Grazhir :: Crossover :: Hisui :: 06

06: 2002-2003

“Did he do what I think he did?” Renato asked, staring at the chameleon.

He joined in the staring. “Sure seemed like it. Didn’t seem harmful at first glance, but…”

“But if we’d had him then,” Renato replied, “you might never have made that breakthrough.”

“Possibly. It remains to be seen if he will do it to either of us, or just others. It certainly made Shamal’s mind skip tracks.”

Renato nodded and slumped onto the sofa in their suite, then initiated another conversation with his little friend, so Hisui went off to consider while taking in the view out the window. He was going to have to dig out his books on magical creatures and beings, even if boggarts and dementors were considered non-beings. ‘Just as well a lethifold wasn’t in there, too,’ he thought, ‘because this is one bizarre little beast. If it subsists on emotions, though… That’s kind of frightening. Just negative ones? Or more?’

“He says he didn’t like where Shamal’s thoughts were going, so he fixed it.”

He turned away from the window and went to sit down next to his lover. “So he was defending you?”

“Sort of. He’s not technically a he, any longer, but neither is he a she. But he started out as a he, so…”

His eyes crossed briefly. “Leon still works as a name.”

Renato nodded. “Well, we’ll figure it out. And he was defending both of us, actually. He recognizes that we’re a pairing. But since you can’t talk to him directly…”

“I have this feeling,” he said.

Renato eyed him warily. “About Leon?”

“No. About Nono. About Big Evil.”

“You think we’re going to end up over there.”

He nodded. “It’s just a feeling. But first we need to go home and introduce this little fellow. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will find us.”

*

The pets got on surprisingly well. Leon and Yori took Bizarro Leon under their wings, so to speak, and socialized the little guy, explained how things worked, along with help from Renato. He surprised them all when he morphed into the shape of a kneazel. The tuft on Yori’s tail puffed out and his hair stood on end, but he quickly settled down to interrogate this oddity.

While he was preparing dinner that night Bizarro Leon watched with interest and morphed from his cat shape into the knife Hisui was holding, though there was a set of blood red eyes peeking out from the handle. Hisui just shook his head after a moment and kept working, but his lover was having raptures.

“Wow. That’s super cool! I wonder what else he can mimic,” Renato said, eyeing his latest pet. “Maybe after dinner you can materialize a bunch of stuff to see what he can do?”

“Sure.” And he did. Just like a boggart, Bizarro Leon had no trouble with morphing into anything he materialized, but his eyes were always visible, always blood red, and he was never any colour other than green unless he was in a living form, and even then he was faintly tinted green.

“Well, that would make it easier to sneak him into places,” Renato mused.

“You can be a ninja with a Leon forehead protector,” he joked.

Renato looked disturbingly pleased by the idea. “Or a police officer with a Leon baton.” He paused. “Except that I’m not sure how he’d feel about being slammed into someone.”

“I don’t think they use leaf green batons, Ren-koi,” he murmured.

“Hm. Perhaps not. Well, you still have a fair amount of holiday time left. What shall we do?”

“Aside from taking on the odd job? Let’s work on you being able to charge runes with your flames.”

“But I like the way you feel up my gun!” Renato protested laughingly.

He sighed, but could not help the smile that flitted over his lips.

*

He sighed. “I am tired of all this.”

Renato squeezed his arm and pulled him a little closer. “School?”

“Yes. Is there even any point in getting a higher degree? I can probably get all the translation jobs I want through contacts and build up a reputation, and from there get them from outsiders if I wanted. I’m just so bored with all of it. I know more about languages than ninety-nine percent of the people there already. I’m just missing the cultural aspects of it all.”

“Well, I only got a mastery because I love mathematics as much as I do and because I could. You know what I use it all for. True, I have something of a reputation out there, but that’s under an alias. I think if you want to stop once you get your degree you should. A mastery or doctorate might be a nice thing to have, but I’m not really seeing what it would get you in the end. As it is, it’s another year and a half for your undergraduate degree.”

He groaned.

“There’s plenty of things you can occupy yourself with,” Renato said soothingly. “Tons of things I can teach you. Plenty of things we could learn together. For example, we now know that a flame-user can charge runes. What about, say, protective clothing? Is there anything in that head of yours about runes of protection? That might be effective against other flame-users? Because really, that one job you told me about—the very idea of some snot-nosed brat disintegrating my skin because they were in a snit… Oo, what about runic tattoos?”

