Okay, this is a quick thing I wrote because I felt that if I didn't write anything Arco27, plot bunnies would hug me to death. Now that I've got at least this out of my chest, I'm hopping back to Harry Potter *coughTheLibrariancough*... hopefully (damn you, KHR, why don't you let me go? T_T).
This is an AU. Please note that while some Mafia things aren't really... Mafia in this AU, the Flame Lore stays the same, i.e. the Sky-Guardian relationship, etc. There will be way more on this in future chapters. Also, this is a prologue of a sort and covers around 5 years. Tsuna is about 18 now. Also, because, again, this is a prologue, some things are only vaguely mentioned and may be confusing - Tsuna's relationship with Nana, parts of his training, the appearance of a particular character. Again, don't worry, they're meant to be written in such a way and will be explored in more depth.
Chapter 1. Apprenticeship
Of course it had to be a goddamn castle.
The trek wasn't easy. All the paths and dirt roads were so overgrown Tsuna eventually decided that if he couldn't find a road, he would make one, and just carefully burnt through the bushes with his Sky flames. The wind bruised his cheeks, and Tsuna hugged his jacket tighter around him. Why couldn't the place be in the South of Italy?
Tsuna could have flown, of course, but the weight of the luggage wheeling behind him would tire him out even more than this hellish trip. He cursed and burnt the next bush with particular viciousness and creativity.
He wished he could do the same with the person who sent him there.
He was never accepting Uncle Kawahira's holiday offers again.
Something always alienated Tsuna from most people. They jeered at him for the things they would have cheered at if he were someone else, and they shuddered in disgust whenever he walked by.
Thankfully, they didn't beat him up or corner him. On the contrary. They flinched away whenever his presence staggered near. If they could ignore him, they would. They pretended that he didn't exist at all, as if his presence marred their whole world.
At night Tsuna cried into his hands and pillows.
He yearned for touch, always.
One day, his mother broke down in the kitchen.
He just wanted to help her clean up after dinner. Of course, his clumsiness kicked in. He lurched, almost falling into his mother-
She shoved him away, a terrified cast in her eyes.
It wasn't an action of surprise. Tsuna read the horror, and it was real. He read the disgust, and it was real.
He stumbled back into the table, accidentally scattering a plate onto the floor. It shattered. He envied the plate; it probably couldn't be in as much pain as him.
Her eyes shifted, part of the disgust directed at herself, and she reached out before letting her hand fall. A smile faltered off her lips before it even formed.
"I'm sorry, Tsu-kun," his mother whispered, hiding her eyes behind trembling hands that never touched him as gently as he wished them to. Hardly touched him at all. Tears clung to her fingers as they streamed down. "I'm trying. I've been trying so hard, for so long, but-"
She covered her eyes, and Tsuna closed his heart.
His pillows were not enough that night.
It was his non-mentor, the eccentric Uncle Kawahira from the shop next-door who explained it all.
"It's because you're a Sky and a Necromancer," the man told him in a matter-of-fact voice. Tsuna, slumping against the wall outside the house, didn't look up. "As a Sky, you attract attention whenever you go, whether you want it or not. As a Necromancer, however, you are subconsciously considered an abomination, a freak of nature, something that shouldn't exist because your very nature breaks all the taboos and laws. Those two notions clash and cause the reactions that seem to bring you so much grief."
Tsuna had overheard Iemitsu talking about Flames and Skies, the few times the man had bothered coming home and giving Tsuna a forced hug that soaked him in the smell of beer. From literature, he could surmise what a Necromancer was.
A sick feeling rose in his stomach. He couldn't hate himself more.
Suddenly, he understood those people he could never reach. He disgusted himself, too.
The white-haired man didn't show any emotion at all even if his face did wear a not-quite-frown.
"Stop moping," he ordered coldly. Tsuna wondered if the man refused to show any emotion because he didn't want him to see it or because he couldn't feel it. "Being a Necromancer is an honour."
"...I don't feel very honoured."
"Humans are foolish and unable to understand higher things."
