The blinding white of the ceiling hurt his eyes the moment he managed to open them again. He rubbed his eyelids with his hand as he tried to bring to mind the last events that had happened, in a desperate attempt to recover those fragments of memory useful for understanding where he was.
The nagging smell of medicines bothered his nostrils, further deafening his already confused and debilitated senses, but enough to point out that a pair of handcuffs tied to his right wrist kept him nailed to the bed. An unknown bed. An enemy bed.
"Shit." Was the only thing he could think of before imposing calm and coldness. Panic would not help him get out of that uncomfortable situation.
He tried to move, but it seemed that his body refused to respond to his commands, immobilized by wounds he couldn't remember having obtained. He felt cold, annoying shivers ran down his back, probably caused by a fever he didn't know he had.
He had noticed it only later, when the first shudder had shaken, immediately after a deep pang in the abdomen that had prevented him from sitting up.
His eyes burned in the light, and all that damned white room seemed to want him to lead to perpetual blindness: he did not think he'd ever seen a solid room before, and hoped it would be the last one.
"But where the hell am I?" He thought, keeping his throat dry with one hand, unable to utter even a word. He must have been unconscious for a long time -he could not say how much, however, too stunned to hazard hypothesis- his throat burned to death.
He tried again to gather his memories, but a fierce headache prevented him from thinking with clarity, almost as if someone was having fun hammering his skull from inside, in an attempt to make him explode the brain and put a point to his life once and for all.
He jumped up, perhaps too quickly, repelling a retching caused by the annoying vertigo that the abrupt movement had caused. Gasping, he squeezed his forehead with one hand, passing it through his hair nervously.
Gods, what an unpleasant sensation he had just felt. Almost as if a thousand needles had pierced his stomach and his brain-fuck, compared his body was in great shape-just to hear the foreign voice that had spoken in his head.
Who or what it was though, he wasn't sure he knew. Or maybe he did't remember, after all, he seemed to be suffering from a fucking amnesia, how could he know why a strange voice -irritating and annoying, he allowed to add- echoes in his head?
He took a deep breath, trying to stem at least the physical pain that limited the movements of his body, so as to be at least able to perform even minimal gestures without the pain cut off his breath.
And again, the unpleasant sensation gripped his stomach and head, while a new voice rumbled in his skull, arrogant. He didn't believe he would hold up for long, he would probably collapse in no time.
Now that he was sitting, he could finally examine the room calmly, still being hurt by all the white light that seemed to want to stop him from seeing beyond, as if he concealed secrets that must absolutely remain hidden at his eyes.
It wasn't like that, of course. There wasn't much in that white room, which at a second glance was able to categorize as a kind of infirmary.
Rather large, with six beds and two large closets inside which the medicines and machines necessary to keep alive whoever was a guest were probably kept. Him, in this specific case.
He looked at the monitors ticking annoyingly at his side, monitoring every slight change in his body, even finding the slightest variation that could have been fatal. Everything seemed normal, however, so he felt free to take off his respirator and those damn needles that someone had left him stuck in his arms, probably due to a transfusion. Fuck, they burned like death.
N -Needles?! Hold... on...
While the umpteenth echo pierced his mind, this time he could hardly hold back a retch, forcing him to lie down again to try at least partially to ease the vertigo.
The handcuffs that bound his wrist tinkled along the iron bar to which they were attached. Despite everything had given him enough mobility, so he could have two different meanings: who had captured him was, after all, a naive, and this would have favored a possible escape, or whoever owned that place was very sure of their skills and he wasn't afraid of doing some lightness that he could easily remedy. He hoped it was the second case.
The click of the door alarmed him, and immediately his hands went to settle in his jacket pocket, looking for his weapons with which he could defend himself.
He later remembered to wear only a simple white tank top he couldn't remember having had before, without trousers and, above all, disarmed.
Damn, whoever kidnapped him knew his business.
What an extremely dangerous situation!
This time he couldn't help himself, and while his alleged kidnapper peeked into the room, a mixture of acids and saliva went up the gullet violently, and then poured out on the first immaculate floor. Gods, believed to reject even the soul.
«Oh, Dio...! Gennaro, presto! Chiama Orazio, I want him here in ten seconds!»
«At the orders, Boss!»
