Hey, everyone! Thank you all so much for your reviews, please have another chapter! Yeah, I took my time with it, but at least it's long ;)
I didn't manage to cram everything I wanted here, so keep in mind that some of the events will be recounted in more detail when they become more relevant. Also, most of this chapter is a continued flashback/timeline.
Another important thing: this chapter is mostly really cute fluff! Again, some of the stuff here is quite depressing at its core, but I'm leaving out a lot of the angst until after Tsuna meets all the Arcobaleno at least.
Hope that you enjoy!
Chapter 3. Bodice Ripper Vampire Man
Tsuna hummed and ignored.
Yes, the word 'ignored' absolutely required italics because Tsuna learnt the art of ignoring what's under his nose from a master, and boy did he have a lot to ignore at the moment.
This whole bloody castle, for one.
To be fair - even though Tsuna had no obligation to be fair to a bunch of rocks somehow put together to make a habitation - it was rather pretty inside. Suprisingly neat. Plenty of light everywhere. Lots of white marble in the grand ballrooms and dining halls and warm, light wood in the personal chambers.
Tsuna's own room had definitely belonged to a woman, once. A feminine touch glowed through everything: the white and pastel tones of the furniture and fabrics with a special accent on pastel oranges (which Tsuna didn't mind since he was rather partial to orange, himself), a plethora of well-crafted jewellery boxes and tiny perfume bottles which would be more at home in a collectioner's shelf behind thick glass rather than at Tsuna's current abode, the small-framed pictures of birds and flowers on the walls, the stack of hand-made lace waiting patiently on a crafting table in the corner for someone to come and complete it.
It was even situated in a tower, as pink as the rest of the monstrous castle, just in case Tsuna wanted to feel like Rapunzel in the morning.
It was the perfect princess room…
Except for a door.
His new room had three doors: the biggest one that led to the main corridor, the white bathroom door that almost merged with the wall, and the door into a private study.
The last one was of particular interest to Tsuna and what he suspected to be the reason for Kawahira suddenly offering him a vacation. That blasted man never did anything without a motive. Tsuna just hadn't expected to find one so very soon.
The studdy was stuffy and musty despite a window overtaking the whole of the wall, some shelves lining half of the remaining space. Various sketches and graphs and runic arrays mushroomed across the rest, not leaving even a single inch bare. A lot of loose papers were sewn into journals and stacked into clearly labelled boxes. Tsuna appreciated the - possibly - lady who had lived there before him. She had even left him an impressive collection of stationery!
…It was probably not on purpose, but at least she had been nice enough to die without leaving a mess and trash in her personal study.
She also left Necromantic tools sitting innocently in various corners of the room, so jarring compared to the rest of the furniture: a bronze-covered skull baring its teeth at him from a bookshelf, several small bags of salt with herbs in them lying in a neat pile in a wooden crate at the foot of the desk, a few focusing crystals in a gem box by a rose pencil case, a manual on storing bodies standing proudly amidst cookery books…
There was a lot to go through. Tsuna hoped dearly Uncle Kawahira didn't expect him to overhaul and systemise all of that.
Fortunately, at least, Uncle Kawahira had taken care to clean everything up with Mist flames beforehand, so Tsuna didn't have to deal with cobwebs smothering the corners nor with pesky rodents. He had no idea how it could be accomplished with pure Mist flames, but even if it was just an illusion, well, this time Tsuna would readily believe it.
"Next time you offer me a vacation, I would appreciate to go somewhere without haunted torture dungeons, please and thank you," Tsuna mumbled under his breath, storing his underwear in the bedside drawer. The amount of wardrobes, sets of drawers, tall-boys, decorated boxes and trunks, and other containers and spaces for storing things in this castle honestly overwhelmed him and made him feel inadequate with his single luggage bag.
"I shall take this into consideration, Tsunayoshi." Checkerface's voice sounded arrogant and different from when Uncle Kawahira talked. Colder. Harsher. Like they hadn't spent the past years teaching each other how to family. "It will be an ossuary next time."
