Chapter 37: Comrades
Having closed shop for the day, Itachi Yukishiro was in his office in his restaurant's second floor, readying himself for the battle that was sure to come.
Today really wasn't their day, thought the agent-turned-chef as he suited up in his gear for the first time in a long time. What started as a pleasant lunch reunion with old friends took a turn for the worse upon the confrontation with those two girls, during which he'd been forced to rat out his comrades. He didn't like it, not in the least. It was bad enough that he'd been named for an animal commonly associated with betrayal and treachery; now, he'd proven that stereotype to be correct.
Granted, it may have been for the best, given that the girls could definitely have made good on their threats. To be precise, it was his knowledge of just who and what Rei Mikage's girlfriend happened to – and, more importantly, what she was capable of – that made him decide as he did. Sometimes, it really was better to cede a small victory to the enemy, if only to avoid suffering a crushing defeat yourself.
And then, just as he'd thought things couldn't get any worse, something else happened.
Damn you, Vidic.
Daniel rang him barely a few minutes ago, demanding that he suit up in case Abstergo came for him. And when Yukishiro asked why, their commander simply said that their entire team had been fired by Abstergo for some reason or another. And if their services were no longer required, that meant...
"Knowing her, she'll probably come to kill us all one by one. And if anything happens to me, Weasel, I need you to do me a favor."
"Yeah? What's that?"
Daniel told him.
"…I see. Don't worry about it, Daniel."
It was a no-brainer, really. Daniel's request was something only Yukishiro was capable of, in light of his extraordinary connections. He didn't need to ask who she was, either. There was only one person he knew of – one person, because he wasn't quite sure what their little angel counted as – who could elicit that kind of fear from Daniel, after all.
And while the request in question was something he personally wished he'd never have to carry out, he wasn't really the type to leave his friends and comrades high and dry. If Daniel had kept him around despite the complications brought on by his special connections, this was probably the least he could do in return.
Those who break the rules are no better than trash.
But those who abandon their comrades… are even worse than trash.
Having finished suiting up, Yukishiro turned his attention to his weapons. His hidden blades remained in pristine condition, despite having seen more than its fair share of battles both in his previous life as well as this one. Indeed, ever since he first received them, he'd made quite a few modifications of his own, all of which had come in handy at various points in his career.
One of these was the chain blade on his secondary bracer, a miniaturized grappling hook launcher capable of reaching up to 20 feet away. Another of Yukishiro's unique innovations was what he called the stun blade, which allowed both his blades to deliver up to 30,000 volts of electricity in a single discharge. Ami and Tsuki had referred to it as the lightning blade, and with good reason: thanks to this particular addition, Yukishiro effectively had the lightning at his fingertips.
At last, having tucked a silenced machine pistol in his tactical vest, he was done.
And with that, Itachi Yukishiro departed, having locked down the premises behind him.
To say that Lorenzo Auditore was awestruck as he looked around at his old friend's secret lab would have been putting it lightly.
Indeed, he'd already known that the Chobits series was superior to the Eden series his old friend had developed for their Order. However few the differences were between the two, they were sufficient to place the Chobits in a class of their own. Needless to say, he, Lorenzo, had seriously underestimated just how different the two were.
For one thing, the Chobits were supposed to have true sentience. Normally, persocoms were bound to the confines of their programming, such as personality protocols that made them behave in a certain way. Demeter and Ceres, for all that they were the forerunners of the Chobits series, were no different in this regard. However much it shamed him to admit it, there was a time when Lorenzo was skeptical as to whether the twins were mere machines, or something more.
"We created them to be daughters to us," Chitose explained as she sat at her console, an image of either Freya or Elda appearing on the display. "But, the truth is, my husband and I looked at all persocoms as our children. Isn't it normal for parents to want happiness for their children?"
Chitose's fingers danced wildly all over the keyboard as she then proceeded to explain the mysterious incident from two years ago, wherein Elda - who now answered to the name Chii - linked with persocoms all over the world to execute her special program. Lorenzo knew perfectly well which incident she was talking about; indeed, he'd been among the luckier ones, as he and Ceres and Demeter happened to be home when it occurred.
That said, he could imagine the panic it caused. For most persocom users, having your persocom freeze up on you all of a sudden for no apparent reason would probably be very scary indeed. And if either Freya or her sister – or, for all he knew, Chitose – desired it, they could freeze persocoms all over the world on a whim.
Abstergo knew this, as did the Syndicate before them. It was just lucky he'd convinced Zima to defect from the Syndicate not long after the incident. While he wasn't a combat-oriented persocom, the so-called King of the Persocoms had capabilities that were in some respects on par with the Eden series. Needless to say, he wasn't someone Lorenzo would have wanted as an enemy.
"I see," Lorenzo nodded as Chitose finished her explanation. "Is that why Abstergo took Freya, then?"
However much it disgusted him, even Lorenzo had to admit that he understood why Regenschirm had chosen to do what he did to Freya. Given her remarkable capabilities, it must have been very hard for him – and, by extension, Abstergo – to resist the thought of replicating the Chobits series for their own purposes. He supposed it was just lucky they'd neglected to reformat Freya's personality and memories on top of all the upgrades.
