Chapter 39: When It Rains, It Pours
When it rains, it pours, huh?
To Demeter, there was no better way to describe their current predicament.
No less than two dozen enemies had surrounded them, comprised of human agents as well as a few of the Nephilim drones Demeter had encountered last time. Their enemies wielded blades, bludgeoning weapons and firearms in equal measure, and from the looks of things, it was clear that they'd been ordered to recognize Amaterasu and Tsukuyomi as targets as well.
For that matter, Ceres' assessment of their current situation was equally grim. As she sized up their opposition while putting her damaged arm in the sling she'd fashioned from the ribbon she wore around her waist, she mentally cursed herself for having neglected to bring her bigger guns for this mission. While her favorite Desert Eagles did pack quite a punch as far as handguns went, they were still just handguns, and in any case, the fact that her left arm was currently disabled meant that she only had one hand to shoot with.
Looking at the forces massed against them, she had a really bad feeling about their odds of survival. On one hand, Ceres knew that she and all three of her sisters were highly capable combatants, and that their ability to work together amplified that combat potential even further. Unfortunately, she wasn't convinced that that was enough to surmount the sheer tactical and numerical disadvantages facing them now. And if the Nephilim drones were indeed as dangerous as Demeter had described them to be…
Talk about the shit hitting the fan…
There was absolutely no way either she or Demeter would surrender, and she was quite sure Ami and Tsuki were unwilling to give up as well. Nor did she have any doubts that all four of them were quite ready and willing to take their attackers down with them if it came to that. Not that that was a favorable option as far as she was concerned, but…
"Hey Ceres, what have you got on you?" asked Tsukuyomi as she drew what appeared to be a smoke bomb from her pouch. "It looks like we're all in this together, so work with us here!"
Ceres recalled the gear she'd brought along for today. Not counting her twin pistols or her extra ammunition, she had flashbangs and chaff grenades on hand as well. Unfortunately, she wasn't convinced that either would be of much use in this situation; after all, while flashbangs worked well at knocking human adversaries out of commission, they did little to persocoms beyond restricting their movements for a few moments. The chaff grenades might have been a more effective option in the case of the Nephilim drones, but then she had no way of knowing for sure that they weren't shielded against electronic countermeasures such as those.
That said, anything was better at this point than simply waiting to be destroyed.
"Right, then," she finally replied to her erstwhile opponent. "On the count of three – one, two-"
At the last word, Tsukuyomi and Ceres quickly threw one of each explosive into the air, resulting a blinding flash as the area became covered by a blanket of smoke and chaff. Judging from the lack of movement coming from the Nephilim drones, it seemed their gamble had paid off; while the drones were nearly as dangerous as the prototype they'd been based on, it was apparent that cost-cutting measures kept them from being as lethal as they might have been.
Seeing that their enemies were temporarily immobilized, Amaterasu turned to her twin.
"Our turn, then?"
At the latter's assent, the two wasted no time leaping onto the rooftop, where the enemy wasted no time surrounding them. The twins stood back-to-back as they sized up the opposition, each preparing to make her first move.
"Ready, Tsuki?" said Amaterasu, sheathing her twin blades as she looked over the alley below, where Ceres and Demeter had their backs to the wall. From where she was standing, the ruby-eyed persocom saw the difficulty with which her sisters tried to ward off their assailants; obviously, Ceres only had one gun to shoot with, as the damage she'd sustained earlier made it difficult to even hold another gun, let alone aim properly with it. And though Demeter hacked, slashed and stabbed all over the place with malignant grace, her job was made more difficult by the need to defend the currently crippled Ceres.
"Waiting on you, Ami!"
Wait, what the hell!?
Ceres could hardly contain her astonishment as Amaterasu breathed a river of flame at their attackers that roasted agents and Nephilim drones alike. Similarly, Tsukuyomi unleashed a surprise of her own on their enemies on the roof; in stark contrast to the high-powered flamethrower her sister had concealed in her mouth, hers took the form of a concentrated pulse of highly pressurized water with enough strength to crush rocks that crashed into their foes and battered them with hardly any effort. And then, following that initial attack that neutralized most of the opposition, they rejoined Ceres and Demeter down below as the latter two wasted no time mopping up the remnants.
"So, then, Ami, Tsuki," began Ceres as she finally holstered her gun, "I don't suppose you'd wanna share the part where you suddenly got hidden flamethrowers and water cannons installed in you?"
"Yeah, do tell. I'm sure as hell that none of us had those when they built us," added Demeter, not bothering to mask her curiosity as she gazed at her sisters. "Not even Izanami and Izanagi, and they're the ones who usually get most of the good stuff."
"Oh, you'll love it, it's one hell of a story! Not here, though – we need to get somewhere safe, wouldn't you say? Not to mention, we should probably get that fixed as well," she added as she jerked her head at Ceres' damaged shoulder.
"…Alright, then," Demeter's face became serious as she nodded in understanding. "But where?"
"Follow us," this from Tsukuyomi as she took Ceres' good hand. "We know a place."
"Itachi sent word, we're to meet him as well as Master Lorenzo right now."
Pinocchio just stood there, mouth wide open as he watched Reina cradle the sleeping Rei in her arms in what could easily have been mistaken for a lover's embrace.
"Rest now, Rei. We'll have lots of bonding time later, I promise."
