Guido Mista always thought that, for him at least, the number four was cursed.
It was small, but bad things always seemed to happen to him on the fourth day of whatever month it was, and it only got worse during April.
That, and most the tragedy that had occured in his life happened on a four.
His father died when he was four. His mother, bless her soul, married his stepfather in a spring wedding in April, and two years later on the fourth of April, four years into the reign of the fourty-fourth king of the kingdom, she died.
It was the fourth of August when he was inducted into his stepfather-now-Bosses gang as a hitman-dash-bodyguard, and it was the fourth of September, exactly a month later, when he took his first life.
So, yeah. He was cursed, and the number four was the cause of it all. Probably.
Despite living with a step-family completely filled to the brim with magic users, he knew very little about actual magic, and by extension, curses. He knew that it was because his Boss was insanely paranoid, that he wouldn't tolerate someone not of his blood living under his roof (The roof of the house that belonged to Guido's family, before he came along.) knowing exactly what he could do, magic wise. The paranoia was made worse by the fact that his Boss's bodyguards never strayed too far from his side, but at least that meant that all Guido had to do to avoid them was move to the other side of the mansion. Fucking psychopathic magic users, all of them.
The only person in the house that was actually decent, was the Boss's daughter, Trish Avinegarun. The teen was slightly distant from him, but she was even more distant from the rest of her blood family, so they occasionally talked and joked together. Mostly about how shit life was living inside the manor, what her brother had mistaken for a phone today, or just general goings on in both their daily lives.
So it was with mild trepidation that, on the fourth of May, Guido approached Trish to talk and jest as they normally did, and found out that she had to attend the Kingdom Ball two weeks from now.
"I don't want to go." She moaned, head lying flat against the table, hands gesturing everywhere about the air. "Father is aiming to dress me up- to try and impress the prince, as if every other unmarried person in the whole damned kingdom isn't doing the same."
"The prince?" Guido asked, confused as to what exactly the only son of the ruler of the kingdom had to do with things. It was a royal ball, but the young prince was infamous for never attending social events, preferring to make very few public visits. It made him talk of the entire kingdom whenever he did show his face, however.
"Yeah." Trish sighed, "This ball is going to be sooo 'special' because the prince is going to be picking out whom he wishes to court. I'm honestly surprised you haven't heard, people have been exclusively talking about it for months."
Guido was about to say something nonchalant, something about how he didn't really keep his ear to the ground about goings-on around the kingdom when he only ever left the manor grounds for jobs that the boss assigned him, but Trish slammed her hands down onto the table suddenly, the falt surface bending slightly under magic she hadn't ever really been taught how to control. "I'm fifteen! The prince!" She cried out, "I don't want to get fucking married!"
"Uh.. there there?" He said as he awkwardly patted the volatile pinkette on the shoulder, "I'm... sure he won't pick you?" Oh Mista, you poor dumbass.
Wrong thing to have said, clearly, as Trish spun to him with a nasty look in her eyes. "Guido," she said sweetly, and danger bells started ringing in his head. "I don't doubt that, should I try my absolute hardest, I could totally bag a prince." Trish inhaled. "What I'm upset about is the fact that my father, your fucking boss, is trying to get me hitched to some blue-blooded fucking royal! I'm gay, you absolute ass!" She roared at him, and Guido suspected it would be best to cut his losses and flee. 'This is totally because it's the fourth' he thought, as he hurriedly apologised to the irate Trish, running from the room.
He stopped at a corridor corner after ensuring the enraged teen wasn't following him, panting slightly from the exertion of running for his life, and no, he wasn't being dramatic.
"Guidooooo!" A high pitched male voice cried out from behind him. He tensed as Doppio slung an arm behind his shoulders, "Just the guy I wanted to see! Were you talking to Trish just now?" The boy queried.
Guido scoffed. "As if you didn't hear that yelling."
Doppio chuckled nervously. "Yeah," he said, "Didn't really catch what she was gelling about but yikes that travelled far. Um." He hesistated.
"What do you want, Doppio?" Guido asked with a sigh.
"Ah, Yes, right. You heard from Trish about the Kingdom Ball?"
"That's what she was screaming about, dude."
"Makes sense, actually. Anyway, Boss told me to tell you that you're not going."
Guido blinked. "Why would you need to tell me that I'm not going to the Kingdom Ball?" He asked, confused, "I never go to things like this."
Doppio looked nervous as he pursed his lips. "See, the thing is you were technically invited, because of your family name and all, but if you go then Boss can't represent it and he needs to in order to try and get Trish close to the prince. So, yeah. You're not going." He finished awkwardly.
Guido blinked a few times in incomprehension, before an uncharacteristic red haze took over his vision
"Are you serious?" He snaps. "That is my family name! Your father," he spits "never even took it when he married my mother! He has no right-"
Doppio's eyes take on a vaguely green sheen and Guido is forced to stop his tirade as he feels the sharp point of steel poking him right below his chin. "Listen." The pinket snaps, voice having done a 180 from the previously polite and meek tone it had been before, "I never said that it was your decision to make, did I Mista? So stop complaining and follow your fucking orders." Doppio stands up straight, lowering the knife and flicking it back into his pocket. The green sheen in his eyes faded and he smiled up at Guido as if he hadn't just flipped the fuck out. "So you're not going." He finished with a polite, slightly apologetic smile, before turning on his heel and walking away.
Guido grit his teeth. Sometimes it was easy to forget that Doppio was just as insane as the rest of the people who worked under the boss, until he had one of his... moments. "Fucking fourth," he spat out turning to leave back to his room, the only place in this goddamn house he could get a modicum of privacy, "Absolutely fucking unfair."
It had been two weeks since then, and the day of the Kingdom Ball was nigh. Guido had apologised to Trish about unintentionally insulting her, and she apologies in turn, saying that she was extremely high-strung from all the sudden pressures her father was heaping onto her after so long of neglect. "He hasn't even gotten me anything to train my magic affinity aside from the basics!" She had ranted, "-and now he expects me to be yet another step in his goddamn power climb?"
