Grazhir :: Crossover :: Hisui :: 13

13: 2015

“It’s a no-go here, as well,” Bianchi stated with a sigh.

The interior of the glass-fronted building was heavily damaged from the typhoon, but more damage appeared to have been caused deliberately.

“The stairs have been destroyed.”

‘Kami-sama, thanks for pointing out what we can all already see.’

“Rokudo is probably on an upper floor,” Renato said. “There should be at least one set of traversable stairs left somewhere. Or a ladder.”

“I don’t understand,” Tsuna said.

Renato sighed. “It’s easier to defend a base if possible routes of attack are narrowed down, right? On the other hand, he’s cut off possible escape routes—or at least made them more difficult to use. He must be very confident of winning.”

They eventually ran across an unbroken ladder bolted to a wall, of a sort maintenance people often used, or for emergencies. Kakimoto chose that moment to appear.

“It’s him!” Tsuna cried.

“The yo-yo guy,” Hayato said, then produced a handful of dynamite. He threw it, but not quite as far as the target. When they exploded it created a smoke screen effect.

“Jūdaime, leave things here to me. Please go on ahead.”

“Gokudera-kun…”

“Hayato, listen to me!” Bianchi said, moving closer. “When you were struck before, it was Shamal’s Trident mosquito that saved your life. The virus he gave you needs time to complete its job. Until then, there will be side effects.”

‘At least Shamal let her know, too.’

“You will suffer those painful attacks again. Knowing this, are you still going to do this?”

“Tch. Goes without saying,” Hayato replied. “That’s the reason why I’m here.”

Bianchi just stared at him for a moment, then turned to Tsuna. “Let’s go.”

“Eh, but…”

“Please go ahead, Jūdaime. Get Mukuro!”

“Yes, I know, but still…” Tsuna took a deep breath. “I understand, I’m going!”

The moment they were up the ladder he paused and shot a look at Renato.

“He has to prove himself,” Renato murmured. “To himself, if no one else. His pride took a beating, more than his body.”

He sighed and found another earpiece, then tied a listening charm to it from Hayato, plus tossed out a tracker.

“The third floor should have the cinema,” Tsuna said, looking around. “Let’s try there?”

The “stage” held a loveseat. Cushions were piled up on it and a teenager with blueish hair sat at the center. The flooring was a mess, and the curtains for the stage were tattered rags, revealing a stained and holey screen at the back. The cinema must have doubled as an acting theatre.

“I’m very happy that we could meet again,” the teen said.

“It’s you!” Tsuna said. He dashed forward a few steps, to the edge of the highest tier of seating. “Is this where you’re being held?” He looked back and said, “I met this person in the forest earlier. He’s a Kokuyo student and a hostage.”

He edged closer to Renato and whispered, “I think this is the real deal. He asked way too many questions, probing questions.”

“Please come forward slowly,” the teen said. “I would like to take some time to get to know you better … Vongola Jūdaime.”

“Eh? How did you know I’m Vongola…?”

“You’re mistaken, Tsuna!” Bianchi warned. “That’s—”

“That’s right,” the teen interrupted. “I’m the real Rokudo Mukuro.”

A noise snapped Tsuna out of his panic. Fūta had stepped out of a side room. “Fūta-kun! You startled me.”

“Looks like you’re all right,” Bianchi said, eyeing the boy as he moved slowly closer.

“I searched for you after we met earlier.”

“It’s dangerous here,” Bianchi said. “You better step back.”

And then Fūta brought up a wicked three-pronged blade. In a flash he had stabbed it into Bianchi’s stomach.

Tsuna finally reacted. “Bianchi-san! Hold on! Fūta-kun, what are you doing!?”

Fūta took a swipe at Tsuna, but missed.

“His mind is being controlled,” Renato called out to the kitten as a hint.

Renato reached back and pulled a whip from one of his concealed pouches, and used it to capture Tsuna and haul him back toward them. “I borrowed this whip from Dino earlier. Use it.”

Tsuna got up and turned on him with a look of disbelief as the weapon was shoved into his hands. “What do you expect me to do with it!?”

“Do whatever you want,” Renato replied. “If you don’t fight, you’ll die.”

Tsuna stared back at Fūta, unwilling to hurt the boy, then dashed off toward Mukuro.

Hisui sighed audibly when Tsuna brandished his whip against Mukuro and managed a re-enactment of Dino’s fight with the bear. He went down hard. On the plus side, he tangled Fūta up, as well.

“Kufufufu. You surprise me, as always,” Mukuro said, cheerful smile on his face. “Oh, look, you better watch your back. It’s dangerous, yo.”

“Hayato-kun had another attack,” he whispered. “Sounds like he just tumbled down some stairs. Oddly enough, one of those canaries is there, singing the Nami Middle school song.”

Tsuna quickly turned and saw Fūta struggling to reach the blade he’d dropped. A quick swipe moved it out of reach. “Stop it, Fūta-kun!” Tsuna got a thoughtful look on his face, missing Fūta struggling forward again and getting his hand on the blade’s hilt, but jerked back when Fūta’s hand came up. “It’s not your fault,” Tsuna said quietly. “None of it is your fault. We’re all on your side. You don’t have to worry about a thing. Come home with us.”

“Hibari, you think?” Renato whispered back.

Mukuro’s cheerful smile slipped briefly as Fūta hesitated, said Tsuna’s name, and then collapsed, bleeding from the nose and ears.

“I can’t think of anyone else who would teach a bird that song so quickly,” he replied.

“Now, see, you’ve gone too far,” Mukuro said. “Looks like he’s suffering from a clash of wills. I believe he hasn’t slept at all in these past ten days. Come to think of it, he was the first to fall into our hands.”

“He was missing for ten days and nobody at that house noticed?” he whispered. “What the fuck? Perhaps I need to have a chat with Nana-chan.”

Renato nodded at him.

“We came to Japan in order to find the whereabouts of the Vongola Decimo, but we didn’t have a specific location. Then, we heard a rumor that Fūta here would be able to recognize you, so we captured him. But, he invoked Omertà and refused to talk. Furthermore, he closed off his heart, and subsequently lost his ranking abilities.”

“What did you say!?” Tsuna cried.

“So, given no choice,” Renato called out, “you used Namimori’s fighting strength ranking list that Fūta made previously to flush out Tsuna and his family, correct?”

Mukuro sat back, propping his elbows on the low back of the loveseat. “Our plan was a huge success. The Vongola is standing before me right now.”

“How could you do this to innocent Fūta-kun? What do you think people are!?” Tsuna yelled.

“Toys,” Mukuro said calmly, “I suppose.”

“Damn you. You bastard!” Tsuna jumped up, whip in hand, and rushed Mukuro.

