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Memento Mori

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“Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own mind.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt


 

It was considered taboo to contract your soul to a demon, even though it did happen on occasions. Just rarely. 

However, Tsuna had done it anyways. His right eye was a testament to that. It was crimson with an intricate seal resembling a lotus flower. Everyone thought he had lost the eye in the tragic incident years ago. It was convenient, so he went with it. He didn’t care where Mukuro staked his claim. He was desperate, dying, and too terrified to think about the trivial things. All he did was grab the demon’s insidious form and hiss, “Just do it!” 

Perhaps that was why the demon had stuck by his side for this long. 

“Thinking again, Tsunayoshi?” an amused voice said from behind him. “Oya, your pretty little head might combust.” 

Not bothering to look at the tall demon, Tsuna tied his school tie and kept his eyes trained on his slender fingers. The scent of chocolate, roses, and smoke was faint on his sensitive nose, but pleasant nonetheless. Even though Mukuro was a demon, he had a strangely calming effect on him, which was helpful most times and irritating in others. Sometimes Tsuna liked venting when he could, but Mukuro’s insufferable smile and sly gleam in his alluring eyes were just as charming as they were infuriating.

“I suppose,” Tsuna said, his voice soft in the quiet bedroom. He brushed some nonexistent dust from his school jacket, slipped on his white eyepatch, and checked the time. Nice. He still had some time left for breakfast. “Care to join me in the kitchen, Mukuro?”

“Of course, Tsunayoshi.” 

They walked side-by-side down the stairs, which would’ve been a bizarre sight in public. Demons never walked as equals to their human masters, always maintaining a respectable but close distance to ensure their safety. Demons were just dogs as humans were oddly obsessed with power play. 

Tsuna was never one for normal conventions and let Mukuro do as he pleased—in the shadows, of course. He wasn’t that stupid. It had already taken years to divert the public eye from “the Sawada child”. On several occasions, he’d been tempted to order Mukuro to kill the nosy neighbors and reporters on his front lawn, but refrained from doing so out of pure will and extreme patience. The massacre would not do well with the garden his mother had so lovingly tended. 

Besides, he was supposed to be a summoner who had no summon yet, a 16-year-old orphan with no family, a victim of a horrific tragedy that rippled through the nation.

It was a wonderful guise, although a bit annoying. But it’d be worth it in the end. 

A large, gloved hand tilted Tsuna’s chin up. The teen didn’t flinch when his gaze met with red and blue. Mukuro truly had beautiful eyes, he thought. 

The demon’s thin lips curved into a smile. “Tsunayoshi, a penny for your thoughts?” 

Shaking his head, Tsuna pulled away from Mukuro’s hold. “There’s nothing to be concerned about, Mukuro.” 

“Today is your summoning rite ceremony.”

“And we went over it many times already. Is your memory that poor?”

Amusement gleamed in the demon’s eyes. “Is it wrong to worry about my charge?” 

“I suggest you move before I put this kitchen knife to good use.”

Mukuro chuckled that odd but attractive laugh of his. “Violence suits you adorably well, Tsunayoshi. Perhaps I’d like to see you drenched in blood again.” He leaned down to his ear and whispered, “It would certainly be a delicious sight.” 

Tsuna tensed, but managed to school his features. Even though the demon could not see his face, Mukuro always seemed to know what went on in his head. It was dangerous for a powerful demon like Mukuro to be able to keep pace with him. At this point, Tsuna shouldn’t be surprised that Mukuro knew him so well—too well—but even he had some pride to uphold. 

He may have promised him his soul, but that didn’t mean he promised him his heart. 

“Only you would think so, Mukuro,” Tsuna said. “I’d rather not go through the laundry again for something so tedious.” 

Mukuro chuckled, his hot breath tickling Tsuna’s neck. Tsuna suppressed a small shiver and stubbornly maintained his gaze in front of him.

“How cute. I could just eat your soul right now.” 

“I’m afraid not. We still have more to get through.” 

Mukuro pulled back, his handsome face scrunched into something like a pout. “A simpler contract would have been much more pleasant. I promise it won’t be all that bad. My stomach is a wonderful place. You’d be a perfect addition.” 

Tsuna narrowed his eye. “And we’re not have this conversation again.” He shouldered past the demon, not caring if it was rude. Sometimes Mukuro needed to know when to keep his mouth shut. Tsuna would sew it if he could. “I don’t want to see you for the rest of the day.” 

Mukuro just chuckled and gave a mock-bow. “Your wish is my command, Tsunayoshi.” 

He instantly disappeared in a misty haze. However, the tension in Tsuna’s shoulders didn’t leave. He knew that Mukuro was always there, somehow watching his every move and making sure he didn’t do anything reckless. 

Tsuna sat down at the large dining table; the silence in his big home slowly suffocated him as he chewed on some toast. The grandfather clock in the living room ticked mercilessly in the background. He never understood why his parents opted to buy such a large house for only three people. They had mentioned something about having more children, but Tsuna didn’t see anything wrong with keeping their family small. 

His fingers drummed against the table, and it took him a while to notice that he reverted back to the nervous habit. He clicked his tongue before standing up. Grabbing his schoolbag, he slipped on his shoes and glanced at the small family portrait by the front door. 

We were happy, he thought, tracing his mother’s beautiful smile with his eyes. 

Shaking his head, Tsuna opened the door and stepped out of his haunting sanctuary.


Namimori Academy would’ve been a nicer place if it wasn’t filled with idiots. 

Tsuna stuck out like a sore thumb. Whispers would still travel in the hallways, fingers would still point at his back, and eyes would still follow his every move. Tsuna learned quickly to ignore them. Today, it wasn’t as bad since all the students were focused on the summoning rite ceremony.

When a summoner reached 16, they would have the chance to summon their first demon familiar. Only those with summoner magic in their blood could perform it and were carefully selected by the school through an impressive national database system. Tsuna had to admit, he was impressed that the Elders had some brain to utilize modern technology to their advantage. 

Since he was the son to Sawada Iemitsu, a powerful summoner in his own right, he was immediately scouted by the school and placed in the system. He didn’t mind it, even if it was somewhat against his will. The academy was only a step closer to his parents’ murderers—Vongola. It was a powerful summoner group in Italy that ran the underworld. Because of them, his parents had been slaughtered like cattle. 

And they would pay, he vowed. 

“Good morning, Sawada-kun!” a bright voice said. 

Tsuna nodded politely. “Good morning, Sasagawa-san.” 

The orange-haired girl always tried befriending him despite the fact that he wasn’t keen on it. She was nice, but he didn’t think he could stand her (or anyone) for that matter. Some people just didn’t understand that he wanted to be left alone. 

“Are you excited for the rites?” 

“I guess.” 

“I hope I can summon a decent demon.” Kyoko smiled sweetly. “It’d be nice to make friends with one, don’t you think? They’re so fascinating.” 

Tsuna just hummed an affirmative, nodding in all the right places while her words went in one ear and out the other. 

“—ll, good luck, Sawada-kun!”                                                                                                           

“You, too.” 

At the corner of his eye, Tsuna saw Hana tug Kyoko back to their seats. They briefly made eye-contact before Hana looked away first. Tsuna just opened his textbook to today’s lesson and gazed out the window. Some cherry blossoms bloomed on the trees, their pink petals drifting gently in the wind. Tsuna already itched to leave school already. He raised a brow when several black cars pulled up at the entrance. 

Curious, he tilted his head to get a better view, cursing his limited vision. If he could walk around without his eyepatch, it’d be useful. Why couldn’t Mukuro pick a more inconspicuous spot? 

Several suited men stepped out of the cars and before Tsuna could see more, Nezu-sensei had already entered the room. 

“I know you’re all excited for the rites today,” he said, surveying the student’s eager faces. “Just remember all the lessons you’ve learned and everything will be fine. The headmaster and teachers will be there to make sure everything goes smoothly. Any questions before we start class?” 

Numerous hands raised in the air. The questions were mostly about reviewing the summoning runes and any other precautions about the rites, which Tsuna already knew by heart. Mukuro had a surprising array of knowledge of the demon and human world, but that only made Tsuna warier of the demon. 

He mentally shook his head. Getting caught up in his thoughts about Mukuro would just induce an unneeded migraine. 

For the rest of the class, Tsuna doodled in the margins of his notebook, his thoughts occupied with the strange visitors that pulled up at the school gates. 

He had a feeling that today would not be a good day.


The large summoning grounds behind the school were filled with eager students and smiling teachers. Summoning magic was diverse, but there were prominent families with stronger bloodlines. Most of the students came from low-levelled families and could probably summon a weak demon at best. It was still a demon, but even creatures like them had a hierarchy to abide by.

Tsuna was more than aware of his father’s potent magic. Lal Mirch had been his demon familiar and a nice presence in their home, protecting Tsuna and his mother under a careful eye. Whenever he closed his eyes, he could still hear her agonizing screams from that night, and see her crumbling into ashes when— 

He mentally shook his head. No, he had to focus. 

Quickly, he reviewed whatever information he had collected so far. He had traced his father’s lineage back to a man named Sawada Ieyasu, and with the help of Mukuro, followed it back to Vongola. Apparently, the man was Giotto Vongola, its original founder. Still, Tsuna couldn’t help but be amused—how ironic that one of Vongola’s rightful heirs would be the one to burn it to the ground. 

Now, it was just a matter of timing. He’d slowly tear them apart from the inside out until there was nothing left. 

“Hey, who’s that?” 

“It’s Headmaster Okuda, dumbass.” 

“No, the guy behind him.” 

Tsuna peered over the crowd to see the suited men from before escort an elderly man beside the excited headmaster. He instantly recognized him—Timoteo Vongola. 

A sense of foreboding trickled down Tsuna’s spine. Why was Vongola Nono in Namimori? He never set a foot out of Italy since taking up Vongola’s mantle. His wide breadth of connections and manpower made it easy for him to pull the strings from his cozy desk in Palermo. So why… 

Suddenly, Nono’s sons came to mind. Mukuro had told him that two of them were killed by enemy Mafioso—one was drowned and the other was reduced into nothing but bones. Tsuna wasn’t sure about the third one, Enrico, but if Nono was here, there was a good chance that he might be dead as well. That would leave him and Xanxus—an adopted son but still family nonetheless—as the only heirs left. 

His eye narrowed. This was a little too coincidental. The murders, Nono’s unexpected appearance—Tsuna mentally cursed. Mukuro might’ve had something to do with it. The sly demon may be obligated to listen to his orders due to their contract, but that didn’t mean he’d somehow find a loophole and do something else. 

Tsuna would have to keep a tighter leash on him, he thought bitterly. 

When Headmaster Okuda started his speech, Tsuna studied Nono, who had a friendly and kind face. Typical grandfatherly look. However, Tsuna wasn’t fooled. This was a man who controlled Vongola and had the underworld at his beck and call. He was more powerful than most world leaders and politicians, even possessing six demon summons. 

Tsuna quickly averted his gaze when Nono looked his way. He blinked when he noticed a looming figure standing behind the headmaster. When did that man appear? He blended in with the other bodyguards easily enough, but there was something off about him that Tsuna couldn’t place. 

The man wore a black suit and a fedora over his spiky black hair. Thin sideburns curled from either side of his covered face. Tsuna tensed from the low hum of power that emitted from his lithe body—he was a demon, a powerful one. Dark eyes suddenly met his gaze before Tsuna realized he stared for too long. He quickly looked away, finding it difficult to breathe. 