Tsuna sighed and stared down at his palms. Would this person let Tsuna touch him, then? If the man apparently considered himself part of other species?
"And Necromancers can?"
"Last I checked, you are still fundamentally human." The man's pressed lips said everything he thought about it.
"Well, that's good because I'm really, really foolish anyway and I'd rather be a normal foolish human than a Necromancer who's no-good at being one." Tsuna sighed and smiled a little. "I wish I were a robot though."
Robots didn't need to feel. Didn't need to touch. Robots didn't need to have friends to smile with, and a father to run in the park with, and a mother to cook with.
Although, of course, knowing Tsuna, he would make a no-good robot, too.
"You won't become a robot-"
Tsuna shot him a filthy look. "Even I know that!"
"-but I can make a decent Necromancer out of you," the man finished.
Tsuna harshly barked in laughter. "Everyone already hates me, why would I make it worse?"
"You have nothing to lose exactly because there is nothing to make worse," the man told him, and Tsuna wondered how this guy lived to his age if he was this brutally honest with everyone. "However, I can teach you to control both Necromantic magic and Sky Flame, and eventually you will attain happiness and companionship. If you live up to my expectations, you will have a home."
The man extended his hand, the first time someone ever did.
Tsuna's fingers shook, and he had to step closer to reach it – he almost tripped and definitely blushed – but the touch was warm and firm. The sky shone bluer.
Uncle Kawahira became an erratic presence in Tsuna's life.
The whole "I'll make a Necromancer out of you" thing was less Spartan training and more Uncle Kawahira popping up whenever he wanted to steal a bite of Nana's cooking or drag Tsuna to the graveyard, a forest, a mountain, or even one of his shops – he kept shutting down and opening those, making Tsuna wonder why he even bothered at all.
Tsuna couldn't predict those appearances. However, each of them taught him something valuable.
He learnt of Flames. Of Skies and Harmony, of how he would be expected to harmonise one day, and of the doubt that he could ever be worthy of it. Of fear that even if it did happen and he did become special to someone in that terrifying, all-consuming way only a Sky could manage... he would only disappoint.
He learnt of soft flames and hard flames. Uncle Kawahira didn't hand out knowledge on a silver platter; he made Tsuna work for it, and perhaps that's why it stuck in Tsuna's mind.
Most times, Uncle Kawahira arranged his lessons in the form of missions for Tsuna to complete. He would make the boy reach the treetops, a feat impossible without learning to fly. He would make Tsuna go down a mine and then trap him inside, which taught Tsuna how to control his flames – he needed to power through certain sections without making the whole thing fall down on him.
Sometimes, he delivered truths and tips in fortune cookies. In words cutting through the air in broad strokes, sentences of burning indigo fire hanging in the middle of his room. In paragraphs painted across his horrid test results and homework.
Flames, Uncle Kawahira told him, were easy to understand once you get the hang of it. Across the years Tsuna's intuition developed and aided him greatly on this account as well.
Necromancy required more practice. More time to come to terms with.
Every time he practised, Tsuna struggled to get over his own disgust towards his nature – and that was even before he saw his first corpse.
Eventually, his attitude changed.
He peeked at ghosts through a black polished mirror, summoned spirits, and weaved clumsy talismans that would make a fashionista cringe and zombie die. He carved signs into skulls of unknown persons (he always apologised as he was doing it, and thanked them for letting him use their body parts even though they didn't exactly give permission for this type of body usage in their Wills).
He helped people.
The disgust of the living didn't carry into death. On the contrary, every non-breathing creature adored him. From that former classmate of his, a victim of suicide, to the spirit of a five-year-old abandoned in an alleyway. He could provide them with company and comfort, and he took his own share of those in return as well. They beamed at him, and thanked him, and eventually he fell in love with graveyards and massacre sites.
It didn't endear him to anyone alive.
Well, except for his mentor, who turned out to be full of quirks and ticks.
Uncle Kawahira lacked shame.
One day, Tsuna was dressing for school in front of the mirror and minding his own business when Uncle Kawahira flashed behind his reflection.
