the entire complex space and the scientists and staff could see Provisional Unit 07 as the entry plug was twisted into place, inserted as all Evangelion entry plugs were through its upper spine. The rebuilt unit was no longer its original white color, but had received a new skin that was patterned blue and yellow. It now wore a helmet that had a single large round sensor in front, not unlike Unit 00’s original helmet, but the oversize jaw and mouth of the original mass production was still visible and protruded from the lower helmet.

“Entry plug inserted,” Maya reported, “initiating startup sequence.”  For a few minutes the EVA was run carefully through a series of power-ups to each of its internal systems. The process was similar to the regular EVA unit startup but much slower, as this was a test initiation and there was greater need to be cautious during the experiment.

Maya carefully monitored the test from her work station, watching the EVA through the glass windows. “Breakers 1 through 1064 are complete. All systems nominal.”

“Feedback from the EVA?” Foch asked her.

“Neutral. There’s no response either way.”

The scientist turned to Beatrix. “Pilot Status.”

The blonde assistant looked up from her station. “Unchanged. Nominal and steady.”

Foch looked up at the master display and saw a multitude of green lights around the diagram of the EVA. So far, so good. “Go with sync,” he commanded. Maya touched a button on her dynamic control pad and the remaining breakers were activated between entry plug and the Evangelion itself, allowing the plug’s contact system to interface with the EVA. It was usually at this stage that the EVA would react at the intrusion. She held her breath while she watched her own display, as the alpha waves of the pilot’s brain would begin to align with those of the EVA.

“Sync going into alignment,” Maya continued to report as the group viewed the large holographic monitor above the windows.  She saw a light flash on her dynamic display and as she quickly keyed the display another series of warnings begin to flash. Maya was about to report this to Dr. Foch but then the giant EVA began to move in front of them. Thrashing its arms to break its bindings, the EVA grabbed its head and screamed out in pain.

“What’s wrong?” Foch demanded.

“There’s negative feedback from the EVA,” Maya said. “It’s resisting the sync.”

Out of the control center’s windows, they could see the blue EVA start to shake off its holdings. Grabbing its head like it was trying to twist it off, it shook the rigging that held it in place violently.

Foch looked at Beatrix. “Pilot status?”

“Physically exerted but still stable. Alpha brain wave activity has jumped up 1500%,” she reported.

“Doctor!” Maya shouted, “The EVA is coming loose!” A series of loud metal snaps was heard as the captured Harpy was now pulling out of the rigging that held it in place. Maya hovered her finger over the TERMINATE function on her control pad, looking at Dr. Foch for a command.  Foch saw her and then hit the microphone button.

“Pilot Ayanami,” he asked Rei, “do you wish to continue?”

There was a long moment of silence but over the audio channel , as heavy breathing and grunts could be heard. It was clear to everyone in the room that Rei was also struggling with the sync.

“Miss Ayanami!! Please reply!!”

“Please continue the test,” she replied quickly.

The scientist looked at Maya, who had worry written all over her face. “Give her a chance to do it,” he commanded, “stop this only when I tell you.” Maya nodded and concentrated on her display.

Bernard Foch looked out the windows as the captured EVA worked to break free of the rigging, screaming with its deep voice, he said nothing further but quietly swallowed his own fear of what he was seeing and what he knew could go horribly wrong if they failed.  I hope you know what you’re doing, Madamoiselle.

 

As she linked with the Evangelion, Rei found herself swimming in what appeared as a tunnel of glowing blue and white water.  She silently swam through twists and turns until reaching a large bubble-like chamber.

Rising naked out of the water, Rei looked around the chamber and saw herself inside of a globe. The water had turned from blue to red, and the rounded ceiling was orange-red with hexagonal patters all around, some of which were darker than others. There were twisted shapes built in plaster that appeared out of the red water.

From her own unique set of feelings and experiences, Rei knew that even without an embedded soul an Evangelion still had a brain. That brain still contained a mind, which contained will and emotion of its own. To make the link with this EVA, she would have to reach its mind and turn it to sync with her directly. It was not the first time she had ever done so.

