Hey, guys! Ahehehehehe~ Look at how much time has passed since the last update! Hehehehe *wipes brow* First, I'd like to apologize for how long it took to update a new chapter. It's been what, a few years?
I was sort of surprised to find that people were still reviewing after all these years, and well, I'm really touched. So, because King Guilt will threaten to split my heart in half if I did not do this, I have a New Year's Present for all!
Chapter Eleven: Dummy's Guide to Survival
Basil gripped onto his Sais harder, and a bead of sweat rolled down his face.
"Tsuna-dono," Basil whispered quietly, "You might want to step away from this. It is going to get pretty intense in here."
Basil's eyes remained on the crimson eyes staring back at them, but he gave Tsuna a gentle push to get him away from the door way.
Tsuna, however, did not budge. He just continued to stare, before he let out a little sigh and smiled.
"It's ok," Tsuna breathed, "I don't think I'll have to do that."
Before Basil could stop him, Tsuna advanced toward the crimson eyes, flicking the light switch on along the way.
Basil stilled for a minute before he began to laugh, brushing away some strands of hair from his face.
"False alarm, huh?" He chuckled, nervously swiping sweat from his brow.
"Xanxus" turned out to be nothing more than a alarm clock meant to be modeled after Yami from Yu-Gi-Oh!. It had been the figurine's eyes that were glowing in the dark.
Tsuna grinned and began to ruffle through the cupboards for food while Basil checked the halls for enemies.
Finding a plastic bag left on the round table in the middle of the room, Tsuna began packing what they would need for the rest of the week. He ditched the ramen cups because he doubted they would be able to get boiling water without risking their lives during this week.
Tsuna had been thinking about this along the way to the staff room, but it was relatively easy to survive. As long as they found a good place to hide, they would be set. With food and water enough to last a week, they could just wait out the end of the - well, whatever this was.
He sighed, sliding the last of the goods into the little plastic bag.
Maybe I'm thinking too optimistically.
Tsuna grabbed a whole package of plastic cups, and turned to Basil.
"Do you mind carrying that?" Tsuna inclined his head toward a huge 5-gallon container of water. "I was thinking, we don't even have to fight or participate in this event. The whole goal is to survive this week of torture, isn't it? So all we have to do is hide out until then, no? If we have enough food and water to last us for the week, we should be ok!"
Tsuna grinned, happy with his plan.
"We just have to find a safe room!"
Basil appeared puzzled by the plan.
"Sawada-dono...are you intending on avoiding conflict?"
"Of course! Isn't that obvious?" Tsuna turned to look at Basil, and flinched.
He recognized the emotion swimming in his eyes too well.
Basil lowered his eyes and his lips formed a thin line.
Without another word, he glided over to the container of water, and easily hoisted the large object on his shoulder.
Basil quietly walked until he reached the doorway, where he turned and turned to Tsuna, peering at him from under sandy brown locks.
"Well, aren't you coming, Sawada-dono?" His eyes were cold, his tone mocking.
Tsuna shuddered and looked down, attempting to control his trembling as Basil calmly walked out into the hallway, not even bothering to be careful as they had been when sneaking to the staff room.
It was unmistakable. Basil had looked at him with the same eyes all the other kids at the playground used to look at him, the same eyes that the employer who had hired him at the zoo had looked at him with when he was dismissed.
Basil's eyes had been filled with disappointment, and worst of all, disgust.
The worst thing was, Tsuna had no idea what had caused that at all.
A heavy weight settled at the pit of Tsuna's stomach.
Following Basil quietly and solemnly out into the hallway, Tsuna clutched at his clothes.
This week is not going to be easy after all.
Amazingly enough, they ran into no other manager teams on their search for a safe room. Tsuna did not know whether to accept this as sheer good luck, or as a warning. Things were almost too easy thus far, especially after Reborn had seemed to stress that this was going to be a pretty difficult ordeal.
It was like the calm before the storm.
Tsuna silently followed Basil into a room. Frankly, Tsuna had no idea where they were. Too shaken up by Basil's sudden change of attitude, he had just followed Basil's feet silently, too scared to look up and take in their surroundings.
As Basil set down the water container, Tsuna finally took his chance to look up and examine the room.
