The Path Of Redemption
Summary: In a world infested by monsters called Fiends, great Clans arose to fight the threat. Hunters are routinely called to deal with the dangers posed by them, working under the orders of their Chieftain. The new Chief is young, and inexperienced, but with dark secrets come to life, his Clan and their allies must fight to keep the peace. (Arcobaleno/27)
Chapter One - The Right
"Are you sure you're ready, sweetheart?" Nana asked softly, reaching up to cup Tsuna's face, running her thumb over the jut of his prominent cheekbone and watching, with mixed dread and affection, as a grin of nervousness and excitement crossed his face.
"Of course I am!" Tsuna said cheerfully and then paused for a moment, smile faltering as he actually thought of what he was preparing to do. "Well, mostly. Besides, I'll have all the safety items, plus the Dome if something gets too close. I'll be safe."
"The Dome isn't foolproof," Nana murmured, wringing her hands together nervously. "I've heard the stories Tsu-kun. I-If you don't come back, I don't know what I'll do."
Tsuna's expression softened and he reached to take his mother's hand in his own, squeezing her fingers. "It's the Right, mother. Not an Advancement, not a Placement, not even a real Hunt. There's hardly anything bigger than an Infernal in the woods by the Compound. The biggest they've ever had was a Misfitt and that was over seven years ago. I'll be fine. Promise. They won't get through the Dome and even if they do, it isn't a solo hunt. I can blow a whistle at any time and the proctors will come running. I just have to keep moving."
"You'll be more than fine," Nana said, sounding fiercer than she felt. "You won't take any risks and you'll be careful! If you come out with more than a scratch I'll…I'll lock you in your room!
Tsuna laughed at that, gladdened to watch as his mother's mouth quirked too, and he gently murmured, "I'm twenty one. Hardly young enough to be locked away like an unruly child."
"You're always going to be my baby boy, Tsu-kun. Nothing will change that, not age, not rank, not status."
"So even if by some stroke of luck I became Chieftain –" here, Tsuna wrinkled his nose at the word, "- you would still treat me the same?"
"Of course!" Nana said indignantly and squeaked as she was swept up into a heartfelt hug, Tsuna holding her tight and burying his face in her hair.
"Thank you," Tsuna whispered into her hair and then reluctantly pulled away as someone by the door cleared their throat. Tsuna straightened his spine and turned to face the person in the doorway.
"It's time," Coyote murmured solemnly, face as serious as his voice and he inclined his head to Nana in greeting, to which she straightened her spine and brushed her hair from her face, blinking back tears, looking every inch the strong, proud mother she was.
"Knock them dead, Tsu-kun."
Tsuna gave a tight smile and walked to Coyote's side, following the stoic man to the preparation chamber.
"We will leave you for two hours. Here, you will eat and prepare yourself." Coyote stopped by the door, pulling a key from his pocket to twist in the lock, pushing the heavy wood inwards to allow Tsuna in.
Tsuna took in a deep breath and entered the room, the floors lined with tatami mats, a low table in the centre of the room with a small bowl of rice and a plate of steamed vegetables on it, a pillow set in front. There was also a teapot and corresponding mug, whereas across the room there was a special mat, where the meditation would take place.
The door clunked shut behind him and the tumblers fell into place, locking him in for the next two hours and, quietly, Tsuna knelt by the table, wondering if his nerves would settle enough for him to eat.
After a few minutes of uncomfortable shuffling, Tsuna was forcing himself to eat, knowing well enough that if he didn't now, he wouldn't have time before he left. Having to blow his horn out of feeling faint or exhaustion would be embarrassing.
It took him nearly twenty minutes and, by the end, the rice was cold and stodgy, but the lump of nervousness in his stomach had been softened by the tea and the bland vegetables reminded him of when he was younger and still in training.
Then, murmuring a soft thanks, he crossed the room, sat cross legged on the specialised mat, closed his eyes and began to breathe, curling his fingers greedily as if trying to grab onto the calm that started to flood his veins.
Tsuna gently flinched as someone knocked on the door three times in succession and then swung it open, Coyote stood there, face still solemn and Tsuna simply nodded without waiting for the question to be asked.
Slowly, his body lax and heavy, he rose to his feet and walked to Coyote's side, following the man without being prompted, comfortable in the silence that surrounded them.
Coyote was a man of few words, and Tsuna wasn't sure he wanted to break the quiet in case it broke his concentration as well, and he simply stared at Coyote's shoulder as he followed the older man, the calm still making his body lax.
