"Congratulations to you all for getting through another day of training. I know you are all looking forward to heading back home to relax and eat, but before you do I have a few announcements to make." Reborn said as he stood in front of the children.
"Are we going to have another group building exercise again? They've been really fun." Kyoko asked with her usual smile.
"Yeah, they have been pretty fun." Natsumi agreed with a nod. "Though it was kind of weird running into the ghost of Bianchi's Ex during the test of courage. I mean, he was Italian. What was his ghost doing here?"
She felt somewhat sorry for Romeo, crawling his way out of hell only to end up in front of an enraged Bianchi and Shirou, who were both more than prepared to send him straight back again. Though considering how someone as mellow as Bianchi could fly into a blind rage at the mere sight of him, her hatred for him surpassing even her supernatural levels of love for Reborn, he probably deserved it. I mean, he was in hell after all. That's pretty damning as far as evidence of being a bad person goes.
It had been three weeks since they started their daily training routines with Reborn and all of them had seen improvements to their stamina. And as they started to stop being wiped out by the training, they added other activities afterwards, ranging from extra tutoring for school, cooking lessons, camping, a test of courage, sports, storytelling, board and tabletop games and more. It had made it one of the most enjoyable Summers of Natsumi's life, even if things often got weird.
In the morning, the girls would all either run around for a bit under the influence of the Dying Will Bullets or play on some modified machines that would test or draw out their flames in some way, while the boys did… other things.
While Reborn was relatively tame when it came to the girls' training, he couldn't fight the old habits completely, and so Shirou, Ryohei and, for some reason, Hibari often found themselves doing unusual things, like dodging a rain of sniper fire, searching for and disarming a 'fake' bomb planted somewhere inside of the school, wrestling a mutant saltwater crocodile into submission, dealing with a drug cartel or just fighting amongst each other.
Ryohei was having a blast doing it, while Hibari and Shirou were… actually a little amused themselves. Despite how much they complained about Reborn's shenanigans, the two continued to play along with it day after day. Natsumi actually had the impression that they were enjoying their quiet lives being steered up, and just didn't want to admit it.
A normal life, it really didn't suit people like those three very well.
Everyone was pretty happy with their daily training… Everyone but Gokudera.
After that first day, Gokudera tried everything he could to find an alternative. He asked everyone from Reborn and Natsumi, all the way up to Kiritsugu and Dr. Shamal, and even Shirou, searching for someone, anyone, who could train him who wasn't his sister Bianchi. When everyone either turned him down or didn't know how to help him, he spent days by himself in the library, trying to figure out how to achieve his Dying Will Flames without help, resorting to attempting to use hallucinogenic drugs and acupuncture on himself to avoid having to come back.
Natsumi had had to use her Flames of Restoration to restore the damage that Gokudera did to himself before the boy finally gave up and came back to the morning training during the second week. Not that he stuck with it very well. He often left during the middle of training, and only stuck around for the post training activities if his sister wasn't there.
Natsumi couldn't understand it at first. Bianchi was so genuine in her desire to help him and loved him as a brother, yet he always did his best to run away from her. It wasn't until she brought it up in one of her talks with Aunt Iris that she started to realize that even if her father reappeared in front of her and genuinely seemed to be trying to reconnect with her, she still wasn't sure she would be able to let him into her heart.
Even if the uncontrollable poison was gone, even if Shirou had removed the empulse from the boy's mind, even if she looked at him with such a motherly expression as to make Natsumi feel jealous, wishing her own mother would look at her with such pure love, Gokudera's hatred for his sister would still not go away.
Natsumi wanted to be patient with Gokudera and didn't want to order him to do anything he wasn't ready to do, no matter how much Reborn reminded her that was an option. She had tried to suggest to Gokudera that he should talk to people about things, get them off his chest so he could work it out, but every time she talked to him, it was like a switch was flipped and he pretended that the world was all sunshine and rainbows for a few seconds. He absolutely insisted that he didn't need any sort of counseling.
"While I do have something planned for today, I would first like to announce your final assignment of the summer break." Reborn said, giving Shirou a nod.
With a tired sigh, Shirou brought out a bag and started to dig through it, pulling out a small iron ring. "I'm going to be handing each of you rings corresponding to whichever flames you have a talent for." Shirou said, lifting up the ring and channeling some of his flames into it, causing the golden yellow light of the Sun Flames to ignite on the end of it.
