Chapter 7: As Fate Would Have It
A mysterious youth stood in front Sakurami High, just beyond the gates, his face hidden behind the red scarf that he wore.
And as he watched the students come and go, chatting to and among themselves, Shouichi Ogami knew that his target was here somewhere: a notorious serial killer who stalked the streets of Sakurami City at night, while maintaining the façade of a respected high school teacher by day. To Shouichi, he was like a modern-day version of Jack the Ripper, or one of those other whackos. There was certainly something in his killings – something he dared not dwell on, lest he lose his breakfast – that warranted that comparison, anyway.
He'd been especially active lately, too, and in fact, Shouichi had had the 'pleasure' of bearing witness to his handiwork. There was no way he'd forget how he'd found that poor girl practically drowning in her own blood in that alley, lying there broken like a puppet cut from its strings. Needless to say, he needed to be stopped, and soon.
And as fate would have it, it was he, Shouichi, who would get to carry out the deed. Or, more accurately, it was he who would be forced to do so.
That old fart Kusaka, who called himself Lady Tsubaki's right hand – 'called himself', thought Shouichi, because there was absolutely no way in hell that either his Lady or her parents would have trusted anyone more than him, least of all that crooked old bastard – had ordered him to carry out the need, saying that Lady Tsubaki herself would have wanted it. But when Shouichi questioned him further, the response he received sent all kinds of alarm bells ringing in his head.
"Just do as you're told, won't you, Shouichi? If you don't, there's a good chance that Lady Tsubaki just might end up a victim herself – and we wouldn't want that, now would we?"
That effectively cut off any further argument on his part.
And so it was decided that Shouichi would attend Sakurami High under an assumed name, the better to get close enough to his target and dispatch him as requested. He was young enough to be in high school, anyway, which made this the perfect plan. And he felt no qualms about what he had been asked to do, either, given that his target had it coming. In light of the countless innocents he had heartlessly butchered, it was little more than karmic justice that the killer, whoever he was, would be buried in turn.
More importantly, however, Shouichi was Tsubaki's bodyguard. The veiled threat Kusaka had made effectively outed him as an enemy; however, he would have to deal with him later. Tsubaki's safety came first, and he had sworn to protect her at all costs.
I do this for you, milady.
And if that cost was the life of some crazed murderer, then so be it.
He'd carry out this one task for that bastard Kusaka… and when he returned to the shrine, Shouichi solemnly swore to himself that he'd see that bastard hang from the nearest tree.
After what seemed like an eternity, Yukiteru and Yuno finally broke apart.
Yukiteru looked around, taking in the looks on the faces of his classmates as he did so. Whereas the males appeared to have a strange mix of amusement, envy and awe on their faces, the girls instead wore near-identical expressions of disgust. Either way, it didn't take long for the laughter to break out.
"Yuno. Mia cara." This he said to the girl in front of him amid the laughter, frantically pulling up his hood as he felt his cheeks grow hotter and redder in his embarrassment. "What d'you think you're doing?"
"Me? I'm greeting my boyfriend, of course," Yuno said, blushing as she innocently twiddled her fingers. "What did you think I was doing, Yukki?"
Well, well, Yuki. Barely even 15 and you've got a girlfriend already. Ezio would be proud.
He never got to protest as Yuno held a finger to his lips, while 'his other self' lauded him for his 'achievement'.
The approval filled Yukiteru with shame, to say the least. He'd have been lying if he were to say that he wasn't irritated by his classmates laughing their butts off at him. However, he wasn't particularly angered by it. After all, as Ezio, he'd experienced worse; compared to all the crap he'd experienced while reliving Ezio's memories in the Animus, this was nothing.
Rather, what did offend Yukiteru, was that the voice at the back of his head now saw fit to compare him to his lecherous ancestor. He still hadn't forgotten that particular memory, of Ezio sneaking into his girlfriend's house in the dead of night for a few stolen hours. Nor did it help that he, Yukiteru, was very much aware of the implications involved: that it had been him, just as surely as it had been his ancestor, who'd experienced the events of that night.
Needless to say, Yukiteru decided that, however much he idolized Ezio, his colourful love life wasn't one of the things he wanted to emulate.
"Alright guys, pipe down, will you?"
The laughter almost instantly died out as the classroom's front door swung open, allowing a tall, crisply-dressed man with long, red hair to enter. Knowing that the new arrival was going to be their teacher, the entire class, Yukiteru and Yuno included, simply watched as he wrote his name on the chalkboard. That done, the man turned to face them, clearing his throat as he did so.
"My name's Takao Hiyama, and I'm going to be your homeroom teacher," he greeted them with a welcoming smile on his face. "Right, then, how about we do some introductions?"
Almost instinctively, Yukiteru scanned the area, using his second sight to pick out who among his new classmates might turn out to be potential threats. He felt a slight surge of irritation and betrayal as Yuno shone gold before his eyes, marking her as someone who would turn out to be important to him. It was true; they'd gotten rather close on that night, but the parallels to his ancestor made him uncomfortable, to say the least.
