(Groans) I never want to watch the Mukuro arc again! How many times did I have to watch one episode just to get the set up right?
Kyoko is wandering around a festival, no idea how she'd gotten there, and utterly confused at the surroundings. There are fireworks in the sky, and she can smell the stands and hear muffled conversations, but the area is completely devoid of people. There are banners and displays from Namimori residents and businesses, but she doesn't recognise the area. Everything is just familiar enough that she's certain she's been here before, but can't for the life of her figure out when. It's as if something had thrown the strongest memories of every festival she'd ever visited into a blender and pressed 'puree.'
"Hello?" she calls, desperate to find anyone who might be able to explain where she is, or even how to get out, because she's been walking down this row of stands for some time and has a suspicion she's double backed on herself, impossible as that should be.
"Is anyone out there?" she yells again, and gasps as one of the fireworks suddenly seems to echo throughout the entire area. But rather than vanishing into embers, the central light grows, and falls towards the ground with the force of a meteor. Kyoko screams and runs back the way she came, just as the light smashes to the ground, lifting her off her feet and crashing into a goldfish stand. Or, some creepy facsimile of one – all the fish have human faces and look a little like her classmates, and they all immediately start gumming at her arms before she can get out of the water. She would like it known she did not shriek nearly as loud as she could have given the circumstances.
Strangely enough, once she's composed herself enough the investigate the new arrival, there's almost no sign of the crash. The stands lack any debris, and there's no crater. But where a food stand had once stood, there's a tent, a deep indigo in colour and decorated with a strange numeric pattern. As she stares, she starts to realise the stands closest to it are starting to turn the same shade, and the sounds in the air are starting to fade away.
'This is a bad idea Kyoko' she thinks to herself, but finds herself walking towards the tent regardless. Inside, all she can see is light, the entrance left wide open. A half glance behind her shows that almost half the festival is now the same deep blue, and she steps inside.
It's...not a tent. At least, not on the inside. There are solid walls and concrete floors, furnished with sterile medical equipment. Everything about the place screams run.
She steps back and makes to flee outside, only to see a large metal door slam shut, hiding the tent entrance from sight. Her heart starts pounding, and she tries to bolt towards it before it locks – only to find her hands yanked back. When she turns around, she screams at the heavy cuffs that now adorn her wrists, welded to the floor by the thickest chains she's ever seen.
"What is this!" Kyoko yells. "Where am I?"
Is this a nightmare? Please tell her this is a nightmare.
The world gives her an answer with a deep, eerily familiar chuckle.
"Kufufufu, you're a Mist? I will confess to not seeing that."
Kyoko gasps as indigo flames burst alight in front of her, taking the form of a teenager dressed in the Kokuyo uniform. One of his eyes is bright red, and the last several hours suddenly slam into Kyoko's head with painful clarity.
"Mukuro!" she yells. "What-where did you take me?"
He laughs again. "I didn't take you anywhere, little Kyoko. This is all in your mind."
Kyoko blinks. "My mind? Wait, this is all in my head?"
"Yes," Mukuro says. "I told you I intended to possess Sawada Tsunayoshi, and this is the method. Normal brainwashing is all well and good, but the bullet allows for far more result for much less effort. Normally, this part-"
He gestures in her direction.
"-Wouldn't even happen. The possessed mind would merely be knocked unconscious and sealed away so I could utilise the body as I saw fit. Mists do have a natural defence against such things, but I can normally overpower them. Had I known your element, I might have done so, although..."
He smiles and gives her a once over.
"You're not really a Mist, are you? All the flames but not an ounce of training."
"I could do these things?" she asks, and Mukuro merely walks past her, opening the metal door that leads to the festival in her mind.
"In another lifetime," he tells her. "Now if you excuse me, your memories have all taken the form of food, and I have a craving for learning everything you know about Sawada Tsunayoshi."
Kyoko's eyes widen.
"No! You can't!-"
The door slams shut on her words, and the girl is left in the darkness.