The teen stood up. “Do you really think you can go hand-to-hand directly against me?” he asked arrogantly.

Hisui’s sharp eyesight caught that Mukuro’s right eye changed, the oddly-coloured one. Then the boy was beyond Tsuna, a staff in his hand.

Tsuna stopped, then immediately started complaining of pain. His clothing had numerous cuts, but not enough to make his shirt or jeans fall off.

“What’s the matter?” Mukuro asked, looking back over his shoulder.

“Ngh… What the heck happened?”

“He unleashed a terrible onslaught of strikes in the instant he passed by you,” Renato explained.

“Very good,” Mukuro said as he bent down to retrieve the three-pronged blade and fit it to the end of his staff, effectively making the combined weapon a trident. “That’s exactly it.”

Tsuna edged around to stare at his opponent. “His eyes…”

“Oh? You see it, do you? It’s this aura, rather. The aura of hand-to-hand fighting skill emitted by the fourth state, asura. Do you know of the six paths of reincarnation?”

“The cycle of death and rebirth, you mean?” Renato answered. “The states of hell, hungry ghosts, animals, asura, humans, and heaven; which state will you be born into after death?”

“My body has already been through all six paths to Hades in my previous lives, and it has all been carved into my memory. Those six journeys have gained me six fighting skills.”

“What … are you saying?” Tsuna asked.

Mukuro just smiled. “Now then, shall I show you my next skill?” He hit the floor with the end of his trident as he said, “Let us begin.”

At first Hisui could not see anything happening, but Tsuna obviously could. That being so, he allowed a slight bleed-through of illusion.

“What’s this!? The building is—!” Tsuna began to panic, obviously captured by the illusion of parts of the floor exploding upward, of all it breaking apart, of Fūta and Bianchi falling down into some abyss.

Then Renato flung a ball at the kitten and nailed him in the back of the head.

Tsuna reached back to complain, but paused and saw that everything had gone back to normal. “The … floor…”

“What you saw was an illusion.”

“Kufufufu. Not bad. So you saw through it,” Mukuro said. “Yes, that’s the first state, of hell. A skill to break one’s mind through an endless nightmare.” He laughed again, creepily. “But I would like to observe you for a little while more. I have seen the connection between you.” He looked at Hisui briefly, then at Renato. “So you serve the Vongola as mentors, eh?”

Renato scoffed. “We’re home tutors.”

More creepy laughter. “I see. That’s unique, too. However, are the teachers not going to fight? I don’t mind if I have to fight all of you at once.”

Renato shrugged. “It’s against the rules.”

“Oh? Now that’s the reply of a true, traditional mafioso.”

Renato’s brow went up slowly. “There’s no need for us to do anything. At least, not until you have defeated our student.”

“Wha—oi! Ren-san!”

“Oh, what a beautiful and trusting relationship. Interesting. That’s fine with me.” His right eye changed again, to show a different symbol.

Hisui knew it had to be the third path because dozens of snakes appeared around Tsuna, who, predictably, freaked out. “They’re coming,” he whispered.

“Hiiiie! They’re coming! Are these illusions as well?”

“Those are genuine venomous snakes,” Mukuro replied. “If you don’t believe me, try getting bitten by one. This skill is from the third state, of animals. A person driven to death is able to summon living creatures.” He switched focus from Tsuna to them. “Come now, your student’s life is in danger. Is that okay?”

“That’s not much of a plan, Mukuro.”

Just then a tonfa flew through the room toward Mukuro, who quickly deflected it with his trident.

“Jūdaime! Please take cover!” came Hayato’s voice, followed by an explosion around Tsuna. Hayato emerged into the room, supported by Hibari. Both of them looked beat to hell. “Sorry I’m late,” Hayato said.

“Hibari-san! Gokudera-kun! Both… Both of you…”

“Do you understand, Mukuro?” Renato said. “There’s no reason why we would be raising Tsuna alone.”

Hibari tossed Hayato to the side. “Now we’re even,” he muttered.

“What’s this?” Mukuro mused. “Another from the outfield? What is Chikusa doing down there, hm?”

Hayato chuckled darkly. “If you mean the spectacles freak, he’s on the lower floors with the animal freak. They’re having a nice break together.”

“I see.”

“Incredible, Gokudera-kun! But, are you all right?”

“Oh, I wasn’t the one who defeated them, though…”

Hibari started walking forward a bit shakily, and picked up the tonfa he had thrown, so he was properly armed. “Are you ready to repent?” he asked Mukuro.

“What’s this? How frightening.”

“That smile is enough to make most people want to burn his mouth off with acid,” Hisui whispered.

“But please, don’t get in the way of the Vongola and me right now.”

“Yeah, I hear you. But if he looked sullen all the time we’d accuse him of being an emo little shit.”

“For one thing, you shouldn’t even be standing. How many bones in your body have I broken?”

“Are those your final words?”

“Kufufufu. Interesting things you say. Wouldn’t it be better if we made a pact? No choice then.” Mukuro’s eye shifted symbols. “Let’s dispose of you first.” Mukuro dashed forward. “It’ll all be over in an instant!” he promised.

They clashed, and came together. “So, how long does your instant last?” Hibari asked as they pushed back from each other.

“He really is incredibly strong,” Tsuna said. “That’s Hibari-san.”

“Do not take this one lightly, Mukuro,” Renato said. “He’s growing a lot stronger than you think.”

“I see,” Mukuro replied, managing to slice into Hibari’s shoulder. “That’s how it is, then. If he wasn’t injured, the outcome of our duel might be questionable. This is a waste of time. I’m going to finish you off quickly.”

Sakura blossomed into being all around Hibari. Mukuro laughed creepily and said, “Come, kneel before me once again.”

Hibari started moving.

“No!” Tsuna yelled. “Hibari-san!”

Hibari plowed into Mukuro’s torso hard enough to make the teen cough up blood.

Hayato chuckled again. “Yeah, funny, I got this antidote for Sakura-kura from Shamal before we came here. He told me about that unfortunate little illness Hibari coincidentally contracted. So naturally I administered a cure.”

Hibari attacked again while Mukuro was distracted, launching the teen into the air and drawing a fair amount of blood. Mukuro landed heavily, the back of his head bouncing off the floor as his trident clattered down and the blade at the end dislodged and spun off.

“The sakura were an illusion,” Tsuna said to himself.

Hayato made a rude noise. “He snatched all the good scenes,” he muttered.

“It’s over? We can go home now?” Tsuna asked, looking back at them.

“You were wonderfully useless against Mukuro,” Renato replied.

Tsuna made a face and turned away, then rushed over to the prefect. “Hi-Hibari-san, are you all right?”

Hibari toppled forward and hit the floor.