It didn't help, either, that the same held true for two other girls he turned his gaze toward: a tomboyish-looking girl with short, reddish-brown hair and a body surprisingly developed for her age, who was chatting with another, long-haired girl in a fairly conservative dress. Likewise, another classmate – a boy this time, one who Yukiteru recognized as having joined in the laughter from earlier – was marked similarly.
But just as he turned to face their teacher-
"Excellent!" Mr. Hiyama said, flashing even, white teeth as he grinned. "You there – yeah, you with the hood – why don't you come up front and do the honors?"
All eyes were on Yukiteru as he made his way to the platform in front of his classmates. He really wasn't lucky this morning, was he? Class hadn't started, and he'd already managed to embarrass himself in front of his classmates thanks to Yuno and her 'greeting'.
Resignedly, he decided to himself that he would play along for now. It wasn't as if he had a choice, anyway.
"Err… Hi, everyone. My name's Yukiteru Amano."
As he said this, though, he was met with questioning looks not only from Mr. Hiyama, but from his classmates as well. The two girls from earlier gaped at him, while Yuno's face shone with admiration. His teacher, meanwhile, cleared his throat.
"Umm… What language was that?" Mr. Hiyama inquired kindly.
"Would you kindly repeat that, please? In Japanese, this time."
Yukiteru slapped his forehead, realizing that he'd just lapsed into Italian again.
For the longest time, he'd been around his sisters and his uncle, who usually spoke to each other in that language. Coupled with his excursions into the life of his ancestor, speaking in Italian had become all but second nature to him. As a result, he found himself lapsing into Italian from time to time, even when he spoke Japanese.
It wasn't a particularly troublesome or annoying habit, at least not in the Auditore house where he and his sisters all spoke fluent Japanese and Italian, but now that he was going to school again…
I'll have to watch out for that, then.
"My name's Yukiteru Amano. I hope we'll all get to be good friends!" he repeated, bowing nervously as he did so.
Polite applause greeted him as, mercifully, Mr. Hiyama allowed Yukiteru to return to his seat immediately afterward. He made his way to his chair, where he resumed his seat with his head bowed. After a moment, however, he looked back up at his teacher, and-
Ma che cazzo?
He blinked, convinced that his eyes were deceiving him.
Try as he might, though, Yukiteru was unable to erase the bright red that bathed Mr. Hiyama's silhouette, nor could he quell his inner voice warning him of the impending danger that was sure to come.
Meanwhile, the phone rang at the Auditore house, just as Athena was attending to her chores.
"Hi, Athena. Are you three coping well? It's been half a year now since that night."
It was Rea Amano, Yukiteru's mother and their aunt.
"Si. Mi dispiace, Zia, but if it's Yuki-kun you're looking for, he's in school at the moment," Athena informed her aunt, even as she continued to sweep the floor in the living room. "Perhaps you could try calling later?"
"Don't be silly, dear, it was you who I meant to call," came Rea's voice in her head; as a persocom, neither Athena nor Minerva had need for phones, given that they had one built-in in their heads. It was convenient, to be sure. For one thing, it made multitasking a breeze, since they could attend to multiple tasks even while carrying on a conversation on the phone.
"I know how much Yuki-kun loves the two of you. And besides, I am your aunt after all, even if you aren't Piero's biological children."
Athena smiled to herself. Their aunt really was as nice as Piero had described. Rea knew very well that she and Minerva – and Demeter and Ceres, for that matter – weren't human, but that little detail didn't seem to matter to her. "Grazie, Zia. Yuki-kun always did speak so fondly of you, too."
"Si. I know," came Rea's reply; Athena thought she heard her smile, too. "So, how are you and Minerva doing? Human or not, young ladies like you shouldn't be cooping yourself up in that stuffy house all the time!"
"I know that, Zia," Athena smiled as she moved on to dust the furniture. "Minerva's gone to apply at Yuki-kun's school as a guidance counselor, so I'm stuck here doing chores. Oh, and Yuki-kun seems to have a crush on some girl."
Athena giggled to herself as she shared that particular update.
"Her name's Yuno Gasai. She was there that night, too."
"Oh?" Rea perked up, that latest bit of news piquing her curiosity. "I look forward to meeting her next month, then. Oh, yeah, did I mention that I was coming home next month?"
"Tell Yuki-kun I'll see you all real soon. Do take care of yourselves, alright?"
"Zia, wait!" Athena said, but it was too late; Rea had already hung up.
It was too bad, too, thought Athena, considering that she had been about to suggest to her aunt that she be the one to fetch her at the airport. That recent development seemed really sudden, too, but she supposed she shouldn't have been surprised. After all, Piero had spoken fondly of his sister's impulsive and borderline ditzy behaviour. And for that matter, Yuki-kun himself wasn't beyond such impulsiveness, if his employment of less than productive coping methods immediately following Piero's death was anything to go by.
Well, that ought to put a smile on Yuki-kun's face…
That said, Athena had to admit that she herself was looking forward to seeing her aunt again.
Maybe they could all live together here, as one big, happy family.