Chapter 2: Their Cross to Bear
In accordance with his uncle's wishes, Yukiteru put in 3 hours in the Animus on his off-days.
And to say the least, thought 13-year old Yukiteru one fine Sunday, it was an interesting experience, getting to run around Renaissance-era Italy.
Over the course of a year, he'd treated the cities of Florence and Venice like his own personal playgrounds, scaling walls and traversing rooftops as he relived the memories of their ancestor, Ezio Auditore. Among other things, he'd seen Ezio punish his sister's philandering boyfriend and defend her honor, all while rubbing shoulders with historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolo Machiavelli.
In fact, to say that he'd 'seen' these moments was still somewhat inaccurate. He hadn't been a witness to those events, so much as he'd actually experienced them himself.
Thanks to the Animus, Yukiteru effectively got to live the life of his illustrious ancestor.
Wait a minute, he thought, remembering one of Ezio's more intimate excursions, one concerning a lady named Cristina Vespucci. Does that mean–?
Yukiteru went scarlet as he put it all together. The Animus given to him by Piero allowed him to experience the life of his ancestor firsthand. Whenever Ezio ran and frolicked around his native Florence, so did he. Thanks to the Animus, Yukiteru brawled with Ezio's rival just as surely as Ezio himself did. And that liaison Ezio had with his girlfriend –
Yukiteru didn't know whether to be delighted or disgusted at the implications involved. All he knew was that there was no way –
"Figlio di puttana."
Yukiteru knew what he'd just said would have earned him a slap in the face from Athena or Minerva had either been around, but he didn't care. As far as he was concerned, there was no better way to describe that particular experience he had.
Elsewhere in Sakurami City…
"Yuno, sweetheart, wake up. We're going out today."
Immediately, Yuno Gasai did what she was told, opening her eyes to see her father smiling down at her. She leapt out of bed and exited her room bringing a change of clothes, going to the bathroom down the hall to take a shower and go about her morning rituals, as it were. Following all that, she went straight to their dining room to make breakfast, only to find that her father had already done so.
At the sight, Yuno felt a rush of affection for her father. She didn't even know he knew how to cook, yet he'd done so, effectively relieving her of one of her morning chores. It used to be something her mother did, but following certain events, that task had since fallen to her.
Barely a year ago, Yuno's mother had been admitted to a mental hospital. Her father came home early from work one night to find his wife screaming at their daughter, who she'd locked in a cage more appropriate for an animal at the zoo. Understandably, he was upset, even going so far as to threaten to divorce her right there. It was only upon Saika Gasai's hysterical pleas for her husband and child not to leave her that he decided not to call the police.
Instead, they brought Yuno's mother to a psychologist, who diagnosed her with a severe case of dependent as well as depressive personality disorder. Not long after, she was committed to an institution, albeit not without Yuno and her father promising to visit her once a week – usually on Sundays, where the three of them would go out together.
From what the doctor said, though, her mother had been getting better and better. Soon enough, she'd be able to go home, and then they'd be able to live as a family again.
"Yuno?" Ushio asked suddenly as the two of them sat together in the car, "Something the matter?"
She looked at him, smiling as she shook her head. "No, nothing's wrong."
"C'mon, Papa! We mustn't keep Mama waiting!"
Someday soon, they'd all be together again.
Around the same time, too, Piero and Minerva sat together at the local Starbucks just outside Sakurami Mall, Athena having stayed behind to watch over Yukiteru while keeping house. They'd been there for at least a half hour, waiting for him to show up, but still he was nowhere to be found. It hardly surprised Piero, though. Punctuality had never been one of his brother's traits, not that he was one to talk.
Minerva, too, was getting bored. She'd decided to pass the time by going on international news websites, and when that failed, she logged on to their Order's database to apprise herself of whatever new entries might have been added since the last time she was on. Unsurprisingly, there were none.