“It must have been very vexing for him to lose that first time,” Renato commented, glancing at Hisui, who frowned and shook his head. “It looked like he was fighting unconsciously since about halfway through.”

“Hibari-san is incredible,” Tsuna said with awe. “We have to hurry and get everyone to a hospital!”

“Don’t worry about that,” Renato said. “The Vongola’s best medical team is on its way here.”

“That’s good to know,” Hayato said, having gotten up despite his wounds.

“Gokudera-kun, you should take it easy for a while,” Tsuna pleaded.

“There’s no need for a medical team,” Mukuro said. He was sitting back up and had a gun aimed their way. “Because there will be no one left alive here.” He laughed creepily, then shot himself in the head.

“He really did it?” Hayato said, eyeing the blood pooling around Mukuro’s head.

“How could he…? Why did he do something like that?” Tsuna asked quietly.

“Perhaps he’d rather die than be captured again,” Renato suggested. To Hisui he whispered, “And that’s the problem, isn’t it? No Vindice.”

He nodded. “It’s what I assume.”

Tsuna suddenly went green and hunched over, a hand clapped to his mouth.

“Finally,” Bianchi said, sitting up. “We’ve defeated Mukuro.”

“Sis!”

“Thank goodness! Bianchi-san has regained consciousness,” Tsuna said.

Renato furrowed his brow. “Take it easy.”

“She lost enough blood…” he whispered.

“Lend me your shoulder, won’t you?” Bianchi said to Hayato.

“Do I have to?”

“Just… Just for today, okay?” she said.

Tsuna suddenly freaked. “Gokudera-kun! Don’t go closer!”

“Eh?”

“What’s wrong?” Bianchi asked. “Tsuna, lend me your shoulder, too.”

“It’s all right, Jūdaime,” Hayato said. “My injuries aren’t that serious. I’m okay.” To Bianchi he said, “Give me your hand.”

“Okay.” And then she sliced his face with a three-pronged blade and tried to gut him.

“Wha-what are you doing!?” Hayato screeched, falling back on his ass.

“Oh my, what’s with me?” Bianchi said, bringing one hand to her mouth.

“What are you doing, Bianchi?” Renato asked, eyeing her oddly. “You just cut your own brother.”

“What have I done…” she said softly. “I wonder!” she cried, and lunged at Renato, who nimbly skipped out of the way.

“Mind control again?” Tsuna asked.

“No.” Renato shook his head. “More like possession.”

“Then… It’s a curse?” Hayato asked.

“What are you saying?” Bianchi said. “It’s me.” Her smile was unsettling.

“Rokudo … Mukuro?” Tsuna said, his eyes wide.

Bianchi laughed creepily; her right eye changed from grey-green to red and that side of her face almost looked as though it had fractured. “And so, we meet again.”

Renato gave him a look, which he returned with a frown. “They were destroyed,” he whispered. “Right?”

Renato nodded and looked back at Bianchi. “It shouldn’t exist.”

“There are still things I have to do,” she said. “So I have returned from the depths of hell.”

“Jūdaime! Leave this to me,” Hayato insisted, then starting chanting an exorcism rite. Bianchi collapsed thirty seconds later.

Then Hayato tried to stab Tsuna with that blade, though he missed. “You really surprise me. This is a first. No human has ever been able to sense with one look when I’m possessing another. You truly are absolutely fascinating.”

Renato sighed. “He pretended to commit suicide by shooting himself with that bullet. The Possession Bullet was forbidden. They should all have been destroyed. Where did you get it?”

“Possession Bullet?” Tsuna said. “What are you saying?”

“Kufufufu. So you’ve noticed. Yes, this possession is due to that special bullet.”

“Special like a Dying Will Bullet?” Tsuna asked.

“Yes. The Possession Bullet, as its name implies, allows the one its used on to possess another’s body and control it with his will. It’s said it was discovered by the Estraneo Famiglia. To handle it well requires not just a strong spirit, but also an affinity with the bullet. However, its use was deemed so inhuman that the mafia world declared it forbidden, and destroyed its manufacturing instructions.”

The possessed Hayato smiled that creepy smile. “It cannot be compared to mind control. This is complete possession—from the top of his head to his toes, they’re all in my power. In other words, this body … is mine.”

“Stop!” Tsuna cried. “Stop it!”

“You ensnared Lancia the same way,” Renato said. “Why do you have any?”

“Because it belongs to me. And that’s enough talking. Come on, it’s your turn to be possessed next, Vongola Decimo.”

“So this is your real objective?” Renato asked.

“It’s not an objective, it’s a means. Once I have him in my hands, my vengeance can begin.”

Tsuna went into another meltdown of protests.

“Watch out for that blade,” Renato suggested. “If you’re cut by it, he’ll be able to possess you.”

“You know quite a bit,” Hayato said, sending the blade in a controlled spin to Bianchi, who caught it easily.

“That’s exactly right,” she said as Hayato collapsed, then crouched down next to Hibari. “For example, if I were to do this—” She cut the prone prefect with the blade. “—it’s like saying, ‘I will possess this one.’ ”

She dropped as Hibari levered himself up. Tsuna took a tonfa blow to the stomach, but Hibari collapsed immediately. “Oho, this body can’t be used anymore,” he said, trying to get back up. “That he could actually fight in this condition… What a frightening man, Hibari Kyoya…” Then he collapsed.

“Be careful,” he reminded Tsuna. “He can still possess Hayato-kun or Bianchi-chan.”

Both of them stood as Kakimoto and Jōshima came through the entrance.

“Those two as well,” Renato said and hummed thoughtfully. “I’ve never heard of four people simultaneously.”

“That’s not all!” Hayato said as his right eye changed symbols, then he threw dynamite.

Tsuna bolted out of the way of the explosion as Kakimoto went after Renato, while Jōshima went for Hisui.

“The second state,” Hayato said, “of hungry ghosts. A skill to steal the abilities of others.” More dynamite went flying at Tsuna, who lunged away and face-planted as a result.

Bianchi laughed and started in with illusions to harry Tsuna.

“If possible I would rather capture you unharmed,” Jōshima said.

“It’ll be better if you just surrender yourself,” Kakimoto added.

Tsuna freaked out.

“You never learn, do you?” Renato said and sighed. “That’s an illusion.”

“Oho! As for you,” Hayato said, “you should worry about yourself!” More dynamite flew, at Renato that time.

Kakimoto dashed in with the blade and stabbed it down. His glee was cut short when he realized all he managed to stab was a hat.

“It’s been a while since I’ve experienced a real fight,” Renato commented dryly. “And here I am, still waiting.”

“Ren-san!”

“You better hurry up and do something, Tsuna,” Renato said. “I’m not going to fight in your place.”