The clatter of heels came clear to his ears, perhaps even clearer than the voices he had just heard. An intense scent invaded his nostrils, a pleasant fragrance of fresh flowers carried by the wind, which smelled of earth and sky at the same time.
He tried to open his eyes, trying to focus on who was in front of him, who were the gentle hands that were stroking his face with delicacy, fresh as a balm able to calm the flames inside him.
He was breathing hard, and he felt hot, hotter than he could bear. Probably the fever had risen in an instant.
Don't faint! Stay conscious!
And again, a new coined vomit gasped in his stomach, climbed up his throat and found the exit again, burning his throat and exhausting those few energies he had recovered. The blurry view did not seem to want to settle, and everything was getting darker and darker.
«Oh my, the fever has risen more than expected! Hey do you hear me?! Please hold on!»
The sweet female voice that called him was warm and reassuring, almost nostalgic in a sense. A new heat enveloped him, a pleasant sensation of warmth that purified his body, calming his soul and giving him that peace that, since his awakening, he hadn't been able to find. Like a beautiful sky that enveloped him in his warm embrace.
A nostalgic sensation bit him in the pit of his stomach and squeezed harder and harder and harder. It hurt, damn bad... as if something had been ripped off, something important that the heat had reminded him.
Yet something was out of place. It was a similar warmth, familiar in a sense, but wrong. It was not the right one. It wasn't from the Sky which he hoped to be supported.
Nobody... no one will ever be able to replace him.
With the last voice drilling his mind, in the end it is too much to bear and the forces abandoned him.
Soon, everything was dark.
Squeezing the pacifier in her hands, a silent and desperate prayer to the power she held inside, she wondered if there was anything else she could do to help that boy get better.
While the orange light of her flame enveloped the young man's body, trying to comfort him in the delirium to which the fever seemed to want to subject him, she felt the steps of her subordinates behind her, shake and reach her in the infirmary of their home with more people than she had requested.
Gennaro, her most trusted and dear friend, was next to her in an instant, looking at the woman who tried with all her strength to perform a real miracle.
«I called Orazio as requested, Luce-sama!»
Luce ignored him, letting the light of her flame flow into the young man's body, until she was sure that it was definitely out of danger, stable enough to be treated even with Sun Flames.
When the orange pacifier stopped shining and wrapping the boy's body, Luce walked away with a sigh, looking at the sleeping face of his... guest? Prisoner? She still didn't know how to handle it, all she knew of him was a blurred, fragmented vision that she hadn't been able to decipher.
Luce only knew that she had to find and talk to him, that he was the "solution", even if she didn't know what.
Sighing, trying to catch her breath for the enormous use of energy to which it was exposed, Luce turned to her subordinates smiling, thanking them for support and praying Orazio to do everything possible to save their young guest.
The subordinate stooped respectfully, assuring his own Boss that he would do everything to keep that person alive. Everything, just to satisfy the demands of Luce-sama.
Sitting on one of the empty beds next to it, Luce slid onto the soft pillow, resting her head and trying to adjust her breathing. By now she was at the limit, she didn't have much time left.
«L-Luce-sama! Are not you feeling well?!»
Luce smiled at Gennaro's attentions and denied her head reassuring him that with a little rest, certainly, would have regained her strength. She couldn't make them worry, not when she was much more involved than his miserable life.
Aria would soon be big enough to carry the weight of the curse in her place, and she was ready to give her the place with no fear of death, sweeping away the regrets she would take to her grave, but she couldn't allow her to undermine her own belief.
With the coming of that young man, however, everything had changed. Luce perceived something in him, something great and powerful, as if it weren't alone, as if in the body that Orazio tried to cure with his hot Sun Flames, more spirits had found lodging.
Luce stared at him for a few seconds, attentive to every possible change in him and her subordinates. She gripped a piece of sheet tightly between her tapering fingers, her long, curled nails scratched the skin protected by the cloth, but Luce felt no pain. She couldn't help but look at it and think.
He was a solution, and even if she didn't know for what problem, for now this was enough for her. It was a hope, she didn't need to know anything else.
The second time he opened his eyes, the same white candor blinded him, preventing him from focusing on what was around him. He felt his head as heavy as a boulder, his body still and rigid, unable to move it according to his will.
