Disclaimer: I do not own Katekyo Hitman Reborn.
The Mist was a solitary figure. It descended upon the world and clung to the inhabitants' lives, wreaking what havoc it may; it weaved in and out of perception, leaving behind but a suspicion of its existence. None could tie it down, for the impermanent Mist could not be bound; but at the end of its play, when the sun had chased it away and its pranks had been forgotten, the Mist found comfort only in itself, for the Mist was a solitary figure and it was always alone.
Rokudo Mukuro was an unrepentant character, an attribute he retained from childhood, even through all the torture and experiments. Or perhaps it was a result of them. When nothing he said or however he complied would deter the men—his Family, his supposed protectors—from removing his eye and implanting another, from forcing searing foreign substances to flow through his veins, or from performing any of the other ghastly experiments he had endured, he learned that complacency was weakness. He came to the conclusion that the only way to get what he wanted in the world was to grasp it with his own power.
Shortly after this realization, every single one of the men from his so-called Family that were inside that laboratory underwent mass, insanity-induced suicide. Some pulled out guns from holsters and with deliberate aim, decorated the walls with gray matter; others picked up the sharp-edged scalpels used in their dissections, inserted them into bared necks and carved away until a river of blood flowed.
All the while, the small child sat on the cold steel table that would have been his deathbed, cackling gleefully; his heterochromatic eyes were alive with enjoyment and his legs swung playfully as the carnage unfolded before him.
It was a memory Mukuro smiled upon fondly.
From his childhood of subjugation and cruelty he had learned valuable life lessons that carried him from day to day. Manipulating anyone and everyone useful as well as killing all those who opposed him had been a tried and true technique of achieving his every goal, and he used those methods routinely. Through the years, manipulation and massacre became second nature to him, for he had honed his skills to perfection.
From that time forward, he had been alone, because he had learned that the only person he could depend on was himself. He had no need for anything so transient as friends. Friends produced dependence, and dependence bred weakness. Since Mukuro was anything but weak, he chose to be alone, for he would rather impose the loneliness on himself than to be chased away by others.
When he released Ken and Chikusa from their cages, he had held his hand out to them. Eyes wide and mouths agape, his fellow prisoners took his proffered hand. He led them outside, where the rest of their Family waited. The three children walked down the dimly lit corridor that led away from their prison. The people they encountered began to laugh deliriously as they approached. One woman never lost her wide-toothed grin as she abruptly turned from the children and repeatedly bashed her head against the stone wall, the crunch of her skull a little louder each time, until she slumped against the surface and slid to the floor, a dark glistening streak marking her path. The ones they came across on the upper level fared no better, screaming from nightmares come to life until they put their guns in their mouths.
The sound of coarse fabric brushing across stone reached him through the mist. His wardens were coming.
Through the labyrinthine passages, Ken and Chikusa trailed after Mukuro, hands grasped tightly on the fabric of his shirt. They didn't so much as bat an eye at the scenes that met them; they had seen worse. And they had followed him without question since that day.
Yes, Ken and Chikusa were loyal to him, but it was only because they too had been betrayed and had nowhere else to turn. Their fathers and mothers had given them up for experimentation and inevitable death, just like his parents.
"For the good of the Family," they were told. "To make the Family strong," their parents had reassured the crying infants as they handed them over to the scowling men in black suits and white coats.
The scientists and their guards may have appeared intimidating to the children who had known nothing of the world outside their cages, but those men had been weak; they had taken on more than they could handle, and when the rest of the Mafia world turned on them, it was the children who were offered up like meat on a slab.
But even as Mukuro lay on that slab where dozens before him had already died, their insides liquefied or bodies grossly mutated, he knew the persecution was just an excuse. It wasn't his Family, or even the Mafia, that had caused this pain and suffering—it was humans. It was humans who hunted others of their kind out of pretension; it was the feebler humans who, unable to fend off their attackers, locked themselves up in underground labs and punished the only ones who were weaker than themselves. But Mukuro was not weak; he was strong—strong enough to annihilate the pathetic men who had been his tormentors, strong enough to destroy all of humanity and its fickle existence, strong enough to cleanse the world through the purity of darkness.
He held onto that conviction to rid the world of the despicable human race, held the dark and festering hatred close to his chest, where it slowly consumed his heart. He wreaked havoc upon the world, beginning with the Mafia. He installed himself in the world that he loathed and manipulated others to do his bidding, to kill for his cause. But like the impermanent mist, he was never in one place long; once his objective was accomplished, he dissolved into thin air, leaving only the sound of his laughter behind.
Unbeknownst to anyone else, for more than a decade, the Mist had always been there—hiding, waiting on the edges of perception for the perfect opportunity to cause more damage—Bosses assassinated in their locked bedrooms; hit men drowned in a swamp on the coast of India, far away from home; a feud between two Families, started over something that neither side could quite remember. When the Mist lifted, it left death and chaos in its wake.
That is, until he met—and was subsequently defeated by—Sawada Tsunayoshi.
Cold air assaulted his senses, slowly lifting the fog over his mind.
He had treated them the same as any other corrupt member of the Mafia community that would stab him in the back as soon as he turned it—with loathing and contempt. But although Sawada Tsunayoshi had been the victor of their battle, the boy had not killed him. It had made him suspicious of the Vongola's tenth generation. They pretended at a kinder, gentler Mafia, but he knew that was all it was—a game of pretend. In reality, there was no such thing.