“Stop saying things like that! I’ve already surpassed the level of everything I can do!!”

“Always with the yelling,” he complained. “Stop whining, and get on with it.”

Bianchi laughed. “The teacher is getting impatient. Having your student driven to a desperate and dangerous situation has made you illogical!” She leaped at Hisui to attack with the blade.

He darted away, deliberately not using flame-enhanced speed.

“Tsuna,” Renato said calmly, “your older brother Dino was also on a path to surpass himself, remember? He was caught in a desperate situation, as well. When he was able to overcome that he changed from ‘Greenhorn Dino’ to ‘Bucking Horse Dino’.”

“Turned into, you say, but I don’t understand! Besides, Dino-san and I are—”

“Look up!”

Tsuna looked up just in time for the dynamite to explode, knocking him some distance.

“Come, we’ve talked more than enough. Let’s end this,” Kakimoto said, and lifted the blade as the symbol in his right eye shifted. Then he attacked; but he collapsed half way to Tsuna, the blade spinning off to Jōshima.

“This always happens,” Jōshima said, taking possession of the trident blade. “How many times now? It doesn’t matter if I can possess and control a body. If the body has been broken, it still can’t move.”

“…That’s why you couldn’t possess Hibari?” Tsuna asked.

Kakimoto laughed creepily. “Looks like Chikusa can still move a little, hm?”

“He’s being forced to get up? His injuries!”

“It’s fine,” Kakimoto said, managing to stand. He looked at Tsuna. “Because, I can’t feel any pain at all.”

“What!? What are you saying!? That body belongs to your friend, doesn’t it!?”

“Incorrect. Since I’ve possess him, this body is mine. I can break or kill this body at my whim,” Kakimoto said matter-of-factly.

“Wha… That’s … not right.”

“Do you have time to worry about others?” Hayato asked.

“You’re facing certain doom yourself,” Bianchi said.

“As interesting a boy as you are, you were never cut out to join the mafia,” Hayato said.

Tsuna took a good look at the two and cringed. “I beg you! Please stop! If you keep doing this they’ll die!”

Hayato laughed. “I just remembered. During the fight with Birds you were ready to stab yourself in order to save your girlfriend, right? Let’s go with that, then. It’s because of that naïvety that I will possess you.”

“Is this okay?” Bianchi said. “If your friends are injured further…”

“Stop escaping and start cooperating like a good boy. Give yourself to the contract,” Hayato said.

“No… No way…”

“So, you’re really wavering,” Jōshima replied. “Wherever you go, this world has no place for people like you. You are not suited to be the Vongola Decimo. Come, surrender your body to me.”

“What should I do?” Tsuna asked, looking at them pleadingly. “What should we do?”

We aren’t going to do anything,” Renato replied. “Figure out something yourself.”

Tsuna’s face fell. “How could you… Haven’t you always helped me!? Don’t abandon me now!”

Renato lashed out and gave Tsuna a hard cuff to the head. “Don’t squeal like some pathetic pig!” he said sharply, then reached out to grab him by the shirt and pull his face closer. “You, and nobody else, are the Vongola Jūdaime. If you voice your true feelings, that is the answer of a Vongola.” He let go and stepped back, out of the way again.

“My … true feelings?”

Jōshima laughed. “Even the tutor has given up, eh? His true feelings are, ‘I want to run away.’ Aren’t they? Or is it, ‘I can’t run away because of my friends’?”

“…want to…” Tsuna mumbled. “I want to … defeat Mukuro.”

He looked sidelong as saw Leon’s cocoon form swell.

“Oho, that was unexpected,” Jōshima said. “But let’s hear it at a more leisurely pace after I possess you. After you bury your friends with your own hands.”

“…I don’t want to lose … to such a cruel person,” Tsuna said quietly, then looked up and shouted. “Just you! I want to defeat you!”

Jōshima lifted the blade. “This is the end.”

Leon blimped up and filaments extended in all directions, even as high as the ceiling. Leon rose up slowly, shifting the length of the filaments to effect a change in height for his main body.

“Vongola!” Jōshima shouted. “What are you doing!?”

“I’m not—Leon!?”

“It’s about time,” Renato murmured. “It was the same back then, when Dino became the ‘Bucking Horse’.”

“Oh, so this is your doing,” Jōshima said, eyeing Renato.

Renato shook his head. “Nope. It’s Leon’s doing. He does this when my students grow stronger. We knew a trial was coming when he went into a cocoon state.”

Kakimoto laughed. “How interesting.”

“Here I was wondering what you were going to show me right at the end,” Hayato said, “but it’s just your pet with … what … wings?”

“You guys are really unique,” Bianchi said and laughed.

“This is a joke?” Tsuna said disbelievingly. “What is Leon doing? How can this have anything to do with Dino-san getting stronger?”

“Just watch,” Renato said as Leon grew even larger. “He’s about to disgorge a new item. Something especially for you, Tsuna, to use. During Dino’s time he disgorged a whip and Enzio.”

Tsuna got a look of horror on his face. “Enzio is Leon’s child!?”

“I can’t put up with your games forever,” Jōshima said. “This little break is over. Let’s finish this up!” He started forward, causing Renato to kick Tsuna out of the way, and sliced that blade right through Leon.

“Don’t worry,” Hisui told a panicking Tsuna. “He is a shape-changing chameleon, after all.”

“More importantly, something has been ejected upward,” Renato added.

Tsuna looked up in time to be hit in the face with the wool gloves Leon had stolen weeks ago. He grabbed them and took a look. “Eh? What? These are—? How am I supposed to fight with these!? Wasn’t he supposed to make a weapon or something like Enzio? How does improving my hands’ blood circulation help!?”

Renato shrugged. “Who knows? But put them on. Now.”

“Even at the end, you guys are just so amusing,” Jōshima commented. He lunged forward. Tsuna brought his covered hands up in defense and was knocked back from the blade’s impact.

Leon pulled himself together and ambled over to Renato, and up his leg.

“He repelled the attack?” Jōshima said disbelievingly.

“S-saved,” Tsuna said from the floor, then looked at his left hand. “There’s something inside?” He pulled off the glove long enough to shake a bullet free.

“Ah. Pass it here, Tsuna,” Renato said.

“I am not going to let you shoot that!” Jōshima said and lunged at Renato.

As he evaded that attack, and one from Bianchi, Renato snagged the bullet from Tsuna’s hand. “Get that glove back on,” he said as he nimbly moved away. “Never seen one like this before,” he lied, getting out his gun. “We’ll just have to shoot it and see what happens.”

“Not going to happen, yo.” Dynamite arced up and over Tsuna’s head. “What I said about collecting your body unharmed? Forget that.”

