The school was burning.
"Is there anyone else still inside?" one of my coworkers shouted over the din of the crowd. The rest of them did a headcount. All the children in our classes were present. Behind us, the fire roared.
"Everyone is here," another coworker shouted back. Before we could react, however, I caught a glimpse of movement from a window on the second floor.
"There's someone still inside!"
Suddenly, the principal grabbed my arm.
"It's Isabella! My daughter, she's still inside! Please, please..."
I didn't even hesitate, emptying a bottle of water over a blanket and dashing into the burning building.
It wouldn't be until later that I heard that the principal had offended the mafia. The fire had been caused by the mafia, and the principal's daughter trapped in the building to die, in order to teach the principal a lesson.
And it wouldn't be until it was too late that I found out that the very act of saving the principal's daughter put my name on their hit list.
"Gokudera Hayato, also known as Smoking Bomb Hayato, the human dynamite," Hayato heard Reborn's voice say as he slowly slipped out of his unconscious state.
"I don't care what you call him," another voice said. It was Vongola Decimo's voice. Hayato was suddenly aware that he was lying on a soft surface.
"You should. Gokudera Hayato is going to be-"
"I refuse to bring a child into these circumstances, go to hell." Vongola Decimo's voice was as bitingly cold and sharp as ice. Hayato opened his eyes to see an unfamiliar room.
Hayato made to sit up and was immediately forced back down by the Vongola Decimo.
"You're still hurt, you need rest."
"Are you going to kill me?" Hayato asked. The Vongola Decimo looked taken aback by those words.
"What? Why would I kill you? The, I," he spluttered, "what?"
"I tried to attack you, I tried to kill you and your subordinate. It would only be fair for you to kill me." The Vongola Decimo stared at him for a long while and Hayato braced himself.
"Okay, firstly, Yamamoto isn't my subordinate. Secondly, I'm really not going to kill you so don't look at me like that," he sighed deeply, rubbing his face with his hands.
"If you're not going to kill him, you should make him part of the famiglia," Reborn cut in. A small inkling of hope made itself known in Hayato's heart, but he refused to acknowledge it. There was absolutely no reason for someone as powerful as the Vongola Decimo to accept Hayato into their famiglia, and especially not after Hayato tried to kill him.
"Make him join the mafia? He's just. He's just a kid; that's a fate worse than death!" The Vongola Decimo glanced towards him and his voice softened. "I don't want him to get hurt because of me."
Hayato didn't understand.
"If, If I may speak," he started, sitting up. This time, no one stopped him from moving. He paused, waiting for permission to speak.
"Go ahead," Reborn said. Hayato bowed his head.
"It would be an honour if the Vongola Decimo would accept me to be part of his family. Getting hurt is of no consequence to me, I am ready to put my life on the line for Vongola's sake."
"Gokudera Hayato would be a good addition to the famiglia," Reborn said, tone pleased. A long period of time passed without any answer from the Vongola Decimo and Hayato couldn't help but raise his head.
The Vongola Decimo's face was entirely blank as he stared at Hayato. However, Hayato could see that his hands were clenched into fists, and his whole frame tense.
"This is wrong," Hayato heard him whisper to himself. "This is wrong."
"Having the loser of a fight serve under the winner is a mafia rule," Reborn said. "And even if you don't accept, Gokudera Hayato would still be part of the mafia. He just wouldn't be under your protection."
The Vongola Decimo shot Reborn a glare. "I know what you're doing," he hissed out through gritted teeth. Hayato didn't know if it was a trick of the light or something else, but he could've sworn that the Vongola Decimo's eyes flashed a dark, burnt orange for a fraction of a second.
"Is it working?" Reborn asked, a smug smirk on his face.
"Yes it is, damn you," was the Vongola Decimo's reply. He then took in a deep breath and turned to Hayato. "I, I accept you as part of my family. I hope we can be friends."
Hayato couldn't believe his ears. He sprung to his feet and knelt down in front of the Vongola Decimo. "Thank you so much for the opportunity, Jyuudaime" he said breathlessly. "I promise I will not let you down."
"Stand up, stand up!" The Vongola Decimo sounded horrified and Hayato immediately followed the order thay was given to him.
"I, you," the Vongola Decimo shifted awkwardly. "You can just call me Tsuna, you know? I don't want you to call me by that title."