"Like my mother," Guido had said, and then when Trish tried to apologise, "What? We both know it's true, she had a higher noble title than him when they married."
Cut to today, Guido was standing in the doorway of Trish's room, both brows raised as he saw the sheer amount of effort the teen was putting into her makeup.
"I could've sworn you were saying that you didn't want to get picked by the prince." he said lightly as he watched Trish apply a bright blue shade of lipstick.
"Oh trust me," the girl began, before dabbing her lips with a napkin to get rid of any excess, "I don't. But it's still arguably the event of the century, and I want to look good." She paused. "That, and father will know if I'm not trying my best with my outfit. For someone who wears the type of shit he does, he's got a surprisingly astute sense of fashion."
"Yeah that makes sense." Guido said, and upon seeing the choker-necklace consisting of contrasting gemstones with patters inside, he asked "Mathematics? Seriously?"
"Hush you," Trish said as she snapped red and black the garment that was covered in pluses and minuses onto her neck, "It's trendy. Also, which would look better on me, this," she said, bringing out an outfit that had way to many maths signs on it to just be 'trendy', "or this?" She asked, holding an exact same copy of the outfit from before as far as Guido could see.
"Alright," he started, "that is the exact same dress, and you can not convince me otherwise," he held up a hand before Trish could protest, probably something about how 'this one uses different stiching patterns from the other', "and secondly," he said, gesturing to himself, the tiger-print pants and the blue crossed sweater that revealed his midriff. "Do I look like the type of person to ask about fashion advice?"
Trish pursed her lips, as if remembering the types of atrocities against the name of fashion that he tended to wear. "Right," she nodded to herself, "I'll wear... this one." She said as she tossed the first dress behind her. "Can you fetch me my hairpins? It's the last thing I need to do."
"Not the rest your makeup?" He asked as he tossed her her extrememly ornamental hair-clips lying on her bed.
"Just my mascara, it's a maquerade"
"Huh." He said, "Didn't know that."
She glanced at him with a slight smile. "More of not keeping yo-"
"Knock knock?" Doppio cut her off as he entered the room, not actually knocking. "Trish, we leave in fifteen minutes, are you almost ready?" He asked as he adjusted the cuffs to his suit.
Trish face faulted "Fifteen- alright, out! Both of you out! Doppio, tell father I may have to do my hair in the carriage, now out!" She yelled as she ushered the both of them out of the room.
The door to Trish's room slammed shut. They both stood in there, silent for several minutes and Guido cleared his throat at the awkward air that had enveloped the hallway. "So..." he started, trailing off after the first word when he saw Doppio giving him the side-eye, irises more green than amber.
"You will be staying at the house tonight, yes Mista?" Doppio asked in a flat tone.
Guido cleared his throat again, this time to get rid of the instinctual urge to say 'fuck you'. He didn't want to see how that turned out. "Yeah." He said in a quiet tone instead, "Yeah I will."
"Good!" Doppio beamed, eyes turning back fully into amber. 'Fucking magic users.' Guido thought, not for the first time.
The door to Trish's room slammed back open and she made an admirable attempt of sprinting in heels as she grabbed Doppio's arm and ran down the hallway. "Come on come on we're gonna be late!" She cried. "See you tommorow Guido!"
"Bye, Trish." He said with a half-wave but she had already turned the corner, dragging meek version Doppio with her.
Guido stared listlessly at where they had disappeared from sight for a few second, before sighing and knocking a fist against the wall.
"I don't understand why I'm so fucked up about this," he said to thin air, referring to the sense of discontent that had been present within him over the past two weeks. "But he has no fucking right to use her name..." he muttered.
"I agree." Came an unfamiliar voice from behind him, and Guido spun around as quick as he could, drawing his pistol up to eye-height as he did. He knew everyone in the manor, including (unfortunately) most of the bosses associates that came and go. This person was foreign.
He came face-to-face with an unimpressed seeming... man? There was something off about them. They looked a bit too androgynous to be normal, a bit too symmetrical. Was this person another magic user?
"Who are you? Why are you here?" He asked coldly. Hey, say what you want about him being lazy or laid back off-job, but he was a professional.
"My name is Bruno Buccellati, and as for why I am here, I would like to make a deal with you, Guido Mista."
Guido lowered the gun from where he had it trained on the other.. man's? (Bruno was a man's name, so it was probably a dude) head. He looked to be unarmed, and wasnt acting hostile. And besides, Buccellati? That kind of sounded like a name one of Boss's underlings might have had.
The man opposite him snorted lightly, shaking his head in amusement at something. "No, Mista, I don't work for your boss." He said, setting Guido immediately on alert again. "I'm here because of your mother." He said, which sent Guido into a whole different mess of confusion.
"My mother?" He heard himself asking, "My mother has been dead for thirteen years."
The man- Bruno, nodded sadly. "I know. And may I say, my apologies for not appearing before now, I was... preoccupied."
Guido dearly wanted to ask this man, who apparently knew his mother, what the actual fuck could preoccupy a person for thirteen goddamned years, but he restrained himself. "What do you want with me, then?" He asked.
Bruno clapped his hands together in a sweeping motion, kind smile present on his face. The man seemed surprisingly matronly once you spent time in his presence for more than a few seconds, Guido noted. Bruno's left eye twitched slightly.
"I am here," he answered "To fulfil a promise I made to your mother's line a long, long time ago. You see Guido, I am not exactly human."
Guido blinked in slight disbelief at the open confession. Non-humans tended to be openly discriminated against in many places throughout the kingdom, even when the royal family had been actively trying to stop such discrimination for years. To see this man, who, admittedly, didn't look completely normal but could pass as such extremely well openly admit to be such was a bit of a shock to the gunman.