Renato got the bullet into a magazine and loaded in his gun; he aimed.

“Are you going to make it?” Hayato asked, an eerily calm smile on his face.

Renato fired; the dynamite exploded all around Tsuna.

“You got him with the bombs,” Bianchi said with satisfaction.

“He’s seriously injured now,” Jōshima said.

‘This is like watching multiple personalities separate,’ he thought. ‘Because really, it’s kind of creepy having a single person speaking through multiple bodies and acting like they’re individuals. Is his possession really so complete?’

“There doesn’t seem to be any effect from this bullet,” Hayato said. “Even the special bullet has failed, eh?”

“That’s all, then,” Kakimoto said. “The finale came too quickly in the end. Come, let’s possess this body while it still has breath.”

Tsuna just lay there, but slowly his eyes opened enough to see them. ‘Come on, kitten. Do something! Don’t just lie there like you have no fire or will. Don’t make a mockery of the training we’ve put you through, or the people who care about you. How can we be expected to keep helping you if you refuse to even try to help yourself?’

“Oho, at a time like this, you still have spirit in your eyes?” Kakimoto said. “But, it’s still time to end the show. If you die here it’ll be problematic for me!”

Tsuna caught the blade and it came down. Then his gloves morphed into something other than wool. Leather? Metal. A band around each wrist. He snapped one of the prongs. “Mukuro… If I don’t defeat you… Even if I’m dying, I won’t give up!” Flames ignited on his forehead and Tsuna got up into a partial crouch, then stood.

Kakimoto jumped back and eyed Tsuna. “That aura on your forehead… I see, you were hit by the special bullet after all. But you seemed a lot more fired up in the fight with Lancia earlier.”

“The Rebuke Bullet brings out a calm fighting will,” Renato said.

“Pfft. All I see is a person who’s lost his fighting will, or a spirit which has sunk into despair,” Kakimoto said. “Either way, you are not a match for my skills.”

Jōshima lunged at Tsuna from behind, but Tsuna calmly reached back without looking and slammed him in the face, halting his motion, and then pushed him back so hard he flew a short distance.

“Not so fast,” Kakimoto said. His yo-yos came out, arced around, and set free a forest of needles.

Tsuna gazed around apathetically, then darted off to the side, to a seemingly empty spot, and nailed an invisible Kakimoto with his fist.

“Impossible,” said Hayato.

“He couldn’t see the illusions of the hell state before,” Bianchi said.

Hayato’s eyes narrowed briefly. “Oho, this is still your friend’s body. Can you really strike at me?” He moved in for the attack, as did Bianchi. Tsuna handled their attacks defensively, letting Mukuro wear those bodies out, then lashed out with a strike that temporarily paralyzed Hayato. He did the same to Bianchi.

“Sorry about the wait,” Tsuna said. “Will you two look after them?”

“Putting on airs now, are we?” came Mukuro’s voice.

Tsuna stood up and turned around. “Show yourself. You’re still alive.”

“Pfft. Your sense for battle has improved markedly, I’ll give you that. But you’re pushing your luck if you think this is all it takes.”

He and Renato moved forward to drag the siblings away toward one of the walls.

“Out of the six battle skills I posses, there’s one more I haven’t shown you, remember?”

“The fifth path, of humans,” Renato said over his shoulder.

“Exactly. This world that we’re living in is the state of humans. Furthermore, among the six states, it is the ugliest and most dangerous world. I’m not being cynical. Because I hate this world, I hate this skill the most. If possible, I would rather not have used it.” He reached up and hovered his index finger near his right eye, then jammed it in. Blood spurted, among other things. When he removed his finger the eye was still whole. “It’s the most dangerous skill,” he said, his entire body lighting up with an aura.

The fight went badly at first for Tsuna; he was slammed into a wall in practically no time flat. Mukuro laughed happily, but the sound cut off abruptly. “What!? His aura exploded?”

Tsuna brought his hands up to his forehead and set his gloves on fire. “If that was the extent of your power, I’m very disappointed.”

“Kufufufu. I am going to have some god damn fun with you.”

“Huh. The gloves are made of the same material as a Dying Will Bullet,” Renato murmured.

“It’s not so different from Dino’s whip,” he murmured back.

“You’re like a cat that tries to make itself look bigger by bristling its fur,” Mukuro said dismissively. “But even if you change the appearance of your aura, there’s no meaning to it.”

“The Dying Will Flame isn’t an aura,” Tsuna said calmly.

“Oh, what an interesting thing you say. Then will you … show it to me!?”

Tsuna caught the staff as it came down and melted the end right off.

Mukuro jumped back. “Tch. Those gloves are like hot iron.”

“Not only that,” Tsuna said, and launched forward, then disappeared; Mukuro swiped at thin air. Tsuna reappeared behind Mukuro and attacked again, though Mukuro spun around in time to try to block. Even so, he went flying half way across the room. “Are you done warming up yet?”

Mukuro laughed, almost hysterically. “All of this is a delightful miscalculation. If I can get your body, I won’t even need to gather resources to cause a conflict within the mafia because I can barge directly into the famiglia.”

“So your goal is conflict in the mafia?” Renato asked.

“No way… I’m not petty like that. I plan to possess VIPs from all over the world soon. Then I’ll control them and change this ugly world into a pure and beautiful sea of blood. A world of war… Does that sound too fake? But first has got to be the mafia… The annihilation of the mafia.”

“Why are you so fixated on the mafia?” Hisui asked.

“A grudge?” Tsuna asked.

“Oh, I don’t plan to talk any further. You will become a part of me when I’m in my ultimate form. Just watch!” Something separated from Mukuro and pressed forward on the attack.

Tsuna just watched it come, not moving, and was subsequently surprised to be hit; he grunted in pain.

“He was hiding stones within the illusion,” Renato said. “You underestimated things, Tsuna.”

Mukuro went on the attack again while Tsuna was gingerly touching his face, but Tsuna saw or felt it coming and warped around behind Mukuro when he landed and nailed him in the face again, hard enough to send him half way across the room.

Mukuro pretended defeat and asked Tsuna to kill him; Tsuna refused. Mukuro got back up with amazing speed and came up behind Tsuna, grabbing his arms and pulling them back. “Do you know why I had so many assassins target you? So that I could possess you after you drew out your abilities. Good work. You may—rest now!” he said, letting go and kicking Tsuna toward a wall where a trident blade was sticking out.

“Tsuna!” Renato called. “Show the power of those gloves now!”

Tsuna thrust his hands back a bit and halted himself mid-air, just out of range of the blade.

“What!? Firing the flame backward?”

