Author's Notes Hey guys! Thanks for all your reviews and letting me know what you think. I'm glad so many of you have love for Yamamoto, but it's time to shift the focus. The other characters need love too! So, in this chapter, there'll be less of Yama-san and more of - well, you probably already know.
Sorry again, for the long time it takes me to update. I'm really bad at finishing my stories on time and liking what I've written so I often scrap ideas and incorporate new/old ones. But to those who still read this story, I love you. And kudos to anyone who catches the Godfather references!
Pairings (for this chapter) 5027, 8027, 3327 (finally!), past RebornBianchi
Gokudera Hayato 'made his bones' when he was 12. His victim was a neighbour who greeted the day by beating his wife into submission and then forcing her to make breakfast.
On the fifth morning young Gokudera Hayato woke up to the woman's shrieked pleas for mercy, he knocked on his neighbour's door and stuck a knife deep into his stomach. Gokudera would've preferred sticking in his face but he wasn't tall enough at the time. The woman continued to shriek when Gokudera twisted the knife and drew it all the way up to the man's chest for good measure.
When the man fell onto the floor, Gokudera told the newly-widowed woman that he was the tenant next door; an unspoken warning that if she dared tell anyone about what he'd done, he would come after her.
But Gokudera didn't need to worry about that. That was in Sicily, where everyone was bound to omerta, the code of silence.
In his opinion, Japan was a more dangerous place. Here, it was near impossible to bribe the police or coerce the politicians. There was something about this country that made the citizens tough. It pissed Gokudera off.
Truth was, he would never have stepped foot in Japan were it not for Vongola Nono. Although his first murder at 12 made Gokudera a legend among his kind, none of the famiglia wanted to take him in because of his notorious Sicilian temper.
Such a temper in one so young is not good, they said.
Even Gokudera's own family had thought so. His father has always preferred his oldest daughter, Bianchi, who was poised, elegant, cunning and dangerous, the last two of which were most important.
Gokudera hated her growing up but years of separation have tempered his loathing. Gokudera has not seen his older sister since he left the mansion at 12. He received funds from his uncles and managed to live by himself for the three years before Vongola Nono summoned him.
Timoteo recruited Gokudera through Reborn, and gave him the job of testing Tsuna's worth as a Vongola successor. Although he was a very generous man, Timoteo made it very clear to Gokudera that he has not accepted him into his famiglia. "If Tsuna turns out to be worthy, you may endear yourself to him. If he, in turn, finds you worthy, you might one day find yourself as his consigliere."
The right-hand man. The most coveted spot in all mafia families.
Ever since that fateful day in Kokuyo, Gokudera has made it his life's ambition to be Tsuna's consigliere. He would prove to Tsuna that he was a good subordinate; trustworthy, loyal, and most of all, a man who loved him.
The morning sun rose. Gokudera pulled on his suit in preparation for the day. He could not afford to be late for the cultural festival.
Saluta Morte de Parte Mia
12 May 2011
When Tsuna approached his front gate this morning and didn't see Gokudera waiting, he got the instinctive feeling that something bad was going to happen. True to Murphy's Law, five minutes after leaving his house, Tsuna walked right into his attacker.
"Sawada Tsunayoshi," the man said with an Italian accent. But what really set the alarms in Tsuna's head wailing was the mask the man wore. It has two black holes for eyes and a solemn line slashed across where the mouth should be.
Tsuna looked furtively from side to side and, sure enough, there were more men in masks edging closer towards him. Tsuna curled his hands into fists. All he could think about was that this was what he has been trying to avoid these past three years.
Swallowing, Tsuna said, "Who are you?"
"We are Giegue," said the man in stilted Japanese. "We are in Alliance with the Vongola, but there are some high up in Vongola who want to see you dead. There are some who do not want to see you become Decimo."
"I don't even want to be Decimo! I'll resign my right!" said Tsuna.
"Unfortunately, that is not for you to decide. I am sorry, Sawada Tsunayoshi. You cannot live."
All at once, the men in the horrible white masks jumped at him. Tsuna tried to run. He dodged to the left and then to the right, punching whichever body that got close enough and kicking anything within reach. He cried and tore and bit. He was unwilling to die like this.
There was so much he still wanted to do. Provide for his mother, find the love of his life, properly reconcile with Timoteo, watch Lambo confess to Reborn again.
