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Across the skies

Chapter Text

Reborn is used to being the scariest thing around, no matter where he goes.

It’s something he has long-since gotten used to, being who he is, his reputation feared amongst anyone related to the mafia, and even civilians usually able to tell that there is something very much like a threat inherent in his very presence

No matter where he goes, people – even utterly useless civilians – can somehow instinctually tell that he is dangerous, always and forever the deadliest predator around.

He is used to it, relies on it, even revels in the terrified respect paid to him by mafia and civilians alike. The fact that he looks like a toddler these days doesn’t change anything about the reaction people tend to have to presence.

Well, at least it usually doesn’t.

Reborn glances around himself, not at all certain what to make of this strange Japanese town he has found himself in for his newest tutoring contract, mostly due to the fact that the residents of Namimori don’t seem to be particularly fazed by him. Not really.

The nonchalance he is being treated with is weird. Truly weird. Not to say that the people here aren’t still paying him that instinctual sort of respect, more often than not even unaware they are doing it at all, a natural response to a predator in their midst. But. In contrast to everywhere else he’s been the past couple of decades, for some reason, the honest caution he is used to seeing in people around him simply seems to be missing.

Sure, the civilians in this weird-as-fuck town still tend to keep their distance, so clearly their instincts are still giving them some sort of warning about getting too close to Reborn. But there is a strange sort of nonchalance in the way they react to him. Like they aren’t truly afraid. Like they are utterly assured of their own safety, no matter who or what Reborn may be. The way weaklings act when they are certain, no matter the threat, there is an even bigger predator around to protect them.

A thought which is admittedly rather disquieting.

Not because Reborn actually thinks there could be anyone in this town who’d give him a real challenge if it comes down to it. But because it suggests that someone has at the very least taken on Namimori as their territory, and that person – or organization – is either competent enough or brutal enough to convince its residents of their safety. Likely as long as they stick to some sort of defined set of rules.

Which would be fine, certainly nothing new for Reborn to find himself in a town already claimed by one of the many Famiglias spread around the globe.

However, prior to coming here, he had not only been assured that there was no real organized crime in Namimori. But also, if this town truly has been claimed, then there is a very real chance that Reborn’s future student, one Sawada Tsunayoshi, that idiot Iemitsu’s kid, might have been pulled into that organization’s orbit.

And that truly is a rather worrying thought. If only due to the implications about the accuracy of the information Reborn has been supplied with.

Information which claims that Sawada Tsunayoshi supposedly grew up entirely civilian, not even aware of Flames, much less the mafia world, or his own connection to it by way of his father. Which, let Reborn just say, he thinks is just about the most moronic approach of treating any Sky – much less one even remotely in line for taken over Vongola at some point – that he has witnessed as of yet.

Alas, based on the way Timoteo presented that little tidbit of information to him, Reborn got the definite impression that it wasn’t entirely the CEDEF leader’s idea to cut his own son entirely off from the mafia world. Likely an attempt to curb any potential grabs for power by the kid in the future, assured as Nono had been of his succession in his own sons. Best to get rid of anyone who might develop ideas of power at some point, no matter what it might mean for them. And now, after having lost all of his sons to internal and external forces warring for power, Timoteo suddenly finds himself with no choice but to correct the apparent mistake of not bringing the kid next in line for their blood-drenched throne into their fold earlier.

And he is leaving it to Reborn to fix it.

A task that seemed much easier before he got here and realized just how little of the information he has been provided with by CEDEF is actually accurate.

Because… If some sort of criminal underground organization has taken over Namimori, then there is every chance those people might in fact know about Flames. And in that case, there is no way they wouldn’t have ensured to pull the resident Sky right into their fold, if only to ensure the boy might never attempt to overthrow them. And depending on how that group might then have treated young Tsunayoshi, if they were smart enough to treat him well, to give him a reason to feel like he is part of their group, like he belongs…

Reborn frowns darkly.

Just the thought of the Sky who is next in line for the Vongola throne potentially feeling any sort of loyalty to anyone outside of Vongola’s realm of influence is more than a little worrying.

While he absolutely thrives on chaos, the thought of a potential inter-continental mafia war between Vongola and whoever has taken over Namimori while no one was looking, is not quite what Reborn considers the fun sort of mayhem to be produced and enjoyed by him at his own leisure.

+++

In Reborn’s subsequent investigations, one specific name keeps popping up.

Well, two names, to be entirely honest, namely Hibari Kyouya and Kurosaki Ichigo. But the Hibaris have been living in Namimori for generations and, while the son’s insistence on keeping anyone he doesn’t approve of out of his city is suspiciously Cloud-like, he is also a kid, barely older than Sawada himself, so Reborn doesn’t really worry about him. The same cannot be said about that Kurosaki character.

