Chapter 17: Eyes Clouded Over

Young Kyoya, even as he strolled through the calm and elegant garden of the Vongola mansion, looked as irritated as ever. He did enjoy the peace, ordinarily, but it was never sufficient to appease his frustration. His destination, however, was not the garden itself. He went towards the familiar sound of birds.

Finely wrought birdcages came into view, but most of them were empty. Birds instead rested on top of them, or on tree branches, or in the fresh grass. Kyoya was anything but surprised at seeing his dark-haired mother, whom he had been searching for, stooped there.

Amelia noticed him almost immediately and smiled her normal gentle smile. He approached her, ignoring the flurry of birds flying out of his path.

"Good morning, Kyoya," Amelia greeted warmly. Looking closely at the sullen boy, she added, "Did you get into a fight again?"

"They were misbehaving," said Kyoya. He said no more, but Amelia easily guessed he meant Hayato and Ryohei, the most common recipients of his discipline.

She still smiled, but remarked, "Well, I would like it if you fought less, Kyoya. It isn't proper of a boy like you."

"But they're herbivores."

Again, observing him, Amelia sighed inaudibly. The resemblance between father and son was uncanny. She paused to think, while Kyoya watched her movements steadily.

"So," Amelia began slowly, "you think that carnivores are supposed to discipline herbivores?" The boy nodded.

So she reasoned quietly, "Well, I think there might be more to it than that. Perhaps you are still a little to young, but discipline is not just punishment. Parents discipline their children so that they learn right from wrong, so that they will avoid greater pain in the future. Discipline is also about protecting… Like a king, who punishes people and protects them too."

Kyoya said nothing in response. He understood what his mother was trying to say. And it was logical, but it didn't seem quite right to him. Amelia smiled, however.

"I have an idea," she said. She lifted her hands at Kyoya's eye level, and for the first time he noticed that there was something in them. It was yellow and puffy, and though he couldn't distinguish it too well, it looked like a bird.

"When I came by this morning, I found this chick here, with a broken wing," Amelia explained. "I bandaged up its wing, but it won't be able to survive on its own. Kyoya, I want you to take care of it."

Kyoya stared skeptically at the bird, which rustled and chirped obliviously. He looked at his mother, who still smiled. She wanted him to take it. So he reached out a hand and picked up the yellow bird. It was startled, then seemed to look at him happily. He stared back at it impassively.

Amelia laughed quietly. "That's good, then," she said. "How about we name him?"

Kyoya didn't reply, but his mother interpreted it as an okay.

"Well… You know, your father is named after the lark," she pondered, "Alaudidae. What do you think of a Japanese name, then? Hibari, for lark?"

The boy stayed silent and stared at the bird. But the little yellow creature didn't let him think: it started parroting, "Hibari! Hibari!" It surprised Amelia, and irritated Kyoya.

"Hibird," he stated firmly.

"Hibird?" Amelia repeated, eyes full of laughter. "That's a strange name, but a good one nonetheless. Take good care of Hibird for me." Then, after a pause, she reached out and patted Kyoya on the head.

Kyoya sat down and gently laid the newly-named Hibird on the grass. The bird didn't stop chirping 'Hibari', but he ignored it. He watched his mother as she went back to tending the birds in the garden. Her eyes, half-Japanese and half-European, were as dark and compassionate as Alaude's were cold-blue and fierce.

While he valued his father's strength, he respected his mother's way with words. He didn't bother trying to imitate it, though. He didn't need words to tell the other children to behave. (His father needed only a glance to achieve that.) But still he deeply respected his mother for it.

And her way of understanding the few words that he spoke.

So Kyoya sat there for the twenty minutes, though it felt much longer than that to him. When Amelia finally finished and asked him if he was hungry, they both left to eat lunch with the rest of their family.

xxx

Kyoya stood on the roof of the Namimori Elementary School building, glaring at what seemed like nothing but air. It was well past the end of classes, and the sun was already almost down. At that time of day the school yard was desolate.

He was not supposed to be there, naturally, but there weren't many around to enforce the rules. Even if there were, however, many of the teachers and faculty knew about Kyoya's rebellious streak. If they tried to stop him, he thought, he would just plow through them.

But it was thankfully peaceful. Any sort of disturbance or whining of herbivores might have set him off.

The roof was only as high up as the three-story school, but he didn't mind.

It was quiet, and empty, and that was what mattered.

With an almost inaudible sigh he rested his arms on the fence surrounding the roof. He closed his eyes and immediately felt sleepy. He slipped into a half-dreaming state of mind.