He turned a little and stared at his lover. ‘Where does he get these ideas?’

“That’s an intriguing idea,” Renato continued. “Though not something I’d be inclined to share, should it be possible. Have to have an edge, after all, right? Exceptional talent is one thing, but it’s best to be the ones who always walk away unscathed, if possible. If we had that sort of thing in our bag of tricks, well…” His lover shifted so he could eye him more easily. “I know you have plenty of books on runes. How about we make that our next project? Clothing, and then perhaps the concept of tattoos?”

He stared some more, then nodded. “But each flame type is different,” he protested quietly. “They have different properties. That would require some serious work for clothing, because…” He trailed off, thinking hard about the presented challenge. Normal thread didn’t take magic well, but there were things that could be used as thread that did. But that would result in some very odd looking clothing. Perhaps acromantula silk? That at least could be dyed, and if they had fabric done up in a mixture of that silk and other materials…

‘Well,’ he thought, ‘the amount of silk running through things would spread out the influence of the runes, and silk is naturally resistant in the first place, but the runes themselves should accept charging… I think. Tattoos, on the other hand, would use the medium of skin itself, as a contiguous expanse, and if flames were powering them… But what about the ink?’

He blinked back to awareness when Renato leaned in to give him a kiss.

*

“That feeling is back.”

Renato looked at him sharply. “Then I expect we should pack for a trip. All our fabulous toys. Just in case.”

Two days later Antonio stopped by the house. “I hate to say it, but we have something of a situation. This is a request,” he stressed, then opened his little briefcase and produced one of those Sky Flame-sealed envelopes to hand over.

‘Must have been messengered over,’ he thought, ‘or he flew all the way to Italy and back to personally courier the thing.’

Renato accepted it and broke the seal, slipped out the paper inside, and held it open between them. Hisui’s first reaction was to squint, then quite nearly groan. “Kami-sama,” he muttered. “I was right. I didn’t want to be right.”

“Yes,” Renato said quietly. “One thing leads to another, I guess.”

Nono had sent in agents to England, to deal with some lower level politicians who were drumming up support for measures which would negatively impact Vongola interests. Nothing out of the ordinary; in fact, they had both done jobs of that nature. Far too many politicians proposed or voted with their personal interests in mind, and not those of their constituents, or the interests of those bribing them, and half of those didn’t even know where their bribe money was really coming from.

Hisui was not opposed to those jobs so long as there was clear evidence that the target or targets were clearly reprehensible in some way, though he preferred something more straightforward. If he wanted to be involved in politics he would have tried to find other Flames of the Earth and headed his own famiglia.

The problem came in when there was an attack. One of the agents got away and was able to report back that it had been magicals and, not just any magicals. They had been wearing masks, of a sort he supposed would be frightening to “peaceful” magicals, simply due to what they represented. The agents who had not gotten away had either been killed or kidnapped.

“Why take them?” Renato asked, then immediately added, “Torture? Taking out their sadistic tendencies on what they liken to diseased filth or subhuman creatures?”

“Well, they did attack any number of mundanes during his initial rise. And that was starting back in 1970. It’s come and gone in waves, but the papers seem to be indicating another upswing. I think it’s more worrying that he’s gone after the government.”

“Maybe he thinks that by doing so he’ll distract his opponents away from what he’s doing on the magical side?” Renato hazarded.

He shrugged. “Does it matter? Nono wants payback for his agents. That’s a huge job. He doesn’t outright say it, but he’s asking for us to go in there and kill off a commensurate number of Death Eaters, if not Big Evil himself, never mind that I already killed the bastard once, even if he did have some way to pop back up. If I remember correctly—”

“You always do,” Renato interrupted.

“—he’s mostly stayed away from Diagon Alley, which is a bit odd, really, but I suppose even Death Eaters need to shop, and not all of them can afford to go abroad. Portkeys don’t grow on trees, and you need to have permission to cross borders using them, though I expect Death Eaters wouldn’t care about that minor legal issue. There’s also the issue of finding them.” He paused long enough to light a cigarette and take a long drag, then suddenly realized Antonio was sitting there patiently. “Can I get you something to eat? This discussion may take a while.”