Tsuna sighed and continued unpacking.
"It's useless to talk to you when you're like this."
"Like what?" Checkerface asked with all the warmth of a sea of glaciers. His strange checkered mask was as unmoving as ever and covered his eyes. The cane he was holding tapped the light wood of the floor in a steady, menacing rhythm.
Tsuna just sighed again and ignored again.
Sometimes he wondered if his mentor-ly figure had a split personality disorder.
He loved the Uncle Kawahira who would attempt to make a vegan soup and end up blowing up a house or two or twenty. The one who made him tea when Tsuna was upset. The one who hovered over his shoulder whenever he came back home late, who worried where his own mother didn't. Who was there where his own father wasn't.
The one who taught him how to make friends even if they weren't very living and the one who acquired a friend in turn in Tsuna.
Checkerface was different.
He didn't worry, unless his mysterious plans were endangared.
However, Tsuna knew that this man was still a part of his mentor, and he didn't want to be one of those people who would only accept the parts they want to see. Tsuna had lived too much time with a person like that to ever want to become one.
This Uncle Kawahira covered his eyes with that strange mask-hat, reminding Tsuna of those children who believe that just because they shield their faces with their hands and don't see the world, the world won't see them either. Secretly, he found that side more pathetic – but not as pathetic as himself, who never voiced those thoughts out loud.
"Did you bring them here, too?" Tsuna asked instead, to get rid of all the depressing emotions swirling in his mind. It was easier to get into the steady rhythm of pulling out an article of clothing, fold it neatly in the way Uncle Kawahira taught him to and store it away. Repeat. A shame he didn't bring too much.
Checkerface leaned back against the post of Tsuna's new bed - God, how was he going to sleep on this fluffy monstrosity - and clicked his fingers.
It was as if a curtain of mist rose, and Tsuna's… well. He supposed he would call them friends… popped into view, lying in neatly arranged coffins in the corner of his room. Five differently-sized, reality-wracking coffins side by side with a sewing machine and a craft desk. A few pieces of lace were pushed by a gust of breeze straying into the room and fell on Hibari-san's dark purple, iron-clad bed.
"I would have preferred a separate room for them," Tsuna said through pursed lips. He couldn't keep his eyes from softening at the sight of his friends. A shame the study wasn't big enough to hold them all.
"It's always best for a Necromancer's familiar to stay beside them."
"Yes, but what about what's best for the Necromancer?"
Checkerface clucked his tongue. "Tsunayoshi. Are we pretending again that you are not a pushover who is willing to inconvenience yourself in all the ways that matter for your friends again today?"
"You know, you could have put it in another way." Tsuna finished unpacking. He rose. "Literally any other way would have done quite nicely."
Checkerface smirked. He closed the space between Tsuna and himself, grabbing the boy's chin tightly with a pale, forceful hand. Tsuna twitched at the contact with Kawahira's ring - a vile thing, with its tiny feelers in constant motion, soaked to the bone with a cursed energy that even Tsuna with all his experience of the vilest filth could barely tolerate. He wondered why Kawahira was so attached to it. He wondered why he even wanted to know.
"But this is how I chose to go about it."
Tsuna groaned. Checkerface was unbearable. He swatted his mentor's hand away.
"Urgh. Look. Can you just… give them back to me? For real?" You could never know whether anything Kawahira did wasn't a well-crafted illusion. Sometimes Tsuna wondered whether the man knew it himself.
"What are you talking about? They are all already here." Checkerface gestured at the coffins with the rejected hand. The ring's twitching feelers pulsed with power. "I have done all the work and even went through the trouble of transporting everything myself so you wouldn't have to lug all this extra luggage."
"My friends are not extra luggage!" Tsuna snapped. True, they weren't perfect but… "Why do you insist on always being so…"
"Friendship is a hard thing for me to understand."
"But… I thought we were friends, too?"
"I have never once thought of you as a friend, Tsunayoshi."
