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Revertemur

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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.

Kfufufu melodramatic.

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.

Tze, herbivore.

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?»

Luce jumped.

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.»

Chapter Text

Relaxing under the hot water jet, Hayato felt reborn.

It was nice to bask in the shower, in peace, letting the stress and the problems of the day be dragged away from the water, down all over his body, swallowed in the exhaust from which -Hayato really hoped this- they wouldn't re-emerge. Not too soon, at least.

A lot of things had happened -too much in too little time- and although most of his memories had taken over, there were still some dark holes that he couldn't fill -shit, he hated not knowing things, especially if it was at stake the safety of the person he was most attached to.

And the idiots in his head were of no use.

Who did you call idiot, octopus head?!

«You all, lawn head!» he growled.

When did he ever accept that compromise? It would have been better to do everything by himself, without charging unnecessary burdens which, according to him, would only have slowed him down -and without condemning himself to feeling the irritating presence of Lambo and Ryohei constantly in contact with the brain.

The good news was that now -having acquired the awareness and memories of the life in the other world- he no longer suffered each time that one of the unwanted tenants tried to communicate with him.

Kfufufufu, what a shame. It was fun to see you wriggling like a worm.

He thought about it. Having that guy in close contact with his mind was certainly the worst of the whole situation.

Careful not to make abrupt movements -damn, it seemed that his body had remained planted in cement for at least ten years, so was aching and debilitated- ended up washing, enjoying of that wonderful feeling for a few more minutes.

He closed the water knob and left the shower, wrapping his pelvis in a soft towel and taking a second, in which he picked up the silvery hair that, in those last days, had grown thicker and longer. Taking a lock between his fingers, turning it over and studying its reflections under the neon lights, he said to himself that perhaps it was time to give it a shot.

Returning to the room that Luce had made available to him -without handcuffs to surround his wrists this time- Hayato tried to feel part of that new world, at least trying to conceal the deep discomfort that gripped his stomach in being there at that time, in a room that he didn't recognize as his own. In a time when it should not have existed.

«You can stay with us as much as you want, Hayato-kun.» It was Luce's kind words, to which he could reply with a faint smile and a nod.

He was grateful to her -all of them were- but he couldn't feel part of the big family where the woman had lovingly welcomed him. The constant feeling of being out of place, wrong, was always there, treacherous, ready to insinuate the doubt that it is nothing but a burden for Luce and all the Giglio Nero Family. Maybe it was really that way.

He took a red shirt from the large closet that had been made available to him, opting for a classic black suit, like those he used to wear in his time, when he could stand next to his Boss without worries, happy to live with his family, the only one he had ever had.

With his trousers pulled up, he left his red shirt lying on the desk chair, allowing himself a moment to rest and sitting on the wide four-poster bed -too conspicuous for him, but he didn't want to disrespect the Giglio Nero and their kindness- and there the gaze immediately jumped on the red writing of the alarm clock, resting on the table next to it.

He rechecked the date two, three times, as if to be sure not to have misread, that Mukuro, from his comfortable position, wasn't deceiving him with some kind of vision: unfortunately, that bastard didn't have any guilt this time.

Two years. They had arrived two -fucking- years early, in an age when the Tenth had not yet issued the first cry in the world. Nana-san didn't even have to be pregnant yet.

At least we know we are on time!

Yamamoto's stupid optimism was able to make him pissed off even now -after all the time they had spent together, Hayato refrained from crushing him to death just to not grieve the Boss- but he found himself sharing, at least in part, the positive vision of Takeshi.

«True, we just need to understand what to do while we wait.»

«Maybe I can help you.»

Luce's entry was unexpected, but Hayato didn't fade away, standing up from his position and greeting the Giglio Nero Boss with a bow, apologizing for the unseemly attire he was presenting to her. Luce reassured him, not at all annoyed by the vision of her young guest without a shirt, as if it were now a habit for her to witness the same scene endless times. And perhaps -living with so many men under her wing- was not far from reality.

What really disturbed her was something else.

Luce stopped a few steps away from him, studying with her gaze the imposing figure of Gokudera Hayato, at least three spans taller than her, with a trained physique and broad shoulders, an example of strength and beauty that would have tempted artists of great fame.

A marble beauty but lived despite the young age, to be imprinted in the stone and handed down in the years to come. An opportunity that not even Michelangelo Buonarrotti would have let slip.

Yet, while maintaining its beauty, what took Luce's smile away, was finding on that body so young, so many scars that it couldn't even count them all: deep furrows that dug deep into the skin, scattered on every part of the body of the boy, with the only exception of the face. His face had remained immaculate, beautiful, proud and full of his lost youth.

Without fear, without asking permission and letting herself be guided by her instinct, Luce held up a hand until she could brush her fingers with those scars as terrible as they were hypnotic.

Gokudera let her do it, studying the gentle touch with which Luce now touched his abdomen, now his chest, then up to his arm, each time on a different wound, on a wound not only his.

«Mio Dio...»

«It was the price to pay. To become one we had to share everything, including the wounds.»

For several moments they remained silent. Luce, who studied the scars touch by touch, and Hayato who simply looked at her, trying to understand what she thought -what she felt when she saw his scarred body.

In the end it was Hayaro who broke the gloomy silence, trying to play down, tearing Luce away from the visions that the wounds were showing her.

«It's not that bad, it could have been much worse. I could lose an eye and inherit that of the crazy one with the pineapple head. Fortunately it didn't happen.»

Kfufufufu want to die, Gokudera Hayato? Know that from here I have excellent access to your mind.

Ignoring Mukuro's threat -the hell, if he hoped to scare him with so little he didn't know him at all-he forced himself to smile. There was no need to worry her about something as useless as those old wounds, which had no meaning other than to prove the effective union of the Guardians of the Tenth Vongola Generation.

«Seriously, Luce-sama, don't worry about us, we do not really need it.»

Luce nodded mechanically, without looking up from the scars, letting the visions continue one after the other, eager to know the story behind each of them.

Spade. Bombs. Wires. Knives. Lightning. Fire. Bullets. Flames. Numerous, various, one more painful than the other -just looking could feel the pain that each of them had procured- and each belonging to a different face.

Only in some she had seen Gokudera's pretty face -angry, suffering, powerless- while other unknown faces had appeared before her eyes, at the exact moment when the disfigure had been inflicted.

«It must have been hard for you, for all of you. Your Boss must be an exceptional person to deserve so much loyalty.» Luce smiled at him, crossing her arms behind her back and leaning forward, hiding behind her usual spontaneity the trembling that ran along her arms.

What these boys had passed, what she had been able to see at the time, was a future she couldn't accept. Too much pain, too much suffering and unjustified violence. How could she leave Aria -her beloved and only daughter, the light that still bound her to their world- at the mercy of a future like that? She couldn't, simply refused to let her daughter live a life in pain and despair.

Hayato let a faint smile curl his thin lips -the memory of the warm light of the Sky that still enveloped him in his body and soul- looking at Luce without really seeing her, lost in his own memories.

«Yes, he was.»

And he will be again. A promise, to himself and to the others, that he would have kept at any cost.

And we will make sure that nothing is placed on our and on his path.

Hayato grinned. For once, the stupid cow had said something sensible.

He returned to focus on the woman -Gokudera never told her that he saw her hand shake, or the tear that had escaped her cheek while studying his scarred body- asking her politely if she needed anything from him.

Luce seemed to recover, remembering like a bolt from the blue the reason why, that morning, she had rushed into her young guest's room with a cheerful expression.«Ah yes! I wanted to...»

A dizziness, her eyes tired and heavy suddenly, the awareness of not being able to bear even more than her weight, and the world began to swirl dangerously around her. Luce felt her strength fail, her legs suddenly soft, and if Hayato had not been there by her side, she would probably have fallen to the ground.

«Luce-sama!»

While the annoying voices of his companions boomed in the eardrums -the Flames that were agitated pushing to free themselves, in apprehension and panic- Gokudera took care to take in his arms the fragile woman who had collapsed at his feet, lying on his bed and giving her a few moments to rest. The breath had suddenly become quicker, more breathless, and she was so pale that it looked almost like a ghost. Despite everything, however, she found the strength to smile and reassure him.

«I would not... wanted you... seeing me... like that... what an embarrassment...» and Hayato had to change his mind.

Luce was not at all fragile -no, a fragile woman could never smile like that, not in that situation- instead she was one of the strongest women he had ever met.

Kfufufufu, it seems that the curse has progressed more than we had foreseen.

Hayato nodded.

«Yes, I also think it's because of the curse.» He murmured to himself, touching the woman's forehead and cursing. It was icy as ice: «Luce-sama ... Luce-sama, since when are you under the influence of the curse?»

He gave himself the idiot alone. How could he hasn't noticed it before? Damn, it was so obvious that the curse had existed for so long -too long. Because Luce-sama was already an Arcobaleno -she herself had confirmed it the day they had spoken for the first time, almost a week ago- and yet she had already returned to her adult form.

Keep calm, octopus head! We must extremely help her!

Luce looked at him, and with a sigh confessed that it was now several years -almost twenty if memory didn't deceive her- that the cycle of the curse had begun.

Hayato cursed. "Fuck, if only I had been more careful!"

«A-Aria... s-she... she already knows everything. S-Soon... soon my powers... they will pass to her...» she breathed, enough to be able to look Hayato in the eyes for a few moments, smiling at him mortified. They were really beautiful, Luce's blue eyes, as determined as those of Yuni had been that time, when wrapped in Gamma's embrace she had been ready to sacrifice her life to save the lives of them all.

«I-I wished... just more time... t-to be with her... a-and see her grow up...» perhaps the only regret that Luce could never leave behind.

H-Hayato-san, we must save her!

Chrome sounded desperate, but Gokudera didn't move. He clenched his fists against the bed, biting his lower lip, powerless, uncertain about what was right to do at that moment.

They were there to change the future -all that they had given up, which they had left behind in the other world, they had done to guarantee their Sky the happiness he deserved- but at the same time they knew that too much change to the story they knew could have led to changes well beyond their predictions.

It was right to allow time to run it's course, to repeat events as they had been, even if this meant letting some lives be sacrificed.

One growled low, the frustration turning into determination.

"Fuck! The Tenth would not have allowed it!" Was his only thought. The Boss would have sacrificed his life in order to allow someone else to live even a few minutes longer, and Hayato would not have remained motionless to watch while someone died before his eyes. He would no longer be able to face the Tenth if he let the Arcobaleno curse continue to cause victims when he could stop it.

Luce deserved to raise her daughter, deserved to know the extraordinary nephew she would have in the future.

Abaut time variations -and any other fucking problem attached to them- they would have thought about it later.

Herbivorous, do it.

Hayato grinned. «Tze, I don't need you to tell me!»

And within himself he felt that each of them felt the same, the Flames stirred in his chest, burning with impatience, in response to the desire that animated the spirits of the Guardians. It was the will of the Tenth, and until the end they would respect it.

Luce looked at Hayato's green eyes -so clear, beautiful- and saw again the hope that had pushed her to save him, a dazzling light at the end of a long tunnel wrapped in darkness.

«Luce-sama, do you know how much time you have left? Please, it's important!»

With difficulty, deprived of the energy needed even to speak, Luce felt the weariness weighing down her body, unable to make any movement. A warm Sun Flame radiated her, flooding it with enough energy to make the breath return smoothly. She must also have regained some color, but she wasn't sure.

She saw Hayato next to her, smiling, while from one of the many rings he always carried with him, Sun Flames brought her back to life. For a moment, an instant, Luce thought she saw the young man's eyes change color, but maybe it was just an impression. And yet -she found herself thinking, having a look at the Flames that were generously offered to her- that silvery tint that she thought she had glimpsed was really clear, to be a mere illusion.

«Two weeks. Maybe less.»

«It's not a long time, but we have to extremely try.» Hayato -it was really him?- smiled, giving her something she hadn't had for a long time: a hope.

«We can do it, we can extremely break the curse, Luce-sama!»


 

***


 

Two weeks were not many, but the influence that Luce had in the mafia was enough to allow him to gather enough people with powerful Dying Will Flames necessary to break the curse once and for all.

In that dimension, in a fortuitous jest of fate, it seemed that the existence of active Flames was in the public domain -but always limited in the mafia world- far in advance of what wasn't in their world. The more you were able to control your Flames, the more fame and respect you earned among the members of the mala. Even the purity of the Flames and the type were as important as the skills.

Nervously, trying to tie his tie as quickly as possible, Hayato wondered how the Tenth had managed to endure so much pressure, the first time he had to speak in front so many powerful people gathered all in one spot.

Tsuna is a very special person.

«Tze, I don't need you to tell me, baseball freak!»

It was obvious that the Tenth was special -Hayato knew it from their first meeting, when Tsuna had saved his life from his own stupidity- certainly didn't remind him that idiot.

Kfufufufu seems that our dear Storm Guardian doesn't hold the pressure.

«Shut up, pineapple head! I would really like to see you in my place!»

Thinking about it, leaving Rokudo Mukuro alone with the most of the Bosses of the most powerful mafia Families afloat wasn't a good idea at all, and found himself thanking the fate that he was the only one able to contain the Flames and the wishes of others Guardians.

He tied his hair, wearing his jacket and looking at the mask that Luce had made available for the occasion, in his specific request. He couldn't cause problems to the himself of that world -although he wasn't born yet he wanted to prevent any possible association with the one who would one day be Gokudera Hayato- and Luce had found herself to agree with his thought.

Once the ceremony was over, escaping the certain questions that the Arcobaleno and other Families would probably have had for him, he would have made sure to be unrecognizable to anyone.

«Nervous?» Luce peeked into the room, alone, still pale with the efforts of the last few weeks, but more hopeful than she had ever been in the last few years.

«A bit. I wondered how the Boss managed to hold the pressure the other time. Every day I realize how extraordinary he was.»

Luce smiled, gently pulling the mask from Hayato's fingers and placing it over his nose, making sure it was firm on his face, big enough to cover his eyes and hide his identity from everyone.

«This will help you disguise your voice, it's a little rough, but in this era it's all I can offer you.»

Smiling, Hayato took in his fingers the small device that the Giglio Nero's Boss had provided, placing it precisely between the molars at the back of the mouth, chewing gently a couple of times to make sure it didn't slip suddenly.

«Your help was fundamental, Luce-sama. We can never thank you enough.»

Giving him a light tap on the forehead -loving, delicate, like a mother- Luce looked at him gratefully, as if she were the one to have an impossible debt to pay off against them.

«It's me who don't know how to repay you, Hayato-kun. You... you are giving me the opportunity to raise my daughter, to live this life that I thought I had to leave.»

They remained staring for a few moments. Gokudera believed he owed his life to Luce, that without her he wouldn't have lived long enough to see the Boss again, and in the same way Luce believed she owed everything to Hayato -to all the Guardians who jealously guarded in his soul- that he was giving her a hope she no longer believed since the day she had been cursed.

There was respect and gratitude between them, a simple yet complex relationship, built beyond space and time, hidden from all those who could never really understand.

Offering her the arm, Hayato proposed to accompany her to the room where the guests anxiously awaited their arrival. Luce accepted it willingly, siding next to the young man to whom she would offer support to escape the questions of the curious and the suspicious.

«Have you already decided how you will present yourself to others?»

In one way or another -in a space/time that would never have been really his- the name Gokudera would no longer accompany his image, leaving behind both happy and sad memories, both the regrets of the past and the gratifications of the future.

Yet he couldn't afford to assume the identities of the other Guardians, for more or less the same reason. Everyone had another self who was waiting for the right opportunity to bind themselves to the Sky, and they couldn't let them come into contact with the Mafia before it was necessary.

«We discussed it, and how obvious we should have left our surnames, no one excluded.» It had been difficult, but necessary.«But we'll keep our names. Excluding today's ceremony, they're pretty common names in Japan, they should not create too many problems.»

Luce admired the strength with which they were facing their destiny. They were young -according to Hayato's words, the youngest must have been sixteen or a little less- and yet they had not been intimidated by anything, challenging the same laws of the universe in order to rejoin and protect their Sky. Anyone who was worthy of such loyalty -thought Luce while smiling at Hayato's determination- was supposed to be a truly extraordinary person. She would have liked to meet him one day.

«About that, how should I introduce you to our guests?»

They had thought about it, all of them together, and since it was Hayato who controlled the whole operation, the only codename he would have answered would have been only one.

«Arashi.»

Kfufufufu, we lack imagination eh?

«Certainly better than any of your suggestion, pineapple head!» he growled, snatching an amused smile at Luce.

In front of the door that separated them from the living room where the guests waited anxiously, Hayato felt the muscles stiffen under the skin, unable suddenly to move a single step. He felt the eyes of the Giglio Nero's Boss stand on him, worried, anxious, and a lump in his throat prevented him from breathing calmly.

Breathe, Gokudera. Everything will be fine.

Takeshi had always been the calmest among them. He was the only one able to bring tranquility back to where Storm and Sun carried their chaotic energy, where the Lightning ravaged with his impetuosity, where the Cloud obscured with his force, and where the Mist brought chaos behind his fog. A gentle Rain that washed away every problem.

Infusing his flames in Hayato's muscles, letting these flow in every part of his body, dissolving the tension and relaxing the nerves, Hayato regained the calm necessary to face the situation.

«I'm ready.»

He didn't thank Takeshi -he would have cut his tongue rather- but there was no need to do it. They had known each other for so long -Gokudera could count on their fingertips the times he had been happy about their long friendship- and even without words expressing their feelings, Yamamoto had already perceived the gratitude of the storm. And then he was literally in close contact with his emotional sphere, he had to be please.


 

***


 

The Giglio Nero mansion was in turmoil that day, hosting in its large living room and in the well-kept back garden some of the most important figures in the world of the mafia.

Among the many known faces, Hayato was able to identify at first glance Sawada Iemitsu -younger than he remembered, not too far from his age- that flanked the Nono Boss of the Vongola, Timoteo di Vongola, smiling and conversing with some other minor Boss witch Gokudera didn't remember the name.

Not far from what he imagined to be the father of Bucking Horse, the current Ninth Boss of the Cavallone Family, fully dressed in a cream-colored suit with vertical stripes. Despite his advanced age, Hayato couldn't help but notice the frightful resemblance of the father to the son.

If the herbivore dared to show up, I will bite him to death.

«No, you will not do it, Hibari you asshole. You'll be good or I'll make you explode.» No matter how little he tolerated the presence of Bronco -whenever the stupid face of Cavallone came back to him he wanted to blow it up forever- he didn't want to risk getting too much attention.

And leaving the Cloud to kill the Cavallone's heir was far beyond simple "attracting attention": it was a veritable declaration of war.

The surnames, Gokudera. We have to stop calling ourselves with those.

«You just did it yourself, baseball freak.» Takeshi's annoying laugh made him grunt.

Going back to the crowd, Hayato spotted another pair of known and unknown faces, including a tall, powerful man with a big sword behind his back and -but he only realized this at a second glance- without a hand. Only by recognizing the uniform he wore, Hayato understood the treatise of Tyr, the Sword Emperor before Squalo and current head of the Vongola's Elite Independent Assassination Squad: Varia.

It was terrifying to look at the long scar that disfigured his face, in a perfect oblique cut that ran across the length of his face. The indigo Flames of Chrome within him scarcely shook, while the stupid cow burst into tears as the man impressed him, waving the Lightning Flames in a mixture of fear and terror. A green sizzle glinted on the ring in his right hand, but he was able to suppress it instantly.

«Stupid cow... try to contain yourself.»

«All right, Ha... Arashi?» Luce corrected herself at his side as they advanced along the upper corridor, still hidden from the guests' eyes, to the stairwell that would take them to the center of the hall.

With a furtive glance, Hayato spotted the other six Arcobaleno and Lal Mirch, surrounded by Luce's men so that they weren't disturbed, and lost a second too much on the family figure of Reborn.

He smiled.

«Never been better.»

The Sun Flames stirred in response to his emotion.

Yosh! It's all extremely exciting!

One of Luce's men -Pietro, if he remember correctly- announced the arrival of his Boss to the hall, which fell into a glacial, oppressive silence. All eyes stared at them, and no one spoke.

They studied Luce, wrapped in her classic white dress -the dress that every Giglio Nero Boss had had since the first generation- and on the mysterious figure that held her firmly under his arm, his face concealed by a black mask, hiding from the guests' sight not only the facial features, but also the eyes of the young man.

When the last step came down, the Arcobaleno gathered around their Boss, scanning the boy at her side with suspicion. Experience had taught them that trusting someone wearing a mask was never a good idea.

With a nod Luce reassured them, then turning her attention to the guests who had responded to her appeal, welcoming them in her home with a warm smile, but never detached from the strong grip of Arashi.

«I thank you all for being here today.» He began, turning his attentions to the Arcobaleno. She barely paused on Reborn, exchanging with him a more intense look, laden with hidden meanings that only they knew. «You're all wondering why I've got a sudden call, well, the time has come for the explanations.»

She took a few steps to the center of the room, Arashi always by her side, ready to support in case the forces had failed her.

«As you know, a terrible curse falls on the head of the seven Arcobaleno, the so-called strongest children in the world, of which I myself belong.»

There was a general buzz of those who knew and those who had been shocked to learn that the Boss of the Giglio Nero -a woman apparently adult and in some ways common- was part of the group of cursed children. The same Arcobaleno found it absurd that their leader had exposed herself to such a risk by revealing her nature.

For a moment, Luce believed she had made a mistake. Whispers became words, and words became screams. Soon, the confusion invaded the salon, and her voice -faint, too weak, was now at the limit- could not overwhelm the chaos that she had generated.

«Shut up!» Arashi's scream, furious, terrifying, enveloped in a murderous aura so intense as to make even the Arcobaleno shudder, echoed in the hall. There was the most impervious storm in his aura, and silence fell again.