Bruno kept smiling, and a slight bit of tension that Guido didn't even notice was there fell of his shoulders. "Good to see that you don't discriminate." He said, and Guido wondered if he had said all of that out loud. Before he could ask, however-
Something about Bruno f l a s h e d, and for a brief second, his heart rate spiked and Guido could swear that he saw something with far, far too many teeth and far, far too many eyes. The image evacuated itself from his mind as soon as he blinked however, and all he spared towards his suddenly raised heartbeat was a single stray thought before he focused on the sight before him.
Bruno's entire... everything had changed, his hairstyle, his outfit, (which was now covered in zippers, oddly enough) but probably the most noticable thing about him in this new state were the giant pair of glowing wings protruding from his shoulder blades.
"Wh-" Guido started, breath picking up speed as he reared back, before he was caught abruptly by Bruno's hand on his shoulder. He didn't even see him move.
"Be not afraid." Bruno said quickly, something akin to slight panic present on his face. "I promise you Guido, I did not come here to harm you."
Guido blinked a few times in sheer shock at the full-on fucking magical girl transformation that had gone on right in front of him, but his breathing slowed, and he stopped leaning away from Bruno. He was no bigot, damnit.
Bruno's gentle smile returned as he breathed a sigh of relief. "Glad that went well." He spoke. "As you can see," he said, somewhat... warily? As he gestured towards the wings on his back, "The type of Non-Human I would be classified as would be Fae."
Guido had heard of Fae before... vaguely. They were magic, and he was pretty sure parents told their children about them as warning? Or maybe that was some other creature getting ill-deserved fear-mongering passed down about it from parent to child. Damn he was really regretting not looking into the supernatural aside from the most common beings.
Bruno let out another small sigh of relief, he seemed to be doing that a lot. "This just gets easier and easier." He murmured under his breath.
"Sorry, what was that?" Guido asked.
"Nothing, just glad you don't have any pre-emptive biases againt my kind." Bruno replied in turn. 'Even if some are well deserved.' The Fae man thought to himself.
"Anyways," he said loudly, dragging the topic of conversation away from the matter of species. "As to why I'm here, it is because we are technically family, you see," he said sharply, cutting off any noise of protest or confusion from Guido before it could even begin, "Your mother and I knew each other, we knew each other well. She was a descendant of a... friend of mine, lets call it. She, after so long of me not knowing anything about her line, contacted me when she was a young child, and I must admit that although it was rather out-of-character for me, we became fast friends. So much so that when you were born, she asked my permission for me to be your Godfather, and I agreed."
That was, way too much for him to take in right about now. Bruno seemed to react to his thoughts, withdrawing his hand from where it still lay from Guido's shoulder, and making a chopping motion. "I know this is a lot to take in," he said, "So allow me to simplify it. You are my family, if not by blood. So, because of that I wish to help you achieve what you want."
"Which is..?" Guido asked, although he had a sneaking suspicion it had something to do with his discontentment over the past two weeks.
"I have a feeling that you already know." Bruno told him "I want to help you go to the Kingdom Ball, Guido, but to do that I'm going to need to make a minor Deal with you."
Bruno blinked, the action itself not quite noteworthy but just as every other action and movement the man preformed, seemed otherworldly. "Right," he said to himself, "You know practically nothing about the Fae. Isn't this an experience."
"I can hazard a guess. Is it a magic thing? Because I don't have any magic, nor am I going to sign a magically binding contract. I don't know you."
Bruno waved a hand dismissively. "Nothing on the level of a contract, not at all. Merely a 'you give me something small, I do something small in return' there's already all the components we could need outside, the pumpkin patch and the mice inside, the clothes your wearing, your gun."
Guido put a hand over where he had hostered his pistol. "I am not giving you my favorite gun to go to a ball."
"Not at all, not at all! The deal merely means that I would be improving the gun, and all I would require in payment would be a small amount, say a hair or a drop of blood. No harmful intentions, honest."
"Well if it isn't to your liking the change will reverse by a certain point tonight. Permanent alteration would require something more in exchange." Bruno explained.
Guido knew he shouldn't trust this guy, he didn't know him even though he claimed to have known his mother, and frankly, he had absoutely no reason to believe anything coming out of his mouth.
(He really wanted to go to that ball)
"So," he found himself asking. "We could make that deal? Like right now?"
Bruno nodded in affirmation.
"Blood, right? Do you have a kni-" he was cut of as Bruno pressed cold steel into his hands. The other had gone quiet, was looking at him expectantly, but Guido, for some odd reason, didn't feel as if the Faery had been lying about anything thus far.
He braced himself and sliced a large line up his forearm, stretching wide and deep from his wrist to his elbow. He hissed in pain. "This good enough?" He asked, looking back over to Bruno.
The Faery's pupils had shrunk astronomically, and he was smiling slightly, showing barely-sharpened teeth. "More than enough." he responded, and when Guido heard the slight dual-tones in the other man's voice he couldn't help but wonder if he had made the right decision.
Giorno Joestar-Brando sat on his extremely plush desk chair, his head buried underneath his arms as he thought upon what exactly had led to this situation.
He rarely lost his temper, much less so to the point he actually argued with his father, because he always knew that if he did he would regret it a thousandfold. And god, what an argument it had been.
His father had inquired as to his relationship status with one of the kitchen girls. Giorno had denied any such affections like what his father was suggesting, but then the man had to bring status into the argument. Ugh.
She has no magic, he had said.
She has no money, he had said.
She has no power, no status in the world, he had said, and then Giorno had lost it.
He didn't shriek or scream like most did when losing their tempers, he only raised his voice so that it was just a level or two below shouting, but given how much of a quiet person he was, he might as well have. One thing led to another and suddenly his father was forcing Giorno to pick someone out to spend the rest of his life with when he was ruler, certain that Giorno would pick out someone of Status purely to make the arrangement more convinent. And godamnit, he was actually considering doing so.