Hayato's heart leapt to his throat. To call the Vongola Decimo by a mere nickname was plain disrespect. There was no way he could do that. Seeing Hayato's stricken face, the Vongola Decimo adverted his eyes.
"Never mind, just do as you like. Please take it easy."
"Thank you for your kindness, Jyuudaime." Hayato bowed deeply, unknowingly causing Tsuna much distress.
"Gokudera became your subordinate because of your strength. Good job, Tsuna."
There was no answer.
The atmosphere was thick with tension. Yamamoto was smiling at Gokudera, but his eyes were so dreadfully cold. Mochida stared at his lunch, having lost his appetite. I ate my own lunch slowly, trying to ignore the situation.
The only one who seemed to be enjoying this entire setup was Reborn.
"Who's the newcomer, Tsuna?" Yamamoto asked. Gokudera seemed to want to say something, but he held his tongue.
"His name is Gokudera Hayato and he's my friend now," I replied.
"Hm, I see." Yamamoto cocked his head to the side. "I guess you're not that bad of a person if Tsuna considers you his friend. I still don't trust you, though."
"I understand," Gokudera bowed his head a little. "It is only natural for Jyuudaime's right hand man to be wary of newcomers."
"Right hand man?" both Yamamoto and I echoed.
"Yes? Is he not your right hand man?" Gokudera asked, confused.
"Okay, just what the hell is going on here?" Mochida finally burst out, unable to stand the feeling of being left out any longer. "Tsuna?"
"That's..." I hesitated for a moment. I didn't really want to reveal anything about the mafia to Mochida, but it wouldn't be right to keep him in the dark. "I just found out that I'm the heir to some really big mafia family through my father's side, and I'm being groomed to be the next mafia boss of that family," I said in a rush. The sooner everything got spilled out, the better. Like ripping a bandaid. I held still, not knowing how Mochida would react to the news, when Mochida started to laugh. Something in my chest clenched at the sound.
"You know, if you didn't want to tell me, you could just say so. You don't have to come up with such an elaborate story," Mochida said, a hint of bitterness in his voice.
"But it's true!"
Mochida abruptly stood up. "I'm done eating. I'll be in my classroom if you need me." With that, he left the roof.
I didn't know why, but I didn't chase after him.
Yamamoto had baseball practice and Gokudera had to go to his part-time job after school ended, giving me the chance to walk home by myself. Well, technically I was with Reborn, but I didn't want to acknolwedge his presence. Hence, I was walking home alone.
From a distance, I saw a crowd by the side of the street. They were wearing relatively tacky clothing and were only a pompadour away from looking like a stereotypical deliquent from old movies. They must be new here; Hibari would never allow such a crowd to form and all Namimori citizens knew that.
As I drew closer, I heard a familiar voice.
"We would greatly appreciate it if you monkeys could leave us alone," Kurokawa Hana said. Curious, and a little worried, I drew closer to the group only to see Kurokawa and Sasagawa with their backs to the wall as they were boxed in from almost all sides by the group. Kurokawa was stepping slightly in front of Sasagawa, eyes narrowed in defiance, but I could see that her hands were shaking.
"Oh come on, don't be like that! Is that how you treat distinguished guests from the city?" One of the men leered at Kurokawa, and she gritted her teeth. "We just want to accompany you for a while."
"They did tell you to leave them alone, you know. As 'distinguished guests', should you step back when asked to do so? Right now, you're merely behaving like a bunch of hooligans." I couldn't help but step in. It wasn't right for me to just stand by and watch a bunch of grown men bully two children.
"Oh?" Immediately, the group of men turned to face me. They took one look at me and started to laugh.
"The little boy wants to play hero, that's awfully cute," one of them cooed mockingly. His words just rolled off me, like water off a duck's back. I had nothing to prove to them.
"Can you please allow them to pass? You're being awfully rude."
"And if we say no?"
"Then I will have no choice but to alert the authorities," I replied calmly. Of course, I wasn't sure how I could summon Hibari so quickly, but I could probably just scream that someone was disturbing the peace and he would descend, like a large and terrifying bird from the heavens.
"Oi, do you even know who I am?" Another person, most likely the leader, stepped forth. He spat on the ground and I winced. That was bound to summon Hibari. "I am the younger brother of the leader of the fearsome Black Wolf gang!"