Luce was grateful to him, caressing her hand so that he could recall his flames -escaped in the form of a murderous aura that had been able to instill fear in the most famous mafia Bosses of their time- and at least partly trying to dissolve the tension that had come to create. She didn't want to inspire fear in her guests, not when it didn't seem necessary.

«I know that many of you will have many questions, you will be confused by my words, but please listen to what I have to say.» she turned to the young man by her side, resting a hand on his chest and catching a breath -no, not yet, it was not enough, she had to resist. «He is Arashi, a trusted subordinate of mine, a person in whom I place my utmost trust. It is thanks to him that we are here today, because of the sensational discovery he was able to make.»

Arashi took a step forward, supporting Luce by the shoulders and making sure she was fine, that the forces still supported her, and only when he was sure of her condition he turned to the crowd.

Reborn didn't like how those two were close, he didn't like to see the physical contact between them, the unconditional trust that Luce had in that boy that even he -he couldn't really believe- didn't know it existed. But he didn't say anything and listened, confident that whatever the reason why the Arcobaleno Boss had kept silent about the mysterious stranger, surely had a valid reason for the base.

«I found a way to break the Arcobaleno curse.»

And again, it was chaos.

Arashi really hated being interrupted. Mentally thanked Luce for preventing him from presenting himself armed to that meeting, because if he had had some of his sticks of dynamite on hand, the entire mansion would become a bomb.

There were always rings, however, from those never separated.

I can always lend you my power, it is particularly effective on fools.

He thought of Mukuro's proposal, he did it seriously, instead he just screamed, raised his voice as only Ryohei could do.

And in the end he managed to get everyone's attention.

«Looks like the party is here.»

The entry of the Vindice was equally chaotic. At the sight of Bermuda and his men, many lost their temper, dominated by the panic of having the most ruthless jailers of the underworld right in front of their eyes, but Arashi didn't become intimidated.

They had already beaten them once, and although the Tenth was the one to do so the other time, he was quite confident that he could come out victorious from a confrontation with the Vindice.

Tze, you overestimate yourself a little too much, herbivore.

As if he didn't think the same.

They made their way along the room until Arashi found them one inch from his nose, and stood still studying them suspiciously, bringing Luce behind him as if to hide it from the very presence of Bermuda and Jager.

«I'm here, brat, as promised.» The child addressed him, without moving from his position on the shoulder of his right-hand man.

Arashi nodded. «I'm pleased. You won't regret listening to me, Bermuda.»

An angry breath left the lips of the head Vindice. «It will be better for you, brat. Otherwise my prison will be the last thing you'll see for the rest of your life.»

«One more reason for my plan to work then, I'm not going to spend eternity staring at the ugly face of you Vindice.»

If he were alone, Jager would probably have beaten him, but it seemed that the spontaneity with which he allowed himself to speak at the smallest of the jailers left Bermuda amused.

Arashi couldn't see his face, but he was sure Bermuda was grinning. «Where is the buffet then? I'm starving.»

The entry of Kawahira instead was more difficult to control. The hatred of Bermuda and the Arcobaleno for that man was cool and pulsating, it was hard to force them to listen to his plan rather than jump to Checker Face's throat, but somehow he did it. Perhaps -and only perhaps- he had recalled the Flames of the Rain to quiet the spirits. And maybe -but always and only by hypothesis- under the mask, the eyes were dyed brown.

He felt Kawahira's gaze on him as long as he illustrated how, with the help of Talbot and the Night Flames of the Vindice, they could hold the power of pacifiers without sacrificing the lives of currents Arcobaleno, and without the need to create new ones, but he pretended not to notice. That fool -past, present or future- made him uneasy.

«After this you will release the curse on the seven present here and Lal Mirch, definitively closing the cycle of human sacrifice without affecting the balance of the world.»

To everyone's ears it seemed a reasonable and well-studied plan, which needed only powerful Flames to be put in place -this explained then the gathering of so many important figures in the mafia world. However, Kawahira seemed more interested in the boy himself than in what he had to say.

«You have a strange aura, kid. As if there were more within you... six, no, seven burning and active Flames.» For a moment, Arashi flickered.

Checker Face smiled, winking in his direction and accepting the compromise that had been explained to him.

The ceremony was longer than they remembered -they didn't remember using so much energy the first time, but maybe it depended on the power of the Flames- but thanking the Gods and the good star of the Arcobaleno, everything seemed to go right.

Finally the curse was dissolved and the Arcobaleno cycle interrupted. Everything was fine, a perfect happy ending.

«Wait a moment! If the curse is broken, explain to me why I'm still a suckling toddler!» Skull protested, raising his dried-up helmet and stamping his foot hard. «And why did Lal was the only one to come back as before?»

Of all the cursed, excluding Luce, Lal Mirch was the only one to have regained an adult appearance.

Kawahira fanned his face with the fan he always held up his sleeve, snickering annoyingly. «The curse is broken, Skull-kun, you can be sure of that.»

Arashi flanked Luce to make sure she was okay, while supporting the words of Checker Face.

«Don't worry, you should start growing shortly. Time a few years and you will be back to your original age. Lal Mirch immediately returned to her original age since she wasnìt a complete Arcobaleno, while for you, Luce-sama... Luce-sama!»

Luce had collapsed to the ground on her knees, suddenly becoming weak and unable to sustain her own weight for a long time. She cried, her cupped hands covered her mouth, while her little Cosmo -where he had been up to that moment, Arashi didn't know- ran to her, settling on his mistress's lap and looking at her worriedly.

«I... I can l-live... I can be with my sweet Aria... I... I'm alive.» she didn't believe it, she couldn't.

Arashi smiled, clasping her shoulder and reassuring her that she no longer had to worry, that she could now smile beside her daughter without fear. It could be a mother laughing at her child's side.

Prey to strong tremors, sobbing, Luce took in her hands those large and strong of Arashi, staring into his face, over the mask that at the others could hide everything, but through which Luce could see the green eyes that had given her hope.

«Thanks... thanks... thanks!»

Arashi didn't dare to interrupt her. He simply smiled at her, while the Flames were bursting brightly under his skin, enthusiastic, happy. His companions were in turmoil.

«You're an interesting guy, Arashi-kun.» Kawahira approached him just before he left, continuing to hide part of his face behind his fan. «Seven Flames in one body, I really can't understand you.»

Arashi doesn't answer, clasping Luce's hands and watching the movements of Checker Face, cautious and ready to react to any attack that he is premeditating.

Finally, Kawahira smiled, closing the fan and pointing it directly at him «You have my attention, I want to see what wonders you will bring to this world! We'll see each other for sure, see you soon Arashi-kun.» And in a cloud of smoke vanished.

Sighing, Arashi prayed that their next meeting was not so soon.


 

***


 

It took all the authority of Luce and the strength of her men to remove the mafia Families from villa Giglio Nero, all anxious to know the man who had defeated the curse of the Arcobaleno.

The children themselves had tried to approach him, but relying on all the strengths that had remained in her body, Luce had forcibly rejected all their attempts to get in touch with hers -or what everyone believed to be- subordinate, removing him from the hall the instant in which the legs had been able to support her.

Hayato glanced furtively at the woman behind him, who seemed to have a lot of fun cutting his hair with a pair of scissors. At each fallen log, even a piece of Hayato's soul rested on the floor with them.

Come on Hayato-san, is for a good reason.

While the cheerful Flames of the other bastards shone with joy, probably enjoying the apparent agony that a haircut meant for Hayato, Chrome was the only one who seemed to understand how he felt.

And he knew it, he knew that it was essential to erase all traces of Arashi as long as they were still looking for him, yet it was no less difficult to separate from a part of him that accompanied him from middle school. Furthermore, Decimo liked his hair -he had told him once, and since then Hayato had always taken care of it with dedication- and he never wanted to part with it.

Cosmo stared at him from above a piece of furniture, his mouth full of acorns.

«Here, the cut is over. Are you sure you want blonde, Hayato? Wouldn't you want a color a bit more original? Maybe red, it would be good on you!»

He tried to imagine himself with red hair, the same intense color of his Storm Flames, his main element.

You would be the spitting copy of G.

The face of the first Storm Guardian peeked into his mind as soon as Lambo had named him, and discarded that color instantly. He didn't want to look like that asshole even by accident.

«I refuse categorically!»

Luce laughed, aware that Hayato was again talking to the Guardians in his mind, and that someone must have reminded him of something about dye his hair red.

«And so blond will be.»

It was strange to feel the hands of Luce in his hair -until now he had only allowed the Tenth to even cut them off- but pleasant. It was relaxing, feeling the brush with the fresh tint resting on the skin, while the woman's fingers massaged to ensure that the color adhered fully to the hair.

A final rinse under the water, the final touch-ups with the scissors and finally the drying: once done everything Hayato admired the new himself with horror, through the image in the mirror.

Kfufufu, you look like Bronco.

An angry sound came from his lips, while bitterness noted that Mukuro was right.

«Creep, I really look like Cavallone in the period when we were facing the battle of the representatives.»

It would take years to recognize his own image in the mirror -no, probably he would never really get used to those hair- but, he admitted bitterly, it could work. No one would have ever seen in him Gokudera Hayato, what would become the right-hand man of the future Decimo Vongola.

Your face irritates me, I want to bite you to death.

«Tze, as if you could do it, where you are.»

Luce looked at him, wondering what the problem was. In her opinion -and not only because she felt she had done a great job- in that new blonde look he was really good. She had also suggested using colored contact lenses, but Hayato had said that it was all right, in case of need he would have thought himself to hide his eyes from those who could sense something.

«Any problem, Hayato-kun?»

«Nobody in particular, Luce-sama, you were very kind to help me in... this.»

Luce smiled at him, minimizing what she thought was not a gesture for which to be grateful. «I didn't do anything, really.»

They remained in silence, staring at each other, while Luce's lips were bending downward, and the sweet and gentle mother of the Giglio Nero assumed the appropriate attitude to the position she covered: a real mafia Boss.

«What are you going to do then, Hayato-kun?»

She knew that the person dear to the young man and the companions who had found abode in him was not yet born -they had talked a lot in the past few days, and in the weeks that Hayato had passed under the roof of the Giglio Nero Family she had been enough to understand what kind in person he was- and wanted to know how they intended to proceed. She had a proposal, a proposal she hoped he would accept.

Amorously, Hayato realized that they hadn't thought of a true plan of action since they had arrived, occupied with other tasks that -at least at first- seemed to take precedence.

During the first week he had given time to his exhausted body to get back on track with the help of Luce's power, while the memories re-emerged one by one thanks to the annoying presences directly in contact with his brain. Then it was the turn of the ceremony, which needed more attention than they remembered, especially in contacting the Vindice and Checker Face.

Two days before the ceremony, Hayato still didn't know how to behave, and the other six uncomfortable presences in his head were certainly not helpful -as always, he add.

Maa maa, we will think up something.

«Not everything can be improvised, you dumbass.» He focused on Luce, serious. «We don't have a precise goal, we thought of traveling, trying to help some old... knowledge. It could also be a good way to get to know this world and its differences.»

It seemed like a good plan -the best they could think of in those few days of tranquility- and offered them multiple possibilities for action on several fronts.

For some reason, Luce seemed relieved to hear his answer: «Do you remember the day I came to you? When you discovered that I didn't have much left to live, I had come to you to make you a proposal. Well, would you like to listen to me now?»

Hayato simply nodded, waiting.

Taking a deep breath, flooding the lungs of air for fear of being suddenly breathless, the Giglio Nero Boss finally spoke.

«How about entering the Giglio Nero Family? I want you as my Guardian, Hayato-kun.»

Petrified, weighing the words that had just been addressed to him, Hayato didn't answer, too surprised -shocked was the exact word- to be able to even think of a meaningful sentence with which to reply to the woman in front of him.

«Listen, I know that there is only one Boss and one family for you all.» she add. «After all I've seen in those weeks, I could never even think of being able to take the place of what you've lost.»

Extending a hand to touch his cheek, the woman forced their eyes to meet, looking straight at the face not only Hayato, but also all those who hid behind those green eyes.

«But Hayato, in this world you can't harmonize yourself to your Boss, not when there are others ready to stand by his side. But you also need a Sky, and we are compatible, I am sure you have also perceived it.» She moistened her lips, nervous. «I know I'm not what you expected to find, but if you can accept me as you Sky I would be extremely happy.»

The idea of having a Sky that wasn't their own frightened them -Luce could read inside them like a book that she knew by heart every page- but she also saw the suffering and the pain of loneliness that slowly devoured them from the inside, and that without a support it would have destroyed them when their Boss couldn't be harmonize to them.

They needed to be welcomed under a new Sky, and if she could help them with so little, after all they had done for her, she was ready to become anything to support them. However, it wouldn't have been enough to repay the debt she owed to them.

Hayato hesitated. Luce didn't speak only with him, she was addressing all of them, as if she knew what they were hiding, of the need to belong to something they had lost forever.

The harmonization between Flames was a powerful thing, an inseparable bond that bound Sky and its Elements for an infinite time. The moment he failed, torn from any cause that was natural or not, the only way you could survive the pain was to create a new bond.

A Sky to which its Elements were lacking perished in its own emptiness. The Elements that had lost their Sky continued to exist, but lacked the completeness that only harmony could confer to them.

They had never thought about that possibility. In many aspects, it was a convenient solution for both parties.

They would have regained a Sky and the stability of the Elements, while Luce could have used their Flames to accelerate the healing process.

Again harmonized to a Sky. Sounds good.

Tze, no matter who or what, one day I will bite the Sky to death.

Kfufufu interesting evolution, I'm curious to see how it will go on.

Yosh! Again on the extreme!

Again complete we will be more helpful to Bossu.

Maa maa go ahead with Gok ... Hayato.

«Tze, you're really noisy.» He grinned.

Kneeling, taking the woman's hand and stamping a chaste kiss on the palm, Hayato let his Storm Flames materialize along his arm, gliding impetuously towards the hand of Luce, seeking contact with the orange flames of the woman.

And Luce gave them to him.

Orange and red mingled in a graceful and sweet dance, accepting each other, a sign of compatibility that Hayato didn't believe would have ever found in anyone other than the Tenth. It was pleasant, despite everything.

«I swear to serve you and protect you from here until the end of my days, I will be the typhoon that blows impetuously, the fulcrum of the offensive. The relentless storm that will wipe out every Boss's enemy without mercy. I am at your orders, Luce-sama.»

And the Flames within him stirred furiously.

Chapter Text

Having accepted Luce's proposal, a new life had begun for Hayato under the Giglio Nero seal.

It had been strange at first -in his head and in his heart the emblem of Vongola Family would always have a special, indelible place- but adapting was simple.

The other men were kind, they had accepted him with a smile, welcoming him in that big warm family as if he had always been a part of it. It was pleasant, to feel that warmth in the chest.

He had promised himself to carry out any task his new Sky had decided to entrust him -always to the extreme, with impeccable efficiency, smiling in front of adversity, as they would for Decimo- and to support the new comrades as they would have done in the past.

Perhaps not at the same level of affection that bound them to Vongola, -a unique, special bond that could never be broken- but after six months spent with them, fighting for the same Sky, he could almost consider himself part of the great family that were Giglio Nero.

He was ready for anything.

What awaited Hayato that day -when Luce had urgently called him to her office to discuss a delicate question- took him totally off guard.

«Can you please repeat, Luce-sama?» he gasped, as the air struggled to reach his lungs.

He must have misunderstood, he had certainly misunderstood.

«I would like to entrust you with the Mare Rings, all of them except the one from Sky.»

Luce put a snow-white box in his hands, the coat-of-arms of the Giglio Nero silkscreened in gold over the case, then leaning against the edge of the desk with her arms folded, waiting for the Guardian to open it.

Of all he could expect -every kind of mission, from murder to espionage, he was ready for anything- that was completely unexpected.

Hayato asked himself more than once what had happened to the treasure guarded by Giglio Nero, but it had been only a thought, an idea, set aside in the same instant in which it was born. He never expected to have them in his hands, locked up in their box, let alone receive them.

Taking a deep breath, almost frightened by what was hidden inside the white case, Hayato finally opened it.

They were beautiful, just as he remembered them. He could perceive their enormous power even so, without wearing them or touching them: in his hands, the Mare Rings of the Giglio Nero family shone with enthusiasm.

Taking the Storm Ring, the will of the ring was able to wrap it in a whirlwind of conflicting emotions, which if not ready to receive would certainly overwhelm him. What a scary power.

Turn it over between his fingers, Hayato studied every little detail -he had never been so close to one of those rings before- from the purity of the central stone to the detail of the feathers carved one by one on the wings that decorated the ring. They were beautiful.

Never like the Vongola Ring though.

«This is undoubted, stupid cow.» He looked at Luce with confusion. «I don't understand, why right now? And why give them all to me? Should not they be divided between your Guardians, Luce-sama?»

Rubbing the stone of her ring -feels strange, feeling it again on her finger after a long time- Luce took a few minutes to think, looking for the best words to explain to Hayato the reasons that led her to make that decision.

«I had to be ready, we both had to be.» She took a deep breath.

What Luce was about to explain -the long discourse that she had felt for weeks in the solitude of her rooms in anticipation of that moment- was of utmost importance, she shouldn't leave out anything.

By the time Hayato had become her Guardian, she had been aware that the moment would soon arrive -if Luce could have delayed it again, she wouldn't hesitate to do so, all to keep him away from that dangerous responsibility for a while- months were needed completing the preparations, sending everything to the air was no longer possible.

«You know, Mare Rings were the treasure of my family since the First Generation. My ancestor, Sepira, wrote that these rings conceal a prodigious power, linked to two other sets of objects with which it keeps the Flames of the world in balance.»

Hayato knew -he could never forget it- but he still let the Boss talk to him, showing that she put more trust in him than he deserved.

Luce wandered the desk gracefully and looked out the window, looking at the immense blue sky that enveloped the world in his embrace. A clear sky, a beautiful sunny day.

«The Mare Rings are powerful, and as much as I place maximum trust in my men, I also know that none of them is really able to control their power.» She approached a drawer, pulling out a second white case, identical to the one Hayato clutched in his hands: «These will be the official Mare Rings that I will personally hand over to my other Guardians. They are copies, the best we could ever create, everyone will believe they are the real ones.»

Opening the box, seven copy rings were spread on a red velvet sheet, identical to those that Hayato held in his hands at the same time.

«Recently, there have been... attacks. Many users of the Flames have disappeared, as many rings have been stolen. I imagine you know the delicate situation we are going to meet, especially with regard Families who don't possess men who can transform their will into energy. I can't risk losing these rings, nor risk that my other Guardians, unable to sustain their power, being devoured by their own Flames.»

The power of those rings was infinite, only a few people were able to control them, and for what concerned currents Giglio Nero members, only Hayato was able to. In truth Luce would have liked to tie herself to each Flames that flowed in the young man's veins, but Hayato had firmly opposed to this decision: binding herself to a single Guardian was risky, especially because he could not guarantee a constant presence alongside the Boss.

By linking herself to different people, Luce could have the certainty of always having some of the Guardians ready to protect her, and not being able to contradict Hayato's reasoning, in the end it was Luce who gave up.

Even Gennaro then, one of her most trusted men, had become a Guardian: of the whole Giglio Nero family, his were the purest Lightning Flames in absolute -not as much as those of Lambo, but they were still remarkable.

Hayato had felt a nostalgic sensation in perceiving them -when Luce was bound to Gennaro, he could feel the bond created under his own skin- as if he had already met him somewhere else. Where, however, he didn't remember it.

Wearing his own ring, he closed the box with the remaining Mare Ring and put it in the inside pocket of the jacket -just there, near the heart- carrying a hand to his chest and bowing in front of his Boss.

«I understand your reasons and accept the assignment, Luce-sama. I will protect the rings at the cost of my life.»

Luce smiled.«Thank you, Hayato-kun. Remember that only three people know about this decision: you, me and the ring builder, so I would ask you to be cautious. Feel free to use them if you deem it necessary, but try to do it with discretion.»

«As you wish, Luce-sama, thank you for the trust you place in us.»

Kfufufufu, it seems we will have rings again, fantastic.

«That doesn't mean you can go messing around, pineapple head!»

Having powerful rings again, however, would certainly have helped them. From their world, they couldn't bring their Vongola Gear -they were still the Vongola Ring, having a second set would irreversibly shattered the balance of this world- what they could bring with them were their ordinary weapons, their skills, and their knowledge on the future..

The most painful part had been the one that had seen them forced to abandon their Vongola Boxes -all except one, but they still couldn't use it- a sacrifice which, however, had become necessary so as not to arouse too many suspicions in the future about their identity. Furthermore, being able to travel in time with an animal essentially made of Flames was dangerous, as the energy released by the Box risked distorting the balance of the trip itself, with the possibility of making them lose in the time tunnel without being able to get out.

The only reason they had managed to bring one of the boxes was thanks to Verde - the one from their world - starting from Mammon's chains, he had managed to create one that would seal the weapon long enough to allow him to make the journey without hitches: the only negative was that the seal seemed to last longer than expected.

Luce smiled, looking back from the window, where she had a perfect view of the entrance to the villa. The noise of a car preceded his arrival, but the Giglio Nero Boss was already smiling, brighter than anything she had ever done before.

«There's another mission I'd like to trust, Hayato-kun.» Hayato stretched out his ears, concentrating.«Do you remember that we talked about the disappearances and thefts?»

Mechanically nodded. It was a month now that they had been going on, since the Dying Will Bullet had officially made its first appearance -ahead of what they had expected- and since the power of the Flames had become even more indispensable than it had been before.

Many minor Families -envious of the power that they could never had- had begun to kidnap children in whom the potential of the Flames resided, also stealing as many rings on which they could get their hands.

Like those who... Mukuro-sama...

«Don't even think of them!»

