After two more days in Hakone Hospital's care Asuka made a dramatic recovery, and despite still-healing wounds her vivacious spirit came back to the fore of her personality. With Patrick leaving for America the following day and with Asuka now appearing much better the children decided that night was as good as any time for a party.
With the heavy downpour of rain still being heard from the outside the window of Asuka's hospital room, the group of kids came in to see her, bringing outside food and drink. At Patrick's request the food was all Japanese, something he had come to love about living in the country and knew he would miss while staying in America, while Shinji made sure that there was also a wide selection of deserts that Asuka could choose from.
The little group played music from someone's mobile phone equipped with speakers, and ate and talked, and laughed with each other. Despite her dietary restrictions Asuka couldn't help but indulge in the many varieties of cake that Shinji presented in front of her, and in return she spent most of the night sitting up on her hospital bed with her arms around Shinji, running her fingers through his hair and otherwise doting on him as affectionately as before. The gap between the two of them was closed again and Shinji looked as relaxed and relieved as Patrick had ever seen him be.
Misato came inside the room, bringing PenPen along with her, and then a few minutes later both Makoto Hyuga and Maya Ibiki also swung by. While Makoto and Maya said they couldn't stay for long, they wanted to just check on the pilots and especially to be sure that Asuka was feeling better. While no one in the room said anything while they were there, after the two of them left Hikari and Shinji both noticed and then told the others that Makoto and Maya had walked out of the hospital room holding hands.
Kaji then dropped in and Asuka hopped out of her hospital bed to warmly embrace him. The two talked for a little while, then as Asuka returned to the bed Kaji started conversations with the other children as the mood was even more elevated.
After eating nearly everything they brought with them the group of them together all of them shared stories of what happened within the last few weeks. After much prodding from the others Hikari told the tale of her defense of the GeoFront in Unit 09, with Toji vividly filling in many of the colorful details of the action. Kaji also described how he broke into SEELE "impregnable" fortress and of the many times he faced danger during his latest secret mission.
Throughout the evening as the others partied and talked, Rei remained quietly by Patrick's side most of the time listening to the others and enjoying the food and drink. Out of curiosity Toji asked Patrick what his twin sister was like, and Patrick showed what pictures he had from Vance's tablet of her, and that he had now loaded onto his own mobile phone. He then gave all of them as detailed of a description of Erin's personality as he could. As he described Erin for the others, Rei watched Patrick's face and saw the "smiles" of his eye lids when he talked about her, knowing that despite his great reluctance to leave Rei in Japan he also wanted to rejoin his twin at the first chance.
At one point Kaji made very dramatically public moves on an initially embarrassed Misato, even so letting him kiss her right in front of the others to everyone's delight and with even Asuka cheering them on. Sitting next to her on the bed, Shinji saw this and knew that Asuka had made a turnaround not just in her physical condition, but her emotional one as well.
Misato then stood up and told the others, "hey, I've got an idea! You know I've never seen these two actually kiss," pointing at Hikari and Toji. Both of their faces went flush red as Misato started to chant "KISS! KISS! KISS!" joined in by most of the others. Knowing that they couldn't escape from everyone's expectations, the two of them relented and in a rather awkward manner gently kissed each other on the lips while everyone watched and clapped afterwards. Toji then turned it around and pointed at Shinji and Asuka. "Now it's your turn!"
"Hey!" Asuka playfully shouted back, "I'm still in recovery!" Before she could say anything further Shinji, feeling particularly more confident and daring that night, immediately put his hand around her head and brought her into a deep kiss right in front of the others. "OOOOHHH!" came from the others as they held the kiss for several seconds before breaking off to everyone else's clapping. For once Asuka was too embarrassed to say anything, but her smile at Shinji told him what he needed to know. Regaining her confidence, she then pointed at Rei and Patrick. "Alright, it's their turn!"