Because, with the way his name keeps being mentioned, it’s definitely this Kurosaki person who Namimori’s residents have accepted as their protector, the reason why no one in this town seems overly bothered by Reborn showing up and poking at things.

Reborn’s suspicions certainly aren’t helped by the fact that he can’t seem to find out any real details about Kurosaki. Well, except for the fact that the guy apparently has orange hair, scowls a lot, has two little sisters. And that he will indiscriminately curb any criminal activities in the town. With violence, if he feels the need to.

The mentions of some sort of ‘shop’ in connection with Kurosaki, where he and ‘his friends’ gather frequently, well, that sounds far too much like some sort of headquarters for Reborn’s taste and it is also what finally convinces him that there must truly be some sort of yakuza gang behind it all.

Thankfully, so far nothing even remotely like Flames has been mentioned by anyone Reborn has… questioned, from ordinary restaurant owners to various small-time criminals he’s come across. So, maybe it really is just simple Yakuza, the sort that has no idea of the existence of Flames and will be easily taken out if need be.

Reborn certainly hopes so, if only in order to avoid the absolute shit storm Vongola will promptly kick loose if it turns out their heir to their throne might have already been drawn in by some other Famiglia.

Observing his future student himself, also yields the same results, nothing hinting at him being Flame active or having formed any sort of Guardian bond with anyone else. Which is honestly a relief. It’s Reborn’s job as Tsunayoshi’s future tutor to vet and approve any Guardian candidates. If the kid had gotten it into his head to bond to any Elements without his approval – unaware of Reborn’s existence as he still is or not – he’d have certainly taken the affront out of the kid’s hide.

Several times over.

Although, back to his original point. The thing that bothers him most about all of this, is the fact that, for all of his research and observations, even a few days after his arrival, Reborn still doesn’t have an entirely clear image of what sort of organization Kurosaki and his people might be running in Namimori. He doesn’t even truly know what Kurosaki looks like beyond what he’s been told and a few, quick glances he managed just as he disappears out of Reborn's sight, always seemingly just missing him, or Reborn's hiding spot compromised within seconds of him having settled in, or any other of the numerous reasons that make it impossible for him to truly gather information on the guy.

Either this Kurosaki is far better at evading people than anyone without Mist Flames should ever be capable of. Or. Someone is running interference for him.

Neither option seems particularly great to Reborn. If only because, for anyone to avoid him or to void his attempts at reconnaissance, they must first be aware of Reborn’s presence. Which means he’s been spotted without realizing as much.

The mere idea of which rankles.

Then again, if this group already knows Reborn is here, then that also means there is no need to hide any longer.

So...

Might as well poke at things a little and see where that takes us.

Reborn grins sharply.

He is already looking forward to the glorious chaos that will inevitably unfold.

Chapter Text

Drawing out Kurosaki isn’t actually all that difficult. Or, at all really. It’s almost as if, as soon as Reborn stops his subterfuge, so does Kurosaki. Or, whoever has been helping him hide.

In the end, Reborn merely makes his intention to search out one Sawada Tsunayoshi known to several of the more unsavory characters in the city – though, there admittedly aren’t that many criminals to be found in Namimori, almost disturbingly few, if Reborn is entirely honest – and then he sets up camp right across from the shop he’s heard so many people mention in connection with Kurosaki, but which Reborn has refrained from entering as of yet.

He may delight in stirring the pot, but even Reborn knows better than to invade a potential ally’s headquarters before having so much as officially announced his presence in their territory.

That sort of breach is never taken well and wars between Famiglias have been started over far less. So, considering that Reborn is currently on a contract with the Vongola, Kurosaki and his group might just take something like Reborn forcing his way into their headquarters as a legitimate declaration of war from the Vongola as a whole.

Which even Reborn would rather like to avoid. At least until he's actually got the lay of the land a little more. Not to even mention that entirely alienating this group that Tsunayoshi has clearly fallen in with to some degree can ultimately only hinder Reborn’s job of integrating the kid into the Mafia and with the Vongola specifically.

Yes, best refrain from that sort of thing. At least for now.

Of course, once he has officially announced his presence here, his intent to steal Tsunayoshi away from this lot, declared Vongola's claim on the kid due to his blood line, after that everything will be fair game.

Reborn grins. He is already looking forward to it.

Admittedly, even despite not having quite as much information about this group as he'd like, he still doesn't so much as consider whether he might be in over his head by poking at them.

