'My neighbours listen to some excellent music, whether they like it or not.'
Namimori was fairly populous, for a town. However, it wasn't so populous that it was afforded more than one elementary school for its children.
This was why, on a bright March morning, under the careful supervision of a brunette, dead-eyed old woman, all of Toshiro-sensei's class filed into the registration room of Namimori Elementary School, their sensei quivering himself into a stroke, to sign up.
Nade was standing in front of Tsuna in their single file, waiting patiently for their turn to write their name and have their picture taken, as well as their phone number and address. Mama had cheerfully filled out their details on a piece of paper, but Namimori liked to have handwritten records.
Though why toddlers' handwritings were needed, when it looked as calligraphic as chicken scratch, was up for debate.
Of course, Nade had a vague feeling that this wasn't normal, but Namimori ran in an almost different dimension to the rest of Japan, so she decided to keep her musings to herself.
"What if I'm not good enough?" Tsuna fussed, tears threatening to leak out of the side of his eyes. "I can't even keep all my limbs intact for two weeks straight!"
Tsuna was having the most unfortunate luck with his limbs, Nade mused. Why, just last week, he'd twisted his ankle on the way home from school because a cat barrelled right into his shin.
Tsuna swore up and down that the cat was out to get him, but Nade was pretty sure the cat just wanted to be petted by her fratello.
Perspective, she mused, was everything.
"Sawada Nadeshiko," the dead-eyed woman read off a piece of paper before snapping her gaze at the little girl. "You're Sawada Nadeshiko?"
Nade nodded, not caring in the slightest that she was being inspected like a particular interesting species of dung beetle. She had better things to think about.
She waited at the X-marked spot on the floor for the photographer to snap a photo of her, before very carefully copying mama's hiragana and kanji with deft precision onto the form Toshiro-sensei had tremblingly given her.
The last year or so had done wonders for her faking-competence-in-written-Japanese.
The dead-eyed woman called her when she was done, and Nade found it a tad strange that she wanted her to go into the back alleyway, but meh.
She silently followed the woman outside, into the mild spring weather, and waited for her to speak.
"You've been causing us quite a lot of trouble," the dead-eyed woman said with a deadpanned voice. "I think ripping your head off and mailing it to Hibari-sama ought to send the message."
Nade raised an eyebrow at her, having understood 72% of that. The blush on her face bloomed involuntarily at the mention of Hibari-sama.
"Head ripping is a violation of peace," she said absentmindedly. "Thou wilt desist."
Wilhelmina Constance Theodora Lynn Stacey Esther Montgomery had heard of Sawada Nadeshiko's reputation, but nothing could have prepared her for what happened next.
She feinted to the left, and the little girl just continued staring at her, not even drawing her weapon.
Maybe, she thought, this really is a normal kid, and our info was wrong. Maybe, she grouched, next time, they'll send someone other than a specialised assassin to deal with collateral.
She was a bit pissed off.
Wilhelmina Constance Theodora Geraldine Samantha Elspeth Montgomery decided to make this quick. She took out a gun and aimed it directly at the little girl's head.
"Sorry, princess," she said in English. "It's just business."
Suddenly, the girl's eyes widened and then narrowed, her face going from white to green to pink to red in the span of two seconds.
"Put that away," the girl intoned, and without Wilhemina Constance Theodora Lynn Stacey Esther Montgomery's realising, the shinai was in her hand and held menacingly forth. "Now."
A chill crept up Wilhemina Constance Theodora Lynn Stacey Esther Montgomery's spine, though she didn't know why. It was just a seven year old child…right?
Wilhemina Constance Theodora Lynn Stacey Esther Montgomery cocked her gun, ready to shoot. A stick of bamboo wasn't going to stop her.
As soon as she thought this, her vision fizzled and died.
Nade's mind was flashing rapidly to her last day as Lucia Chrome, so by the time she stopped seeing red and hearing children crying, the dead-eyed woman was nicely dismembered, with chunks of her eyes littering the back alleyway.
Nade blinked, before shrugging and walking away.
She wasn't cleaning that up.
Toshiro-sensei had cried many tears of joy at their "graduation", and he may or may not have wet himself when Nade smiled at him in casual politeness. Mama had taken several photos, wept over them cheerfully during the break, and sent papa several copies.
Papa and nonno had sent each of the twins a letter, detailing in superfluous words how proud of their patatina and bambino they were.
Oh my darling potato! And puppy!
If only papa could be there to see the look on your sensei's face! The pictures are enough to make my kidneys explode! I showed them to nonno, and they postponed the meeting he was in because he couldn't stop giggling!
"He made nonno's kidneys explode!?" Tsuna shrieked in terror. "Why would he do that!?"
"No, no, look at it again," Nade said with a grin. "It says papa burst his kidneys."