"Hiee!" Tsuna yelped as he covered his chest with his shirt. Yes, he was a fifteen-year-old boy and had no breasts but he still didn't fancy flashing his nipples at the man who substituted his father. "I'm a bit busy, Kawahira-san! Could you please warn me next time? Maybe even, I don't know, knock and not just appear in my bedroom?"
Uncle Kawahira swept him with a glance and cocked his head. He had a checkered kimono on today. Tsuna discovered that the man had an obsession with checkers and carried at least one article with black-and-white squares.
"You are embarrassed," he noted clinically.
"I'll be less so if you turn around?"
"You have nothing to be embarrassed of because I have already seen a male human body and I doubt that yours is any different." Uncle Kawahira kept staring at his chest. A mildly puzzled frown played on his face as if he found a problem and pondered on how to best solve it. Tsuna doubted he wanted to know. Besides...
"Not the point!"
Uncle Kawahira sighed and dropped on Tsuna's bed – still not looking away.
"Of course the best possible candidate had to be you," the man muttered to himself before making a broad gesture at Tsuna.
He recognised the feeling of Mist flames, leaned towards their pleasant coolness-
And all his clothes were gone.
Tsuna stared down at himself in disbelief as his body wondered whether to burst from blushing or unleash the loudest "HIEEEE!" in existence. Two options cancelled out. He just froze and re-thought his life choices.
His mentor nodded, satisfied.
"As I have told you, you have the average body of a human male. Now that I have seen everything, you will not be distracted by such mundane human things as embarrassment when I have salt-circle construction to teach you."
Tsuna wondered why this was his life.
Uncle Kawahira blinked.
"...Tsunayoshi. You are crying."
Uncle Kawahira didn't understand compassion. At all.
"Tsunayoshi, why are you hugging this thing."
Uncle Kawahira never asked. He showed how unimpressed he was with you.
"Kawahira-san, please don't call him that, it's a child!"
"It's a flesh-eating zombie."
"We shouldn't discriminate people based on their pulse. Now come, you poor thing, you are really cold- Wait, what are you doing?!"
"I'll bite you to death!"
Uncle Kawahira was ruthless, and demanding, and never failed in letting his disappointment show. He proceeded to tear into Tsuna in the most callous of ways and pointed out every mistake the boy made.
"Tsunayoshi, I am impressed by your stupidity but not the way you carve those bones."
"Tsunayoshi, please tell me that those squiggly lines are not the rune-spell I told you to write- They are. Rip my heart out, will you. I want to cease my existence after this daunting display of incompetence."
"Tsunayoshi, you let that spirit bond to you and now it appears out of nowhere just to kick me in the face. Why."
Uncle Kawahira was ruthless, and demanding, and never failed in letting his disappointment show.
Yet, most importantly...
Uncle Kawahira always praised him freely whenever Tsuna deserved it.
"You are surprisingly adept at wheedling spirits into talking to you." The man's glasses glinted. "Beware, your charisma is a double-edged sword... but it will serve you right in this business."
"You have good instinct when it comes to your flames. I have only ever seen one person as in tune with their intuition."
"...For all the grief you've given me all these years, I do not regret taking you on as my apprentice."
He rarely smiled. Even when he did, it was merely a quirk of lips, an imitation of the gesture so often made by the human beings he despised. But he touched Tsuna's shoulder, and warmth seeped into his skin and into his heart.
Tsuna lived for those fragments of happiness.
He smiled for both of them, anyway. He felt for both of them, because in the years of his training he saw the depth of tiredness swamping Kawahira-san, how just going through the motions of the daily life exhausted the man. Tsuna even suspected that his teacher secretly liked the instances of exasperation and annoyance at Tsuna because they pushed emotions into him again.
...So, when one day his Uncle Kawahira offered him a vacation, Tsuna accepted, even though he knew there would be nothing vacation-y about it.
Meanwhile, the inhabitants of a castle hidden behind a veil of Mist in Northern Italy perked up at the approach of powerful flames of an unknown type. The inhabitants were all separated, incapable of moving too far from their anchors but still capable of communicating through the dull orbs if they wished.
