Sawada’s group is nowhere to be seen after the entrance ceremony, which is honestly concerning to everyone who went to Namimori Middle with them. Sasagawa Kyouko is also alone after the ceremony, waiting somewhere off to the side with her phone, which is another sign that something is going to happen. Hibiki is a bit antsy by these two facts. When Sawada isn’t in his immediate sight during school hours, that usually means he’ll come running in with something or other. And when Sasagawa is alone, that means someone will try to flirt with her, and her friends have recently become very, very dangerous.
A few former Nami students watch with wide eyes the moment they see a tall, conventionally attractive boy approach Sasagawa. Hibiki glances to the side and curses his friend for taking so long. He’s not close enough to hear what the boy is saying to Sasagawa, but it’s nothing good. The smile on her face is incredibly strained. He admires her resolve in acting as sweet as possible even though it’s pretty clear she wants nothing more than to punch him in the face.
(The days that both Sasagawa siblings were in the same Boxing Club was the most terrifying couple of weeks in Namichuu athlete history. At least baseball wasn’t quite as violent, although gym class was awful for anyone who had the misfortune of playing with or against Yamamoto, and that didn’t even include when Gokudera was around)
“Kyouko-chan!” Sawada approaches from seemingly nowhere, his loyal dogs at his heels. He smiles at the boy with her, perfectly pleasant, and Hibiki feels nothing but sympathy when he sees the snapping reply. His smile fades and both Gokudera and Yamamoto scowl. Sasagawa looks less-than-pleased too. Sawada laughs sheepishly, waving off his friends as though that would do anything. The boy doesn’t seem to realize the danger he’s in. Sawada is quick to pull Sasagawa with him, leading her to a larger group a little ways off. Gokudera and Yamamoto linger behind, casting eerie smiles at the boy. Said boy takes a step back.
It’s at this moment that Shuu returns, steps a bit bouncier than normal. “Hey Hibiki!” he greets cheerfully. “Sorry to keep you waiting!”
“I’d say it’s fine, but I want to get going before we’re witnesses to an actual murder,” Hibiki responds.
Hibiki sends a meaningful glance over at Gokudera and Yamamoto, who have yet to move and are still intimidating the other boy who looks close to passing out from fear. Sasagawa has apparently managed to keep the scene away from Sawada’s sight. Shuu winces and nods. Everyone from Namimori knows what happens when you mess with Sawada’s group.
“Kana-chan! Kana-chan!” Kana’s new friend, Ai, whispers urgently. There’s an excited lilt to her voice and she’s practically bouncing where she’s standing. Kana is halfway asleep in her chair, but she shoots up as she hears Ai’s voice.
“What?” she asks sleepily, voice a bit slurred. She had, technically, gotten a little bit of sleep the night before. Mornings weren’t great for her, and school just made things worse. The fact that her parents always made her show up early only ever gave her the chance to fit in a few quick power naps before classes actually began.
“We have some really cute guys in our class,” Ai says excitedly. She points somewhere behind her. Kana takes her time in looking back—first stretching, then yawning and twisting her body this way and that, before finally turning her head and adjusting her eyes to the figures that Ai is pointing to. Her blood immediately runs cold at the sight of both Gokudera and Yamamoto, again.
She remembers them. It’s impossible not to remember the two boys who were constantly dogging Sawada’s footsteps, threatening classmates that tried to bully him, and generally attempted to destroy the school on a regular basis with their arguing. They are certainly attractive, she admits, but she could never become a fan of either of them like the numerous girls who formed fan clubs. They are a terrifying force to be reckoned with when they're together. The fact that they’re actually having a conversation is a little terrifying on its own, to be completely honest.
“Hey, do you think—“ Ai begins.
“Oh no, you don’t want to get close to those two,” Kana quickly says.
Ai looks at her, confused. “Huh? Why?”
“I went to middle school with them. Nobody tries to ask them out because, well… Just wait.” There’s a very high chance that Sawada isn’t actually in their class. Kana can only hope, at least, but she wouldn’t be surprised if he is. Gokudera’s bag is placed in the chair between his and Yamamoto’s, which means he’s waiting for someone. Even in middle school, there was a very select few people he would wait on.
The door slides open a few minutes later. Chatter dies down as everyone looks to see who entered, but everyone quickly returns to talking when they see it's not the teacher. Kana isn’t surprised to see both Gokudera and Yamamoto sit up straight as Sawada walks to his seat as though it’s absolutely right for him to sit in between the two of them. They immediately begin talking to him, overlapping words and attempting to have two different conversations at once, while he sighs and smiles hopelessly. He waits patiently for his chance to speak up. Kana is unfortunately familiar with the shiny look on both of his friends’ faces.
