Chapter 14: Freya's Fragment
Where does this girl live, anyway?
Ceres couldn't help but wonder that as Nanako led her by the hand through crowded streets and deserted alleyways. They must have been walking for at least half an hour, maybe more, seeing as she was about to lose count of exactly how far they'd gone. The persocom wondered just how she managed to get home safely.
Granted, Rei's school wasn't exactly near, either; in fact, Rei called it 'distant walking'. But then, considering as he at least had Freya, who even now stayed close to him like her life depended on it, safety wasn't as much of a problem in his case. She, Ceres, was more dangerous than she looked, and not just because of the gun in her apron, either; for one thing, her powers of perception and observation rivalled that of any tracker.
And looking at Freya, Ceres sensed that, somehow, she was the same.
Nanako, on the other hand…
She was cute as a kitten, Ceres admitted to herself privately, but also as harmless and helpless as one. She was reminded of that woman from New York, decades ago. Nearly 40 people witnessed her being stalked and murdered, but none of the callous bastards could be bothered to call for the police. In her mind, that made them nearly as bad as the murderer himself.
"We're here," Nanako announced happily, jolting her from that morbid line of thinking in the process, as they arrived at some apartment building.
Ceres took one look at the building and couldn't help but notice how plain it seemed. To call it a place to live in, might not have been that accurate, thought the persocom; it seemed more like a warehouse for people. One look was enough to give him a mental picture of what Nanako's family was probably like.
Nanako made to open the door, but turned to face Ceres instead after a moment's hesitation.
"…Thanks, Ceres," she muttered, cracking a shy smile at the bluenette. "D'you think… you could walk me home tomorrow?"
Ceres was silent. That request was something she didn't expect. In hindsight, though, it was understandable; after what happened to her tonight, Nanako was probably afraid it might happened again. In light of that, Ceres didn't blame her one bit.
On the other hand, she still had her duties as Oyuki's nanny, and she couldn't neglect those.
Unless of course, she were to pull strings.
"Sure," Ceres decided to grant her request.
And as Nanako entered the building after embracing her tightly in thanks, she decided to make arrangements with Freya first thing after returning home. And then –
"Sweet on you, isn't she?"
Ceres jumped at the voice from behind her; in one fluid motion, she pulled her gun from out of her apron, before cocking and then aiming it at whoever had startled her.
"Really, Ceres? You'd shoot me?"
Their outfits were opposites in terms of color scheme – the newcomer's dress being black in contrast to Ceres' white – but otherwise, they were mirror images. Same blue hair, same pointy ears, same eyes…
Standing before Ceres was her other self.
September 28th, daylight.
As was her usual custom, Freya stood not far from Rei as he slept on his bed, more peacefully than she expected considering the upheaval of the past couple of days. He was clearly something else, she thought, if he could take those revelations and still carry on like nothing happened.
Not that she was complaining. Unusual as it was for Rei to take those revelations in stride, Freya much preferred the peaceful, beautiful dreamer in front of her as compared to a Rei plagued by nightmares. Not only did he not look like he was in torment, he wore an expression of what might have been utter bliss. Freya wondered privately if she was in his dreams, somehow.
…Really. So you're a stalker now as well as an assassin?
Freya scowled inwardly at the voice at the back of her head, feeling a rush of irritation that only got worse at her inability to come up with a believable rebuttal. Granted, it was her idea to stand watch as he slept; the only reason persocoms 'slept' was to conserve on power, and her power source kept her energized enough for 'sleep' to be unnecessary. But even then…
Heat source detected.
That recent update quashed any conflict she had about standing guard over Rei. Quickly, yet stealthily, Freya stalked down the stairs as she prepared to confront whoever it was. She activated her hidden blades as she prepared to get the jump on her enemy –
…Only to feel like an idiot as she saw the figure waiting at the bottom landing. It was only Ceres, though the backpack she was carrying was new. Heaving a sigh of relief, she once again retracted her weapons.
"Don't scare me like that, Ceres, it's not funny."
Now that she had relaxed, it was easy to see the way her fellow persocom was shifting uneasily. Freya supposed she was still rather embarrassed from her admonishment, but the blond 'com knew Ceres better than that. In that case…
"You wanted to ask me something, then?"
The hesitation returned, which only served to confirm Freya's guess. "And does this request of yours have anything to do with a certain girl?"