That restrained, suffocating pressure reminded him of when he first met Mukuro. Of course, Mukuro had been much more overwhelming since he had been in his true form, but that suited man was different. His real power was being suppressed. Tsuna didn’t know how, but he wasn’t going to mess with him anytime soon. Was he Nono’s new summon…? It wasn’t uncommon for some summoners to have more than one—the most being recorded was six—however, it was difficult if they didn’t have potent magic. 

Yet, Tsuna knew Nono’s summons and that strange demon was not one of them. There was something amiss here. Was he being too paranoid? His gut was telling him to run away, far away, but he gritted his teeth and waited for one of the group leaders to call his name. 

The students were separated into groups and spread across the field, carefully supervised by the teachers and staff. It wasn’t fancy, but it was faster and more efficient. When Tsuna’s name was called, he quickly walked over to his designated spot and picked up a chalk from one of the boxes. 

Carefully, he started drawing the necessary runes on the ground; however, he made a tiny change in one of them, just subtle enough for no one to notice. He didn’t want to actually summon a demon. Mukuro was already one too many.

Tsuna had no doubt that he could probably make another contract but he wasn’t too keen to find out. His father had other summons too, but mostly kept Lal Mirch by his side. There hadn’t been any reason to have Oregano, Basil, or Turmeric around when they weren’t being threatened…

He mentally shook his head. Focus, he thought. 

He’d just summon nothing and attribute it to his trauma, even if it wounded his ego. Willpower did influence what kind of demon he’d summon anyways. 

Satisfied with his results, Tsuna tossed the chalk aside and turned to call Fukuda-sensei when he suddenly faced a strong chest. His breath hitched when he realized it was the demon standing behind Nono earlier. The man loomed over him, his face almost sinister under the brim of his fedora. The strong, musky scent of gunpowder, espresso, and ashes was overwhelming.

“Sawada Tsunayoshi,” the demon said in a low purr. “Finished already?” 

Tsuna unconsciously stepped back, gritting his teeth. “Yes. If you’ll excuse me, I need to get my teacher.” 

The man blocked him from walking any further. Glaring, Tsuna was tempted to tear the smirk from the man’s dark face. 

“You missed something.” 

Tsuna narrowed his eye. “I believe it’s perfectly fine.” 

A small gleam shone in the man’s eyes. Tsuna gasped when his back suddenly slammed onto the ground. When he tried to stand, a heavy foot stepped on his chest, keeping him in place. He couldn’t stop the heat from rising in his cheeks when he realized everyone was staring at them, their chatter slowly dying down. 

“W—What the hell are you doing?” he said, his voice rising embarrassingly. 

“I’m only trying to help you.” The man’s foot pressed down even more. Tsuna gasped for breath, struggling under the impossibly heavy weight. “You missed something important.” 

“Y—You’re hurting him!” someone said. Kyoko. 

Tsuna might not have liked the girl, but he was a little glad that she stood up for him. Although, he doubted this psycho would let her go that easily. 

“Don’t meddle, mortal,” the man said, his glare effectively silencing Kyoko.

“Reborn,” a stern voice said, “let him go.” 

The pressure on Tsuna’s chest lessened only slightly, but it was just enough for Tsuna to breathe. He gaped when Nono appeared with his men. This wasn’t…This wasn’t what he had in mind! Tsuna clenched his teeth and glowered at the demon above him. He was going to tear him to shreds.

Reborn’s lips twitched into an amused smile. He leaned forward, his dark eyes glinting dangerously. “You can try, Tsuna.”

The way he said his name made Tsuna involuntarily shiver. 

“Reborn.” 

The demon clicked his tongue. “I’m not killing him, Nono.”

“You were supposed to stay by my side.” There was a dangerous undertone in his voice, but Reborn remained unfazed. “Why are you picking on this young man?”

Tsuna gritted his teeth. Did the demon see through his plan? Is that why he was here? Reborn looked down at him again with a predatory gaze. 

“I was only trying to help him with his seal,” he said innocently. “He made a mistake.”

He gestured at the subtle change Tsuna made in his runes. 

Shit. 

Nono walked closer for a better look. His face was inscrutable, but his mouth curved into a small, kind smile. “Ah, I see. Reborn, let him up. Young man, I believe he’s right. There’s a small mistake right here. This is supposed to be symmetric and curving to the left of its counterpart.” 

Tsuna smacked Reborn’s foot away and tried to stand with as much grace as possible. He glared at the chalk that Nono handed him politely. It would be so easy to call Mukuro now and kill the old man right then and there; however, he had no idea about Reborn’s capabilities and he wasn’t willing to risk his plan in front of so many people. 

It was too merciful than for what he had planned anyways. 

“Thank you,” he said, taking the chalk as politely as he could. 

Tsuna could feel several eyes on him while he knelt down to fix his “mistake”. He quickly ran through his options when a sudden pressure around his head made his breath hitch. It was as if a large hand was slowly crushing his skull. Some low ringing reverberated in his ears and his vision blurred for a moment. 

“Are you alright, young man?” Nono said, his voice distant. “You look a little pale.” 

“I’m fine, sir,” Tsuna managed to say through gritted teeth.

The pressure disappeared only when Tsuna finally corrected his rune with a trembling hand. His chalk snapped in two from his tight grip and he nearly threw them at Reborn’s head—that demon was definitely the culprit—if he hadn’t had so much restraint. 

He didn’t even realize Fukuda-sensei was nearby until the woman said, “Good job, Sawada-san. Looks good. Do you need a refresher on the summoning spell?” 

Tsuna shook his head, his ears still buzzing from the blistering pain before. “I’m fine.” 

Fukuda-sensei nodded. “Alright, good luck! We’ll be here in case anything happens. Don’t be nervous. You can do it!” 

Suppressing a sigh, Tsuna stepped onto the small circle at his runes’ center. What the hell was he supposed to do? This wasn’t what he wanted. Should he just summon Mukuro? He mentally cursed. The demon had never shared his personal runes with him so that was out. Tsuna could try holding back as much magic as possible, but the spell was created in a way to draw out the user’s full potential, and he didn’t want to risk changing it in the middle in case something even worse happened.

It was quiet, too quiet. Everyone was staring at him. Tsuna clenched his jaw. Why was people so keen on continuing to push him into the spotlight? His fingers twitched. Screw this. He only hoped that Mukuro had some back-up plan because this time, he didn’t. 

The gold ceremonial knife gleamed under the sunlight when Tsuna cut his palm. His blood dripped onto the ground. 

“…hereby summon you before me,” he whispered, “Mukuro.” 

Students shrieked when a heavy, ominous presence suddenly washed over the fields like heavy rain. A few teachers gasped, stepping back, while their familiars whimpered beside them. This…wasn’t Mukuro. 

Tsuna’s covered eye then burned when tendrils of shadow caressed his cheeks in an almost mocking fashion. This was Mukuro. Black and red swam in his vision before a tall, graceful figure took shape before him. 

“You called?” a smooth voice said. 

Tsuna furrowed his brows. He finally managed to force his tongue to work. “Yes. Will you accept my contract?” 

Mukuro’s lips curved into a smile. “With pleasure.”

Tsuna’s right eye burned again as Mukuro conjured an illusory mark on Tsuna’s hand. Most contracts were represented by a mark on the summoner’s hands where others could see them. Now that Tsuna thought about it, Reborn didn’t have any—at least, to the visible eye. 

“You’re dismissed,” Tsuna said blankly. 

Mukuro chuckled. “I look forward to our next meeting, little one.” 

Tsuna scowled as Mukuro vanished in a purple mist, his laugher ringing gently in his ears. He turned to see Nono observing him with a solemn, approving gaze before the old man smiled. 

“Congratulations, young man,” Nono said. “You seemed to have summoned a powerful demon.” 

“Thank you, sir,” Tsuna said. He glanced at Fukuda-sensei who still gaped at him. “Do I pass?” 

She snapped out of her daze and quickly nodded. “O—Of course, Sawada-san. You did very well. Congratulations! Just fill out this form and we’ll submit it to the Organization.” 

Accepting the form, Tsuna started walking away when a hand gripped his shoulder. 

“Young man, may we talk?” Nono said in a friendly tone. “In private?” 

Tsuna glanced at the elderly man behind him and nodded. “Okay.”

Random bursts of power spread across the summoning fields when the students resumed their summoning rites. Tsuna didn’t pay any mind to them. He just focused on keeping a safe distance from Reborn who never stopped staring at him.


Tsuna had only been to the headmaster’s office once to confirm his enrollment. Of course, the man had tried asking him about what happened that fateful night but Tsuna kept his mouth shut, making sure the man knew his place. 

It was a large room with a sturdy oak desk and tall windows covered by burgundy drapes. Nono sat comfortably on the headmaster’s chair and gestured to the sofas. 

“Please, sit,” he said. 

Tsuna eyed Reborn warily, who casually sat on one of the leathery couches. “No, thank you.”

Nono smiled slightly. “Of course. Now, instead of beating around the bush, I’ll get straight to the point. My name is Timoteo and I am the current head of Vongola. I am sure you’ve heard about it.” Tsuna just nodded. “Good. I came here on some business that relates to your father.” Nono’s eyes softened. “I am truly sorry for your loss, Tsunayoshi. Iemitsu was a wonderful man.” 

Feigning curiosity and grief, Tsuna widened his eye. “You…knew my father?” 

Nono nodded. “He was one of my chief advisers.” He chuckled. “In the old days, he was known as the Young Lion of Vongola and a formidable summoner. Even now, I still cannot believe he’s gone.”

Tsuna suppressed a scoff, his stomach churning from the kind act Nono was putting on. The man didn’t deserve to talk about his father or even utter his name. 

“But enough with the depressing talk, please. We should look forward to the future for better things to come, no?” 

“I believe so,” Tsuna said softly. 

Nono clasped his hands together. “As you can see, I’m growing old, Tsunayoshi.” He sighed wearily. “My sons—They were supposed to take my place, but they’re now dead.” 

“I’m sorry.” 

Nono shook his head. “No, no, don’t be.” He straightened himself. “That’s why I came here personally myself to meet you, Tsunayoshi. I was pleased to see that you’ve inherited Iemitsu’s potent bloodline. The demon you summoned was indeed powerful, just like your father’s summons.”

Mukuro was nothing like his father’s summons. Even though Tsuna barely knew the demon’s background, he knew that the raw power Mukuro held was ancient. He just chose to suppress it, like what Reborn was doing. Tsuna glanced at the suited man who still had his eyes trained on him. Creeper much? 

Reborn just flashed him a charming smile. Tsuna looked away, disgusted for giving him any attention. 

“I can tell you will do great things, Tsunayoshi,” Nono continued. “That’s why I am asking you to take my place when the time comes.” 

Tsuna blinked. Take…his place? That was…expected but still unsurprising. Still, it could make his plans move along much faster; but that was not the life he wanted. He didn’t want anything to do with Vongola. He wanted to watch it collapse terrifically from the sideline. If this was Mukuro’s way of making the contract easier for himself, Tsuna wasn’t accepting it. 

“Of course, it is your decision,” Nono said quickly, mistaking his silence for shock. “But you’re the only one left who’s able to take the mantle, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.” 

Lies. Tsuna would have no choice unless he killed himself, which wasn’t going to happen either. He chewed on his lip as a show of uncertainty. “May I…think about this?” he said quietly. “This is a lot to take in.”

