Chapter 12: An Interesting Development
Stay your blade from the flesh of an innocent.
Such was one of three core tenets all Assassins were expected to abide by for the rest of their lives. Under no circumstances was one of them to shed innocent blood; whether or not it happened to be within the context of a mission, none of them were permitted to sacrifice innocents to get to their target, and any who did so would paid for it with their life. And though some made exceptions for those who chose to attack them first, other, more merciful Assassins still opted for nonlethal alternatives whenever and wherever possible.
As she barely managed to parry the rose-haired girl's barrage with a kunai, Tsukuyomi was seriously reconsidering that self-imposed restraint. She and her twin had been taught by Itachi that children in particular weren't to be harmed – makes sense, considering his background – and so she'd gone out of her way to forego her usual arsenal of shuriken and kunai in favor of sedative-laced throwing needles. It was very much likely that her trouble with her rose-haired adversary stemmed from her relative lack of familiarity with her current weapons.
Even then, though…!
More importantly, though, what really troubled Tsukuyomi right now was that this girl was managing to even fight her at all, to say nothing of how they seemed to be evenly matched. As a persocom of the Eden series, she and her twin and the rest of their sisters had all been created to serve as agents, enforcers and operatives for the Assassin Order; as such, each and every one of them possessed a lifetime's worth of data that made them proficient in all known forms of combat. The idea was that each of them would have combat performance at least equivalent to that of any Special Force operative, maybe even greater.
In other words, thought Tsukuyomi as she flung a storm of needles towards her rose-haired adversary, the idea of her being matched by a teenaged girl wasn't just embarrassing, it was highly disturbing.
This'd be over in a heartbeat if I wasn't holding back…
And though Tsukuyomi had resolved to stay true to the first rule by refraining from killing this girl, even she had to admit that it was getting harder to keep from just chucking a kunai right between her eyes and ending this.
She's just lucky we've got a soft spot for kids…
The unexpected kick to her midsection caused Tsukuyomi to stagger backwards, in the process jolting from her thoughts.
And as she saw her chance, the rose-haired girl wasted no time leaping forward with her blade held high, poised to drive it right through the persocom's face.
This guy's something else, alright.
Such were Yukiteru Amano's thoughts as he watched his new friend Shouichi rush out from behind the corner that was their hiding place, clearly intending to fight Takao Hiyama head-on.
Before his inexplicable betrayal of the Order, Hiyama had been one of the cream of the crop as far as Assassins went, and was even under consideration for promotion to the rank of Master. Though his role was to keep Sakurami free of Templar influence by preying on them in the guise of a serial killer, his Assassin's Diary told him that most of Hiyama's Templar victims were fully fledged Abstergo agents. Indeed, the Diary entry on him told Yukiteru that some of those victims came very close to turning the tables on their killer, and that one of them narrowly escaped with her life, stopping just short of blowing up a derelict building with Hiyama inside to do it.
Needless to say, thought Yukiteru as he noticed the more or less even match while waiting for his cue, that Shouichi could fight a Master Assassin candidate not only spoke volumes about the amnesiac's own talents, but raised questions about his origins as well.
Though that's not really relevant right now…
Then, as if out of nowhere, Hiyama lunged at Shouichi in an attempt to stab him in the heart with his machete, only to miss as the latter swayed to the side and then kicked the blade out of his hands. Seizing his chance, Yukiteru ran from his hiding place, hidden blade poised to stab the turncoat right in the jugular with his back turned-
-Only to narrowly miss as his blade penetrated the thick collar of Hiyama's overcoat, which had clearly been lined with something thick and sturdy enough to ward off a hidden blade.
Yukiteru wasted no time trying to withdraw, but it was too late; finally noticing the youth that had attempted to kill him, Hiyama left him flat on his back with a judo throw, knocking the wind out of his lungs as he landed hard on his lower back. From where he was lying, Yukiteru could see the traitor extend his own hidden blade, clearly in an attempt to pay him back in kind…
Am I gonna die like this?
But though the upstart Assassin squeezed his eyes shut and awaited the killing blow, it never came. Instead, all he heard was a soft grunt of pain from somewhere above him, followed by a soft click that could only have been the sound of a retracted hidden blade. When he dared to open his eyes again, he saw someone in what looked like a police uniform standing right behind Hiyama, having stabbed the serial killer right through the back of his head.
Hiyama barely managed to whisper the word before the newcomer pulled out his own blade with a yank, leaving him to fall to his knees. And as he gazed at his erstwhile student, who had gotten to his feet in the meantime, it was as if he were seeing him properly for the first time. "Yukiteru… Amano, was it?"
"You were one of the best among the Assassins," a note of sorrow tinged Yukiteru's voice as he spoke, crouching down to set his dying teacher gently on the floor. "Why'd you betray us?"
Hiyama grimaced weakly as he spoke, blood rapidly pooling beneath him as he bled out. "I wasn't moving… of my own free will. Someone – something…"
The grim, sorrowful look on Yukiteru's face was gone at the reply, to be replaced by one of mingled shock and horror. "What do you mean? Like you were possessed?"