Strategically, it was a very smart room to stay in for the remainder of the week. It looked to be some sort of office for a person higher up on the company food chain, but not too high. Tsuna glanced at the plaque on the door and determined that this was the office of the vice head of the public relations department.
It was someone with a relatively secure office, but none of the obvious headquarters the other teams would have occupied by now, like the CEO office, or one of the more obvious higher-ups.
Tsuna set the food down on the desk, which was suspiciously clear of any papers. He began to walk around the room and identified three possible escape routes.
One was the window, which thankfully could only be opened from the inside. The glass was also from a pretty good brand, and it would hold for at least a few minutes, or enough time at any rate, to escape in time if anyone decided to break in through that entrance with brute force.
Another was what Tsuna initially thought was a closet until he opened the door and saw stairs. Whether the stairs led anywhere, Tsuna decided to check it out later.
The final escape route was the door they had come in from. The door had a pretty advanced lock on it, and it was made of metal, so it would also provide enough time to escape should people try to forcibly break in.
Tsuna let out a sigh of relief. Looks like this room would provide a pretty good chance of survival.
Feeling a bit more relaxed, he chanced a glance at Basil, and was surprised to see him leaving.
"A-ah! Wait, where are you going?"
"To fight, what else? It was my master's wish that I learn something from this experience."
"B-but why? This is a pretty good place to hide, and -"
"Unlike you," Basil cut in, "I have no wish to take the easy way out. I am no coward. I will go out and fight."
Tsuna felt rage begin to bubble within him. His hands fisted and his body began to shake uncontrollably.
"Why," Tsuna breathed in shakily, "does everyone believe that violence is the answer to everything?"
Basil turned to face Tsuna, startled at the sudden change in tone.
Tsuna was glaring at him, eyes burning golden with some emotion Basil could not quite place.
"Fighting is not always the answer." Tsuna said, voice oddly stable now. "Basil, fighting makes you the coward."
With that, Tsuna could not bear Basil's presence any longer. He wrenched open the door to the secret passage way, and disappeared down the stairs after slamming the door closed behind him.
Basil faltered for a minute, taking a step toward where Tsuna had disappeared, but stopped himself.
He quietly stepped out and closed the office door.
Tsuna sat at the bottom of the stairs, hearing the audible click as the door closed. Burrowing his face in the crook of his arms, he closed his eyes.
He hadn't meant to snap at Basil, really, but his words were really similar to his fath-
Tsuna shivered. He didn't want to even consider that man as his father. But Basil's words almost matched his word's to the letter.
It made Tsuna remember some things he'd rather forget.
Suddenly exhausted by the day's turn of events, he turned on his side, curled into a ball, and fell into a fitful sleep.
It was a dream. Tsuna knew it was because he seemed to be floating, watching something that had happened a long time ago.
He peered down.
A five year old version of himself backed up against a tree in the park, cornered by the neighborhood Chihuahua.
"Get away from me!" the tiny Tsuna cried, clutching a bright yellow ball close to his chest.
The Chihuahua merely growled menacingly and advanced towards the terrified boy.
Not knowing what to do, Tsuna threw the yellow ball at the dog, hoping to scare it away.
The plan backfired in poor Tsuna's face. Enraged, the small dog launched itself at Tsuna, jaws snapping, drool flying.
Tsuna snapped his eyes shut and curled in on himself, preparing himself for the worst.
He almost felt the dog's breath on him when he was suddenly whisked into a strong pair of arms.
"Ah~ Ah~ Tsuna~ you can't be like this~ You're a man!"
Tsuna cautiously opened his eyes and grinned when he saw who had rescued him.
"Papa!" Tsuna grinned and happily clutched his father's, Iemitsu's worn white wife beater.
Iemitsu turned to the Chihuahua and stared at it straight in the eyes.
The Chihuahua managed to hold Iemitsu's gaze for a few moments before it could last no longer and ran away whimpering with its tail between its legs.
"See, Tsuna!" Iemitsu laughed heartily, "This is how it's done!"
"Papa! You're awesome! That was like magic!"
Iemitsu brought his son over to a nearby bench and sat down, standing Tsuna up on his lap.