He had screamed, and Luce was startled in surprise. Without even really naming them, his right eye had begun to burn -he could feel it, that damned power- and only thanks to the power granted by the Storm Mare Ring had managed to repel the violent Mist Flames that threatened to swallow it. Great, those rings were more useful than he thought.

«H-Hayato-kun..?»

«It's nothing Luce-sama... old wounds from the past never healed.» Luce understood and didn't ask for anything.

I'll take care of it, Hayato. Try to resist.

Feeling the Rain Flames dancing in the body was a breath of fresh air, and finally he was able to breathe again regularly. Again, he didn't thank the baseball freak for his help.

«What mission is it, Luce-sama?»

Luce wanted to ask him more, to know if he was okay, if all of them were okay, but repressed that instinct and she kept talking. When they were ready, she hoped they would tell her every ghost of their past without asking anything. «Now that everyone knows of my connection with the Arcobaleno, of the purity of my Flames, I'm afraid they could target my loved ones to get to me, or worse, to my Aria.»

She turned to look him in the eye. In Boss's blue mirrors Hayato read all the determination and fear that enveloped her pure heart. She was trembling, but she didn't look down.

«She is only ten, and despite this she possesses Sky Flames pure and very powerful, perhaps more than mine. She could be targeted, and I don't want anything to happen to her. I... wish you were her bodyguard, Hayato-kun.»

Opening his eyes, disoriented, Hayato was unable to answer.

«From today she come and live here with me, she should have just arrived. I ask you to be her shadow, to keep an eye on her when she is out, to accompany her to school and wherever she wants to go, to be for her the support you have been for me. I could not ask anyone else, except you.»

Hayato thought about it seriously. He had never been brought to the children -he hardly put up with the stupid cow now that he was a teenager- but if Aria had been similar to Yuni, he could somehow get away with it. Moreover, he could not deny help to Luce, who seemed to place an unconditional trust in him. Somehow reminded him of Decimo, it was impossible to say no.

«If you hold me in charge, Luce-sama, I will do everything in my power to protect your daughter and grant her maximum security.»

Luce smiled. A tear glistened in her light blue eyes. «Thank you very much, Hayato-kun.»

 

***

 

With only a close door to separate her from a life with Aria, Luce stared insistently at the golden knob, almost expecting that it was struck by her looks, alone, without necessarily having to find the courage to do it herself.

She looked terrified, excited, happy and anxious at the same time. A well-readable mix on her face, unable to maintain the same expression for long enough to give it a definite name: the result, in the end, was just a mix of ridiculous and meaningless grimaces.

Hayato found it funny. «Are you ok, Luce-sama?»

Sun and Lightning Flames were stirring with the laughter of Ryohei and Lambo, who commented on the mood of the Boss every time a new expression appeared in her face.

This woman is extremely funny!

«And you're extremely stupid.» Hayato added in a sigh, while Luce turned to him with tears in her eyes and swollen cheeks, the same face of an innocent child.

«And... And if she hated me? I haven't seen her since she was born, I did not think I would have seen her again! Instead... now we can live together, and the curse is gone... what should I do, Hayato-kun? How should I introduce myself to her after all this time?»

While she was shaking him hard on his shirt collar, Hayato really didn't know how to answer. He had never had a mother -not when he had finally been aware of the truth- and regarding the relationship with his father... well, he preferred not to remember it.

He understood the anxiety of Luce, but didn't know how to behave.

Maa maa, let me talk to her, Hayato.

As much as he hated leaving his body's command to someone else -he always end up hiring everyone's bizarre behavior for several minutes once he returned to the command- he had to admit that there was no more suitable person than Takeshi to handle the situation -perhaps Chrome, but he was not sure he could handle the Mist Flames without adequate preparation.

Nodding, Hayato finally closed his eyes and let the Rain took possession of him. When he opened them, the green of his eyes had changed.

«Maa maa, now try to calm you down, Luce-san!»

Startled by the sudden change in tone and manner of her subordinate, Luce looked up, and all the panic and the anxiety she felt seemed to vanish in an instant. The green gave to Hayato, but even the color of the chocolate was not bad at all.

«Brava, now breathe with me, let the worries slip away.»

He had grabbed her face in his hands, letting their foreheads touch themselves gently, closing his eyes first and inviting her to do the same. After a moment's hesitation, Luce obeyed.

It was pleasant and refreshing, feeling the Rain Flames wash away all her worries and calm her crazed heart, she finally felt reborn. She wanted to release her Flames, make them dance with the Rain and chained her the second of the spirits that resided in the young man, but it would not have been right and Luce would not have forced them to do anything they didn't want. She couldn't lose their trust.

«Just relax. Let anxiety give way to happiness, don't think of anything that is not your daughter. She is finally here Luce-san, and you can be together forever. What else is important?»

Nothing. With a final sigh, she chased every trace of anxiety and uncertainty.

Luce thanked Hayato -which wasn't Hayato- and he gave her one last big smile -a smile so bright and energetic that warmed her heart- before his eyes went back to dyeing green.

«Everything is alright, Luce-sama?»

Only with that sentence, Luce understood that it was him again, the usual Hayato, the kind but impetuous boy like a fierce storm that she had saved months before.

«Yes, thanks to you all.»

The young man smiled at seeing her turn back to the door, ready to face the first real meeting with her daughter after ten years of separation, no more anxiety or doubt to upset her soul.

Not deny it, Takashi was good at restoring security to those who lost their calm.

Tze, stupid herbivore's tricks.

«Sew your mouth Skylark, not everyone likes to be asocial like you.»

He exchanged a last glance with Luce, giving her all the support he was capable of and that she seemed to appreciate. Finally -not without sighing again- she opened the door and took the first step.

 

***

 

It seemed they had never separated.

Despite the years that had forced them to take different paths to protect each other, Luce and Aria spoke quietly of their past days, meetings and whatever they had lost in the time they had been separated.

Sitting on the bed, close to each other in a hug that smelled of love, it seemed like time had stopped, and that there was nobody else in the room but them.

Hayato wanted to leave them alone to recover the lost time, but just when he was about to take the exit, Luce called him back, asking him to get closer.

Looking carefully at the Boss's daughter, Hayato realized that she was the most different of the Family's women he had had the pleasure of meeting. Her hair was longer and more rebel -intertwined on both sides and tied behind the head- the opposite of the ordered helmet of Luce and Yuni, sharp blue eyes with a determined look, more proud and less sweet than that of her mother and daughter. The color and the light that lit them, however -he said with a smile on the lips- were the same.

«Aria, he is...»

«Arashi-san!» Was what the girl answered in perfect Japanese, embracing the boy who, having heard the name with he had been called, was paralyzed.« The boy who saved you, mother!»

Hayato was motionless. She knew, that little girl had understood everything even if Luce -or at least this he believed- had not told her anything. He looked at the Boss, looking for an explanation of the confusion that crowded in his head. Luce raised her hands, declaring herself innocent and smiling amused.

«I don't said anything, she saw everything in her visions.» Finally clarified.

Now Hayato was more confused than before. «Visions? Does that mean... you can see the future, too?»

Until then, he and everyone else -it was useless they pretend otherwise, he know the truth- had always been convinced that the ability to scan over time depended on the Arcobaleno curse that fell on the head of their Boss. Evidently they were wrong.

«The power to see the future doesn't depend on the curse, it is a gift from our ancestors. It has been handed down from generation to generation, from mother to daughter, we can say that it is a distinctive trait of us Boss Giglio Nero, a bit like Vongola Hyper Intuition.»

Nodding, Hayato looked at the little girl who still held him in her arms, uncertain about how to react, opting for the solution that seemed simpler to him: remained immobile.

Yare yare, you do not know what to do with kids, Bakadera.

And whose fault? But he didn't express that concept aloud and let it run.

Luce stood up from the bed elegantly, approaching her daughter and lovingly taking her by the shoulders, bending over so that she could speak to her directly.

«Aria, he is Hayato-kun, my Storm Guardian.» she explained lovingly. Aria remained silent, waiting for her mother to continue. «And from today he will also be your bodyguard. When you want to go out, wherever you want to go, you'll always have to ask Hayato-kun first, understand?»

The girl nodded energetically, waving the white cape that rested on her shoulders, combined with the black dress she had carefully chosen for the occasion, to present herself at her best in front of her mother. She had decided not to wear the Giglio Nero ceremonial dress, wanting to show herself in front of Luce simply as a daughter, not as the heir of the Family. For that there was time.

Aria didn't ask questions about Arashi -she couldn't, reading the boy's discomfort even without declaring it openly- nor did she wonder why he was hiding under a hint of blond hair, but she hoped that one day -when she had been bigger, more mature, when Hayato would have looked at her with the same confidence with he looked at Luce- he would have shared his secrets with her too.

«I am happy to meet you, Hayato-san!» she smiled, bowing elegantly, raising the corners of her cloak and bowing her head.

«Please, Aria-sama, I don't deserve so many formalities. You can talk to me quietly in Italian, I know it very well and just call me Hayato, please.»

The girl laughed, nodding. «Okay, in this case I would be happy if you call me only Aria!» Lying his lips, Hayato wanted to decline the offer -so much confidence with the daughter of their savior? He would never have dared- but looking at the expectant eyes with which Aria was waiting for an answer, he didn't have the courage to refuse it.

He knew those eyes. Long ago they were the same eyes with which Decimo had asked him to call him by name, breaking away from all those formalities that the title of Boss forced him to wear, suffocating him.

At the time, only Hayato had not been able to granting that request -he couldn't, even if it was Decimo himself to ask- and seeing how the gaze of his Sky had suddenly died out, probably resigned, the heart had stopped beating him for an interminable instant.

He had disappointed the Boss once -a shame that he would never be forgiven until his actual death- he wouldn't have made the same mistake with the young Giglio Nero heir.

Kfufufufu only you can make such a stupid thing a case of life or death.

«Nobody asked your opinion, asshole.» He snarled through clenched teeth, ignoring Aria's confused gaze and the soft laughter of Luce. He returned to focus on the girl, nodding a small smile.«Then... Aria-san can fit? It will be an honor for me to work by your side.»

He can't drop the honorifics, but still it's a beginning.

«For me too! We do our best to have fun together!» she answered radiantly, reaching for Hayato and waiting for him to hold on to her. With a smile, he squeezed the girl's hand in his own -it was small and hot, almost lost in his big calloused and ruined hands- placing a light kiss on her back as he had done when he was tied to Luce.

«Now I leave you alone, so you can get to know each other better.» Luce approached the door, humming, turning one last time to her daughter and her Guardian.«Take your time Hayato-kun, you will find me in my office if you need. I have an important meeting to attend, so I'm a bit in a hurry.» With these words she left the room, closing the door behind her gently.

Hayato inclined his head, thoughtfully. He didn't remember there was a meeting on the diary, he had not even heard anything from Gennaro, who was in fact Luce's right hand, organizer of all appointments and events that the Boss had to attend. How strange.

«Ehm... Hayato.» He turned his gaze to Aria, who looked at him intently. «I know it's just the first day, I would not bother you too much, but you could come with me to buy something, tomorrow after school?»

«Of course, just ask Aria-san. It will be a pleasure for me to accompany you.»

The girl's smile grew brighter.«Thanks!» She ran to the bed, sitting down and inviting the young man to do the same. «Let's talk a bit, come on!»

Hayato sighed. He didn't know exactly how to deal with children -more than once he had thought of leaving Chrome the responsibility of approaching Aria- but that little girl was not so bad. He could even do it at the end.

Yosh! Babysitter at the extreme!

He growled. If he could bear two brats like Lambo and Ryohei, always awake in his mind and ready to make him lose control, anything else was easy.

 

***

 

Luce was filling out some paperwork when a presence in her office distracted her, and all that she heard later was a pleasant warmth, as if a living sun had just run into the room, dyeing yellow everything around her.

A smile pursed her lips. She put her pen down and stretched her arms tightly, feeling the urgent need to pause and detach herself from all the boring office work she would never have believed she had to do once taken over the family. Her mother had not prepared enough for this.

"He arrived just in time." She weighed, supporting her chin with one hand, fiddling with a lock of hair between the fingers.

«What can I do for you, Mr. "World Greatest Hitman"?»

Reborn appeared before her suddenly, without Luce could really understand where he had come from -she never understood it, he was definitely too good- dressed in his classic black suit, the fedora always present and dropped on the eyes.

«You can always figure out when I'm around.»

Luce smiled. «Yeah, your Flames are a pleasant warning every time. Nevertheless I never know where you'll come from, you're really too good at hiding.» She rose from her chair, inviting the child to take a seat and wait. She approached the coffee machine and in a few minutes a steaming cup was ready in her hands.

«It won't be like my usual espresso, but at the moment it's all I can offer you.»

«An espresso is always welcome, thanks.»

Reborn took the cup in his hands and waited, not taking his eyes off the figure of Luce, who came back to sit behind the desk. Now they were facing each other -one of the many times they had gathered together in that office, to discuss everything as good friends- immersed in a silence that hid dangerous words, neither of which was ready to face the meaning.

It was Luce to break the stillness. «I see you've grown, you're taller.»

«Yeah, even if I hoped that the growth was immediate. Six months have already passed since that day.»

Six months since the curse was broken. Six months since Hayato had become part of her daily life. She stretched out his lips and nodded, lost in thoughts that she couldn't share with anyone, not even with Reborn -especially with Reborn.

«About that time, did you know anything about that person? What was his name? Arashi. I think?»

Luce frowned at him, puffing out her cheeks like a child who was denied a candy.«Do not treat me like a fool, Reborn. You won't know anything about him, do you think I'm not aware of your constant and desperate search to find Arashi?»

Raising his hands, surrendering before Luce's acumen, the young hitman apologized for the impertinence.

«You can't blame me, Luce. It's the person who saved us, it's normal that I wants to know more, and not just me.»

Yes, she was aware of all the Arcobaleno's desire to be able to talk to the mysterious young man who had broken the curse, but had rejected each of them firmly, without letting the slightest information escape. Not even Reborn would have said anything.

«So they thought to send you to sweeten me, hoping for some positive result?»

Reborn shrugged, taking another sip and savoring the aroma of hot coffee sliding down his throat. Not bad. «What can I do? The fame of my charm precedes me.»

«Yeah, your sideburns make you really charming, almost irresistible.» Luce commented, her mind back years ago, when they know only their names.« But this time it won't work either. I promised Reborn.»

The hitman sighed, finishing the coffee and placing the cup on the desk. He understood the reasons of Luce and accepted them, but he could not stop the annoyance that grew in his stomach at the thought that she was hiding something from him. Luce had never done it, and this silence -on a subject that touched him very close- disturbed Reborn more than what he let see.

«Rather...» Luce resumed the word, diverging on another topic that seemed equally important.«Are you here just to ask me about Arashi or there are any other reasons behind your visit?»

Reborn was silent, staring out the window at the back of Luce, the black fedora lowered over his eyes.«No other reason, just to see you and talk a bit with an... old friend

Luce didn't look happy with the name she had addressed to her.«Ah, now I'm just an old friend?» she asked rhetorically, trying to disguise her displeasure and irritation.

«Luce... you know I didn't mean-»

«I know.» cut it short, letting out a sigh between her thin lips.«I just think she'd love to meet you... she deserves to know, Reborn.»

The hitman sighed, bringing the big black eyes to collide with the blue ones of Luce. Even if they were still those of a child, Luce saw beyond appearance, clashing with those of the man she had learned to know almost twenty-five years earlier, during the first meeting that had seen the new Arcobaleno gather for the first time. They were the serious eyes of an adult who always knew what to do, those who had supported her in good and bad fortune, in health and in sickness, in life as well as in death that she had inevitably prepared to meet.

The eyes of the man she loved.

«And putting her even more at risk? Just the fact of being your daughter already exposes her to many dangers.» They had already made that speech -lot of times, so often that Reborn could no longer count them- and whenever Luce tried to persuade him, the fear of what might happen convinced him to desist. «What do you think would happen if they found out that she also had ties with me? With the World Greatest Hitman? She wouldn't have a single moment of peace, Luce.»

And she knew it. Luce knew that Reborn had -damned- right, but could not accept the idea that the child grew up in the darkness, never knowing the face of what was in effect hers...

«I know it's unfair to you.» Reborn interrupted the flow of her thoughts, placing one of his small hands on her own, a gesture of comfort and strength that Luce was extremely in need of.«But it's the right thing to do.»

Sighing, the Giglio Nero Boss smiled at the killer, nodding and letting herself go to the seat of the armchair, tired, exhausted. «You're right, as always.»

In their world there was no place for the perfect happy family she would have liked, not when she was at the head of a great Family and the man with whom she wanted to build a life belonged to an equally large and powerful clan. Vongola Nono probably wouldn't have agreed to lose his most trustworthy man so easily, which represented an obstacle to the next issue that Luce wanted to bring to the killer's attention.

«Reborn... there's another issue I wanted talk to you, now that you're here. It's a bit sudden, it will certainly take some time and some negotiation, but I'm not going to give up, not about that.»

And just looking at the determination in Luce's eyes, bright with those rare Flames that embraced the Elements as if they were part of the same, Reborn realized that whatever she had in mind, Luce would have completed it to the end.

No one would have stopped her, not this time.

 

***

 

Hayato twisted his mouth in an indefinite grimace, while calmly followed Aria few meters back, crossing the gates of the Sparvieri Institute and trying to ignore the laughter of the children all around. He hated the brats, it was stronger than him.

Hayato-san, it's only the first day. If it gets too hard you can always trade with one of us.

«As if I could trust to leave Aria-san in the hands of Mukuro, Kyoya or the two idiots. Three, considering the baseball maniac. And forget that I allows a girl to own my body!!»

Fuck it, even if it was true that the body belonged to all seven now, until he had his appearance -blond or not- he would keep the control. Who knows what they could do if he left them free to act.

«Are you alright, Hayato?»

He hoisted his baseball bag on his right shoulder, wondering why he had to carry with him Shigure Kintoki and the tonfas, when his dynamite would be enough. Takeshi and Kyoya had not wanted to hear stories, and thanks the Gods he didn't have to carry around the disturbing trident of Mukuro and Chrome, who could materialize their weapon through illusions. For Ryohei, his fists and Garyuu's support were enough, while for Lambo Gyuudon was sufficient. He never left their Boxes anyway, none of them.

«Divinely, Aria-san. Do not worry about me.»

Sparvieri Institute was a large school complex that accepted within its walls students attending every year, from kindergarten to high school, and even organized some specialized university courses to help the students find their place in the mafia world.

It was a special school, attended only by young people who had connections with the mala, financed by every single Family of the Alliance and protected like few other places in the world. A bit like Mafialand.

Here, among the classrooms of the institute, were formed the future Bosses of the various Families, the Guardians and the Flames Users, valid researchers, scientists and, first of all, professional hitman. Hayato had attended the Institute a little during his childhood -he had escaped a few days after the first day, when he had discovered the truth about his mother- remembering little or nothing of what awaited him beyond the front door.

I do not think I am never been here. Boss preferred to send me to Japan to learn directly in the field.

«Who knows why.» frankly it was more likely that the Bovino Boss wanted to get rid of Lambo as quickly as possible, putting more miles between him and the Family.

Understandable.

He accompanied Aria inside the structure, studying every path that appeared before him, analyzing stairs and corridors, identifying every possible escape route in case of attack, but also any possible hiding spot that would allow infiltration to possible enemies.

The lobby was large and pompous, built on the basis of ancient structures, representing the power of those who had commissioned the work. From the ceiling dangled the seals of the Families of the Covenant, and with a sneer he noticed that that of the Vongola -central, as the starting point of everything- was slightly larger than all the others.

Vongolas are extremely the best!

For once, he was completely in agreement with Ryohei. They climbed two flights of stairs, and while he memorized the street and the details of the environment, Hayato noticed the walls adorned with portraits of the Bosses of the past, others depicted the most important historical events of the mafia, while others showed the faces of the most famous professional killers of all time.

Aria's class was on the third floor, middle school sector, third door on the left. His research had ensured that none of the 1-C students were, apparently, a threat to the young heir, but couldn't be fully sure.

In front of the classroom door, Aria turned and looked at him, smiling, waving her school uniform's skirt. There was something nostalgic about seeing all the students dressed in school clothes, which usually didn't happen in Italy, where the students could dress as they liked.

That reminded him of the times of Namimori, when all of them had met for the very first time, when they could still laugh and have fun beside their Sky without worrying about the future, living the present with carefree naivety. They would give everything to get those moments back, one of the reasons they were there, a single body for seven souls, ready to fight to save the one who truly deserved happiness.

«So I'm going, Hayato!»

«Yes, I'll see you during the break. If you need me, use the pager as well.»

«I'll do it for sure, later!» And she disappeared beyond the classroom door, where only the students had access, while the bodyguards had to wait outside, so as not to disturb or distract any of the students.

For the next three hours he was free, so it was worth going around the structure and installing a few microcamera, just to be quiet.

Perhaps it wasn't right in the school rules, but it wasn't necessary that the school employees knew, no?

 

***

 

Puffing down the stairs of the second floor, headed anywhere but the boring class he had been forced to attend against his own will.

Tze, as if a bunch of good-for-nothing cocks might teach him how to be the best, when it was obvious in the eyes of everyone that he was already a pro. Nobody, in that shitty school of smiles with the stench under his nose, was as good as one of his fingernail, neither the students nor the professors.

They were amused to mock him, looking him up and down because of his origins -certainly humble compared to the majority of people in there- yet he could keep everyone quiet without even committing himself. No one there was worthy of his loyalty or his respect, they could all go to fuck.

He was a prodigy, a master of the sword in spite of his age, with Flames so pure and bright to burn the eyes of anyone who stopped to look at them for too long, an elite compared to the loathsome scum walking beside him, capable only of insulting and mocking him, escaping every time he turned to look at them, his eyes narrowed in a silent threat.

Cowardly, from the first to the last.