Giorno sat up on the chair, head no longer planted on the very little free space that the desk had, and started fiddling with the flowers of one of his latest experiments as he contemplated things. As much as he wanted to pick out the poorest, weakest motherfucker in the room purely to spite the king, it was the rest of his life that they were talking about. Honestly, on the inside he had raged after his father for days on end, outwardly however he only let slight annoyance show, as he didn't know what actions the man would take should he throw yet another tantrum at this punishment.
He reached over to the other side of the desk, careful not to disturb any of the touch-based plants that sat on the surface, towards the simple mirror that lay there.
Well, not simple. It was embellished with gold and jewels just as every other damn thing in the palace seemed to be, because if someone were to break into his room and see a completely plain mirror lying about the exotic plants and gold dinery, they would guess it's importance immediately.
He tapped the glass of the mirror twice, and the vision it was showing changed from him, with his immaculately done hair, to a birds-eye view if the entrance to the castle. Giorno blinked. That was a lot of carriages. At least his father hadn't skimped out on his promise to allow those with 'less status' into the suitor pool, although Giorno would bet there would be another obstacle the commonfolk would have to get through before they had the opportunity of trying to court him. Jokes on his father, and to a lesser extent on the poor guardsmen who would have to search for him, because he was not staying in the sure-to-be crowded royal area.
A brief knocking on his broke through his thoughts, and he quickly tossed down the mirror before going back to his plants.
"Hey, Giogio?" A voice spoke from the other side of the door, and he recognised it as the Head-Butler-in-training, Narancia Ghirga, son of the current Head Butler. He liked Narancia for his honesty, because at times the boy seemed to possess so little wit that Giorno wasn't even sure he would be able to lie. "Your uh, presence has been requested in the private dining hall, by your father."
Giorno opened the door to look at the shorter boy, who looked mildly irritated at the fancy suit he was being forced to wear. "Your tie is undone," he commented, and Narancia let out a huff of laughter.
"I'm not going to tie the damn tie if I'm not in public no matter how many times Dad tries to beat it into me. Teenage rebellion, fuck yeah." He said.
Giorno shrugged. To each their own. "Fair enough," he spoke again "Do you also do the buttons wrong on your shirt?"
Narancia looked down at the fancy undershirt he was wearing and let out a stream of cuss words that really shouldnt belong in a castle. Giorno didn't mind.
"Hey, thanks for the heads up Giogio." He said as he tried his damnedest to rework the buttons without taking off everything he had over his shirt in the middle of the hallway. "Dad's gonna kill me for this." He whined.
"Like he wasn't going to kill you for the tie?" Giorno asked as he turned to set off for where his father was waiting.
"Nah, again, teenage rebellion, he puts up with it. Also," Narancia briefly stopped fiddling with his tie to look Giorno straight in the eyes, "Word of warning? Your old man seems pissed. Like, more than usual."
Giorno nodded. "Thank you, Narancia." He turned and started to walk away from the young man, who continued to curse up a storm as he fiddled with his buttons, almost falling on the floor one or two times due to the sheer amount of flailing coming from him.
Giorno could only hope that his father had decided to be more lenient on his punishment, as his magic tingled at his fingertips and he had to force it down.
"Holy fucking shit." Guido breathed, as he looked through the holes of his mask at the frankly colossal palace that the royal family lived in. Yes, he had heard how large it was and yes, he had seen a picture of two containing it, but neither of those mediums managed to capture the sheer magnitude of the building before him.
"It really is something, isn't it?" Bruno asked with a wistful look upon his face. "I remember when it was first built, George was such a polite child back then-" he cut himself off with a shake of his head. "Oh listen to me, reminiscing about the past."
"Fucking hells, how old are you?" Guido muttered under his breath. Bruno smiled slightly at him.
"It's rude to ask a man his age."
"Fairly sure that the saying says lady, but alright."
Bruno twitched. He looked as if he were about to retort, probably something kind-sounding that was actually scathing when one dug deep enough, but before he could, he froze. "Hm." He said.
"Hm? What hm?"
"'Hm' as in, my disappearance from my duties has been noticed sooner than I would have thought. I'm afraid I cannot accompany you to the castle. I should probably return in a few weeks."
"A few- a few weeks? What the hell am I supposed to do with," Guido gestured to everything around him, his fancy suit, the pumpkin-shaped carriage and the horses pulling it, his gun that was stealthily concealed in a holster behind one of his coattails, "this, then?"
"Don't worry Guido, the time will pass sooner than you think." He said with a wink. "Arrivederci, nipote." And then he was gone.
Guido looked at the empty space that had had Bruno in it one moment, only for him to be gone the next. Guido was unsure as to when exactly he disappeared, only that he did. He shook his head. "Fucking magic users." He said under his breath.
He turnt back towards the absolutey fucking giant building, sucked in a breath, and marched forwards.
There was far too many people, and Giorno felt completely out of his depth. He was never good with crowds, and the fact that no-one in this room knew who he was yet, due to the mask, made him shudder. He would likely get trampled if his identity were revealed.
He ducked down over to the refreshment table, dishes being brought in and out by servers as they were picked clean by the ravenous crowd. A small part of Giorno's mind imagined them doing the same to him, and he adjusted his hood discretely. paranoia had warned him that at least a few people would be able to piece together his identity from his hair alone, and he knew that should that happen the news would spread quickly.
Snatching up a glass and pouring himself a scoop of some fruity, non-alcoholic liquid- that no-one had touched, that he had seen come straight from the kitchen a few scant moments ago, he assured all his lessons on poison avoidance, as they started to bear down upon him like the wrath of an angry god.
"Punch any good?" Asked a voice from behind him, and he turned on his heel to see another man, about three inches taller than himself, wearing a blue-and-white mask covered in a checkered pattern. He must have been talking to him.
"It's alright," he responded, taking another sip from his cup. "If you ask me, they used far too much pineapple but, how does it go? Beggars can not be choosers?"
The masked man, which, if Giorno was to be honest with himself, was a rather redundant title seeing as even the serving staff were wearing masks, let out a laugh.