“Who is that?” Ai asks. Kana knows what she sees: a scrawny, plain looking boy of no distinct features, who for some reason has the undivided attention of two very attractive boys.
“That,” Kana says, “is why you don’t approach those two.” It was an unspoken rule in Namimori Middle School: you can admire Gokudera and Yamamoto all you want. You can even tell them that you admire them. But unless you’re one of Sawada’s people, you don’t matter. It’s better to give up while you can.
Besides, those two will always be trouble.
The girl with the eye patch made for a very beautiful sight, in Keiji’s opinion. Her hairstyle is a bit weird, but the rest of her is incredibly adorable. She’s blushing and attempting to tug at her skirt, looking around anxiously. He kind of wants to approach her and ask if she needs help at all. She hasn’t moved in a while.
“Go talk to her man,” Keiji’s friend says, smirking. “We’ll wait here. It looks like she’ll be intimidated if we all go.”
“She’s probably waiting for someone. I don’t want to bother her,” Keiji hisses. He glances at her again.
“I’m sure she won’t mind the company. Go.” He doesn’t give him another chance to argue before he’s pushing him out of his seat. Keiji stumbles in her direction, only barely managing not to trip. He glares at his snickering friends, but one glance at the girl again has him walking up to her anyway. He coughs to get her attention. His face feels oddly hot as she looks up at him.
“Uh, hi,” he says awkwardly. He curses himself.
“Um…” She looks around, then points to herself. “Me?”
“Yeah, you. Hi. I, uhh, just noticed you standing here for a while and I was wondering if you… needed any help or anything?” That was so lame, Keiji. So lame.
Her cheeks color a light pink. It’s way too adorable. “Oh! No, I’m alright. My friends told me to wait here for them, so…”
“Oh. Cool.” Keiji doesn’t really know how to proceed. He looks back at his friends, who make ushering motions as though that helps him at all. The girl has returned to looking to the side. He opens his mouth to try and find some way to stumble through a conversation, and then—
“Chrome, dear, is this boy bothering you?” drawls a very smooth, very male voice. Keiji jumps at the appearance of a boy who looks almost exactly like the girl—Chrome, was it? Her eyes brighten and her shoulders relax. She shakes her head, smiling at him.
“No, Mukuro-sama. He was just asking if I was okay,” she tells him. He’s mildly grateful for that reassurance, because this ‘Mukuro’ guy looked about ready to attack him if she said otherwise. “I was standing here waiting for a while and he wanted to know if I needed help with anything.” Mukuro hums, disbelieving but not arguing. He eyes Keiji for another moment, then turns his full attention to Chrome.
“Well, we found the entrance to the roof, so that’s apparently where we’ll be eating lunch. Come along now,” he says, holding out his arm. Chrome takes it and sends an awkward smile to Keiji. He smiles back. It probably looks fake.
“Thank you for your concern,” she says sincerely.
“Ah, wait. Did you say the roof?” Oh no. Everyone knows not to go to the roof—not even before or after school. The year before, a first year had monopolized the entire school and had made quick work of taking over everything in the school. A bunch of followers were quickly gathered as well—mostly delinquents—and they began to reinforce the first year’s ideas of rules. The roof was apparently a part of ‘his territory’ that no one else was allowed on, and especially not during lunch when he took his naps. Keiji has had his own share of bad run-ins with that guy. “You don’t want to eat there. There’s a second year—“
“Ah, Skylark-kun, correct?” Mukuro smirks. “I wouldn’t worry. We can deal with him.” Keiji begs to differ, but the two have already walked off by the time he tries to say it. They practically disappear with how fast they leave the area.
“Oh man,” an unfamiliar boy pipes up, having been walking past at that moment. “Did you just talk to the siblings? Bad choice. I went to middle school with them. The elder brother is extremely protective of his sister, and they have a few scary friends too. That includes the guy on the roof.”
“What,” Keiji says. The boy nods solemnly, and apparently that’s enough information he thinks he needs, because he runs off to meet a few friends. Again, Keiji says, “What.”
Ruriko doesn’t exactly believe the rumors about the boy on the roof during lunch, but if it is true, she’s sure she can talk her way out of it. She’s managed to do so before. It shouldn’t be too hard. Machi doesn’t seem to think so. She’s still tugging at Ruriko’s sleeve, looking over her shoulder every so often as though they’re going to be attacked. Ruriko rolls her eyes.
“It’s not like we’re going into a war zone, Macchan,” she says. “It’s just the rooftop.”
“But that second year sounds pretty scary,” Machi whispers. “Everyone else agrees too.”
