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Although Tsuyoshi had never been an active part of the underworld -the fact that he was a pupil of a master swordsman didn't make him a criminal- there were some names in the mafia that even a wandering mercenary knew or at least had heard of at least once: names of the most influential Bosses, famous commissioned killers and other prominent figures in mafia, all individuals whose strength and ruthlessness was known in multiple layers of the world of organized crime.

He was well aware of his own strength and his chances of surviving against beings of a certain caliber, therefore he had tried to avoid any possible contact with any of them, in order not to be engage in a clash he was sure to lose: Hayato Giglio Nero -his surname unknown- it was a relatively new name in the modern underworld, but no less fearsome.

When he found him sitting at the counter of his restaurant, engaged in a conversation with his sweet Aki, Tsuyoshi's first instinct was to release part of his Flames mixed with killer intent, a warning to at least try to intimidate his opponent, letting him understand that he wouldn't allow something to happen to his wife without fighting.

Just because he wasn't sure he was going to win, he wouldn't give up without a fight.

When he noticed Iemitsu's relaxed presence -when Tsuyoshi found out that Aki's adopted brother was nothing less than the godson of the Vongola Ninth he had almost had a heart attack- beside the young Giglio Nero member, he had slightly relaxed, sure that despite the world in which he lived and the risks he faced every day, Iemitsu would never do anything to put Aki in danger, much less bring a possible assassin directly to her house.

«Welcome back Tsuyoshi!»

Except for the two mafiosi, there were few customers in the restaurant -no surprise really, after all it was almost time for the afternoon closing- all served and intent on relaxing before going and resuming their usual activities.

Aki left his place behind the counter to meet him, welcoming him with a sweet kiss that Tsuyoshi returned with pleasure: he saw Iemitsu out of the corner of his eye, smiling as he watched them, while his companion seemed more focused on staring at the sushi than not giving attention to the reunion of the couple -Tsuyoshi thought he saw him stiffen, but immediately dismissed that absurd idea.

There was no reason why a mafioso should stiffen in the presence of a simple mercenary.

«It's nice to see you again Yoshi-san! You look well, for someone who has to deal with Aki-chan every day..» Iemitsu greeted him, approaching and offering an handshake which Tsuyoshi accepted cordially, watching his sweet wife strike the young Sawada painfully in the stomach for the joke he had just made.

«Ahahahah energetic as always, eh Iemitsu?»

Despite the initial distrust, Tsuyoshi had become fond of the young man as if he were his own flash and blood, but given the precious relationship of friendship and brotherhood that bound Iemitsu and his wife, he couldn't deny him friendship even if he wanted to: he wasn't that cruel to force Aki to choose between love and family.

It was a choice he had been forced to make, and still today he wore the painful emotional scars that that decision had cost him on his heart and skin. There was neither in heaven nor on earth that he subjected his beloved to the same cruel fate.

«I see you have a guest! Who is your friend, Iemitsu?»

Is he a threat?

It was the meaning hidden behind his words, which Iemitsu seemed to grasp and dispel with a simple smile.

A friend.

«Yoshi-san, I introduce you to my work best friend, Haya-chan!» he said, forcing the other wheat-haired boy to stand up and face Tsuyoshi face to face. «Haya-chan, this is Yamamoto Tsuyoshi, the saint-with-a-heart-of-gold-man who had the courage to marry that tomboy named...»

He dodged Aki's fist with precision, who had tried to hit him in the back, easily avoiding all the subsequent attacks with which the woman tried to hit him.

«I'll have you take back every single word, Iemitsu!»

Ouch, she was really furious.

«Try it, Aki-kun.»

Tsuyoshi shook his head, resigned: they had just met each other again and Sawada already wanted to die at the hands of his sister -beause they were siblings in all but blood.

Despite having a good opinion of him, sometimes Iemitsu turned out to be stranger than he seemed apparently: in spite of everything, however, the effect that his presence made was visible on Aki's calmed and relaxed face, otherwise constantly in pain for the frantic life of her brother.

Even though she wasn't being directly involved with the mafia, although Iemitsu himself had preferred to keep her as in the dark as possible, a part of Aki was still aware that whatever the mysterious work of Iemitsu in Italy was, it had nothing to do with constructions and construction sites: it was something more dangerous and dark.

There was no need for someone to tell her, she was too tied to her childhood friend not to understand when he was hiding something.

«Sometimes I just want to know what's wrong... I would like him to tell me what's bothering him, what keeps him away from Namimori for so long. I know he does it to protect me, but not knowing it only makes me more anxious...»

Those were the words that she had confided to him one evening, while they were lying in bed and he was lovingly holding her in his arms, caressing her pitch-colored hair soft and smooth as silk threads: he would have liked to tell her everything in that instant, to hold her closer and kiss her, reassure her that everything would be fine and that Iemitsu would be fine. The desire to protect her had taken over, keeping quiet about what he knew and instead continuing to gently caress her hair until she fell asleep in his arms.

He could not risk the truth endangering her, and even if he wanted to let the cat out of the bag, it was not his secret to reveal: it was up to Iemitsu and him only the decision to let her know about his secret life or not.

«Do they always behave like this?» the unexpected question of the young man brought him back to the present, where his wife was still chasing his stepbrother, in a vain attempt to make him remodel what was just said, under the doubtful gaze of the mysterious "Haya-chan".

