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Capitolo Secondo: Ambizione (15)


The arrival at Montgomery took us by surprise at how smooth it was compared to the previous instance, yet the surprise was also aimed at one element that was created quite… earlier compared to the original timeline. The Lightning Route was a modern example of street cars that should have taken two more years to end up being created, yet, as we left the main train station, we were greeted by the now busy streets of the city's central spot. Our arrival coincided with lunchtime so everyone was just turning away from work and enjoying a pleasant pause from their daily chores. But as I waited for everyone to disembark the train, I noticed a familiar individual approaching us. Not a figure I had seen for a long while now but… I actually recognized him from a little encounter I had favored a year ago.

"Mr. Van Depoele, it's been months," I greeted warmly and the Flemishman returned it with a nod and a smile.

The man was a famous and renowned electrician and engineer. Having settled in the US about two decades ago, he made a small fortune by developing cheap and convenient technology that helped the south recover from the Civil War. His efforts in the original timeline would have taken more time due to the funds he had in that precise time period, but that was changed when last year I had sent a letter to have a reunion to discuss any possible partnerships. I had set plans for the US expansion, but I knew I couldn't try to headbutt my way into the world of business without having someone friendly to rely on and give me more insight about the current state of the national businesses. Van Depoele did this and much more by bringing up projects and ideas that could see both his company, the Van Depoele Electric Manufacturing Company. and Made in Heaven combine their strength to advance the technology he created back to the Old Continent. After just a year of collaborations, the result was that a good part of the United Kingdom was already growing fond of the convenient system that was spreading in the major cities, while Van Depoele was gaining the funds that he much needed to become the 'reformers' of the South while also expanding his industrial influence in the area.

"Mr. Joestar, I was sure that the rumors of a kind samaritan with blond hair and a business on tow could only mean that you were finally making the trip across the US that you mentioned during our last meeting," He amusingly pointed out. "Still, I'm glad to see that you are well and healthy."

"I would want to say that this sudden trip was the one I planned early on, but I have to admit that dire needs demanded me to take a hasty and somewhat aggressive take on the company's expansion. Mostly tied to… I suppose you recall our conversation back to when we first met. Regarding the supernatural."

His eyes widened in surprise at this change of topic, but he nodded calmly. "Is this issue tied to the growing trouble caused by some… bandits? I believe I've heard news of raiders sabotaging the railways for some unknown reasons."

"That would be tied to the matter in question, yes," I admitted politely, and the inventor hummed.

"Although troublesome, my contacts in the Union Army have confirmed that some detachments of the National Guard have been deployed to deal with those. They mentioned some issues tied to some drug they were seen using, but these scoundrels were eventually dealt with in most part," He added with a sigh. "Yet, I believe those were vampires, which means that, as you mentioned last time, there are leaders of those around that have yet to appear."

"Two individuals to be precise," I replied positively. "Which we're currently chasing as we know they are directed to California."

"That's a long road ahead of you," Van Depoele conceded. "Still I could say you have all the determination and willpower needed for this arduous journey already on you, knowing that you have to have made a long trip to get to this point."

As I nodded at this, I realized the others were finally there, with Robert being the one that took the initiative and approached the two of us.

"Mr. Van Depoele," He politely greeted.

"Mr. Speedwagon, I can see that you're holding well in a different climate. And here I thought you mentioned something about never wanting to leave your beloved London."

"Necessities came up, Charles," The scarred man answered dryly. "Still, I can't help but love the way this still feels homely, yet so different from what I'm familiar with."

"That's America for you, my good man," The Belgian remarked jovially. "This place truly is one that surprises many by its unique yet familiar beauty. Some places just remind me of home if I have to be honest and… I can tell you've seen some yourself that gives you nostalgia of old London."

Agreeing to this honest argument, I turned and started to introduce the 'unfamiliar' man to the rest of the group. This predicament presented itself in a fortuitous way since it allowed me to have the best insight of the situation in Alabama and in other regions of the US. As Charles had roughly sixteen electric railways working in major American cities and plenty of influence through that fact alone. I knew that, if I had to scavenge any good info about the situation in the South and which route to take next, he was the best man to ask to.