“They’re just rumors. No way a second year boy can be so scary that he managed to kick everyone off of the roof during lunch. Come on, there’s the door.” Ruriko reaches for the door labeled ROOF and opens it. It’s completely empty, no second year boy in sight. She pushes the door all the way open and steps onto the roof, grinning. “See? I—“
Someone slams her to the wall, something pressed to her neck. Machi screeches, but quickly cuts herself off. Ruriko stares, eyes wide and heart pounding, into the glaring eyes of a dark-haired boy. He has a very handsome face, she notices a bit inconveniently. “Crowding on the roof is forbidden. Rule breakers will be bitten to death.”
Somehow, she manages a smile and hopes it’s as sweet as she’s trying to make it. “Ahhh, I’m sorry! I didn’t know. Are you sure my friend and I can’t eat up here? We won’t bother you.”
“No.” The reply comes fast and unhesitating. “The rooftop is my territory, and as I said, crowding will result in—“
“We found you, Hibari!” The door opens, shocking Machi into falling backwards. “Oh, I’m sorry!” The tall, handsome boy who opened the door bends down to help her up. She stammers through apologies that he waves off. Behind him, a few more people step out onto the roof. They look at her, then to Machi and the tall boy, then to Hibari. The tall boy looks at Hibari too and smiles. “Hey, who are these two? Friends?”
“I don’t have friends, herbivore.” Whatever is pressing to her neck is taken away—were those tonfas?—as he addresses the new group.
“What are we, then? Friendly acquaintances?” a small, fluffy-haired brunette asks, smiling in amusement.
“You’re all annoyances who won’t leave me alone.” Hibari crosses his arms. “These two trespassed. I was about to bite them to death.”
“Not while we’re here, Kyoya. You’re already going to fight enough with Mukuro when he gets here and I don’t want to listen to you beat up unassuming students while I’m eating right next to you.”
“Little animal…” he hisses. The boy looks at Ruriko and Machi with an apologetic smile. Ruriko takes a moment to look at his friends, who are all settling in a circle nearby. She would have to be blind not to notice the collective attractiveness of the entire group. When she looks back at him, she wonders how someone like him managed to become friends with people like that.
“I’m sorry, but can you two leave?” he asks. “Kyoya doesn’t like strangers much.”
“You don’t own this roof,” Ruriko scoffs. “Machi and I were here first.” Hibari’s eyes narrow and he takes a menacing step towards her. She stands her ground, prepared to argue, when Machi grabs her hand and, with a quick “we’reverysorrybye”, drags her off of the rooftop. She stops at the bottom of the stairs that lead to the roof, but doesn’t let go of her hand as she pants lightly.
“What was that for?” Ruriko asks. “They shouldn’t just monopolize the roof! It’s a public space! I was going to argue!”
“Hibari-san looked like he really was about to beat us up for being up there,” Machi offers hesitantly. “I didn’t want to deal with that.”
“Hmph!” Ruriko tugs her hand away, but doesn’t move to go back to the roof. Somehow, she can still hear the group’s loud conversations despite their distance. “Well, whatever. It’s so not worth it I guess. That was totally weird though. Why’d he let those people up but not us?”
“They’re… probably friends, Ruriko-chan,” Machi says. She straightens her back, having finally caught her breath. “Let’s go find another place to sit, okay?”
“I’m going, I’m going.”
There are three children in the hallway, which is weird considering they’re in a high school and the oldest child can’t be older than maybe ten years old. The two younger children are clinging to the eldest’s pants as they shuffle across the hall. They look lost. The eldest is holding a bento box in his hands. Hiroshi exchanges glances with Ayumu, then he watches as she approaches the three.
“Hi kids,” she says, smiling gently at them. The littlest boy with puffy black hair glares at her, but his friends (?) just look confused. “Are you looking for someone?”
“Tsuna-nii forgot his lunch at home,” says the little boy, still glaring suspiciously at her. “We’re bringing it to him.”
“You hid the bento from him while he wasn’t paying attention,” the older boy corrects. “Then you used it as an excuse to drag me and I-Pin to see him.”
“You weren’t arguing!”
“Wanna see gēgē,” the other child says. Hiroshi can’t tell if they’re male or female.
“Well, if you want to find your brother, my friend and I can help you look,” Ayumu offers. Hiroshi stares at her, affronted, considering he hadn’t agreed to this at all. The look she sends over her shoulder promises pain if he doesn’t. He says nothing, simply sighing reluctantly as the three children beam and nod.
“Thank you, onee-san!” the oldest boy says, smiling widely.
“My name is Kita Ayumu, and this is my friend Yamasaki Hiroshi,” Ayumu says. “We’re happy to help.” I’m not, Hiroshi grumbles. Mentally, because he knows Ayumu can totally kick his ass if he was anything other than helpful and approachable.
