Luce has always known exactly what she was getting into, and exactly what the consequences would be. It still hurt, watching the others leave the Giglio-Nero mansion for the last time. The last time she'd be alive for, at least. They'd be back for her funeral; she'd Seen it.
It is her duty, to do what is necessary. Soon, it will be Aria's duty. It's not fair. Nothing in her baby's life will be fair. But it's necessary.
Since Luce won't be there for her daughter growing up, she can at least try to explain. She Knows Aria won't appreciate it at first, but Luce started a diary. To let her daughter know she was loved. That she wasn't just a means to an end.
None of them were a means to an end. They started that way; Luce can't pretend otherwise. Most people start that way. It's side effect of knowing what they are going to do and how she'll need to manipulate them to get the preferred outcome. But before the Arcobaleno, Luce had never dealt with someone she's manipulating long-term. Lived with them, for weeks at a time. Come to care about them.
They knew she manipulated them. And she did. All the time. When someone swapped the sugar for salt, she Saw it coming and didn't warn them. When a mission went wrong and they had to detour through the sewers, Luce was the only one to have a change of clothes prepped in the getaway vehicle. But they thought it was funny. They let her have her amusement at their expense. They trusted her.
Though she always wondered about Fon. He was too sad the last time he held Aria. Too understanding the morning of the trap. And his eyes had always been too knowing.
Luce wishes she'd asked him. But she'd always Known he'd go along with the plan. And every time Luce considered asking, she got a Bad Feeling about it.
The Possibilities overwhelm her as she stares off into space.
The minute Verde left the Giglio-Nero mansion, he went for his favorite bunker. Even his most basic security system could keep out a small army, and the upgrades he had planned would do more. His setup at the mansion had been decent, but not extensive enough for the tests he needs to run.
Ever since he found out about Flames, he's been studying them. The mafia as a whole hadn't been new. Verde had never been picky about who funded his research, so long as he could do as he pleased. He'd been excited about a whole new area of study, only to be disappointed by the shortsighted and idiotic approach previous generations had taken. For all the innovation on combat applicability, barely anyone had studied what else Flames could be used for.
It was a disgrace to scientists and researchers everywhere.
Verde is the World's Greatest Scientist and Flame Expert. Just because he hasn't found an obvious answer doesn't mean he's going to let a little setback stop him. Keeping the others around might have helped provide more data, but the benefits didn't outweigh the irritation it would have caused. It's okay though. He took plenty of samples.
The others had only put up a token resistance when Verde broke out the needles and sample jars. Ultimately, all it took to gain their permission was the fact the samples could assist in finding a way to reverse their condition. As exasperating as it was to wait for 'permission' for these things, it was necessary. Luce always knew when he got the urge to experiment and made herself scarce. Most of the others tended to react with extreme and inconvenient violence when suddenly prodded with needles. Fon was actually the most annoying. If Verde wasn't the World's Strongest Lightning, he's certain the martial artist would have broken his fingers. On reflex. And the man had the most frustrating habit of Disintegrating Verde's equipment. All in all, it was more efficient to ask for permission.
Verde didn't tell them about all the different tests he was planning, of course. They likely would have said no and it would have prolonged the whole ordeal of retrieving samples. He'd already tested several hypotheses to no avail.
This situation is a temporary inconvenience. A minor setback, certainly. Viper may not have been able to do anything for them, but their condition seems to directly affect their Flames. It's possible Viper will find a solution on their own given enough time to adapt, but Verde isn't going to count on it.
Verde's initial hypothesis was this "Curse" was simply a means of making them vulnerable to enemies. Luce proved otherwise. Which creates new hypotheses. First, an enemy has managed to develop a technique to trap them in the bodies of toddlers AND fool Luce's foresight into believing it is necessary. Improbable. While he'd never had the opportunity to perform direct tests of the Giglio-Nero foresight, Luce had never been fooled or surprised by anything. The enemy had also failed to take them when they were vulnerable. What is the point of turning them into toddlers and then not taking them while they were weak?
Second, Luce was conspiring with an enemy the whole time in order to trap them in the bodies of toddlers. More probable. Again, does not answer the question about what the purpose of their condition is.
Third, turning them into toddlers wasn't the end goal. Likely. Very likely. No one had tried to take advantage of their condition. Luce hadn't tried to keep them in one place. Luce hadn't even tried to escape the effects, herself. This hypothesis required reordering his evidence. If their condition is a side effect instead of the goal, then the effects on their Flames must be the goal instead of the side effect.
It makes sense. The pacifiers they couldn't seem to get rid of, glow in the color of their Flame (except for Luce, whose pacifier is an outlier – likely because of Colonello's intervention.) Their Flames are being siphoned off, seemingly into the pacifiers. But for what purpose? And how to reverse the effects? Consideration of Luce's possible motivations brought up more questions. Was Fon also in on it? The martial artist had warned them the situation seemed like a trap, but at the same time, he had reinforced his intent to walk into it. Fon didn't seem to have foresight. The "Curse" incident was seemingly and outlier; but could Verde trust that?
Finding the answers might require… collaboration.
Verde would almost rather be stuck as a toddler.