Nono nodded. “Of course, but please, tell me in two days’ time. I apologize for giving you such a heavy burden again, Tsunayoshi. You must be tired. Would you like an escort home?” 

Tsuna shook his head. “No, thank you, Nono-san. I can get there by myself. Thank you for…telling me.” 

Nono smiled gently. “If there is anything you need—anything at all—please don’t hesitate to contact me through Headmaster Okuda.” 

Tsuna bowed. “Thank you. If you’ll excuse me.”

“Be safe, Tsunayoshi-.” 

Tsuna tried hard not to run out the door. Instead, he walked out with long, measured strides, ignoring the intense gaze on his back.


Further up in Namimori, his home somewhat isolated from the town. That was something Tsuna was satisfied with. He didn’t want any neighbors or curious trespassers snooping around the only place where he felt safe. It was one of the few things he had left that connected him with his parents.

As he walked through the busy streets, Tsuna ignored the stares and whispers around him. He shoved his hands in his pockets to hide Mukuro’s fake contract mark. He just wasn’t in the mood to answer questions from overly-friendly residents.

Mukuro’s going to get it, he thought, clicking his tongue.

Nono’s conversation soon replayed in his mind. Tsuna’s acting was a lot better than he thought. Nono was not only growing older, but also weaker. However, that didn’t mean Tsuna should relax. If Nono managed to have a powerful demon like Reborn by his side, that could be an issue in the near future.

A sudden chill made Tsuna pause in his step. He looked around warily. A long dirt path laid ahead of him, cutting through some small woods, and he could see the iron gates of his house in the distance. His father was always a fan of those kinds of things.

Tsuna took another step when he noticed a flicker to his right. His heart thumped faster against his chest, almost painful, while he picked up his pace. The trees rustled above him from the wind. A bird’s cry made him flinch. He gripped his backpack tighter.

Another moment of silence passed. Tsuna’s guts told him to run—and he did. 

Twigs and leaves crunched underneath his feet, the wind picking pace around him, whipping his hair. The same foreboding feeling twisted in his stomach. What the hell was going on? Was he hallucinating? Being too paranoid? Why— 

“You think too much, Tsuna,” a deep voice whispered in his ear.

Tsuna yelped when a heavy body slammed into him and knocked him to the ground. Small rocks scraped his cheek, and he gasped when Reborn flipped him over, pinning him to the earth. The demon’s dark eyes looked terrifying, and it took all of Tsuna’s willpower to not flinch. 

“Muk—”

A rough, calloused hand clamped down over Tsuna’s mouth, clutching his jaw in a powerful grip. Tsuna stiffened when Reborn slipped off his eyepatch. 

“I was right,” Reborn said, clicking his tongue. “You and that filth are contracted.” 

Tsuna widened his eyes before he could stop himself. Did Reborn know Mukuro? Why was he here? Did Nono send him to follow him home? Was he going to kill him? Tsuna gritted his teeth. No, he wasn’t going to die today. 

“I’m not here to kill you, Tsuna,” Reborn said with that infuriating smirk. “I’m only here to offer a proposition.” 

Tsuna paused in his struggles. A…proposition? 

“Yes, now listen.”

A muted gasp escaped Tsuna’s lips when a cold sensation rippled through his body. Reborn leaned in closer, his eyes hungry and so impossibly dark they were almost black.

“I know what you want.” Tsuna shuddered when Reborn’s hot breath tickled his ear. “And I can help you much better than him. Just offer me your soul.”

Tsuna narrowed his eyes. As if he’d trust Reborn. He may be powerful, maybe even more powerful than Mukuro, but that didn’t mean Tsuna would just transfer his contract to someone else—was that even possible? As irritating as Mukuro was, he was still the closest thing Tsuna had for…a friend. Christ, he was actually considering Mukuro a friend. Hell had finally frozen over.

Reborn narrowed his eyes as if sensing Tsuna’s internal conflict. He wouldn’t be surprised if the demon could actually read minds, no matter how intimidating that sounded. 

“I am more powerful than he is,” Reborn purred. “There is nothing I can’t do. Take me instead, Tsuna.”

Tsuna nearly sagged in relief when he felt Mukuro’s presence. Nevertheless, he glared at him.

Mukuro just smiled. “How could you forget that I’d never miss my tea time, Tsunayoshi?” His eyes then shifted to Reborn; a small chill coursed through the air, making Tsuna tense. “I believe that’s my human you have there, Renato.”

Reborn smiled, baring a little teeth. “He’ll be mine when we complete our contract. Wonderful timing as always, Mukuro. We were just about to start.”

Mukuro’s smile was still pleasant but his eyes glinted dangerously under the light. Tsuna tried to pry off Reborn’s hand, except the demon’s skin was apparently made out of glue because it wouldn’t fucking budge. He was tempted to bite it off but had a feeling that the demon would enjoy that more than anything. Goddamn freaks.

“Why don’t you let him go?” Mukuro said, lightly. “I’m not that keen on hurting an old friend.” 

“You can do your worst and I can still kill you.”

Widening his eyes, Tsuna tugged Reborn’s sleeve. He couldn’t help but shiver when their gazes met. There were some amber flecks in the demon’s eyes, Tsuna realized. He mentally shook his head. There was no time to think about that.

He pointed at Reborn’s hand, then at his own eye where Mukuro’s contract was. Reborn smirked. “Are you considering it?” 

Tsuna hesitated before nodding. He glanced at Mukuro, who looked at him with unreadable eyes. If Tsuna played his cards right, he could hopefully trick Reborn into letting him go and make a run for it. His mother had the house protected with anti-demon seals that could maybe keep Reborn out for a while.

A dark chuckle made Tsuna flinch.

“Cute,” Reborn said. “But you can never escape me, Tsuna.”

A sudden gust of wind flung Reborn away. Tsuna gaped as Reborn landed gracefully on the ground, undeterred. Tsuna managed to scramble to his feet and grasp Mukuro’s long jacket. 

“Mukuro, get rid of him!” he said, his right eye burning from the command. 

The demon smirked. “With pleasure.”

Chapter Text

“Man’s enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself.” – Lao Tzu


 

The sheer power that erupted from the demons made Tsuna involuntarily choke. 

Mukuro shielded Tsuna with his taller body when Reborn dashed towards him with blinding speed. Tsuna could barely keep up with their movements as he desperately tried analyzing the fight. 

I can’t see anything, he thought, backing away. 

He briefly glanced at his home’s gates. He could run for it, but he doubted that either man was actually focusing on each other. They were waiting—waiting for him to make a move—and that pissed him off, immensely. He wasn’t in the mood for whatever Mukuro was thinking. 

Before Tsuna could even stand, a sudden loud bang made him freeze. Metal clashed with metal. His ears rang painfully at the unexpected noise. He gaped when he saw Reborn pointing a gun at him, a faint wisp of smoke trailing from the weapon. Mukuro’s trident had deflected the bullet, which was dangerously close to piercing his forehead. 

“Oya,” Mukuro said, his lips curved in a slight smile, “you should watch your step, Tsunayoshi.” 

Tsuna just scowled. “Well, as you can see, Mukuro, this is a rather unfortunate situation for the both of us.” He smirked. “Honestly, I’d thought you’d get rid of him faster.” 

The demon’s brow twitched faintly. “You expect too much from me, Tsunayoshi.” 

“I expect better.” 

Tsuna gasped when Mukuro suddenly snaked an arm around his waist and leapt high in the air—too high. 

“Mukuro!” he said, grasping the demon’s shirt. 

Mukuro chuckled. “Do you want me to drop you?” 

Tsuna glared. “You wouldn’t dare.” 

Mukuro just smiled at him, and for a brief second, Tsuna thought he would. A tree exploded below them, the loud boom reverberating in the distance. He immediately buried his face against Mukuro’s chest as the wind whistled around them, shutting his eyes when they descended just as rapidly.

Mukuro chuckled. “You seem to attract the most unfavorable attention.” 

Before Tsuna could retort, he flinched when a black figure flew in from the distance. It was incoming too quickly and he could see the unholy gleam in Reborn’s eyes within seconds.

“Mukuro!” 

Mukuro had already sprinted to the side when Reborn descended rapidly in their previous spot. The ground exploded beneath him. A cloud of dust and dirt billowed in the air, making Tsuna cough and eyes water. Mukuro dropped him unceremoniously to the ground, causing him to squawk indignantly, and swiftly blocked Reborn’s kick with his trident. 

Mukuro smiled pleasantly. “I’d appreciate it if you’d just leave quietly, Renato.” 

Reborn smirked. “Who do you take me for, Mukuro?”

“Well, I asked nicely.” 

Mukuro twisted his trident to hook Reborn’s leg in an arc before slamming the end of it against his chest. The other demon immediately used the momentum to twist and kick Mukuro’s head. A large vine shot out from the ground, ensnaring Reborn’s leg in a vice grip and flinging him to the side. Mukuro clicked his tongue when Reborn flipped gracefully to land on much lighter feet. 

Tsuna clenched his jaw when he saw how far they were from his home. Standing on shaky legs, he braced himself against a tree, glaring at Mukuro’s back. Stupid demon, he thought. He glanced at Reborn. Stupid, stupid demons. 

“Tsunayoshi, I admit that I can’t exactly get rid of him,” Mukuro said lightly. “He’s a rather stubborn one.”

“Oh, of course,” Tsuna said, rolling his eyes. “I can clearly see that.” He scowled. “My order still stands.” 

Mukuro’s pale lips curled into a small smile. “How cruel.” 

The demons dashed forward again, entering another savage yet graceful dance. Their traded blows shook the ground beneath Tsuna’s feet. Bullets fired in rapid succession—how much did Reborn even have?—and metal continued clashing against each other. Mukuro skillfully deflected them all before charging forward to slash Reborn’s open chest. Reborn just brought up his gun to block the blow. Mukuro’s trident slightly quivered from Reborn’s superior strength, but his sly smile never faltered. Neither did Reborn’s. 

“It’s been a while,” Mukuro said as if they were talking about the weather. “How are your brothers faring?” 

Reborn gave him a smile that looked more like a snarl. “I’d prefer that you keep your mouth shut.” 

“Pity. I was hoping to chat over some tea later.” 

Mukuro’s foot slightly moved; the sound of crunching dirt made Tsuna tense. Maybe he should’ve thought this more through. He shook his head. Now wasn’t the time to wallow. He needed a plan. Reborn was obviously much more powerful than Mukuro was and that wasn’t very reassuring. Tsuna could probably try some restraining spells but he didn’t have any materials with him. He also couldn’t summon holy fire like a few exorcists could. 

Goddamn it.

“I apologize, but Tsunayoshi’s mine,” Mukuro said, flashing some teeth.

Reborn sneered. “Not anymore.”

His free hand moved up with another gun. Tsuna’s breath hitched. As soon as Reborn pulled the trigger, another vine snaked around Tsuna’s waist and hauled him away from the line of fire. The bullet just grazed his shirt, but he could feel the burning heat against his side. A tree behind him exploded; some barks nicked his skin but a wall of thick vines blocked most of the impact.

The vine that held him suddenly tossed him to another one, making him gasp. More vines shot up from the ground when Reborn suddenly appeared in front of Tsuna, eyes dark and smoldering. His hand just barely brushed his arm before Tsuna was skillfully maneuvered away again. Stumbling, he tried regaining his balance, but the vines were being extremely difficult as they tugged him away from Reborn’s grasp. He clicked his tongue when he was shoved to the right and back again. He felt like a puppet. 

