Light blinded Shinji.
Not the eerie purple light of Adam's dark energies, but a warm, comforting light. It felt good. Shinji could feel his pain fade, his body relax. He closed his eyes, better to pass into the eternal sleep.
Death... didn't seem so bad. It was a small comfort.
"You're not dead yet, idiot!"
Shinji's eyes snapped open.
Asuka stood by his side, beautiful and proud, body clad in crimson armor while her hand held her flaming sword. Auburn hair cascaded down her back while irrepressible sapphire eyes challenged him.
"Asuka! But... you..."
"We are dead."
Shinji looked to his left to find Rei there, mysterious and calm, in a suit of dark blue armor. She held a sword of pure ice, which seemed to freeze the very air around it.
"Doesn't mean we'll let ya fight all alone."
Touji stood behind him, stubborn and strong. Though clad in onyx armor, Shinji could tell it was different from the armor fancied by the dark elves. His was an amalgamation of the very elements of the earth itself, tough as the world.
"Guys! But... how..."
"You four have bonded the Holy Armor," he heard a foursome of fading voices in his head. "For all we are, we are defenders above all else. We shield, we protect, we safeguard, we Armor that which is most Holy; the souls of those who must face Lilith's great foe. As the soul does not die upon the expiry of the body, our service is beyond death."
"Fuujin!" he called out.
"No time to chat, Shinji!" Asuka said, her grin brimming with reckless confidence. "There's a god to kill!"
"Can we do it? Can we actually do it? He's so strong, I could barely touch him."
"We ain't stopping here," Touji gruffly replied. "When I start something, I aim ta see it done."
"It is possible," said Rei. "The means to fight Adam are already in your possession."
"I don't understand, what are you-? My swords...? But he broke the blades! What good are they?!"
Rei shook her head.
"Think back, Shinji, to when you first took your swords from their sealing box. They were a single blade back then, but they changed because you needed them to. Your swords, your sword, is a conceptual weapon that becomes what its master imagines it to be. They broke because you saw yourself defeated.
"But this sword was the one carried by Kawrou so long ago. It was blessed by Lilith to be the bane of Adam, to become whatever is needed to defeat him. If you will it, the sword can form a bridge between you and Lilith's realm, and we can join you in battle, if you will have us."
Shinji looked longingly at his fellow Chosen... no, his friends. They had all been through so much, each had given more than should have been asked. And now he was asking them to join him in pain and conflict...
They looked back, and there was no doubt.
Shinji welcomed them to his side.
"Let's do this," said Shinji, four voices speaking as one.
X O X
Adam had returned to unlocking the wards and barriers that protected Lilith. Fantastic weaves and divinely complex mysteries kept her safe from the world, but he had no attraction to the beauty they represented. For him they were merely impediments to reaching his old foe, draining her dry, and extinguishing those annoying, petty things she cared for so much. Really now, she was a goddess... she should have better taste in pets.
And then he felt it.
Turning his stolen face away from Lilith's abode, he looked down at the broken earth and saw... the impossible. Four warriors in one. A single body and four souls existing together that blazed with that terrible light Lilith loved so much.
X O X
In the storm of chaos that was Tokyo, Shinji stood and glared at the dark god. All the despair from before had vanished; in its place cold determination and burning confidence. His body was sheathed in thick onyx armor which clad his form perfectly. He could feel Rei's healing magic work its miracle upon his wounds, sealing them, making him whole again. Winds howled all around him. In his hands he felt the solidness of his sword hilts, the fragmented blades replaced by one of fire and the other of ice. In defiance, he pointed the flaming one at the distant figure of Adam.
"You're going down, asshole!"
Not the most elegant battle cry, but it was something all four of them could agree upon.
From his roar of indignation, Adam didn't seem to appreciate the sentiment.
X O X
Driven with the speed of the wind, Shinji juked and twisted from place to place. Dark bullets and unholy lightning slammed into the ground all around him, turning this destroyed section of Neriak crushed Tokyo even more dead than it had been already. Undead creatures flew in from all corners of the city but they all broke upon blades of ice and fire.
"How did you do this witchcraft?" the god boomed, teleporting hordes of undead around his foe. "Multiple souls cannot coexist in the same body! One must win, others must die! I know this! I had to burn Kaworu's soul! What you do is impossible!"
"You claim to be a god," Rei's voice said, "and yet you know so little."
