Chapter 5: 'M'
I just got hold of a prototype persocom who ran away from her previous owners. But when I asked her about it, she didn't want to say anything, almost as if she was abused, traumatized or something.
She's got all kinds of software on her, too, which isn't a surprise for prototypes and custom models, but what really takes the cake is that she seems to have combat software as well. I just saw her thrash some poor sucker like it was nothing.
Is combat software readily available to persocom owners, or is it a restricted thing? Please help, thanks
Rei took one last look at his message, before clicking the 'post' button and then opening a new tab. After going to one of the many search engines he normally used for schoolwork, he punched in 'persocom combat software' for the keywords, and then waited for the search hits to return.
Disappointingly, none of the search hits that came back actually related to what he was looking for. Not that Rei was surprised, though; if anything, he would have been even more amazed if something actually had turned up. He'd yet to hear of persocoms built specifically for purposes of warfare or man-to-man combat, and if they did exist, they were probably with the military or something.
But if that was the case with Freya, then…
He cut himself off there. It was best not to dwell on such things.
Heaving a sigh, he went downstairs to pillage the fridge. In his deep thought over what had happened earlier that day, he'd forgotten to eat. But just as he opened the door…
"Hey, thanks, Freya!"
While he was busy working, Freya had apparently taken it upon herself to knock up a late snack – rather, a very early dinner for him – one that consisted of a cheeseburger and a bottle of diet soda. He gratefully took both, patting the persocom on the head, before wolfing down the sandwich in a matter of seconds. When he had finished with the sandwich and drank a little of the soda, he turned away from the computer screen to face Freya.
"Mind if I asked you something?"
She nodded slightly.
"Can you tell me about your previous owners?"
Her reaction was in line with that from the last time he tried to ask her that. This time around, she bowed her head slightly, seemingly trying to struggle with the memories of her last owners. Again, Rei wondered whether he ought to have posed that question at all.
Finally, after several moments of silence, she looked back up at him, smiling sadly. "Sorry, Rei… But can it wait till another day?"
The look on his face was sympathetic. "They didn't treat you right, did they?"
"They violated me."
Once again, Freya's expression was downcast. She might have shed tears, thought Rei, had she not been a persocom. As it was, he half-expected them to leak out of her eyes any second.
"That's all I can tell you right now."
Rei nodded his understanding, going over to give Freya what he hoped would be a comforting hug. In his mind, he was still rather unsettled at what she had just said. All kinds of thoughts were running through his head as to what Freya could have gone through, none of which were even remotely pleasant. Violated? What kind of sick freak would…
A buzz coming from his computer jolted him from this train of thought: 1 new message. He clicked that pop-up, bringing up a chat window. Sure enough, the message, from a fellow BBS user calling himself 'M', had been received just literally… 9 seconds ago.
I just might be able to help you regarding your inquiry. Think you could send me a picture of her? It'll help a lot.
Rei thought for a moment. This one didn't seem like a troll; indeed, looking at his user profile, Rei saw that he'd started a lot of informative threads on persocoms. He glanced aside at Freya, who looked back at him, cluelessly.
Should I send him a photo of her, then?
He did just that, and uploaded a mugshot of Freya courtesy of the webcam built into the computer monitor. It didn't take long for his newfound friend to reply.
I see… you're quite a lucky man, to get hold of such a rare persocom the way you did.
If you're available, why don't you go to my place? I've included my address in the attached file, along with a map of the area. I'll do what I can to assist you, so please do consider my invite.
He downloaded the attached file and had a look. It seemed that this 'M' guy was nearby, as he recognized some of the twists and turns in the area. He got into his street clothes – a black hoody, matching cargo pants and running shoes – before running out the door, and then remembering that he'd forgotten to bring Freya along.
Not that Rei needed to worry, as she was already right behind him when he turned to look back at his room. It was what she was wearing, though, that got his attention: rather than her white robes, Freya was clad in skinny jeans, a tight-fitting shirt and a white jacket, all of which had been given her by Sayuri. From her original outfit, only her dual bracers remained.
After several seconds, she finally noticed the odd look Rei was giving her.
"What's wrong?" she tilted her head, puzzled. "Am I wearing the wrong clothes?"
"Nah, you look just fine to me."
He smiled, then beckoned her to follow. They made a left, turn just before the stairs, to Oyuki's bedroom. Sure enough, she was in Ceres' arms, drinking her milk as the persocom cradled her. "Take care of our baby, alright Ceres? I'll be going out for a bit."