If nothing else, thought Minerva, at least what she was doing wasn't completely useless. Unlike how certain other persocoms read garbage such as yuri manga – and even children's picture books, judging from what she saw once while she and Athena were out on an errand – what Minerva was doing was a much more productive way of passing the time.
That voice made both Piero and Minerva look up at the new arrivals: a man, dressed in a crisp business suit, accompanied by a petite, blue-haired persocom in a white dress. The man heavily resembled Piero, but there were at least as many differences between the two as there were similarities. Where Piero regularly went out dressing like a delinquent, his counterpart clearly did his best to look as presentable as possible. Aside from that, he was clean-shaven, in contrast to the rugged look Piero himself favoured.
"Hi, Lorenzo," Piero greeted his twin as he sat down right across them. "I see you brought Ceres with you, too."
"So, how have you been these days? I heard you've decided to move here to Japan, is that right?"
June 8, 2024 [Sakurami Police Department]
Slow day so far. No criminal activity reported.
Detective Keigo Kurusu was quite clearly bored as he sat back in his office, putting his feet up on the desk as he typed up that entry in the diary he kept on his cellphone.
True enough, the day had been rather uneventful so far; the afternoon had come without a single crime having been reported, which was a somewhat uncommon occurrence. Not that that was a bad thing, though. Less criminal activity not only meant lighter work for the police, but was also a sign that they were doing their jobs well.
Hell, I'm not complaining, he thought as he drank deeply from his mug of coffee. God knows I've got enough on my plate as it is.
There was another reason Kurusu wasn't sorry for the unexpected, yet very much welcome lull in his work as detective.
His son had recently been admitted to the hospital for some life-threatening illness, and try as he might, he couldn't help but worry. As a policeman, he'd become used to identifying problems and heading them as early as possible. It was the main reason he'd become a detective in the first place.
Unfortunately, there was literally no way Kurusu could have foreseen his son's illness. Even the doctor said so, giving an explanation using all sorts of technical and medical terms the detective barely even understood. He'd said the illness had been inherited genetically, but how could that have happened, considering neither he nor his wife had ever been diagnosed with it?
Regardless of how it had happened, though, the fact remained that it was now their cross to bear.
The mere fact that the illness was detected this early was a miracle in itself, to say nothing of the anonymous caller who'd tipped him off about it. The only saving grace was that the illness was still in the early stage, and could still be stopped dead in its tracks. The situation wasn't entirely hopeless, said the doctor, but the operation might end up costing a small fortune.
Dwelling on it won't do you any good, you know.
Kurusu sighed to himself.
Finally, after several moments at a loss as to what to do, he pulled out a Bible from his drawer, something he hadn't done for the longest time.
Lord, if it is your will, take this cup of suffering from me.
Yet not my will, but yours, be done.
Kurusu wasn't even entirely convinced God existed, but right now, he wanted to believe. He'd always been a problem solver, but this particular problem wasn't something he could handle.
At least, not by himself.
John Bacchus, Mayor of Sakurami City, sat in his office, with what looked like a large, golden apple placed on his table, right beside his laptop computer. The laptop itself had no less than twelve Word files open, each of which was a dossier on an individual of interest.
His job as Mayor was demanding, and understandably so, but at least he still had time for this personal project. For it to succeed, he needed the cooperation of at least one of the twelve. All of them had one thing in common, and it had something to do with the oversized apple he had right there.
It's not like they won't be compensated for their services, anyway.
Which was true. Aside from being a priceless artefact no doubt worth tens or even hundreds of millions, the Apple was said to have powers accessible by those with the right lineage. Rumor had it that, in the hands of a worthy individual, it was even capable of altering reality itself. Unfortunately for him he himself wasn't one of those chosen few - though, luckily, it was well within the resources of the organization he was part of to find out exactly who was.
John Bacchus, Mayor of Sakurami City, wore a satisfied smile on his face at the grand plans he was about to set in motion.
May the Father of Understanding guide us.