Chapter 1: Tsuna's Story
People are born with their Soul Mark, but it only fades into existence at around five or six years of age. Children are told, as soon as they can understand, that these Marks are a representation of their Soul Mate.
They are told that it can be a sentence spoken to or from their Soul Mate, perhaps even a word or picture describing them. They are reassured, over and over, that these Marks can be metaphors and most should not be taken literally.
It’s not a new concept, even at that early age. Hundreds, probably thousands of websites and organisations dedicate themselves to helping people find Soul Mates. Plus, there’s a ridiculous amount of people writing stories about their life journey, whether they find their Soul Mate or not.
Occasionally, a new celebrity has their Mark leaked to the masses and suddenly every single fan is getting it tattooed on themselves. Sometimes talk shows or news channels broadcast stories about people finding their intended.
Love sells, and true love sells even more.
However, despite the media being saturated with such things, it’s still a shock to children when it finally happens to them. A boy in Tsuna’s class bursts into tears one day because when his Soul Mark fades into existence on his foot, it spells out, God, what a loser. Another girl crawls under a desk and wails about how her wrist has a "Gross, purple crocodile!" on it.
In Tsuna’s case, it’s a lot more anticlimactic. His Mark is in another language and it takes a while for him to find out what it actually means in Japanese. It makes him pause for a moment, but Tsuna decides that even though his word implies some pretty bad things about his intended, he doesn't care. Tsuna will get to know her first and then make decisions.
After all, the Mark is a guideline. It's initially vague and difficult to interpret in most cases.
As he grows past that wide-eyed, optimistic phase, the teachers start to prepare the children for the worst. They give simplified statistics to the class of five-year-olds, about how likely it is that people guess right.
They warn them that only around thirteen percent of the world's population, the ones who try the hardest, get their Soul Mates. They make sure to emphasise how you don't need a Soul Mate to live happily.
Tsuna's dreams come crashing down.
At home he traces the belt of words that sit low on his hips, just below the edge of his pants, and contemplates if he’s lucky enough to be in that thirteen percent.
It’s a resounding no.
He eyes the word, repeating in different handwriting (something that's always confused him) and resigns himself to not caring. Unfortunately, thoughts don't work that way. So instead of moving on, his mind picks apart any meaning that can spawn from the word Mafia.
Kyoko is someone Tsuna has always hoped was his Soul Mate as soon as he saw her. Her smile is beautiful, not only because she’s cute, but also the fact that it lights up the room with her earnest joy, and just being around her makes Tsuna happy.
So one day he finally gathers up enough courage to ask her what she thinks about the Mafia. Unfortunately, she has no idea what he’s talking about. But Tsuna persists and snatches up a pencil, writing it in his neatest handwriting on the corner of a page. Also unfortunately, he writes it in Italian instead of Katakana.
She says she likes how the word looks, unknowing of what it means, and Tsuna falls hard.
From then on, despite not confronting her again, Tsuna is adamant Kyoko is his Soul Mate. It makes sense to him; she likes the word, and his Mark has different handwriting, so she must like how it looks in different forms instead of actually being interested in what the word 'Mafia' represents.
Tsuna is content, because any other problem or hardship they encounter can be sorted out together.
He neglects to find out what her Mark is.
In fact, Tsuna is so certain Kyoko is his intended, that when an insane baby arrives, he completely ignores any signs that his theory could be wrong. This continues for a very, very long time despite hard evidence to the contrary.
Chapter 2: Takeshi's Story
Tsuna's Soul Mark spells out a word again and again, wrapping his hips like a belt. Takeshi knows this for a fact.
Takeshi subtly sneaks up on his sleeping classmate and prepares to strip him.
Okay, so maybe he’s being a bit creepy right now, but the baseball star has his reasons.
It started when a boy in his gym class fell over. They were running laps and Takeshi just so happened to be behind the kid after overlapping the poor brunet, and because of Takeshi’s momentum he couldn't stop in time to not fall onto the other boy.
He remembered right before he squished the boy; that his name was Tsuna, and Takeshi had heard a rumour that Tsuna's Soul Mark was somewhere on his hip. It was completely by accident that Takeshi’s hand grabbed onto the brunet's shorts and maybe tugged them down just a little. Just enough to see a couple of words running across his lower back and disappearing around his hips.
Of course Takeshi apologised and laughed it off as an accident – which it totally was! – and continued on with his laps.
If he was curious as to why there were so many words, or why said words looked like they were repeating, then that was his problem. If he was just a bit interested as to why an English (French?) word was on the boy, that wasn't weird at all. If he then went home and wrote out the word a couple dozen times, that wasn't weird either.
However, it was a bit of a concern that one of the words he saw on the boy copied Takeshi’s handwriting perfectly. The baseballer tried to forget, because it was just a coincidence. Thousands of others must have the same handwriting, and when he searched for it, it turned out to be a pretty strange (Italian) word for someone like Tsuna to carry around. Nothing to do with him at all.
So what if Takeshi’s own Soul Mark spelt out 'gravity-defying' on the left side of his torso? It could mean an astronaut instead of hair. Although really, that brunet hair is ridiculous. And soft. And so, so fluffy…
It was only right to check, and thus Takeshi was on a mission. He was going to get another look at the boy's Mark and determine for sure if that was his handwriting. Because if it was, that meant this boy was a potential Soul Mate, and that Takeshi should keep a better eye on him (until he ascertained if it was 110% real, because then he would tell Tsuna and they would live happily ever after).
Just to reiterate though; Takeshi has his reasons, so it isn't weird that he may or may not have drugged his classmate's lunch with sleeping pills so he could pull down the boy's pants.
Not creepy at all.
Takeshi shakes away the guilty feeling and snags the waist band of Tsuna's pants, tugging lightly. He has to be careful or the brunet will wake up. He didn't want to overdose the poor kid but he also didn't want to ask his dad how much he should use, so Takeshi crushed the pills according to the instructions on the back of the bottle and added just a bit more to be on the safe side.
Takeshi bites back a curse when the belt holds strong. He contemplates the best method and carefully lifts his classmate out of the chair and lies Tsuna on the floor.
Takeshi checks that the door is locked one more time before he reaches for the thin, black belt and slides one side free of the buckle. He then tugs on the pants lightly until the black lines are visible against pale skin. Takeshi's eyes trace the words just under a flat abdomen and curving around soft –he had to touch Tsuna to turn him over, honest- hips.
He pokes Tsuna's side and his finger doesn't meet a lot of resistance. Takeshi pokes his own side and feels hard muscle. Tsuna is really soft, comparably, not that it’s a bad thing.
Then the brunet grumbles and Takeshi screams inwardly as his body freezes in terror. Instead of waking, arms reach up to pillow a head and Takeshi lets out an inaudible sigh as Tsuna just shifts into a more comfortable position on the floor.
When the boy settles again, Takeshi reaches into his pocket and slips out a piece of paper that he holds to the Soul Mark for comparison. Yep, there it is. Identical handwriting spelling the word Mafia.
Takeshi’s fingers wander under his own shirt to find his soul mark. On the left of his torso, just a few ribs down his side, is his Mark spelling out Tsuna's descriptor. Despite not having any raised edges or noticeable difference from his skin, he knows exactly where it is.
Well then. Now Takeshi just has to figure out how he’s related to the mafia. Maybe he'll ask his dad.
But first, to get Tsuna back into the seat.
Takeshi would totally do something like this. Y'know, the whole 'natural born hitman' thing the manga mentions.
That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.
Chapter 3: Kyouya's Story
Kyouya's Soul Mark implies his intended is a raging wildfire. Therefore, the...fluffy herbivore's Mark is just a coincidence.
If there’s one thing that enrages Kyouya like nothing else, it’s the abuse of small animals.
No, mother, not because he thinks they’re cute. It's because they are genetically made to be weaker - to be sacrificed to stronger, more vicious predators. So when someone starts making their life even harder than it has to be, that gets his blood boiling.
However, he is a carnivore and he doesn't protect, he rules. So when old ladies whisper to each other that ‘he's off on another patrol, protecting Namimori’, he ends up hitting herbivores harder due to his annoyance than he would have originally.
It's his territory, so obviously he would discipline its inhabitants. Not protect. Never protect.
If you protect, bad things happen. The delusional herbivores attack the weakness you're protecting, or the one you protect becomes content and doesn't try to better itself. Or, just maybe, you're so focused on protecting that it affects you in the worst way - you make excuses for the herbivores’ behaviour, all behaviour.
No, Kyouya doesn't protect. Protecting weakens the mind and kills instinct. From that thought process, it's obvious that Kyouya doesn't protect small animals.
Instead, he just maims anything that so much as twitches in the wrong direction (including the small animals because prey shouldn't be singled out) so they all fall in line. He uses pain as a physical and emotional deterrence. So when the more serious crimes occur, Kyouya has to wonder just how stupid an herbivore has to be to disregard Kyouya's rules.
For instance, when Kyouya makes his rounds at the primary school to usher out the slackers and search for those few students that get left behind by parents, he encounters a rather strange scene in one of the rooms.
Through the small, square window of the door he can just barely see two students inside. One of them rests on a desk and the other stands beside him. Kyouya spies the bottle half sticking out of the black haired one's pocket, the questionable expression, and the fluffy sleeping boy.
He then promptly kicks in the door.
The herbivore jolts in shock and falls into a sloppy defensive stance that makes Kyouya think he'll fight back. Kyouya snaps out his regular ‘I'll bite you to death’ warning (because he's a benevolent ruler) and charges, the herbivore regaining his wits right before a tonfa comes down on a shoulder.
The other boy dodges badly though and the metal connects soundly with flesh, throwing the boy to the floor. The herbivore grits his teeth against the pain, scoops up his bag with his unhurt arm and -narrowly missing the thrown tonfa that embeds itself into the wall- he throws himself out of the first storey window.
