Chapter 36

The Swim of Things | By: | Genre: Humor, Romance | Rating: M | Series: Evangelion | Status: In Progress | Tags: Alternate Universe, Post-Series, Post-TI, WAFF | Summary:

This is a classic Rom/Com staring the Evangelion cast. It has just about everything you would expect, and probably read before, but is my latest personal take on the genre. Hope you enjoy it.

It was the very end of March and the week of the sports fest. This was the perfect time for it as it was right after the short day of remembrance break and between the end of the winter sports and the beginning of the spring sports. That meant all the students would be rested and able to participate in the setup and the festival itself, whether they wanted to or not. Which in Rei's case was not as she was still fretting about the obstacle course, wasn't exactly looking forward to throwing little bean bags into a high basket, and also regretting telling Mai to sign her up for whatever was left. She should have known that was not a good idea when she said it but she was so wrapped up in her emotions about Kaede's name being brought up she wasn't capable of thinking straight.

 

The end result was Rei had to run a long distance race, 15 long kilometers that no one else wanted anything to do with. She knew no one else wanted anything to do with it because when she was looking for a way to get out of it she was told there was one. All she had to do was find some girl to trade events with her. It didn't happen as the closest she got was Asuka giving her condolences on being stuck with such a sucky event. The other girls in the class didn't even give her that as they all said no, and rather quickly at that. There was a reason after all that no one wanted this event and it was left vacant till the very end.

 

This led to a temper tantrum of sorts by Rei as while she knew she couldn't get out of the sports festival, she decided she was too busy with University work to help with getting it set up. And right now while the rest of the people at the high school were setting up she was in Tokyo-4 University's library doing said work, which meant she was reading a romance novel.

 

Someone had sat down in a chair next to her and noticed the book she was reading. “That is not exactly assigned reading from any of your classes Miss Ayanami.”

 

Rei didn't care if this person was the ex-vice commander of Nerv or the current Dean of this college, she still gave him an adamant “I don't care.”

 

Well that answered this old man's question of whether she was still as grumpy as he noticed yesterday when she was in his class. “Don't you think you should head back to the high school if you aren't busy?”

 

“No.”

 

Professor Fuyutsuki was quite surprised at how steadfast Rei answered that. There was no waiver or guilt about skipping class in her voice at all. That led the gray haired man to let out a sigh, he was failing miserably in his task to get Rei to go back to the high school, just like he did yesterday. Thing with this was he knew about the whole situation from a conversation he had with Misato yesterday. Misato knew Rei was attending and participating in the sports festival against her will and she figured Rei was near her limits in how far she could be pushed, so she decided not to fight the reluctant blue haired girl on skipping out on setting up the event. If Rei said she was too busy at the University than that was going to be that. It wasn't like Rei not setting anything up was doing any real harm. Fuyutsuki on the other hand thought he should at least try to get her to participate.

 

“Now Rei, I know you don't like these kinds of events but you never know, it might be fun if you give it a try.”

 

While Rei could tell Professor Fuyutsuki was simply trying to be a caring guiding hand in her life, a welcome thing usually, this was not one of those times she was going to listen. “No.”

 

“You could at least humor this old man” Fuyutsuki tried as that answer to his attempt was just as quick as the previous one. Rei was being borderline stubborn in his opinion about how absolute her answer was.

 

Rei could play that game just as well, after all she did get the highest grade in her psychology class last term. She reached into her bag and pulled out another romance novel, handing it to Fuyutsuki. “If I remember correctly this book had a bit of humor in it.”

 

“Point taken” The gray haired professor smirked as he surrendered to Rei's wishes. “But don't think I have given up, we will talk tomorrow.”

 

“Then I will make sure to find a better hiding spot” Rei said back as she stuck her nose back into her book.

 

“You do that” the good professor chuckled as he wandered off. He wasn't going to admit it but it was sort of fun looking for Rei, it gave him an enjoyable break during his academics filled day.

 

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Asuka was helping out with the preparation of the festival by setting up a tent along with Touji, Kensuke, and Shinji. “On the count of three… one.. two… three….” And they all lifted at the same time so they could get the tent's legs all lined up straight and stabilized at the same time.

 

“Well that was impressive” Hikari half joked and half meant it. Not all the groups setting up the various tents and temporary shelters were as efficient. Quite a lot of bumbling around and poles falling over was happening right now.

 

“It helps when the foreman of the group is brilliant” Asuka smart mouthed.

 

“Who said you were foreman?” Touji challenged.

 

“I did of course” Asuka answered looking at him like he should have known that.

 

“As the person with the most experience building things, I think I should be the foreman” Touji said expressing his thoughts.

 

“Tents and brick walls aren't the same thing” Asuka said rolling her eyes in rebuttal.

 

Kensuke butted in as if the were going that route then he was more qualified than either of these two. “I've been camping and set up more tents than you two combined, I should be in charge.”

 

He got an “Oh shut up” from Asuka for that and a “Whose side are you on?” from Touji as the boy needed someone backing him, not arguing against him.

 

“Fine, if you two think you know everything lets put it to a vote” Asuka then challenged. All for Kensuke being in charge raise their hands.” As you would expect Kensuke raised his hand. That was one vote for him. “Okay, who's for Touji being in charge?” Touji put his hand straight up in the air and supported himself. “And finally who votes for me, the most talented and beautiful person in this group?”

 

It was at this point both Touji and Kensuke figured out they had been played. There were four people in this group with three wanting to be in charge, that would mean it was left up to the one lone person who didn't want to be in charge to choose who would be. And considering that lone person was sleeping with Asuka, it was no contest. “My two votes beat both your ones, I win” Asuka arrogantly announced. “I'm the foreman so you have to do what I say.”

 

“You rigged the vote” Touji disputed while Kensuke just smarted off “How's that different from any other time we're with you?”

 

“A vote is a vote” Hikari said interrupting this little squabble. “Now get back to work please.”

 

“Why didn't you support me babe?” Touji then asked as he suddenly remembered she was right beside them. “We could have tied the vote.”

 

“Exactly” Hikari explained. “And then we would be stuck here still arguing. And since you guys are one of the most efficient groups helping me out right now I don't want you sitting around arguing, I want you working.”

 

All four other people could clearly hear the stress and frustration in their friend's voice as she said that. And to make matters worse there was a big clanging sound as a tent came falling down as another group failed in their attempt to get it up. “Just leave it to us babe” Touji told her. “We'll get the work done.”

 

There was an honest “Thank you” from the school's vice president as if they could finish their work and maybe pick up a little slack from other it would be a great help to her. After the expression of thanks though she had to walk off and check on the latest disaster that happened to make sure no one got hurt.

 

There was going to be no more arguing about who was in charge of the group, true answer was Hikari, so they went on to the next thing on their list. “Okay…” Asuka said reading off what was next for them “…We have to hang up the baskets on the poles for the bean bag toss.” She looked up and realized you would have to climb the poles to do that. “I don't care which one of you does it but I'm not climbing those poles.” Asuka then looked to the right of her suspiciously.

 

The three boys did too and saw someone from the photo club walking around with a camera. Touji chuckled at that “What? You don't want a picture of your ass on the front of the yearbook or something?”

 

“If she was lucky it would only be on the yearbook” Kensuke said recognizing the kid. “That dumbass would probably post a shot like that on the web or try and sell copies of it.”

 

“And you would know that how?” Asuka asked suspiciously.

 

“I don't think you want to know the answer to that Red” Kensuke said back and then volunteered to climb the poles and hang the baskets up. “Since I'm doing this event with Rei, I'll do it.”

 

Asuka left the situation at that. It was probably best that she didn't know the specifics and she realized if Kensuke was holding back, it had to do with something in the past she would not have liked to know about. “Speaking of Rei, is she still playing hooky at the University?”

 

“Yup” Kensuke answered as Shinji strapped one of the baskets to his back and he started climbing up the rungs on the pole. “I don't think she has any plans to help out either.”

 

“Haven't been pressing the issue much?” Asuka asked with a grin. She suspected Kensuke was staying away from the issue as much as possible these days in an effort to not make Rei upset.

 

“I like sleeping in a bed too much” Kensuke answered down sarcastically to the group of friends below while tying off the basket to the pole.

 

That answer caused the three people down below to chuckle. Kensuke seemed quite adapt at the art of cohabitation already.

 

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It was late in the school day and Asuka, Shinji, Touji, and Kensuke were working on setting up another event. It wasn't one they were originally assigned to do but one they had taken from another group who was behind in their duties. And taken was the correct word as when Asuka noticed that a group of the girls from the gymnastics team, headed by Kaede, were the ones who volunteered to help set up the obstacle course she decided since they were behind she would give them a helping hand. And by helping hand she took the obstacle course setup off their list and put it on her group's list.

 

Kaede didn't like this infringement onto her territory and she voiced her displeasure. “That's our event to set up! Go do your own.”

 

“Already did” Asuka answered and then bragged. “We're not a bunch of slow pokes who can't even get done what we said we were going to. And when I went to the vice president and told her we were done with everything she told us to do anything that wasn't done yet to make up for the groups who aren't capable of doing their jobs. So I picked the obstacle course.”

 

“You can't do that!” Kaede contested obstinately.

 

“Already did” Asuka informed the non-accepting teen getting all huffy in front of her. “You got a problem with it go to Hikari.”

 

Kaede could see how well that would work out in her head very clearly. She goes to Hikari to complain about Asuka taking one of her projects away and the school vice president returns the complaint with a lecture about how her group was behind and how she shouldn't be wasting time complaining but working on catching up. She had been to enough meetings run by Hikari Horaki to know how the girl reacted to complaints. When it came to that girl it was if you have time to complain, you have time to do something about it.

 

That meant all Kaede could do was stand there and be steamed about the situation. Complaining wouldn't do her any good, no way could she reason with Asuka, and also she couldn't bully her way to get what she wanted. Against a lot of other girls in this school she could pull off scare tactics but not Asuka. Asuka was too scary of a girl for her to think about challenging now. That girl was even stronger and faster than Rei after all, not to mention she had fighting experience. In fact Kaede's hand started shaking fearfully as she thought about pushing the situation any further, she still had a slight scar on her cheek from her confrontation with Rei, what kind of injuries and marks would Asuka leave behind if she got into a fight over this with the brash redhead?

 

“You trying to get into it with her or something?” Touji questioned as Asuka was awfully pushy in that conversation, almost like she was trying to incense Kaede into doing something very stupid. He was thinking that this was Asuka's desire to get back at the girl for going after Rei at work. And he wasn't the only one thinking that either as Kensuke was of like mind.

 

Asuka though answered with “Nah. I was just trying to make her feel bad about being behind. She and her group have been slacking off and playing around too much.”

 

“Yeah, sure…” Kensuke said back in a rather obvious disbelief.

 

“Oh please” Asuka scoffed. “After her confrontation with Rei she's too gun shy to get into another fight. You can see it in her eyes, she's like a Bumble with all its teeth pulled out” Asuka finished up saying while walking off to get a couple hurdles from the storage shed.

 

Touji turned to Kensuke. “What's a Bumble? And why would its teeth get pulled out?”

 

“You got me” Kensuke answered back as he didn't know either. Then both those boys turned to look at Shinji.

