Grazhir :: Crossover :: Welkin :: 12

12: 2015-2029

Basil moved in with them for the duration. Tsuna took him to one of the training rooms and got settled on the tatami. He took him through the same exercises he had with Dino and Romeo. Basil seemed concerned that he was taking away time Tsuna could be using for training, but he simply said, “Don’t worry about it. This is about you right now, and working yourself up about that is only going to make this harder.”

Unfortunately for Basil, he was well indoctrinated into the shortcut methods. It took several hours just for him to spark flames off his ring, and his expression clearly showed just how much it upset him. Tsuna had to keep reminding him to let it go for the time being and focus on the actual exercise. “Consider it an exercise in meditation if you want,” he further explained. “Forget everything else for right now. Make your resolve dance flames on the ring.”

When he did finally manage it Basil’s breath came out in a whoosh, only for his face to fall when the flames winked out.

“Not uncommon,” Tsuna said. “This isn’t something you get and turn it on and off like a light switch at first. You have to earn it, to prove your resolve. So, you practice this at least an hour a day, perhaps before bed. Okay? When you can do it reliably we can talk about the next step. For now, let’s get you set up with a room.”

When the day came they already knew it would be the Rain Battle. A combination of weather and Daemon’s meddling. The forecast, if it held true, would dictate the Lightning Battle second, in theory. The original Rain Battle had been held inside, but Daemon’s intel was pointing at the roof of one of the larger buildings on campus.

“Sebastian” drove them all to the school and waited at the car as Tsuna, his men, and Basil prepared to meet with the Cervello. Romario was present as “Sun” so that Reborn could be himself, and Dino was masquerading as one of their supposed trainers. Both were wearing Daemon-created earrings for the event.

“We are the Cervello,” one of the two women said. They looked exactly as Tsuna expected; mid-length, pale pink hair, tanned skin, questionable clothing, and black masks with white eye screens. And raincoats, of course. Given that the Cervello as an organization were generally illusionists, it made sense how they could look identical. They had already noticed the other members of the organization quietly lurking in order to keep the civilians unaware and out of the way.

“Tonight’s Scramble Battle will be for the Rain rings. Please proceed along the marked path to the arena we have prepared.” She gestured at a blue ribbon, and then to one further along.

Tsuna and Reborn exchanged a look, then followed the path, which indeed led them up to the expected roof. The roof itself had raised sections on each short side with vents sticking out and a chain-link fence stretched along the three open edges. Tsuna suspected students used the space to hang out or eat on nice days, not unlike they had at his school in Namimori.

The Varia was already assembled on one of the raised sections so he led his group to the other one and stepped up. Xanxus sneered when Tsuna turned to face them, but he ignored that.

Unfortunately, Iemitsu was present, and on their riser. “My little tuna fish!” he cried.

Tsuna tried so very hard not to wince. He was grateful that his guardians were protecting his sides and back.

Thankfully one of the Cervello there began to speak. “Thank you for assembling. I will now explain the conditions for the Rain Battle. The rooms below this roof are flooded and the roof itself has been subjected to induced instability. The longer the battle runs the more of the floor will collapse. If the battle goes beyond fifteen minutes there will be an additional, deadly complication released into the water.”

The other one said, “Rain Guardians, please step forward so that your rings may be verified.”

As they did so the first one said, “Those of you watching will be kept behind infrared-triggered lasers. Please do not attempt to cross unless you wish to die. It will be in effect for the entirety of the battle.”

“The rings are verified and being worn around the neck as required,” said the second, then nodded at her counterpart. As one they jumped and landed atop the next roof up. “Wielders of Rain, Superbi Squalo versus Rain—begin!”

“What the fuck kind of trash name is Rain?” Squalo opened with, swinging his sword arm around.

Colonnello responded with an outpouring of flames that froze Squalo in his tracks with a layer of ice formed from the rain soaking the man, then launched himself forward, blades forming in each hand. One blade slammed down to cut off Squalo’s fake hand and was released. The other was sent in a precise strike against Squalo’s neck, which shattered the ice around his head. His left hand came up for a moment, and then he jumped back and released a second wave of flames to seal off the open wound.

Tsuna blinked. “Damn,” he muttered.

Colonnello held up the half Rain ring he had snatched.

The two Cervello dithered for a moment, then one said, “Uh, the winner of the Scramble Battle for the Rain ring is Rain, for Tsunayoshi Sawada. Tomorrow evening’s battle will be between the Lightning Guardians, starting at approximately midnight. Please arrive by eleven so we may all assemble and the battlefield can be explained.”

Reborn, wearing a set of Leon goggles, whispered, “The field is down. I suggest we get going.”

Daemon flashed up: i will distract that man. let’s go.

Tsuna immediately stepped forward and down, keeping near the edge of the riser, and headed for the door, his guardians and their “trainer” immediately following. Basil took a moment to get with the program, but they departed without issue and were soon enough back in the car.

“That was awesome,” Tsuna said the second Daemon gave the all clear. “You utterly wasted that guy.”

Colonnello just smiled. “I wonder how long it’ll take for his hand to be reattached.”

Daemon laughed creepily, but stayed quiet otherwise. They gathered in the kitchen once back at the house and had a round of hot chocolate, then broke up for the night. Or at least, it would appear that way to Basil. Once he was safely in bed they took over Tsuna’s secondary office for a meeting.

“Lussuria has done his best to heal Squalo’s arm,” Daemon reported, “but given where it was cut this time, his sword-hand prosthetic will have to be reworked before it can be reattached.”

“And he’ll probably have to retrain because of it,” Colonnello said.

Daemon nodded. “Presumably. Xanxus is angry, to put it mildly. His men are a bit stunned and wondering if they all inhaled a hallucinogenic of some kind. Xanxus has ordered them all to take this more seriously. They were irritated at not being able to spy on us directly, as you already know, but they assumed—and still do assume—that it’s not ‘Mist’ behind the block. They also assumed that it was done to make us look more skilled, or at least to hide our weaknesses.”

“Well, what have you seen regarding the field for my battle?” Romeo asked.

“The Cervello call it the Electric Circuit. It’s going to be placed atop the clock tower of the school. In essence, it’s a floor made out of a special conductive material, atop which is a web of conductive wires to disperse electricity from lightning hitting seven lightning rods on the field. The way it’s set up will magnify any strikes to several times the original potency.”

Romeo nodded and looked down. “Well, getting hit isn’t a problem. Not with electricity, anyway, not after the hell you guys put me through.”

Tsuna smiled innocently.