Otherwise, where had they been when he had been strapped down to a cold metal table and injected with chemicals that gave him fevers so high he thought he would melt from the inside out? Where was their compassion when his new eye showed him demons in the night ripping him open and consuming whatever lay within? Where was their justice when his fellow captives had been cut into repeatedly, their screams echoing in the cramped space until a tiny body was tossed into the pile of corpses in the corner?
The Estraneos may have been the ones who had put the needles in their arms and the knives to their flesh, but the persecution enacted by the Vongola's predecessors made them just as much to blame, made them just as drenched in the blood and innocence lost in those labs. And that made the tenth generation just as self-serving as he was—perhaps not now, but one day. It was his fervent belief that even someone as naïve as Sawada Tsunayoshi would eventually succumb to the darkness. And so he waited for that day when his prediction would come to pass, when the Vongola's successor had his hands soaked in the blood of an innocent, and the boy's mind shattered from the horror. When that happened, the Mist would descend, creeping into the body that would lead the wretched organization to its destruction.
The feeling of weightlessness disappeared and he toppled forward.
He waited and observed, searching for any signs of weakness. There were many, to be sure, but he never took advantage of them—he wanted the Vongola brat at his most vulnerable when he finally made his move, wanted Sawada's mind drowning in despair and gloved hands dripping red when he took possession of the boy's body. But over the years, as he continued to wait and observe, Mukuro felt his confusion—what had started as a sliver of doubt—grow increasingly greater. And it all originated from Sawada Tsunayoshi and his Guardians.
Gokudera Hayato despised him, distrusted him, would have killed him if he were able; Hibari Kyouya was out for his blood, and would have gladly beaten him within an inch of his life if given the opportunity—those were all sentiments Mukuro could understand, because they fit into his world view. It was what he would have done. But the others were different.
There was Yamamoto Takeshi, who could throw an arm around his shoulders as casually as if he were just another member of their merry band, not a murderer who had put more bodies in the ground than he could count. There was Sasagawa Ryohei, who celebrated the illusionist's victories with just as much enthusiasm as Ken or Chikusa, unaffected by the visions that would have induced months of nightmares in anyone else. The youngest of the Vongola clan often approached him, pulling at his hand or climbing atop his head as if he were just another playmate, heedless of the dangerous aura he emitted. And then there was the girl who naively placed her life in his hands, a girl he had brought back from the cusp of death purely on a whim, because he thought she might have been useful. But the greatest enigma was Sawada Tsunayoshi. The reluctant participant in all of this often looked at Mukuro with fear in his eyes. But past the terror, there was something else—something Mukuro could not define, could not comprehend despite all his cleverness and cynicism.
He stumbled forward on painfully weak legs, blindly navigating his way through dark corridors and up winding steps.
As more time passed, the swordsman and the boxer only became more familiar in their displays of camaraderie. The cow had grown, but persisted in annoying him with ridiculous games, unaffected by his threats of pain and torture. The girl continued to trust him despite knowing the darker corners of his mind, when anyone else would have been repulsed. Even the animosity of the bomber and the self-proclaimed enforcer had turned into grudging respect and tolerance. And the fear in the Vongola Tenth's eyes was gradually replaced by weary exasperation, as if his attempts to destroy the Vongola were no more than the antics of a child. But intermingled with the exasperation, he saw acceptance there.
Mukuro thought it ironic that he had found acceptance in the form of the very thing he despised.
As he staggered out of the stronghold that had held him captive for a decade, beams of sunlight pierced his corneas. He quickly brought his arms up to block the rays, but the action upset his delicate balance. Hurrying to right it, Mukuro only succeeded in causing himself to pitch forward rather than backward.
By all rights, his muscles should have been so severely atrophied from the years floating in weightlessness that his legs should not have been able to support him at all. In fact, he had no idea how he had even managed to make it this far without falling face-first into the ground. But it looked like that was about to be remedied, as the stone surface came rushing up to meet him.
A pair of arms suddenly materialized and circled him, stopping his fall and keeping him steady. Whoever it was, the person wore a dark suit over a crisp white dress shirt. Not one of the Vindice, then, though Mukuro very much doubted they would have offered one of their most troublesome prisoners aid anyway.
Even the simple act of raising his head felt strenuous, but Mukuro persisted—he wanted to see, to know who had been standing—waiting—outside those doors.
Shadow. All he saw was a dark outline as the sun shone from behind the figure. With an effort, he regained his footing and straightened his spine. Blinking burning eyes, he watched as the figure took a step back. That's when he saw it was Sawada Tsunayoshi standing before him, and realized it was the Vongola's steadying hand still on his elbow.
Mukuro jerked back, too shocked to remember his current weakness. As his legs buckled beneath him, more shadows surged forward, their arms extending toward him. And he found himself looking into faces more familiar than he cared to admit.
Ken, Chikusa, and Chrome stood alongside several of the Vongola's closest, his own people's eyes suspiciously misty. He didn't see the Storm or Cloud amongst the crowd before him, but thought he detected the auras of their indifference farther back from the prison's entrance. He could even hear someone in the distance making dry remarks and voicing complaints in a monotone, as well as the female who snapped back in annoyance.
The Mist was a solitary figure and it was always alone, but perhaps it had found an all-encompassing Sky that wouldn't cast it away.