“I’m fine,” Antonio assured them.

He shrugged again. “All right. Depending on what protections they’re under…”

“There are ways,” Renato said vaguely.

“True. I wonder how those kinds of protections would stand up to some good old incendiary devices or rocket launchers. I can imagine getting some satisfaction out of burning them to the ground.”

Renato shook his head. “Burning? Probably not. Explosions, on the other hand? Very possibly. You’ve shown me common schemata, and every last one of them protects against fire.”

“But not explosions—or perhaps I mean to say, the physical and concussive effects of an explosion.” He glanced at the letter again. “Five agents died or were taken. Odds are those kidnapped are already dead, but—Antonio, do you have information on those men?”

“…I can get it.”

“If you would.”

Antonio brought out his phone and started texting.

“You do realize you’re getting caught up in the challenge of this,” Renato commented with a sly little grin.

He scowled. “You don’t exactly seem to be objecting.”

“I greatly dislike the idea of going to that country. But—a part of me is interested in causing a little mayhem, and against a people who richly deserve it. I was never thrilled about having to avoid England and France. Anyone who’s under the fidelius, though…”

He started to nod, but checked himself. “We can always keep triggering Snatchers until there aren’t any more, which might bring in the remaining Death Eaters.”

Renato hummed. “We can try bazookas with HEAT warheads,” he mused.

He gave his lover a skeptical look. “Isn’t that against your religion?”

“So I let you fire them,” Renato said with a shrug.

He rolled his eyes slightly. “So how do you want to do this? Just wipe out every minion we can find? Go for Big Evil if we stumble over him?”

“If we go there, we might as well. It’s fairly obvious that the good guys are only good enough to hold the line.”

“Zabini said, ‘The Order seems to have figured out the Dark Lord’s secret.’ If we do manage to get lucky enough to both find him and take him down, it might be for good this time. Or it might not.” He shrugged.

“So, we’re going.”

“Sure.”

*

“I may have to kill you after this,” he said mildly. He was tricked out in a woman’s kimono and light makeup again, but this time the strip around his neck had runes on the inside to alter his voice.

“Tesoro,” Renato said mournfully. “You are incredibly pretty this way, but I am hopelessly enamored of a man, so you’ll have to ditch the disguise before I’ll make love to you again.”

“You just wanted to see me in drag again,” he muttered, then sighed. “Let’s go.”

They took a cab to Charing Cross Road and entered the Leaky Cauldron, Hisui holding his lover’s hand to introduce him to and bring him through the protections. The interior of the place was as he remembered, but what he was not sure of was whether a controlled burst of magic would open the archway into the alley itself. That being so, he reached out and lifted a wand off an inattentive patron and had it follow them down near the floor, where it would be less likely to be noticed.

He did not want to touch the damn thing, but he would if he had to. He noticed in his peripheral vision that Renato was trying very hard not to sneer at the condition of the pub as they walked through toward the back. He couldn’t blame him; the place was a pigsty by their standards. Once they made it to the little courtyard out back—which was also filthy—he brought up the memory of having seen the wall before, then hovered his finger over the correct brick and pushed his magic forward.

The moment the archway started to form he sent the wand back inside and left it against one of the walls. Renato’s eyes went a bit wide again, betraying his surprise. Once it finished forming they moved through and started the business of roaming through shops, listening intently to everything, and generally being touristy. It was in Flourish and Blotts that he ran into a little trouble. They were browsing different isles at the time, which was not uncommon.

“Well now,” he heard murmured off to the side. “Who is this delicious little Far East morsel?”

He pretended not to have heard and continued to check over book titles, though his concentration for mining information was shot to hell. All he could see in his peripheral vision was a man with longish, dark hair. Suddenly, the man was standing at his side, angled toward him, with one hand going out to rest against the offerings, a far too intimate posture.

“So, may I know your name? I’m Sirius Black.” His tone just purred with a promise Hisui did not want to contemplate.

He slowly looked over with a politely confused expression. I don’t understand. Why are you bothering me?

Black took on a confused look himself and blinked a few times. “You don’t speak English?” he said slowly.

