AN: I hope this makes sense. It's all pretty much detached feelings at first. But It'll make sense in the end? I tried to make this as epic as possible, which was probably it took me so long to get it out. /wipes forehead/
CHAPTER 32: PYGMALION
Tsuna's spade was exceeding into a bright light and soon enough, Hibari could not even see the outline of the other's figure within. He was simply too weak now to shout, too tired to struggle more. And he could do nothing but stare at where Tsuna was in aghast horror.
The orange was positively blinding.
There were four pinpoints, sources of the searing amber, each containing a royal.
No, it couldn't end like this. Things simply could not end. The fight was back, and Hibari tried crawling closer. He was just so close. Eventually he dragged himself close enough to touch the spade-shaped container, palm flat against it. "Tsunayoshi." He tried calling, "Tsunayoshi!" He smacked the hard wall with an open hand.
There was no answer, no movement within. There wasn't even any indication the other was in there. Up this close, the orange was so blinding it was turning a sherbet white.
But then, belatedly after a moment of staring, he realized it really was turning a different color other than white and orange. Hibari could not fight as he was thrown backwards, sprawling onto his back by the sudden push like a strong gale of a hurricane. The orange pushed inwards, then outwards, expanding until the station. It covered the still gray bodies around him, and spread through the pavement, through buildings, then soon enough, the city was covered in an amber cloak.
The source of the ochreous pigment spread gently, bleeding over the gray in the most breath-taking way, shimmering splotches of illumination. Everyone around him was covered in sunset, laying atop their still figures like pixie dust.
Color was bleeding back into them.
The pallor of their skin was returning, their assortment of luminous complexion, hair and clothes alike, reversing to its original saturation.
Eventually, everyone did wake up. Their limbs were stiff, and they stared at the orange-colored world around them with wide uncomprehending eyes. Hibari could feel his strength returning. And then, something most unusual happened.
The orange suddenly imploded, moving upward in a wide blanket, one that stretched from horizon to horizon, from them. The royals containers, to his utmost anguish, was slowly fading, like sand in a hourglass, and moved upwards until...Hibari stilled as a rumble resounded throughout the entire city, confusing all its stirring inhabitants. What was that?
They looked up, expecting to see a smooth gray, but instead found uneven, wispy ash, gradually turning darker into a cinder. It looked bumpy looking, cottony. It didn't make any sense. Had Tsunayoshi's attempt to bring back the sky failed? Was this actually impending doom for all of them?
But Hibari was one of the few firsts to recognize the fat wisp in the sky. Clouds.
The rumbled resounded again. A near-constant roll of thunder punctured occasionally by bass rumbling thrummed in Hibari's ears and made the marrow of his bones itch with the vibration. The wind was only slightly louder, roaring around buildings and occasionally escalating into a shrieking howl, as though the hounds of hell lingered just out of sight around the corners. Boom. Boom. Was that, it was thunder?
The streets were filling with people. The more unrestrained ones were pointing up at the sky, wondering what the hell was happening. The conservative watched in mute fascination. Trash blew through the darkened streets, pieces of paper and leaves hurled against buildings with violent force.
He started to walk forward, but a much louder blast of wind screaming through the streets made him look back in time to see lightning streak ominously across the sky. His heart started to race at the strangeness of the whole situation. Lightning.
The sky still rolled with thunder, a bass drum rising to an ear-splitting crescendo and fading away, and the lightning stopped merely flickering and starting reaching fingers toward the scorched earth, like a child tentatively touching a hot stove to see whether or not it's hot. The blackening clouds roiled in the heavens, and a rushing hiss in the distance that escalated sharply was the only warning he had before the clouds burst. Storm.
Then something wet hit him, though there were no water source around this area. The frigid rain striking him with the force of pebbles soaked through his suit immediately and made movement very difficult. His head was being pelted with the droplets, his hair obscuring his eyes before he raked it back with a stiff hand. Rain.
Clouds or patches of fog seemed to obscure the bottom of this nothingness, and the rain streaming down made it very difficult to gauge distance. He had to blink frequently to keep all the water out of his eyes, but it was no use. Mist.
Hibari exhaled through his nostrils roughly, through the humid air.
The rapid weather change was disorientating as next came a bright light that didn't come from the station. It shined through the storming clouds, making the fat wisps, even though it was still clearly heavy with rain, dissipate until the cumulus were left starch white. His sodden suit became warm and he realized what were these glowing rays. It was daylight. Sun.