Ceres nodded, then turned back to her ward, who was making gurgling noises at her uncle's retreating form.
The two of them went through a crisscross of roads and alleyways, unsurprisingly encountering barely anyone along the way, to get to their destination. 'M' apparently lived nearby, judging from the address that was given, but Rei still somehow managed to get them lost along the way. It wasn't the first time it happened, either; while he had always taken it for granted, he had been cursed with a somewhat awful sense of direction.
Finally, in desperation, Rei turned to Freya, who seemed just as befuddled as he was, and showed her the scrap of paper on which he had written the address. "Think you can take us there?" he asked, scratching his head sheepishly. "All I've managed to do is get us lost!"
Freya perked up at the request, beaming as she nodded energetically. She clasped onto Rei's hand as she led him down yet another series of twists and turns. Not long after, they finally arrived at a large, European-style mansion.
"We've arrived at the destination," she happily informed him.
Judging from the number on the gate, which matched that which was written on the piece of paper, Rei knew that this was the place they were looking for. He wore a smile of satisfaction as he buzzed the intercom.
A moment later, a female voice sounded.
"Kokubunji residence, how may I help you?"
"Oh, hi," began Rei. "Is there an 'M' around here? I met him on a BBS for persocom users, he invited me over."
He felt a slight sense of awe; not only did 'M' own a mansion, he apparently had a retainer or secretary of some sort! Guy must be some rich kid, he thought.
The gate clicked open, prompting Rei and Freya to come inside. As it turned out, 'rich' didn't begin to describe their newfound friend; besides the mansion itself pointing at their host's high social status, the grounds themselves were fully decked out, complete with a fountain and a hedge maze, clearly visible from the mansion's front porch.
Rei made to knock, but before his knuckles so much as tapped the surface of the heavy, oaken front doors, the one on the left swung forward, revealing a young, aqua-haired girl in a maid's uniform. She gave Freya an odd glance, then turned to Rei with a welcoming smile.
"Good evening, sir, miss," she greeted them cordially, her eyes flickering slightly in Freya's direction. "Please, right this way."
She led them across a brightly lit hallway, and then up a flight of stairs. As they walked, Rei confirmed his earlier guesses about the owner as he took in the mansion's interior. At the same time, though, he couldn't help but wonder just how many people were currently living here. It was all rather… quiet, unsettlingly so; houses like these, he thought, would normally have more people moving about in the corridors.
Finally, they arrived at a slightly open door, a study of sorts judging from the bookcases clearly visible from outside. The girl opened it further, gesturing for Rei and Freya to enter.
"He's been expecting you, come right in."
Rei entered, Freya and their guide right behind him. He'd only been half right; the room could have been called a study, but 'office' was an even more appropriate term. Like the rest of the house, the owner seemed to have gone out of his way to deck this room out.
For between the bookshelves lining the east and west walls lay a desk, with a clearly state-of-the-art computer installed into it. On either side of the desk was a couch, each of which could sit at least five people. Behind the desk, meanwhile, was a high-backed swivelling chair, obviously quite expensive and looking like something fit for the CEO of some corporate giant. Whoever was sitting there was facing away from them, into the window.
"Close the door behind you, Yuzuki."
Yuzuki, their guide, obeyed. The chair's occupant turned – and, to Rei's surprise, he turned out to be a young boy, his age on par of that of a high school freshman or sophomore. Light glinted off of the lenses of his reading glasses as he gave the pair a friendly smile. As with Yuzuki earlier, he cast a peculiar glance at Freya – one that suggested he knew her from somewhere – before gesturing the couch to his right.
Rei realized right then exactly what he was dealing with. Any kid this young, and yet successful and/or well-off enough to live in this kind of house clearly wasn't to be trifled with.
"My name's Minoru Kokubunji, 'M' for short. It's nice to meet you."
Rei said nothing. He was just beginning to reconcile the mental image he had formed in his head, with the child in front of him.
Minoru looked back at him, bemused, as if to say something to the effect of I get that all the time. Which he did; the last time he had assisted someone with their persocom – which, incidentally, happened to be the twin of the one his current guest brought – the person in question had a similar look of surprise on his face.
"Why don't you sit down? You seem a little flushed."
As his guests took their seats on the couch, he turned to Yuzuki. "Yuzuki, could you go fetch Mr. Motosuwa and Ms. Hibiya? Tell them our new friends are here."
"Right away, Lord Minoru."
She wasted no time leaving the room.
Rei and Freya – the latter, especially – would be in for the biggest shock of their lives.