The basic idea behind chapter 5 is that, in chapter 4, I introduced a completely new cast of characters as replacements for the characters from the earlier chapters, and at the end of the chapter, a black hole opened in Guu's stomach and the two worlds have merged, leaving lots of residual black holes all over the place. The two casts will be meeting each other in various situations, probably all at the same hot spring. However, the subject of this entry is the token appearance of Shinji Ikari, probably right near the end of the chapter.
The last thing he could remember was darkness. It was also the first thing he could remember. It wouldn't be so bad, but he had a distinct feeling that they were both the same darkness, because there was nothing between them. He couldn't remember anything, aside from the darkness, and he wasn't sure whether that constituted a memory or not. There was a word for having no memories, but he seemed to have forgotten that too.
"Amnesia," said a quiet, feminine voice from the darkness. The darkness around him, not the darkness in his memory. The darkness in his memory didn't really say anything at all. It was just dark. Then again, that was what he'd thought about the darkness of the present as well, and it had proven to be slightly more occupied than expected. He decided to blame shoddy narration for failing to tell him what was out there.
Something very heavy and expertly narrated hit him on the head.
"We're wasting time here," said the feminine voice from much closer than before.
"Did you just hit me?" asked Shinji.
"There's no time for mundane mysteries like that," said the woman. "A better question would be who I am, and where we are, and why we're here."
"Those are three questions," Shinji pointed out. "And I still want to know why you hit me."
"I meant better question as in one you'll get an answer to."
"Okay... so who are you, and where are we, and whatever the third thing was."
"Allow me to shed some light on the situation," said the woman, and a bright light cut through the darkness and Shinji's retinas. When his vision cleared, he was bathed in the light from an oil lamp on a small, round table in front of him, and he could see the woman standing next to it, holding a silver tea tray. She had long, black hair, an ageless face, and robes that told Shinji that she had strong magical powers beyond his comprehension. Then again, so did The Amazing Mumford.
"I am Yuuko, the Space-Time Witch," said the woman. "We are in my kitchen, because I hold the key to recovering your memories."
"Is it some kind of herbal tea?" asked Shinji, staring at the tea tray.
"No, it's memory coffee," said Yuuko.
"Is that the kind with ginseng?"
Yuuko sighed. "Lost memories don't just disappear. They gather and form crystals, like this one." She reached into a pocket and pulled out a dimly glowing crystal.
"Are you okay holding that tray with only one hand?" asked Shinji.
"This crystal is what holds a person's lost memories," Yuuko continued, ignoring the interruption. "However, it is useless to the person in this form. The mind cannot absorb a crystallized memory."
"So this is my lost memory?" asked Shinji, poking the crystal.
"This crystal does not hold your memory," said Yuuko. "This one contains all of the really funny punchlines a man named Nidoking forgot before he could write them down."
"Looks pretty dim," Shinji observed.
"He doesn't come up with much," Yuuko said dryly.
"So how do I get my memories back?" asked Shinji.
"The only way to restore the lost memories to the mind is to consume them."
"I have to eat the crystal?"
"Not quite," said Yuuko. "Ingesting the memories in this form would only cause severe indigestion. Instead, they need to be drunk."
"Can't say I have any drunk memories I want to recover," said Shinji.
"Memory crystals can be ground into a fine powder," said Yuuko, demonstrating by crushing the one in her hand. The crystal powder ran through her fingers and formed a small pile on the floor, its glow dying immediately. "I can collect that powder, then steep it in boiling water, to form a drink that can restore those memories to the drinker."
"And that's what you've got on that tray?"
"Correct. These are your memories, in drinkable form." She placed the tray on the table and poured some of the liquid from the flowered teapot into a flowered coffee cup. "Drink deeply."
Shinji picked up the cup, sniffed its familiar aroma, then drank its contents in a single gulp. The brew was pleasantly warm and nostalgic, but a bit weak for his tastes.
"Excellent," said Yuuko.
"How long is it supposed to take to work?" asked Shinji. "I don't remember anything yet."
"That's odd," said Yuuko. "The effect should have been immediate." She opened the lid of the teapot and peered into it, sniffed at the opening, then turned around and disappeared into the distant darkness. A light switch flicked on, and the kitchen was suddenly brightly lit. Yuuko was standing at the counter, staring into a large red can in disbelief.
"You're not going to believe this," she said, "but it seems that someone has replaced your memory with Folger's Instant Crystals."
"Hmmm..." said Shinji, licking his lips and pouring himself another cup. "I couldn't tell the difference."
I'm really sorry about that.