Kyouya doesn't bother to give chase – he isn't going to go out of his way to be a hypocrite (that’s another story entirely*). If the herbivore was trying to kill the fluffy one, he failed badly. That particular choice of pills gave the target a headache at the most. Besides, it's a very curious crime, especially for a child.
Kyouya turns to the remaining herbivore and wonders what the brunet did to get an attempt on his life. Kyouya blinks in confusion when he sees the boy's shirt pulled up slightly and black lines just poking out of cover at the base of his spine.
Kyouya scoffs at the realisation that it wasn't an assassination, the other herbivore just wanted to see this one's Soul Mark. He thinks that it’s rather elaborate for such a stupid goal… and then his curiosity gets the better of him.
Kyouya grabs onto the back of the fluffy one’s collar and pushes him further against the desk, the boy's body stretching in such a way that Kyouya can see the thin ribbon of black that encircles his body.
Kyouya mouths the words in confusion, knowing exactly what it means but confused as to why it repeats. He blinks in shock at one of the renditions and rolls the boy slightly until he gets full access to the brunet's left hip. He traces the word in his own handwriting and wonders.
In the end, though, Kyouya is a realist. He leaves the boy to sleep it off and heads home.
He has never been more than mildly curious toward Soul Marks and what they represent. In his mind, it’s as normal as existing and just as pointless to think about. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't.
There’s no point contesting it, because Kyouya would settle for nothing less than a carnivore. If Kyouya found his Soul Mate and they weren't worth it, then he would simply dismiss them. He doesn't need nor want a happily ever after, he wants a challenge.
Kyouya ignores the stinging on his right shoulder blade. It has nothing to do with the brunet, because his Mark quite clearly indicates someone far more… just more.
There’s a small, white bunny outlined in black at the base of the Mark. Its dark shadow twists and stretches, rising up and shifting into a vortex of liquid gold and honey and the shadow keeps spreading, covering his entire shoulder blade and then some, forming the picture of a raging fire. Embers flicker outwards and smoke curls up, ghosting along the side of his neck.
Kyouya doesn't protect, so he'll just have to be patient until his intended turns into an inferno.
*When he mentions he would be a hypocrite if he chased down Takeshi for trying to assassinate someone, he means that he used to try and kill Fon whenever he came over (also how he knows what the pills do).
In my head it's like: Little Hibari is offering tea to an adult Fon, but when Fon asks what flavour it is, Hibari just says 'the flavour of your death' in a deadpan voice and Fon finds tapeworm larvae in the drink or something.
Kyouya’s parents encourage this whole-heartedly.
Chapter 4: Reborn's Story
Reborn doesn't buy into that Soul Mate rubbish. Really.
"Catch me if you can, Re-baka!" Tsuna calls over his shoulder, keeping the fedora firmly on his head by gripping the sides, a mad grin stretching his lips.
The hitman blinks once, slowly, and blurs with how fast he moves.
Takeshi blinks at the sound, turning his head in time to catch a blur of colour sprint past the door, followed soon after by another blur, of black this time.
"Doppler effect, huh?" Hayato muses, not looking up from a contract. He spins a pen in his hand, straining his ears to find the faint screaming. "What a set of lungs. I bet even Ryohei can’t match that."
"So I should tell you that was Tsuna?" Takeshi laughs.
Hayato's stunned expression flickers to one of rage as he stands up, slams down the papers he’s holding and strides to the door, planting his feet in the middle of the hallway.
The two of them hear the faint scream getting louder again and Hayato braces himself to throw the second runner to the floor. He falters slightly as he catches sight of Reborn, but no, Hayato can’t back down – he must protect Tsuna.
However, instead of running past, Tsuna throws his body to the right, only just avoiding hitting the door frame. The chaser doesn’t turn quickly enough so his shoulder slams into the wood and dents it. Splinters and larger pieces of wood and paint shoot off, Hayato recoiling with his arms raised to protect his eyes.
Tsuna scrambles to his feet and hides behind Takeshi as Reborn calmly brushes off his forceful encounter with a wall. Sure, Reborn could have avoided it, but it’s not like the hit actually hurt in any capacity.
Takeshi isn't able to even flinch before he’s backhanded away by the hitman. Only softly, so the Rain is just knocked unconscious instead of having his neck snapped.
Tsuna playfully screams again, a large smile on his face as he tries to duck past Reborn. He feints left, right and left again before flipping over Reborn's head. Laughter bubbles up as he takes a running step forwards, ready to burst back out into the hallway.
Never turn your back on an opponent. Especially if it’s Reborn.
Arms wrap around Tsuna’s waist from behind, lifting him off the floor and dropping him on his head. Tsuna chokes as the breath is forced out of him. He lies there dazed as Reborn reaches down and snatches up his fedora.
"Either get a hundred years more experience or an army," Reborn scoffs, brushing off his hat and placing it back on his head.
Tsuna lets out a wheezing laugh, still trying to suck in air. Reborn's eyes wander down to the strip of skin showing. Tsuna's shirt had been pushed up when he was thrown down and his pants had fallen slightly in the sprint.
Reborn has never been one for fairy tales, even at a young age.
Soul Mates are just like every other con in history; the gullible get sucked in and spat back out with a new perspective, handfed by the con-artist. People who buy into such a thing as Soul Mates are ignorant, being misled by other ignorant people. It’s a horrible cycle of stupidity.
The myth is perpetuated by people desperate to have meaning behind their actions. Desperate for something more that 'we did it because we can'. Desperate to know they won't die alone. They deliberately search for meanings, twisting it to fit their perspective.
The children can't help it, they're just starting out in the world. They haven't learned that humans are disgusting, moronic things, and that they lie and make mistakes. The kids take every word to heart, especially from their teachers. So what does the government do; have specialised lessons on Soul Marks like it’s some sexual education knock-off.
Where is the science behind it - the hard evidence that proves anything connects at all? No, people ignore that gap. Scientists will tell you about the biology, all about the pigments in the skin, how children develop the Marks. Then enthusiastic morons turn around and claim it’s some tarot card fuckery, making 'signs' up as they go along.
Soul Marks aren't just vague, they're the highest order of making shit up. People who consider themselves 'the lucky ones' see their Marks through a Fisheye lens, distorting and twisting to their benefits. How concrete is a picture? How about a descriptor? How many people share the same similarities in this world?
Reborn has used the con before, always with the same temporary tattoo, simply vague words of ‘strong in heart, mind and body’ because only the weak believe in Soul Mates and Reborn can’t resist a snide little joke.
He’s looked people in the eyes and he’s seen the way they light up with love as the hitman whispers about how long he’s searched for them. He doesn’t even need to convince them to twist their Mark's meaning for him, they do that by themselves, pointing at his features or personality and confessing they knew they would find their Soul Mate eventually.
He always scratches a nail through the temporary Mark, right before he kills them, because he needs them to know that it’s fake. He needs to see the betrayal and the horror that overcomes them – the realisation that their precious beliefs are nothing.
Sometimes he doesn’t kill them. They do that themselves.
Reborn rather likes his fake Mark, because when he bothers he can find a way to link it with every person he knows - he has always been very good at twisting words.
Soul Marks rely entirely on how gullible people are. They are so broad that they fit every situation, every personality, and every time frame. All it takes is a tilt of the head and an imagination. This isn't science, this is a way to reassure people that they’re all special snowflakes and someone out there is forced by fate to give a shit.
You come into this world alone, you live alone and you die alone. He has no idea why that's supposed to be a bad thing. To be autonomous –to have a will of your own- you need to be a separate entity. Yes, you can share experiences, but you are alone. That doesn't mean you're lonely.
Reborn was, is and forever shall be a realist. His Mark, at the top of his right thigh, is a sentence written in jagged red lines, appearing as half-healed scars at first glance. The Mark that will forever remain on his skin spells out 'Dying Will is both a state of being and a promise'.
That means nothing he doesn't want it to mean, because once again it’s so broad and all encompassing. Is Reborn saying it? Is it a descriptor? Is it a picture, something he sees? Reborn isn't one for fairy tales, even before the mafia. He isn't going to get pulled down by this.
But maybe he could use it… play the long-con.
Because his Dame student is someone Reborn never wants to let go of.
Chapter 5: Enma's Story
Enma isn't an aggressive sort of person. It's just that when Tsuna's in trouble, the line kind of blurs - and no, it's not because Tsuna is marked by Enma's handwriting, why would you say that Adelheid?
Tsuna draws in a ragged gasp, throat burning with the sharp inhale, and ducks the man's punch only to flick out his knife and slide the blade across the back of the man's foot. The other doesn’t even flinch from the pain.
Tsuna's momentum carries him past and his muscles curse him for the sprint down the hallway. Behind, the man twists to take off after Tsuna but immediately collapses when pressure is put on his ankle.
"Don't play coy, Decimo," comes a sickly sweet voice from the hallway speakers. "Come and greet me properly or I might just take out my frustrations on little Ryohei."
"That's not very extreme, Fat Man!" cries Ryohei, sounding faint over the speakers.
"It's Fhatamann, you imbecile!"
The speakers cut out with a static snap.
Tsuna can't suppress a breathless giggle. He takes the next corner at a slower pace, stumbling to a halt and bracing himself against the wall to simply breathe. The people he'd encountered were far from Hibari's level (but isn't everyone?) yet their ridiculous numbers made them a challenge.
Adding the layout of the base which had maze like tunnels between actual buildings that stretched for kilometres, plus the computerised defences that consisted of locking down the room Tsuna was in and liberal use of flamethrowers and/or machine guns, he’s having a bit of trouble keeping on top of things.
"Is that slacking I see?" queries a dangerous voice into Tsuna's ear.
The poor man jolts and automatically whips his head around. He finds an empty hallway and only then does he remember the ear piece. "H-hello, Reborn. Lovely weather we're having." A nervous laugh follows as Tsuna tries to find the cameras that the hitman is clearly watching him from.
"It is?" Tsuna wonders. When he entered the tunnels it was sunny.
"That was hours ago, Dame-Tsuna,” Reborn replies. Apparently distance doesn’t stop him from reading minds.
