I shouldn’t be here.
And I don’t mean that in a situational way I mean it in an existential way. I shouldn’t be in this life. It’s not a feeling that I really have any supporting evidence for which makes it even more uncomfortable.
My name is Inari.
I live in Namimori Japan with my mother and twin brother Tsunayoshi. I have lived here my entire life. But recently I’ve been getting this nagging sensation that this is not where I’m supposed to be.
Somehow, I am an intruder in my own life and there is no cause for this. Mom has never been anything less than a loving and caring parent. Sure, she could be a bit of a ditz sometimes, but she had never given me any indication that I don’t belong with them in this household.
Well, Tsuna is clingy. I hardly ever get a moment to myself because Tsuna is always there. My brother is kind of a human disaster I don't really understand how it's possible for one person to fail in so many ways. It was honestly somewhat intriguing.
The point is Tsuna doesn’t really have anyone other than me. He doesn’t have any friends. Our teachers are all convinced he’s a hopeless case. Even mom gives him these looks sometimes like she’s not quite sure what to do with him. Technically, if anyone should feel like they don’t belong it should be Tsuna.
Not that I would wish that on him, I love my disaster brother.
Maybe it's just one of those weird teenage things adults keep talking about? Your growing up and your childhood life doesn’t fit quite right anymore? Is that a thing? I feel like I’ve heard someone say that before.
I don’t really know any other reason why I feel like this.
Anyway, I have more important things to worry about right now.
“Tsuna I swear to god if you stayed up all night reading manga again, I am going to leave your ass here and you can just deal with being late.”
Tsuna proceeded to dispute my accusations by chewing on his pillow and mumbling incomprehensibly.
“I have to be at school in ten minutes for baseball practice. You either have to wake up now or risk getting ‘bitten to death’ by Hibrari when you inevitably turn up to school late.”
“You have sealed your own fate brother. Let it be known that I tried to help you.” I give him a somewhat aggressive smack that apparently, he cannot feel at all through the cushy layers for the duvet.
I don’t even try to be quiet as I gather up my books and gear. If he manages to sleep through all of this, it is his own damn fault. At this point I am pretty sure he willingly ignoring my prodding. He probably thinks that he can get away with skipping out on Nezu’s math test today.
“See ya later bro.”
Mom is already cooking so I don’t put much effort into being quiet.
“Morning mom.” I greet her with a kiss on the cheek. It makes her smile and she laughs. It always does and so I always do it. Things aren’t easy for a ‘single’ mother of two and if there’s even the littlest thing I can do to make things better for her I will.
“Good morning Inari-chan.” She says. “Your lunch is ready on the counter. You have morning practice, right? I packed you some extra.”
Yay, mom’s cooking is literally the best thing ever. “Thanks, mom.”
“Is your brother awake?”
“Naw, not for my lack of trying though.”
“I really don’t know what to do with that boy sometimes. Your guidance counselor called yesterday to let me know that he’s failing math and English again.”
“I try to help him mom but…”
“I know you do sweetie. And it's not your job to do your brother's school work for him. Don’t worry Mama has a plan to fix this.”
She gives him the brightest and most concerning smile.
“Now go and have a great day!”
I resolve not to think too deeply into mom’s plots. Last time she had enrolled the two of us into ballet class to try and help with Tsuna’s balance and coordination issues.
Once I had gotten over the mortification of being in public in a leotard it had been fun, and it had given the opportunity to get to know Hanna better. She was a wonderful source of snark and amusement in my life.
Tsuna had never gotten over the leotard mortification and had resolutely refused to put any effort into the class whatsoever. Somehow the kids at school had gotten wind of our adventures in ballet and they had teased Tsuna endlessly about it.
The guys had tried to get to me too but that would have only worked if I had given a shit about what people thought.
Getting friendly with Hana had probably helped too.
About halfway to the campus, I meet up with Takeshi and we jog the rest of the way together. Or you know race like a couple of teenage idiots who don’t know how to properly conserve their energy for a long day.
The two of us have been having friendly competitions for too many years now to stop. We had played on the same little league team since we were tiny tots. We have the sacred bond of sharing juice boxes and listening to his dad plays weird opera music in the car for seven hours as we drove to an away game.
We survived that fucking nightmare camp together.
“Ha victory!” I cheer smacking my hand on the fence a fraction of a second before Takeshi.
“I’ll win next time Sawada.”
Takeshi has this way of smiling that makes me think of a wolf. Sure, it’s a smile, but it’s also a predator showing off his fangs in a very ‘come at me bro’ kind of way. Honestly, I think it's awesome.