There was no need to let the twinge of hurt show. This wasn't the first time a parental figure disappointed him.
Tsuna was not surprised at the sentiment. He was surprised at the free admission. He had hoped to keep some hopeful thoughts, no matter how false they were, because even false affection was better than none. How stupid. Had he wanted that, he should have never brought this up when it was Checkerface who held the reins. That man never allowed illusions to anyone but himself.
"Your familiars are not your friends either," Checkerface continued, as if one twisted knife would never be good enough. Tsuna breathed through his nose, reached for the warm light inside of him, and remembered that he wasn't hearing any words that he hadn't heard before. The sun warmed his back, and however small, that was all the encouragement he needed. Sometimes even small things had worth when they improved your mental health.
"But that's how I want to treat them," Tsuna found the strength to reply. He let conviction line his words. His conviction was biting and if Checkerface finched away - well. Tsuna learnt everything from the greatest masters. "They are not like you. In their eyes, I am more than just a Necromantic Sky useful for things you will never tell me until it's way too late. I am Tsuna. Which is a tough point of view for you to understand, most likely."
Tsuna smiled and decided that he upset himself enough for one day. He still didn't know what to make of the ghost he had met in the gardens, Skull, and what to make of the other inhabitants of the castle he was yet to meet. None of them sounded nice. They probably weren't. In Tsuna's life, even the things that sounded good eventually went tragically wrong; it was a nightmare to imagine how something that wasn't even trying to hide itself would turn out. Tsuna should probably redo some of his protection charms that he constantly carried on his person. It would be just like Uncle Kawahira to let him get horribly hurt as a learning exercise, even though Tsuna had been saying for years that being maimed didn't make him any more receptive to new information.
Leaving the warmth of the sun shining through the window, Tsuna went closer to the coffins, to sweep a hand across their surfaces, to see they were real and not a cruel illusion like the friendship he had imagined had been.
However, no matter how much Tsuna doubted so many things in his life, he never doubted this: they were real.
Of course, these were only the physical bodies. His friends' spirits resided in a box he always kept near his heart. 'Captured', classic Necromantic texts would say, because that was the usual way to keep a spirit. 'Free', his friends would respond because he didn't need to bind them to him for them to remain by his side. Even Gokudera Hayato, as much as his passion and overall obsession regarding Tsuna stifled him at times, chose to be by Tsuna's side - when Tsuna couldn't run away from him fast enough to hide, of course.
He swiped a tender hand across the rough wooden surface of Takeshi's coffin, lingering on the cold that radiated from the inside.
Since most of his friends came in bio-degradable bodies, Tsuna had needed a special technique to preserve them without relying on such things as power supply and the presence of a refridgerator in the zone.
Uncle Kawahira had made a point of teaching him Zero Pont Breakthrough as soon as possible, since it was a superior technique mastered by Vongola Primo himself. Stuff of legends. Tsuna found it perfect for freezing ice-cream when it kept melting in the summer heat. It also prolonged the shelf life of such things as fried rice, gyoza, a severed torso to sew up later, the merriest zombie on earth, a bloodthirsty vampire in search of a mate…
Vongola Primo had probably never seen that use of his flames coming.
"You are a hypocrite, Tsunayoshi," Checkerface accused in a soft voice that signified he hadn't got his fill of suffering that day. Tsuna sometimes wondered why he needed his Uncle actually alive. He hadn't contributed to anyone actually dying - at least not directly - but there was always room for opportunities. Uncle Kawahira often said so himself. Maybe that was just a thinly veiled hint? Urgh. Tsuna must be really cranky to think this. "You claim friendship, yet you are perfectly happy to never see one of your so-called 'friends' again."
Tsuna froze before shifting uncomfortably. Damn. He needed a distraction. But… There was nothing left to unpack, nothing to put away, and he didn't want to explore too much under his Uncle's watchful eye; he wouldn't be able to see things but rather worry about been seen reacting the way his mentor wouldn't judge too harshly in his current sadistic form, and the memory would forever be corrupted.
