Phantom Thief Decimo
Summary: Phantom Thief Tsuna is hired to steal the Vongola Rings. No one expects the Sky Ring to mark him as a candidate for Decimo. Now Tsuna is on the run from the Varia, who object to his appointment, half the criminal underworld, who want to see Vongola fall, and also his own allies, who support his new position entirely too much.
"Tonight, I will come for the Chief Inspector's secrets."
A simple white card, bearing this message, was found at the police headquarters that morning. The Chief Inspector had paled and broken out in cold sweat. There was no signature, but the source of the message was clear to everyone.
"It's the Phantom Thief," the Chief's subordinates whispered to each other.
"He's coming for the Chief's secrets? What does that mean?"
"Maybe those rumors about the Chief are true. Maybe he really is dealing under the table..."
Anger quickly overtook the Chief Inspector's fear, and he spun around to bark orders to the officers. "It's just drivel!" he yelled. "This pathetic little thief is after confidential police information! He'll sell it to mafia!"
To the man's frustration, his subordinates quieted, but didn't seem to believe him. The Phantom Thief was a criminal, and the police held little love for him, but even they couldn't help but feel that wasn't what his note meant. "The Chief Inspector's secrets," the Phantom Thief said, not "police secrets."
And even to them, the Phantom Thief was too eccentric and flamboyant, too… romantic a figure. He terrorized art dealers and jewelry boutiques across the country, in between issuing more ridiculous boasts, but something like information dealing seemed entirely too pedestrian and common for the lunatic who had once declared he would "steal back the night sky" and did so by causing a massive blackout.
(Admittedly, the unobstructed starry sky was a beautiful view, though no one was sure what exactly had prompted that particular spectacle.)
"This is our chance! If we catch the Phantom Thief, our force will be renowned throughout Italy!" the Chief Inspector blustered. "Call in everyone! We'll set a trap he can't hope to escape!"
Of course, similar claims had been made every time the Phantom Thief had sent one of his "business cards." Needless to say, there had been no success so far.
Chapter 1: Recruitment ~ The Phantom Thief in Italy
That night, the police headquarters were thrown into chaos as the power cut off suddenly. At first, the officers held their posts, but before long tensions mounted, the darkened hallways growing stifling. Sweat ran heavily down their backs, and their eyes darted around frantically, looking for any sign of movement.
Then, reports began to come in - a glimpse of something, first at one end of the building, then at another. Phantoms - the famous thief was living up to his name.
The Chief Inspector paced his office restlessly, cursing as he bumped into the corner of his desk in the darkness. The officers lining the hallway leading up to the room tensed, their grip on their weapons tightening.
Suddenly, a much younger policeman rushed around the corner, stumbling a little as he tried to both catch himself from the fast turn and keep his cap from flying off.
"Chief!" he exclaimed, panting. "There's… there's been a break in at the evidence locker!"
"What?!" the Chief burst out, the other officers flinching. His eyes darted around frantically as his thoughts raced. "No… is he after the Esca case evidence? But I was sure I..." The idea made him pale and break out in cold sweat. "Quickly! Find him! Catch him before he gets away!"
"But, Chief…" one of the officers tried to protest.
"Go!" the Chief barked.
He didn't bother watching them scramble away. Instead, the Chief Inspector rushed back into his office, circling around his desk to the portrait of himself that hung on the back wall. Pushing it aside, he revealed a hidden safe. He cursed again as his sweaty hands slipped over the safe's rotary lock.
Behind him, the young officer who had brought the message straightened, suddenly no longer quite so winded, and reached up to adjust his cap, pulling it firmly down to shadow his face.
"A hidden safe behind a painting? Really? That's so cliche," he complained, making the Chief jump in surprise.
"What are you still doing here?! Get to work! Catch the Phantom Thief!" the Chief yelled, even as he tried to block the contents of the safe from the young man.
"It's bad enough you keep your secret criminal dealings in your office, but you couldn't even hide them better than that?" the young man continued. He sighed, musing, "Maybe I didn't need to get involved after all. You would've gotten caught before long anyway…"
With a snarl, the Chief Inspector reached for his gun, but before he could even draw it, the young man dashed forward, vaulting over the desk. A swift strike to the side of the man's neck send the Chief Inspector straight into unconsciousness.