 

Shinji just shrugged his shoulders at them though. He had no clue what Asuka was talking about either. This was just another case of Asuka using some reference she learned in another country and figured everyone in Japan would know too. But none of that mattered now as they had a job to do and they followed behind Asuka to do it. The sooner this part of the festival got set up, the better.

 

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The obstacle course was completely set up except for one last thing, the scavenger hunt. There was enough grumbling going around that Asuka was trying to fix the race, you can probably guess who started those rumors, that Hikari stepped in and said she would write out what had to be found on the day of the event. That way no one could be tipped off or plant said object in an easy place to find.

 

As for Asuka, she didn't care one bit. She wasn't trying to rig the race so there was nothing for her to care about. If anything she was thinking the girls who were running the course were being let off easy as the ideas she thought up would have been much more difficult to find and challenging bring back. That was the whole point of a scavenger hunt to her. But Hikari said she would do it so Asuka stopped working on it and her group went to do one last set up before school would be over. It was just some simple setting up of cones for an event but still something that needed to be done. Everything thing they finished today would be one less thing they would have to tackle tomorrow.

 

They finished up right before the end of school bell rang and bumped into Rei who coincidently was able to finish all her college work just in time to make it back to the school in time for it to end, missing all the setting up duties.

 

“Must have been a tough assignment to take up your whole day” Asuka said sarcastically.

 

Rei deadpanned her answer “Exceedingly.” Then she pulled Kensuke away over to where she parked her scooter and he his moped and they both took off for home. Kensuke wanted to get a quick shower first and Rei needed to grab her gym bag before they took off for the gymnastics club they frequented three or four times a week now.

 

Touji took off as he said “I'm going to go find Hikari and try to clam her down.”

 

Both Shinji and Asuka said “Good luck” simultaneously.

 

“So do we have to work tonight?” Asuka asked as now it was just Shinji and her. She was hoping the answer would be no as she was sort of tired after the long day.

 

Sadly she wasn't going to get her way this time. “Yes.”

 

“That sucks” as Asuka wanted a nap right now. “I suppose we should take off then too.” And with that Shinji and Asuka headed off for home as well to clean up and then go to work.

 

Touji found Hikari rather quickly actually, she was sitting in the student council room by herself. “Where's everyone else?” He asked sitting down behind her and gave her a little back rub.

 

Hikari let out a momentary relaxing breath as her fiancé's hands felt so good after the long day. “I already sent them out to do things.” There still was a ton of things to do so everyone on the council was busy.

 

“So what're you doing?” Touji asked as he saw some slips of paper in front of her.

 

“Wondering what that nut job of a best friend I have was thinking?” Hikari slightly giggled. “These are some of the things she originally wrote down for people to find.”

 

Touji took a look at a couple of the folded up pieces of paper. Asuka was secretive about what she had written down before so he didn't know what any of them said. First one said `Mrs. Kumara's red grading pen.' “Oh c'mon, Mrs. Kumara never lets that pen out of her sight. How is anyone supposed to bring that back?” The pen in question was a cherished gift Mrs. Kumara got when she graduated from college. As such it was kept close to her at all times and never leant out.

 

“It gets worse” Hikari told him and showed him another.

 

Touji read it. `The American penny in the equipment shed.' “I think I've seen that before. But how does she know someone hasn't already picked it up? I mean not everyone believes those stupid rumors about it.” Actually there was a ton of rumors surrounding this penny and most people knew about it. Somehow this penny crossed the ocean and found itself on the floor of the equipment shed of their school. But the penny was angry it was not in its home country so it placed a horrible curse on anyone who picked it up. Touji never paid attention to stupid stuff like that so he always wondered why it was still there, in fact he couldn't remember a time when it wasn't.

 

“Because it's glued to the floor” Hikari told him.

 

“It is?... Who did that?” Touji started looking at the other slips of paper as well now. Most of the things written down were quite outlandish.

 

“Asuka” Hikari answered. “She did it during gym class when we were first years. We got chased into the shed because of a rain storm and she was bored so she was digging through her bag. She found a penny and some super glue. The rest of the story is stuff made up by other girls, all Asuka ever did was glue the penny to the floor.”

 

“So if it's glued to the floor, how's anyone supposed to bring it back?” That part made no sense to Touji.

 

He wasn't the only one like that though. “I have no clue.”

 

“She's a weird one all right” Touji chuckled. “But I'll give her this, she's got good taste.” And he slid one of the pieces of paper back to Hikari.

 

Hikari didn't need to open to know which one he singled out, she just blushed and smiled happily. Asuka had written on one of them `Bad Luck, you have drawn the most elusive thing to find. Hikari Horaki.' “I know she just meant that as a joke…” Hikari started.

 

Touji though interrupted her. “I don't know about that. You get awfully hard to find when you're busy. Except of course when we don't want you to find us, then you show up immediately. You really remind me of a mom in that way.”

 

That was a huge compliment from her fiancé and sort of made Hikari misty eyed. He really was being a great help in settling those frayed nerves of her right now. This led to her giving him a hug to thank him for what he was doing.

 

From the doorway came a giggly “I can come back later if I'm intruding.”

 

“You're not” Hikari told Mai and ended the hug, a bit reluctantly at that though as she like being held in his strong arms. “My big lug of a boyfriend was just trying to clam me down by playing to my maternalistic side. What have you got for me?”

 

“Looks like it worked” Mai kidded and saw a little embarrassed blush on Hikari's cheek in reply before she gave her update. “I called up the hospital and they said they would provide one ambulance and two medics just in case of accidents. I just need your signature on this form so I can fax it to them.”

 

Hikari took the form from Mai and quickly signed it. “That takes care of that, did you check with the police yet for some help with traffic control due to all the visitors?”

 

“I got a hold of them and they said they are going to send a couple people over to help out. They're sending me a form with the costs and authorization pretty soon.”

 

“Good” Hikari said back as Mai was being quite swift in her jobs. She was a good pick for helping out with the Sports Festival. “Once you get it bring the forms to me and I'll sign them. Then get a hold of some electricians and see if they can make it here by tomorrow to fix some faulty wiring with the outdoor PA system. The speakers on the left side of the field are not working at all. Go with NERVous Electricians, they tend to be the quickest responding.”

 

“Yes ma'am” Mai replied and took off.

 

“NERV-ous Electricians” Touji joked. “They sure make it obvious.” Technical that name was part of this company's jingles and logo. If you're nervous about your electrical systems call your nervous electrician, they will put your nerves at ease. But in truth the name was pandering to those who would recognize who they used to work for.

 

“That's good business sense if you ask me” Hikari replied. After all in a town where over half the residence were associated with the former Nerv organization in some way or another it was smart to make it obvious that the people running it where in the same boat as many of them.

 

Sadly that was the end of any more joking around as a second year came running into the room “Horaki-senpai! We got a problem…!”

 

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It was Wednesday, the day before the sports fest was to begin, and once again Rei was hiding out at the University. This time she was really hiding in Fuyutsuki's opinion as he couldn't find her anywhere. She wasn't in that quiet sunny spot at the student lounge where she could commonly be found. She wasn't hiding out in the library or one of her classrooms or the cafeteria or even his last place to look, his own office.” She had hidden out there once before when it was homecoming at the university, everywhere else had celebrations going on that she wanted nothing to do with.

 

Finally he gave up and called Rei on her cell phone. “How am I supposed to convince you to go to school if I can't even find you?”

 

“That is the point” Rei answered back. There was almost a touch of smugness to the way Rei said that due to the fact she was a little proud of herself for being able to hide from him. After all Professor Fuyutsuki was pretty involved in creating this University and knew it much better than just about any student. To be able to find a spot he didn't know about was no little task.

 

“I hope you're not going to trouble to hide from me.”

 

“You needn't worry, I am quite comfortable” Rei replied back

 

“You must have found a new sunny spot I don't know about then.”

 

Fuyutsuki was a cunning old man as he nailed it. While looking for a different location to hide out she spotted a brand new sunny spot she had not known about previously. That immediately made it a good hiding area. “I will tell you where it is if you promise not to lecture me” Rei negotiated as she was well aware that Fuyutsuki was not really looking for her to lecture her but simply to find some company with which to converse. And to tell you the truth so was she. Three days of reading romance novels with little interaction, outside of classes, with anyone else was starting to bore her. That is why she was getting to school so quickly at the end of the day and taking off with Kensuke. She knew she could get the attention she wanted from him or they could go to the gymnastics club and interact with the people there. She had actually made a few friends at that gym, some her own age even.

 

“I guess I can live with that compromise” Fuyutsuki replied.

 

“First floor of building 5, under the stairs next to the bank of windows on the right side.”

 

Fuyutsuki could understand why Rei picked this spot to hide out instantly when he got there. It was hidden away from most other people with it being under the stairs but at the same time bright and sunny since it was next to the windows. The spot offered both privacy and warmth, meaning it was a perfect mixture for the quiet blue haired girl. “If I didn't know better I'd swear you substituted the Lilith part of you for a cat when you came back” Fuyutsuki lightly jested while looking at the blue haired beauty bathing in the sun.

 

“Asuka has said something to that affect many times before” Rei smiled back. Rei couldn't help it if she liked to take naps alongside Dai in the sunny spot on her bed sometimes, that was just the way it was.

 

“I bet she doesn't know that love of being in the sun is part of your inherent DNA” Fuyutsuki said and then got a reminiscent look on his face. “Yui loved to be outside under the sun. I always felt so bad for her when I would see her working in her lab so deep underground.”

 

“I have often wondered how Commander Ikari responded to that” Rei continued their conversation as she saw the kind old professor sit down next to her, seemingly enjoying remembering the past.

 

“You might find this hard to believe but before they had Shinji Gendo was pretty tan…” And the conversation went on as the two had a nice talk about the old days that weren't all that bad. Some of the memories brought up were of the time Yui was in college and other memories were of the time before she sacrificed herself and was with Shinji. Fuyutsuki always thought Yui was at her happiest during that short time she was able to live her true life's desire, being a mother.

 

Rei was a willing listener for these conversations, part of her felt glad she could bring a small amount of joy to this old man's heart as he relived those old days in his mind.

 

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Rei had finished up her last class for the day and was thinking about revisiting her newly discovered sunning spot when her cell phone rang. She was surprised to see it was Hikari calling her. In all this time Hikari had respected her decision and not bugged her once about staying at the university. “Hello.”

 

“Hello Rei” Hikari said back with Rei not failing to notice how frantic the girl sounded. “I know how you feel about this festival and all, and I wouldn't call you unless it was a real emergency…”

 

Rei interrupted Hikari there as she knew all that. Hikari wouldn't be bugging her unless she was in a bad corner right now. “If you need me to help, I will.” For a friend she could end her temper tantrum, especially one that sounded like the weight of the world was on her shoulders right now.

 

“Thank you” Hikari replied sounding very truthful. “It's nothing too physical but I need someone who can make copies for everyone. There are a ton of fliers that need to be made but the person who was going to make copies of all that is too busy with another problem right now and I don't have anyone else I can rely on to do the job.” And Hikari really was out of options, everyone she could put some faith in was already doing something important that, truthfully, they didn't have time to do because they had a whole list of other important things that had to get done.