Otherwise, they'd all be screwed.
"Perhaps," Chitose replied, albeit with a trace of uncertainty that somehow unsettled him. "There's one other possible reason, if I'm not mistaken..."
"You see, my husband told me just before he died that he placed another special program into both Elda and Freya," she continued, more images of both Elda and Freya appearing on screen.
"Not even I know what it does, only that he set it to activate in extraordinary circumstances."
"And whatever it is, Abstergo can't be allowed to get their hands on it," Lorenzo finished for her as he got to his feet. "Right, I understand now."
"Alright, then, Chitose, would you come with me? I don't think it's safe for you to stay here in the meantime."
Following his friends' lead, Rei took to the rooftops as he sought to elude their pursuers.
Unfortunately for him, his fear had come to pass; that brief glance a while back was enough for Shana to recognize him. And while their hasty departure allowed them a healthy head start, they'd gotten a phone call from Yukishiro, who wasted no time telling them that they were being followed.
"Better get moving, Rei," the man in white had said. "If they catch up with you, it won't be pretty. Hell, that redheaded chick looked ready to castrate me on the spot!"
Of course, thought Rei as he leapt from the edge of one rooftop to another, he already knew that. He knew those girls better than Yukishiro did, after all. And he sure as hell knew how scary Shana could be when she was upset, having learned it himself the hard way.
He wasn't sure what he feared most, actually, given that him getting caught would have a number of unpleasant consequences. For one thing, it was Daniel's orders that he refrain from making contact with Freya or any of his peers, and he, Rei, had no intention to let Daniel down in this regard. And if Shana did catch up with him, she'd undoubtedly kill him for worrying them sick.
And the less he thought about what Freya would do to him, the better.
Rei cursed himself as he nearly fell from the roof, having barely missed landing on the edge. It was just lucky that he caught the ledge in time; harmless such a fall might have been in the Animus, for him to fall here would likely translate to a few broken bones, and that was if he was lucky. If not, well...
"You alright, Rei?"
Pinocchio briefly grinned down at Rei, extending a hand to assist him as he clambered up on the roof. "Seriously, man, watch it! I'd rather not have to explain to Daniel why you broke every single bone in your body, you know."
"Right, sorry about that," Rei reciprocated with a sheepish, yet somewhat apologetic grin of his own. "I just got... scatterbrained for a minute, that's all." And as he said this, he silently chastised himself for that distraction; had his comrades not been around, that fall could easily have been the end of him.
"Yeah, well, try to be more careful, kid," this from Mancini as he regarded him severely. "One small misstep and you'll really be scatterbrained - all over the pavement, in fact."
But just as Rei was about to make a comeback of his own, they heard a scream.
"Hey, you guys hear that?" Rei asked his comrades, looking from one to the other with a serious look on his face. Whoever it was, they were close by, and they needed help. And since they happened to be in the area...
"Sure did, Rei," said Pinocchio as he adjusted his hidden blade bracers. "What do you say let's assist?"
"Understood. C'mon, then, let's go!"
And as another scream rang out, they wasted no more time heading towards its source. Someone needed help, and Rei, field exam or not, felt compelled to oblige.
After all, it was the main reason he'd wanted to become an Assassin in the first place.
"Well, well. Isn't this a surprise?"
Ceres and Demeter regarded the pair before them with a mixture of bemusement, irritation and resignation.
At long last, they'd gotten a lead as to Rei's location; by some miracle, Shana and Nanako had spotted him here in the commercial district, hanging out with individuals presumed to belong to Abstergo's Operations Division. Freya had wanted very much to come here herself, but Ceres told her in no uncertain terms that her job was to protect Oyuki and their friends. "Don't worry, Freya," she'd told her. "We'll get Rei back, for sure."
What a surprise, then, that they'd run into these two right here.
"Ceres. Demeter," the one on the left nodded politely at the two of them. "It's so nice to see you two again. It's been far too long since we last met, wouldn't you agree?"
"I guess you're right, Ami," Demeter smiled back, though her smile was one of mingled happiness and sadness. "I'm glad to see you're both doing well, too."
She'd known these two, once upon a time: Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi, designated EDEN-12A/T of the Eden series. Together with their master, Itachi Yukishiro, they'd once been among the finest of the Assassin Order's operatives, and had a hand in designing some of their more esoteric gadgets and weapons as well.
"I don't suppose you're willing to let us pass for today, Ami? Tsuki? For old time's sake?"
A moment of silence passed between the two pairs as these words hung in the air. Having been created by the same person, they all considered themselves sisters. They'd all been programmed with the same skills and capabilities, after all, even if their respective specializations differed. Needless to say, all of them hoped, very much, that their respective circumstances would never pit against each other.
Finally, the one on the right stepped forward and slowly shook her head.
"I'm sorry, Demi," came the sad reply from the dark-haired, red-eyed persocom. "We can't let down the one we love."
And with that, the dark-haired twins charged.
Standing on the roof with her drones, Siren looked up at the communique.
"The time has come."