"Sorry, I've never heard of that name before," I replied almost immediately.
"How is that possible?!"
"Hibai-san does his job very well," I said with utmost seriousness. Kurokawa couldn't contain her snort of amusement. Suddenly, her eyes went wide.
"Tsuna-san!" Kyoko yelled in a panic.
The hairs on the back of my neck suddenly stood up and, without thinking, I whirled around, using the momentum of the turn to drive my elbow into the stomach of the person standing behind me. The clang of metal against concrete echoed as the steep pipe the person had been carrying fell to the floor.
What happened later was strange and even I didn't know what to make of it.
It was as if my body was not my own; there was a disconnect between my screaming mind and the fluidity of my motions as I kicked the steel pipe upwards, catching it in my hand. I turned swiftly again, smashing the pipe into someone's ribcage before he could punch me, and then dropped to the ground to avoid an attack from another person.
He overextended a voice seemed to whisper in my head as I watched the man trip over me and fall flat on the ground. These people are amateurs.
I glanced over at Kurokawa and Sasagawa. They were rooted on the spot, staring at me. Upon making eye contact, they broke out of their frozen state.
I jumped to my feet and brought the steel pipe up to defend myself. Another long clang was heard as the pipe came into contact with a long metal crowbar, and I winced.
"Go, get the Disciplinary Committee!" I yelled. Sasagawa nodded, eyes shining with determination and both she and Kurokawa ran off. Once they were gone, the strange thing that had been controlling my body ceased to exist and I was unable to dodge the kick to my stomach. I hissed in pain as I dropped to my knees.
"Not so tough now, aren't you?" the leader sneered. Having nothing to say, I didn't answer. I was kicked in the stomach once again, causing me to accidentally bite my cheek. The coppery taste of blood filled my mouth and I grimaced. In the distance, I saw Reborn observing me, Leon perched on his hand.
Before I could even start to wonder what Reborn was doing, I was distracted by a rock that had sailed through the air in a perfect arc and collided painfully with he head of the person that had been kicking me. He cursed, stumbling back, and I took the chance to scramble to my feet. I, along with everyone else, turned to face the direction the rock had come from.
Sasagawa Kyoko stood in the distance, holding another rock in her hand as she shook in fear. Still, she stood her ground.
"Leave him alone!" she yelled as she threw another rock. This one was easily dodged as they could see it coming.
"Tch, you were cute at first but now you're just annoying." One of the men sauntered forward. Sasagawa gulped and clutched at herself in an attempt to stop herself from shaking.
"You will leave Tsuna-san alone." Despite her obvious terror, her voice was firm. Outwardly, I was staring at Sasagawa, flabberghasted. Internally, I was screaming desperately at her to run.
"Oh? Who's going to make us?" the man sneered at her. Sasagawa didn't answer him; she didn't have to.
I had to admit that Hibari had really good dramatic timing. Right after the man had finished speaking, Hibari dropped down in front of Sasagawa (from? Where? There were no trees anywhere near here?) brandishing his tonfas. He took one look at my bruised form and his face darkened.
"For harming the citizens of Namimori," he hissed, "I will bite you to death!"
"Thanks for today," Hana said. "If you hadn't been there, the situation might have been really... bad."
They were sitting on the riverbank as Kyoko helped Tsuna apply ointment and bandages to his injuries. Her hands were still shaking.
"It's no problem," Tsuna replied. "I didn't want any harm to befall you guys."
"It's no problem, Kyoko! A man has to protect the people he holds dear!"
Kyoko's hands stilled and Tsuna didn't seem to notice. Hana, on the other hand, frowned.
"When I was ten years old," Kyoko began in a small voice. "When I was ten years old, some upperclassmen decided to use me against my brother. They held me hostage, threatening to do me harm as they, as they..." Kyoko's fists clenched and she grit her teeth in frustration. "I couldn't do anything at all, I could just watch as they beat him up."
"I, I don't want this!" Kyoko burst out, over three years' worth of guilt and frustration rushing out of her. "I don't want to be the helpless one, unable to do anything at all when my friends get hurt! I wasn't even as fast as Hana was when we ran to get help!"
"Kyoko," Hana started but immediately shut up when Kyoko rounded on her, eyes bright with unshed tears.
