Tsuna pressed her lips together and nervously glanced up at her teacher.
"You aren't going to go away yet? Stubborn, stubborn." The other man shook his head.
Reborn smirked coolly. "Only when prices become ridiculously high. Really, twenty-thousand pesos for Ricanian bullets?"
"Fine, does eighteen-thousand satisfy you, sir?" The man behind the counter crossed his tanned arms over his large belly. He was definitely foreign, like that Moretti fellow except of a different race. He accentuated his words with a strange drawl, as if Japanese was the language that was hard to convey due to his thick intonation. Tsuna assumed that he was originally an islander. "Genuine bullets such as these cannot help but be pricey."
"Understandable, but how about we reduce it to fourteen-thousand, yes?"
"Bastard, you sure know how to make things difficult," the gruff man chuckled dryly.
When they moved away from the store, the girl was practically bouncing in anticipation of leaving…that was until they moved to another store. This time, her tutor was planning on buying a gun.
Once they were out of the underground marketing system, as Reborn had called it, Tsuna couldn't help but sigh loudly, relieved to get out of there. Reborn snorted. "Couldn't handle it, Dame-Tsuna?"
"Of course not! And what were you doing buying bullets and a gun?" she demanded.
"That's none of your business."
She frowned but followed Reborn nonetheless.
The trip to the grocery store was interesting in a sense. Reborn kept whacking her with a rolled-up magazine or newspaper whenever she did something stupid in his eyes, such as picking a bad tomato or getting the wrong sauce—he was, apparently, stern about the ingredients for dinner. And when she complained about having Italian food again, Reborn flicked her forehead and said that she should be appreciative of experiencing the taste of foreign meals.
"Are we having pasta again?" she asked, rubbing the sore area.
"Yes," he replied, checking the expiration date on the cheese.
"You sound as if you had eaten it for decades straight," he commented airily. "You've been only eating it since yesterday, and you liked it even."
"Sorry, I just feel…cranky, that's all." Running her fingers through her hair, she caught a knot and couldn't pull her hand out. This was not her day.
The man smiled slyly. "I see. Woke up on the wrong side of bed?"
"More like having a lizard making me his toilet," she grumbled.
"You should whine less then."
She cringed at his suggestion and remained silent after that.
The walk back home was the best—Reborn was tutoring her with just words. Whenever Tsuna didn't understand, he repeated his explanation while using simpler words, and sometimes said it too slowly to emphasize her stupidity, but it was merely to tease her. She puffed up her cheeks in agitation, wondering if it was too late to convince her mother to hire another tutor.
"Oi, Dame-Tsuna, get that pot from the cabinet over there." Reborn pointed.
Tsuna obeyed wordlessly. As she reached for the pot, she accidentally brought out other dishes and caused them to fall on her head. Reborn watched as the girl struggled getting up, pain getting in her way.
"Well," the man began, "it could have been worse."
A glass rolled out of the shelf and crashed onto her head.
"I stand corrected."
When Reborn made Tsuna help him with dinner again, she grumbled something incoherent and dragged her feet into the kitchen. He assigned her to chop onions, in which she protested.
"But raw onions make my eyes sting!" she said.
"Onions make anyone's eyes sting," he said.
Tsuna bit her lower lip. "But I really hate onion chopping."
"What did I say about whining?" He pointed at Leon sitting on his head, and earned a flinch from the girl.
"Um, I'll get to it."
"What? Why do I have to learn that?" Tsuna complained.
"For self-defense," he replied indifferently, waving the weapon.
Her eyes read disbelief. "A gun? I don't want to be charged as a murderer!"
"I told you, it's only for self-defense. And it's not really a gun, but a shock-gun."
"Shouldn't shock-guns look different then?" she asked, gesturing to the revolver that Reborn had bought in the marketing system.
"So they remodeled it." He shrugged.
"I don't know…" she muttered skeptically. "I mean, why do I even need to learn self-defense? It's not as if I'm being targeted or anything."
He whacked her head with a rolled-up newspaper. "Don't ask stupid questions, Dame-Tsuna."
It took forty-five minutes for Reborn to guide Tsuna through one problem in algebra. Although the girl was terribly embarrassed for her obvious miscomprehension for a simple mathematic equation, her tutor appeared to be rather amused.
"I have never thought that I would find myself a person whose stupidity level is beyond the beyond," he said dryly, rubbing his chin.
"…" She hung her head and sighed.