«I'm afraid so. If you hang out around here often, you'll have to get used to those two.»

Tsuyoshi smiled, taking a few seconds to look carefully at the young blond man in suit and tie who stood next to him, stopping on the slender but toned figure, with the elegance and finesse that belonged to a perfect master swordsman -if the bag at his feet, perfectly accessible in case of attack, were a clue to the young man's favorite weapon.

He looked at him deeply, and the more he looked, the more he felt that there was something special in this strange and mysterious young man: something in the look, in his whole posed and elegant figure, in the body movements that made it difficult to decipher, giving Tsuyoshi the feeling that in a sword duel, predicting the moves of this particular opponent wouldn't have been easy.

Perhaps what most intrigued and troubled him at the same time was the lived aura that hovered around him, as if with those narrow green eyes -had they sparkled brown by chance?- he had seen and experienced on the his diaphanous skin more pain and regret than such a young person had to experience: Tsuyoshi knew how to recognize a survivor when he saw one, and this "Haya-chan" had certainly escaped something so horrible that it wouldn't have been possible to describe it in words.

There was only one thing the chef could think of, but he preferred not to investigate with uncomfortable questions that would only bring discomfort between them.

«Then I think I'll have to get used to it, Iemitsu seems to enjoy dragging me around like a dog.» He saw him take a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket, carry one to his mouth and put the rest back, without lighting it. «My name is Hayato by the way, not " Haya-chan ". I swear that if he doesn't stop with the stupid nickname, sooner or later I'll blow him up.»

Oddly, Tsuyoshi had no doubt that he was serious about it.

«Yamamoto Tsuyoshi, come and visit me whenever you want to taste excellent sushi. We have the best dishes in all of Japan.»

And he was sincere in his offer -a friend of Iemitsu was almost automatically his friend, even a quite mysterious but friendly mafioso- finding himself almost at ease in the presence of the young man, while the first impressions of despair and doubt seemed almost completely dissolved: it was never wise to let your guard down, but Tsuyoshi felt that he could trust this boy a little.

«I really think I'll accept the offer... now if you excuse me, I'm going out to smoke a cigarette, I've been in abstinence for far too long.»

Tsuyoshi nodded, watching him as he quietly left the restaurant.

He put a hand to his chest, trying to calm the Rain that was shaking inside him: before he had had doubts, but now he was sure there was something special about Hayato.

He wasn't yet sure what it was, but it seemed that his Flames had entered into a kind of resonance with those of the young man, shaking them in depth, almost as if he was...

CRASH!

The sound of dishes crashing to the ground brought him back to reality, while with a sigh he re-bound the mystery that Hayato was in a corner of his mind, focusing on how to stop the pursuit of Aki and Iemitsu: he was happy that they had finally found each other, but it was better to stop them before they destroyed every single pottery in the shop.
 

***
 

«I brought you some sushi, I thought you might be hungry.»

No, none of them were hungry.

Days had passed since the last time they put something under their teeth, yet no one had a single cramp in the stomach, the need to feed completely disappeared and supplanted by a much greater pain: when a bond was shattered with so much force as to even snatching air from your lungs, hunger wasn't all that important.

Takeshi understood his father's concern -his desire to help them in this difficult moment, to try at least to limit the damage of such a deep wound- but he could not avoid being disinterested in the needs of his body: what was the purpose of surviving and functioning if Tsuna wasn't with them?

Just thinking about his friend gave him a new pang in the heart, tearing the air from his lungs aggressively, almost like a python twisting around his neck, increasingly strict and lethal: he clasped a hand to his chest, while with the other one felt blindly in the dark, looking for any contact with one of his fellow Guardians -one was enough, just only one to find calm, one, one, oneoneoneoneoneone-

It was Kyoya's hand that found his, squeezing firmly and steadily, and only when he felt the Cloud's tapered and thin fingers intertwine with his own, only then Takeshi started to breath again: Jiro and Kojiro had come closer, rubbing the muzzles on his skin to make their presence and their support known, infusing him with fresh and calm Rain Flames that calmed his heartbeat, helping him at the same time to regain control over his own.

His Flames were precious, since they possessed the Calm attribute: with the Calm of the Rain, Takeshi could soothe the panic attacks caused by Tsuna's thought, not only for himself, but also for the other Guardians, reducing at least in part the physical pain that was consuming them.

He couldn't collapse, not when he was the only one who was able to wash away the pain and fear from his companions.

He had to resist at all costs.

Out of the corner of his eye he watched Tsuyoshi breathe a sigh of relief -he must have witnessed the scene, what a great son he was, he did nothing but make his father suffer- taking a few steps in the dark to try to get closer to his son and the other.

Takeshi let him do it, squeezing Kyoya's hand even harder in search of comfort and contact, as if to make sure that he was still there, that someone else important hadn't disappeared right before his eyes, leaving him alone and in the dark.

He felt the hand of the Cloud still tight in his and relaxed, letting Kyoya rest his tired head on his shoulder, closing his eyes in a desperate attempt to rest and escape from the nightmares that tormented his sleep -the sleep of them all- without never let go of each other.

Despite never having been a lover of crowds and physical contact, Takeshi knew that even a lone wolf like Kyoya was suffering from the lack of Sky more than he would have ever admitted: they had become a pack, his pack, and if there was something Hibari was good at was protecting what was his.

