Chapter 3: Another Prototype Model?
For the rest of that week, Rei did not go to class, instead opting to teach Freya a few things or so about the outside world.
At least, that was the plan.
Because from the way things were going, it was Freya who wound up surprising Rei with what she already knew. Indeed, with the vast amount of things she could do – and Rei was sure her other abilities had yet to be discovered – he was starting to believe in his sister's speculation. Her previous owners, whoever they were, went through all the trouble to deck her out with all the software it was possible for a persocom to have.
She came up with an awesome meal of beef curry and mango float when all he had taught her was to make instant ramen, and stunned him by reading classics like the Iliad and the Aeneid when he had barely begun to teach her the basics of language. Yet when he set the couch in his room for her to sleep in, she declined, instead opting to keep watch at the door, her arms crossed against her chest.
"Won't you run out of power that way?"
"You should just go to sleep, Rei…"
"…I'll watch over you."
For her part, Freya was at first reluctant to accept the kindness showed to him by her new family, but she eventually warmed up to them. Before long, she was assisting Ceres in the kitchen, not to mention in her tutorial sessions with Rei. By the end of that week, Sayuri allowed her to assist Ceres in babysitting Oyuki as well.
Freya hoped that the people who had taken her wouldn't find their way here to her precious ones.
It just might end badly for them.
Another week came.
Monday morning – a loud rapping on his door awakened Rei long before Freya ever had a chance to.
"Rei, there's some visitors here for you. Two girls and a guy."
It was Ceres. Putting on a shirt and pants, Rei came down the stairs, Freya right behind him. Just as he stepped on the landing, though, one of the girls got up from the sofa and greeted him with a slap across the face.
"Where have you been! You do realize you've been absent all week?"
It was Shana, affectionately called 'mother' by their small circle of friends, for her tendency to dote on them so closely. Whenever one of them missed class, Shana would come calling at that friend's house, with notes and a painful slap in tow. She was also known for stepping in when her friends had encounters with bullies – indeed, one of these encounters ended with the would-be bully uncertain of his ability to eventually father children.
At the sight, Freya's hands clenched tightly into shaking fists. How dare this girl hurt one of her precious ones! She activated her left hidden blade, which luckily went unnoticed.
Even then, Rei noted her anger, and placed a pacifying hand on her shoulder while smiling as if to say that it was all good.
"Shh, it's okay, Freya," he said. "They're friends of mine. Guys," this he said to his friends, "This is Freya. We found her out in the street last week."
At this, his other two friends who had remained seated waved in recognition. "The girl on the left's Reiko, while that there's Kyo."
Reiko, the blond-haired, blue-eyed girl in a minidress, smiled at them both. Kyo, though, simply raised a hand in response to his name.
"Better go to class with us today, Rei," Shana warned him, hand raised for yet another slap. "They're all pretty fond of you, but even you'll get kicked out at this rate." 'They', of course, referred to their teachers.
Understanding perfectly, Rei nodded. "C'mon Freya. I'll introduce you to everyone at school, too."
Around an hour later, at a certain college called St. Benedict's Academy…
"Whaddya mean she can't come in!"
Rei was at the front gate, a look of clear irritation on his face as he glared at the guard, who beheld him with a condescending expression on his face. It was wrong; he'd seen other students bring their persocoms inside with them, so he saw no reason why Freya should be treated differently.
"Sorry, kid, rules are rules," the guard held his ground. "You'll need a registration for her to bring her inside."
The elbow in his ribs got Rei's attention. It was Freya, with a reassuring smile on her face. "Go, Rei," she said. "I'll see you in a bit."
With a sigh, Rei gave up. Regardless of how she look, or how she had acted when they first met, Freya wasn't at all a helpless child, nor was she merely a cute persocom. And besides, he was pretty sure there was nothing his classes could teach her that she didn't already know. While she often appeared spacey, nothing could be further from the truth about her. Indeed, he had a feeling there was more to her than met the eye.
Rei caught up with his friends at their classroom, in the 3rd floor of the building right in front of the football field – only to find Freya waiting for him, smiling at the gobsmacked look on his face. "What… How-?" he spluttered as he sat down on the floor, just right beside the door. "Freya, how'd you get up here?"
It was Shana who answered this. "She took the roof, dropped, grabbed the ledge and then climbed up. What kind of persocom did you get hold of this time, Rei? Another prototype model?"
The first, of course, was Ceres, but she belonged to Sayuri and not Rei. It was Sayuri's husband that bought her for his wife and child, since his job as a businessman working in a large company meant he would be made to travel at a moment's notice. And even then, the only perk that came with Ceres' status as a prototype was that she came pre-loaded with all kinds of software.
Freya, though, was a different story.
Indeed, Rei doubted that Ceres, for all the software programmed into her, would have known to scale the walls of campus buildings to get inside, or otherwise pull off that ledge grabbing trick Shana just described. There was no doubt about it; Freya was on a level far beyond the already capable Ceres.
Freya, thought Rei as he gazed at her, what… are you?
"Hmm?" asked Freya, tilting her head to one side. "…Rei? Why are you looking at me that way?"
"Oh, nothing… I just spaced out, that's all."
Just then, the bell rang, signalling that it was time for class.
Guess Freya'll have to wait, then…