Chapter 9: It's Ironic, Isn't It?
"Yuzuki," Minoru spoke after the impact had subsided, "If it's alright, could you tell us what else Freya gave you earlier?"
Not that he suspected Freya. Well-versed in the field of psychology as well as persocom engineering – he'd all but buried himself in such pursuits following the death of his sister – Minoru read no malicious intent in her behavioural cues. Instead, there was only doubt and self-hatred, albeit in admittedly unhealthy amounts. Not too surprising consider what had been done to her, and what she had done in turn, but her recovery was undeniably important right now.
Moreover, she seemed to have become close to Rei in a manner not unlike the closeness between Hideki and Chii, to the point that he had all but become her emotional crutch. As long as he remained safe and sound, he thought, there was little chance of Freya going on a killing spree or anything like that.
At any rate, Freya seemed to trust them enough, if she'd been willing to share something like that. More importantly, though, she might have given Yuzuki more than just her memories. Information on the ones who did that to her, perhaps…?
"Yes, Lord Minoru," answered Yuzuki after several moments, pulling him from his thoughts. "Detailed data files on…" her eyes glazed over for a moment as she reviewed exactly what she'd been given. When she'd finished, she let out a small gasp of shock. "It's something called Project Seraph! Maybe it's got something to do with what they've done to Freya?"
Minoru considered it. Again, he thought, if Freya had given Yuzuki that sort of information, it surely meant she already trusted them – or, more likely, that she was that desperate to get it off her chest. He singled out one among many files that Yuzuki had uploaded, entitled ''. He clicked on it.
Finally, after several tense seconds, he spoke.
"Ms. Hibiya, Mr. Motosuwa…"
"You might wanna take a look at this.
The two of them stood up right away, going over to Minoru's desk to see what it contained.
September 9, 2029
Acquired persocom courtesy of Dr. Hans Regenschirm, Abstergo Industries Cybernetics Division. The persocom in question, designated 'Freya' by the doctor, was created by one Prof. Ichiro Mihara, Japanese robotics expert.
That first entry caused Chitose's brow to furrow. Regenschirm… that man her husband had befriended during one of his business trips abroad, and who he had even trusted to be there to witness Freya's birth. Not only that, the good doctor was also present at Freya's deathbed, and had even comforted them both when she finally ceased to function.
She felt a sickening sense of betrayal as it dawned on her that the man had his own motives for getting acquainted with them. And when she thought that the one responsible for doing that to her daughter happened to have been a trusted friend of theirs…
Her hands clenched into fists at the idea.
"Please continue, Minoru," Chitose prompted him, her voice shaking even as she forced herself to remain composed. And even then, the lone tear that escaped from the corner of her left eye betrayed just how she felt about what she just read.
January 18, 2030
Repairs on persocom 'Freya' still ongoing, reworked her activation switch to disable itself upon initial activation.
Despite himself, Hideki couldn't help but snort at that line. Of course they'd have had to discover that Freya's activation switch happened to be in a very precarious region. His initial amusement then gave way to a pang of envy for that Rei guy as he realized that, unlike his own predicament with Chii, he and Freya would get to… consummate… their eventual relationship. This was in stark contrast to Chitose, who ignored it as being irrelevant as compared to what else had been done to her daughter, and so read on.
Her hardware is completely intact, but system restoration proves to be a continuing source of complication. Reformatting her is currently impossible due to non-possession of necessary overrides.
So they hadn't been able to reformat her, thought Chitose, though that hardly surprised her. For that to have been possible they needed the password, and even then, it would have to be either her or her husband to speak it. That they had struggled to restore Freya's systems could probably be explained as a side effect of the emotional distress that eventually caused her to shut down.
They must have succeeded, though, for Freya to have lost her memories of her, or of her sister Elda – she's Chii now. But considering Freya still managed to recognize them both, albeit vaguely, it was safe to say that they hadn't been that successful after all.
The next three entries, she saw, detailed the installation of Freya's various enhancements.
She cringed a little when it detailed how they had to take Freya apart, however temporarily though it was, to install them. But once she'd gotten over that immediate reaction, the implications of those enhancements began to set in. Freya as she was now was nigh-indestructible, considering she could regenerate from whatever her armor couldn't nullify.
All in all, her upgrades made her capable of taking on at least a small army by herself. Chitose shuddered to think of exactly what they intended for her daughter to do with that kind of power. But it was the final update that unsettled both Chitose and Hideki the most.
Specifically, one particular line:
Self-destruct system, installed.
Horrified as she was as Freya's mother, Chitose had to admit that it made perfect sense. Considering the things they would surely have forced her daughter into if they had the chance, she highly doubted they would have been receptive to the idea of her ending up in the hands of someone else.
That being the case, they would likely want to make sure there was no chance of that. She was equally certain some kind of directive was to be installed compelling Freya to self-destruct in such situations, and that they most likely failed on that front.