“Sure, you will bro. If by next time you mean in your dreams.” I shoot back because I am made of fucking snark and win.
Takeshi laughs, taking it like the good-natured ribbing that it was meant to be, and the two of us head toward the clubhouse.
“There are better things to do if I see you in my dreams, Sawada.”
“Wouldn’t it be more fun if we went on a quest to slay a dragon.”
Oh yeah, I forgot this is Takeshi. He wouldn’t understand innuendo if it came and smacked him in the face with an alligator.
“That would be dope… But speaking of dragons, did you finish up the translations for English?”
The slight stiffening of his spine told be that no, no he did not.
“Oops?” He says, completely unrepentant.
“I’ll help you fill it out at lunch if you help me out with the Japanese poetry nightmare.”
We seal the deal with a fist bump and proceed to change into our uniforms. We go through the usual laps and stretches and go on to the drills. I play shortstop, Takeshi plays pitcher. Neither of us is on the starting lineup for the team but it's still fun to hang out with everyone.
I had tried to get Tsuna to sign up for the team when registration came around but be had been concerned that it would cut into his all-important relaxation time. Looking back, I probably should have nagged him more. Even if he was only the water boy it would have forced him to come out of his shell a bit more.
We practice for about an hour before the coach orders us to hit the showers before we’re late for homeroom.
The water is still freezing.
I’m not exactly sure what had happened to the water heater but one of the upper class-men had mentioned that it had something to do with Hibari and that had been exactly enough information for me to stop wondering about it entirely. I enjoy living too much to get involved with Hibari levels of crazy bullshit.
We jog into class only seconds after the bell. I notice two things right off the bat. One, Mrs. Nakamura is giving me the evil eye, and two, Tsuna isn’t in his seat. I can’t help but feel like part two is somewhat related to part one.
“Mr. Sawada where is your brother?” The tone of her voice makes me think that the word motherfucker is lurking somewhere in that question.
“Bathroom,” I answer immediately because like hell I’m going to call my brother out for playing hooky.
He’ll show up soon eventually anyway.
“Will he be returning from the bathroom this time?”
“Sure, unless he falls down the stairs again.”
She just glares at me. It is so weird. I don’t even think she ever gives Tsuna this much shit and he’s the one who is perpetually late.
It’s the blonde hair, I know it’s the blonde hair. On the first day of class, she called me out for having dyed hair and did not buy it when I told her it was natural. It probably didn’t help that someone suggested that I drop my pants to prove it.
That had been a fun day.
She had hated my guts ever since.
“Take your seat, Sawada.” She grinds out and continues with the attendance.
I slide in my seat next to Hana who is busy organizing her pencils into the optimal pencil formation. She had explained it to me once, but it had sounded a lot like an OCD panic attack and so at the time I had simply nodded along and patted her shoulder in what I hoped was a comforting way.
“Your hair is still wet.” She whispers once Mrs. Nakamura leaves the room.
“The hairdryers are still broken.”
She rolls her eyes and pulls out a notebook and jots down a few lines in the section labeled ‘Student Council.’
“I’ll bring it up at the next meeting.”
“I look forward to briefly having hot water and hair dryers before Hibari inevitably destroys them in a fit of psychotic rage again.”
“Ugh, don’t make me think about that brute please.”
“Probably a good idea. I think saying is name is one of the methods of summoning him.”
“He’s not a literal demon Sawada.” Hana says.
“Are you sure? A third-year told me that if you whisper his name three times in front of a mirror he’ll appear and bite you to death.”
“I’m pretty sure that was ripped off from Bloody Mary.”
There are a few more snarky remarks that I could make but at that moment the door flies open and in stumbles Tsuna looking around like a recently escaped fugitive.
“I made it? She’s not here yet?!”
Oh Tsuna, my poor sweet boy.
He sounds so relieved that I don’t have the heart to crush his hopes. However ill-founded they might be.
Lucky, I don’t have to, because Nezu chooses that moment to appear like the creeper he is.
“Sawada, what are you doing out of your seat?” He demands.
“Heee! Sorry!” Tsuna squeals and scampers to his desk.
Which he promptly trips over and faceplants into the linoleum.
I wholehearted ignore Nezu’s demands that I stay in my seat and help my brother to his feet and get him seated in his desk. The rest of the class chuckles but I don’t really give a fuck. I’m not going to leave him when he’s down.
Though judging by the look on his face he wishes that I had. That or he wishes that he had fallen straight through the floor and landed in some alternate dimension where he had managed to take his seat like a normal person.