"Man," he said, shaking his head, "That's how the saying goes, yes. Personally I wouldnt even be able to tell if something had 'too much pineapple' but to each their own. You have a name?"
Giorno paused. He couldn't go with his real name, obviously, so... "Giovanna," he spoke through his stylized snake mask, holding out a hand "And you would be?"
The other man froze, and then glanced around. "I'm uh," he paused, (shit, what were the first things that came to mind?) "Sex... Pistols? Damnit no, wait-" ('Guido,' Mista thought to himself, 'you dumbass motherfucker-')
"Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mister Pistols," Giorno bulldozed on, amusement springing up inside his chest as he grabbed the other man's hand and shook it firmly. "I hear that the palace gardens are absolutely wonderful," that was a lie, he knew they were and knew they were bound to be more quiet than this hellish ball room, "would you wish to continue talking there? Perhaps we can try to search for where the abundance of pineapples came from in the first place?"
The other man hesistated, before nodding in agreement. "Alright," he spoke, "lead the way."
Giorno grabbed onto the other man's hand and ignored how well it fit in his own, mind completely focused on how he could explain his plants to a stranger without revealing his identity.
Guido could frankly say that he very much enjoyed conversing with the mysterious snake-masked man, Giovanna, he had called himself.
As they wandered towards the palace garden together, they took turns learning more about the other. Trivial things, as Giovanna did not seem like the type to willingly part with sensitive information, and Guido likewise responded in turn. He didn't want anyone even tangentially related to the boss to figure out that he was here, after all.
When they finally reached the garden, the sense of enjoyment he had been feeling at the prospect of actual positive conversation with someone who wasn't a fifteen year old girl curled up inside his chest, still present, but shoved to the back of his mind as it was dwarfed by the sheer amount of awe he felt as he gazed upon the garden itself.
"Amazing, isn't it?" Giovanna hummed, and Guido could only nod his head in mute amazement.
The garden itself was less of a garden and more of an indoor park, the trees were taller than they had any right to be, towering over a variety of different plants that ranged from normal-looking to absolutely insane. Flowering vines crept up the walls in swirling patterns that didn't seem completely natural, stopping before they reached the high glass skylight that was in place of a roof.
He had to stay that way for a few moments as he took in everything about the garden. Somehow, the room had made nature look more in-place than he had seen in actual forests. "Anything you can tell me about it?" He asked Giovanna, who seemed to the gauging his reaction out of the corner of his eye.
"Certainly," the other man hummed, sounding pleased. "I have... read up, quite a bit on the contents of the royal garden. There's quite the variety of species, plants you wouldn't typically find anywhere this side of the equator. You see-" he started, rambling on and on about what plants were unique and what ones had been spliced with others. Guido chalked him up to be some type of well-learned noble who had almost certainly visited this garden before, maybe even had a hand in creating some of it. He seemed too proud of it to have simply no relation.
They talked for what seemed like ages, Giovanna carrying the conversation as he told all sorts of interesting facts about plants and the few animals that actually inhabited the garden. This isn't to say that Guido didn't participate, he listened intently and nodded along, asking questions about things Giovanna sometimes didn't elaborate on. It was... nice.
"-you see, this breed of tree was introduced into the country some twenty-five years ago, known best for it's fast growth rate, but they only took root in the royal palace around nine to ten years ag-" the other man was saying, when Guido noticed a small group of people gathered not all that far away from them. Something about the gathering set his nerves on alert.
"Guess the garden isn't as isolated as you were saying," he said lightly to Giovanna, gesturing to where the others in the room were standing.
"I suppose you're right," Giovanna responded. "Hold on," he said as he started walking towards the gathering "I need to check none of them are damaging m- the plants."
Guido ignored Giovanna's practically inaudible mutterings of "They better not be, I swear to god..." in favour of following after the other man. With every step he took, however, the more the feeling that something was off about all of this.
"...ince, right?" Guido overheard, just as he had had enough of the warning feeling, pulling Giovanna behind a tree quickly. The other man looked vaguely affronted, whether about being stopped from marching on straight ahead or from just being touched Guido wasn't sure. He put a finger to where his mouth would be on his full-face mask that his had had transformed into earlier, and Giovanna went still, before slowly nodding.
"Yep. Boss wants you to do it instead of any of the normal guys because their methods leave the type of traces the guard would look for. You don't. So, think you can do it?"
The first voice Guido had overheard laughed weakly. "Kill the Prince? I have a feeling you weren't thinking about giving me the option to back out when you approached me with this deal."
"Always been smart, haven't you? You're right on the money. Can you do it?" The second voice asked, slightly threatening, and Guido was shocked when he recognised it as Doppio. The Boss wanted to kill the fucking prince?! What the hell happened to 'Plan Trish'?! He had to fucking get out of here.
"Yeah I can. Don't worry about it, I'll get it done."
"Good!" The second- Doppio said cheerfully. "I'll leave you to it then."
There was the sound of several pairs of retreating footsteps, and then a sigh from the first figure, apparently an assassin, although Guido didn't recognise him as a member of La Squadra, the Boss's favoured team of assassins. That must have been what Doppio meant by 'traces'. He had to get out of here.
He turned to Giovanna, about to grab the man's hand and start running, but paused when he saw the long knife that had, at some point when he wasn't looking, appeared in the other man's grip. He was holding in such a way that if anyone decided to get within touching range he would easily be able to tear into flesh.
"We need to inform the Castle Guard," Giovanna hissed at him and he nodded reluctantly, wary of being outed as a criminal if he got caught knowing about the Boss. Giovanna took off through the greenery with almost inhuman precision, footsteps not making a sound, and Guido was just about to follow him when his ankle felt as if had been caught up on something. Maybe a vine?
He looked down at the unnaturally dark shadow enveloping most of his foot. Not a vine, then. "Fucking magic use-" he started to mutter under his breath, when he was abrubtly yanked backwards by the shadow, letting out a short scream before he caught himself.
