"Grandpa... what is this?"
In the little girl's hands was an odd pendant of sorts with strange writing. It didn't look Japanese at all, and there was a funny symbol in the middle, with the writing around it in a circle. The entire pendant was made of something that looked a lot like precious metals.
"That is something that belonged to your grandmother, Reiko. She inherited it from her mother, so that she always remembered who she came from. Even though she was the oldest, her younger sister took over the family. I'm afraid I don't know much more than that," he replied.
"I have a great aunt?" said the girl, all wide eyed innocence and amazement.
"Great Aunt Luce. I believe she had a daughter a little older than you...something to do with music if I recall correctly."
"Wow!" said the child.
Her grandfather chuckled indulgently.
"You may have that if you wish. Just don't let the other kids see it or they may become jealous."
"Okay!" said the child, losing interest...but not before slipping the pendant around her neck.
Later that night...
"So I'm related to Yuni by Luce? Wish I had known that the first time...would have saved me a lot of grief," mused the child.
Where the 'innocence' had been was replaced by tired maturity. It would be hard to believe that the little girl who had excitedly inquired about an odd pendant she stumbled across was only six, if one were to observe her now.
Natsume rolled to her side on the futon. Under the light of the moon she could clearly make out the odd writing on the pendant...which she easily identified as Italian. She was just as familiar with the symbol in the center. It belonged to the Giglio Nero famiglia in Italy.
That could explain why Reiko's gift had been so strong. The Giglio Nero's bloodline was directly related to Sepira, who had the ability to see into the future up until her death. Add in whoever her maternal grandfather was, and Reiko likely got a double dose of the Sight on top of her unusually strong spiritaul powers.
Natsume gazed at the pendant, which she suspected was genuine gold and possibly silver or white gold. It was fairly obvious why Reiko had this... if her flames ever awakened she would need the pendant to prove to the Vindice and possibly any Triads that stumbled across her that she wasn't a 'free Element'. From what Natsume could tell, based off the echoes of memories from the Book and what the youkai could tell her about Reiko, odds were that she was a Cloud or a Mist.
She was betting on Cloud though. Reiko was too strong willed and disinclined to socializing with normal humans to be a Mist.
Natsume clutched the pendant tightly. She had to keep this safe...because if things happened the same way it did before, she would need this to get away from the 'fate' destined for her.
As it was, she needed to think of a convincing 'story' to explain to her grandfather's relatives so they wouldn't send her back to her mother.
Nana was a nice enough woman, but thanks to Iemitsu she was barely acceptable as a mother. Any emotional support was cut off shortly after she was turned seven when Iemitsu visit ended.
Nana might not admit it, but she blamed her daughter's inability to do anything right as the cause for why her father never stuck around. And when that 'belief' was confirmed by her utter failure in school, Nana fully gave up on her daughter accomplishing anything.
No matter what, she had to avoid that house and Iemitsu!
Some time later...
"What a tragedy, for Natsume to lose their grandfather so young..."
"What are we to do with the child though?"
"I cannot take him at this time, we cannot afford it."
"What of the boy's mother?"
Natsume knew this was the critical moment. She had to act perfectly in order to avoid that house and her fate.
The moment they attempted to take her back to Namimori, she acted terrified.
"Ne, Natsume? Whatever is the matter? Don't you want to go home?" asked his distant cousin.
Natsume shook her head emphatically.
"Mama let the bad people in, and didn't believe me."
That got their attention.
"What bad people?" asked Aunt Yoriko. Being surrounded by so many relatives, this was her best chance to spread this particular rumor about Nana and insure she didn't return.
"Mama's husband brought a strange foreign man with him that I never saw before, shortly before I was sent to live with grandpa. He told me I had to call him grandpa too, but something felt wrong with him," said Natsume honestly. She shivered in fear and disgust. "The strange man came into my room one night and did something funny. I don't remember what it was, but I started tripping over things when they finally left. The teachers were unhappy by the way my grades dropped so soon after their visit, so they sent me to live with grandpa. But Mama didn't believe me when I said the old man was in my room. She said her husband wouldn't bring someone bad with him to visit and refused to listen."
All quite true, save for one small detail. Timoteo had never gone into her room, and her grades dropping was because of the seal he placed on her as a child. However he was the cause of why she suddenly went from a bright, happy child to a introverted one who shied away from others, and why her grades suddenly dropped like a stone.