Straightening, the young man pulled out a white domino mask and affixed it on his face.
"Alright, time to wrap this up," the Phantom Thief declared. He took a step toward the safe, nudging the Chief's body aside, only to pause as a statuette on a nearby shelf caught his eye. It was ugly and in terrible taste, but it also looked to be solid gold. Without thinking about it, he snagged the ugly thing. Even the Phantom Thief needed to pay the bills, after all.
Reaching into the safe, he pulled out the folders and record book inside. As he flipped open the book to glance over the information - all clearly marking the Chief Inspector's dealings with various criminal groups - a plain envelope fluttered out.
The Phantom Thief reached out to snatch it out of the air, only to miss and almost drop the folders he was holding. With a yelp, he scrambled to keep hold of everything in his hands, as the envelope innocently settled on the cheap, gaudy carpet.
"...Glad no one saw that," he sighed. "How embarrassing…"
Sighing, the thief bent to pick it up. He paused, reading the elegant script across the front.
"No way…" he murmured in shock, his eyes darting to the safe, then to Chief's prone body. But after a moment, he shook his head and tucked the envelope away. He'd deal with it later.
"Did you find him?" one of the policemen called out as a patrol group met up just outside the building, the beams of their flashlights swinging wildly.
"No, there's no sign of him."
"Hey! They've checked the evidence room! It looks like nothing's missing!"
"So it was a decoy?"
The officers scowled, exchanging a dark look. The Phantom Thief had fooled them yet again. How many years had it been since he started making a mockery of Italy's police forces?
As if summoned by their thoughts, a figure appeared atop the police headquarters' roof. A ripple passed through the crowd below, their flashlights darting up to focus on the target of their search.
The Phantom Thief wore the same ridiculous outfit he favored for all his public heists - a tuxedo, top hat, cloak and mask that appeared to be straight out of a fancy costume party. His cloak billowed as he gestured dramatically with one arm, the other holding aloft the files he had stolen.
"Honorable policemen and women!" he declared. "As promised, I have taken the Chief Inspector's secrets! And now, I present them for all to see!"
Reaching into the first folder, he pulled out the papers inside and threw them into the air. The sheets fluttered down into the hands of the assembled police force, catching and reflecting the beams of the flashlights directed up at the Phantom Thief.
One of the policemen tore his gaze away from the thief's figure to study the paper he had caught. "This is… the missing autopsy report?" he muttered, his voice slowly rising in indignation. "This couldn't won us the case!"
The same sort of comments were echoed around him as his coworkers made their own discoveries about the contents of the Chief Inspector's secrets. More sheets fluttered down on them as the Phantom Thief emptied another folder and started to tear pages out of the record book.
The crowd began to grow agitated, shifting angrily as the full extent of their boss's corruption came to light. But fortunately, before it could turn into a lynch mob, one of the senior officers stepped forward.
"Gather everything!" he yelled. "Pick up all the sheets! Make sure you don't miss even one! These claims will need to be investigated!"
"That's right! We can't just take the word of a criminal!" another backed him up.
"We can't just ignore it!" a younger policeman yelled back.
"And we won't!" their de facto leader said firmly. "That's why we need all the evidence. And someone catch that thief! He's a witness now!"
Of course, in the commotion, the Phantom Thief had long since slipped away.
Far from the police headquarters, the Phantom Thief slipped into the loft room of a supposedly abandoned building -though the power was certainly still on. This time, he wasn't breaking and entering. The window was invitingly open, and once inside, he sighed in relief.
His shucked off his costume piece by piece, letting it fall haphazardly - the hat flying to catch on a (stolen) trophy, the cloak pooling on the floor, the tuxedo draped crookedly over the back of a battered chair.
As the mask was finally cast aside, standing in the loft was no longer the Phantom Thief, but only Sawada Tsunayoshi, who stretched and sighed again.