I do not understand you,he said, trying not to show his amusement. His own godfather was hitting on him—or trying to. Though, for all he knew, that was no longer the case. It was not something he had ever bothered to research, and if the man had been removed from that position, it had not affected him to his knowledge—or he had been too far away for it to be felt? Was the position even magical? Ren-koi!he called. Could you come assist me, please?

Renato appeared from around the side and eyed the situation. Do I even want to know?

He glanced over with a small smile. I do not understand his language, so…

Renato smiled back, then moved to wrap an arm around Hisui possessively and turned his focus toward the interloper. “Was there something you needed?” he asked coolly.

Black immediately backed off, either because the lady was taken, or because Renato’s demeanor was screaming, “Don’t fuck with me.”

How droll,he commented. I will explain later, away from here.

Renato nodded and stuck by him, simply choosing to investigate the books on that aisle. A short time later they were back out on the street and walking slowly along to the next amusement, still listening carefully to everything being said around them.

They poked into the Hopping Pot and decided that it was far cleaner and less distasteful than the Leaky Cauldron, so they entered and Renato ordered them butterbeer to sip while they occupied a table and eavesdropped on the other patrons. The junk shop was so disorganized and dusty that they immediately turned around and left again.

They passed by James and Lily Potter as they came back down from Carkitt Market and passed by Gringotts, and he was sorely tempted to arrange their deaths right then. As it was he tapped Renato’s arm and waved an airy hand in their direction, to ensure his lover noticed them.

Fortescue’s was doing a reasonably brisk business, so they entered and approached the counter, eyeing what was on offer. When the proprietor got to them he took in what Hisui was wearing, blinked, and smiled. I had a cousin who spent a lot of time in Japan. Said it was a lovely place, always liked to visit. Found her true love there.

Hisui’s brow went up. It is, thank you.

What can I get you two?the man said with another smile.

He glanced back down at the case. Ano… vanilla fudge brownie, please, in a bowl.

The same,Renato said, then paid with coins he had earlier stolen.

They sat down again to eat and listen, then continued on with their self-imposed mission.

When they finally did get back to their hotel suite he went straight to the bedroom and stripped, then hastened into the bathroom to shower. Only once he was properly attired again—Renato had carefully packed away the outfit for him—and had slumped onto the sofa did he explain anything.

“Kami-sama, what a day,” he said wearily. “The man who tried to hit on me? That was my godfather, of all people.”

Renato laughed, but his amusement cut off suddenly. “Wait. That means—”

“Yes.”

“James Potter is your father?” Renato whispered.

“Yes,” he said, heaving a sigh.

“Holy—shit, tesoro, I’m so sorry. That—that really sucks.”

He nodded. “I kind of wanted to kill them while we were there.”

Renato snorted. “But you weren’t stupid enough to do it right there in public as an obvious foreigner. We can always arrange for an accident later, tesoro,” he said, waving a hand around. “If you want them dead, we’ll get it done. Now, I didn’t hear a lot of value while we were there. People are too damn scared to say much of anything aside from commenting on the weather and the price of potions ingredients.”

“Same. So… We go with the Snatcher idea?”

“Agreed.”

His efforts to track the missing agents were fruitless, and they concluded that they had been killed. He made sure (again) that his extended pouch had every armament known to man that they might need, a ton of healing supplies (hopefully not needed, as if he had to use any on Renato it would mean a steady infusion of his own magic to make them work), and various other goodies before they set out. They had chosen Dartmoor Forest to start their game, found a clearing, and checked it over thoroughly.

Hisui materialized a human figure—the largest object he had ever created—and threw some clothes and a hat on it (thanking the gods that he could just levitate the thing to make dressing it easier) to help disguise that it was made of glass and not a real person. Maybe he should have just purchased or stolen some mannequins; perhaps he still would. Renato was up in a tree, blending into the foliage; he was ridiculously good at that sort of thing.

He went ahead and spoke the name, then flew up into a different tree. Five rough-looking men appeared a short time later and oriented on the decoy, then prepared to cast. Hisui yanked away their wands and flattened them to the ground, and held them in place, face down, while Renato dropped down and kicked the first one in the ribs. What followed was a brutal interrogation, and then death. Each of the Snatchers were thusly treated.

“So at least now we have an idea of their numbers, plus one of their camps. I say we save time and just wipe that one out, then start with the Taboo again,” Renato opined.