The Cloud was possessive and territorial by nature, and although with abrupt and sometimes violent ways, he knew how to show that he cared about the things that were important to him, that he could protect the pack with his claws and fangs at the cost of his own life : in other circumstances Takeshi would have smiled at the thought, but at that moment just stretching his lips was impossible.

Wearily, resting his head on Hibari's, he let his gaze wander absently on the rest of the room, looking for the other Guardians who were more or less in the same conditions: next to Kyoya was Mukuro, also with his eyes closed, with his hand intertwined with the Cloud's, while on the other side he squeezed Ryohei with his arm wrapped around the shoulders, with the latter returned the embrace almost unconsciously; Chrome held Lambo tightly in her arms, letting herself be lulled by Hayato, who held them close to him as if it depended on his life -probably it was- while with the hand sliding behind Chrome's back he intertwined his fingers with Ryohei's, connecting them to one another in a desperate attempt to save each other from drowning in pain and regret.

The Box Heiki hadn't left their side, not since the bond was cut down and the world began to collapse: losing the Sky had affected them as much as the same weapons, mourning the loss of Natsu, who disappeared together with his master that fateful day.

«Listen to me Takeshi, all of you listen to me well.» Tsuyoshi had bent down beside him, grabbing the shoulder and forcing the Rain to mirror himself in his father's sad eyes. He wondered what his own looked like, if they were as empty as his chest had become. «I promise you, I swear to you that we will find the bastards who did this, who took the Sky away from you, and we will make them pay for it, they will regret being alive.»

He was serious, Takeshi could read it in the fleeting flash of anger that had crossed Tsuyoshi's gaze as he thought of the damned bastards who had taken everything away from them.

Takeshi felt the same: when the depression gave way to other thoughts and feelings, he imagined himself sinking the blade of Shigure Kintoki into the bodies of the people who had taken the life of his Sky, again and again, until he saw the entrails pour on the ground, until he break all their bones and hear them scream in pain, trample on their skull to reduce it...

«But» Tsuyoshi went on, bringing the attention of the Guardians back to himself. «You must try to get up, react, find the strength you have lost.»

He got up, leaving the package with the sushi he had prepared in plain view in the dark room. «It's not easy, i t will never be and probably this pain will never go away, but you must at least try to eat something , try fight this horrible feeling and at least survive.»

He started to leave, but turned one last time towards them, the shadow of a smile on his tired and pained face. «If it had been one of you, Tsunayoshi would have fought. He would get up and hunt down those lousy people until they all died out .» and he left, leaving the seven Guardians with much to think about.

That day they had had their first meal after days of fasting and crying: those words had been the push necessary to make them get up, to give them back a purpose to live and survive.

It mattered little whether it was for revenge or for the sheer pleasure of chasing those bastards as helpless animals, Tsuyoshi's words had given meaning back to their now empty and lost lives.

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Despite Iemitsu's insistence on staying in his family's home rather than a hotel, Hayato had finally managed to persuade him to drop the matter and accept his decision, even though he wasn't sure he had completely convinced the young Sawada through the pathetic excuses with which he refused free and safe accommodation: he had no other choices, however, not being confident in his ability to manage the emotions that setting foot in the Sawada household could bring to surface.

Not only for Lambo and Chrome -the most affected, they had lived several years in that same house, they had been part of it almost more than all the others- that home had been a safe place for all of them to take refuge, a peaceful oasis in which to be only the children they were, certain that they could always be welcomed with open arms, with a smile and a delicious hot meal waiting for them.

Having to relive all those memories was simply too much to face all at once, and considering the plans for the rest of the day, Hayato wanted at least to make sure that he wasn't so tired and weak that he collapsed for a trifle: he was more and more convinced that going to Namimori before being psychologically prepared had been a bad choice, but it was true that it could also be an excellent training to not pass out in the presence of the Tenth once he came into the world.

Tze, herbivore.

«For the last time, I'm not going to patrol Namimori, now or ever!» all he needed was Kyoya's stupid obsession with the city where he grew up, making things even more chaotic and complex, as if lawn-head trying to run around the neighborhood at four in the morning as the "old days" weren't enough.

Kfufufu the "old days" died when we lost the Sky, as did the "old us".

Hayato headed for the balcony of the room, letting the cool evening breeze ruffle his short blond hair -despite the past few months it was still difficult for him to get used to that color- taking a big mouthful of the cigarette he had brought with him to relax.

«You're right, each of us is a different person since then.»

All of them, without exception, had done things that in another time they would have certainly regretted, but that for their current situation had been nothing more than the bare essentials to survive and get up: he had lost count of the people who had been tortured and massacred by his own hands, positive that the situation for others wasn't too different.

Maa maa that's also why we are here, to start again and prevent history from repeating itself!!

A grunt escaped from Hayato's lips.

«That's not exactly how it went.»

No, it wasn't for the good heart to change history and improve the life of someone the reason why they had come back in time -that nobility had been lost long before- as much as for the pure and simple desire to rejoin their Sky and make it pay to the real person in charge of everything: the changes they had decided to pursue were a consequence of having arrived at a different time than the one agreed.

And they still didn't understand what could have gone wrong.

Um... Didn't G-san say something about it?

It was always pleasant and relaxing to hear Chrome's sweet voice over the irritating and annoying screeches of the other Guardians, a welcome harmonious pause from the otherwise chaotic cacophony produced by those dumbass.

