Music: Sayoko (VOCALOID)
Unbeta'd (completely, utterly raw – except for the first part, but still). Feel free to comment on any errors of any sort.
Thank you so much for all the reviews/favorites/alerts; I can't put into words how much every single one of them made my day /gross sobbing
NOTE : THIS CHAPTER GOES DOWNHILL AS YOU READ ON. EYE-ROLLING, IRRITATION AND SPIT-TAKES MAY ENSUE. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
EDIT (08/04/2012): The last part of this chapter is being moved to the next chapter because I can't even write Chapter II if I leave it here. To everyone who read this update before this edit was posted, you got a preview. To all newcomers, don't worry about it.
Ab initio | From the beginning
Tsuna woke, panting, to a room half-dyed yellow with the sunlight streaming in from the window. So he was in the Sawada residence; his bedroom, to be exact. What am I doing here? he thought. Last time I checked, I was in Italy with the Family, preparing to go to that meeting…and then… the brunet racked his brains, trying to rationalize his situation leading up to his current situation.
And then…and then… he couldn't remember anything. Why his mind hurt like hell, how he was in his bedroom in Sawada residence-which he knew no longer existed, for he had demolished it himself to erase any possible information Byakuran could obtain from it-what had happened after he left for the meeting with Byakuran.
He knew that this wasn't amnesia. Of course it wasn't. Mafia Bosses weren't supposed to get amnesia. Just in case though, he tried every trick that Reborn had taught him to counter this crisis - well, any moment that involved him forgetting one thing or another-and it didn't work. None of them helped. They always worked before, Tsuna thought. Unless…
Could this be Byakuran's doing? He could have used a Rank A illusionist to trick me into believing that I'm back in my old house again, but…wait. No. It'd be such a disgrace to Reborn's tutoring if I couldn't throw one off. The brunet nostalgically smiled to himself at that thought. Damn Arcobaleno would probably beat me black and blue for not having the capacity to see through one. But if the others were here, we'd be able to straighten out this situation. If I can find Reborn and the others, I'll be set; they've got to be somewhere.
For now, I'll manage - no, I must manage. Vongola needs a strong pillar that others can lean on, not the other way around.
Gazing once more upon the bedroom, the brunet felt a twinge of unease spasm through his mind. It seemed so…ordinary. So commonplace. So mundane. It was as if he had been uprooted from the ambush site and put into a reconstruction-or illusion, of course-of his former home, with all the litter and trivial things that he took for granted when he was a teenager.
It was probably one of Byakuran's little games, Tsuna mused. And if Byakuran was going to un-fucking-necessarily drop him into the world of his past just for his private enjoyment, then he - Vongola Decimo - might as well just act like his past self.
Innocent, sweet, and kind.
Not to mention stupid. Useless. Wimp.
Herbivore, as Kyoya kept calling him before he actually understood his Cloud Guardian's true meaning with that particular string of appellations.
The brunet shook his head in a mixture of mild amusement and revulsion, and then started clawing at the remnants of his memories, slowly managing to piece together his past self's routine; at least what he could remember from living the good old life in Namimori-it felt more than ten years, didn't it? a snide voice - his sardonic consciousness - sibilantly whispered inside his mind. Because of all those Mafia dealings and continuously dancing on the edge of life and death as Vongola Decimo.
Shut up, he absently replied as he made his way over to the bathroom. But when he got there, Tsuna just stared at the mirror with barely concealed shock, barely restraining himself from breaking the mirror into numerous glinting shards. That…that face. Not even a rank A illusionist could fabricate that kind of accurate detail, down to the last bruise and scar.
Byakuran couldn't pull this off-it couldn't be his doing. The possibility, the chance that the bastard was responsible for this, was slim. That is, if it actually existed. Even with the Mafia's insane history of achieving the impossible, the Millefiore Famiglia's vast intelligence network didn't exist back when he was thirteen, which meant that the illusionists would have had to rely on existing photos taken by Vongola Intelligence. Tsuna himself had already gone through all those images, and there was no way that Byakuran could have guessed from those blurry images that there would be two thin scrapes, located under his hair, from where he tripped the day before. Which meant-
No, that possibility didn't make sense. Both the Ten-Year-Bazooka, which couldn't have achieved this by itself, and Bovino Famiglia, the only Family capable of modifying it, had been destroyed and compromised, respectively, during the bloody long Mafia war!
Tsuna didn't like this at all.
What the hell is going on?
Why do I look like I'm thirteen again?