He screamed when one of the masked men tore at his arm and ruined his stitches. Blood poured freely from the reopened wound. He kicked his assailer away but that did nothing to deter the others. When Tsuna saw one of the men approaching with a garrote, he snatched a lupara from the other men and aimed it at him.
The leader of the group touched the muzzle of his handgun to Tsuna's forehead. "Like I said, I'm sorry."
It was useless. Even if the man miraculously dropped his gun, Tsuna would not be able to escape. His wound was too serious and he was outnumbered. Tsuna saw darkness edging his vision. It must be from the blood loss.
He really didn't want to die like this.
But he didn't see much of a choice.
Tsuna closed his eyes. He really hated his life.
Gokudera grinned. The classroom looked brilliant, if he did say so himself. It didn't look exactly like the interior of a classy pub, which was what he intended, but it didn't look half bad either.
They've blocked out most of the sunlight by covering the windows with dark curtains and lit the room with candlelight and dim electric lamps. There was some light instrumental music playing in the background, courtesy of a borrowed stereo and Gokudera's private collection of CDs. There was a tablecloth and a vase containing a single stem rose on every table, accompanied by the menu printed on cream-coloured card, and hanging on the walls were pictures of famous Hollywood gangster movies like The Godfather and Goodfellas.
In the corner was the shooting gallery. Yamamoto had contracted the man who usually set up the throwing booths during festivals like he promised. The difference was that their classmates refashioned the water guns to look like submachine guns from the 1930s, and instead of toys, they were shooting at cardboard cutouts of people.
They were in good time too. There was one hour before the festival was slotted to begin. The decorations were all in place and the temporary kitchen was set up and fully functional. All that was left was to get everybody into their costumes.
Gokudera had arrived at school already dressed in his semi-formal suit, with the shirt collar hanging loose so that his silver chains were on display. His father had always criticised his choice of outfit but Gokudera never cared for that man's opinion. Besides, if the amount of girls he saw swooning at him were anything to go by, Gokudera would say he looked pretty good like this.
Gokudera slipped a cigarette between his lips and checked his mobile again. Reborn had told him to wait for his call. But after no news at all for the past half an hour, Gokudera was more than tempted to call Reborn and demand to know what was going on.
Earlier this morning, Reborn phoned Gokudera ordering him not to accompany Tsuna to school. Since this compromised Tsuna's security, Gokudera refused. But Reborn had been insistent, telling him that he's arranged for another person to guard Tsuna. He wouldn't tell Gokudera who this person was, only that he attended Namimori as well. At first, Gokudera thought it was Yamamoto, but the baseball player was already at school by the time Gokudera arrived.
Now Gokudera could not help worrying. He trusted Reborn. He truly did. But at times like these, Gokudera wondered if his trust was misplaced.
"Gokudera! Look'it this!" One of the boys sprang into the classroom, fresh out of wardrobe with a suit that was a bit too big on him. One sleeve was shoved up his left forearm. "I used some of the makeup from the acting department. What do you think?" His arm was dribbled in red and splotches of black.
Gokudera raised an eyebrow. "What is that supposed to be?"
"Are you kidding me? That's obviously a knife wound!" said the boy.
His friend joined him and hiked up his shirt. "Yeah, right! Look at mine! It's a bullet wound!"
Gokudera slapped his forehead. "First of all, a knife wound means that a cut had been made into flesh. Yours looks like you just started bleeding from your pores. Secondly, that is not how a bullet wound should look like. It needs more depth, and discolouration around the wound. Honestly, it's as if none of you got stabbed or shot at before. If you want to do this, than do this seriously!" he roared.
The two boys swapped annoyed looks. "If it's so bad, then why don't you show us how it's done."
Gokudera nodded and took out his butterfly knife and Smith & Wesson handgun. Fortunately for the two boys, Yamamoto chose that moment to prance into the classroom fully decked in his mafia costume, and asked cheerfully, "Gokudera, how do I look?"
Gokudera narrowed his eyes. He hated to admit it but the baseball idiot actually looked good. Yamamoto has a good body from sports training, so the suit fitted him well. There was only one problem. Gokudera gritted his teeth, ruining his cigarette in the process. "Pray tell, why are you wearing sneakers?"
Yamamoto scratched the back of his neck sheepishly. "I don't have any shoes that go with this suit. Besides, does it matter what I'm wearing on my feet?"