The cute smile on her face as she whispered the words didn't escape Pinocchio, either. Any other time, he would have considered that smile to be one of the more endearing things about Reina, but right now, he really couldn't think of anything more disturbing. It didn't help either that one of the reasons he and Mancini had been assigned to watch Rei was precisely to prevent something like this from happening. Sure, it was mostly to make sure he wouldn't end up running into 'their little angel' or any of his family or friends from outside, but for all that their squad leader had deceived Rei Mikage, he was at least serious about training him and keeping him safe.
Needless to say, thought Pinocchio even as his hand inched towards the gun holstered in his jacket, he screwed up – big time.
And it's a safe bet that that guy's not gonna be happy when he finds out…
"As for you…"
The Italian youth snapped back to reality as the redhead addressed him, having set Rei down on the concrete. From where he was standing, he could easily see the hidden blade extended on Reina's left wrist, not to mention the electricity crackling all over the blade's edge. Well, shit. This just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it?
"If it all turns out right, which I'm sure it will, Daniel should be dead by sundown. Still, you'd probably make things messy for me if you told anyone, and I can't have that, now can I?"
Reina's tone was matter-of-fact as she slowly advanced towards Pinocchio, with an air so casual she might have been commenting on the weather. There was something about her dissonant serenity that gave him the creeps, as Daniel would have put it. Even as he drew the switchblade he'd hidden inside his jacket, he couldn't shake the feeling that the wiser thing to do would be to try and make a run for it.
"Oh, well," shrugged the redhead. "You'll just have to go, too."
Pinocchio wasted no time brandishing his switchblade for a desperate slash, but then-
"I guess this is goodbye, then, Pinocchio?" Reina whispered the words as she closed the gap in a heartbeat, "I'll see you around, I hope. Or, maybe I won't?"
Pinocchio never managed to reply as he felt something penetrate into his right shoulder.
The blond youth's screams filled the alleyway as lightning ran through his body, before fading as he blacked out and lost consciousness.
"…Yes, Sayuri, I promise. I'll get him back no matter what, mia cara, don't worry. I'll call back soon, okay?" said Lorenzo hurriedly as he ended the call – and just in time for his phone to ring a second time.
"Hello?" he said again as he answered the new call, a grim look on his face. "Hannah, what – no, there's no time to wait, I needed you and Gavin here an hour ago-"
His words were cut off, though, as something in his left pocket – clearly another mobile phone – began to ring as well. "Just a moment, Hannah, I need to take this-"
"Hello?" said Lorenzo again, this time as he picked up his secondary phone. "Weasel? Yeah, I'm still here – just hurry it up if you can, alright? We don't have much time-"
"Lorenzo?" Chitose asked nervously as she looked up from her seat, seeing how the agitation and tension clearly written in every line of her houseguest's body. "Is something wrong?"
The Italian's chuckle was weary as he turned to look at her, a sign she took to mean she guessed right. "Just everything. Unfortunately, it turns out I was right – it really isn't safe for you here right now."
The scientist-turned-landlady wasted no time getting to her feet at his reply. "Is it anything to do with what you came here for?"
Once again, Lorenzo's lack of a verbal answer was an answer in itself. "The short version is, the people who stole Freya and remodeled her managed to come up with their own persocom assassin as well. I don't claim to know what they're up to, but it's too much to hope they won't go after you, among others. They've already kidnapped Rei, and my wife's been on my case about it for days. That first phone call? Yeah, that was Rei's sister."
To Chitose, it was history repeating itself all over again. Two years ago she'd left Chii – Elda, as she was known then – out in the open, only for her to end up in the care of the very same young man who'd just arrived at her apartment earlier that day. Now, Freya managed to find a second chance for herself as well, with none other than the younger sibling of the wife of one of her oldest friends. She smiled in spite of her self; it really was a small world, after all.
"…Alright, then," Chitose nodded even as she sought to make sense of everything that was happening. "Where are we going, then?"
"Somewhere safe. I'll explain further along the way."
Chitose followed Lorenzo out the door to her apartment, only pausing to grab her tablet computer from the table in the living room before they left.
Freya dodged an attack from the drone in front of her with the blade in her left hand, before kicking it backwards and lunging forward to stab it in the face.
How on earth did they make so many of them this quickly!?
Such were Freya's thoughts as she found herself locked in battle with Abstergo's minions, comprised of both human agents as well as Nephilim drones. She barely had time to relax after dispatching the first of them before another one tried to blindside her from the left. Luckily she was able to parry the clumsy slash with her sword and send it flying into one of its human companions, at which point she drew her second blade in her right hand and then impaled them both, all in the span of one second.
Unfortunately, that still left a battalion's worth more of them for her to deal with.
Assessing the situation before her, Freya couldn't help but grit her teeth. When it came right down to it, she could probably just make use of her accelerator to end this battle and get rid of all of them in a heartbeat. Granted, the accelerator did use up a lot of power, but then she had a self-replenishing power supply to fall back on. And they're getting on my nerves, so there's that, too.
On the other hand, Freya made it a point to know everything she could possibly know about herself. To be more precise, she knew enough about her specifications to know that if she used her accelerator for too long, the power consumption would end up outstripping her energy's regeneration rate. Even though it wouldn't have taken too long for her to recharge in that case, she didn't want to risk anything happening to either Oyuki or Shana or Nanako within that window.
I doubt either Rei or Sayuri or the twins would forgive me for it, and I'm not sure I could forgive myself, either.
Needless to say, thought Freya even as she braced herself to fight more of them, the accelerator was something she'd do better to hold back in case of emergency.
I can't lose here. I still need to protect everyone.
And so it was at that moment, where Freya resolved to continue fighting despite the odds currently stacked against her, that she felt something awaken inside of her…
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