Once again, the way she flinched gave her away, though Freya had to give Ceres credit for almost immediately recovering. "P-pretty much, yeah."
She'd taken to reading those psychology textbooks Rei had for his classes, the contents of which only served to expand or otherwise reinforce her programmed knowledge. She couldn't exactly read or predict the thoughts of her fellow persocom, though – as Rei told her, psychologists weren't necessarily mind readers. Rather, she'd decided to mention Nanako just to see her reaction, only to find that her guess was spot-on.
"I promised to walk her home again tomorrow."
"Alright," Freya nodded. "But what do I have to do with it?"
So it wasn't a figment of her imagination that she'd seen the girl clasp onto Ceres' hand as they departed from here last night. She felt like explaining to Ceres the concept of psychological transference – something she was sure was the case with respect to how Nanako regarded her – before thinking better of it. It'd be rather hypocritical for her to do so, considering that that was most likely how her thing for Rei got started.
"Can you cover for me with Oyuki?" Ceres asked. "I'll be at the gate when Rei gets off, and I'm pretty sure you'll be with him, so…"
Freya hardly heard Ceres as she trailed off. Whether or not she was right, the fact remained that it probably would be better for Ceres to accompany Nanako. Leaving aside feelings the girl may or may not be having, Nanako probably did deserve to have something beautiful come her way after the terror she felt last night. Besides, she'd already grown somewhat fond of Oyuki, so it wasn't that big of a burden.
The poor girl deserves a break, anyway.
"…Alright," Freya nodded as she replied. "And those bags?"
"I'll explain later today. Thanks, Freya!"
With that, Ceres went up the stairs, no doubt to resume her usual duties as Oyuki's keeper.
Much later, Rei and Freya were on their way to school. They went their usual route, one that offered the most possible exposure to crowds – Freya's idea; after all, sometimes the best place to hide from whoever was after her was in plain sight. For his part, Rei was at first confused over Freya's apparent compulsion to follow the crowd, but decided to just go with it. She was probably a lot smarter than he was, anyway.
After half an hour, during which they made numerous turns and detours, they'd arrived at the village near school; indeed, Rei could see the campus buildings not far from their current location. He was looking forward to seeing Shana and the rest again – hell, he'd have been glad to come across Asakura as well, if only to see him wet himself at the sight of Freya. If nothing else, an asskicking at the hands of a cute girl was rather emasculating, even worse for the cute girl in question to have been a persocom.
Though really, thought Rei, his nemesis had nothing to be ashamed of. Freya wasn't just a persocom, after all –
His thoughts got cut off as a van stopped just ahead of them.
They had her surrounded.
Chii and Hideki left the house together this morning, like they usually did; he'd even personally escorted her to Tirol, just to make sure there wouldn't be a repeat of what they called 'the Dragonfly incident'. He knew Kojima wouldn't have dared try anything like that again, but then again, Chii was a special persocom, and so he resolved not to take his chances. It was even more important now, he said, because he didn't want what happened to Freya to happen to her.
Chii, for her part, was glad to be accompanied by the person just for her, as even she knew that this wasn't an everyday occurrence. In fact, the first thing she asked Hideki when they went out together was why he was following her. She didn't really understand what she saw as a vague reference to Freya, either.
The way she saw it, she was getting an occasional treat, and so she didn't complain. Given that she was early for work, and that Hideki wasn't even late for school, things were all good. Finally, just as they neared Tirol, they split up after a kiss and embrace.
Chii walked on…
Only to encounter this dirty dozen.
That Chii didn't notice them wasn't surprising; unlike her sister, who only appeared spacey, it was genuine in her case. In fact, her obliviousness even applied to what was currently taking place inside of her, where the gift her sister had given her was silently making itself known.
In any case, it was highly unlikely Chii would have noticed them at all. For one thing, unlike what happened in similar scenes in fiction, these ninjas – what else would they be, considering their swords and those crisp, black outfits? – were not, in fact, highly visible.
Indeed, to Chii, it was as if they'd just crawled out of the landscape.
"Unit SPU-009," said one of them, a tall, wiry fellow wielding a dagger of sorts, "Abstergo's Platinum Angel. You are to cease your resistance and come quietly with us."