Mukuro managed to appear and hook both of Reborn’s arms behind him. He placed his foot on the other demon’s back and flashed some teeth. Tsuna swore both of his eyes glowed bright red for a second. Before Mukuro could pull, Reborn deliberately jerked forward. Tsuna cringed when he heard bones snapping.

Reborn’s leg then shot up behind him, kicking Mukuro’s chest and sending him flying into some trees. Tsuna widened his eyes. 

“Mukuro!” he said, scrambling to his feet. 

He barely took a step before Reborn appeared in front of him again. His arms were already healed, which was very strange. Demons didn’t—couldn’t—heal that fast. Tsuna glared at him with all the hate he could muster. 

“I won’t make a contract with you,” he hissed. “So just leave.”

Reborn raised a gun and pointed it at Tsuna’s forehead, making him flinch. His lips twisted in a cruel smile. “I never take no for an answer.” 

Before he could pull the trigger, a rush of cars suddenly drove into the clearing, tires screeching. Timoteo was already out before his car even stopped, and he looked absolutely furious. Tsuna didn’t want to admit that he was a bit relieved at the interruption. 

Reborn!” Timoteo said, marching towards them. “What are you doing? Put that away at once!” 

Tsuna released a sigh of relief he didn’t even know he was holding. He gave one more glare at Reborn, whose hold on his gun faltered just slightly, and ran towards Mukuro. The demon was already standing before he got there, dusting off his long jacket. A trickle of blood dripped from the corner of his mouth.

“Mukuro,” Tsuna said, maintaining a safe distance, “are you alright?” 

Mukuro chuckled. “I’m alive, Tsunayoshi.” 

“I underestimated him.” 

That was the closest thing Mukuro would get as an apology, but it didn’t draw the reaction Tsuna expected. Mukuro was suddenly close, too close, and grabbed Tsuna before he could step back. His grip was bruising on his arm, almost breaking bones, and Tsuna could feel his gloves’ leather burn through his shirt. 

He winced. “Muku—”

“Your soul is mine, Tsunayoshi,” Mukuro said, his eyes flashing red. “That is something I am not willing to share.” 

Tsuna scowled. He wasn’t in the mood for sentimentalities. “Yes, we established that years ago.” 

Then, just like that, the tension left Mukuro’s body, which Tsuna didn’t even realize. Mukuro’s lips curved into a pleasant smile again. Tsuna found himself a little relieved at that. He didn’t think he’d be able to handle a moody Mukuro. 

“Here.” 

Mukuro took out his eyepatch from his pocket and tied it around Tsuna’s contract eye. Tsuna reached up to gently wipe the blood away from Mukuro’s mouth in return. His lips pursed in distaste but he could do that much.

Mukuro’s smile just became a little sharper. “Oya, how kind.”

Tsuna scoffed. “Don’t push it.”

Turning, Tsuna marched back to Timoteo, who scolded Reborn in intense Italian. The demon wasn’t even paying attention to what he was saying—his eyes were still on Tsuna. Mukuro followed him from behind, gaining Reborn’s sharp attention. Whatever pissing contest they were having didn’t matter to Tsuna. He just wanted some damn answers.

“I apologize, Tsunayoshi-kun,” the elderly man said, reverting back to Japanese when he noticed him. 

The sincerity in his voice did nothing to sway Tsuna. “I don’t understand, Nono-san,” he said with suppressed fury, which wasn’t that far off from what he was actually feeling. “Why did he follow me home? Did you send him after me? Was this a test for my capabilities? Because let me remind you, I only made a contract today. Or were you just trying to kill me?” 

Paling, Timoteo raised his hands to placate the fuming brunet. Tsuna didn’t know whether to be disgusted or insulted at that. Probably insulted because what a load of bullshit. 

“Tsunayoshi-kun, I swear on my life that I never sent Reborn after you. I was unaware that he followed you until I sensed him briefly, which led me here.” 

“Then I suggest you keep him on a tighter leash,” Tsuna hissed. “I don’t want to see him ever again.” 

He barely blinked when Mukuro shoved him behind and intercepted Reborn’s gun with his trident. It took every nerve in Tsuna’s body not to flinch or run. 

Timoteo’s jaw clenched, his eyes trained on Reborn intensely. “Reborn, we’re leaving.” 

Reborn kept his eyes trained on Tsuna, the unholy glint in those dark pools never fading. If anything, it seemed to take a life of its own, burning and glowing brighter. Tsuna then noticed flecks of yellow in Reborn’s eyes—the demon had the Solis affinity. 

“I hope we never meet again, Reborn,” Tsuna said. “Good afternoon, Nono-san.” 

“I apologize for this inappropriate plea, Tsunayoshi-kun, but I hope that this doesn’t dissuade you from your decision.” 

“We’ll see.” 

With that, Tsuna turned and walked away. It was probably dangerous for him to show his back to Reborn and Timoteo—especially Reborn—but he could care less. He soon heard the cars leaving behind him, the soft rumbling of engines slowly vanishing from the clearing. 

“Do you have some tea left from your little tea party?” Tsuna said tightly. 

Mukuro smiled. “Well, I wouldn’t mind making more.” 

“Let’s hope that you can at least achieve that much today.” 

Mukuro didn’t even sound offended. “You wound me, Tsunayoshi.”

“I’m glad,” was Tsuna’s dry response.


As soon as he entered his home, Tsuna checked the anti-demon seals that his mother had created years ago. He himself had studied her detailed notes on the art to maintain them. It was also quite fun seeing Mukuro unable to get close without burning the first time around (until the demon simply walked through the barriers without much problem and woke him up quite unceremoniously by offering some chocolate waffles, which Tsuna threw away immediately). 

Finding nothing wrong, Tsuna paused when he read the inscriptions of those acceptable to pass through: Lal Mirch, Basil, Turmeric, Oregano, Mukuro. He found himself missing the first four and annoyed at the last one. He still didn’t know how Mukuro entered the barriers and the demon never said anything about it. Sighing, Tsuna jumped when a cup of tea appeared under his nose.

Mukuro chuckled. “Something wrong, Tsunayoshi? I thought you liked chrysanthemum tea.” 

“I hope it’s real,” Tsuna said, studying the warm yellow liquid, “and not poisoned.” 

Mukuro gave him a small mock-gasp. “Oh, why didn’t I think of that?” 

“Which one?” 

The demon tapped his chin in lieu of looking contemplative. “Which is the best to answer, I wonder?”

Tsuna rolled his eyes. “You’re being more ridiculous than usual. Bitter?” He pursed his lips. “Anyways, sit. We need to talk.” 

Mukuro chuckled but sat down nonetheless. He slung a long arm around the next chair and crossed his legs, the perfect picture of relaxed grace. Tsuna didn’t stray his gaze from the other demon, his one eye narrowing ever so slightly.

“Who was he?” he said. “How do you know him?” 

“Throwing around pronouns like that is meaningless, Tsunayoshi. To whom are you referring to?”

Tsuna wished looks could kill, then he’d be able to reduce the idiotic population by millions, including demons. His fingers twitched on the table, and he considered throwing his cup at Mukuro’s face, but he settled on a withering sigh. 

“You know who I’m talking about. I’m not in the mood for your games. Tell me before I order you to.” 

Mukuro conjured a little ring in his hand and twirled it aimlessly with his long, gloved fingers. “Well, I can if you’d elaborate on who this ‘he’ is.” 

Tsuna’s brow twitched. He really didn’t want to say the other demon’s name. It was like burning his own tongue. Before he could open his mouth, the command just dancing on the edge of his lips, Mukuro placed the ring on the table and slid it next to Tsuna’s cup. He blinked. 

“What is this?” he said, unable to keep the skepticism from his tone. 

Mukuro chuckled. “It’s a ring. Surely you know that much.”

Tsuna pursed his lips. “Yes, but what is i—why are you giving it to me?” 

“The demon that followed you was Renato,” Mukuro said. “Well, I suppose he took up the name ‘Reborn’ now. How tacky. Don’t you think Renato is a lovely name already, Tsunayoshi?” 

Tsuna filed away whatever Mukuro said in his mind, but always with a grain of salt. Sometimes the demon made no sense and he had spent days thinking about whether or not they were true before coming up with nothing. He guessed he could just order Mukuro to tell him the truth, but a small part of him liked the little mind games the demon employed in their conversations. No matter how much it annoyed Tsuna, it kept his mind occupied he supposed, and how sad was that? 

“What is your relationship?” 

Mukuro smiled and Tsuna didn’t know what to make of the gleam in his eyes. “Oya, jealous?” 

“No. I don’t care what relationship you have with him. Just answer the question.” 

Mukuro chuckled. “Well, I can assure you that it’s nothing that you were thinking of. Renato might be easy on the eyes, but he’s quite dreadful when you get to know him.” 

“You seem like you talk from experience.” 

Mukuro’s smile became a tad sharper. “Oh, but of course. I suppose you could say we go a long way back, millenniums in fact.” 

Tsuna perked up. This was the first time Mukuro ever gave a hint to how old he really was. Tsuna frowned a bit though. Then again, it could also be a fluke. 

“How much do you know about him?”

Mukuro didn’t even blink. Tsuna could tell there was some history between the two demons since Reborn referred to Mukuro as “filth”. Although, maybe Reborn referred to all demons as filth, but how would Tsuna know? He could barely decipher the other demon’s motives other than wanting his soul, and Tsuna only met him today. Not much was really given to him to work with and he didn’t like it. 

“Well, what would you like to know?” 

“If I ask you how you know him, will you give me a proper answer?” 

Mukuro twirled a strand of his hair loosely. “That depends on what you’d like to know.” 

“I expected as much.” Tsuna’s right eye burned as the order danced on the tip of his tongue. “But I’m not in the mood for your games right now, so I’m going to have to order you to tell me what you can about Reborn.” 

Mukuro’s smile didn’t waver at the slightest. “Reborn, but not Renato?”

Tsuna just gave him a blank look, making the demon raise his hands in mock-surrender and lean back against his chair. “Alright. Do you remember anything about the history of demons from your classes, Tsunayoshi?” 

Tsuna’s brow quirked up. “The history? As in the creation of Hell?” 

Mukuro chuckled. “Well, I suppose.” He hummed to himself. “Perhaps I worded it incorrectly.”

“Why can’t you just tell me?” 

It was times like these when Tsuna wondered if their soul contract even worked at all. It was the strongest contract a human could make with a demon, and it commanded absolute obedience from the latter until the deal was completed. The soul was just the end prize and what made it so potent. Tsuna didn’t think too much about its worth, not when his revenge was in the works; however, it irritated him to no end at how slippery Mukuro could be when it came to the commands. He supposed it was better than having a tactless demon, but it still drove Tsuna crazy every time Mukuro found a loophole, if that was even possible. 

“Oh, but it’s all related to what you just asked me, Tsunayoshi. Then tell me, do you know about the Seven Princes of Hell? You’ll know them more commonly as the Seven Deadly Sins.”

Tsuna blinked, his mind reeling as it hauled up his teachers’ lectures and what he had read. His knowledge was not as extensive as Mukuro’s, but he did take some interest in the demon hierarchy and classification systems. Though he wasn’t much of a fighter, that didn’t mean he’d rush blindly into battle. 

“Yes, they’re the strongest demons in Hell, top of the food chain.” Tsuna’s brows furrowed. “And…Reborn is one of them.” 