"Damnit," muttered the assassin, who was upside down, Guido noted. "A witness already? So not my night." The man sounded incredibly sullen, a stark change from the slight nerves he had previously been showing.
"I mean, you don't have to kill me," Guido started, pausing briefly as he felt the blood flow going straight for his head "I'd really rather you don't, because I also work for the Boss. "
"You absolutely do not." The assassin snapped, tone taking a sudden 180 degree turn from what it had been a moment prior. "I know everyone who works for the boss at this ball, and you don't match the descriptors of any of them." The man said, preening under his own internal praise.
Guido was caught between trying to explain more, and just shooting the crazy, shadow-wielding fucker, but he didn't want to incite the bosses wrath. Killing the fucking prince, was this all serious?
He was saved from his painful decision of 'shoot or no' by fucking spikes flying out of the trunk of a nearby tree. Where the hell did that come from? Did royal people just boobytrap their garden? Was it a rich people thing? He was dropped unceremoniously as the shadows binding him quickly retreated from his own body to cover the assassin's.
"Big fucking mistake," the asshole cried as he strode closer to him, shadows enveloping his entire body as if they were the world's creepiest layer of clothing. "I specialise in killing mages."
"Good thing I ain't fucking magic then." Guido muttered to himself as he unholstered his gun, shoving the thought as to why the hell the tree had done that into the back of his mind, and aiming it right between where the other man's eyes would have been, had they not been covered by shadow.
"You really think a gun is going to work against me? Fucking seriously?" The shadow mage cackled, and then he did something... odd. Where there had once been defined edges of shadow-skin versus regular darkness, of which the room had plenty, now he seemed to... smooth out, it was practically impossible to see where he ended and the regular shadows begun.
"This room is absolutely shrouded in darkness," the assassin began, "are you seriously trying to attack me in my own domain?"
Guido cursed under his breath. Bruno had done something to his gun when they had made the Deal, but would it be enough? He'd have to find out.
He put his finger on the trigger and squeezed. The gun rocked back in his hands with the recoil and the fucker jerked back as his bullet hit him in the shoulder.
He cried out as he slammed against the tree behind him. The waving shadow-edge that mixed him and his surroundings faded as he clutched at his wounded arm "How the fuck did y-" he roared, before being cut off abruptly by a spiked branch protruding from the tree, stabbing straight through his throat.
"Holy shit!" Guido cried, gun dropping to his side and himself falling back onto the ground. He stayed completely still as he watched the assassin for further movement. Nothing. The guy didn't seem to be playing dead, either, as the shadows that had been wrapped around him previously started to slowly fade into mist, leaving him undefended should Guido try and shoot at him again.
"Are you alright?" Giovanna asked dryly from above him.
He whipped his head around to see the black-cloaked man standing as if he didn't have a care in the world. "Hey," he said as he propped himself up on an elbow, "You didn't mention this place was fucking lethally trapped."
Giovanna shook his head in silent amusement at Guido's antics. "It's not." he laughed slightly as he plucked a blade of grass between his fingers, twirling it around. Guido decided that is was a nice laugh. "What did he say? About shadows being his domain?" Giovanna asked, and the blade of grass in his hands began to shimmer slightly, before it stretched, blue petals protruding from one end. "I suppose gardens such as this one would count as mine."
'Fucking magic users.' Guido thought for the nth time as Giovanna handed him the newly-created blue rose, but there was no venom behind it.
"Huh," Guido said aloud as he stared at the bright blue flower, "Everyone I interact with seems to know magic in some capacity. Weird."
"Mages attract other mages." Giovanna said plainly.
"I'm not a magic user."
"Really?" Giovanna tilted his head. "Then what about your gun? You shouldn't have been able to hit him, I recognised that style of magic."
"Ah, well, my gun technically.. is magic..." The magic. He had forgotten. "Hey," he asked, a slight undercurrent of panic in his voice, "what time is it, do you know?"
Giovanna brushed up his sleeve to reveal a very expensive looking watch that was hung on a delicate wrist. "About five to twelve. Wait, four to. Why?" He asked, but Guido was already scrambling for the exit.
"IveRunOutOfTimeItWasNiceMeetingYouBye!" He yelled over his shoulder as he almost tripped over his own two feet in the rush he was in. He only had four minutes until everything changed back.
He ran as fast as his legs could carry him, back all the way through the doors of the entrance hall, exiting the building heedless of anyone in his way. He tripped over the stairs as be rushed down towards where the transportation was held, but picked himself up just in time to see a disgruntled Trish enter the Avinegarun carriage, before it took off at a fast pace. Shit.
He had probably a minute, max. He reached down to his boot, where he had discovered a hidden knife whilst checking out the outfit back home. Bruno seemed to have a thing about easily-accessible concealed weapons.
Pulling the knife out, he sprinted towards a random carriage, leaping onto the horse into one smooth motion, ('Hey,' he thought 'Good job me.') he took the knife to the harness that was strapping it to the carriage.
"Oi!" Called out a thick-accented voice, "You can't just do that!"
"Think you'll find that I can, man." He replied without turning back, jabbing the creature sharply in the ribs to get in moving. His coat-sleeves were turning back into the shade of blue that his initial sweater was, he had to hurry. "FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH,THOUGH," he cried out as he galloped away, "I'M SORRY!!"
King Dio Joestar-Brando, 44th ruler the kingdom had seen, smiled coldly at the standoffish tone that his son was using with him. "Last night," he said calmly, setting his cutlery down to look at Giorno directly, "Was there anybody who caught you eye?"
"As a matter of fact, there was." Giorno replied, not even looking at his father but rather the food that he was cutting up.
"And pray tell, what was their name?"
"I wouldn't know."
Dio blinked, nonplussed. "You do not know?" He parroted, a slight frown tugging at his lips.