“I’m Fuuta! This is my little brother, Lambo, and my little sister, I-Pin.” He gestures to the two still clinging to his legs. The girl—who still doesn’t exactly look like a girl—waves while Lambo puffs out his cheeks.
“You three don’t look alike,” Hiroshi says as they begin walking.
“Hiroshi,” Ayumu says warningly.
Fuuta laughs. “Nope! Mama adopted us. Sort of. And now we have the best family!”
“Oh really? That’s so sweet,” Ayumu says. “Who’s your older brother, by the way?”
“Sawada Tsunayoshi. Tsuna-nii. He has biiig fluffy brown hair like—“ He gestures with his hands above his head. “He’s very clumsy and very short. Takeshi-nii and Hayato-nii follow him around a lot. Takeshi-nii is super tall and he plays baseball! Hayato-nii looks angry all the time and really likes explosions. He has silver hair too. If we can find one of Tsuna-nii’s friends, we’ll be able to find him.”
“I don’t think there’s a Sawada in my class,” Hiroshi says thoughtfully. “Silver hair? If they’re as eye-catching as you say, it shouldn’t take too long to find them.”
“Actually, it will take quite a while.” Someone approaches them from behind. They turn to see what looks to be a pair of pineapple-haired twins. The boy who spoke is smiling slyly at the children. Hiroshi doesn’t like the look of him. “Hello baby Vongolas. It’s a good thing we found you.”
“Mukuro-san,” says I-Pin.
“Chrome-nee!” Lambo cheers. He lets go of Fuuta to jump on the girl, only for her brother to grab him by his shirt and hold him in place. He struggles, kicking and flailing for a few seconds before settling on a glare in his direction. Mukuro smirks at him. “Mukuro-nii! I wanna hug Chrome-nee!”
“Hello, Lambo,” Chrome says softly, smiling. Lambo grins despite his still hanging position.
“Mukuro-nii, are you meeting up with everyone now?” Fuuta asks.
“Indeed. We found the rooftop and I went to grab Chrome. It’s a shame her class is so far from mine,” he sighs. “Come along, then. We’ll take you to Sawada.”
“The rooftop?” Ayumu says. “I heard there was a second year who beat up anyone who tries to eat lunch up there. Was that just a rumor?”
“Oh no, that’s our Kyoya.” Mukuro laughs, a strange ‘kufufu’ sound that sends shivers up his spine. He kind of wants to grab Ayumu and hide her behind his back. The children seem perfectly oblivious to this guy’s creepy presence, happily approaching the two with ease. When he glances at Ayumu, though, she looks a little unsettled as well.
“Kyoya-nii’s kind of mean,” Fuuta explains. “He doesn’t like naptime being disturbed. Or crowding. But he’s really nice to us!”
“To some of us. I’m afraid he still hasn’t warmed up to me yet.”
“I wonder why that is,” Lambo says and then starts kicking again, to no avail.
“Thank you for watching over these three and offering to help,” Chrome says. “We’ll take them to their brother now.” Mukuro still hasn’t let go of Lambo as they begin walking off. Lambo shouts at him as he ignores him. Fuuta, I-Pin, and Chrome laugh at the pair of them.
None of them look alike except for the twins, Hiroshi muses, but they definitely look like a group of siblings. The adoption story doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.
Sasagawa Ryohei is the most terrifying force in the Boxing Club. It’s a damn good thing the rest of the club is full of energetic athletes determined to get strong, or else Naoki fears that they would have tried to drive him out a long time ago. As it is, the club practically idolizes him and his incredible strength. He’s won them a fair number of competitions since he joined in his first year. As advisor of the club, Naoki is pretty happy with his decision to join, though considering he was apparently captain of his middle school Boxing Club, it’s not that surprising.
“Everyone!” Sasagawa announces, standing tall in the middle of the ring. “We may be getting a new member today! My little sister has just entered high school and so she told me she’ll be dropping in to see how EXTREME this club is!” He grins widely through the dead silence that follows. If Naoki didn’t know any better—and he might not—he thinks Sasagawa might just be holding back laughter.
“W-wait!” Suzuki exclaims. “Do you mean… your little sister might become our manager?” Instantly, everyone starts exploding in a series of questions and what might be cheers. Naoki sighs at the eager looks on their faces. Sasagawa is still amused, laughing uproariously at his fellow club members.
The door to the club room opens. A petite girl with brown hair pokes her head in, smiles, and steps inside. “Hello Boxing Club!” she says cheerfully. “Hi Onii-chan!”