Tsuna can only stare in horror as the injured Kyoko rises to her feet, clinging to the trident and smiling in a way that is utterly alien for the girl.
"Mukuro?" he whispers. "I don't...what..."
"The possession bullet," Reborn tells him, and Tsuna stands ramrod straight.
No. Even after Reborn had explained it to him, he hadn't thought he'd have to face the bullet. But how is it working? Why did he possess Kyoko?
"That bastard," Gokudera hisses.
There's a groan on the ground, and Tsuna looks over in minor relief as Bianchi begins to stand up.
"Bianchi, you have to help!" Tsuna splutters. "Mukuro's possessed Kyoko with the bullet. Do you know how to stop it?"
The woman's eyes widen under the visor, and she slowly stands.
"Oh my, that is a problem" she says, and Tsuna straightens. Something feels wrong.
Bianchi seems oblivious though, and merely walks towards the possessed Kyoko.
"It's okay Kyoko" she begins. "You're very strong, I'm sure you can fight it."
"Tenth, maybe we can expel him the old fashioned way" Gokudera insists, and starts ranting something odd and frantic that might pass for an exorcism spell. Tsuna would question it, but the not!Kyoko has started to gasp and clutch at her throat, so he's all for crazy coming out to win at the end.
Finally, Kyoko falls, as if her strings have been cut, only to fall into Bianchi's arms. The older woman keeps her held tight and glances over at the boys.
"Tsunayoshi, why don't you come and carry her out?" she says, and Tsuna takes a step before faltering.
It...doesn't sound like Bianchi. It's her voice, but...she's acting a part. And that weird feeling in his head hasn't stopped screaming. Something isn't right.
Gokudera, oblivious to his current mental state, quickly starts walking towards his sister.
"Don't worry Tenth, I can take her," he insists. "You should just rest after this whole-"
He doesn't get a chance to finish – the second he moves to take Kyoko from Bianchi, Tsuna's feels the words rip from his throat.
"Stop! Don't touch her!"
Gokudera jerks back in surprise, but Tsuna can only watch as Bianchi moves, stabbing the trident she'd taken from the girls hand straight towards her brother's face. While Gokudera manages to avoid the worst of it, there's a clear cut on the side of his face.
"Gokudera!" Tsuna screams, while his friend curses and scrambles back.
"Sis? What the fuck?" he yells.
"Kufufufu...so you figured it out?"
Both boys freeze, and Tsuna finally starts to understand what's happening.
"Mukuro," he says. "You're possessing both of them?"
It's hard to tell from Bianchi's goggles, but one of her eyes has gone a distinct red.
"The possession bullet" Reborn says, walking to Tsuna's side. "How many did you manage to steal from Estrano?"
Mukuro-Kyoko chuckles, walking forward as Mukuro-Bianchi flanks him.
"Oh, so you figured it out?" Mukuro-Kyoko asks the stone faced infant.
"No Mist can possess two people at the same time on their flames alone," Reborn says. "It's the only solution that makes sense. How did you get them?"
"How should I put it...I have them, because they're mine. And now, I'll possess you, Vongola Tenth."
Tsuna flinches. "What? Why me."
Reborn steps forward.
"Because that's why he's here, Tsuna," he says. "His goal is to take over the Vongola family."
"That's only partly true" Mukuro-Kyoko replies. "It's not my goal, but my means. My revenge can only begin by taking control of a young mafia boss."
"But...but I'm not a mafia boss!" Tsuna insists. Neither woman appears to take any notice, and Mukuro-Bianchi steps forward, raising the trident.
"Be careful of his weapon," Reborn warns from his side, quickly hopping away as Tsuna's eyes jerk to the trident. "If you're wounded by that, he'll be able to possess you."
"The trident?" he says, and his eyes widen.
'Oh, that must be what caused the wound to Kyoko,' he thinks. "And Fuuta stabbed Bianchi with it. It must be connected to the bullet, anyone who gets cut or hurt can be possessed. Gokudera and I better be carefu-wait. Bianchi...cut Gokudera...'