Ghosts of dubious personal qualities aside, the castle was lovely. He wanted to derive some joy out of exploring it. Some wonder. Because there was so much of it in the world, but sometimes you needed to put in just a little bit of effort to notice it all. Tsuna had needed Uncle Kawahira to show him how.
"If you are talking about Hibari-san" Tsuna started slowly, tasting every word in his mouth, mumbling through it. "Then there are… reasons."
'Reasons' was the word that came up a lot in the entire relationship the two of them had.
Hibari-san was his first in many ways.
It was a private graveyard, so strange and unique to the Hibari family, spirits of whom roamed all over the town of Namimori, always watching over it. Ceaseless control even beyond death.
A lovely evening breeze fluttered Tsuna's flyaway hairs, played with the hem of his yukata - Uncle Kawahira always told him that if it were his destiny to be a Necromancer, he might as well fulfil it in style. He had his own vision of style, which meant that Tsuna had had to try on many a humiliating outfit that would have been more fit for a carneval or a teenage girl trying out new stuff to find herself, but Uncle Kawahira hadn't particularly cared about Tsuna's sensibilities, and, well. It's not like dressing weird was going to change anyone's opinion of him because those couldn't sink any lower anyway.
Tsuna couldn't help but think those things. Otherwise, he would have to see as Uncle Kawahira spread apart the remnants of a long-dead child over a tablecloth of fresh leaves. The body, preserved like those of the rest of the Hibari clan. A family tradition that stemmed from ages long past, when the family first moved in. Legends told of a powerful Necromancer ruling the land behind the scenes, of immortality and a chance to gain it if you only knew the right people.
Only the Hibaris, however, believed ardently in this. Surprising how a town as steeped in traditions and myths managed to spawn so many people with minds forever closed.
Uncle Kawahira nodded with satisfaction once he finished rearranging a dead boy's stiff limbs in the correct position - everything in Necromancy was built on precision. He wasn't dirty even after working the whole day with the earth and the corpse, and even the wind didn't dare touch him. Uncle Kawahira always appeared like a cutout from another story whom someone carelessly slapped into Tsuna's life.
"Tsunayoshi, have you prepared the salt?"
The boy winced. "Um. Probably?"
Uncle Kawahira rubbed the stem of his glasses with long fingers, one of those gestures that showed his irritation whereas his face stayed still.
"This is not the correct answer."
"It's the only answer I can give. Hiee! I- I'll do it! No need to conjure those… awful things!"
Huffing, Tsuna felt around for the small bag of purified salts. The circles were already drawn, waiting for the hour, but these salts were made specifically to disintegrate an undead's body on contact. Quite brutal, in Tsuna's opinion. He had never had cause to use them. He hoped he never would. "Are you sure all of this is necessary? I mean can't we just… go read a book or something instead? Watch a scary horror film?"
Uncle Kawahira shot him an unimpressed glance, while waving a stick of sage for smudging to purify the air from evil influences lingering at the graveyard like a veil of deepest blackness.
"And what are you going to learn from that?"
"That. Um. That zombies are scary?" Tsuna scratched his cheek with a finger. He smiled nervously, remembering that his mother had once told him it was cute, back when he was five.
Uncle Kawahira shot him one of those glances that clearly proclaimed just how pathetic he thought Tsuna was. Tsuna refused to shuffle his feet and instead rubbed the back of his head, his hair fluffy under his fingertips. At least now that he'd taken the decision to grow it out, he had more to rub. Besides, brushing it in the evenings was a quiet affair that soothed him, a nightly ritual similar to meditation.
The purification over, Uncle Kawahira stepped back to invite Tsuna closer. Tsuna didn't hurry to comply. He still wasn't quite sold on the neccessity of zombies in his life.
Uncle Kawahira just stared at him for a while, probably contemplating all the life choices he had made that had contributed to him taking Tsuna on as a student. Sometimes Tsuna wondered which of them really drew the short stick.