Crossroad a professor on the ground floor, one of those annoying library rat with glasses and a bow tie -the one he hated the most, after the stupids- who looked at him with disgust and resignation. He didn't try to stop him -of course, he was a boring coward- walking towards the class he would have to attend too, but he had already decided to jump.

The vomit was coming there, in that fetid place full of scum and dung, of which he felt he was not a part. Fuck his age, and fuck the Vongola Nono who had forced him-and all the children of the Family- to go to school. He didn't need it.

«S-Squalo! W-Wait for me!»

As he walked along the corridor that separated him from the exit -an eye fixed on Tyr's picture, the Emperor of the Sword, the man he most admired in the world- Cavallone's boring voice reached him, wounding him the ears. Hell if he hated it, that good-for-nothing whiner.

«Voooi! What the hell do you want from me, moron?!»

All his classmates kept a safe distance from him -no one dared to approach Superbi Squalo, the fierce little yokel, the lousy, the humble, the scapegoat- preferring to pretend that he didn't exist rather than venture even to speak to him. Better this way, he didn't want to bind with anyone, he was certainly not there to make friends.

The only one who seemed not to fear him from the first year, who followed him like a shadow with every step he took -almost like a little dog too attached to his master- was the only heir of the Cavallone Family: Dino de Cavallone.

Dino was the smallest in their class, thin and clumsy, he always stumbled into nothingness and cried for everything, even the most stupid. Just looking at him, Squalo felt the urgent need to punch him, even less patient than he was normally.

He couldn't stand him, yet Dino seemed to be attracted to him like a magnet. Impossible to get rid of it, even when it seemed to have taken off from his feet the little worm always came back, with more tears than when he was gone, but with the same determination affected in the look.

Still without Flames, unable to stand on his own legs, Dino was the laughing stock of the entire elementary department of the Institute, the joke of anyone who was even minimally capable of doing something better than him. All of course.

He had a nice face though -he didn't know if it was true or not, he had heard some comments here and there in the hallways- and seemed to be popular with the girls. The only advantage he could have boasted about.

«I-I saw you leave the class and I followed you! Where are you going?»

Squalo growled, turning to face him with his swollen chest, his eyes narrowed and the most terrifying expression he was capable of. «Voooi! None of your business! Back in class, you piece of shit!»

Dino fell backwards with a thud, tears ready to come out and irritate Squalo more than he already was. But this time he didn't cry.

«C-Can I come with you? I don't like being in c-class if you're not there...» and while he was saying it, the tone had become increasingly low and sad, almost desperate. He was begging him not to send him away.

He sighed, scratching his short silver hair and looking at Dino, annoyed.«Do as you please, but do not bother me! Do you understand jackass, vooooi?!»

As much as he could annoy him with his mere presence, among all the scum that populated that school of shit, Dino was probably the lesser evil he had to undergo. He was the only one who, in spite of the well-off position in which he was born, didn't deride him, nor treat him like a plague. He could even bear it, sometimes.

Squalo wasn't the only one to be treated like shit in that school, but evidently Dino's father was too busy doing the Boss to notice.

«But if you cry, I swear on my name, I'll kill you with my hand!» he pressed to add, putting his hands in his pockets and continuing towards the exit, directed to the outer courtyard. Smiling, Dino followed him, sending out every trace of tears that threatened to rub his face.

As they came out of the front door, Squalo noticed something, someone he had never seen before. A strange guy, rather tall and with short blond hair, smoking a cigarette leaning against the wall, not too far from the door. On the ground, next to the right leg of the stranger, lay a blue bag, containing something that Squalo couldn't identify.

He wasn't a professor -no paperwork, no briefcase always at hand- and certainly not a student -he was too old, almost a grandfather!

He must have been the bodyguard of some spoiled child, which was enough to make Squalo find him irritating and annoying. He didn't know him, but he already hated him.

When they passed him, something strange happened. Squalo saw the man petrify when he could see their faces, looking at them with disbelief and surprise, perhaps with a little horror, too, but he was not sure. A look that still irritated him.

«Wha... How... What the hell...?!» He heard him stutter, trying to figure out whether what he was seeing was real or not.

Disgusting. There was no other way to describe that creepy disgusting worm.

What the hell did he have to watch, that nasty pervert stalker?! Had he ever seen kids going through a schoolyard?! He narrowed his eyes, threatening him with his eyes.

«Voooi! What do you have to look, old pervert?»

Squalo forcefully kicked the man's tibia -enough to make him bend on his knees- forcing him to bend over in pain. He smirked victorious.

Dino was panicking.«W-What have you done, S-Squalo?»

«You...! Ugly little...!»

Squeezing Dino's wrist firmly in his hands, Squalo made a tongue out at the stalker and ran away, putting as much distance as possible between them and that fucking pervert.

He didn't like that old bastard, more than enough reason for get away and have nothing more to do with him.

Chapter Text

*w*w*w*w*w*


 

When they had decided that time travel was a good idea to find their Sky, none of them had really taken into consideration all the consequences of that decision.

Massaging the affected part with irritation, Hayato couldn't yet believe what he had just seen, to those who had just passed in front of him, taking his breath away. The mind had stopped thinking rationally, while it kept cursing the kid who had kicked him for no reason.

Annoying as always, beyond time and age. Now that they were brats -what worse combination?- Hayato felt he could bear their presence even less than what he did with their adult versions.

He didn't understand.

What. The. Fuck. Were. They. Doing. There?

This was extremely unexpected!

Ryohei's screams irritated him.

«Stop screaming! Rather, why are you fucking Squalo and Bronco in this school?!»

If he had thought carefully about it, Hayato would have remembered that Dino had told him once -if he had paid attention to Cavallone, which he hardly ever did- how he and Squalo had been schoolmates, childhood friends, in the same Institute attended by every child with obvious relation with the mafia. Apparently the same that Aria had just started dating.

Just thinking about it, Hayato felt the blood boiling in his veins.

He not only had to spend time at school, surrounded by irritating kids, but also had to cohabit with the constant presence of the most noisy Varia -future Varia, he corrected- and with Bronco the idiot crybaby. Great, he couldn't asked for anything better.

The day passed quiet, almost boring would have dared to say, but he thanked the Kami that it was finally over. Aria greeted him with a smile at the end of the lessons, taking him by the hand and guiding him to the limousine that awaited them beyond the gates of the institute.

Feeling the hand of the child tighten his was stiffened -he wasn't used to those contacts, it would take time, a long time- but he relaxed, helped by Aria's Sky Flames.

He no longer met Squalo and Dino during the day, and he was grateful for this.

Hmn. Next time I will bite the herbivore to death.

Maybe it wasn't such a bad idea, he was starting to consider it a viable option.

As promised, once out of school, Hayato had accompanied Aria around Venice, looking for something that had not yet been informed.

At every window of the long commercial street, the young man's eyes shone with joy as he passed from shop to shop curiously, still under the watchful eye of his trusted bodyguard.

There was peace in the city -unusual for the chaotic Venice, where tourists came and went every day- and the salty air brought from the sea was a cure for the lungs.

Hands in his pocket -Shigure Kintoki's bag always in reach, ready for any eventuality- Hayato followed Aria a few steps back, throw the eye here and there among the stalls, but never lose sight of the girl.

The pleasant smell of bread and sweets invaded the nostrils, as they approached more and more a small shop -not too big, simple in its structure, yet welcoming like a few other workshops in the neighborhood- from the air all too familiar. And Aria was heading towards that shop.

A knot in his stomach petrified him, and for a moment Hayato couldn't breathe. Breathing seemed to cause him more pain than he wanted to let see -air, air, air, he needed air- to remember why that place seemed so familiar to him.

«You're too anxious, Hayato-kun.»

A voice -his voice, that voice that he would no longer hear- resounded in his mind, and this time he was sure it wasn't one of the other Guardians. It was an echo, a distant memory that hurt -why did it hurt so much to breathe? He was suffocating, he needed air- but he couldn't ignore it in any way. He put his hand over the clothes, where he was sure there was the heart, and squeezed the fabric as hard as he could.

«All right, I give up. A break at Lucia-san's bakery won't kill me.»

He tightened his clothes more tightly, the air more and more rarefied. He was suffocating, once again unable to react with rationality.

Breathe. Do not let yourself be overwhelmed.

But Hayato didn't hear it, didn't hear any of them, couldn't see anything anymore -when it got dark? Why could not he see anything anymore? - all he could concentrate on was the pain that the memories brought to the surface. Once again he was showing weak, unsuitable, and the frustration returned to burn like that day, when the Sky had stopped embracing its elements.

Herbivor e , p ull yourself together .

And it hurt, damn it if it hurt to face he's memories without collapsing, even when seven other people were there ready to support him, to understand, to share he's own pain. At that moment, however, Hayato was alone, lost, in a world where the Sky had ceased to exist.

«H-Hayato-kun …?» Extending a hand to the boy's arm, Aria watched him with concern.

She had noticed that something was wrong just a little before, too busy looking at the oven desserts with emotion -she didn't have to distract herself, she didn't have to leave him alone- and only when she turned to call him back, Aria realized something was wrong.

He was trembling, white like a corp-no, she didn't even have to think that word- like a sheet, and he didn't breathe well. He seemed to be able to break at any moment, under the touch of her small fingers that had touched his arm.

Hayato stiffened under her touch, and then relaxed and stretched out the muscles, driving away the ugly sensation that stung Aria right under the skin, between the fingertips, where the Flames pressed hard to get out and embrace him -take him, wrap him in her Sky to protect it.

He took her hand in his -so big and strong, but kind and comfortable- and looked into her eyes smiling, a smile she had never seen before.

Aria gasped when she finally managed to look him in the eye. She was sure that Hayato's eyes were green -a light green, almost gray, which sometimes shone in an intense red, chaotic, the red of a true Storm- while now they were brown.

They were warm and pleasant, a sea of chocolate in which to be dragged and cuddled -a bit of blue lit them up, a blue capable of reassuring and refreshing like a gentle Rain.

Hayato -no, this was no longer Hayato, Aria knew it- looked at her intently, never ceasing to smile.

«Do not worry, I'm okay Aria-chan!» Again, Aria didn't know how to react to this new Hayato -no, not Hayato, no anymore- and for several seconds she stood still looking at him, looking for something that she couldn't understand, that strange sensation that the boy in front of her was someone else and not the one who had accompanied her up to that moment.

She found nothing. Just a warm smile, a boundless kindness, and a sadness that couldn't be explained. And for the first time, she realized that anyone in front of her -that was no longer Hayato- wasn't so different from the boy she knew.

She asked nothing, smiling reassuringly -the smile her mother had always told her to show, the smile that welcomes, understands and forgives- and taking him by the hand brought him to the oven, talking about her plans, why she had asked to go out and what she would like to do.

There was no hurry, she told himself. Waiting for Hayato's return, she would have talked to this person, she would have known him better and would have understood the reason for that sadness.

There was no hurry, she repeated. Thanks to Arashi, now she had all the time in the world.

 

***


«Yes... yes... I understand that... I know it's an important request, but... no, it wasn't my intention... yes I know it's sudden, but...» Luce tried to show calm and composed, hiding her anxiety behind the phone.

"Be serious, do not let your voice sound uncertain, breathe calmly, take a breath and show calm. You can make it Luce." She kept repeating herself, hoping to give herself enough strength not to collapse while she was still in the middle of the negotiations.

She returned to focus on the words of the person on the other end of the phone, who calmly tried to explain why he was so reluctant to accept her proposal.

Luce understood, she knew she had advanced selfish demands even if she didn't have the right, and also included the doubts of the person with whom she was bargaining at that time.

However she wasn't going to back down. Not this time.

She resumed talking, hoping that even through a telephone all his determination would be transmitted to the other party. «So, what about a meeting? I think it's too delicate a matter to discuss on the phone... yes, I'll also bring the best of my Guardians... yes, I'm sure they'll get along... yes, yes! Thank you so much! Then all that remains is to define the details... but of course, I will also bring my daughter, it is a sensitive issue so... I assure you that you won't regret it! See you soon.»

Hanging up, Luce collapsed exhausted on her armchair. Her legs no longer held her own weight, crushed by the pressure and anxiety of that long call that had held her in suspense.

Luckily it was better than it would have expected.

Taking up the phone in her trembling hands -calm Luce, now we are there- quickly composed a second number, squeezing the device with both hands shaking. She had not yet recovered from the previous call, but couldn't wait to tell him the news.

«Chaossu.»

When she heard his family greeting from the other side of the phone, Luce relaxed. The tremors ceased, and the anxiety seemed to dissolve just to hear the voice of Reborn so close to her despite the distance. Only a few days had passed since their last meeting, yet she couldn't drive away the feeling of melancholy that accompanied her every time the hitman was far away.

By regaining the calm from Boss as it was, Luce explained to Reborn the details of the conversation she had just held, her intentions, and how -according to her opinion- had gone the conversation. Afrter all she was quite positive about it -and not just because she had a vision that seemed to suggest she had succeeded in her intent.

«Yes, I will leave in two days for Padova, Hayato-kun and Aria will come with me... yes, I will bring some other man, while Gennaro will manage things until I will be gone... I told you Reborn, I won't accept a no as an answer.» and on this she had not admitted any objections.«I think it will be a good way to strengthen the alliance between the Families... you worry too much, with Hayato-kun next to me, I'll be fine.»

Luce knew well every feature of Reborn, every peculiar characteristic, every behavior and expression. That is why she didn't miss the irritated tone with which he had stated that -not knowing him yet in person- he wanted to have a chat with this "Hayato-kun" to make sure that he was really as reliable as she described it.

«I didn't think you were a jealous man, mio caro.» And the answer made her laugh even more.

She rose from her chair and looked at the immense sky, so vast as to embrace them all under his immense existence. She would have liked to be so large as well, to embrace whoever needed it, to be able to restore harmony to those who had lost it, to those who had never had the chance to have it.

A flash, two brown eyes -soft, intense, so pure as to not seem real- illuminated by the orange light of Sky Flames, came to her mind, and a smile touched her lips. The memory of a vision she didn't believe would have ever seen the realization.

Luce knew she could never be that kind of Sky -she couldn't, it wasn't big enough, it wasn't infinite- but she wouldn't mind being part of it when it was time.

«Reborn...»

It was a whisper on the lips, while the hitman on the other side listened. Luce could feel the calm breath of her beloved, which showed his impatience. She smiled. Only she could sense the difference, because only her could see beyond the veil that hid the emotions of the killer.

«I will succeed.» And the determination of Sky shone in Luce's blue eyes.

 

***

 

In other circumstances, Takeshi would never have taken the liberty of replacing Hayato in that way -suddenly, forcefully, without first having consulted the direct interested- but given the crisis his companion was going to meet, he had seen forced to improvise.

Storm-san has not yet recovered.

Chrome had informed him after a few hours, and Takeshi had simply thanked her, without adding anything.

They had considered that possibility -they had spent a whole night on the discussion, still had a headache thinking about it- but they had never stopped on the possibility that one of these "crises" could happen during the day, outdoors, at the only view of a shop that vaguely resembled that in which Hayato dragged the Decimo every time he discovered the Boss holed up in his office, alone, after hours of work without ever a break.

Until then they had only happened at night, in the nightmares that haunted each of them since... since the Boss left them.

The night of the accident -no, it hadn't been an accident at all, but Takeshi didn't want to dwell on details that would have done more harm than anything else, especially at that time- it had been the worst they'd ever had. They had stayed together -even Kyoya had not moved, nor tried to bite someone to death for having gathered in a group- to cry in each other's arms, in the room that had once been of Tsuna.

No body to cry on, no coffin to bury, no last words to say. Everything had been taken away, and there was nothing left for them but to drown together in the darkness without Sky.

After that day no one was able to sleep peacefully. No one was able to rest without the presence of at least one of the other Guardians. They had become one before they had a single body.

«Thank you for your help, Hayato-kun!» Aria's voice took him away from those distant memories -bad Takeshi, stay focused, don't miss yourself too.

Instinctively, he smiled at her, raising the two envelopes better in his arms and making sure that the bag with Shigure Kintoki didn't fall on his shoulder. «Maa maa, it's nothing Aria-chan!»

He could also try to imitate Hayato -the pout, the ways, the recklessness and the formality he used to speak to a superior he respected- but it couldn't work. Hayato was Hayato, Takeshi was Takeshi. Same body or not, they couldn't pretend to be each other.

Kfufufufu octopus head won't be happy when he returns from his nap.

Takeshi laughed. «Maa maa, you're probably right.» He was certainly right, but he would think of a way to calm Hayato and not get killed -no matter how much he could die now that it was just a Flame and nothing more- when he would come back.

He looked at the envelopes he held in his hands, studying the ingredients contained in each of them: eggs, milk, sugar, chocolate... everything necessary to prepare something sweet, a cake probably. «Neh Aria-chan, if I understand correctly, do you want to prepare a cake?»

Aria blushed visibly, hiding her face with the envelope she was holding in her arms, nodding mechanically to the boy's question. «Mom's birthday is coming soon, and I thought... well... the chocolate cake is her favorite, so I wanted...»

Takeshi ruffled her hair, giving her a smile full of sweetness and -so short that Aria wasn't sure she saw it- of what looked like bitter sadness. Remorse, perhaps, the awareness of not being able to make up for lost time.

«I'm sure that Luce-san will be very happy to receive a cake from you!»

He could still remember Tsuyoshi's smiles -how much he missed his old man, who knows how he was doing during that time?- those times when Takeshi was preparing him sushi, an event that the boy kept only for his father's birthday -excluded the times he worked in the restaurant, of course.

Every time Takeshi presented his dishes in front of him -the classic recipes and the new experiments that were sometimes even added to the menu of TakeSushi- Tsuyoshi almost cried for joy, eating up to the last bite even when it was clear that he could no longer ingest nothing. All to satisfy the efforts and work of his child.

Aria looked at him, her eyes bright with hope «Do you really believe it?»

Takeshi smiled again. «Of course! If you need a hand, ask me, I'm not bad at all in the kitchen!» no more, not after the child had all subjected them to an intensive cooking course to cover special cases in which they would have to cook their own meals.

With the humor to the stars they resumed their walk to the place where they had left the limousine waiting -Aria had wanted to go on foot, to breathe fresh air and not attract the attention of the civilians too- they loaded their bags and let the driver made his way through the streets of Venice, while Aria chatted with Takeshi and asked him for advice on the execution and presentation of the cake.

It was incredibly normal and fun, Takeshi found himself appreciating that moment of serenity.

Aria had looked away from the window for a moment -what would have happened if she had not? She preferred not to think about the eventuality- slightly dilating her gaze as if a ghost had just materialized before her.

«Antonio, stop the car, please!» A sudden braking, the sound of the wheels sizzling on the asphalt, in an instant the plow stopped at the side of the road.

Opening the door of the car, Aria threw herself out before Takeshi could stop her, running towards one of the little streets that they had left behind shortly before.

Yare yare, this little girl is completely crazy! I almost made it!

«Maa maa, I wonder what's suddenly taken.»

He grabbed Shigure Kintoki with his right hand, hurling himself as fast as he could, tracking the path left by the Sky Flames that Aria unconsciously released. It wasn't uncommon for the children -during his previous life he had known so many, the favorite targets of the mafia, children whose power of the Dying Will was so strong as to leave a trail after their passage- and it wasn't always a good thing.

He glanced quickly at the walls around him, abandoning the smile that usually characterized him. There were graffiti -too many to be a single Family, perhaps small groups fighting each other- a clear brand that claimed the right to a territory and, consequently, to all those who lived there.

Bad, very bad.

He ran again -faster, faster, he had to run, do in time, he could not fail again- managing to reach Aria before she entered a dead end, hiding behind a wall and luring her to him, smiling when he shook her in his own arms.

«H-Hayato-kun...»

«You should not run away like that Aria-chan, you scared me to death!» Still, he was happy to have reached her in time.

The blue eyes of the child were dilated -scared, terrified, imploring- a tacit request for help but Takeshi couldn't understand.

«Y-You have to help them Hayato-kun! I saw them, they're here! If we don't help them, they will...»

Voices interrupted her, causing her a long chill down her back. They were deep voices, strange voices -scary, cavernous, dangerous- and instinctively Aria pressed herself even more against Takeshi, looking for comfort and security. She found them when fresh Rain Flames tore it, calming her breath and stabilizing her crazed heart. Suddenly she was at peace.

Takeshi instead was thoughtful. A strange feeling slipped down his back, while the presence of known Flames made its way through the group of mobsters who occupied the alley in which Aria was about to enter.

It was strange. He felt he knew someone in that group -no one of the faces present there was vaguely familiar, yet the constant presence of those known Flames made him presage the opposite- but he didn't remember who or where he might have met.

«Voooooi! Shitty scum! Let us go, or I'll kill you bastards!»

He jumped. That voice... No, it couldn't be ... or it could?

He gestured to Aria not to breathe, leaning just over the wall to analyze the group of mobsters who had gathered near an abandoned canal, in an even more unknown alley.

He barely extended his Flames -smoothly, imperceptibly to people of that level- until he clashed with a rushing wave of Rain Flames he knew well. They were violent and furious Flames, roaring and drowning with force, impossible to confuse with any other.

This is an extreme problem!

«Maa maa you're right Sempai ...»

When one of the men -fifteen... no, at least twenty- moved just to the right, Takeshi finally managed to see Squalo who faced one of the mobsters with his own sword, defending a helpless and frightened Dino, close behind the other child in a desperate attempt to give strength.

Even from that distance, Takeshi could see the tremors of fear of the young Cavallone, while whispering something like "I don't want to be a mafioso, the mafia is scary!", But he wasn't sure about that. His thin voice was covered by the disgusting laughter of their assailants, and by Squalo's screams that threatened to kill anyone who tried to approach.

Despite the obvious gravity of the situation, Takeshi couldn't help but smile nostalgically: at any time he went, Squalo never changed, which was almost a consolation.