The next room they entered required an electronic code and opened into the armoury, a room split almost evenly in half. One side was primarily aged, bladed weapons, an assortment of knives, swords and spears. The other side, Tsuna's right, included ranged weaponry. Pistols, bows, crossbows. Nothing larger – it didn't matter how large the weapon was, if it didn't match its Master, it wouldn't damage a Fiend, let alone kill it. Larger weapons allowed for larger collateral.
With a Hunter's aim being to keep the populace safe, inadvertently killing seven people for the sake of saving two or three wasn't the way to go.
"You are free to choose your weapons. The limit set upon you is three. You may not use a weapon of higher class then Decimo. No class weaponry and Decimo weaponry is free for your perusal," Coyote intoned, the speech sounded rehearsed and Tsuna didn't doubt it was spoken to others attempting the Right.
Tsuna nodded in understanding, ushered into the room and hearing the door clunk shut behind them, letting out a pitched whine as it relocked. Across the far side of the Armoury was a door that led to the Ready Room and from there, Tsuna would bed led to the Woods of Atonement, where the Right was committed and where Tsuna would take his first step to becoming a Hunter of great renown.
At least, that was what he hoped.
Dread slowly began to pool in his stomach as he stared around the room, mutely hearing Coyote's murmured, "You have thirty minutes for your decision." And, hesitantly, Tsuna crossed the room to peer at the blades.
This part was the step that worried him. Should he take the weapons knowing he wouldn't need them? How would he go about saying 'I don't need any weapons'? That was if they took him seriously and allowed him to continue the Right, and didn't take him as someone negligent of his own health.
In the end, he chose a small dagger that slipped into his belt sheathe, and holstered a 9mm. Glock, after carefully checking the clip. Then, he made a show of hunting about the room and was quite pleasantly surprised that, after Coyote intoned – "Three minutes left." – he found a pair of aged, leather gloves, covered in weathered cracks and old brown stains of left over blood.
Reverently, he slipped the gloves on, ignoring Coyote's soft huff of surprise, and flexed his fingers in the confines they gave him. The dread was washed away and Tsuna relaxed, nodding to Coyote to signal he was prepared.
The Ready Room already held people, and this was where Tsuna was handed both the whistle he would use for assistance, and the horn he would use to sound to signal his surrender, defeat, or fear of death. These were clipped to his belt, tucked carefully beside the knife and gun.
Then, he was given the Dome. It was a chrome sphere that, when twisted, would erupt in a barrier around the person who used it. The Dome had been passed down for generations, used since the beginning of the Practice of Hunting, and was said to be a mix of technology and long forgotten magic.
The Dome was tucked into a backpack that Coyote gestured him to and, alongside the Dome went a First Aid kit, several knives that weren't designed for Hunting, and instead for such reason as whittling or skinning, and a tinderbox. Also included was a waterproof cloak and a cylinder package that was tied to the top of the backpack Tsuna identified as a tent. Along with the basic survival kit, he was given two bottles of water, both of two litres in weight, and a pack of dehydrated food, interspersed with simple to eat energy bars, simple cutlery and plastic plates.
It seemed a little excessive, given that the Right only lasted a maximum of six hours, that Tsuna wouldn't even be out in the true Wilds of what the world could offer, but he knew, just as any other, that this was part of the test. Being able to carry the weight of the pack was just a factor he would be tested against. If he couldn't carry a basic pack for six hours, he wouldn't be able to survive a mid to long range Hunt. That was how the Right worked.
"Tsuna." A warm voice interrupted his musings as he strapped the bag in place, and Tsuna glanced up to meet the soft eyes of the clan's Chieftain, Timoteo as the old man approached him.
"Revered Chief," Tsuna greeted, dropping to a single knee and bowing his head. "It is an honour."
"Come now Tsuna, none of that. We can leave the formalities for now," Timoteo laid a hand on Tsuna's shoulder, keeping it there even as the brunet rose to his feet again, glancing up at Timoteo with a quiet, nervous smile.
"As you might imagine, I am a little anxious," Tsuna admitted. "I've only ever been in the simulations and now that my Right is upon me…"
"If you are not ready, there is no shame in postponing, Tsuna. We can – "
"No. No. I'm ready, Chief Timoteo." Tsuna flushed at his interruption but was rewarded with a soft smile, Timoteo's hand on his shoulder squeezing faintly.
