Chapter 8: For Their Own Good
All is as I anticipated.
Atop one of the buildings of Sakurami High School stood a robed figure, surveying the world below with a sense of detached interest.
The plan wrought ages ago shall soon be seen to fruition.
A decade had passed since she regained her freedom. During that time, she'd travelled the world, taking in the extent to which it had changed and evolved through the years. And while doing so, she'd also set about sowing the seeds for her grand plan – a plan which would soon pay off, if she had anything to say about it.
After all, thought the enigma as she gazed down at the children scurrying about the school grounds as their classes ended for the day, her long-overdue release from her confinement wasn't for naught. It had happened for a reason – a reason that most would undoubtedly find incomprehensible or even abhorrent, but which would nevertheless be for their own good.
We should have left you as you were, she thought disgustedly to herself.
To say the least, she had little love for humanity. It was hardly surprising, though, given that she'd had the dubious privilege of having witnessed firsthand the foolishness – the barbarism – that humanity as a whole was capable of. Not a day passed during her imprisonment that she didn't watch humans commit all manner of atrocities, making all kinds of excuses as they did so. Such was the case when they had imprisoned her, and remained so even today.
Indeed, time and again she racked her brains as to how the existence of mankind could be anything other than a mistake. And each time she did so, she came up with less and less answers. Not the least bit surprising, but disappointing nonetheless.
But even then, they did exist. And their mere existence meant that somehow, humanity was still worth saving.
And that, she reasoned, is exactly why I am needed.
This world – and humanity – must change its ways no matter what.
The Templars understood this, which was why she had aligned herself with them. Like her, they sought to shepherd the people through life – by force, if necessary. Like her, they sought to change and transform lives, to create a better world no matter the cost. And, most important, they had the means – the influence, the manpower and the resources – to see it through.
She didn't like having to work with them, those petty, misguided children as she saw them. Nevertheless, she would be a fool not to recognize that, for all their flaws and imperfections, the fact remained that their goals and interests were aligned.
And so long as that remained, she and Abstergo – and the greater Templar Order – would remain accomplices, united in their pursuit.
The figure spun around as a voice interrupted her thoughts.
"Is there something I can help you with?"
She said nothing, merely calculating her next move as she sized up the man before her. He was tall, with long, red hair he tied in a ponytail, as well as a well-built figure kept hidden by the crisp business suit he wore. That alone would have made him perfect, but it was his eyes – the eyes of a man with an intimate knowledge of death – that gave him away.
"As a matter of fact, there is," she said after a long silence, smiling cryptically at the man before her. "Would you kindly do me a little favour?"
The figure smiled, her eyes shining an unearthly gold as she merely gazed back.
A few moments later, a scream would be heard coming from the roof.
Templars… I hate you.
Even so, you will help me guide this world to salvation.
The lady looked up from the file she was reading, the better to regard the young woman before her in her office.
"You want to apply at our school, as part of our guidance staff?"
The reason for this was simple, thought Minerva. And besides, it was her idea, even if, given a choice, there wouldn't even be a reason for her to be here to begin with.
Following Piero's death, their aunt Rea – Yukiteru's mother – had rather strongly suggested that he return to regular schooling. She, Minerva, had opposed it, saying that Yuki-kun would be more vulnerable that way. However, what she didn't expect was that, Athena of all people, would oppose her in turn.
"It's for his own good, dear sister," her twin had said. "We can't keep him locked away here forever, now can we?"
Minerva acceded, seeing that she was in the minority; at any rate, she had a funny feeling that their aunt would pull rank had she continued to resist. But even though she yielded to her aunt and sister on the matter of their dear Yuki-kun returning to school, she couldn't but request a concession of her own – all in the name of his protection, of course.
"Yes, Ma'am," Minerva responded to her interviewer – Sakurami High School's principal – smiling politely as she did so. "I'd like to think I possess all the necessary qualifications, too."
"Well, quite." It was the principal's turn to smile. "I'd even say you're overqualified for the job. In fact, I wouldn't mind accepting you right now. But before I do, would you answer just one question for me?"
"Why is it that you, a former HR Development Head at Apex Corp, suddenly decided to apply at this school as a guidance counsellor?"
Minerva smiled; she didn't expect that question, but it was nevertheless a fairly reasonable one.
Before their informal adoption of Yukiteru, she worked at the company Piero and Lorenzo had inherited from their father, and was compensated generously for it. Being a persocom did have its perks, after all, as evidenced by her increased productivity and capability as compared to some of her co-workers.
On the other hand, the salary she would receive working here was a far cry from what she had grown used to, even if it was still relatively respectable as far as work in the academic setting went. Even with the possibility of a few pay raises along the way, Minerva knew better than to expect the same level of pay she had received at her previous work.
But then, money was never her reason for applying here, now was it?
"My own teachers took good care of me and taught me well, so I'm returning the favour."
Which was true, strictly speaking; while most of what she knew had been programmed into her, Minerva still spent some time learning from Lorenzo and Piero, as well as a few other veterans of the Assassin Order. In addition, she herself had once helped Assassin trainees along during their training, in the two years she'd spent at their Italian headquarters.
