Some parents lose their kids in supermarkets. Some parents lose their kids in theme parks. I guess I should be grateful that mine lost me in front of a chocolate shop.
It was the week before Tsuna and I had to go off for first grade. Nana, noticing how we were beginning to outgrow all of our things, decided to take us out clothes shopping at the local strip mall. I, for one, was thankful. This was yet another chance for me to convince my mother to buy me something other than dresses before I reached the age where school uniforms were mandatory. I was not a dress person, and the frilly orange monstrosities she kept buying me were getting pretty old.
We spent the first hour or so in and out of various stores. Tsuna was racking up quite the collection of orange shirts and hoodies that were just a little bit too big for him. When asked about his color palette, he just pouted and said he liked orange. No more questions were asked because guh. This kid and his dumb little puppy-eyed pouts were too cute for anyone to really mind what he did. Meanwhile, Nana and I reached a compromise: she would pick out one dress for me (a white sundress that was actually somewhat tolerable and did that cool whirly thing a bit when I twirled) and I would get to pick out the rest. I got so many pairs of pants it wasn't even funny. I felt like I was stocking up for some kind of apocalypse.
All in all, I was pretty damn excited.
Somewhere between buying me a pack of assorted headbands with bows ("I hope you never grow out of loving these, Nami-chan! They're so cute!") and the third cookbook that day, Nana decided it was time to do some 'light' window shopping.
That's where things went a little screwy.
It started out great, really. Tsuna and I were being good kids and sticking close to our mother. We didn't take any candy from strangers, we didn't wander off into the crowd of people (and wow was it a crowd), and we didn't steal anything. Our feet hurt a little, but neither one of us whined in hopes of being seen as the more mature twin.
And then I saw it.
Let me take a minute here to explain something to you about Japan. All those sweet, sugary, melt-in-your-mouth breakfast foods like French toast and waffles and whatnot? Replace them with rice and a protein of your choice. That delicious lunch of pizza and maybe something like potato chips or some other greasy, fattening thing like that? Nope. Rice, protein of your choice. Granted, since I was living with Sawada Nana of all people that protein was usually pretty delicious, but there's only so much rice and fish an ex-westerner can take before she starts seeing brownies in her dreams.
So maybe I got a little overexcited when we passed the chocolate shop. Seriously though, that cake was bigger than I was and, more importantly, it was chocolate. I was a sweets-loving greasy American at heart. With all the shit I put up with through my double lifetime, I deserved it. Not only did I die completely undated, I went out tripping over a cat on my birthday. I have earned the right to be unhealthy sometimes.
…Or at least I should have been, but no. Japan had to be all rice and shit. I was going through sugar withdrawals and the giant cake in that window was undeniably my cure. I would fight someone for that cake and not even care. I pressed a little closer to the glass, willing that maybe, by some miracle of science or anime logic or whatever that I would be absorbed through the window via osmosis and land straight in that warm, gooey slice of chocolate heaven.
That was about the time I noticed that the rest of my family was no longer behind me. I whirled around so fast that my hair got stuck in my mouth.
Oh shit. I was a six-year-old girl in a cute dress standing by myself in the middle of who-knows-where, I was going to get my ass kidnapped oh shit.
'Okay, Tsunami, think. You've been in this situation before, remember? In your o-old life. Your mom forgot at the supermarket. What did you do?'
Crap, what did I do? I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to remember through my growing nerves. I had screamed and cried because I was four, scared, and possibly being creeped on by the bearded man in the checkout line.
Somehow I got the feeling that wasn't going to be helpful in this situation. What should I do, what should I do? What did they always tell little kids to do when they got lost?!
"Stay where I a-am, don't go out of public view, beware of stranger danger." I breathed, backing up until my back hit the cool window glass. This was totally the cake's fault. Stupid cake, being so distracting. Why did it have to be so damn chocolatey? Why not, like, nut cake or something gross and nasty like that? Nut cake wouldn't have tempted me so much. Nuts were gross. Cake was gross, I was gross, everything was gross and I-
-was letting myself panic, that wasn't good or helpful. I sucked in a breath breath, held it for a few counts, and then let it trickle out slowly.