"Listen, Tsuna! A man has to stand up to his opponent no matter what the odds! He's got to look at them right in the eyes and show he's not afraid to get a little hurt! He has to fight and do whatever it takes to win!"
"If I do that, will I be just like you, Papa?" Tsuna asked excitedly, eyes sparkling.
"When I grow up, Papa, I wanna be just like you!"
Iemitsu smiled softly and ruffled his son's soft brown hair.
The older Tsuna, still trapped in his dreams, could do nothing as the surroundings suddenly began to fade into black.
Gradually, light began to form again.
Tsuna saw himself, now a bit older, perhaps around 8, nestled in his mother's lap.
"Where's Papa?" Tsuna fiddled with his green dinosaur sweater.
Pain suddenly flitted across Nana's, his mother's face. Little Tsuna did not notice this from his position.
"Papa...Papa, he..." Nana swallowed. How was she supposed to tell her child that his father might have abandoned them?
"Papa..." Nana tried again, voice faltering.
"Papa became a star," She finally managed to say, remembering the last conversation she had ever had with her husband.
"A star, Mama?" Tsuna inclined his head to the side, "When is he going to visit us again, Mama?"
Nana wanted to respond like she always did: "Soon, Tsu-kun." or "Your Papa is busy with his work right now, but he'll come back as soon as he has his break."
But she couldn't.
She was just so, so tired of lying to her child, of lying to herself behind that cheesy oblivious grin she painted on her face every day. She was so tired of waking up lonely every morning in their king-sized bed and telling herself that this, this was going to be the day Iemitsu would suddenly come back, whisk her into his arms and make everything okay again.
"I don't know, Tsu-kun." She whispered.
Tsuna yawned and lay his head softly against his mother's bosom, wrapping his tiny arms halfway around his mother's waist.
Nana smiled and stroked her son's hair. For some reason, he always knew how to make her feel better.
Tsuna began to drift off to sleep.
"Mama," he murmured sleepily.
"Yes, Tsu-kun?" Nana smiled softly.
"I miss Papa."
Nana remained quiet until Tsuna's breathing evened, and he was asleep.
It was only then that she allowed herself to break down.
"I know, Tsu-kun." Fat tears rolling down her cheeks.
"I know, Tsu-kun." She tried to wipe them away before they plopped onto Tsuna's tiny head and woke him up.
"I miss Papa too."
This time, Tsuna noted from his floating position, he was a lot older, possibly around 20.
His mother laid in a hospital bed, hooked to so many machines it looked as if she were a robot rather than a live human being. There was no longer a smile on her face.
Everything about Nana was blank now - her face, the sheets, the hospital gown on her malnourished form.
She was nothing but a shell of her former self.
Twenty year old Tsuna smiled anyway and set a fresh bouquet of flowers down carefully next to his mother.
He grabbed his mother's limp hands and brought them to his lips.
"Mom, wake up soon, ok? I'm doing as fine as I can do in school. I don't know how, but it looks like I'll actually graduate from college!" Here, Tsuna chuckled a bit, "...Which isn't that good, but hey, is that a surprise?"
"I have a job now actually, at the supermarket near our home, and I'm eating well, Mom, so don't worry!"
Twenty year old Tsuna glanced at a clock on the wall and grimaced.
"Well, sorry, Mom, but I have to run. I have a class at the university soon." Tsuna stood and planted a chaste kiss on Nana's forehead.
"See you later, Mom. Don't worry about me and get healthy soon!" Tsuna smiled and left the room.
As soon he closed the door, Tsuna let his smile drop and leant his head against door for a minute.
"Don't worry about me, Mom. I promise I'll never grow up to be like Iemitsu."
Tsuna woke up to the sound of glass and tears dampening his cheeks.
Still disoriented from the abrupt awakening, he lightly swiped the tears away with the sleeve of his shirt and rubbed away the sleep-induced fog from his vision.
He glanced down and blinked.
Beside his feet were a bunch of pills and a pair of gloves.
Curiously, he picked up the bottle of pills and read the label on it.
"Enhancement pills?" He muttered to himself, confused. "Are they steroids are something?"
He didn't have time to linger on the thought though, because there was suddenly the sound of crunching glass in the office up above.
He glanced at the pills and the gloves one more time before he stuffed the pills in his pocket and donned the gloves.