"Does it matter? Does it matter?" said Gokudera. He grabbed Yamamoto by the lapels of his coat and shook him. "We are here representing the Tenth! I won't let you disgrace him by allowing you to wear sneakers with this suit! Take them off! Take them off right now!"
"Why Hayato, I never knew you liked guys that way," said Shamal, popping into the classroom. His carefree grin quickly turned sleazy when he saw the girls in their costumes; some as showgirls, some in old Hollywood starlet dresses with shining sequins and slits running up their thighs.
Under school regulations, such revealing clothes were not allowed at all, but Gokudera had pulled a few strings. He regretted it now.
"What are you doing here, Shamal?" Gokudera said angrily.
"This is a mafia cafe, no? I've come for a cup of coffee."
"The cafe isn't open yet. Go back to your den of shame."
"You mean the nurse's office? No can do. It's being occupied by boys right now. You know how much I hate boys," said Shamal, and though he was speaking to Gokudera, his eyes were dancing all over Kyoko, who just walked past him in a glitzy, purple dress. "By the way, I thought you should know that there is a large price on your precious Sawada's head."
"What!" said Yamamoto.
Gokudera scowled heavily. "By who?"
Shamal shrugged. "Anonymous party."
"Don't bullshit me. It's never completely anonymous. You must have clues," said Gokudera.
Shamal laughed. "Alright, I can't say who, but it's definitely someone within the Vongola. Enrico was the favourite to become Decimo, but ever since he was shot in a feud last month, the others have been getting edgy. They probably want to get rid of the weakest rival first."
"Tsuna isn't weak," said Yamamoto.
"I never said he was. But he's played his act very well." Here, Shamal snuck a knowing grin at Gokudera. "So, you can consider this good luck or bad luck. If there's even a minor slip in his defense from now on, Sawada is going to die. But if he manages to survive it all and in return, eliminate his enemies, he will be able to make a name for himself in this early stage. However, at the rate he's going, he'll probably die from the first attack."
Gokudera began to growl. "I won't let that happen to him."
"Well, you're doing a poor job of it. Who do you think is recuperating in my office at this very second?"
Gokudera was out the door before Shamal even finished his sentence. Yamamoto was about to do the same when Shamal grabbed his hand. "I'm sorry, but you have to stay here. There are more important things for you to attend to right now."
"Tsuna's my friend. He's the reason I'm joining the Vongola in the first place. There's nothing more important than him," said Yamamoto.
"I admire your guts, kid. That will help you in the long run. But trust me. You want to stay here." Shamal cocked his head to the side. "Go ahead. Look out the window."
Confused, Yamamoto made his way to the classroom window. From his vantage point, he could see a long black limousine with tinted windows pull up in front of the school. An elderly man with snow white hair and a matching full mustache stepped out. He was immediately flanked by men in dark suits. One of them looked strangely familiar.
The elderly man smiled kindly and waved aside their attentions. He then walked into the school; his bodyguards never more than five paces behind him.
Shamal smiled. "That is Don Timoteo, the ninth bossof the Vongola."
Tsuna woke up staring at the bland ceiling of the nurse's office in school. He tried to sit up and got a searing headache for his troubles.
"Here." Sitting at the foot of his bed was Sasagawa Ryohei, extending a hand with two white paracetamol tablets in his upturned palm.
Tsuna thanked him softly and swallowed the pills. The headache subsided to a dull throb. It was uncomfortable but at least he could move his head without flinching. "What happened?"
"I was on my way to school when I saw these masked men beating you. One of them even had a gun on you. It's horrible to the extreme! So I beat them all. I beat them until they either fainted or ran extremely away. Then I brought you here. The school nurse said you must've passed out from blood loss. Your arm was pretty messed up when I found you."
Tsuna looked down at his wounded arm and saw that his stitches were back in and secured with bandages. "Onii-san..."
Ryohei raised an eyebrow. "Um, I'm not your brother, Sawada."
Tsuna tried to shake his head but the effort made him nauseous. "Sorry. It's just that in my head, I always referred to you as Kyoko-chan's onii-san."
"Oh, is that it? Then, you can go ahead and call me that if you want. I don't mind it to the extreme," said Ryohei with a sunny smile.
Tsuna gave a weak smile in return. "Onii-san, do you have any idea who those people you beat off are?"