Giorno gave a noncommittal hum. "Well, I did not recognise him, so no Major nobility," Dio's frown grew more pronounced. "He was polite, but not in the way of being brought up with etiquette lessons. So." Giorno looked his father dead in the eye, ghost of a smile playing upon his lips. "Minor nobility. At best."
Dio leant back on his chair, pursing his lips together. "I see." He said, after a beat. "This man," he paused, looking as if he was searching for the correct words, "do you genuinely like him, or are you merely saying this due to the ultimatum I gave you when this event was arranged."
Giorno tilted his head as he swallowed. "I greatly enjoyed his company. He was amusing." He finally said.
"Well then." Dio raised a brow. "I trust you know who to go to next? If I recall correctly, your friend Panacotta has a meeting currently, but he'll be avaliable in about an hour."
Giorno didn't bother wondering how his father knew so much about the schedules of those he called his friends, for that way lay insanity. Instead he got to his feet and tilted his head. "If that will be all?" He asked.
Dio bid him permission to leave with a nod, and Giorno turned and left as fast as his legs could carry him, while still remaining polite. Didn't want His Majesty to be offended, after all.
Guido Mista was panicking.
Now, he wasn't really the type to panic in most situations, but most situations didn't invole him foiling the boss's plans for regicide, and then losing the fucking magic gun he had used to foil said plans.
The only good side to this was that boss hadn't killed him in his fucking sleep, which meant that he didn't know it was him who did it. Yet.
The bad news was that the man's paranoia had seemed to increase a thousandfold, with more guards being brought into the manor and disguised as staff than Guido thought possible. Boss was having constant meetings with magic-using subordinates, and it was only a matter of time before he found out that it was Guido who had fucked up whatever plan he had related to the murder of the prince.
He was terrified. He had seen what happened to people the boss wanted hurt before they were disappeared, and he did not want it to happen to him.
"-ido? Guido?" Trish asked, leaning in close to his face, and he almost jumped out of his skin as he was jerked away from his thoughts. "Are you alright?"
"I- yeah, I'm fine." He responded as he shook his head. He couldn't tell Trish about what happened, as while he didn't doubt she could probably keep a secret, it would look suspiscious if both of them were to leave the house just so he could spill the beans. And inside the house? The walls had ears.
The pink-haired teen gave him a disbeliving look, clearly not buying what he was saying for even a second, but dropped the subject. She too had noticed the change in atmosphere recently, and was just as effected by it as he was. Guido sighed. He had to figure something out.
He couldn't keep running forever.
"Fugo, may I ask for your assistance in something?"
The light-haired young man glanced up from the unreasonably large tome he was reading from. "Your highness," he said, crossing his arms "What brings you here?"
"I know you have access to the census information. The detailed one" Giorno informed him bluntly, "I need to find someone from the ball last night."
Fugo tapped a finger against the glowing purple seals that lined the palm of his hand. "Alright then." He said as he narrowed his eyes. "Think you can give me a general descriptor of what this person looked like?"
Giorno thought back. "Dark brown hair, about 5"9, male, likely age twenty to twenty five, eyes were black, skin slightly tanned, spoke like he hung around nobility but wasn't himself," Giorno listed, "He seemed to have above-adequate training with a gun."
Fugo blinked. "I would ask, but I have a feeling that you just wouldn't tell me. Walk with me," he said, gesturing for Giorno to follow after him as he strode down the hallway.
Three days after the kingdom ball had taken place, letters were sent throughout the kingdom, straight from the palace itself.
Some of these letters were merely announcements that the prince had chosen someone to court at the ball, but some were of a slightly different nature.
Throughout the kingdom, approximately two hundred and twenty seven households recieved a letter that declared the fact a royal entourage would be visiting them personally. The letter explained how whomever in the household that matched the description that Giorno and Fugo had managed to piece together would be tested for magic. More specifically, they would be tested to see if their magic would be able to fire a magic-locked gun, one that only respondsd to the aura of its owner.
Should the owner of the gun be found, the letter read, they would be granted an audience with thr prince himself, who would ask for their hand in courtship.
Needless to say, two hundred and twenty six households spent their days in excitement as they prepared for a visit from the royal guards.
Needless to say, a single household spent its days clouded in fear and paranoia as they prepared for a visit from the royal guards.
Needless to say, a blonde prince dressed himself down in the armour of a common guard.
Needless to say, an ambitious, paranoid man spied an opportunity.
Cold sweat ran its way down the back of Guido's neck as he tried his best to concerntrate on the task he has before him. He was so, so fucked.
The gun that was the sole item he had asked Bruno to change permanently, had been found. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, with Bruno telling him that he had paid too much in blood and could cause permanence in one change, if he so wished. But now, rather than it being a completely regular gun which the guard wouldn't have looked twice at after doing a background check (and finding nothing, he was careful with these kinds of things) it was a magically-locked gun, that was found in the palace garden after being fired, along with what he assumed to be the body of the assassin.
But that sense of impending doom wasn't, for some reason, what bothered him most, when it really should have been. No, what Guido felt oddly upset about was the fact that Giovanna almost certainly reported him to the best of his ability. There literally couldn't be any other logical reasons as to why the guard seemed to be visiting certain houses, houses that always contained someone of similar description to him. Not to mention the letter. 'Courted by the prince' his ass, they were trying to search out who had killed someone in the palace, and Giovanna seemed to have pinned the blame on him, desite being the one who took the finishing shot.
(He didn't know why he felt so upset about it, though.)
But today was the day that the guard visited his household, and he was honestly contemplating fleeing into the woods and never returning. If the gun did react to him, which it would most likely because he was able to fire it in the palace, then not only would he be exposed to the guard, but the boss would find out that he was the one to kill the assassin that he had sent. However, over the past few days the boss had been acting oddly... upbeat. Like how he got when he knew something was going to go his way. It set Guido on edge whenever he thought about it.