"That doesn't make it better!" Tsuna flipped out in frustration, forgetting completely that his leg was in a cast after a bird accidentally head-butted into his back while he was playing hide-and-seek, and then a badger had come out of the bushes and wrapped around his leg as he crashed into the asphalt at the only angle that would've dislocated his kneecap.
On a side note, Hibari Kyouya had come over and dropped off a small parcel to their house. In it was a badge that said 'Disciplinary Committee' and a hacked-off thumb.
Tsuna flipped out at this too. "Where'd he get a finger?!"
Nade hummed. "Probably the assassin I killed."
She had no idea why Tsuna stopped talking to her for two weeks, especially because he started sleeping in the same bed as her again.
Boys were so confusing…
Rokudo Mukuro was lying on the floor of his cell, having just woken up from one of his good dreams.
His shoulders ached, his insides felt bruised, his ribs were cracked, and yet, he had a small smile on his face.
Then, the tears started.
They startled out of him. He wasn't used to tears; he'd learned early on that showing this kind of weakness made things just that bit harder for the test subjects. The scientists had a special word for them: agnelli.
Lambs. The metaphor was lost on him, who didn't know what a lamb looked like or what it implied, but…
He wasn't a bear cub. But if the dreams were to be believed, he'd been one, once. A long time ago, before the Estraneo famiglia, before the pain, before he could remember.
He took a deep breath and pushed himself to a sitting position. The covers were rough underneath him, and his limbs were shaking with the effort—he was unused to physical exertion. They hadn't reached that phase of testing yet.
His mind, however, was losing that perpetual foggy quality, and bit by bit, just as it always did after a good dream, Mukuro's mind thrummed with power.
He went into himself, cloaking himself in the Mist, bathing his being, soothing his debased body, shutting out the external world and retreating inside, deeper and deeper and deeper, till he finally reached Inside.
It was an earthy-grey room with sunlight streaming through a window. There were doors with no locks opening out to the sunlit field everywhere, and he knew he could leave whenever he wanted to, and no one could stop him.
He was slumped on a large, warm chair that let him sink into it like a hug (he didn't remember what a real hug felt like, but he'd memorised the ones in his dreams) and his internal eyes opened.
"Hell," he said, and Inside, his voice wasn't scratchy or weak or hoarse. It was smooth and even and powerful, just as it should be. Just as, if he had his way, it would be. "I have seen Hell. Now, how do I lie about that?"
He got off his chair and padded to the door closest to him, swinging it wide open and feeling what he presumed fresh wind to feel like. He only had faint memories of that, so it was harder to recreate.
He walked through vineyards, plucked cherry tomatoes with gleeful ease, felt the grass between his toes and, somewhere quietly, she was laughing.
Mukuro knew it was a dream; his mama had given him up to the Estraneo willingly. She'd tossed him aside like day old bread. He knew this. They'd told him, and why would they lie about this when there was no gain?
"Mama," he whispered softly, letting the wind carry away his voice. It felt…he focused on the feeling and brought it out Inside, and the skies painted themselves with warm golden colours and bright reds and wispy pinks and skylark blues and happy oranges.
"They lied," he concluded, staring at a sky he didn't remember seeing. "Mama didn't leave me. She loved me."
He was basing this assumption off of a dream, but…
His instincts told him that it was the truth. He'd really heard that voice before, those words before, and if he focused hard enough, if he sifted enough sand, he could find real warm hugs, real playful hair ruffles, real cooing, real love.
He wasn't a bear cub, but he had been once.
As soon as he accepted this fact, believed it with all his being, a gunshot rang through the reddening field.
He froze in fear, and then a loud yell echoed through the Inside: Where's the boy, you little slut?
That voice made him shiver, that voice made his eyes burn, and now he could remember faintly, when he screwed his brain in concentration, golden hair loosely curling spilling onto the dirty floor, swimming in red red red blood as eyes so like his watched him with a crippling sadness and fear and desperation and goodbye, mio orsetto.
He didn't remember any more than that, but did it matter?
It didn't matter whether she loved him or not.
His mama was dead.
Nade, or Lucia really in this case, was wondering whether she was going mad, or if seeing her son growing up in her dreams was a bizarre coping mechanism.
Of course, the time and place for these musings was definitely not when locked in a kendo match with one of your instructors, and certainly not when it was a tag team match, but this was Sawada Nadeshiko, and didn't that just say it all?
Even semi-distracted, she managed to sweep the instructor off his feet and pin him down, and in the horrified silence of the dojo, she found the answer to be unnecessary.
After all, if she was dreaming it up, then it wasn't hurting anyone, was it? It was only in her head, after all.
Her baby was dead.
"W-Winner!" squeaked one of her senpai, looking at her in abject horror.