Ryohei shook his head. "No clue. They looked really scary though."
Tsuna tried to refrain from looking at Ryohei in disbelief.
Then, Ryohei frowned and said, "What's going on, Sawada? Does someone have a grudge against you? Have you been mixing with a bad crowd?"
Tsuna laughed bitterly. "Like you wouldn't believe."
"Nothing," said Tsuna. "I just-" -can't believe you managed to beat off mafia assassins on your own. "Thanks, onii-san, for saving my life. If you hadn't been there, who knows where I would've been." Probably at the bottom of the Namimori bay, feeding the fishes.
"Don't worry about it. I was just doing what anyone else would do," said Ryohei.
"Anyone else would've run away. You're unbelievably strong, onii-san. I wish I were strong too," added Tsuna self-depreciatingly to reinforce his 'no good' image.
"But you are."
"I think you're actually strong too. Like that day when you helped save Yamamoto. Or even that time when you agreed to be in charge of the cafe even though you obviously didn't want to. You took on that responsibility because you didn't want to let anyone down, right?" said Ryohei. Tsuna didn't answer. "It's not just that. Everyone calls you No Good Tsuna but you're never bothered by it. I think it takes an amazing sort of strength to be this confident about who you are. I like people like you, Sawada. You're awesome to the extreme," Ryohei ended with a wide grin.
Tsuna felt his entire body flush at the compliment. This was the first time anybody praised him this much since he pretended to be No Good. It felt incredible. He smiled shyly. "I wish I got to know you earlier, onii-san."
Ryohei beamed and rubbed his nose. "Don't mention it."
Yamamoto saw the contingent of men in black suits walking towards his classroom with Timoteo in the middle. While the old man didn't look embarrassed, he did look rather chagrined by his entourage. "Really, is all this security necessary, Iemitsu? I hardly think anyone would target my life in a Japanese school."
"You can never be too careful, Timoteo-sama, with the succession so near at hand. Besides, Japan is still a country free from us. We cannot know who has passed through these borders," said one of the men in suits. He stood out from the rest because his features were distinctly Japanese. Yamamoto couldn't help but feel that he has seen this man somewhere before.
A crew of his classmates went out to greet their 'new customers'. "Welcome to the mafia cafe! Would you like to take a seat?" said Misato, brushing her hands down her satiny red dress.
Timoteo looked at Iemitsu in bewilderment. "Mafia...cafe? I have never heard of such a thing. Is this a Japanese custom?"
Iemitsu laughed. "No, no, I supposed this is something the kids thought up."
Timoteo took in the dim lighting, the Godfather posters, and the single-stem roses on tables. Then, he picked up one of the submachine-water guns and raised an eyebrow at the cardboard cutouts of humans with a red bulls-eye painted on their chests. "Obviously they still think we live in the 50s," he said, laughing. "I haven't used one of these in ages!"
The students exchanged nervous and confused looks.
"Who was in charge of decorating this room?"
"Our friend. He came from Italy so he knows about these things," said Misato.
"I assume you're talking about Gokudera Hayato," said Timoteo.
Misato gaped. "You know Gokudera-kun, ojii-san?"
Timoteo's smile turned fond. "Yes. He's a good boy. Very devoted. Where is he, by the way? I was hoping to see him today."
"He rushed off to attend another matter. Sir," Yamamoto tacked on hastily.
Timoteo turned to consider Yamamoto with a reserved expression. "So you are Yamamoto Takeshi."
"Yes I am, sir. Would you like a seat?" Yamamoto led Timoteo and his men to the biggest table they have.
"That suit looks good on you."
"Thank you sir," said Yamamoto nervously.
One of the other men in suits bent down beside Timoteo and said, "Don, should we clear the people out of this room?"
Timoteo shook his head. "These people have all come to enjoy a meal and interact with friends. Why should we spoil their fun? They can become your witnesses, Yamamoto Takeshi."
"This is your last chance to change your mind," said Reborn. No one had seen him enter the classroom. Reborn lounged on the windowsill as he always did, green chameleon perched on a simple black fedora. He leapt off and pressed the back of Timoteo's veiny hand to his lips. "It has been some time, Signore."
The entire classroom fell silent as all eyes suddenly turned to Yamamoto and Timoteo. Nobody else knew what was going on. Nobody else was aware that they were being witness to Yamamoto's confirmation into a mafia family. In one corner, Kyoko whispered to her friend, "Is this an act no one told me about?"
