"Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."
— The Godfather, PART II
Avilio Bruno was a young man not yet twenty and the newest member of the Family. Usually, his role would obviously be to be pushed around and used for chores or running minor errands.
“Avilio, wait up. Hey, come along with me.”
“I don’t want to.”
He refused in an instant and hurried on.
“Don’t say that.”
The man following after him was Nero, the firstborn son of the Vanetti Family’s Don, Vincent Vanetti, and already beginning to have jobs transferred to him as the successor.
In other words, he was a man who Avilio, as a newbie, had no right to refuse, and should even have refrained from making equal conversation with.
“Go on your own.”
“Stu~pid! Do you think a man in my position can move around alone?”
“Then take one of your underlings: Barbero, or Tigre.”
Avilio sighed and looked at Nero as if he were dealing with a spoiled child.
“Tigre’s wounds still haven’t healed, and Barbero’s busy, so he’d get mad at me if I dragged him out.”
Avilio ignored Nero’s words. There were several reasons for that. Firstly, he had no interest in the place Nero was trying to bring him. Next, he knew that Nero’s outing was simply an attempt to escape from reality.
In all honesty, he had already been approached that day with a myriad of complaints by the superintendent, Barbero, and Ganzo, a member of the old guard, who were searching for Nero. So if he went along, their complaints the next time would likely go above and beyond that.
Barbero was Nero’s brain, a man of excellence who looked after the Family’s affairs. Ganzo was the Family’s opinions man and was trusted deeply by the Don. Normally, one would wonder why men of their position would choose a newcomer to voice their complaints to.
He was a good listener, but he was still irritating.
“I have plans with Corteo.”
“Are you going to the Lodge? Then bring Corteo along too!” He put an arm around Avilio’s shoulders to stop him from escaping and laughed cheerfully.
“…I’m not going to that shop.”
“Don’t say that. I was asked to bring you along.”
“Where are you going?”
The one who appeared with a frigid voice and aura then was the rumored Barbero. He was carrying a thick document case in his hands.
“The lodge. Right, Avilio?”
Barbero pushed his glasses up as if to ask, really?
Nero aside, it was true for Avilio. Corteo was taking the next day off, so they had decided to spend it at his house.
There was no time to talk at leisure about leaving or running away.
It was Avilio who had dragged Corteo into this way of life. He wanted to hear at least a little of what Corteo desired. The huge, luxurious Vanetti mansion was no place to relax.
“Then I’ll go too.”
Nero looked displeased by Barbero’s proposal, but Barbero ignored that and walked off to the parking lot.
“Speaking of which, you were hired by Nero as a driver, right, Avilio?” recalled Barbero.
Avilio nodded. “I’ll drive.”
As he turned towards the driver’s seat, Nero grabbed his shoulder to stop him. “Don’t. This guy really sucks. He crashed the car in the mountains.”
He released Avilio and tried to sit in the driver’s seat himself, but this time Barbero held him back. “You don’t either. You’re the successor to the Family. Have a little dignity. Ganzo will get angry at you.”
Barbero opened the door to the driver’s seat, so Nero went to the passenger seat.
“It’s not like I really want to drive. I just don’t want to crash and end up walking in the mountains.”
“…Am I that bad?”
“You’re that bad!”
At Nero’s serious nod, Avilio looked downcast. It was true that he had crashed. He had wrecked the car. But some things were inevitable, and he had saved them too. He was confident that once he got used to driving, he would become pretty good at it — He was particularly good at bumping into the things he wanted to bump into.
Avilio thought that if they knew what he was thinking, they would never let him drive again.
The illegal distillery Nero had created lay in an old mineshaft tunnel that had served its purpose as a mine.
Apparently sales were so good that no matter how much they produced, it sold out instantly.
Avilio’s good friend Corteo was staying here. At present, Corteo’s recipe was so complicated nobody could imitate it, so he was constantly supervising production.
When he saw them, Corteo’s expression transformed into joy. He was a young man, usually a little timid and startled at anything, but occasionally he showed a surprising amount of courage. And he often associated with Avilio.
Avilio greeted him by bending just his fingertips, as they had done in their childhood.
Corteo, a little surprised, returned the gesture and beamed.
“Ohh~hh, you get along well, huh.”
Nero was watching the two of them with a rather fed up expression.
“Well…you and Vanno weren’t that different. The two of you messed around making up your own signals, didn’t you?”
