His eyes were old.
Not that anybody noticed. Not that he let anyone notice. He had learned long, long ago that people died. That they all died, and he would be forced to watch them wither, and return to dust from which they came, unending as he was. It was a pain that never faded. An agony that compounded itself, multiplying with every death of those he claimed as his own.
Perhaps that was why he had suppressed his nature so intensely as to have his Secondary become so powerful it was believed to be his primary. Perhaps that was the reason he chose to submerge himself in what would eventually come to be called Cloud Flames.
Skull De Mort was not his name. It had never been so, only a stage name used as he traveled the world. It was the newest in a long, long line of alias. It had been so long since Skull had heard his name spoken aloud he sometimes thought he might forget it. There were days when even the sound of it spoken out loud gave him pause, as if it meant nothing to him.
It would be entirely impossible to forget it, however as he was pictured in the World's history books. Written about as myth and legend, a fictional creation, not real, never real. Sometimes Skull wanted to laugh about it. Other times he wanted to rage. These people who did not live as he had, who proclaimed all the answers. These ignorant people who refused to believe in what they deemed as 'impossible'. Narrow minded fools Skull detested.
But as time dragged on and there was less bright precious things to hold on to, he remembered the words of his lioness, of his little one, his only daughter.
Be good to our people, Father. Be a Just King, a compassionate and powerful god. Know I will find you again, this will not be the end. Let your fire light the way for them, and be my guiding light back to your side.
He would not destroy the flourishing people around him, the people his dying daughter asked him to watch over and guide with her dying breath. He would be kind, and compassionate. He would be strong, and he would wait. He would watch for his lioness among these people so different to those who had worshiped him, and yet his people all the same.
The ones his daughter held so dear, the three others who she had grown up with and they who had earned his affection and acceptance, they were devastated by her loss. Not that, when their own time came, he didn't feel as if his legs had been cut out from under him, but his cherished one's murder had ripped his heart from his chest, taken the light from his eyes and the joy from his life.
The subsequent reaping of his lands in the search for her murderer, the one enemy he could never completely annihilate. An enemy he saw every single night, not just in nightmares, though those existed as well, but an enemy he stared down.
His rage had shaken the skies, when it was discovered that Apep, the Great Serpent had killed his lioness with poison the color of infected blood. He had raged like he had never done before, and it had been so great, so intense, that Ra had driven Apep from the sky. For the first time since they clashed, Ra had set his burning eyes upon the God of Chaos with the soul deep intent to murder him.
Ra's rage had been so powerful, his desire to see his daughter's soul rest in peace, freed of this God, so all consuming he had succeeded in driving Apep out of the sky. Had driven the serpent to ground, brought him as close to death as could be for an immortal, and kept him there. Then he had buried the husk of a god in the sands of his ancient home, never to touch the sky again, confined to darkness and isolation. An immortal's 'death'.
Once, many, many years ago, the world had known him by his name. Devoted worshippers, wary enemies and proud allies, surrounded by a family that stretched several generations. Once he had been worshiped, once he had governed his people and been beloved. In a time long past, he had walked with fire, with Will, and been the light to guide the people.
He had been Ra.
God of the Sun, of Creation, and Rebirth.
He was the source of what would come to be called Sky Flames, the first wielders of this Flame of Harmony being his children, Shu and Sekhmet, and their descendants. He fostered three girls who became family and Tefnut married Shu when they grew old enough. Eventually Flames would become tied to the Soul, as they were now, and those born embodying the characteristics that Ra favored most may find themselves with a spark of his power, awakened from their ancestors who were carriers of Ra's Flame even if they never became Active.
Compassion. Justice. Power.
Those with Sky Flames were carrying a piece of a god with them. They were forces of nature waiting for the moment they found their calling. They could become corrupted and twisted, could drift from the concepts that Ra embodied, but those born with Sky Flames would show their worth throughout their reins in one way or another.
Skies were vast, encompassing. They were places of rebirth and welcome for all who could find their home in the sky. They called people to their side, and found their peace most often in leading for the cause they believed in, much as Ra had once done. That little bit of his fire brought with it hope and light and warmth to those who found their homes beside a Sky.