 

Inside the containment chamber, Provisional Unit 07 had shaken off it’s metal bindings and was now pounding on the walls of the giant room. Shaking its head violently, it sideswiped the command platform, breaking the large glass windows. The scientists and staff that were standing there dove for cover as the glass panels shattered all around them. 

Still standing as the EVA trashed about, Beatrix quickly grabbed her senior and pulled him behind her control console.  Maya, who had been through messy EVA activations before, had already moved behind the master control station, holding an LCD table that still allowed her command functions.

“Doctor Foch!” Maya called out. “It’s broken loose! We need to contain the EVA or else it could damage the entry plug and the chamber!” She held her finger over the BAKELITE function on her control pad.

Foch looked at Beatrix’s own LCD tablet display. “How is she doing?” he asked about Rei.

“Total brain activity has gone up above nominal limits,” his assistant reported, “Alpha waves are rising to 2000% above level, but look at this!” she showed the scientist the readings on her tablet. “Her wave patterns are…I’ve never seen this before! It’s like there’s three distinct brain waves all going on at the same time.”

“It’s her true nature,” said Foch. “She’s working the problem.” He shouted over to Maya. “Captain Ibiki! Give her two minutes! If she can’t sync in that time release bakelite and soft-eject the plug. No rapid ejections!”

“Understood!” Maya shouted back as she ducked to avoid another piece of flying glass.

 

Standing at the edge of the red water was something that looked half-human and half monster. The human half looked like a teenage boy, with a bare chest and arms, but his back and legs were covered with milky-white growth, and half of his face was hidden by the same strange material. He had red eyes , silver hair, and a slender, almost lanky look to him. As Rei faced him he pulled his arms around his chest and head, writhing like something was affecting his skin.

“Who are you?” the beast shouted as he saw Rei standing close to him.

“One who would connect with you,” she answered plainly.

“You are Lillim!” he said to her. “How are you able to do this?”

“There is a part of me that was once as you are,” Rei replied.  The beast turned to his right and saw Rei again, only this time Rei was a little girl and like the larger Rei she was also naked. The girl looked up at him.

“You and I are the EVA,” she said.

“How can you be Lillim and EVA?” he asked her. “That is impossible!”

“No, it’s not,” the little Rei said.  “It has already been done.”

The beast heard another voice and turned around behind him. Standing there was another copy of Rei, this one looking identical to the first one.

“You feel lonely and without connection,” she said to him. “You are made for a purpose but do not know your own direction.”

His eyes opened wider in shock as he was surrounded by the Reis. The beast grabbed his head and tried to force himself to think, but he was confused and his face brought an expression of fear and panic. “This is not what is supposed to be! I need the other! I need the other one inside me!”

Rei was about to answer him when in front of both of them stood another. The soul of Adam, in the body of Kaworu, spoke to the EVA.

“I am the one you seek,” he declared.

The EVA-boy looked at Adam in surprise. “You are...like the other but not the same as the other.”

“The one you refer of is what the Lillim called the Dummy Plug,” Adam explained. “It was a copy of me, but it is not me. The one you truly seek is me.”

The boy inside the EVA calmed himself down after hearing this although there was still reluctance and confusion in his voice. “I do not understand what is happening. Why are the Lillim inside of me now?”

“You were made for a purpose but one that could not be accomplished,” Adam said to him.

At this point Rei, the first one, stepped forward towards the half-boy. “We see to connect to you in order to provide a new purpose. One that can bring peace and unity between Humans and Angels.”

“What will you do?” he asked Rei, a touch of fear in his voice.

“Inside you is an emptiness, one that you cannot fill on your own. I can help you fill that void.”

“You know of this?”

“I know it because I myself felt it,” Rei said to him. “Once I was as you were. By uniting with the Angel inside of me I filled my void.  With this knowledge I can also help fill the void inside of you as well.”

“And what will happen to me if you do this?”