That’s not to say he didn’t do his due diligence, has definitely done his research – well, at least, as much as he was able – and gathered information on this group – well, at least, as much as he could find – and asked his questions – well, at least, as much as he was able to find anyone to answer them

But the point is, he feels reasonably well prepared, has heard enough to know that, while this group might be top dog in this town, they seem to be very few members, a handful at most, for all that Reborn has yet to get a clear view of any of them, and the only one of their lot ever seen actually fighting aside from the youngest Hibari is Kurosaki himself, who apparently only reacts with violence whenever one of the ordinary citizens in his town are threatened by the criminal parts of the city.

Additionally, no one Reborn has talked to so far, actually had anything bad to say about the guy, children giggling delightedly at the name, grannies and shopkeepers even seeming to like him, apparently thinking it wonderful how Kurosaki takes care of his sisters, and everyone is clearly full of respect for him, and most of the people Reborn ‘talked’ to certainly seem to be far more suspicious of the 'unsavory characters' Kurosaki apparently tends to be surrounded by than the man himself.

So, a 'good guy' who only gets into fights whenever he sees some sort of ‘wrong’ being committed.

Reborn honestly wants to roll his eyes at the idea of having to deal with some group of misguided do-gooders, strong enough to mess with the local yakuza and thus convinced of their own excellence, but nowhere near what they’d need to be in order to keep up in the actual Mafia. Especially, if they convinced Tsunayoshi of that sort of worldview as well…

Reborn will make Kurosaki and his lot pay if they managed to make his job of training the civilian Vongola heir up to take his family's bloody throne even more exasperating than it is already going to be.

The point is, he honestly doesn’t worry about confronting this group outright. The thought that he could find a real challenge in some random town in Japan, much less someone who might be able to match or even surpass him, doesn’t so much as cross his mind.

He is an Arcobaleno, one of the world’s strongest. It’s a status he attained entirely based on his own strength before he was ever forced into the position of Arcobaleno, fought for it, worked his way towards the top, and once he reached that pinnacle, he paid for his achievement dearly, cursed to bear the balance of this world with others like him, for no other reason than because the six of them have more power in their pinkies than most people ever manage to gather throughout their lives.

Within the confines of his own mind, he still sometimes rails against the unfairness of it all. Not even so much that he as one of the strongest is forced to bear so much of the world's weight or even the sacrifice inherent with the position. But far more because he was never actually given the choice, not to agree or to refuse, tricked by Checkerface and the one Sky he ever met who might have had a chance of holding him and the others without collapsing beneath the strength of their Flames.

It still burns, that betrayal.

Alas, until he actually manages to find Checkerface again, Reborn will have to wait for his chance to get his pound of flesh out of the bastard.

And until then, he'll have to find other means of entertaining himself.

Like taking impossible contracts from the Vongola and revel in the chaos he manages to produce along the way.

He grins, not worried about the consequences of provoking this group that seems to have taken over Namimori at all. And it’s not only because it’s been literally decades since anyone managed to give him a real challenge in a fight, but also the assurance that, if there were anyone that strong in Japan, a group powerful enough that he should proceed even somewhat cautiously, then someone in the Mafia would know about them, and thus, Reborn would have heard of them as well. So, this group can't be all that significant were actual power is concerned.

Thus, he pokes at the situation by declaring his claim on Tsunayoshi and then sets up camp in front of the Shoten to wait, confident that someone will show up to confront him about his presence and/or intent, giving Reborn a wonderful chance to then beat them into the ground, likely followed by challenges from the rest of the group, who’ll Reborn also have to teach a lesson, ultimately establishing himself as the biggest predator around. And then, he can finally get around to start training that idiot Iemitsu’s son.

So, Reborn sets his bait and then settles in to wait across the street from the Shoten, leisurely sprawling out in his – rather out of place – beach chair as he waits for someone to come out and greet him.

He waits through the morning, then noon, then afternoon, then late afternoon, then early evening, then late evening, mood ever plummeting from darkly amused at the ‘challenges’ he is about to face all the way towards vindictively abysmal, with every hour he is forced to wait. He'll make this lot pay for that alone.

Still, he waits.

Until finally, just as the sunset is casting the sky into different hues of color, Kurosaki – rather easily identified based on his orange hair and the scowl that Reborn has been getting as a description from anyone he’s asked about the guy so far – comes wandering up the street towards the shop, school bag slung over his shoulder, not in uniform like is the norm for students in Japan, but definitely having attended some sort of classes.

Maybe some sort of evening classes? Or maybe university? Reborn wonders absently to himself.

Even as he blinks. And blinks again. If only to get past his own admitted surprise.

Because, sure, Reborn honestly hadn’t expected all that much from this Kurosaki person he’s been trying to hunt down for a couple of days now.

But.