He nodded. “Sure. Saving time is good. The quicker we can get this done, the quicker we can get the hell out of this country.”

Every Snatcher they captured was ruthlessly interrogated and that information used to track down more of them. True, they had yet to get to the actual Death Eaters, but that would come in time, once the bully boy support system was wiped out of existence.

After the tenth round of Snatcher baiting Death Eaters started to show up with them. That was a bonus. Hisui encased the first one in obsidian while they dealt with the Snatchers, leaving enough room for the man’s chest to move for breathing and to hold the man’s mask in place. “I wonder if he’ll respond as well to torture,” he mused, eyeing his little fake statue.

He did. He might have been a “proper” Death Eater, but he was still a low-level one and not nearly as well-trained as one of the upper echelon, nor as resistant to pain. Unfortunately, he was unable to tell them of the location where Big Evil was camping out, though he did give plenty of names for them to take note of. They kept his mask as something to deliver to Nono when everything was over.

Renato immediately started making plans to blow certain properties sky high.

Two weeks later they had exhausted Big Evil’s supply of Snatchers and were only pulling in Death Eaters, which was something of a relief. Still low-level lackeys, but the more they disposed of the more panicked their boss would become. All of those masks were kept, too. Renato argued that they should switch over to taking on bigger prey, and Hisui agreed, so they sat down in their rental and planned out a campaign.

Avery Manor went down in a hail of explosives. Renato had set up bazookas in a circle around the perimeter, and Hisui set them all off with his power. The building was shredded by the sheer amount of firepower they sent at it, but he did not stop to admire any of it. He was too busy speeding from weapon to weapon, shoving them into his pouch, and then meeting up with his lover.

They did the same to Carrow, Gibbon, and Jugson, though their homes were much smaller and less ostentatious. Crabbe and Goyle had been killed during Snatcher raids, both fathers and sons, so they left the widows alone. In between planning out more destruction they kept triggering the Taboo and wasting more Death Eaters. Evil minions were apparently too stupid to stop responding to the trigger, or still managing to capture enough of their “enemies” to accept their losses.

“Mio Dio, the good guys must be seriously incompetent,” Renato said one evening. “No, I know, their so-called leader is all about justice. The man is obviously insane if he thinks torturing people with the dementors left at Azkaban is justice. The only reason he’s still alive at this point is he’s so good at defensive fighting. For all his power he hasn’t even cleaned up their ministry, so that half the ones who do get captured don’t somehow manage to conveniently escape before being imprisoned, or buy their way out of it.”

“I don’t disagree,” he replied. “The man’s got a skewed sense of reality. But that’s part of why I never wanted to be associated with them. Living in that world warps your mind, makes you into a naïve little sheep or a manipulative bastard on a power high.” He shook his head. “At least the people back home are mostly sane, unlike these inbred idiots. Too much of Europe just doesn’t have the cultural history to handle it.”

“I don’t disagree,” Renato parroted back with a smile. “Who would you like to go after next?”

The Yaxley house crumbled, then those of Macnair, Rowle, and Travers. Big Evil was losing his better men at a ridiculous rate, people who had lasted time and time again against the opposition. Hisui had built up quite a collection of masks by that point.

When they went after Malfoy Manor they ran into an interesting occurrence. All the bazookas had been set up and Hisui triggered them, then sped off on his rounds to collect and stow them. It was not until after he had rejoined Renato that he realized someone else had arrived; the Order, to be exact, and half of them had gone down to shrapnel, including his parents.

Hisui exchanged a look with his lover, shrugged, and apparated them away. The newspaper the following day told the story, how James and Lily Potter had bled out on the scene, along with several other Order members. They had been there to conduct a raid, despite half of them not being aurors.

“How do you feel?” Renato asked, his arm around Hisui’s shoulders.

“About them? Empty. Seeing them in Diagon Alley—there was still that desire to see them dead, some bitterness. But now? Nothing. Their eldest son is old enough to fend for himself, unless they ruined him. Not my problem.”

Renato nodded and leaned in to kiss his cheek, right in front of his ear. “Let’s take the day off,” he whispered, letting his fingers dance along Hisui’s arm.

A slight smile starting creeping up and he nodded. “Will you spoil me?”