“Since it’s supposed to be a thunderstorm, with heavy rainfall, I expect Levi will deploy his parabolas and attempt to fry me. Though…” Romeo bit his lip. “He can use them like staffs, too. Okay, so, if he does the latter, I can slice through them with mine.”

Tsuna nodded. Romeo’s quarterstaff could have blades at the end, but also along the entire length. As the weapon was formed from his own flames, the sharp edges wouldn’t hurt him, and wouldn’t form under his grip, anyway.

“If it’s the former, I can do that telescoping trick of Sora’s to hook the things out of the air or slash right through them. And if he’s really stupid, I can try to attach a line of flame to him and redirect any lightning strikes on me to him.” Romeo shot a look at Daemon.

Daemon zoned out for a moment, then said, “They’re not discussing the upcoming battle. If they do, I will inform you immediately so the plan can be adjusted.”

“I appreciate it. Once his weapons are out of commission it’s down to martial arts on his end, unless he decides to bring back-up weapons or uses his flames directly.”

“You did test out holding a charge and dispersing it via touch,” Fon said.

“Or through your staff,” Skull added.

“You could try to throw him off by doing something … fumblish,” Tsuna suggested.

“Eh?”

“Like tripping over a wire or two before the battle starts,” he said. “Just a little misdirection. Or acting a bit vague. Something to make him down-shift after seeing Colonnello in action.”

Romeo nodded, then got an odd smile on his face. “Too bad I can’t do Force Lightning like Darth Sideous.”

Dino giggled, coughed, and tried for a more manly laugh. “So work on that next. Who knows? You might be able to manage it with enough effort.”

“Maybe. Okay. I’m tired, so, let’s all turn in,” Romeo said.

*

“Tonight’s Scramble Battle will be for the Lightning rings,” a Cervello stated. “Please proceed along the marked path to the arena we have prepared.” She gestured at a green ribbon, and then to one further along.

“Do they have this spiel memorized?” Skull whispered.

They ended up exactly where they expected to, atop the clock tower, and the space was far larger than it appeared from the ground. And it only took them half an hour to walk to it.

“Thank you for assembling. I will now explain the conditions for the Lightning Battle.”

Tsuna tuned her out and gazed out over the arena. It looked almost identical to the one in his memories. The sky overhead was boiling with clouds and flashes of light streaked through them as rain poured down. It was heavy enough that they were all wearing hooded raincoats. On the far side was the Varia, and all of them had flat expressions, though Xanxus was attempting to look bored.

He wondered if the chair the man always used was real or a construct, and if real, who was the poor bastard who had to haul it around so Xanxus could sit there, angled slightly, with one leg over the other, and his head propped against one hand. It was almost, though not quite as bad as, the indolent pose the jarls in Skyrim used.

“Lightning Guardians, please step forward so that your rings may be verified.”

He almost winced again when that man burst onto the scene and hastened over to their viewing area, but he knew Daemon would keep him far enough away that it wouldn’t matter. ‘Blah blah blah, stay behind the lasers of death.’ He turned toward Reborn, who was perched on Dino’s shoulder, and whispered in his ear, “Is this stupid cage thing even closed in at the top?”

“We’ll talk about that later,” Reborn whispered back without moving his lips.

“The rings are verified and being worn around the neck as required,” a Cervello said, then jumped back along with her counterpart. “Wielders of Lightning, Levi-a-than versus Lightning—begin!”

Romeo removed his rain coat and hung it off a handy protrusion, stepped forward and up onto the arena floor, and promptly tripped over one of the wires. He sighed mournfully, stared up at the raging sky, and pulled a small, dark green stick from his pocket. No one had to know it was actually crafted from flames. He started forward again, extending the stick into something much longer, which made no logical sense, then shook it slightly, causing him to trip again. The sides sprung out into an umbrella shape, which he held over his head.

Levi sent a withering stare at Romeo and reached back to free two of the parabolas from the harness he wore.

“The weather is a bit touchy today,” Romeo stated, eyeing the sky dubiously, then looked down as lightning struck one of the towers and sent electricity crackling along the wire web.

“Oh my God, I’m fighting an idiot,” Levi complained.

What Levi did not see was the thin line of dark green Lightning Flame stretching from the tail end of Romeo’s “umbrella” to snake along the “floor” and wind around his leg. The crackle of electricity and the severity of the rain hid it from most eyes.

“What are you complaining about~!” Lussuria caroled. “Take the trash out! But stay away from his face. I want him for my collection!”

“I hope this doesn’t hurt my garden too badly,” Romeo mused just loudly enough to be heard over the storm. “Too much water is bad for my plants.”

Xanxus released a spike of killing intent, which saw Levi rapidly throwing the two parabolas he was holding into the air, followed by the others.

Romeo looked back toward Tsuna. “Do you think they’ll be okay?” he asked as lightning flashed down with an ear-splitting crack and hit the parabola array.

“You’re done for, fool.”

The power gathered, magnified, and shot toward Romeo in an eye-searing burst of light. When it faded Levi was flat on his back. Romeo released the “umbrella” and strolled on over, making a show of avoiding the wires, then crouched down to remove the chain holding the ring from around the man’s neck. As he stood back up he said, “He doesn’t seem to have a pulse. I think his heart’s been stopped. But if it’s restarted within the next four to six minutes, he should recover. Assuming he’s not in a coma, brain dead, paralyzed, um…” He shrugged and walked a short distance away.

The Cervello dithered again for almost a full minute before one of them jumped down to verify Romeo’s claim. “The winner of the Scramble Battle for the Lightning ring is Lightning, for Tsunayoshi Sawada. Tomorrow evening’s battle will be between the Mist Guardians, starting at approximately midnight. Please arrive by eleven so we may all assemble and the battlefield can be explained.”

Reborn, wearing his Leon goggles again, tapped Tsuna on the shoulder and they all moved out. He could hear Lussuria twittering in the background. They were quickly enough in the car and driving away, Iemitsu once again left behind in something of a confused pother.

Tsuna eyed his Lightning with amusement.

“I took what you said to heart and decided to open with something a bit unorthodox,” Romeo said. “I figured I could always fall back to the original ideas if necessary. Shockingly—” He grinned unrepentantly. “—it worked.”

He giggled madly and nodded. “I am very impressed. You made it look almost like it was a purely coincidental win.”

“All perfectly legal,” Romeo said happily.

“Your tactics were masterful,” Basil said, “even if I’m not entirely sure what you did.”

Romeo turned a smile on the Rain. “I threaded a line of my own flames from my umbrella to Levi and let it carry the charge from his attack on me back to him.”