S-Storm-san...!!

It was so easy and funny to embarrass her. But, thinking well of Chrome's claim, actually that damned G had said such a thing.

«You can't choose the time of arrival, you will travel as long as necessary, until you reach the place with the most chance of success to fulfill your desire, is it all clear, brats?»

They had never really stopped to reflect on the words of the First Generation Guardian, yet now -thinking about it with a cold and concentrated mind- he had to admit that all the speeches and warnings that had been made by their loved ones seemed to make more sense than they had had then.

What exactly does it make sense, Hayato-shi? Ore-sama finds it all incredibly confusing.

Me too! Explain it extremely to us too, octopus head!

«Tze, which is why you're all idiots.» he taunted, extinguishing his cigarette and taking a last look at the sky which was slowly tinged with the dark blue of the evening. «It means that here, we will find the answers to our questions.»

The sound of a car approaching made him lower his gaze, just in time to see Iemitsu dash out of the car and run into the hotel entrance, probably impatient to recover him and catapult himself from his precious Nakano-chan.

«Come on, let's survive this evening. If we are lucky we won't have big problems tonight.» touching his Storm Sea Ring he went back to the room and took his jacket, made sure he had the case with the other rings and went towards the door.

With a little luck there was no unwanted surprise waiting for them.
 

***
 

Obviously there was an unwelcome surprise waiting for them, one that they had absolutely not taken into account.

To be perfectly honest there were two unwanted surprises, presented in the form of microscopic infants which they hadn't taken into account, because come on! How many were the possibilities?

Everything was going well: the presence of the Yamamoto no longer seemed to upset Takeshi -he only thought of enjoying the presence of his parents as long as he could, even if they didn't know who he was- starting the evening in the best way and giving Hayato the hope of being able to spend a quiet evening without crazy Flames to suppress -even if the help of the Storm Sea Ring allowed him to conserve energy and simplified the process.

Obviously the other Guardians had offered to help him control whatever power was suddenly unleashed -Chrome had offered, while all the other lazy bastards rejoiced in his suffering- but fortunately everything seemed to be proceeding calmly, so he didn't need their help to save the fate of the evening.

And then Nakano had come, and with her the first of their troubles.

«Nakano-chaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-»

As soon as the young woman had entered the restaurant, Iemitsu had launched himself into a desperate race for his beloved, ready to hold her in his arms after all the time they had been separated.

When only a few meters separated them, a violent kick hit his face, intervening between him and the girl with such violence that even Hayato was surprised: since they had arrived in Namimori, Iemitsu had taken so many blows that he suspected his secret passion was to surround himself with people who liked to hit and beat him up -Lal was more than perfect evidence to support this theory.

Ryo-nii too. All this great friendship started with a punch.

And how to blame the Stupid Cow? That was exactly how Iemitsu started to walk around them like a bee with the honey.

«Are you all right, Sawada-kun?»

A dip in the heart brought Hayato back to reality, while the voice of what assumed to be Nakano brought back happy and distant memories to everyone's mind: the gentle smiles, the hugs always ready to support and console, the purest naivety that was a breath fresh air amidst all the lies and deceptions from which they were surrounded, the support of a kiss on the forehead and a few words full of love, capable of instilling strength and illuminating the heart even in the darkest moments, the goodness and the warmth that only a mother could transmit.

She could bear her maiden name, but it was impossible not to recognize in her gestures, in her movements or even in the calm and gentle aura that surrounded her, the one who in the future would be known by everyone as Sawada Nana.

Mama...

Nana-san... it was really her.

...

Kfufufu

EXTREME!

Nana-san...

A sea of emotions had invested them, without however making them sink into the spiral of anguish and pain caused by meeting people closely related to Tsuna: excluding the last few years, the memories in the company of Nana were mostly happy, pleasant, and that was enough to give them the strength not to fall back into the darkness.

He studied her from afar, sipping the good sakè that Tsuyoshi had kindly offered him, noticing how even in her youth, the naive but gentle smile was perpetually present to illuminate her face: otherwise, as in the future, Nana was undoubtedly a beautiful young woman with long brown hair - a darker shade than what they remembered - with a slender, delicate and elegant figure.

She was behind the person who had hit Iemitsu, observing the scene in silence, with a soft smile on her lips and a vivid blush to imporporate her cheeks, the only apparent sign that showed what her feelings towards Sawada were: actually, the bright light that it lit her brown eyes, dark and intense like a pool of delicious dark chocolate, betrayed her true thoughts, revealing all the anxious emotion that had overwhelmed her the instant she met with Iemitsu.

It's beautiful, seeing the two of them so in love. The fact that they loved each other from the start till the end is truly romantic.

Hayato didn't really know anything about romance, but if Chrome said it, then it had to be true: often she and the other girls of their crazy family -his sister included- chatted about these frivolities, about this and that other movie, about how much a scene in one book had been incredibly romantic compared to another.

However, even without being skilled on the subject, even Hayato could see the deep bond that had formed between Iemitsu and Nana, the strong feeling that was their strength and their support: that same emotion that would lead them to the altar, and from whose union would be born the most extraordinary person who had ever stepped on earth.

What a loyal little dog you are, kfufufufu.

«Tze, as if you didn't think the same, jackass.» he said it with a low growl, making sure the Yamamotos were too distracted to mind him and his quirks.