"I will not change my mind," said Yamamoto. Then seeing the smirks on the men behind Timoteo, he became angry and said a little more forcefully. "I won't!"
Iemitsu laughed. "A little hot blood in him too!"
"Are you sure you are not Italian?" said Timoteo, eyes twinkling in humour. "Even if you want to serve my godson, you have to enter the family first. Meaning, you first pledge allegiance to me. So, do you ask for my 'friendship', Yamamoto Takeshi?"
Yamamoto swallowed. "I do."
"And do I have yours in return?"
Timoteo smiled. "Yamamoto Takeshi, welcome to la cosa nostra."
Reborn slipped something into the front pocket of Yamamoto's coat. "A celebratory cigar," he said with a smirk.
The entire class, not knowing what had just taken place, began to clap. Timoteo laughed again. "Well, this is a proper confirmation indeed! Now that this is over with, I want to see your son, Iemitsu. Where is Tsuna?"
Tsuna jumped when the door of the nurse's office slammed open and Gokudera strode in, pale as death and yet white with fury. Tsuna has never seen his friend like that. Not even when he had been on the brink of death in Kokuyo.
Gokudera reached Tsuna's bedside and sank down onto his knees, surprising Ryohei out of his seat and seriously freaking Tsuna out. "I'm so sorry I let this happen to you, Tenth! Regardless of orders, I should've been at your side when you came to school. I would never have allowed you to get hurt! Do what you will to me. I accept any punishment."
"Gokudera-kun, it's okay," said Tsuna, patting his friend on the shoulder. "I'm alright. Onii-san saved me in time."
Gokudera lifted his head and leveled Ryohei with a steely stare. "So you're the guy Mr. Reborn set up to protect the Tenth? Why didn't you save him before he got injured, you bastard?"
Ryohei blinked. "I have no idea what you're talking about to the extreme!"
"Wait, are you saying Reborn had something to do with this?" said Tsuna.
"He told me I didn't need to escort you to school today. He must've known you would be attacked," said Gokudera.
Outrage ripped through Tsuna in a hot flood. He understood at once what Reborn was trying to do. It wasn't enough that Reborn had practically manipulated Yamamoto into joining the mafia. He was trying to recruit Ryohei as well!
"Tenth, this will not be the last attempt on your life. A price has been put on your head. Please let me stay by your side at all times," said Gokudera.
"This is ridiculous. I'm not a criminal. There shouldn't be a price on my head at all. I won't stand for this," said Tsuna.
"I will kill all your attackers for you," promised Gokudera.
"No, no I don't need you to kill them."
"I will tear their limbs from their body with explosives and toss their parts off different bays so that no one will ever find them whole," said Gokudera.
"That's very generous of you, Gokudera-kun, but please don't do that."
"Then what would you like me to do?"
Tsuna's stomach chose that perfect moment to growl. He flushed red. "I can't help it. I didn't eat much breakfast today."
"Someone from the canteen brought this up when you were still unconscious, Sawada," said Ryohei. He retrieved a tray from Shamal's desk and put it on Tsuna's lap. "It's not hot anymore but it still looks tasty."
Tsuna learned then that Ryohei has a very skewed idea of what 'tasty' looked like. The bowl of rice was green; a colour rice should never be. The sausages were purple and have strange pustules on them. Plus, he could've sworn that the tentacles sticking out of his takoyaki were still writhing.
Gokudera promptly swept the tray of food off Tsuna's lap and onto the floor. Ryohei gave a loud cry. "Hey, don't waste food, octopus-head!" But even as he said that, the spilt food began to sizzle and made a sizable hole in the floor.
Tsuna blinked rapidly. "Um, what?"
Gokudera stood up. "Will you excuse me for a bit, Tenth? There is something I have to take care of." He made for the door. "I will bring you something to eat. Until then, don't accept any food from strangers. Especially food which looks strange."
"I don't need you to tell me that," muttered Tsuna. He watched Gokudera leave and frowned. There was something wrong with his friend today.
Gokudera searched the canteen high and low, but she wasn't there. Bianchi wasn't there.
The moment he saw the green rice, he knew that the poisoned food was her doing. The green super-acid rice was one of Bianchi's specialities growing up. She used to make them into small rice balls and served it to anyone who thought about betraying their father.