A ragged sigh explodes from the brunet but he straightens off the wall, breathing calm once more, and takes off at a steady jog. His body is going to hate him tomorrow.
"Well maybe if someone gave me a map,” Tsuna beings airily. “And if someone didn't just drop me out of a plane and alert everyone, I would have gotten Ryohei back by now.”
He hears a shout and catches sight of a five person group coming at him from a side tunnel. He speeds up in time to avoid a hail of bullets and ducks into another tunnel further down to wait.
"Is that an accusatory tone? Are you accusing me?" Reborn demands with an underlying threat.
"Yes," Tsuna states simply.
The first woman passes the entrance and gets an elbow to the throat. The following man is tripped and their head stomped on. After that they wizen up and retreat, waiting until Tsuna emerges instead.
A sudden explosion rocks the tunnel and debris rains from the ceiling. Tsuna takes his chance and darts out, striking at the remaining three in their distraction. The last body crumples soon enough and Tsuna frowns.
"Reborn... what was that?"
"I threw you out of a plane and didn't give you a map. What part of this isn't clear?" Reborn's voice is belligerent and mocking.
"If I'm the distraction then why did it take hours for the real force to show up?" Tsuna complains. He skids to a halt at a fork in the road and peers down the tunnels.
"I lied, you're actually making pretty good time through the maze."
Tsuna takes a step forward.
Tsuna rocks back on his heels. When no more instruction comes he leans slightly left...
"Bad Decimo. No."
"Well then just tell me!" Tsuna blurts out in annoyance.
"Where's the fun in that?" Reborn all but purrs.
Tsuna's reply is overshadowed by the loud cracking of the tunnel walls. The brunet cocks his head at the faint cry he hears, progressively getting louder as the walls come apart in chunks, almost as if something is pressing against them...
"Tsuna!" Enma cries out as he burst out of a wall and crash tackles Tsuna to the floor.
Tsuna squeaks in alarm at the impact but laughs off Enma's worry. "Did you get conscripted too?"
"Not exactly," Enma says as he shakes his head. "Adelheid told me you were last seen dropped out of a helicopter and I was worried."
"Oh, well you'd be the only one," Tsuna mutters rather cynically. "Ugh, could you get off?"
Enma notices he’s still sprawled over Tsuna and scrambles up with a brilliantly red face. "L-lets go yeah?" he stutters out and takes off before Tsuna can reply.
"Do you know where you're going?" Tsuna asks once he catches up.
"Uh..." Enma comes to an abrupt halt, and Tsuna flies past before he can stop. Enma grabs the map from his pocket and grimaces. He had taken the wrong turn. "Maybe you should keep it."
Tsuna takes the map and quickly picks out the route, tucking it away when he’s memorised it. He grins at Enma and takes off. "Try and keep up!" he calls back in laughter.
They enter the main compound, breathless and still giggling, to find Ryohei hanging from the ceiling with a heavy-duty chain. There’s chain around his ankles as well, anchored to the floor so he can't kick out. He’s also surrounded by what seems to be hundreds of women and men with various weaponry and blood thirsty grins.
"Tsuna! This man is very extreme!" Ryohei roars loudly, and wriggles about like fish on a hook. He appears to be having fun.
Tsuna is glad, because while it isn't exactly rare that some of his friends are kidnapped to call him out, he doesn’t like it when they get hurt.
"Decimo," the boss sneers. "How nice of you to arrive. Finally."
"Hey, I didn't get a map," Tsuna protests. "And besides, I thought I was the distraction."
Mocking laughter comes through the ear piece. Tsuna scowls and pulls it out. He debates on whether to crush it dramatically under his shoe but tucks it into his pocket instead.
The boss huffs at how easy going Tsuna is being, surrounded as he is by enemies, one ally tied up as leverage and only one other to fight on his side.
The reason Tsuna isn't worried is quite simple; Reborn’s wake up calls are a hundred times more terrifying than anything Tsuna will ever face. So when an axe comes hurtling towards him, he barely flinches.
A cry of "Extreme!" denotes Ryohei's position on the other end of the cavern as Enma shoves a mass of people into the wall and then through it like a child knocking toys aside. He kind of feels like a bad guy; this is way too unequal.
"Enma, they've sealed my flame!" Tsuna calls out.
Well there went his good mood.
"Wha-what?" Enma cries in shock. "They can do that?"
His head snaps to Tsuna, only to find the brunet trapped. There’s four women forming a barrier around the Vongola boss, their wires criss-crossed the space and digging into Tsuna, slicing through him easily enough that they have to be coated with flame.
Enma winces at the cuts that are forming along Tsuna's body and hates the sight of blood that seeps out of the wounds. He kicks off the floor but before he can fly over, he suddenly drops. They must have caught him with whatever had restrained Tsuna's flames.
He manages to land on his feet, and immediately starts looking for the cause but nothing stands out. He curses the next wave of opponents that block him off and struggles over to Tsuna.
"Try a bit harder and you might reach Mukuro-levels of being an asshole."
Enma hears Tsuna's voice but can't see the brunet over the wall of people in between them. He pushes through just in time to see the four women pull. Tsuna stifles a scream as the wires rip into him.
"That's not extreme at all!" Ryohei roars, and punches one of the wire masters in the face.
Tsuna falls sideways from the other three pulling and slides along the floor for a few meters. They stumble as well, the resistance on one side suddenly gone. Enma grabs the closest person to him and throws at another wire master while Ryohei moves on to the rest. It takes seconds for Tsuna to be freed but it’s far too long for Enma.
"Tsuna, are you okay?" Enma asks as he drops to his knees at Tsuna's side.
"A bit sore," Tsuna laughs weakly. "Let's not do that again." The brunet doesn't move from where he’s splayed on the ground.
Enma's eyes trace the torn shirt, rather amazed it’s still on since the clothing has been torn to ribbons and soaked in blood. Lettering catches his eye and he unconsciously leans in closer, despite knowing that a Soul Mark is a very private thing.
Ever since he first saw it as a teen, Enma couldn't help but compare Tsuna to his own Mark. Even now, the Vongola crest sitting in between his shoulders seems to itch.
"That's a very extreme Soul Mark, Tsuna!" Ryohei admires as he leans over the two bosses and gets a better look.
Enma splutters and reaches out to shield Tsuna's Mark from the boxer, even as he looks around to see where all of the enemies have gone. A flare of blue and red take over one corner as a wave of water carries dynamite along in a path of destruction.
"Ah, Takeshi and Hayato are here-" Enma starts but gets cut off.
"Hey, that's my handwriting," Ryohei says, brows fusing as he stares down at the loop of words. His eyes light up in realisation and he drops to a knee. "Tsuna! Please marry me! Your eyes match my Mark perfectly; my sun is the exact same shade."
Enma chokes on an inhale and turns away to cough up a lung.
Tsuna laughs. "Thank you, but no. I already know who my Soul Mate is." Tsuna pats Ryohei on the arm when the man pouts in disappointment. The Decimo then turns to Enma, but the man is already gone.
Oh, this was a bad chapter. Whatever, that's Enma done (and Ryohei, though no one requested him).
Chapter 6: Mukuro's and Byakuran's Story
Tsuna is adamant that Kyoko is his Soul Mate. Mukuro and Byakuran have other ideas.
"I'm just saying," Byakuran begins, leaning back into the ridiculously comfortable couch in the Decimo's office, and holding out his hands to show he has no tricks up his sleeve. "My Soul Mark is the number one hundred and twenty-seven."
Tsuna rolls his eyes and tries to focus back on the documents, while off to the side Mukuro scoffs loudly from where he is perched on the table's edge.
"And universe one hundred and twenty-seven has a Tsuna and Byakuran happily married," the Gesso boss continues in a suggestive tone.
Mukuro and Tsuna both raise an eyebrow at Byakuran.
"I'll admit that he was reaching a bit too far," Mukuro says, turning to Tsuna. "But on the other hand, I have your town's name as my Soul Mark. That's a lot harder to dispute."
"And where is your Soul Mark?" Tsuna responds in a bored voice, adding a flame seal on the top of the contract and sliding it into the 'out' tray.
Mukuro laughs nervously. "On my eye. Before they … before I got the transplant."
Tsuna holds back on the urge to hug his Mist Guardian, because the man would take it as invitation to start groping, but he can't quite manage to stop his ring from lighting up in Sky flames. He quickly shoves his hand under the table but both of the men see it. Tsuna takes a deep breath and forces the flames away before he places his hand on the table again.
"Can we do this another time?" Tsuna offers, faking casualness because Mukuro doesn't like to make a big deal out of Estraneo things – especially since they're already dead. "I really do have to finish this work."
Byakuran hesitates for a brief second but powers ahead. "Your Mark isn't the strangest I've seen…"
Mukuro catches on and raises an eyebrow at Byakuran, but the man doesn't even seem to notice. The Mist wonders if the white-haired man has truly given up on having Tsuna to himself.
"In fact it's quite basic compared to some others," Byakuran continues. "It's rather odd though, how it repeats."
Mukuro joins in, figuring that he would want to at least have Tsuna in some measure rather than the brunet continuing to be oblivious. "And isn't it too much of a coincidence that the handwriting matches those close to you?"
"I-" Byakuran darts a glance to Mukuro. "We know that Marks are vague at best, and the chances of finding each other are like… what, twenty percent?"
"Twelve point three six," Mukuro pitches in quietly.
Neither Tsuna or Byakuran make mention of the fact that Mukuro knows the exact statistics. From the way the Mist sounded when he said it, Tsuna gets the feeling Mukuro could have continued listing numbers for a very long time.
"Twelve point three six percent," Byakuran accepts immediately. "And even less people than that actually have the privilege of knowing that the person is their Soul Mate." Byakuran gestures around the room helplessly. "Don't you think you should at least try to see it our way?"
"Don't you guys have better things to do than mess with my head?" Tsuna protests.
"We're not messing with you, Tsunayoshi-kun," Byakuran sighs.
