Chapter 38: Nasty Surprises
Freya stood on the roof of the Mikage house, standing ready as she scouted the surrounding area.
At last, at long last, they'd finally found him; according to Nanako and Shana, they'd spotted Rei at one of the many restaurants in the commercial district, hanging out with his new friends from Daniel's team. Indeed, Freya had all but demanded that she be allowed to go after them and get Rei back herself, but Ceres talked her down. And when she objected, the periwinkle-haired retainer of the Mikage family pointed out the very real danger that the Templars might very well send their minions here – and that, more specifically, there was a real chance that they might send the Nephilim herself.
Needless to say, that killed any further compunction to argue on Freya's part.
For a long time, she and Ceres and Demeter had all been unique for their status as combat persocoms, but alas, that was no longer the case. Now that Abstergo had combat persocoms of their own, it wasn't much of a stretch to assume that they'd be forced to deal with them soon. Indeed, Freya and Demeter – and Nanako, for that matter – had already encountered them, and unfortunately, they were every bit as dangerous as expected.
And so it was that after a lengthy and intense debate as to who would do what, she and the twins had come to an agreement. Freya's job right now was to stay here and protect the Mikage house – not to mention Shana, Nanako and Oyuki, who at the moment were hiding in the basement – in the event that the worst case scenario came to pass. Meanwhile, Ceres and Demeter would go find Rei and bring him back.
Don't worry, Freya.
We'll get Rei back, for sure.
And so the twins embarked on their mission, though not without seeing fit to leave behind a few gifts for the blond persocom. Demeter had provided Freya with full access to the Mikage house's array of surveillance and security systems, which meant that she could spot the enemy from up to two blocks away. According to her, it was one of two countermeasures put into place by their master should the house come under attack.
"Not even the mistress knows about it," Ceres had added. "And if possible, we'd like it to stay that way."
For that matter, they'd also given Freya free access to the second countermeasure: a cache of weapons they'd kept hidden in the basement. Tucked inside her robes was a set of twin Desert Eagles similar to the ones Ceres favored so much, while a pair of high frequency blades gifted to her by Demeter lay sheathed at either side of her waist. Together with her own hidden blades, the twins' respective signature weapons had all but turned her into a walking armory.
Even now, Freya couldn't help but feel that all these weapons seemed just a little bit excessive.
Then again, the additional firepower was an arguable necessity in light of the current circumstances.
However much she, Freya, liked to think that she possessed a healthy grasp of the lethality with which Abstergo had blessed her by way of her enhancements, she knew better than to hope her enemies didn't happen to be packing the same capabilities themselves. If anything, she thought, it could very well be the case that her enemies had certain tricks up their sleeve designed specifically for her. After all, it was almost too much to ask that they hadn't been able to come up with a countermeasure against GUNGNIR, to say nothing of her enhancements which they built into her in the first place.
They're stupid, but not that stupid.
Countermeasures or not, thought the blond persocom as she readied her weapons and pulled her hood up, there was no way in hell she'd just sit by and let Abstergo do whatever they wanted. After all, it was way back during her first week here at the Mikage house, not long after Rei and Sayuri and Ceres found her right at their doorstep, that she made a solemn vow not to let anyone hurt her precious ones. And if she were to break that vow now, when it mattered most…
There was no question about it, then.
No matter what happened, she would fight.
Unfortunately, even as she loaded her guns for the battle that was sure to come, Freya just couldn't shake the feeling that something awful was going to happen.
Daniel Cross sat in front of the computer in his office at Chateau Solange, making preparations for the visitors he'd been told to expect.
…Took them long enough, those idiots.
In all honesty, Daniel had no idea whatsoever how they'd been discovered. Every single member of his team had proven themselves loyal to him personally, which wasn't surprising given how he alone among the Inner Sanctum refrained from treating them like expendable pawns. He didn't doubt that his subordinates would side with him against Abstergo if it came right down to it. In that case, how-?
Of course, Daniel didn't actually have any proof it was her; but then, he didn't need any. Even if he didn't know the exact reason she'd been assigned to his unit, a while back, it wasn't much of a stretch to guess that it somehow involved keeping tabs on him. After all, he'd made no secret of his displeasure with Abstergo following that night, especially after their unforgivably callous attitude towards the deaths of his subordinates. They told him to at least take comfort in the fact that they died in the line of duty, but as far as Daniel was concerned, that wasn't much of a comfort considering their deaths could have been avoided in the first place.
What bullshit, honestly.
In that light, thought Daniel, he probably should have seen this coming. Now that his contract had been terminated by Abstergo, it wasn't much of a stretch to assume that he and his men had been marked for death, nor was it out of the question that they'd sent one of their cleanup squads to deal with him. And of course, he knew perfectly well how good those cleanup squads were at what they did; he'd led them once before, after all, during that one mop-up operation in Whistler, Canada.
...What now, then?
Do I call them back?
Daniel considered it carefully. Effective though Abstergo's goons were, there was a reason he and his team had been so highly regarded, however unorthodox his methods were with respect to training and leadership. If it came right down to it, he had no doubt he and his team would be able to not only rebuff them, but make them pay in blood.
But then, at what cost?
Then again, however formidable his men were, the rest of Abstergo's minions weren't that far behind. Even though he, Daniel, had taken extra care to make sure his team was comprised exclusively of those who'd performed best in the Animi Training Program, the fact remained that his now-former employers would compensate for their advantage in skill with sheer numbers. He didn't doubt that each of his men was a match for two, maybe three of theirs, but…
…There's really no other way, then.