Mukuro smiled. “How smart you are.” The compliment would’ve sounded better if it wasn’t so mocking, as if Tsuna was a dog. “Yes, Renato is one of the seven, the most powerful of them in fact. He is more well-known as Superbia.” 

“Pride,” Tsuna muttered. “I’m not surprised. He also has the Solis affinity, I presume?”

“And what gave that away?” 

It was a blasé question but Tsuna didn’t waste time in answering. It was more for his sake than Mukuro’s, to reassure himself he had some cards in a game he never knew he was even playing. “His eyes. I saw some yellow in them. He also healed much faster than the average demon—actually, even more than most Solis affinities.” 

Mukuro’s lips curved into a thin smile. “Yes.” 

“But why is he here?” Tsuna said. “From what I remember, the Sins rarely get themselves involved in human affairs.” His eyes narrowed. “The fact that he’s with Nono is also concerning. How could Vongola gain such a powerful demon by their side and what for?”

Mukuro chuckled. “The more important question should be why he went after you.” 

“You know what he wanted, and it wasn’t the most persuasive offer either. It was pathetic actually.” Tsuna looked up to gauge Mukuro’s reaction, which remained composed. “I don’t know whether to be terrified or insulted.” 

Mukuro flashed some teeth then. “You seem to always prove me wrong, Tsunayoshi. Any person in their right mind would be terrified and happy to create any kind of contract with a Sin, especially when it’s being directly offered. It is almost impossible to summon one. They’re quite the picky bunch.” 

“Insulted it is then,” Tsuna deadpanned. “What do you take me for, Mukuro? I’m not interested in creating another contract and not a soul contract. I would’ve done that long ago.” He leaned his chin onto his fist, his gaze never leaving Mukuro’s face. “Is that even possible? Would my soul be divided? Can a soul be divided? Anyways, you’re already enough. I’m not interested in getting rid of you any time soon.” 

“You’re awfully sentimental today, Tsunayoshi.” 

Tsuna pursed his lips. “Either way, what still bothers me is that Reborn’s with Vongola now. I’m not too surprised that they managed to get a Sin on their hands, but it’s still something we should look into. The timing’s awfully suspicious. What more do you know about him? He seems to be proficient with guns, but that’s not enough for me to assess his abilities properly.” 

Mukuro conjured a gun in his own hand and aimed it at Tsuna’s head, making him tense. 

“What are you doing, Mukuro?” Tsuna said, slowly edging away from the table. 

“I am simply providing a demonstration,” the demon said with a small smile. “Aren’t most humans’ visual learners, after all?”

“That isn’t necessary. Put it away before I order you to shoot yourself instead.” 

Mukuro shrugged, the gun vanishing from his hands in a wisp of smoke. “Alright then.” Tsuna glared at him, which did nothing to deter his speech. “You saw for yourself how he fought, Tsunayoshi. Why not share some of your thoughts?” 

“Yes, for ten minutes while you were running away. The only thing I could gather is that he’s much more powerful than you.” 

Mukuro’s smile became thinner. “How keen. But he seems that way because of his affinity. Renato is as cunning as he is powerful. He is able to wield his element much more proficiently than most demons. Even without it, he’d still be powerful.” Laying a hand on the table, Mukuro created a small shower of light that burst like fireworks. “I’m surprised he followed you all the way here—Well, I suppose he’s more direct when it comes to something he wants. I’m sure you know some contract with Timoteo won’t hold him back from hunting you again. Once Renato wants something, he won’t stop—he is chaos personified after all.”

Tsuna frowned. He had hoped that Timoteo could keep a better eye on Reborn going forward, but that was wishful thinking on his part. He wasn’t even sure why he thought that in the first place when he saw first-hand how unrelenting Reborn was. Plus, the standard contract with a demon did not demand absolute obedience; it was more like a truce, and it was up to the two parties how they would go about it. 

The sparks of light danced precariously on Mukuro’s fingertips, as if they were taking a life of their own. “And you’ll prove to be quite the prey, Tsunayoshi. Renato will take your blatant refusal personally.” He chuckled. “I suppose you could say that it took a hit to his pride.” 

The joke was lost to Tsuna, but he didn’t care. “I’m not going to stay at home forever. He’s just another obstacle, but I think we can pull through. Do you know how Timoteo managed to get him in the first place and why?” 

Mukuro closed his hand into a fist, extinguishing the lights. “That will require some digging. It’s a rather new development that even I am curious about.” 

Tsuna suppressed a sigh. “I want you to look into it.” He narrowed his eye. “You don’t happen to know anything about Enrico’s death also, do you?” 

“I do now.” 

“If you’re behind any of this, I won’t hesitate in terminating our contract.” 

Mukuro suddenly towered over him before Tsuna could blink. His back pressed against his chair when Mukuro leaned down closer to his face, the glint in his eyes making them much darker than they seemed. 

“Oya, are you doubting me, Tsunayoshi, after all I’ve done for you?” 

Tsuna didn’t know how he managed to speak. “Yes, because something always seems to happen whenever you come back with intel. Can you blame me for being suspicious?” 

Mukuro’s lips curved into a slight smile, teetering on the borderline between pleasantry and danger. Tsuna recoiled but Mukuro gripped his shirt and pulled him up closer. He didn’t understand why the other was so uptight all of a sudden, but he could faintly feel the demon’s rumbling power seep through the man’s body. 

“And did anything happen once to obstruct your little plan, Tsunayoshi? From the ways thing are now, I think you should be more appreciative. Granted, I may be slyer than most and much cleverer than you are, but I never lied to you nor did I intentionally deceive you into thinking that I was never obedient.” Tsuna couldn’t speak. He could only stare at Mukuro with a wide eye. “I do not care about what you may think of me—human minds are oh-so fragile after all—but I will ask to keep it to yourself. I have already relinquished my freedom to be chained to your side like a good little pet. What more is there that you want from me?”

Tsuna’s heart pounded against his chest and he was sure Mukuro could hear it without trying. Still, his stupid mouth spoke without him thinking. “Your loyalty…” 

Mukuro pulled him even closer, their lips almost touching. A small shiver crawled up Tsuna’s spine, and he could feel his throat constricting from the suffocating air. “That is certainly up for question. What a pity, Tsunayoshi. And here I was thinking you were actually being keen for once, but really, you’re only proving to be a foolish little boy.” 

Gritting his teeth, Tsuna reached up to grab Mukuro’s hand; the demon’s glove was cool against his clammy skin. His eye burned when he uttered his command. “Unhand me.”

To Tsuna’s small relief, Mukuro released him, dropping him to the ground. Tsuna glared, but tensed when the demon conjured a gun in his hand and pointed it at his forehead. 

“Wh—” 

Mukuro smiled thinly. “A word of advice, Tsunayoshi. Never”—he turned the safety off, the small click making Tsuna flinch—“get in line of Renato’s fire.” 

Tsuna’s breath hitched when Mukuro pulled the trigger. He closed his eye, bracing himself for the hit, but only heard an ear-shattering crack. Tense, Tsuna couldn’t find the words to speak when Mukuro picked up his ring from the table and eyed it under the light. The gun didn’t disappear from his hand.

“Another thing, Tsunayoshi,” he said, yanking Tsuna up on his feet. He grabbed his hand before Tsuna could pull away. “I never and do not intend to share what belongs to me.”

Mukuro slipped the violet band into Tsuna’s left ring finger, ignoring his protests. The cool metal burned his skin. When Mukuro let him go, Tsuna tried yanking the ring off but it didn’t budge. There were some inscriptions written on the metal that he couldn’t read. He gaped at the demon. “What is this?” he said, tugging the ring again. “What did you do?” 

A sudden glow on the wall caught his eye. The hexagonal rune signaled that there were people approaching the gates—and they had demons with them. Tsuna clicked his tongue before standing up and roughly adjusting his school uniform. He could feel his heart racing against his chest and blood pounding in his ears. 

Abandoning all reason, he marched to the front door and reached for the doorknob until a hand tugged him away. He instantly pulled against the iron hold but couldn’t budge. 

“I advise caution, Tsunayoshi,” Mukuro said in that insufferably calm tone of his. 

“Let me go,” Tsuna hissed. 

The doorbell suddenly rang, the muted tune making him tense. How…?

“Humans are still allowed on the premises.”

Mukuro’s nonchalant comment didn’t quell Tsuna’s nerves. Surprisingly, the demon finally released him before Tsuna reached for the door, only hesitating when his hand touched the handle. It shook underneath his grip until he realized that it was his own trembling hand. 

The doorbell rang again. 

“Do you require assistance?” Mukuro said lightly. 

Somehow straightening himself, Tsuna looked back at the demon with a cold eye. “No.” 

Opening the door, Tsuna lightly sighed when the rush of the afternoon air brushed his cheeks. He blinked when he saw two suited men standing on his doorsteps. Their car was parked right outside the gates. One of the men gave him a friendly smile, but Tsuna just stared at him, his mouth suddenly feeling dry.

“Hey there,” the man said. “This is the Sawada Residence, right?” 

Tsuna internally winced at how weak his voice sounded. “Yes.” He glanced at the other man whose cold, gray-blue eyes weren’t trained on him, but on Mukuro standing behind him. “And…?” 

“Oh, sorry! I’m Yamamoto Takeshi and this is Hibari Kyoya, but I’m sure you already know that.” Yamamoto laughed. “Everyone knows Hibari anyways.” 

Tsuna pursed his lips. He knew who they were. They were officers from the Namimori Police Department, more specifically the Demonic Summons and Crimes Unit, a division dedicated to crimes committed by and against demons and summoners. It was broad but no one complained when it came to the unit’s ruthless efficiency, thanks to Hibari Kyoya who was ironically known as the Demon Prefect of Namimori. 

Tsuna had some sense as to why they were here, but that didn’t mean they were welcomed. “Yes, but may I ask why you are here?” 

Yamamoto’s grin didn’t waver. “We just wanted to ask about the power spike earlier. We tracked it down to somewhere nearby and were wondering if you happen to know about it. Those felt like pretty strong demons so we just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Tsuna resisted the urge to scoff. “Pretty strong demons” was a vast understatement. “Thank you for your concern,” he said politely, “but I’m fine.” 

“That’s great! Do you happen to know about it though?” 

Quirking a brow, Tsuna wondered if this man was just really dense or really persistent. “I—” 

“Don’t lie to us, herbivore,” Hibari said, finally directing his sharp gaze at him.

Tsuna took on a slightly offended tone. “I wasn’t going to lie, Hibari-san.”

Smiling kindly, he opened the door a little more, the gears in his mind turning rapidly. The men were none the wiser. “I was just about to invite you inside. Would you like some tea?”

Chapter Text

“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” – Saint Augustine


“Do you have any preference, officers?” Tsuna said, busying himself with the tea basket. “I have sencha, chrysanthemum, kukicha, and”—he wrinkled his nose—“Assam.” What? He thought he threw it all out. 

Yamamoto laughed good-naturedly from the long dining table. Tsuna glanced at him from the corner of his eye and pursed his lips when he noticed the man’s Contract Mark on the back of his hand. He only got a glimpse of some thin black lines that looked like tree branches before Yamamoto raised that hand. “I’m good!” the man said. “Thanks, Tsuna! Can I call you Tsuna?” 

“No” stood at the tip of Tsuna’s tongue but he managed to say, “Of course. Sawada-san would be too awkward. You can call me Tsuna. Hibari-san, would you like tea?” 