Vaguely and absently, he seemed to see the school in his mind's eye. Then their house, then what seemed to be Italy. It was a blurred shadow of the past. Some of the herbivores were there. Then he saw the mansion, and then the garden. And then…

Kyoya jerked and opened his eyes, with a lingering moment of stinging nostalgia in his heart. He nearly leapt back from the fence and cursed.

"Damn dreams," he muttered lowly. He had the urge to add, 'I'll bite you to death', but knew how stupid it would be to do so. So he seethed quietly.

Not much time had passed, and light was still visible over the horizon, so Kyoya decided to stay. He leaned back on the fence taking care not to fall asleep. After a few minutes he heard the shrill call of 'Hibari! Hibari!' followed by the appearance of the little yellow frame of Hibird. Hibird simply landed on the fence, and then nested in Kyoya's hair. He ignored it.

It wasn't until at least a half-hour later that he began to hear signs of a disturbance nearby. There were footsteps and voices in the distance, but he couldn't make them out clearly until they came to school gates.

Tsuna was there, panting hard. With him were Takeshi and Ryohei.

"Kyoya!" Ryohei bellowed at the top of his lungs, causing both Tsuna and Takeshi to cringe and cover their ears. "Come down here, to the extreeeme!"

Kyoya merely glared at them.

"Aaah, sorry about that," Takeshi called out. "It's just that the adults were getting worried. You should probably head home with us, Kyoya. It's getting late, huh?"

This time Kyoya responded, "Leave," then turned his back on them.

The three boys discussed the matter amongst themselves, though Kyoya couldn't hear what they were saying. Finally, it seemed that they would not return empty-handed, and Ryohei led the charge into the school building, headed for the roof.

Kyoya glared darkly at the door, and when Ryohei burst through, Takeshi behind him and Tsuna still stumbling up the stairs, he felt a burning urge to punch something… or someone.

"Kyoya!" Ryohei yelled, despite the close distance. "If you won't come with us, then I'll just have to drag you!"

"Come on, Ryohei, calm down," Takeshi said with a laugh. Stepping in front of Ryohei, he said, "Kyoya, the adults are really worried, you know. And it's getting late…" His voice faded away as he watched Kyoya's eyes narrow. Before he could properly react, Ryohei ran forward.

With his right fist, Kyoya slammed Ryohei in the temple. When Takeshi ran to try to stop him, he swung his left fist, which the young athlete narrowly dodged. As though they never learn, thought Kyoya, Tsuna rushed towards them with a high-pitched scream. Kyoya instinctively swung at Tsuna as well, but the hit never connected.

A strong hand pulled Tsuna backwards and onto the ground, and at the same time another grabbed Kyoya's arm and twisted it, bringing the dark-haired boy to his knees. He found himself frozen in a mix of anger and pain, staring at a pair of black leather shoes.

"Kyoya," came the cold voice of his father. "Apologize to them."

Kyoya grimaced. He glanced briefly at each of the boys: Ryohei, who was still on the ground and rubbing his head; Takeshi, who had stood up and looked rather concerned; and Tsuna, who sat there with pure terror written on his face at the tall, black-clad figure in front of him. Kyoya kept silent.

In the moment that Alaude pulled Kyoya to his feet, the boy threw a punch at him. Alaude flawlessly caught his fist, then hauled Kyoya by both arms to the staircase leading down. At this point in time, Hibird had long fled from its enraged master, but it circled overhead, crying out "Hibari, Hibari!" every now and then.

It took some time for Takeshi and Tsuna to get Ryohei back on his feet, but afterwards they followed Alaude home, not speaking another word.

xxx

Alaude sat in his room with his legs crossed, facing Kyoya but not looking directly at him. His chair was positioned not two feet away from the door, and he sat with his back facing it. Kyoya sat in a chair a few feet away, glaring downwards.

When they arrived home, the stoic former Cloud Guardian offered no explanation to his peers, but brought Kyoya directly to his room and shut the door. He had not locked the door, but he knew that none of the others were foolish enough to enter without permission.

Looking at his son now, Alaude asked, "Why were you at your school?"

Kyoya didn't answer, nor did he look up.

"Why did you try to hit them?"

Still looking at the floor, Kyoya replied, "The herbivores were disturbing the peace."

Alaude's stone-cold gaze still not falter.

"Kyoya, that is no excuse. You will apologize to them later."

The boy did not move.