"Let me ask something," Minoru suddenly spoke, calling the attention of both Chitose and Hideki. "Ms. Hibiya, you programmed both of them to have a human psyche, am I right?"
"Yes, that's right," she replied. "Considering we created them to be daughters to us, we had to make them capable of actually feeling and knowing we loved them."
The child prodigy nodded, satisfied with that explanation. "Well… following my sister's death, I studied both persocom engineering and psychology. And based on what I know, Freya's been exhibiting symptoms of certain psychological disorders, namely PTSD and dependent personality disorder."
"The former I'm not too surprised at, considering what her memories contained. And if nothing else, that she was able to find the courage to share those memories should be a step in overcoming her trauma, but…"
"But?" asked Hideki and Chitose in unison. Immediately after, Hideki glanced sideways at her, then smiled awkwardly, sheepishly, as he realized they'd spoken at the same time.
Before Minoru could answer, however, the door creaked open, and he looked up to see both Rei and Freya re-enter the room. "Oh hi, Freya, Mr. Mikage. Please do have a seat."
"Anyway," he went on as the two resumed their previous seats, "Freya seems to retain some unresolved trauma from her past life. I'm sure she doesn't yet remember the events themselves, but whatever it is, it seems to be influencing her current demeanor towards her new companion."
Minoru looked meaningfully at Rei, who nodded in understanding. Freya too seemed to realize what he meant, as she bowed her head in apparent contemplation at his words. He was certainly no mere child if he saw exactly what she had admitted to herself just moments ago.
The next words out of his mouth only confirmed it.
"I'm not sure she can be blamed for it, but – and, Mr. Mikage," he made eye contact with Rei as he said this, "This concerns you, so listen carefully. Freya here seems to be dealing with dependent personality disorder," this he said as he shifted his gaze to the persocom in question, whose refusal to meet his eyes he took as a sign of an accurate guess on his part.
"It's ironic, isn't it?" Minoru smiled sadly as he gazed even more intently at Freya. "Like it or not, you've probably become the most powerful persocom in the world, Freya, yet you tend to feel powerless and weak without someone else to hold your hand. Make no mistake, though – if your decision to allow Yuzuki to help bear your burden tells me anything, it's that you're in the process of recovering."
Here his smile became one of encouragement, and this inspired some hope in both Rei and Freya as they realized he was right. "Just keep at it, alright? I'm not nearly as good at psychologizing people as I am with persocoms, and I could be wrong, but I'd like to think my observations were fairly accurate."
"And don't worry," he added as Freya began to open her mouth. "You can be sure Yuzuki and I will do all we can to help the both of you. Freya can probably fight off anyone who even tries to take her back, but it'll be so much better for us all if they aren't able to find her at all."
Around an hour later, when their guests had all gone…
"You're hiding something, aren't you, Yuzuki?"
It was said in an offhanded rather than accusatory tone of voice, but she still visibly flinched at the remark – a sign Minoru took to mean he was right. "Don't get me wrong, I'm not angry or anything. It's your right to keep some things to yourself, after all. So, are you?"
She hesitated, but also knew it was pointless to lie to someone who could see through her clear as day – not that she felt like it, as she could never bring herself to lie to him. "Y-yes, Lord Minoru."
"Care to tell me about it, Yuzuki? And do drop the 'Lord' thing, if you can."
Yuzuki thought back to what had happened earlier, when Freya gave her not only her memories, but all that background information regarding not only Project Seraph, but also Abstergo Industries itself. And when she relayed all those data files to him, she kept back a certain few – ones she wasn't so sure he'd be pleased about if he knew.
But more had taken place earlier than just mere data transfer. What most people didn't know, or often took for granted, was that persocoms could hold private conversations while interfacing with each other with no chance of being overheard or intercepted.
"He's important to you, isn't he, Yuzuki?"
Yuzuki hesitated, unsure what to say. Just like her sister, it seemed Freya was much keener than she appeared to be. After thinking on it for a while, she decided to just be truthful about it.
"Yes, Miss Freya. Lord Minoru created me, after all –"
"No, you misunderstand. By 'important', I meant in a manner similar to how that young man seems to regard… my sister."
Try as she might, Yuzuki couldn't get the words out; indeed, Freya's intuition, or what passed for it among persocoms, was so accurate it wasn't even funny. Luckily, she decided to let the matter drop.
"I was right, then, wasn't I?"
Just then, Yuzuki felt a strange sensation as she just received more data from Freya; this time, it was compressed and encrypted such that she had no way of analyzing it or seeing what it was.
"Worry not, what I just gave you isn't harmful to either of you in any way. But, Yuzuki?"
"Yes, Miss Freya?"
"If at all possible, I sincerely hope you never find need for my… gift."
"Wait, what –"
But Freya had already severed the connection, leaving Yuzuki with a mounting feeling of trepidation at those last words.
Slowly, she shook her head.
"I can't, L – Minoru. Even I don't know what it is yet. I'm sorry."