Spinning and sweeping the Chosen's weapons through the hordes, the undead broke and fell. Boulders threw themselves at the monsters and ground necrotic flesh to paste. Wraiths and specters burned in holy firestorms, and the winds kept Shinji's body always just one step ahead of the godly artillery. "Two souls can't coexist," Shinji's voice said, "if they fight! And Kaworu fought you the whole time! I want my friends with me! I welcomed them in! That's all there is to it!"
"And dat's," Touji's voice shouted, "all we need ta beat ya!"
"I will not be stopped by the likes of you!" Adam thundered, and the world shook. He raised a hand and clenched a fist.
Shinji crossed his arms above his head. With a rumble, huge amounts of rock shot up around him, covering his body in a turtle shell of the very earth itself.
Colors inverted as the god brought his fist down. Adam smote the earth with a tremendous crash. This time, the earth held strong.
The colors returned to normal and the cracked earthen shell blew apart. Shinji leapt from the place as Adam called forth the arsenal of heaven. From all over the roiling cloud cover bolts of lightning streaked in towards a central point. "Fall mortal! Fall!"
As he did, Shinji felt Rei reach out through him to touch the water in air around them. Adam dropped his arm and the gathered lightning burst forth with uncountable bolts and accompanied by deafening thunder.
The lighting roared towards Shinji's body... and diverted. The water in the very air itself twisted, turned and flowed in a certain way. Following the new path of least resistance, the weapon of the gods curved back almost upon itself and thrust up... into the dark giant's face.
For the first time, Adam screamed.
"To fight a god, use a god's weapons," Rei said from Shinji's mouth.
"When I tried that I got zapped!" an annoyed Shinji replied in his own voice.
"Then you were doing it wrong!" Asuka snapped. "Now bring me something to ignite!" Shinji focused and caused multiple swirling gales to push air towards a single point in front of him. As the air rushed in Asuka thrust the fire blade into the middle of that inrush and poured in power. The fire burned hot, hotter, and suddenly burst into a magnificent bluish flame. The compressed air around it burned, then flared, then transformed into globe of raging plasma.
With a beastly howl Shinji drove the blazing ball toward Adam's titan. The ball fragmented into dozens of embers of scorching destruction which shot up, driven by the force of wind behind them. They smashed into the giant's body and exploded, venting their energy against solidified unholy magic. Dark energies burst apart as dozens of explosions cratered the front of the titan.
Adam cried out in rage and pain as his mount, his extension of himself, was battered and wounded. He fired off burst after burst of dark bullet energy, but menhirs and erratics tore themselves free from the ground and threw themselves into the path of his beams. And still bolts of raw burning plasma struck his huge giant, staggering and hurting him.
Finally the dark form shuddered, Adam having to stop his assault to reform his grip on the titan. It took his attention away for a moment.
Shinji crouched low. There was a horrible rush of wind and four tornadoes twirled into existence and slammed into his back. They blasted him free from the earth and thrust him up towards the giant at terrible speeds. Three menhirs called by the Earth Chosen flew with him like shieldmaidens.
"FALL!" Adam cried, Rei's face twisted into inarticulate rage. He directed his purple gaze at the human and exerted divine will. One of the menhirs interposed itself between the Chosen and Adam's sight, it becoming the point of focus and the stone twisted and imploded as reality warped. Shinji's body rocketed up past that point, approaching the titan's head. Lightning flashed all around him but the water in the air danced, directing the deadly electricity away from mortal flesh.
Crossing his arms in front of him Shinji called up all the winds he could and snapped his arms out. A crescent of howling vacuum blasted forth from his blades heading towards the titan's neck. A second later he pitched in midair and slammed the heel of his foot against one of the menhirs with him. With his kick it shot up after the vacuum cut like an arrow.
The blade of vacuum slammed into the giant's neck and actually rocked the head back, exposing the thin cut made into the dark flesh. The head was just starting to come back into proper place when the stone projectile slammed into the same location, breaking the neck open and cracking the titan's spine. The head separated from the thing's body, floating in the air drunkenly. Tendrils of dark energy shot out from the severed head, reaching down, touching the dark body. They started to pull the creature back together, but then a storm of fire exploded beneath the severed head. Tendrils burned in the great heat, shrivelling and turning to ash.