The seconds ticked by. Surely Nana or Tsuna would have noticed I was gone by now? Maybe that didn't know where they had left me. I should probably go find them or something-
"Stay where you are, do not go out of public view, and beware of stranger danger." I reminded myself, picking frantically at the fabric of my dress. I was giving up cake forever after this. If it hadn't looked so damn good I would not be in this situation. Of all the stupid, ridiculous things to go crazy over, I just had to pick the one that was going to end up giving me diabetes. Stupid.
As I examined my wide, orange eyes in the reflection of the glass (fear wasn't really a good look for me, so I tried to tame my expression into something less obvious), I noted that I might maybe have some panic management issues. If this kept going on, I was going to start punching people in mishandled rage whenever I got scared. Very unhealthy.
On another note, standing here alone was starting to feel very awkward and conspicuous.
To distract myself from the growing urge to sit down or run around or something, I turned to my usual hobby- people watching. As this was a public shopping center, there were certainly some interesting people to watch. That much was true no matter where in the world you were.
There was this one couple across the street going through quite the ostentatious breakup ('Tetsuya' and 'Ayame' if the names being screamed were anything to go by). She had caught him with lipstick smears on his collar that were so violently pink I could actually see them from across the street. He was trying (and failing miserably) to convince her that no, he wasn't cheating on her, the lipstick had come from her and just hadn't come off in the washing machine.
One look at her short dyed hair and her rather deadly-looking spiked biker boots and even I could tell that she'd never even been within three feet of a shade that pink. I silently wished her the best of luck with her asshole boyfriend and moved on.
Next up was a family of bluenettes on my side of the street that kept wandering back and forth between the video game store and the accessory shop. The teenaged son (who, now that I looked, was actually kinda cute- but that was a billion different kinds of creepy since no matter how you looked at it the age gap between us was massive) had a cellphone glued to his hand. I guessed that he was texting his girlfriend. No guys I knew (used to know) texted each other that much while blushing that violently. He was trying and failing to covertly ask his mother what kind of jewelry girls liked and kept leading the family back and forth by the store. So…he wanted to get his girlfriend a gift without actually letting his family know he had one? Or maybe it was just a girl he was crushing on. That would certainly explain the secrecy.
…Why did I care? As interesting as these people were, they weren't the ones I should have been looking at.
I scanned the crows for Nana and Tsuna again, shifting nervously form foot to foot. I really hoped no one kidnapped me. That would seriously suck. No, Nami, don't think about that. Look for Momma and Tsuna- why weren't they here yet, those fuc- and put a lid on the unwarranted rage, it's not healthy.
I got up on my tiptoes and tried to look for a familiar shade of honey brown. Greasy black, blue, green, black, flat brown, black, red, mousy gray-
Wait, red? Something inside me perked up.
'Red red red, what if it's Shoichi!'
I could always dream, right?
I leaned forward, trying to find the short redheaded figure again. It occurred to me that maybe this whole thing I had going on for Shoichi was all sorts of unhealthy (and kind of creepy) and he probably didn't even remember me, but my inner fangirl was very insistent that she did not give a shit. Cute was cute, and Shoichi was on a level of adorable only attainable by wimpy, helpless little kids like Tsuna and-
-I sounded like such a creeper.
There was a growing part of me that still didn't give a shit.
I probably needed some sort of therapy. World-hopping must have screwed with my brain more than I'd thought. Or maybe it was all the adrenaline from the massive mental breakdown I was trying to distract myself from- oh look, red.
The source of the flaming red hair was not, in fact, Irie Shoichi, much to my disappointment. It was a blubbering little kid with shorter hair, just standing in the middle of the street with eyes that were wet and glassy but not quite tearful. The crowd just moved on past him, barely giving him a second glance. Come to think of it, I hadn't been approached by a single concerned adult yet. I felt like I had read something in a psychology book about this once, like how people were less likely to help someone if there were other people around because-
But that wasn't important at the moment.
