AN: To my faithful readers: Thank you for sticking with me…even though there aren't that many of you guys. Anyway, sorry for taking too long and that this chapter seems too short.
Tsuna stared blankly at the wall.
Nana reeled back when she noticed her daughter and stood behind her for three minutes. When three minutes passed, and the girl had yet to do anything, Nana frowned at this. "Tsu-chan," she finally asked, "what are you doing?"
When the girl failed to respond, Nana continued. "Usually, you would be doing something, like playing your video games or reading…"
From the corner of her eye, the woman saw her daughter flinch at the mentioning of reading… Curious, she thought, and pursued on.
"Lately, I noticed that you don't carry around Journey to the Sun book anymore. I assumed that you finished already despite you being a slow reader," she said thoughtfully. Then she shrugged. "Oh well. If you want, we can go to the nearest bookstore and—"
Suddenly, Tsuna let out a wail.
"E-eh?" What's wrong, Tsu-chan?"
"I lost it," Tsuna whimpered, drawing her knees closer to her chest.
"What was that?" Nana craned her neck so that she could hear better.
"I…I…" Tsuna took a gulp and burst out, "I lost the book!"
Nana blinked. "Is that why…? Oh, Tsu-chan…"
"I was reading in the park," Tsuna began, snorting up snot and tears, "and then this kid—remember the boy who lost his Frisbee?—accidentally threw his ball at me. A lot happened, and I ended up playing with him and his friends because they promised that they would return my book if I humored them a game."
Nana's lips formed an 'o' shape. Funny how children were bullying her daughter.
"A-and remember that black-cloaked boy from Namimori? W-well, he showed up, fighting off some delinquents. The kids ran away, and I stopped to look for it, and it just—just disappeared!" Tsuna sighed loudly into her arms.
"Oh, sweetie," the woman soothed her daughter, stroking her back reassuringly. "When did this happen?"
"Two weeks ago…"
"And you didn't tell me?"
"I thought that I could solve it on my own if I had gone out looking for it or bought a new copy… But it was nowhere to be seen in the park, and the copies were all sold out! A-also… I didn't want to drag you into the mess I made."
"Tsu-chan, you're so silly." Nana pressed a kiss on Tsuna's head. "But very kind-hearted. I know how much you loved that book."
"Yes, a lot. But remember, it was required to read the whole thing before school starts. You'll be tested on it."
Tsuna groaned. "How could I forget?"
"I'll tell you what. I'll tell you the rest of the story so you won't be totally clueless during the test, and when the store has it, I'll buy you a copy."
Tsuna's eyes went dark to light to dark again. "I like the sound of that, but I'm not so sure about the cheating part."
"It's not so much as cheating when the odds are against you," Nana said, winking.
The girl drew a skeptical look with the arch of her eyebrow. "Really?"
"Well, you know how I don't resort to cheating, but I don't think that I can handle seeing you mope any longer."
Tsuna rolled her eyes, but smiled nonetheless. "Thanks, Mom."
"No problem, honey. Now, what was the part that you last read?"
"The part when Gaston and Boris were about to fight for Jillian in the laboratory."
"Ooh! That's my favorite fight scene!" she exclaimed, clasping her hands together. "Grand and exhilarating, yet so conflicting due to the battle between two friends."
"Mom, the story…?"
"Ah, right. So, Gaston and Boris were taking their stances, swords held tightly in their fists…"
The welcoming ceremony brought uneasy tremors to Tsuna's bones as she gazed at the red banner that was tied above the stage. On one side were the teachers sitting next to each other, conversing calmly in comparison to the students.
Excited chatter filled the area, mostly coming from the first-years. The former students, the second and third-years, were less enthusiastic, yet they shared the similar sentiment of being enthused by the new year.
Tsuna glanced around her, anxiety pooling in her tummy. This was supposed to be her chance to make a change from being Dame-Tsuna to…to…well, to be anything that wasn't Dame-Tsuna. However, it was hard to say that she wasn't going to be prone to boundless clumsiness, especially since she was so nervous. What if her nervousness causes her to trip in front of everyone? What if she made a fool of herself before making a good impression?
She wrung her fingers and swallowed down her troubles. It was going to be alright. She would be able to make it. This wasn't going to be like Shimon Middle. This was going to be her brand new start at Namimori Middle.
When the welcoming ceremony was finished, the students were to be gathered at their new classrooms. The hallways were rather crowded due to the flurry of first-years treading in new waters. The older students, evidently, were trying to bypass the first-years or shove them against the walls. Tsuna had a feeling that the black-cloaked boy would not appreciate this.
Tsuna stumbled out of the way, but tripped over her own foot. She would have fell on her face if she didn't knock into someone.
Strong hands caught her arms. "Sorry," grunted a rough voice.
"N-no," she amended, "it was my fault."
She looked at and let out a small gasp.
It was the orange-hooded boy.