You're so sickly I could throw up.

Takeshi laughed. «You don't really have mince words, Mukuro.»

A sharper cry returned his attention to the alley, where one of the men had struck Squalo in the face, after the child had wounded a couple of his thugs with his sword.

By suppressing a growl, Takeshi turned smiling at Aria -a strange, grim smile, which promised death and suffering to anyone who decided to get in his way- warning her to hide and let him take care of the matter.

Uncertain and worried, she finally nodded and stood behind the wall in silence, watching as the young man walked into the alleyway, never losing a smile. A smile that Aria would no longer want to see on that face.

Because one-who-is-not-Hayato was a good man, and that smile didn't suit him at all.

 

***

 

Spitting blood at the feet of those assholes who had attacked them, Squalo growled at the fat man who had hit him, wiping the blood at the corner of his mouth and feeling the ground in search of the sword that one of those jackass had stolen.

He looked away only for a moment -never lose sight of the enemy, if you can't predict his moves you're dead- and growled when he realized that the sword was too far to reach it, on the edge of the canal, beyond those twenty thugs that looked at them slimy, as if they had found something of incredible value.

The looks disgusted him, if only he had his sword he would have drawn all their eyes, instead he had been disarmed after hitting only two men, not even too seriously for more.

When he was training with the other children of the Vongola, Squalo was sure to be the strongest and the most gifted, there was no one who could beat him, was also one of the few Flames Users, managing to numb the his opponents' senses just before launching an attack.

There was no doubt that on the training camp, Squalo was the best. Unfortunately, now they were in the outside world, against real mafia opponents, forced to face the harsh and raw reality of the facts.

«Stop overvaluing yourself brat, you're just a kid. You would not last two minutes against real mafiosi.»

He had never really believed Visconti's reproaches -Nono's Cloud Guardian, the one who was training the new recruits together with Coyote- after all, he was a prodigy, how was he allowed to underestimate him, that stupid old man?

Now, however, in that critical situation in which he had driven himself -dragging Dino with him- the words of Visconti made sense.

He was just a child after all, Flames or not, nothing could compete with field experience, and if he had more carefully studied the attributes of the Dying Will, perhaps those fuckers would not have been able to neutralize his Rain Flames so easily.

«Fafafafafa, it seems we have captured two interesting prey!»

Dino's grip tightened steadily on his hand as he squeezed more and more against him, trying to hide the tremors of fear that shook his body.

Squalo bit his lower lip to blood, spitting again against the guy who looked like the head of all those assholes. «I'm not the prey of anyone, understand you son of a bitch?! Vooooooi!»

A kick in the chest broke his breath, throwing him against the wall of the alley. Slamming his head against the stone, Squalo for a moment saw nothing but black, while the pain began to pervade his whole body. It hurt, fuck if it hurt.

He screamed, clasping his hands on his stomach and repressing a second scream, refusing to give even more satisfaction to their assailants.

«SQUALO!»

Dino was next to him in a second. He was so frightened that he had fallen at least twice before coming to him, biting his knees and bursting into a hysterical cry that he had tried to hold back until then.

Despite the blow, with the help of the young Cavallone -once he was able to see well enough- Squalo managed to sit up, incensing with his gaze the fat man who, grinning, looked at him from top to bottom.

It was so... frustrating, not being able to do anything.

If only he had been bigger...

If only he had been stronger...

If only he had been more able...

Fuck. He was Squalo, he was strong, able and he would soon have defeated the great Tyr, claiming for himself the title of "Sword Emperor". He wouldn't have been killed by the mafia scum, it was unacceptable.

«Maa maa looks like there's a party here, do you mind if I join?»

Short and unkempt blonde hair, dressed in a suit and tie with a bamboo sword resting on the shoulder, left hand left free along the side, this was the appearance of the young man who had just made his entrance into the alley, surprising everyone. He smiled, but for some reason that expression made the blood run cold in Squalo's veins.

It almost seemed that his Flames were warning him not to be deceived, to be careful because the young man just appeared before them was much worse than the guys around him. For some reason, Squalo believed his instincts.

«S-Squalo ... t-that one i-is...» was what Dino managed to whisper between sobs, but it was enough for Squalo to understand.

It was the same man who he had hit out of school, the blond who had looked at him as if he had a ghost in front of him. That was certainly a mafioso, now no longer doubts.

It seemed, however, that the bastard enemies had not understood it -too stupid perhaps to perceive the strength of the adversary- simply by shooting at them sharp, annoyed looks, impatient to kill anyone who dared to interrupt them.

«Oi piece of shit, how did you dare interrupt us?!»

«Ahahahah I apologize! You seemed to have a lot of fun and I wanted to join you!»

Squalo held back the urge to scream. How stupid and annoying could that damn blonde be?!

The fat leader pushed his way through his men, a gun in his hands stolen from one of the cronies, pointing straight at the front of the intruder.«Now I'll make a big hole in your head, let's see if you still want to laugh!»

The young man cast a confused look at the weapon, then moved it doubtfully over the fat man in front of him. He had lowered his sword, letting it dangle along its side.

«You know, you shouldn't play with such dangerous weapons.» A single movement, fluid, clean, the thud of something crashing to the ground, the smile covered with a furious expression. «Risks of hurting you, if you can't use them properly.»

There were no screams, not right away, it took several seconds before the fat man noticed that he was bleeding, a few minutes before he noticed his hand lying on the ground -the pistol still held between the immobile fingers- cut off from the wrist with such a sharp and clean cut as to not seem real.

«Ah... ah... ah...» and then he screamed.

A scream so strong and excruciating as to petrify his own men. He collapsed on his knees, then rolled to the ground in despair and pain, under the astonished gaze of the other mafiosi, now frozen with fear and surprise.

Squalo and Dino watched the young man motionlessly clean the blade with a dry gesture, bringing it back to his shoulder and smiling lightly at the adversaries, as if he had the certainty that between him and them there was an abyss so insurmountable that it represented no threat.

The bamboo weapon that it held between the fingers just before had disappeared, leaving room for a shining Japanese katana of splendid workmanship, a blade so brilliant as to reflect the light of the sun itself.

«Maa maa I don't like killing, my Boss wouldn't be happy if I did.» He seemed torn, yet he didn't hesitate to look at each of the assailants with sharp eyes. «But neither he nor I can forgive anyone who tries to attack children. Get ready, it's your end.»

Dino was still shivering, while Squalo couldn't look away from the dance that the swordsman was doing, knocking off anyone who tried to oppose him, without saving even those who dared to escape.

It was simply... amazing.

Squalo knew many different styles of sword -his life, his specialty, knowing as much as possible was not only a duty, it was his pride- and he could say with certainty that that swordsman was not using anyone in particular. They were pathetic adversaries -useless unworthy scum- who didn't even deserve to be exterminated with real sword techniques.

In the graceful figure of that swordsman -elegant, but gentle, yet furious as the most violent Rain- Squalo saw everything he wanted to be, the man, the swordsman who wished to become one day.

He arranged the last of the mafiosi, avoiding a stab at the back -a last-ditched cowardly attempt to get out of him alive- by jumping backwards and paying him back with the same coin, pulling the bust out of his back.

Once finished he cleaned the blade, which in a faint beam of light turned into a bamboo sword again. He rubbed a hand over his face, wiping the only splash of blood that had touched it, while the clothes had remained incredibly immaculate.

«Maa maa, at least the suit is safe. Hayato would have killed me if I had soiled him with blood.» Suddenly they heard him say.« Ahahahah I didn't want to cause so much commotion, please don't bite me to death!»

He turned to look at them, scratching the back of his neck uncomfortably, as if to apologize for the violence he had just let them witness, smiling softly as he approached them.

Even before he understood it, Squalo found himself embraced by warm and gentle Rain Flames who tried to relax and calm him, eliminating the pain that the wounds caused him, while a yellow and equally pleasant light came out from one of the many rings that the man wore.

«I'm not as good as Sempai with the Sun Flames, but I should be able to limit the damage.» he confided, letting the yellow Sun Flames wrap his wounds, while with those of the Rain he stopped the pain the time necessary for the wounds to heal and disappear completely.

«H-Hayato-kun? Are you all right?» A second, distant voice, probably hidden out of the alley, rang out to them, worried and anxious.

The man smiled, answering without detaching himself from Squalo's injured body. «Yes Aria-chan, but stay where you are please! There was a little... incident, ahahahahah.»

Squalo raised an eyebrow. "Incident" my ass.

That mess had done it on purpose, and as for others it might sound terrible and inhumane, for Squalo it had been a battle full of revelations. In addition that scum had deserved it, even if that strange blonde had not saved them, once they knew of the kidnapping of Dino, the Cavallone would have razed to the ground anyone who dared to put their hands on their heir.

Dino could be a coward and weak crybaby, but his Family adored him.

It took at least ten minutes of treatment -hell, before even breathing was bad, moving was hell- but when it was done Squalo was on his feet again, almost like new. Some scratches had remained open, one or two bruises had not disappeared altogether, but overall it was fine.

«I'm sorry, I can't do more than that. Unfortunately I'm not very good with the other Flames.» He laughed again, and for some reason that laugh irritated Squalo. He admired that guy -did he really admit it? Damn, hell was probably freezing- but there was something extremely annoying in the way he talked and laughed that made him angry for no apparent reason.

However it wouldn't have been a bit of an irritation to stop him.

He saw him take out his cell phone and quickly dial a number before placing it on his ear.«Ah! Gennaro-san? Here is Ta... er, Hayato. At the moment I'm in town with Aria, there's been a problem and I've... let's say, I have finisherd some mafia guys.»

«Are you crazy?!» It was such a loud scream that it went over the phone, and even Squalo and Dino were able to hear it.

«Ahahahahah I'm sorry... eh? Sisi, la signorina stà bene! It's just that, how to say, I painted the walls of red and... ahahahah I'm really sorry! Ah, will you send someone? Thank you very much Gennaro-san! Then we bring the two children back to the institute and then come back! See you later!» And closed the phone again before this "Gennaro" could reply in any way, returning to focus on them.

«Come on, it's time to bring you home!» Motioning to follow him, Dino hesitated the first steps toward their savior, while Squalo didn't move.

He continued to stare at Hayato's back with insistence, as if to wish him to go from side to side to discover the most hidden secrets. Finally he decided.

«Voooooi, blonde scum!» He shouted, arresting Hayato's walk and forcing him to turn around. «To be a blonde scum, you're strong with the sword! I want you to teach me!»

He saw him squint, open and close his eyes quickly several times, amazed and -probably- amused by the request of the child. «Eh?» Was all he replied.

«You heard me, scum!» He cried again, a worrying grin on his face. «I want you to teach me your sword technique! Voooooooi from now on I'll be your student, take care of me, stupid blonde!»

And it was a proposal that didn't accept a "no" as an answer.

Chapter Text

*w*w*w*w*w*


 

Padova was really beautiful.

The more the car entered the city -towards the center, more and more sinking between the palaces and the gardens that compose it- the more you could admire the spectacular remains of history on which it was founded, perfectly amalgamated to the natural landscape and new structures that were rising here and there through the streets of the center.

Passing quickly through the streets -without stopping to admire the surrounding landscape more carefully- you could still perceive the history that ran through the streets of Padova, taking your breath away for the surprises that hid behind every corner, resulting in amazement when the huge square of Prato della Valle opened before the eyes of unsuspecting tourists, in all its splendor. Anyone would have been enchanted.

Anyone but Hayato.

He stirred on the seat without control, unable to find a comfortable position in which to spend the journey, so absorbed in his own thoughts that he didn't notice the worried looks that Luce was throwing at him from time to time.

Relax octopus head! Rather, enjoy the extreme journey!

A grunt escaped his lips, the anger still perceptible through the flashes of Storm Flames that he couldn't control -even after years of practice, control their Flames in the grip of strong emotions remained a difficult task.

«Who do you think is the fault if I can't relax?!» he growled tightly, trying not to disturb Aria, asleep with her head resting on her mother's legs.

Since that day -that damn, fucking day- when Takeshi had found himself forced to take control of his body, Hayato hadn't had a single moment of peace.

He couldn't move a single step without finding Squalo and Dino in the middle, who used every opportunity to try to convince him to train them.

And to convince, he meant to force.

No matter how often he refused, how many times he threatened to blow them up if they didn't disappear, they always came back, more stubborn and determined than before to be taught the sword techniques with which Takeshi had saved them.

More precisely, Squalo wanted to be trained, Dino was a simple consequence.

And although Takeshi hadn't used real techniques -for mafiosi of such a low level had not been necessary, use the Shiguren Soen Ryu to defeat certain worms would have been a snub to them and to the Boss- Squalo had guessed that there was more, that that person was a swordsman from whom he could learn something.

Kfufufu who would have ever said that the Varia's Strategiy Commander would have voluntarily asked Yamamoto Takeshi to be his tutor?

Yeah, who would have believed it? Hayato could almost have laughed at that situation, if it wasn't him the victim of the stalking of the baby Squalo, he probably could have laugh.

And unfortunately -as if life hadn't already played enough with all of them- Squalo and Dino's continuous stalking wasn't what made the Storm User ever more restless. It would have been too simple if his biggest problem had been the continuous and unexpected approaches of two brats with whom he wanted to have as few contacts as possible.

«Hayato-kun.»

Stopping the frantic and nervous sway of his right leg, Hayato recomposed himself to Luce's call, feeling enveloped by the pleasant sensation of pure Sky Flames that clung to his as to want to comfort him. A pleasant sensation to which he replied almost unconsciously, letting the Storm Flames be appeased by those of Sky -his Sky, even if it wasn't the Sky in which he wished to allow himself to be embraced.

«Everything is alright? It's been a few days since I've felt you... nervous. Did something happen?»

From what they had told him -when he had awakened from the crisis, almost a day later- Luce knew only about the day's expenses with Aria and the consequent motivation behind Takeshi's massacre. Silence had been kept on why the Rain had replaced the Storm.

We thought it was right to let you decide whether to talk to her or not.

It had been Chrome's excuse in the name of everyone, and -even without expressing it aloud- Hayato had been grateful for their consideration.

Probably Luce had already sensed that something disturbed her Guardian, but she preferred to wait for him to open. Hayato had appreciated it -all of them had done it, they could never thank her enough for everything she had done and continued to do- but perhaps it was time to make her aware of the situation.

Taking a deep breath Hayato intertwined his fingers, staring at the car mat as if it had suddenly become the most interesting thing he had ever seen.

He quickly checked that the window between them and the driver was closed, and when he was sure that nobody could eavesdrop, he finally decided to speak.

«Actually, there is something, Luce-sama.»

He told her everything.

What had happened, the crises that struck each of them, the nights spent in each others arms, trying not to let the memories drag him back into the dark abyss into which he had let himself fall down once -breathe Hayato, don't get caught up in the ghosts of the past- until he confess what had happened while going around Venice with Aria.

He watched every movement of Luce -she seemed calm, silent, she listened to every word without interrupting him- as she gently stroked Aria's long hair, still asleep.

Cosmo clasped in the hands of the child, also lost in the dream world.

He saw the body of Luce wince a couple of times, but without showing any change in her expression, no early judgment, no inappropriate commentary. She simply let him speak, listening to their pain and letting her Sky bring him the relief Hayato desperately needed -just as his Boss would have done- not to fall prey to nightmares.

He spoke of the doubts that beset them, of the lost memories that they couldn't recover, the frustration of not knowing what to do to protect the person most important to them. When he had finished he felt incredibly light -his chest hurt less, the pressing darkness that enveloped his heart seemed to have cleared, free from a suffocating weight that took his breath away.

Luce said nothing. Head down, hands still, no sign that let the slightest thought shine, the slightest emotion she was feeling at that moment. When she raised her head she smiled radiantly -the corners of her eyes slightly moist- wrapping the Guardian in the embrace of her Flames, a warmth and a sweetness that only a mother could give.

«Thanks.» Was all she said.

Hayato smiled at her, thanking her in turn for having listened to him -for having listened to what deeply troubled them all- and for accepting them despite the enormous burden involved in having them around. They would never have been grateful enough.

With the air less tense between them, they chatted quietly as Boss and Guardian, about new alliances and how to bring the Family even higher, how to make it more prosperous than it already was.

Inevitably, the speech ended up about the imminent meeting, of which Hayato had desperately tried to forget.

Not so much for the first reason they were going to the meeting -he was quite sure of their success, Luce could be very convincing when she wanted- how much for the second argument they would bring to attention during that conference.

He tried to forget the surprise visit of the day before, and the consequence he would bring once he had exposed it to Reborn. He hoped not to receive a bullet in the forehead with the only fault of having been a messenger.

Only one thing escaped him, a forgetfulness that he himself didn't forgive, but given the hard days that Squalo and Dino had let him pass, he felt justified.

«Hm? Don't you remember? We're going to meet the Boss Vongola.» Luce explained quietly.

For endless moments Hayato said nothing.«... What?»

Luce smiled as if nothing had happened -she shouldn't have noticed the effect her words had on the young man- while the car stopped in front of a large building not far from the city center.

«Today's meeting is with Nono Vongola, Timoteo di Vongola, his Guardians and his new Boss CEDEF, Iemitsu Sawada.»
 

***


Nervously, Iemitsu loosened his tie around his neck, shifting the weight from one leg to the other, in an uncontrolled motion. The more he tried to relax, the more he felt nervous.

He had recently taken the place of the previous CEDEF Boss -his heart was still hurting at the thought, but he had to resist, to be strong also for the other members of the external consultancy- and the one he was about to attend was his first real meeting with another Boss.

It was not the first time he met Luce Giglio Nero, he had also participated in the event six months before, witnessing the miracle of the release of the Arcobaleno's curse -Nono had thought it was a good opportunity to present him to the allies before taking the title of Boss CEDEF- but this was certainly the first time he had the pleasure of meeting her privately.

«Nervous, Iemitsu?» Enrico teased him, ruffling his blond hair, as if they weren't hard enough to keep tidy.

«A little.» He admitted, settling down and dodging Enrico's hand with an elbow, giggling. «This is my first meeting, I feel pretty tense.»

Enrico was the greatest of Timoteo's sons, the elder brother he had never had, capable of reassuring with his single smile even the most turbulent hearts. A true Sky -so broad, welcoming, warm- of those rare and powerful, the most promising of Timoteo's sons. The only true heir to whom Iemitsu could have sworn loyalty when Nono decided to retire.

He recognized the Vongola's power also in Massimo and Federico, but none of them had what it took to be a Boss worthy of the name: Enrico, on the other hand, was the perfect heir.

«Relax your nerves, concentrate on a happy thought and take deep breaths.» Were Enrico's words, accompanied by the classic gesture that characterized their relationship from the day Iemitsu had been brought to Villa Vongola the first time: a tap on the forehead, kind but firm, enough to undo the knots of tension that prevented the new Boss CEDEF from breathing regularly. «You can do it Tsu, you'll be fantastic Boss.»

Iemitsu smiled at him, appreciating the words of encouragement that Enrico was giving him, relieved not to have to face his first official meeting without having him by his side.

«Our guests have arrived.»

The ticking of the stick on the parquet floor announced Timoteo's arrival, who flanked his two sons with a good-natured smile -no matter what others said, it wasn't the blood that made Iemitsu his son, but the affection he felt towards him wasn't lesser to what he felt for Enrico, Massimo and Federico- interrupting their conversation.

«Come on, it's time to go and welcome them.»

They wouldn't have conversed in the Boss's office, but in a secluded room in the East Wing of the villa, away from prying eyes and ears, sitting on two comfortable couches in front of a cup of good coffee.

Vongola and Giglio Nero were good friends, allied since the foundation, neither Boss believed in the need to conduct a conversation with rigid and formal tones.

Walking along the long corridor that separated Timoteo's study from the room where Luce awaited them, Iemitsu felt his heart rise in his throat, his anxiety stretched out to his muscles, unable suddenly to breathe -what was it like? He had forgotten how to do it the right way- and again prey for anxiety.

He glanced quickly at Enrico -he was at his side, slightly ahead but still one step behind the Ninth, behind them Coyote and the other Guardians were all gathered- remembering what he had been told just a little while ago.

"Calm Iemitsu, you must stay calm."

He focused his mind on a single thought, the smile of his sweet Nakano-chan who was waiting for him -how long was it before he could finally see her again? Too much, he had to come back to her as soon as possible- and suddenly all the stress seemed to disappear. All worries were no longer important, the only image of Nakano-chan swept away all doubt and uncertainty from his heart.

«Good luck Sawada-kun!» Was her greeting, the day he had said good-bye. «Do your best in Italy! I will look forward to your return!»

He smiled, writing the kanji of Nakano's name on his hand and pretending to swallow them, as if to give himself courage, thinking of the presence of the sweet Nakano-chan right next to him.

"You're going to see Nakano-chan, I'll make you proud of me."

And when he finally was ready, he could come back to her and marry her. There was no better reason to drive away all doubt and fear.

 

***

 

Hayato held Chrome tightly in his arms when Iemitsu entered the room, tried as they were all of them -worn hair and red eyes, probably had just finished crying, again- laying down on the floor and bathing his lips with the bottle of fine Italian red wine that Tsuna had imported specially for his parents, to celebrate the happy event that shortly he would have communicated -he hadn't even had time to warn them, not a call or a message, everything had vanished in an instant.

He smelled of alcohol and sweat, probably days -from that day- who he didn't take a shower, but Hayato didn't feel like blaming him. The deep dark circles that dug his once brilliant eyes -now dead, dead along with that son who Iemitsu regretted having involved in a cruel and dirty world that didn't deserve him and his kind heart- marked the insomnia that in those days was the companion of many at the headquarters.

«How is she?»

Pulling away some purple locks from the sleeping face of Chrome, Hayato wiped a lonely tear -the umpteenth, not the first, not the last- seeing the companion's sorrowful expression, asleep in a dreamless sleep.