“Kyouko! You’re just in time!” Sasagawa says loudly, which is completely unnecessary considering everyone has gone completely silent once again. Naoki eyes the club members warily. He doesn’t trust high school boys to not swarm her at any moment. “This is the Boxing Club!” He spreads his arms to indicate the boys in front of him. “And over there is Kobayashi-sensei, our advisor!” He points to Naoki.
“Thank you for coming,” Naoki says. “Your brother says you’re thinking of becoming the manager for our club?”
Kyouko blinks. “Manager? I never said that. There’s no female Boxing Club, so I wanted to come here and see what it’s like! Right, Onii-chan?”
“That’s extremely right!” Sasagawa doesn’t look surprised at all. His grin is still spread along his face.
“Hah? Can a girl like you really join our club?” Takumi asks.
Kyouko smiles, bright and cheerful. She’s much more subdued than her brother, but they’re definitely related if only because their smiles can both manage to completely blind anyone within the vicinity of them. “Onii-chan, where are the gloves?”
Sasagawa points to where the gloves are and climbs out of the ring. He’s excited now, eyes somehow managing to shine much brighter than usual. Kyouko leaves to change in the bathroom. While she’s gone, everyone asks Sasagawa what he’s thinking, disapproval clear in their tones.
“Ah, Kyouko has my utmost faith!” he responds boisterously. “There’s no way she’ll lose!”
“She’s a girl,” Takumi says doubtfully.
“She’s extremely strong! She’s been trained by both myself and the very extreme Master Pao Pao himself! She’ll be fine!” Sasagawa laughs like he’s made some sort of inside joke. He must have, because Naoki hasn’t ever heard of anyone called “Master Pao Pao.”
“Thank you, Onii-chan!” Kyouko says happily as she returns in more suitable shorts and tank top. She puts on the boxing gloves and heads into the ring, waiting in one corner. Her smile is a bit menacing for all that it looks innocent. Naoki glances at his students. They haven’t noticed. “So who wants to fight me first? The one who called me out?” She points to Takumi, who stares at her thoughtfully.
“Fine,” he agrees after a moment of contemplating. He smirks lazily as he enters the ring. “I’ll go easy on you, since you’re a girl and all.” Almost imperceptibly, Sasagawa winces and takes a small step back.
What follows is the most brutal beatdown Naoki has ever seen in a simple match between two high schoolers—excluding any match that Sasagawa has been a part of. He’s way above everyone else in the club to the point where he holds back half the time. Kyouko’s match is on par with the first time Naoki saw Sasagawa fight within the club. By the end of it, she’s only sweating through a happy grin while Takumi is bruised and bloody and never managed a hit on her.
“Holy shit,” Yuudai says. “Sasagawa, I’m fighting your sister next.”
“Your extreme funeral,” Sasagawa says solemnly.
The next two matches go roughly the same, though Kyouko does get hit a few times. Naoki has a feeling it’s more to do with exhaustion than skill level. Immediately after the third match, the door slams open.
“Kyouko,” the girl standing in the doorway says, arms crossed and brows furrowed in disapproval.
“Hi Hana-chan!” Kyouko waves.
“Are you done beating up your brother’s club mates?” the girl, Hana, asks.
“Hmm…” She looks around, apparently assessing the rest of the club. “Yeah, I’m done! I had to show them that just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I’m not strong.”
“Should’ve just fed them some Poison Cooking. Bianchi-san taught us, remember?”
“Please don’t poison my friends!” Sasagawa protests. Naoki is a bit alarmed by that.
“I’ll save that for another time. I’ll be right there, Hana-chan!” Kyouko bounds off to the restroom, a skip in her step. The club members stare at her in awe as Hana approaches Sasagawa with her hands on her hips.
“You,” she says, her finger stabbing at Sasagawa’s chest. “You planned this, didn’t you?” Sasagawa grins.
“She wanted to come see the club and I didn’t argue! There was no plan!” he declares.
“Right,” she says flatly. “Just so you know, Kyouko’s not going to join the club this time around. She’s going to be with me in the Student Council.”
“We have a Student Council?”
“Hibari’s basically taken over the Student Council duties, so Kyouko and I are going to build an alliance.” Sasagawa nods like that’s a perfectly reasonable declaration. Naoki is still concerned. They’re in high school, not on a battlefield. What’s this about an alliance?
“Alright, I’m ready to go,” Kyouko says, appearing once more in her uniform. “Thanks for letting me stop by, Onii-chan.”
“Thank you for coming, Kyouko!” Sasagawa says. He pulls her into a quick hug, then lets the two girls leave. Kyouko giggles at a dry remark from Hana just before the door closes behind them. If Naoki hadn’t just watched her beat up three of his club members, he wouldn’t think of her as anything other than a normal high school girl.
“Sasagawa.” Suzuki places a hand on Sasagawa’s shoulder. “Your sister is badass.”