«What did I tell you about the assaults, Sawada? If you dare to attack Nana like a wild beast again, I will clear your throat.»

He was taking a generous sip of sake when that voice reached his ears, causing him to go through the liquor and risk choking him: swallowing violently, he coughed a few times to try to catch his breath, aware that he had drawn on himself the worried looks of Tsuyoshi and Aki, but he couldn't avoid it.

Oya, there is only one individual in Namimori who can speak like that.

He knew -belive him, he knew way too well- however Hayato was genuinely afraid to look up and confirm his suspicions.

«B-But... S-Sempai...»

With Iemitsu's whining in the background, the young man slowly looked up, clashing with two familiar and icy gray eyes -god they were the same, even the level of frost was identical- surrounded by the long black locks that framed a thin and angular face, but no less feminine and shapely.

He stopped to think for a moment.

Okay, this woman, taller than Nana by at least two spans, dressed in a black suit with a white shirt -classic, almost an office uniform- and high heels, looked frighteningly like a certain Skylark he knew, but there was certainly no need to get stuck: yes, this woman seemed in all aspects Kyoya's female version, but it wasn't certain that they were somehow rela-

«Should I repeat myself, prey

...

Nope.

Nopenopenopenopenopenopenopenopenopenope.

He hadn't signed up for this.

It doesn't matter if what was happening was right, if he was the stranger -the bug, the anomaly, in whatever fucking way they wanted to call him- and he couldn't do anything to prevent that meeting: he hadn't signed to deal with two members of the Hibari family at the same time.

Herbivore.

«Don't "herbivore" me. There was nowhere written that I should have endured this too!»

Hayato, maybe you should take a look at what Kyoya's mom is holding in her arms... I don't think you will like it, hahahahahah!

The urgent desire to take Takeshi's head off was replaced by another thrill, which forced him to turn around and examine the scene in front of him better: actually, it seemed that the woman had landed Iemitsu with a powerful kick, while in her arms she held what appeared to be a child, intent on observing the scene with one hand in his mouth and a stuffed toy in the other.

A child who couldn't have been more than one year old.

A child who in a few years would have become Namimori's most fearsome monster.

A child whose spirit of the adult version from the future now resided within his body.

A child who was without a doubt Hibari Kyoya.

«Ara, Hui-chan don't be too hard on Sawada-kun.»

While still trying to recover from the shock of that new shocking discovery -how come Kyoya was so calm? No desire to confront his mum?- she heard Nana intervene in favor of Iemitsu, trying to convince Ms. Hibari to move her foot from the young man's stomach, with whom she was holding him firmly locked on the ground.

And while Nana spoke, the second problem came with all the classic impetuosity of that family.

«YOSH! Where is the INTENSE party?!»

...

Nope.

He had definitely not signed up for this.
 

***
 

Seeing all his friends after a long time had been wonderful, much more exciting than Iemitsu could have ever imagined -and even more painful, Zhao-sempai's attacks were more vigorous than what he remembered.

To be together again with the whole group that had been by his side during most of middle and high school, giving him some of the best moments of his life -the relationship he had with this bizarre group of people was only equal to what he had with the Guardians with whom he had formed a bond- had been pleasant and gratifying, feeling completely invigorated and free from the fatigue that the long mission had caused him.

«Yosh! Iemitsu! It's nice to see you again, you're intense as usual!»

He embraced Sasagawa Kyohei forcefully, transformed from his noisy and confusing partner in crime into a big man as tall as a wardrobe, with tousled golden brown hair and bright honey-golden eyes, perpetually inflamed with energy and passion: despite the reputation the two of them had built up over the years, Kyohei had still been able to become the ace of the kickboxing, boxing and karate club, all at odds with each other to win the supremacy over the fighting skills of Kyohei -he had eventually attended each of the clubs without ever choosing one- which had won almost all the matches he had attended.

Kyohei had been his best pal at school, always together ready to combine a new disaster every day -the teachers had throw a party when they graduated- becoming the favorite prey of Hui Ying, who despite being a sempai always returned to school to put them back in line -she simply liked to crumble them, but nobody had the strength to oppose her, so they let her do as she wished, not hoping to become her next prey.

It was nice to see that he hadn't changed much, that the energetic boxer, lover of any sport in which he could take hold of a worthy opponent, had maintained his fiery personality and the enthusiasm that made him look like a warm and bright sun: he had kept his pure and strong heart even when the boy had left room for the man.

«Kyohei! It's nice to see you again, brother!»

He could see the throbbing vein on Hui Ying's forehead, who was refraining from beating them just because she held in her arms what Iemitsu suspected was the one-year-old son: Nakano-chan had mentioned something to him in the letters and phone calls that exchanged periodically.

«I see you're all always very energetic.» a sweet laugh preceded the entrance of Sasagawa Sachiko -Kyohei that bastard, still couldn't believe that he had managed to get married before him!- illuminating the room with her angelic smile and the graceful bearing that had distinguished her since school.

Sachiko had always been the idol of the Nami-chuu, always kind and willing to help even the most scruffy of students, maintaining her reputation as the school's Angel even after entering high school: Iemitsu had lost count of the broken hearts that the young woman had left behind in her long school experience, but he remembered how Kyohei had been part of that same list, being rejected more than once by the young woman who didn't seem interested in having a relationship.