"Your assignment is simple, you have one week to ignite one of these rings. Those who succeed with receive more focused training, while those who fail will fall behind and need to continue with their current training routine for an additional month." Reborn explained as Shirou started to hand out the rings.
First giving one to both Haru and Kyoko before moving on to Gokudera, who received five rings.
"Hey, what does he get five rings while we only get one?" Haru asked, more puzzled than jealous.
"Each of the rings is keyed into a different type of flame's wavelength. Kyoko-chan only has Mist Flames, and while you have two different types, your Lightning Flames are a lot stronger than your Cloud Flames. Meanwhile, Gokudera-kun is equally capable of using five different types of flames, and so he needs five different types of rings." Reborn explained. "I should also warn you that Shirou-kun has insisted on putting a fail safe on the rings. If you use their powers against another person in any situation other than self-defense, they will immediately stop functioning."
"Oh…" Haru said, slumping a bit. She knew very well that this was something Shirou did because of her impulsive tendencies.
Unlike Gokudera, she had started to receive counseling from Irisviel, but while she was able to admit she had problems, changing one's impulses was really really hard.
Natsumi and Kyoko each put a comforting hand on Haru's shoulders. "Just remember to talk to one of us if you think you see someone in trouble. If you can remember to do that, there won't be any problems." Shirou said gently. "Reborn, Natsumi, Fuji-nee and I can all overwrite the restriction, if the situation demands it."
"Right. I just need to ask Natsumi-chan to help me if something bad is happening!" Haru nodded her head, understanding the rules.
The cold war between the pair had gone away as Irisviel started to work with Haru, even if the girl still had brief periods of hostilities due to her inability to accept that Reborn was not a real baby.
"So, we just need to get these rings to light up?" Ryohei asked as he received his.
"That's right. Normally, it would take two weeks before you would be able to ignite the rings, but I think that after the training you've been putting into it so far, each of you will be able to do it in one." Reborn said with a nod. "A bit of advice. Imagine something that motivates you and try to turn that feeling you get from it into a flame."
"Motivation? Alright! I'm EXTREMELY PUMPED!" Ryohei shouted with a wide grin. The ring in his hand instantly burst into a bright golden flame.
"W...What? Already?" Gokudera said, looking at the flaming ring.
A moment later, Hibari's ring ignited as well, the intense purple flames causing cracks to form in the ring. "Hmph. Worthless." The prefect scoffed, before tossing it away and starting to leave, having had enough of the group crowding him.
"Well, no surprises there." Shirou said, with Reborn nodding in agreement.
They had both known that Ryohei and Hibari would be able to light the rings in an instant.
Then came the girls. First, Haru's ring started to give off sparks of green light, and then Kyoko's started to give off an indigo colored mist.
"Wow, great work you two!" Natsumi said, congratulating the pair.
"It wasn't so hard, I just have to imagine Reborn-chan's happy face when he saw that I was able to do it." Haru said with a wide smile as she looked to Reborn. She must have seen what she had wanted to see, because she gave a squeal of happiness herself.
Natsumi and Taiga laughed weakly at the girl's behavior.
"I was just thinking about how much I wanted to keep hanging out with everyone like this." Kyoko said. "I've really been enjoying all the time we've been spending together."
"M...Me too." Natsumi replied, her face heating up.
Reborn nodded his head in approval. He hadn't been so sure about the pair, but it seems that the two of them were motivated.
However, when he turned his eyes to Gokudera, he saw the boy glaring at one of the rings in his hand, grunting as he tried to will the flame to ignite.
First his face was determined, then frustrated, then worried. After three minutes had elapsed without so much as a shine, his body started to sink. "Everyone else could do it, so why can't I?" Gokudera mumbled.
"Gokudera-san, are you alright?" Natsumi asked, seeing his depressed face.
Gokudera immediately straightened up and grinned. "Do… Don't worry about it Juudaime. I'll be sure to get it before the deadline. I won't let you down!" He said, swearing to himself that he wouldn't fall behind.
Reborn and Shirou were not surprised here either. Unlike everyone else who had a strong primary flame, Gokudera had five separate flames of about equal providence. Without the ability to parse his wavelengths properly, it would take more than ten times the amount of energy for him to light one of the rings than it would take everyone else. Combine that with the fact that these low quality rings required more energy to get started in the first place, and he was going to have his work cut out for him.