Hibari didn’t give him any sense of acknowledgement. His eyes were solely focused on Mukuro who was leaning his hip against the kitchen counter. With his brow slightly twitching, Tsuna just set on making sencha tea. He had heard about Hibari’s…silent attitude but seeing it up close was terribly irking.

Yamamoto seemed to catch onto the awkwardness rather quickly despite looking like a dunce. “You have a really nice house, Tsuna,” he said. “It’s pretty big.”

“Thank you,” Tsuna said as pleasantly as he could.

He tried hard to ignore Mukuro’s huff of laughter beside him. The demon’s hot breath ghosted his cheek, making Tsuna’s fingers slightly twitch from the unexpected sensation. Instead of drawing attention to themselves by scowling at Mukuro, Tsuna glared at the violet ring on his hand. He wished looks could kill and burn. 

“You live pretty far from town,” Yamamoto said when Tsuna approached the table with a tray of tea. 

“I’m glad you noticed,” Tsuna said, setting a cup down for Hibari. 

“Doesn’t it get lonely? You’re still young a—” 

“I prefer being alone.” 

Yamamoto smiled ruefully. “Ah, yeah, I’m sorry for pushing.” He rubbed the back of his head. “Guess I’m still somehow in investigator mode.”

Tsuna kept a cool face. “It’s no problem. I get that all the time.” 

He raised a brow when Mukuro pulled his chair out for him. A bout of awkward silence passed between them despite Mukuro’s cordial smile. Reluctantly, he sat down and tensed a bit when Mukuro gently pushed his chair in. He stirred his cup of tea to distract himself. “So, Yamamoto-san,” he said, “you wanted to talk about…?” 

Yamamoto straightened himself though his breezy smile remained on his face. Tsuna just noticed the small scar over his chin. “Yes!” the detective said. “Our department picked up on some pretty strong power spike earlier. We tracked it down here and were wondering if you knew or saw what happened.” 

Tsuna feigned a nervous tick by rubbing his fingers together in plain sight, not missing the way Yamamoto glanced at his hand. It was better to pose as a helpless kid in front of people like him. “Something did happen,” Tsuna said, slowly. “I don’t know if I can talk about it…” 

Yamamoto nodded sympathetically. “It’s okay, Tsuna. Take your time. I’ll help you walk the process.” 

Tsuna smiled faintly to show a sign of gratefulness. “I took the summoning rites at school today,” he said, looking down at his cup. “We all did; but something was…off. Vongola Nono came to watch us. I’m not sure why but I didn’t think too much about it. I didn’t want to get distracted.” 

Yamamoto smiled. “I understand. It’s best to keep your head in the game when you’re summoning. You did good there, Tsuna.” 

It was a little odd that Yamamoto barely showed much reaction to Timoteo’s presence. Although Vongola was one of the most powerful hunter organizations in the world, it’s prestige didn’t warrant them special attention, especially when it came to Namimori. If one couldn’t get past the infamous Hibari Clan, who had been hunting demons for centuries and staked their claim over the small town, they would have to look elsewhere. Tsuna didn’t remember them being on any good terms with Vongola so…how was Nono able to gain access here? Did he use Tsuna’s parents’ names? Just thinking about it had Tsuna’s blood boiling. 

He mentally shook his head. This wasn’t the time to lash out, not when he had company. “There was someone with Nono,” Tsuna continued. “I couldn’t tell if he was a demon or not but he seemed…off.”

Yamamoto perked up then, his eyes taking on a much more serious gleam. “Someone with Nono?” 

“Yes. We had a fairly…rough meeting later when I was heading back home. He jumped me out of nowhere.” Tsuna omitted the part of meeting Nono. He had to be careful with what he was saying. Even if Yamamoto wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box, he didn’t know much about Hibari, who had been silent during the whole conversation. “I don’t know if I could’ve survived if I hadn’t summoned Mukuro.” 

Yamamoto furrowed his brows, the first sign of anything but joviality. “Did he say why he attacked you?”

Tsuna pursed his lips. “Demons don’t explain themselves even in the most precarious situations, Yamamoto-san. That demon was no different. I don’t know why he attacked me. If you’d like, please take it up with Nono. I’m sure he’d give you an answer.” 

Yamamoto laughed to ease the tension. “You’re right! They wouldn’t. Your familiar must be pretty strong then!” 

Calling Mukuro a familiar was too much of a compliment, even if it was just a watered-down version of “demon”. The connotation was much more…intimate. Yamamoto must be one of those people who saw demons as equals or something along the line. A contract was a contract though, and demons had the short end of the stick. How could they be considered equals? 

“He’s acceptable,” Tsuna said mildly. “The scale was more tipped in the other demon’s favor if Nono hadn’t come.” 

Mukuro, who’d stayed eerily quiet, posing as the oh-so obedient demon, exhaled softly behind him. Whether it was from amusement or annoyance, Tsuna didn’t know. 

Hibari slightly narrowed his eyes then, the first reaction Tsuna had seen from the detective. “Was the demon the carnivore?” 

“The…the what?” Tsuna said, blinking. 

Yamamoto grinned reassuringly. “Hibari sometimes speaks in very vague terms. It can be hard for a lot of people to catch onto what he’s saying. The familiar you saw with Nono—did he happen to wear a really nice suit and hat?” 

“He was fashionable, yes,” Tsuna deadpanned. “Why? Do you know him?” 

Yamamoto rubbed his chin, drawing Tsuna’s gaze to his scar again. He wondered if it was from battle or something else. Maybe his demon lashing out at him in some way. They could easily take advantage of someone like Yamamoto. “That’s weird,” he said to no one in particular. 

“Herbivore,” Hibari said, “don’t speak.” 

Yamamoto grinned sheepishly. “Ah, right.” He turned to Tsuna with friendly eyes. “It seems like you have a strong familiar with you. We would’ve been working on some other paperwork if he wasn’t there. Maa, you’re pretty lucky that today was your summoning rites!” 

Tsuna really wanted the detectives to leave at this point. He was getting nowhere, they were getting nowhere—all he wanted was to see was if the detectives could provide as a distraction for Reborn and Nono for some time. For a moment, he had even thought that they could’ve been allies but they weren’t proving to be useful. Suppressing a sigh, Tsuna forced on another smile.

“I suppose,” he said. “Is there anything else you need?” 

Yamamoto shook his head. “I think we’re good. You were a great help, Tsuna! Thanks.” 

Tsuna blinked. “That’s it?”

“Yup! We can take care of things from here.” 

“Really…?” 

That was one of the most…anti-climactic interrogations Tsuna had ever been in. Either he was seriously overthinking this or overestimating the detectives. He made a mental note to have Mukuro dig in their histories later. 

“I see…” Tsuna said, unsure of what to say. 

Yamamoto’s grin was still in place. “Thanks again, Tsuna! You helped a lot.”

Tsuna couldn’t help but look a little skeptical. “Right. You’re welcome.” 

“Ah, if you don’t mind me asking, do you know if you’re going to become a Dominus?” 

Tsuna quirked a brow. Dominus was Latin for “master” and the basic prerequisite to becoming an Exorcist. Most students in summoning schools go on to become one with some choosing to return to civilian society at the expense of giving up their summoning rights and knowledge. No one could risk them straying off the conventional path or sharing the existence of the underworld with the public. 

“I am,” Tsuna said. “I don’t know which one yet.” 

Yamamoto smiled. “You have nothing to worry about. You’re still in school. You have time to think it over.” He winked. “Although, it’d be nice to have some extra help in the DSCU. With a familiar like him, you could be a powerful Hunter.” 

Hunter was a category of Dominus summoners who were able to fight alongside their demons against any supernatural threats. They were usually detectives or soldiers where anti-demon weapons could be used. Tsuna’s father had been a Hunter in Vongola until he married his mother, who had been a Weaver, someone who studied magic. There were different specialties for each Dominus category that grew longer with each century from rapidly-evolving technology and knowledge. The gist was that humans shouldn’t be underestimated. 

“It’s tempting,” Tsuna said dryly, “but after meeting him, I’m reconsidering. I might become a Priest instead.” 

Priests were a sub-category of Weavers. By using holy scriptures and the Bible, they could expel and fend off demons with powerful spells. They were mostly family-orientated but summoners who were interested in pursuing them were allowed to join as well. The catch was that they could not have a demon contract since it was seen as “unpurifying”. Students who wanted to become Priests had to go through a ceremony to get rid of the “evil remnants” of their first demon summon, which was just a way to ensure a student’s capabilities of becoming an Exorcist. 

“Oya,” Mukuro said, drawing the detectives’ attention immediately, “was my first impression that terrible, young master?” 

Tsuna’s brow slightly twitched at the embarrassing title. “Very.” 

He could sense the demon smile without looking at him. “I’ll do my best then to ensure I stay by your side,” Mukuro said. 

“Feelings are one-sided then.” Tsuna sipped his tea, noticing that Hibari had already drunk half of his own cup. 

Yamamoto laughed. “You two seem to be on good terms already! That’s great.” 

Tsuna resisted the strong urge to just sigh right then and there. “Is there anything else you need, Yamamoto-san?” 

“Nope! I think we’re good. Right, Hibari?” 

The other detective just left the dining room and headed for the front door without a word. Tsuna’s vein nearly popped if he hadn’t had so much restraint. Mukuro’s breathy chuckle behind him was just pushing it. By the time they reached the entrance, Hibari had already left for the car. 

“Thanks for the help, Tsuna!” Yamamoto said, slipping on his shoes. “We really appreciate it!”

Tsuna forced on another smile. “Of course, Yamamoto-san. I hope it was enough.” 

“It was! Ah.” Yamamoto dug for something inside his suit jacket before procuring a small white card. He handed it to Tsuna, grinning. “This is my card! If there’s anything you need, you can always reach out to me.” 

Tsuna seriously wasn’t sure if Yamamoto was actually being nice or if this was just another pity handout. Still, he took the card with a slight smile. “Thank you, Yamamoto-san.” 

He didn’t return in the house until the detectives’ car was out of sight in the distance. His smile immediately fell as he slammed the door shut. 

Mukuro hadn’t moved from his spot by the stairwell and his own smile hadn’t waned in the slightest. “Why the long face, Tsunayoshi?” he said, following the brunet back to the dining room. “I believe your mother liked that you were making friends.” 

Tsuna turned around so quickly, he bumped into Mukuro’s chest. Despite his nose burning from the sudden impact, Tsuna continued to glare at the demon. The bastard didn’t even budge. “Don’t mention my mother again,” Tsuna said lowly. “Ever.” 

Mukuro merely raised his hands in surrender, though his eyes shone in amusement. “Of course. I apologize.” 

Without giving him a response, Tsuna made his way back to the dining table. He picked up the cups and dumped them in the sink. His hands tingled from the cold water when he turned on the faucet, until it warmed up. No matter what he did, the ring wouldn’t come off. He clicked his tongue, returning the clean cups in the pantry. 

“You won’t eat?” Mukuro said, leaning against the fridge. 

“I’m not hungry,” Tsuna said. 

“It’s not good to miss a meal, Tsunayoshi.” 

Tsuna raised his left hand. The ring gleamed prettily under the lights. “What is this, Mukuro?” he hissed. 

Mukuro smiled. “It’s a ring, Tsunayoshi.” 

“Don’t try to be clever. What is this? Why did you put it on me?” 

“I’m never fond of repeating myself.” 

Tsuna’s right eye burned. “It’s an order. Tell me what this is.”