He wasn't sure when and how things had changed -the day before his friend had collected yet another refusal, while the following one, Sachiko couldn't speak quietly with Kyohei without blushing and stammering nervously- but he was sincerely happy for him.

One part of Iemitsu envied his friend's sentimental situation, while on the other he could only admire the persevering constancy with which Kyohei had pursued the love of his life in spite of the malicious comments and hysterical giggles of the rest of the students -someone more sneaky had thrown a bet on the number of times he would have been refused before giving up.

He would have liked to see the faces of those same people now.

Even with the passing of the years, Sachiko hadn't lost her angelic beauty: a round face and thin features, framed by long, smooth silvery hair, the same metallic eye color, which despite being of a cold shade like gray, they also gave off a sense of warmth and comfort.

«Ah Sachi-chan!» he saw Aki and Nakano-chan launch themselves on the woman who had just entered, concentrating on the bundle -Iemitsu noticed only in a second moment- she was tenderly holding in her arms.«You brought Ryo-chan too!»

«This is my first time seeing him! He is soooo cute!»

Iemitsu raised an eyebrow, confused.

"Ryo-chan?"

He looked at Kyohei for explanations, receiving the most radiant of smiles in response, his mind was suddenly dragged towards the trio of girls from which verses and moans came.

«Iemitsu, I officially introduce you to my intense first child, Sasagawa Ryohei!»

And while Kyohei was talking, Aki and Nakano had moved to allow him to see the boy Sachiko held in her arms, so similar to his mother but in whose gray eyes he could see the same intense energy that shone in those of his father.

A smile formed spontaneously on Iemitsu's lips.

«C-Congratulations!» his voice trembled with emotion. He immediately threw himself on Kyohei, grabbing his head under one arm and ruffling his already messy brown hair.«You rascal! How could you not tell me you had a child?! He is almost the same age as Zhao-sempai's boy!»

Kyohei laughed, letting himself be overwhelmed by his friend without trying to reply -Iemitsu knew that if he wanted to free himself, he could have done it with one hand.

«Ahahahah they are indeed peers! Ryohei was born last August, while Kyoya in May! And I didn't tell you because I wanted to give you an INTENSE surprise!»

Well, successful surprise, he couldn't be happier for them.

Smiling, Iemitsu thought he couldn't be happier for himself too, finally surrounded by family and friends with whom he had spent his childhood, and especially in the presence of the magnificent woman with whom he had fallen in love years before.

He was happy to be able to drag Hayato into his happiness, and given the news he had to give, he absolutely wanted the friend with whom he had spent long months of travel to be present.

He felt a bond with him, a special understanding that he would have liked to deepen, but that he would never have dared to force for fear of losing that balance that had formed between them: Hayato was already Luce's Guardian, he wouldn't have tried to impose himself with a surely unwanted courtship.

Leaving his friends, Iemitsu turned to the counter to invite everyone to gather and thus start the dinner, clashing with the looks of Tsuyoshi and Hayato: while the former had continued to cook serenely with a smile on his lips, the latter seemed engaged in a complex discourse with himself -ah, probably his multiple personalities could communicate with each other.

He seemed paler than usual, while with his light green eyes -yes, it was Hayato the Storm- he continued to stare at the group of friends who was slowly approaching: at first perplexed, Iemitsu realized that his companion must surely feel uncomfortable, knowing in that rowdy group of people only Aki and Tsuyoshi.

He gave himself an idiot for not having thought about the presentations immediately.

Clearing his voice, he attracted the attention of the room -Aki had closed the restaurant for that evening:«Closing one night to celebrate your return won't ruin us!»- hugging Hayato's shoulders and officially introducing him to his friends.

«Guys, I want to introduce you my work best friend! Friends, he is Hayato, he works for an affiliated company, we are supervising a worldwide construction project together, Namimori was the last stop and he offered to accompany me to greet you all!»

He saw his colleague mention a tense greeting: he let everyone have the opportunity to reciprocate the pleasantries before starting the remaining presentations.

«You already know Aki and Tsuyoshi-san. The one sitting next to Aki is Zhao Hui Ying, now become Hibari Hui Ying after getting married to Hibari Yuusuke, another old sempai of mine who unfortunately couldn't be present today. The one she holds in her arms is Kyoya, their son.»

As the woman hinted at a greeting, Iemitsu lowered himself, until he was sure that only Hayato could hear him. «She is Fon-san's sister.»

He was sure he had surprised him when he heard him swallowing hard, almost risking choking on his own saliva. He heard him mutter something like "... your uncle?!" and "… fucking say it first?!", but he wasn't sure what he was talking about: truthfully, he wasn't even sure he understood Hayato's weird rumbeling correctly, so he simply decided to let it go.

«Next to sempai, the most beautiful girl in all of Namimori, Nakano Nana-chan!»

He saw the love of his life blush at the compliment, holding her face in her hands as she smiled and declared that she wasn't so beautiful: «You are the usual exaggerated flatterer, Sawada-kun!»

Definitely the cutest ever.

«Last but not least they are Sasagawa Kyohei and Sachiko, my disaster right hand-man brother and the school idol respectively.» Kyohei saluted with his usual intensity, while Sachiko limited herself to a graceful nod and a smile. «While the one in Sachiko-san's arms is their baby, Ryohei!»

And as if to answer, the little one raised a sting in the sky, stammering something that reminded so much of a "yosh!" but that was nothing more than a meaningless childish verse.