"That is good to hear. We always have need for Hunters in these troubled times. The moon will reach its peak in a short time and the Fiends will be at their most active soon. However, there are two gentlemen I would like you to meet. If you may." Timoteo gestured with his free hand to the door that opened to the testing grounds, which themselves opened into the woods.
Tsuna nodded, adjusted the straps of his backpack for a few moments and then, when indicated, left by the door. The great lamps of the testing grounds were lit, people milling around in the bright, artificial light. The proctor was settled on the observation deck and Tsuna could hear the soft murmurs as he spoke into the microphone to test the system.
The Right and any other Advancement or Placement test was a large undertaking. It took a special breed, as Iemitsu had liked to joke, to become a Hunter, latent abilities aside. That right mix of brave and insane to face down a monster borne of nightmares and horror with nothing more than a handful of weapons and a conviction of one's ability that was that much greater than fear.
As such, many had gathered in order to await the outcomes of Tsuna's Right of Maturity, and the nerves began to bundle in his stomach.
"These guests of ours, the ones I want you to meet, are here by my askance, Tsuna. I thought it would be good of them to be here when they could have refused."
The churning in his stomach worsened and Tsuna swallowed the taste of bile. If the Chieftain had called for them, they must be of importance if they could refuse the callings of a clan as well known as the Vongola.
Timoteo led him across the testing grounds, parting the groups of people with his mere presence, some of them offering the standard words of support and prayer for Tsuna's safety.
"I would like to introduce you to Reborn, of the Arcobaleno Faction, and Skull, of the Arcobaleno Faction," Timoteo murmured to Tsuna, inclining his head to the men before them and Tsuna felt his mouth and throat go dry as he immediately recognised and realised who exactly he was facing.
Both of them cut tall, imposing figures, almost radiating power and Tsuna could only offer a muttered greeting.
The shorter one, Skull, barked a soft laugh and rolled his eyes.
"Come on. We aren't exactly that intimidating, huh?" He tugged at the piercing on his lip and offered a tight grin. And, inexplicably, Tsuna had the feeling that he was being quietly mocked. The soft snort that Reborn, the darker one gave, eyes scanning the grounds and ignoring Tsuna solidified this.
"I'll try and remember that," Tsuna offered in quiet reply, "Should I ever meet you again. I would like to thank you for this opportunity and hope not to disappoint." His voice was very nearly sardonic, not quite sarcastic enough to be rude but subtle enough that those it was aimed for would have to think twice.
Timoteo was laughing behind his hand, and Reborn had turned to glance at Tsuna from the corner of his black eyes, appraising him with a blank stare that made the hair on the back of Tsuna's neck rise.
"I should rather like to thank you as well, for choosing to bear witness for this Right." Timoteo inclined his head and both Skull and Reborn ducked into a deeper bow than the Chieftain before the two of them returned to looking across the grounds.
"Come, Tsuna. The Right will be beginning shortly. You need to be in position."
"I understand." Tsuna glanced once more at the two Arcobaleno and followed Timoteo towards the starting point of the Right, a small, weathered brick road that led into the depths of the forest.
"If you don't find my asking impudent, may I inquire as to why the two Arcobaleno are present here?" Tsuna asked, almost stumbling in his attempt to keep formal in the face of witnesses.
"No reason at all, other than my own," Timoteo replied, sounded almost cryptic and amused. "Do not worry, Tsuna. They are not here to judge you or any other. If anything, they will offer comfort to the others who are to stay and watch that should you be in danger, the Code dictates they come to your aid."
"And will they come to my aid?" Tsuna asked, scuffing his toe against the cobblestones of the Path of Beginnings and honestly, why did everything have such strange names?
"Tsuna, my dear boy. That is up to you to decide." Timoteo clapped him twice on the shoulder, and gave him a digital watch, strapping it around the protesting young man's wrist, ignoring Tsuna's insistence he could put the watch on himself.
"In less than ten minutes, the bell will signal. I must leave you now, and wish you the best of luck. It would be a great honour to welcome you from the forest as a Hunter."
"Thank you, Revered Chieftain." Tsuna dropped once more to his knee in respect, feeling an unnamed emotion make his eyes start to burn.
Timoteo smiled gently and stepped away, making his way to the observation deck.
No more than seven minutes later, the great bell rang, the watch on Tsuna's wrist began to count down, and Tsuna marched determinedly into the Woods of Atonement, head held high and heart in his throat.