Adam/Kaworu stepped up to the beast. “You will serve a better purpose then that which you were made for,” he said with a slight smile.  “You will have knowing of your true existence, and not be alone.” He looked at Rei and she nodded.

“In some way you will be as the Lillim are, but most importantly you will be complete,” Adam concluded.

Rei stepped closer to the EVA-boy. Without saying anything further, she reached out her hand to him. Looking like a scared animal, the boy flinched for a moment but then looked at her eyes.  She softened her expression a little, gently and patiently waiting for him to decide.

With great hesitation the beast slowly reached out and touched Rei's open hand. She then gently squeezed it, reassuring him that things would be alright. The boy didn't smile but firmly grasped her hand and let out a sigh of relief.

 

With the observation windows completely blown out, Foch, Maya, Beatrix, and Viraat crouched behind workstations and the bulkheads of the control room as the EVA continued to thrash around the chamber. Maya gripped her LCD tablet tight, watching the clock as it ran down a countdown to the two minutes that Foch had asked for, her finger still hovering over the BAKELITE RELEASE button.

There was a sudden silence and Maya cautiously looked over her workstation to see what was happening inside the test chamber. Out of the broken windows she saw the blue and yellow Evangelion now standing upright and not moving at all.

“Control to pilot!” Maya quickly shouted into the microphone. “Is everything alright?” There was a moment of silence that made Maya's heart skip a beat.  She tried again. “Control to pilot! Ayanami-chan, are you okay?”

Rei's voice came back on the speakers. “I'm fine,” she said calmly.

Beatrix gently helped pull Dr. Foch off the floor, and he straightened up and then moved to his own display.  The old scientist glanced at the readouts on the new Evangelion, coolly looking to Maya as if the thrashing of the captured EVA had not even happened. “Captain Ibiki,” he asked her, “can you give me the sync rate of EVA-07?”

Maya looked at her master display. “All status are normal, apart from slight damage to the EVA itself,” she reported. She continued to carefully scan the readout and then her eyebrows went wide with what she saw. Gasping with relieved joy, she told Foch “She's done it! Sync rate is 85% and steady!”

On the only remaining undamaged video monitor on the control room ceiling Rei's visual image suddenly appeared. She was sitting on the Throne in the EVA's plug, looking as stoic as usual.  Looking at the others, she stated flatly “Evangelion Unit 07 is activated and ready.” Upon hearing that everyone in the control room breathed a deep sigh of relief as Maya went about working on her console, activating remote arms to contact the EVA inside the chamber and re-attach cables that were disconnected during the activation.

Viraat walked over to Foch as he examined the incoming stream of data from the new EVA. “Well, Bernard, you've given birth to another one,” he said.

“Sorry to deprive you of your additional spare parts,” Foch replied without looking at the other scientist.

“No matter. We'll just have to delay Unit 09 a bit to get everything else in the field and ready,” Viraat said. “Have fun with your new toy.” With that Viraat left the room from the back.

Foch stood back from the display and walked over to the broken windows, studying the newly activated EVA out the opening from the glass.  His initial feeling was to take pride in his new accomplishment but deep inside he knew better. Today had been a success, but not because of himself.

Just who are you, Mademoiselle Ayanami? And what gives you such power as to rule angels and gods?

 

Okay, now pour it on like this,” Shinji said to Rei as he helped her gently pour a sauce on top of a fish that she had just baked. They were both standing in the kitchen of the boys’ suite with green aprons over their uniforms, as Shinji went step-by-step with Rei on what they were cooking.

“Not too much,” he said as she carefully turned the skilled over and let the light sauce drip over the baked mackerel that had finished cooking a moment before. Shinji stood just behind her, also with his hands on the skillet handle to help her.

After finishing with the sauce they put the skilled down and Shinji took a bit of fish with chopsticks, tasking it. “Not bad,” he commented. “I probably put too much soy sauce, it’s a bit salty.”

He motioned to Rei. “Do you want to try it?”  She shook her head.

“Why not?”

