Hey y'all! Sorry for the lack of update; I couldn't decide how I wanted to phrase this. Plus, I didn't realize I had already finished this chapter but hadn't posted it. [Ahaha, school is taking up too much of my life…]

Anyway, in case you guys haven't noticed, the story is going on hiatus until I can get more time to put into making this a well-organized story. [I'll probably be able to write this more seriously by January or February 2012.]

I'll probably be able to seriously get time to continue this once I finish The Lost Ring.X3

[As a side note, I think the Arcobaleno Arc will be one of my most favorites from Amano; still slightly predictable but I think—and hope—this arc will turn out better than how the TYL Arc ended. The TYL Arc ending was a bit disappointing. And I absolutely abhorred—and still do—the Shimon Arc. It felt like it was a random tangent, like Longchamp, and it just wasn't very satisfying. The Vongola Gear especially pisses me off. I swear, Tsuna & Co. BARELY had Primo's version of the Vongola rings before they were changed from rings into all sorts of accessories. It just pisses me off. The rings were what made everyone so cool and they made sense! I mean, how can Hibari stand going around Namimori wearing a frigging BRACELET? And, in all honesty, I forgot about the Shimon Arc's occurrence at the beginning of this rant. (But then I felt: "Wait! Something's missing! Wasn't there something between the TYL and Arcobaleno Arc?"). I think Amano could have done something different to show the history of the Vongola; like a real flashback to Primo's time! That would be amazing to see without the all "Wait a minute, there was no betrayal!" quips from everybody.]

Anyway, sorry about that: onto the story! :D

Disclaimer: I don't own KHR; all rights to Akira Amano! I only own the antagonists and the myriad of extras I create per fanfiction/chapter.

Betrayal or Aid

Tsuna's legs had begun to feel like jelly underneath him. He hadn't been training properly due to his comatose state when his younger self came to the future. The battle that had taken place to defend his home was a disaster, and his exhaustion was catching up to him.

The ground beneath him began to melt, and his feet sunk into the liquidized earth. It grabbed at him, enveloping him in dark dirt. His eyelids blocked his vision as he felt suffocation tighten around his body.


He heard his Mist Guardian's voice ring out to him, like a soothing bell. "Boss! Can you hear me?"

With a gasp, Tsuna opened his amber eyes to a dark void. He lay floating in the darkness in a white dress shirt and black slacks. "Chrome?" he called out, swaying his mob of brunette hair side to side. "Chrome! Are you there?"

"Boss!" she cried out, this time, the bells had turned into an alert—a cry for help.

Tsuna reached for the gloves in his pockets but found none. He clicked his tongue as he began drifting through the starless night. "Chrome!" he called out, searching for her. In the distance he spied a shining metallic prong. Her trident!

The brunette rushed over to the bit of weapon. He reached out for it, pricking his finger by incidence. His pale hand withdrew as he inspected the bead of blood that formed on top of his skin. When nothing extraordinarily peculiar occurred, he reached for the trident again, wrapping his whole hand around the piece.

In an instance, he felt a warmth surge through him, worming its way into his heart. From there, it resonated, sending his nerves spiraling into a light pain, followed by numbness. His eyes squeezed shut, letting no light or darkness in and letting none of the pain he withheld out.

When the pain and numbness had subsided, he slowly opened his eyes. Light burned his retina as amber processed its new surroundings. A soft nostalgic wind blew over him as he heavily breathed in the scent of fresh dew and meadow grass. His feet were bare, and he just felt relaxed. He had almost forgotten the battle that had taken only moments ago.

"Boss," Chrome's voice resonated within Tsuna's mind. He did a full turn, looking for her. His eyes stopped searching when he had found her, standing a distance off. The brunette rushed over to her without hesitation.

"Is everything alright, Chrome?" he asked as he reached the shorter woman.

She looked up at him and tears began to stream from her eyes as she went onto her knees. "Boss…I-I'm sorry!"

Tsuna sank to a kneel in front of her, wrapping his arms around her. His thumbs massaged her shoulders in a circular movement as if he were trying to rub the pain and sorrow from her body. "It's fine, Chrome. I don't blame you. Just tell me one thing."

"Yes, Boss?"

Tsuna's rotating thumbs stopped moving and he allowed enough space between himself and Chrome so that he could see her face. "What happened after I called you? Did you get hurt? Did something attack you and Mukuro, too?"

Guilt replaced the sorrow she felt. "Well, this one—" She stopped as a sudden pain jolted through her body. Her sentence was cut by a sharp gasp and he skin visibly whitened. The Mist Guardian's body convulsed as it curled on the ground, which had slowly turned from lush green to autumn brown.