There was laughter from the group and then quiet expectation as Rei and Patrick stood in front of each other in the middle of the hospital room. The two of them looked at each other, partly in embarrassment but also in part to determine how to win the challenge. Their eyes met and Rei gracefully moved towards Patrick, and she leaned up on her toes as he bent down and held her hands in his. As the others watched they closed their eyes and the two of them shared a long moment as their lips and tongues met in a delicate and passionate manner.
Finally they broke free, each of them having to take a deep breath afterwards. The rest of the group clapped excitedly as Misato cried out "We have a winner!"
"It's always the quiet girls that have the most passion," quipped Kaji. Rei's face was blushing bright red, but she was also smiling and quietly she looked up at Patrick. He put his arms around her and embraced her tightly, happy for the moment they were sharing now, and trying to hold to her and the night for as long as he could.
The party finally died down past one o'clock. Tired more easily than the others, Asuka had already drifted off to sleep on her bed and Shinji joined her there. Rei also felt sleepy and found a couch in the room, and with Patrick's arms still around her drifted off as Misato shut off the lights.
The morning afterwards found the mood dramatically changed. The rain outside was still pouring down, the torrent of the storm becoming worse than before. Patrick pulled himself off of the couch of Asuka's hospital room, noting that Rei and everyone else except for Asuka were already gone. Today was the day for him to go back to America, he knew, and with a sigh he left Asuka sleeping in the room while he went to go find his luggage.
Patrick found an empty hospital room close by and then used the bathroom to shower and change into clothes for traveling, consisting primarily of weather-proof khaki pants and a green sweater, topped off with a navy blue rainproof jacket with a classical cut. The clothes had come from a set Rei had purchased for him earlier and he was pleasantly surprised at her choices. Walking out of the room, he looked down the hallway and saw Rei standing there waiting for him. She wore a blue patterned long-sleeved mini-dress together with blue low-heeled pumps and blue-tinted pantyhose. She didn't wear facial makeup but did wear red lipstick, and her small silver cross was laid around her neck. Despite how elegantly Rei appeared her mood definitely matched the color of her outfit: very blue. This time she couldn't help but show the expression of sadness as Patrick slowly walked towards her.
"Good morning," he said in a soft tone. "You look lovely."
"Thank you," she replied, and again let her self be held tightly by him in the hallway before their journey back to NERV that morning. "They're waiting for us downstairs," she told him. Reluctantly he released her and then they slowly walked together towards the hospital elevators.
The shuttle ride took over an hour, with the five children plus Misato in the back of a large van, Misato clutching Penpen in her arms as the group sullenly sat and watched the torrential rains out the van's windows. The van was escorted by several other security vehicles in front and behind, and drove the winding road along the eastern shoreline of Lake Ashi from Hakone to Tokyo-3.
Once inside the Tokyo-3 complex, the van went through the expected security checkpoints on its way to Airfield One, finally reaching a grey-colored aircraft hanger. The van pulled alongside the doorway and then all of the children were let out, running inside of the hanger doors to get out of the rain.
The hanger contained several Alliance aircraft, and one in particular was the white-painted G6 that NERV used to shuttle important persons on last-minute trips. Mari and Kaji had used this same G6 earlier to fly from Scotland to Australia, and Misato and Rei had also travelled on it to Alaska. Now this same aircraft would take Patrick back to the USA.
The ground crew told Misato that the plane was still being prepared for the flight and that they were waiting for the weather to improve before making the journey. The hanger building had a small lounge, so the little group of them made their way to the room, sat down on the plain and sparse furniture and silently waited. Misato spent most of the time on the phone dealing with one important matter or another. Hikari sat with PenPen, playing with the little bird as Shinji, Toji, and Kaji talked about the previous nights party and other trivial matters while they watched other aircraft slowly taxi in the heavy rain on the runways outside. In a far corner of the room Patrick sat in a chair with Rei on his lap. She leaned against him as he held his arms around her and caressed her hair while she stared blankly in sadness at the wall. Neither of them said a word to the other.