"By the way, Charles, I would like to introduce you to the rest of the group I'm part of," I muttered happily as the others started to introduce themselves to the businessman, with the latter doing the same before focusing on a couple of individuals that gained his attention. The man was mostly surprised by Zephy as his inner scientist knew that his biology was unique enough to warrant questioning, but he was discouraged from going too 'deep' about it for the reason why he hadn't inquired more about Kate. Because when it comes to handling a woman that knew how to use a sword… with a sword, well, the situation generally wouldn't turn pretty for the poor bastard that would want to get some answers out of the many queries within their mind.

After being told that we were going to stay around in Montgomery just for the day, he decided to offer us a tour of the city… through one of the street cars. It was just our group and him as he mentioned how he developed such a marvelous city thanks to the fund gained from the many collaborations with Made in Heaven. Everyone was visibly stunned at the fact that, compared to other settlements we visited, Montgomery was actually shaping into a brilliant city despite the recent scars of the civil war. The streets were clean and were made of new material that wasn't mud and dirt. The reconstruction price had to have been costly, but I could say that the end result was nothing short of phenomenal. I was also quite impressed by the fact that, due to Van Depoele's own influence in town and abroad through the other similar-made systems across the South and the North, this ended up scoring a good victory for the Republican Party in various of these settlements. Causing a sudden shift in economy but also in social politics. The thing that got this tale out of him was when I mentioned how, while we were passing by a nearby park, we spotted a few white children playing with black children.

This was… incredibly progressive, and it reminded me that the man, while no longer back home, was still a liberal at heart and one that came from the 'softer and more moderate' area that was Belgium in this time period. He was rather proficient in handling any opposition to his work regulations, bringing up that legally speaking he was fine and… he had the ear of many important officers in the South that would back him in case of aggressive retaliation. I hadn't realized how this big of a change an economic understanding would have caused this early on, but I was definitely pleased by the changes already implemented. Of course, that didn't mean that this model was efficient, and there was no way to tell if these policies were going to last permanently after he was long gone and replaced by someone else. It was idle thinking without some serious plotting behind it, but I preferred to focus more on the positive aspect of this unexpected meeting.

"Do you believe it's possible for this to become the norm in America, Mr. Van Depoele?" Bloody inquired with a curious but nervous tone, gaining a nod from the businessman.

"Of course it is. It's not a matter of impossibility, but of probability, young man," The man argued. "One could say that it is something that would just need a president, yet that would be the worst misunderstanding possible. A president can be important to such a vision, but he would need a strong party to occupy a good part of the congress. This is still a democracy after all, and anything enforced would just make this curious but somewhat working system turn more into a real tyranny."

"So… a strong party and a majority of the congress?"

"While you might think this is quite easy, the truth is that it's more troublesome and difficult to find a solid and working party that can maintain promises and keep hold of the chambers during midterms and other mandates," Charles argued. "As I said, the issue isn't within its feasibility, but the chances of such tenure holding strong for long enough and get things done for good."

"It's… like building a house," Derek quipped flatly. "You may end up creating a beautiful thing, but if even the foundations start to crumble, then it's not a good house."

"I understand..." The boy muttered, still gaining the interest of the businessman with this interest of his. Despite his lack of attention in politics, it would be wrong to assume Charles wasn't interested in any circumstance that might bring a complete subversion of the current society. And this subversion was actually something he had lamented about when we last discussed the situation in Europe regarding the sudden turn from Liberal Revolution to National Imperialism. It was a spicy subject due to the fact Great Britain was even at the time expanding its holdings in Africa and India, so it was a bit difficult drive in his thick skull that I didn't see the faux reasoning of this aggressive displacement as a way to expand the Imperial Glory of the Union Jack.