"Leon isn't as gross as I thought he would be," Tsuna admitted, stroking the chameleon's head. "I guess it takes time getting used to it."
"Dame-Tsuna, your attentive skills are poor at best," Reborn snorted.
"What?" She looked down. "Gah! Leon! Not again!"
Leon licked his eye.
The Italian watched with interest as his student accidentally flung her shock-gun into a wasp nest and then running and screaming from the angry horde, their stingers ready.
Looks like self-defensive lessons were over.
When Reborn commented that her smiles and laughter were rare to witness, Tsuna responded that there was nothing to be merry about.
"You should be less depressing," he said. "That can't be good for your health."
Thinking back to the times when he trained her in using a shock-gun, nearly had her hands lopped off from him wielding the knife, waking her up ridiculously early when school wasn't going to start for the next few hours, whacking her head with various items, becoming paranoid whenever he has a conspiratorial glint in his eyes, him allowing Leon to crawl all over her…
Well, at least he transforms into a peaceful beast whenever he has his espresso.
"Life's too much of a drama," she sighed. "So why do I have to bother about my health?"
"You are so depressing."
Tsuna ran down the stairs, her hair disheveled and her uniform crinkled. As she was about to exit the house, she glared at the best of her ability, which that glare was aimed at Reborn.
"I just cannot believe you had my floors waxed. Do you realize how many times I have slipped?"
"I can imagine," he replied, smirking.
It had occurred to her.
Dame-Tsuna. Dame-Tsuna. Dame-Tsuna. Dame-Tsuna. Dame-Tsuna.
He always called her that, but for some reason it was a name she would respond easily to if not said by anyone else but Reborn. She wasn't hurt by it, seeing how the man was a sadist, but it wasn't as if she liked the name. She hated it whenever her classmates called her that and felt a part of her break. However, with Reborn, it was as if he was playfully mocking her. And she was fine with that…sometimes.
He thought she was stupid, and so did everyone else. He thought that she was a klutz, and so did everyone else. He thought that she was helpless, and so did everyone else. But Reborn didn't make her drown in contempt but rather usher her to the way of bettering herself, even when it seemed impossible. And at the end, it seemed that she managed to gain a bit of self-respect. Additionally, she found herself wanting to do more unlike her past self who felt like she needed to do more. There was a difference.
Strangely, Leon happened to take part of this…relationship. Whenever Tsuna would be complaining or behave as her pitiful and useless self, she would wake up the next day with a surprise. Urine, dead skin, half-eaten insects, anything from the chameleon that grossed her out would be found on her or her bed. It was like training, she noticed, and Reborn was her mentor and Leon was the one who gave out punishment. It was oddly well-sought.
What's more, Reborn was supportive. Of course, that was indirect because so far she hadn't seen Reborn intentionally express kindness to her. It was as if the name-calling and the bullying was merely a cover-up so that it wouldn't be too apparent—his support, that is. But that was her thinking wishfully. Reborn was a peculiar man who cannot be understood easily; it might take years to get through that blockage of mysteries. So therefore Reborn might or might not be helping her out along the way other than her academics.
Because he was too much of a mystery.
He was a sly, conniving, devious man. There was always a trick in his sleeve, an evil trick. He never failed making her stomach churn with discomfort, whether it may be his no-nonsense remarks or the way the corner of his lips curl into a smirk. His graceful movements and his strong confidence—what more is it to him that makes him the exact opposite of her? The man was utterly amazing, and she was infuriated by him.
Were all foreigners like this?
Not only that, but he's one hell of a fighter, cooker, flatterer, dancer, and seducer. And tutor. And he has a lot of money.
And a chameleon.
Suave, handsome, and charming—what's more to him?
And Reborn? What kind of name was that?
Tsuna was the kind of person who wouldn't expect more in life because that's all she would go through: school, college, job, and deathbed. That's it. Once you die, it's all over. And she can't wait to die. Unlike the daughter, the mother and father had big hopes and dreams. They believed that some ironies were caused by fate, and in Tsuna's case, Reborn was her irony.
There's got to be some mistake.
And him being someone so…so perfect? That was a mistake!
So why she, the most imperfect person in the whole wide world, have the most perfect person in the whole wide world with her? And bother talking to her? What benefit would he receive just wasting air on her? No, Tsuna is not trying to degrade herself, but making a logical exemption. Because seeing that the population won't come to her, it just contradicts everything when he does come to her.
"A-ano, Kozato-san," Tsuna called out.