Tsuna flared them again, launching himself forward too quickly for Mukuro to react. A hand landed on Mukuro’s face and held, even as he kept forward momentum; the aura from Mukuro’s fifth state drained away. When he let go Mukuro crashed into the wall hard enough to crumble that section before he hit the floor.

“The Dying Will Flame has purified Mukuro’s dark aura…”

Tsuna half-knelt beside Mukuro and hovered his still flaming hand over the teen’s face. The trident blade in the wall shattered.

Hisui was on his phone texting the medical team a heartbeat later. “It seems to be over for real this time,” he remarked.

“Yeah…” Tsuna’s flames sputtered out. “Ah! Everyone’s wounds!”

Hisui looked up from the acknowledgment and said, “They’re already on their way.” He paused to look at the screen, then said, “And they saved Lancia when I called them in earlier.”

“Thank goodness.” Tsuna heaved a sigh of relief, then looked back at Mukuro. “He’s not dead, right? He’ll be fine, right?”

Renato sighed. “You’re too kind, sometimes.”

“Don’t get any closer!”

“You mafiosi, don’t touch Mukuro-san!” Jōshima wheezed.

“They don’t have any strength left to walk, Tsuna,” Renato said.

“Why? Why do you do so much for Mukuro? You guys were possessed and used by him.”

“Don’t speak as if you know anything,” Kakimoto said.

“This is nothing for us compared to our suffering back then,” Jōshima said. “We were guinea pigs for human testing by our own famiglia.”

Renato sighed. “I thought as much. I doubted, but… You guys were part of the Estraneo, weren’t you, those who created the forbidden bullet.”

“Forbidden?” Jōshima said, getting to his hands and knees. “You guys just labeled it that for your own convenience. Thanks to that, our famiglia members were labeled as brutes and were horribly persecuted by other mafiosi. As soon as anyone stepped outside they were killed like bugs. But that just stimulated the adults even more in continuing the experiments to invent special weapons.

“Our friends died one by one. Every day was hell… But he, all by himself, he destroyed that miserable life. He was quiet and not the kind who stood out. I think that was the first time I heard him speak. That time, for the first time since birth, there was a place to go for us. And … we can’t have you destroy that!”

“But,” Tsuna said, “I, as well, can’t just stay quiet when my friends get hurt, since that’s the place for me to go.”

Sound at the building entrance had him glance back; the medical team had entered. At the same moment Jōshima cried out. Hisui’s head whipped back to see that the Vindice had arrived, finally.

“Wha—!?”

More collars went out to encircle the necks of Kakimoto and Rokudo.

“What a quick appearance,” Renato said flatly.

“W-who are they?” Tsuna whispered.

“Vindice. They are enforcers of the commandments in the mafia world and they try those who cannot be tried by the law.”

Tsuna stepped forward as the lead Vindice started hauling back on the chains it held. “Wait… What are you doing!?”

“Don’t, Tsuna,” he said. “Just leave it be. You do not want to get mixed up with the Vindice.”

“They’re that scary? What will happen to those three?”

He rolled his eyes. “Comprehension, kitten! They’ll be put on trial for their crimes and punished.”

“But what kind of punishment?”

He shrugged. “No idea. Hey, Tsuna-kun, you fought well.” More noise had him looking back; the medical team had arrived at the theatre. They quickly got Hayato, Bianchi, Fūta, and Hibari onto gurneys. They followed them out, Hisui helping to get the gurneys down the broken stairways, to the outside. Takeshi was on a gurney, already in one of the vans.

“What about Lancia-san?” Tsuna asked.

“After getting the antidote he was taken away by the Vindice,” one of the medics informed him.

“N-no way!” Tsuna said in protest, then looked to where his friends were being loaded into the vans. “Will they be okay?”

“They’re top class medics,” Renato said.

“Everyone…” Then Tsuna crumpled, emitting surprised sounds of pain. “What is this!? My entire body hurts—all my muscles?”

“Eh, well, the Rebuke Bullet’s battle mode abuses the body severely,” Renato said with a faint smile. “The burden on the body comes back as pain,” he added as Tsuna collapsed entirely, twitching, and lost consciousness. “Sad.”

“Looks like we’ll have to keep pushing stamina,” he said as medics hefted Tsuna onto a gurney.

*

Tsuna had been something of a bundle of contradictions once he was released by the Vongola medics. He was so absurdly grateful that Shamal and Hisui had intervened to save the very much innocent Kyoko, Hana, and Haru, but unwilling to fully accept that they had killed to do so.

“But why kill them?”

He sighed. “Kitten, those two were notorious serial killers. They had absolutely no respect for human life. They were imprisoned at Vindicare for their crimes, a prison that is extremely difficult to escape from. The first thing they did, even on the way out, was kill. They killed again once they were away. They were about to kill again. Can you honestly tell me they deserved to live? What if Ren-kun and I hadn’t tipped Shamal off because we had suspicions and wanted to cover our bases, just in case? What if we hadn’t gotten there in time?”

Tsuna looked like he wanted to cry.

“Can you agree that there are some people worth saving?”

Tsuna nodded.

“Then you have to agree that some people aren’t.”

“What? Why?”

“Because for every thing there is an opposite. Someone who has completely cast off their humanity and hasn’t the least bit of respect for life… Well, they don’t really deserve to live as a human any longer. And when they reincarnate, perhaps they’ll come back as something where they’re the prey, and maybe that experience will etch itself onto their soul, so that when they reincarnate as a human again, they’ll be a better person. Maybe they’ll come back as mice. Or carrots.”

Tsuna looked horrified for a moment, then snickered. He immediately brought a hand up to cover his mouth with a disturbed expression.

“If it’s a choice between someone that vile dying and never being able to kill again in that lifetime, or the death of an innocent, I will always choose to kill the aggressor if I can get away with it. It’s one fewer psycho on the streets killing people who were just going about their day. And believe me, kitten, the people I’ve killed were all far too thrilled at being able to mess people up. It made them feel special, powerful, god-like.”

“You don’t feel that way?” Tsuna asked daringly.

His brow went up. “Interesting. Showing some spine. No, I don’t. I have a job and I do it. I’ve been doing that job since I was fourteen. Do I seem like a delusional psycho to you? I doubt I could get the evil laugh thing down, either. I don’t laugh much in the first place.”

Tsuna eyed him oddly. “Why not?”

“Because my ability to feel emotions was damaged when I was barely a year old,” he said honestly. “It took a long time—well, until I met Ren-kun, actually—for me to feel much of anything. The only person I gave a damn about was your mother, because she was the only one to give a damn about me, essentially. That’s why I’ve always protected her.”

Tsuna was quiet for a while, but finally said, “Is that part of why you’ve always been so scary?”

He chuckled. “You’ve always been a squeak toy, kitten.”