“Your heart’s desire, tesoro,” Renato promised.

“I could be convinced,” he admitted.

“Really.” Renato shifted position and nibbled on his ear lobe. “I’ll talk you into it,” he purred, then shifted again, so he could pick Hisui up and move them both to the bedroom.

The next morning he was feeling deliciously spoiled and ready to see about trying to coax Big Evil out of hiding. “It’s almost cheating,” he said during breakfast. “They have no clue about any of us from what I can tell. No way to defend themselves. We’ve pulled the trigger how many times now? And they still don’t respond any differently? It’s pathetic.”

“I’m not going to complain,” Renato replied. “I usually prefer a challenge, but I’m perfectly willing to accept that these people are generally incompetent. Even against less skilled mafiosi these people would be at a disadvantage. They’re just too slow and physically inadequate. Spells don’t move as fast as bullets. And having a reputation for being hardcore sadists doesn’t do much if the people they’re facing aren’t afraid. But… Let’s stop there.”

He felt a momentary sense of confusion. “What—oh. The ministry would still be an issue, but that’s really not our concern.”

“Right.”

They started in again with the Taboo, continuing to switch locations each time so as not to allow the Death Eaters (assuming any of them had the brains to) a chance to prepare the battlefield to their advantage when they weren’t around. One of the Death Eaters they caught on an island in Loch Enoch was Severus Snape. The names they had thus far obtained included his, and a description, so he was fairly certain the greasy-haired man presently pressed face-first on the ground was him. The stains on his fingers were also a clue.

He sent a signal to Renato before they began the interrogations, and moved close enough so he could whisper into his lover’s ear. “I think that’s Snape. I’m considering trying to plant a tracker on him and accidentally losing my grip while you’re questioning the others, allowing him to apparate away. Maybe I can figure out approximately where Big Evil is hiding. What do you think?”

Renato turned his head so he could whisper back. “The one you said you overheard those two arguing about? We can try it. You’ve already disposed of their wands and I don’t think they need them to teleport. Granted, he might have a spare, or other weapons, but… I guess you can just flatten him again and we treat him like the others if that happens. What if he can feel the tracker, though? Would he risk going back to base?”

He frowned.

“There’s also the issue of him seeing our faces.”

He shook his head slightly and turned to whisper back. “You’re right. And I’ve never bothered with any illusion magic aside from invisibility. Neither of us has Mist Flames. I suppose I could fashion us masks, but your first point is… All right, let’s do this the same as always, then.”

Renato nodded and moved to the first captive.

Once they finished, with masks collected and tucked away, and the bodies disposed of, they returned to their most recent suite, which was never anywhere near their ambush location. “Do you think it’d be possible to use flames as a tracker?”

Renato looked exceptionally thoughtful at the idea. “Make something small for me.”

A brow went up, but he did as requested, materializing a small obsidian sphere.

Renato picked it up and said, “I’ll be back.” A short time later he re-entered the suite and took a seat. “Now, can you feel where it is?”

He closed his eyes and tried to liken it to knowing where his senbon were while attacking with them. His brow furrowed as he attempted to “contact” or “query” the sphere, and he finally got a faint sense of it. “Ano… Two floors down and ahead of me?”

As he opened his eyes Renato said, “More or less. How about we try this? We visit Diagon Alley again, see if we can find any of those suspected Death Eaters wandering around, and try a two-fold approach. You do something like pierce through their cloak with a senbon or something that would stay in place, and I direct some insects to ride along in their pocket. If you can’t sense where your plant is, the insects can still enlist others in the area to help figure out the location. So long as we stick to one place for a reasonable amount of time…”

He nodded. “That sounds like it might work. And if we find it, we can blow it sky high. Though if Big Evil is any good at all he’ll have a fallback position, assuming we didn’t already decimate it.” Then he paused and groaned. “Great. I get to cross-dress again.”

Renato grinned unrepentantly. “Well, that simply means that you should look into some books on illusions once we’re home.”

The second trip to Diagon Alley went more smoothly, if only because there was no older man creepily trying to put the moves on him. While they were enjoying ice cream at one of the tables outside Fortescue’s, a slender blonde woman did a double-take on seeing them and sat down in an empty chair.

His brow went up, and she took that as an invitation to say, “Have you ever been to Kobe?”