And Gokudera has been very quiet throughout Mukuro's possession spiel...
Something in his head shrieks, and Tsuna jumps to the side as Mukuro-Gokudera tries to grab him in a bear hug.
"Hiieee! Gokudera! You too?" he yelps, frantically getting to his feet and trying to get distance between the three now non-allies. Mukuro-Gokudera smiles, the look terrifying with his new red eye, and takes the Trident from Bianchi's hands.
"I'm impressed you figured that out," he says. "But I probably should have expected it from an Arcobaleno."
Reborn is frowning.
"You're rather arrogant to be controlling three of them" he says. "You're stretching your flames too thin, even with the bullet's assistance. It should be easy enough to break them out."
"Is that what you think?" he says, and throws the trident towards Tsuna. He barely has enough time to get out of the way, before he hears someone catch the weapon. When he turns round, he sees Mukuro-Bianchi standing next to the motionless Hibari. Before Tsuna can register what's happening, the possessed woman has knelt and made a short cut on the back of the prefect's next.
To Tsuna's horror, Hibari starts to stagger to his feet, and starts running straight for him.
It is only thanks to years of having to replicate Hibari's fighting style - and the intensive injuries slowing the teen down - that Tsuna is able to read the punch coming his way, and throws out his arm in order to divert and toss Mukuro-Hibari over his shoulder. The body hits the ground with a pained grunt, and Mukuro's red eye looks up in frustration.
"Oh, this one's no good," he says. "How did he even make it up here in this state?"
The body sinks, dropping back to unconsciousness, and while Tsuna isn't exactly sure how he knows, Mukuro appears to have vanished.
"You can control four?" Reborn says, more caught off guard than he expected. "That's unheard of."
"Not exactly," a voice from behind Tsuna says, and when he swings round again, his eyes widen to see both Ken and Chikusa blocking the door, each with Mukuro's red eye.
"F-five?" Tsuna yelps. "You're controlling five?"
"That's not all," says Mukuro-Gokudera, and Tsuna's neck, about ready to get whiplash, turns back to him just in time to see dynamite thrown straight towards him.
"You also have the power to control your possessed body's abilities?" Reborn asks, and immediately jumps halfway across the room to avoid Mukuro-Ken's claws.
That definitely wasn't one of the bullet's features. At least, not according to the reports he'd received.
"You should be worrying more about yourself, Arcobaleno!" says Mukuro-Chikusa, throwing his yo yo and forcing Reborn to sacrifice his jacket in order to keep himself unscathed. Tsuna has to leave him to it, too focused on trying to avoid the dynamite that keeps being sent his way. He's not having much luck, considering there are are people blocking any route he takes. The explosions burst against his skin, and he crashes to the ground.
"It's one of my own abilities," Mukuro-Kyoko tells him, walking around the room as the bodies of Bianchi and Gokudera circle. "The Second Path – Path of the Hungry Ghost – is the ability to steal an opponents abilities."
Every single body starts doing Mukuro's creepy chuckle, and Reborn moves to the corner, watching Tsuna as much as he can while keeping an eye on his opponents.
"This is bad, Dame-Tsuna," he says, as if Tsuna wasn't painfully aware of this, and the teen grits his teeth, head thudding against the floor.
'Dammit, maybe if I swapped with Hibari, he could handle this,' he thinks to himself. 'But if Hibari has been hit with that weapon, the possession might follow his mind. I can't risk it.'
Even if it did work, Mukuro can't learn of his curse. Not when he's made it clear controlling Tsuna is exactly what he wants.
Then a rather chilling thought just entered his head.
'He can control their abilities as if they're his own' he thinks. 'But there's no way you can magically learn how to use multiple fighting styles. Even when I'm in someone else's body, muscle memory only gets me so far, I need to train to replicate it perfectly. The only way Mukuro could access their abilities is if he has access to their memories.'