It had been a nice, easy job, and it left Tsuna with a certain feeling of satisfaction. Not only was the Chief Inspector corrupt, and thus totally deserving of what was coming to him, but he had also been causing trouble for some of Tsuna's contacts, trying to force them into some kind of ridiculous racketeering scheme. Tsuna could count on some pretty nice favors as thanks for getting rid of the man.
And he's even scored a little something extra too. His eyes trailed to the ugly, but potentially expensive statuette he had snagged from the Chief's office, but his satisfied expression darkened as he caught a glimpse of the mysterious envelope he had also brought back with him.
Tsuna shook his head. "Shower first," he decided. "Urgh, I'm all sweaty from that stupid uniform…"
Stalling? Maybe. But he was a thief, not a hitman. Running away was how he dealt with problems.
Steam billowed out of the bathroom as Tsuna finished his shower. Toweling his hair dry, he plopped down on the rickety mattress that served as his bed. His eyes caught on the ugly statue and the envelope once more, but instead Tsuna reached for his phone.
He had a new message.
"Hi, Tsu-kun! It's Mama!" it began.
"Sounds like it's same old, same old in Namimori," Tsuna muttered, scrolling quickly through the text. He started to type out an answer - 'I'm fine, nothing new, nothing exciting,' - before stopping suddenly. "I sound like Dad," Tsuna said, scowling as he snapped the cell phone shut.
Finally out of distractions, he reached for the mysterious envelope. Rolling over onto his back, he held it up to the ceiling and stared at the simple, elegant cursive on the front.
"To the Phantom Thief," it read.
It wasn't from the Chief Inspector, Tsuna knew instinctively. That man didn't have the creativity or foresight for something like this. No, someone else had used the Phantom Thief's announcement of his next target to get a message to him. Someone had been able to get to the Chief Inspector's safe before Tsuna and slipped this envelope inside.
Inside the envelope was a card.
Tsuna sat up abruptly, staring at the crest at the top. Two rifles, a shield, a bullet and a winged clam, embossed in gold. His breath caught.
An orange flame flickered to life over the crest and flashed across the white card, leaving behind narrow trails of black - a hidden message in invisible ink.
"You are cordially invited…"
Not to a birthday celebration.
Not to a bridal shower.
Not to a wedding.
"...to a meeting with Vongola IX."
"Hiiiiieee!" Tsuna shrieked, instinctively tossing the card away - a rather belated reaction.
It landed innocently on the other end of the bed and, despite Tsuna's mistrustful gaze, did nothing further.
Bearing the Vongola Famiglia's crest, sealed with Sky flames, there could be no doubt of the origin of the invitation, or of its authenticity.
"Vongola? Why? What do they want?" Tsuna muttered to himself, finally gathering the courage to crawl over to peer at the invitation again. The lovely cursive script had not changed, and no matter how much Tsuna prayed that his knowledge of Italian had failed him, the words did not rearrange themselves into something more pleasing, or more logical.
"Are… Are they on to me?" he wondered. But then why go through the trouble of an invitation like this? And why address it to the Phantom Thief, not Sawada Tsunayoshi?
Tsuna turned away, glancing around the loft nervously. "I'm gonna have to move," he muttered to himself. "Better not go to any of my usual places. I should low lay for a while…"
He didn't want to get involved with the Vongola. In fact, that was the last thing he wanted. But… Tsuna could swear he felt the sheer presence of that invitation at his back, making him so tense he was practically shaking.
'You are cordially invited...'
"It's probably a trap!" he burst out, frustrated - mostly with himself.
Still, peeking over his shoulder at the seemingly innocent white and gold card, Tsuna could feel himself caving. It was not, he assured himself, because he couldn't remember the last time he was actually invited to anything or because he felt kind of flattered, or anything like that…
He really couldn't turn down a request, even against his better judgement.
Tentatively, haltingly, Tsuna reached out to pick up the invitation again. Staring at it, he frowned. That couldn't be it. There had to be something more. Flipping the card over, he ran his fingertips over the unmarked back. That couldn't all of it. Who sent an invitation without a date or time or anything?