He admittedly also hadn’t expected Kurosaki to be a mere teenager.

Well, the guy is definitely a little older than Tsunayoshi, at least by a few years, around 18 or 19, if Reborn were to guess. But he is nonetheless far younger than Reborn had assumed based on the stories he’s heard about this guy and the way he seems to run Namimori, certainly not expecting him to be young enough to still attend school.

Then again, Reborn is fully aware that age says very little about what individual people might be capable of, as he knows from his own past and so many years spent around various of the utterly insane characters that make up the Italian mafia.

Kurosaki who is still walking up the street towards him, talking on the phone. “Yes, yes, Geta-boushi,” he huffs, scowl on his face though it doesn’t look particularly threatening, more of a… general expression, maybe? “I’m just getting here now.”

A brief pause.

“Well, thank you for that vital piece of information,” the teenager snarks sarcastically into his phone, even as his eyes find Reborn, drag across him, an assessing sort of glance, focused and alert in a way Reborn rarely is faced with outside of those who already know who he is and what he does. “I couldn’t have possibly figured that out myself. You know, seeing as I can clearly see him standing right there in front of your shop.”

Another pause, then, eyes rolling heaven-ward, “Yeah, yeah, Geta-boushi,” scowl still in place but lips quirking the slightest bit upwards at their corners. “Quit your fussing,” before Kurosaki simply hangs up just as he comes to a stop a few steps away, not-so-coincidentally right between Reborn and the shop.

Reborn parses through what information he could garner from that little one-sided conversation, like the fact that Kurosaki was clearly talking to whoever the shop – and therefore the group's headquarters – actually belongs to. Geta-boushi? What sort of name is that? Reborn thinks to himself in honest amusement, even though most of his attention on the way Kurosaki is watching him in turn.

The way the guy is taking in the various details about Reborn, his eyes briefly catching on Leon, though – to his credit – there is none of the usual ‘why is there a chameleon’ surprise to be found in his expression, but rather more of a ‘what sort of weird-ass shit is that chameleon going to be able to bring about for it to be here’ exasperation that is most certainly not the norm for anyone who sees Reborn’s animal partner for the first time.

Interesting…

“Kisuke said you’ve been looking for me,” the teenager finally comments calmly, mostly relaxed, though hi posture clearly that of someone who knows how to fight and knows how to do it well.

It fits with everything Reborn has heard of this guy during his research, calm and laid-back but definitely able to deal out some punishment to those trespassing against whatever limits he may have not-so-officially set.

To his admitted relief, Reborn can’t feel any Flames from the guy, at least not yet.

That’s something at least…

Reborn also ignores the fact that he has no idea who ‘Kisuke’ might be, a name that hasn’t come up during his various bouts of reconnaissance at all. Which isn’t good, because it means he missed something, which is inacceptable. Especially since, based on what the teenager just said, this Kisuke person must be the one to keep an eye on Reborn in turn, the one keeping his ear to the ground.

And… Kurosaki said ‘looking for me’, as in Reborn having clearly been aiming for meeting Kurosaki himself. Which is true. But Reborn never declared as much, instead pretended to only be interested in seeking out Tsunayoshi, even though he had certainly meant that announcement as a means to force this exact meeting with Kurosaki.

It might not have been a particularly convoluted ploy on Reborn’s part, but it still makes him somewhat uncomfortable to hear that there is someone – this Kisuke person who he himself did not hear so much as a whisper about – who has rather easily seen through Reborn’s own motivations, his intention of drawing Kurosaki out of hiding.

Reborn doesn’t like it.

“I’m here for Sawada Tsunayoshi,” he instead announces, casual and relaxed in a way that tends to annoy most people, eyes remaining sharp on Kurosaki.

“Yeah,” the unsurprised nod that announcement gets him is still somewhat expected at this point. The way Kurosaki’s stance shifts just the slightest bit in immediate reaction to the mention of Tsunayoshi, still relaxed but now something inherently protective about it, however, definitely is.

This isn’t good, Reborn thinks. Not because of the clear challenge in Kurosaki’s posture and the fight it promises, but because of the implications of the guy feeling the need to do so. The fact that it might not only be Tsunayoshi’s loyalty to an organization outside of Vongola’s influence that Reborn will have to worry about, but also about returned loyalty as well. Because that will definitely make his job harder if he were to aim to break any bonds that may have been established between Vongola’s future heir and this group.

Mirrored loyalty, the one thing that will unfailingly keep a Sky at your side, no matter the obstacles anyone might put in their way.

Looks like Reborn might truly have to beat this Kurosaki and his ilk into the ground, establish himself as the biggest threat around, and then collectively build the lot of them up into something that can be seamlessly folded into Vongola’s empire in turn.