...And Kyoko's favourite 'ability' has always been body swapping.
But perhaps mind reading is another one of the paths, because the second Tsuna realises this, every single one of Mukuro's possessed freezes, their eyes growing surprisingly wide. Mukuro-Kyoko, seems the most shocked, and he brings his hand to his lips. From his corner of the room, Reborn curses as he realises the very same thing Tsuna has.
Then every single Mukuro starts laughing. It's an almost hysterical sound, echoing through the room.
"Oh, ohhhh. Sawada Tsunayoshi..." Mukuro-Kyoko chokes out. "We were truly made for each other, weren't we?"
"What?" Tsuna squeaks, and gets a manic smile in return.
"I finally finished sifting through Kyoko's memories," he explains. "Looks like the Arcobaleno's not the only one that's cursed."
Tsuna's face falls.
Trapped in the mental cage, Kyoko's left alone in the room, with nothing to do but pull at the chains helplessly. There's something deep inside telling her that if she can just get loose and get out the door, she can stop whatever Mukuro is doing. She can't really explain it, but it's all she has to go on.
And she has to get out. After Mukuro left, an old fashion TV popped up in the corner, and every now and then it flickers on, just long enough for her to realise Mukuro is puppeteering her body, and making more victims. She can't leave Tsuna all alone to deal with him.
It's a painful situation. While she doesn't know what happened to Mukuro, it's clearly left him scarred and broken enough to embrace the concept of monster. But in that case, how could someone like Mukuro, someone who had been used and abused by people in power, possibly do the same thing to Fuuta? A child so desperate to obtain freedom he'd fled to the other side of the planet, away from everything he'd ever known, to beg a schoolboy for protection?
Mukuro however, doesn't appear to see the irony. If anything, he's enjoying playing the role of Tsuna's worst nightmare.
The screen flickers to life again, and Kyoko freezes when she realises Mukuro's rifling through her head has given him everything he needs to know about the curse.
"Now your earlier attempt makes so much more sense," Mukuro's voice echoes through the room, tinny as if it's coming from a speaker system. "What a fascinating ability, and oh, so perfect for me. Thank you for the education."
Kyoko stares at the chains, yanking her hands and silently screaming when there's no give.
This isn't fair! They're not real! This is all in her head, Mukuro's just...shoved his own furniture inside. She should be able to fight him off – Mukuro's told her she's a Mist, just like him.
That frustrating chuckle floats through the room.
"Oh sweet little Kyoko, while you may be a Mist, you are several lifetimes too early to be challenging me. You don't even know how to use them yet."
Kyoko grits her teeth, glaring at the restraints.
Absolutely nothing happens, and the laugh keeps on rolling around the walls. She drops to her knees, clenching her fists.
He's right. Kyoko doesn't have the slightest clue how to use her flames without a dying will bullet. She can't even begin to fight a master like Mukuro; while this may be her mindscape, Mukuro is controlling everything.
Wait – not everything. He's still not controlling her. While he might have her restrained, she still has her mind. He hasn't stopped her from thinking.
And didn't he say that's what he'd normally do to a Mist? Which means it must be possible for a Mist to escape if they're conscious.
The idea comes to her in a flash. If she can't do anything to the chains, maybe she can do something to what they're holding...
Tsuna gets to his feet, face locked in a grimace as Mukuro-Kyoko looks at him like a dog looks at prime steak.
"This truly was meant to be," Mukuro insists. "Once I possess you, I can use your ability to replace just about anyone I want with someone loyal to me. I won't even need to use the possession bullet on anyone else."
"You're not possessing me!" Tsuna yells, hands clenching into fists. "I won't let anyone use this ability for the wrong reasons."
"Why not?" Mukuro-Kyoko all but purrs. "I can tell now that you truly don't want to be a mafia boss. And now you don't have to. I can find you a nice patsy to take over, and you can live a nice normal life, while I destroy the very thing that's chasing you."