It was easy to send a subtle pulse of Flame through the card, the same way of the Ninth's own Sky Flames had previously appeared on the invitation.
As Tsuna had half-expected, a new message was revealed on the back - a time and location - now that his desire to meet had been confirmed. Tsuna stared at the coordinates with a growing sense of doom. This was it, no backing out now.
Without warning, the invitation caught fire.
With a startled yelp, Tsuna flung it away and promptly tumbled off his bed, flailing. The white card was quickly swallowed up and disintegrated, leaving only a dusting of ashes to fall on the loft floor.
"I hate the mafia…" Tsuna grumbled, his face smooshed against the floorboards.
The chosen meeting place was the garden of a small Vongola-owned estate out in the country, where the Ninth was supposedly taking a well-deserved short rest from his duties (conveniently sans his Guardians).
Well, the estate was small by Vongola standards. To normal people, it was a mansion, with a front yard so massive you couldn't see the main house from the front gates.
Still, Tsuna didn't have much trouble slipping past the guards and into the private inner garden. It was almost too easy, and Tsuna felt paranoia creeping up his spine as he ghosted through the hedge maze and slipped around a classical marble statue of a half-clothed goddess.
Up ahead, he could see a solitary figure resting in a comfortable chair under a vine-covered arbor. Though they kept out of sight, Tsuna knew bodyguards waited nearby, within shouting distance.
Tsuna took a deep breath and centered himself. This was a meeting for the Phantom Thief, so he would act like the Phantom Thief - a carefree, devil-may-care rogue, who did whatever he pleased, whenever he felt like it. The Phantom Thief wouldn't feel paranoid by too little security; he'd be amused, and maybe playfully insulted.
'You didn't need to make it easy for me,' he would say. 'I like a challenge. I wouldn't mind giving you a demonstration of my skills.'
Being the Phantom Thief was easy and fun, in a way. It was his stage persona, and he liked being able to just say and do anything, without worrying about the consequences, for just a little while.
Breathing out slowly, he let the mask of the Phantom Thief slip over his face.
Tsuna stepped under the arbor, his mouth already opening to spout some cheesy, cocky line, but whatever he planned to say died away as the old man in the chair turned to face him and smiled.
"Welcome," the Ninth Vongola boss, Timoteo, said kindly. "Thank you for coming, Phantom Thief."
He looked like someone's grandfather. His expression was grandfatherly too, and Tsuna's composure completely slipped as, instead, the good manners his mother had drilled into his head took over.
Without even thinking about it, Tsuna found himself respectfully pulling off his top hat and ducking his head.
"Thank you for having me," he replied demurely.
"What a polite young man," Nono commented pleasantly. "It's so rare to see these days."
That didn't help Tsuna regain his mental balance. He could feel himself flushing under the praise. If anything, he was more used to people complaining about his age - "The Phantom Thief is just a brat!" - or about his choice of "work" outfit - "Of course, only a brat would choose such a ridiculous costume!"
But then, Nono had seen far stranger than a tuxedo, cape and mask in his day. (Furthermore, the wearers of those stranger outfits had a surprisingly large overlap with the most impressive people Timoteo had met. Often, eccentricity and exceptional capability went hand in hand.)
"You're probably wondering why I invited you here," Nono continued, keeping control of the conversation. Tsuna shifted uneasily, since the old man was entirely correct. Nono smiled. "It's quite simple. I want to hire you. You see, there is something I need stolen."
Timoteo had expected the Phantom Thief to be stunned, and he paused obligingly while the young man collected his thoughts. Using those free moments, Tsuna quickly rallied.
"I don't like taking jobs for others," the Phantom Thief said, flipping the top hat in his hands casually. "Orders aren't my thing. I don't want to be tied to any group or family. It's not my style."
Nono smiled again, his mustache twitching. "But you do take jobs sometimes," he noted. "You have in the past."
Tsuna hesitated, feeling off-balance again. The old man was right, but...
"Naturally, you have the right to refuse," Timoteo said, moving on before Tsuna could form a response. "But please hear me out. This request may seem outrageous, but that is why I need someone of your talents. I believe I am not exaggerating when I say it may change the course of the underworld society's future."