"C-Chrome!" Tsuna leaned forward to tend to the girl, but she ordered him to stay back.

"B-Boss. I don't have much time left to talk to you. F-For now, the only thing I can tell you is where to start your search with. The family that attacked you is the Fenice Family, whose boss goes by the name of 'Cenere'. She is 5'9", has scarlet hair, and has grey eyes. She also—" Chrome stopped, another rolling pain shot down her spine. "I'm sorry, Boss…Please don't—"

The grass had turned into crunchy, fragile straw that blew away with a rough wind. Tsuna shielded his face from the injurious, dead plant with his arms. After a few moments, the wind had stopped and Tsuna lowered his guard. Where Chrome had once been, was a spot devoid of her presence. The landscape, which had once been a grassy meadow, transformed into a large crystalline lake with a forested island at its center. There was no sky above Tsuna anymore; just the sharp ceiling of a cave far above his head, crafted as a dome. At the midpoint of the dome was a hole, as large as the island in the center of the lake, which gave way to a sky as dark and crisp as black obsidian.

Tsuna looked down at his feet as his toes fidgeted over the wet gravel that made the shore of the lake. He looked forward at the island then down at the water, staring straight into his own reflection in the glowing pool. Without telling his body to do so, his feet moved closer to the water's edge. He set one foot atop the water's surface, sending ripples that disturbed the water's serene stillness and sent a shiver through his body. Tsuna took another step, watching as his feet guided him to the center of the lake, not falling into the water's depths even as he made his way forward.

When he met the small island, his wet feet mixed with the loose soil, coating the bare skin with a thin sock. Tsuna looked back at the shore, which was now further than it had been when he first started his trek. He swung his head forward towards the forest and—this time—pushed his own body into the wooded darkness.

Tsuna ignored the looming trees as he continued to trek in the dark, only stopping when his feet met mud and he began to sink. He struggled, desperately trying to pull his legs out of the mud, but it ended in futility. In a few more moments of struggling, he was engulfed by the brown liquid earth.

His eyes opened again to a new location. Around him, he could barely make out the shadows and the rigid silhouettes of the cavern walls around him. Above him was a hole. Similar to the larger cave, it allowed light to filter into the space. But, the new place he was in was different—it was a pit. Outside of his stone prison, he could hear the washing of waves against rocks and salt water leaked in from the hole above him, slowly filling the bottom of the cave—chilling his bare feet.

"Kufufu, I'm sorry I had to cut your meeting short, Tsunayoshi. I needed Chrome to attend to another matter."

Tsuna turned around, searching the small basin for the suave voice that had abandoned him. "Mukuro? Where are you?"

"Right here, Tsunayoshi," he whispered into the brunette's ear. Black fingers crept toward the shorter man's sides, but before they could do more than just touch the clothed skin, it left the slim digits.

"Mukuro, why did you just leave us alone during the invasion? Why did you stop Chrome from coming to help us? Why did you—"

There was a splash as the tall man's foot landed in the growing puddle. Tsuna backed away from the approaching illusionist until his back hit the rigid rock wall. Arms cornered him against the cold slabs. "Why is it that you are saying 'us'? Don't you mean to be talking solely about yourself? From what I recall, you're the only one that needed me there when you could have at least attempted to call Kyouya."

"I meant what I said," Tsuna mumbled, "And I had no idea where he was at all. I knew that you were nearby. You could have come to help us but you didn't. Instead, you ignored my calls and even forced Chrome to ignore my orders as well. You're my Mist Guardian. When you aren't preoccupied, you should—"

"I should do what exactly, Tsunayoshi? I am not your Mist Guardian, no matter how many times you say it aloud, and I am not your baby-sitter. So why should I be going out of my way to help you, who is in the mafia that I despise with my whole being?"

Tsuna averted his amber eyes. "Because…"

"Because what?"

"I needed you there so that I knew you were okay. You already know that I'm afraid of losing my friends and my friends getting hurt. So, I don't understand why you would try to act calm when there was definitely something wrong on your side."

Mukuro's expression blanked for a second before his lips curled into a smile. "What do you mean by that, Tsunayoshi? I believe I've said before that we are in no way friends. We are only people that know each other, and to me, you are something I only wish to possess in order to exact my vengeance on the mafia world."

"Even if you don't admit it, you're still my friend," Tsuna answered. His gaze was pointed towards his toes.

Salt water rained into the cave, causing large ripples to form, hitting the walls like small waves.