It sounds like a great idea, and if Tsuna was a little more desperate maybe he'd agree. But Mukuro has done too much to the people he cares about for Tsuna to trust him blindly. It doesn't help that every single iota of his being is telling him to say no. He hasn't been that certain of anything...ever.
Clearly, the refusal must be clear on his face, because Mukuro-Kyoko sighs, and all of the bodies step forward.
"Very well. I did hope to take you without injury, but if you insist."
His eye shifts again, and Tsuna yelps as magma starts to form all around him.
"Its another illusion Dame-Tsuna!" Reborn advises, but Tsuna isn't listening. The hitman's advice is all well and good, but he can feel the heat of the fire. He's frozen where he stands, and locked in position when he hears yet more dynamite being thrown his way.
"Reborn, do something!" Tsuna yells, dropping to the ground and covering his head, trying to avoid the worst. To his astonishment, his tutor actually follows through, a small figure jumping above him, the dynamite erupting in the air, hiding Reborn from view.
The fire immediately vanishes, and the heat drops. But before Tsuna can feel any relief, both Ken and Chikusa are running towards the smoke, lunging for the small figure trying to jump to safety.
"You left yourself wide open!" Mukuro-Bianchi yells, tossing the trident towards Ken. Mukuro-Chikusa throws the yo yo into the smoke, and when Mukuro-Ken sees a hat on the edge, stabs the trident at his target.
"Reborn!" Tsuna screams.
Reborn can't be affected. None of them are getting out of here alive if Reborn swaps sides.
Thankfully, mercifully, the trident only stabs a hat, which Reborn immediately retrieves before Mukuro-Ken can register the act, and the hitman jumps towards Tsuna.
"I haven't felt the air of real combat in a while," Reborn says, and Tsuna wants to scream at how delighted the hitman sounds.
"I can't help," Reborn continues. "Tsuna, you need to do something quickly."
"What!" Tsuna yelps. "Reborn, I can't! You're the only one left who can do anything!"
"You're my student," Reborn replies, and jumps out of the way of Chikusa's yo yo yet again. "You can overcome this."
"No, I can't!" Tsuna yells, desperately trying to get eyes on all five possessed. Mukuro-Kyoko has started walking round the room, and as the only one not regularly attacking him, it's hard to keep them in sights.
Which is very dangerous considering he's the one carrying the trident now.
"You can," is Reborn's reply. "Dino had to overcome a similar situation, and he said the exact same things to me."
"I AM NOT DINO!" Tsuna screams, and Reborn smiles.
"No, you're not," he says. "But you're still my student."
"You can win this Sawada Tsunayoshi," Reborn continues. "All it will take is realising your own potential."
It's clear Tsuna doesn't understand, but Reborn can't spell it out for him. It doesn't work that way – Dame-Tsuna needs to put the pieces together himself, or he'll never survive.
Unfortunately, Reborn's pep talk left Tsuna distracted, and he doesn't register the next load of dynamite in time. He gets thrown to the ground, his body aching from the blasts.
He can barely move any more, and when Mukuro-Kyoko hands over the trident to Mukuro-Chikusa, there's nowhere near enough energy to dodge when the teen starts running towards him. He braces for the hit...only for Chikusa to drop to the ground.
For a moment, Tsuna thinks Reborn has finally stepped in, but then Mukuro-Kyoko walks up and grabs the trident again.
What he learns then makes everything just that little bit more horrible.
"Oh, looks like Chikusa's almost done," Mukuro-Kyoko says. "Even if I take over a body, once it's too broken, there's nothing I can do."
"What..." Tsuna whispers, only to jerk his head towards Hibari, and then to Ken and Chikusa.
'He couldn't use Hibari because he was too damaged,' he thinks. 'But his friends can't possibly be in much better condition.'
The body of Chikusa is being forcefully reanimated again, and Tsuna forces himself into a sitting position.
"Stop!" he begs. "They're your friends aren't they? You can't use them like this!"