It was more hot chocolate once they got home, warm showers, and bed.

*

“Tonight’s Scramble Battle will be for the Mist rings,” a Cervello stated. “Please proceed along the marked path to the arena we have prepared.” She gestured at an indigo ribbon, and then to one further along.

“It’s almost like Groundhog Day, but without the same level of comedy,” Skull whispered.

Tsuna snickered and wrapped an arm around his Cloud’s shoulders in a manly sort of hug as they proceeded along the marked path. They ended up in the school’s gymnasium. Daemon had promised before they left the house that none of them would get caught up in any illusions, as he would personally be protecting them. The most they would see would be watery, transparent versions. Given that Tsuna still remembered just how ill he had felt the first time around after getting ensnared, that guarantee was more than welcome.

He tuned out the explanation of the field and stared at a point shy of the Varia’s location, but in such a way that he could observe them. Xanxus was on his throne again, jarl-like pose a given, and was having a harder time affecting a bored demeanor than the night previous. Gola Mosca was there as a looming presence, with Mammon perched on his upturned hand. It made Tsuna wonder just how aware the Vongola Nono was in there as to events happening around him, or if he was in a coma-like state in his role as a battery.

If he remembered to, he would have to ask his friends.

“Mist Guardians, please step forward so that your rings may be verified.”

‘Lasers, blah blah blah. All else failing I use my Earth Ring to launch us all upward and sideways, out of blast range. It’s not like we’re in a literal cage of explosives, just on a platform of them.’

“The rings are verified and being worn around the neck as required,” a Cervello said, then jumped back along with her counterpart. “Wielders of Mist, Esper Mammon versus Mist—begin!”

Daemon took a few steps forward before stopping.

Mammon stared up at the not so imposing figure of his opponent and floated up to match eye levels.

Daemon yawned, raising an elegant hand to cover it. "Were you planning to start at some point or shall I begin?"

Tsuna watched as tentacles burst out of Mammon’s hood and shot forward to wrap around his Mist. He also noticed, even if no one did, that the ring around Mammon’s neck vanished at the same time, and was replaced with an illusionary copy.

“Huh,” a different Daemon said from off to the side. “My opponent apparently has a tentacle porn fetish. More kinky than I expected. Are you by chance a fan of Lovecraft?”

The tentacles vanished and Mammon said, “Oh good. You’re not a complete weakling.”

Daemon laughed creepily, letting the sound echo around in the wonderful acoustics the gymnasium afforded. “Samsara is a wonderful thing.”

Mammon twitched.

“My turn, I believe,” Daemon said, then pointed negligently at nothing in particular.

Water flooded the area, which would make little sense to most people, but Tsuna knew exactly why Daemon had done it, again remembering a long ago battle. A waterspout erupted and headed toward the Arcobaleno.

It was swiftly countered with ice, which froze around Daemon’s form up to the waist. Mammon managed to give off a smug air as he floated with Fantasma’s assistance. “The art of illusion seizes control of the person’s perception—that is to say, it infiltrates the brain that governs their five senses. The stronger the illusionist’s abilities, the more complete the infiltration.

“The illusion’s rate of success is also heightened, and its hold over reality stronger. Thus, in the illusionist’s case, if their illusion is successfully countered with illusion, it means that control of their own perception will be completely snatched away. How is it? The abominable power of the Arcobaleno. No matter what you have in mind, it’s already too late, because you are already a denizen of my world of illusions.”

Daemon laughed again. “Thank you for giving the studio audience a seminar,” he said mockingly. “That was so very kind of you. There’s only one tiny little problem with that.”

“Oh?”

Fifty copies of Daemon appeared in the room, and every last one of them was holding a chain with a half ring dangling from it. “You’ve been trapped in my illusion the entire time.”

Mammon snorted. “Don’t be a fool,” he said, and reached up to his neck, then paused. The chain was gone, and with it the ring.

The army of Daemons grinned. “As I said, samsara is a wonderful thing. You are but an infant compared to me,” they spoke in unison. “Oh, I had not intended to make a pun. You have my apologies for that.”

Tsuna spotted yet another Daemon, one that popped up like a cardboard cutout next to the Cervello, one who held a completed Vongola Mist ring. “I believe this is sufficient proof?” he said.

After a quick examination a Cervello said, “The winner of the Scramble Battle for the Mist ring is Mist, for Tsunayoshi Sawada. Tomorrow evening’s battle will be between the Cloud Guardians, starting at approximately midnight. Please arrive by eleven so we may all assemble and the battlefield can be explained.”

The usual meeting was held after hot chocolate and Basil went to bed.

Tsuna finally broke into giggles.

“You seem to have picked up a bad pun habit from Sora,” Reborn said with a playful glare. “But using Viper’s belief that we live the same lives endlessly against him was a nice touch.”

“Yes, well, they are having fits over there,” Daemon said. “I think Viper may be going through an existential crisis as we speak. But, on the bright side, since Cloud is next, we can end this farce of a competition. I’m keeping a very close watch on Gola Mosca and will make the switch, and henge Byakuran’s offering.”

Tsuna cracked up again. “You did it before I did!” he crowed.

Daemon’s brow furrowed. “What?”

“You used a term from Naruto before I did. I keep wanting to call our flames chakra, but I always catch myself in time.”

“Oh…” Daemon looked almost embarrassed. “Anyway… Skull can do whatever he needs to do without fear of anyone important dying. And I can steal the other half rings while that’s happening.”

“Once we expose his treachery, he’ll call in his other troops,” Fon said, looking at Dino.

“I’ll have my people ready, and Byakuran’s will be, too.”

“At least for this battle we won’t be inside those cages,” Tsuna said.

“No, I’ll be the one inside a cage,” Skull said poutily.

“Is that really any different from when you did death-defying motorcycle stunts in a cage?” he shot back.

“I suppose not. It’ll be more roomy, in any case.”

*

“Tonight’s Scramble Battle will be for the Cloud rings,” a Cervello stated. “Please proceed along the marked path to the arena we have prepared.” She gestured at a purple ribbon, and then to one further along.

“Seriously, this is getting embarrassing,” Skull complained. His pocket started wiggling and he reached inside with one hand. The wiggling stopped.

They ended up at one of the athletic fields. It was ringed by barbed wire strung on posts, gatling guns, and the ground was adulterated with numerous mines, as confirmed by Daemon’s spies.

“Cloud Guardians, please step forward so that your rings may be verified.”