His greatest strength was the diversity of his flames, but it was also what was going to make his road the hardest to traverse.
Reborn would let him struggle for a few days before pointing him to Bianchi again.
"Now then, since we'd all like to beat the summer heat, I have rented out a local waterpark for the day. That will be the location of today's activities." Reborn said casually as everyone calmed down.
"A waterpark." Natsumi said with a swallow.
"Hm, something the matter?" Taiga asked the girl.
"I… I never learned how to swim." Natsumi said in embarrassment.
Kyoko gave her a pat on the back and an encouraging smile. "You don't need to be embarrassed about it. Onii-chan doesn't know how to swim either."
"Huh!? He doesn't!?" Natsumi said in surprise. She would never have suspected that the school's number 1 jock wouldn't know how to swim.
"Kyoko, you shouldn't tell people lies like that." Ryohei said, puffing out his chest. "Not only am I an expert swimmer, I'm also a registered lifeguard!"
"He really doesn't know how to swim at all. The administer of the lifeguard exam was so inspired by his passionate words that he passed Onii-chan even though he can't swim at all." Kyoko whispered into Natsumi's ear.
"Yeah, I could see that happening." Taiga chuckled, having overheard the girl. "Your brother really does have a knack for motivating people like that."
"If Natsumi-chan wants help learning how to swim, I'd gladly help you practice." Kyoko said.
"Me too!" Haru said, joining in. "I just need to get my submarine costume from home, and then I'll be ready to go."
Shirou watched the girls with the smile of an uncle who was babysitting his nieces, until he felt a tug on his sleeve. He looked down to see Illya shifting about uncomfortably, her cheeks a bright red. "Onii-chan, could you… teach me how to swim too?"
Shirou blinked in surprise before smiling. "Sure. I'd be happy to." He said, causing the girl to smile happily.
While this was all going on, Gokudera walked away, wanting to spend as much time as he could trying to work on activating his rings.
He had one week, and he didn't want to waste a moment.
"I can't believe you really rented out an entire waterpark." Natsumi said with a sigh as she looked over the giant waterpark, which would normally be completely overrunning with people who wanted to make the most of the last few days of their summer break, now standing completely empty, save for their own party.
"It was cheaper than you'd think. So everyone just enjoy yourselves." Reborn said to the group. "Though Illya-chan and Taiga-chan, you two have an extra assignment for today."
"Huh? We do?" Illya asked with a tilt of her head.
"That's right, and I have asked your parents to demonstrate what I would like the two of you to try to do today." Reborn said, giving Kiritsugu a glance.
Kiritsugu nodded his head and he and Irisviel walked over to the closest pull, stepping out straight over the water. Illya gasped as she saw blue and white flames focused around her parents' feet, pulling the water together as the pair casually walked across its surface together.
"Wow, it's like something out of an anime!" Illya squealed. "Mama and Papa are so cool!"
"As you can see, Rain and Snow Flames can be used to increase the surface tension of water even to the point where it can hold your own weight. This is actually an advanced trick, but it is something I want the pair of you to work towards. The rest of you are free to do whatever you please. Have fun." Reborn said, watching as they all split up.
"You certainly enjoy giving hard assignments." Irisviel giggled as she returned from the water. "You aren't going to give them a better explanation of how to do it?"
"That's not my style." Reborn said with a smirk. "After the training they had the last few weeks, they have the control necessary to pull it off, they just need to realize how to use it."
"You just enjoy watching people fail." Leysritt said flatly with a shake of her head. "Well, if you need me, I'll be in the wave pool."
"I'm going to hit the water slides." Sella said before heading off in another direction.
"Kiri, can you help me put on my sunscreen." Irisviel asked, grabbing onto her husband's arm and dragging him to the side.
Reborn shook his head and returned to watching the girls attempting his assignment.
Both Illya and Taiga went to the nearest pool and sat on the edge, doing their best to shape their flames around their feet and step on the water, only to have their feet step through the water's surface. They tried again, putting more and more power into their feet, but the result remained the same. If anything, it got worse as the energy output ended up disrupting the water's surface before their feet ever made contact.
"They made it look so easy." Taiga mumbled as she gave the water a kick, causing a considerable wave.
"How did Mama and Papa do it?" Illya said with a sigh as she let the ice blocks she accidentally created melt away.