He was really reduced to a disgust, perhaps one of the worst conditions he had ever paid. What a shame for him to show himself in those conditions.
Trying to sit up, a pang in his stomach made him groan, and it was then that a pair of gentle hands rested on his abdomen, helping him gently to return lying on the pillow.
«Slow, you haven't recovered yet.»
It was a sweet and gentle voice, the voice of an apprehensive and worried woman, who did not fail to feel affection even for an apparent stranger like himself. He was familiar, but he could not remember where he could meet his savior. Or his jailer, since he was still cuffed to the broth of the bed.
Oh, come on , open your eyes! I am extremely curious to see who she is !
Again, one of the many voices in his head screamed in his temples, but this time he managed to contain the nausea and the pain. Little by little he was getting used to that condition, he just had to find a way to silence all those voices that overloaded his brain.
Kfufufu good luck. If you find the switch to turn off the exalted and the flea whistle, we've been trying for years.
Ignoring the excruciating pain in his temples and the comments of the other voice, the first that he had last spoken to him, he finally managed to open his eyes.
At first, everything was blurred and opaque, nuances of color blurred and without contours, mixed together like a canvas of abstract art whose meaning can't be grasped. Then everything took shape, and seemed to get lost in a limpid blue sky like a few, painted in the blue eyes of the woman who smiled kindly from her position by the bed.
Short dark hair framed her face, under the left eye, a detail that took several seconds to analyze, stood out the unmistakable orange mark that he recognized with difficulty, lost in the fog that still hovered in his memories.
Then a flash, and the name of the Family that carried that brand came out of his lips without it could stop it.
«G-Giglio... N-Nero...» was a hoarse but audible sound.
He coughed several times, feeling his throat burn with exertion, while the chaotic voices in his head seemed to be shaking by the unexpected presence of the woman at his side.
A strange heat stirred in his body, fierce and ferocious Flames snapped under his fingertips, annoyed by that sudden prison from which they couldn't free themselves, overexcited by the surprise that the woman had caused among the voices.
Luce felt the boy's energy pulsing furiously, kicking under the skin to get out, let off steam, regain the harmony that seemed to have suddenly lost. She looked at the handsome young man's face-no more than twenty-six, she was sure of this- and wondered what weight he had to endure, how he had managed to shrink in the pitiful state in which they had found him.
«You should rest a little longer. The wounds are healing, but you still have a fever.» she smiled gently, placing a damp cloth on his forehead.
It was cool and pleasant, so that for a moment it seemed to him to sink again into a pleasant restful sleep.
Do not lower your guard, herbivore.
Repressing the irritation, the pain and the nausea that seemed to catch him every time one of them spoke, he admitted to himself that this last sentence was a wise advice to follow. He was still in the presence of an enemy -as far as he knew, it could have been the Giglio Nero who attacking him the first time- he could not afford to lower his guard and distract himself.
«W... What do you want?» He found the strength to ask, looking into the woman's blue eyes, who still stared at him smiling, not at all intimidated by the menacing note that he had tried to use.
No wonder after all: who would be intimidated by a moribund handcuffed?
«Actually, I was hoping you could tell me.»
The young man widened his eyes, confused, surprised by those words, as he felt the fog press on his memories and dim his mind.
«I-I... n-not... r-remember...»
Luce nodded sympathetically, bringing a hand under her chin and squeezing it between two fingers, thoughtful.
«Well yes, I think it's normal to be a little confused. After all, it's not an everyday thing, going through time and space like you did, it's normal for you to be confused.»
The young man petrified himself. Cross space and time? What... what the fuck did that mean?
Maa maa, try not to panic.
One of the voices suggested him, and he had the feeling that anyone who was hiding inside him probably knew what was happening. And the fact that they knew and he didn't send him into a beast.
It's not our fault. It should be better soon... I hope.
The voice of the only girl who seemed to haunt his mind came to him, still painful, but she seemed genuinely sorry that he was the only one who didn't know.
«Maybe I can help you remember. In truth, I'm very interested in what you have to say.»
He watched for a few seconds the woman approach him, still smiling, with an orange pacifier tightened between the thin fingers, which she gently placed on his forehead, instead of the cool damp cloth.