"Then why are you actually working together to convince me that both of you are my Soul Mates?" Tsuna contests. "That doesn't happen in real life."
"Actually, people have had multiple Soul Mates-" Mukuro starts.
"No, I meant you two working as a team," Tsuna clarifies. "That doesn't happen in real life."
Byakuran runs a hand through his hair, fluffing it up. "Have you truly thought about your Soul Mate?"
Tsuna pauses for a second in shuffling around papers and blushes. Byakuran and Mukuro suck in dramatic gasps.
"Don't tell me that Arcobaleno got to you," Mukuro complains.
"Was it that dynamite chewing puppy?" Byakuran grumbles.
"I..." Tsuna trails off, not knowing what to say. He could tell them, but these two would likely hold it over his head as blackmail. Besides, he's never even told her yet and it should be her decision as well.
"Come on, Tsunayoshi," Mukuro coaxes. "Give us a reason to stop."
Tsuna sits back in his chair and takes a deep breath, beginning from the start.
They burst into laughter but it dies a quick death when they realise he's being serious.
"Wait, you're not joking?" Mukuro blurts out. "'She liked the way it looked'," Mukuro repeats mockingly. "'So obviously she just likes calligraphy'."
"Do you hear yourself when you talk?" Byakuran asks. "It sounds like something a six-year-old would come up with."
"I was seven, thank you very much," Tsuna snaps, hunching his shoulders defensively.
Mukuro turns to Byakuran to see if the Gesso boss had any idea on how to convince Tsuna. The white-haired man shrugs in hopelessness. Neither of these men deal with stubbornness well. Mukuro would usually convince someone by way of illusions and Byakuran would threaten them with marshmallows.
"We need back up," Byakuran admits.
"I'll stay with Tsunayoshi." They blink at each other, having said the exact same thing.
Tsuna rolls his eyes and concentrates back on the annoying files that clutter his desk.
"Look, my Mark is far more definitive than yours," Mukuro snaps, standing from the table and stepping toward Byakuran.
"What Mark was that again?" Byakuran calls out mockingly, also rising from his couch. "You mean the one you don't have anymore? That one?"
"Kufufufu. Yours can be taken away just as easily, Dandelion."
"Bring it, you dyed pineapple."
"It's not dyed."
"Can one of you take this to Kyouya?" Tsuna pipes up, holding up a folder. They turn to him and the Decimo gives them a small pout. "Pretty please?"
Byakuran lunges forward at the same time Mukuro does.
"Thank you, Byakuran," Tsuna smiles up at the Gesso boss sweetly.
Byakuran grins widely and struts past a glaring and scowling Mukuro on his way out.
"That was mean, Mukuro."
Mukuro's expression does a complete flip as he faces Tsuna, a smirk settling on his features as the Mist construct dissolves and the real Tsuna appears, leaning back in his chair with his arm crossed.
"Well I needed him out of way." Mukuro shrugs easily. Then he goes and lifts Tsuna out of his chair, sitting the brunet on the table instead.
"Seriously?" Tsuna sighs. "You guys need to stop being so touchy feely, people get the wrong idea."
Mukuro, standing in between Tsuna's knees as he yanks down the man's pants a little so he can untuck Tsuna's shirt and push it up, says absolutely nothing.
"Pass the pen," he mutters, pushing on Tsuna's shoulder so the man lies down across the table.
Tsuna is rather annoyed at the command and blatant disregard of personal space, but he knows that if Mukuro gets what he wants it'll be quicker than resisting and Tsuna can get back to work. He pats the table by his side for the pen he was using before and hands it to Mukuro.
The Mist then scrawls the word 'Mafia' above the one already there, right in the middle of Tsuna's hips.
"There, see?" Mukuro says smugly.
"Mukuro," Tsuna begins, not even bothering to lift his head. "Out of anyone who can forge handwriting perfectly, I would expect you to be in the top three."
"What? No, I'm actually surprisingly bad at that." Mukuro bends over again and scribbles down the word once again, off to the side this time in attempt to copy one of the other handwriting styles.
Tsuna lifts his head to see and then drops it back down to the table. "You didn't even try that time," he accuses.
Mukuro hums. "Yeah, you're right. Let me do it again." He licks his thumb and starts rubbing out the pen marks.
"Are you rubbing your spit on me?" Tsuna squawks, jerking up halfway into a sitting position before Mukuro shoves him down again.
Mukuro's reply is to write the word 'Mafia' again.
"This is why Chrome runs the Mist department," Tsuna proclaims.
"You liar!" Byakuran snaps as he stalks in. He freezes there at the sight of Tsuna laid out on the desk and Mukuro leaning over, face far too close to the Decimo's... pants zipper.
"You don't expect it of Byakuran," Tsuna admits.
An explosion shudders the walls despite how ridiculously reinforced they were.
"He seems calm, not easy to anger," Tsuna continues.
Twin dragons of sky flame rush past the window, chasing after a pure white owl with purple eyes.
"No reply, Reborn?" Tsuna says wryly.
The hitman stops picking invisible lint off his suit jacket’s sleeve and raises his head slowly to pin Tsuna with a deadly stare.
"Yeah," Tsuna agrees to an imagined comment, nodding casually. "The mafia is so troublesome. It saps out common sense."
Reborn blinks, face blanking.
"This is why I'm glad Kyoko is my Soul Mate." Tsuna can't help but smile then. Actually saying it out loud was rather freeing. It left butterflies in his stomach and tasted sweet on his tongue.
Reborn says nothing but his grip tightens on the edge of his sleeve, crumpling the material a bit.
"I think…" Tsuna trails off, unsure, but the feeling comes back again at the thought of Kyoko actually being happy and his courage hits maximum. "I'll tell her, when she comes back from France," Tsuna sounds out and when those words make his heart beat faster he beams. "Yeah, I'll tell Kyoko I'm her Soul Mate then."
Chapter 7: Verde's and Hayato's Story
Verde isn't a kind man, but he's plenty willing to pretend for a chance at experimenting on the Decimo.
Hayato knows - has for a long time now. That doesn't change anything.
Verde is a scientist.
That's all you have to really know to get his stance on Soul Mates.
However, if you wanted a clear picture, you would also have to know that his parents were incredibly superstitious. That meant that Verde grew up on stories of Soul Mates and happily ever after and dreams of pure, illogical love.
The combination is a volatile one.
In one hand, he has the common sense to disregard any leaps in logic the mundane morons vomit out.
In the other, he has the common sense to disregard any leaps in logic the mundane morons vomit out. And then he replaces their pathetic guesses with factual steps.
So, Verde is a scientist. He's tested his mark against a wide variety of people and while some results came close, he's never found a hundred percent match.
'Dying will means I promise you my dying breath, but I swear that you'll never see it'
Verde can almost instantly cut out any civilians from the potential list because of that 'dying will' part. Then there went the enemies and the acquaintances, because anyone who promises their 'dying breath' to you doesn't do so lightly – certainly not in the mafia.
'But I swear that you'll never see it' speaks of a kind person who doesn’t want Verde to watch them die, which throws him off course for a bit because Verde doesn't associate with kind people.
Then the Decimo starts sending him cookies.
What the fuck, Tsunayoshi Sawada?
Verde immediately dumps them down the incinerator. The next present gets the same treatment, as does the few after.
Then Verde, stumbling and half blind from working for a week straight on his cure for the Arcobaleno slow ageing, accidentally takes a bite. When he wakes up in the morning, there are no cookies left and Verde can't get the delicious taste out of his mind.
He eats the next batch as well, after scanning it for contaminants of course. This continues for a while, the treats spreading out in variety and then narrowing in on Verde's favourites – God damned hyper intuition. It's more than a few months later, after Verde sends the completed cure out to the others, that the Decimo himself arrives with the next box of treats.
The then twenty-three year old starts off with polite conversation and asks if Verde is well, how his experiments are going, etc. Verde snatches the box from Tsunayoshi and shoos him out with gun fire from the building's defences.
The next few visits go much like the first. In between his research he wonders what the Decimo is planning. Maybe he wants Verde to join the Vongola? There really isn't any other reason.
The next visit consists of Tsunayoshi freezing the entire room in ice to stop the security. Verde would have been mildly impressed if it didn't just fuck up his experiments.
Tsunayoshi flails away from the needles Verde uses as weapons and frantically explains that his ice actually freezes everything, as if the item is encased in time – paused for however long Tsuna desires.
Verde stops and Tsunayoshi trips over a stool at the abrupt change.
That property is incredibly unbelievable. Sure, Verde has heard of the Cradle Affair and how Xanxus had been frozen, but the Varia leader hasn't been stunted in his growth – he grew naturally, and those scars don't help Tsunayoshi's story either. Verde points this out and Tsunayoshi offers a demonstration.
Well, if he insists. Verde grins.
The Decimo only leaves, weeks later, after his Guardians storm the underground base.
Verde watches from the real base as the decoy is smashed open and the Guardians find a sleeping Tsunayoshi pushed into a corner. Verde watches as they gently carry the man out and briefly wonders if he had been too severe on the brunet with all of the testing.
Then he looks down at the picture of the Decimo's Soul Mark and shrugs off his concern. If Tsunayoshi truly is the scientist's Soul Mate, it's good to know that the man can handle whatever Verde throws at him.
Vongola isn't so bad, he had though back then. Maybe he should contemplate joining on a freelance basis.
Verde's chance is here now, and even if Reborn is the one summoning him, Verde will get his hands on the Decimo and that agonisingly teasing Soul Mark.
'The sky is not a limiting agent'
That's what Hayato's Mark says, typed out just over his heart. Every time he sees it he falls a little bit more in love.
Hayato has always believed whole heartedly in Soul Mates. Who wouldn't want to? It's an impossibly amazing concept – that there is someone out there for you, that someone wanted you forever and always.
Hayato believes, he really does, he just doesn't want to tell his Soul Mate.
It's so obvious what the others have been trying to do. Whether they try to stifle the urge or not, they inevitably drop hints and suggestions to Juudaime, if not blatantly state their intentions.