One time, Sawada Tsunayoshi smiled at Daisuke, and that was all it took for him to fall absolutely in love.
“That's so gay, Dai-chan,” Momo sighs, resting her head on her knees as she looks at him.
“I’m gay, Momo,” Daisuke hisses. He sneaks a glance over at Sawada, who sits a little ways away from them. He had gotten kicked out of the game rather quickly, and Daisuke had followed pretty soon after when he got distracted by Sawada’s smile at one of his friends. Momo had probably gotten herself kicked out just so she could tease him. He wouldn’t put it past her.
“Just talk to him,” Momo says. “You don’t have to confess your crush, but you can probably become friends with him. Well,” she amends, “you can become acquaintances. I don’t think his friends will let anyone else become friends with him without like, at least five different background checks.”
Daisuke lets out a helpless noise and buries his head in his arms. “I can’t do that. He’s so cute. Look at his hair, and have you seen his eyes? They’re amber.” Momo lets out another long-suffering sigh and pats his head consolingly. It does absolutely nothing. Daisuke is certain that she’s doing it to mock him and not actually trying to comfort him.
“Um. Is your friend okay?” Daisuke snaps his head up at the painfully familiar voice and he finds himself looking into the eyes of that absolutely life-ruining crush he happened to have been talking about literal moments before. He’s sure his face is burning, because it certainly feels like he’s on fire.
“Oh, yeah, he’s fine,” Momo says, smiling. “He’s just having a small crisis.”
“Momo!” Daisuke exclaims. Sawada furrows his eyebrows in confusion.
“If you’re sure…” He looks at Daisuke, as though to ask for confirmation. Daisuke somehow manages to muster up a smile and nod. It apparently looks natural, because Sawada sighs with relief and smiles. “That’s good. You looked a bit, well, distressed, so I wanted to make sure. Oh, sorry, um, my name is—“
“Sawada Tsunayoshi,” Daisuke blurts out, and then reddens. “Uh, I heard your name on roll call. My name is Nakajima Daisuke, and this is my friend, Momo.”
“Nice to meet you,” Momo says.
“You too. Sorry, I don’t pay attention to other people in class much.” Sawada chuckles sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck. Daisuke had already kind of figured. His friends were both pretty loud and always grabbed him before anyone else could even try to talk to him. He had never even seen Sawada without at least one of them beside him. They must take up a lot of his attention.
“So we all got out pretty quickly, huh?” Momo says. She winks at Daisuke and he suddenly knows exactly what she’s trying to do. Frankly, Daisuke would prefer the conversation dies before he dies.
“Yeah, I’m not great at sports,” Sawada admits. “I would prefer not to be in gym, honestly. I’m still waiting for the decision to be approved.” It sounds like a joke. Daisuke and Momo laugh. Sawada doesn’t, but he does have a bit of a smile on his face still. It was a joke, right? “You two look like you’re pretty good at sports, though.”
“We are, but I got a bit, eh, distracted,” Daisuke admits, a bit embarrassed.
“We both play soccer actually,” Momo tells him. “I guess Dai-chan is just having an off-day.” Sawada makes a sympathetic noise and nods. He looks back at the game in front of them and his eyes widen. Daisuke is surprised too. Gokudera and Yamamoto are the only ones left, and they’re practically staring each other down. Then, in unison, they try to attack one another.
“Hayato! Takeshi!” Sawada squeaks, scrambling to his feet. “Don’t destroy the gym! O-or hurt anyone on the sidelines! Guys!”
Daisuke looks at Momo helplessly as Sawada tries to get his friends to calm down. With just those two on the field, it’s almost as though they’re going to kill each other and everyone who’s out in the process. They’re more vicious than they had been before when more people were playing. They do seem to slow down a little the more Sawada yells at them.
Momo stares at the field for a little while longer, then turns to Daisuke blankly. She pats his arm. He groans and buries his head back in his arms again.
His crush definitely isn’t going anywhere.
“I’m surprised Yamamoto joined baseball again,” Ryuu says. He watches as Yamamoto chats cheerfully with his new teammates. Once again, he’s being praised for his skill and he’s brushing it off as a result of practice, as always. Ryuu would like to say he hasn’t changed a bit since middle school, but he knows he has. You would have to live under a rock to have gone to Namimori Middle and not have seen the change in Yamamoto.
“What do you mean by that?” Katou asks. Ryuu gives him a look, because they had both been in baseball with Yamamoto.
“Remember at Namichuu? He said, ‘Tsuna’s a bit more important right now, so I can’t split my attention between him and baseball,’” he recites. It would have been a surprise if Ryuu hadn’t noticed the way Yamamoto, like the rest of that entire group, seemed to idolize him. “I also saw him hanging around with Mochida in kendo the other day. One of my friends is in that club and I was hanging out with him, and Yamamoto was doing incredibly well. I thought he’d join them instead.”