The problem, Skull had found, was that as an immortal Sky, his bonds could not last. He had reached out, found those that would come to be called 'Guardians or 'Elements' and then lost them.
Again, and again, and again.
Blood that rushed through his fingers, the very life of his Elements draining into the ground and all he could think was notagainNotAgainPleaseNo-
It was driving him mad with grief and loss. And a mad god would destroy the world without a second thought and a backwards glance.
The love of a god is a great and terrible thing.
So it came to pass that Ra the Shining, Ra the Golden, God of the Sun and God of Rebirth pulled on his secondary Flame, locking his Sky down so that he could not Shatter. He pulled on what would come to be called Cloud Flames, and had done so for hundreds of thousands of years.
It was no surprise then, that with all that practice and work, he would come to be the Cloud Arcobaleno. The Strongest Cloud Flame in the world. He hid away his Sky nature, and instead worked with a Flame not his primary so well and long it was thought to be so.
Skull would keep it that way.
He would never be another Sky to a people that lived barely a century. Never again.
Considering the one to lay this Curse on him was a First One, the oldest Humans, whom Skull had rather hated, save for Sephira, and even he did not know him...
Skull was rather confident no one in this life would learn of his secret. He had lived so many lives, as so many people, and never had he revealed himself in truth.
So what were the chances of this life being any different to the last one hundred? The last one thousand?
It would figure that the life in which he had decided to not search, but allow the chips to fall where they wished, would be the life in which his lioness found her way back to his side in a completely chance encounter.
It's time for Skull's yearly invasion of Mafia Land in an almost futile effort to ease his boredom. He wrote out all his options, allowing his pen to write out the words Successful Conquest, before he throws all the slips of paper into his helmet. He hands it to his assistant and when he reaches inside to draw, he already knows which one he pulls out.
So goes the luck of the draw.
So Skull signs and sets off to spectacularly fail an invasion of Mafia Land, in a plan you could fly his blimp through. Next year, perhaps, next year he'll draw something else and maybe even have a little fun to relieve the boredom. Maybe he'll get lucky and draw something like that time the entire Island refuses to admit happened.
But there is a chance of something interesting. Reborn is on the island, with his student, the heir to the Vongola. Honestly, Giotto's former vigilante group is one of the bloodiest mafia families and he mourns for the way they strayed so far from Giotto's wishes. An insult to a man who reminded him so much of her, of precious laughter, warmth and gentle all consuming love. A gentle man with the patience of a saint, the heart of a lion and the righteous fury of a protector.
Of course, when he actually gets to the island and pulls out Oodako as Reborn predictably takes a step back for his student to step up, even as a flash of amber barely catches his eye- Oh, look, Nono actually snagged the civilian of Giotto's bloodline- and manages to get a good hit on Colonnello.
That's for breaking my helmet visor, you love sick puppy.
Petty revenge keeps him sane over the centuries.
-I will rip you limb from limb if you lay a single finger on them -Do not think I will hesitate to burn this world until only ash remains -
Other forms of revenge as well, but that was neither here nor now. He was not the same man and he was busy, there was no time for thoughts such as those. He had an invasion to fail and hopefully teach the new Vongola boss a lesson or two.
So Skull played his Game, brilliantly, he might add, up until the moment his eyes actually landed on Reborn's student, met those wide eyes and- no.
No, that wasn't possible.
It's a flash of a sunset, the warmth of the sun and a bright flare of Flame, slow and weak as it is, but he knows this.
"No," says Ra, the Golden, king of kings, as he takes a single step forward.
Around him, those who gave their Oaths to him, who swore their loyalty, their services to him in exchange for learning, for knowledge and protection, sense the change in their god, and they surge forward like the Nile and the tide turns firmly in his favor.
Reborn stands in the midst of chaos and watches as the invaders switch gears and in less than thirty seconds, the defenders are beaten back and there's a clear circle of men clad in purple leather and motorcycle helmets surrounding his charge and the Cloud he knows as 'Lackey'.
Reborn is not perfect, he knows this. He's fought hard to carve out a reputation, he's bled for knowledge and spent years learning everything he could. Languages, science, math, history, religion, culture, Reborn will not be ignorant of the world and its workings.