Belgium itself had plenty of trouble aimed at its monarch, with Leopold II already stirring trouble to get his fat fingers on the region of Congo. Having some foreknowledge of what was going to happen if Congo was taken over by Belgium, I was glad that a strongly-worded letter (which I had to give the signatures of other major British and French members of the major literature circles) aimed at both the British and French government raised a defining issue: What would have happened if the main goal of Leopold II was to acquire a 'royal colony' move the monarch's seat there and expand further at the expenses of his own country to gain an empire in Africa?

While the idea might sound ridiculous on the basis that Belgium is small, the same couldn't be said about the population of Congo, which was more than enough to mobilize a tremendous army and endanger French and British settlements by the border. What would have been Leopold's glorious claim into war crimes would soon become the ground that saw him rebuked by the two major powers which decided to merely split the land between each other and leave a slice to Germany. The humiliation was so immense that his more-moderate son, Albert, would then end up being crowned two hours after his official abdication.

That point seemed to be the one thing that brought him to actually listen to my words as I made a case back then about my genuineness. I was quite certain he didn't disappoint himself by listening to that opportunity and we both knew we were going to keep around as long-lasting business buddies for a couple decades or more due to how lucrative our activities were when collaborating.

"Still, I guess you really want to make that change happen. And I can tell you're aiming high."

"I… I'm trying. I've so much to learn-"

"And that's a good mindset to have for such a difficult objective," Charles hummed mirthfully. "You see, many tend to believe that the primary goal for this kind of dream is to just keep track of it and ignore everything else. Yet, the truth is that, while an incredibly tough task, life itself requires that you invest into making it a possible goal, and not one driven just by the dream itself."

"Dio said that it's a mix of experience and learning, but that it's also… common sense?"

"The smartest option considering how troublesome it is to keep track of both equally absolute elements," Zephy confirmed with a wise nod, while the engineer took a moment to ponder about this line of thought.

"I would say that it is more of a… starting point than a full-fledged advice," Van Depoele brought up with a frown. "Sure, it can help into the starting details of founding your own path, but the next bit isn't something one can help you with if they don't have that very experience you're trying to go through. Think of this, when a young man wants to become a farmer, who do they ask as the prime source of information?"

Bloody had a perplexed look on his face when he finished listening to the query, taking a moment to think about it and giving a wild guess due to how general the question itself was. "A… teacher?"

"Well, if said teacher has knowledge then sure. But the one that has the best answers to provide is the one that accomplished that route of life successfully or, at least, with satisfactions. Those are the ones that have spent years of their life reaching where they are and have seen the goods and the bads of such a path," The Belgian rebuked politely. "Dio might be experienced with how tough it can be to reach high positions in life, but he has never dabbled too much into politics, always keeping himself away from the troubles of such existence."

"So… Who do I ask?"

"Sadly, that isn't viable with roles such as the head of state. Your goal right now should be to learn and make your own experience. Eventually you'll reach a point of confidence where you will make that jump, but until then, it's only for the best of your ambitions to keep learning and see more of the world you want to change. The truth is, that as many leaders would want someone to look up to and learn from, the most has to come from them. From their minds, from their understanding, from their morality, and from their principles."

"I see," Bloody quietly said while nodding. "Then I will do my best to be prepared for it."

I smiled at this determined response. One thing I knew from my personal experience in dealing with Charles was that the guy knew when to be blunt and honest with people, even children. Bloody's path is one that has such a luxurious destination that it can't be dictated by anyone. I might be helping him, but right now the best way to represent how I had done so regarding his future career was by showing him what to do to begin things and how to harden himself before the atrocities of life. When in charge of a nation so divided, one needs to know what he is going to face, and right now there are many things that the young blond is yet to be prepared about. Sure, there are topics that are quite troublesome like racism and the economic-tied disparity between North and South, but that shouldn't prevent him from looking at other issues, like the foreign situation and how it can easily affect the internal affairs of the United States.