Tsuna gave Skull a warm squeeze and let go so his Cloud could meet with one of the Cervello. “This ought to be interesting,” he murmured as his other guardians formed up around him again. That man was twittering somewhere in the background, just another unimportant piece of scenery for the moment.

“The rings are verified and being worn around the neck as required,” a Cervello said, then jumped back along with her counterpart. “Wielders of Cloud, Gola Mosca versus Cloud—begin!”

Gola Mosca “exhaled” steam and raised an arm, then fired on the Cloud. Skull dodged and stomped his foot down as hard as he could. Shock waves pulsed out in every direction, and mines started going off like popcorn kernels in a chain reaction that tore up the entire field and even destroyed some of the fencing. Gatling guns hit the ground and went off, bullets flying everywhere in an uncoordinated mess that shredded entire plates of metal off Gola Mosca.

“Noooo, Bun-bun!” Skull cried as a rabbit popped out of his pocket. A split second later it brandished a switchblade in one paw, which opened with a snick, then multiplied beyond imagining and started a stampede.

Tsuna held on to Daemon and laughed himself silly, barely able to stand up on his own. The rest of his guardians were not faring much better, with only Reborn managing to hold it down to a smirk. Little puffs of Cloud Flame kept going off as the suicidal army of bunnies took down Gola Mosca and were destroyed in the process.

One enterprising bunny retrieved the necklace and darted back to Skull, and his Cloud combined that half ring with his own, completing it.

Naturally, it was then that Xanxus jumped up and pointed dramatically. “How could you!?” he cried. “My father was so supportive of me that he volunteered to fight on my side. And you’ve killed him!”

Skull bounded over and yanked the front of the machine open, then jumped back as a body fell out and rolled onto its back. “So your father, the Vongola Nono, is a young black man?”

Xanxus went still. “What the fuck?” He dashed forward and came to a stop next to the body. “Mammon, get your ass over here. You, too, Luss.”

Viper floated over quickly and stared intently at the man. “There was a weak illusion over him, but it’s gone now.”

Lussuria shook his head. “In my professional opinion, that is one sex~y corpse.” A quick spike of killing intent had him adding, “It’s not him, boss.”

“This doesn’t change anything!” Xanxus roared. “You’ll all die! All of you!” When a Cervello attempted to protest he backhanded her so hard she went flying and nearly cracked in half when she landed. “There won’t be any witnesses left to dispute me!”

Mammon shot an illusion into the sky as a signal at those words. “Nothing for it now. You’re all about to be overwhelmed.”

Tsuna snorted. “Interesting plan, trying to pin the blame on me for murdering the old man, all unknowing. There’s just a few problems with that.”

The sound of numerous footsteps began to be heard, getting closer.

“Oh? Tell me. Not like you’re going to live much longer, trash.”

“You really think Vongola would ever accept you as Decimo? The adopted son?”

Xanxus roared again and his men all grouped up around him.

“The one who led a coup d’état against Vongola because an old man took you in as his son, and lied to you with a smile on his face?”

“Hey!” Iemitsu objected.

A man raced into the scene, gasping for breath and bleeding heavily, his sword dragging on the ground. “They’re all … dead.”

“See, I have friends,” Tsuna said with a warm smile.

Hundreds of Gesso and Cavallone men moved into view, stone-faced and ready to rumble some more.

“Friends who tell me things, find things out for me, and give me back-up when I need it,” he continued. “So I suggest that you go back to your little Varia clubhouse, and do your damn jobs instead of taking out your anger regarding Nono on someone innocent of the crime. But if you want to fight, I’d be more than happy to kill you and your men. Well, not the little guy, he’s actually important.

“Take your daddy issues and channel it all against the men you get to assassinate in the course of your job, Xanxus. Or would you like to be iced again?” he asked, brilliant orange flames exploding from him as he entered Hyper Dying Will Mode and moved his hands to the starting position for Zero Point Breakthrough.

“All right!” Xanxus growled. “You win this round, trash.”

Tsuna’s brow went up. “And I have all the half rings, anyway, even the one you held. Do your job—and that includes fucking up the day of anyone who goes after Vongola from the shadows—and you’ll get no trouble from me. I happen to think what the old man did was seriously warped, but don’t take it out on me, a person you only just recently met.”

After a long silence the remaining, unharmed Cervello said, “With this, the Scramble Battles have ended. All seven rings have been claimed. Therefore, the next successor to the Vongola is Tsunayoshi Sawada and his six guardians.”

“Great,” Tsuna said sarcastically.

Xanxus glared at the woman and huffed off, closely followed by his men. The crowd of back-up parted to let them pass, but watched carefully. The Cervello woman dithered a bit, then grabbed her compatriot and disappeared.

As soon as Daemon indicated it was safe Tsuna pulled in his flames and sighed.

Daemon flashed up: diverting the idiot. let’s go.

Tsuna nodded and started walking. In the confusion of leaving Dino and Romario removed their earrings and reappeared as themselves as Daemon smoothly replaced “Sun” and the “trainer” with constructs.

Once they got back to the house Dino said, “We’re going to go check in on the Vongola Nono. Basil, you coming?”

The poor kid was terribly confused, but he nodded.

“I’ll let Sawada know once we get there, so he can come as well and see with his own eyes that the Vongola Nono is safe and well.”

“Thanks, Dino-nii,” he said warmly and darted in for a hug.

“Any time, little brother.”

Once they were gone he rolled his eyes and examined the Vongola Sky ring. “Wonderful. Now we get to carry two parts of the Tri-ni-set. Daemon…”

“Yes,” Daemon said promptly, “I will be keeping a close eye on that bunch. We did, after all, make fools of them, and let out the big secret in front of hundreds of people.”

“Okay. I just want to go back to our real lives, at our real house, and our real jobs. Tsunayoshi Sawada can go back into obscurity until I absolutely have to dust him off again.”

“We can always get drop information to Basil so he can keep in contact,” Reborn suggested. “If he stays at CEDEF, it’s to our advantage to have him on your side, not that man’s. And he already has ‘Sebastian’s’ phone number.”

Skull nodded. “No reason not to use our resources strategically, and the kid’s not a bad sort. Besides, what are the odds he’ll want more training time with Tsuna? A handful of days was enough to whet his appetite for doing things the right way instead of taking shortcuts like that man fobbed off on him.”

“Bed?”

“Bed.”

*

A month after Tsuna’s sixteenth birthday (or thirty-sixth, depending on how he looked at it, or possibly forty-first) Reborn trundled into his office waving a letter with a Sky Flame seal at the top. ‘Because Xanxus couldn’t also do that,’ he thought snidely. “What’s the damage?”