It had been half an hour since the boy had disappeared into the Woods, small and frail and barely a presence to him. Reborn was very certain that at any point in time now, the horn would be blown and the boy, barely a man, would surrender his Right of Maturity and admit defeat.
Perhaps, just maybe, he would get as far as blowing his whistle instead, to call for assistance and help against the Fiend he had found, so the Primary Judge could assess his ability in Hunting and Battle upon arrival. It was unlikely he'd get that far though, in Reborn's opinion. If the whistle was blown, that would mean the boy had found something and would need help and in doing so, that meant a chance of Passing. Reborn highly doubted the trembling boy who had walked into the Woods could break a twig, let along stand against a Fiend long enough for help to arrive without being killed or passing out.
As if in passing thought, he was reminded of Giotto, the first Chieftain, the first to choose to gather Hunters in a clan, and indeed the first Hunter to ever have completed a Right of Maturity without any assistance at all.
Huddled next to him was Skull, who was tapping a foot almost impatiently as he rubbed his arms. The night had become chilly, cloudless and dark with the moon hanging low and full in the sky.
After a moment, Skull chose to mutter under his breath, petulant and almost whining, "Why do we have to spectate for this stupid little brat anyway."
Without pulling his eyes from the woods in front of him, Reborn chose to discretely dig a knuckle into Skull's ribs and made the other man softly yelp.
"It was as the Ninth asked. Or did you want to disrespect the Revered Chieftain and his clan?" For a moment then, Reborn did turn his head, just briefly and Skull shrank under the force of Reborn's expression.
Another thirty minutes later trickled into a further hour and so, two hours after the boy had been sent into the woods, Reborn was past impatient, cold, and resigned. When the morning sun came at the break of dawn, he would join the others in finding the body, no doubt about it.
With a quiet sigh, he lifted his hand to signal the end to the proctor, so the test could officially come to a close. It was tradition that every candidate have six hours but, if no whistle or horn had been sounded in the first two, the candidate was presumed dead. The funeral proceedings would begin approximately twenty four hours later.
There was a rustle from the forest that caught his attention and he whirled back around the face the tall trees, cursing his relaxed state even as his fingers closed around the handle of his gun, grip worn and familiar under his hand.
Watching closely for any signs of movement – Fiends weren't unknown to leave the forest, and a lot of the present clan members were by no means battle ready or even Hunters and so were at risk – Reborn couldn't stop his lower jaw from falling slightly slack at what he did see.
The timid little boy that had been sent in – Tsunayoshi his mind whispered – was stood at the edge of the Woods of Atonement, right on the edge of the Path.
The brunet's mouth was twisted in a grim, accepting smile, even as he cradled the head of something grotesque to his head. From head to toe he was almost completely covered in a dark, brackish blood and the only sign of any sustained injury was a crimson spot of blood at his temple, a trickle of bright red near his eye.
He caught sight of Reborn's expression and something close to mirth danced in his eyes, along with a flicker of orange Reborn was certain he hadn't imagined.
The proctor, having seen him emerge, blew the celebratory horn and called out the words that would signal the end of the Right of Maturity, voice calling out loud and clear over the speakers.
"Tsunayoshi Sawada, son of Iemitsu Sawada and Nana Sawada nee Hikaru, has completed his Right of Maturity! His test time is two hours and seven minutes. He-He has managed to complete his Right without any assistance. T-This hasn't happened since our Founder himself, the Great Chieftain Giotto!"
Without being prompted, Tsuna tangled his bloody fingers in the straggly hair of the beast he had killed, lifting the disembodied head high above him, chest heaving in exertion as he grinned wildly at the cheers that rang out around the testing grounds.
Reborn found he couldn't stop staring as Tsuna lifted his free hand to swipe blood away from the lower half of his face, triumphant expressions still in place and Skull, still stood next to him and almost speechless, whispered in a voice filled with awe, "Fucking hell."
Reborn silently agreed.
The bustling sounds of the testing grounds faded eerily behind him only two steps along the Path of Beginnings. After only twelve steps, by Tsuna's count, he could no longer see the lights of the grounds behind him and the Path had already ended.
Taking in a deep breath, he stepped off the cobblestones and into the woods themselves, and noise exploded around him once again. Muted calls from bird animals, the rustle of animals in the trees, the wind catching the leaves.
