Chapter 33: The Answer
"So, Chitose, how have you been lately?" Lorenzo Auditore asked the next day, not long after he awoke on the couch in Chitose Hibiya's living room.
The last time he'd seen her, Icchan was still alive, and they hadn't gotten married yet. Though he did have other motives for coming here, he figured he'd catch up with his old friend before getting down to business.
"I'm fine, thank you," she answered, smiling graciously at her handsome Italian houseguest. "Lots of things happened, actually..."
Lorenzo listened to her stories, albeit only with half of his brain. It wasn't that he wasn't interested in her life, but they had more pressing matters to deal with at the moment. And so it was that while Chitose spoke, Lorenzo took the time to reflect on the recent turn of events as relayed to him by his twins.
So, Zima and Dita had offered to help get Rei back - a most welcome development, he thought. It wasn't a surprise, though. Regardless of his demeanor, Zima was actually as decent as it was possible for a persocom to be. Discharging debts of gratitude was perfectly in character for him, especially considering just how Lorenzo and Demeter had helped them out in the past.
"And then just recently I found that my daughter Freya was still alive-"
Well, well. What a coincidence, Chitose, I was getting to that.
"Yeah, I heard," Lorenzo nodded as he grinned at her. "And she found a boyfriend of her own, right? C'mon, Chitose, don't look so surprised," he added as she flinched; apparently she hadn't expected him to know that much. "Of course I'd know. It was my wife's family that took her in, after all."
"To be exact, it was my brother-in-law's idea. And my daughters also seem to like Freya, from what they've told me. I haven't met her yet, but they've told me mostly good things about her, so I'll take their word for it."
Which was true. Ceres had already mentioned how at ease Oyuki was with Freya, and for that matter, Ceres herself had also assured him of her heart being in the right place. Demeter, on the other hand, had told him that she would be watching her closely, but that was to be expected. They'd just met, after all, and just because Ceres seemed to like Freya wasn't a guarantee that the same would hold true for her twin.
At any rate, thought Lorenzo, if his wife and daughters trusted her, Freya at least deserved a chance from him.
"That's good to know," said Chitose, an easy smile on her face as she took a sip from her cup of tea. "Freya's always been a sweet girl, but I was afraid she might not be the same after what was done to her. From what you've told me, though, it looks like she hasn't really changed that much."
"Now, then, Lorenzo, what brings you here? I hope it's something I can help you with," she offered.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure it is.
"You wouldn't happen to still have Icchan's old files on hand, would you?" Lorenzo asked casually. "On Freya and on the Eden series, to be exact?"
"But why?" Chitose asked, curious. Seeing as Lorenzo's adopted daughters were persocoms of the Eden series, she would have thought that he already knew them inside out. His desire for information on Freya was slightly more understandable, but given the extent of Regenschirm's modifications, what information she had on her daughter might not even be that relevant anymore. Why, then-?
And then the answer came to her, almost as if out of nowhere.
"...Right, then," Chitose nodded, going over to open the entrance to her secret lab.
"Follow me, please, Lorenzo. And please, do watch your step on the way down."
Kotoko sat in front of Kojima's desk in his bedroom, reviewing her – their – daughter's recent movements on his laptop.
For the second time in a week, Siren had been sent to dispatch another target: Lee Sang-woo, gun runner and head of a powerful crime family in Korea. According to the dossier, Lee dealt in weapons of all shapes and sizes, though he specialized in high powered firearms. His family's activities also tended to involve direct conflict with Abstergo, and indeed, Lee had been responsible for derailing and sabotaging some of Abstergo's more important operations.
Like Sonia Sabbatini before him, however, it seemed that what really got Lee Sang-woo killed was his collaboration with the Assassin Order.
According to the dossier, the Assassins themselves had marked Lee for death for his activities, but chose to spare him after he had offered to place himself and his organization at their disposal. And ever since then, Lee had become an even more persistent thorn in Abstergo's side. While in the past his interests had only happened to clash with those of Abstergo, it seemed that he'd since gone out of his way to antagonize them. It didn't do him any favors either that he sold his merchandise to the Assassins at discounted prices, but it was clear just what Lee did that brought Siren down on his head.
Kotoko let out a snort of disgust as she exited the program, not caring for the more graphic details of her daughter's kill.
It was true that Siren's targets so far seemed to be limited to those who arguably deserved it. Sonia Sabbatini had been known for perpetuating the unrest plaguing developing countries in Africa and Asia, while Lee appeared to have gone out of his way to incur Abstergo's wrath. She might not have agreed that they deserved to die, but she certainly wouldn't shed any tears on their account.
On the other hand, while Kotoko had little sympathy for her daughter's victims, she could never be convinced to approve of the things Abstergo was making her do. Not only did Warren Vidic in particular see her as nothing but a soulless killing machine, he'd actually gone out of his way to badmouth Kojima in front of the both of them.
And besides, she'd devised a countermeasure, to be used in case the suits at Abstergo tried to hurt her or either of her loved ones. It wasn't at all something Kotoko wanted to use, but if they forced her hand, she'd make absolutely sure it was the last mistake they'd ever make. She just hoped it wouldn't come to that, for all their sakes.
For now, though…
Kotoko closed her eyes as she found the answer.