“The Vongola Nono requests our presence up at his headquarters to discuss preparations for the formal ceremony to recognize you as Decimo.”

“Yay,” he said flatly. “Just another ‘holiday’ from the work I actually want to do.”

“Cheer up, Sora. After all, better this than when you actually take over for real. Then we all get to do twice the work for a good eight years.”

Ienari had been confirmed to have Sky Flames, thank Kami. They simply had to manage until he was old enough to become the Vongola Undicesimo. He sighed. “Okay. Let’s get packed up for a stay.”

A week later they were up north just outside Milan, all wearing their earrings except for Reborn, who as usual had his “Sun” persona covered by a construct faking Sun Flames.

During that initial meeting, when Timoteo had said something about Tsuna’s father, he had immediately said sharply, “I have no father.”

Nono was caught flat-footed in an open expression of surprise. “What?”

“I said, I have no father. What I had was a man who donated some sperm to the woman who gave birth to me, loved me, and raised me for five years before she was brutally tortured and murdered by Estraneo because someone couldn’t keep his mouth shut after bleating on about staying away for our protection.”

Nono pinched the bridge of his nose and nodded. “He and his people will be present to help with security during the ceremony.”

‘And that’s supposed to make me feel safe?’ he thought. “So long as he stays away from me,” he conceded.

“Some of the Varia will also be present.”

He shrugged. “From what I hear they have done and continue to do a ridiculously good job. They might not like me much, but I suppose it’s possible they respect me and my guardians. I’d like to think their pride would wither if they did anything less than their best during any protection detail.”

Nono nodded again, and thankfully did not add any commentary. “And of course, many allied famiglie will be invited to share this moment and get their first look at my successor.”

He hummed. “Maybe I can have Dino stand next to me the whole time and share in the torture,” he said dryly.

“Perhaps it would have been better for you to be raised here to begin with,” Nono muttered very softly.

“And perhaps you don’t want to go there,” he said sharply. “It was a miracle I was nowhere in the area during that attempt, but if I’d been here? Your sons were all killed, but even before that point they strutted around like kings because apparently nobody saw fit to make sure they understood suffering and humility and empathy. I probably would have died myself, not to mention end up being arrogant prior to that. Did any of your sons gain true guardians, or were they all just political matches? I only agreed to this because I know I have someone waiting in the wings to take over once he’s old enough. I wanted nothing to do with Vongola once I learned about the mafia, but I’m here, and I’ll do that duty, but—just don’t go there, all right?”

Nono heaved a torturous sigh. “I will make arrangements and have them forwarded to Reborn. We can make any necessary adjustments in plenty of time for the ceremony itself.”

He nodded. “Good day, Don Timoteo.”

*

“Kill me now,” he muttered.

Dino huffed a laugh and gave his shoulder a squeeze. “I’m right here, little brother. But I don’t envy you all this pomp and pageantry. It’s bullshit is what it is. Just because Vongola is the most powerful famiglia doesn’t mean everyone should treat it like royalty.”

‘And the best part is he means that sincerely, and not out of some sense of jealousy,’ he thought. “Okay. Here I go.”

“I’ll be waiting once you’re down on the main floor.”

He smiled warmly at his friend and stepped out onto the stage, then suffered through the ceremony he considered stupid and pointless. He accepted the box holding the Vongola Sin—and if it was so damn important, why wasn’t a fake being used?—and promptly shoved it at Daemon the second he could. After that he was paraded around the ballroom by Nono and introduced to any number of people.

Only long experience allowed him to be gracious, charming, and still show hints of ruthlessness. Eventually, Dino was able to rescue him and he took over a table with his brother and their guardians to finally have something to eat. Naturally, every last bit of food and drink was pulsed before consumption, and everyone at the table was disappointed that none of it tasted good enough.

He was thrilled beyond words once they were in a car and on their way home, despite it being such a long ride, because they could take off the earrings and be their normal sizes again, and not have to deal with that maddening itch and sense of wrongness, like wearing a suit made of someone else’s skin.

*

When he was eighteen he was bidden to move into Vongola HQ so he could commence learning how to run the Family. Reborn had every piece of technology they owned so heavily encrypted and protected that even the paranoia of the Vongola couldn’t get through it to sniff out any of their secrets. Daemon kept people away from their wing, those who weren’t invited, and that absolutely included the servants. They kept on doing their own cleaning and cooking.

Tsuna took to the lessons like a fish to water; after all, he had been the Vongola Decimo before. Nono was stupidly impressed by it all, but waited until his health failed that much more and Tsuna turned twenty to officially hand over the reins. Nono then retired off to some hidden place somewhere with his guardians. Tsuna wondered at times just how much friction there really was between that group, for the crime of having let their Sky be kidnapped and used as a battery.

The very first thing he did was call Sawada to his fancy office.

“My little tuna fish!”

He rolled his eyes openly. “You’re fired.”

“…What? No. Stop joking around, Tsu-kun. This isn’t a very good joke.”

His blood felt like it turned to ice. “You’re fired,” he repeated. “There is no way on Earth I can have an External Advisor I neither know nor trust. So pack up your things at CEDEF, because I already have someone lined up to take your place.”

“You can’t do this,” Sawada breathed.

“I’m the boss, remember? You can retire and spend some time with those sons of yours. After all, Ienari is going to be Undicesimo, and he’ll need to be trained up. Though I suppose if you preferred, he can come here and I’ll do it myself. Oh, and send Basil to me. There are some things I need to talk to him about regarding his new boss.”

“You—you can’t do this,” Sawada whispered.

“I think you’ll find that I can.” He was coming perilously close to venting years of bitterness and rage, so he was relieved when Daemon hastened that man out and on his way. “Thank you,” he said as he sat back. Unlike Nono, who was at least savvy enough to admit (even if only in his own mind) that he was at fault in some way, he knew that man would never own up to his failings, and would keep pushing, and pushing, until Tsuna did something stupid like ripping him into atoms with his Earth ring.

Hayato popped out from behind an illusion and shook his head. “Man, he doesn’t follow orders too well, does he.”

“In my eyes he’s been delusional for the better part of his life,” he replied. “He couldn’t even refer to me with a modicum of respect. When Basil does get here he can overnight, and then he can get you started. Lal should also be a great help, but as you know, she’s pretty strict and can seem a bit cold and unfeeling. Do your best.”

Hayato nodded. “Always have.”

“Including sliding down my hallways?”

Hayato laughed. “Nah. You always caught me, one way or the other.”