It's sickening. It's not because they want to be happy that Hayato hates their actions, it because they're after Juudaime that he gets so annoyed.
On the scale of one to Juudaime, getting a Soul Mate doesn't even feature. Nothing does. So when they try to force their opinions down Juudaime's throat and have the gall to think that it's their right to do so, Hayato gets a little angry.
It's fine to think about it - Hayato sure does. Every day in fact. When he dresses in the morning, he always pauses before putting on a shirt. Always traces the words on his chest, right over his heart, and wonders.
Then he puts his shirt on and does his job as a right hand man.
Because his wants don't matter in the scale of things. A tsunami matters, a rival family kicking up a fuss matters – Hayato 'accidentally' ripping open his shirt in front of his Juudaime does not.
Oh, he'd love it if it truly did happen by accident and then Juudaime sees and he realises he loves Hayato and they get married and adopt hundreds of little babies together.
But that's so far out there, not even a UMA could reach it, because that entire fantasy blatantly disregards all the personality Juudaime actually has, and assumes that the Decimo would do exactly what Hayato wants him to do.
Hayato believes in Soul Mates, but he also believes that people have to work for happiness. It's not a right, it's a privilege. So he's not going to force Juudaime to pay attention and half brainwash the man in order to get his love.
Unlike some people he could name.
Reborn can plot and scheme all he wants, but Hayato's loyalty is to his Juudaime, and not a bunch of desperate mutts pawing for a happiness they don't deserve.
Whew, Hayato got away from me. He wasn't supposed to be that hateful, I promise.
Chapter 8: Fon's and Xanxus' Story
They have less than a week to convince Tsuna of his multiple Soul Mates. It's going to be difficult. (And a small part of Fon thinks he doesn't deserve it.)
Meanwhile: Xanxus is murdering hedges.
"When she comes back?" Takeshi muses, tapping nervously on the handle of his sword.
Reborn nods and the room falls silent in contemplation. The situation had been laid out and now they need to decide on a course of action. Reborn scans the adults standing and sitting around the room and waits patiently for them to fall in line.
"No," Hayato states.
"No?" Enma says, his eyebrows coming together in confusion.
"Is there an echo in here?" Hayato snaps, making the Shimon boss hunch his shoulders and sink down in his seat.
"That wasn't very nice," Takeshi berates, leaning forwards across the table to get Hayato's attention.
"This entire plan isn't very nice," Hayato sneers. "You're forcing Juudaime to-"
"We're not forcing him into anything," Xanxus growls.
"Well, technically…" Verde begins but Hayato cuts over him.
"Then what exactly is this about?" the Storm rages. "You assholes are forming a mob to ambush Juudaime with, and if you deny it then you're more delusional than I thought."
Chrome frowns lightly and Mukuro chuckles darkly as he says, "Shall I show you one of my delusions?"
Skull tenses even more at the argument starting up. On the other hand, Fon was smiling blankly – a sign that he was on the edge of irritated.
"You trash need to shut up."
"You herbivores need to shut up."
Kyouya and Xanxus lock onto each other at the simultaneous threats and their fingers creep towards their weapons.
"Then leave," Byakuran says dismissively to Hayato. "No one is keeping you here."
Hayato narrows his eyes. "By 'no', I mean that I won't let you."
That gets their attention.
"You and what army?" Verde drawls.
"I won't need one."
Fon admits that maybe he could be trying harder to stop the destruction but he's mostly caught on the fact that Tsunayoshi will be trading a piece of his heart in less than a week. They've spent too much time fighting.
He shouldn't have come - he wasn't planning to come today, but the monster in his chest wouldn't let him stay away.
A Soul Mate.
His Soul Mate.
The one called 'Ground fire'.
When Fon was younger he would have slaughtered his entire family for a chance of true peace with a partner.
A young Fon would tear and crush and laugh at anyone foolish enough to stop him from reaching the kind of loyalty that Soul Mates held – the kind of loyalty only spoken of in quiet whispers by broken women and men with a fevered desperation in their eyes.
A young Fon would kick down the Decimo's door and take.
This Fon has given up.
He still wants - he wants so badly, but he's toxic. Fon wears red for a reason, after all. Nothing so gauche as 'because of the blood stains'. No, Fon wears bright red as a warning to others that he's poisonous.
Tsunayoshi shouldn't be dragged down by Fon.
He bunches the cloth of his long sleeves into his hands, the motion hidden behind his back, and surveys the broken room from his spot in the corner. These people have wasted too much time already, but Fon can't make himself move. Perhaps that is a factor in their fighting as well – to stall.
Reborn watches and waits.
The room seems divided from the Storm's passionate speech about being selfish and disgusting. Honestly, Reborn is trying really hard to not roll his eyes. He almost forgot the kind of manic energy that emerges whenever people talk about Soul Mates, and it would be amusing if it wasn’t messing up his plan.
Reborn wonders if he should drop Hayato. These people are all expendable anyway, just something to overwhelm Tsuna and make him think instead of automatically dismissing the emotions as one of Reborn's torture methods.
Another table breaks.
Hayato, Takeshi, Enma, Dino and Chrome. Those usually aren't the names that come to mind when you think 'ferocious', but they're holding themselves up against the rest with an admirable determination.
If only Reborn can get them to be this focused when they actually fight opponents. He should probably be encouraging this sudden burst of bravery but unfortunately, they're getting in his way right now.
"Is Kyoko his Soul Mate?" Reborn asks no one in particular in a calm voice.
The room goes dead silent.
"When he tells her, will she have a corresponding Mark?" the hitman continues and sees the fear in their eyes.
They're scared at the thought of the woman having a matching Soul Mark, and they're scared at the thought of her not having it.
"If she doesn't, what happens to Tsuna?" Reborn finishes, speaking their fears for them.
Three sentences and Reborn shuts them down. Hayato's shoulders slump and the rest become morose instead of agitated.
Bykuran turns to Hayato. "We present the evidence to Tsunayoshi, and then he decides. We won't pressure him at all," the albino reassures the Storm, knowing that Tsuna would listen to any concerns Hayato brought up and thus mess with their chances.
"Where's the Varia leader?" Verde intercedes, the tone of voice suggesting he knows exactly where the man is.
Skull steps towards the window Verde is leaning against and finds a mop of brown hair next to one of black in the twisted hedge maze that is the Vongola backyard.
As soon as the fighting starts, he slips out and heads for the backyard. Xanxus crushes the pure white rocks underfoot as he navigates the twists and turns. He's always hated the hedge maze for a combination reasons:
The gardeners taking care of it would somehow magically move the hedges and create a differently structured maze that they tell no one about.
The path is made of white rocks that grind against each other if the lightest pressure is put on them, so no one can sneak around.
The hedges trap and release the soundwaves strangely, so someone can be talking to you through the hedge on the left but sound ten meters away behind you.
But most of all, the Decimo had his shitty hyper intuition which somehow ignores all of the negatives and allows the brat to literally walk blindfolded straight to the centre on the first try.
Xanxus snarls and contemplates just flying overhead but that seems lazy – almost like he would be cheating.
"Xanxus?" Tsuna calls out from everywhere at once, sounding like he's smiling.
"What, trash?" Xanxus barks out by habit.
"Nothing," Tsuna says lightly, this time his voice sounding from the right. "It's just that I heard your growl and I thought you were saying hello, like Bester does."
Another thing Xanxus hates about this maze is that his box weapon often escapes to hide with Tsuna inside it.
"You're not far from the middle," Tsuna begins, voice ringing out from above. "Just go back a few steps, slide left through the small gap and-" Tsuna startles when a large ball of Wrath flames incinerates a human sized door in the hedge to his immediate left. "Or you could do that, I suppose," Tsuna deadpans.
Xanxus shrugs, tucking his gun back into the hip holster. Those stupid gardeners deserve it.
The centre of the maze boasts a network of intricately designed marble posts at the edge, holding up wires for the plants to crawl over. In-between the poles are equally detailed benches and in the direct centre is a quiet pond filled with different species of fish and the occasional amphibian.
He takes a seat beside Tsuna on one of the marble benches, stretching his long legs out in front of him. His scars stand out under the shifting shadow of the vines overhead, casting a feral look over his features.
Tsuna jolts and quickly looks away when Xanxus turns to him.
"I have your ring," the Varia leader says.
Tsuna automatically glances down to his hand and counts his rings. The Vongola one and Natsu are both there. He looks up at Xanxus in confusion. Xanxus laces his fingers in his lap and stares determinedly at the pond.
"Oh, you mean as a Mark," Tsuna breathes out, suddenly strangely disappointed that Xanxus is joining the others in messing with him. He had honestly though the other boss took him seriously. "When did this start?"
Xanxus flickers a glance to Tsuna, peering at the Decimo sideways at the abrupt change in tone. The question is almost bitter, almost angry.
"I mean," Tsuna backtracks and starts again with a calmer, almost nonchalant tone. "It was funny at first, but hasn't the joke gone on a bit too long?"
Xanxus thinks he should be angry at how Tsuna is dismissing him -annoyed at the least- but from what the others were saying, the Decimo thinks it's psychological warfare.
Xanxus knows psychological warfare. He used to be trapped in ice, conscious of every moment, aware of every person who ever visited just to stare at him with pity, all while unable to do anything but feel weak.
He distinctly remembers Timoteo's visits – the speeches, the disappointed sighs. As if Xanxus should be feeling bad. As if he was the monster in that situation.
"It's not a joke," is all Xanxus says, instead of flicking the safety off his guns.
"What is it then?" Tsuna sighs. "What's the end goal?"
The Varia commander can't really tell Tsuna, because he doesn't quite know either.
"Then could you please stop?" Tsuna asks politely, distantly.
"I wish I could."
Tsuna blinks at the answer and turns to see Xanxus slipping back through the large hole in the maze, with leaves still glowing red from the fire.