The fear he had felt before stepping in had melted away and he felt incredibly relaxed. The woods were dark, what looked like black smoke winding around the trunks of the trees. Tsuna easily recognised the miasma left behind by Fiends. While some found it choking, it parted with no effort on his side as he walked through the woods.
Tugging his gloves on a little tighter, Tsuna adjusted his bag and then picked a direction and aimlessly walked. He knew not to go too far. Whereas the Woods of Atonement didn't tend to hold any dangerous Fiends, it would become thicker with miasma and more difficult closer to the centre of the woods.
While a Misfitt had only been seen once in the last seven years didn't mean they didn't live in the woods, and underestimating what may or may not be present was one of the leading causes of a failed Hunt.
After around thirty minutes of walking, Tsuna chose to sit down and wait. A Fiend would only be found when it wanted to be. More often than not, in order to cause mischief, dismay and death they would let themselves be seen and then, upon being noticed, they would attack in a twisted version of their own Hunt. Some of them stayed hidden until the critical moment, and then would slip from the darkness to hack and slash. Some Fiends in particular liked to go for the Achilles tendon and take their time while the victim suffered.
Tsuna pulled out a bottle of water and had a sip from it and then chose to munch on one of the six energy bars included in his food pack, the rest of it obviously dehydrated. He had almost finished eating when something small and looking almost entirely constructed of miasma scuttled out from the darkness at the edge of his vision and peered up at him with dozens of eyes, like a mouse with the face of a spider.
Tsuna offered it the remainder of his food and it settled two feet from his left to chew on it thoughtfully, its eyes – a rather unnerving shade of violet – never leaving Tsuna's face.
"You are looking for a Dread Creature."
Tsuna took another sip of water and, after pulling out a small bowl included in his kit, poured a drink from the little beast, which cupped its smoky hands in the water for a few sips from its palms here and there.
"I am," Tsuna agreed quietly. It was always a little unnerving, hearing the voice of a Fiend. However, he was the only one he knew of with the ability and he didn't find it prudent to warn anyone else. Alone in the Woods, and with the knowledge most Hunts were solo, his secret would be taken to his grave.
"I hope I am not the one you seek."
"So long as you are no danger to myself and mine, there is no reason for me to have quarrel with you."
The Fiend made a curious noise, between a cough and a laugh, all its strange vocal cords could make.
"These woods are the safest place for one such as myself. If you hunt for bigger game, I could lead you. Equal exchange. As you have helped me, I will help you."
"Equal?" Tsuna laughed softly.
"As you have assisted me, I will assist you. If this is what you truly need, as I have truly needed, I will help."
Tsuna rubbed his jaw in thought, the leather almost rough against his skin and then he nodded, waiting patiently for the Fiend to finish drinking before he tucked his things away in the backpack.
"If you could lead me to something worth the Hunt, I would be grateful."
"A human with manners. To live to see the day where my kind could approach and not be slain on the spot."
"I could say the same," Tsuna responded quietly as he stood and the Fiend bounded ahead of him without another word, almost disappearing into the woods if it weren't for the tip of its tail lighting as bright as its eyes had.
Twenty minutes of following and the miasma abruptly thickened around them to a point that it no longer passed around Tsuna and instead made him squint through the fog and cough quietly at the ashen taste it caused on his tongue.
"Ahead you will find a Dread Creature worthy of your time, mortal one. The exchange is complete."
Tsuna coughed again, this time into fist, and muttered a croaky thanks, swiping his free hand in front of his face to try and part the miasma.
The Fiend simply blinked at him, one or two eyes at a time and disappeared into the miasma, the afterglow of its eyes present long after it was gone.
A few more steps into the miasma and the sounds of the forest faded away to obscurity and Tsuna felt his hackles rise, a clammy sweat breaking out on his skin.
It was only by luck he ducked to the left and not the right as a roar sounded right beside him and a tail slammed into the ground where he had been standing.
"Leave! Leave now or death be unto you, you filthy worm!"
Tsuna grit his teeth and unsheathed his knife, darting under the tail and digging the dagger into the first solid mass it met, warm blood pouring down over his hand, followed by a high pitched shrieking of pain.
The Fiend wrenched away and disappeared into the dark, taking Tsuna's knife with him and leaving him to quickly tug his gloves down tighter as he readied himself for what would probably be one of the most dangerous points in his life.
The head came bearing down on him from the left in his peripheral vision, a great gaping maw of teeth and a forked tongue. Tsuna danced around, grabbing onto a protruding horn from the side of the head and holding on as he twisted his body until he was astride the thing's neck.