 

“I will help you out” Rei said back trying to calm Hikari down a little. “I'm leaving school now…” And as Rei sped over to the school on her scooter Hikari told her what needed to be done and how.

 

After hurrying herself to the high school Rei made her way strait up to the room with the copy machine. There was a line of students out the door waiting to make copies, all of them impatient as they didn't have time to be standing around waiting to use the copier. This situation really was as bad as Hikari told her. Because of that Rei was quick to get everything in order and had each student give her what needed to be copied with a note on it saying how many copies needed to be made. Then she told each person when to come back and pick up those copies. That would make it so the students waiting in line to make copies could go out and do other things while she took care of the task. Rei's actions sort of surprised some people that day, they never knew she had the ability to be authoritative. She was always the quiet girl who didn't really ever bug anyone.

 

In no time Rei was able to make things civilized in that room again. On one table were single pieces of papers with notes on who needed copies, how many copies, any special directions, and when the copies needed to be done and on another table were stacks of completed copies. Personally Rei didn't even mind doing this as while the copies were running she was able to read one of her books, plus with the window shades in this room now open it was nice and sunny in there too.

 

But there were some minor things that happened while Rei was running copies that interrupted her, some good some bad. Among the good was a quick visit from an exceptionally thankful Hikari, and a bit longer visit from her boyfriend who was just checking in to see how things were going. She liked that kind of attention. Some of the bad were when someone from yearbook showed up and took a picture of her while she was fixing a paper jam and in not the best of positions for a picture of her to be taken. She ended up calling Asuka to solve that problem. Another was a creepy second year who tried to hit on her, she handled that problem herself with a lethally icy glare.

 

Another thing that happened was she got visited by a girl from the gymnastics team, a first year to be exact. She was one of the people who needed copies and that meant she had to talk to Rei. There were other girls from the gymnastics team around to as part of the festival committee but they were busy with other things, plus none of them wanted anything to do with Rei. If they didn't fear reprisal from Vice-President Horaki, who demanded things flowed smoothly, they feared an attack from a violent redheaded friend of the quiet blue haired girl. Already today the gossip was flying about how Asuka confronted a boy on the yearbook staff who she pushed down and took his camera away from him. Then she deleted a bunch of pictures on his camera and told him if he kept taking pictures of people he shouldn't be she would kick his ass. A lot of girls were thinking she caught him taking ecchi pictures and was pissed off about it, that meant she was on a short fuse now and not someone you wanted to incite in any way or even approach.

 

As for the girl at the doorway of the copier room, she was a little scared. She didn't know it was Ayanami who was working in there and after all the bad things her teammates had said about the girl, along with seeing the fight and Kaede's injury, she didn't want to approach the calm looking girl sitting by the window in a chair reading a book. This caused the young girl to ask from the doorway “I need some copies made” in a voice so soft that Rei didn't even respond to it.

 

What with the buzz of the copier machine running combined with Rei enjoying her book there was no way she could hear this girl talking to her. Plus her back was turned in a way that she couldn't see the door. This was a bit her fault as she was concentrating more on sitting in the warm afternoon sun than she was who came to the door. But then again if you needed her help you weren't expected to whisper so softly from the doorway that the sound of the copy machine completely drowned you out.

 

Of course due to the circumstances the girl mistook Rei not hearing her for Rei ignoring her. This caused her to fret as she needed copies quickly, the vice president of the student council told her that personally just a minute ago. As the first year weighed whether to try and say something again or go complain to Horaki, Mai came up behind her.

 

“Just standing there doing nothing doesn't really help.” She had seen that girl standing in the doorway with the slip of paper in her hand the whole time she walked down the hall.

 

“Well… I… I… need copies…”

 

Mai saying something got the attention of Rei, who had no clue this girl had been standing there. “How many copies do you need and when?”

 

The girl didn't answer, she just stood there scared.

 

And for nothing too as Rei didn't even recognize the girl, she was only after one of the many first years that had joined the team. And even if she did recognize the girl she would have still helped her out if she needed copies. That was what she was there for after all.

 

“First years” Mai said rolling her eyes. “Just give her the paper and tell her how many copies you need and when would ya? I've got things I need to get copied too.” Time constraints were pounding on Mai too so she was a little touchy and that meant she had no patience for some `fraidy cat' first year.

 

Now there was another scary person there for this first year, and pushed by this fear she rambled out her request quickly. “I need twenty copies of this right away because Vice President Horaki told me she needed these ASAP and can you do them right now because I really need them now because it is a hurry and Vice President Horaki really needs them.”

 

That got even the normally cool demeanored Rei to roll her eyes as she took the paper out of this young girls hands, which were shaking, and then walked over to the copier machine with it. She stopped what she had running, ran a quick twenty copies off, and gave them to the panicky looking first year. “Next time if it is something that Hikari needs without delay please don't wait till I am done running off copies and tell me immediately” Rei sort of lectured as standing in the doorway as not getting her attention probably cost some time.

 

Neither third years could understand what the girl mumbled as she ran off towards the student council room. “We're only two years older than those girls, why are they always so jumpy when you have to interact with them?”

 

“I have no idea” Rei said back just as confused about that whole situation.

 

“Anyways…” Mai continued as she didn't have time for chitchat. “I need two hundred copies of this, but it's not a big hurry so they can wait till the end of the school day” and Mai handed her one sheet of paper. She also had a packet of papers all clipped together. “And this is the final roster for who is doing what. Hikari said to fill the copier machine with as much paper as it can hold, set it for like one thousand, and just let it go overnight when you leave.”

 

Rei took the packet of paper and looked at them curiously.

 

Mai quickly understood why Hikari told her to add this last part on just by the look on Rei's face. “She also said you aren't allowed to change anything… sorry.”

 

Rei sighed “She is too smart sometimes” as she was thinking about maybe doing something underhanded to the master copy to get her out of the long race she had to do on Friday. At this point such means were not beneath her.

 

Mai just giggled at that and then took off while Rei went back to work running off copies for everyone. But not without a little act of defiance, she didn't replace her name with another for the long race but she did write in something after what class she belonged to.

 

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

 

Rei filled all the different slots of the copier machine with as much paper as it could hold, selected it to print on both sides of the paper, hit the auto collate and staple button, and finally hit start. That singled the end of her day in the copier room, and a successful day it was as everything that needed to get copied did or was in the process right now. With the last thing set to run overnight she left with Kensuke.

 

As the machine spat out copy after copy of the roster, everyone was locked into place on what they would have to do over the next two days.

 

Rei had the bean bag toss and obstacle course on Thursday and the 15K race on Friday. Kensuke had the bean bag toss and a shuttle race on Thursday to start off with, followed by a softball tournament on Friday. The tournament itself wasn't full games but a series of three inning games where each class played the other. The two classes with the best record after the round robin played each other for the championship. And it was only the third year seniors who were playing softball. The second years played basketball and the first years, soccer. That way there wasn't any fighting to get field space and each separate grade level had their own unique event to do.

 

Touji was competing in a ball toss event where the winner was the one who threw a heavy iron ball the furthest, sort of like shot put but there was no mandate on how you threw the ball. The only thing that mattered was how far the ball went. After that he was participating in a basketball event, HORSE. He was a little worried about doing that because, while a decent basketball player, his strengths were guarding, blocking shots, and rebounds. A typical big man in the middle who was used primarily for defense, not offence. In fact he rarely scored double digits during games, but his lack of shooting prowess meant little to the rest of the class due to one important fact, he was the only person in the class that even played basketball. On Friday though he got to do something he was more comfortable with, the softball tournament. As for Hikari, while she was not participating in any events her schedule was: Thursday- stress, stress, stress, stress. Friday- stress, stress, stress. Friday had fewer events so that meant a little less stress.

 

Shinji was participating in the softball tournament as well on Friday but first he had to do two events on Thursday. The one he was looking forward to the most was the cavalry battle. Asuka was going to be riding on his shoulders after all, how could he not like that? The other event for Thursday was the same bean bag toss Rei and Kensuke were competing in. Half the class actually did this together and it was one that a lot of people wanted to sign up for as it was a simple event that required little skill or effort. Simply grab a bean bag, throw it into a raised basket, and repeat for ten minutes. The team with the most bean bags in the basket at the end won. Asuka on the other hand was participating in the four person relay race since she was one of the fastest people in the class. After then she would get to be with Shinji and ride him around as he was her horse for the cavalry battle. And on Friday she was going to be part of the cheering competition. It wasn't something she was really looking forward to but she sort of felt she had to. Not only did Rini and Kotono ask her nicely but she sort of owed them for continuing to allow her unique position on the cheerleading team to hold up, especially since baseball season was right around the corner. And speaking of games played with a bat and ball, she was going to be doing that too. For her fourth event she volunteered to do to make up for Hikari not being able to participate was the softball tournament. This was an event Hikari probably would have done anyway so it was like killing two birds with one stone. She was filling in for Hikari and she got to be in another event with Shinji.

 

As for why Asuka and Shinji would get to play together in the softball tournament too the answer was simple, it was a coed thing. Each class had four girls and four guys participating in it, that way they didn't have to make it a separate event for both guys and girls and have them conflict with each other when trying to use the ball fields. This wasn't a big rich school, all they had were two fields. One for the baseball team and one for the softball team. Of course this meant Asuka would have a bit busier day on Friday than most others but she figured she could handle it as the cheerleading event was scheduled to happen in-between games and wasn't going to take that long to do.

 

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*********** OOO ***********

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It was very early on Thursday, in fact so early that Hikari beat most of the teachers to the school. She had to make sure everything was ready and up to her standards before this day could get started. She wasn't by herself of course. No way was Touji going to let Hikari go this alone. The first thing they did was visit the copier room, with Hikari worrying the whole way. “I really hope the copier machine didn't jam or run out of ink… I don't think we have enough time to print out all the copies we need if it did…”

 

“Relax Babe” Touji said back. “I'm sure everything's all right. You did put Rei in charge of it after all, she's not going to let you down.”

 

“I know…” Hikari started as that was not what she was worried about. In fact she was very grateful to Rei as her friend really helped her out of a pinch yesterday, it was the copier machine that she was afraid would fail her.

 

But some relief was in store for the hard working girl as the closer the two got to the room the more they could hear the copier machine churning out copies. “Oh thank god…” was the little prayer to above that Hikari said as she saw all the copies. Granted most of the copies were on the floor now as the receiving tray wasn't able to hold any more but a helpful fiancé was all it was going to take to fix that little problem.

 

She left the mess in the copier room to be picked up by trusted hands while she headed over to the student council room. Like she thought there was some last second paperwork sitting on a table waiting for her. Most of the set up got done before she left yesterday, but not all. There were some last second problems that needed to get worked out and thankfully some helpful people stepped up and got it done for her. Now all that was left was for her to sign some forms and fax them, something she quickly handled. After faxing the finally finished paperwork she headed downstairs towards the storage room to get out some tables. She needed to set them up outside the front door to the school so all the various pamphlets and handouts could be ready for the people who needed them. Someone was down there waiting to help her though.

 

“You came to help me?”

 

“Yup” Asuka yawned. “Shinji's here too but we passed by the copier room first and he's giving Touji a hand up there.”