The day was already starting bad enough with me looking ten years younger, Tsuna sarcastically thought to himself as he contemplated his new findings. It couldn't get worse. After all, it was Namimori-a small, cheerful town-not some major city like Tokyo or Palermo. Abnormal events were a big no-no in regards to the Disciplinary Committee. And even if something did happen, Kyoya would just go and beat the shit out of the poor culprit with a big, nastyass stick. Tonfa. Whatever it was called.
A memory fragment popped into his mind, unbidden, even as he slightly shook his head, faintly smiling, in response to that thought. Expect the worse-case scenario to happen, Reborn had once said, because you never know what unknown factor will play into the scene. In his case, the worst case scenario could involve Byakuran showing up and literally blasting Namimori off Earth. Even if the chances of the white-haired bastard turning his world upside down and landing him in this were almost nil, it wouldn't hurt to be on the cautious side. It was something of that sort, really. Anything or anyone meaning to harm - disfigure, desecrate, mutilate, annihilate - him.
Actually, almost anyone, the brunet amended as an after thought. Family wouldn't harm its members, except in those cheesy soap operas that his mother was all too fond of obsessing over. Real life wasn't a soap opera. It wasn't some parody of Hamlet (1) or even Oedipus Rex (2), and he wasn't going to have both family and Family be destroyed from within, by its own kin. Possibly by him. Don Vongola.
Tsuna shook his head again. Sure, other Families had a power issue, but he was pretty sure that he had led Vongola and its allies well back to an age so much like Primo's, yet an age containing the distinctive signature of Vongola Decimo's work.
Yes. Millefiore Famiglia…anyone, really…could go after him again for all he cared, but they wouldn't succeed. The bonds he had forged with his Family and family were too strong for some upstart to easily break.
Mothers didn't normally go after their sons with a big sharp kitchen knife. Heck, it wasn't even common at all. And it was certainly a huge anomaly in regards to a Japanese woman named Nana Sawada, the modern day's model of Yamato Nadeshiko.
"Mom, what's wrong?" Tsuna asked worriedly as he narrowly dodged a clumsy swipe, via kitchen knife. "It's me, your son! Tsu-kun!" Also known as Dame-Tsuna, the brunet mentally added to himself - wait. He forgot that he was supposed to be no-good. Whoops. He gritted his teeth for a second, irritated at his slight mistake, then forced his body to relax. It wouldn't do to hint that something was wrong, even though he knew that the simplest of mistakes could trigger an undesired butterfly effect.
"You" –shit. She had gotten her hands on the rest of the kitchen utensils, and oh lord, he really didn't like the look of that particular one– "How could you do such a thing?" she snarled as she attempted to surreptitiously wipe away a few stray tears, and threw a two-tined carving fork at her son, which hit the other wall point first. It stuck there, vibrating fiercely.
"I didn't do anything, mom," he replied. It took all of his training to not react and shiftily glance at Mother, who – ideally – was supposed to be oblivious to the family's Mafia-related activities. If there was one thing both he and his father actually agreed on, despite their numerous shortcomings, it was to never, ever, let Nana know about the Vongola Famiglia and/or the family's connection to the Mafia. Father would murder him if he let Nana know about the Mafia, and vice versa. It was practically sacrilege.
So he backed up to a safe distance and gazed thoughtfully at his mother, trying to read her and get a sense of the current situation, but it was somewhat odd that his Hyper Intuition couldn't pick up just a tiny bit of information that could immensely help him in one way or another. He didn't have long to ponder on this fact, since Nana came after him with the kitchen knife…again.
Round two: FIGHT!
Figuring that this defensive mode wasn't doing him any good, Tsuna punched a window, causing glass shards - some of them sprinkled with blood - to fly everywhere in a glorious tinkle of light, took the drawer and dumped the rest of the kitchen utensils out of the crude opening and onto the carefully tended lawn. At least mother couldn't get her hands on anything remotely dangerous now, utensil-related.
Well. That left the pans and skillets as possible Objects of Flying Destruction or Objects of Multiple Bashings.
Too bad he couldn't get his hands on them. Nana had already replaced a bent out-of-shape spatula with a wok, with many more pots and pans lying around her feet, and her grim face told him that she wasn't going to relinquish any of those weapons to him without a good fight anytime soon. The angry tears…he didn't know for sure, though he had a good hunch about its meaning. If those clues didn't convey her silent, repeating message, the murderous-yet-mournful glint in her eye and the mouthed mantra probably told him the same thing as did the tears in two short, simple sentences. You betrayed us all. You will die because of this.
He didn't get the full meaning, Tsuna shrugged philosophically, resigning himself to the psychopathic idiosyncrasy of his mother, but he knew this would have to end soon; he needed to figure out why this whole situation was so fucked up - Byakuran was only one reason at this point; not the most logical reason, but certainly a possible explanation - and get in contact with his Guardians and Reborn before something bad happened.