The older man lifted Tsuna's head by the chin. Mismatched eyes met pools of golden orange only centimeters apart from one another. "It brings me many mixed feelings to hear you give me the title of merely a 'friend'."

"Then what do you want me to call you?" Tsuna asked as he pushed Mukuro away from him before he could be entranced by red and blue. "You're not an enemy to me, you know that. So, what do you want me to call you?"

Mukuro waded through the now knee-high water towards Tsuna. A deposit of salty rain poured onto him as he continued to make his way through the cold liquid. He stopped only inches away from Tsuna. His gloved hands caressed Tsuna's cheek with a frigid feel but a gentle touch. "Tsunayoshi…"

Tsuna felt his cheeks grow hot. "D-Don't avoid the question, Mukuro," Tsuna stuttered, "You're the one who brought this kind of thing up in the first place, so answer me."

The man smiled as he cleared away the hair from Tsuna's forehead and pressed his lips gently against the pale skin. "Kufufu, don't be so nervous, Tsunayoshi. You're the boss of one of the most powerful organizations of the Underworld. Rather than question everything, make orders."

The brunette felt the space between them get smaller and smaller as the older man's closeness made him feel like he was about to suffocate. Tsuna shut his amber orbs tightly, avoiding eye contact with Mukuro's. "Then, I order you to be my friend and to never leave my side!"

Mukuro smiled as he pulled away. He extended a hand between the two, closing it into a fist. When he opened it, a shining platinum ring lay in the center of his palm. Engraved on the outside of the ring was a twisted vine, leading to a small circular topaz that fit the edges of the band. On the inside of the metal accessory was the word 'impegno'. Mukuro slipped the sleek circlet onto Tsuna's right hand next to his box ring; then he kissed the glittering jewel. "Let this be the proof of our contract," Mukuro whispered, his lips hovering above the ring.

Tsuna felt a strange surge flow through him, filling his body with confidence and power. "Mukuro…"

The sky above them began to flicker into day as the water level had reached just below Tsuna's chin. Mukuro glanced up at the sun then back into Tsuna's amber eyes. "It's almost time for you to go, my little Tsunayoshi." The taller man began to pull away as the daylight slowly began to settle.

Not again! Tsuna rushed towards Mukuro, tripping on the hidden rocks and into the water. He instantly brought his sopping head back up to the surface, meeting Mukuro face-to-face.

Mukuro smiled mischievously, "Kufufu, you're still quite clumsy, aren't you, Tsunayoshi?" He leaned forward, his cold lips softly brushing against Tsuna's cheek. "It's time to wake up now…"

With just a blink, Tsuna was wide awake. He looked up at the sky, which was transitioning from night to dawn. The brunette sat up and scanned his surroundings, spotting his comrades on the forest floor around him. A soft smile of relief crept onto his face as he noted that all of them were safe and still there.

Without his knowing, his left hand had begun fiddling with the metal bands on his fingers. Almost immediately, Tsuna stopped with eyes wide and looked down at his right hand. The ring Mukuro had left on him in the dream covered a small portion of flesh on his finger. "But that's…" Tsuna breathed.

"Good morning, Tenth!" Gokudera yelled enthusiastically as he approached the camp; one hand waved while the other held a basket—hand-woven by Gokudera—full of wild berries. The brunette instantly hid the hand bearing the new ring under the jacket that lay over his lap.

He felt a bead of cold sweat slide down his skin, the first that signaled the coming of more. "Good morning, Gokudera," Tsuna smiled. "Is that breakfast?"

Gokudera nodded, "Yeah, just picked these a few minutes ago with—"

"Hayato! Didn't I say to wait for me?" Yamamoto asked as he came running back to camp. His tattered shirt was bundled up under an arm, and his leather belt was missing.

"Stupid Takeshi," Gokudera grumbled; his eyebrows scrunched together, and a pout formed on his face. "You should know by now how important the Tenth's health is. I can't wait for you when he needs my help."

A small menacing glare, that only lasted a few seconds, flickered in Yamamoto's eyes as he looked at his colleague. "I understand," he smiled widely, "Sorry for pulling you down. While you're with Tsuna, I'll just go check on everyone else." He waved backwards as he left the two. "See you guys later."

Tsuna watched Yamamoto leave worriedly. "Gokudera, I think you made Yamamoto upset," he whispered.

"What? Why would he be upset? You're our boss! Of course you come first before anything!" Gokudera argued.