Then again…

Hm, looking at it from that angle, maybe the situation isn’t all that dire after all. If this group – whose members he still doesn’t actually know – is strong enough to pull in a Sky, untrained and sealed as Tsunayoshi may be, then making that group loyal to Vongola by shifting the Sky’s loyalty itself, can actually be only beneficial in the long run.

Without also running the risk of alienating Tsunayoshi by going after people he likely considers allies, if not friends, possibly even family.

Yes, this entire thing might yet work out just fine for Reborn, if he has more than just one angle to work with in order to make Tsunayoshi bend to Vongola's demand. Not to even mention that it will also give Reborn a couple more teenagers to torm-, erm, tutor along the way.

He grins sharply, watching the way Kurosaki watches him right back, the teenager’s gaze calm and undisturbed, clearly not at all worried but, to his credit, at the same time also not disregarding Reborn in any way. The dichotomy of this guy clearly not thinking him a threat but still not dismissing him, almost like he is far too used to people pulling impossible feats out of nowhere whenever you least expect it, is certainly notable.

Reborn takes note and thinks magnanimously that Kurosaki at least gets a couple points for that sort of awareness, a good thing in a leader. It might even mean that Reborn won’t have to start entirely at zero with his training of their lot if he doesn't have to beat even the barest sense of awareness into all of his future vic-, erm, students.

So, he decides it might be best to establish his own superiority right from the get-go. By way of cleanly and efficiently beating the leader of this group into the ground.

If only to get his revenge for making him run around in circles ever since he got to this town, and then making him wait.

So, Reborn goes in for a quick attack.

It’s nothing particularly harmful, merely a rubber bullet, even if shot from a realistic looking gun, just to see what will happen, to poke at things and figure out just how little of a threat Kurosaki likely is.

Best case scenario – for Reborn at least – would be if the kid isn't able to defend himself at all and gets an, admittedly rather painful, bruise in the aftermath. Still-okay-scenario, this Kurosaki actually has skills and manages to evade the shot, which would mean awareness and definite training, also meaning less work for Reborn in the long run. And worst case scenario, the guy will be able to pull out Flames from somewhere to deflect the bullet, which would mean his group is Flame-aware and they potentially even decided to bring Tsunayoshi up to speed regarding Flames in a non-Vongola-approved manner. There might even potentially be some sort of Flame bond between them in that case.

Still, even now, despite halfway expecting Kurosaki to have at least some sort of fighting skills, Reborn doesn’t expect much and even his worst case scenario still includes him subsequently beating the teenager into the ground and making him bend to Reborn’s will, just like anyone else he ever comes across or who might be stupid enough to attempt to cross him.

Once more, Reborn honestly doesn’t expect much.

However, his expectations aren’t confirmed. At all.

Kurosaki doesn’t even move, doesn’t so much as twitch, despite his eyes so very calmly tracking the path of the bullet aiming for his own chest, obviously fast enough to see it, and thus definitely fast enough to react, to move or defend himself.

If he wanted to. However, Kurosaki doesn’t.

There is something so calm about him, about the way he remains standing right in the path of the bullet. Like he doesn’t even worry about any harm it might possibly do to him.

Then again, maybe the kid can somehow tell that Reborn doesn’t mean him harm as such, admittedly no killing intent in his attack, not before Reborn ascertains whether this kid is an actual threat, having no interest in potentially realizing afterwards that this kid might be harmless after all, possibly even a civilian. If only because potentially killing a civilian while on a contract from the Vongola is simply too much hassle for Reborn to want to deal with.

So, maybe the guy can somehow tell that this isn’t meant as a killshot?

Still, to remain in place despite any sort of attack levied at you, harmless though you might assume it to be, in Reborn’s world, that sort of self-assurance is a death-sentence. Well, unless you have the power to back it up, of course.

However.

While Reborn might not have necessarily have expected his bullet to reach its target, expecting Kurosaki to evade or to deflect, relatively certain that this kid actually does know how to defend himself… There is just something in Kurosaki's eyes, world-weary and tired in a way even Reborn, despite his job, is only rarely confronted with, more often than not only sees it to that degree from himself or his fellow Arcobalenos.

So, yes, he knew before he fired that shot that there is something more about this teenager. You don’t get eyes like that without having seen things, things that tried and maybe even succeeded in taking everything you ever treasured from you, and the world still demanding more, demanding you continue on, somehow managing to live through it. No matter how much you might sometimes wish to simply stop and give up and not have to continue struggling for your right to live as you please all the time.

The point is, Reborn isn’t particularly surprised by Kurosaki’s lack of fear at finding himself shot at.