Chapter 9: Gardener's Story
The Vongola mansion staff love Sawada Tsunayoshi like a parent would. So maybe if they test his suitors, just a little, that's entirely in their right.
They rush to the backyard and activate their flames or weapons to carry them over the hedges, destroying a few in their rush. They reach the middle in seconds but both Xanxus and Tsuna aren't there.
They land in the middle and grumble about secret passageways as they kick at the ground and push some of the suspicious decorations on the pillars, but no trap door reveals itself.
Suddenly the hedge maze shoots up in height and grows overhead, blotting out the sun and casting heavy shadows over the place.
Kyouya leaps up to get out but the dark green leaves rustle in a non-existent wind, before abruptly snapping to a silver colour and stilling. Kyouya slashes out with his tonfa but instead of cutting through, he drops back to the ground with deep gouges in his weapons.
Everyone abruptly takes a step back from the outpouring of killing intent.
"How dare you," a voice hisses from hidden speakers as dramatic music plays in the background. "You damaged our beautiful baby!"
They all sigh heavily. In fact, it might just be Tsuna who likes this irritating maze.
The hedges abruptly start closing in rapidly like an Indiana Jones trap was just set off.
"Fuck that shit," Skull mutters and darts for the exit, back into the maze itself. The rest quickly follow.
"It's changed," Fon says, referring to the routes.
Hayato grits his teeth and grumbles, having memorised it for nothing on the way over.
A loud rustling sounds and they all glance back to see the hedges on either side slamming together and cutting off any way but forwards. If anyone got trapped in between the hedges when they closed, they'd be torn to shreds from the leaves.
Takeshi laughs, something dark and jagged as he skids to a stop and turns on the hedges with his sword raised.
"Don't do it, Takeshi!" Dino cries out.
The swing is caught in hidden vines behind the leaves and the hedges close around him. Chrome gasps in horror and turns to go back but Mukuro catches her elbow.
"Move," Mukuro orders. "He's already gone."
Reborn lets off a hail of Sun activated bullets at the hedges to the side but they just pass harmlessly through. Hayato tries dynamite and Enma tries his powers of gravity, but the hedges just grow over the dead ones and keep going.
"Cloud flames, definitely," Verde muses, looking a bit too interested.
A three pronged fork arrives in the road, and everyone immediately knows it's a trick to split them up. Not that they care in the slightest.
"Follow me," Fon calls and darts down the right pathway. The rest of the Arcobaleno go with him.
"Come," Kyouya snarls and charges left. The Vongola follow him.
Enma and Dino frown, hesitating at the fork as they wonder which way to go.
"For Narnia!" Byakuran giggles and sprints down the middle path.
Enma steps to the left to follow the Vongola but the hedges immediately close that path. Dino, seeing that, lunges for the Arcobaleno but that closes off too. An ominous rustling and the two turn to see the hedges swiftly joining and rushing closer with sharpened knives for leaves.
They quickly rush after Byakuran.
The Arcobaleno don't get far down the path, because after a few twists and turns, they end up in a dead end. They're boxed into a small square as the walls move slowly inwards, ready to slice and crush them.
"Oh," Fon hums. "I didn't take into account that the wind would flow differently here."
"Next time, Fon doesn't get to lead," Reborn announces, scanning the area for weaknesses.
"Like you could have done any better," Skull snaps, slowly edging back from the shivering hedges.
"Yes, because I would have chosen the plant demon," Reborn says as if that proves anything.
"…No, I like this place better."
"Agreed," Verde chimes in, actually stepping closer to the homicidal plants to better see the leaves.
"None of you are any fun," Reborn dismisses even as he reaches out to snatch Verde away from the creeping vines hidden inside the hedges.
Abruptly, Skull lets out a startled yelp and pitches face first into the white stones.
Fon sees the blood red vine wrap around Skull's foot and is already moving when the Cloud falls. He grabs the stuntman and pulls with all his might but the stones make him veritably useless as his feet can't find solid ground to brace himself. Skull gets yanked under the sharp hedges, and Fon, unwilling to let go, goes with him.
The entire thing takes barely a second.
Reborn blinks at Verde, the scientist shrugs in reply, and the two spin back to back so they can face the hedges surrounding them.
"Hey," Reborn muses as Leon forms into a spray bottle of plant killer. "Why would the gardeners use a red vine? It clashes with the colour scheme."
"That's what you focus on?" Verde sighs in exasperation and then freezes. "Oh," he breathes out. "Oh, well done, Reborn."
Verde throws himself at the exact spot Skull and Fon disappeared into and starts wriggling under the hedge, grimacing at the leaves slicing cuts into his back.
"What the hell, Verde?"
Verde huffs but once he gets his head under it's easy to see the tunnel and he quickly army crawls further into it. He can hear Reborn following and grimaces at how claustrophobic this escape route is. If he gets stuck, Reborn won't ever let him live it down.
Thankfully, the tunnel widens in diameter and soon Fon is helping Verde stumble to his feet, the scientist covered in dirt and scratched up, but finally back in daylight and not the dark hedge maze.
Reborn pops up behind them, somehow immaculate.
They all turn to see Skull petting Oodako and thanking the octopus profusely.
Byakuran and his not so merry men are able to run a lot longer than the Arcobaleno before they get cornered.
Well, technically they're out of the maze as they can now see the sunlight at the end, just a few meters away. The path behind closes up and stops as a barrier, but they don't move.
It shudders and takes a step forward. Its thick, writhing skin of vines move against each other and tighten into a beast. One of the flat hoofs grind white rocks underneath as it takes a step forward, and vines shoot into the ground before springing up and twisting further to take root again.
The head is made up of hundreds upon hundreds of stones, all held together in a lattice of thin ivy, a couple of rocks dropping as it moves. The arms are unnaturally elongated until they touch the ground, vines like fingers moving beneath the earth.
The beast rips its arm away from the dirt and some of the vines detach from the creature with a snap. It reaches out to them, and the stones that fall sound like a foreign language.
"What have the gardeners been sniffing?" Enma half shrieks, clearly hysterical.
Dino just sighs and unfurls his whip with a snap of the wrist. Byakuran grins sharply and in a burst of orange Sky flame, his two dragons are released from their box and immediately send streams of flame into the creature.
Enma grumbles but lights up his own flame as well.
The Vongola move further than the rest.
Kyouya takes a left at the intersection they come to, simply to take down the weird plant creature he finds. Thankfully, his homicidal urges are back down to a normal level after the vicious slaughter, because when Hayato orders him to hurry the fuck up, he only rolls his eyes but keeps going nonetheless.
The hedges, having caught up to them when Kyouya was playing, fall behind once again as Kyouya takes off in a blur.
Mukuro frowns at the next T-junction coming up, sensing the use of Mist flames in the left to hide some kind of trap with poison darts. They didn't have time for that, so he calls out, "Go left!"
As expected, Kyouya turns right.
Hayato sends Mukuro a questioning glance and Mukuro nods toward the correct way, the route Kyouya took. Hayato rolls his eyes and then curses when he sees the white stones in a very obvious pattern – to him at least.
"Mines, up ahead," Hayato calls out and speeds up to the front as Kyouya falls back. He leaps across the stretch of ground, only touching the gaps where none of the bombs would be set off.
The rest mimic him in some strange, high-risk game of Follow The Leader.
Mukuro takes over next when Hayato falls back. The Mist Guardian forms a shroud of illusions over the group as they pass the motion sensors. At another fork in the road, he sends an identical copy of them down the right as he takes the left and the hedges are tricked into chasing the fakes.
They hit a dead end though.
"Wonderful," Hayato grumbles.
Mukuro drops the illusion hiding them, in shock.
The female Mist starts letting out sobs that shake her shoulders and suddenly throws herself at Kyouya and buries her face into his chest. Kyouya was too stunned to get out of the way and gets trapped in a hug by Chrome's painfully strong grip. He looks up at the other two with wide eyes. Hayato and Mukuro shake their heads vigorously and take a huge step back from the crying woman.
The plants do so as well.
Kyouya finally manages to unlatch her from around his waist and she stumbles from the shove, crying harder into her hands now. Hayato throws his arms up in incredulity and mouths 'what the fuck was that?' but Kyouya just shrugs and looks lost.
None of them understand crying. Crying only happens when someone is either dying or already dead so maybe Chrome is in serious pain right now? Did she get injured and they didn't notice? Is it her illusionary organs?
Chrome, still sobbing into her hands, stumbles blindly away and even the plants part for her. She steps out of the maze and drops her hands as the crying abruptly cuts off. She turns back to the other three and gives a sweet smile, with no tears to speak of.
"That was twisted," Kyouya mutters in admiration and follows her path.
Hayato and Mukuro lunge through just before the hedges close, and blink at how Chrome now has a certain sway to her walk that makes it look remarkably like a strut.
"Did you teach her that attack?" Hayato whispers to the Mist.
"Even I'm not that much of a monster," Mukuro whispers back, still in shock that Chrome would hit below the belt like that.
"Wow, seems like you guys have had a rough time," Takeshi pipes up from beside them.
Hayato startles and puffs up like a cat as he hisses in anger. "What the hell, I thought you were dead!"
Takeshi laughs and sheepishly rubs the back of his head. "Nah, I just said sorry and they let me out."
Chapter 10: Nana's and Dino's Story
Tsuna is taking a short break from the Mafia madness. Where else would he go but his mum’s house?
Meanwhile: Dino gives approximately zero fucks.
Nana is a romantic woman at heart.
Of course she is. She has her Soul Mate and he's the kindest, most loving husband out there. The people who know her wouldn't be surprised to find out that she has always believed in Soul Mates, and past that, the fate behind it.
When she was a girl she would wake every day to her parents' bright singing and happy laughter. She would bounce down the steps of her house and come to face her dad pressing a kiss to the Mark on his wife’s hand, and in turn Nana's mother would kiss his cheek and the Mark there. Their matching Soul Marks would almost glow under the attention.
They say that Soul Mates still face relationship troubles, that you have to work to gain a proper love, but Nana takes one look at her blissfully happy parents and disagrees. It's fate to find your Soul Mate.