 

“Thank you” Hikari said back as she really appreciated the help. “You look really tired though, you get any sleep?”

 

“Not enough” Asuka answered back truthfully as she helped Hikari carry a folded up table through the halls towards the front doors.

 

“Lose track of time practicing with your `trusty stead'?” Hikari grinned.

 

“I wish” Asuka commented and then yawned again. That wasn't to say they didn't have some fun last night but they actually were responcible and didn't spend the whole night doing it. “I had another bad dream last night?”

 

“Are you okay?” Hikari asked concerned. Considering what happened to Asuka, Hikari knew her best friend having a bad dream was not something to take lightly.

 

“Yeah… it wasn't too bad of one but it still took me an hour or so to get back to sleep. It's all that stupid day of remembrance's fault.”

 

Hikari could understand Asuka's grumble. March 20th wasn't that long ago and that day forced Asuka to fully remember some very painful things that she would rather bury in her mind but wasn't able to. This year was just as hard on her as the previous years and after getting back from Tokyo-3 beach she spent the rest of the day in bed with Shinji, simply getting held. The pain the two of them shared over the past was something that would never go away and the only way to fight against it was to be together. Unfortunately the bad memories weren't just a one night thing, over the next couple weeks both Asuka and Shinji would have nightmares.

 

“Do you want to use one of the beds in the nurse's office?” Hikari asked trying to be helpful. “There's still plenty of time to get some more sleep.”

 

“Nah, I'm fine” Asuka said back. “I've got the relay race right away this morning and if I go back to sleep now I will be all groggy for it. I'll just take a nap afterwards and have Shinji get me before the Calvary race.”

 

“I don't know if you'll get a bed by then” Hikari sort of grumbled while also rolling her eyes. There was always those teens who at the last second came down with something or hurt themselves during an event. This caused a ton of headaches for the organizers of the sports festival as they had to scramble to replace those people with others from their classes. Hikari knew that she was going to be busy running around today doing this, along with many other things.

 

“Won't be a problem” Asuka said back as she wasn't planning on using one of the beds up in the nurse's office.

 

And as they went through the front doors of the school with the table Hikari saw why. Asuka and Shinji didn't walk to school today, they got a ride from Kaji, who was now setting up some blankets under a tree and reserving the spots for those he knew would be coming. “How many people are coming?” Hikari had to ask as Kaji was taking up a good amount of room.

 

“The normal group” Asuka simply answered.

 

“And what exactly is the normal group?” Hikari asked getting nervous. Who Asuka considered normal and who the general public considered normal was not the same thing.

 

“Since Rei is going to be participating I'm sure Professor Fuyutsuki's going to be here” Asuka smirked. That old man was sweet on Rei, sure it was more like he was an uncle of some sorts but that didn't stop Asuka from teasing Rei about it.

 

Professor Fuyutsuki coming wasn't a big deal. Sure Hikari knew he would probably get bothered by some people, mostly parents trying to get their kid into Tokyo-4 University, but it wasn't something she would have to make special plans for.

 

Asuka didn't stop at the kindly old professor though as she added on. “Maya and Makoto are going to be coming with little Ritsuko too.”

 

“Why are they coming?” Hikari asked as that might mean a small problem. Maya was on the news and that did make her a celebrity in some ways. Sure she wasn't one people went all gaga over but still she might be enough of a distraction that Hikari might have to do some last second planning for.

 

“Oh settle down” Asuka said as they put down the table. She could see her best friend developing a frantic look again and this wasn't the person she should be getting that look for. “No one is going to care about Maya being there. Hell, they probably won't even recognize her without all the makeup and fancy clothing the station makes her wear.”

 

“I hope you're right” Hikari said still a touch uneasy about this.

 

“When she's not on TV she's just a normal mom. I mean I've walked down the street with her and Misato a bunch of times and no one has ever noticed.”

 

“Maybe it might not be a big problem then…” Hikari said as she was starting to feel at ease again. But that feeling didn't last.

 

“Of course if you want to get all into a tizzy I suppose you could over the news that Shigeru Aoba is planning on coming, and with a friend too.” Originally Asuka was just trying to have fun with Hikari but she regretted what she said the second after she said it. Hikari wasn't thrown into and over reactive tizzy but almost started crying. Asuka could see it on her stressed out friend's face, complete and total failure.

 

This wasn't the Hikari that Asuka knew and Asuka sort of chastised her for acting so weak. “I know you're stressed and everything but that is no reason to think you have suddenly failed just because one person you didn't expect was coming.”

 

“But it's Shigeru Aoba!” Hikari panicked. “I know he's just a normal person to you but to the rest of Japan he's a huge rock star. Even if I knew from the start I couldn't handle someone like that showing up.”

 

“Bullshit!” and Asuka called Hikari out on her abilities. “You could easily handle the planning so stop underestimating yourself. You're one of the most dependable persons I know and you can do anything you want if you try. You're my levelheaded, sensible, and steadfast rock of a best friend for exactly those reasons. So stop trying to make it sound like you can't handle him showing up. He's not coming here to make a spectacle out of himself or put on a performance, he's only coming to hang out with his friends and watch the festival. And it's not like it's a big deal if he shows up, especially since most people won't even recognize him.”

 

Asuka's strong show of belief in her snapped Hikari out of her panic. Asuka really did have a lot of faith in her and that felt very good hearing that come from her best friend. “Okay… I'm calmed down now…”

 

“Good” Asuka said as seeing Hikari like that was really unnerving to Asuka. Hikari was the one who needed to keep Asuka grounded, not the other way around.

 

But that wasn't the end of it as with Hikari back into her authoritative mode she had to question what Asuka said at the end. “You don't actually expect me to believe that no one is going to notice him walking around do you? I mean he's a pretty noticeable guy.”

 

“Was” Asuka corrected.

 

“Was???”

 

“Trust me on this…” Asuka told her puzzled friend. “…it's `was'.”

 

“How can it be was?”

 

“Because something happened a bit ago that really got to him. I'm not sure what but he has a totally different look now because of it” Asuka explained.

 

“But isn't the way he physically looks a huge part of his band's image?” This wasn't making much sense to Hikari.

 

“Yes it is” Asuka answered saying a lot more than a simple yes.

 

“I know so many people who are really not going to like to hear that…” Hikari said as she thought about the ramifications of mentioning such things. Even at her home she had a little sister who had a poster of that band on her bedroom wall. That meant nasty fireworks would be launched if Hikari let any bit of what she just found out slip.

 

“And that's why you shouldn't say anything. Not only will it make your life easier if no one knows that Shigeru Aoba is here, but I don't think he wants the public to know he has changed his look.”

 

Hikari could live with that. If no one knew he was at the festival then there would need to be no plans put into action to accommodate the situation. But that didn't mean Hikari wasn't making up some plans in her head just in case he got found out. Asuka was right about Hikari, the girl was very capable and dependable.

 

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

 

Because of Hikari's dependability the Sports Festival got off to a good start with only minor changes and one comical flub. Apparently when the school's principal asked for the head of the student council to come up to the podium and start off the event after his opening words, Tokyo-4 High School's president of the student council didn't think he was being talked about and remained in his seat.

 

The principal was asking for who was in charge and it never occurred to Satoru Yasuda that he meant him and not Hikari. He wasn't the only one in his defense though as half the school thought the principal was calling for Hikari too.

 

But Hikari was on top of things as usual and prodded the president to get up and do his duties. That was what was comical.

 

And after the start of the festival came the first event and along with that the first commanding lead on the score board for class 3-B. The new rules didn't change things one bit as the class with the Marduk candidates was still as dominant as ever. They ended up sweeping the first two events handedly as the rules did nothing to stop the boys from winning their relay and the girls from winning theirs.

 

Normally that would mean little to Asuka as it was only one of many events she would be participating in, but this time around the rules said she wasn't able to do most of them. That meant she got to rest from now till it was time for the cavalry race, which incidentally was near the end of the day. The senior's cavalry battle was one of the big popular events so it was saved till last. While many of the other classes saw Asuka having to sit out for the rest of the day a chance for them, Asuka knew better. She was simply the best female athlete in the class, not the only one. The rest of the girls from the special group, along with some of the other girls, were all still good athletes themselves. Good enough where the other classes still didn't stand a chance.

 

Asuka could rest at ease knowing that. And resting was what she planned to do as she walked over to where her family and friends were. She would hang out with her classmates and cheer on her class later on, for now she wanted a nap. And she found someone waiting for her over there, but it wasn't who you are thinking.

 

Shinji was actually helping out Hikari as one of the boys who was participating in the relay race strained a muscle, this boy was also one of the people who volunteered to help out with an event going on right now so Hikari had to replace him with someone who was free. Shinji fit that description and was now helping measure the long jump. All through out this day Hikari would go to her main group of friends to help out with these little problems as they were people who she could rely on.

 

The person waiting most anxiously for Asuka was actually Keiko. “Mommy say you win!”

 

“Yup, we won” Asuka answered the precocious three year old as she sat down against the tree.

 

“You run really fwast Asa.”

 

Asuka nodded her head yes to that. “And now I'm tired, so I'm going to take a nap.”

 

“So unless you want to take a nap with her you have to leave her alone now” Mommy said stepping into the conversation.

 

Asuka wasn't there to play with her but to rest, that realization caused a complex dilemma for the little raven haired child. She sort of wanted to be with Asuka and it might not be bad to rest her head on Asuka's lap while Asuka napped. But on the other hand Rei was holding little Ritsuko right now. That meant Rei was paying attention to someone who was not her, while she was in plain sight, and she didn't know if she liked that. She was three years old, going on four, and sharing is an incredibly hard thing for them to do at that stage.

 

Both Misato and Asuka smirked while looking at the befuddled child. She was thinking very hard obviously about her choices and not sure what she wanted more. Both Asuka and Misato knew what the answer would be though and were not surprised when Keiko answered “I not tired now” and went over by Rei to try and horn in on the attention getting going on over there.

 

“Jealousy wins out again” Asuka commented with a grin.

 

“Usually does at that age” Misato answered with motherly knowledge.

 

“More than just that age” Asuka said more towards her introspective self than Misato.

 

Misato just simply smiled at that truth and then left her alone so she could grab a nap. Then she went over by Rei to try and stop her little girl from being such a pest.

 

As for why Rei was over there already, the answer was simple. She was snubbing her classmates. Most of her female classmates didn't care much about her doing this nor did they blame her. She after all got stuck with the long race and they knew she did not want to run it. So most of her female classmates could understand why she was miffed at them. But on the same page those classmates weren't going to do anything about it, as well, none of them wanted to run the race. The only way they could appease Rei was to trade events with her but that wasn't going to happen. That meant Rei was going to spend her time over with her friends and family.

 

That group of people consisted of family; Misato, Kaji, and Keiko. And the friends were Maya, Makoto, little Ritsuko, the kindly Professor Fuyutsuki and a few more. Sitting next to this group was the Horaki family as Maya and Asuna had become close friends over the time that had passed. Both were relatively new mothers and bonded over the overwhelming life change. Also there was a person in this group that the public didn't seem to recognize. He was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, but so were a bunch of other people as it was a sunny day, and had short hair with a goatee. And accompanying him was a pretty woman that Rei knew quite well. After all she worked with this woman and technically this woman was her supervisor at work. Shigeru had shown up to enjoy the day with Hatoko and the general public was none the wiser.