“Only back when we were kids…”
At Barbero’s teasing, Nero reminisced on the past. The two of them had gotten on well doing stupid things only to be scolded by his father and Ganzo. Barbero had stepped back and watched. He hadn’t been chastised…
“Now that I think back on it, that kind of pisses me off,” Nero muttered, glaring.
“Why?” asked Barbero.
“Why were you the only one not to get hit?”
“Because I didn’t carry out the crime?”
“But the plans were basically made by you.”
“Ahh, I was forced to think of them. And I always tried to stop you,” Barbero answered responsibly. Both Nero and Vanno had been the fighting type, while Barbero alone had been the intellectual type. Nero’s father and Ganzo had lamented that he was the only one with a good head on his shoulders.
That had been a wild time. Though obviously, only Nero and Vanno had done stupid things.
At that nostalgic memory, his chest grew tight, threatening to overflow with sorrow.
“…Why don’t you hurry up and leave.”
A voice suddenly cut through his thoughts.
The one who had spoken was Avilio. “There are a lot of cute girls, and they’re sure to treat you kindly, you know? Go and have them console you.”
He flapped his hand roughly as if shooing off a puppy.
Corteo looked on blankly at his side.
“Ahh, let’s do that, huh.”
Nero scrubbed at his head as if to shake off the emotions welling up in him and turned on his heel.
He knew Barbero was watching with the desire to say something, but Nero didn’t answer. He spoke with forced cheer.
“Avilio and Corteo, you should come too. Let’s go together.”
“Who’d go? It’s Fango’s lover’s shop.”
Avilio turned down Nero’s invite and disclosed his destination without hesitation. He could be like that at times.
Barbero’s demeanor changed in an instant. They were allied with Fango, but he was still their enemy.
Nero pursed his lips. Way to spill too much to anxious Barbero, thought Nero, pursing his lips in discomfort. “Ahh…don’t tell on me, Avilio.”
“It’s because you kept nagging at me to go.”
Fango’s lover Lacrima was a regular at the high-class restaurant he ran, “Ottimo Fango”, but that high-class pretense didn’t suit her and she had opened a more normal underground bar herself. Its selling point was the many women there carrying and serving alcohol.
“Barbero, this is work…Also, Avilio’s Lacrima’s type. She wouldn’t shut up about bringing him along!”
Nero explained that while the alliance between them and Fango was sure to crumble one day, for the time being it was still better to get along. It wasn’t bad catching Lacrima’s interest, in particular. She wasn’t such a careless woman she’d leak secrets, but she at least knew how Fango would act.
“…There is some truth to that,” Barbero muttered with a pained expression.
“You two go together,” Avilio coaxed, flashing them a rare smile.
“Even if the driver brings along one of the bodyguards here, you can’t leave Nero alone inside the shop, right?”
Avilio seemed to be fine with it as long as it wasn’t him going.
When they met with Lacrima she had shown an interest in Avilio, and Fango had laughed, but you never knew when that crazed man would change his mind. They were both slightly strange hedonists…they were a well-suited couple.
They probably asked permission to cheat.
“We can all go. Hey, even Corteo’s got to have some interest. There are a lot of cute girls.”
Understanding that it was impossible to persuade Avilio, he switched targets to Corteo.
Singled out, Corteo glanced nervously around.
“Stop it, Nero.”
Avilio stepped in front of Corteo, shielding him from view as if to protect him from Nero. The way Corteo immediately relaxed was rather honest, or…
— He’s always protecting this guy, huh…
Avilio protected Corteo. Even when it seemed he’d be killed by Fango in his place, he protected him. It kind of grated on Nero’s nerves, but since he didn’t know why he decided to forget about it.
At that moment, watching Nero, Barbero felt uneasy, as if he was missing something.
It was as if this overly arrogant newcomer was going to steal something precious of his…
Barbero’s job was to doubt. It was better to re-think things in a calmer manner. To reconsider the reason for this unease…
Corteo, covered by Avilio’s back, was also uneasy.
Avilio said he wouldn’t stop his revenge.
He said it was the proof he was alive.
But if he were to get too involved with the Vanettis and come to sympathize with them, his heart might break.
If he were to ask Avilio, Avilio would probably say his heart had already been broken seven years ago, smiling coldly.
But Corteo knew. He knew the Avilio, no, the Angelo, who had smiled honestly.
Please, God, protect Avilio, Corteo prayed in his heart.
Avilio didn’t pray, so Corteo prayed in his stead.
Though God’s divine protection might not extend to an avenger and his accomplice…
This 91-day-long revenge play started on a snowy night seven years ago…