"Why are you letting them go?" Kyouya questioned his Decimo, who tilted his head as if he didn't understand where he was coming from.

"What do you mean, Kyouya?" Tsunayoshi asked, his big brown eyes were deceptively innocent though Kyouya saw the steely resolve hidden in their depths.

"Do not play this game with me, Tsunayoshi," Kyouya hissed, slamming his fists onto the hardwood desk in front of him. The papers on Tsunayoshi's desk scattered upon impact, making the younger brunet flail in a pathetic attempt to catch them.

"I'm not playing any games with you, Kyouya. I really don't understand where you're coming from," he denied and Kyouya was about to bring out his tonfas to knock some sense into that fluffy head of his before Hayato interrupted him.

"Tsuna-sama ("Just call me Tsuna, Hayato," Tsuna interrupted wearily.), we don't understand why you would let the Gesso famiglia go practically unscathed. They-" Hayato explained, cutting himself off with a choked sob. It has been a week since it happened and he still can't say it.

(None of them could because it was supposed to be impossible.

Yet he always defied the impossible.)

"I understand, Hayato," his tone was understanding as he reached out to his Storm Guardian. "But we have beaten them, and they apologized—"

"And you think an apology was enough for what they did!" Hibari interrupted him, cold and vicious. Because he deserved far more than that half-assed apology!

"And they also swore that they would support the Vongola and its ideals and deeds," Tsunayoshi finished, but that didn't placate Kyouya nor the rest of the Guardians.

"It wasn't even an Unbreakable Vow," Takeshi pointed out, his hazel eyes narrowed in anger.

"They're not wizards, they can't make Unbreakable Vows, Takeshi," Tsuna responded to his Rain Guardian tiredly.

"So what assurance do you have that they would keep their end of the bargain, Tsunayoshi?" Mukuro asked, bringing out his trident as if it would remedy the situation. And as much as he hated the pineapple herbivore (who, if he was being honest with himself, was the only other carnivore in this room other than himself), he agreed with his solution. And so did the rest of the Guardians, who were bringing out their weapons.

"Enough," and though Tsunayoshi remained soft-spoken as ever, he injected his Will into his voice and all of them immediately backed down because none could compare – could challenge – his Will.

"I understand that you do not agree with my choices, but please, trust me with this," he said, and though he asked so gently, the orange glow in his eyes said otherwise.

Kyouya bristled, angry at his Decimo – his Sky – for the choices he was making. But more importantly, he was angry at himself for following such a sham of a leader.

"For a Prince," Kyouya said, reciting the mantra etched into his heart. "It is better to be feared than to be loved."

. . .

When Kyouya was young and his parents were around, they read to him The Prince by Machiavelli, for the Hibaris were royalty. They were meant to lead and so they did their best to prepare their son, the heir of the Hibari clan.

He learned, the Prince had to be feared.

People, more than anything, feared those more powerful than them. They feared loan sharks, they feared cougars; they feared predators. And these predators were always, always carnivores; animals who were at the top of the food chain.

And so for young Kyouya, who wanted to be a Prince that was feared, it was simple on what he was going to be: he was going to be the strongest carnivore.

. . .

As soon as the Vongola Decimo entered the Cosa Nostra with his Guardians, there has never been a question on who was the strongest Mafioso. Kyouya easily claimed the title with little fanfare and has kept the title ever since. He remained stronger than those who dared take his position on the top of the food chain.

(And to those who were stronger than him, they did not fight to claim the title. But one day, Kyouya will defeat them and rightfully claim the title as the strongest.)

When the scum of the Underworld spoke of his name, they whispered it in hushed tones laced with fear, as if it would summon the demonic Cloud Guardian from where he's wreaking chaos and bloodshed.

(This fills Kyouya with pride for he placed fear into the hearts of the fearless and the heartless.)

So he never realized the problem with being feared – What if they stopped fearing him?

. . .

And that was the case right now: these herbivorous Gesso scum returned to their old ways, like he expected them to do. And worse, they formed herds.

There was a reason why Kyouya hated herds, other than they gave him the hives. He recognized that even carnivores found it difficult to face against whole herds.

Usually, herds weren't a problem for the strongest carnivore in the Underworld, but this herd was not filled with incompetent herbivores that couldn't even differentiate their allies from their foes. They were coordinated and competent; and soon, Kyouya fell to their onslaught.

"So much for being the strongest," Genkishi, the leader of this rebellious Gesso herd, sneered as he kicked Kyouya's prone body.

Kyouya, who was tied up, could only glare with his blackened and swollen eyes.

And he knew at that very moment, that he was no Prince. He was not the strongest. He was not feared. He did not deserve to lead.

But then again, has he really been the Prince this whole time?

Though he was the leader of the Foundation (and the Disciplinary Committee when he was much younger), he still answered to another.

He still answered to a man, whom he could never call a carnivore for he lacked the bloodlust for superiority. But he was not an herbivore either, when he started to show his full colors.

He was…a man who defied all labels and expectations.

Even at his weakest, when no one acknowledged him, he was not powerless. The power he wielded unconsciously (sometimes, even until now) attracted many under his banner – under his wing. He was powerful back then, though he was not strong.

But he grew strong, under the tutelage of the Ryuujins, until he could defeat enemies that even Kyouya had difficulty with.

