Sawada Hidetada, heir to the ancient house of Sawada (a title that meant nothing at all, in practice; it is only so we can keep track), was four when his baby brother was born. Four years old when he, in all his curiousness, looked at the bundle of clothes and hair like it was an intruder fallen from the sky, poking it insistently much to his mother's amusement.
"This is Tsunayoshi," she had said, uncovering the baby's head. She had held Hide's hand in hers when he reached to caress his new brother. "He is your little brother. Isn't he cute?"
He was cute, Hide thought. He thought so for years (still thinks so), even when the little menace opened his eyes (round, amber, glowing; so unlike Hide's own slanted blue ones) and started crawling. Even when the mini-spawn from hell began standing on his tiny little feet and breaking things. He was terrifyingly cute.
Hide loved him.
"The both of you will destroy this house, I tell you," their grandfather had scolded, reaching to pick up a vase Tsuna had dropped. Hide had laughed, holding on to his brother's giggling form as he kicked the shōgi board. "It survived many generations, but you will end up destroying it. Worse than Iemitsu, you two are."
Then his brother grew up and got a pacifier… like, thing. He started talking to ghosts, being bipolar and burning things (he said that they spontaneously combust. He never believed a word Tsuna said). Not that Hide didn't have his own problems, what with the constant teasing the whole ancient house heir brings along, since for some reason his classmates were convinced he was a stuck-up good for nothing freak, and then being reluctantly dragged into Hibari-sempai's Disciplinary Committee.
Not his fault, never his fault.
He used to care about that. Now, he laughs. So what if he plays shōgi better than he plays video games, what if he does old fashioned martial arts (Aikido is great, and definitely not old fashioned); what if he shakes hands instead of bowing, what if he speaks Italian better than their mandatory second language (English)? Really, his family is partly foreign, so what.
It doesn't mean anything. Bad or good. It is just ancestry. Just family.
He loves his family, really. From his grandfather, with his many long-served rants on family history and the beautiful tale of Namimori; to his grandfather's sister with her scoldings and bitter tea (and her family, by association); to his mother with her late-night sessions of mystery novel reading and her constant scrutiny of everything; to his maternal grandparents who mail books disguised as letters every few months. Even his brother, with his terrible habit of setting things to fire and laughing (he stopped doing it a few years ago. Hide still doesn't know), and his pacifier-like charm and his ghosts and spirits and vanishing stores.
He doesn't like his father much, but that's okay. The man never shows up and their grandfather has been a good enough paternal figure for the past fourteen years. And Mamma had done a really good job managing the house on her own, thank you.
He likes the peace and quiet that is Namimori, from old town to the modern buildings in 3rd Street. He likes the dark and muddy old house of his grandfather's, and he also likes the house his father and mother bought for themselves. He likes the quiet of the shrine and the loud casualness of school. He likes the people. He likes the normal.
Namimori is peaceful and quiet and normal. His life is fine.
And he will do whatever it takes for it to continue being fine.
Ietsuna was never stupid. He still isn't, but he doesn't understand how his own son managed to be such a failure of a father. Not that his own father was all that great: Sawada Yoshinobu was known for his constant status of not being in the city, but the man tried harder than Iemitsu apparently ever did.
He wants to believe he was a good father to Iemitsu, but one can only be so good when raising a child alone. His wife had given in to her illness soon after their child was born, and Ietsuna's darling sister had her own family. So maybe, he had messed up. Been too clingy to his son, been too rooted to his family house that he was unwilling to move, even if for just a few days.
Chiyo always did say he was obsessive. Obsessive, with a melancholy issue! But she had been good to him, keeping him alive long enough for him to have a family and make it to old age (it is 2009. How did he make it to the new millennium?).
Maybe, if Iemitsu had had a sibling, he wouldn't be as he is. Maybe he wouldn't have ran away as soon as he turned fifteen and Ietsuna was family-bound to sit him down and tell him 'Iemitsu, you know that story about Ieyasu-sama coming from Italy where he founded a Mafia family? Well, it is true, and the Famiglia is still around'. Maybe it would have been different.
He always wanted a sibling, himself. A blood-sibling, who he could share 'how many things can magically combust around us' tales and have slow motion fights in the attic while their mother yelled at them to not break anything and specially not the mirror! Chiyo was great, a great sister and companion, but she didn't see the world the same as he did. And his father was never around for him to ask. Nor were there any other living family relative from that side of the family.
Grandfather Yoshimune had joked around that they were cursed. Cursed to have a single, male child in every generation to carry on the family line (his sister had died at childbirth. The baby didn't make it). He knew that his father, Yoshinobu, had gone through Ieyasu-sama's journals looking for a reason for all these miscarriages and deaths (it had to be a curse, right? Some demon, some spirit that could be exorcised). He remembers hearing of a scratched-out page with a spade symbol drawn in a corner, but that burnt soon after his beloved father died of, well, a mysterious fire that lit up the shed.