"You're just not thinking about the problem right." Shirou said, surprising the two as he walked up to them. "You aren't supposed to be using your flames to hold you up, you are supposed to be using them to pull the water together." As he talked, Shirou traced what looked to be a normal practice sword and placed its tip onto the edge of the water.
Reborn was as shocked as the rest as he saw cyan blue flames wrap themselves around the practice sword as Shirou brought it up out of the water, the practice sword transforming into a steel blade as it pulled the water up with it in a long arc that stretched over twelve feet up into the air and hung there for a moment before crashing back down.
"Water tends to form weak bonds with other water, because of its polarized nature. If you reinforce those bonds with your flames, you can increase that sticky property they have." Shirou explained as he let the sword dissolve into specks of light.
"Since when can you use Rain Flames?" Taiga said as she watched the sword disappear.
"I can't. I'm just pretty good at faking it." Shirou said with a teasing smile.
"So, how do we strengthen the water bonds then?" Illya asked, turning back to the water.
"The Rain and Snow Flames have the property of 'tranquility', which can prevent the bonds from breaking. So if you simply weave your flames into the water, instead of pushing up against it, it should just work." Shirou said.
"Hm…" Both Illya and Taiga turned back to the water with serious faces. Each girl placed their foot on top of the water and started to use low frequency waves of their flames in order to slowly spread their power through the water.
There was a visible change in the water's surface, as the random ripples along the surface started to disappear and it became like a flat mirror-like surface.
Nervously, the girls put a little weight on their feet, and then a little more. Taiga was the first to build up the courage and stand up. "...I did it! Hey, look, I did it!" She cheered.
Seeing the older girl's success, Illya stood up as well. "We're doing it. We're really walking on water!" Illya cheered. "Onii-chan look! I can…"
As Illya tried to turn around to show her brother what she could do, she stepped off the patch of water she had been increasing the surface tension of. It was as if she had stepped into a hole, and her entire body slipped to the side, causing her to fall through into the water below with a splash.
A moment later, she felt strong arms around her and she was pulled up out of the water, where she started to cough for air. "You okay?" Shirou asked as he held his little sister up bridal style.
"Ye...Yes." Illya said, embarrassed as she felt her big brother's skin against her own.
"Illya-chan, are you all right… Eep!" The waves created by Shirou jumping into the water ended up disrupting the water Taiga was standing on and she ended up falling as well, straight on top of Shirou and Illya, dragging all three of them underwater.
"S...sorry about that." Taiga apologized as they all came back out of the water. "Guess we don't have it as well as we thought, huh?"
"Um… Fuji-nee?" Illya stammered as she looked at the older girl, starting to turn a little red, Shirou with his head turned to the size.
"Hm, is something the matter?" Taiga asked.
"You… You lost your top." Illya said.
"My… top…" Taiga looked down to find that the top of her yellow and black striped bikini was indeed missing. "Don't look!" She squealed, covering herself with her hands. She turned her head back and forth, looking for where her top had gone, only for it to slowly come up to the surface right in front of Shirou.
Without really thinking, and without measuring her strength, Taiga lunged for the piece of clothing, overshooting it and slamming herself into Shirou in the process.
Taiga's face started to burn up as her bare chest was pressed up against her crush's, with Illya squeezed in between them, resulting in her giving out a girlish scream.
"It looks like it happened again." Irisviel giggled. "Little Taiga's luck is really something, isn't it?"
"Her luck is more honest about her feelings than she is." Bianchi agreed with a nod. "Is Shirou-kun aware that those girls are in love with him?"
"He's aware, he just pretends not to be because he doesn't know how to deal with it." Irisviel says with a shake of the head. "I'm afraid that my baby boy is still caught up on age differences. I'm sure he'll get over it eventually. After all, no son of mine is going to stick to conventional thoughts about love."
Irisviel had never given any weight to one's age when it came to love. After all, she and Kiritsugu had fallen in love and gotten married when Irisveil was still only a year old.
She's been having fun not revealing her true age to the children, but in reality, she was around the same age as Taiga was.
"I hope the three of them will find a way to be happy together." Bianchi said with a smile.
Not only had she never given weight to age or appearance, she also didn't have a high opinion of monogamy either. She even blamed the dominance of monogamy for ruining her family, believing that if only both her and Hayato's mothers had been accepted, then things wouldn't have gone the way they did and that they could have all been a happy family together.