Even defeating him, though he had help from his Guardians. But Kyouya could not claim that as his win because they did not succumb to his will. He submitted to Tsunayoshi's.

Kyouya couldn't help but smile to himself, even there was nothing to smile about. Why was it in his last moments, he was thinking of him?

Then there was flash of pure Sky Flames, before the scent of charred flesh and ashes entered his nostrils.

"Because you unconsciously knew that he was going to save you, that's why you're smiling," Reborn said with Byakuran by his side.

He glanced at the suit-wearing teen (whose eyes looked too old and too tired for his young frame) then at the white-haired man, who betrayed Tsunayoshi.

"He was the one who led Tsuna here," Reborn said as he started healing the wounded Cloud.

"I don't want dear Tsunayoshi to be angry at me," he shrugged, glancing at the carnage behind him.

And Kyouya watched as his Sky, wreathed in orange flames, created chaos on a whole different level from Kyouya's usual carnage.

(Part of him mused that Tsunayoshi had no right to complain when he would read through Kyouya's mission reports.)

(And another part of him wondered if he really deserved the title of strongest man in the world?)

. . .

When Kyouya came to, he was in his room in the Vongola mansion. He tested his limbs, and though he was still exhausted, he was injury-free, which shouldn't have been a surprise because Reborn does not do anything by halves.

And beside his bed was a chair with Tsunayoshi curled into it, reminding Kyouya of a cat. But he could never compare Tsunayoshi to those tiny domestic housecats, because he was big and majestic – like a lion.

A lion with flames so intense that could burn Kyouya (and the rest of the world) in an instant. A lion whose greatest strength is not the power of his flames, but the power of his influence and reach, calling out to even the farthest and hardest of hearts.

But even though Kyouya should fear him, he didn't. He has never feared his Sky, not even after seeing him at his angriest. Not even after seeing his fullest wrath.

He wondered why.

A soft thump on the carpeted floor pulled him from his musing, and he glanced to see a familiar book: The Prince by Machiavelli. No doubt, it fell from Tsunayoshi's lax grip.

As he opened to a familiar passage, he noticed that it was highlighted.

It is better to be feared than to be loved, if you cannot be both.

And to its side was a small note in elegant script.

Can I be both?

(When Tsuna opened the book from where he left off, he would see that there was a new note, written in beautiful Japanese calligraphy, despite only using a ballpen:


Interlude: On Fear and Love – end.

okay. took me forever to write hibari's (like months) but i liked how it came out for the most part.

also, i've done some editing to the previous chapters (all 23 of them. haha). fixed most spelling and grammar problems, and all of the consistency problems. i'm not done reposting them, but i will by tonight, along with the replies i owe people. xcc

and now onto my replies to my anon reviewers:

to KK, thank you for your warm welcome. and i'm so happy to be back. also, belated happy holidays. ahahaha. and most of all, thank you for your reviews, and i'm so happy you appreciate them. and yes, i have plans for mochida. x3 he's shaping up to be a character i enjoy a lot. and um, as for it becoming like a soapbox, it actually kinda is, ahahaha. because i'm not very good at action and humor, so i tend to go to drama, so i'm kinda sorry for that. and well, as for the cliches, i adore them and putting my own spin into them, so no regrets there. x3
as for lesson number one, to be honest, it was a toss-up between hibari and reborn, i could never write it in tsuna's pov. i don't know why. but since you're curious about it, i did put some of tsuna's reasoning in the next chapter (which is almost done, i swear. x3). but considering kin!tsuna's growth, it's much faster than canon because both reborn and harry are focused on it and they're actually serious about tsuna becoming less dame.
and yes. there will be people who will recognize harry as harry potter. though, not for a long while. x3 (or maybe not? hint hint.)

to 42-42-564, thank you for your review. and um, i'm glad you liked it because i'm going to assume that was a happy "holy shit". ahahaha.

to Guest, thank you for your review. as for harry meeting the other arcobaleno, well... i have plans for that. x3

to Dao, thank you for your kind words. at least i'm getting the mix right, because to be honest, i don't like writing too much tragedy, but then where's the drama if there's nothing tragic, right? and i really hope i update soon as well. xDD but you know, life kinda sucks...

to Guest (whom I assume left a few reviews behind, one after the other), thank you very much for your reviews. x3 i'm glad to see that you're enjoying it. x3 and that was what i was thinking when i was making aliases, because harry kinda sucks at making names for himself. and yes, i was surprised as you were when i was writing ryohei speaking with a normal volume. and self-preservation skills. xDD and of course that's how it works, harry just snaps and breaks stuff with his magic. x3

to akra, thanks for your review. and omfg. i...feel so stupid now. i swear i went through the chapter twice before posting it. (and your review thrice before finding out what was wrong with it). i fixed it though, but i probably haven't posted it yet, by the time i'm done writing this reply. thank you very much for pointing it out~!
as for harry, he's back at the ryuujin residence. reborn is the only one who has the intense need to stalk tsuna. as for mochida, he's in school. i mean, where else would he be? x3

to Guest, thank you for your review as well~ and it's my intense pleasure to have updated. x3 i hope this is soon enough for you. xDD and i'm glad you think so. x3

thank you for dropping by and i hope you enjoyed your read~