Dinner was pleasant.

Between laughter and chatter about the past and the future, exchanging fun episodes that occurred in everyday life, the evening quickly approached its conclusion, and the more time passed, the more the weight of the box that Iemitsu kept in the jacket pocket seemed to increase: today was the day, he shouldn't and couldn't longer put it off.

He felt a slight pressure on his shoulder, turning in time to collide with Hayato's purple eyes -ah, Mist Hayato number two- who smiled kindly and encouraging.

«You can do it.»

Iemitsu opened his mouth wide but closed it again, merely smiling and nodding, determined more than ever to succeed in his business.

Those words were the last push he needed.

«Naka... No, Nana-chan!» he jumped to his feet, clapping his hands on the table and raising his voice a few octaves, attracting the attention of the friends and the girl in question, who looked at him with wide eyes, confused by the sudden shot he had made.

Kyoya and Ryohei muttered something -probably disturbed in their sleep by the sudden noise he had made- and made a note not to scream too loudly: he wouldn't back down, but he didn't want to disturb the sleep of the two sweet little angels either..

«Sawada-kun...?»

Taking a deep breath, Iemitsu left his seat at the table and made the whole tour, finding himself face to face with Nana: he could feel his face on fire and he knew that everyone's eyes were on him, but he didn't care, since in that instant only she existed and nothing else.

It was only a moment for them.

«I... I know that I have never been clear in my actions and in my words. I have a lot of flaws, and a job that keeps me away from Namimori for long periods of time, however...» he swallowed, keeping his gaze glued to hers.«I love you a lot anyway! And I want to be with you forever, through thick and thin!»

He knelt, leaving no time for anyone to speak up and took the box he had kept with care and love throughout the journey from his pocket: he opened it in front of her, showing the small golden ring on the top of which there were some small diamonds arranged in the shape of a rhombus, a simple design that matched perfectly -in his opinion- with Nana's style.

«You're the best thing that ever happened to me. Nakano Nana, will you marry me?»

For a few long, indefinable, terrifying seconds, no one spoke: Nana seemed paralyzed, with her hands covering her mouth and wide eyes, probably too surprised to find the exact words to answer.

Iemitsu seriously feared he was going to receive the biggest waste.

Suddenly Nana threw herself in his arms, while with a passion that didn't belong to her she had started to kiss him intensely between the smiles, the applause and the congratulations of their friends who seemed to have realized what had happened before he did.

When she broke away, Nana had tears in her eyes and red cheeks, but she smiled sweetly.

«I thought you would never have asked me. Of course I want to marry you, Iemitsu-kun!» and she kissed him again.

That was one of the happiest moments of his life.


***
 

Returning to Namimori had been a roller coaster of unexpected events, of strong positive as well as negative emotions, but he couldn't say that he was completely distressed: he had been able to witness the exact moment when Iemitsu asked for Nana's hand, and even if everything it had turned into a chaotic engagement party -no, he didn't want to remember how Ryohei's father ended up dancing naked on the table with Iemitsu- at least now he had an interesting story to tell Tsuna once he finally came into the world.

It wasn't long before, and Hayato found himself increasingly impatient to witness that moment.

However, he was happy to finally be back in Italy -despite being the country that par excellence gave them trouble and misfortune- where he hoped at least in part to be able to relax and concentrate on something else, something on which to pour the stress accumulated in recent months.

A good hunt at childen's kidnappers -and ring thieves, but this was less serious from his point of view- was just what he needed.

He stretched his arms, finishing the bitter coffee he had ordered, paying the bill and leaving to explore the city as he had been ordered, trying to notice even the smallest trace that the phantom kidnappers could have left.

Venice was large and surrounded by water, but fortunately he had been assigned the area adjacent to Piazza San Marco, an area he knew quite well, and was therefore confident of being able to solve the problem in no time.

And while he was at it, vent his anger on the bodies of those perverted bastards.

It is a pleasure to see that I am no longer the only one to be considered a sadist.

«Don't brag too much, pineapple, you and the skylark remain the most sadistic among us. Maybe only the sword freak is at your level.»

Herbivore.

Ahahahah you are so cruel Haya-chan!

Hayato didn't respond to Takeshi's provocations, preferring to light a cigarette and continue to scan the streets of the city, leaving behind so many alleys and canals that anyone else in the Guardians wouldn't have been able to remember which side they had come from: often -even when they were in the future, each with its own body- it was Hayato who led the attacks in enemy territories, precisely for his memory and ability to orientate himself in places he had only seen once.

Shamal had once called it eidetic memory, stating that it was common in some children at a very young age, destined to lose this ability with growth and development. Those who managed to keep it even in adulthood were undoubtedly destined to become genius.

Hayato felt anything but brilliant -his school results were remarkable, but those only served to show that he was intelligent, certainly not a genius- but he had never tried to dissuade people around him from thinking it: it was a useful skill and intended to exploit it to the end.

Unfortunately the time jump had upset it not a little -certain details, some events and images were faded and confused, despite now having seven different memories to count on- but he was counting on recovering in time for the birth of the Boss and the beginning therefore of their real mission: to protect him from dangers at the cost of their life.

In his long walk in search of the criminals who created disturbances in Luce's territory, Hayato had arrived in front of the Grand Theater "La Fenice", one of the most prestigious structures dedicated to opera in the world, one of the jewels of Venice.