As I watched, the redhead (who was actually kinda sorta adorable, now that I looked) slowly stumbled backwards, turning in circles almost frantically. He was bounced around like a pinball by the rush of the people until he eventually found himself ejected from the crowd, now on my side of the street. He was only two or three shops down and he was looking around with this giant doe-eyed stare that was practically begging some random pedophile to pluck him up and cart him off.
…Well, safety in numbers. His lack of gross wailing was an added bonus. I abandoned my post by the cake shop (I was only moving a few feet, what was the harm?) and slowly walked over to the panicking redhead, trying not to scare him.
"…Are you lost, too?"
Needless to say, I failed.
I backed off quickly, my hands raised in surrender. His own were raised towards his face like he was ready to block a hit. I felt like I was dealing with a cornered animal. One wrong move and he might-
The boy's arms hesitantly lowered and he looked at the ground with watery eyes, nodding quietly.
-make my heart explode with rainbows. Guh.
"…S-So what's your name?" I cleared my throat to banish the urge to squee or pinch his cheeks or do something that would freak him out even more. We retreated to the safety of the brick wall, a good three or four feet away from the thick of the crowd. The boy refused to look up and meet my eyes, preferring instead to count the cracks in the concrete. I was kind of thankful for that, actually. Scaring him off now with my bright orange eyes would be very counterproductive.
"…'M not s'pposed to talk to strangers…" He mumbled, tugging at the sleeves of his slightly oversized gray hoodie nervously. I pouted and leaned over to try to get a good look at his face, my own anxieties temporarily forgotten. I hoped he wasn't crying. I couldn't handle crying people who weren't Tsuna, and even then it was kind of a hit or miss thing.
"Well, my name is Tsunami. You can call me Nami though, kay? 'Tsunami' isn't a very good name." Silence. "See, now you know my name. We're not strangers anymore!"
Even I was aware that had an adult been the one to say that, the stranger-danger warning bells probably would have gone off. Being a grown woman with a weakness for cute in a child's body was so very inconvenient. I couldn't even squeal normally without feeling like some crotchety old creep.
The cutie slowly raised his head to look me in the eyes and wow, those were some cool pupils. They were all…compass-shaped. How did that happen? Anime genetics were weird and confusing. I was looking forward to learning Biology so I could maybe figure out how I had ended up with eyes this orange when neither of my parents had them. The odds of me actually inheriting Giotto's eyes were incredibly slim. But…that would be really awesome if I did. Come to think of it, I had never really appreciated how lucky I was. I was blood-related to an anime. I was an anime. I got to be Giotto's great-great-great-times-whatever granddaughter.
…Which made the awkward crush I'd had on him once upon a time seem incredibly creepy.
I was getting distracted again.
While I was busy marveling the wonders of anime genetics, the redhead was openly staring at my eyes. They must have been glowing again…or maybe their offensively orange shade had actually mange to, well, offend someone.
"…You have weird eyes, too." My smile twitched. Someone needed to teach this kid that there were some things you just weren't supposed to tell a woman. Like that her eyes were weird. Her eyes that she inherited from her unfairly attractive undead ancestor. But it was okay, because the redhead was cute and cute people can get away with nearly anything.
"I guess I do, huh? I don't really think yours are that weird, though. Its kinda cute- I mean cool." Filter, Tsunami. Just because you think his red eyes are adorable and heart-meltingly sad doesn't mean you have to share that with the world.
"…" The kid flushed and looked back down at his feet. Wow, great going there Nami, not even two minutes in and you've already scared him into silence. He probably thinks you're some sort of creeper- which you are.
Seriously, I didn't even know why I opened my mouth anymore. We sat in silence (miserable, awkward, I-never-get-this-with-Hana-or-Tsuna-I-miss-them-al ready silence) as the people continued walking by. Where were his parents? Where were my parents? Where were all the kind old ladies or mysteriously attractive men who came back later in life to play a significant role in the storyline? I was living in an anime, I knew they had to exist somewhere.
"Enma." We said at the same time.
"You go first."
"E-Enma. My name. Um, Kozato…Enma…" His voice trailed off into mumbles, but it didn't matter because I had heard him.
"...Oh. Hi, K-Kozato-san!"
My brain was about to explode all over everything.