After the conversation was over, Charles saw it fit to bring up how he had heard about an 'interesting convention' about a new party being created in Dallas that was going to happen in a couple of days which he was planning of checking out due to the interesting platform it was building itself around reform and progress, but also to create an assurance for the Southerners to feel freed by the 'forced push of industry' from the North. Many names were listed out, with the main proponent being nothing more than Mayor Jamestown himself. He truly did it, I thought quietly as I was given that news but… I was more surprised by the fact that he was planning to do it in Texas of all places. Maybe it was because he wanted to appeal to the sense of nation that the annexation of Texas created since it came to be through a fight, as a whole country, against an ambitious hegemon in the south.

The idea was interesting and the timing just happened to offer us the chance to arrive in the city just in time to see the convention unfold and maybe be part of it. It was definitely going to be an interesting experience and I was more than amused when I was told that the party was named after the group that accepted Lincoln as the Republican Candidate back during the 1864 elections. The National Union Party was created with the intention of drawing disillusioned Reformist Democrats and Moderate Republicans into a political entity that represented the 'cardinal points that created the nation all Americans called home'. Many 'celebrities' of the time were planning to visit and see what it was all about, but the mere fact that it was attracting so many people at once was definitely going to send a message to the traditional two-party system. There was going to be some serious competition if the convention unfolded as brilliantly as its creation was being with those that knew enough politics to take part in it.

With that meeting and tour concluding, we were left by the entrance of the station as Charles mentioning having to go back to resume his paperwork. That was a nightmare we both agreed could never be defeated, no matter how many good things were done in this world. After that interesting day, it was refreshing to get back on the train and leave the city without finding any threats aiming at us but… I couldn't help but feel like something greater would soon manifest if I didn't keep track of what was ahead of us. Still, the next stop was Mobile and then New Orleans, with the route taken leading us near some of the strongest garrisons of the Union Army, right where we would possibly find less threats to face during the path.

With night coming after a few hours of studying and training, my slumber was dominated by the very nightmare that had kept me disturbed in the last few days. Yet… this time, it was different.


That… box. It was there again.

The same man that had guarded it two days ago was there once more. I felt my teeth gnawing against one another as I tried to do it like before, preparing for the approach and the possible counter at that sudden strike. I was running at it, knowing how to get close enough from the first time it happened, yet… as I did so, something unusual happened. The man moved from his position and walked around to stand between it and me. Narrowing my eyes at him, I prepared to seriously beat the shit out of the guy by breaking through his Stand's unique speed and defense. Just as ACT 2 manifested to match the first semi-transparent fist, the humanoid was forced to go for a second and then third punch to counter the ensuing defense built around a barrage of fists. It was actually simple to track all of them, but I… something was wrong about it. The rain of 'MUDA's as I countered without hesitation all strikes felt so stronger than usual and I realized that I had unconsciously unleashed my Divine Hamon power even in that circumstance… but I wasn't feeling the drain.

"Not yet," The figure suddenly claimed before trying to strike at me from the side. It was a sudden move that would have been an easy killing blow at this distance… yet I had my reaction time and precog heightened more than enough to see it unfolding and give me the chance to not only swat the attack away but also slam an unforgiving punch onto the shadowed mug of the prick. That sent the figure flying and rolling on the ground. I prepared for a retaliation to that kind of attack, but they merely stood up and looked at me and sighed… before vanishing just like that. Nothing more, only the two words of the figure remaining embedded in my mind.

Not yet.

What was he talking about? Why couldn't I check the box just 'yet'?

The words left me perplexed and pausing on the spot as I tried, uselessly, to give weight and reasoning to what I had just heard. Nothing, that's what I got out of it. I was confused- no, baffled at the entire sight I had been presented with, but even more when I turned my attention back to the box and… the blood pouring from its lock. My eyes widened at the scene, but even more as I felt my chest suddenly grew sharply heavier, with pain exploding right by my heart. It was so sudden that ACT 2vanished by my proximity and I was forced to my knees. My eyes were half-closed as I forced the pain away, the effort proving to be futile at best and stupid at worst. I was then given more proof of the worrisome situation when I felt something wet fill up my mouth and… it wasn't saliva. At first the entry of this liquid was slow and easy to manage, yet I was soon leaning down as I spat blood over the dry ground of the desert I was in.

Not yet.