He turned and nodded.
"I have something to give to you. I'm sorry, I've been meaning to give it to you for quite a while but somehow I forget every time," she said sheepishly.
He nodded again.
She wrung her hands and placed them onto the pocket of her jacket. "So, here—"
Before she had the moment to present Enma's ring, she was interrupted when someone exclaimed, "Takeshi's gonna go suicide! On the rooftop!"
Immediately, all the students went hysterical and pushed their way out the door and to the roof. Tsuna's eyes widened and turned her attention back to Enma. He was gone.
"Why does he always disappear!" she hissed under her breath and ran for the door.
Running up the stairs, Tsuna couldn't believe what was happening, and yet at the same time it seemed realistic enough to believe. But still…Yamamoto doing it again? She was sure that he wasn't going to! Ever! He was supposed to move on…to move on with his friends and fans, not clinging onto the anxiety and suffering! That's what all baseball-stars and popular boys and cheery lovable ones do—they don't have to look back because they don't have anything to look back to. They are so occupied with the enjoyable things given to them in life that there is no time to. He should have moved on. He should have!
Why was he doing it again?
There was an unpleasant churn in her stomach, a guilt feeling that caused her to pale. It was as if she was responsible for his current actions, and now she has to be the one who stops him.
But why? What did she do?
There was a throng of students all gathered before the fence. She heard their voices, all pleading and crying out—only for Yamamoto. They were trying desperately to convince him not to do it, and somehow Tsuna knew that it was all pointless. It was because none of them truly knew how it feels…and it was as if they were impersonating what deep sadness he felt. Feeble attempts on persuading someone who cannot be persuaded by meaningless words. Nevertheless, their words reflected him like a mirror and sunlight.
She ran into the swarm and shoved her way towards to the fence, and when succeeded, she discovered him to be standing the same spot where he stood on the day of his first suicide attempt.
"Y-Yamamoto!" she screamed at the boy who had his back at her. Alerted by her shout, he turned around and faced her with simple ease. It was like a complication for her to stomach. How can he be so calm…?
"Tsunayoshi-san, hey," he said, putting on a forced grin. "It looks like I'm doing it again. Kind of funny, huh?"
"Wh-what?" she murmured, swallowing.
"I guess it's time I end this hell on earth," he muttered, the cheerful façade instantly gone.
Her eyes widened. "A-Are you crazy?" she cried, tears lodging in her throat.
"I probably am. I'm not sure. But…"—he glanced down with solemn eyes, and a faint smile imprinted upon his face— "what other options do I have? What is the point of all this? What other motives do I posses to keep me living on?"
She shook her head. "No. N-no! You—you don't have to do this, p-please!" Her shoulders shook as streams cascaded down her reddened cheeks.
"Why don't I?" he said softly, almost as a whisper but audible enough for her to hear.
"Because it's stupid!"
"Why is it?"
She didn't detect the firmness in his voice. She just answered with a firmer voice. "Because you have a whole life waiting ahead of you. If you quit now—you better not quit right now! Life is not meaningless unless you throw it away. You have—you have things you cannot loose!" she insisted. "I'm begging you. Don't loose your family, your friends, everyone you love. Even baseball!"
"Even when it rejects me?" he chuckled without humor. "Look at my arm. I told you before, I trained and trained, but there was no change. I even went far as to break my arm. Look at me, I'm a mess. So what if I loose everything? So what if everyone's sad? What would I care when I'm dead?"
"We love you, Takeshi-san! Please live! Please!"
But the boy wasn't listening to the frantic pleas. His focus was entirely on Tsuna, waiting for her response. It was as if she was the only one on this roof while the loud crying went mute to his ears and her voice was the only thing that allowed him to hear.
She rubbed her cheeks and raised her head, and it happened. When Tsuna's wet eyes met with Yamamoto's empty eyes, she saw a familiar flare in that gaze of his. It was small and weak, but it was still flickering despite the damp and cold furnace it settles upon. And by that flare, there was something feeding it to keep it strong. What makes it strong? Why is it strong?
Why is that fire so familiar?
It's the same fire that Tsuna had in her own eyes.
Despite the stubbornness and the determination that Tsuna strived from to continue, her hope was slowly diminishing. She thought that even though she had a reason to pull the trigger and die, to loose everything she held precious, she was not to loose the war. But despite the courage that brings her to another battle, the outcomes were two to seventy-thousand. She was going to loose no matter what.