Enma Kozato lived in Shimon. What was he even doing here?! Shimon was like an hour away, I looked it up! How the hell did he end up in Namimori? Well, okay, there were a lot of reasons why he could be here, but I mean…shit, what were the odds of me running into him? And how had I not realized? It wasn't like there were many people running around with pupils like his. I was a failure as a fangirl, honestly.
Enma (who, let me reiterate, was incredibly cute with his pouting and his pupils and guh) remained oblivious to my mental breakdown and continued alternating his gaze between the ground and the crowd. I shut my eyes for a moment to reign myself in before I could do something creepy like glomp or kidnap him (this train of thought seemed oddly familiar). Only, when I opened my eyes, Enma was gone.
Let me repeat that.
At first I thought he had just moved around me to look in the window of a shop or something. A quick glance around proved that no, he was actually legitimately gone. What even- I took my eyes off him for like a second. Where could he possibly have gone?
Shit, what if he'd been kidnapped?!
"Kozato-san?!" I squeaked, looking in every which direction. Oh shit. Oh shit. Kozato Enma was not allowed to get kidnapped. If I had to wake up tomorrow to see his face on a fucking milk carton I was going to stab myself and then stab him. In that fucking order, too, because logic was retarded and useless when you were freaking way the fuck out and cursing way too much because you couldn't be assed to turn on your profanity filter and where the fu-
A flash of red.
Well, I had been partially right- Enma's painfully adorable pouting face had managed to get him kidnapped…by a little girl. She couldn't have been more than three at the very most and had burgundy hair only a few shades darker than Enma's own. There was a cute little circle hairpin keeping her bangs out of her eyes, which were just as watery as Enma's.
"Nii-tan! Found Nii-tan!" She squealed, tugging him deeper into the crows towards a rather frantic looking couple. The father (Kozato Makoto, I registered, holy shit this was Kozato Makoto) scooped him up like he weighed nothing and swung him in a circle. The mother stuck close to her family, looking Enma over for scrapes or bruises while the little girl (Kozato Mami, no no no) clung to her father's leg.
All in all, it was the picture of a perfect family.
For some reason, it didn't make me feel as warm and fuzzy as it should have. As I watched a giggling Enma be fussed over like a newborn, the analytic half of my brain was working overtime.
The Flood of Blood Incident. Twelve of Iemitsu's men (my father, twelve of my father's men) were brutally murdered and then crammed into a single elevator. At the scene of the crime, a gun belonging to Kozato Makoto was recovered. Not even a week after (or had it been a month? A day? Shit, shit, shit I couldn't remember) the Kozato residence had been raided. There was only one survivor.
'Eight years before,' my brain supplied. 'It happened eight years before the Shimon Arc.'
When was the Shimon Arc? I would be...fourteen. I was six now, so it would happen...
…It would happen eight years from now.
The Shimon Arc was eight years from now.
…I was going to be sick.
I had to say something. I had to- I had to warn them or help them or something. How do you tell a family that they're going to die within a year? Within a month? Within a week? Would they even believe me? Of course not, why would they? I was six years old and visibly panicking.
Would there be any harm in trying to warn them, though?
…I didn't know.
As I struggled with myself, Enma's head popped over his father's shoulder and his chubby little finger reached up to point at me. He mumbled something to his parents and they turned around, meeting my eyes.
Maybe the benefits outweighed the risks for once?
…But what if they didn't.
The Kozato family made their way closer to me and I met them at the edge of the bustling crowd ('constantly moving, moving, why couldn't I have just kept moving, too?') My hands were shaking. Getting my legs to move was harder than it should have been, all I wanted to do was run away and pretend like I never saw them.
"Hello, Hime-chan," Enma's mother began, crouching down to my level. What was it with adults and calling me princess all the time? I wasn't a princess, I wasn't even a peasant, I was a filthy little coward who couldn't even work up the balls to tell them- to say-
"I'm Enma-kun's mother. Do you need help finding your parents?"