After ninety minutes past by a uniformed American Alliance crew member entered the room and told them "We're ready to go!" Shinji took a look outside the windows and noticed that the weather had also finally let up, the rain was now just a light drizzle and light started peering through some of the clouds. The group of them together got up from their seats and made the final procession to the waiting aircraft in the hangar.
There was a small staircase that was set up on the side of the G6 so that passengers could enter. The others all got in a line on the way to the staircase, each of them being able to say their goodbyes to their fellow pilot. The feeling among them wasn't simply the same as wishing farewell to a friend, but deeper. These children soldiers had trained together, had fought together, and had shed blood together with the highest of stakes in their small hands. They had all lost friends such as Kensuke in the last few months, and they had known the deepest lows but the little group of pilots had also found great heights in what they had done. In the company of their comrades they had bonded with each other and found connection with and drew solace and strength from each of the others, all of them knowing that unique burden an Evangelion pilot carries inside. From this point on for the rest of their lives none of the children of EVA would ever truly be alone, even if separated by distance or time.
As he passed by the others, Patrick stopped by Toji first. Again dressed in his now all-too-familiar black track suit, Toji pulled out of his pocket a small envelope. "I was," he explained in a quiet voice, "going through some of Kensuke's things, you know, afterwards and all and I found this stuff." He handed Patrick the envelope. "I'd think he'd probably want you to have it."
"What is it?" Patrick started to ask but then he opened up the envelope and saw photographs inside. Thumbing through the pictures, he saw that Toji had selected photos of all of the pilots but mostly of Rei, a combination of pictures that dated from their Tokyo-3 Middle School days and up through the previous month. The selection of photos were nearly all candid shots of Rei and the others, but also included ample amounts of Rei wearing her blue school-issued swimsuit. Patrick quickly closed the envelope before the others could notice the contents inside.
"I'll treasure this," he told Toji. "Great guy, that Kensuke."
"I know," Toji said as he teared up from memories of his old friend. "I really miss him."
"Take care, buddy," Patrick patted him on the shoulder, and then took a step towards Hikari. Dressed in an knee-long denim jumper with a yellow hooded jacket worn over it, she was holding a box in her hands.
"This is Japanese mochi," she explained as she gave him the box. "It's not store-bought, I made these myself. I figured you might not be able to get these in America. Anyway, hopefully you like these."
Patrick didn't open the box in front of Hikari but graciously accepted the gift. "Thanks. I really doubt these are going to survive the flight."
The girl nodded bashfully. "Please have a safe journey," she told him, "and I hope all goes well with your sister."
"I hope so too," Patrick replied, "take care of this loser," he told her as he winked at Toji. They both smiled as Toji put his arm around Hikari. "I will," she told him with a confident smile.
He then moved onto Shinji. Shinji wore an orange and black sweater and dark blue slacks, and waited patiently until Patrick reached him. "We made it to the end," Patrick told him.
"Yeah, we did," Shinji replied, smiling at him.
"Thank you, " said Patrick to him.
"When I first came here you were one of the first friends I made here in Japan, maybe the very first. Definitely in the first three. But anyway, we got through everything. We both know where each of us is coming from. Seriously, I owe you my life, man." Memories of the time at the cabin, the good and the bad, came to mind for both of them.
The other boy just smiled at him. "You don't owe me anything."
Patrick felt his own emotions starting to come to the front more. "Well, Onii-chan, take care of her until I make it back here," he told him as he glanced towards Rei where she waited closest to the aircraft. He then embraced Shinji tightly.
The two boys held each other for a minute as the others watched and then Patrick released him. "Oh, and Shinji?"
"Please tell Fraulein Wonderkind that she still owes me one." Shinji laughed a little. "I'm pretty sure that will annoy her."
"I'm counting on it," Patrick replied with a smirk and then he moved onto the next one in line.
"Patrick," Misato told him, "I'm sorry Kaji couldn't make it here but just know we're doing everything we can for Erin. Hopefully things will improve once you get back there."