“I do not eat this myself,” she told him softly. Rather than argue with her, Shinji just nodded in agreement and then looked over the rest of their work.  After her activation test with the new Unit 07, Rei has asked him if he could teach her more about how to cook. Managing to find time later in the afternoon when Asuka was pre-occupied training with Hikari, he had invited her to come to his suite and together they planned a simple meal that she would learn to cook on her own.  It was mostly basic Japanese staples including rice, steamed and pickled vegetables, seaweed, and tofu, but Rei also wanted to learn to cook something that Patrick would want to eat and they had settled on fish.

“I know you didn’t eat meat,” Shinji said, “but I thought you might be okay with this.”

“The smell is less disturbing than meat,” Rei told him as she carefully put the fish on the kitchen serving table, “but I still can’t bring myself to eat it.”

Shinji spoke with his mouth half-full of mackerel. “I’m sure he’ll like it. Asuka says Americans can’t really eat just tofu and vegetables, they need to have something cooked as well.”

“That’s true,” said Rei. “Although I know he tries to accommodate my taste, it’s better if I can give him something he would prefer.”  She stood over the dining table and carefully arranged the dishes that they had prepared over the last two hours. This was just a practice run: tomorrow evening would be the night she did it on her own.

“Ayanami?”
“Yes?”
“Is everything okay with you and Patrick?”
“Yes, it is.”
Shinji looked at her with more concern. “Are you sure?”
Rei was surprised at the question. “Why would it not be?”
“Well,” he nervously tried to explain, “it’s just that you’re not a really social person and now suddenly you’re spending a lot of time with Forrestal-kun. I just wondered if maybe you didn’t feel uncomfortable with not being by yourself more.” Shinji felt awkward at how the question had come out, and hoped she wasn’t hurt by it.

She didn’t reply right away and was still arranging the dishes on the table. Shinji just looked after her, with a look of worry on his face. Rei noticed it and then she spoke.

“At first,” she started, “I thought that would be true. As I spent more time with him I noticed that I didn’t miss being by myself that much at all. Now that he has been gone for a few days it feels...lonely without him.”

Shinji tried to go a little farther. “How do you really feel about him?”

“I like him,” she said. “I like him very much.”

“Did you know what it would be like? I mean, dating someone?”

Rei was thoughtful. “I tried reading on the subject but there was no one pattern that was followed, everyone’s perspective was different. Eventually I just gave up trying to analyze the connection between Forrestal-kun and myself. It was much better after I did that.”  Shinji nodded, and found that he felt a bit relieved: he hadn’t expected to hear Rei express herself so affirmatively.

“There was one thing that was very helpful, however,” she told him.
“What was that?”
“Watching you.”
“Really?” he answered.
“I have observed you and the Second Child for several months now,” Rei explained, now standing in front of Shinji as she did so. “I watched how your relationship has progressed in that time. It was very useful, as I could determine better how I could react to Forrestal-kun.”
“I don’t really know if we’re the best example,” Shinji pondered.
“You’re very suitable for each other,” Rei told him, looking at him directly. “May I ask you a question?”  
“Uh, sure!”
“What part of being with the Second do you like the most?” It was a direct question, but he knew from her expression that it was an honest one.

I probably shouldn’t talk about the making out part, he thought. “Actually, it’s just being with her,” he answered. “She’s a lot of fun. We do lots of things together, play games a lot, things like that.” Shinji was a little embarrassed to answer the question. “What do you like most about Forrestal-kun.”

“He is very interesting,” she replied. “For someone who did not go to school he is very well educated. It’s very easy to talk to him.”
“Is that all?”
Rei looked at Shinji and a small smile crossed her lips. “It feels good inside when he holds me.”

Shinji smiled along with her. “Then I’m really happy for you,” he said. “But, Ayanami, please be careful. Relationships are difficult sometimes, even when you mean well. I just don’t want you to get hurt.” She nodded in understanding. “Thank you,” she said to him.
The boy held his head in embarrassment. “It’s nothing, really!”

Go on to Chapter Twenty-Two

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