Chapter 1: Athena and Minerva
April 21 / 20:28 [home]
My uncle seems like a pretty cool guy. I'm in the front seat of his car, watching all the pretty lights pass us by.
Barely an hour ago, Yukiteru had been fetched from his family's house by his uncle, Piero Auditore, who even helped him pack his things. As it turned out, though, all he needed to bring - clothes and a small telescope, his other cherished possession aside from the mobile phone his parents had given him - managed to fit in a small knapsack.
"Don't worry," Piero had said, "I'll take care of everything else, Yuki-kun."
Of course, he realized as he stared out the window while waiting for the red light to change, I forgot. Mom's family's pretty rich, isn't it?
Just as the light turned green, though, his stomach rumbled. "Err, uncle?"
Piero kept his eyes on the road, but his smile told Yukiteru he was listening. "Yeah? Oh, and it's just Piero, Yuki-kun. What's up?"
"Could we get something to eat, Piero? I'm starving."
Piero laughed aloud at his nephew's suggestion even as he blitzed through the now-empty streets of Sakurami City's business district in his sedan. "We'll be there soon, Yuki-kun. Besides," he added, "I've already asked my girls to knock us up something to eat, so try to hang in there, alright?"
Yukiteru nodded, going back to his cellphone for yet another entry into his diary. "That's a good boy."
April 21 / 20:58 [Auditore residence]
My uncle's place is huge.
Objectively speaking, it wasn't that big, but to an 8 year-old kid like Yukiteru Amano, the Auditore residence was enormous. From the many houses similar to this one he'd seen on TV, the people who lived here were usually the really rich types, which indeed his uncle was. But in that case, he thought as he got out of his uncle's car, why didn't his mother-?
"Your Mom's not overly fond of houses this big," remarked Piero, effectively answering his nephew's unspoken question as they walked, side by side, toward the mansion's large double doors. "Not that I'm surprised, though. She always said –"
"Welcome home, father."
At those words, spoken in unison by two distinctly feminine voices, Piero trailed off. It was then, too, that he finally noticed the two female figures standing on either side of the house's main door.
"It wasn't really necessary to wait out here, but I appreciate it, girls."
Each of them had long, white hair that reached all the way to their waist, aside from complementing their kind, red eyes. The only difference lay between them lay in the inverted color schemes of their French maid uniforms – that, and the frilly headband worn by the one on the left. Aside from that, though, the two were identical in every possible way.
"This is my nephew, Yukiteru Amano," Piero introduced to the two. "Your new little brother."
"You'll be nice to him, won't you, Athena? Minerva?"
April 21 / 21:21 [Auditore residence, my room]
Piero introduced me to his daughters (and my new big sisters, he said), Athena and Minerva. They seem to be nice, although between them, big sister Minerva seems to be quiet all the time. Apparently, they're not human – Piero called them persocoms of the Eden series, whatever that means. It doesn't really matter to me, anyway. All I know is that I suddenly have two very nice and very pretty older sisters who like hugging me a lot.
Looks like I'm going to have fun here for the next 6 years. At least, I hope so.
Sitting at Yukiteru's bedside that night, Athena read the diary entry on his phone.
You're so sweet, Yuki-kun, she thought fondly, patting and then kissing him on the forehead. A moment later, she left the room, closing the door gently behind her.
Yukiteru had no idea just how right he'd turn out to be about what he'd said in that entry.
Yukiteru's days at the Auditore residence quickly took shape.
April 28, 06:00 [Auditore residence, my room]
Big sister Athena woke me up just 15 minutes ago. She says that from now on, I'll be exercising first thing in the morning, and that they'd be there to guide me through.
Every other day, Athena and Minerva put Yukiteru through what they called the 'Auditore special' – a 4-hour training regimen designed by Piero specifically for his nephew. Apparently, he would be home schooled for the next 6 years, with his mother's approval of course. When he asked his uncle why, he was told that a serial killer was on the loose in Sakurami who was known to operate around what they called the city's school district.
That, and that his favourite target happened to be little boys.
"We don't want anything happening to you, do we, Yuki-kun?" Piero asked, laughing as he ruffled his nephew's hair, in the process killing any argument Yukiteru might have had to their current arrangement.
Not in the least, thank you.
Yukiteru's mornings consisted of rigorous physical activity, from free running to gymnastics to basic hand-to-hand combat training, all under Athena's watchful eye. After a 1-hour lunch break, Minerva would take over, schooling him in both Italian and English, aside from teaching him all the other courses a child his age and grade level could be expected to take up in school.
Except for Sunday, where Yukiteru would be taken out by his sisters – and Piero, whenever he was around – there was little if any deviation from his general routine.