I realize that I don’t make things any better for him when I’m constantly stepping in and fighting his battles for him. But it would be easier to leave him to his own devices if he had literally any fight in him at all.
“You okay bro?” I ask.
“Ye-yeah I’m fine. Sorry for the trouble.”
I pat him on the shoulder before returning to my desk still pointedly ignoring Nezu’s snide reprimands.
“Since you all seem so lively today, I suppose you won't mine a pop quiz.” He says and begins handing out the completely unsurprising pop quiz.
Can it even be considered a pop quiz any more when there is literally one every class?
I think at this point it is a very much expected quiz. Anyone who is surprised by this quiz is not the sharpest tool in the shed.
I immediately regret this thought as Tsuna’s shriek of despair echoes through the chorus of groans.
Tsuna, bro, buddy, I love you to pieces but please learn to pay attention.
The test is multiple-choice, thank god. Math is not my strong suit and anything that required that I show my work usually ended up with docked marks, but multiple-choice took away that added bit of stress.
Even Tsuna, who was probably at this moment making completely random guesses at answers, had a shot of doing decently with a multiple-choice quiz. I mean it’s a slim chance but its better than nothing.
It hadn’t gone well for Tsuna.
He has the crumpled test paper in his hands as we walk home together that evening. At the top of the page is a big, fat, red zero. Which based on the rules of probability is amazing. Even if he was taking random guesses, he should have at least gotten one or two right.
But no, Tsuna, with all his special talent had managed to get all 54 questions wrong. Honestly, I thought this was more fascinating than tragic.
“It’s not so bad Tsuna,” I say attempting to console him.
He responds with a completely dejected look.
“Ok, so yeah, it is that bad but it’s only a shitty math test its not the end of the world or anything.”
“Kyoko-chan saw my test score.” He sniffles.
Oh lord, not this again.
“Bro, I don’t think Sasagawa really gives a fuck about your grades.”
He gasps, “Inari, don’t swear using Kyoko-chan’s name!”
He sounds so mortified that it's almost funny. But I know from experience that if I joke about his ill-advised crush on our school idol that I am in for at least four hours of the silent treatment and sad puppy dog eyes. Which shouldn’t be as effective as they were considering we had the exact same face.
“Yeah, yeah I’m sorry,” I say to appease him.
“And what are you doing saying Kyoko-chan’s name? Huh, Dame-Tsuna?”
There are various things that I hate about Mochida, but chief among them is that fucking nickname.
He comes around the corner and I can just tell he is itching to pick a fight. No, not pick a fight, he just wanted to fuck with someone and his favorite target just happens to be Tsuna.
“Fuck off Mochida,” I tell him.
“I don’t think I was talking to you Irani-chan. Shouldn’t you be sucking Yamamoto’s dick or something? You fucking faggot.”
I feel Tsuna freeze up next to me. His breath is coming in shallow gasps. He’s afraid and considering the circumstances, I can’t say that it’s not justified. And me well…
The world has started to bleed red at the edges.
“Now, Dame-Tsuna, what were you saying about Kyoko-chan?”
He’s gotten too close now, too fucking close to Tsuna. Suddenly my brother isn’t next to me anymore he’s being pinned to the wall by this fucking prick. There are more guys surrounding us now too. Mochida’s goons by the look of them.
I am kicking myself because I was the idiot who was dumb enough not to pay attention.
This fucker shouldn’t have his hands anywhere near my brother. He shouldn’t be anywhere near Tsunayoshi.
This asshole isn’t even real.
A useless part of the set design.
I don’t really take the time to contemplate the intruding thought. I don’t have any time to spare. That thing has its hands on Tsuna and it’s hurting him and that is not allowed.
Before I can really think about what I’m doing my fist has contacted the back of his head and I am full-on grappling him off Tsuna. One of his goons tries to grab me from behind but I snap my head back just in time to flatten his nose against his face.
Tsuna has taken this opportunity to get as far away from Mochida as possible and is continuing to creep away.
I give him a look that I feel very clearly conveyed, “Get going, idiot.”
Though apparently, Tsuna had interpreted it as, “Come help me, idiot.” And was now coming back toward us. Its moments like this that make me wish that twin telepathy was a real thing and not just some bullshit urban myth.
Unfortunately, as I have said before, Tsuna is an uncoordinated mess and therefore only succeeded in getting punched in the face. He went down hard and was not moving.
I kind of lost it after that.
I remember screaming bloody murder in Mochida’s ear before beating him over the head with my fists. One of the other guys finally managed to pull me off, Mochida. I hit the ground hard and I felt the pavement slicing into my hands.