For a moment longer Adam struggled to hold his giant together, but the body was already decaying, breaking back down into smoke. Snarling, he dropped all control over the thing allowing even the head he had been travelling in to turn to vapour. Hovering, furious, he looked around for those puny mortals to kill.
Suddenly Shinji's body was right in front of him. Before Adam could act, Shinji thrust the ice blade forward.
With unbelievable speed the ice blade pierced black cloth, corrupted flesh, and slipped past rib bones. Adam's eyes widened in shock as the tip of the blade slammed into his cold heart. The ice hit the outside of the heart and penetrated no further. The jar ran up Shinji's arm. The dark god's eyes narrowed and he smirked. He opened his mouth to proclaim-
"I am taking back," Rei said though Shinji's body, "what is mine." Before Adam could say anything Rei converted the ice blade to water and hydro-pumped a torrent of water forward. Adam could only gurgle as he instantly realized his heart could resist the pressure, but not so his body.
With a terrible wet, tearing noise, the pressure of the water forced Adam's heart out of position, tearing veins and arteries in a bloody mess. The force of the water was so great that the stone heart broke out through the elf's back. Adam showed a terrible shock on Rei's features, before the light in the eyes dimmed and the shell of the dead elf woman dropped lifelessly away.
Falling towards the ground in a bloody, wet mess, Adam's heart psychically thundered into everyone's head. "NO! I AM NOT DEFEATED! I AM NOT! A THOUSAND YEARS, TEN THOUSAND, I WILL LIVE AGAIN!"
"Not this time!" Shinji screamed, following the foul heart down as it fell. "You may have escaped last time, but it's not just one Chosen now! You face all of us, and we will end this!"
The remaining menhir that followed him shot forward. One end of it cracked open like a flower, the stone petals surrounding the unholy heart like fingers. Then then slammed shut, sealing themselves and entombing the thing inside a stony prison. It then slammed into the battered earth with crushing force, but did not crack.
From far above, a thin stream of water snaked down from Shinji's ice sword, corkscrewing and twisting. Touching the rocky tomb it drilled the barest of slivers into the stone, reaching through to the surface of the foul heart beating frantically inside.
Falling, Shinji discarded the ice blade and took the fire sword in both hands. As it left his hand the ice blade flashed and dissolved into golden light, the particles streaming into the remaining blade. As he no longer needed two swords, the weapon no longer reshaped itself to match its current master's fighting style. Instead it returned to the form it had been before, back when Shinji first took it from the strange box that had been gifted to him by his unknown parents. And so, the weapon used by the first Wind Chosen reshaped itself into the form it had been when it had injured Adam so long ago.
Tornadoes blasted into Shinji's back again, the whole earth's winds driving him down beyond terminal velocity. All four Chosen drove all their powers into the blade, their separate voices raised as one as he shot towards Adam.
"THIS! ENDS! HERE!"
"NOOOO!" Adam psychically screamed as the single blade drove into the tiny crack in the earth tomb. Driven with incredible force and magnified with all the power four holy warriors could imbue it with, the blessed blade touched the heart... and broke through. Elemental energies and holy energies blazed forth, shattering, consuming, erasing the very darkness that made up Adam himself. There was nowhere for shattered fragments of the heart to flee as they had three thousand years ago, entombed as they were by unbreakable stone. They could only exist in this pressure cooker of elemental might and holy power. Little by little, piece by piece, after thousands of years and uncountable victims, the end came.
With a single, final *bang* more felt in the soul than heard in the ears... Adam died.
And with that, the energies of his passing were liberated into the world in the form of a massive pillar of bright white light.
X O X
The undead on the other side slammed into the door again. The wooden bar barricading the portal shut cracked, but didn't completely break.
Misato looked at the few people they'd managed to barricade in the room with them shiver in terror, but mostly looked at Kaji.
He returned her gaze, but with no smile this time, and no time for words.
The bar cracked. Misato hefted her sword in her tired arms once more.
Something different echoed from outside that door. Something that sounded like a thousand bodies hitting the floor at the same time.
And then... blessed silence...
X O X
Almost in a daze Kensuke watched as the dead... fell. There was no better way to put it. One moment he had been inches away from having his face bitten off by a wildly flailing ghoul and the next... it just fell inert over him. The bard kicked the corpse off and glanced sharply for the next attack to come. It didn't.