Without preamble, he fumbled around the face of the bucking, thrashing creature and found the eyes under a layer of hair to where he dug in his thumbs with no preamble until they gave way with a sickening pop and the feeling of something goopy and sticky pouring over his hands.
As the Fiend started throwing its weight around again, Tsuna grabbed onto its protrusions again and was surprised when both snapped off – a safety mechanism, he guessed wildly – and he was tossed to the floor violently, the creature screaming again.
However, this left the horns in Tsuna's hands, and, after a little fumbling, Tsuna found out they were sharply tipped. And then a scaled paw slammed into the side of his head, sending him tumbling to the floor and a little dizzy, and winded. The same paw, apparently equipped with fingers, curled around his torso and lifted him from the floor by just under a foot, tight around his ribs, claws poking at his skin through the jacket he was wearing.
The rancid breath of the Fiend washed into his face along with waves of miasma, and Tsuna squinted in the dark, hands still gripping the horns. He slammed one into what he guessed was the side of the Fiend's face and was dropped – only his hold on the horn, dangerously slippery with blood kept him up until he managed to twist his hand into the things scraggly fur. Then, probing about with his foot, he found where one front shoulder joint rested and, while the thing clawed at both him and its face, he scrambled forward onto the things back.
Then, bracing on his hands very briefly, he brought his foot back, took in a steadying breath, and slammed it mercilessly strong into the shoulder of the thing, hearing it slip free and snap with a sickening pop.
The Fiend lost its balance and slammed down onto its front with an outraged screech.
What was different about Tsuna from the majority of Hunters, what made him reluctant to choose a weapon, was that his offensive mastery was a rarity.
His hand to hand combat was unparalleled to any other person he had come across and so, despite his wiry, lean little frame, he knew how to throw his weight and how to fight a losing fight. A knife or blade was helpful, but it made him unbalanced. Against larger Fiends he might be outmatched, but this Fiend would likely be the largest he'd ever see outside the Right in a solitary Hunt.
And where most people accepted into Hunting had latent magic that mostly focussed on regeneration – how else would the Dome work for them? – Tsuna had come into luck, and not only did he heal, as any other Hunter would heal from most minor wounds, he had strength no other could match. This part, however, wasn't well known.
Tsuna chose to utilise this and, while the Fiend was down, struggling to get back to a balanced position, Tsuna darted in close, ignored the snap of the head until he was safely behind the jaw, pressed into the broken shoulder. With another deep breath, Tsuna proceeded to lock his arms around the wiry neck of the Fiend, and give an unsophisticated, mighty yank.
The crack and looseness of the body made him sigh in relief as he trembled in fear and adrenalin. Had it been any bigger than it was – squinting through the dark, it seemed the size of a horse - his arms would not have found purchase around the neck and he most certainly would have failed in that approach, with his life as forfeit. Tsuna slumped against the corpse and, against his better judgement, kissed his gloved knuckles in thanks of what he had been gifted with.
The blood on the gloves tasted disgusting but Tsuna couldn't bring himself to care. Eyeing up the creature, he guessed that it was about six foot long and, from the kink in its spine, regularly shifted from standing on four feet to two, compensating its tail in the shift. When it had caught Tsuna, it had been halfway balanced, no doubt not wanting to waste time for a full change. Breaking its supporting shoulder had sent it down until it could shift to its two footed form, the only fact that probably had saved Tsuna's life.
Then, he started shaking and crying because he'd managed to kill his first Fiend. He couldn't identify it until he returned the evidence of a completed Hunt, but the adrenalin was wearing off, the shock was sinking in deeper and stronger and he still had to remove the head.
He crawled along the body until he reached where the knife was still buried, removed the weapon and half crawled half stumbled back to the head. He made a preliminary cut, one that followed the circumference of the creatures neck and was deep enough at most points to meet the spine. Then, replacing the knife with blood as far as his elbows, Tsuna steeled himself, dug his gloved fingers into the incision he had made and, bracing a foot on the steadier shoulder of the corpse, yanked back as far as he could.
The head came flying free with a new spray of dark, almost black blood, enough for Tsuna to spit it from his mouth and to quickly back away, not even ashamed as he dropped to his backside from the sudden retreat. The decapitated body slumped down, gravity pulling it further and slowly, it began to dissolve, flecks of miasma floating from its body.
Tsuna, still sat down, just curled over his hard won prize and trembled.