"You are tearing me apart, Tsunayoshi," Uncle Kawahira said with a completely deadpan face, like a disaster artist with zero acting skills.
"Um. It's either you… or me?" Tsuna slumped under his mentor's gaze and slouched forward with a sullen pout. Those were his early forays into the world of dead-raising and the whole process didn't strike his fancy. Leaving aside such small matters like seeing the maggots and bodies in all states of decomposition (he vomited the first time; it never got much better), Necromancy like this took its toll on his body and soul.
To raise an actual zombie - and not just a corpse that would move to its master's commands - was an active skill, unlike just seeing the spirits and communicating with them. You had to put in actual effort. Tsuna… Well. Saying he wasn't much good at that would be an underestimation. Not all his marks were so ridiculously bad just because of townsfolk's prejudice.
At least his mother was a baffling mix of neglectful and accidentally encouraging. She never questioned the bags of salt crowding one of their cupboards despite her never using salt in food, politely didn't mention the occasional stray head in the cupboard or ectoplasm in her make-up bag. It's because of her that his Necromancy studies flourished. Aside from the fact that the dead were generally much more accommodating than the living, and a mausoleum made a nicer hang-out place than your local arcade once you got to the know folks who lived there.
Uncle Kawahira always made him work hard for those skills, however, and now Tsuna filled up with pride because right here, right now… he was doing something. Something useful. Perhaps it wouldn't be useful for humanity, and Necromancy definitely didn't pay the bills, but bringing monsters back into existence made Tsuna feel so human, so alive like he had never seen himself before.
His only regret was that he would never be able to share that feeling of alive-ness with his mentor, who always just looked on as if every step of Tsuna's journey were merely a box to tick rather than a life-shattering event.
Perhaps that's why, when the deed was over…
Tsuna couldn't help himself. He engulfed the child they'd ripped from the clutches of eternal peace in the warmest hug he could manage, his heart beating so loud Tsuna hoped with all his might it would beat for two. Even if he knew how unrealistic such hopes were.
It didn't end well, but Tsuna still couldn't help but think that he did right even though he ended up in hospital for a whole week.
Hibari Kyoya was not an easy person to get along with, and that fact didn't change even through his death.
Their relationship saw it all: tears and pain, emotional outbursts and stubborn silence, quiet naps and bird-watching, Tsuna giving Hibari-san a chance to go to the zoo to see the rabbits, Kyoya wiping Tsuna's silent tears with fingers that would never carry warmth again but were so gentle, so loving, they always made Tsuna feel like a treasure Kyoya would never let go.
Tsuna picked up every pearl of knowledge about the spirit stuck eternally in a child's body. He handled them all with the same care, loving every bit that would reveal the personality and history of the beligerent entity that made its home in a place that was never Tsuna's but filled up with warmth when his dearest people were in it.
Small things, like the not-child's stubbornness.
Every day Hibari-san, still dressed in a primary school sailor uniform, his cute yellow panama hat on his head and lethal wounds covered up with animal-printed bandages, would attempt to go out to 'renew his claim on Namimori'.
After a while of bribing wandering spirits, Tsuna had an idea of what it entailed and wasn't particularly thrilled.
Thankfully, (or so he would say out loud even though he would never find joy in seeing Kyoya's face crumble after each day of failure), while Tsuna was an outstandingly powerful Necromancer, he wasn't a good one. It showed. Every time Hibari-san tried to leave the house to reassert his dominance, he would be unluckily… prevented.
It wasn't that easy to bite someone to death when your jaw suddenly decided it liked unhinging. Or when both your legs remembered that they should probably be stuck in rigor mortis or even finished rotting.
Tsuna did attempt to save Hibari-san from that unenviable fate each and every time it happened but… Well.
Needless to say, Hibari-san was not a happy little camper, and his mood only worsened when Tsuna steadily kept attracting himself new friends who would attach themselves to him. Don't get him wrong, Tsuna tried. It's just that… Yeah. He was simply ridiculously bad at things.