 

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

 

No one, other than Shigeru himself, was happier about him being unnoticed than Hikari. A huge worry was wiped away instantly the second he showed up as she didn't recognize him at all and she even knew who he was. But one worry got replaced by an annoyance as some girls were complaining about how she set up the end of the obstacle race. They were complaining that she was rigging it by putting out easier things to find for the scavenger portion of the event for her class than the others.

 

Hikari reaction to this pettiness was to take all the different slips of paper she randomly placed on the table and put them into a bucket. This way total randomness was assured. “You happy now Kaede?”

 

Lots of people backed away from Hikari when she said that due to the vice president's voice and posture. Her hands were on her hips, her foot was tapping, and she was very much in a looming stance. And the way she replied to Kaede was like she was admonishing a child, not asking a question. You could very easily take this as someone was questioning her integrity and sense of fairness and the vice president of the student council was not one to take such slights lightly.

 

Kaede herself was just shooting off her mouth so when Hikari confronted her, she backed down quickly. She wasn't really trying to attack Hikari and suggest she was cheating, she just wanted to float that thought in case class 3-B won this event too. Right now the other classes were getting obliterated and already people were trying to make excuses, and with Asuka napping away under a tree they couldn't blame her like usual.

 

And it wasn't only the truly athletic events they were winning, it was the fun kitschy events as well. This caused Asuka to laugh her pretty little ass off from the sidelines. She had woken up after an hour or so and just in time for the bean bag toss to start. And sitting on her lap was a completely enthralled Keiko. This was just like a game she had at home that she would play with her daddy. “Asa! Asa! I wanna pway…”

 

“Maybe when everyone is done we can play” Asuka told her as she didn't see the harm in letting the little girl try later on when all the other classes where done.

 

That kind of answer meant she would have to wait but it was still a yes so Keiko squealed with joy. It would be so much more fun to play the big person version of the game versus the little one she had at home that just had a little bucket and a couple brightly colored bean bags.

 

From beside them came a chagrined “Sure you can promise her that but who do you think is going to have to go out there and play with her?”

 

“Well you of course” Asuka answered Kaji, not even caring that she had made this decision for him. After all it was always Kaji who played the game with her at home so it was pretty much guaranteed who would be out there in front of everyone playing the grander version.

 

“There Shini, Kenthay, and Rei!” Keiko exclaimed excitedly as she saw them out there.

 

“Yup” Asuka answered her. “They're going to win it for our class. Can you cheer them on?”

 

At that the little girl could do, much to the embarrassment of Shinji and Rei who were not looking for any special attention. Keiko was being all cute with her cheering them on so she was garnering a lot of attention. And it was simply natural human nature to look at who she was so cutely cheering for.

 

Shinji didn't really do anything other than turn his back to the crowd so he couldn't see them looking at him but Rei shot a glare at Asuka for that encouragement. Asuka simply stuck her tongue out at the embarrassed blue hair child in reply.

 

“Sometimes she is completely impossible…” Rei grumbled to her boyfriend.

 

“Hard to believe she's a bigger pain in the ass while sitting out than when she's competing” he jested back.

 

“Not really” Rei sighed as all shooting Asuka a look did was get the brash redheaded girl to encourage Keiko to make an even bigger spectacle out of cheering.

 

There wasn't much Kensuke could say in return to Rei about that. Asuka was Asuka and just by paying attention to her, even if negatively, she would respond to you by doing something that got even more attention. He ended up looking over at Shinji. “Any chance you can get your nut job of a girlfriend to stop being a pest?”

 

Shinji turned around and saw something that made him say “Nope.”

 

“You could at least try.”

 

Shinji answered that question very quickly and that struck Rei as odd. She turned to look at what made him answer that way so fast. It wasn't Asuka as the girl wasn't even paying attention to them really, only goading on an overly excited little girl. But she quickly saw who made Shinji answer that way so quickly. Misato was watching everything that was happening and she was smiling, that explained everything. If he had to suffer a little embarrassment in return for making Misato happy she knew he would do it.

 

Rei too would now and she said “Just let her be for now” to her boyfriend and she took his hand and walked over to the cart with all the bean bags inside. “I suppose with all the people watching it would be a shame if we lost.”

 

At first Kensuke was confused about this quick turnaround by his girlfriend but he figured it out while they walked over to the cart, hand in hand. There was very much a happy family atmosphere floating about between everyone involved and Kensuke knew how important of a thing that was to the sometimes intrusive guardian of his. He also knew the persons whose hand he was holding feelings about such things were pretty much the same. Now he understood Shinji's quick reply and Rei's quick flip in acceptance about what was going on.

 

With all the different classes in their places the starting pistol was fired and the bean bag toss was under way. Lots of people were of course goofing off and not taking it seriously as there was some bean bags flying astray and hitting people, not going towards the basket, but Rei took the event seriously and tried. Last year she didn't and was lackadaisical about her throws, but this year just about every bean bag she threw made it in the basket. Same could be said with Shinji and Kensuke got his fair share in too. And spurred by three people taking the event seriously the rest of the people from class 3-B participating did too. Whether it was because of class unity or not wanting to get shown up by Rei and Shinji was not a question that needed to be asked. Mainly because whatever the reason the results was the same, class 3-B won the bean bag toss.

 

“Rei and Shini win?” Keiko asked as she couldn't tell if they did from their expressions. Sure the rest of the class was celebrating but Shinji and Rei weren't.

 

“Yup” and then Asuka whispered something to the incorrigible little cutie.

 

The result of the whispered suggestion had Keiko racing out from the sidelines and greeting Rei as the girl walked back over to her group of friends and family. And not only did Keiko greet Rei but she starting jumping up excitedly and wanted to do a victory dance with her. Now at home Rei would play along with this and dance with the little girl, yes she would feel foolish but that would be off set by the fact Keiko did this with anyone else who happened to be playing with her. But here, out in front of the public, that was not going to happen. Instead she picked up Keiko and hurriedly carried her back to where everyone was sitting. Only stopping once to glare at Asuka and say “You're a pest!” Even without dancing the whole ordeal was still quite embarrassing.

 

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

 

While Kensuke wanted to go sit with Rei he stayed behind with his classmates, he had a job to do after all. If anyone were to mention Rei not being with the class he would be quick to remind people why and lay on a thick coat of guilt. Basically he was trying to guilt trip any girl around into trading events with Rei so she wouldn't have to run the long distance race tomorrow. Sadly it wasn't working. But what was drawing attention was something people were noticing about Rei, she was very comfortable around kids. Not only was she seen holding little Ritsuko but also playing with Keiko and even held Hikari's little brother while Asuna needed to dig into a diaper bag for something.

 

“Ummm…. Rei is like really good with kids… ???” Rini was completely surprised seeing that. It just wasn't a skill you equated with the blue haired girl when you looked at her.

 

Kensuke though knew that and nothing seemed out of the ordinary to him. “Yeah, so?”

 

“I just never thought she would be” Rini answered.

 

“She can do anything anyone else can” Kensuke simply answered.

 

“Nah” Asuka said interrupting the conversation as since she was rested now she figured she should check in on her class and hang around with them now. “She can do anything better than anyone else… just like me. You really shouldn't underestimate your girlfriend there Kensuke.”

 

Some of the people around sort of sighed at that bit of teasing. Yes Asuka was just having some fun and causing light hearted trouble as usual but what she said had a ring of truth to it. Rei was much smarter than normal, many viewed her as prettier than normal despite her unusual looks, she was seen by her classmates as more mature than them, and a lot of them suspected she was superior in athletics as well. She always shied away from competing during gym class and quite a few thought she didn't try that hard during it either but while they would be working up a sweat Rei always seemed to be going through the motions and staying level with them, not ever better but always level. The difference was Rei never broke a sweat doing that. And if that didn't convince you she was a superior athlete the fact she was part of a team that won a national championship should of. Normal people didn't accomplish stuff like that

 

“I don't underestimate Rei” Kensuke said in rebuttal. “I know what she wants said and not said.” Basically Kensuke was telling Asuka to stop putting Rei up on the pedestal the girl belonged on because Rei didn't want to be up there. She wanted to be with the average person and live quietly.

 

“You baby her too much” Asuka said with a roll of her eyes as she knew exactly what she was just told.

 

“You are the last person on this planet who's allowed to say that” Kensuke shot back. “If anyone's babied too much it's you.”

 

“I'm not babied” Asuka clarified. “I'm spoiled rotten. There's a difference.”

 

“Just because you say there's a difference doesn't mean there really is” Kensuke challenged back as he could tell Asuka was playing the semantics game and twisting things to her favor.

 

“Says who?” Asuka asked with supreme arrogance. “If I say there's a difference then there's a difference.”

 

“And just who are you to have the final say on everything…” right after he said that he let out a “ … shit” as he walked right into that one.

 

Just because he recognized the trap after he stepped into it didn't change that fact he stepped in it as Asuka bragged “I am the great Asuka Langley Sohryu!”

 

The rest of the class giggled at that, Asuka set him up perfectly so she could give that answer.

 

Kensuke though wasn't done fighting. He was only caught, not immobilized. “Fine, if I'm guilty of babying Rei too much then you're even guiltier of babying Shinji.”

 

That zing hit the bull's eye as Asuka didn't have any words to reply to that. She was being an egotistical braggart right now, not a hypocrite.

 

The rest of the class instantly saw that Asuka was at a lost for words and jumped on the sign of weakness. For many of them this was the first chance ever that they had to do such a thing. She almost never lost an argument, even if it was one in jest.

 

“You know, she really does let Shinji hide behind her a lot” one of the girls from the class said with another adding on “And you seem happy when he's behind you.”

 

Kensuke grumbled to himself about that. He had finally gotten Asuka good and someone else just said something that gave her an escape.

 

And he was right as Asuka developed a dirty smirk “You have no clue how happy I am when he's behind me… he's so good!”

 

From behind Kensuke there was a “She's good.” Asuka had perfectly rerouted the conversation and know instead of everyone thinking Kensuke had just beaten her she had them thinking about sex. The giggling going on was proof of the flawless mind game success.

 

“She's impossible” Kensuke said repeating his girlfriend's earlier words and then asked “You need something?” as Hikari wouldn't have come over if she didn't need some help.

 

“Could you help out with the ball toss?” Hikari asked. All the different grade levels are doing it at once and there isn't enough people helping out over there.”

 

“Sure” Kensuke said and then took off. Arguing with Asuka about trivial things was something he could always do so it was no big deal to drop it and go do something for Hikari.

 

Hikari then looked over at Asuka “Sorry about that but I needed some help.”

 

“No problem” Asuka said back as she didn't care about the interruption. Hikari had a good enough reason after all. “Need anymore help?”

 

“Later on I will” Hikari answered as if Asuka was offering she would accept. “I need a representative from each class to help officiate the obstacle course.”

 

“Why do you need so many people for that?” Asuka asked as she starting walking away from the class with Hikari. Her friend was a busy person so she didn't have time to stop and chat, if you wanted to talk with her you were going to have to follow her around while she worked.