She was going to loose all that hope. That flare in her eyes was going to vanish. Suicide is going to be more welcoming to her. She was going to loose the battle, the war.
And yet she was still standing.
There she was, standing before the boy who was attempting on his second suicide, watching the flare wan along with his life. The boy who had it all discovered that he didn't and couldn't handle the truth. He didn't care about anything, and didn't want to suffer another day. And that was exactly how she was.
Her fire was about to vanish if it weren't for Reborn.
"Baseball is not the center of your world. You have to look deeper than that. There is so much more to life than just baseball!
When there was a man standing by her house, she was puzzled of why would a handsome Italian be waiting for her. She still didn't know why he did so and why it was to be her. But Tsuna was ever so grateful that he did.
"And even though you say that you don't care about the people around you mourning after your death, you will care one way or the other. Even if you won't live to regret it, it will haunt you wherever you go.
In the beginning, it had been so strange. This stranger just waltzed into her life as if he owned the place, deceived her mother with his charisma, bullied her, and let his reptile roam free all over her bed. Though she did not appreciate the dead skin on her sheets, she did appreciate their company, even if she was unaware of the fact.
"It's because the time of being with the people around you will probably be the most precious thing you would ever have. It's because those people helped you build the person who you are, who we love to see and hear everyday.
In the beginning, he proved to be someone who she detested openly. He teased her, abused her, made her cry, and sometimes frightened her, but it was all worth it because of the result: She had grown stronger than before.
She didn't even realize what impression Reborn made on her. It was just a few weeks and already Tsuna couldn't imagine her life without him. And without Leon! It was as if she knew them all her life. Already, they became her life. How would her life be steady without the man and the lizard?
"You might not care how much if an impact it would be for us when you're gone, but everyone will be sad. I'll be sad. We all will be sad because we lost someone who we loved.
It was because Reborn was there for her. He put things straight for her. He guided her out of the maze that she was lost in. It was because he was there for her, and cured her loneliness.
"And you might not realize this, but wherever you go, you will always be lost without someone helping you guide the way." Tsuna, her eyes continuing to pour, held her hand to the boy and smiled. "Why you do this is because you feel as if you have no hope, finding no point in life. But I tell you, that's not true because there is always hope. You just got to pull through and find yourself who you are. I'm willing to support you."
"What are you saying?" he asked.
"I'm saying…will you let me be your friend?"
Imagining a world without them…
…would be unbearable.
Tsuna's outstretched hand was waiting for Yamamoto's, but he did not grab hers. Instead, he said, "Then why did you continuously avoid me?"
Her eyes widened from the revelation as her hand declined in midair. Shocked by the words that were spoken, Tsuna repeated them inwardly.
'Then why did you continuously avoid me?'
Was she avoiding him?
Was…was she really what caused Yamamoto to take this path of ending his life?
Was it she?
How…When? How did she avoid him? When did she do it? And why didn't she see that at all?
'U-um, Tsunayoshi-san? Well, I wanted to tell you—relating to what happened to, uh, yesterday, you know?'
She has been avoiding him. She neglected his need of comfort, the need of someone to listen to him, and she turned him down every time. And when she did spare him the moment, she didn't seek sympathy to give to the boy; instead she perceived things to be her own selfish case: Being closer to Enma was what she was always aiming for. Enma and Tsuna had some things in common, so she took it as if they could only understand each other, but even so, why didn't she spare a chance with Yamamoto?
Yamamoto Takeshi: the boy who has everything. Sawada Tsuna: the girl who has none. But at least she does have something: the familiarity of a bond—Reborn gave that to her. He had given her a sense of what might seem like vague friendship, but friendship nevertheless. And that kept her going.
But Yamamoto? Despite the popularity, fame, personality, and looks, he probably never experienced that attachment that Tsuna had. And every time he confronted her, she shunned him.
He doesn't need anything else. He's too spoiled. He never knew how it felt to be Dame-Tsuna. To be alone. To be weak. To be useless. He never knew.
That's what she always believed, and never did give a vice-versa perspective. What did she knew about Yamamoto? He might not be that awesome baseball-star bathing in victory and glory. He might be in pain and had been sheltering that pain. He probably doesn't even realize it. He didn't confide to anyone else and could be dying because of it.
And she turned her back on him.
But she never saw herself to be someone who can turn his life around. She always saw herself to be someone who can receive the help to turn her life around. After all, what power does she possess to save someone? However, perhaps the comfort she can give can save him. And she never took the chance because she believed that he moved on and wanted to remain oblivious to it, but it still clung onto him like a parasite, sucking away his hopes.