He looked around, blood still pounding with adrenaline and his mind still focused on the immediate fight for survival. For long moments he didn't understand what the silence and lack of motion meant. Heaving in great gulps of air, it finally dawned on him.
While it seemed the cadavers no longer hunted, death still surrounded him. The entrance of the Cathedral was littered with corpses. Aside from himself... was there anyone left alive? His memories of the last moments were hazy. The line had collapsed. Uncountable zombies had launched themselves at him. More had gone straight for the temple...
Somehow finding the strength to move, Kensuke limped into the Grand Cathedral. Where once it had been filled with voices and song, the place was now deathly quiet. There were corpses everywhere, the floor of this holy ground stained red. At the midpoint in the room, just past the statue of Lilith, there was a veritable wall of bodies. And that's when he heard them: voices! Voices of the living!
Stumbling forward he tried to climb the grotesque and vile wall, but the unstable structure shifted and buckled under his weight, flipping him forward.
Shrieks and yells answered his fall, and Kensuke ended up on his butt at the bottom. He raised his head... to stare into the point of spear.
"Wait! He's not dead!"
Kensuke looked up to see a young man - no, a boy really -- pointing a blood-stained spear at him. Looking beyond him, he could see a clutch of survivors huddled at the far end of the chamber. And among them were a group of priestess surrounding two familiar figures.
Kensuke pushed the spear out of the way and staggered back up. Ristuko was sitting in the middle of the group, Mayumi's head on her lap. Eyes closed, her face bloodless, the songstress wasn't moving.
Kensuke's knees gave out. "Mayumi..." he croaked out, his voice finally failing.
"She's alive," Ritsuko said, her voice sounding drained. "Just unconscious. Amazing... even after the Sentinel Tower spell matrix buckled and imploded, she kept singing. No matter how much it must have hurt to stand against that malevolent presence, she kept singing."
"It was... incredible," whispered another priestess, as if fearing to wake the other girl. "The dead... nothing we did could touch them, but with her it was as if a wall stood in front of them. They tried to break through... but couldn't."
"Such a beautiful voice," said another priestess, a hand pressed against a bleeding wound at her neck. "I've never heard anything so pure."
"You could feel the Goddess' grace in her voice."
Kensuke could only stare in disbelief. Members of the Church, that same Church who had branded Mayumi as tainted and abandoned her, now praising her?
A hand reached out for him, old and wrinkled. Kensuke looked up to see an elder priestess offering him a helping hand. "Have no fear, young man," said the elder. "We'll take care of our Sister. She is safe."
Kensuke watched the priestess and the other survivors... and knew she spoke the truth. He could see the admiration in their eyes. It was as if they saw Mayumi in an entirely new light.
It was the acceptance Kensuke knew she had always wished for.
And with that knowledge, Kensuke collapsed. Mayumi was safe, and the dead were at rest. For both this things to exist meant Adam must have been defeated. The Chosen had won.
They were safe. He could rest now.
X O X
There was darkness around him, but Shinji found he did not fear it. This ebony realm he found himself in was a comforting blanket of night. He felt like resting, allowing the hurts of the day to fade into nothingness while freeing the mind to aimlessly wander.
He was reclining on a soft nothingness, almost like he was swimming in a vast pool of warm, airy ink. Despite the fact he'd just been in a horrible battle he could not feel any hurts, nor even recall how desperate his struggle had been. All was calm. Here, all the world was at peace.
"I guess... I'm dead."
"Well... I'd like to talk to you about that."
The voice seemed to come from above him. Shinji looked up, and the quiet darkness before him parted like hands from before his eyes. Floating serenely above the young man was a woman clad in starlight and silver mist. Her skin was a rich brown, her long hair the emerald of the forest, and her features reminded him of Queen Yui. She smiled at him and he felt such a soothing peace enter his soul that he almost fell asleep from how relaxed it made him feel. Without straining at all he could feel the hum of immense power flowing from all around her.
"Er... are you a spirit?"
"Not quite," the woman's smile was a bit amused. "Aim a little higher."
For a moment Shinji's mind wandered aimlessly in the warmth and peace. Then, suddenly all the fuzziness in his head vanished as an icy cold realization shot through him.
"Y...you're... Lilith." She nodded. Shinji started to freak out. He was lying - floating? - on his back before a goddess. His goddess. What did one do when in the presence of the divine? Salute? Bow? Kowtow? Whatever it was, reclining on a blanket of nothingness was probably not it. It seemed discourteous.