Before Alaude could say anything more, someone knocked gently on the door. Alaude sighed and said, "Leave, Giotto."

"Please, Alaude," Giotto answered from outside. "I want to talk to you."

After a few moments, Alaude stood up.

"Kyoya, you may go. Do not leave this house again without my permission."

Kyoya grudgingly stood and left. He opened the door (only partially, because Alaude's chair was in the way) to a rather surprised Giotto and slipped out quietly. The former Vongola boss stood at the entrance, unsure of what to do, until Alaude waved his hand. Giotto came in and closed the door.

"Alaude, Tsuna and the others told me what happened," Giotto said carefully, all the while watching for his Guardian's response. When Alaude gave none, he continued: "It's not like you to be so forceful. What's wrong?"

It was true that Alaude was the strictest teacher of the seven Guardians, and he showed no mercy in combat, but they all knew that he rarely lifted a finger against the children otherwise. In most cases, fear worked in place of physical punishment. But they all knew the dominant reason for his actions.

"You know what's wrong," said Alaude.

Giotto flinched, and Alaude understood why.

"Alaude, things of the past are past. We have to focus on the present, especially for the children…"

"Then do so yourself, before you come and preach to me."

"Please…"

"Celeste is dead. Amelia is dead. All of them were killed. Now, what would you have me do? Such things are not easily forgotten, Giotto."

"I…"

"Leave, before you anger me."

"Please, Alaude, all of us must try to move on…"

"You do not command me. Or have you forgotten, that you are now a crownless king?"

"Alaude-"

Another knock on the door interrupted Giotto. The door opened without another warning, and Knuckle stepped half into the room. Alaude frowned and turned to look out the window.

Knuckle chuckled and entered. He placed a hand on Giotto's shoulder, and with a pleasant smile said, "Giotto, your fatigue is showing. Get some rest, my friend."

Giotto gave Knuckle a skeptical look, but the priest seemed to know what he was doing. After Giotto had left the room, Knuckle walked up behind the silent Alaude, who was still gazing over the dark town.

"Alaude, do not worry about your son. Ryohei holds no ill will towards him. None of us blame him, so do not take it upon yourself."

"You waste your words, Knuckle, " Alaude replied.

"My friend," Knuckle said evenly, "both you and your son are few of words. You hold too much to yourself. Please, consider speaking to Kyoya. In any way. But have patience, Alaude. Good men are not made overnight."

"Patience? Hmph."

"Alaude." Knuckle looked at him with a steady, serious gaze now. "You are not the only man who has suffered. All of us lost something precious. Including Kyoya."

"You think I do not know that? You and Giotto, do you both need to run your mouths about sentimentalities?"

Knuckle sighed. "Alaude, you can talk to me. Rather, I ask this of you, as a friend. If you so wish, I will listen. I will not speak a word without your leave. Please, tell me: What happened, at that time? How did…?"

Alaude did not look away from the now-dark sky, spotted with shadowed clouds. Even when he spoke, he never looked at the man behind him.

xxx

Kyoya lay on his bed, still fully dressed, staring at the ceiling. He was especially thankful at this moment to have demanded his own room when they first moved in.

He felt as though he had nothing left. His rage was nearly uncontrollable. His strength, which he had always valued, had been used on Ryohei and nearly Takeshi and Tsuna as well, when they were defenseless. His honor was gone, having been rebuked by his father and then let off without punishment. His freedom had been taken away by his father, and he was little more than a caged bird. And he was now alone, without even the irritating Hibird for company.

Above all, Kyoya was inexplicably angry at himself.

Perhaps it was because he let such herbivorous thoughts burden him.

Perhaps it was because he still felt weak, unable to protect anything important.

Perhaps, above all, it was because he understood why he was so angry, so weak, so useless.

He never had let his mother's death go, and it hung over him as a constant reminder of his uselessness and guilt. His anger was a product of it, because he knew that it was she who always calmed him down when he was enraged beyond reason.

It was clear that his father was still burdened as well. If Kyoya had punched the boys a year ago, his father would certainly have punished him, one way or another. None of the adults allowed angry, violent disputes between the kids, and Alaude especially so. But now the man was tired, and his once cold, burning eyes lacked the same conviction.

The dark-haired boy now cursed fate, and cursed his own life. He would rather have died in the fire, and let her live. But he had never been given the opportunity to make that choice.


This one took a while, and I don't know what I think about it. So... tell me what you think about it?

But once again, thanks to all of you guys who are still following this, despite my irresponsibility. It warms my heart. So, until next time!