I shook my head so fast my neck jolted in pain. There was a little voice in the back of my head screaming at me to run, run, run away because introducing Enma's family to my own so soon was such a bad idea it was nauseating. I wasn't sure about Mrs. Kozato, but I was almost positive that Makoto would recognize the name Sawada. He could make the connection and then…
"Nee-tan! Nee-tan name?" Mami demanded, poking her head out from behind her father's leg. I gave her a shaky smile. 'Stop stalling, Tsunami.'
"I'm S-Saw-" Shit, shit, shit, rewind- "Um, Tsunami. I…I, um, I mean- you-"
Spit it out, spit it out, get it over with and then bolt.
"Kozato-san, you-" I choked out. Too quietly, it seemed, because Makoto just spoke over me as though I hadn't even opened my mouth.
"Are you sure you don't need help, Tsunami-chan? I just don't feel comfortable leaving a girl your age out here by herself."
"N-No sir, I'm…fine. I'm great."
Fine. Who the hell was I kidding.
I couldn't do this.
He was going to wonder how I knew what I knew. He was just an art dealer, sure, but he was an art dealer who was going to be under investigation by the mafia-
What if he already was? What if they were here, right now, watching him and seeing me and wondering? What if…what if they found me out?
And that's when the panic attack hit.
Stupid, I was so stupid. Why didn't I run when I had the chance? Why was I still here, there was danger?! He was on to me, they were on to me, they knew I wasn't normal, they were going to lock me up or shoot me or sell me to the fucking mafia scientists because the Estraneo were still around, weren't they? Oh fuck, they were. Shit, shit, shit. I was screwed. I was so beyond screwed. God, why did Enma have to be so cute and why did I have to be so blind, I should have run the moment I saw his eyes, danger. They were being tailed by the mafia and not the nice friendly Tsuna type mafia, but the mean angry Iemitsu type mafia and that was so much worse.
I was stupid, how was it possible for someone as stupid as me to still be alive? Not that it even mattered. It wasn't going to be a problem anymore because I was so far beyond fucking retarded that I was about to get chased down by Mafiosi and shot and sold and-
"Tsunami-chan, might I ask what your parent's names are? If we run into them, maybe we can-?"
No you may fucking not.
I turned tail without a single word and I bolted. I didn't know where I was going, all I knew was that I had to get out out out before I said something, said anything else that would make me a bigger target.
What the fuck had happened to my strict policy of 'mind your own goddamn business'?! What had happened to 'stranger danger'?! Because that had definitely been stranger danger. It was still stranger danger. I could feel eyes on my back and just knew that they were coming, that they had seen something or heard something and had figured something out and they were coming for me-
'You haven't done anything incriminating yet,' the unnervingly calm part of my brain reasoned. The larger panicking half promptly wrapped it up and threw it in a closet because seriously, what did it know-
It was only when I crashed headfirst into a warm body ("Nami-chan! There you are, Momma's been looking everywhere,") and felt familiar arms wrap around me, Momma's arms and, that I realized I was shaking and crying rather hysterically. I sucked in a deep breath, trying in vain to stop panicking because panicking meant hyperventilating and hyperventilating meant passing out in the middle of the street and that was bad bad bad easy target more danger.
I buried my face in my mother's stomach and just tried to breathe. In for five, out for five. In, out, in, out. I could feel Tsuna latching onto my arm and tugging to get my attention and Momma trying to ask me what had happened, but I ignored them both in favor of not passing out.
In for five.
Out for five.
"…Momma?" I asked, my voice smaller and shakier than I ever remembered it being.
"Can we go home now?"
She said yes.
It took me nearly an hour to finally come out of my self-loathing panic-induced shell and make something up that would convince Momma that no, I hadn't been kidnapped or assaulted or felt up by dirty old men. In the end, I just told her that I got really scared and maybe hinted that I had some separation anxiety.
It wasn't a lie. It just wasn't the complete truth.
Later that night after I had successfully convinced myself that yes I was still in one piece and no there weren't any Mafiosi coming after me, Iemitsu came home again. For once, there were no flowers, no overexcited greetings. He was quiet, tired even. The crayon in my hand I was distracting myself with stilled in it's furious scribbling.