"Of course I can," Mukuro-Chikusa says as he stands up. "I can't feel any pain, and one should never leave an advantage unused. While I'm possessing them, I can do what I want with them. If that means using them until they break down and die, so be it."
Tsuna pales, and takes a closer look at Bianchi and Gokudera. Both of them are bleeding, and Kyoko's body has been wavering most of the fight, the wound in her side still untreated.
"You can't do that!" Tsuna insists. "Please, let them go!"
Mukuro just chuckles. "You really are unsuited for the mafia, aren't you? If you want to spare your friends, all you have to do is give me your body."
He can't. For the first time in his life, he's met someone he absolutely cannot consider swapping with, but…
How can he possibly refuse when Kyoko and Gokudera and Bianchi are all slowly being tortured because of it? They'd do it for him, he knows they would.
His shoulders sag.
"You'll really let them go if I let you possess me?" he asks.
"Tsuna!" Reborn snaps, only to find all but Kyoko's body suddenly blocking his view.
"Of course," Mukuro-Kyoko assures him. "Once I have your body, I have no use for them."
Tsuna hesitates for a moment, and then drops his head. From the side, he can hear Reborn cursing, while dynamite goes off and yo yo's are thrown, but he can only watch Kyoko's legs walk closer and closer.
"Don't worry, Sawada Tsunayoshi," Mukuro all but purrs. "This will only hurt for a moment."
But just as he comes within kneeling distance, he loses his footing, stumbling and only just keeping himself from falling the ground, the trident slipping from his grip and sliding across the floor into the shadows. While Tsuna can't see the others, the possessed pause in their battle to keep the Arcobaleno away and turn to stare as Mukuro raises a hand up to Kyoko's temple in confusion.
"Now just what are you doing in there?" Mukuro-Kyoko mutters.
Maybe it's impossible. A normal person wouldn't even be able to consider it, regardless of their flames. But Kyoko isn't normal; she spends half her life trading bodies with her best friend. Mukuro might know Mist flames, but when it comes to body jumping, she's a pro. He has nothing on her or Tsuna.
She takes another look at the chains, and closes her eyes. Rather than trying to ignore the weight, she uses it to establish a physical form, and then thinks back to the strange sensation that is such a big part of her life. That feeling of her mind shifting, leaving her body to inhabit another one.
This time, there's no body to inhabit, but that's okay. She doesn't need to leave, she just needs to move the tiniest...bit…
Her body shudders, and the chains shift, but nothing happens. She tries again, trying to will herself to believe that Tsuna is in front of her, that the cuffs on her wrists are in fact his hands wrapped tight. She focuses on the feel of a kiss, that has no kiss. The feeling of weightlessness, falling down a non-existent hole, and finally, the rush that comes with stepping into another skin.
Unbeknownst to her, an indigo hue begins to form around the girl, and the world ripples. It's enough to summon an incarnation of Mukuro, slamming the door open and stepping into the room in genuine shock.
"How are you-"
'I am not in this body any more' Kyoko half whispers, and vanishes into a burst of flame, the chains falling to the ground.
Mukuro has just enough time to question everything he thought he knew, before the flames return, just a few feet from the chains, reforming into the girl still kneeling on the ground. He only just stops his jaw from dropping to the ground.
"That is physically impossible!" Mukuro yells. Kyoko ignores him, lunging up and trying to run past, heading straight for the door. A second later, a hand clamps around her left arm, just as her fingers on her right clutch against the door frame.
"You're not going anywhere!" Mukuro orders. Kyoko gives a harsh laugh, but keeps her fingers tight on the door.
"You said it yourself, nothing here is physical!" Kyoko screams right back. "I'm taking my body back, you jerk!"
Mukuro is brushing off the shock, trying to fight back, the world trying to ripple around him. Kyoko desperately tries to ignore it, just closing her eyes and remembering the feeling of switching.
Once again, indigo flames emerge, and Mukuro scowls.