He smirked. “I like to think we’ve trained you damn well, so you should be more than fine for this job. And—” He looked at the Storm seriously. “—when I’ve stepped down, if you want to do the same, I’ll always have a home for you as one of my agents.”

Hayato looked almost bashfully pleased as he nodded. “I will keep that in mind. For now, I’m going to check over my things to make sure I’ve not forgotten anything.”

“Okay. See you for dinner.”

“All right!” Hayato said enthusiastically, then departed.

*

He removed the “Tsuna” earring and replaced it with the “Welkin” earring, then slumped in his chair, relief spreading through his body. His guardians had removed theirs and were perching wherever they felt comfortable. “We’re home!” he yelled and slammed his hands down on the surface of his desk.

Footsteps came racing down the hallway and Fūta, I-Pin, and Lambo whooshed into the room, going to Tsuna, Fon, and Romeo respectively. “Oh my God, we’re gonna get real food again,” Fūta gushed as he snatched him up into a hug.

“Is that all you care about, gaki?” he playfully complained.

“I am too old to be considered a brat, Sora,” Fūta shot back. “I’m really glad you guys are back, though. It’s been way too quiet here for too long.”

“I know,” he said with a sigh. Dino had happily hosted the three kids while they were stuck heading Vongola. When Fūta turned eighteen had had opted to move back to the manor, bringing the two younger kids with him, and continued running jobs from there. Tsuna suspected they had eaten a lot of take-out.

“And the dust!”

He snorted; because that was so terribly important. “Well, how about we go shopping. Plenty of supplies to be laid in.”

Life settled back to normal by his standards, especially with the weight of that damn title off his shoulders, plus the disguise. His own house, his family—and for all he knew, Hayato and Basil would be barreling in through the front door at some point.

Sadly, despite that man actually dumping Ienari off with Tsuna and making a snide comment about parenting skills—Tsuna almost hurt himself holding back his reaction to that—some of the progress he made with his half-brother was eroded whenever the kid spent time with Iemitsu. ‘Not my problem any longer,’ he thought. ‘And if the idiot wants to reinstate that man as External Advisor, well…’

Several weeks later he woke up from having the strangest dream. Verde’s decoy puppets were dancing around in a circle and passing a dark ball around with ever increasing speed. The puppets themselves had open chests, showing off what looked like a glass container of flames inside, one for each of the Flames of the Sky. He passed it off as having eaten a bad shrimp or something, but it happened again several nights later, and then several more.

Reborn finally pinned him with a look that all but demanded he share his thoughts. “I just stole an entire pepper and you didn’t even notice. Spill.”

“Oh, uh… It’s just a weird dream I’ve had a few times.”

“The same dream?”

“Yeah.” He went back to slicing vegetables.

“Okay. Describe it for me.” After he did Reborn looked thoughtful. “That can’t exactly be chalked up to intuition, but you’ve never particularly shown strong signs of prescience, either. That’s more of a Giglio Nero thing. Maybe your subconscious is trying to tell you something? I can’t for the life of me imagine what, though.”

A week later Byakuran dropped by. “I saw something,” he said. “Sideways.”

“Okay,” he said slowly.

“About Arcobaleno.”

‘Well now,’ he thought. “What about?”

“You know I can’t see very well, but this was like someone in another dimension was trying to push the knowledge around.”

He and all his Arcobaleno guardians leaned in curiously. Had they been alone he would have asked directly, but as it was…

“I think,” Byakuran said slowly, “I may know of a way to break the curse.”

“What!?” Skull yelped.

“Does it involve some kind of flame containers and a circle?”

Byakuran’s eyes lit up. “Tsu-kun! Where did that come from?”

“Dreams I’ve been having lately,” he replied, wondering if some other Byakuran had tried pushing the knowledge to Tsuna first, and then tried again with alternate versions of himself. Or hell, maybe in some other dimension he was actually a Gesso and the destined holder of the Mare Sky ring and Byakuran was a Vongola. It could happen, right?

“We need to talk to Talbot and…”

“And?”

“Bermuda.”

“Huh?”

“Bermuda is one of the Vindice. From what I saw, he looked like you guys.”

“What the hell?” Colonnello said. “A Vindice Arcobaleno? Since when?”

“More to the point, why them?” Tsuna asked. “I can maybe understand Talbot. He’s a genius and he’s seemingly been around since Giotto’s time, or even before that.”

“And yet not as well preserved as Keith Richards,” Romeo muttered.

Tsuna blew a flat raspberry at his Lightning, then stared at his white-haired menace of a friend.

“It’s kind of a confused welter of images and impressions,” Byakuran said a bit defensively. “What I got out of it was this: Talbot can make whatever these containers are, and Bermuda and the Vindice use their weird flames to… It goes in a circle. You ever seen a Vindice show up to haul someone off to Vendicare?”

Reborn nodded, as did Colonnello. “Yeah, they use warp holes or portals.”

Tsuna looked at Daemon. He knew just how destructive those things could be, but the Vindice obviously had much finer control over them. Either way, they were incredibly powerful.

Daemon shrugged slightly, his brow furrowed in thought.

“You think maybe these container things would hold flames like a pacifier would?” Skull asked.

“Maybe we should take a trip to go see Aria,” Reborn suggested. “Her ability with prescience might give us some clues here.”

Byakuran gave a half shrug, half nod, so Tsuna said, “Please get in touch with her and set up a meeting, Reborn.”

A week later Aria and Gamma were serving tea to Tsuna, Reborn, Daemon, and Byakuran. The second she saw Tsuna she seemed torn between pleasure and regret. “So you’re Welkin.”

He smiled warmly, appreciating the fact that she had not pointed out that he essentially stole the role she had expected to play and thereby saved her from being chibified. Once the introductions were out of the way, and tea and nibbles were served, Tsuna explained about his dreams, Byakuran about his sideways knowledge, and Reborn about Skull’s leap of logic. Daemon sat there and looked pretty, but as he was cuddling Tsuna on his lap, that was perfectly fine.

Aria, though not struck with any weighty thoughts just then, promised to give the matter due consideration—even she was prone to lapsing into doe-eyed moments when Reborn smiled in that way of his—and would immediately let them know if anything jogged loose in her brain.

That being said, Tsuna gifted her with a huge box of sweets, and incidentally won over another lifelong admirer. Reborn seemed terribly smug on the way home for some reason. He suspected it had something to do with his Sky winning over so many other Skies, though Aria was pre-primed given her “Uncle” Reborn’s connection.