She brushed her fringe off her sweaty forehead, frowning in unimpressed-ness. Letting Tsuna talk her into a fringe was a stupid thing, but he did the puppy eyes and the pouty face and the tearing up and she couldn't say no.
"Thank you for your services," she said, bowing gracefully, if without any real respect, and walked to the changing room.
In the last year and a half, Sawada Nadeshiko had become taller, more verbose, and scarier to the masses.
She didn't really understand that, however, and simply assumed that that was the way people had always reacted to her presence.
She wasn't entirely wrong.
It was April now, and the beginning of a new academic year. It was also the start of her Elementary School life, and Tsuna was over the moon about it.
Nade, as was usual with these kinds of things, didn't seem to give a fuck one way or the other.
She'd changed out of her hakama, grateful that they'd finally given her a designated female changing room after being asked only once.
Very prompt service.
She stripped off her sweaty training clothes and wrapped them up in a bundle into her gym bag, before taking a towel and waltzing over to the shower.
They'd even installed a shower just for her.
Very grateful, she was.
When she'd thanked Mochida-sensei of course, he'd giggled nervously and started frothing at the mouth.
She didn't quite understand the reaction, but she found that she quite liked it.
After washing away the soap-suds she'd lathered herself with, Nade wrapped her body with a towel, careful to scoop her hair and wring it of any excess water, wondering whether she should cut it (her hair was reaching her waist, and she thought maybe shoulder-length better suited her now).
Her eyelashes had water bejewelling them, and it made her orangey-brown eyes stand out more.
She donned a yellow shirt, pulled on a sky blue skirt, clicked on her bracelet (three charms on it—a potato, a tuna, and, for her sixth birthday, a little shinai-wielding samurai), and tied the floral-blue-Italian scarf nonno had gotten her for her third birthday on her head like a hairband, her fringe already half-dried and fluffing.
White socks and black shoes later, bag slung over her shoulder and shinai strapped to her back, the six year old girl braved the spring winds and made her way across the street to TakeSushi to wait for her escort.
The restaurant door tinkled as she entered to the sound of chopping wood and the smell of delicious fish and dashi.
"Be with you in a minute, Nadeshiko-chan!" Yamamoto Tsuyoshi called out, looking up from chopping some sashimi into perfectly even-sized slices.
Nade nodded and took a seat that she'd now claimed as her own, gazing out the window.
"midori tanabiku namimori no
dai naku shou naku nami ga ii
itsumo kawaranu sukoyaka kenage
aa...tomo ni utaou namimori chuu~"
Nade's eyes widened as she watched a mini-parade going down the street, singing the Namimori anthem.
"I miss music," she mused, surprised at herself. Lucia had loved sneaking out of the house to attend one of the more risque gatherings of mafia to spy on the one pianist she had access to.
The girl had been younger than she'd been, and she'd been so much more trapped than Lucia, but she'd been so beautiful.
"Innocence where innocence is dead is not innocence, but the illusion is..." she murmured. "How do you say? The illusion is beautiful."
Lavina and she had never spoken, but her music...Lucia had rarely cried at much after she lost her virginity, but the music Lavina played made even the hardest hearts melt.
The music had touched her soul.
"I would love to hear Lavina play," she said to herself, still surprised by the depth of her longing.
Even as she sat in TakeSushi, Nadeshiko was sitting in Onda Nera and sipping a Prosecco, eyes closed and listening to the tinkling of the piano as Lavina's fingers glided along the ivory keys.
"Lavina? You're sure?" asked Iemitsu, eyebrows scrunched together.
"Yes, anata...who is that?" Nana asked over the phone. "Yamamoto-san said he heard Na-chan mention her, but I've never heard of any Rawu-ina."
Iemitsu wondered how he was going to get Lavina to play for his daughter, when the woman had been dead for over two years now. "Hmmm...wait, I think she had a son I could borrow..."
"Anata?" rang Nana's voice over the phone. "Is Lavina pretty?"
Iemitsu answered in the affirmative, still piecing together how he would transport an Italian musician to Namimori without revealing where his family was 'hiding'.
"Ah, I see," came Nana's voice, with a weird tone in it that Iemitsu immediately picked up.
"Nana? Is everything alright?" he asked.
There was a ring of false cheer in Nana's voice as she said, "Everything's fine, anata! Well, bye!"
The line went dead, and Iemitsu got the distinct impression he'd just scorned a woman.
Well, I was due in Namimori soon anyway...
Sorry for the wait! My grandma died, so…things were a bit hectic, if that even is the right word. Extra long chapter to make up for it!
So what did you think of this chapter?
Hibari? Nade? Mukuro? Mochida? Tsuyoshi? Nana? Iemitsu? Not much Tsuna in this one, but guess who's going to make an appearance soon?