He contemplated the facade of the theater for several minutes, almost as if spellbound by the sight of the stage that had allowed his parents to meet -the place where his mother could have blossomed like the great pianist she was if he had never existed.

Don't!

Chrome's alarmed voice made him smile, while the delicate Mist Flames rubbed against his Storm, in an awkward and clumsy embrace that tried to lift him and remove any dark thought that could pass through his mind.

«Don't worry, it was just a stupid thought.»

He released part of his Flames in response to CHrome's frightened one -the fact that the others tried to reach him to give him comfort was left in silence, there was no need for words- wanting to assure her that he had no intention of performing any stupid action dictated by irrationality.

Tsuna wouldn't have approved of all those negative thoughts.

«Your mother loved you more than her own life, this way of thinking is a lack of respect for her and her love!»

A smile curved his lips as the adorable pout that the Boss had reserved for him that day surfaced in his mind, along with the remaining events following that moment, which were less pleasant: the Tenth had refused to talk to him for the whole day, not until he had changed his way of thinking and seeing his existence.

He remembered the desperation, the sadness, and vividly remembered the mad attempts he had made to persuade Tsuna to forgive him: it was nice to be able to remember the Boss without collapsing in pain, at least in something they were making progress.

Lost in his happy thoughts he was awakened by the abrupt clash with a guy of his own age -in appearance of course, mentally it was another matter- with short dark hair and the clothes creased probably from the race which, if the breath was an indication, he had just finished doing.

«Ah, sorry! I'm in a hurry.»

Now, normally Hayato wouldn't have paid much attention to any individual who approached him, simply liquidating him without even a second glance -he had learned that hiring unnecessary brawls only put the Family at risk, a price that he hadn't intention of risking for the thrill of a fistfight- but something in that young man caught his attention enough to lower his gaze and reach out to help him.

«It's fine, can you get up?»

«Hmm? Ah yes, thank you!»

The stranger grabbed his hand, and when the young man finally raised his face Hayato understood what actually had prompted him to speak and help him.

He regretted it immediately.

Although younger and with short hair held back, those pitch black eyes and the inevitable casanova look were impossible to forget, especially if you had spent a lifetime admiring that same person in vain attempt to make you teach the secrets to mastering the killing arts.

Widening his eyes and opening his mouth, probably gasping like a fish in search of air, Hayato thought that no, he was definitely not ready to deal with a young Trident Shamal.

«... S-Shamal?»

It came out as a whisper, but it was enough for the aforementioned young man to completely change his approach, hardening his gaze and shaking Hayato's hand with more force, now suspicious and ready to attack in case it turned out to be a threat.

Provided that one of its annoying mosquitoes hasn't already stung us kfufufufu

If he tries to sting me again, the perverted herbivore will be bitten to death.

«Have we met before?»

Putting aside the fact that the voices in his head were completely usless -in most cases- Hayato concentrated on Shamal, and if he had already made a name for himself in the underworld that would explain why he knew who he was.

Taking a deep breath he drew the best grin he was capable of and answered.

«Hard not to know Trident Shamal, you have quite a reputation among the mafia.» he saw the young doctor stiffen, but before he could attack him Hayato spoke again. «Don't worry, I'm not a threat. I'm here to investigate illegal activities in my Family's territory, I have no reason to clash with you.»

This didn't seem to completely reassure Shamal, who however let go of his hand with a nod: he wasn't convinced, but seemed willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

For the time being, fortunately, the contraction of some strange disease had been avoided.

«Sorry, but you know how it works, right? In our world one is never cautious enough, trusting the wrong people can cost dearly.»

Hayato nodded. «I understand, but I'm curious: what is a famous killer like you doing here? Any big fish around?»

He didn't really believe that the doctor would reveal to him what his intentions were just by asking, but he still found it curious that a person of his talent had been sent to Venice for a mission: he was quite sure that -excluding Luce and Aria, but he couldn't be so stupid as to having accepted a mission against the Giglio Nero- in the city there weren't targets big and important enough to require the mobilization of a killer so known and skilled like him to be eliminated.

Shamal laughed, scratching his head agitatedly, while he seemed to ponder whether or not to reveal his intentions to what was apparently a perfect stranger, moreover linked to the underworld: he couldn't give him any wrong.

«Ah no, truthfully...»

«Shamal! There you are!»

Hayato's entire body petrified in that exat moment when the melodious voice of a woman gently caressed his ears, making him unable to think rationally and clearly.

This was bad.

He barely noticed Shamal leaning over and waving to the person who had called him, smiling back: the footsteps behind him became faster and closer, while the air in Hayato's lungs was increasingly sparse.

He needed to escape.

Another attack was on the way, a very powerful one, and if he stayed there for a long time he would have ended up unconscious again like the day he went out with Aria: one thing was to suppress the other's Flames -when they weren't in control of the body was easier to manage panic attacks- another one was having to deal with them when he was fully conscious and in command.

And he needed to do it quickly

«Chrome... take my place. Now.» she was the only one she could have asked him at that specific moment.

Damn it.

And to think that they were getting better at managing their emotions.

But there was no way he could face her openly without having prepared in advance: he wasn't -probably would never have been- ready to converse calmly with her face to face, even if he had all the time in the world to convince himself of the contrary.

As he exchanged, he cast only a fleeting glance over his shoulder, colliding with the blue eyes like the water of Gokudera Lavinia.