Hisui played dumb and looked at Renato, who “interpreted” for him, then said, Yes.

She brightened. 「Oh, wonderful! The reason I ask is that Daddy, my husband, and I had been considering going there to investigate a lead on a wrackspurt infestation.

Ano… I do not think I have heard of this before.

She smiled. It’s a creature that floats in through your ears and makes your brain go fuzzy.

He exchanged a look with Renato. Well, that might explain why there are so many crazy people in Kobe.

Are you sure they’re crazy? Maybe they’re just confused and misunderstood,the woman said, a faint frown crinkling her brow. They can only been seen with special glasses.

We don’t spend a lot of time in Kobe, so I’m afraid we don’t really know.

She hummed thoughtfully and nodded. Still, it’s a possibility. I shall have to tell them! Thank you!She hopped up, gave them a little wave, and wandered away.

Such interesting people here,Renato commented dryly.

They spotted Lucius Malfoy emerging from Gringotts a little while later, which occasioned an exchange of looks between them. Hisui went ahead and materialized a senbon and sent it over to weave itself into the fabric of the man’s robes, and Renato sent his insects. Malfoy went into Slug & Jiggers and exited fifteen minutes later, then found a quiet spot off to the side and disapparated.

Renato immediately placed a hand at his waist, in case they needed to move, he presumed. He concentrated, no longer really seeing anything in front of him, and tried to reach out to sense where the senbon was. “North-northwest,” he whispered, “mostly. A little more north than that, not as far west as Edinburgh.” He frowned and looked at his lover. “I can’t sense how far, though.”

“All right. Let’s return to our suite.”

Once they were there he changed, washed up, and packed away the outfit, then went out to see that Renato was studying a map and using the side of a hotel notepad as a ruler. His lover looked up when he appeared and said, “Just for the hell of it, can you sense the cat statue?”

He blinked and took a seat, then sat back and closed his eyes to better concentrate. After several minutes of effort he sighed and shook his head. “No.”

Renato started muttering to himself and jotting down notes on the pad. “We’ll give it some time, see what the insects manage to bring back. If necessary we’ll do this the hard way and run some tests to determine just how far you can sense. That’ll narrow it down. And if we have to we can question people along the line. I wouldn’t doubt if Big Evil is holed up in some town, that the locals probably have some tales to tell about mysterious happenings.”

A week and a half later they were in a place called Little Hangleton, in the Hanged Man pub. They heard all about the local gossip after one of the men there drinking overheard Renato regaling Hisui with an entirely fictitious tale about a ghost that supposedly haunted a small town in France. The man, already half-potted, shared with them the events of ages past in their otherwise sleepy little town, about how the Riddles had been murdered one night and the culprit never found, and how the big mansion atop the hill overlooking the village disappeared. Some said it had burnt down overnight to naught but ash, even thought it was built of stone. Renato skillfully coaxed more details out of the man, even bought him a round, and they left with the idea that they had found it—or at least a place where Big Evil had once been.

They took a walk after that, exploring the village, and eyeing the hill. There might not visibly be a house there, but something was. He could tell that just by how gravity was being affected, and whispered that to Renato.

“This one will be a lot harder,” Renato whispered back. “Not like it’s in the middle of nowhere. On the other hand, it seems the people here are used to weird things happening, so maybe they’ll just add it to the gossip roster.”

They reached the edge of the village and paused, seemingly looking out over the area. In reality Renato had called a number of flying insects to him to ask for their help. They flew away and the two of them turned around to walk slowly back the other way. An hour later (and wasn’t that fun trying to stretch time in such a small place) the insects were back and reporting to Renato.

“There are Death Eaters in there,” his lover whispered. “Let’s find a quiet spot and go back for now.”

In the suite they discussed what to have for dinner, Renato ordered room service, and they sat down to wait.

“Same plan?”

“Good question,” Renato said. “What are the odds that he’s figured out how to prevent physical attacks? Hm. If he has, well…”

He sat back as his lover went off into some mental space filled with calculations. He answered the door when a knock came, pulled the cart in, handed over a tip, then shut the door again. The cart was rolled over to the sofa and unloaded onto the table, and Hisui sat back down again. When Renato did not snap out of his dream world he poked him in the side before starting to eat.