He also remembers very well the day when Iemitsu came back to Namimori, a beautiful and young girl at his side and a one-year-old in her arms. 'My wife, Nana,' he had said, 'and this is Hidetada!' And, then he had gone off to find a new, modern house for his family that didn't reek of ash, old traditions and forgotten families overseas, while he and Chiyo interrogated Nana about the (Christian) wedding, the child's birth and what colour would look good for the celebration, because of course we must celebrate, Sawada style.
A couple years later he had worried so much when Nana had had complications at Tsuna's birth. A simple problem in these days was lethal back then, and, well, he didn’t want to lose more family. No more. 'It is back,' he had said, holding Iemitsu's shoulders. 'It is going to kill us all.'
But it didn’t. Fortunately, it didn’t.
It has been ten years and Tsunayoshi is still alive, if a little on the small side. Hidetada is still alive, and energetic like Iemitsu was when he was his age. Iemitsu, Nana and Ietsuna are still alive, somehow. So is Timoteo, though his old friend is, well, old and tired, and so are his sons; three blood sons and one adopted (and a stillborn girl he would have called Daniela).
He has heard no news from Italy in a while, but somehow, he feels like things will be okay. No news means good news, or so they say. And, while Iemitsu may not be the best father, he is a family man and would tell him if anything happened, right?
He was small when all this supernatural stuff he is used to started happening around him. Really, really small. It was probably about the same time when Hide-nii started training in the boring martial arts with Kusakabe-sensei, but he doesn't remember those years very well, as he was a toddler still clinging to his mother’s skirt.
Sawada Tsunayoshi was three, maybe, when he found himself owner of a really particular stone. A magic stone, he would have said back then. A cursed stone, he says now, behind closed doors. And it really is cursed, as it is. So far he has felt it suck at his energy and try to invade his mind. Stupid pacifier, he doesn't keep it too close to him because of that, but if he keeps it too far then he can't move. As in, he really can’t move: he will feel sluggish and his vision will start going… somewhere, and then he will panic before everything starts shutting down.
The last time he had forgotten the pacifier was about three years ago, when he was in a hurry. A terrible hurry, since he had a meeting with Ghost-san and ghosts are vengeful if you don’t keep up with your promises (he knows, the blonde man at Grandfather’s house still won’t talk to him). He didn’t make it, in the end, because before he knew it he was waking up on his bed, Mamma tending to a sudden spike in your fever, Tsu-kun, why didn’t you tell me you are sick?
He is pretty sure he hadn’t been sick that day (Hide-nii complained about him hogging the attention, all while looking worriedly at the pacifier-like stone sitting on his desk).
Of course, the stone was the tip of the iceberg. Quite a big iceberg, too, if the mirror-that-was-definitely-a-portal-to-another-world in Grandfather’s attic and the pocket watches that kept moving around Namimori were anything to go by (there was a funny thing about the watches, too, since people could see them but couldn’t approach them. It is there, but also not?). And those were just two of a hundred of mysteries he has found around Namimori in his quest for immortality and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Then there is the spontaneous combustion thing that started a whole lot of years ago, starting from simple bits of paper and notebooks, a dried log in old town and maybe a couple of his vegetables. It isn’t that he wanted to burn them, no, they suddenly, randomly decided to burst into fire in his presence. It was rare, but it happened, and people were… odd, about it (it really wasn’t his fault).
Fortunately for Tsuna, he has Ghost-san. Well, apparently he has always had Ghosts, but then there is this particular Ghost that is slightly different from the others. To start with, no matter who he was possessing (and he was really, really picky about that; thank goodness Kyoko-chan fit his expectations!), Tsuna would always be able to tell he was around. He could sense him, like a little voice in his mind told him hey, this is him, this is Ghost-san.
It was like a series of fun sub-quests that involved one unattainable golden watch (it had been by the other side of town, that day. Getting there was the hard part), one dig through piles and boxes of Ieyasu-sama’s ancient things looking for a mold-bitten deck of playing cards, Sasagawa Kyoko (her body, really) teaching him how to make lemonade and a pair of dragons made of fire that refused to let go of a bouquet of flowers. Or was it the flowers before the lemonade? Nevermind that, it was a pair of dragons.
That had been the weirdest day of his life.
No, wait, the day following that one had been the weirdest. But, the other one was also high up there. Second place.
Somehow or another, he ended up having a Ghost for a tutor (wasn’t there a manga about the same premise that is currently his life?) He is devious, he is scary, he teaches how to kill people and hide the bodies. He teaches world history like he was there (which, he probably was) and constantly does weird stuff like possess bodies and make illusions. He disappears at times, claiming he has cleaning up to do and that he will be back soon.
So far, he hasn’t broken his promise. So far, he has shown him how to control his spontaneous combustion skills, how to deal with the more dangerous spirits without getting killed or eaten, how to manipulate his way around conversations he doesn’t want to have. So far, he has been more of a father than his own father ever was.
Well, the strict manners and etiquette lessons he could do without, but no one is perfect. Besides, they will maybe come useful someday in the future?
For now, he worries about his lessons, and how he doesn’t want to go to school, and how Namimori seems to be infested with all kinds of weird people, auras and spirits. He will worry about his tutor’s reasons later -oh, and the cursed stone, too.
Later, though. Right now, his life is pretty fun.