And of course, Minerva would take care of her dear Yuki-kun, as well as the other children that would be assigned to her care.
"And, to be honest, I think I'd prefer being around children instead of burnt-out adults," she added, the smile never leaving her face. "I'm the type of person who prefers to work with a smile on her face, you know?"
The principal laughed at that.
"I see. Well then, Miss Auditore, you're in. Welcome to Sakurami High."
"Thank you, Ma'am!" Minerva exclaimed, smiling as she bowed slightly, before turning to leave. "You'll not regret this, I swear it!" she added, just as she closed the door behind her.
Finally, that done, the principal took out her cellphone and dialled a number.
"It's done, just like you said."
"Thank you, Madam Principal," said the voice on the other end. "I owe you one."
"It's not a problem. And you'd better believe it, Lorenzo."
The decision to hire her was an easy one, thought the principal. Even without that man putting in a word for her, that young woman's credentials spoke for themselves; more importantly, she was wholly convinced that her heart – or what she had that passed for one, anyway – was in the right place.
And if nothing else, there was something to be said about someone willing to forego a high-paying job in some huge company, all in order to take care of kids who weren't her own.
Especially when the person in question not only couldn't have her own kids, but wasn't even human to begin with.
The next day was just another day at school for Yukiteru Amano.
At least, it should have been, had it not been for a certain surprise that came mid-morning.
It was just after their homeroom period had taken place – or at least, it would have, had Mr. Hiyama not been absent. In the absence of their homeroom teacher, the members of class 2-7 spent an hour playing and chatting among themselves, and had in some cases already formed little groups and cliques of their own. And in the meantime, one of their more responsible classmates, a girl named Hinata, stepped up as de facto class president and kept them from getting too rowdy.
For his part, Yukiteru just sat there at his desk, trying and failing to ignore Yuno as he tried, with equal failure, to rest up and get some sleep before their next class.
He knew that his current state of physical and mental exhaustion was his own fault. After all, that he'd spent a little more time poking around in the Animus last night than was good for him. Even then, it wasn't as if he'd had anything better to do. As it was just the second day of the school year, they didn't have any homework yet, and so he chose to spend that time sharpening his skills as an Assassin.
Besides, even if they did have homework, he was sure it wouldn't be a problem. Indeed, thought Yukiteru; even discounting the Assassin training and all the Animus sessions, surely he was still a year or two ahead of his peers. It was all thanks to the tutelage of his loving older sisters-
Wait, what the hell!?
Much later, Yukiteru would reflect on how funny it was that his thoughts had taken that turn. Because was then that the front door of the classroom opened, just as one of the last persons he expected to show up at a teacher in his new school took her place behind the teacher's desk and smiled kindly at them all.
"Good morning, everyone," said the new arrival. "It's nice to meet you all."
"My name's Minerva, and I'll be your guidance counsellor for this school year."
Only when she had finished introducing herself did Minerva turn to Yukiteru, reciprocating the dumbstruck look on her little brother's face with a sheepish smile that was quite unlike her.
Meanwhile, in a certain flat in one of Sakurami City's many apartment buildings…
"No, I refuse!"
Takao Hiyama, clad in but an undershirt and basketball shorts, tossed and turned in his bed as he quite literally fought a losing battle with himself.
Unbeknownst to most people, Takao Hiyama lived a double life. While he was a respected and loved high school teacher by day, he'd also gained a reputation as the dreaded Night Stalker of Sakurami City, a serial killer who did his grisly work in the dead of night.
However, even that was only part of the picture.
For instance, what most didn't know was that the Night Stalker wasn't just some mindless murderer. On the contrary, Takao Hiyama was part of the Assassin Order, whose members were sworn to uphold the freedom and integrity of humanity at all costs. And indeed, as the Night Stalker, he only targeted specific people, such as those who served the Templars, either as its agents or its pawns. Other times, he waged war on the petty criminals who prowled the streets of Sakurami City at night.
And even then, the act of killing had fallen out of use on the part of the Assassins. While the Assassin Order as a whole was not unwilling to resort to murder in order to advance their cause, it had since become a last resort option, for consideration only when other, less extreme methods meant to advance their cause had already proven unsuccessful.
And yet, right now -
"They're my students, I can't hurt them!" he protested, thrashing wildly as he attempted to silence the voice that had hounded him relentlessly since the day before. "More importantly, they're innocent! You can't make me do this – I won't let you-"
Oh, but I can, and I will, came the reply, positively dripping with malice and yet poisonously seductive in its allure.
Yukiteru Amano… Yuno Gasai…
You will kill them both.
An evil, unmistakably feminine laugh rang throughout the tiny apartment, drowning out Takao Hiyama's protesting scream as he blacked out and lost consciousness.
A/N: Sorry for the long wait, guys, I've only just gotten over a particularly nasty bout of writer's block.
For those who read Platinum Angel, the next update for that one's coming up next, before this week's done. AC fans might recognize another familiar face appearing in this chapter.
Read and review, please? :D