Like the nasty slashes on his cheek and arm that he received by being too immersed in his thoughts. His head was still attached his neck only by sheer luck. Tsuna winced in pain, using the back of his hand to wipe the blood off, even though he knew that it'd still drip down his face. He ignored the trickling sensation, making sure that there was a respectable distance between him and his mother again. She could have chopped my head off. Keep your guard up, Tsuna or you'll never live long enough to get to the bottom of this situation, he thought, inwardly berating himself for his lack of concentration. There was a chance that the Nana Sawada in front of him wasn't truly his mother. Remember Byakuran - this could be all his doing.
Remember true dying will, Reborn had said over and over again when he was a teenager, reinforcing this messages with enough drop-kicks, punches to the head, and even groin shots to make a normal person keel over with internal blood loss.
He chuckled wryly and then blocked a sudden overhead swing with a cutting board, and then threw said board out of the window. It was of no use now - the kitchen knife was so firmly embedded into it that he might as well hack away at the board. I'm chickening out over something trivial. This…this is sad.
Yup, he needed to man up.
"Mom, snap out of it," Tsuna said, desperate to buy a few moments of time - anything - as he searched for a blunt weapon. "You're never like this before."
Again, he silently heard her litany, even as he concentrated navigating through the endless walls of appliances. It was seemingly endless, seemingly despairing, but he didn't get why she was trying to convey that message to him. But Tsuna pushed that away from his thoughts when he saw a huge ladle lying innocently near the table. It would have to do, even though he knew that there were better makeshift weapons.
He threw it at her temple, hoping that he didn't apply too much force to cause too much damage, and sighed in relief as it hit.
And then bounced off. Shit. Shitshitshitshitshit. Mind going overdrive, Tsuna finally decided that enough was enough and then jumped out the window. His T-shirt got caught on one of the sharp edges as he vaulted out and away, but he used more force, pulled through, and started running as fast as he could, leaping over the debris of shards and appliances to find Gokudera – any familiar face, really – and escape from his maniac of a mother. But Gokudera was the best at handling these abnormal situations.
The steady, constant pitter patter of his feet while he ran away from that disturbing scene calmed him a bit, and allowed him to think. Something was off though, but he couldn't figure it out. For one thing, he was tiring quickly. Which was insanely odd, since he regularly worked out to stay in fighting shape. Reborn wouldn't allow any excuses, even if he was snowballed with piles of red tape that came with being the Don of the Vongola Famiglia.
…Reborn. Something also felt missing in his memories. It was a true gut feeling.
Come to think of it, wasn't there a lynch pin that was key to this? The only problem was that he had absolutely no idea. What, where, why, when, who, how. There was nothing for him to work with.
His thoughts ran into a standstill when he bumped into someone. Blinking in confusion, he looked down – wait, what happened to his growth spurt? – and back up and found Kyoko gazing at him with barely concealed disgust – something that was definitely not in character for her – before muttering something almost indecipherable (Idiot, blockhead Tsuna) and stalking off in the other direction. Wasn't the reason he had fallen for her in his middle school days because of her kindness?
And honestly – why did she look ten years younger?
Maybe the better question was why his whole world had seemed to go back ten years.
There's no such thing as working time machines. At least, not at the moment. The Bovino Famiglia's Ten-Year-Bazooka was annihilated. Shoichi may have created a machine to cement the arrival of the past-selves, but the machine only works with people coming into the future.
He knew that doggedly clinging to a belief was harmful, but how everything was turning out…he could only trust his facts. Knowledge and intuition. Both told him that there was maybe a third, unknown factor into this – for Byakuran certainly did not have extremely advanced technology, and what would he gain by doing this - if this was all his doing?
Tsuna continued walking, hands in his pockets and eyes on the ground, unaware of the looks of deep loathing and the intentional jabs (which the brunet somehow managed to avoid) other people were shooting him, and made his way up to the isolated temple. There he sat on the temple steps, attempting to make sense of the whole confusing issue.
He originally was headed for that meeting with Byakuran. The meeting where their double agent, Irie Shoichi, would shoot him with a special bullet, and the place when the Vongola's counterattack would start. Only he didn't know if that had happened due to a lack of memory. The next thing he knew, he was back in Namimori, the lovely place where destroyed buildings were still standing, where dead people were miraculously alive, where everything seemed to reverse back in time by ten years, including himself. The only thing he retained was his mind – and did he really retain it?