Gokudera 'made his bones' when he was 12, but Bianchi 'made' hers at 8.
Gokudera went out to search the food stalls decorating the welcoming strip on their school field. He looked through the takoyaki booth, the grilled squid booth, and the mochi-cum-dango booth, but Bianchi wasn't to be found anywhere.
He ran into Lambo, who was trying to find Tsuna, and directed him to the nurse's office. He ran into Dino, who asked him if he had missed Yamamoto's confirmation. Gokudera felt a little stung at that. To think that the baseball idiot received the courtesy of a formal confirmation when Gokudera himself has not. But he erased that quickly from his head. He has more important things to be concerned about at the moment.
He finally found Bianchi in the mafia cafe itself. After hearing that Tsuna was in the nurse's office, Kyoko planned on bringing some of their cafe's food down to him. Bianchi was in the middle of poisoning the food when Gokudera stepped in. "What do you think you're doing, nee-san?" he growled.
Bianchi straightened, violet hair flowing down her back, over luscious Italian curves and stopping on plump buttocks. Bianchi had grown a lot since Gokudera last seen her. She smiled at him. "It's been so long, Hayato. How are you doing?"
"Fucking brilliant," said Gokudera. His classmates gasped at his foul language but Gokudera could care less about them right now. He did a cautionary sweep of the classroom and noted that Yamamoto wasn't here. Neither was Shamal. "Step away from that food, nee-san."
"Sorry, I can't do that. I have to kill Sawada Tsunayoshi. Otherwise I don't get paid."
"I'm not letting you kill him."
"He's my boss."
Bianchi lifted an unimpressed eyebrow. "That's not possible. He's not a caporegime, or the protege of one. He's not even a soldato. He has no legitimate regime. He has no right nor qualification to claim you as a subordinate."
Gokudera felt a headache coming on at hearing all the antiquated terms of the mafia hierarchy he had left behind in Sicily. This was one of the reasons why he left his family. Because as the youngest son and an illegitimate child, his father's advisors convinced him that he would never amount to anything within his own family. But things were different now.
He belonged to a family. Tsuna's family.
"Sawada Tsunayoshi will become the tenth Vongola boss," said Gokudera.
"Really? Signore Baffi doesn't think so," said Bianchi with a cruel twist to her lips.
Gokudera stared. "Baffi? Signore Timoteo's brother-in-law?"
Bianchi covered her mouth. "Oh dear, I wasn't supposed to tell anyone. Well, Baffi can cover his own mess. My job is merely to eliminate this Japanese boy."
"Like I said, I won't let you." Gokudera prepared several sticks of dynamite in his hands. "I will stop you by any means necessary."
"Our relationship is already quite strained, Hayato. Threatening me isn't helping that."
"Like I care," spat Gokudera.
Bianchi turned red. "Do you really hate me so much?" Gokudera didn't answer. "If you already hate me, then there's nothing I can do," said Bianchi. She put the finishing touches onto the dish and sent it to Kyoko, who just returned from the bathroom and knew nothing of what transpired between Gokudera and Bianchi.
"Stop!" yelled Gokudera but Kyoko was already out the door. Gokudera ran out after her. He could catch her if he sprinted. But Bianchi grabbed the back of his coat. Gokudera snarled. He shrugged off his coat and continued his chase.
"Oh no you don't," said Bianchi. She took out a dish of steaming noodles from behind her back and threw it at Gokudera.
Gokudera missed it by a mere inch and winced when the noodles ate a hole through the wall. He whipped around and threw several sticks of dynamite. The dynamite exploded and brought the walls crumbling down.
Thanks to her quick reflexes, Bianchi managed to dodge the falling debris and slip through before the rubble completely obstructed the corridor.
Gokudera cursed loudly and evaded several cake grenades. In turn, he fired several shots at her with his handgun.
Whilst chasing after Kyoko, he passed Hibari Kyoya who fixed him with a cold glare. "Were you the one who destroyed the corridor?"
"I've got no time to deal with you!" shrieked Gokudera.
Hibari scowled at him. "I'll bite you to death for that." But he couldn't carry out his threat immediately because Bianchi was already closing in on Gokudera with a large bowl of miso soup in each hand.