“Baseball is Yamamoto’s thing,” Katou reminds him. “I didn’t even think he liked kendo. There’s no way he wouldn’t have joined baseball again.”
Ryuu’s not so sure about that. He remembers Yamamoto almost committing suicide because he wasn’t able to play baseball with a broken arm, but after that, Sawada had been there for him and had taken up his attention. Then Yamamoto suddenly had a group of friends he couldn’t bear to part with. It’s an odd day, in fact, if Yamamoto is ever without any one of his friends. Baseball just isn’t as important anymore.
“He almost didn’t join, actually,” someone says. Ryuu and Katou turn to see Gokudera Hayato on the other side of the fence. He has a still-smoking cigarette in between his fingers. He hasn’t changed at all—same rings, same chains, same default angry expression. When he’s not arguing with someone or gushing over Sawada, though, he actually looks rather mellow. “He didn’t want to worry every time he had to leave for a game, but the Tenth insisted because he still thinks baseball is the most important thing to that idiot.” He rolls his eyes.
“The only reason he joined was because of Dame-Tsuna?” Katou asks incredulously. Ryuu flinches, casting a worried glance at Yamamoto, and then at Gokudera, who drops his cigarette and rubs it into the ground with his foot. He glowers at Katou, fingers twitching like they itch to grab something. Considering the amount of explosions that he always seemed to be in the middle of—which also never happened, because Ryuu is from Namimori and being from Namimori means those kinds of things never happen—he doesn’t want to know what he wants to grab.
“That is not the Tenth’s name,” he growls. “His name is Tsuna and he deserves every ounce of respect in the world. If I hear that name coming from you again—“
“Whoa, whoa, Hayato!” Yamamoto cuts in, pushing Ryuu and Katou back a few steps. “What’s going on? You’re threatening my teammates, you know.” He grins at him, a bit quizzical. Ryuu isn’t ready for when Yamamoto realizes why Gokudera had been so angry. The last time someone had insulted one of his friends in front of him had been pretty scary for an encounter that shed no blood.
“Don’t call me by my first name, baseball freak!” Gokudera snaps. “That idiot—“ he jabs a finger at Katou, “called Tenth by that name and I was just about to teach him a fucking lesson.” Yamamoto’s grin turns into a sharp smile. He doesn't even have to ask what 'that name' was. Ryuu takes another step back. That look is never good. It’s never been aimed directly at him before—since he never spoke bad about anyone in Sawada’s group—but even just looking at it makes him feel like he’s about to be killed.
“Maa, is that so?” he asks. “I’m going to have to ask you to not call him that, okay? Tsuna’s a really cool guy. He’s not ‘dame’ at all and, well. I don’t like it when my friends are insulted, you know?” The baseball bat, resting casually against his shoulder, is more intimidating than usual.
Katou gulps. “R-right. Sorry, force of habit. Won't happen again.” The threat in Yamamoto’s grin is immediately gone, replaced by his usual shining smile.
“Great!” he says cheerfully and turns back to Gokudera. “I’ll be out in a second. Don’t kill any of my teammates!”
“No promises,” Gokudera grumbles, crossing his arms. Yamamoto laughs and doesn’t acknowledge it, heading off to the locker room. Gokudera sends one last glare at Ryuu and Katou—mostly Katou—then walks away to wait for Yamamoto elsewhere. Ryuu lets out a heaving sigh the moment he’s gone.
“I just had a near death experience because of you,” he says, glaring at Katou.
“No. Don’t insult Sawada again. Or anyone else in that group for that matter. They have ears everywhere, I guarantee. I’m going to practice more and maybe get a concussion that allows me to forget this encounter ever happened.” He marches away from Katou, ready to ask a teammate to throw a ball at his head as hard as he possibly can.
The tall, clearly foreign man in the suit standing outside of the gates is way, way too handsome. Tsukiko can’t stop staring at him. She has pretty much abandoned all conversation with Rio, but that’s okay because every other girl also hasn’t stopped staring at him since they noticed him. He either hasn’t noticed the stares or doesn’t care as he taps away on his cell phone with one hand. He’s waiting for someone, that much is clear, but so far no one has had the guts to ask who. Whoever they are is incredibly lucky.
Exiting the school comes Sasagawa Kyouko, who might just be on her way to becoming the princess of the school, along with her best friend. Everyone knows who they are at this point, even if Kurokawa is only noticeable because of Kyouko. They pause in their conversation when they see the man, and then Kyouko smiles brightly. She hurries towards him. Kurokawa lets out a long sigh as she follows.