"Relax," she said. "I came here to talk, and from what I remember about mortals, there won't be much talking if you work yourself into hysteria. Have this moment of peace. You and your friends have earned it."
"My friends..." Shinji suddenly remembered his friends. They had come to him in his most desperate moment, but they had been able to do that because they were... dead. He began to cry. He didn't know how long he broke down and wailed, but he cried and cried before his goddess. He cried more tears than he thought he could ever have, and then cried even more. As he wept, he felt the hurt lessen and retreat, becoming a dull ache in his heart.
Finally, he sniffed and wiped his face, looking up at Lilith. "I'm sorry."
"Do not be sorry. You cared for them, and their passing grieves you. I am... relieved... when my children show concern for the suffering of others. And without you having such concern, we would not be able to meet here."
Shinji sniffed one final time. "Where am I, exactly?"
"A transition point between this and what lies beyond. It is only here that I can manifest to you in such a way. I do so because I wanted to talk so to you."
He looked at her, suddenly anxious. What could the goddess want to say to him?
Lilith took a deep breath. "Shinji... I am so very sorry."
The Wind Chosen paused for a moment, then blinked. "Excuse me?"
"For what you and your friends and the world itself had to go through. Please accept my deepest apologies." She hung her head. "Would you please let me at least tell you the reasons why?"
Lilith raised her head and looked at him. "Shinji, I am a creature of will and thought. My imagination, my desires can change reality, but these things I create have no substance, no permanence; they are moonlight upon the water. I have great power, but almost no way of making what I desire stay. Here, in this place, nothing is permanent. Pushing my will into reality and making something true is very draining. As such, the world has many things about it I cannot easily change. I barely exist in the physical world.
"You mortals are different. When I think of something, it is, but no matter how much you desire something, mortal yearning does not bring it about. You cannot just dream, you must act. It is your actions that cause changes.
"But mortals have bodies in the physical and souls in the spiritual. A soul that has accepted me becomes a bridge connecting the two, one that I can flow power through. I can allow such a soul to make its desires manifest. What is desired can then become lasting, become true."
Shinji stared at her. The metaphysics went beyond him. "Why do you do this?"
"I do it because I feel a connection to all living thing. Strife and suffering hurts me, hurts the world, hurts the people upon it. When people are happy, content, fulfilled, they are enriched as I am enriched. While I am a goddess, I have a symbiotic relationship with people. I do not know if I could live without you, and to be quite honest, even if I could I do not want to find out."
Shinji nodded. He thought he kind of understood, he didn't really want to live alone either.
"You must understand, Shinji, that as a spiritual being, my thoughts and will are limited in ways that might seem strange to you. My very being is Creation. I can Create, not Destroy. When Adam was born, I saw what he could do, what torment and death he would unleash. I needed a way to fight him, but I could not turn my powers against him directly. I had to Create, and so I Created weapons to fight him. Your hands could go and bring down Adam in the physical world where I could not truly venture."
She closed her eyes. "It is a poor analogy, I know, but weapons need to be hammered into shape and tested in the heat of the forge. I am so sorry for that. I provided what aid I could and helped where I could inject my will into the world, but I could not make large changes without your direct aid. Adam, like you, straddled the physical and spiritual, and so it was only possible for mortals to bring about changes in the physical world through their own actions. I could help, but only people could save yourselves."
"So... why did you choose me? My friends? Wasn't there someone better to be your Chosen?"
She reached out a hand and gently stroked his cheek. "My Child... I wish I could explain it better, but I ask that you trust me in that I chose as I thought best. I did not give you these gifts to hurt you, but because I believed you and the others could triumph. I cannot prevent all tragedies, but I can provide the tools to help you fight your own battles."
She sighed. "I tried three thousand years ago with the first Chosen, but I... made mistakes. It didn't work out nearly as well as I had hoped. You could call it a trial run, but that would be disrespectful to the suffering those Chosen and the world endured because of it.
"But I learned from that, learned to provide a way to ensure all the Chosen could be present to fight Adam. The basic idea existed last time Adam walked the earth, but in practice... It took me a long, long time to get the system to actually work, but I finally Created a way for the Holy Armors to protect the Chosen's souls, and bind them together if any of them fell before they could fight Adam. It wouldn't keep the pain of their deaths from anyone, but now their loss would not doom the world." Lilith grimaced. "I truly wished that feature would not have been needed, but not even I can make the world a just place."