Tsuna made an offended face.

“It’s true,” he said. “Be sure to soak for a while tonight. The hot water will help. You can have an hour at the hospital after classes, but then I expect you to be here, ready to work.”

The others were getting the best of medical attention at the hospital, but that was mundane in nature. The Vongola medics had sped things along considerably with the efforts of the Suns on the team. Tsuna would not have to visit them there for very long.

The next day he was back to being a slave driver. “Come on, kitten,” he said, “pick up the pace! You did well in that fight once you got going, but that’s no reason to slack off. You don’t get better if you don’t try, if you don’t push yourself beyond your current limits! Do you really want me to use you as a pincushion?”

Tsuna wailed and started jogging faster.

It hadn’t taken long for Tsuna to recover for the most part, but he was prone to stiffness. That was partly helped by the soaks each night, but also by running him into the ground again, to work out the kinks. “The better you do this way, the less of an effect when you go into Hyper Dying Will Mode, kitten,” he called out. “You won’t come out of it wishing you were dead. And now that you’ve experienced it we can work with that.”

“What do you mean,” Tsuna gasped.

“You can extend it, kitten. Five minutes is only the limit when you’re fully switched on the whole time. If you can learn to control the amount of flame you’re emitting you can extend the limit quite a bit. But to get to that point, you need to keep building up your stamina. Not every fight is won in five minutes. Well, preferably, you’ll pop up behind whoever it is and sucker punch them into unconsciousness, but we can’t count on being that lucky every time.”

“Right,” Tsuna wheezed.

“And I’d like to remind you that you’ve had two instances of assassins coming after you already!”

Tsuna groaned and slowed down to a fast walk so he could sip his sports drink without flinging it everywhere. “How come you aren’t doing this to the others?”

“Technically, that isn’t our job. But we have been helping here and there. Now, if one of them were to directly ask for help? Different story.”

Tsuna stopped for a moment and looked at him directly. “Why does Lambo-kun come over here so often?”

Hisui flicked a senbon at him. “You know better than to stop. And why are you asking about Lambo-kun?”

“He seems a lot calmer lately.”

“Yes, well, I’ve been teaching him a few things, such as reading and writing Japanese, other languages, and making sure he has someone to talk to.”

“Huh?”

He rolled his eyes. “Half the reason Lambo-kun is so … him … is because no one ever just listens to him and takes him seriously. Yes, he’s five, but he’s also very clever and quite intelligent.”

Tsuna threw him a skeptical look.

“Well, kitten, can you say you could learn the entirety of Japanese writing systems in five months, at five years old, to go along with your spoken fluency in the language? Because Lambo-kun can, and did. Now, back to jogging. You’ve had enough of a break.”

On Saturday they went over to the Sawada home and shooed everyone away. Nana went off to enjoy herself in town, and the children and Bianchi were sent elsewhere. Tsuna finally stumbled downstairs and into the kitchen. He was half way to the refrigerator before he noticed it was just the two of them at the table. “Everyone’s out?” He got a drink from the refrigerator and turned back. “It’s nice to have a quiet morning once in a while.”

“We chased them out on purpose,” Renato said.

“Eh?” Tsuna said as he sat down.

“We decided to do something nice for you today.”

“What are you saying all of a sudden,” Tsuna muttered, jabbing a straw into his juice box and taking a sip. “Something nice? It’s kind of creepy.”

Renato smiled innocently and slid some tickets across the table. “Take a look at these. It’s okay to relax once in a while.”

“The zoo?” Tsuna shot them each a disbelieving look.

“I’ve already arranged everything,” Renato said, back to reading the paper.

Tsuna’s expression twisted. “I’m grateful for the thought, but why the zoo…?”

And then the doorbell rang. Tsuna set his drink down and went to answer it. “Good morning, Tsuna-kun,” they heard.

“Kyoko-chan! M-morning.”

“She’s going to the zoo with you,” Renato called out, “of course.”

“I’ve been looking forward to it!” she said enthusiastically. “I’m so excited right now, so please understand if I’m being too loud.”

Shortly thereafter the two were off. Renato and Hisui followed, unseen, and amused themselves by watching Tsuna’s attempts to dodge the rest of the household sans Nana. He stiffened just as an explosion ripped through the area, and touched Renato’s forearm. “I need to go.” He sped off a second later and apparated the second he was in the clear. Ants had started crawling up his spine again, but it was not connected to anyone at the zoo; it was Nana.

A quick charm told him approximately where she was which, when he caught up to her, happened to be about to turn into an alley that would make her walk home shorter. Trailing her was a rough-looking fellow, foreign, and doing his best to look casual and not the least bit interested in Nana.

Hisui waited until his friend had turned the corner before he acted. There were people in the vicinity, so he had to use different tactics. A charm was cast on the guy to make people stop noticing him, and only then did he speed up to intercept the man as he turned into the alley. Another quick charm knocked the guy unconscious. He grabbed hold of the man and sped off again, apparating to the Mountain of Death the moment it was safe to do so.

Once there he created an obsidian blindfold for the guy and plastered him to the ground. He materialized a blade and removed the spell that kept the man out of it. “Who are you?” he asked.

“Wha—? Where am I? What happened? Why can’t I see?”

‘Great. This one sounds fairly new,’ he thought. ‘But maybe that’ll make questioning him easier.’ He kicked the man in the ribs. “Who are you?” If necessary, he could use magical illusions to give himself a different appearance so he could try Legilimency, though he had not spent enough time on it to feel comfortable using it.

The fellow seemed to realize the situation he was in at that point and clammed up. His mouth went tight and his lips were a grim slash across his face.

Hisui crouched down and slid the tip of his blade under the man’s thumbnail, then yanked up. After the man’s cries of pain dropped to whimpering he asked again, “Who are you?” Ten minutes later and as many lost fingernails the guy finally said his name was “Orso”. ‘Maybe I should just staple this guy to the ground and go get Ren.’

On that thought he knocked the guy out again, put on his earpiece, and tapped it. A second later he heard a quiet, “Where are you, tesoro?”

“Our favorite training ground,” he replied. “Got an assassin here with me who was mincing along behind Nana-chan. I was considering asking you to assist me, since this guy does not want to talk.”

“And I’m better at interrogations, right. Eh… Let me make sure the kitten gets home safely. Soon as that’s done, you can come get me.”

“All right.” He pulled a book out of his pouch and sat down to read, keeping an eye out for any creatures who might decide to make a meal of his prisoner.

An hour later he was interrupted by, “I’m home.”

He closed the book and tucked it away, then materialized some “staples” to hold the man pinned to the earth, on top of what he was already doing, and got up. He apparated to the house, where Renato was waiting, took the offered arm, and apparated again.