And as his fingers danced all over the keyboard as he put his final countermeasures in place, Daniel allowed a sigh to escape him, his lips curving upwards in a smile of grim satisfaction.
If nothing else, I've got a few nasty surprises that ought to blow them away …
Ceres gritted her teeth as she narrowly avoided a kunai thrown her way, before squeezing off a burst of gunfire in the direction of her current opponent.
You haven't changed one bit…
Similarly, Demeter also found herself locked in a stalemate with Amaterasu, the two of them locking blades briefly as each tried unsuccessfully to overpower the other land a decisive blow. The black-clad persocom inclined her head slightly, as if to acknowledge the narrow struggle, before returning the favor as she brought her own twin swords crashing down on those of her old comrade.
An observer happening to chance upon the scene would have noticed the near-identical expressions of enjoyment and pleasure on the faces of the four ladies, and most likely assumed that this was their idea of bonding with each other and making up for lost time. And to an extent, this was indeed the case; it was merely a few years ago that all four of them developed a close bond with each other. And for that matter, their respective masters had also been bound to each other as master and apprentice, at least until the series of unfortunate events that resulted in Itachi Yukishiro's defection from the Assassin Order.
On the other hand, thought Demeter, none of them were particularly happy about the way fate seemed to have set them against each other. Given that no less than seven years had passed since Ceres and Demeter had been able to spend time with Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi, they would have preferred their reunion to take place under different circumstances. Knowing them, they'd probably have gone out shopping, or to otherwise help out at a preschool or a daycare center or an orphanage.
I wanted to see you both, too, Ami, Tsuki.
But not like this…
Needless to say, thought Ceres even as her bullets collided with Tsukuyomi's shuriken, a battle to the death in a deserted street was not how they imagined their reunion would turn out.
"…Just like old times, huh?" grunted Ceres, gritting her teeth as all her shots either missed or were intercepted by her adversary's arsenal of shuriken and kunai. "You haven't lost your edge at all, Tsuki!"
"You haven't lost a step yourself, Ceres," Tsukuyomi returned the compliment as she bantered back, her face a clear picture of exhilaration. "You're exactly as I remember you, too!"
"And please, don't give me that look, Demi," chimed in her twin, her ruby eyes flashing as she replied in a tone emulating that of her master and brandished her sword in a challenging gesture. "Itachi trains with the two of us all the time, of course I haven't lost my edge!"
And with that, the momentary respite ended as the two pairs of twins resumed their battle.
She couldn't help it.
Enemy or not, they were still sisters, and as far as she was concerned, sisters looked out for each other.
And so it was that regardless of their current circumstances, Amaterasu couldn't help herself from shouting out a warning as she saw the platinum-haired figure on the rooftop level a sniper rifle.
"CERES, GET AWAY FROM THERE NOW!"
Unfortunately, it was too late.
And so it happened that it was only when Ceres fell to her knees as the sound of a gunshot pierced the relative silence, clutching a left shoulder that had suddenly gone limp, that all four of them finally realized that they'd been completely surrounded by Abstergo's minions.
Rei felt his heart racing as he stared down the man in front of him, while the terrified, black-clad young woman he'd cornered in the dead end of the alleyway looked on.
"What're you staring at, you little shit?" demanded the criminal, drawing a rather large knife and making wild slashing motions in the air in front of him. "You think you can take me on? Do you?!"
"Take you on?" Rei echoed, taking a step back even as he forced himself to project a confidence he didn't truly feel. "If you're that eager to get your ass kicked, then sure, why not?"
The effects of those words were predictable, as the man lunged right at the teenager in a manner not unlike that of a rabid dog. And though he cursed himself for not having thought this through, Rei nevertheless slid his right foot backwards in a fighting stance and brought his fists up in anticipation of the attack. But then-
Luckily for Rei, the criminal never managed to land a single blow.
Before he'd even gotten within a foot of Rei, a figure landed on him, pinning him back to the ground as he stabbed him in the shoulder with a hidden blade. His whole body then shook for around three seconds as what must have been a few thousand volts of electricity coursed right through it, before going still as the attack ended, the figure slapping him lightly with on the forehead to confirm the results of his handiwork.
"He's out cold, alright." muttered the figure – Pinocchio – to himself as he got up and faced the teen. "I really ought to thank Itachi for this thing, his so-called 'lightning blade' really lives up to its name…"
You alright, Rei?" This he added, his blue eyes twinkling as he gave the teen a thumbs-up. "That's twice now I've saved your ass!"
"Thanks, Pinocchio," Rei began, genuinely grateful as he'd just begun to recover from what just happened, "I really owe you one-"
The rest of his words were cut off, however; the young lady they'd saved ran straight at him, the wind blowing off her hood as she leapt straight into his arms and embraced him tightly.
"Wait a minute, get off me-" Rei spluttered, a pink tinge creeping up his cheeks even as he felt equal parts pleasure and discomfort at this overly forward display of gratitude. It was just lucky his hood stopped him seeing the woman's face, otherwise…
"Thanks so much for saving me, Rei!"
"Wait, how come you-?"
Rei never got to finish his sentence, though. For the second time in the span of a minute, the rest of his words were drowned as she pressed her own lips against his, leaving him to stare at a pair of beautiful gold eyes-
Wait, what… is this?
I feel… exhausted…
"Sleep now, Rei…"
Those words were the last Rei Mikage heard before the world faded, a certain red-haired young lady cradling him in her arms as a deep sleep claimed him.