Her eyes glazed over as she retreated into her mind to access her mailbox, upon which she sent an email, with an attached file, to 'M'. And a second later, she forwarded the same email to two more users.
I'm counting on you all.
Kotoko knew she probably wouldn't be able to stop Siren, her own daughter, from carrying out her grim work. Right now, it was all she could do to trust Kojima's friends – her friends – to do it in her stead.
"Miss Freya, was this your idea?" Yuzuki muttered to herself while attending to her tasks.
Right now, the blue-haired persocom was busy preparing lunch for Minoru while performing some routine maintenance on the many systems she was tasked to oversee. She still hadn't gotten over what happened earlier, when the persocom they'd captured called her 'Mama'. And since neither Minoru nor herself had done so, that left only one possible culprit.
"What's wrong?" came the voice of Freya in her head. "You don't like it? I thought you'd already come to terms with your feelings for dear Minoru. I've simply given you a way to bring you together."
"Yes, I did, but that's not the point!" Yuzuki protested, flustered. "It's too early for me to be someone's mother, and Minoru – what'll he think-?"
"Silly Yuzuki," Freya's laugh was devoid of any humor whatsoever; if anything, Yuzuki heard that note of sorrow again. "You really ought to be more honest with yourself. It's not like your feelings aren't reciprocated, you know. I've seen the way he looks at you, and I know what I'm talking about. I could ask him if he loved you, and the answer would probably be yes."
"If you love someone, you really ought to go and tell them," Freya's fragment admonished her. "Don't keep it bottled up inside until it's too late. Feelings don't carry across by being kept hidden, you know. Get it memorized, before you learn the hard way like I did-"
Freya's statement was cut, however, as Yuzuki made to look at the new email she'd received. Indeed, the matter of who the sender was piqued her interest almost as much as the message itself.
Because of all people who could have sent Yuzuki an email on Project Nephilim, Kotoko was probably the last person she would have expected to do so.
Meanwhile, back at the Mikage house's living room…
"WHAT did you just say?!"
Shana leapt from the couch at what Nanako had said, with such force that the glass of water on the table fell over, spilling water all over the place.
"Nana, you're lying! There's no way! Right, Freya? Ceres?" she looked beseechingly from one to the other as she waited for the answer, both of whom were seated on either side of Nanako right across her. Unfortunately, the grim expressions worn by both persocoms weren't the least bit reassuring.
"There's no way Rei would've let himself get kidnapped!" Shana persisted desperately. "I mean, really! It's just-"
At which point Freya reached across the table and placed both hands on her shoulders, gently gripping them before letting go the next moment. Likewise, the way Ceres shook her head once told Shana that what Nanako had just said was no joke. Of the persons currently in the room, Freya and Ceres were likely the ones who cared about Rei the most. And if they hadn't refuted what Nanako had said…
Shana sank back into the sofa in disbelief, mouth hanging slightly open as she did so.
"But… how?" she asked, clearly perturbed. "That guy – Daniel Cross, his name was – said the school was sending him to some super special training camp…"
Freya thought it made quite a bit of sense. Of course they'd have had to come up with some kind of pretext as to why Rei had disappeared. It probably helped that Abstergo had such a good reputation among the general public. In fact, knowing them, it was likely that some of the personnel at St. Benedict's Academy were actually affiliated or even part of Abstergo.
Finally, Freya decided to speak up. As someone who cared for Rei almost as much as she and Ceres did, Shana deserved to know just what had happened. And for that matter, she probably deserved to know about her as well.
"Technically, what he said was completely true. They said they'd train Rei, turn him into some kind of ninja or something. Remember that accident at the stairs? They must've used it to convince him, somehow. It was their way of getting to me," Freya added bitterly.
"Daniel probably told him he was weak, and that he'd help him become stronger," Freya fell silent at this last bit as she recalled, painfully, what Rei had told her in his letter. Her hesitation was brief, though; just as it had been that night at the Kokubunji mansion, every secret she confided in someone else felt like a burden being lifted from her shoulders.
"He told me all about it in a letter. Because he loved me, he said, he wanted to protect me… Even though he knew full well that was my job."
The silence that had fallen between the two was palpable. Shana's eyes darted between the three in front of her – Ceres, Nanako and Freya – as she processed what she'd just heard. There was something in Freya's words that got her thinking…
"Freya," Shana said gently, her voice faint but resolute. "Is there anything you'd like to tell me?"
"You're our friend, just as much as Rei is. You know that, right?"
Freya considered it. On one hand, she didn't want to involve Rei's friends in this mess, any more than they already were. But then, she thought, they were concerned for him just as surely as she was, otherwise Shana wouldn't even be here. If Rei trusted his friends, there was no reason for her not to do the same.
"As a matter of fact, Shana, there is."
She just hoped they wouldn't think too badly of her afterward.
"You might want to make yourself comfortable, though – my story might not be that pleasant to hear."
Oddly enough, though, the decision came to Freya much more easily than she'd expected. She'd grown tired of all the secrets isolating her from everyone else. It was the reason she'd never been able to connect to anyone but Rei for the longest time. And the fact that he'd been taken from her, right under her nose, was proof that communication was key to relationships – and that, at times, poor communication had disastrous consequences.
And besides, thought Freya, it's long past time that I revealed my true self.