"I... think I understand," Shinji said. "We can't run away, and trust things to work out, we have to act ourselves to make our world a better place. Although... there's nothing wrong with accepting some help in doing so. I... I don't think there's anything to apologies for."
The goddess smiled. "Thank you. It's important to me that you understand that despite all my powers, I'm only divine."
While the word choice was unusual, Shinji thought he understood what she was getting at. "So, what's going to happen now?"
"For now I will have to sleep for a time. The creation of the Chosen and the use of so much energy has drained me."
"Not completely. My consciousness will be diminished, but I'm not leaving the world. My dreams will still touch the earth and I will laugh when people are free and happy. But I doubt I'll be talking to anyone for a while."
He felt sad at this bit of information. How was he to take this? He'd just met her and now she was leaving?
No, that wasn't right. It wasn't that he'd just met her, he realized he'd known her his entire life. It was more like saying goodbye to a long-time friend.
"But before I go," she continued, "I would like to give you a gift." She held up her hand and three small points of light appeared in the darkness beside her. "These are the souls of the others of my Chosen. I have spoken with each of them, in their own way. Because of how they perished and the large amounts of energies liberated from Adam's destruction, I can offer them a boon.
"I can Create a channel that will funnel Adam's ability of Destruction and Destroy their deaths. At this juncture, I can give them life again."
Shinji's heart started to beat frantically. "They... they'll be alive?"
"Yes. They will walk the land as true living beings once more." She looked troubled. "I can offer them some help, but a soul must chose to save itself. They will still have their spiritual wounds and I can give no promises about what the future holds for them."
She gently cupped the souls to her breast and held them tenderly. "But I believe in life. I must believe that where there is life, there is hope. If they want, they can achieve happiness."
While he had no more tears to shed, Shinji still sobbed. "Thank you! Thank you!"
"Go now, my Wind Chosen. Live a long life, live a good life. Be a kind man, and do what you think is best." She smiled and sighed softly. "I just wish you would not forget our meeting here."
A bright light emanated from Lilith, driving the darkness back and filling Shinji's eyes with its glory. "No mortal I have ever spoken to has clearly remembered what happened when I spoke to them." The light started to fill his body, his mind, and his soul. As his consciousness fled from him he could just catch the trail end of a voice. A voice that sounded exasperated.
"If only they could, I am sure it would have prevented some of the more silly arguments over dogma that some of my priests seem to revel in. I mean, honestly! What is a mother to do?"
X O X
It was the odd taste to the wind that woke him up. The scent that reached him was made up of the bitter bite of smoke, the metallic odor of blood, and the gagging rot of death. But along with that, mixed in with that horror was an elusive zephyr of clear air. Refreshing, cleansing, it lacked the overwhelming nature of the other aromas, but something about it being subtle gave it an allure that called to him and brought him back to consciousness.
Shinji opened his eyes and sat up. Blinking, he looked around in wonder at the mass of rubble and ruined buildings that lay pulverised around him. Yet beyond a certain perimeter of utter destruction he could see other buildings stand, damaged and broken, but still standing. Beyond that he could see the magnificent wall of Tokyo, and in another direction, Castle Tokyo.
It was quiet. He didn't hear the sounds of any other living thing, but he felt no fear over that. It felt... relaxing. Serene. Like waking up to a quiet morning. Despite the bad aromas, the wind felt cleansing against his skin.
What had happened? The last thing he remembered was... was...
There was a sound off to his left. He turned and saw a figure rise up from where they had been lying, unseen. The person moved slowly as if they were afraid the movement might hurt. But still they rose to their full height and looked around, amazed.
"Rei!" Shinji called out, surprise and joy exploding inside him. The elf turned to face him, her features and her red, normal eyes filled with confusion. He didn't care, but burst to his feet and scrambled over the rubble that separated them. With a grateful yell he swept the high elf into his arms. "Rei! You're alive!"
"I... I... I am..." the elf replied. She sounded as if she couldn't believe her own words.
There was the rustle of rubble shifting off to Shinji's right and he looked over to see Touji's head poke up. The big man looked around for a moment, confused and disorientated. When his gaze fell on the other two his brows came together. "Did we win? 'Cause I don't mind telling ya, I ain't ever going through that again."