The voice claimed once again and I felt reality all around me collapse together with my consciousness. I opened my eyes and… it was still night. Well, it was technically early morning since it was an hour or so after midnight. I woke up with chills and sweaty, my brain in full alarm as I took a moment to study in bed what I had just dreamed about. It was so sudden, so immediate, and so- so foretelling. I could tell that something important was hidden within what I had just seen and it had to do with a single detail I spotted on the box that had caught my attention when I looked at its lock. One of the four bits had turned and had shown a… 'M'. It had to be a name of something or someone but… who? Who was I expecting to input in that small combination to open up the box? What was inside it and… why it left me so agitated each time I was presented with it. These queries remained in my mind for a while and, instead of just going to sleep, I took it upon myself to go around and distract myself from these thoughts.

The last thing I needed was being brought back in that nightmare and forced to face that entire ordeal once again. Maybe my innermost psyche was trying to recall something I had forgotten about and was important to the entire situation. Maybe it had to do with… the past? Something that I had seen before but I couldn't remember? Something tied to Vins? I was struggling to get anything out of this retrospective and I knew that doing something like this right now would just keep me tired and leave me unable to catch some rest. I was definitely going to value these visions more by the next morning, but for the time being I really wanted to just get distracted, clear up my brain and get myself in a situation where I can safely fall asleep and not wake up late.

Most of the workers were currently sleeping, and the same extended for the group itself as I wandered off to catch some of that sweet cool wind that was there during nighttime by the area between wagons. It was something that was different from the chilling weather I was more accustomed to when it came to England, but this was a bit better due to the fact I was wearing less clothes and thus had less protection from the cold at that moment. I was mostly enjoying myself when… I heard footsteps coming from the wagon I had just walked out from. Sighing, I glanced behind at the awkward form that was Bloody. The boy looked fairly sleepy, but far from wanting to fall asleep on the spot. A very curious paradox, but not as curious as trying to decipher why he decided to check on me.

"Did I wake you up?"

He shook his head slowly. "I was… already awake."

That took me by surprise as I didn't expect him to have trouble sleeping. Nothing I had seen in recent days had left him that upset to have a difficult rest and… yet maybe I missed something that made him uncomfortable enough to have that kind of issue.

"Truly? Anything you can bring up?"

"I don't… I didn't want to disturb."

I sighed at that response. "I'll be up for a while thinking silly things and clearing my mind. I had a little bit of a troubling dream that I have to clear up my brain about."

He blinked at my explanation behind my presence here and… he nodded. "I had a nightmare too."

Taking a moment to think about it, I decided to inquire more on this matter as I drew a degree of concern at this discovery. "Was it the vampires? Or the thing with G.I. Jones?"

"No," The boy replied flatly. "It's… just a silly thing. It's not important."

My lips twitched at that comment. "Then it has to be important. Because trust me, I've heard this plenty of times and I know that means you're holding onto something that matters a lot. Just tell me."

"I… I was..." The younger blond started to bring up, his face scrunching with visible discomfort before letting out what he was bottling inside himself. "I was dreaming about… living with mom and dad. They- they were still alive."

"How was it?" I asked quietly and he seemed even more reluctant to give much beyond a single word.

"Nice."

I nodded at this comment. "Parents are meant to be that. Nice, warm, always there to tell you that you can do it and… be there to incite you when you need someone to rely on."

A small smile appeared on his face. "D-Dad said that he was proud. That… that I was doing so much- but I have yet to do anything."

"How so? Why would you think you haven't done any progress?"

"It's… I didn't put my weight as much as others-"

"Really?" I remarked with a frown on my face. "No seriously, do you mean it?"

"Kind of?"

"Bloody, I know it might not seem much but you have done much more than you could have in normal circumstances and you are doing that by just talking to me about it. Do you want to know why?"

The boy slowly nodded and I continued.

"Because you're aware that while you feel you're doing so little with your current goal, you know that it isn't the truth. At least, not enough to not bring it up to a conversation with me."

"Why?"

"Let me ask you this, if you were put to handle a simple debate of bringing out your views against racism right now, how would you explain it in simple terms?"