Why did she not let Yamamoto in? Why did she turn away from him? Why avoid him? Why was she aggravated when it seemed that he was in need of something? Why couldn't she care?
"Because…because I was unsure myself... I was afraid to let people in my life, even though I tried so hard to break that barrier," she said, her voice wavering because of the secured confession. "I was jealous of you because you easily allowed people in, but I sheltered my isolation. And th-throughout I-I have detested being alone…but never did I go any further than simple kind deeds. I was jealous of you because you go further and lead! I didn't. And I was jealous of you because you had everything you needed: friends, popularity, love…I'm foreign to all that. I believed that you didn't deserve anything else…that you were too pigheaded, so I walked away from you. But I was oblivious to what you really needed.
"I….I'm sorry…Yamamoto…I really am. I shouldn't have left you. I should have acknowledged you! I should have, just as I want everyone else to acknowledge me as Tsuna, not Dame-Tsuna." The tears flowed more and more. "I-I-I…I want this to never happen now that I r-realize my big mistake. If I could go back in time and change that, I would do it. But I know that a miracle like that is improbable. So th-there's no turning back. And I know what to do now, Yamamoto. I really do.
She raised her head and smiled. "Like I said before, why you do this is because you feel as if you have no hope, finding no point in life. But I tell you, that's not true because there is always hope. You just got to pull through and find yourself who you are. I'm willing to support you. And for so long have I anticipated a day where I would have a true friend and have that sort of hope, just waiting and wondering. But not anymore." The tears stopped. "I want to be your friend, so will you let me?"
Reborn broke that barrier, and so now she will break Yamamoto's.
"Somehow, I felt relieved after you said that. As if this massive weight had been lifted off of my shoulders, no longer bounding me." His hand met her hand as he grinned what seemed be like the last thing he had done in a century. "I think that was the cure I needed."
It was a remarkable feeling when their hands touched and grasped hold. Instantly, Tsuna felt warm, felt so protected and strong and content. Was it the long last confession that she finally let out? Was it the knowledge that she eventually saved and befriended someone? Was it that Reborn had saved her? For all she cares, it could be all three.
When she looked into his eyes, they were blazing. No longer was the furnace cold and dreary, but cheerful and pleasant. Like how Yamamoto should really look like. And she wondered if her eyes looked like that as well.
And then something terribly ironic happened: the two fell off the roof.
Yamamoto's heels slipped off the smooth concrete and staggered backwards, falling. And with his tight grip on her hand, Tsuna was falling with him.
This was terribly familiar, in Yamamoto's perspective, excluding the rounds of gasps from the audience, of course.
Tsuna, on the other hand, wasn't registering the fact that she wasn't in contact with ground anymore. Knowing that Yamamoto had accepted her invitation, she was happy—she has a new friend to cherish from now on and that very thought had fogged her mind. Though, she was vaguely aware that something was wrong.
Belatedly, she was awakened from her stupor by the screaming and cries that erupted from the roof.
She blinked slowly and saw Yamamoto's widened eyes, glinting in shock. That was the last thing she saw before she closed her eyes tightly.
Tsuna grunted as her body was tumbling through brittle yet sharp branches that snapped during her fall. A tear on the skin of her arm was made when it flung hardly against the rough bark, and she let out a wail of pain. It went on, the tumbling and the jabs of pain making more additions of bruises. Suddenly, the heel of her foot hit hard on what might seem as a very thick branch, and then her ankle was lodged in between the pits.
The next thing she knew, she was dangling upside down, the blood rushing to her head.
"L-Looks like the—the tree caught our fall, ne?" breathed Yamamoto's voice. He didn't sound far, so Tsuna tried twisting her torso to see where he was, but there was an intense strain somewhere on her body that prevented her from going any further.
"Y-Yama—Yamamoto?" Tsuna whispered. She realized that she was unable to be any louder than a hushed voice, a flip-flop of worry in her stomach was born, and then later more ache.
"Tsunayoshi, gosh, you took the harder way to get down, didn't you?"
She would have sighed from relief if she could. Hearing the hint of humor in his voice made things easier for her. "Can you get me down?" she whispered some more.
"I'll try—crap! My arm!"
"Y-Yamamoto?" she whimpered with concern. What was wrong?
Something had loosened around her caught ankle, and Tsuna was falling. She lost consciousness by the time her body met with ground.