«Tired, extenuated, it's days that she can't rest well.»

No one could do it anymore, especially them who had lost they're Sky, which enveloped and warmed them.

«The others?»

«Sasagawa is with Lambo in the kitchen, Yamamoto is with Hibari and Rokudo to... take out the trash.»

Hayato knew that Iemitsu had grasped what he wanted to understand, that the "trash" concealed more meanings than it appeared.

He wanted to get out too, use his dynamite and explode to the last of their enemies, capture them and torture them until they confessed where that asshole of their boss had hidden.

The only reason that had held him back -no, he didn't give a shit about fatigue and sleepless nights, the anger he felt was enough to give him enough energy to fight nonstop- had been the thought of Chrome and Lambo, of Sasagawa trying to support them ended up collapsing in his own pain.

There was no time for pride, none of them could afford to overdo it, not when they were hurt in the soul more deeply than any physical injury -they were frozen, soulless, broken and irreparable.

And they weren't the only ones.

«How's Nana-san?»

He wouldn't have wanted to ask that question -painpainpainpain, there was nothing but suffering and pain- but he wanted to know that she was fine, to try to hope that the only happiness that Decimo had desperately tried to protect during his lonely childhood was fine.

A grunt escaped from the lips of Iemitsu -would it be a laugh? Now he didn't even remember what it meant to smile, even after a month nothing seemed willing to return to normal, nothing would ever be normal again- greedily drinking yet another sip of wine and wiping dry lips with the back of the crumpled jacket. New wine stains were deposited on the old ones, but Iemitsu didn't care.

«No improvement. It's like she is...»

He couldn't finish the sentence, but Hayato still understood the meaning behind those unspoken words.

Chrome stirred in his arms, grumbling mixed verses mixed to the incessant call of her "Bossu", followed by the tears that Gokudera had dried so many times -not just Chrome, his own face was still wet from the last cry- and that he still would have dried in the days to come.

«Will we ever find peace?» Was Iemitsu's desperate question, knees close to his chest and his head hidden, a victim of his own regret and pain.

Hayato didn't answer, because if he did he would forever break the man who had been his Boss's father.

"No" would have replied "we have lost our Harmony forever".

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

The noise of dishes was able to bring him back to reality -concentrated Hayato, you have a mission to perform- while the waitress of the Vongola shyly offered him a cup of hot coffee, asking him if he liked it with sugar or milk.

Thanking her, he took the cup and drank it bitterly, hoping that the strong and decisive taste of the hot drink could prevent him from getting lost in the endless flow of memories that he hadn't yet recovered. A fleeting exchange of glances with the young Sawada Iemitsu was enough to unlock a frame of the lost memories, one of the events following Decimo's disappearance that still didn't remember clearly

He had to be careful, he couldn't afford a crisis at that moment, not in front of Timoteo Vongola. He took another sip, leaving nothing but the bottom of the coffee on the cup.

Bleh, how the hell can you drink it so bitter? It's terrible!

He ignored Lambo and concentrated on Luce and Aria, sitting on the sofa offered to them by the Vongola, while he stood behind mother and daughter, alert in case anything could harm the life of the two. Not knowing these Vongola of the past, every distraction could be fatal.

There were Nono and Iemitsu, the current Vongola Guardians, and a man whom Hayato had only seen through old photos that Timoteo had shown the Tenth a few times, and in some portraits that decorated the walls of Villa Vongola.

Enrico II Vongola. First son of Timoteo Vongola, current successor to the position of Decimo Boss.

Divided by a mahogany-colored solid wood table, surrounded by the pleasant aroma of coffee that hung in the air, Luce and Timoteo exchanged the usual pleasantries that would then open the real discussion, their children sitting next to each other.

«Now that we're all there, we can start talking about why this meeting was set.»

Hayato didn't understand the meaning of Luce's words -no one except Nono seemed to have understood it- until Reborn's voice caught him by surprise, but he was clever enough to conceal his disbelief and wonder. Enrico and Iemitsu weren't as good as him.

After years of living with the inconstant presence of Reborn at the villa, they had become quite good at hiding their thoughts from the little Hitman, hiding the smallest emotion behind a mask of indifference -or else the consequences wouldn't have been pleasant, they had learned quickly only to be able to survive the otherwise unmanageable punishments of the former Arcobaleno.

«Chaossu.» Holding a steaming cup of coffee stolen from some tray, Reborn gripped the edge of his fedora between two fingers, saluting the two Bosses respectfully and concentrating on the hot drink he held in his hands. He had grown slightly compared to the last time, and Hayato couldn't help but be happy, but also for this he was certain that he wouldn't get out of the meeting unscathed once all the cards on the table had been discovered. There was more than one matter to discuss.

«So Don Giglio Nero, if I remember correctly, you made a rather unexpected request.»

Nodding, Luce finished sipping the stained coffee between her fingers. She put the empty cup on the saucer, looking serious and composed at the Ninth, a real Boss ready to do anything to get what she wanted.

«Exact. It's a decision I don't want to draw back from, but I thought it was right to talk about it with you first, Don Vongola, for you too, like me, benefit from your friendship with Reborn.» She glanced quickly at the hitman before continuing. «I want Reborn to become my Sun.»

"I want". She wouldn't accept any refusal.

Kfufufu really interesting this woman.

Timoteo closed his eyes, smoothing his mustache and inhaling deeply and pondering Luce's request, while behind him the astonishment was evident on the Guardians, Erico and Iemitsu's faces, who must have been kept in the dark of everything from the beginning.

A wise choice.

«Once the curse was dissolved, the Arcobaleno no longer has any obligation to each other, but that doesn't mean there is lack of harmony between them and me.» Luce continued, not caring for the gaze with which the Vongola Guardians were studying her.«From the beginning I felt the connection with Reborn, the harmony between our Flames. Only he can be my Sun, there's no one else I could and would like to harmonize with.»

«I understand your feeling, Luce.» Timoteo had answered, abandoning all formalities and staring at the woman with kind apprehension, but without losing the Boss aura that enveloped him.«But you see, Reborn is a dear friend of mine, and an indispensable ally for the Vongola, what you ask could end up breaking the delicate balance of peace that exists between our Families, do you understand me?»

Hayato held back a growl, tightening his grip on Shigure Kintoki's lining and narrowing his gaze. It was a veiled threat, masked by the calm and friendly tone with which Timoteo had addressed her.

«This is certainly not my intention, I don't want Reborn to join the Giglio Nero Family, or that if by any chance a conflict would occur between our Families he would stand by my side unconditionally. All I want is to satisfy my need for the bond, to feel its Flames as part of my Sky.»

There wasn't much that Timoteo could say or do, because he too knew how strong the call was between a Sky and an Element similar to him. Hayato came to the conclusion that the elder was just looking for a way to protect himself, to make sure he didn't lose the support of the strongest former Arcobaleno.

«Besides, if Reborn became an Element of mine, it would greatly benefit our alliance. You could continue to use his services as if nothing had changed, along with my gratitude and favors, while I will have the bond I desire.»

Hayato saw the Ninth clench his chin between his fingers, pondering the pros and cons that accepting or rejecting that proposal would entail, but now he was sure that there was no reason to refuse. Relations with Reborn unchanged and a debt from Luce Giglio Nero, not to mention the beneficial ties that the strengthening of the alliance between the two oldest mafia Families would have led to both.

If it wasn't a fool -something that they weren't fully certain- Timoteo wouldn't have let slip such a wonderful opportunity.

I want to bite to death that old man.

Yes, Hayato want that too.

«Agree. If you make sure that the relationship between Reborn and the Vongola won't suffer any harm from your harmonization, I have nothing against it.» He turned to the hitman who had been silent for the whole time, hiding his gaze under the black fedora. «What do you think, my friend?»

Reborn stroked Leon's head -the mute-shaped chameleon perched on the child's shoulder, fiddling with Cosmo who had curiously approached him- just grinning and looking at the Ninth with a strange twinkle in his dark eyes.

«It will be interesting to have a Sky.» Was all that was needed to make clear his position regarding the discussion.

Feeling the tension melt in Luce's Flames -they were desperately holding on to his shortly after she had started the conversation, seeking comfort that only an Element can give- Hayato saw her stretch her shoulder muscles and smile, breathing without holding back the air for anxiety and fear.

«Thanks Timoteo, I'm really grateful

Timothy smiled -fake, manipulative, the smile of a Boss who doesn't scruple to protect his interests- nodding his head and thanking in turn. For what, however, Hayato wasn't sure.

But at least one problem was solved, now there was nothing left but to launch yet another bomb, wait for it to explode and pray not to be too involved.

He coughed, attracting the attention of his Boss and those present in the room. He felt the penetrating gaze of Reborn pierce it from side to side -was that... jealousy? No, impossible, why should Reborn be jealous of him?- but he didn't care.

«Luce-sama, I think it's wise to talk to the Vongola and Reborn-san of... that question.»

Hoping that the baby doesn't kill us first ahahahah!

The Giglio Nero Boss seemed to be darkening -probably, not even her know how to deal with the matter- but she dismissed every negative thought, smiling encouragingly as only she could do.

«Yeah, you're perfectly right, Hayato.» She turned to Nono and Reborn, who seemed as lost as the rest of the room occupants this time.

«Yesterday we received... an unexpected visit, and a present.» Ahe turned to him, giving him a slight smile and a nod. «Show them Hayato.»

«Of course, Luce-sama.»

From a hidden pocket in the jacket -on the left, far from the one in which the Mare Rings was kept- he extracted a black rectangular box, which brought to the attention of those present, hesitating then a second to open it.

You can do it, Storm-san.

He mentally thanked Chrome, took a deep breath and opened it -please, let no bullet pierce the forehead- showing the contents of the box to those present.

The temperature in the room came down, Reborn's murderous aura became almost unbearable -bullet coming in the next three seconds- while Hayato tried to show himself as calm and steady as possible. Difficult, but after years of training with the same hitman, it wasn't impossible.

Lying on a blue velvet, not far from each other, seven pacifiers glowed with the colors of the Flames, shining like the day when -probably, he couldn't be sure- the Arcobaleno had received them the first time.

«What does this mean?» it was Reborn who spoke, the same question that even Vongola Nono, Iemitsu and the rest of those present had placed as soon as they could see the pacifiers in the box.

Naturally, Luce took off her pink bow which she had wrapped around her neck, carefully hidden under her shirt, revealing the presence of an eighth-shaped pacifier, orange and full of very pure Sky Flames.

Hayato couldn't be sure, but he swore he saw the world collapse in Reborn's eyes.

Luce turned to look at him, taking the yellow pacifier from the box and handing it to the hitman, who backed away. If it had been someone else -anybody else- Hayato would have dared to say that he seemed almost frightened by the sight of that small object, but being Reborn who was talking, he didn't even dare to think about it.

Pfff Reborn is scared of a pacifier!

Lambo instead wasn't scrupulous.

«Chakerface showed up at my villa with these, asking me to be the holder.» she began to explain. Reborn didn't let her continue.

«And you accepted?»

He seemed genuinely irritated, and Timoteo seemed to be of the same opinion.«You just got rid of the curse Luce, why do something like that?»

A dry, angry, furious sound came from Reborn's lips. Bad, very bad.

«That bastard... I'll find him. I swear that when I find him I'll plant a bullet straight in his sorry...»

«I'm not cursed.» That sentence was able to bring silence into the hall.

Aria pressed herself against her mother, holding Cosmo in her arms looking for some comfort. The situation was so tense as to put her nerves to test: she was only a child, after all, to endure so much pressure wasn't easy at her age.

«...what?»

«These objects aren't cursed anymore.» she smiled, watching the orange flow that flowed through the glass walls of the pacifier. «However, according to what Chakerface said, they still remain dangerous relics, they need to be contained, or their power could destroy an entire city, even the world if they ended up in the wrong hands.»

She looked at Reborn, bringing him serenity with a single smile, reassuring him that all was well and that the period of their curse was over forever.

«What does that bastard wants you to do?»

«He simply wants the pacifiers to return to their place, to the neck of those who know how to control and manipulate power as they please.» she handed the object back to Reborn, the yellow pacifier of the Sun shone as recognizing his owner. «He wants us to become the Pacifiers Keepers.»

Chapter Text

Casting small fleeting glances behind him, Iemitsu still wondered how he managed every time to get into situations that seriously threatened to get him killed -and sooner or later he would die for real, he was sure.

Luce Giglio Nero's Guardian -Hayato, a boy who couldn't be older than him- followed him a few steps away, along the corridors of the headquarters of the Consulenza Esterna della Famiglia, to the office that had been his.

On short notice he called Cumino -his most trusted friend, the calm and peaceful Cloud flying in his Sky- telling him that he was coming back with a guest, that they had important things to discuss about, and that he needed Lal Mirch and Colonnello's presence in order to face the question.

Iemitsu would have preferred to be anywhere else, far from the pandemonium they were about to unleash in his office -he prayed that it would come out intact, they could not afford too expensive repairs, it was not what the CEDEF funds needed- as soon as they showed the two former Arcobaleno the pacifiers.

Compared -he could bet his career on this- Reborn's reaction would be nothing.

He couldn't speak for Colonnello -they had met the first time only a few months before, they couldn't yet call themselves friends- but he knew Lal, and he knew she would scream, she would give him irresponsible, maybe even slap him. He could already feel his cheek pulsing, a pain he would have preferred to avoid.

And all because Nono had given him the order to flank Hayato in this crazy suicide mission to find the Arcobaleno and propose them to take back the pacifiers that once cursed them. If they came out alive Iemitsu would have considered the mission a success -because even thinking of escaping unharmed was pure fiction.

Yet another unconscious sigh escaped his lips as he analyzed every possible way in which Lal would torture him before silencing him forever.

«If it creates so many problems, you don't have to accompany me, I can do it myself.»

Iemitsu froze, turning slowly to the young man who had silently followed him up to that moment, cutting off all sorts of conversations with which the new CEDEF Boss had tried to approach him. He stared at him for several seconds, eyes wide open and surprised -so he could also speak, as well as freezing with his eyes- trying to steal every meaning hidden behind that unexpectedly gentle phrase.

Scratching his head nervously, Iemitsu laughed a little, denying any of his -effective- desire to escape as far as possible from his own office.

«Ahahah, don't worry, it's not a problem.»

In truth, there were many problems -Lal's slaps, the paperwork in his office, the difficulties and responsibilities that came with the title of Boss, had he already said the paperwork?- and Iemistu was simply tired.

Tired of demanding, to show himself to others compound and authoritative, tired of that title that he had inherited too early and that was slowly suffocating him.

All that Iemitsu wanted to return to Namimori as soon as possible -from his friends, to the city where he could simply be himself- but how could he disobey Nono's direct order?

Without the possibility of retorting in any other way, he had done the only thing he always did: lie and demand.

«Oi oi... what the hell is that smile for nothing extreme?!»

A well-placed fist knocked him to the ground. It hurt -hell, his cheek was on fire!- but Iemitsu had the feeling that Hayato had held back, that the fist full of energy and determination hadn't been launched with the intent to hurt.

He looked at him in the gray eyes -weren't they green until a few seconds ago?- inflamed with pure energy, warm and shining like... like a burning and restorative sun.

«Stop talking about those craps, it's not extreme at all!»

Iemitsu didn't know how to retort, completely displaced by the fact that someone had actually discovered his act. No one had ever succeeded, neither Enrico nor the Ninth. His Guardians understood that something was wrong, but Iemitsu had dismissed every suspicion with a laugh, belittling everything -he wasn't sure that Cumino and Mersin really believed in it.

And now here that out of nowhere was this mafioso -of an allied Family, reminded him a voice in his head- which with a single sentence had unmasked his perfect performance. Iemitsu was amazed.

«Do you think that people can follow a captain who pretends to be someone else?» Hayato continued, grabbing him by the cap and shaking it with impetuosity. «I'll tell you, HELL NO! A captain who pretends isn't extreme at all!» And Iemitsu ended up on the ground again.

Leaning down on his knees, Hayato lowered himself enough to stare with his gray eyes -no seriously, weren't they green? - at Iemitsu, a spark of golden fire to give them a discharge of what seemed to be pure energy.

And suddenly he couldn't pretend anymore.

«B-But... if the real me weren't enough?» He managed to stutter, as he let the fears rise to the surface and took his breath away.

Hayato beamed and smiled. Iemitsu had never seen a smile so hot and comforting before, which melted the knot formed in his throat.

«Then all you have to do is show everyone how extreme you are! No matter what, there will always be someone ready to support you if you will be yourself!» And extending his hand to him, Hayato never stopped smiling.«And I will always be on your real you's side to the extreme!»

And that was all Iemitsu needed.


***

 

When Iemitsu and that guy -Hayato of the Giglio Nero- crossed the office door, Cumino already knew that there was something different.

His Boss was different, of a pleasant difference, as if the shields erected by Iemitsu to keep everything and everyone away from his true self had finally fallen. He could feel it in the Cloud Flames that pulsed in his veins, the radiant heat of Sky that finally opened his heart to his own elements.

It had been weeks since his Boss had closed in on himself, since the weight of being in charge of CEDEF was burdened on his young shoulders, too early and sudden.

Although the Cloud was the most detached among the elements -protecting the Family having as few links as possible with it, never forget your role- Cumino loved Iemitsu, he was his Guardian, part of his Sky, and wanted help him in the fullest of his possibilities.

But he hadn't known how to do it, even talking about it with Mersin, the restless Storm, it didn't help at all.

«It's as if he were hiding his true self, as if he pretended to be someone he really isn't.» It had been her words when he had exposed his doubts about the sudden coldness between them and Iemitsu. «We can't force him to open up, but if Iemitsu can't overcome this thing, this block... I'm afraid he will end up collapsing.»

Cumino couldn't allow it, but what to do? Every approach seemed vain, and as Iemitsu's Flames were getting colder, the Cloud was slowly giving up to the idea of losing not only its Boss, but also a close friend.

They had entered the mafia world almost at the same time, they had faced every adversity together, yet there had been nothing that Cumino had been able to do.

Iemitsu was destined to become an incomplete Sky.

Until that moment.

He didn't know how he had done, if that Hayato was actually the architect of that change, what he was sure of was the positive difference he had perceived in Iemitsu, of the genuine smile he had given him when he saw him leaning against the wall behind the door, placing a hand on his shoulder as he used to do before the change.

«Thanks Cumino, and I apologize for the short notice.» Wordlessy, he only nodded, enjoying the warmth that Iemitsu's Flames had finally begun to emanate.

As the two walked away to greet Lal and Colonnello, Cumino couldn't hold back a smile: his Boss was finally back.

Perhaps -if he could ever stay alone with him- one day he would have thanked Hayato for it.


***


 

Seriously, Hayato really started to get enough of the idiots' initiatives with which he shared the body.

First the baseball freak, now lawn head. And the result was always the same: the continuous growth of problems with which he then had to live together.

I couldn't let him keep pretending! It was a matter of extreme necessity!

«Shut up! I don't want to hear excuses!» And even if on one hand he understood Ryohei's reactions, they had to stop acting impulsively.

See Iemitsu in that way -educated and respectful, posed and rigid, Flames cold and suppressed, unable to adapt to the part that was self imposed- had also created for him an annoying discomfort, especially knowing the consequences to which a similar repression of Flames could bring.

However, it wasn't their job to solve the situation, the less they could continue to interfere with the past, risking to drastically change the future they knew: it would be hard to stay without doing anything, but certainly not impossible.

Obviously, Ryohei had lasted a few seconds.

And now here they are, in the middle of Boss CEDEF's office, with Iemitsu attached to his arm begging him to save him from the fury of a young and lewd Lal Mirch.

«Haya-chaaaan! Salvamiiiii!»

Ah yes, the nickname. Let's not forget the annoying nickname.

Sighing, Hayato rubbed his head, while Colonnello and Cumino -Iemitsu's Cloud- tried to keep Lal from jumping to her own Boss's throat.

«You have a lot of courage to present yourself here with those things! Do you think it's all a game, Iemitsu?! How could you even think it was a good idea?!»

Well, he couldn't give her all the wrong -he understand the doubts and the anger that the pacifiers brought to the former Arcobaleno- however he couldn't suppress the irritation of being interrupted: they could at least let him finish speaking.

Past, present or future, reasoning with Lal Mirch was always a business.

He eyed Colonnello, and realized that he too was about to explode: it was clear that neither of them wanted to deal with those objects ever again. He tried to think of a way to be heard by the two former Arcobaleno, before they destroyed the office and even pounced on them.

He wasn't good at dealing with them, with Fon it was much easier to be heard.

Let me talk to them, octopus head!

«Forget it! You've already done enough damage!» He whispered through clenched teeth, without being heard by the others.

The hell he left such an important treatment in the hands of lawn head! He would have trusted more Mukuro than that idiot box freak.

Kfufufufu is an invitation to take the situation in my hand?

«Not even in a thousand years!» Now he didn't know who was worse.

Colonnello was my teacher, I know how to interact with him to the extreme! Did you hear Kawahira? The pacifiers must still have a Keepers at all costs, and it will be an extreme catastrophe if they end up in the wrong hands!

Ryohei's words -for once- made sense, and although he was reluctant to leave everything in his hands, not even Hayato's brilliant mind could find a better solution.

«All right... but if you mess up, I'll kill you!»

EXTREME!

He closed his eyes, giving free rein to the Sun Flames, which slowly replaced those of the Storm, giving Hayato's green eyes the gray shade that was Ryohei's, soaked in the golden yellow of his Flames.

Once he got control, Ryohei did the one thing no one could ever beat him: he screamed.

«BE EXTREMELY SILENT, ALL OF YOU!»

Everything stopped: the screams of Lal, the whining of Iemitsu, the murderous aura that Colonnello had unconsciously started to release, the words of Cumino trying to calm the situation. Everything froze, giving full attention to the figure of Ryohei, who now stared at them one by one, burning with determination.