"Aw man, please not another one, kora!"
"If this is another Cloud drifting up here to make this castle their territory, I'm not holding back. I'll rob all their relatives and I don't even care if they call themselves 'the most dreaded vampire'."
"I hate to remind you that you're dead, bankrupt, bodiless, bankrupt, and incapable of robbing anyone to fill the void bankruptcy left in your black and rotten heart."
"You know, Fon, even the Great Skull-sama thinks that there were too many 'bankrupt' thrown in there... completely off-topic and irrelevant, by the way."
"The lackey knows the word 'irrelevant'? I'll pick up my jaw in an hour, kora!"
"Idiot student, you won't pick up your jaw because you're in the tower and your body isn't."
"...All of you are disturbing my experiment."
"Hah. What experiment? How fast the dust settles? Does Verde forget that he's as low on energy as the Great Skull-sama and can't do physical-world stuff?"
"Well, if you're interested, indeed, my experiment is connected with dust. And Flame. Since I cannot write it down, it is indeed good fortune you're here – at least one of you may be able to remember my words. So-"
"Oh no. I'll kill you, lackey!"
"I might pay the person who shuts Verde up-"
"-Pay in reverse is what I mean. But I might actually pay the person who kills Fon."
Why did Reborn have to be stuck with those idiots?
He looked mournfully at the book in front of him – what a pain to flick pages! He had to gather the remnants of his flames for half an hour for each flip, how humiliating for the Strongest Sun – and tuned out those people. It worked as well as could be expected, considering that through the orbs they communicated directly into each other's minds.
The book was on Sky Harmony, of course.
It was small, a pocket book almost, and its pages light and brittle – easy to shift. Of course, this ease was only the official reason Reborn would give anyone who asked why he was reading such a thing.
The truth: Reborn was a romantic. A bit of a dreamer. Way down, underneath the underneath.
His dream was Harmony.
Honestly, it was an offensively common dream for an Element. Reborn always frowned at himself whenever the mood struck him to depress over his lack of a Sky bond, yet he couldn't squash that hint of longing... even though now it was more unattainable than ever.
He wanted somewhere to belong, and someone to belong to him. In life, he had found neither. In death, he only found a place he belonged in, but a prison, not a home.
He sometimes cursed his own pickiness in life. No Sky had been good enough, not even Luce, despite their warm relationship and to the surprise of others. Now, he would give anything to experience a Sky bond, the opportunity to guard someone, to covet and love them... and, of course, nurture them. In the way Reborn knew best: through tort- training.
(That had been one aspect of his pickiness – even the strongest Skies would have treated him as a subordinate when Reborn's proud nature wouldn't allow for anything less than equality).
He sighed and prepared to turn the page – the idiots in his head still bickered; Viper made a pact with Skull to assassinate Fon, while Verde found willing ears in Lal, and Colonello just wanted to die, again – when his orb glowed.
Those Flames neared the castle. Reborn, not the best sensor but the most attentive at the moment, could define their type.
His soul sparked with warmth.
"Quiet!" he hissed into the bond between them. They complied. "This isn't another Cloud seeking a base. We're having a Sky in our home."
Reborn wouldn't hope. A hope was a useless emotion – for so long he had hoped to have a Sky, then to find life in another body, then to die for good. In vain.
Rather than hope, Reborn would do.
The Sky was strong. Harmony within his reach. If the Sky was unworthy, Reborn would drag them through hell until they reached his standards. Moreover, even from this far he inhaled the tantalising aroma that always engulfed people like Luce. Necromancers. He had to keep his excitement down at the possibilities.
They were having a Sky in their home. And with a Sky, it could truly become a Home.
Hope you enjoyed it and, oh, reviews make me happy?
(By the way, which characters would you like to see more? Personally, I love Fon. My poor underrated rabbit, hardly ever present in stories!)
P.S. Somehow ff really hates my horizontal line thingies, and I've fucked with them more than I care about, hence why I'm posting this later than on AO3. Oh well, hope it's still not too mcuh confusion bc damn am I freaking tired.