Chii only gaped, clueless and confused. Platinum Angel? Wasn't that –
"Me," a very familiar voice in her head finished for her.
"Chii… my dearest sister…"
"Trust me on this."
"I'll protect you. I promise."
Freya – or at least, the fragment of her that resided in her sister – had hoped, very much, that Chii would never need her gift, and for a while that hope seemed realized. But with these… interlopers… around her, it seems that her sister would require her protection after all.
Chii barely managed to mouth her own name as a powerful feeling of lethargy took hold of her. Her head bowed as she fell to her knees, her arms hanging limp and useless. Seeing an opening, the leader stepped forward to restrain her, but –
From a position of seeming vulnerability, Chii's hands flashed out, grabbing hold of her attacker's wrist and then driving it back so as to stab him in the neck with his own weapon. No sooner had this happened than she pulled out the dagger, grabbed it from the dead man's hand, and brandished it threateningly at his compatriots.
The would-be 'repo men' took a step back in fear, knowing all too well what this persocom had done the night she escaped. There was no doubt in their minds that this was the one who'd wiped out a squad of Abstergo Agents all by herself.
"How dare you threaten my sister," Freya's fragment spat, her deeper, huskier voice a stark contrast to that of her innocent, childlike sibling. "How dare you threaten my loved ones."
"I hope you've made your peace, because you're all going to die here today."
Even as she said this, though, she realized that Chii's body possessed none of her own body's enhancements. And obviously, Chii also lacked the hidden blades that she had used to lethal effect. Freya would have to rely solely on her programmed skills and hope they were enough to see the both of them through this.
After all, fragment or not, she'd sworn to protect her sister. It wouldn't do for her to come out of this skirmish in anything less than one piece.
One of the repo men rushed at her with a katana, only for her to dodge the clumsy downward strike, sway to the man's right and drive her stolen weapon into the back of his head. Another one came from behind her, hoping to take her head off, but she ducked under the swing and stabbed him through the chin. Yet another attacked from the right, only to fall dead as Freya whirled on the spot and tossed her dagger right into his forehead.
Freya looked up just in time to see another Agent flying at her in an aerial assassination, in an attempt to dispatch her with her own signature attack. Barely managing to dodge, she breathed an inward sigh of relief; without her enhancements making her more durable and granting her the ability to regenerate, that one would have been the end for her sister for sure.
Without missing a beat, the Agent leapt up at the persocom in a follow up to his earlier attack, but this time she was ready. Once again she sidestepped, this time to the Agent's left, before trapping him in a headlock from behind and then snapping his neck. And as he crumpled to the floor, Freya relieved him of his single hidden blade and wore it on her left arm.
Then, almost casually, she took a step backward as two more tried to flank her from both sides – only to end up quite literally impaling each other on their own swords. Serves you right, she thought.
Freya glared at the rest of the enemies before her, waiting for who would be next to try – and die.
He didn't like this, he thought as he watched the persocom pick off his team one by one, but he had no choice.
In Cross' absence, it was he, Matteo Mancini, who was in charge of leading the team. He was the one who came up with the plan to ambush this girl, and he really would be out there with his comrades, but they told him in no uncertain terms that he had to survive. And the worst part was, he knew they were right. If none of them survived to report back to the boss, their deaths would all be in vain.
But that didn't change the fact that they were dying like animals, to that… thing and, drugged as he was, it was all he could do watch from the shadows.
Practical or not, Matteo didn't like it at all.
As Freya danced her deadly dance, her enemies' number dwindled.
Slowly they died, one by one. Finally, of the Abstergo Agents who'd earlier numbered at a dozen, only one was left, clearly the youngest of them, backing away in terror as the mechanized demon advanced toward him with intent to kill.
Then, when he was at her feet, she stopped.
Her voice, about as warm as the arctic wind, chilled the blood in his veins. He forced himself to look up at her, lest his rudeness cost him his life.
"Next time I see you, you die."
She lunged forward. He closed his eyes, bracing himself for death…
But rather than the cold steel of her hidden blade in his heart, he instead got a backfist to the neck. He let out a gasp of shock and pain as he fell unconscious to the ground.
Freya took one last look at the carnage around her. After a moment had passed, she shook her head and ran away to Tirol, before giving back Chii's body.
And as she relinquished control, Freya's final thought was that at least Chii hadn't witnessed all that.