"Something like that," the dying man barely managed to get out as he grew paler by the second. "Thanks… I…"
Takao Hiyama died before he could get the words out, his eyes closing with finality as his body went completely still. Out of respect for the dead man, Yukiteru gently laid a hand on his forehead as he gave him his final rites.
"…Requiescat in pace."
All three of them stood in silence for a while, Yukiteru and Shouichi and the newcomer, in part as a show of respect to the recently departed Takao Hiyama – who, as it turned out, had not willingly betrayed the Assassin Order after all.
Eventually, after at least a minute had passed, it was the newcomer in the police uniform who opted to broke the silence.
"Yukiteru Amano, right?"
The youth in question turned towards the faux-cop, and received a kind, reassuring smile in return.
"Itachi Yukishiro," he introduced himself as he extended his hand. "It's nice to meet you, kid."
Just as she was inches away from finishing off her opponent, Yuno found herself distracted when a loud noise emanated from her phone.
Breaking off her attack at the last minute, she jumped at least three feet backwards as she knelt down to examine it.
April 3 / 17:21 [Sakurami High School, front gate]
Yukki turned the tables on the serial killer. What a relief!
Wait, what's she even doing?
Tsukuyomi maintained her guard even as she warily eyed the girl, who seemed absorbed in what was probably a text message on her phone. A moment later, the girl lowered her knife and stowed it back in her purse. And as she did so, the look on her face slowly shifted from one of rage and borderline madness to clear, resplendent elation.
"Yukki…" she whispered. "You're alright…!"
And when she stood up, the smile on her face made it difficult for Tsukuyomi to believe that this girl had been trying to drive a knife between her eyes just moments ago.
"Sorry about just now," said the rose-haired girl as she dusted off her skirt, right before taking a handkerchief from her purse and wiping her face off on it. "I hope we meet again, big sister!"
And as they watched the rose-haired girl run past them right into Sakurami High, neither Amaterasu nor Tsukuyomi could shake the feeling that something wasn't quite right with her…
Quite an interesting development, if I do say so myself.
The robed figure continued to survey the events from her vantage point, her eyes fixed with particular interest on the rose-haired girl who raced past the two other figures who attempted to bar her path.
My child… How proud you have made me.
I knew you would not disappoint.
They'd never met, but it was nevertheless the case that the robed figure knew the girl more intimately than anyone else. For one thing, she knew that the girl had been born for a grand purpose, and that whether or not she knew it, everything in her life had and would continue to propel her toward it. More importantly, thought the robed figure, she fully intended to guide her towards that destiny. And though she knew that the time had not yet come for the two of them to meet, she nevertheless remained firm in her conviction to continue to nudge the child in the right direction.
There will be nothing and no one that can stand in our way.
For that matter, her long-term plans also accounted for the presence of the boy, Yukiteru Amano, as well. Not only did she know of the girl's burning desire for her affections, she actually approved of them in her own way. After all, those two children both happened to have exactly what she needed to see her plans in motion. Though they had no idea of it yet, both of them would have an important role to play in the salvation of the world.
For the moment, though, she was content with letting them enjoy their childhood.
Run along and play for now, dear children.
Under my guidance, the two of you will change the world, and humankind with it, into something better.
After all, thought the robed figure as she finally turned to leave, there would be plenty of time later on to enlighten the two of them on their true purpose in the greater scheme of things.
At that moment, Athena was busying herself keeping house. As she and her sister had already carried out their general cleaning duties yesterday, there wasn't much left for her to do at the moment but to cook dinner. For one thing, their uncle Lorenzo had given her advance notice about his arrival, and then contacted her earlier today to say that he'd be arriving this evening. Not only that, he'd also said that apart from his own adopted 'daughters' Demeter and Ceres, he'd have not just one, but two guests who'd be coming over to stay for a while.
At the same time, though, cooking served to distract her from worrying about Yukiteru, who she knew was probably up against the traitor Hiyama at this very moment. Admittedly, he himself didn't seem all that scared at the prospect; if anything, he'd even waved off Minerva's concern, telling her that she needed to keep the other students under her care out of the area while he took care of things. But then, the two of them knew better; even granting that their beloved Yuki had synchronized fully with his legendary ancestor and inherited all his skills and talents, they really didn't want to take chances where his safety and well-being was concerned.
And so it was that when she received a phone call, Athena steeled herself, hoping for the best but expecting the worst.
"He's safe now, Athena. There's no more need for you to worry."
"Thanks so much, Ami," she whispered, the gratitude and relief all too clear in her voice, "I really appreciate it."
She didn't have long to dwell on it, though, as it was at that moment that the doorbell rang.
And when Athena came to open the door, she recognized her uncle Lorenzo, as well as her fellow persocoms. Also accompanying them were a Japanese woman who must have been his fiancée, as well as a child – probably her younger sibling – who looked approximately 12 or 13 years old. As Athena's eyes met his, the boy smiled shyly at her, to which she responded in kind.
"Buona sera, Athena," Lorenzo greeted her with a warm smile. "You're lovely as always, aren't you?"