"Don't 'Kyoko' me, Hana! If Tsuna weren't there, you were going to sacrifice yourself for me, weren't you? You were going to make a loud distraction so that I could get away, weren't you?"
"..." Hana looked away, and that was confirmation enough. Kyoko felt something in her chest tighten.
"I don't want this," she repeated, calmer this time but just as determined. "I don't want to just be protected. I don't want to see people hurt because of me. I, I want..." She bit her lip. "I don't really want to hurt people, but I want to be able to protect myself and the people I care about. That doesn't really make much sense, does it..." She laughed wryly and shook her head. "Never mind, I'm sorry. Just forget that I said anything."
Her chest was heavy and her eyes burned. She avoided looking into Tsuna's eyes as she continues treating his injuries.
"You probably already know this but... there's a form of martial arts known as Aikido and it's purely defensive. I won't say that you won't hurt people with it because it's still self-defence but you can't instigate fights with it," Tsuna said.
"I know about Aikido," Kyoko said. "But it's not enough for me. What if the person attacking isn't attacking me, but someone else? Aikido is about using the opponent's strength against themselves, and that's good but..."
"But it's not what you want," Tsuna finished. He seemed to be contemplating something.
"There are many other types of self-defence you could take," Tsuna started slowly. "But they aren't as peaceful as aikido. Like the Yong Chun Quan, it is similar to Aikido in a way that it focuses on keeping the opponent off balance and using your opponent's strength against them, but you need to be able to steel yourself to dish out large amounts of damage to your opponent in order to win the fight as quickly as possible."
Kyoko grimaced at that. She didn't want to hurt people if she could help it, but she knew that there were times she simply had to fight back.
"You're pretty knowledgeable in this area, Sawada," Hana commented. "Do you study martial arts as well?"
"I... no, I don't study martial arts." He looked a little troubled. "You could say that my... my father wanted me to learn multiple forms of martial arts so that I could defend myself."
"Wait." Hana narrowed her eyes. "You have a father?"
"Hana!" Kyoko gasped, scandalised. All thoughts about learning a style of martial arts were instantly shoved to the back of her mind. "You can't just ask people these things!"
"It's okay Sasagawa-san," Tsuna said with a strained smile. "That question is perfectly understandable. And yes, I do have a father. Or at least, I still had one the last time I checked. That was... three years ago, I think."
"The last time you saw your father was three years ago," Hana said tonelessly, eyebrows raised in disbelief.
"Nah, I merely talked to him on the phone three years ago. The last time I actually saw him, in the flesh, was five years ago," Tsuna corrected. Kyoko would have tried to comfort him but he was so nonchalant about it, as if he didn't care for his father at all. Hana thought the same thing, and they both exchanged an awkward glance.
Once Tsuna had finished patching himself up, he stood up. "Thank you for helping me," he said. "I'll be on my way now; my mother must be worried about me."
"It's no problem," Hana said.
"There's an Aikido dojo at the south of Namimori, and a Yong Chun Quan dojo a train station away, if you're interested," Tsuna said. "There are probably a few other ones nearby but I'm not very certain as to where they are."
Kyoko nodded. "I'll consider it."
Tsuna's smile contained a hint of melancholy in it as he nodded back and walked away.
Once Tsuna was out of sight, Hana turned to look at Kyoko.
"Are you really going to learn to fight?"
"I..." Kyoko stared at the ground. "I don't know."
I'm back! Also, a friend of mine has decided that he might be interested in helping me write some of the stories I have in hiatus. His writing style is rather similar to mine, so it should be alright. I think he's planning on tackling Ragazzo Magico, Vongola Decimo, among other things.
This chapter is largely possible due to him, who managed to get me back into KHR again by asking me to summarize the entire story for him.
Yong Chun Quan can also be known as Wing Chun and it's a style of martial arts that was adapted by a woman for people who are smaller in size and with less strength. It has been compared to boxing before, actually, because it uses fists. It also uses kicks.
I hope that this development of Kyoko is alright. I do want her to step up a bit more, but I don't want her to be the Kyoko in Game of Life (which is actually a crackfic). Kyoko, as she is, is a really nice and wholly Good person. She would still fight if she feels like the situation is not just (see: her trying to tear Mochida a new one when he referred to her as his possession in the manga) but I really don't see her as the type to hurt other people if she can help it.
She has Sun Flames in this verse, btw.