Patrick nodded confidently. "I hope so too."
"I think you might know already that Kaji and I got a house in Hakone." Patrick was actually surprised. "Already?"
Misato grinned a little. "That asshole actually bought the place two months back, then sprung it on me a couple of days ago. But, what I really want to say is this: we have an extra room in that house. When you come back, that room is yours," she told him. "Whatever happens, you always have a home here."
"I really don't know what to say, Misato, but thanks a lot!" She nodded and gave him a warm smile. "Thank you. Thank you very much for everything you did. I know we had our rough spots."
Patrick was now getting very, very reluctant to get onto the airplane, such was the outpouring of support from the others he was receiving. "It's me who should be thanking everyone else. I came here in the most stupid circumstances...twice, and for the most part you all took care of me. All I can say is that I'm really glad we made it to the end together!"
The others gave him warm smiles in response, and Misato told him, "Well, as much as we'd like to keep you here longer we can't keep your other half waiting, can we?" She brought Patrick into a hug and held him tightly. After releasing him Patrick asked her "about Mari...ifanything happens with her, good or bad..."
"I'll let you know right away," Misato answered. "I'm sure she'll be better soon."
"I'm sure of it," Patrick agreed. He looked next to him and saw Rei standing there, silently waiting for him to reach her after his goodbyes with the others. He took her by the hand and then turned towards the aircraft stairs as the others watched them go.
The couple walked slowly until they reached the bottom of the stairway leading up to the jet's open doorway. Out of earshot from the rest of the group, Rei and Patrick stood and faced each other, neither one of them wanting to be parted but both knowing that it was now inescapable.
Rei put herself against Patrick and held him tightly to her, closing her eyes and squeezing him as tightly as she could. "I know you have to go," she told him in a low voice, "but I do not want you to go."
Patrick responded by tightening his own grip on Rei, holding her close to him. "I don't want to go either," he said to her, "I really hate that it has to happen like this."
"I need you but she needs you more," Rei told him. "it can't be helped."
"Somehow, someway I'm going to get both of you together in the same space," said Patrick. "In the meantime, you've got your own family to build up, right?" Rei didn't reply but just nodded her head.
"I'm really lousy at moments like this, but all I can say is let's make the most of it," he continued, trying to be encouraging. "If I'm not there, that means you've got the time you need to grow." He gently brought her in front of him, his hands at her sides. "Have adventures on your own, learn everything and explore everything that you can. Take all of the time that you would have spent with me and put into just living. And then the next time you see me, whenever that is, tell me everything!"
Rei still didn't reply but again nodded, now with tears running down her cheeks. Patrick gently touched her cheek with his hand. "I'm sorry," he said at a whisper, "I'm coming back to you as fast as I can."
She took both of her hands and gently held his head in them. "I will slow time down" she told him. "Every day no matter where I am or where you are you'll still be in my song."
Patrick could feel tears forming in his own eyes. He glanced up towards the open doorway of the jet and saw the crewman standing there patiently. At that moment, he wanted to just grab Rei and then bring her up the stairs with her but knew that wasn't possible either. I just found her, how can I let her go? But then Erin needs me too, and I cant deny that. There's nothing else I can do.
"Time's up," he told her, almost choking. "I'd better go before they come and pull me inside!"
"I'll be waiting," she whispered, smiling despite the tears on her face.
He reached for her and held her in her arms and then dove in for what he wanted to be the Mother of All Kisses. She reciprocated, reaching up to him and then meeting his lips with hers, kissing him deeply as she could for as long as she could. They found each other together in that place they both shared, remaining there until neither one of them could breathe. Afterward he squeezed her tightly, giving her every last moment of love and affection that he could until time ran out.