The next transition hit him hard, hit him in the gut. He didn't hesitate on falling to his knees when he saw it. Bleeding from gray into a color he knew so well in Namimori, knew so well in his thoughts and memories of brighter, happier days. It extended long, fanning out from the center point above them. Suddenly the world looked brighter, more colorful than it had ever been in centuries.
It was blue.
How dare that stupid herbivore say those words and leave? Didn't he have any consideration on how much that would've affected him? Did the imbecilic idiot think that Hibari would be okay after being left with only intimate verbal disclosure? His head was feeling heavy, his whole damn body was feeling heavy, but worse of the areas most surprisingly was at his throat, his chest.
Hibari didn't cry, but those dry, violent sounds forced their way out of his mouth, wracking his body. This, this cut close to it.
Tsunayoshi Sawada, he realized at that moment, was gone. Possibly forever.
What was he doing again?
Where was he?
Were the first thoughts that came to mind as he was slowly was brought into consciousness.
It was so blue here. He looked around himself, eyes wide at the unimaginable expanse of blue, and realized, he had been here once before. It was where he met Giotto, only the man was nowhere to be seen.
He found himself floating though, not standing on solid ground, and he was blinking in confusion as he drifted in the overwhelming space only the sky could provide. He tried his hardest to remember what he had been doing before he got here, but couldn't.
God, he just wanted to go home.
Was that too much to ask?
Tsuna spun slowly, absentmindedly, eyebrows furrowing at the blue and the clouds. What was going on? What happened? He couldn't remember a thing.
He blinked when he noticed something further away, a man's figure. At first, he thought it was Giotto, for their hair-shape was rather similar. But he was missing the very noticeable black cloak, missing his pressed pinstriped suit. This man in front of him was dressed in all white, in an unusual pairing of pants and jacket. It had intricately designed iron shoulder pads. Who the heck wore shoulder pads?
He drifted towards this figure, still not recognizing it as he got closer.
When he got within eye-level range, he realized the other man was staring right back at him. His hair was as white as his clothes. "Who are you?" The man asked, tilting his head in confusion, eyes sleepy, as if he had just awoken from a long slumber. He probably had. Tsuna felt the same.
Tsuna was about to answer, a syllable instinctively on his tongue, when he realized he couldn't.
Because he didn't remember his name.
Who was he?
Was the first to hit.
The world became meaningless and overwhelming. Life made no sense, not anymore.
What the hell was going on? Why? He looked around himself, his stare vacant. How? No, this had to be a mistake. This couldn't happen. Tsunayoshi, that moron, could not be gone. Just like that? It was impossible.
A state of shock and denial. He goes numb when a second thought crosses his mind.
He wonders how he could go on, if he can go on, why should he go on. How could he try to find a way to simply get through each day. Denial and shock, surging through his body, trying to start his thought process, trying to make him survive. Denial. There is a grace in denial. It is nature's way of letting in only as much as humans could handle.
He thinks that the most addle-brained theory he had ever heard. There was no grace in this, no beauty, he sensed no nature, only a cold pit. It was like being thrust into a hell he didn't know existed. A nightmare he couldn't wake up from.
His life, what was he suppose to do with it now?
He was gone. He was really gone. Because he had lied. It was just like him, he thought with crushing comprehension, it was just like him. Of course he would chose the billions of lives over his own. Of course he would have chosen Hibari's life over his. Hibari should have known him better, should have taken more precautions to make sure this would have never happened.
But it was too late. It did.
He knew he was already accepting the reality of the loss and starting to ask questions to himself, he was unknowingly beginning the healing process. It makes you stronger, and the denial was beginning to fade. But he proceeded this thought process, all the feelings he was denying began to surface once more.
He didn't feel healed.
God damn it, he felt cheated.
"You don't know who you are?" Byakuran said, eyes relieved, "Good, because I don't either."
Tsuna's eyebrows raised, unsure of this situation, "What is this place?"
They took a moment to look around themselves, eyes wide like children at the blue that stretched horizon to horizon, east to west with no end in sight. They would drift for days, could, if they wanted to.
Byakuran was quiet for a moment. "Heaven...?" Tsuna pulled a horrified face. Not liking this idea either himself, he added an uncertain, "Maybe?"
There was pain in his chest, a panicking flare that erupted in a bloom. "No," Tsuna shook his head, "We can't be dead! I have to go!"
"Go where?" Byakuran asked, his interest piqued.
Tsuna stilled here. Go where? Where did he need to go that needed such urgent attention? He had been so sure of himself, so right. Where did that resolution go? It was as if it dissipated into the air.
Who was he again?