Not to mention that display by his mother and Kyoko, and the probing stares he had felt and stray punches he had narrowly avoided from the passerby when he made his way up to the temple. Last time he checked, his reputation was scintillating in the civilian world (posing as a philanthropist, of all things) and he was both feared and respected in the Underworld – even after Millefiore's rise.
But it was just too perplexing. Nothing lined up like it should have, and try as he might, his Hyper Intuition still wasn't aiding him. It was so frustrating, for once. Vongola VS Millefiore situation excluded. Just-
Think, Tsuna, the rational side of him helpfully said. You've come this far in so many areas – surely it's not gone to waste.
The people who want to do me…do Vongola and its allies…most harm are the Millefiore Famiglia and its allies. Victims of Vongola's justice. People negatively affected by my decisions. All compromised Families aren't out of the question, either, but they are too weak to create any damage. Not unless they have an ace up their sleeve. He took a deep breath. In, out, continue-
Byakuran has the Sky Mare Ring, part of the third set in the Tri-Ni-Sette. Just as the Vongola Rings are Y and the Arcobaleno Pacifiers are Z, the Mare Rings are X. Hereditary traits, alternate dimensions.
As much as he hated to admit it, there was absolutely no way Byakuran could have done this, hands supposedly create the past Namimori would require either a carefully made hologram – which didn't seem likely – or dozens of Rank A or higher illusionists, and to make everyone unanimously against him would require careful, forbidden tinkering with the mind.
Or a possession bullet, of course.
…or they could all be puppets. Ginger Bread was a perfect example.
Still, none of the possible solutions explained how even he had the appearance of his past self. It was reasonable to say that Shoichi's machine malfunctioned and the bullet's effects wore off, which was somehow why he was in the past with his former self's body, but that didn't explain the hatred or the bewildering actions. For one thing, going back into the past usually left one with his or her own body, and certainly his or her own strength.
And he knew for a fact that Shoichi's inventions rarely malfunctioned, and never to some sort of extent like this.
Nothing fit in.
He had to accept that fact and hold on to his musings for a bit longer before he could gather more information, find his Guardians, and get out of his situation. Sighing, Tsuna stood up, hands on denim jeans, and took another deep breath before making his way down the steps.
It was too tempting to put the blame of this situation on a machine malfunction, but maybe…
Maybe if it really was a malfunction, he'd be out of this perplexing hellhole after a while.
1) Hamlet is a Shakespearean tragedy, in which the protagonist, Hamlet, finds that his father died because of his now step-father, Claudius, murdered him and then married his mother. It takes five acts for him to kill Claudius-since this is a tragic play, most of the major characters die-when he could have stabbed Claudius in the back at the end of Act I – or was it Act II or Act III? [Correct me if I'm wrong; I haven't reread Hamlet in…four years?]
2) Oedipus Rex : "Kill the king, fuck the queen." I think that sums the plot up pretty well.
OH MY GOD SOMEONE NEEDS TO STAB ME IN THE GUT OR SOMETHING. ლ(OдO)ლ
Slowly shat the rest of this out after receiving few really, really lovely reviews and PMs telling me to get moving and after reading Internationally Wanted Criminals – BlackCatHikari (go check it out; it's extremely well written!). One of the reasons I never updated throughout the year was my loss of interest in the KHR fandom. That, and well…life. I have no regrets.
You can probably tell when I wrote each part with the slight difference in style and diction. The first part was written and beta'd a bit by Anonymouse123e after I posted the EE prologue. And then it just went bits and crappy pieces into the next year. I don't think I managed to capture the whole wariness and confusion that Tsuna's facing right now because he was kind of copypasta'd into where we are right now (war zone to normal day OTL), and I'm not proud of the first chapters of all of my stories because of their somewhat flowery language and other factors, but hey – I've matured, both as a writer/artist (maybe more as an artist than as a writer) and as a person. Hopefully. That's always something to be happy about, anyhow.
The action scene sucks. It's what one gets when the notion of a cool fight with kitchen materials clashes with the age-old fact that fighting is all about not being defeated or dying. It has nothing to do with cool, flashy moves. Even if we love those combo attacks that mangakas seem to misuse/abuse nowadays.
My apologies to anyone who wanted to see Reborn in this chapter. Honestly, I wanted to have him interact with Tsuna, but it wouldn't fit in. He'll definitely appear in Chapter II…if I get to writing it sometime, LOL.
Hope you all enjoyed this belated update! Opinions? Thoughts? Feedback?
/crawls and dies in a corner
PS : Would anyone be so kind to recommend me any genuinely well written fanfiction? To be quite honest, I haven't excruciatingly checked the archive in quite a long time. I'm just looking for a good read.