She hoped that he was doing okay.
"Dammit!" Gokudera shouted, slamming his fist down on his table and scattering papers everywhere in his frustration. "It's useless. All of this stuff is absolutely worthless!"
He had read every single book on chakras and energy flows that he could get his hands on, trying to discover the secrets of Dying Will Flames, but none of it could explain to him why he couldn't ignite his flame. Most of the stuff wasn't even totally accurate, or was like trying to figure out quantum physics based on the studies left behind by people from the dark ages.
Had that Tomato bastard given him faulty rings? ...No. The sun ring that he had given Gokudera had been the one he had activated himself as a demonstration. So that one at least was legit.
Why then? Why was he the only one who could ignite a ring?
...Was he lacking in determination? Was his will weaker than those airheaded girls?
The picture of all of them gathered around his Juudaime, laughing happily, played in Gokudera's mind. He could still feel the chasm that seemed to exist between him and them.
Gokudera stared down at the ring in his hand, vile welling up in his throat as he wondered if he was simply not good enough. That even if he managed to activate the rings, that he would still not be worthy of being Juudaime's right hand man.
Shirou, Ryohei, Hibari, Bianchi, Taiga and even Illya. Their abilities completely dwarfed his own. Even if he did manage to ignite his rings, could he compare to them?
*Ring* *Ring* *Ring*
Gokudera paused as the rhythmic sound of the cell phone once again reached his ear. His hand slowly reached down for it.
"Moshi mo...Hello." He said, switching from Japanese to Italian mid answer.
"Hello, Hayato. How have things been going?" The routine question of Timoteo asked him as Gokudera's mind swung back and forth between calm and stressed, his head beginning to hurt.
"I… Things are… Things have not been going so well." Gokudera admitted, a hand going to his head as he slowly calmed his breathing.
"...Is that so?" The grandfatherly voice asked, becoming slightly more rigid. "Tell me all about it."
"I… I'm the only one lagging behind in Reborn's training. Everyone else but me has already managed to ignore their rings." Gokudera confessed weakly.
"...Sorry, Hayato, did you say that Reborn is training you and Natsumi to use rings?" Timoteo asked the boy.
"That's right. He's been training all of the 10th's Guardian Candidates to use our Dying Will Flames, but I have been falling behind."
Timoteo's breathing had stopped.
Rings? Where had Reborn acquired flame rings from? They were not common by any stretch of the imagination. And he was already training the next generation of Guardians? He'd only been there for a little less than two months and he had already chosen a set of Guardians and was training them to this degree?
Why hadn't he reported any of this to Timoteo?
The old man scowled to himself as he asked his next question. "Who exactly is a part of this training program?"
"...I can't tell you that." Gokudera said, getting an internal curse from Timoteo. Reborn certainly hadn't trusted the boy, despite him being Bianchi's younger brother. He might even have known that Gokudera was already in Timoteo's pocket.
Years prior, when Bianchi's abilities were first manifesting, it became obvious to Timoteo that she would not be capable of producing any heir or having any significant other, due to the poisonous effects of her body. This had left Gokudera as the heir to one of the stronger Famiglias in the Vongola Alliance, and so Timoteo had paid their family a visit, under the pretense of being a well wisher, when he was secretly there to implant his flames inside of Gokudera, in order to later use him as a puppet to control his family, if need be.
It had been unfortunate that shit hit the fan in his family and Gokudera ran away from home, but Timoteo had been able to make use of him regardless. He had his Mist Guardian hypnotize the boy, changing the mere impulse to treat him as a grandfather into being a sleeper agent.
He served the same purpose as Varia, if a lot more subtle. Since Gokudera was not an official member of Vongola, he was able to circumvent many of the alliance contracts that would have otherwise tied Timoteo's hands, letting him handle some rebellious elements in the Alliance.
Unfortunately, things didn't go completely without having any of Timoteo's finger prints on them, so someone like Reborn would be able to find out if they were looking. If he had realized that Gokudera would be in such a key position sooner, he would have been more careful not to leave so many obvious ties. Then again, if he had foreseen any of this, he would have done things much differently. Now he just had to accept the situation he was in and make do with what he had.
"How many Guardian Candidates are there and how long have you been training?" Timoteo asked.