(At least Uncle Kawahira showed a surprising amount of understanding by not mocking him on days Tsuna felt particularly down about his lack of ability. Failure was aparently not a word in his mentor's dictionary, and Tsuna was outright forbidden from calling himself Dame or Useless or any other variant of the phrase. He knew it was probably just Uncle Kawahira's narcissism speaking, but the warmth that filled his chest wouldn't go away anyway, no matter how hard he tried).
But Hibari-san wasn't nearly as understanding as any other person in Tsuna's Necromantic life, which meant that someone ended up bitten to death. A lot. Sometimes a lot of someones would be bitten to death.
And that's not mentioning all those poor people who'd get in his way on days when Hibari-san did manage to get out. The boy always growled and grit his teeth when a hand holding tonfa fell off just as he tried to bite to death a troublemaker. Hibari-san counted those days as failures. In Tsuna's humble opinion, seeing a dead boy's hand falling off was effective enough an incentive to stop drawing graffiti on public buildings.
Despite it all, Tsuna treasured every second spent with his very first friend. It was just that at one point everything between them became… complicated.
Like in those bodice ripper novels his mother hid in a stash, it all started with a handsome vampire coming to town.
The vampire's name was Hibarin and he was a mockery of everything Kyoya had lost.
His body was the key to everything Kyoya desired.
Two entities would never share.
Tsuna suspected how everything would end the moment Hibarin leaned down and licked his throat before biting into his tender flesh.
Tsuna knew what he was doing even as he stifled a moan with his hand. A suprisingly hot tongue swiped across the column of his neck, cleaning up the beads of blood leaking from two small marks in his neck. Sorrow stormed through his heart even as Tsuna tangled his fingers with the soft black locks of Hibarin's hair, exhaled a warm gust of breath into the top of the vampire's head.
What Tsuna would be doing would be neither fair nor just. Most people would prosaically call it 'murder'.
However, Hibari-san was so important to him, and Hibari-san suffered so much from being stuck in the body of a child barely held together by Tsuna's lacking Necromantic skills, and Tsuna wanted to do at least something for him after summoning Hibari-san's soul to remind it of everything it lost, and-
And Tsuna knew how to link bodies and souls even if they didn't belong together.
Everything should be over by now. Tsuna tugged on the hair on the back of his neck as he waited, just to be sure.
Two figures were lying on the floor. Only one spirit remained. Finally, the vampire rose to his feet. The brunet immediately gasped and flinched, his hand held out in the air uncertainly.
"Er… Hibari-san?" Tsuna tried anxiously. "O-Or is it Hibarin-san?"
The undead prefect shot him a disdainful look.
"That fake-carnivore is gone," he declared, which told Tsuna pretty much nothing since both entities were of the same opinion about each other. "I bit him to death, and now nothing will disrupt the peace of Namimori."
And so Hibari-san dramatically swished his gakuran and disappeared into the doorway.
Tsuna remained in place, pondering important questions.
How do you bite to death a vampire?
He wisely didn't voice that thought. At least Hibari-san looked happy as a vampire and stopped losing limbs in his bedroom every day.
Uncle Kawahira froze for two hours after Tsuna enthusiastically hugged him that evening.
The complications didn't end there.
Hibari-san may have been happy to acquire a reliable body through which he could inflict viole- discipline upon Namimori, but the recipients of his loving guidance showed little enthusiasm. 'Little' meant 'not at all'. In fact, some of them were so unenthusiastic that the number of people dying of heart attacks somehow quadrupled within the first day of the boy's return.
Tsuna could understand them. After all, scenes like this one became very common:
A group of delinquents, relaxed after such a long vacation from disciplining, crowded a corridor. Their hands shook as they fiddled with the objects hanging down their necks in thick strands.
"Fancy this will save us from Hibari?" one of them whispered anxiously.
"Death didn't save us from Hibari!"
A dramatic shadow slid in through the window. The delinquents froze.