May 05, 15:30 [Auditore residence, study]
Big sister Minerva gave me some strawberry shortcake. She's happy I did well in the exam she prepared for me. Also, she prepared the attic for me, said we'd go up to see the stars tonight.
He was rewarded when he did well. And when he messed up particularly badly, he was punished, though it only happened once in a blue moon. And even then, his sisters didn't inflict physical punishment on him, though they did discipline him by way of excruciatingly difficult tasks and drills that did a number on his mind as well as his body. Yukiteru found this out the hard way when, much to his chagrin, he managed to cross both his sisters.
"Yuki-kun, what the hell do you think you're doing?"
By the end of it, he was too exhausted to think, let alone make an entry in his diary, before sleep claimed him.
Despite that particular incident, Yukiteru found it fun for the most part. It helped a lot, too, that Athena and Minerva generally remained kind and considerate even as they put him through his paces. Even their punishment was aimed at making him a better person, though he still quite understandably hesitated to cross them if he could avoid it. Kindhearted and loving though his sisters were, they became absolutely terrifying when they were upset.
Eventually, Yukiteru turned 12.
"Happy birthday, Yuki-kun!"
Yukiteru flushed violently when he saw the picture Piero had taken as he blew out the candles for his birthday cake, wherein Athena and Minerva were kissing him on each cheek – Athena on the left, Minerva on the right.
"Why are you blushing, Yuki-kun?" he asked his nephew, teasingly. "Tell you what – how 'bout you, Athena and Minerva go out on a date? I'll even give you money for it!"
If he was blushing before, it was nothing compared to the look on his face at his uncle's words.
Indeed, Yukiteru's face could have been mistaken for an oversized tomato by now. Athena and Minerva were embarrassed as well, though nowhere near as much as the clearly flustered boy they had come to love and care for as their little brother. In fact, they even appeared to be enjoying themselves somewhat.
After several seconds of silence, Piero burst out laughing.
"Just kidding," he said. "Still, the offer's open if you'd like to take it."
"As for my real birthday present, though, it's up in your room. You'll love it, I promise."
"Care to show him, girls?"
What awaited Yukiteru in his room was nothing like his uncle's previous birthday presents.
Last year, his uncle had given him clothes: a black, hooded jacket with matching cargo pants, as well as a bright red scarf. The year before that, it was an exercise outfit and a pair of running shoes. And before that, Piero had gotten Yukiteru his very own laptop.
But now –
Piero's latest birthday present was what vaguely resembled a futuristic dental chair. There was a small panel on the outside of the left armrest, with all manner of buttons and displays. On it was a small, white envelope which contained a note, folded twice.
Happy 12th birthday!
My birthday present to you this year is the Animus. Think of it as one of those virtual reality games kids your age play from time to time, only more useful. I mean, sure, you might find your experiences with the Animus enjoyable, but I'm giving this to you more for its educational value than its recreational value.
Try to get in at least 3 hours or so on the days your sisters aren't training you, alright? No more than that, though – your body might not be able to handle it yet. Also, I've asked Athena and Minerva to monitor your time in the Animus. It's for your own safety, trust me.
Again, happy birthday, Yuki-kun. I hope you eventually grow up to be a fine man. Always remember that you're an Auditore, by blood and by lineage, even if not by name. Your uncle, Piero.
At the last two sentences, Yukiteru Amano couldn't help but feel his chest swell with pride.
Thank you, Piero.
I won't let you down. I promise.
Well, well. What's this, then?
Elsewhere, a lean, mean-looking man sat at a desk in his office as he stared intently at the screen of his laptop – more specifically, at the dossiers on certain individuals of interest.
Name: Ushio Gasai
Age: 37 years old
Occupation: banker, businessman
Notes: Known to have close ties with John Bacchus, Sakurami City mayor. Handle with care.
Name: Saika Gasai
Age: 34 years old
Notes: Diagnosed with mild to moderate mental and emotional instability. Target is unlikely to be a threat, but caution is still urged.
Name: Yuno Gasai
Age: 12 years old
He honestly didn't know why he was being made to liquidate these individuals; except for the first, none of them had any reason to die, least of all the child who looked so pure and innocent. Regardless, he wasn't one to question orders. In their organization, an order from above had the force and effect of a law, and those who disobeyed were punished in a manner corresponding to their transgression.
He sighed. There was little point dwelling on it.
The man closed each dossier, one by one, before shutting down the computer itself.
Ours is not to question, only to act.
May the Father of Understanding guide us.
Finally, he placed the laptop back in his attaché case, then zipped it up and exited the office.
Forgive me, my friend.