«We know very well that those things lead only bad memories for you two, but you have to consider the extremely dangerous situation!» His gaze was fixed on Colonnello -the soldier child, his friend and teacher, the one for whom he would give everything except the life, that belonged to Sawada and no one else- trying to convey with gazes what words couldn't express.

He would have preferred to explain himself to fists -among them it was the best method to the extreme!- but octopus head would be angry for sure, so he had to find an alternative.

He heard Iemitsu stand up, flank him and address a sorry displeasure to Lal, who still stared at him furious and disappointed. «Lal, if I had even the slightest doubt that bringing these pacifiers in front of you could harm your health, I swear, I swear, that I would never have consented to even show them to you.»

And at that point, even Ryohei understood the situation.

He saw it in Lal's eyes -they had softened to Iemitsu's words, there was still fear, but it seemed that the anger had waned- in the speed with which it seemed to regain composure and confidence that seemed to place in the words of the young CEDEF Boss.

He felt it in the voice of Iemitsu, in the desperate cry of his Sky Flames to cling to the Rain, in the effort that the young man next to him was imprinting on his power to suppress the suffocating need that they themselves had felt on their skin.

He sensed it from the look of Cumino -worried, hopeful, dejected- as he looked from the young woman to his Boss.

Iemitsu and Lal were compatible on levels that Ryohei had seen a few times, and he wondered why they hadn't yet harmonized, when it was clear that they both craved that union as it was worth of their lives. Perhaps the sudden frost in Iemitsu's Flames could be the cause, but he didn't have time to focus on that too: one problem at a time, first they had to think about the pacifiers -two thoughts would have melted his brain to the extreme!

«I assure you that you aren't in danger, no curse, or whatever. You only have to keep them, use them as catalysts for your Flames, protect them from those who would use them to do harm!»

He didn't take his eyes off from Colonnello until he saw the child sighing, lowering his head and ruffling his blonde hair, almost defeated by the energy Ryohei had put in his eyes.

«Are you sure I won't be a child for the rest of my life, kora?»

Ryohei smiled. «No to the extreme! Kawahira babbled something about changing the age at will once the bodies reached their old age, but it was all too complicated and I didn't understand much. Probably octopus head will explain to you later!» And laughed, ignoring the puzzled and doubtful looks of those present.«Moreover, Reborn and Luce-san have already accepted to the extreme! You aren't in any danger!» He concluded, enjoying the amazement in the eyes of the former Arcobaleno.

Crossing her arms under her breasts, Lal Mirch sighed, surrendering to the madness of the men around her. «All right, you won. But I have a question.» She looked intently at Ryohei. «Why me too? I was just a failure, an incomplete Arcobaleno, why give the pacifier back to me?»

Good question. Ryohei didn't really know how to answer her -it was octopus head to think about using the brain!- considered that when Kawahira had visited them and explained the reasons behind his request, he hadn't paid attention.

Herbivore, I will bite you to death for your stupidity.

«These are extremely boring speeches! It's not my fault if I fell asleep!» Perhaps he had spoken too loudly, as the occupants of the room now stared at him as if he were mad.

For the love... you're hopeless, lawn head! Repeat what I tell you, and lower your voice when you talk to us! Idiot!

«Kawahira said that even if your curse was incomplete, the pacifier still absorbed enough Flames to become a relic. Not as powerful as the others, but still dangerous if not kept extremely under control.»

He seemed to convince them, for Lal nodded as she grabbed the glass object from the box and studied it suspiciously, pulling a chain from her trouser pocket and tying the pacifier to her neck. Colonnello did the same.

«How do you feel?» Iemitsu asked, apprehensive and worried.

Lal gave him a small, reassuring smile. «It's strange, although having it around my neck evokes bad memories, it almost seems as if everything has returned to its place, as if...»

«As if it were right that these things were with us, kora!» Colonnello concluded frustrated, turning his blue pacifier between his fingers, thinking how ironic it was that the object that he hated the most in the world seemed so right on him.

Seeing that everything seemed to be smooth, Ryohei relaxed, ready to exchange again with Hayato, except that a detail came back to him, reminding him that his task wasn't over yet.

Stop taking care of their business! Have you at least heard ONE word of what I said before?!

He wasn't listening.

«Now that I think of it, there's something that's been bothering me for a while.» They turned to look at him, waiting for him to continue. «For what reason do you two haven't harmonized yet?!» he accused, pointing Lal and Iemitsu, caught unawares.

They jumped, refusing to meet each other's eyes, but the thrill that struck them didn't escape Ryohei's eyes. Those two idiots quivered to harmonize -hell was obvious even to him!- yet they refused to do so.

«W-What are you talking about, Haya-chan?» A well-placed fist hit Iemitsu in the face, the second of that day.

Cumino shuddered to shoot at his Boss's side, but Colonnello held him back: he remained silent, watching without intervening in that exchange that he knew was necessary.

«Don't make extremely fun of me! I told you not to pretend with me!»

He was furious: how could they deny something as beautiful as the bond of harmonization?! He would have given everything to be able to go back, when he too had that special bond... and what did they do instead? They refused! Ryohei couldn't really accept this.

«It's not that simple...» Lal admitted, sighing.

«Did you see what Luce-san had to do to get Reborn, right?» Iemitsu bitterly reminded him. «You can't just take and harmonize with an Arcobaleno, there are rules and procedures and...»

«Well, but Lal isn't a real Arcobaleno, right?» Ryohei came out suddenly, scratching his chin. «Anyway, who cares? Arcobaleno or not, no one can deny a harmonization, especially when two people are as compatible as you, so stop whining excuses to the extreme and harmonize!»

He had decided, and would not leave before seeing them create the bond before his eyes.

«But... Luce-san...» Iemitsu tried again, but Ryohei didn't give him the time.

«No but! I bet Luce-san would be happy for you! She isn't a person so selfish to deny a bond, not after she has experienced the suffering to not being able to bind to someone so compatible!»

He saw Iemitsu retreat uncertainly, then turn to look at Lal -knew that look, they were more similar than it appeared- and sigh. «To you... would be fine, Lal? Would you like to be my Rain?»

Lal Mirch turned to look at the young man, uncertain, perhaps frightened, but finally smiled, probably surrendering to her own needs. She could no longer resist, not when the Sky was calling to her.

«I warn you, I won't make your life easy.»

Iemitsu laughed. «I'm ready. If you're by my side, I'm sure I can become a good Boss.»

And under the pleased eyes of Ryohei, the link between Rain and Sky had finally been tight -confirmed in the smile of Cumino, while he was holding a hand to his heart, enjoying the feeling of a new bond.

Octopus head wouldn't have been happy with that intrusion, but he didn't care: no one would have suffered a missed bond, not if he could do something to prevent it.

It was a suffering that he didn't even wish for his worst enemy.

Chapter Text

Even if the name had been given in honor of a white church dedicated to the Virgin, the London district of Whitechapel was infamous for the mysterious murders that had caused a stir among the population in the autumn of 1888.

The author of such ruthless crimes was a single man named Jack the Ripper, whose true identity was still shrouded in mystery. The name of the serial killer, however -and here he let out a commendation for the skill of the murderer- still infested the darkest streets of the neighborhood, especially at night, when drunks and frightened girls swore to have seen the ghost of the Ripper wandering around Whitechapel, probably looking for his next victim.

What better place in which an eccentric scientist could decide to settle?

Whitechapel was a quiet neighborhood -he couldn't complain, he had worked in much more chaotic places- and it proved to be a good point of interest for his research on the Flames -ahhh, there was still so much to discover, it was all simply exciting!

Verde couldn't ask for anything better.

Checking the data on the laptop, Verde adjusted his glasses on the nose, rubbing his eyelids from time to time, probably stressed by continuously staring at the illuminated computer screen.

Tze, stupid human needs to rest and feed, slowed down his research and his hunger for knowledge: sooner or later he would find a scientific remedy to that annoying problem.

Keiman slept blissfully at his feet, barely moving away when he sensed a presence approaching, but continuing to sleep when realized that it wasn't a possible threat.

«Don't you take a break, Mr. Verde? If you aren't careful, you risk collapsing on your keyboard.»

Verde turned his gaze to his assistant -a young London orphan who grew up on the street, one of the brightest minds he had ever had to deal with, a waste to let it rot under a bridge- looking at him calmly, adjusting his curled blonde tuft that covered one of the clear blue eyes, the right one. In his hands he had a tray, on which stood two white cups with a steaming liquid inside -he could see only the steam coming out of them, but it probably had to be tea.

Between his teeth stood the white stick of a lollipop, his substitute to the cigarettes that Verde had strictly prevented him from smoking -Verde didn't accept smoke in the laboratory, only outside and only when the work wasn't urgent.

He accepted the cup of tea that Knocker had kindly offered him, but without taking his eyes off the monitor and taking care not to splash the contents on the equipment.

He would have preferred a good Italian espresso, but he content himself.

«Not yet, I have a couple of data to check.» He was one step away from finding that all those nonsense about the appearances of Jack the Ripper weren't so groundless, he didn't have time to stop. «Rather, you've completed the machine?»

Knocker shook his head, finishing his drink and showing some notes to his teacher, full of calculations on which he had been puzzled for days, without getting a spider from the hole. He was deadlocked.

«The detector marks the presence of Dying Will Flames, yet we don't have enough power in the concentration system to be able to extract and trap them. Whatever it is out there, whether it's the Ripper himself or just the physical manifestation of his last will, he'll be on the loose again for a while.»

Verde gritted his teeth, not finding in the calculations of his pupil any mistake, no flaw that they could exploit to fix the machine and finally collect the data needed to try their last discovery.

Could old flames of more than 100 years still infest the neighborhood where their rightful master lived and acted? Was the will of the Ripper so strong that he gave life to his own power, so that he could continue what he hadn't been able to do?

Verde yearned to give a scientific and rational answer to all this, because for him the inexplicable -in the bottom- always had a logical explanation. And if he didn't -like his no-longer-his curse- just Verde accepted that something was a miracle that even surpassed science.

In Jack's case, however, there was nothing inexplicable, if only he had found a way to trap those Flames and study them more closely, Verde was certain to be able to solve the mystery that revolved around the power of the Dying Will.

«The problem is the lack of raw source» Knocker added, after several minutes of silence. «If we had a catalyst, something that exploits and embodies the power of the Flames, perhaps we could study a way to trap also residual Flames with own will, but without those and more energy, I think it's impossible.»

A single object came to his mind that corresponded to the description given by his pupil -more powerful than any ring, able to constantly absorb the Flames of his own keeper and to keep them in large quantities- which was no longer in his possession.

A real pity: if on the one hand it was nice to return to grow, get rid of that tiny body -however useful- and be able to regain its true appearance, on the other it was a shame not to have fully exploited the power of the pacifiers for his experiments. A real misfortune, given the premises.

After all, he had always been positive in accepting his condition, and indeed his lifestyle hadn't changed much compared to when he was an adult: his brain was intact and active, he didn't need anything else to continue working. The height problem was solved thanks to Knocker, so Verde had perfectly adapted to the infant condition he had been forced to.

He bit his lip until it bleeds, frustrated.

«Tze, if only I still had my pacifier...»

«Oya oya, I would say we arrived at the right time then.»

It was quick Verde to extract his gun from under his coat, Knocker on the contrary backed surprised, while an indigo cloud enveloped the room, revealing two figures he didn't realize before. Kaiman blew the spot where the two strangers were, but remained beside him, probably waiting for the order to attack.

Verde recognized in the lower of the two Iemitsu Sawada -a Vongola, the Boss of CEDEF- while he couldn't name the other boy, who grinned without looking away from him, holding a... trident in his hands?

He glanced around, recognizing in the work of the two the use of unforgettable Mist Flames -among the most interesting elements according to him- and the powerful illusions that accompanied them.

Whoever the other guy was, Verde knew he was in front of a respectable illusionist: he could probably give Viper himself a hard time if they found themselves fighting each other.

«Can you also use Mist Flames? And where did that trident come from?»

«Kfufufufu among other things, yes. Do not worry about the trident, rather...»

Verde felt a shiver run down his back when he saw the boy's eyes: while the left one was blue -more intense than Knocker's, tending to the blue of the sky- the right one was blood-red, terrifying and intriguing at the same time. It seemed that instead of the pupil there were numbers inside -were those Japanese kanji?- and unconsciously Verde thought about how nice it would be to study that mysterious phenomenon.

He felt excited at the thought alone.

«We have an interesting offer for you, Arcobaleno Verde. And seeing your current... block, if we can define it, I really believe you would accept it.»

Verde grinned, not at all impressed. He put the gun back in his gown and adjusted his glasses, approaching the two strangers a few steps without ever looking down. Seeing him lower his weapons, Kaiman also relaxed, but didn't move away from his side.

«You know, I'm not very inclined to accept proposals from complete strangers. I'm afraid I missed the name. Again, who are you?»

The boy grinned -was he perhaps impressed by his calm?- just arching his back forward and crossing his arm to his chest, as if with that bow he could have apologized for not having presented himself.

«Oya oya, forgive my rude ways. My name is... Hayato, Storm Guardian of the Giglio Nero Family. I'm here under the order of Luce, Eighth Boss of the Family.»

Verde was taken aback. Luce's Guardian? What could that woman still want from him, and what could be so urgent as to send one of hers Guardians in person?

«What an honor, though I would have said Mist, rather than Storm. What can the Saint want from this poor, defenseless scientist?»

The boy -Hayato- smiled again, while Iemitsu was watching everything on the sidelines, passing his gaze from him to Knocker looking for some signal that heralded an attack that, Verde knew, would never arrive.

Neither he nor his pupil were lovers of physical violence, and even if they had been, neither of them had the proper physique to engage a battle with two well-trained mafiosi: they were supporters of mind's power, leaving aside everything comprised physical efforts.

He saw Hayato close his eyes a second, rummaging inside the black jacket, and then extracting a box and opening it without hesitation right in front of his eyes, giving him the opportunity to admire its contents in all its splendor.

Now, Verde was pretty sure of his ability to mask emotions -maybe not at Reborn levels, but it wasn't easy to understand what Verde really thought- and always have full control over them, yet he felt the muscles of the face contract once his eyes rested on the pacifiers that the boy held.

«We're here to give you the chance to resume your Arcobaleno role, no curses and some benefits once your body has regained its true age. Kfufufu convenient don't you think?»

Verde didn't answer, still staring intently at the green pacifier -his pacifier, his Lightning Flames concentrated and encased in a small glass object- giving only quick glances to the rest of the box. There were only four pacifiers including his, so at least three others had already agreed to resume their role as custodians -he didn't know if Lal Mirch had been contacted, after all she was a failure.

A greedy opportunity, almost as if fate -not God, there was no God in whom Verde believed- had decided to give him the opportunity to continue his research. It was a sign, a blessing, an opportunity that wouldn't have been missed.

He smiled, still adjusting his glasses on his nose and grinning, «It sounds like an interesting proposition, please tell me more.»


***
 

When talking about banlieue -the suburbs, the outskirts of the French metropolises- the first name to which every young mafia associated the term was Saint-Denis, the place with the highest crime rate in all France.

Terrorists, drug dealers, all kinds of human scum gathered in the poorest suburbs where the state was completely absent, where they could lorded it over everyone. Places left at the mercy of organized crime without any control by authorities and law enforcement agencies, who intervened only in case of specific events that could harm the security of the capital.

If there was no danger to Paris, then there was nothing to worry about.

Was in one of those nefarious and dirty places that their next mission would take place, the murder of some insignificant mobster who had angered the wrong people, thinking he could get away with unharmed.

Poor fool.

Normally they didn't accept jobs in those kind of places -usually they weren't worth the pay, more money spent than those earned- they hated the stench of sewers, the dregs that hid in every corner believing they could earn something simply begging, or stabbing someone behind, depending on the preferred method. They only agreed this time, because the pay was quite lavish, and lately the money in their pockets was scarce as it hadn't been for a while.

Something to which Mammon absolutely had to remedy.

That evening it wasn't Viper -the other name, it had to stand out somehow- and perhaps for that kind of missions, Mammon was more suitable. So, for that night, Mammon was a she.

Enjoying what was a good glass of rum with ice, Mammon was sitting at the desk of the hovel where her target had gathered to confer with his colleagues, barking, laughing and drinking, telling everyone about his amazing business, how he "fucked like a whore" the head of a great French Mafia family.

Jackass. No rookie could think of robbing a Family and getting away without consequences.

Hidden in the illusion of a young woman -damn infant body, she wasn't back to the right size yet- observed the man scoff at those who had cheated, unaware of what awaited him shortly thereafter.

She just needed an excuse, the right time to act and be sure she could get away without anyone having the chance to track her down.

«Célébrons! N'y a-t-the pas une femme here veuille the avoir avec moi? Je suis riche!»

That was the moment Mammon waited for. She drank her drink until the last sip, left a few coins on the counter, and approached seductively the target's table, moving her hips and leaving open the wide neckline that gave free vision to her big breast.

If Fon had seen her in that moment, he would probably have scolded her -«Rashed as usual, improper use of your body»- but she didn't care: only the thought made her seethe with rage. Why did she think of him at that moment?

Fon had become strangely protective -as well as critical of her every single move- and this irritated Mammon -and Viper- to death.

«Excusez-moi.» She said softly, putting a finger to the mouth and nibbling her fingernail sensually. She just mentioned a smile. «Y a-t-il a place pour moi?»

The target remained dumbfounded for a few seconds, before smiling mischievous and approaching her, grabbing her by the hips and palpating her butt hand full, without the slightest intention of hiding his lewd desire.

Disgusting -it's just the illusion, just the illusion- but the pay was worth the trouble. She pinned herself not to use the trick of seduction anymore to get to the target, it was really annoying.

He felt Fantasma rebel against her head -he never left her alone, wherever she went, the little salamander was with her- but ordered him not to interfere: she didn't like it either, but it was still work.

He came up to the face, licking her lips licking -he had the breath that smelled of alcohol, Mammon had to concentrate not to vomit on him- and felt the erection of the maniac pressing on her thigh, while he was desperate to sink his fingers in her breasts.

Disgusting. Once again, she repeated to herself that the pay was worth the sacrifice.

Mammon managed to convince him to leave the slum before the man decided to be too drunk to worry about decency and decided to undress her in the middle of the room, taking him to what should have been her apartment.

"The fuck I carry a scum in my hotel room, with all that it cost me." Mammon thought, while the target's lips pounced on hers, while with his hands he felt every part of her in desperate need, like an octopus lewd and horny.

Disgusting. She pinned herself to ask for an extra pay, after such treatment she deserved it.

When the man became more intrepid -more greedy, eager to possess her there and immediately- approaching the fabric of the miniskirt that she wore with the clear intention of removing it and having free access to her graces -only the illusion, he's just touching an illusion, poor stupid- Mammon decided she had enough.

She released her Mist Flames with more violence, wrapping the target and moving away, materializing behind him in the form of a child that was her current body, wrapped in the black cloak she always wore, hood lowered and eyes hidden by it.

She looked with disgust at the man who continued undaunted to touch the illusion, while this was responding to his movements as Mammon wanted, keeping him busy enough so that she could accomplish the mission and put an end to that insignificant life once and for all.

Phantom appeared on his head, excited, ready more than she to kill that man who had dared touch her. He puffed impatiently, and Mammon could only agree with him.

«I agree, it's really pathetic. Time to finish it.»

She snapped her little fingers and released her Flames, going to attack the part of the human body that with her abilities could damage more than anything: the brain.

It was a moment, the illusions were dissipated around her, transforming the room in which he thought he was in a stinky alley not too far from the inn where Mammon had been "boarded" by the man, while the body of the latter fell to the ground, blood came out copiously from the mouth, the ears and even the eyes. The white pupils were facing backwards, giving the corpse a terrible and disturbing appearance.

Mammon smiled. Perhaps she had exaggerated -the hell, she didn't regret anything- but that was what that kind of bastard deserved to have groped the instant he had laid his eyes on her- on the illusion, but there wasn't the slightest chance that she would use her real body for such a job.

Child's body apart, she wouldn't let herself be touched by anyone, man or woman. Well, maybe there was a person who she didn't mind having small physical contacts -a handshake, elbows that were almost touching by chance- but before admitting it Mammon would have torn his tongue in bites.

Mammon looked again at the body on the ground, snapped a picture as evidence for the client and snorted.

«You looked for it, son of a bitch.»

«Waa! What a mess! And who thought that a child could create all the commotion?!»

Mammon whirled around. If someone could have seen her eyes, they would have read the horror and surprise of finding out that two man were able to surprise her, something that hadn't happened for some time now.

She stared with dismay at the two boys who looked from her to the corpse behind him, one with confusion and surprise, the other absolutely impassive.

At a second glance, Mammon almost choked to see that one of them was Iemitsu Sawada, the new boss of CEDEF, an honored member of the Vongola Family.

What was he doing there in France -what he wanted from them and how he could track them down?- Mammon didn't know, but it was worrying. Usually the Vongola didn't bring anything good.

«Nice to see you, Mist Arcobaleno, Vipe ... ah ... Mammon-san?»

The second guy was talking -was he really a guy?- tall and blond, his right eye closed as if he could not see through it, while the right was bright purple, lit by the clear rays of the full moon that evening shone above their heads.

That sentence left Mammon banned. He knew? How had he distinguished them? No one -Fon had been the first, followed by the other Arcobaleno, but in addition to them no one seemed to have ever realized the difference- had ever been able to understand when it was Mammon or when Viper.

Because they were the same person and two different people at the same time. There were days -even weeks- in which one prevailed over the other, without however taking complete control of that body, which undeterred continued to change and change, never stopping and balancing itself in a equilibrium with which it was then managed to live together.

That they were versatile, that they weren't always Viper or always Mammon had been the cause they had found themselves alone when they were real children, all because the people who should have loved them weren't able to accept them for what they were. Neither Mammon nor Viper seemed to matter that much.