Instead of going straight home Tsuna swapped to his “Tsuna” disguise and paid a visit to Talbot, to ask him about containers and flames and dodging questions about why he was so interested in such things. If nothing else, having been the Vongola Decimo got his foot in the door with the ancient fellow. Before he left he made vague noises about having asked for a friend who may or may not want to contact Talbot later, and then they went home and got back to work. He ignored the fact that Talbot had given him a knowing look somehow, despite being blindfolded.

He did think to send a message to Byakuran asking if he could in any way reverse the connection to whoever had sent the message and ask for more details. He held very little hope for that to happen considering how many potential alternates there might be, but there was no harm in asking, he supposed.

Aria sent a letter to Reborn essentially stating that either she or her daughter Yuni would need to be present at some point, or both of them. She just had a feeling they’d be needed for some kind of confrontation. Byakuran reported that all he could still see was flame containers, in a circle, with Vindice hovering over it all and passing a dark ball around.

“Maybe the ball of whatever goes through the containers?” he mused. “And has some kind of effect on them?”

“The Vindice seem to have their own kind of flame,” Daemon said. “Mist Flames might be able to replicate some of what they do, but…”

“And whatever it is is capable of warp—” Skull broke off. “Which is another way of saying speed, but really, it’s also an exercise in energy conservation by opening a portal between two points, which could be twisted to say it’s a way of creating energy…”

Everyone stared at the Cloud in disbelief.

“What!? I like science fiction,” Skull protested, “and I had to know a lot for those stunts I used to do, stuff like physics and whatever.”

“Okay, okay,” he said, taking he heat off his Cloud. “What do we even know about these stupid pacifiers? We’re small for a reason, yes? I don’t remember seeing anything at that memorial, unfortunately.”

“The accepted theory is that we’re small in order to compress our flames,” Fon said, “and thereby allow that greater density to feed the pacifiers more efficiently. Why they even exist in the first place is something else entirely.”

“But at a guess?”

“Supernatural powers exist for a reason,” Colonnello said, “even if that reason is happenstance.”

“Well,” Daemon said, “I happen to have some odd habits, not to mention choices in reading. Going by some of the theories I’ve seen regarding something like magic—take it from Tolkien or wherever you like—there is usually some kind of higher power involved. Imagine that nature itself gives off a type of energy. After all, we create energy every day, as do plants and animals, simply by converting available resources.”

Reborn shot a dubious look at Daemon, but nodded faintly. “So we could be like batteries or converters for Flames of the Sky overall? Like photosynthesis or something?”

“Keeping conservation of energy in mind,” Colonnello said, “conversion might make more sense. And taking conservation of mass into account…”

“We went from engines running on petrol to fusion reactors?” he offered.

“Something like that? Maybe?” Colonnello replied.

“Then if those special flames really are involved in some kind of a solution they must be capable of substituting for part of whatever function we serve,” Reborn added. “But for the Vindice to help with this…”

“C’mon now,” Skull said. “One of them is like us. Why? What happens to us when…”

Reborn’s face went so cold it was terrifying. “I always expected to die a dog’s death, but that would be … unacceptable. We need to find out if Talbot can make the containers, if the Vindice are willing to test the theory, and then—”

There was a collective shudder amongst Reborn, Colonnello, Skull, and Fon.

“And have Aria, Yuni, or both present for some vague, unspecified reason,” he ended with.

“Right. And drag Viper and Verde into things.”

Tsuna snorted, mostly over Verde. Still, they would likely all need to be present for any of it to have a snowball’s chance in hell of working. Another message was sent off to Talbot (in Tsuna’s name) and a meeting arranged.

They went that time as themselves, though Romeo stayed behind to ride herd on the three youngest of their crew and deal with the paperwork. Talbot, with a fashionable green blindfold on, had greeted their complement (Daemon was in chibi form for the hell of it, and floating) and raved over the box of sweets Sora had presented.

“Do you, by chance, use flames as a kind of sonar?” he asked at one point, seeing how the ancient man unerringly navigated the world.

“Perhaps. Now, as to this theory you have presented me with. I believe that yes, I could fashion the flame containers, the, ah, apparatus. One for each flame, I think… Inside a larger container. You said the darkness circled around, through them. The wielder of the Flame of Night can—”

“Wait, what?” Colonnello asked.

“When you get to be my age you tend to forget the minor details,” Talbot joked. “Like names. That short fellow in the Vindice.”

“Bermuda,” Reborn supplied.

“Yes, that short fellow,” Talbot said. “Perhaps he was born with some form of dwarfism.”

‘Now I know he’s just fucking with us,’ he thought, his mouth quirking into a half smile.

“The purple short one had a good thought going,” Talbot continued. “The Flame of Night has an interesting property to it, in some ways like Cloud Flames, in some ways even like Sun Flames.”

‘Propagation and activation, huh? Maybe those qualities are what could conceivably be our fusion reactor.’

“The trick is in getting the short fellow to agree.”

Colonnello rolled his eyes expressively.

“Will you create the containers?” he asked.

“Yes, yes, how could I possibly say no to such an interesting challenge—or such delicious sweets as you have provided.”

‘Right, open invitation for bribery of the sweetest kind.’ He nodded to himself. “Thank you. If you would be so kind as to get in touch with Reborn when you have them ready?”

“Of course.”

A month or so later (and after plenty of care packages sent Talbot’s way, one per week, and with perhaps the result of the old man padding up with a few pounds to cushion those ancient bones) Reborn got a message through the usual series of drops that they were ready, plus one extra to be used for demonstration purposes. Or as the old man’s note said, “In case the short fellow gets upset and smashes it, you’ll still have the real ones.”

“Time for an Arcobaleno meeting then,” he said. “I think it’d make more of a showing if all of us were in agreement and willing to present the idea.”

“Where do you want to meet?” Reborn asked. “Someplace neutral? Rome?”

“Uh… Yeah. Find a place, then I’ll prepare messages for Mammon, Verde, and Lal.”

Verde was not pleased to see them all again, but he showed up. He had been surprisingly quiet over the years, and Daemon’s spies had shown the green-haired man had become meticulous in researching any contracts he deigned to consider before accepting them. Naturally, he was the one to open the meeting with a somewhat belligerent, “What is it this time?”

Tsuna finished plating the last meal from the food he had brought and slid it over to Verde. “We may have a way to break the curse,” he said, then bit into his sandwich.

Viper went white—or whiter than usual—the markings on his cheeks standing out in sharp relief. “What?” he whispered.