But here, here the hitman knows as deep as his bones, something has changed, Skull is the eye of the storm and those around the Cloud suddenly leap levels from hired mook to scarily focused and skilled bodyguards in an instant. Skull though...Skull says no like the world will bend to his very Will, and the way his voice rings unlike anything the hitman has ever heard from him is...concerning.
But something inside him whispers that the questions he has on Tsuna's oddities, the little things, the glaring obvious quirks and habits that don't match up to her lifestyle...might have something to do with the way Skull is staring at her right now.
Reborn knows without a doubt, that if any of his hunches are correct, then whatever this is, it's the cause for the one time the hitman has ever seen Skull act as a natural Cloud. A Cloud whose territory was just obliterated.
Colonnello is a soldier. His loyalty is to his fellow Arcobaleno, to Lal most of all, but it's also to those he trains, those who pay his fees, his employers, for however short a time. He's an Arcobaleno though, there's a lot he can get away with and he refuses to do anything he doesn't want to.
He's worked at Mafia Land for several years now, he's dealt with all manner of Skull's yearly invasions, some better than others, some downright weird, and that one that no one will ever mention, but never this.
Hell, he doesn't even know what this is, kora!
The lackey took one look at the Decima candidate Reborn is training-with her too old eyes- and despite not being a total stranger to emotions, he can't even begin to identify what was on his face.
Everyone who has ever met Skull knows he is the Un-Cloudiest Cloud anyone has ever met. There is no rage to him. No anger, righteous fury, no desire to carve out territory, be it in land or people or possessions. No nothing. It's unnerving and it shows how much of a not-Cloud the not-baby is.
(Except for that one time. That's it. Over thirty years, Colonnello has known Skull and there was only a single instant in which their Cloud was actually a Cloud. The stuntman refused to even discuss what happened, instead deflecting and outright ignoring any attempts to find out what triggered what little instincts he had.)
Sure, his Flames are overwhelmingly strong, earning him the nickname of 'Immortal Skull' due to their potency and ability to negate any damage Skull receives, but that's about the only thing Skull has going for him. Other than his questionable skills in operating a machine.
He is a stunt driver, after all and those talents were useful as a getaway driver.
It's not enough, in the Mafia, which is why Skull is with the Family he's with, one that barely anyone knows, lead by a Don no one of any significance has seen or conducted business with.
Which just goes to prove Colonnello's belief that Skull was tricked into joining and that he really has no business being in the Mafia.
Really, he feels sorry for him. None of the reflexes he tried to drill into Skull's head stuck. He barely dodged, he didn't wield any weapons and the only trick he could pull with his Flames was enlarging his octopus or his own body. There's also his immortality trick, but that's only useful after the fact.
The belief that is rapidly being obviated and changed with every second the sniper continues to hear what Reborn's student is saying to Skull and what he is saying in return.
Even then, Colonnello still maintains that the Carcassa Family isn't important. Honestly, a Don with a ridiculous and obviously fake name like Ras Dagold doesn't have a leg to stand on in a world such as theirs.
It's in the Purity of her Flames, as weak and stifled as they are.
The manner in which she takes a single step forward, a peculiar kind of catlike grace.
There is confirmation in the way her eyes burn, both with Flame and tears and love.
Ra, King of the Gods, stands before a tiny slip of a girl and stares into her very soul as she collapses to her knees in front of him, her mouth forming words with no sound.
He makes a noise, not a sob, not laughter and not a plea, but the girl with a mane of amber and shining eyes still does not speak until a name leaves his lips with all the desperate hope of a man who has been searching and hoping with all the fierceness of a father who had held her both as she entered and passed from the world, first with a wail, then with a promise to return on her bloodied lips.
Tears spill over her cheeks and she smiles. She speaks deliberately and clearly, no matter the hoarseness to her voice. Those around them can easily hear the words and with depth of emotion in them leave many speechless, regardless of their meaning.
"Hail the Shining One, the Just Ruler, the Strong King and the Sun God of the Land of Egypt," says Sawada Tsunayoshi, Vongola Decima, as she kneels before a long thought dead god and radiates pure happiness from her very being.
"My Great and Beloved Father," says Sekhmet, Goddess of Destruction and Healing as she reaches out for the tiny body of Ra, the Golden, the Giver of Life.