"You. Garlic necklaces are not an acceptable part of school uniform. You will be bitten to death." Tonfa gleamed beautifully in the dawning sun.
Many sounds of bloodbath later, Tsuna crawled out of his safe space. Walking through the carnage, he wondered whether Uncle Kawahira would kill him or Hibari would get to him first. Oh well.
Like with all the spirits Tsuna summoned, even if now Hibari-san inhabited a different body, Tsuna was in control of how much the entity would be able to actively occupy it. He would generally give his friends a few hours a day before they would return to the vessels holding their souls since staying in a body required effort not only from him (which was already bad enough) but also from them. Even the most stubborn of them tired themselves out. So…
The spell was bound to wear off somehow… right?
(It did wear off. Not before Hibari-san accomplished several major cases of murdered and established himself as the immortal carnivore of Namimori forever. Tsuna came home and did what he did best – crawled under the blankets and cried).
After unleashing the undead catastrophe that was a zombie/vampire Hibari upon Namimori, to his biggest regret and with the heaviest heart, Tsuna was forced to shut down the connection between them, stopping the flow of Flames and thus ensuring that Hibari-san wouldn't multiply the population of ghosts in their hometown.
They would still be able to communicate. Just… Hibari-san wouldn't be able to communicate with anyone outside of Tsuna and his bonded familiars.
But of course carnivores don't go down without driving the final nail.
In Tsuna's case, the nail came in the form of a love confession. He cried again, because what happened to his life that he would rather summon demons than receive a confession from the girl he liked?
…Except it wasn't a girl. And there was literally no 'liked' involved in the equation.
They stood in a blood-splattered classroom, the sun cheerfully shining upon the splintered desks and chairs and warming their skin. In the middle of it, Hibari stood stock-still. No movement, unnatural even for a vampire. Tsuna, with a frown, ventured forward to find an explanation.
"Hibari-san?" he asked. After a moment of deliberation, he pressed a gentle hand against the vampire's frosty forehead, ignoring the fact that he had to stand up on his toes to reach it. "What is it?"
"I am blushing," Hibari said with a serious, deadpan white face.
Tsuna cringed away and dropped his hand.
"Um… Hibari-san…" How did he break it gently? "You have no blood."
The vampire chose to either not hear him or ignore him – then again, did anyone in this place ever listen to him? Tsuna wondered when his life had gone so wrong and instead decided to watch the violets wilting on the classroom windowsill, as if they wanted to die from having to hear this conversation. Tsuna did, too. Still, he watched them and tried to remember what Uncle Kawahira had said about answers coming up in the strangest of places.
Hibari, meanwhile, observed him intently.
"When I look at you… what… is this feeling… in my chest?" the vampire mumbled, placing a hand against his silent heart.
Tsuna burnt the violets with his gaze. Metaphorically, for now.
"…And-" Hibari continued with a spark of enlightenment in his eyes. "-there are butterflies. In my stomach."
"Please kill them!" Tsuna all but shrieked.
Hibari blinked at him in confusion and pressed his hand to his flat stomach protectively, like a pregnant woman.
"Butterflies are small animals. Carnivores don't kill small animals; we guide you. Gently. With tonfas."
"They're small and pretty. Small animals."
Was that a zombie hedgehog crawling down Hibari's shoulder?
Tsuna sighed and rubbed his eyes. How did he deal with this situation? Again, the violets only nodded sadly in the wind whistling through the cracks in the windowpane, as if saying, 'better you than me, pal'.
"Anyway. Hibari-san!" he finally squeaked out. "We're not in a shoujo manga! Please no feelings in your chest- no butterflies either! Yes, even if they're small animals!"
Hibari scoffed and pushed a stack of books off the table with a tonfa just to drop there himself. Tsuna wondered why he couldn't pull out a chair.
"Of course we are not in a shoujo manga, Small Animal."
Tsuna put a hand to his chest, sighing. This time a pleased sigh. Finally. He had little reason for those lately.