"I will not be outsmarted, by a naive, untrained, goody-too-shoes, civilia-"
Before he can finish, Kyoko disintegrates in his hands, and she reforms just in time to throw herself out the door, and slams it shut.
A few moments after Kyoko stumbles, all of Mukuro's possessed are frozen, staring at the body of Kyoko, who looks utterly confused, the red eye shaking like a computer glitch.
"This isn't supposed to be possible," Mukuro-Bianchi says, only to flinch violently – a mirror image to the others – when Kyoko's eye suddenly flashes back to normal, and the girl drops to the ground.
"Kyoko!" Tsuna whimpers, pulling himself forward and grabbing the girl's shoulders. He doesn't understand what happened. Kyoko is not damaged enough to be considered 'broken,' but while every Mukuro is glaring at the girl on the ground, Tsuna can't feel Mukuro's presence within her any more. The girl remains unconscious, as motionless as Fuuta and Hibari. Eventually, all four active possessions start laughing, and Tsuna can only stare in confusion.
"What...what happened?" he says. "What did you do to Kyoko?"
Mukuro-Gokudera is the first to recover.
"Absolutely nothing," he says. "She, did something to me."
"I underestimated her," Bianchi's body says, with genuine admiration. "To perform a jail break with barely even basic understanding of one's flames? What she could do with some proper training...I'll have to remember to come back for her."
Reborn, who has been watching things with clenched fists, realises what's happened just a split second before Tsuna, and jumps forward, kicking Tsuna in the head and letting him crash back down to the ground.
"Your friend performed a miracle to stop you from doing something stupid," he hisses.
"Kyoko broke my control," Mukuro-Gokudera explains to the shell shocked Tsuna, while Mukuro-Ken goes to pick up the trident. "It's not even supposed to be possible, but she did it. All because she couldn't bear to watch her own body attack you. Granted, she won't wake up until I let her, but I can't get back in."
Slowly, Tsuna sits back up and drops his head towards the unconscious girl, and feels his heart twist.
Kyoko. Sweet, kind, amazing Kyoko had protected him. Done something impossible because the alternative just wasn't an option. Kyoko, who has always been there for him, and believed in him even when Tsuna didn't. She's the most amazing person he knows.
Except, that's not true, is it? Everyone he knows is amazing. He thinks of Hibari, who'd been so desperate to win he'd fought with broken bones. Yamamoto, who risked his arm and an important game, Gokudera who despite everything, achieved every primary goal they'd had today. Lanchia, who is dying right now, and Fuuta, who has spent weeks being tortured but still hadn't given anything but what his cultural honour code allowed.
Everyone he knows, has done everything they can to help him. To help save the people they care about.
On the other hand, what has Tsuna done? Hung back and relied on people to do just that. He's not made one conscious decision that has helped anyone. Now everyone he cares about is injured and getting worse by the minute, and while he's not responsible for Mukuro's actions, they all got hurt because Mukuro wanted to get to him.
"I want to stop you..." he whispers.
"What was that?" Mukuro-Ken asks, and Tsuna looks up.
"I want...to stop you," Tsuna says, with more conviction, and forces himself up from the ground. "I want to make sure you can't hurt anyone else."
Strapped to the back of an Arcobaleno, a chameleon trapped in a shape shifting ball starts squeaking, and Reborn finally lets a smile reach his face.
That was almost too close, but Tsuna has finally broken through.
"Oh?" Mukuro-Ken says, oblivious to what is really happening. "That's unexpected. I thought you understood the only way to do that was to let me possess you. Don't tell me you've changed your mind?"
It's agony to stand, but Tsuna attempts it anyway.
"I was an idiot to even consider it," he growls. "My friends would never forgive me if I just gave up."
A vicious smile crawls onto Mukuro-Ken's face.
"Very well," he says. "Then I'll just possess you, and use your body to kill your friends. That works out for everyone."