But he didn't have time to delve further into this as another person began floating towards them. It was a smaller person, only more slightly than Tsuna himself. It was a girl, he realized, with forest ever-green hair. Her blue eyes were overfilling out in waves of confusion, staring at the both of them warily, "Excuse me," she began, peddling her arms closer, as if swimming, "Where am I?"
"We don't know," Byakuran answered for the two of them, "Who are you?"
Uni opened her mouth, to answer, but closed it just as immediately. "I don't know." She said.
They drifted in silence.
How could this world keep going? Why did seconds, minutes pass? Why didn't the world die when Tsunayoshi died?
"Hibari," There was someone shaking his shoulder, and he turned dull eyes towards the source.
He should've been surprised, or made a reaction but all he could do was stay hollow, his face expressionless. Shut down.
Reborn was an adult now.
Now, he stood taller than him, and his once-tiny hands were wide, broad and hard as one shook his shoulder again, "Hibari." The man said exasperatedly tired. There was a triumphant smile on his face. "The curse. My curse, your curse. It's been lifted. Tsuna did it." He looked to the sky briefly, voice filled with wonder and appraisal, "That kid, he did it."
Then something hit when he registered the words.
Yes, it was true. Tsunayoshi did managed to bring back the sky. The infant himself was an adult. Hibari himself was probably aging again by the seconds. The evidence was all around them, weighing him down, making him need the air they breathe. But didn't any of them understand what that kid had to sacrifice? Didn't they know they had willingly thrown a sixteen year old boy's life away, just so they could live their feeble selfish lives?
He turned this idea, this vendetta in his mind repeatedly. It grew uglier, a malicious cycle, as milliseconds past, as he dug through the concept more. It bubbled hot inside him, festering from an ugly core that radiated within his chest. Light began reflecting in his eyes, life returning to him, when he realized what this sensation was:
Fury. Rage. Hatred.
The next person who came along was quiet and stonily glaring at them. The three of them prodded for information, but this new arrival, a tall tanned man with gunmetal hair. He had scars over his face.
He didn't remember where he got them. Or who he was either, most begrudgingly admitted. But Xanxus did not leave, only because even if he didn't like their company, everyone silently knew that they didn't want to separate from one another, to be alone in the lonely expanse.
It was a strange feeling, the quiet desperation neither of them spoke of. It was as if they were separated once, but didn't want to be anymore. But that didn't make any sense, since Tsuna had never met these people, so he brushed that thought off.
They didn't understand what was happening. Why they were floating around doing nothing. Were they suppose to be doing something? Who was he again?
What was very odd about this endless space they found themselves in was that it changed constantly, just as constantly as his thoughts. His thoughts didn't have a rhythm, a pattern to it. He found it was very erratic, abnormal. What was his name again? Sometimes the sky was a light blue with puffs of white clouds. Sometimes the sky was an expansive gray with hints of dark, dark blue. Sometimes the sky was almost white with hesitant brushes of blue. Sometimes the sky was all gray.
And sometimes the sky was a clear, cloudless, impossible blue.
When the sky was in its vivid blue, he knew he would have a better day ahead of him. But that was a strange thought just now. Because he had the greatest feeling there was no tomorrow for him. If that made any sense. They all watched these change with quiet stares. Waiting.
Anger is a necessary stage of the healing process. He was willing to feel his anger, feed it by mouthfuls, even though it may seem like a stomach with an endless expansion.
He was going to die from all the hatred in his blood.
He stood up slowly to a crawling speed, his eyes growing darker as he looked around the faces that were so damn happy when they shouldn't be. "This is your fault." Hibari whispered lowly, tonfa held up as he began walking towards Reborn as Reborn likewise backed away.
It wasn't really the infants fault, but he couldn't help but blame him for everything. It was the infant that had gave him false hope. The infant that had sent him to look after Tsunayoshi. If he hadn't met Tsunayoshi, if he hadn't, then in another life, he wouldn't have been so angry. So betrayed.
The man's gun was out, pointing uncertainly at the floor, waiting to raise itself. He wasn't willing to shoot Hibari, but right now he was an incredibly unstable hostile threat, "Hibari, no."
"Yes." Was the simple reply, and Hibari leapt at him.
The more you truly feel it, the more it will begin to dissipate and the more you will heal. There are many other emotions under the anger and you will get to them in time, but anger is the emotion we are most used to managing. The truth is that anger has no limits.
Underneath the anger was pain. Why did Tsunayoshi leave? Didn't he think of the consequences? Did he even think about Hibari or was it just for Cielo in general? He felt abandoned. Deserted.
He's never felt it before, but the grief feels like being lost at sea: no connection to anything.
But anger was his strength now. It was his anchor, giving him temporary structure to the nothingness of the loss.