The teenager is calm.

Perfectly calm.

Too calm.

Like a bullet cutting its path towards him doesn’t necessarily constitute an actual threat in his eyes. Like there is no chance of the bullet ever reaching him. Maybe, Reborn thinks, Kurosaki even intends to dodge at the last moment, to evade the bullet physically instead of levying any sort of counterattack.

Reborn never finds out.

Because, while he didn’t necessarily expect this simple attack to actually hit its target, more aimed to figure out what sort of skills Kurosaki might be hiding, Reborn still expected Kurosaki himself to be the one to fend off the attack.

He did not expect Kurosaki to never get the chance to, for him to remain right where he is, to not move so much as an inch. And he most certainly did not expect the person who materializes right in-between the two of them, appearing in less than the blink of an eye, right in the path of the bullet. A person who then proceeds to almost casually deflect the bullet off to the side.

In the split second he gets to take in the sight of this newcomer – brown hair down to his shoulders, dressed in black-and-white, face neutral, something almost lazy about his expression, but his eyes so sharply intent on Reborn it has everything within him coming to perfect, alarmed attention – before Reborn suddenly finds himself on the defensive, desperately trying to evade the sword suddenly going after him rather mercilessly, ceaseless, pressing and pressing and pressing and not even giving him a moment to breathe in between attacks, lest he be willing to start losing limbs.

Reborn didn’t even feel this guy approaching, even his usually so reliable instincts only having had the merest fraction of a second of time to warn him of the new arrival before the guy had already been upon him, barely enough time to react, his every movement so very fast, perfectly efficient, not a single twitch wasted, even now, with all of Reborn's attention forcibly focused on this newcomer, he is barely able to follow his movements, fluid and ceaseless and so very quick some of them seem to entirely disappear from his sight, something that hasn’t happened to him for years.

Reborn can keep up with Fon at his most intense, not necessarily in regards to his own speed but certainly in regards to reaction time and most definitely fast enough to never lose sight of him.

Reborn didn't think there could ever be anyone actually faster than the Storm Arcobaleno.

He abruptly throws himself into a backwards flip, Sun Flames bursting to life around him instinctively enhancing his own speed to let him evade an almost lazy thrust of the blade in the newcomer's hand, clearly aimed for his throat, but movements just that little bit slower than in the beginning during that first attack, almost like the guy has adjusted his own speed to match Reborn’s.

As in, adjusted it downwards. So as to not utterly outpace him.

It rankles. Bitterly.

Because, the worst thing? He is getting the definite impression this guy is playing with him, something leisurely dismissive in his every movement that speaks of him not even really trying, despite the sharpness in his eyes, the fury. Fury that is most likely due to Reborn attacking Kurosaki, daring to attack someone who this other guy clearly considers to be under his protection.

And as merciless as his attacks seem to be, Reborn is rather frighteningly aware that the guy has yet to go in for a serious attack, no moves to actually kill yet.

Like the guy either doesn't think Reborn worth that level of attack. Or. Like he might be waiting for some sort of signal, a command.

“Starrk,” Kurosaki then speaks up calmly.

And just like that, the newcomer – Starrk – is suddenly standing several feet away from him, once more, to Reborn’s ire, moving so quickly, he barely sees him move to come to a stop a little off to the side but also right in between Kurosaki and Reborn. His posture is relaxed, a lazy sort of slouch, eyes almost half-lidded in easy relaxation, although clearly rather carefully positioned and his intent to lob of Reborn's head in case he should decide to go after Kurosaki again, more than clear.

There is something almost animalistic about his attacker, even now that he is standing still, something territorial and unforgiving and primal in a way that Reborn doesn't think he's ever come across before.

Reborn remains where he is, quite a bit of distance between himself and Kurosaki now, everything within himself suddenly cautious and alert, his Flames dancing around him in preparation for another potential attack out of nowhere.

He hasn't been put on the defensive like during those few brief seconds of the unexpected attack on his own person – if you can call it a fight at all – for longer than he can honestly remember. He isn't used to not being top dog.

Still, far more cautious in his observation now than he was before, it's not the way his attacker looks so utterly unruffled after their 'fight', sword held leisurely by his side, posture perfectly relaxed, eyes glinting with feral fury, that garners all of Reborn's attention at the moment.

No, that honor goes to the other guy who is suddenly standing right next to Kurosaki, close enough for their shoulders to almost brush.

Whose presence Reborn cannot feel despite being able to see him standing right there.

Lack of awareness is something Reborn simply never has to worry about, something that life had beaten into him so early that it is a simple state of being for him. For anyone, Flame active or not, to simply disappear from his senses… Something frightfully like a shiver  works itself down Reborn's spine.