Which were roughly the same signs one would see if a child was heavily traumatized by something, hence why she was sent to live with her maternal grandfather since her mother wouldn't listen to reason.
Add in her ability to see ayakashi, and her childhood had not been fun at all. Nana openly believed her only child was a horrible liar.
Seeing the looks of the adults, it didn't take much for them to opt in waiting before taking her 'home'.
Less than a week later, she was sent to live with a distant cousin. Apparently enough of her story rang 'true' that they couldn't in good conscience send her home...especially when Nana admitted her husband was planning to make a visit since she recently lost her father.
After hearing Natsume's story about the "strange man", none of her distant relatives wanted her to be exposed to Iemitsu twice.
Natsume, age nine...
The miko was rather strange. Even though everyone could see her, there was something 'off' about her. She was also handing something to the patrons of the shrine to 'drum up business'. By all appearances it appeared to be small charms inside boxes.
Natsume walked up to the miko.
"Auntie, what are you handing out?" she asked innocently.
While being shuffled around different families sucked, it was better than having to worry about that fate repeating itself.
The miko smiled at her, and for a moment there was a really powerful presence behind her. However it felt warm and comforting like sunlight, so Natsume wasn't afraid.
"What an adorable child," said the miko. She reached into the bag and pulled out another box.
To the outside observer, it appeared to be the same as all the other boxes. But to Natsume, who could See things no one else could, it glowed from an internal light.
"Can you keep a secret, little one? Inside the box is a special gift...however you shouldn't open it just yet. If you do, then the gift will weaken and go away."
Natsume took the box with utter seriousness.
"When should I open it, Auntie?" she asked.
"When the time is right, I'll let you know. Until then keep it safe," said the miko with a smile.
"Okay Auntie, I promise to keep it safe and not open it until you tell me to!" said Natsume.
Natsume put the box next to the odd book of 'scribbles' made by Reiko.
In her previous life, that book had caused no end of trouble for her until it suddenly went missing. She still had no idea what it was, just that it was important to the ayakashi for some reason.
She didn't notice the gentle way the miko smiled, like an indulgent parent that watched over it's child.
Only time would tell if the little girl would keep her promise.
Natsume, age eleven...
It felt like the walls were closing in. Invisible chains were slowly starting to coil around her, ensnaring her in order to drag her soul into a gilded cage from where there was no escape.
It would be three years before she was the same age she had been at when Reborn showed up in her life and dragged her into that hell, even if it didn't look like it at the time. She didn't blame him though...not until the end when his arrogance and inability to realize there was something 'off' about her caused him to go too far.
Even then she didn't hate him. She hated the Vongola and the Ninth generation.
Natsume was about to head to school when she spotted a familiar face. Well, more like she sensed the aura of the miko she had met a few years (and five families) ago.
She kept looking straight ahead, and barely registered the light 'bump' the presence gave her.
It wasn't until she got back to the house that she realized something.
The ribbon around the little box she had carried around for so long was undone. She had never opened it, and she had moved to another area by the next morning after receiving it. As far as they knew, it was something of Reiko's. It was so boring that no one bothered it.
Natsume carefully opened the box.
Inside was a small set of bracelets, each with a set of golden colored beads. They were too small to wear around her neck, but she could possibly slip them around her wrists and ankles.
Slipping them on, she could feel a strange power welling from inside the beads. When the last one was in place, she felt something strange.
"Why...am I...so dizzy..."
Natsume blacked out. Strangely, she wasn't afraid in the least.
Unseen by the occupants of the house, a figure approached the sleeping girl.
"What an honest child...to have kept that promise. I will not allow those foolish outsiders to write your destiny for you. Consider this my gift to you for keeping the promise you made."
The beads around her wrists and ankles glowed like sunlight, before sinking into Natsume's body. They would remain unseen for now, hiding her from those that came from the West who wished to use her as a puppet. The figure paused, before a sly smirk appeared on her face.
"Perhaps you can be the next inheritor of those powers..."
The pre-teen sound asleep on the futon already had great spiritual abilities, but she had limited knowledge of how to use them correctly. She was barely able to fend off the ayakashi that came after her as it was now.