He found himself trying to find reasons to hate. People to hate. Did no one care that he wasn't here anymore? Did no one truly absolutely care how much he lost?
Where was God?
Why didn't he do anything? If he was so benevolent why didn't he bring him back?
"Stop being a selfish fuck!" Gokudera roared at him as he joined the brawl. He felt himself being vaguely tackled, falling to his side. But his mind and body was coursing with thoughtless hate. He punched the teen, anything and anywhere he could reach. But the other kept yelling through the hits, bellowing more at him than to him. "Vaffanculo! You're not the only one who lost him, you figlio di troia , god damn it!"
His dreams of the sky always leave him with an odd pang in his heart. It was always the sky, the sky – and after this strange amount of time drifting, he still couldn't understand why the sky made him feel content and empty at the same time.
His gaze remained fixed to the skies, captivated by its sheer blueness showing unhurried glimpses of permanence and eternity. The sky, unlike the clouds, was unchanging - it was constant, unfading, eternal. Whether night or day, winter or summer, snowy or stormy or sunny or rainy, the sky remained. The sky will always, always remain.
It left a hollow feeling in him. It was a certain, beautifully constructed, absolutely inescapable hell.
Why did he feel so upset? So sad?
He looked around him, his three drifting companions had equally distressed expressions, varying on different levels.
He was scared. They were all scared. And tired of waiting.
"Tsuna, do you know what the 'Pygmalion Effect' is?" Tsuna jumped at the voice, looking around himself. He looked to the others, but they only blinked back at him in confusion of his sudden jerk.
"Giotto?" He called hesitantly to the voice only he could hear.
The anger becomes a bridge over the open sea, a connection from him to them. It is something for Hibari to hold onto; and a connection made from the strength of anger feels better than knowing more about suppressing the anger than feeling it. The anger is just another indication of the intensity of the love.
Why hadn't he said it before? Would saying it now bring him back?
He loved him.
Please, he thought, he would never be angry at Tsunayoshi Sawada again if only he would let him live. It was a temporary truce. To whoever was listening. He tried not to think about how it was his own thoughts that would answer. If he devoted the rest of his life to never taking him for granted again, would God wake him up so that he could realize it was all just a bad dream?
He was lost in a maze. Tired of "if onlys," and "what ifs" statements. But all he wanted was return to that time, find that tumor of an idea, recognize that illness more quickly, and stop everything that was happening from happening. Those moments when Tsunayoshi was younger, naive, incredibly yet endearingly stupid. If only. What if.
Could things have been different if he found his own faults sooner? If he had let go of his pride earlier? If he had told Tsunayoshi that he loved him, would he have stayed to live? If he had done differently, would they be together now, despite what fate had in store for them? He bargained with the pain. He didn't want to feel this. He wanted to remain in the past, negotiate his way out of this hurt.
"The Pygmalion Effect," Giotto continued without break, "It is the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation placed upon people is, the better they perform. I truly wonder if what you chose is really out of your own wish."
Tsuna let the words sink in. Eyes fluttering sleepily. He was getting tired. And he was too drowsy to unravel the life line Giotto was trying to throw him. Giotto continued, a soundless voice in him. "Is it because you want to? Or is it because you were asked to?" Expectation? On him? What did they want him to do? Didn't he already do it? What more did they want?
He couldn't in his life remember what people wanted from him, after all he was No Good-Tsuna, what could he do for anyone, really?
That was his name, wasn't it? He grasped the lifeline, clutching it desperately to his chest: Tsuna. That was his name. He shook his head, trying to clear it. He knew his name, and now what? What else did he need? He couldn't possibly be satisfied with only a name.
Surely he had family. Like a mom. And a dad.
Nana and Iemitsu. Two faces came to mind. A woman, remarkably similar to him in facial expressions, and a man who shared the same skin pallor as him, if not a little bit darker. He remembered their different personalities, their unrelenting love for each other no matter what the situation called for.
Good, he thought. It was coming back. Did he have friends?
Sure. Plenty, despite his uselessness: Gokudera. Yamamoto. The Kokuyo Gang, some of the Varia. Yeah, he did. He smiled.
What else? A home? He had a home probably.
Namimori, his subconscious fed him, and Cielo.
He was thinking it was getting easy, almost too easy. He entertained the idea of getting the answer right away and asked himself: what about a girlfriend? Did I have a girlfriend?
No. Was the resounding answer. You didn't, but you did have someone more.
More? He thought with a confused blink, the smiling fading from his lips. What was more than a girlfriend? He would like to know.
You had Hibari.