Reborn didn't even notice this new guy's approach during the fight, who, even now, not so much as pings on his internal warning systems, so utterly unnoticeable, so easy to dismiss, that his non-presence sets off every single instinct Reborn has.

He takes in this new guy, blonde hair, traditional Japanese clothing, a green-and-white striped hat, the smile on this guy's face cheerful, bright, and utterly harmless.

But.

Danger, some part of his mind whispers.

The new guy tilts his head, the smile he sends Reborn remaining perfectly friendly, expression cheerful, an utter non-entity to his senses, the glint of the man's eyes barely visible within the shadows cast by his hat. There is absolutely nothing threatening about him.

Danger, danger, danger, his instincts clamor at Reborn.

What in the…

How did Kurosaki, who looks like a normal teenager, a moody one at that, manage to garner the protection of people like this?

First that Starrk guy, someone who is clearly able and willing to kill for Kurosaki, no hesitation in his movements, just waiting for a sign, an order, the leeway given to do away with Reborn entirely. Someone who just made Reborn honestly fear for his own life. While likely not even going after him particularly seriously.

And now this new guy? Who doesn't ping on his senses but still sets of every alarm Reborn has?

He feels his own Flames swirl defensively around him, so very unused to not being the one in charge, being unable to twist any situation to his liking, caution and suspicion and prepared for anything that might come his way from Kurosaki's group.

How did this teenager end up with protectors like these?

The explanation comes merely moments later.

When Kurosaki reaches out to rest a hand on the shoulder of the guy beside him, almost like he is reigning him in, like the guy really had been doing something for all that Reborn has no idea just what it could be. The two of them are clearly familiar with one another, something calming, almost reassuring, in the simple touch.

Even as Kurosaki's eyes remain on Reborn.

Then, the teenager tilts his head, focus on Reborn. Or more… like he is focussing on something around Reborn. Like Kurosaki is sensing something, trying to figure something out, making sense of something.

A second of stillness.

Then, a shiver in the air around them, as though the world itself were preparing for something, a tremble, as the very atmosphere seems to suddenly be heaving under a inexplicable, inescapable weight.

And Reborn staggers at the Sky Flames that fill the air around them, barely able to keep his head up to stare at Kurosaki with wide eyes.

A Sky. Who burns so bright it feels like a sledgehammer to Reborn’s senses, his own Sun Flames not quite sure whether to curl away in terror from the sheer power this Sky wields or whether to curl towards the endless warmth, bathing the firmament itself in a magnificent orange glow.

And, suddenly, Reborn almost wants to laugh.

Because, there is no way a Sky of Kurosaki's power is going to let any person he has claimed as his, no matter their Flame types, be taken from him. If Vongola insists on their claim on Tsunayoshi, they might just find themselves without an empire to rule, if this Sky ever decides to take their war over to Italy.

A war they'll also be fighting entirely on their own.

Because Reborn sure as fuck isn't messing with this, same for anyone with any sort of sense.

On that note, Reborn is absolutely going to kill Iemitsu.

How could CEDEF miss the fact that, not only has Namimori clearly been claimed by a Sky so far out of the league of any single Flame user Reborn has ever met, but that Tsunayoshi, Giotto’s descendant, the one next-in-line for the Vongola throne, has clearly been adopted by said Sky.

Then.

“Yo,” a new voice interrupts, yet another man suddenly appearing on his senses as he casually comes wandering up to their group, though Reborn could swear he hadn’t been there right until the moment he announced himself. A lazy glance around. “I thought it was my turn to deal with morons? You already took care of the last one, Starrk. Seriously, learn to share.”

The new man, blonde hair almost impressively long, a weird, far-too-broad smile on his face, his eyes sharp in a way Reborn thinks he has not yet seen on anyone he has ever met.

“Actually,” the guy-in-the-hat chooses to speak up with a cheerful smile, somehow appearing even more disturbingly harmless now that the definite killing intent has disappeared from their immediate surroundings – something Reborn hadn't even noticed until it disappeared at Kurosaki's reassurance earlier – and everything about this guy's demeanor suddenly making him seem so scatter-brainedly harmless it's almost scary for sheer effectiveness. “It was your turn last week. Do not be greedy, Shinji.”

Reborn watches them absently, fully aware that this little spiel is entirely for his benefit. Elements laying claim, declaring their claim on this territory and this Sky and likely also every single person Kurosaki might have claimed as his as well.

Which, Reborn knows, might just mean that there are several more people of this strength wandering around town. Most likely all of them bonded to this same Sky.

Because of course there are.