“So who’s our new friend?”

He tapped the earpiece to deactivate it and tucked it away before saying, “All I could get out of him was the name Orso, and I doubt even that much,” he said quietly. “I don’t know if he was after Nana-chan specifically or…?”

Renato nodded. “Pull stakes and just keep him down the usual way?”

He released the staples, but left the blindfold in place, and reasserted his gravitational hold on the man. After he removed the spell to keep the man unconscious he nodded at his lover. “Have at it.”

His lover was meticulous and exacting; this was not a Death Eater or magical bully boy, after all. Two hours later they had learned that the assassin was one Guido Orso Bonetti, of the Tagliare Famiglia. Iemitsu had done something personally to piss off the Tagliares, and they had learned through various means that Iemitsu had a wife and son. That the son was next in line to be head of the Vongola only made it better in their minds. Thus, the assassin sent off to torture Nana for information about her son and then kill her, and also to take out Tsuna.

“You know, I’m thinking we should just hand this asshole over to Antonio and let Nono deal with it,” Renato said after a short break. “Sure, we can kill the guy, but it’s bigger than just one assassin.”

He nodded and got out his phone, sending a text to their contact. Within minutes they had a bit of a conversation going, and Antonio agreed to meet them on the outskirts of Kyoto with transportation for the prisoner in two hours. Hisui spent part of that time writing up a transcript from memory of the interrogation so they had something to go with their gift.

When it was close to time he stapled the prisoner down again and transported Renato to the meeting spot, then went back for Bonetti. Antonio arrived in a van with tinted windows, and with a few friends. They quickly secured the prisoner so that Hisui could remove his materialized bindings and hustled the immobilized fellow into the back.

Antonio read through the transcript while they did that, a sneer developing the further along he got. He looked up and said, “Thank you for bringing him to me. I wouldn’t have blamed you for just killing him, but this was a better solution overall. Nono will get to the bottom of this, and enact any necessary retribution. I contacted him the moment we finished our chat and he approved the plan. I already know you will, but please continue to keep an eye out.”

They said their good-byes and watched as Antonio and his crew drove away, then slipped into cover and apparated back to their house. Renato sent off a message to Nono, essentially asking him, “Your thoughts on letting Tsuna know about the assassin?”

“If you feel it would be of benefit to his continued growth,” was the eventual response.

He sighed and sat back. “Maybe we should save it until the next time he balks for real? Then again, telling him might stiffen up that spine some more, if he feels there’s an honest danger to his mother.”

Renato shook his head. “No, let’s go with the former. True, telling him now might have the effect we want, but it might also send him off in a downward spiral of anxiety. And as gifted as Nana can be at ignoring the obvious, even she would notice at some point that Tsuna’s behavior went wacky to the extreme.”

“All right. But I want to start taking him to the real training ground, then. Maybe Hayato-kun as well. Takeshi-kun is all about kendo and still hasn’t been able to let go of the delusion that this is all a game. Ryohei-kun is so ‘extreme’ that I doubt he can keep his mouth shut.”

“Not even with compulsions?”

“Yes, I could do that, but—okay, how about this? We put compulsions on Tsuna-kun and Hayato-kun regarding anything magical I do. I’m thinking apparation, basically, since everything else is easy enough to hide or explain away. We take those two and put them through the wringer at the Mountain of Death. Stamina, climbing, hand-to-hand—because if for some reason Hayato-kun is ever without his dynamite and can’t use flames, what does he have? And if they get going well, we can see about bringing the other two in.”

Renato nodded. “I’ll ask Hayato to come with Tsuna, then.”

Monday afternoon his lover arrived with both boys in tow and Hisui quietly compulsed the both of them, setting it deep into their minds. It was not the sort of thing he liked to do, especially to allies, but neither of them were technically subject to Omertà, never having killed anyone. “We’re going on a little trip, you two,” he said, then latched onto Hayato and apparated. He let go of the boy and apparated back, knowing Hayato would be too busy suffering the effects to get into trouble.

Tsuna was next, the transport more than enough to wipe the confusion off his face, and then he went back and got Renato, who smiled sharply and said, “All right, my adorable little students! It’s time to have some fun. See that cliff?”

“You mean the huge one we can’t help but notice?” Tsuna muttered, then flinched back when Renato turned that smile on him specifically.

“Yes, that one. You two are going to work on your stamina, of course, and that involves learning to climb this cliff. I would tell you how long it took Dino to do it properly, but that wouldn’t be fair. And, as you’ve no doubt noticed, there is a lovely deep pond here for you to fall into when you inevitably muck things up at first.”

When neither of them moved Hisui materialized senbon and flicked them. “Well? Get moving!”

Sadly, they did not do any better than Dino had. It took them a week to make it to the top and, when they managed it, they both collapsed and complained of rubbery muscles. Hisui stood it for all of ten minutes before chivying them up and into a jog around the path. “If you just lie there your muscles will freeze up solid and you’ll regret it!”

It would take some time, but once they were up to speed the two of them could tack other things onto the end of the initial climb and warm up.

*

“He hit a home run!” Tsuna practically screamed as Takeshi ran the bases. “He’s impressive!”

“The opposition team is struggling against Yamamoto?” Hayato muttered. He got up, dynamite in his hands, and yelled, “If you guys don’t work hard, I’ll start a riot!”

“That’s not what you’re here for,” Tsuna cried.

“Calm down, octopus head,” Ryohei said. “There are other things to do while watching sports.”

“Eh?”

Ryohei brought his hands up to cup his mouth and yelled, “Why don’t you quit baseball and do boxing!?”

“That’s wrong, too!” Tsuna complained.

“Quit being stupid, lawn head!”

“Don’t be so easy, octopus head! Even if I’m stupid, I’m stupid for boxing!”

“You’re gonna admit your stupidity!?”

“The foul ball went—”

Bianchi appeared behind them and caught it, then sat down. “I brought lunch.”

Hayato went down and cracked his head on Bianchi’s tier.

“Why does this always happen?” Tsuna asked with a heavy sigh, then his gaze started darting around.

Renato eyed him for a moment, but looked away when Tsuna went to Hayato’s side when the boy threw up. Hisui followed his gaze and saw a young boy holding the hand of a woman.

“Mi-kun, big brother was working hard,” the woman said. “What should we make him for dinner to celebrate?”

“Ano… Hamburger!”

“Figures,” he muttered, as the boy looked back and showed signs of possession. One red eye was a bit hard to miss, after all, and the fracturing of that side of the face. Something told him that inactives couldn’t see the changes.

“We just had hamburger yesterday, remember? Let’s do that some other time.”

“Okay!”

They exchanged a look. “He’s clever and persistent, I’ll give him that.”