The brunette smiled softly at his Storm Guardian. "I may be the boss. You guys may be my subordinates or comrades. But, we're not just connected through the mafia. We're all friends. Just because I'm the Vongola's boss doesn't put me in a higher position when I'm with you guys. You remember, right? When your younger self came to the future, he had the same problem as when he and the younger Yamamoto fought Gamma." Tsuna patted Gokudera's shoulder as he stood up. "You need to realize that I'm not the only important person here."

The sky was dyed with the colors of sunrise and life began to shift in the forest. Tsuna looked at the trees and his resting Family.

"Tenth, I—"

Tsuna turned back to Gokudera with a smile. "It's fine, but I'm not the one you need to apologize to." He glanced over at his Rain Guardian, who was still forcing his old smile to appear as he chatted with other early risers. "I'm going to go on a walk for a while. Take care of everyone until I get back."

"Yes, sir!" Gokudera bowed as Tsuna left the clearing.

Tsuna lifted his arm up into the air, looking at his new ring through the gaps of light in the forest. "I don't understand this…Mukuro…" He formed a fist with his raised hand and let the limb fall limply to his side.

The brunette wandered aimlessly, deeper into the woods. His surroundings were familiar to him, as he had profusely practiced among the trees during his adolescent days. Once again, without realizing, his feet guided him on their own. This time, the pair stopped at the edge of a small spring that lay hidden among branches, trunks, and leaves.

The spring was Tsuna's quiet place where he could relax, contemplate, meditate. The waters were lucid, revealing the smoothed stones that composed a natural tub for the refreshing liquid. Tsuna stood at the edge—reminded briefly of his dream through short flashes—before finally deciding to rest inside it.

Although the forest was cool, caused by the trees' shade, the brightening sky signaled a day of humid weather.

Tsuna stripped off all his clothes deftly. When every article of clothing was off, he entered the warm waters. His scrapes stung, but after the first, short, painful first moments, relief followed. He absorbed the water's regenerative properties, letting his aching body dilute the pain into the water, which would then evaporate and leave the waters clean and clear again.

The young boss looked up at the blue sky then let his lids fall over his eyes. However, he did not let sleep come to him in fear of a nightmare. A brief flash of a tall man's mysterious smile and an echo of an insane laugh cut his brief rest short. His eyes shot open, but only met the broad space above him again. Topaz orbs flitted to his right hand, which began to sparkle in the oncoming light.

Tsuna sat up, bringing his hand up to his face. He surrounded the tangled band on his finger—tempted to take off the band. But his temptation receded as quickly as it had arrived and he let the hand drop into the water. He settled into the water again, unwinding once more.


The brunette sat up in immediately. His muscles tensed and his ears strained to listen for movement. It's from behind me

Tsuna turned to the direction of the disturbance with an orange flame lighted over his forehead. But when he faced the disrupter, his fire was extinguished. "Chrome…why are you here?" He searched the woman's face for a clue or a hint for his hyper intuition to pick up on. His eyes stopped when he found blood on her blouse. "And what happened?"

"Boss…" Chrome panted. Tsuna stood up to help her, but was stopped at the gesture of his Mist Guardian's hand. She shook her head breathlessly. "Boss…something has happened to Master…"

Tsuna's face lost a shade of color, but he maintained composure for the most part. Now wasn't the time to panic. "What happened?"

Chrome grew noticeably paler, beads of cold sweat glistened on her skin. She trembled as her vision grew hazy. "F-Fenice…" With the last breath of the name, she collapsed.

"Gokudera, I want you to find out all you can about the Fenice Family."

"Understood, Tenth. I'll start right away." The Storm Guardian left his leader's side, heading for the door of the private hospital room. The Rain Guardian glanced at the former from the corner of his eye.


"Yes?" the tall man returned his attention to the hunched figure at the bedside of the patient.

"Please locate Hibari and bring him here. Use whatever method you need to in order to bring him here. Be careful."

His guardian closed his eyes. "Understood," he answered. As he left, he looked at his childhood friend's depressing shape. "Don't beat yourself up about it, okay?"

The door was shut and Tsuna was left alone with his Mist Guardian—the only noise resonating around the room was the heart monitor.

Tsuna stared lifelessly and yet contemplatively at his fallen friend and comrade. What's happening? Another invasion? So soon? He looked down at his feet; his head was supported at the center of his forehead by his interlocked fingers.

—commitment, engagement, obligation, pledge, promise, appointment, diligence bond, date

Thanks for reading, everybody!

And I'm sorry about the hiatus. I don't want to, but I just need more time! D:

Reviews are always welcome though. :]