He would ignore the 'small animal' comment and all its implications until his dying day. Considering the stress in his life, it would come soon enough anyway.
"-We are both men. For us, it's called 'yaoi', isn't it?"
Tsuna looked at the table. The table looked at him. Hibari's declarations shocked things into gaining awareness, apparently.
"…Hibari-san, how do you even know this word?"
"Herbivores are constantly disrupting discipline in Namimori." The zombire pouted. Or Tsuna thought it was a pout – that pull of lips looked terrifying. "Racy literature is forbidden and taken into the custody of the Disciplinary Committee, who are obliged to check the contents of the confiscated goods. Yet no matter how many herbivores get bitten, it is one of the most common transgressions in the school."
Hibari sounded very puzzled over that. Vaguely annoyed.
Tsuna just wondered how huge the Committee's stash of porn was.
"Tsunayoshi," Checkerface began in a displeased tone, snapping Tsuna back to present, to an abandoned bedroom in a lively castle. "Take some responsibility."
He looked at the boy expectantly, as if he had been saying something all this time.
Tsuna stared at him blankly.
"I'll… Um, go make a sandwich."
He did the brave thing and fled to the kitchen. Yeah, thanks. He'd take an unknown ghost over a socially inept vampire with a crush any day.
In the course of the future weeks of interactions, Tsuna would realise two vital facts:
1) You could never escape the Hibari.
2) Social skills ran in the family.
The kitchen was a nice place, just like the rest of the rooms. Spacious, well-aired. A little bit on the oriental side when it came to the style of the furniture, and even from here Tsuna could see an exit to two dining-rooms: one with a low table and pillows around it, while the other traditionally European with elegantly carved furnititure and a beautiful lace tablecloth and chairs cushions.
The electric appliances were a little dated. Nevertheless, someone had stocked the kitchen nicely with all types of plates, pans, kettles, silverware (that even included a set of little gold teaspoons with elaborate handles!), and everything a person fond of culinary arts could ever wish for. A glass case showed off a beautiful collection of porcelain tea and coffee sets, all carefully labelled with the name of the company that had produced them written in golden lettering on thick white cards.
Everything showed the same level of care as the decorations back in Tsuna's room.
On opening the fridge Tsuna discovered quite the nice selection of fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy, and other foods probably put there courtesy of Uncle Kawahira. Some meats crammed the freezer. Even the cupboards were full: sushi rice, brown rice, basmati, corns, beans, even weird stuff that Tsuna never used in cooking like couscous and buckwheat and bulgur all dwelt there.
Uncle Kawahira probably didn't trust Tsuna not to run away if he had to go food shopping. His mentor knew him too well.
"How strange. I don't remember any of these foods getting here," a voice said.
It wasn't Tsuna's voice.
"My friend brought everything here," the boy sighed out in resignation. Of course making a snack couldn't be that easy. It's like Tsuna's whole fate is tied up with overbearing, sadistic mentors who would make even the simplest tasks into challenges for him.
"Quite a fascinating friend you have. Although of course no one could be as fascinating as you," the voice went on. It was very pleasant, all kind and attractive, to the point the Sky couldn't withhold a shiver. It reminded Tsuna of something. Of someone. "I would really like to know you better, Tsuna."
Tsuna couldn't keep down a blush from how his name was said. Like it was a piece of luxurious, delicious chocolate someone was melting in their mouth.
But there was a little issue.
"Um," he started, his head turning a little. "How do you know my name?"
"Ah, why shouldn't I?" the ghost sounded puzzled, as if the concept of being leery of a stranger knowing your name was absolutely foreign.
Tsuna frowned and finally turned fully. His mouth... fell open.
Because... Because Tsuna was looking right into the stranger's very handsome face and-
Oh dear. Tsuna- Tsuna knew that face.
"HIEEE! WHY ARE THERE SO MANY HIBARIS?!"
Next chapter: the kitchen ghost. Because that's the best place to hang around after you die if you are a masochist.
- Hope you enjoyed the update and thanks to everyone for your support!