Mukuro sighed dramatically, tucking a strand of hair behind his ear. Tsuna was very tempted to have him rip his own hands off. “It’s a charm,” Mukuro said, as if he was talking about the weather. “Just something I created for your safety and protection, particularly against, well, You-Know-Who.” 

“Renato,” Tsuna said, narrowing his eyes. “Just say his name.”

Mukuro’s smile sharpened a tad. Tsuna couldn’t read the emotion in his eyes but it didn’t look good. He jumped when a small shudder crawled up his spine; something had tried to reach out to him but it disappeared as quickly as it came, like fingertips barely brushed against his cheek. 

“Yes,” Mukuro said. “How bold of you speak his name, his true name. I suppose it’s part of your appeal, but I suggest not to say it in front of him. Who knows how much farther his ego can be stretched; even I’m not privy in finding out.”

Tsuna sighed deeply, nearly sagging against the kitchen counter. “You know what, I’m just—We’re going to talk in the morning.” 

Mukuro chuckled. “This is possibly the only time I get to see you so flustered, Tsunayoshi. I wouldn’t mind seeing it some more.”

“Keep your mouth shut before I actually consider Renato’s offer.” 

Again, the cold sensation rippled through him and vanished almost immediately. Tsuna’s knuckles turned white from gripping the counter too hard. He couldn’t help but flinch when something cool and smooth suddenly gripped his chin. His breath hitched when Mukuro forced him to look up, meeting his gaze. 

“If I could,” Mukuro said in a hushed tone, “I would sew your pretty lips so I wouldn’t have to hear you speak his name.” 

Tsuna widened his eyes. He had a feeling that Mukuro was actually being serious for once despite his smile, which seemed colder. “W—What are you doing, Mukuro?” Tsuna said, cursing at his stutter. “Let me go.” 

“I don’t ask for much, Tsunayoshi,” Mukuro said, his grip still firm. “Promise me that you won’t take off the ring, hm?” 

Tsuna’s mind just blanked. He wasn’t even sure if he was still in the kitchen or somewhere else. His palms felt clammy. Sweat dripped down the nape of his neck. His school tie felt too tight. It was almost impossible to breathe. He swallowed a small lump in his throat. “Alright,” he said. “I won’t. So just let me—let me go.” 

Mukuro’s face softened but it didn’t quell Tsuna’s nerves. His heart thumped painfully against his chest. Mukuro could hear it without any doubts. “Good,” Mukuro said. Suddenly, he leaned down to whisper in Tsuna’s ear, his hot breaths making Tsuna shiver. “And do refrain from saying his name,” he said. “Third time is a charm as they say.” 

When Mukuro let go, Tsuna stood frozen in his spot. He couldn’t move or speak until air finally entered his lungs. As if on autopilot, he turned and nearly dashed for the stairs if he didn’t have any dignity left. His feet padded softly against the wooden floors in an unsteady pace. Mukuro didn’t follow him and Tsuna didn’t look back. 

“Ah, and Tsunayoshi?” 

Tsuna tensed when Mukuro spoke up from the kitchen. His feet only rested on the fifth step on the staircase. The railing felt cold under his sweaty palm. 

“The kind officers from before—their demons were scouting the grounds while they were having a lovely chat with you. Of course, they could not get past the gates.” 

Tsuna forced his tongue to work. “Okay. Anything else?” 

A few seconds of silence passed. For a moment, Tsuna thought Mukuro just left like he usually did until the other spoke up again, “I will see what I can find on them.” 

No words left Tsuna’s lips. He just continued climbing the stairs and didn’t stop until he reached his bedroom. His hand lingered on the door handle. His soft, quick breaths were the only sounds in the darkening hallways. Outside, the sun was setting in the far distance, casting the sky in dark orange and purple colors. Finally, he pushed his door open and locked it behind him.

He shut the windows and closed the drapes. With his school clothes still on, he fell onto his bed, wrapping his blanket around him tightly. 

He hadn’t felt fear in a while.


The house was empty the next morning, but Tsuna didn’t stray away from his routine other than taking a long shower and placing his bedsheets and dirty uniform in the laundry. Vaguely making a note to do them later, he dressed in a new uniform, ate an apple, and went to school. 

No one bothered him with questions about what happened yesterday; they just stared at him and whispered to one another in the hallways. When he arrived at his classroom, a hush fell over his classmates as he walked calmly to his seat. After he sat down, the other students slowly returned to their usual vigor, chattering and laughing amongst themselves. Tsuna ignored them in favor of taking out his books. 

A shadow suddenly cast over him. He only relaxed when he smelled Kyoko’s familiar vanilla and honey scent. The girl didn’t speak for a moment, most likely trying to find the words to speak. Tsuna looked up then, which caught her by surprise. “Is there something you need, Sasagawa-san?” he said. 

Kyoko flushed. “Oh, um, I just wanted to know if—if you’re okay.” 

“I’m fine.” 

“Ah, I see.” Kyoko shifted a bit on her feet until she perked up again with a bright smile. “How is your familiar? Is he nice?” Tsuna pursed his lips. He didn’t want to think about Mukuro. Kyoko seemed to catch onto his displeasure and quickly said, “My familiar is really nice! Her name is Haru and she has the Solis affinity like me and my Onii-san!”

Right, Kyoko’s older brother, Sasagawa Ryohei, was also a detective in the DSCU. 

“That’s nice,” Tsuna said. 

“What’s your affinity, Sawada-kun? Your familiar looked really strong!” 

Tsuna’s mind blanked. Affinity—shit, he forgot to take the affinity test after his summoning rites. He had been so caught up with Timoteo’s conversation that it slipped his mind. Well, it wasn’t as if he didn’t know Mukuro’s affinity, Caligo. Affinities were supposed to be in-sync with a summoner and their demon summons. A summoner with a Pluvia affinity could not summon a demon with a Tempestas affinity. Since Mukuro’s affinity was Caligo, Tsuna assumed that he had Caligo, too. Still… 

Before he could respond, the door slid opened, signaling Nezu’s arrival. Kyoko gave Tsuna a smile before scurrying back to her seat in front of Hana, who was studying him from afar. He turned away, too fed up to even bother. His head ached and the ring on his finger just irked him even more. 

“Good morning, everyone,” Nezu said, standing at his podium and arranging some papers. “First, I want to congratulate you all for completing your rites yesterday. This is your first step into becoming an Exorcist. I expect you all to take your studies more seriously from now on because it’ll only get harder.” 

Some students groaned. Nezu raised a brow but didn’t stop them. He took ahold of some stapled papers and fixed his glasses. “After your affinity tests, we separated all of you into different classes based on the tests, your current academic standings, and the Dominus title you have in mind for those who have already selected. For those who haven’t yet, you still have until your third-year. You’ll be attending general classes instead. I’m going to hand out your new schedules with a Dominus-selection form in case. Again, you have until next year to choose. Abeno Ikuko.” 

As Nezu called up the students one-by-one, Tsuna tuned him out. He looked towards the window overlooking the school grounds. No black car rolled up, no one wandered around, nothing was out of place. It felt too odd for it to be a normal day. There were some gray clouds drifting in the sky, casting the ground with a grim shadow. Tsuna scowled when he looked down at his ring. Looking at it more closely, he noticed that the purple was more indigo, the color that represented Caligo. 

Mukuro hadn’t been present the whole day, which wasn’t unusual, but still unsettling. Tsuna couldn’t watch him and make sure he did his job right all the time. Well, that was Mukuro’s job: to obtain information that Tsuna had no access to. Tsuna knew his limits. Using the orphan card could only get him so far and in the real world, not many people were kind. 

“—da Tsunayoshi.” 

Tsuna blinked when his name was called. Straightening himself, he stood up from his seat and headed towards the front when a sharp whistle sounded from outside. No one didn’t have the time to react. Suddenly, a strong gust of wind blasted through the windows. Glass shattered and the students screamed. Desks, chairs, and bodies flew everywhere—but Tsuna didn’t feel anything. 

He had just crouched and covered his face but no wind or glass nicked his skin. He didn’t realize he had his eyes shut until he opened them. His breath hitched. His body was outlined with an indigo glow and looked transparent. When he looked around, he widened his eyes. Crudely torn body parts were strewn everywhere. Blood—so much blood. 

“Otou-san! Okaa-san!”  

Tsuna covered his mouth when sour vomit built up in his throat. It burned. He couldn’t breathe. What the hell just happened…? His ears rang loudly. His tongue wasn’t working as it should. Why? Why couldn’t he move? He had to get away. Run. His legs didn’t listen. 

A few whimpers caught his attention but they were faint. Before Tsuna could turn to check what they were, several thuds came from outside the demolished building. He flinched and the whimpers stopped immediately, too. Another faint whistling sounded from the distance. It was coming from…below? The sound of shrieking wires hurt Tsuna’s ears. A tall figure then leapt inside the classroom. 

“Is that everyone?” the young man said, his disturbing grin widening even further to reveal sharp canines. 

His blond bangs covered his eyes from view and a silver tiara glinted on the left side of his head. Red flames enveloped his bandaged hands—he had the Tempestas affinity. Tsuna flinched when the man stepped forward, kicking severed arms and heads out of the way. He cringed when bones snapped underneath the man’s boots. Blood squelched with ever step he took. 

A soft gasp came from Tsuna’s left. He turned to see a few students underneath toppled desks and chairs, their eyes wide. Kyoko and Hana were among them. The demon laughed in an odd fashion, almost as if he was hissing. “What naughty children,” he said.

Before he could take another step, a raspy voice said, “Don’t—Don’t hurt them.” 

Nezu, who had lost an arm, heaved himself from his collapsed podium, gritting his teeth from the exertion. Blood suddenly gushed everywhere—Nezu’s blood. His legs, arms, head, torso—they were sliced into pieces. Tsuna covered his mouth and scooted backwards. He gasped sharply when he realized that he had phased through fingers, guts, and desks. 

The blond demon clicked his tongue in a mocking fashion. “No interrupting when the prince is talking, sensei,” he said, brandishing some sharp knives from his long trench coat. “And now, it’s the naughty children’s turn.” 

Tsuna froze when the demon walked past him. It was as if…he couldn’t see him. The remaining students whimpered and gasped as the demon approached them, chuckling all the way. Red flames ignited around his knives. Something gleamed then under the light—wires. The demon had used steel wires that crisscrossed in the room. 

He used the wind as a distraction, Tsuna thought. After he destroyed the classroom, the wires were set up. That’s why… 

But then, where were the teacher? Why wasn’t an alarm sounded? And how the hell did this demon get through the school’s barrier? Unless, there was someone on the inside who was helping him. But who? There were too many questions and not enough answers. 

The demon kicked the desks away, making the students shriek. Tsuna had to give it to Hana though. With narrowed eyes, she shielded Kyoko from view despite her broken leg. “Don’t come any closer,” she said tightly. 

The demon cocked his head. “Oh?” 

“Hana-chan,” Kyoko squeaked, her eyes wide. 

The other students froze when the demon suddenly gripped Hana’s hair and pulled her towards one of his knives. No, no more deaths. Tsuna couldn’t take it anymore. His body moved on its own accord. “No!” he said, dashing to the demon. 

He gasped when he just ran through the demon’s arm and the myriad of wires that covered the room. He looked over his shoulder when shrieks broke through the air. 

“Hana-chan!” 

The demon sickening grin nearly split his face, revealing even more fanged teeth that looked more like needles. He twisted his knife in Hana’s guts, making her scream louder. “I don’t take orders from peasants,” the demon said. 

Tsuna hated this. He hated feeling weak, being useless. Again, this was happening again. 