Shinji laughed and for the first time in a really long time let loose a carefree smile. "We won."
"Woo hoo!" Touji shouted, jumping up and pumping his fist. Scrambling over pieces of broken buildings he grabbed his two fellow Chosen and crushed them tightly against himself. "We did it!"
"We did it," Shinji repeated, smiling.
"We did it," Rei repeated, still sounding poleaxed.
There was a pause as if awaiting a fourth voice, but only silence reigned and the moment passed. Still grinning, Touji let his friends go. "My mind's kinda fuzzy and stuff. I can't really recall much of what happened: only vague sensations after... well... a certain point. But I guess dat don't matter. We won."
"Lilith... was watching over us," Rei said, almost as if she couldn't comprehend what was happening to her. "She allowed us to live through the event. It is... a miracle."
Touji rubbed the back of his head. "Yeah, I guess she watched over us and stuff, but I really gotta ask: I mean, no offence to da Goddess and all... but why exactly are we all naked?"
Shinji looked down. Oh... *that* was why the wind felt so cleansing...
"I mean... I ain't knocking her or anything," Touji said as he nervously kept his eyes away from Rei's nudity and *definitely* away from Shinji's. "But da Earth Armor had me be naked when I first piloted. She get her kicks from dis kinda thing?"
Instead of answering, a blushing Shinji started to scavenge. After a few moments he found the remains of a large tapestry in the rubble, dirty and holed, but serviceable. It quickly tore into three togas with enough left over for a forth.
After dressing, the three friends looked at each other. The two guys were smiling, but Rei looked uncertain. "What... what happens now?"
There was motion off towards the part of the city that still had buildings standing and Shinji saw people heading their way. "Well," Touji said. "First, I need a meal and a good drink. Killing a dark god is thirsty work. Den I'm going hug my sister." He smiled stupidly. "After dat I'm going get me some of what Hikari promised."
A moment later he glanced around nervously. "I said dat last bit out loud, didn't I?"
Grinning, Shinji reached out his hand for Rei. Almost as if she wasn't sure why, she put her hand in his.
[To be concluded...]
In retrospective, while the characters mostly stayed faithful to their original counterparts, in many ways I strayed for storytelling purpose.
What would have happened if I stuck closer to canon?
Shinji: Wind Chosen of Lilith and Crown prince of Tokyo, sent away in his youth to a Church monastery after his mother was assassinated. Having spent his teenage years with the Church, he would start with a better knowledge of swordsmanship and magic use, but still be a social recluse. He would also have a better control over the Berserker.
Rei: Water Chosen of Lilith and Shinji's twin sister. Following the Chosen Prophecy and covenant with the High elves, Rei was sent to Kelethin after birth to serve as receptacle for the original Rei Ayanami's soul. Her subdued personality remains the result of the tampering with her soul, as well as the harsh training as Water Chosen. Human but with elfish traits due to her upbringing.
Asuka: Fire Chosen of Lilith and princess from Germania, though this time around, Shinji's main love interest.
Touji: Same as his Chosen counterpart.
Mayumi: More in tune to her "canon" appearance, assumes the role of Iruel's host and dies in the Tokyo invasion. No ties with the Church. The songstress sub-plot as well as the romance with Kensuke are dropped.
Mana: Half dark elf. Takes over Myssa's role as the enemy's spy, like her "canon" counterpart.
Hikari: Takes Mayumi's role as the group's priestess, but more strick in her role. In the later half, kidnapped by a desperate Touji seeking aid for his ailing sister, leading to their blossoming relationship and the Chosen's arrival in Darnk.
Kensuke: Bard and comic relief, with a lesser presence than the current incarnation, since Mayumi's Songtress sub-plot was dropped.
Misato: White Knight, but no longer has past ties to Rei, and no longer successor to the title after Gendo.
Yui: Assassinated when Shinji was a young child. No appearance.
Fuyutsuki: High Mage of Tokyo, no longer has ties with Yui or Hikari.
Gendo: Bastard King of Tokyo. Mad with grief after Yui's death, planning to use Adam in a bid to bring Yui back to life.
Mari Makinami: As her creation happened years after I started Chosen, her appearance would probably still be a late one as was the case here.
In the end, one of the favorite aspects of this story has been Mayumi's development and her sub-plot. So just for that, I'm glad I didn't follow canon too closely.