The two of them pulled back, joining hands as Patrick prepared the final few steps, Despite his sadness he was determined to put as good and as positive of a footing that he could. "Okay," he told her, "Here I go!" Rei also did her best to put everything in the best light. "Take care," she said to him, doing her best to keep herself from tearing up again. Patrick closed his eyes and gave Rei's hands one more good squeeze, and then before he could think or do anything else he released her and bounded up the stairs. "I'm off," he told her, instead of saying "goodbye."
"See you later," Rei said in reply, looking up at him with bright eyes as he raced up the stairway. Then as he almost reached the top she drew a deep breath and in the loudest voice she could muster Rei shouted in English "PATRICK, I LOVE YOU!"
Patrick didn't look back at her but took the last few steps and went into the aircraft. His voice came booming back just as he entered "I KNOW!"
A few seconds later the aircraft door closed, and a ground crewman motioned Rei to stand aside as they moved the stairway. Rei went to go join the others who were waiting a few feet away. She didn't say anything further, but the look at sadness on her face told them all what she was feeling, and Shinji immediately embraced her.
"He'll be back before you know it," he said to encourage her. She nodded and leaned against him and let him comfort her further.
Patrick's G6 started to taxi towards the runway, leaving the hanger and moving towards the grey and black tarmac outside. The rain now stopped completely, and the sun came out and shined on all of them as the group left the hangar doors and watched as the small jet moved to takeoff. Looking carefully, Rei saw Patrick through the jet's windows. He saw her and waived with both hands, and she waived enthusiastically back to him while holding onto Shinji with her other hand.
Reaching one end of the runway, the G6 lined up and then after getting approval for takeoff increased power to its engines and raced down the runway. The whole group of pilots cheered on as the jet raced for takeoff, with waves and with cheers the group carried on until the jet climbed up and flew sharply upwards into the sky.
In a back alley that was part of the older city of Hakone, a Japanese man in a blue yugata hobbled down the street on wooden shoes. To some of the passersby on the street he looked like a throwback to the Samurai era, with a black eye patch over one eye, scars on his face and a pronounced limp on his right leg. The man was certainly as muscular as anyone would have expected a samurai to be despite his injuries and he carried himself with a similar, if more discreet swagger.
The man found a hole-in-the-wall ramen shop and went inside the curtains that were held across the doorway. Inside he saw several tables with seated customers, mostly middle-aged Japanese business men of no apparent distinction, and then in the far corner found an empty table and quickly sat down. He choose the seat against the wall, allowing him to get a complete view of both the front door and the kitchen door, the only two entrances into the restaurant.
After a minute the man saw another person enter through the front door. Very tall and muscular and wearing blue coveralls like a street laborer, the man was about his age, in his late twenties, and also like him he walked with a slight limp. He saw the other and then sat down across from him on the table. A waiter quickly came over and both of them ordered shoyu ramen, the man with the eye patch ordering with extra garlic. After the waiter left the two of them looked at each other for a minute until the taller one spoke first.
"I see they improved your looks," Kikuchi said to him with a deadpan voice.
"Now I have the look of intimidation to go along with the attitude," Kaji responded. "You look well, considering. How are things?"
"Sheffield's gone to ground," he told him. "Having been pushed out he's now in the shadows and pulling whatever strings he's got."
"We've seen the effects so far. Besides the Forrestal twins anything else to immediately be concerned with."
"He's got a Plan B of his own and seems pretty confident about it," Kikichi told him. "And he's got a lot of patience."
"I think that worries me more than anything else," Kaji mulled. "How is your standing with him?"
"Naturally he doesn't trust anyone, yet he's smart enough not to cut off any possible option he might need later. Don't be expecting too much out of me, however."
"I wont, but we can keep the back channels between us open. EVA's not really over, but it's entering a new phase. Having won the war, we need to be sure we can win the peace as well. You can keep an eye on things now, can't you?"
"Just as long as that's all I'm doing," the taller agent replied in a gruff voice. "What will you be doing?"
"Making sure this never happens again." Kaji was interrupted by the buzz of a phone in his inside pocket, and lifted it out to speak. "Yes?"