“Hey, hey,” Tsukiko whispers, nudging Rio with her elbow. “Do you think he’s waiting for Kyouko-chan?” The man looks at Kyouko with a lazy grin. He pockets his phone and nods along to whatever she’s saying. She looks excited to see him. Kurokawa steps up beside her and offers her own grin that isn’t exactly pleasant. The man is more amused than intimidated. From seemingly nowhere, a girl in a different school uniform tackles both Kyouko and Kurokawa in hugs. They appear to know her too.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Rio whispers back. “If he were waiting for her, they’d already be walking away right? Maybe they just happen to know each other.”
“How, though? Where does Kyouko-chan manage to meet all of these attractive guys?” On more than one occasion, Kyouko has been seen speaking to the boys who might just be the most attractive boys in the school. Tsukiko can understand her brother and Yamamoto—and, she supposes, Gokudera, who is practically attached to Yamamoto’s hip—but how on earth did she become friends with the demon prefect and that Rokudo guy?
“Probably Sawada,” Rio says. Oh, right, she had gone to middle school with them. “Sawada is like, the center of their entire circle. It’s pretty weird.” Kyouko is bouncing excitedly as she speaks to the unfamiliar girl, and Kurokawa actually has a nice smile on her face. The man has taken to scanning the lawn and the students, occasionally looking at the girls when they turn to address him.
“Reborn!” Speak of the devil. Sawada stares in the direction of the man, not even caring about his shriek that caught the attention of everyone outside. Yamamoto is already laughing beside him. “Why the hell are you here? I thought you were still in Italy!” Tsukiko winces. According to Rio, his screaming had been a lot more frequent in middle school, so she wasn’t affected, but Tsukiko isn’t used to it. Sawada was actually pretty calm most days, if a bit exasperated with his friends whenever she saw him.
The man strolls up to him leisurely, passing Tsukiko and Rio and stopping just close enough that they could hear him say, “Ah, Dame-Tsuna. You kept me waiting. I thought it would be nice to surprise you.” He has a handsome smirk on his face while Sawada continues to stare at him in horror. His Japanese is surprisingly good, with not a single trace of an accent. “Besides, your Guardians are good, but your advisor will always be the best defense you have.”
“You are not my advisor, and I don't need a bodyguard!” Sawada exclaims. “Why didn’t you just wait for me at home? Do you know—“ He cuts himself off, glancing around at the students watching them, and he grimaces. “You’re causing a scene, Reborn.” That’s a bit of a weird name, Tsukiko thinks.
“Oh, am I? I thought it was your voice,” Reborn retorts.
“You know exactly what you’re doing,” Sawada accuses.
“Can I not flaunt every once in a while? I think I’ve earned it.”
“It’s nice to see you as you, Reborn!” Yamamoto says brightly.
“Welcome back, Reborn-san!” Gokudera adds. It’s the most polite Tsukiko has ever heard him speak to anyone other than Sawada. Reborn tips his fedora to the both of them in thanks.
“See? They understand,” he says, sending another smirk towards Sawada.
“I already said it! You made me say it!” he exclaims. “Let’s just go already. I want to be out of this… spotlight and you’re ruining my faceless reputation.” Tsukiko hopes he never finds out that he’s already basically in the spotlight. Everyone knows who he is, considering all of his friends are incredibly attractive, protective, and a little bit insane. It would be hard not to notice him when they all orbit around him all the time.
Reborn turns, walking back towards the gates as he addresses Sawada. “You’ll have to get used to it eventually. If you’re going to be the boss, that is.”
“I am not going to be—“ Sawada stops for a split second, then says, “the boss, Reborn!”
“You’re going to be a boss,” Reborn repeats. The grin on his face says that he’s teasing, but Sawada doesn’t notice as he lets out a noise of frustration and grips his hair.
“Tsuna-san!” The unfamiliar girl latches onto his arm once he gets close.
“H-Haru!” he sputters. She hugs his arm to her chest tightly, grinning happily. He sighs, but smiles as she chatters on and on into his ear. They’re getting too far away for Tsukiko to hear properly, but it sounds like she’s simply talking about her day. Gokudera snaps at her and she snaps right back at him. Kyouko and Yamamoto laugh. Tsukiko honestly hadn’t expected Sawada’s protective friends to let him have a girlfriend. She must have been a part of their group in middle school too, then.
To her surprise, Rio starts laughing helplessly. “Of course,” she says, throwing her hands in the air. “Sawada’s a rich kid! Everything finally makes sense!”
In a way, it does make sense, Tsukiko thinks. But anyone who tries to imply that Sawada bought his friends will probably be getting their asses kicked.