Nana's parents have, Nana's has, and now it's Tsuna's chance.
This is something she repeats to her wonderful son whenever he looks down, and it used to perk him up and make him blush. Now, she cards her fingers through a sleeping Tsuna's hair and thinks on their conversation just before. She had asked if he found his Soul Mate yet, but he only look annoyed - bordering on angry.
-At mum's. Try to not destroy too much.-
Everyone peers at the note stuck to Tsuna’s office door and they sigh.
Dino pushes away from the wall just on the edge of the crowd. He passes Reborn and Kyouya and only when he’s outside does he feel safe enough to palm his phone and call for Romario to prepare a plane.
A polite knock on the door and Dino is soon face to face with a cheerful Nana.
"Oh, Dino, it's good to see you again," Nana greets kindly. "Tsu-kun is just in his room, go on up. Lunch will be ready in a moment."
"Can I help with anything?" Dino asks first as he steps into the house and takes off his shoes.
Nana giggles and pats him on the head when he bends to undo his shoelaces. “So kind, but I’m perfectly fine. My, it's just like when you two would run around back when you were small."
"Uh," Dino begins. "I was twenty-two..."
Nana is already waving him off. "All my kids have grown up so big and strong! Goodness, just look at Reborn. I remember when he could still fit in my arms and I'd carry him around the house." She pats Dino on the arm. "I'm rambling now. Go on up, Dino!"
Dino grins fondly and then darts up the stairs. "I'll tell Reborn to call you!"
"He already does!" Nana calls up to him before wandering off.
Dino comes to a halt at the correct door and finds himself hovering for a long moment. It takes a deep breath and in internal pep talk but he does eventually knock.
“Come in!” Tsuna calls out, his voice sounding faint.
Dino bites his lip and rotates the handle. It moves smoothly and all too soon Dino is closing it behind him. Tsuna is splayed over the floor, dress shirt and slacks a rumpled mess from rolling around, and a manga is in his hands.
“Reborn would kill you if he saw this,” Dino chuckles, flopping down beside the Decimo.
Tsuna presses a finger to his lips to shush Dino. “Well let’s not tell him then, huh?”
Dino holds up his hands in surrender, his head turned to the side to face Tsuna. “Of course not. We students have to stick together.” Dino puts on a solemn face and says seriously, “He may break our bones but he will not break our spirit.”
“Pfft-“ Tsuna quickly drops his manga and clamps both hands over his mouth because Reborn can sense when people are making fun of him and Tsuna likes his kidneys where they are. The Decimo rolls over and mashes his face into Dino’s shoulder to make sure that no noise can escape.
Dino smiles but it quickly fades as he decides the best way to go about this. His Mark isn’t anything special – it doesn’t really mean anything and the fact that it’s a jumble of numbers just classifies him in the thirty percent of the world population who also have numerical marks.
Dino doesn’t have a Mark that is unique or pretty or anything attractive, but he is not defined by the black numbers on his skin. No, his tattoos tell more about him and where he’s been and where he’s going than his Mark does.
“Um… Tsuna, can I talk to you about Soul Mates?” Dino hedges.
Tsuna pulls back a little, a dark look coming over his face.
Dino pushes forward anyway. "Contrary to what a lot of people expect from me," Dino says slowly. "I honestly don't care about Soul Marks."
Tsuna blinks in curiosity, the conversation clearly not going the way he thought it would.
"I…" Dino trails off. "Don't know where to start.”
"From the beginning," Tsuna suggests, rolling onto his back again but then shuffling over so he could still rest his head on Dino.
Dino takes a breath and starts in a quiet voice. "My parents aren't Soul Mates. It never bothered them – in fact they would joke about it," Dino admits, his voice getting louder from its mumbling and gaining strength. "But I saw their blissful love every day, and I promised to myself that if I met the right person, I wasn't going to care about being Soul Mates or not."
Tsuna tilts his head a little to peer up at Dino, but the other boss stares at the ceiling.
"I promised, that if I met the right person, I would mark them myself with a ring," Dino swears, but his voice goes soft and hesitant for the next part. "I know that sounds really mushy, but I did come up with this when I was like four… so… I just want you to know that you do have a decision in who you love." He falls silent.
Tsuna shuffles about on the floor and raises himself up on an elbow, leaning over Dino. The blond glances at him, nervous.
"I think it's sweet," Tsuna admits with a smile. "Although," he continues with a teasing smirk. "I thought you were going to say how my phone number ends in your Mark."
Dino shares a sheepish smile. "I'd thought about it, but I couldn't convince myself that our bond was that flimsy."
Tsuna drops down again and melts into Dino's side. "I always felt bad when the others would talk to me about Soul Marks," Tsuna admits. "Because I know they're trying to get to me now, but at the start -before I knew it was a game- I actually thought they cared that much."
Dino shifts one of his arms to lie underneath Tsuna so he could wrap it around the Decimo's shoulders.
"I thought I was being cruel because I couldn't reassure them that I was their Soul Mate, and I couldn't take away that longing," Tsuna whispers.
"It's your choice, Tsuna, they can't force you," Dino counters.
"I know," Tsuna reassures him and then grumbles quietly, "Not that it actually matters with them playing around… can't believe I actually thought Xanxus was being serious..."
Dino, not having caught the mumble, continues the main conversation. "And also when they asked, you thought of Kyoko, and how she might reject you, and got depressed, and-"
Tsuna reaches up and flicks the hollow of Dino's throat. The man chokes and hunches his shoulders as his trachea takes the hit.
"You've been spending too much time with Kyouya," Dino wheezes but relaxes again when Tsuna tucks his hands away. "He does it as well."
"I know, I copied him," Tsuna declares happily. "It works well."
"So…?" Dino hums.
Tsuna huffs. "I saw their whole-hearted belief and wished that I could have that certainty. I just really wanted that magical, instant love." He ducks his head and face plants into Dino's shoulder. "But you're right, I'd rather a love that was actually compatible."
"… Is now a bad time to say I love you?"
A sigh. "Dino, have they brainwashed you as well?"
An equally loud sigh. "Tsuna, one day you're going to wake up and it's going to hit you like a Leon hammer that everyone is being serious."
"Yeah," Tsuna agrees sarcastically. "Well, when that day comes, you'll be the first I call."
Dino buries his face into Tsuna's fluffy hair. "That's all I could ever ask for."
Hayato, with his Juudaime radar, is the first to find him. The Storm watches half hidden behind a corner as his boss strides through the Vongola base with a bright smile and a straight back. The right-hand man follows the hypnotising figure, only half noticing the group that amasses around him, and steps into the Decimo's office.
"Welcome home, Juudaime," Hayato greets softly.
Tsuna looks up to see his friends and his smile is blinding. "It's good to be home," he counters, and then continues with an even wider grin. “I’m going to tell Kyoko. Even without the Soul Marks, I know we’re meant for each other.” At that abrupt declaration, he disappears into a secret passage with a couple of files.
As one, they turn in annoyance to Dino who steps into the office behind them. Before anyone can speak, the Chiavarone immediately cuts them off.
"You're all acting like morons," Dino growls. "Get your shit together because I won't have you messing with Tsuna any longer."
"We're not-" Takeshi starts to protest.
"You are," Dino speaks over him. "All of you, figure out if you want a Soul Mate or Tsuna, because I'm getting sick of seeing him so upset."
You'll notice a lot of contrary views and opinions in this, which is because of the different POVs and how people keep on changing their mind - these characters are really just mostly confused.
I added in the part about Reborn calling Nana because I think it'd be cute if they kept contact. Nana treats him the same as she does Lambo or I-pin and Reborn humours her.
Chapter 11: Skull's Story
Skull looks at these people and he sees individuals playing at being a team. Whatever. He doesn't need backup, he's a Cloud after all.
As Dino runs away from the mass of people he just pissed off, Skull doesn't stay for the pity party. Some people might be confused, but he sure as hell isn't, so he turns and walks straight out of the Vongola base.
Skull is just so sick of people telling him that he's a bad person for loving someone.
If that guard dog Hayato actually thought any one of them would force Tsuna or manipulate the Decimo into a relationship then those cigarettes have gone to his head.
For one, Tsuna is perfectly capable of making decisions himself, he's not going to just flop over if someone confronts him with a confession.
For another, is there something wrong with telling Tsuna about their feelings? Is it truly so bad to inform the man? If Tsuna says no, none of them are going to throw a tantrum and demand his love. Really, what's the worst-case scenario that Hayato is contemplating?
As for Dino, well.
It was never about matching Marks or finding that mystical true love, Skull knows that. If pointing at a biological phenomenon and then jabbing a finger at the one you liked counted as a romantic gesture to some, then they are more than welcome to it.
Skull, on the other hand, has no such strange courting ritual to fall on. His Mark connects to everyone who can access flames, and then every single pyromaniac. But that doesn't matter, because he never claimed he wanted a Soul Mate (thank you very much, Dino) he was always after Tsuna.
The Cavallone boss seems confused about what the others want, which mostly comes from the fact that the others think they need to show proof of their love. Sure, it's half necessary because Tsuna is rather oblivious, but the way they go about trying to catch the Decimo's attention is ridiculous.
They mean well, he knows, but none of them are exactly well-adjusted adults so sometimes the convoluted path makes more sense. So they'll try to prove their feeling with a Soul Mark, but that's just a conduit. It's Tsuna they're trying to reach, not the one matching their Mark.
Perhaps if they actually sat down and cleared up any confusion it would save them a whole lot of trouble, but this isn't a team sport.
It's a competition.
Skull waits until Tsuna settles in again, patiently watching until the Decimo has some time alone. Kyoko is arriving tomorrow but Skull implements the plan carefully, not rushing. It's not elaborate or particularly impressive because it doesn't need to be, it just has to catch Tsuna's attention. The Decimo just needs to have a small iota of doubt when he goes to confess.