A female agent's voice was hear. "Sir, this is Tanaka. 02 left the hospital."
"Did she check out?"
"No, sir. She just went out the window and down the fire escape. We've shadowed her as far as Hakone central train station, do you want us to pull her in?"
"No," Kaji ordered. "This is expected. Allow her freedom of movement and continue to shadow wherever she goes. Also, only I am to know her exact location. Clear?"
"Yes, sir." the phone then clicked dead.
After seeing Patrick off at the airfield, Misato asked Rei if she would join her as she went down to see Admiral Vinson and the others at NERV. Shinji however, wanted to return to Hakone Hospital so that he could spend more time with Asuka. Misato approved and left Shinji with the van and security team to escort him, while she and Rei went downstairs into the GeoFront. Toji and Hikari joined Shinji for the van ride back to Hakone, but planned to visit their families today instead of going to see Asuka.
Shinji arrived back at the hospital and after saying goodbye to both Toji and Hikari he walked briskly inside the front, followed from a short distance by three black-suited men who were his nearly ever-present companions by now. The group of them took the elevator to the top floor where he went directly to Asuka's room. He noticed immediately that the female security escort who was normally at the room's entrance was no longer there. He then entered the room and found it completely unoccupied: the bed was already made neatly but there were no signs of Asuka at all, except for a bag on the floor that contained her hospital pajamas.
Panicked, Shinji found a nurse nearby and asked her "Where is Asuka?" The nurse was somewhat embarrassed and apologetic in her reply. "I'm sorry, Ikari-kun, but patient Soryu has left the hospital."
"Left!? Where did she go?"
"I'm sorry but I don't know. She didn't really check out but she just left."
Shinji was aghast with what he was hearing. "But..she's still sick! She might get worse if she's out there!" He looked towards his security detail. "Don't you guys know where she is?"
The three men looked at each other and whispered quietly to each other as they held their earpieces to their ears. After some discussion one of the guards then responded to Shinji. "Her escorts are still actively following her, but we can't discuss her location with you?"
The boy narrowed his glance at the security agent. "Why not? I'm a pilot, dammit!"
"Director's orders," said the senior escort. Before Shinji could protest any further Takana, the lead agent of Asuka's escort detail, came walking quickly from the elevators towards Shinji and the others. "Ikari-kun!" she called for him. Shinji turned towards her as she approached him.
"Ikari-kun," Tanaka called to him.
"Where is she?"
"The last location I followed her to was Hakone station, she was boarding a train to Shin-ShinYokahama."
"Then let's go and get her!" Shinji demanded.
"I'm sorry, sir," the agent said. "Just before she boarded the train she found me in the crowd and gave me this message, with instructions to give to you." Takana handed Shinji a folded piece of paper. Shinji looked at the paper and immediately opened it while Tanaka continued. "Ikari-kun, I would guess that she's going to Shin-ShinYokahama to get boat passage out of Japan."
"Well, we've got to stop her!"
"I'm afraid that I have my orders," she told him reluctantly. "Please, I suggest you read the letter before doing anything further." Shinji wanted to continue to argue, but then reconsidered and calmed himself down. He looked at the letter in his hand and then went back inside Asuka's old room, sitting down on the hospital bed where he kissed her the night before, and started to read the letter.
The letter itself was written by pen on a scratch piece of paper and it was written mostly in German with bits of Japanese. Having worked to study German in whatever spare time he had as well as being tutored by Asuka herself in the last three months, he found he could read all of it.
If you're reading this it means you already know that I've left, and I'm sure right now you're probably in a panic wondering where I am and if I'm going to drop dead any minute now.
First, don't worry about me. I've had worse than this. Okay, maybe not but I'm a big girl and can manage on my own. Besides, I really hate hospitals.
Second, don't come after me. You're smart enough to know where I'm going, and I don't want to see you homeless and wondering the streets of every city in Germany trying to find me. I know how pathetic you can get sometimes, and please don't be pathetic now.