“I say we do it.”

“Sure.”

They set everything up, Hisui set them off, then sped off to reclaim the weapons and rejoin his lover. They were admiring the fact that not only had the manor house suddenly reappeared, but that it was now a shambles, when a blood-curdling scream of anger and frustration could be heard.

“Ano…” Hisui quickly disillusioned Renato and himself, then eyed the ruin. A few more pieces of the walls fell in, and then, accompanied by a great deal of dust, part of the rubble exploded outward to reveal a bald man with no nose and blood red eyes, who looked incandescent with fury. “You try first,” he suggested.

He heard the sound of his lover readying his gun, then the shot. It was perfect, dead center between the eyes. Unfortunately, the target had some kind of invisible shield against physical objects up. “Shit,” Renato muttered. “Your turn.”

Hisui frowned, then reached out and exploded the man’s head. The body teetered and slowly toppled over. Five minutes later there was still no movement, but there were sirens in the distance. “I got a decent look at him. I might be able to try a location spell. Not sure it will work with a fake name, though.”

“So try it on me with a fake name.”

“Ano…” For some reason, his mind went blank trying to think one up. Then he tried using Yamada Taro with his lover’s face in mind. It worked, but… Next he tried the man behind the bar at the Leaky Cauldron. He knew his given name—Tom—but not his family name, so that was perhaps a better test. The locater directed him toward London. He then tried the man he had just partially exploded, using the pub man’s given name and the family name associated with the manor they had just shredded; nothing. “I think he might actually be dead this time,” he murmured.

They backed off a distance when fire engines roared up the drive leading to the house. The body was discovered—they could tell because of the reactions of the men there—and watched as it was lifted onto a gurney. That there was a body at all said everything. “You ready?” he asked.

“Yes.”

Hisui disapparated them, back to the suite.

“So, we spend a few days checking the papers.”

He nodded. “Then we go see Nono, and then home.”

Two days later there was a report in the paper that served Little Hangleton with an update on the mysterious reappearance of Riddle Manor and its ruination, to include information regarding the bodies that had been pulled from the wreckage. The headless man with pasty skin and oddly long, spidery fingers. The man with mid-length, white-blond hair—

“Oh good, we got him that time,” Renato commented.

—and more than a few others, but they weren’t all that important. It was time to go.

*

Antonio met them in Milan and drove them to the Vongola Mansion. Iemitsu hastened into the entrance hall right about the time they entered it and escorted them to Nono, where they were waved toward chairs. Nono greeted them with a smile and an incline of the head.

Hisui bowed and stared back, then tapped the case he was holding. “A gift. May I open it?”

Nono nodded, his expression curious.

He set the case down, facing to the side, and popped the latch, then pulled the lid open. Inside were stacks of masks. “All of the Death Eater masks we were able to collect from the dead. More than a commensurate amount for your agents. Seventy of them.” Then he sat down.

Nono blinked. “You really don’t like the magicals.”

He shook his head. “They’re pathetic. Insofar as we can tell, Big Evil was also killed for real this time. In theory, you shouldn’t have problems again should you need to send people in to protect your interests.”

“Give me an overview, please,” Nono requested.

Renato’s chin lifted slightly, then he launched into a report of their activities while in England.

Nono seemed … impressed, both by their tactics and by the sheer number of people they had ended up killing while on foreign soil. He also seemed to agree that the magicals—in Britain, at least—were pathetic. “I would be pleased if you would join us for dinner.”

Renato accepted for them and Iemitsu was shortly escorting them to that same guest house. At the door Iemitsu said, “I’ll be back at seven,” then hastened off.

“Well,” Renato said, “at least now we should be able to visit England and France without having to worry too much about them. You good for heading back tomorrow?”

“Yes. We left plenty of food for Leon and Yori, but it won’t last much longer. I know, they can hunt for themselves, but that’s not fair of us if they’re forced to.”

Dinner was much like the previous time, with generally light conversation—nothing that pertained specifically to the Vongola, of course, as they were associates, not members of the Famiglia. Even so, Hisui thought he detected a certain softening of demeanor toward them, for how far they had gone on behalf of the Vongola. ‘Though if it had been anyone other than magicals, Nono might have wondered if we were too dangerous. Something to keep in mind.’