He had no idea why they were left there but he had a feeling they would come in handy.
"VOII!" A loud, brash voice suddenly cut through the silence. "YOU STINKIN' TRASH! WHERE THE HELL IS YOUR PARTNER?"
"I have no idea what you are speaking of, Squalo." Basil's voice replied, calm and steady.
"DON'T PLAY DUMB, TRASH!"
Tsuna's eyes widened.
Basil was protecting him. That was why, even though he had enough time to do so, Basil did not come running down to where he was to hide.
Guilt rushed through Tsuna. He was protecting him, even after that fight they had had.
"VOOOOIIIIII! I'LL JUST TEAR THIS PLACE DOWN THEN!"
Suddenly, Basil crashed through the door hiding the secret staircase and fell, rolling down the stairs to where Tsuna was standing at the bottom.
"Basil!" Tsuna cried.
"S-Sawada-dono." Basil stared at him with bleary, strangely glowing blue eyes. "I-I'm sorry." Basil seemed to have reached his limits. He lost consciousness.
Tsuna didn't even have time to move before the man named Squalo stopped at the top of the stairs.
Tsuna raised his eyes from Basil, scared of what he would see.
A tall man, obviously of some European descent, was standing there in an all-black attire. Tsuna was slightly frightened to note that the man only had one hand; in place of the missing hand was a sword.
What the hell did I get into?
"VOOIIIII!" Squalo grinned, reminding Tsuna of vicious sharks.
"I FOUND YOU!"
Maneuvering Basil to a careful position against the wall, Tsuna did the one thing he could think of to protect Basil.
He picked up a pebble, looked Squalo straight in the eyes, and pelted him with it.
The pebble bounced off of Squalo's beautiful, long, silver hair.
There was a long and terrible silence.
The sound of the pebble hitting the floor was deafening in Tsuna's pounding ears.
"VOOOIIII! YOU LITTLE SHRIMP! WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?"
Tsuna turned and ran for his goddamn life.
Tsuna wheezed as he ran around another corner.
Honestly, he hadn't been thinking. All he had wanted to do was draw Squalo's attention away from Basil. From the looks of things, he was successful.
Thankfully, the stairs had led to an underground network of sorts. It was like a maze. Tsuna had no idea where he was going, but wherever there were stairs, he took them, hoping to lose Squalo in the process.
Something exploded behind him but he did not look back.
"VOIII! YOU FUCKING SQUIRT! STOP GODDAMNIT!"
Something whizzed by his head as he turned another corner just in time. The wall he had been running towards suddenly split in two, sending debris flying everywhere.
Oh my god.
He was so screwed.
He ran up another flight of stairs and saw a door.
Tsuna's face brightened. Maybe it was an exit!
Slamming it open, he ran into another office. This one, however, was completely different from the one Basil had scouted out.
It was more luxurious, for one. Plush, red carpet covered the floor here, and there was a beautiful view of the city from the glass windows.
The plaque on the marble desk informed Tsuna that this was the CEO's office.
Hearing footsteps behind him, Tsuna did the first thing he could think of and ran for the desk, squeezing himself into the small space beneath it.
"Please don't find me," Tsuna prayed.
"VOIII!" Squalo ran into the office.
"BOSS! DID YOU HAPPEN TO SEE THE FUCKIN' SHRIMP?"
Did he just talk to himself?
Unfortunately, for Tsuna, that was not the case.
"You mean the fucking trash that just hid himself under the desk?" A gruff voice drawled from a corner of the room.
Tsuna wanted to hit himself. How the hell had he managed to miss another person in the room?
He felt like hyperventilating. What was he supposed to do now?
He was going to die, Tsuna realized.
Panic seized him. There was still so much he had to do.
He couldn't die yet.
A dull ache from his behind suddenly reminded him of something.
Reaching into his pants pocket, he pulled out the bottle of pills, which had been uncomfortably jabbing into his backside.
He had no idea what the label had meant by enhancement, but as things stood, it was his only hope for survival.
Taking a shaky breath, Tsuna popped a pill into his mouth.
Please, please let me live.
Alright! So there's my update! (Finally.) I wish you all a very happy new year and I hope you enjoyed the chapter!