Third, don't hate yourself for this. You always do that and it annoys the hell out of me. THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT. So stop feeling sorry for yourself at this moment.
Here's the thing: if you must know, you got me. Really, you did. Maybe you had me at the beginning, when we first saw each other on that aircraft carrier, or maybe it was later and I don't really know, but you got me. You broke through every line of defense I had, you punched right through my AT Field and you got me. I'm yours and I always will be.
The problem is, right at the moment I'm not sure who I really am. For the last ten years everything in my life has been EVA, EVA, and more EVA. Before I met you, I never really thought about anything else. And now, now that everything is over I don't know what the hell I'm supposed to do.
You were right: with you I could feel like EVA didn't matter, like we were a couple of kids who just played around and had fun. I liked that feeling, but it scared me too, and If I acted sort of bossy or pissed off a lot it was because I'm still sorting all of this stuff out.
But for me to be there for you, and to have Happy Ever After or whatever, I have to know who I really am and right now I just don't know. I'm sure you'd tell me that we should find that together and all, but that's not going to work. I've got to figure this out on my own, or else all that I'll be to you is that fake part of me and you deserve better than that.
Right now you got a new life, so please just be you and try to do something you really love with it. At the same time I'll try and do the same. It might take me a while, but I'm sure the First will keep you busy with all of that cute little sister shit that she's going to start with now. You guys are fitting to be in the same family, really I mean that. So enjoy it.
And when I'm ready I'll come back, and we'll see how much we've changed and see if we still want each other after that.
So please don't come running after me. You've seen who I really am inside, but I've seen who you really are too, and I wouldn't have picked you if you weren't worthy of it. So please be worthy of it.
I Love You,
PS: If we do wind up together after this, I want you to be the first. Actually I want you to be the only, if that's okay with you. Don't let that hussy Mari or anyone else take it from you. I guess that's honest, isn't it? - A
Shinji re-read the letter and understood everything that Asuka wrote, then just put the note down and sat on the bed and looked into the distance. In the doorway stood Tanaka, the other three security guards and the same nurse he had spoke to earlier, all of them now caught up in the teenagers' drama.
Well, he wondered,what do I do now?
He felt horrible that his expectations were dashed with Asuka leaving Japan, but also knew, from reading the letter, that the bond between them still wasn't broken even despite the distance that would now come between them. Like Rei, he too had his challenges to meet with those he loved, and he did know now, more than ever, how much he so loved the girl named Asuka Soryu Langley.
If that's the way it is then let's make the most of it. Suddenly feeling upbeat, he stood up from the hospital bed. "Tanaka-san," Shinji asked the guard.
"Um, is there a good music store in Hakone?"
Daunted at the question, she looked at the other guards. "I'm...sure we can find one."
"Can we? I need to replace something."
The three male guards discussed something among themselves and then another of them spoke to Shinji. "There's a shop called Bunka-do that's on the main avenue. It's not too far," he told him.
"Okay, let's go then." Feeling confident Shinji took Asuka's letter and carefully folded it, then placed it inside of his pants pocket. He then started towards the elevators with the other guards in tow. "Do you have space for a cello in the security van?" he asked Tanaka as they walked together.
"Yes, we should," she replied.
"Good." The elevator doors opened and Shinji stepped inside followed by the other four. As the elevator doors closed, Shinji turned and faced the three male guards. "Oh, and maybe this is rude but can I know your names? I always have you guards following us and I never know what to call you."
The three men relaxed a little, the leader even showing a small smile. "Of course. I'm Kotobashi. This is Yamaguchi," he motioned to one of the men, "and this is Kim." he nodded at the other. Shinji was a little surprised at the third name. "You are Korean?"
"A Zainichi, sir," the third man replied, slightly embarrassed.
Shinji nodded. "Okay, Korean sounds good for lunch afterwards."
Takana, also now feeling relaxed, smirked at the boy. "Are you paying for all of us too?"
Shinji smiled back at her. "I'll be okay."