"I know you must be itching to clean yourself up Tsuna, but the Right will end soon," Timoteo said soothingly, even as he took not the seat next to Tsuna, but two away, in order to avoid the blood drenched young man.
"Though, I would like to ask…how did you manage to get so thoroughly…covered?" Timoteo peered at him curiously, but with knowing eyes.
Tsuna shuffled, grimacing at the stiffness of his clothes and the stickiness of bloody skin.
"I, uh…I tore its head off."
Timoteo's eyebrows shot up and Tsuna shuffled again, glancing away only to meet Reborn's passive stare and then he gave up, just staring at the table instead.
"I have a second latent ability. M-My instructor thought it was secondary and that the regeneration would become the main ability, but, uh, the second one ended up staying at equal power."
"What ability is it?" Reborn asked, voice sharp and intense. He wasn't accusatory, in fact there was barely any emotion to his words, just a clinical detachment.
Tsuna swallowed nervously, rummaged in his backpack – which was on the floor by his chair – and pulled out a knife.
"That would, uh, be strength." And then he snapped the blade in half, not from the handle, but along the metal.
"Fascinating." Timoteo didn't seem to realise he had whispered it, but Tsuna shifted in his seat and blushed, ducking his head to stare at the two pieces of what was once a sturdy knife in front of him before he set them delicately on the table.
"Two latent abilities aren't rare as you know, but to have the second one become prevalent or equal…well, only a small number of Hunters can boast that, our friends the Arcobaleno included."
Tsuna lifted his head at that, to glance at Reborn and Skull, the first who simply stared and the latter who just grunted in agreement.
Timoteo seemed to want to say something else, but then there was a knock at the door and the Primary Judge walked into the room, smiling softly and warmly at Tsuna. He had a clipboard, eyes roving over the words and he quietly murmured, "Let me be the first to offer my congratulations, Sawada-san. Your first Hunt has been Judged successful. The Fiend you Hunted was a Dusk-kin, of class Ottavo."
Tsuna let out a huge breath of release and slumped into his seat, pressing his face to his hands and not even flinching at the blood, feeling relief more than anything, before the Judge's words registered and he asked, voice croaky, "O-Ottavo?"
Considering a Misfitt was class Settimo, he had been closer to death than he realised. Even though they were considered child's play for seasoned Hunter, for himself to have killed a class Ottavo and come out with no more than a mild concussion and looking as if he'd bathed in blood….
"Perhaps you entered the woods a little deeper than you should have, but I will not lie that your results were more than satisfactory." The Judge inclined his head to Timoteo. "Revered Chieftain. I leave the final decision to your capable hands."
"Well, I think the verdict is simple." Timoteo smiled brightly and folded his hands in front of him in the table. "Tsuna, as Chieftain of the Vongola Clan, I hereby welcome you into the ranks of the Hunters, and wish the best in your Hunting."
As he waited for a response, it was with quiet realisation that Timoteo realised Tsuna had silently fallen asleep, face still hidden in hands and still slumped back in his chair.
Laughing softly, Timoteo dismissed the Primary Judge and the proctor and regarded Tsuna fondly.
The newest Hunter to the Clan had earned his rest.
Risk: Low, to none.
Risk: Approach with great caution
Appearance: A Dusk-Kin will vary in size of length from between five foot and six foot, and a standing height of between six foot and eight foot. It is unknown where the extra height comes from. It boasts a powerful tail, double jointed limbs – addendum: the point at which joints meet are weak – and a strong jaw with two rows of teeth. Has two sets of horns – addendum: these can detach at will of Fiend – which are harder than bone and sharply pointed. It has one set of eyes – addendum: easily damaged – and has greatly improved sight. Despite these common features, each Dusk-kin will differ between each other. Some are scaled, some have fur, some have neither.
Temperance: Hates intruders upon its territories. Will attack even outside of territory. Has no regard for life and will approach suddenly and without warning with no provocation.
Risk: Approach with great caution
So….I started a new story. And I'm not sorry. Whoops.
It might sound confusing, with all these terms thrown about, but some Hunting Lore will be explained here and there, and if you have any pressing questions, just let me know!
Also, unsurprisingly, this is going to be an Arcobaleno/27. The hints will probably range from super mild to what the hey, but whatever. It's a guilty pleasure.
It's a bit up in the air at the moment, but I might need a Beta for this one. If you're interested, drop me a PM and we can discuss!