Iemitsu was home how long has he been here was he watching were they watching do they know
I bit the inside of my cheek hard and focused on my breathing.
"An accident," he said. "There was an accident at the construction site yesterday."
Momma and Tsuna may have been ignorant, but I knew what that meant, what 'an accident' really translated to. I also knew what that was going to mean. In a few hours' time (or days or weeks, why hadn't I cared more), somewhere in a house a couple towns over, the happy little girl who had called me 'Nee-chan' was going to be dead.
For a split second in my head, it wasn't Kozato Mami's face peering up at me in my mind. It was Tsuna's. My crayon dropped to the floor and I almost went with it in my rush to get to the nearest bathroom.
This time, I actually did throw up. It wasn't a very pleasant experience.
After being declared officially sick (and possibly traumatized), Momma sent Tsuna and I to bed. Tsuna had been mostly silent since I had calmed myself down, but he finally cornered me just outside our bedroom door.
"…Tsu-kun?" I asked, my voice still hoarse from throwing up. I'd brushed my teeth, but the back of my throat still tasted disgusting. I couldn't look at him. I kept seeing Mami and then Mami would turn dead and she suddenly wouldn't be Mami anymore. She would turn into Tsuna, blank eyed and blood-spattered and- and I was going to get sick again if I kept thinking about this.
Without saying anything, I flew forward and hugged my little brother hard. He didn't say anything either. He just reached up and hugged me back with equal ferocity, albeit more confused.
It was Iemitsu who tucked us in that night, not Momma. I laid there silently as he tucked Tsuna into his bed, my mind a hundred miles away in a little house where a little boy was about to live a nightmare. All because I got too scared to say anything.
I was so stupid.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to get up and just bawl or maybe throw up again but I was frozen in place, orange eyes wide and trained on the ceiling.
When it was my turn to be tucked in, Iemitsu paused and rested his giant palm on my forehead. For once, I didn't care that he was touching me, didn't care that he was finally doing his job as a father six years too late. I didn't really care about anything at the moment, to be honest.
One hour away, Kozato Enma was probably being tucked in just like this for the last time.
"How're you feeling, Hime-chan?"
And for the billionth time that day, I let myself revert into the scared little six-year-old girl named Sawada Tsunami. The little girl with the glowing orange eyes that she was overly sensitive about. The little girl with the absent father who she despised, but also the girl missed having a father at all so much it hurt sometimes.
The little girl who lied and lied and lied.
"Get better soon, Hime-chan." Iemitsu reached down and kissed my forehead before ruffling my long hair fondly and standing up to leave.
"Dad?" I called. He turned. "Could you leave the closet light on? Um, just for tonight?"
"Sure thing, princess."
As I passed out with the closet light on for the first time since I had been five back home (not home, not anymore), I couldn't help but wonder if a warning really would have helped the Kozato family or if that was just wishful thinking. Maybe they were doomed from the start.
But maybe not.
That night, my dreams were full of little girls in white dresses and scrawny blank-eyed boys with blood spattered faces.
I had issues sleeping for a long, long time.
A/N: THIS CHAPTER HAS BEEN EDITED JUST A BIT. I don't hate it quite so violently anymore.
OKAY GUYS, POLL TIME. You people, I swear. Specifically you Hibari fangirls. Its like you all got together and decided to all vote at the very last second x_x So, placement:
First: Hibari Kyoya (27 votes)
Second: Yamamoto Takeshi, Rokudo Mukuro, and Kozato Enma (26 votes)
Third: Gokudera Hayato and Irie Shoichi (11 votes)
They'll be the ones available on the next poll, which should be up...now. Personally I'm rooting for Mukuro or Enma, but y'know.
GIANT THANKS TO:
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SPECIAL THANKS TO:
A blogger by the name of Arithra who added SOAUO to her Bookshelf on blogspot.
SUPER SPECIAL AWESOME BONUS PRIZE GOES TO:
Shanagi95, who submitted the 100th review. Asdfjkl;; guys, thats a big number. SO, Shanagi, if there is a scene or an an omake or a vision of the future or whatever that you want me to write you as a thank you present, just say so!
I LOVE YOU ALL.