It was like a magic.
The block that darkened his mind seemed almost to melt in contact with the warm orange light of the object, and he felt the thoughts flow into his mind like a sea in flood, eager to remind him of things he had forgotten -but too important to go lost.
When the flow ended and the light of the pacifier dissolved, he felt his head lighter, the dizziness weaken, and the awareness of memory make its way inside him with arrogance and greed.
How could he forget? He was there for a specific reason, a mission he had to accomplish at the cost of his life, and instead... he had simply forgotten.
He had forgotten them, he had forgotten him. It was a crime that could not really forgive.
Now do not overdo it, the role of first woman does not suit you.
Now that his mind was stable he could distinctly hear the voices in his head without collapsing, although he still felt a slight annoyance perhaps due to the lack of practicality he had in sharing the body with six other individuals -one more annoying than the other.
«Sew your mouth, crybaby. I don't really want it from you.» He said, sitting down and looking seriously at the woman who had just helped him.
Luce looked at him in confusion, wondering if she had done the right thing to release the block that had blocked his mind, probably put in an attempt to protect what was on the journey between one world and another. When she saw him nod a sign of gratitude and respect, I think that yes, she had definitely made the right choice.
«Yes Yes, I know! Now I ask her.» she looked at him curiously, as he conversed to himself as if there was someone else there with him, but she didn't dare to bother him. She simply sat next to him, listening and trying to understand.
The young man turned to her serious, composed, straight back and tense muscles, as if expecting an attack at any moment.
«Are you the first Sky Arcobaleno, by any chance?»
Of course it was no secret that other people knew the existence of the Arcobaleno. They had become quite famous among the mafia -she had already a name in it, before the curse- however she had made sure that few people knew it was her, Luce Giglio Nero, the leader of the seven strongest children in the world.
Only the members of the Giglio Nero Family and a few others elected knew about it -all those trusted to whom Luce would have entrusted her life, if necessary- so she couldn't explain how that boy knew about it.
“Because he's on the other side.” The little voice in her head reminded her, and she gave herself a fool for not thinking about it right away.
She nodded, uncertainly. «My name is Luce Giglio Nero, Eighth Boss of the Giglio Nero Family and, as you said, Sky Arcobaleno.»
«I imagined. You're the copy of Yuni-sama, or rather, she's yours.» He laughed bitterly, then turned serious back to the woman.«Luce-sama, how did you find us?»
'Us', plural. It hadn't been a mistake, she was sure.
With a deep breath, the woman looked at him, without knowing how to explain the situation to him. They were both faced with something incredible, and were sure that whatever word came out between them, at that moment, would never leave the four walls in which they were facing.
«I had visions.» Tortured a dark lock, Luce felt an oath to explain to the young man, who listened without interrupting even once.«I saw you, there in the woods where we found you. I saw your arrival, the pact you made to get here, and I saw the world you come from.»
He didn't open his mouth, leaving Luce to elaborate the next few sentences, impatient to know the truth.
«I do not know who you are, nor what is the ultimate goal that has pushed you to go back, moreover in a world that wasn't yours. All I know is a name that doesn't stop tormenting my nights, the main reason to you, for whom you are here.» yet another breath, then continued.«Tsu...»
«That's enough.» The boy interrupted her, eyes veiled with an indefinite sadness that -Luce could say with confidence- seemed not to belong only to him.
There was something -someone- inside that boy -that man- that he could not decipher.
«I hate to agree with him, but I think it's the best choice.» Again she heard him speak alone, absorbed in thought, before returning to look at her with the most melancholy expression she had seen so far.
But beneath that melancholy -a poignant, profound, incurable melancholy- one of the most brilliant Flames of determination she had ever seen shone -and Luce had seen so many Flames.
«Luce-sama ... would you listen to our story?»
Swallowing, Luce nodded, settling herself on the chair and squeezing two flaps of her white robe with strength, trying to somehow discharge the tension that had built up on her. He was about to reveal something to her, something big, and wanted to be ready to get anything he wanted to tell her.
He took a deep breath, and staring straight into her eyes-he had beautiful green eyes, Luce had only noticed them at the time- he began to tell her story.
«My name is Gokudera Hayato. We... we are the Vongola Tenth Generation.»