Tsuna nodded as he swallowed. “Dreams I’ve been having, some help from someone who can peer sideways into other dimensions, a little talk with a few other people. We think it’s possible, and that no one else would ever have to be cursed like this again.”

“How?” Verde said sharply, suddenly all business.

“Talbot of the Vongola has created new containers to replace the pacifiers, but we will need the help of the Vindice.” As expected, that caused a bit of apprehension.

“Why are you four unsurprised?” Viper asked, staring in turn at Tsuna’s guardians.

“These four helped me figure parts of it out,” Tsuna said blandly. “Skull was especially insightful.”

Verde scoffed, but Tsuna fixed him with a look that promised unending torment and caused him to retreat into his food.

“Why the Vindice?” Viper asked, then took a sip of strawberry milk Tsuna had made specifically for the Mist.

“Because of their special flames, an eighth flame, the one they use to warp around and apprehend people. The source is Bermuda, and he’s like us. The implications are enough to make anyone ill.”

Viper’s hand mottled white and red from squeezing the milk container too hard. “And you want a show of solidarity.”

“Preferably. After all, if this works, we all benefit. It’s an interesting experiment that’s also a sound investment of our time.”

Viper’s mouth quirked into the faintest hint of a smile before disappearing into another sip of milk.

“I have one sample container I plan to show Bermuda, to get the concept across.”

“And if they do agree?” Lal asked, finally saying something.

“Then we have to—” He frowned.

“We have to find a way to contact Checker Face,” Reborn said flatly.

“Considering how long it’s been, we may not have to,” Verde said quietly.

“Perhaps. But I’d like to be proactive,” he said. “Are you with me on this?”

“Yes,” was out of Viper’s mouth instantly.

Lal nodded after a moment; she looked skeptical, yet hopeful. Verde nodded, an abstracted look on his face.

“Then let’s decide on a time to meet to speak with Bermuda.”

*

Tsuna had never, in either life, gone to Vendicare. Visited in a messed up mind meld with Mukuro? Sure. But not physically. He decided to take a calculated risk and have the actual meeting behind his manor. Byakuran was there with a handful of his people; Dino and his guardians; Aria and her guardians; and Yuni.

Fūta, Lambo, and I-Pin were all out on jobs. Daemon was wearing the face of the guy who ran the corner grocery. Romeo was himself. All told, there were around twenty-five people present on the deck. Daemon had sent a set of constructs to Vendicare. If necessary, he would use his ability to warp as the Vindice did, even though it might well piss them off.

Tsuna had spent a while cooking and had a buffet of food waiting for his many guests; they all happily indulged before the main event. Daemon finally nodded at him and said, “They’ve arrived and are entering now.”

He sipped his chocolate milk—Viper had made a moue of distaste on seeing it—and listened to Daemon’s low-voiced reports.

“Oh,” Daemon suddenly said, sounding surprised. “They’re coming.”

Tsuna nodded just as a portal opened up on the lawn and Jager stepped through, with Bermuda on his shoulder. Tsuna hopped on Daemon’s shoulder and went to meet with the Vindice.

“What nonsense is this?” Bermuda demanded.

“Before we get into that, do you guys eat?” Tsuna asked seriously, and heard Reborn groan in the background. “I’ve always wondered.”

“…”

“I’ll take that as a maybe,” he said. “We’ll have to talk about it some more later on. As for why we wished to speak with you, that’s simple. There’s something we want, very much, and we think you would be the other half of the answer.”

Bermuda seemed to stare at Daemon for a moment, then refocused on Tsuna. “An answer to the Curse of the Arcobaleno.”

“Yep,” he replied as Daemon produced the extra container and set it atop a pedestal be constructed. “This is an example of what may very well work. It would contain the same flames a pacifier would, but not need to leech off a living being. However, as it could obviously not feed the flame on its own, this is where you would come in. In theory.”

Jager moved closer.

“It’s been theorized that the properties of your Night Flame and the warp capabilities could become the fuel, so to speak. Eight portals inside, around the flame, one container for each of the Flames of the Sky. The downside is that it would mean—”

“Yes, I see that,” Bermuda interrupted crisply. “But it would be worth it to wrest control away from that man.”

“Oh.” He had not been expecting such speedy agreement. He’d expected he would need to use charm and possibly bribes of food. “Well, I suppose it would make sense that you’re not exactly his biggest fan.”

Bermuda gave him a look before eyeing the crowd on the deck.

“They’re all here in the event that my weird luck kicks in and we have this taken care of today,” he replied to the unasked question. “We figured that priming these things would take a fair number of people with good flame purity and a handful of Skies to make sure everything plays nicely together. And besides, I bribed them with my cooking. That usually works.” He got the distinct impression that Bermuda was arching a brow his way, so he shrugged.

“I think it will work,” Bermuda said finally. “But in order to free the current Arcobaleno we must summon Checker Face.”

Tsuna gestured and the Arcobaleno, plus Lal, formed up nearby. “I have no real idea how to do that, but I’m just going to wing it like everything else and try to reach him through my pacifier.”

Bermuda nodded.

Tsuna reached up to hold his pacifier and concentrated, entreating Checker Face to respond. A quick illusion from Daemon showed that the Arcobaleno were doing the same.

Checker Face stepped out of nothingness between one heartbeat and the next. He was a snappy dresser, but nothing on Reborn.

“Thank you for coming,” he said as Aria and Yuni stepped up to either side of him. “We wish to present a solution to the Curse of the Arcobaleno.”

Half an hour later it was done and Checker Face had disappeared, and Bermuda had vanished through a portal with Jager and the apparatus. Tsuna looked down at his still tiny body and sighed through his nose. On the bright side, he no longer had a pacifier chained around his neck, and he was fairly certain he could still use his flames without a ring.

“So,” Daemon murmured in his ear, “just imagine the fun we could have when you’re old enough.”

His face heated up and Daemon started laughing. A look around showed that out of all of them, only Lal Mirch had regained adult form, but that made a certain kind of sense given that she had only been clipped by the curse due to Colonnello’s actions. Still, it did not exactly bode well for the man’s love life.

Viper chose that moment to float over and fix him with what he believed was an accusing stare. “Did you help that Vongola child back in the day?”

“Eh?”

“The one Reborn tutored.”

“How much are you willing to pay for the information?” he asked, knowing it would frustrate the Mist.

Viper’s mouth twisted. “Touché. Got any more of that strawberry milk?”

“Of course,” he replied. “I made up a whole batch just for you.”

fin

NB: Shadowblayze wrote a sidestory to this at: FFN or AO3.