He looked a little bit surprised at this turn of events, but managed to answer with a brief stutter.

"I-I would say that racism is wrong by moral standards and… and that there isn't a basis to it."

I nodded, a small smile forming at his words. "And how would you convince someone from the South that is convinced that he is right about racism being the right way to go?"

Another blink. "I would tell him that… it's not true. That the basis of this hate is because he was told that he would lose his job to this competition- or that his older family members told him about the disaster of the Civil war."

My smile widened at his accurate responses.

"Finally, do you think you would have answered so specifically and so well-articulated had I asked you these questions when I first met you?"

"No."

"And why?"

"B-Because I didn't know all that I know now… right?"

I nodded once again. "This is progress."

"But still-"

"I understand your eagerness to get on politics and start making changes happen, but you can't expect to be taken seriously when you're so young and your reputation is rooted with your family," I interjected. "When I started Made in Heaven, I was around your age, and I didn't push for expansion out of London until I was old enough to make my words matter by reputation and facts alone. Right now, what you really need, is being given the chance to build up, making your own reputation as a respectable young man with many ideas and a strong understanding of how to apply those to reality by satisfying the majority of the people."

"It's just… I want to do more than this."

"And you will eventually do more. Heck, I expect you to do more by yourself once you're around seventeen, young Valentine," I almost chided with a brief grin patting his shoulders. "There is nothing wrong in wanting to do more and I guess you're just demanding to be put to test to check how far you've gotten."

"Maybe."

"Then how about we go through a simple debate tomorrow morning? Consider it a spar for politics, but with me representing the classic bigoted Southerner or the Radical Industrial-Capitalist that want to shred into your argumentation. You'll be given help by others as part of your staff and I will stop if you think I'm going too hard."

"I-I will not ask you to stop."

"We'll see, young Valentine, We'll see..."

For a while, there was silence and I expected Bloody to go back to bed as soon as I saw him yawn. I was getting ready to retreat back to the mattress once I was done with him, but I was surprised when he spoke up again.

"Dio?"

I blinked at Bloody's interest in keeping the conversation going. "Yes?"

"Do you… are you ever afraid of making a mistake?" He asked with renewed fascination. "You know, making a mistake when you feel you're… right?"

"At times, yes. I do feel like it's a troublesome emotion to face during stressful moments," I replied without hesitation and the boy nodded.

"But how do you handle it?"

"The stress or the gamble?"

He actually paused at the latter word. "Gamble?"

"Well, call it gamble or bet but in the end every big action you take in life ends up being a case of probability just like Mr. Van Depoele mentioned a while ago," I elaborated with a calm voice. "Politics are generally driven by odds, and not just when it comes to voting someone. Politicians have to risk their reputation or their power base to commit to specific speeches, or go through certain celebrations, or even supporting some candidates to governors or not."

"But why?"

"Because this isn't a game and yet people compete with each other as if it is one," I answered readily. "The reason why I'm preparing you so much with this kind of situation is all because of how high the chances are of you having to face serious debates and not being prepared enough for it. You have to be capable of withstanding attacks as much as you can deliver strong rebuttals when needed. You have to be strong, careful and, most of all, also aware of what or who you are facing against each time you're being put in a negative spotlight."

"So my current goal is… to be as prepared as possible."

I nodded. "As much as you can before you can really compete. And, at that point, you're more than expected to show this interest in fighting for your ideals into the battleground and win it. Because you will have the preparation added to your ever-fiery determination… understood?"

He nodded and, at the following yawn, I urged him to finally go back to bed. He lamented and asked to talk for more, but I mentioned that tomorrow was going to be a better day to address any topic without having to face a white night together. He accepted, albeit reluctantly, and I would follow soon to go back to my bed and catch as much rest as possible for that matter.

The next few days were going to be a troubled one, especially when it came to the convention we were going to stop by and have Bloody see how to gain a degree of reputation within a possible platform to rise up and form his own power base.

