Chapter 8: Old Freya, New Freya
Except for the clicking of a computer keyboard, all was silent in the Kokubunji residence's study as the occupants addressed with the impact of what had been shown to them. Chitose, Hideki and Chii occupied the couch Rei and Freya had just vacated, the former two in particular looking dangerously close to catatonia. Even Minoru, whose skill at maintaining composure was remarkable for a teenager, was somewhat rattled, and was busying himself on the BBS as his own way of coping.
Unlike Freya, Chitose shed no tears at what she had seen, almost as if she had subconsciously blocked out the images. But once the barrier of numbness faded away, she was torn between horror and revulsion at what had been done to those men. No one deserved to die the way they did. It was arguably their own fault for having turned Freya into a killing machine in the first place, and they probably did deserve to die, but...
Her daughter, as she remembered her, had always been unfailingly gentle and kind. And while the shadow of what she had done was far from enough to make Chitose disown her, she wondered just how much of a miracle Freya's return really was, and whether it might have been better – or at least, less wrong – for her to have stayed dead.
The Freya she knew could never have hurt a fly, let alone killed those men in the most brutal and bone-chilling ways she couldn't imagine. Quite the contrary, in fact; given how the reason she had shut herself down at all was the pain of unrequited love, and of wanting her beloved to be happy – Chitose closed her eyes at the memory – the old Freya could never have even dreamed of inflicting pain, physical or otherwise, on anyone.
Whereas the new Freya…
She cut herself off there.
Old Freya, new Freya… either way, Freya was Freya, and Freya was still her daughter. At least, that was how Chitose saw it.
She would never stop loving either of her daughters. That was just how she was as a mother.
And it was that, more than anything else, which made it so difficult for her to get over… this.
Hideki, who had remained silent up till now, held Chitose – Ms. Hibiya – close to him even as he clasped Chii's hand like a lifeline.
If horror was dominant where her current feelings were concerned, though, Hideki's immediate reaction was one of disgust and contempt. He'd met the old Freya before – she'd lain dormant inside Chii for the longest time, protecting and caring for her where he couldn't. And while he admittedly knew very little about her, he knew enough to know she would never have wanted to be turned into something like that.
Judging from Ms. Hibiya's reaction, thought Hideki, it was safe to assume she neither knew nor approved of it, either. What right-thinking parent would? It was bad enough that your daughter died, of heartbreak, no less. But to find her brought back like this…?
It was almost enough to make anyone wish they'd just die of heartbreak themselves.
Hideki squeezed Chii's hand even tighter. He prayed she'd never experience what had happened to her sister. If those people were to do to her what they'd done to Freya…
There was no question what he'd do. He'd likely not care what happened, even if his life were to be forfeit, so long as he could make them pay. It wouldn't end well, at all.
Either for him, or for them.
Or maybe even all of them.
"What happened to those people, Hideki?" his persocom-slash-girlfriend asked him. "They were very scared, weren't they? They were screaming..."
"Freya seemed very sad, too," Chii mused mournfully. "Was she hurting somewhere, Hideki? Did she do something bad?"
When Hideki didn't reply, she turned to Chitose.
"Miss Manager?" Chii added, using Chitose's formal title, no longer remembering her own past as her daughter. Judging from the way everyone else had reacted at the footage from earlier, she knew that Freya had done something. But even then she remained mercifully oblivious as to what had been done to her sister, or just what exactly her sister had done to those men in the video.
When no one deigned to enlighten her, Chii went on:
"The look on her face seemed very painful. What would be best to do?"
Both Chitose and Hideki smiled in spite of themselves. There was no denying that she had gotten smarter as she continued to learn new things day by day - though it was probably for the best she remained ignorant, at least for now, as to the ramifications of what she had just seen. But even at times like these, innocent, childlike Chii could be counted on to at least try and cheer everyone else up. And so it was that neither her beloved nor her mother could bring themselves to explain that her sister had become quite possibly the deadliest persocom on the planet, or that Freya had done something that, to say the least, wasn't very nice. He couldn't exactly tell her oh yes, Chii, your sister just went on a killing spree, now could he?
Chitose smiled sadly as she turned to look at her daughter. "We believe in her, Chii. And…"
Freya ran and ran through the residence's darkened hallways, Rei behind her, though she seemed not to notice where she was going. She'd anticipated that they might react badly to the things she'd done, and it did ease the pressure on her to come clean, but there was a difference between lightening the load on her, and the load disappearing entirely.
She was aware of the cognitive dissonance involved, the irony of what she had done. She detested having been turned into a killing machine, yet her very first act upon awakening was to slaughter the people who'd turned her into one. The knowledge of the contradictions between her thoughts and her actions only served to aggravate Freya even more. That she was, in effect, who she hated, intensified the already strong feelings of self-loathing she'd had ever since her flight from Abstergo.
Finally, she got tired of running.
Not tired in the literal sense; generally speaking, persocoms did run out of power, but they didn't get tired exactly. And even then, that was a moot point, as Freya now possessed an infinite power supply thanks to her enhancements. Once they'd reached the central courtyard of the Kokubunji residence – no, estate was more like it – Freya stopped running and turned to face Rei.
All was still as the two faced each other. Not a sound was audible but the occasional cricket, not to mention trickling of water from the fountain located right behind Freya. She wanted badly to remain part of the Mikage household – to remain with Rei. But then, she couldn't blame him if he were to send her away.
Especially not after what just happened.