Like being thrown into ice-cold water, Tsuna jerked, eyes growing wide. Thunder struck in the distance. He had Hibari. Dear god, he had forgotten about Hibari.
Like a light switch being turned ON, Tsuna thrashed wildly in his drifting. Struggling to keep his head above the water. He had to get back! He remembered! Hibari, he, he was in Cielo, wasn't he? But then, iron pitted itself in his stomach. His mood souring. He couldn't go back. Because if he went back then that mean the sky would disappear. A lot of people would die.
They were counting on him. Expecting him to fulfill his role.
"Tsuna," Giotto's voice said again, bringing him back to subject, "Is this what you truly want?"
He was tired of these expectations, tired of role fulfilling. He didn't want to be a Prince, didn't want to be the sky. He wanted a life. He wanted to be free of this burden. Tsuna was tired of accepting these same expectations, fulfilling those roles he needed to play. What was really so important about it? Why did roles even matter?
Tsuna shoved a hand in his pocket, retracting the pocketwatch and chain.
He opened it.
The clock's hands were spinning erratically, stuttering in movements.
And his answer to the question? God no. He didn't want this. He didn't want to spend an eternity floating restlessly around here, wasting time. Wondering what ifs and if onlys. He wanted to live, wanted to be alive, wanted to see his friends and family and Hibari. But he couldn't remember how to break this place. How did he get out of here last time? But this time there was no answer. He couldn't remember.
He wanted to be weak, god damn it, he wanted to rely on someone for once.
"I'm not strong enough, and I'm tired of pretending that I am!"
"Then what are you waiting for?" Giotto asked, his tone almost amused, "Go."
Tsuna and the other three yelped in alarm as something most unusual happened, the gravity broke, or came back, he didn't know. Uni was the first to scream. They began falling. They tumbled down the never ending blue, the wind ripping through their hair and clothes, running through their bodies like a breeze slashing through paper dolls.
Their stomachs were flipping in their bodies, unsure of where gravity was now, and their minds were scrambled messes of panic, for they were unable to comprehend what was happening.
Several things happened at once. The sky began darkening, clouds began clustering together in a gray heap. They grew wide and big, heavy with rain.
Their bodies were battered as they fell, the harsh cracks of the rain against their skin was fueled by the unrelenting whip of the cutting wind.
"We'll take it from here." The voice carried over the weather, amplified only to their ears.
Four figures began to materialize in in orcheous-colored sand. Three men, one woman.
Tsuna looked up, eyes widening at these new arrivals. He's seen them somewhere before, but he can't remember still. One particular man's hair was long as it was bright. He looked ethereal in the foreign change of the weather, his electric neon green hair flagging in the darkness. He grasped Byakuran's upper arm, making the man twitch to look at him in surprise.
"It's about time." The second man said with great resentment, yet claimed with underlying fondness. "We thought you'd never come. This bastard," This man was tall, tan-skinned, and seemingly at ease with their tumbling. Ricardo motioned to Ghost, who was smiling bemusedly. "Was getting on my fucking nerves for the past century."
Xanxus looked as if he wanted to edge away from this new arrival, showing his great discomfort at the man's arm's length proximity, blatantly disliking how eerily similar they were.
A hand reached out and intertwined with Uni's, pale slender fingers lacing together: one fully grown and one that of a child's. Luce tightened her grip when she noticed tears in the girl's eyes, "It'll be okay, because you're going back."
"Farewell, you all." Giotto said, arm around Tsuna's shoulders. The teen gripped harder, staring hard at the pinstriped man. The blonde man smiled widely at him. A quick wink. "Give him a scare."
A flash. Orange against white against blue and gray.
They were still falling. But gravity did feel different, he would admit, and everything was starting to feel more palpable.
The air felt different, real.
They emerged from the gray, the wispy charcoal of the sky broke. As if they were reborn like phoenixes, taking flight through the impossible once again. Rising from their ashes. Their hands outstretched to something genuine.
The hourglass flipped.
A clock ticking.
Tsuna opened his eyes.
AN: Wow. Sorry I've teased you all again from that long wait with a surprisingly short chapter. It was just that, this is suppose to be an epic ending, and yet, it didn't feel right as I wrote it out. This entire chapter was pretty much description of sensations and feelings that it felt like such a mess when I finished it. I've reread it so many times that I'm not sure what to feel about it.
So this is NOT the last chapter before the epilogue, but the second to last chapter before the epilogue. I felt it was appropriate to end it there. I hope to make next chapter as epic as possible!
This chapter is unbeta'd and any mistakes you see are my own. Thank you for reading and I hope it wasn't a disappointment.