There was a sharp knocking at the door to his room, smaller than all the others in the house but wholly his, and he looked up from where he had been polishing one of his spare guns, one that he had been forced to carry on him ever since the news of the gun in the palace broke, for fear of inciting suspicion in the boss or his bodyguards.
"Yeah?" He called as he strode towards the door. He opened it up, only to flinch slightly as he was met with the sight of a knife barely a few centimeters away from his eye.
"Guido!" Doppio cheered, one eye almost completely green and the other his regular amber colour. "Boss told me to come fetch you." He said, as he kept standing there, staring at him unblinking, knife still pointing directly at Guido's eye.
"Right, right." Guido said nervously as he tilted his head back away from the knife. "Fetch me for where, exactly?"
Doppio blinked, and the green eye faded more into green-tinted brown. "Oh, of course." He nodded. "The castle guards are here. Come down to the front entrance, as fast as you can." He turned on his heel and practically started skipping away.
"The castle guards are- wait, Doppio?! They're here?! Right now?!" Guido cried, but Doppio didn't even seem to acknowledge him anymore, continuing his merry little walk down the hallway.
"Holy shit." He said to himself, as he laid his head against the wall. "I'm actually going to die."
He spent a few moments in the hallway breathing, trying to calm his screaming nerves. It didn't work too well.
"Boss'll probably do worse to me if I escape." He muttered "Might- Might as well get it over with." He told himself, as he started to march down the hallway, posture showing way more of his typical relaxed-confidence than he was feeling right now.
When he arrived to the entrance hall, he was greeted by quite the sight. Trish was seated nearby, on one of the couches, but the real surprise was that the Boss had actually come out of his office, rather than spending the entire royal visit secluded away from the world under the thin excuse of 'work'. Doppio was standing by his side, smiling pleasantly.
Warning bells started ringing in Guido's head.
The head of the guard approached the Boss, a box tucked tightly under their arm. "Sir Diavolo Avinegarun?" He asked, voice tinny from underneath the helmet. The boss nodded, loose pink hair falling slightly around his face.
"I must say," Diavolo said, voice deceptively inviting, "I thank you for gracing all of us in this lowly household with your presence." The sarcasm was caustic.
The guardsman shifted slightly. "No need to be so formal sir," he responded, "we're just a palace guard troop, nothing too special."
Diavolo smiled. It was not a nice smile, Guido thought, as he watched the Boss's gaze swing to the side, towards one of the guardsmen that was standing at a rest. "Thats not exactly true," he said with an eerie lilt to his voice, "Is it, your highness?"
Guido blinked at what Diavolo had just said and-- --paused mid step as he ran towards the gathering, falling to his knees awkwardly as he lost his balance mid stride. What had just happened? Wasn't he upstairs just a second ago? He looked over towards the Guardsmen, shocked to see that the captain of the squad had fallen to his knees, head seperated from his body. One of the guardsmen was quicker to gather his wits, and ran towards Diavolo with his spear rais--
--Guido collided into Trish as he tackled her to the ground, a sharp speartip broken off from the shaft impaling where she had seemingly been standing. He didn't remember moving, he thought to himself as he spied the box the head guardsman had been holding, having skidded across the floor. He dove for the box just as two more palace guards tried to manoeuvre around Diavolo and--
-- his fingers fumbled as he dropped the bullet he was reloading. He ducked his head behind the flipped couch he didn't remember taking cover behind. What the fuck was happening?
"Giorno!" Cried a voice, and he peaked his head up from behind his cover to see a light-haired guardsman, sans helmet, clench his fists in front of himself as they started to glow vivid purple. "Cover me!"
Another guardsman, wait holy shit that was the prince, nodded, as the hardwood floor started to crack around him, dirt and something green rising up--
--"-o, Fugo!" An all to familiar voice cried out. 'Giovanna?' He thought, eyes searching the entire room, only to land on the prince, who was looking in shock over at his friend, a faint purple mist streaming from a hole in his chest. The prince glared at the boss, eyes showing a burning resolve that would have made Guido weak at the knees had he not been completely fucking confused as to what was going on--
-- the prince ducked under one of the bosses swings, bringing up a sharpened blade that seemed to be made completely from wood--
--Guido choked as Doppio's arms wrapped tightly around his neck, something sharp sticking into his back. He aimed his gun towards the other, right beside his ear. 'This is going to hurt.' He thought, and he pulled the trig--
--Trish was screaming at Diavolo, magic whipping wild around her.
'Alright, this has gone on long enough' Guido thought, as he aimed his gun towards the Boss and fired.--
--Diavolo lay dead on the ground, bullet seeming to have actually hit him. The floor around his legs looked like it were made of rubber, and his feet looked to be incased in the stuff, as if it had crawled up his legs. Trish's work, probably.
Guido looked over to where the guardsm- the prince, who was Giovanna, had scrambled. He was forcing something into the deep wound in his friends chest, a snake curled itself loosely around his wrist as his clothes burnt off in the purple haze, while his flesh remained untouched. He looked as if he were straining himself.
Guido took a step towards him, probably to ask if he needed help, but he wasn't quite sure himself, as he felt rather lightheaded. A sharp pain shot through his back as he moved, and he lightly touched where he had felt the worst of it, only to gawk at the sheer amount of blood that came back on his hand. 'That explains the lightheadedness,' he thought, as he tumbled to the ground, eyes rolling back into his head.
The King never did learn of the fiasco at the Avinegarun household. Giorno made sure of it.
All Dio knew is that his son had finally returned with a suitor, the twenty two year old son of a minor noble who's title had been absorbed via marriage by a man who had been a constant pain in his side for years. A man who was, thanks to the ex-noble boy, apparently dead now. That was enough to get King Dio to agree to their wedding.
Giorno and Guido actually went well together, Dio thought to himself. Guido's laid back yet talkative personality constrasted well with Giorno's driven yet quiet one.
Of course, while the two did manage to get their own happily ever after, there was one thing Dio was most interested in.
The Godfather Fae disguised as a human that attended their wedding.
But that's a story for another time.