Not that I cared at that moment. I lashed out and grabbed one of them by the ankle making him crash face-first into the pavement. And hot damn did he go down hard. I’m pretty sure his nose instantly broke. One of the other fuckers ruined my moment of victory by kicking me in the ribs.
While I was winded, they managed to make off with Matsuda and the other looser leaving me and Tsuna alone in this shitty god damned alley.
It took a moment before I had enough energy to drag my sorry ass over to where Tsuna was still knocked out cold. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.
Beyond the random assault in the alley. There was something else that was wrong here. Something was telling me that ‘Tsuna could have handled those guys easy.’ Which is an insane thought because Tsuna wouldn’t hurt a fly, and nor could he.
But the thought still wouldn’t let up and leave me alone.
He could have handled that with his dying will.
“Tsuna? Tsuna are you there?” I shake his shoulder as gently as possible because I really don’t want to aggravate what is probably already a pretty terrible head injury. His eye is already swelling and turning a dark shade of purple, which doesn’t bode well.
“Owwww.” He groans blinking up at me.
“Oh, thank god you're alive.” I heave a sigh of relief.
“Inari? What happened?” He groans prodding gently at his eye and then wincing in pain when he found the lovely new shiner, he would be sporting for at least a week.
“You got punched in the face bro.”
“Because Mochida is a fucking asshole.”
“Oh… Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m, well I’m not fine exactly, but I’m awake and I can move so that’s something at least.”
Tsuna levers himself up to a sitting position and for a second, he looks like he’s about the hurl on everything. He manages to pull it together though. I’m just grateful that my day isn’t ending beat to shit in a seedy ass ally and covered in vomit.
“My face hurts.”
“That’s what happens when you get cold clocked bro.”
He looks so dejected.
“I’m sorry Inari,” says Tsuna.
“For what? It's not like you invited them to come to beat the shit out of us. As far as I can tell this bullshit is all a random act of god.”
“I’m never any help. I just end up making things worse for you all the time.”
“Tsuna, that isn’t true.”
“Isn’t it?” Suddenly he’s standing, and I must crane my neck to look him in the eye.
“I screw up everything I touch. If it wasn’t for me opening my stupid mouth about Kyo- Sasagawa-san this never would have happened.”
I fix Tsuna with the most deadpan glare that I could muster before shoving out a hand towards him, “Help me up, idiot.”
To his credit, he helps me up immediately and I only throw up on his shoes.
“There. Now we're even. Let’s go home now.”
He looks more disgusted than devastated now which is much better than before. Tsuna does me a further favor by picking up my book bag and baseball gear off the ground and slinging them over his shoulder.
And off we trot at a bloody snail’s pace with Tsuna jumping at every errant shadow that came to cross our path. When we finally make it home the sun has started to go down and I can smell something delicious from inside the house.
Which is a bonus for an otherwise crappy day.
“We’re home!” I call into the house ignoring Tsuna’s hiss of “what are you doing she’s going to see us!”
I don’t know how Tsuna thinks we would ever be able to hide any of this bullshit. His eye is literally swollen shut and would probably be staying that way for a good long while.
I am not entirely convinced that my ribs aren’t broken.
They hurt a fuck ton.
“Boys come into the kitchen.” Mom calls back, “There is someone I want you to meet.”
Me and Tsuna share a somewhat concerned look. Mom doesn’t have the best record by inviting random people into our house. Case and point the terrifying door to door salesman who wouldn’t leave until we bought a crappy vacuum cleaner.
We gingerly walk into the kitchen not knowing what to expect. Mom’s somewhat exasperated and dismayed expression when she catches sight of the two of us is somewhat expected. What is not expected is the other person who is sitting at our kitchen table sipping on a small cup of coffee.
“Tsuna, dear, I know you have been struggling with your schoolwork recently and so I’ve taken initiative and hired you a home tutor.”
Mom announces this and Tsuna reacts accordingly with claims that he did not need a home tutor. But I don’t really hear anything else.
There is a roaring in my ears.
The world is greying out.
The only thing I can focus on is the dark hair, dark eyes and trademarked fedora of a person that I quite suddenly remembered all about.
“My name is Reborn and I’m here to turn you into a leader for the next generation.”
And I quite suddenly realize why it is that I feel like I don’t belong here.
Because here isn’t real.
It shouldn’t be real.
And Sawada Inari never existed.
I don’t even have a moment to reassure mom before I faint dead away my mind overtaken by the massive download of information.