Skull stands outside, to the side of the Decimo's office door, with his back pressed against the wall as he waits for the hyper intuition to kick in. For a finishing touch, he keeps the bottom half of his face hidden behind a bouquet of flowers.
Not roses, or anything store bought and clinical in their perfection. It's a mash of sunflowers and daisies and tulips, handpicked and wrapped in purple cellophane with a bright orange bow.
It doesn't take long for the hyper intuition to sense Skull, and soon the Decimo opens his office door to poke his head out. Skull doesn't move from his pose at all.
"Hi, Skull," Tsuna greets softly with a fond smile for the surprisingly shy man.
The plastic covering of the flowers crinkles in Skull's hands and the Cloud slants a sideways glance at Tsuna. The Decimo, the Sky, the one who's so painfully kind where such a disposition can get you killed.
Skull isn't in love, because he's still falling. Every time he thinks he sees the bottom of the drop, Tsuna would smile or laugh, and Skull just slams straight through the floor and keeps on going.
This method might be a little manipulative, but Skull is a civilian stuntman who was handed a pacifier and drop kicked straight into the Mafia. His morals are going to be a little screwy. Survival isn't based on an honour system, after all.
(Yes, Tsuna. That embarrassed, shy look in my eyes means I'm starved for attention. Oh, a hug? No, I couldn't possibly inconvenience you like that.
And then the warmth.)
Tsuna sees those beautiful purple eyes look so hesitant, and he blushes a bright red for reasons that he can’t name. Tsuna can't stop the smile from stretching across his face either. "Let's put that in a vase, yeah?" He grabs Skull's elbow and pulls the man in.
"Do you like them?" Skull asks hesitantly as he passes over the bouquet, staring at Tsuna with wide, hopeful eyes.
"Of course," Tsuna reassures, hugging the flowers to him. "They're beautiful. I didn't even know sunflowers could grow into love heart shapes," he laughs.
"They can't," Skull smirks. "I stole those ones from Verde; he's trying to make the gardener's maze. Oh, and don't touch the petals, they're su~per sharp." Skull takes off a leather glove to show bandages and small cuts littering his hand.
Tsuna raises an eyebrow.
"What?" Skull huffs. "Those flowers are cool. Everyone likes sharp things."
Tsuna rolls his eyes and sits the Arcobaleno down on the couch before wandering about, getting the flowers set up on his desk. Skull puts on his glove again and worries his hands in his lap, peeking up at Tsuna when he thinks the Decimo isn't looking.
Unknown to both, Reborn fades out of a secret passage without a sound but pauses, pressing back until he's completely covered by the angle of Tsuna's bookcases.
Tsuna flutters around as he cuts off the stems so they'll fit in the vase and takes off the plastic wrapping but keeps the bow, tying it around the vase instead. He has no idea what to say to the man sitting behind him, and the stupid blush won't go away.
Tsuna won't think about it because if he does he'll withdraw and overthink everything that happens. Tsuna will go with the flow, and right now Skull is sitting on his couch looking nervous and adorable and Tsuna wants to hug him.
Tsuna angles the last sunflower and then makes his way over to the couch, dropping down near Skull with a smile on his face. "So what have you been doing? Do you do anymore stunt shows?"
"Um, yeah, I started as soon as I got this body back." Skull nods with a smile and starts emerging from his nervousness. "People are still really excited when I show up. It's really nice."
"That's so sweet," Tsuna hums. "I'll have to visit you one day-"
A bullet flies just over their heads and slams into the wall, jolting both of them. Tsuna shrieks with Skull and they cling to each other.
"My, aren't you two cosy," Reborn drawls, his long stride carrying him over to the two, who immediately separate in preparation to run.
The hitman pauses in front of Tsuna and takes the Decimo's hand. Locking eyes with the brunet, Reborn bows over the hand and presses a lingering kiss to Tsuna's knuckles.
"Are you kidding me?" Skull cries with an exasperated tone and a half flail of his arms. "You can't just shoot at someone and then woo them."
"I believe I just did," Reborn counters arrogantly.
"Don't worry, Skull," Tsuna cuts in, calm at the familiar territory. "Reborn pulls pigtails."
The room goes dead silent and then a giggle escapes Skull.
"I'll kill you both," Reborn promises.
Chapter 12: Their Story
Tsuna scans the room and the impatient stares.
If they want a Soul Mate, he'll give them a Soul Mate.
Before Tsuna can throw himself out of the window, there’s a knock on his door. Reborn huffs and wanders away to perch on the office desk like a particularly terrifying crow who feeds on fear and blood and Tsuna’s misery.
“Come in,” Tsuna calls out, standing from the couch to greet whoever it is.
The door opens and admits Hana, then straight after is Kyoko. Tsuna can’t stop himself from smiling and barely sees Ryohei trailing along behind the two women. He most definitely doesn’t see Reborn send a text to someone and then slip his phone away again.
“I told her!” Ryohei cries loudly in excitement. “She has an orangutan the same shade as my Mark and she also has a secondary sun flame!”
Tsuna looks between Hana and Ryohei with wide eyes, happy that his suggestion paid off. Oddly enough, Ryohei and Kyoko have the same handwriting.
“Yeah, yeah,” Hana huffs. "We'll see where this goes. This idiot just wanted to tell you." She hooks a thumb at Ryohei. “We’re going on a date now.”
Tsuna, Skull and Kyoko all cheer as Ryohei's face splits into a huge grin and he offers a hand to Hana. The woman rolls her eyes at them all and drags Ryohei out of the door.
Skull glances over at Reborn in question, gesturing towards Tsuna and Kyoko. Reborn flicks his fingers dismissively at the stuntman, telling him to wait.
Kyoko giggles at the blissfully happy look on her brother's face, and Tsuna is stunned once again by how beautiful the woman is. He thinks that she should always be this happy. He’s going to try and make sure she’s this happy.
Tsuna takes a step forward.
And then the others burst into the office.
"Tsuna, wait!" Enma cries. "Just wait a bit," the other boss asks, a bit calmer when he takes in that Tsuna hasn't said anything yet.
The Decimo frowns but doesn't stop the adults from spreading around the room.
"I know exactly what this is about," Tsuna speaks up when Takeshi opens his mouth. "And it has…" Tsuna flickers a glance to Skull. "It has occurred to me that some of you honestly believe what you're saying. I'm sorry if I was rude to you in anyway when you approached me, but I won't take back my decision."
"Will you hear us out?" Mukuro asks.
Tsuna looks at a confused Kyoko and faces the rest again, taking deep breath. "Will you hear me out?" he requests instead.
"Of course," Fon says.
Tsuna's eyes flicker around the room to connect with everyone’s and he speaks up with a steady voice. "You believe your Marks match with mine, but I think there are better combinations."
Tsuna breathes in deeply and on the exhale, lets out a vortex of flame. The fire fills the room in the blink of an eye and everyone holds back their instinctive reactions, because they know this fire won't burn them.
The people blink in shock when very specific spots on their clothes burn off and Marks begin showing. Tsuna inhales and the fire swarms back to him, leaving the occupants of the office stunned. Their eyes flicker to all the other Soul Marks almost in reflex.
The results are mixed.
Hayato stares at the words Gravity-Defying on the Rain's ribs and Takeshi is equally entranced with Hayato's The sky is not a limiting agent, both of them painfully aware of how the topic and font matches.
Kyouya tilts his head at the picture on the inside of Chrome's elbow, the little white rabbit encased in the shadow of a snarling wolf. Chrome blushes but can't look away from the reflective glass behind Kyouya, entranced by the bunny there that’s hiding so much power.
Dino gulps at the 127 Mark on Byakuran's collar bone, and struggles to not show weakness by covering up his own, on the opposite collar being his Mark of 721. Byakuran's expression is blank.
Enma braces himself for death when he sees Xanxus lock onto the traitorously placed mirror behind him, and catch sight of the red head's Vongola crest, but Enma has to admit to himself that he's more focused on Xanxus' own upper arm and the ring there – the combined ring of Earth and Sky that Tsuna made a replica of and gifted him with. As in the one on his hand right now. The Varia leader says nothing and looks away.
Fon makes no outward reaction past glancing at the mark on Skull's face, usually covered by that large bandage, and then locking eyes with the Cloud Arcobaleno. Skull stares at Fon's abdomen and the Ground Fire there as he compares it to his own Crown Fire. They describe someone not known to be dangerous, hidden underground, compared to someone obviously a threat.
Verde’s gaze is calculating as he observes Reborn's Dying Will is both a state of being and a promise. Reborn's takes in all of the Marks in case he needs them later, lingering a moment on Verde's hip and the scientist's own scar like Mark proclaiming; Dying Will means I promise you my dying breath, but I swear that you'll never see it.
Reborn turns back to Tsuna after memorising it, but Verde steps to the side instead, blocking Reborn’s line of sight and forcing the hitman’s attention back on the inventor. Verde's not done with him yet. Something like a spark of interest lights up in Reborn’s eyes at the silent demand and he smirks at Verde.
Tsuna relaxes hesitantly when no fighting breaks out. This isn't an impulsive decision. Tsuna's been thinking about this constantly over the years, revisiting it with every new Mark he discovers. It's been a small but nagging suspicion in the back of his mind and now he knows for certain.
They're all shocked of course, and many will be in denial at first, but it'll work itself out. The pairs are already moving together, murmuring in low voices to each other. Tsuna knows that they'll be happy. After all, they've met their Soul Mates.
Tsuna turns to Kyoko then, ready to finally confess, but he freezes when he sees her expression.
Mukuro stares into an eye, one that hasn't gone without a brown contact in so long, and sees the word Stranger in Japanese before automatically translating it to Italian – to Estraneo. Kyoko only smiles, holding the coloured contact on a finger, having known for a while now ever since Chrome told her about Mukuro's Mark - the Namimori that used to sit in his eye.
So Tsuna stands there, lost in a room full of friends, and hates that he actually expected this. Oh, he wished and he hoped, but this was always going to be the end result.
After all, who would want Dame-Tsuna?