But for now, sleep would take priority…


AN

Some insight on the world regarding the upcoming Berlin Conference (which will happen just after Arc 2) and the technological evolution promoted by Made in Heaven. Dio's presence in the world has just started to get tangible, and its full potential will be exposed in Arc 3 where… Well, Dio will go full political-grabbing kind of individual. Once the US is 'conquered', it will be time for the rest of Europe and beyond that one.

Also, I started to play Re8 and I got to the first mask. I managed to spare ammo all the time, thought I was getting mauled at times but it was all cutscenes stealing me from killing some werewolves- and yes, I met the tall dommy mommy. And I was mostly displeased when she saw fit to cut my right arm. That was literally my favorite hand. For SFW and NSFW reasons (W-Writing, of course)!

Now, next Omake will see Dio's favorite niece for… incredibly good reasons.


Omake 30: Uncle Dio's Wise Advice (2)


When a man reaches a specific age, roughly beyond the first two centuries of age, they tend to grasp fully at the aspects of life many just could never hope to achieve through severe hardships and wise teachers. It was only natural for the man striving for a bright mind in a strong body to develop into one of the wisest beings the world could ever hope to end up with.

But the main duty of the old is to inspire the young and… sometimes that duty can end up becoming quite troublesome when the young is only interested in getting stronger for the sake of brief amusement. I still remember when I first had to handle the little pest that would easily turn into the strongest warrior of her entire generation. A prodigy, a rough stone that was in need of some sharp reconstruction to show the diamond hiding within her.

It happened a couple of years before I had to handle Shin's little love issue and it came to a request of help from someone I met through Kate. The Ravenhurst family… was one of the few groups of the 'newcomers' that were more interactive with my wife. I tended to keep away from anything that 'romantic' so to speak, and I had been living a pleasant life through that. Except when one of the couple's children developed quite the unusual ability considering their nature. I was surprised when Hannah requested me to come and check on little Joy, but I was even more surprised when, as I decided to go and check where the problem was, I was given proof of the trouble in the form of a broken finger on the left hand of the girl's father. While Kayin wasn't as resilient to damage as Kate, he still had training and strength to vaunt when it comes to physical endurance. Yet that damage… left me intrigued by the fact the girl could have actually developed a Stand.

Not the first time I heard of this circumstance due to how the phenomenon had been widespread ever since the end of the big war but… still surprising to handle when it came to children forming it. Especially when it was all about a five-years old girl behind this kind of situation. Talking with her parents gauged the same response as I heard from many now: She didn't show any sign of sickness, nor she seemed to manifest symptoms before the manifestation of that entity. The one that brought up a unique factor compared to others was the eldest daughter, Hope. Differently from others, Joy was genuinely taken by combat. To learn how to fight. And the injury that ensued after a brief angry-filled reaction to a refusal of her father to start training her this soon was the reason why the man had that kind of injury on him.

Taking some time to assure both Kayin and his wife, Grace, that everything was going to be fine and that this wasn't a genuine problem for me. Leaving Hannah to handle the rest of the 'PR' situation, I decided to go and check on the child myself. The path upstairs led me to a single room which had its door partly open. I could feel the Stand User having taken refuge inside, and my lips twitched in a mix of curiosity and uneasiness at the chances of the girl putting more guilt on herself about this case than she should truly feel. I approached the door silently and with a slow walk, knowing that the girl, despite her lack of major reaction at the moment, was listening for… something to happen. A punishment? Or maybe someone only coming to check on her and see how she was faring?

I peeked inside, pausing just a moment to address the little detail that I came here for. Joy was crouching by one of the corners, with her legs wrapped by her tiny arms and her face pressed on her knees. I took a step inside, suddenly noticing how her shoulders had stiffened at the creaking of the wood that made the ground. Pink eyes finally were aimed in my general direction, with a few tears trailing down her puffy cheeks.

Confusion, surprise and curiosity all played together within her gaze, and she ultimately spoke up.

"W-Who are you?"

I merely blinked, stopping and preparing for her Stand to react in case I replied too strongly. "My name is Dio Joestar. I'm a friend of your parents and I've been asked to come here and give you help with some questions you have right now. About what happened with your father."