There was not enough room in the corridor to avoid that much soup. Gokudera knew that as long as he didn't try to stop Kyoko from delivering the food, Bianchi wouldn't throw the soup at him. But there was no way Gokudera was going to allow that.
He tackled Kyoko round the middle, eliciting a frightened yelp from the poor girl, and smacked the tray of food onto the ground. All of Bianchi's hard work, the precious poisons she had worked into the omelette and the rice and the cake, lay ruined and wasted on the floor.
Gokudera shoved Kyoko out of the way just as the bowls of soup came flying. To his credit, Gokudera managed to avoid most of it. But a large dose of it splashed onto his right leg. The acid worked fast. Gokudera could've sworn he heard his own flesh sizzle.
Scorching pain shot up his leg and nothing he did could stop it. This was worse than the time someone had stabbed him in the thigh and twisted. Gokudera thought that stabbing would be the most painful experience in his life. He supposed it was poetic that this injury dealt to him by his older sister would hurt far, far worse.
At some point, the pain ate away at his consciousness. A part of him felt relieved. Once he fainted, he would feel no more pain. He lowered his head and waited.
He saw violet hair. His sister was standing over him.
"Why sacrifice yourself for him, Hayato? Why to this extent?" Bianchi's voice was fuzzy. Gokudera couldn't even be sure than he heard her correctly. He felt a soft hand brush his sweaty bangs away from his face. That touch was so reminiscent of his mother's. Gokudera closed his eyes.
"Because, I love him."
Tsuna smiled sardonically at them all. At Dino, Reborn, Shamal, his father and especially, at Timoteo, for although he loved the old man, he was the one who got him into all this trouble. "This was what you wanted for me, wasn't it?" he said from the sickbed.
He had dismissed Ryohei as soon as Timoteo,and his entourage of bodyguards entered. Namimori Jr. High has probably never seen a sight stranger than some of the most powerful men in the cosa nostra congregating in the nurse's office. "This morning, I really thought I was going to die. Like a dog in the street. Just a bullet to my forehead," said Tsuna.
Standing next to Dino, Yamamoto fidgeted, feeling slightly ill at ease and knowing that he was missing something important. Lambo placed a comforting hand on his arm and smiled.
"Yes, the life of a mafiosi is fraught with danger. But I wasn't planning on the detriment of your life, merely the safety of my family," said Timoteo.
"Why can't you just choose one of your sons and be done with it? You have three good sons who are loyal and have learned from you all these years," said Tsuna.
"I now have two good sons," said Timoteo. "Enrico died last month."
Tsuna looked down at his lap. "I'm sorry for your loss."
Iemitsu stepped. "Just because you're frustrated, don't take it out on Timoteo, son."
Tsuna looked at his father but didn't dignify his chastise with a response. Instead, he turned to TImoteo. "I'm glad that to finally meet you again, Timoteo-jiichan. I really am. But why do you insist on imposing this on me against my wishes? You even officiated a good friend of mine into the family, knowing full well that I disapproved of it. Why even appoint me as successor when my words have no effect?"
"It's not up for you to decide how a man lives his life, Tsunayoshi," said Timoteo sternly. "Yamamoto chose to join the famiglia out of his own volition."
"And I choose to quit it. So can I be excluded from the succession now?"
But any answer from Timoteo was cut off by Kyoko running into the nurse's office. "Tsuna-kun, Gokudera - he - Gokudera's in trouble!" she panted. "He was being chased by this lady with food and he fell and -"
Reborn frowned. "I received no word of Bianchi coming to Giaponne."
"Where is he?" said Tsuna.
"The third-floor corridor, near the stairs," said Kyoko.
Tsuna whipped off his covers and ran out the door before anyone could stop him. If he turned to look behind him, he would've seen Yamamoto close at his heels, worry digging deep lines into his face. But Tsuna has no mind for anyone else now. As he leapt the stairs, three-by-three, he kept praying that he wouldn't be too late; that everything would be okay; that for once in his life, things would go his way.
They were in Sicily. The old town. Gokudera's birthplace.
There was tea and wine on the table. No matter how much Gokudera tried persuading him, Tsuna would not try the wine. He would laugh and say that he never had any taste for alcohol.
Despite the blazing sun, Tsuna was wearing a prim, dark suit that made his light colouring even more pronounced. He looked very regal in the suit, especially with the Vongola emblem stamped on his left breast. Tsuna unbuttoned his collar and exhaled. "It a bit warm today, isn't it, Gokudera-kun?" he said.