«I'm Mammon, what do you want from me?»

She saw Iemitsu turn up his nose and frown, scratching his head for some kind of divine revelation. «But... the Mist Arcobaleno... wasn't he called Viper?»

«The official name is that, CEDEF-san, but it depends... right now it's Mammon-san the one in front of us.»

Mammon didn't take her eyes off the boy -again, why she had the feeling that they were more similar than meets the eyes?- wondering how he knew all those things about her -about them- and how he knew when they were one and when they were the other.

Except for the name and for... well that, they were basically the same person. It was quite interesting, but they couldn't be distracted.

«Speak, what do the Vongola want from me so much to send the Young Lion himself to speak to me?»

Sawada stayed behind -he could read the surprise of being called with his headline printed in the eyes- letting his companion come closer.

«I'm Luce Giglio Nero-sama's Storm Guardian, and I'm here with CEDEF-san to propose something to you, Mammon-san.»

Mammon saw him take a box out of his jacket, and put before her eyes the last object she wanted to have in front of them at that moment: after all that they had gone through, why did Luce send someone to bring them a damned pacifier again?!

Before she could assault the two young men -verbally and physically-, Luce's Guardian spoke again.

«We want you to bring this pacifier back with you. May you be the Keeper, use it as you see fit, and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. No curse, interesting possibilities once your body is back to normal.»

It could also be an interesting proposition -those possibilities she was really curious to find out- but it took more than that to convince them and pick up the object that had ruined their life.

«In addition, the Vongola and the Giglio Nero will make sure to give you protection and asylum whenever you need it, obviously supplanting every expense and providing you with a monthly fee that will be duplicated if you decide to carry out missions on behalf of the two Families.»

Ok, now they spoke the same language, but they still weren't sure they wanted to accept. They thought about it carefully, noting how in the box only two pacifiers were still lying on the cloth that protected them: the purple one of Skull and the red one of Fon. If they had refused or if they simply had not yet received the proposal, this Mammon didn't know it.

They thought about it again, and finally gave up, sighing. What was the point in ruminating? Thei answer to that proposal was almost obvious.

After all, nothing for them was more important than money


***
 

Of scary things in his life, Skull had faced more than he could count on his fingertips. Even at that moment, during his tour in Germany -he could go back to being a stuntman, to perform as he once did- he had happened several times to be face to face with death, laughing in her face as he had always done, even before that the whole Arcobaleno mess started.

He was Skull after all -the Immortal Stuntman- the one who challenged the grim reaper and managed to get away with it, he couldn't be frightened by it.

Reborn and Colonnello were perhaps his first real fear -the hell that he would have admitted it in the face of those assholes, rather he would have eaten a sweaty sock!- and for obvious as unseemly reasons. They were bullies, bossy, who thought they were stronger just because they had some more skills than him -tze, one day he would show them, nobody could mock the great Skull-sama and pass it smooth!- and after the curse had begun, they had completely stopped taking him seriously.

With the end of the curse and his body slowly returning to its original form, Skull was sure no one would dare to mock him, thus gaining the respect he deserved and silencing his so-called "sempai" once and for all.

Nobody could have scared him anymore.

At that moment, however, stuck to the wall by a strange blonde man armed with tonfa -where the fuck he had pulled out thet things?- Skull tried what it meant to be really afraid.

The gray eyes were ruthlessly aimed at him, who could only sweat cold under that glanc.

«Herbivore, take this and fulfill your task, otherwise I'll bite you to death.» He had begun, placing his pacifier under his nose and almost forcing him to take it back.

Skull wanted to cry and scream in fear, continuing to wonder why that kind of situations always and only happened to him.

«W-Wait Haya-chan! If you don't explain it well you cannot expect him to accept it!» Intervened then his companion, the other blond with a familiar face but Skull didn't remember where he had already seen.

The gray-eyed wolf grunted, muttering something that looked like an "herbivore" and something that resembled the Japanese word "kamikorosu" before moving away and snorting.

The other boy remained with him, smiling and apologizing for the behavior of his strange companion, justifying it all with a joke: «Don't worry, he suffer from multiple personalities!»

For some reason, Skull didn't struggle to believe it.

While Iemitsu -he had presented- explained the reasons for that request -"request" my ass! The psychopath was clearly obliging him to accept!- the wolf returned to them, with something different that puzzled the former Arcobaleno.

He was sure the eyes of that bossy were gray, so how come they were green like a meadow in the middle of spring? He rubbed his eyes, perhaps all the tiredness accumulated during the tour was giving him hallucinations.

«Yare yare, I apologize first, I was real rude. Candy of peace?» And offered him a grape candy that Skull gladly accepted. «So, do you think you can help us? Reborn and Colonnello have already accepted, but if you do not feel it...»

Skull puffed out his cheeks, almost offended by the lack of confidence in his ability to keep that stupid pacifier. Also, if Reborn and Colonnello had accepted and could do it, he was sure he could do incredibly better.

«Give me here!» He snatched the pacifier from the boy's hands, holding it tightly between his and showing it proudly to the two mafiosi. «There's nothing the great Skull-sama cannot do! I'll be even better than those two cowards of Reborn and Colonnello, ahahahahah!»

He grinned as he thought of the amazed faces of those two plebeians prostrated at his feet, while they apologized and finally admitted his undisputed superiority.

A moment Skull waited anxiously.

 

***

 

Looking out the window, Iemitsu could hardly hold back a smile.

The clouds passed around them fast, as they crossed the sky for the fifth time in five months, headed for their last destination, the conclusion of that long journey that had seen them companions for that long span of time.

The screen above them spoke clearly, while the red line traced the distance left between the Hong Kong International Airport and the Narita Airport in Tokyo, their last destination.

They were almost there now.

"Still little time, Nakano-chan wait for me!" He only hoped that Hayato didn't mind taking a little detour once the mission was over: after all that hard work, a short break wouldnìt hurt either.

«Are you excited?»

To say excited was a euphemism: he smiled at him, showing himself to be the energetic and reckless boy he had never stopped being, not even now that he was almost 23 years old.

«I can not wait to get there! I'm sure you'll love it, you'll see!» he let himself be carried away by dreams, putting an arm around Hayato's neck and attracting him with a rush.« I'll take you around the center, there's one of the most fashionable cafes in Japan! We'll have lunch at Aki-chan, make the best sushi around and... ah! The most important thing, I can introduce you to Nakano-chan! My beloved Nakano-chan!»

He saw Hayato frowning. «Nakano-chan?»

Iemitsu nodded vigorously: «The sweetest kouhai I've ever had!»

He began to fantasize about how wonderful it would be to finally see Nakano-chan's beautiful face, hear her laughter, her sweet scent of lavender and... inevitably, Iemitsu blushed suddenly.

«But I warn you, don't fall in love with her! I know she's fantastic, nice and simply beautiful, but I cann't allow it! Not even if it's you, Haya-chan!»

He saw Hayato bending his lips -was that a smile? They made progress!- nodding absently.

«Sure no problem. Try not to drool too much, or your "Nakano-chan" might run away.»

Iemitsu approached him, smiling artfully and lowering his voice a few tenths.

«You, rather, try to control your multiple personalities, especially Mist-san and Cloud-san, will you be able to?»

Hayato blushed to the tip of his ears, and at that sight Iemitsu couldn't hold back a fat laugh.

«Wha ...?! I already told you it's not like that! It's just the Flames fault! The Flames!» but Iemitsu was no longer listening, covering every word with his laughter.

«You're really fun, Haya-chan!»

He was pleased to see him so relaxed, especially since lately Hayato seemed to get lost in his own thoughts, closing himself and cutting out the world and anyone around him.

They had traveled all over China in search of Fon, the last Arcobaleno that was missing from their appeal, without success, and ended up in collision with members of the Triad looking for the same person. A hard month, the longest and most difficult they had faced in search of the prodigies babys, only to find out that the Storm Arcobaleno had made its tracks lose, disappearing from the world radar of the Triad and anyone who wasn't a close ally.

Without any useful clues, they had therefore decided to contact Luce -hoping that Fon had maintained contact with her at least- and she had informed them that she knew where Fon was, that she had seen him in her visions and that could help them.

Iemitsu had almost shouted for joy when he heard where Fon was hiding. Hayato, on the other hand, frozen.

He seemed really worried -agitated? - as if the idea of going there terrified him, but why should be? Iemitsu didn't know this, but wanted to be able to help his friend in some way. He was glad he had succeeded in distracting him, at least some of the tension that had enveloped Hayaro in those last days seemed to have disappeared.

«Iwe are almost there. We'll land soon, better prepare for the trip.»

Iemitsu nodded, managing to see beyond the fog of clouds the lights that animated Tokyo. A few hours on the train separated him from home, he was on pins and needles.

«I'm finally back, my beloved Namimori!»

Chapter Text

*w*w*w*w*w*


 

Sipping the steaming green tea that the maid had just brought, Fon didn't seem nervous: despite the presence of two obvious mafiosi in the living room of his home -his sister actually- the former Arcobaleno seemed to be perfectly at ease in the presence of the two boys.

He watched them out of the corner of his eye, while Lichi had opted for a more direct approach, toying with the blond hair of the boy more to the right -he was young, but in the green eyes that never lost sight of him, Fon could read the experience and the pain he must have already experienced in his short life- that he never stopped staring at him, probably waiting for the former Arcobaleno to take the word; he seemed calm and relaxed, unlike his colleague, who moved nervously -if out of anxiety or pain in his knees Fon wasn't sure.

After the hot liquid ran down his throat, the former Arcobaleno placed the now empty cup on the table that separated him from his guests, taking a deep breath and smiling: he tilted his head slightly, joining his hands under the long sleeves of his red tunic.«How can I help you?»

He saw the boy on the right move cautiously careful not to let Lichi fall from his head, despite the obvious annoyance that the monkey was causing him- taking a black box from an inner pocket and opening it in front of his eyes.

The sight of his red pacifier surprised him, while the pulsations of his Storm Flames accelerated, claiming their sisters trapped inside the artifact that now rested on a white satin cloth, placed in a black box, in the hands of a stranger of whom Fon knew nothing; with a deep breath he was able to placate them, not taking his eyes off the small object.

«My name is Hayato, Storm Guardian of Luce Giglio Nero.» then indicated his companion, presenting him as what Fon already knew to be Vongola Young Lion, but remaining silent and listen to what the two mafiosi had to tell him.«We are here to offer you an agreement, with the approval of Luce-sama and Timoteo Vongola and their unconditional word.»

At that point, Fon was fully focused on the boys and what they had to tell him: he smiled, settling himself better on the pillow and calling Lichi to his side, stroking her white fur with delicate sweetness. «Yare yare, I wonder what this could be, this agreement you are talking about.»

The boy -Hayato, he made a point to remember it- told him about the pacifiers, probably phrases he had repeated again and again to his Arcobaleno comrade, mentioning also how all the others had already accepted the task of guarding the artifacts and their power.

For his part, Fon had no problem resuming custody of the pacifier, until no curse gravitated on his head there was no reason to refuse to protect the balance of the world simply by guarding a small object hanging from his neck: however he was curious to hear what interesting proposal they had to make, so he simply remained silent and waited for it to continue.

«We know of your... problems with the Triad.» Fon twisted his nose slightly, moving nervously in place. «If you accept the proposal, our Families will guarantee protection for you and for your loved ones, including the help needed to defeat the organization that is constantly looking for you throughout China.»

Mulling over for a few seconds in silence -closed eyes, the typical pose in which he liked to put himself on when he had to meditate or relaxing- pondering the offer received and finding no apparent reason to refuse: if he had no reason to decline the offer initially, now he couldn't even afford to ignore it.

«And the only condition is that I keep the pacifier again?»

Hayato nodded, and Fon knew for sure that he wasn't lying, that in his green eyes there was only pure and sincere determination, based on the certainty that the words he spoke were genuine and true: it was simple to read, and at the same time it was impossible to do with clarity; a very interesting subject.

Fon smiled, putting his hands together and bowing slightly: «Well, I'd say we have an agreement. Thank you for the generous offer.»

He couldn't have made a better choice.

 

***

 

When Hayato had agreed to follow Iemitsu for lunch -in Namimori's best restaurant, he said- the last place he had thought he could find himself was TakeSushi: looking at the outside carefully, he found himself thinking that it wasn't changed over the years, preserving that normal but familiar aspect that smelled of joy, good food and home.

A wave of Rain Flames moved under his skin, overflowing with joy at the mere sight of the place which for all of them represented a focal point in time spent beside the Tenth; he had to impose his own Storm with as much decision as possible to prevent Takeshi's Flames from submerging him completely.

«Calm yourself, baseball freak!» He growled through clenched teeth, careful not to be heard by Iemitsu. To be an idiot -past or present, that particular characteristic was constantly associated with the Young Lion- he had understood too much about their his condition -also due to the lack of control he had exercised over the other Guardians during the last months- he couldn't risk to make him suspicious further.

Gomen gomen Hayato! I couldn't resist.

And how can you blame him? As much as he wanted to accuse Takeshi and call him an idiot, he couldn't blame him, not when Kyoya was almost imposed, trying to take control of the body as soon as they landed at Namimori in an attempt to regain control of what had been his, or when he had tried again a few hours before, in front of what had been the residence of the Hibaris for generations.

Tze, I should bite you all to death for holding me.

He couldn't reproach Takeshi, not when Ryohei's Sun had kept him awake all the way by plane, excited to set foot in Japanese again, in the town which for all of them had been the beginning of a wonderful -albeit painful- adventure.

It's all extremely exciting!

They were all extreme idiots, but he couldn't blame them.

«Come on Haya-chan, let's get in! I can't wait to introduce you to Aki-chan!»

With a snort -calm and cold blood, it's just a restaurant- he followed Iemitsu inside: lowering his head and moving the blue curtains that adorned the entrance, Hayato took the first step, making sure he had each Flames under control, while Iemitsu's only cries were enough to announce their presence to anyone in the restaurant.

Focusing on the furnishings that surrounded him, Hayato let his gaze run inside the room, settling on every detail, even the most insignificant, searching for those signs of their presence that could never have existed -it wasn't their time, there was no possibility that there would be- in the vain hope that something in that familiar place would call home.

He found none.

Disappeared, lost in the same veins of the time they had ridden to reach the past to stop a powerful enemy, the one who had torn Sky from them in an instant, without warning, first gaining their trust and then stabbing them behind in the night: a wound still open and bleeding, but which they wouldn't have allowed it to open again.

He felt the sadness flowing under his skin -too many streams of downed Flames, he risked being carried away by a mixture of feelings that were not his own, calm Hayato, he told himself, breath- and for a moment he couldn't move, moving a few blonde strands from his face, seeking the calm and composure he had shown before Fon, an impassive mask to protect himself from a world he wasn't yet ready to face.

An unknown voice in Hayato's ears reached them from the back room, giving life to Takeshi's Flames that seemed to press even harder to overflow and bring their owner to the control: that voice, of whoever it was, had to represent something more for the Rain, this Hayato could have guessed without being explained to him.

«I'm here! Good morning, how can I... Itsu-chan?!»

Hayato take a few moments to study the newly-appeared girl, who was left paralyzed at the mere sight of Iemitsu -Itsu-chan? Seriously?- which instead seemed entranced by that encounter: the girl -no older than them- had dark hair gathered in a high tail, covered by a practical scarf depicting a cheerful octopus spraying ink the writing Takesushi" shone in orange on the black spot thrown by the animal- while blue eyes like water were slightly dilated, lit up with joy and something that Hayato couldn't identify.

«Aki-chan!»

Before being able to add any other sentence, the girl was on Iemitsu, twisting her legs around his neck and immobilizing his arms on the ground, in the best grip that Hayato had ever seen a woman do.

Yosh! I want this girl in my club! She looks extremely strong!

Striking a hand to the ground, Iemitsu called the surrender, but only after several minutes of pain and suffering, "Aki-chan" decided to release him and finally grant him the grace, not abandoning the pout with which he had electrocuted Iemitsu from the moment he had landed it.

Resuming air and rubbing his reddened neck, Iemitsu glared at the girl, pointing an accusing finger at her: «You're always the usual rough tomboy, what is your problem?!»

«What problems do I have?! You're the one who disappeared without a word, do you have any idea how worried I was?!» Aki had replied. Crossing her arms under her breast and giving her back to the other young man.

«I told you I was leaving! But you were too busy getting married to pay attention to me!»

«Oh, sorry if I was too busy during MY marriage to hear your worries!»

They stared at each other aggressively for a long time -Hayato was really convinced that they would jump to thei throat from one moment to the next- only to burst out laughing and hug peacefully, remaining in each other's arms for a time that seemed infinitely long.

«I missed you so much, Itsu-chan, it's nice to have you back home.»

«I missed you too Aki-chan, and it's nice to be back.»

When he was sure the fuss was enough, Hayato coughed to attract the attention of the two, who blushed and separated suddenly, as if they had forgotten his perennial presence in the same room from the beginning: they probably had been.

«Forgive me Haya-chan, I got carried away!» Justified Iemitsu, then smiled at hos friend and finally proceeded to the presentations. «Aki-chan, this is Hayato, my colleague and best friend in Italy.»

He wanted to make it clear that they weren't friends at all, that they were working together for a single case and that they would split up as soon as they returned to Italy, as soon as possible: he preferred instead to keep quiet and return the greeting with a simple bow, leaving behind the having to answer various questions that neither he nor Iemitsu had the strength and the lucidity to deal with. «It's a pleasure.»

«Haya-chan, she is Hayama Aki, my childhood friend and sister in all except blood.»

«My pleasure! Thank you for taking care of Itsu-chan, I am calmer in knowing that he is not alone.» She replied with a bow, ignoring the indignation shown by the Young Lion about what she wanted to imply with those words. «And anyway Hayama it's no more my surname Itsu-chan, you should know.»

Iemitsu seemed to remember something suddenly. «Oh yes, it's still hard for me to believe that someone married a rough gorilla like you. My fault Aki-chan, the habit.»

Flying over the young man's words, Aki turned, smiling at Hayato, introducing herself a second time. «Allow me to present myself properly. I'm Yamamoto Aki, nice to meet you!»

And suddenly, the rildness of the Rain Flames made sense.

EH ?!

Hayato didn't know how to react -seriously, he knew what they were up against when he saw the restaurant entrance, but this? He had prepared himself for Tsuyoshi, meeting Takeshi's mother had been completely unexpected- simply remaining dazed and staring at the two, mouth nd eyes wide open.

So this is Take-nii's mom? She looks nice, in a way reminds me of Nana Mama.

Extreme!

Tze, other herbivores.

Kfufufu a rather interesting development.

Rain-san's mother, will it be okay?

Of all the annoying voices that crowded his head, the only one he couldn't hear was the one of the only person who would have had the right to comment, but who seemed overwhelmed by emotion to share his thoughts in words: his Rain Flames, however, let understand clearly what Takeshi's mood was at that moment.

Memories flowed into Hayato's mind without him being able to stop them, and he was sure that the other Guardians were also having the same experience.


 


 

Takeshi was happy.

As a child, he couldn't have asked for a better childhood, surrounded by the love of his parents who filled the life of the young Yamamoto with light and joy every day: before meeting Tsuna, their adventures and their friendship, Takeshi didn't remembered a happier time than the days spent with Tsuyoshi and Aki Yamamoto.

One day then his perfect world had collapsed, like a house of cards at the mercy of the wind: his mother was seriously ill, and despite his father's care and efforts to pay her the best doctors in Japan, in the end his mother had left them alone one night in late December, when Takeshi was just ten years old.

Since then every smile of the boy had been faked, forced, pain suppressed so as not to cause further thoughts and sorrows to Tsuyoshi, concentrating all of himself in baseball -the sport that his mother loved so much and had been the ace both in middle and high school- in a vain attempt to erase the pain that slowly crushed him from within.

Tsuna had been the light that had freed him, that had given back to Takeshi the hope and the desire to fully live that life that his mother had given him, remembering how even on her deathbed, she had continued to smile beautifully, repeating how much her life -even short- had been full of love and joy, by how having Takeshi and Tsuyoshi beside her had make her vary happy.

«Remember Take-kun, never stop smiling. Find people who can make you happy, real friends worth living for. Be happy, Take-kun, I love you with all my heart.» Was the last words she had addressed to him: after that day Takeshi had never seen his mother's face again.


 


 


 

Involuntarily, a tear furrowed Hayato's face -heavy, salty, full of unspoken feelings and pain- attracting the worried looks of Aki and Iemitsu, unaware of what could have caused such a reaction in a boy that appearance historical and serious.

«I-I's everything all right, um...»

«Hayato. Call me Hayato.» He recovered, erasing the tear as if it had never come down, leaving however Takeshi's Flames to invade his body, without giving him control: he couldn't risk collapsing, not here and now, not in front to two of the important people of their past lives. «And all is well, just something in the eye.» classic, trivial excuse to divert attention from him and his problems.

Aki seemed to understand and smiled at him, nodding vigorously. «All right, Hayato-kun, you can call me Aki!» She offered him a hand, which the boy gladly returned. «You'll be hungry I guess, how about some sushi?»

Hayato heard Iemitsu squeak with joy before shutting himself up, looking around perplexed and turning to his friend with a confused frown on his face «But ... Aki-chan, where is Yoshi-san?»

Summing up, Hayato assumed he was talking about Yamamoto Tsuyoshi.

«To do some shopping, he should be back soon. Come closer, you are about to taste the best sushi in Japan!»

And sitting at the counter, watching Aki cook and Iemitsu laugh and joke with her, Hayato felt a pleasant warmth inside his chest, the same feeling that was slowly overwhelming even the other Guardians: at that moment they felt a little more at peace, a little more at home.

Chapter Text

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.

.
.
.

.
.
.
.
.
.
.
.

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.