 

“Someone is having a fit over the fact only one girl is going to be watching if someone fidgets during the kneeling part. They think whoever I choose is going to be impartial towards their own class.”

 

“So you need someone from each class to judge then” Asuka said catching on.

 

“Yes” Hikari answered. “This way no one can gripe anymore and since there's an odd number of classes we can't have a tie either.”

 

A well thought out answer to the situation, Asuka didn't expect anything less from Hikari. “So who's making waves now?”

 

“I'll give you one guess” Hikari grumbled.

 

“Kaede?” It was no surprise to Asuka that Hikari nodded yes to that.

 

“Why is she being such a pain in the ass about this?” Hikari then griped. “I mean she's the one who designed out the course and made most of the rules up in the first place.”

 

“Because when she designed the course she made it so either she or one of her friends from the gymnastics team would win” Asuka explained. “They probably never thought for a second that Rei would enter it and now that she has they know she's going to kick their asses. So now they are trying to make up as many excuses as they can to try and not look bad.”

 

“Serves them right” Hikari said. There was no doubt in her mind that Rei would win the event and win it by a large margin. She knew Rei as well as Asuka and was thinking the same thing as her red headed friend. Rei's emotions were going to get the better of her when she lined up on the same start line as Kaede and that meant the girl would not hold back in beating the person she saw as a rival she couldn't lose to. And when Rei gave it her all she could be a scary competitor. All you had to do was ask Mai about that, she remembered what happened during that race her swim team lost very well. Absolute determination out of your rivals was not something you wanted to experience.

 

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

 

Originally Rei was planning on staying even with everyone for the obstacle course. She didn't want to stand out in any way so she thought it might be better to barely win the event. That way she wouldn't let down the class and also no one would be surprised, in fact she was thinking of saying she only won because she was lucky enough to pick something easy to find at the end. All that thought and planning flew out the window the second she stepped up to the starting line though. Kaede was there and just the sight of the girl made Rei's blood boil and she was unable to hold onto her emotions. Her friends were right about her as all logic disappeared from Rei's mind and the only thing she could think about was beating the bloomers off this girl. There was going to be no holding back in this event for the suddenly incensed teen.

 

From further down along the course Asuka smiled. She could see the intensity in Rei's eyes and knew this race was already over. She wasn't the only one either as one of Asuka's cheerleading friends was also helping out. Tia took one look at Rei and said “She's pissed.”

 

“Oh yeah” Asuka chuckled. “But can you blame her? It is Kaede she's up against.”

 

Tia couldn't. Rei and Kaede weren't rivals in a sense of two schoolgirls who didn't like each other, they were rivals in the case of love. That meant there were no rules and the only thing that mattered was the complete and total defeat of the other girl. “Just how fast is Rei?” Tia asked as like most of the rest of the school she had no clue about Rei's true potential.

 

“Don't even bother asking that question” Asuka answered. “Rei's going to blow everyone else away. There's no doubt in my mind about that.”

 

That made Tia sigh. At first when she saw Rei as the representative for 3-B she was thinking her class had a chance of winning this, but now those thoughts were gone. The absolute declaration of victory by Asuka wasn't simply a show of support for a friend and classmate, it was based on knowledge and experience. Asuka obviously knew something none of the other girls acting as officials did and that was why she said what she said.

 

After Tia sighed so did the rest of the girls. This just wasn't fair, class 3-B had no weaknesses even without Asuka doing most of the competing.

 

And all those sighs were justified as Rei completely got wrapped up in her emotions and totally forgot she was being watched, that meant she didn't hold back when the starter gun sounded. Right away she was in the lead as she outran the girls and made it look like she had been running hurdle races all her life. And it only got worse for the other competitors as Rei went from a dead sprint to a straight jump up to the first hurdle. And she barely slowed down as she ran across it.

 

That was not how it was supposed to be. You were supposed to have to stop running and crawl up on the beam and then slowly stand up and walk across it to keep your balance. Not simply jump and sprint across like Rei just did. Granted the girls in gymnastics could walk across the beam much quicker than most of the other girls in the school but none of them, other than Rei, could sprint across it.

 

And that ability to run across the beam and stay balanced meant Rei's lead lengthened. So much so that by the time the second place girl was barely halfway across the first balance beam Rei was already crawling under the next obstacle, the cargo net. It was sort of odd seeing Rei do that but it was even odder to see her doing it well. She seemed to have no problems crawling under the net and if you didn't know any better you would think she had trained to do it. Of course her being good at that too just meant her lead lengthened again. And after that it was back to the balance beam, which she zipped across in no time.

 

After leaving the rest of the girls in the dust Rei was at the obstacle in which the other girls would catch up and be beside her. That didn't mean she wasn't still in the lead but the other girls were going to have to sit very still and hope Rei fidgeted while in the kneeling position in order to catch up. Because moving meant a whole minute penalty.

 

Of course that was all wishful thinking by the other girls, if anything they should have been concentrating on themselves not moving. Because Rei ran up to the X on the ground where she needed to kneel and immediately froze in place. Not one single movement from the girl was noticeable other than a few strands of hair fluttering in the light breeze of the day. It was almost intimidating to the other girls how still Rei could be.

 

Tia rolled her eyes when she saw Rei come to her spot and kneel. “Like this is even a challenge to her. I saw her kneel without moving for a half hour once.”

 

“You've seen Rei at work?” Asuka asked.

 

“Uh huh” Tia said back and explained. “One of my cousins had his wedding rehearsal dinner at Shin Seiki's and she was one of the serving girls. At first I didn't even recognize her because she was wearing a wig and all that other makeup stuff.”

 

“Her eyes give her away?” With all that makeup, the outfit, and the wig that would be the only way Asuka could think anyone would recognize Rei.

 

“Yup…” Their conversation got interrupted as one of the girls moved her foot. “Chika moved.”

 

The rest of the girls judging this event all agreed and that meant a one minute penalty for the girl that was in second place. Now Rei's lead was even bigger.

 

While still watching all the girls kneeling in place Tia continued talking to Asuka. “She was like the lead service girl so she only served the head table so I didn't notice till the very end when she was bowing to everyone as we left.”

 

“She didn't say anything the whole time, did she?”

 

“Nope, not one word. She was like a complete professional. Then when I told my mom that she was someone from my school she didn't believe me. She said there was no way a high school girl could do that job as good as she did.”

 

“I would agree with your mom” Asuka said thinking about it. Asuka could count on two fingers the number of girls her own age that she thought would be dependable and mature enough to do a job like that. And she was definitely not counting herself as one of those two.

 

“If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes so would I” Tia said and then heard a timer go off. Rei's four minutes were up and since she didn't move even the slightest bit in those quick minutes to her she did not have to sit there an extra minute as a penalty.

 

Rei reacted so quickly to the ending timer that some girls thought she might have jumped the gun and moved early, but it was only two and they were voted down by the others. “It's not Rei's fault she can react to the timer faster than you” Tia said to the accusations. “Gawd… you girls are so petty about her.”

 

The two girls in question were the girl judging from Kaede's class and a girl from the gymnastics team. Obviously they had it out for Rei and were trying to slow her down. But while they were failing miserably Asuka was paying attention to Kaede herself. The girl turned her head to see Rei take off. “Kaede moved her head. That's a one minute penalty.”

 

That was followed by a “No she didn't.” “I didn't see her move.”

 

“Well if you would have been paying attention instead of whining you would have” Asuka said right back as a couple other girls said they saw Kaede move too and they outnumbered the two saying she didn't.

 

Kaede was absolutely steamed about all this. Not only was she loosing badly, but she wasn't getting her way even with two friends as judges. And what was worse was the look in Rei's eyes when she got up. It was only for a split second but they connected eyes, and Rei's eyes clearly showed who the superior person here was.

 

Originally the kneeling obstacle was supposed to tire out your legs and make that last balance beam difficult to walk down. But it did absolutely nothing to stop Rei. She jumped up on it and sprinted across it like nothing was the matter.

 

Kensuke was sort of rubbing his temple when he saw that, this was so not good. And from next to him came an “Ayanami's scary when she's serious.”

 

“You have no idea” Kensuke could only say in return to one of his friends from class. “And it's all for nothing too” Kensuke continued on in frustration. “There isn't even a competition, she doesn't have to do that.”

 

Half the people that were listening in didn't get that while the other half did. Kensuke was not talking about the obstacle course at all. “A chick is a chick is a chick” that same kid chuckled. “You can tell them a million times otherwise but they're always going to see it as a competition.”

 

On the other side of Kensuke was Mai and he looked over at her. He figured she might take offense to that statement.

 

He figured wrong. “What?”

 

“That doesn't bug you?”

 

“Not really” Mai replied. “It's the truth after all. Someone wants what you have, you beat them no matter what.”

 

Kensuke could only sigh at all the giggling from the other girls around. None of them were going to hold what Rei was doing against the girl. She had a right to stick it to Kaede and it didn't matter what Kensuke thought about this matter. So what if his wishes and desires made the competition a completely mute point, this wasn't about him. This was about one girl telling another “He's Mine! Back Off!”

 

All this rivalry was short lived though, for as soon as Rei picked what she had to find in the scavenger hunt all the animosity disappeared and her mind cleared. On the little slip of paper was written something very simple for her to find. `A little sister'

 

The way that was phrased meant Rei could pick a whole variety of people. It was only asking for “A” little sister. That meant Rei could have chosen Yuma who was nearby and cheering her on, she was a little sister of Mai's after all. But Rei ran by her. Hikari was watching over everything as part of her duties and Rei could have grabbed her too, after all she was a little sister to Kodama. But Rei ran by her too. There were a bunch of other female classmates around who fit the description of a younger sister, but Rei ran past all of them. Only one person in this world fit the description of a little sister to Rei and she made a beeline straight for Keiko.

 

“I need her” Rei said hurriedly to Kaji as he had his little girl upon his shoulders so she could see everything.

 

Kaji smirked as he saw what was written on the piece of paper and gladly took Keiko off his shoulders and handed her to Rei.

 

Keiko was a bit confused by this and asked “What goin' on?”

 

“You're what I need to find” Rei said.

 

“Me???” Keiko replied with eyes full of stars. This might be more play time with Rei.

 

Rei nodded yes to that and took off with Keiko in her arms while the little girl beamed a huge smile. She was getting to play a lot today.

 

Misato noticed the big grin on her husband's face and asked “What was on the piece of paper?”

 

“You sure you want to know” Kaji answered still smirking. “You might start crying if I tell you.”

 

“Out with it already.” Her husband was being coy and playing around with her and that just made her even more curious.

 

“Okay, but don't say I didn't warn you…” while Kaji was being coy, he was also telling the truth. Family was a huge thing for his lover and knowing that was how Rei thought of Keiko was something he knew Misato would be affected by. “Rei had to find a little sister.”

 

Just about everyone in this group of people smiled at that, Rei's grasp of family made her do something noble, if not a touch cute. Misato though was moved to tears. This was definite confirmation that Rei really did think of the group of people Misato had gathered together as family. Traditional or not they were a true blue family.

 

Rei made it to the finish line well ahead of everyone else. In fact the girl in second place was just getting off the last balance beam and hadn't even picked what she had to find yet. This girl wasn't Kaede either so Rei absolutely crushed her rival in this race. By now though Rei didn't care about that, she had a giggly and precocious little girl in her arms right now that was preoccupying her attention.