Her tension doubled at the last sentence. "I-I didn't do it."

"You didn't," I agreed while also nodding. "But something happened, and it was partly tied to you. Not directly."

Joy frowned, but her tension remained as I started to sit down in front of her. Just as I was done with that, I realized a tiny fist had materialized and was now traveling towards me. I didn't even need to do much as The Worldmoved to stop the attack and grasping at it. I could easily say that this very scene, the fact that the girl had the chance to see what was going on and how that 'thing' that was troubling her meant nothing to me when it comes to harm.

"Y-You are… like me?"

A smile formed by my lips. "I suppose so. Which is why I was asked to come here and tell you more about what is going on. And how this isn't a… terrible thing."

"But dad-"

"Has seen scarier things and faced worse injuries. He'll be fine in a few hours and it will be as if nothing had happened," I guaranteed calmly. "Still, I suppose you have questions about what happened, right?"

After taking a moment to ponder my words, Joy slowly nodded and we started to address the matter that got her in such distress. I thought it would have been a change from the way she usually behaved since I was told she was actually more 'anger-prone' compared to the quiet self I met her as but… this behavior never manifested while I was around to check on her training when she eventually started exercising at twelve. The girl sure kept her insistence to train, that she wanted to be a hero and make the difference. She struggled at times, she developed her own jealousy towards her older sister at the fact she easily moved out of the house and stopped training altogether, getting angry when that one bit happened since she thought she could turn her in her rival… but she behaved as politely as she could afford while I was around. Maybe it was the first meeting leaving a good impression, or maybe it was tied to the fact I vouched for her that she would eventually train and kick butts, but she never showed much of her angry-filled mindset while I was there to check on her situation. I also didn't know how from a mere 'heartfelt talk' about helping her through accepting her Stand, I ended up growing a bond with the brat despite some major differences between the two of us, but it sure got to a point where a rather amusing but still slightly annoyed circumstance would normally form.

"I've come to fight you, Uncle Dio!"

It was the catchphrase that got stuck around while she would visit on a monthly basis. She would come to the MiH headquarters, ask for me and demand a lengthy sparring session. Which she would, of course lose. It was a bit irritating after a while, but I noticed that I also appreciated it since it gave me an excuse to avoid paperwork for a while and… have fun. Because each spar wasn't the same as the previous ones, with the girl coming up with new strategies and showing how cunning her battle-themed strategic mind seemed to dominate her ambitious training and objectives. Plus, I had the chance to give her something to push her more by acting like the stereotypical villain, being quite childish and not overly aggressive by… being a soft-core version of the original DIO.

That was definitely a fresh change for good ever since Giorno stopped visiting so frequently after settling permanently in Italy with his own group. I didn't bother him much on the matter as I didn't want to appear like the father that wanted to embarrass him like that but… that didn't stop the boredom of the life I've created by winning all threats to make it troublesome for me to be happy.

Then, much to my surprise, I realized that Joy had to skip the usual monthly visit because she had started her serious training and that she was going to spend roughly a few years to hone her skills and get through the powers tied to her family. I was supportive of this but… I did feel the lack of her visits. By a lot. I was so bored out of my own mind that I almost jumped in surprise when, after a few months had passed since her last visit, I saw the very pest that had wormed her way into my heart and becoming my favorite niece kicking the door of my office off the hinges and aiming a daring finger at me.

"Uncle Dio! I've come to beat you for once!"

"Oh oh! What a marvelous surprise, little Joy! Coming here to face defeat!"

She was stronger, definitely picking up pace and power more faster than before through her better training and her new self-boosting ability. I was smiling eye-to-eye as the battle raged on between the two of us and I definitely knew she was the happiest despite losing this one too as she knew she had made progress. And she definitely loved the head pat I gave her, a little 'reward' that I tended to go give her all the times we concluded our spars and something she hadn't experienced after so long.

Yep, this cute niece of mine is definitely my favorite. Sadly, not the cutest but definitely there as a close second.


AN

Uncle Dio strikes again!