The figure gently touched the girl's forehead, allowing a light to sink into her mind. On the desk, they placed a brush and special gourd that was full of black ink.
To anyone else, it was an ordinary object to be dismissed...but in the hands of a child as strong as Natsume, combined with the "knowledge" the figure had implanted, it could be a powerful tool and weapon.
Even if the child wasn't capable of using the sword to it's fullest extent, the original gift was sufficient enough to work along with the brush and ink.
Now to guide young Natsume to the one who had the closest bloodline, and finally give her a place she could potentially call home.
The next morning...
Natsume woke up and felt a strange unseen presence had been there.
Mostly because the first thing she saw was that the odd bracelets and anklets had disappeared, and in their place was a strange brush and gourd. Closer inspection revealed the gourd to be full of black ink.
For some reason, she "knew" if she were to add some of her own blood, the gourd and brush would be bound to her, allowing her to use it against the ayakashi that harassed her.
The thing that Natsume noticed the most was the fact that the invisible chains that had been weighing her down felt lightened. Almost as if they weren't there anymore.
She didn't know who or what that presence was, but if they were able to keep the Vongola from claiming her like they did the first time then she was grateful for it.
Somehow, she had the feeling that running into Touko-san less than a week later was also because of the presence. She could only hope things turned out better.
Natsume stared at the figure in the checkered mask.
"Why me?" she asked.
As far as she knew, the seal was firmly in place and Aria was the next in line for the cursed artifact.
So why did Kawahira approach her instead?
"You have the strongest flames in this generation. Now that Luce is gone, only two may possess this artifact."
Between Aria and Natsume, they were of roughly equal strength.
Natsume looked at the seemingly innocent item.
"If I take this... will the other person be spared?" she asked quietly.
She wasn't afraid of death. She knew in her heart she would likely die young like Reiko had. After all, there was a curse to her bloodline that had followed her for years.
She was just surprised Kawahira had noticed her strength in the first place, since she was supposed to be sealed.
Could the presence which sent Touko-san her way be the cause? Was it possible the seal was gone?
"If you take this pacifier, you will bear a great burden. However the other party who would have inherited it will be spared... I cannot say the same about any children they may have."
"Then I don't mind taking on the burden," said Natsume with a quiet smile.
She was nothing but a burden on others anyway. If taking on the Arcobaleno curse meant Aria would have a chance to live, then she would do it happily. After all, it wasn't like she had anyone who needed her like Aria did.
Kawahira took one look at that smile, and was immediately reminded of Sepira. While he knew the girl before him was of Giotto's bloodline, there was something in her gaze that felt familiar.
"What family do you belong to?" he asked, curious.
Natsume took out the pendant she always kept under her shirt.
"Grandpa said this belonged to Grandma Reiko. But I still can't read it just yet!" she said cheerfully.
One look told Kawahira all he needed to know. No wonder the little one reminded him of Sepira...she was related to the Giglio Nero! He knew all of Giotto's descendants, which meant the lineage must be on the side of the mother.
Kawahira gently ruffled Natsume's head.
"Keep this safe, little one. It's your responsibility now."
"What do you mean the pacifier wasn't passed on to you?" said Reborn in shock.
"That man appeared and took the pacifier before I could. He said there was another who qualified and accepted the burden," said Aria.
While she was grateful she wouldn't bear her mother's curse, this meant that an unknown now had the Sky pacifier. It was likely they had no idea what it was or the implications of what having it meant!
And that man was of no help...all he would say is that one of Luce's bloodline was the new Sky Arcobaleno.
"Do you have any idea who does have it?" asked Verde.
Aria shook her head.
"All I can tell is that it's a young girl, but I can't see her. I think something is blocking my visions from getting a good look at who it is."
"Is that possible?" asked Reborn.
"I couldn't see Checkerface chosing someone else, and up until now I've always seen the moment the curse is passed on to me. But the power required to block my sight this effectively... whoever or whatever it is, I don't think it's human. It's something else."
Either way, Aria planned to start digging into her mother's past. Checkerface had all but confirmed that the new Sky was a member of the Giglio Nero and that she was connected to Luce. Which meant there had to be some documentation to prove it.
Even if the new Sky wasn't related to her by blood, Aria would have adopted her into the family anyway. After all, everyone knew that the Sky Arcobaleno often came from their bloodline.