"No, you listen, Rokudo Mukuro" Tsuna says, staggering upright. "At this point, I don't care why you're doing any of this. All I care about, is that my friends are suffering. Because of you. The only way to save them is to stop you, and I'm going to do it."
All of the possessed start to chuckle.
"What makes you think you can?" Mukuro-Bianchi asks. "All you've done is step back and let everyone else try. The only thing you can do yourself is imitate others. Without Vongola's bullets, you're nothing."
"You're wrong," Tsuna says, hands clenching as he realises he means it.. "I'm not nothing. My friends didn't go through all of this for nothing. I am Sawada Tsunayoshi; and Sawada Tsunayoshi, is whatever he wants to be!"
He points a shaking finger in Ken's direction.
"And right now, he wants to be the person who stops you!"
Mukuro-Ken scoffs, raising the trident, and running towards his target. "That's funny. But this ends now."
He darts across the room with dangerous speed, before he can get more than a few steps towards Tsuna, Reborn is suddenly in the centre of the room, and the glowing ball on his back leaps into the air, bright beams of light bursting throughout the room.
All of the possessed immediately jump back, Mukuro unsure of just what he was now facing.
"What did you do Vongola?" he hisses. Tsuna, as confused as he is, doesn't answer, but sees Reborn walking to his side.
"Reborn?" he asks.
"It's Leon," Reborn explains with a grin. "He's finally emerging. I'll have to remember to reward Kyoko when we get home."
"What's happening to him?" Tsuna asks.
"Whenever a student of mine goes through a trial, he takes on this cocoon form," Reborn explains. "When the student evolves, so does he. You finally made it through that mental blockade and realised what everyone else already does."
"Leon is creating the tools you need to achieve your goal. What you need to beat Mukuro."
Tsuna wants to ask more, but Leon is starting to dim and drop back down, returning to the his original form. But in the air…
Mukuro-Ken bursts into laughter, and Tsuna gapes as a pair of mittens and a bullet drop to the ground.
Reborn pokes them, and gives an appreciative hum.
"This is flame absorbent material. Good job Leon."
"Good job? How are mittens supposed to help me?" Tsuna yells. "And a bullet? Why not give me a gun? Or a whip like Dino?"
"Because you're not Dino," Reborn says, allowing Leon to crawl into his hand and shift into a gun. "And the bullet is for me."
"Not a chance!" Mukuro-Ken yells, lunging towards Reborn, who quickly jumps away, bullet in hand. Mukuro-Bianchi tries to grab him, only to miss and swipe his hat. Mukuro-Gokudera immediately readies another set of bombs.
"Looks like getting your body without injury isn't going to happen," he growls. "I'll work around it."
Tsuna yelps, frantically yanking the mittens on.
'Maybe they've got some kind of shield function!' he frantically thinks, raising his arms to cover his head. On the other side of the room, Reborn ducks another swipe from Ken and finishes loading the gun.
"You won't make it!" Mukuro-Ken yells, his next swipe slicing through Reborn's shirt sleeve.
Reborn just smiles, and before the bombs can land, fires the bullet straight through the side of Tsuna's skull. The teen drops to the ground, and the bombs explode, covering the area in smoke.
Mukuro-Ken curses, and all of the possessed inch towards where Tsuna last stood.
"Dammit, I didn't see if the bullet hit," Mukuro-Gokudera mutters. "But those bombs should be enough to keep him down."
He's proven wrong a few moments later, because when the dust clears, Tsuna is still standing, and there's a flame burning brightly on his forehead.
Reborn's smile widens...right up until the dust smoke clears completely, and he gets a full view.
"That's new..." he mutters, and Mukuro frowns.
None of his possessed bodies have memories of this ever happening.
Tsuna is standing almost motionless, a complete contrast to how he normally acts until Vongola bullets, but that's not what's causing the confusion.
Because while Tsuna's eyes are still a burning orange, and the dying will flame on his forehead has a familiar bright orange centre, it's very small.
The remaining flame, is a brilliant, bright, white.