 

At the finish line was a teacher, whose job it was to make sure what was written down on the piece of paper each student grabbed was what they brought back. In this case it was Mr. Ohta and he took a look at Rei and who she had in her arms. Keiko fit the description of little sister in his mind and he gave Rei the thumbs up, which made her the winner.

 

Keiko was happiest about that as she liked to win. This caused another cute commotion for the little one, leading to a small bit of embarrassment for Rei. But it wasn't too bad as it was Keiko after all. Also it wasn't nearly as embarrassing as what would happen next.

 

Asuka was curious as to what was written on the piece of paper after she saw what happened. While Asuka was with her classmates she didn't Miss Misato getting all teary eyed, and it was the good kind of tears to boot. So after the race she went over to congratulate Rei, and Keiko too of course, and asked what she had to find. She smiled when Rei told her she had to find a little sister. Now she understood the water works from her guardian, and also agreed with Rei. When it came to little sisters Keiko definitely fit that description to her as well. She also knew what was in store for Rei when she returned Keiko to her mom.

 

Rei turned a deep shade of red when Misato gave her a huge hug. Misato was so touched by what Rei had done that she just had to do it, even if she knew it would embarrass Rei.

 

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

 

About an hour after the obstacle race Kaede was starting trouble again. Not only did she lose badly to Rei but that blue haired man stealer didn't even acknowledge her when she won. Kaede was expecting a quick glance from Rei to rub it in but the girl didn't even bother to look at her. In fact since the race ended Rei had been completely ignoring her and paying her complete attention to the people Kaede had seen her sitting with earlier. The last time she had locked eyes with Rei was when Rei got up from kneeling and tricked her into turning her head. Or at least that's how she viewed it.

 

Since then she had learned an interesting little piece of gossip, Keiko was biologically an only child. That of course meant she wasn't a true little sister and Rei cheated in bringing her back to the finish line. There was no blood relation between Rei, Shinji, or Asuka with the child of that Katsuragi woman so that meant she really wasn't their little sister. While getting Rei disqualified wouldn't make her the winner, Kaede still viewed it as a victory for her.

 

“Mr. Ohta!” Kaede called out when she finally tracked him down. “I have to talk to you about something.”

 

“And what is that?” Mr. Ohta asked.

 

“The person Rei brought back wasn't a little sister” Kaede said feeling a surge of vindication. “I learned she's an only child so she can't be a little sister. That means Ayanami cheated.”

 

“I beg to differ” Mr. Ohta said back crushing this petty girl's vindication with a little lecture. “The Katsuragi family may not all be related by blood but they are a family none the less. Remember the times we are living in, a lot of people have lost their families and have come together to form less traditional families. That does not make them any less of a family and I suggest you think about that.”

 

“But…but…” Kaede didn't think for a second she would get rebuffed so soundly.

 

“But nothing” Mr. Ohta interrupted this student. “I made my decision based on what I knew of Miss Ayanami's family and I believe I made the correct decision. Keiko Katsuragi is the little sister of Rei Ayanami so she was a valid selection for what Miss Ayanami had to find.”

 

The conversation with this teacher was over at this point. Kaede had lost as the teacher made it quite clear his decision was final. But Kaede wasn't going to give up, there had to be a person who would listen to her complaint. At first she tried a couple other teachers but they all either repeated Mr. Ohta's lecture or said since he was the judge whatever he decided was what would be. Unfortunately when she tried to go over the teacher's head by going to the principal she ran into another roadblock, and a fifteen minute lecture on how she should be more sympathetic of non traditional families.

 

Since going to adult authority figures wasn't working Kaede switched tactics, she went after the student council members. First person she tried was the student council president, Satoru Yasuda. “Hey Satoru! Wait up for a second.” Kaede called out. She was thinking she should have tried this route first, after all she was on a very formal basis with the student council president. They had an encounter or two at some parties.

 

“And what can I do for you Kaede?” Satoru said looking her up and down. Kaede had been a pretty fun person to fool around with in the past so he was quite gracious in responding to her.

 

“You can help me get Ayanami disqualified from the obstacle course” Kaede said straight up. “The girl she brought back wasn't a little sister.”

 

“I thought she was Ayanami's, Ikari's and Sohryu's little sister” Satoru said back not understanding. While he didn't know all the facts around the Katsuragi family he did know all those people were connected to each other through that name.

 

“No she isn't” Kaede disagreed. “She isn't related to them by blood so she can't really be a little sister to them.” At first Kaede thought she was going to get her way but then she saw the look on Satoru's face change drastically. Before he was being a touch smug and looking at her like he was interested in maybe having some fun. Now he was looking at her with great offense.

 

“What does blood relation have to do with anything?” Satoru asked feeling like he was slighted.

 

“You can't be related to someone unless it's through blood…right?” Kaede was getting more unsure of herself with every word she said. Mainly due to Satoru looking more and more upset with every passing word.

 

“Like Hell!” Satoru cussed. “I'm not related to my big sister by blood but I still think of her as my big sister. I don't know why you're being such a bitch about this but let me tell you this, you're lucky. You didn't loose anyone in your family, a lot of the rest of us can't say that.” Satoru was feeling very insulted right now due to what Kaede said. Shortly after he was born he lost his mother due to the devastation surrounding second impact. Eventually his father remarried another woman who had lost her husband to the same tragedy. Along with that woman came a daughter four years older than Satoru. That meant there was no blood relation between his sister and him but since he grew up with her and they were like real siblings he thought of her like that. To be told that wasn't true was rather upsetting to him.

 

As Kaede watched her biggest ally walk away in disgust she was forced to go to her last option. The president of the student council was not who was really in charge, the vice president was. That meant Kaede would have to go complain to Hikari again. She already knew Hikari was fed up with her so she was hesitant to do this. But as the situation ate away at Kaede her desire for revenge grew too strong for her to ignore. She went to Hikari to complain.

 

This proved to be a horrible mistake by the vindictive teenage girl as she had pushed too many of the student council vice president's buttons already today. Hikari didn't even say anything in response, she just grabbed Kaede by her shoulder and led her over to a certain person. “Kaede would like to explain to you how Keiko is not really Rei's little sister.”

 

There was fear, lots and lots of fear as Kaede stared into the eyes of an infuriated mother. Misato Katsuragi was already a person Kaede never wanted to meet again in her life, now she was in front of her having said something that completely insulted and incensed the woman. Kaede was in for a lecture she would never forget.

 

Sadly this wasn't all that happened, nor the end of it. The tearing into by an absolutely livid Misato attracted the attention of Kaede's family, and when they heard the reason why, the shit hit the fan. Everything that Kaede was spouting was horribly hypocritical. After everything that had happened with Kensuke's mother neither of her parents could believe the words coming out of their daughter's mouth. They forced their daughter to apologize to the Katsuragi family and then dragged her home.

 

****^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^****

 

“There has been way too much drama today” Asuka commented as she stood by Shinji. The cavalry was up soon so they were getting ready. “And you know what, almost none of it has had anything to do with me.”

 

“You say that like it's a bad thing” Shinji said as the less drama to him, the better.

 

“I'm just not used to it” Asuka replied. “I'm usually the instigator of the drama, not a bystander to it.”

 

“I'm just happy it's all over with now.”

 

“I suppose that's a better way of looking at it” Asuka said as she could understand where Shinji was coming from. It was best if you didn't dwell on bad events. Those horrible night terrors were a testament to that.

 

“So, you ready?” Shinji asked as he saw two of their teammates for this event walking over towards them.

 

“For your head to be between my legs?...Always!”

 

The two classmates were greeted by a red faced Shinji. The two people in question were the same people who did this last year as they made a good team. Each team was composed of two boys and two girls with three of the people acting as the horse and one person up top acting as the rider whose job it was to try and swipe the headband off the rival riders. Of course Asuka was the rider. As for the horses, Shinji was the lead and the other two followed behind. It had to be this way due to how Asuka liked to ride her horse. She sat up mostly on the lead person with her knees bent and sort of directed where she wanted the horse to go by pressing against his face with her crouched down legs. That meant she was pressing against the boy's face with her inner thighs. Only one boy in this world was allowed that privilege so that is why Shinji's participation was mandatory. The other two people acting as the horse were behind and held on to Asuka's ankles, acting as support and balance. This setup was atypical from the way most of the other teams setup but Asuka liked it best. It put her further forward and made it so she could be more aggressive with her swiping.

 

“What'd you say to him this time Asuka?” The other girl asked sort of already knowing the answer. Feisty smirk on Asuka's face plus flush to Shinji's equaled something naughty was just mentioned.

 

“Oh nothing” Asuka said still smirking. “I just reminded him how much I like this event.”

 

“Suuurrrreee you did” The girl giggled as she saw Shinji get even redder.

 

The other boy on this team chuckled along as well. Shinji was a pretty quiet guy but he was one that Asuka was known to brag about in the pleasing her category. That meant he knew what he was doing and should not be looked down upon for being embarrassed. After all he was nailing one of the hottest girls in school and having that girl brag about it, no small accomplishment. As you can guess by the familiarity and the fact these were teammates in the past both of these other people were part of the Marduk group. In this case the guy was known for being crafty and a bit of a tactician. “I think I know who we should go after first.” He then pointed at another team. “No way he stops doing what he's doing and that will mean she's going to be distracted.”

 

Asuka completely agreed as she crawled up on Shinji's shoulders. The other teams were using the traditional setup and that was causing trouble for one of the riders. Kaworu was acting as one of the horses in the back and his hands were not exactly staying where they were supposed to be. His claims of just trying to help her stay balanced must not have been very convincing as the rider on top was constantly turning her attention to him and telling him to stop touching her ass. “Taking her out first will be a big favor.”

 

“I wouldn't want that jerk touching me either” the other girl said grabbing on to Asuka's ankles in support.

 

“Didn't you go out on a date with him once?” the other guy asked.

 

“When we were first years I did” the girl said back and added on to that just why she thought he was a jerk. “He took me to a movie and some family restaurant and thought since he paid for the date that meant I owed him sex. I hate guys like that.”

 

“That's no surprise” Asuka said as they moved up to their starting position. That was simply status quo for that enemy to all women. Asuka then looked out at all the competitors, not a one looked intimidating. The cavalry battle was primarily a battle royale as the winner was the last team standing. Sometimes different classes teamed up with each other in the beginning to try and eliminate the competition but eventually they would turn on each other at the first opportune moment. “So should we draw this out and make a show of it, or just smash everyone right away?”

 

“People got upset last year when we did it too fast” Shinji said thinking about it. A lot of students thought Asuka was making fun of them last year with how quickly they won the event so that lead to some hurt feelings. “Maybe we shouldn't be too aggressive.”

 

“You just don't have that killer instinct do you Ikari?” the other guy chuckled.

 

“That or he really likes the position he's in” the girl joined in the joking.

 

Shinji of course didn't answer as the true answer might have been a bit of both. Asuka did answer though. “If Shinji says we should play nice then that's what we should do.”

 

The other two classmates just giggled at each other for that answer. It was a bit flustery and they could see Asuka was a touch red in the cheeks herself. Someone else might have liked this particular position herself.