“Say good night to your mother, little one.”

“Tsuna, ru—”

“Mukuro!” 

The demon was unexpectedly launched into the air with a grunt. He fell out the classroom’s gaping hole, bringing all the wires with him. They shimmered under the light, wriggling like worms.

“Oya, what a mess.”

Mukuro appeared then like a ghost with his trident in hand. Tsuna flinched when the scent of hot flesh and blood assaulted his nose before it was replaced with cherry blossoms, courtesy to Mukuro. The brunet didn’t even realize that the other had his hand on his shoulder until he spoke again, “My name sounds fitting on your tongue, Tsunayoshi.”

Tsuna scowled at him weakly. “T—This isn’t the time to be funny.” 

“Hana-chan! Hana-chan!” 

He immediately turned to see Kyoko cradling Hana in her arms. The girl looked close to death. Her skin was pale and blood soaked through her uniform. Another student, Masahiro, struggled with his jacket before placing it over Hana’s stomach to staunch the bleeding. “W—We need sensei,” he said, his eyes wide. “We need help.” 

“Sensei’s dead!” Kaori screamed, covering her ears. “They’re all dead!” 

“Hana-chan, can you hear me?” Kyoko said, tears streaming down her cheeks. “Hana-chan!” 

Tsuna bit his lip. “Mukuro, do something. Help her.”

Mukuro raised a brow. “Feeling sentimental today, are we, Tsunayoshi?” 

“I’m not repeating myself.” 

Mukuro hummed to himself but headed towards the other students anyways. Tsuna gripped his pants tightly hearing the blood squelch underneath Mukuro’s boots. The demon crouched down to place a hand on Hana’s hand. She immediately fell unconscious. 

Kyoko gasped. “W—What did you do?” 

The other students flinched when Mukuro smiled pleasantly at them. “No need to fret, dear,” he said, uncharacteristically gentle. “I simply put her to sleep and eased the pain.” 

Kyoko stared at him in near awe. “Are you—Are you a Solis?” 

Mukuro smiled grew wider. “Caligo, dear. By the way, she must get her wounds checked quickly by a medical professional. The organs I gave her will last about 24 hours.”

“W—What?”

Mukuro stood up then. The blood that smeared his knees dissipated instantly. “Tsunayoshi,” he said, “you’re in quite the predicament.” 

Tsuna brushed him off to open the door. He peeked out in the hallways. It was quiet other than the murmurings of teachers in the other classrooms. Before he could step out, Mukuro shut the door close.

“What are you doing?” Tsuna said, glaring at him. 

Mukuro smiled. “It’s best not to set foot in the enemy’s trap, Tsunayoshi. He isn’t alone.” 

A whistling sound came from below again. Tsuna widened his eyes when the blond demon surged upwards in the air. His knives were attached to the wires, which spread from his back like spider legs, and ignited with red flames. 

“Mukuro!” 

Mukuro had already moved before he even said his name. Leaping forward, Mukuro swiped his trident, tearing a black rift in the air, just as the wires shot forward. The rift suddenly distorted and warped back into itself, letting the wires go through. Mukuro easily flipped over them as they struck a large hole where he had stood. The ground shook underneath Tsuna’s feet, making him stumble and the students scream. Mukuro ran along the wires swiftly and struck a hand out to grip the other demon’s face. He grinned. “Sweet dreams,” he said. 

The blond demon stopped struggling, going slack. Mukuro let him fall, the wires whistling past him with no life. Tsuna let out a shaky breath. He looked down at Kyoko, who continued to clutch Hana close to her. “A—Are you okay, Sasagawa-san?” he said quietly. 

Kyoko sniffled and wiped her tears. “Y—Yes, I’m fine,” she said.

Tsuna didn’t continue any further. It took too much effort to talk and think, to move. His legs nearly gave out under him if Mukuro hadn’t appeared and steadied him. “Why—Who was he?” Tsuna said, unconsciously gripping Mukuro’s arm.

“Listen, Tsunayoshi,” Mukuro said, leaning down to his ear. “His companion is still here. I have induced the other one to deep sleep but his friend will be able to unwind it soon.”

Tsuna glanced at the classroom door. “Is there no way out?” 

“I am fighting against his reality warp at the moment but it might take some time.” 

Tsuna’s hand tightened around Mukuro’s arm. “How much longer?” 

“For the illusion, another 20 minutes. For the incapacitated one, 3 minutes.” 

“20 minutes?” 

Mukuro smiled faintly. “Let’s say that he’s quite the complicated one.” 

Tsuna sighed. He didn’t want to get into whatever complicated relationships Mukuro had. Now really wasn’t the time for that. “What about an opening?” 

Mukuro glanced at the door. “Possibly.” 

“How long?” 

“A minute.” At Tsuna’s baffled look, Mukuro merely said, “Like I said, very complicated.” 

“That’s good enough.” Tsuna turned to the students. “We don’t have much time. There’s another demon here and the other one’s going to wake up soon. Mukuro can create an escape for a minute.”

“A—A minute?” Masahiro said. “Are you crazy?”

Tsuna glared at him, making him flinch. “A minute and nothing more, Kaneko. Get up or I’ll leave you here.” 

Mukuro placed a gloved hand on the door and smiled at them. “Are we all ready?” 

Tsuna helped Kyoko pick Hana up by slinging her arm over his shoulders. When he looked down, she wasn’t bleeding. He nodded at Mukuro. The door instantly rippled like water and faded, revealing the peaceful hallways. Kaori and Masahiro immediately dashed outside with Kyoko and Tsuna following behind them. However, as soon as Tsuna stepped outside, a burning sensation suddenly flared inside his body. 

Gasping, he let go of Hana and pushed Kyoko out, stumbling back into Mukuro’s arms. “Go!” he said. 

“Sawada-kun!” Kyoko’s voice faded out instantly as the door appeared again. 

Tsuna gripped his chest. The burn intensified with each breath he took. “Mukuro,” he said, “I can’t—I can’t breathe. It’s—It’s too hot.” 

Mukuro hushed him gently. “I see,” he said. “The Varia are after you.” 

“V—Varia? But Xanxus—” 

Mukuro placed a finger against Tsuna’s lips. “Don’t speak, Tsunayoshi.” The burn soothed for a moment and Tsuna felt numb all over, as if he stayed in a tub of cold water for too long. He couldn’t move. “Xanxus must’ve found out about your existence. Although, it is surprising that he managed to contract with him. He must’ve led Xanxus here.” 

“The blond?” 

“His companion. The blond is Belphegor, a Tempestas demon, recently contracted to Xanxus.” Mukuro smiled as if Tsuna’s insides weren’t melting. “He’s not the famed Belphegor that you know.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Our three minutes are finished.” 

Mukuro jumped to the side just as a barrage of knives rained inside. Belphegor appeared immediately, landing gracefully in the classroom. His cheeks split open to reveal thousands of sharp teeth. “Peasants must be punished for assaulting the prince,” he said. 

Tsuna yelped when Mukuro turned around and shielded him from more knives. The sickening sound of metal meeting flesh and bones made Tsuna flinch. He gaped at Mukuro’s still smiling face, his breath caught in his throat. “M—Mukuro,” he said. 

“That expression is oddly fitting for you, Tsunayoshi,” Mukuro said, his voice slightly strained. “I suggest to refrain from showing it to others.”

Tsuna looked down to see that Mukuro wasn’t even bleeding. “You’re… How…?” 

Mukuro smiled almost bitterly. “I was never here to begin with, Tsunayoshi.” 

Tsuna could only stare in shock as Mukuro was tossed to the walls, rattling the cupboards and door. Steel wires shot out towards him like snakes. Tsuna instinctively fell to the ground. He cried out in shock when he met Nezu’s lifeless eyes beside him. Blood coated his uniform and hands, cold and sticky. Before he could regain his footing, Belphegor sent more knives and wires at him, only for them to phase through his head and stomach. 

Shivering, Tsuna tried hard not to think about them actually hitting their marks. Belphegor’s grin remained even when he spoke, “Your slave is persistent, peasant.” 

Tsuna mustered up a brave glare. “It’s never good to have your back turned, idiot.” 

Mukuro shot outside from the walls and kicked Belphegor away from Tsuna. However, before he could attack again, a flurry of knives quickly wrapped around his arm and pulled. Tsuna could only stare as Mukuro’s arm fell to the ground, joining the rest of the fallen limbs. Even if this Mukuro was only a clone, it was still terrifying. Where there should’ve been blood, bones, and tissues was only a gaping black hole. 

“Oya,” Mukuro said, unperturbed, “how rude.” 

Belphegor chuckled his hissing laugh. “I think it’s befitting for a slave.” 

Mukuro’s lips slightly twitched. “Your standards are crude for a prince.” 

He leapt forward, raising his trident, and clashed with a cocoon of knives and wires. A loud clang rang in the air. Tsuna scrambled to his feet. Where was Mukuro then? Fighting the other demon? But was he al—No. Tsuna wasn’t going to think about it. Mukuro was stubborn and wouldn’t die… Right?

Belphegor clicked his tongue. “Perhaps I shall rid you of your other arm.”

“No, thank you,” Mukuro said. 

Suddenly, a shudder ran through him. Tsuna’s breath hitched when Mukuro fell onto his knees. Belphegor didn’t waste any time to spear his stomach with a barrage of wires and knives. 

Mukuro!” 

Tsuna inhaled sharply when Mukuro soon faded, crumbling into nothing but ashes. A small cracking sound made him look down. He wasn’t transparent anymore and the ring was broken. He choked out a gasp when some wires wrapped around his body, encircling his limbs and neck. 

Belphegor chuckled. “You are such stubborn prey,” he said, walking closer towards him. “Troubling the prince so much so. For that, you will pay.” He leaned down closer and Tsuna swore he saw a flash of red underneath the demon’s long bangs. “Dearly.

Tsuna gritted his teeth when the wires tightened. Time—he needed some time. “You can try,” he spat. 

Belphegor laughed. “I’m going to enjoy splitting you open until there’s nothing left but your bones and disgusting flesh.”

Blood trickled down Tsuna’s neck. He had read something about a blood summoning without runes before. Never tried it though. Offer blood, chant the words, and just hope for the best. He just hoped it wasn’t Reborn by chance. 

One taboo after another, he thought bitterly. I’m useless.

“Will the prince,” Tsuna said, wheezing, “let the peasant say some last words?” 

Belphegor, the idiot, laughed in clear amusement. “Since the peasant is so obedient, I will.” 

Tsuna took a deep breath, gasping when the wires subsequently tightened even more. 

God, he thought, if you exist, please…help me

“With my offering, heed my call.” 

Please, he added. 

Tsuna felt his blood drip from his neck, plopping to the floor. It sounded too loud, ringing in his ears. A blinding pillar of fire suddenly erupted from the ground, making Belphegor shriek and Tsuna close his eyes. Red completely dominated his vision. The wires disappeared from his body—No, they were disintegrated. Small hisses reached his ears through the roar of the blinding light.

A gentle breeze then caressed Tsuna’s cheek, making him shiver. When the light died down, he found himself wrapped loosely in someone else’s arms draped over his shoulders. All he could make out were long red sleeves as his back met a strong chest. A strange fragrance wafted in his nose, smelling like ashes and dead leaves. Tsuna tensed when someone hummed behind him. 

“Causing trouble, Belphegor?” a smooth voice drawled. “I’m afraid that’s not a good excuse for disturbing my nap.”