"Nine, plus Juudaime herself. And for three weeks." Gokudera replied with… some frustration in his voice.
Three weeks? So it started right after his last talk with Gokudera. Was that a coincidence?
Nine candidates… That is a lot considering the circumstances.
As far as he knew, there was only Gokudera, the Hibari heir, and the Yamamoto heir in the area, and Reborn had reported an absolute failure when it came to the future eighth generation swordsman. So who was being trained, and where had they come from? And where had Reborn gotten enough rings for so many people? And more importantly, why hadn't Reborn reported them to him?
Things were going on around Natsumi that Timoteo was not privy to, and he did not like this.
"Do any of the candidates seem like they will end up as Guardians?"
"Which Guardians positions are they?"
"Storm, Rain, Sun and Cloud all have at least one strong contender. ...A lot stronger than I am."
Storm, Rain, Sun AND Cloud? That meant the only Guardian role available to Gokudera would be the Lightning Guardian. Not only that, the chances of him being Natsumi's right hand man were looking bleak. Who exactly were these Guardian Candidates?
Then, something struck Timoteo, something that made a cold sweat form on the back of his neck. Gokudera had said that Natsumi was involved in the training.
It couldn't be...
"Hayato, can Natsumi activate one of the flame rings?" Timoteo asked, he received no answer.
How? How was that even possible? Reborn hadn't even been down there for two months, how could Natsumi already be overcoming the seal? If she has overcome the seal's disruption of her flames to such an extent, did that mean she would be able to resist its other effects?
What would he do if she became immune to the effects it has on her psyche before he could guide her down the path to becoming a true Vongola Boss? Was he going to lose his only means of controlling the girl? If that happened and she really did walk, and take the Vongola Rings with her… all of the traditions and power that the Vongola Famiglia was built upon will come crumbling down.
Timoteo couldn't let that happen. He couldn't let everything he has done become meaningless.
"Hayato, you must become Natsumi's Lightning Guardian, no matter what it takes. Get rid of the competition without getting any suspicions, do you understand me?" Timoteo ordered the boy.
"...I… Ye… No. I won't." Gokudera said, shocking the old man. "I won't. I won't do it. I won't."
Gokudera was resisting him?
The recent boosts in the boy's flames, coupled with his frustrations and the fact that Timoteo was only communicating with him over the phone, rather than in person, was allowing Gokudera to resist the old man's demands that he eliminate Haru.
While Gokudera didn't care for the girl, he understood that Natsumi would never approve of such a thing. It was his desire not to hurt his boss that pressed against his mind as he did his best to shut out Timoteo's voice.
However, this sudden, open rebellion was poorly timed.
"...Hayato, it is time that you come back to Italy." Timoteo said after a moment's pause.
"What? But I… I don't want to go. I… Juudaime needs me here. I can't just..."
"Hayato, I would like for you to play Moonlight Sonata for me. You still remember how, don't you?"
Gokudera's mind went slack and the light drained from his eyes. "...Yes, Boss."
Gokudera was no longer of any use as an agent, but he still possessed knowledge from his time around Natsumi, which would allow him to be of use just one more time.
Timoteo would get that information out of him, one way or another.
I'd like to think having someone like Shirou around, who can simply handle all of the nonsense that happens, would mean that Natsumi is better adjusted to the random events that Reborn causes. Especially as she don't have the seal anymore and is becoming strong enough to handle situations in her own right without going into a berserker rage.
The shirtless punch off was supposed to be a Yakuza joke, where the Yakuza games are said to always end up with a shirtless punch up, for some reason.
Now for the big question, is Gokudera going to be interrogated by the Vongola Famiglia directly, or by the CEDEF?
I kind of want Iemitsu to be involved, and have him have 'Flames of Steel', the combination of Sky and Lightning Flames. This would make some sense, since in canon, while not really being a massive damage dealer, he was a tanky mother fucker, easily just accepting damage that would have one shot most of the big name baddies that came before, who themselves weren't fragile.
If we accept that Tsuna's full powered shot was comparable to an A-rank anti-fortress Noble Phantasm (Which seems about right with the numbers given for it), Iemitsu could take it at point blank and suffer no serious damage, so long as his flames are active. With his flames not active, he can be brought down by a normal bullet.
Granted, Tsuna wasn't at his best when he launched the attack, but the guy was still just a slab of meat.