 

Luckily for the two flustered teens the sounding shot was fired and the cavalry event was on. Just like they planned they headed straight towards the team Karowu was a part of and took it out. It wasn't even close to a challenge as the girl on top was so distracted by the boy below she was not paying attention to the charging team despite what the other two horses were shouting. “You can thank me later for getting you out of this so quick” Asuka said as her parting words. “But I think you really should slap him because he was touching your ass intentionally.”

 

Asuka didn't pay attention to see if that happened or not, it did, because she noticed something peculiar afoot. “Ha… looks like were being teamed up against this year. About time the other classes think of that.”

 

“What do you want to do?” Shinji asked from below as they all watched three different teams charge towards them.

 

“Hmmm?... We could take them head on…” That was one option but with the new rules this year that stopped the Marduk children from doing everything that meant her team was pretty well rested up. Usually by now everyone was pretty tired so they would get this over with quickly, but since they all had plenty of energy left a different course of action was taken. “But let's see how coordinated the other teams are instead. We're running.”

 

The teams that were teaming up to go against the favorite completely did not expect this to happen and were not ready for the consequences, they got run into the ground. It was impossible to keep up with the quartet as they were damn near sprinting across the field. This caused the chasers to tire quickly as they tried, and failed, to keep up. That or they got dinged up as the coordination was not up to par and they fell down. While that wasn't a disqualification and they could get back together to form the group again it meant the break up of the trio of pursuers as the three different groups were separated from each other.

 

After running around for ten minutes Asuka decided the group of chasers was broken up enough to go in for the attack. And one by one class 3-B swooped down upon the stumbling, bumbling, and wheezing other classes. In no time the three classes that had teamed up were decimated and only one other straggler class was left on the field. “Only one more to go” Asuka said and ordered her team to charge at full speed. They had played around enough, now it was time to finish this thing.

 

The other team saw them coming and went through with their well thought out plan. They knew all about the alliance against 3-B, they saw Asuka staring over at particular team right from the beginning, and they saw the other classes sizing each other up. So they did absolutely nothing. They simply moved to the edge of the field and waited for everyone to take each other out. And now that it happened and there was only one other remaining team, the one they expected, they put phase two into action. The girl on top took off her headband and held it out. “You can have it Asuka.”

 

Asuka had her team come to a dead halt in front of the other team. “You're not even going to try?”

 

“Sorry” the girl said back as she could see the disappointment on the red headed rider's face. “But we know we won't win and second place is good enough for us.”

 

“Especially since we didn't do anything” one of the boys from below said.

 

“So you let everyone else do the dirty work for you… not a bad strategy” the other guy on 3-B's team said as Asuka took the other girl's headband. This signaled the victory for class 3-B and also the end of the first day of the Sports Festival.

 

\\\\||||////

*********** OOO ***********

////||||\\\\

 

Shigeru had just finished up a long day at the recording studio with his band. And since they all had been crammed together for too long in that studio each member went out on his own in the search of dinner. Shigeru chose a deli nearby that happened to have an outdoor eating area. No one at the shop was too surprised by this anymore as this place got a lot of musicians stopping by to grab a quick bite to eat, after all the shop was located right across the street from the record company. The owner of this deli was all about the business strategy of location, location, location.

 

But Shigeru didn't stop by this place alone, he had his favorite dining companion with him. “Just one more song and you guys will be finished with the album.”

 

“Thank god” Shigeru said back to Hatoko. “I'm getting real tired of all the promotional stuff we have to do.”

 

“Well you're almost done so just stick with it” Hatoko encouraged.

 

“Producing another album would be much easier if it was about the music” Shigeru commented. “But after the first album it's all business.”

 

“Speaking of business, what was your manager going on about when you guys were leaving?”

 

“A pipe dream.” This answer was a bit nihilistic but also true. “He thinks we're holding out on all touring contracts till after the album goes up for sale. That way we can charge more if the album sells well.”

 

“You guys still haven't told him you're breaking up after you finish this album yet?”

 

Shigeru sort of looked away at the scolding look he was getting from Hatoko. “We will… when the time is right.”

 

“And when will that be?”

 

Shigeru didn't know the answer to that question, it was something he would have to talk about with his band mates. They knew it was something they had to do but none of them really wanted to do it. It would have to be a personal confrontation and none of these guys really liked that sort of thing. As for why Hatoko was able to speak to him like this, she earned the right. Publically she was just a friend of this popular rock band, but privately she was normal old Shigeru Aoba's girlfriend. A long talk was had after Shigeru's meeting with Li Mei and this was how things worked out.

 

Since he wasn't answering Hatoko dropped the question at a simple “It's better if you do it sooner than later.”

 

“I know… I will bring it up with the guys later.” Serious talk and stuff like that could wait as their food was being brought out and Shigeru was hungry. “I'm starving.”

 

“You guys worked through lunch again didn't you?” Hatoko had to work earlier today so she wasn't with the band while they were recording around that time.

 

“Yup” Shigeru answered and then chomped into his pastrami on rye. “We had problems with one of the riffs and then some of the audio equipment was acting up. By the time we got through all that it was already too late to grab some lunch.”

 

“For a band that's about to break up, you guys sure work hard.”

 

“What can I say, we love making the music... It's the selling part that we can't stand.” Truth be told while Nerv's of Steel would be breaking up after this album the guys would still be a band. They all wanted to go back to the old days when they could all get together and just jam at one of their houses. “And what about you?” Shigeru then asked. “Have you given an answer to Li Mei about her proposal yet?”

 

“Would you look down at me too if I said I wanted to take it?”

 

“Why would I?” Shigeru answered. “I think it's a great offer and something you could do. Who's telling you they would look down on you?” Shigeru wasn't exactly happy to hear that someone was picking on his girl.

 

“My classmates and professors” Hatoko answered. “They say I will be throwing away my education if I take the job.”

 

Business was real good at Shin Seiki's and many people noticed that, including some investors. They came to Li Mei and Zukav with a proposal to expand their restaurant to several locations around the city. They didn't want to carbon copy the restaurant in it's entirety so much as create hubs where there would be take out and delivery along with a sit down family restaurant. At first Li Mei wasn't too sure about this idea but eventually she was persuaded it could work, but on one condition. The investors were not allowed to run the restaurants. They would be completely under the management of the people she selected to run them and they would operate in the same friendly way she ran her restaurant. The investors weren't exactly happy to hear that as while Shin Seiki's was popular and profitable the profit margins of this place could be better than what they were. Li Mei and Zukav tended to spend too much money on their employees. But Li Mei told them they had to take the deal or leave as she wouldn't compromise. She didn't want her restaurant to be turned into a chain where quality of food and treatment of employees would be sacrificed to maximize profits.

 

“I don't think you're throwing it away at all” Shigeru said back. “Life is strange. Sometimes what you think you want to do isn't what you end up doing.”

 

“I suppose” Hatoko said thinking about it some more. “I mean I'm very flattered that Li Mei wants me to run one of her restaurants but I wonder if I'm ready.”

 

“She wouldn't have picked you if you weren't. You're a very dependable woman and I think you could handle it with no problem.”

 

Hatoko blushed at that statement of support. It felt very good to hear that from someone that was so special to her.

 

The thing is when Shigeru said that he wasn't saying it to be sweet, he was saying it because that was what he believed. So when he saw her blush he started blushing too.

 

This would have been a nice romantic moment if it wasn't for a camera flash going off while the two looked at each other. Not only did this invasion of privacy interrupt the moment, it completely destroyed it. The outside eating area of this restaurant was in the back and away from the general public, which is why a lot of musicians liked this place, so to have your picture taken at it meant it was done by someone being sneaky and hiding in the bushes out back. I.e. the paparazzi.

 

“Son of a bitch!” Shigeru cursed out loud. “Can't you bastards let me have dinner in peace!?” If anything Shigeru was more pissed off about having his private moment ruined than having his picture taken unexpectedly. This cause Shigeru to lash out and challenge this particular photographer, something the guy did not expect since Shigeru was not known for being temperamental. “Didn't you learn anything like respect or consideration for others from third impact? Why the hell did you bother coming back at all if you were just going to become a fucking parasite?”

 

The guy in the bushes was taken back by the outburst and wasn't able to give any answers to this suddenly enraged rock star. The other diners at the restaurant were split down the middle on Shigeru's actions though. Some thought he went too far with his slander while others thought the jerk in the bushes deserved the tongue lashing he was getting.

 

But any feeble answer he would give was not worth hearing as Hatoko got up and went over to Shigeru so she could calm him down. “Lets just go home, okay? He isn't worth destroying your image over.”

 

Luckily for the paparazzi the rock star Shigeru Aoba agreed with his dining companion and left with her. Also luckily for the paparazzi he had a huge scoop as stuff like this was what they wished for. Who cared who the girl he was dining with was, he got a verbal explosion out of a celebrity that he could brag and sell the story about. Of course that was after he posted bail and got out of jail. The owner of this restaurant was not pleased with someone disrupting his customers and he called the cops and had the guy arrested for trespassing.

 

When the doors were closed on the car Shigeru and Hatoko got in Shigeru completely changed his emotions back to normal. “That should take care of that.”

 

“You know it's not the end of the world if we are found out” Hatoko told him as she didn't think what he just did was necessary. Basically she knew Shigeru played the paparazzi as a fool. By exploding at the guy she changed the tabloid headlines from pictures of them dining together to an outrageous scandal of him going off.

 

“I know” Shigeru answered. “But I really wish I could go out with you and not be bothered every time. All I want to do is spend some time with you as a normal couple.”

 

That was sweet and Hatoko surrendered to it. “That would be nice…” She may have wanted it too. Dating normal old Shigeru Aoba was complicated due to rock star Shigeru Aoba's presence. That got Hatoko to start thinking. “I wonder…”

 

Shigeru looked over at his girlfriend strangely as he could see the gears in her mind turning. “You wonder, what?”

 

“I wonder just how easy it would be to get rid of your rock star image?” Hatoko began. “During the winter you're able to go out because you can hide your hair and looks behind your clothes.”

 

“That's why I like winter the best now” Shigeru sighed as he really would like it if he could stay hidden behind bulky winter clothing.

 

“There are other ways to hide” Hatoko suggested and then asked “How long have you looked the way you do?”

 

Shigeru only answered with a questioning look at first. But then it dawned on him just what his girlfriend was saying. “Pretty much since Junior High. That's when I grew my hair out long.”

 

“Maybe it's time for a change then” Hatoko said running her fingers through his hair. I bet you would look just as sexy with short hair.

 

This was a nice bit of seduction Shigeru could definitely get in line with. Especially when Hatoko traced out where she thought he should grow a goatee with her slender fingers. He could only smile as he said “My manager is going to freak when he sees me tomorrow…” He had to stop there though as someone was asking for a reward for her bright ideas, and Shigeru was all for kissing her to show his gratitude.

 

 

 

Author's Notes: 

(A/N: And that's the end of this chapter. Chapter is late as usual but considering it is hunting season I'm surprised I was even able to finish it. Usually I don't do any writing during season. Later on I will probably re-post this chapter as it needs another proofread but for now it is good enough. Expect the next chapter out in 2 months. Have a good Halloween all.)

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