"Freya…" Rei started. She looked down at the stone path, her heart sinking as she anticipated the words that were sure to come next. Sorry, you're gonna have to go… Bye, Freya…
Which made her look back up at the next words to come out of his mouth.
"Are you alright?" the question was, much to her surprise, sincere, although Rei's tone of voice still carried that tone of doubt and uncertainty she supposed was unavoidable given what he'd just learned about her. "It seems you weren't as ready as you thought you'd be, Freya…"
Still she sensed sincerity in him rather than disgust or contempt. Still Freya bowed her head, no longer caring about the pain all too clearly etched on her features. Compared to facing Rei – not to mention her, upstairs – and seeing the disgust in their eyes, she'd rather have been fighting for her life against Abstergo.
At least then it'd be possible that she'd be terminated.
Because right now, she was so close to wishing she'd never woken up.
"You know, it's rude not to look at someone who's talking to you," Rei admonished Freya, a pale attempt at his usual flippant grin on his face. "Lemme just say this to start, though…" he continued as she once again dared to look up at him.
"I've a feeling I know what they did to you, but still, it was disturbing. Scary, even, no point denying it."
Rei's casual tone was clearly forced, and this was where it started shaking, but not once did he take his eyes off of Freya's.
"It does explain quite a bit, though. Remember when we first met? You'd barely say anything."
That was true; she did remember it. It had been right after that attempt Ceres made to access her – something Freya was unlikely to forget anytime soon, considering how she had to use every ounce of willpower to stop her security program shutting down Ceres as a threat.
"And I know you still don't like not being with me if you can help it, but at least you can trust me to be with other people now. Remember before? You were practically hanging off my sleeve!"
Rei's tone caused Freya to snort, but she shifted uncomfortably and flushed faintly at the unnerving accuracy of his words. I thought you might notice that, Ceres did talk about how smart you were.
Maybe it was because he immediately welcomed her into their home when she sensed some hesitation in both Sayuri and Ceres, or maybe it stemmed from how he was so much like… someone else she had cared for in her past life. Either way, the encyclopedia's worth of information programmed into her told her she'd been heavily dependent on Rei ever since her arrival. More than was healthy, even.
Indeed, for all the power she possessed, not only as a prototype persocom but also, though she was loath to even think it, 'Project Seraph's one and only' – Freya made a mental note to never again think of herself as such – it was ironic to think it was her humanity, something persocoms weren't even supposed to possess at all, that gave rise to a character flaw in her.
What Freya had done at Abstergo had been damning to her, just as surely as she'd ended the lives of the people who did this to her. Coupled with the lingering trauma from her past life, the shadow of her murderous rage made her a broken shell of a girl, and now she'd chosen to latch onto Rei to cope. That she'd never admit it didn't make it any less true, either.
Powerful and dangerous a persocom though she might have become, she would be nothing – less than nothing, even – without Rei Mikage.
And at his next words, Freya lost it. Completely.
"I know it'll be hard. I'd be lying if I said otherwise. Maybe even painful, but then it'd be bound to be, given the baggage I'm pretty sure you're trying to get rid of, but you're not leaving." All traces of doubt disappeared from his voice now; on the contrary, his was a tone that would tolerate no dissent.
"You're one of us now, Freya, and I for one never abandon my own."
Without warning, she tackled Rei into a tight embrace, knocking them both over as she sobbed bitterly into his shoulder.
Real life love stories were nothing like those in fiction.
Not that he didn't enjoy them anyway, mused Daniel as he read the latest entry in his favourite series, but he'd long grown past the age – and mindset – where it was perfectly acceptable to believe that happy endings were just given to people on a silver platter. Movies and books pulled the wool over everyone's eyes with all the 'happily ever after' bullshit when there was, in fact, no such thing in reality. Even without more novels like that rag from a few years back about sparkly vampires and bland self-insert skanks written by some sexually frustrated lady, he thought - he'd dove into the bargain bin in his desperation for a good read, only to wind up all but kicking himself for having picked up something better off being tossed in a bonfire - today's literature was disappointingly lacking when it came to truly realistic love stories.
Good thing his disappointment would not be for long.
"Boss, I think you might wanna take a look at this," called one of the operators at Abstergo's Operations Division as he looked up from his workstation. "I think I've finally got a lead on our little angel."
Daniel Cross had barely finished the first page of the chapter he was in when he leapt up from his desk and practically leapt towards the operator in question. In stark contrast to his almost feral excitement at the prospect of an impending hunt back when Vidic had made his request, he'd been beginning to wish he'd never accepted in the first place. Now, however, they finally made a break through – and about time, too.
Unlike any other tracking mission assigned either to him or one of his other subordinates, which encouraged an up-close-and-personal approach, this assignment all but mandated just the opposite. It was to their chagrin that Regenschirm had been so secretive as to exactly what his little science project had been capable of, and that he'd taken that particular secret with him to the grave. From what they did know, and what others had found out the hard way, their target's capabilities would make taking the typical approach a rather suicidal and foolhardy thing to do.
And so it was that when the operator called his attention to what he'd found, he reacted with unnerving haste.
"What? Where?" Daniel demanded.
"Right here, sir – wait a minute," requested the operator as he clicked a few links to a certain persocom BBS. He'd found their lead in one of the threads, but where…?
"Ah, here it is!" he muttered excitedly as he found the thread in question.
He clicked it…
Sorry, the link that took you to this page seems to be outdated or broken.
Daniel Cross felt his left wrist itch as he fought the sudden urge to plunge his hidden blade into this idiot's skull for wasting his time.