They sipped at their drinks and talked about nothing. No matter how many cups of the chilled white wine Gokudera threw back, he didn't feel heady at all. Perhaps this was the light stuff. He would go down into the cellar later and find some brandy. He couldn't enjoy an afternoon like this without getting sloshed.
The sweet smell of begonias wandered over from the hedge. A young girl on a red bicycle rode past. Her long black pigtails fluttered in the wind behind her. Echoes of her laughter remained long after she disappeared down the hill. Several minutes after, a beautiful lady with long, hair and skin far too fair under this sun walked by, apparently looking for the girl. She turned, saw Gokudera and Tsuna on the terrace, and smiled at them.
To be honest, all this felt like a memory to him. Some grainy memory from his past he'd left to rot ages ago.
The sun shone golden.
Gokudera choked on his drink at the unexpected touch on his hand.
"Is there something wrong, Gokudera-kun?" said Tsuna, concern written all over his face.
"No, not at all."
Tsuna grinned at him. "I'm glad."
Gokudera supposed that was when he realised that this was all a dream. Because Tsuna has never grinned at him like that.
This villa in Sicily, his childhood friend on a bicycle, the lady who looked too much like his mother and this Tsuna; they were probably just fragments of wishful thinking. But how beautiful they all looked. Gokudera smiled and leaned back in his seat.
He wished he never has to wake up.
The nights were cold in Namimori, especially with winter approaching. Outside the hotel Timoteo resided in Japan, Reborn lit a cigarette and looked up to the stars. He knew immediately when someone tried to approach him from the shadows. He didn't bother turning his head. "You managed to hide your coming here from me. I'm impressed."
"Are you now?" said Bianchi as she slid next to Reborn. "Since you're not easily impressed, I take that as a high compliment." Then, after a moment or two of kicking some early snow, she asked, "How is he doing?"
Reborn tapped his cigarette and watched as the ash fell onto the gravel next to his feet. "Coma," he said. "The pain of the acid caused his body to seize and then go into shock." He turned to observe Bianchi's expression. "It was a choice. Why did you attack Gokudera?"
"It's just business."
"That's the oldest line in the book. We do off family members only when they betray us. Did Gokudera betray you?"
Bianchi gave him a bitter smile. "You're the last person I want talking to me about betrayal, Reborn. I regretted falling in love with you with every breath that I take. In fact, the only thing I regret more than starting a relationship with you is abandoning Hayato." Reborn looked at her with muted surprise; a silent encouragement to continue.
"I begged my father to let me go after him when he defected from the family. But my father insisted that we let Hayato make his own way in the world. As a daughter, I had to agree with him. But my relationship with Hayato has always been bad, and it hurt me," said Bianchi. "Earlier today, I learned that Hayato hated me, and I got angry. When he sacrificed his life for some no-name kid he's only known for a few months, I got angrier."
"Didn't you wonder why your brother is so devoted to Tsuna?" said Reborn.
"I still am."
"Your brother isn't just someone who isn't afraid to die. He'd the type of person who's waiting for someone to kill him. When he fought at Kokuyo, Gokudera nearly did die, but Tsuna saved him. With the life he's lived up till now, Gokudera must think that no one would care enough to want him alive. Tsuna is proof that someone does."
Bianchi scoffed. "You're saying that this Sawada gave Hayato hope for life? He gave him a reason for living?" she said, voice full of sarcasm.
Reborn gave her a humourless smirk. "You know, Tsuna hasn't left Gokudera's side in the hospital. Not at all."
Bianchi glared at Reborn. For a moment, Reborn thought she was going to cry or do something stupid women usually did. But the Poison Scorpion was stronger than that. She turned and slunk back into the shadows, leaving nothing but the smell of her perfume.
Reborn fixed the cigarette back between his lips and inhaled.
Two days after the Namimori Jr. High cultural festival, Signore Emilio Baffi, Timoteo's brother-in-law and godfather to his youngest son, Frederico, died while eating his dinner. He was shot with two bullets to his chest. He fell face first into his pasta.
Frederico was spared because he was Timoteo's son. But he was exiled to America for participating in a plan to kill Tsuna.
With that, everyone thought the entire matter was settled. No one had any idea that Baffi had another co-conspirator called Xanxus.