"Oh, bite me, Kisuke," this Shinji guy returns with a lazy sort of cheerfulness that speaks of long familiarity and a relationship so complex and intricate, Reborn can't quite tell which one between the two of them holds the higher rank or would be in charge if such a distinction were ever necessary. "Nothing happened while it was my turn," his pout looks utterly ridiculous on his face. "We really should change the rules of how we decide whose turn it is to deal with idiots."

Ah, Reborn thinks almost absently. So, guy-in-the-hat is the 'Kisuke', who Kurosaki mentioned earlier. The one who has been watching me, saw through my intent, and who is apparently also able to hide himself so effectively that I still cannot sense him, despite also being able to see him standing right there.

He wants to sigh, though admittedly still slightly giddy with the sheer amount of Sky Flames of never-heard-of purity surrounding him on all sides, bathing the entire town in their warmth, everything suddenly making sense, as impossible as this should be.

He also doesn’t know what he finds scarier. The fact that Kurosaki is a Sky so powerful he fully eclipses anything and anyone Reborn has ever met before. Or the fact that he can’t feel so much as a whisper of power from this Kisuke guy standing beside him, almost a sort of void where he is standing, where his power should be. Or the fact that this Sky clearly already has several Elements who – if what Reborn has seen so far proves true – are more than capable to keep up with an Arcobaleno. Or even utterly outpace them.

So, a ridiculously powerful Mist, then. You know, to match the ludicrously powerful Sky whose Guardians I just managed to unintentionally piss off.

And suddenly, somewhere in that usually-pushed-aside-if-only-for-the-sake-of-his-own-sanity corner of his mind, there is a tiny part of him, the part that still hasn't gotten over the curse laid upon him and the other five Arcobaleno he considers his if only due to circumstance, the part of himself that still rages against having taken his agency away from him, no choice given, forced into a position he never wanted… There is suddenly a kernel of hope, a desperate sort of whisper, wondering whether these people might not be able to actually match Checkerface as well. Whether they'd be able to take him down…

Hm, maybe it really is time he calls another Arcobaleno meeting.

Viper at least will be unable to stay away at Reborn's claim to have come across a Mist stronger than her. And whatever Elements this Shinji and Starrk are, they'll likely have their Arcobaleno counterparts beat as well, going by what he's seen so far. Yes, Reborn really should share all of this with his fellow Arcobaleno.

That way everyone can join me in this feeling of inferiority and no has to feel left out, Reborn thinks pettily, already a little cheered up at the thought of the chaos that will follow once the other Arcobaleno inevitably make their way here to see for themselves and make sure that Reborn isn't just pulling their legs.

Then.

Suddenly, the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps, quick and efficient, before the youngest Hibari – the only one out of the entire group who Reborn has been able to observe at any length, if only because Fon had been very clear that he expected his nephew to come to no harm whatsoever while Reborn was in this part of Japan and even Reborn knows better than to purposely piss of the Storm Arcobaleno – barrels around the corner, tonfas already drawn, eyes bright, clearly ready to throw himself into a fight if given half the chance.

The teenager comes to a halt a little off to the side, pretty much opposite of where Starrk is still standing, but also a little closer to Kurosaki, almost within the Sky's reach.

Reborn blinks.

Well.

Turns out, he won't have to bait all of the other Arcobaleno into coming here. At the very least Fon will start making his way to Namimori the very moment Reborn tells him that his nephew has apparently been pulled in by some ludicrously powerful Sky that none of them has ever heard about before. Yes, Fon will likely be getting here within a day or so, Reborn thinks cheerfully.

Then, even more footsteps, light and hurried in a way that once again speaks of children rather than adults, but steps far less controlled than Hibari's had been. Before Tsunayoshi himself comes barreling around the corner, at his side the girl Reborn has seen him with over the past few days, the few times he managed to spot Tsunayoshi at all without anyone promptly interfering. A girl, who, according to what little information Reborn had been able to dig up, is also Kurosaki’s sister.

Reborn blinks at the two children lazily, at this point simply refusing to let himself feel so entirely taken aback by yet another impossibility, thinks he has already more than reached his quota for this week, no matter what he is currently seeing.

Because.

Next to Tsunayoshi, the girl’s eyes burn orange. To match Tsunayoshi's own.

Reborn blinks once more, absently contemplates whether he should maybe reconsider his various life choices that brought him here.

The girl's eyes, however, remain unchanged.

Which, counting Kurosaki and Tsunayoshi, makes her Sky number three. Just on this one street. In some random city in Japan. When usually you tend to go years without coming across so much as a single active Sky Flame user, much less an unclaimed one.

Reborn feels an honest-to-god sigh inflating his own lungs.

Honestly, what is it with this fucking town?