The old man paused, and Tsuna found himself unconsciously leaning in, his top hat once again clutched tightly in his hands.
"I want you to steal the Vongola Rings," Timoteo said baldly.
There was a moment of stunned silence.
Dropping his hat, Tsuna clapped his hands over his mouth. His shoulders trembled with the force of his suppressed shriek of surprise.
"Boss! Are you alright?" one of the bodyguards called out, moving closer, and Tsuna quickly dropped to the ground to hide behind Timoteo's chair.
"What an interesting bird," Nono commented calmly, his entirely too amused gaze never leaving Tsuna's shaking figure. "I don't think I've ever heard a call like that before."
After a moment of hesitation, the bodyguards backed away once more, and Tsuna dared to slowly remove his hands from his mouth.
"Have you gone senile?" he hissed. Perhaps he should have waited a bit. "Um, sir," Tsuna amended quickly.
"I don't believe so," Nono said, fortunately not offended. "I have my reasons. I can't go into my Family's internal matters, but I will say this - the Vongola Rings are necessary for the Inheritance Ceremony to take place."
"And you don't want it to?" Tsuna wondered blankly. Staring up at Nono, he settled down to sit in proper seiza-style. Like it or not, he was going to have to at least hear this all the way through.
This was also the point where he started regretting a little that he hadn't kept track of mafia gossip. In fact, Tsuna had staunchly avoided the Vongola family and everything related to it. Despite racking his head, he couldn't even remember who the Ninth's likeliest successor was.
"Of course I do," Nono said, raising his eyebrows in faux surprise. "I am not immortal. Someone will have to take my place, soon. However, I want the ceremony to take place at my discretion. I hardly intend for you to keep the rings," he added. "Rather, I need them out of reach until the time is right."
"So you want me to steal the rings and… keep them for a while," Tsuna summarized. "And I'm guessing someone is going to want them, so they'll be chasing after me the whole time."
"That's exactly right," Nono agreed.
Tsuna shook his head. "This sort of thing is exactly why I don't want to get involved in mafia politics. No matter how I look at it, I can't see this ending well for me."
"You're very skilled," Nono said, his eyes practically twinkling. "I've followed your career with interest. I'm sure you'll make it. Of course, the reward will be more than worth it. Vongola has the power to provide much."
"I-it doesn't matter if you flatter me! And a reward isn't going to do me any good if I'm dead!" Tsuna said, though his voice wavered a little as he began to feel himself caving under Nono's expectant gaze. Why, why was he so bad at turning people down? He definitely should have never come.
"I'm glad to hear that," Nono said, his grandfatherly expression steadily growing more and more pleased. It was amazingly disconcerting to see him act like all of Tsuna's refusals were part of his plan. "I wouldn't be able to entrust this responsibility to someone so easily swayed."
"I haven't agreed to anything!" Tsuna protested.
Timoteo ignored him. "I don't know how aware you are of the situation within Vongola," he said, "but the one considered the most likely candidate is Xanxus, the leader of the Varia."
Tsuna paused in his protests, staring at the Vongola boss in surprise. Even he knew what Varia was - the independent assassination group that operated under Vongola's banner.
"However, neither my Outside Advisor nor I are willing to acknowledge him as the successor," Nono said. He noted with interest the small twitch from his companion at the mention of Vongola's Young Lion, but continued his explanation. "His only option is to take the Vongola Rings. With them, he will be able to hold the Inheritance Ceremony, even without our approval."
"But… if you don't approve, won't that be a problem?" Tsuna wondered. "Can he really just go behind you back like that?"
Nono spread his hands. "There is no provision that forbids such an action. It's meant to for situations when the boss and the Outside Advisor are… incapacitated," he said. The possibility was also left open in case both the boss and the advisor proved unfit to lead any longer, but Timoteo didn't feel the need to mention that. "However, many of my Family would agree with you," he continued wearily. "At the same time, many would also support Xanxus."
"The Vongola Family will be divided and turn on itself," Tsuna realized. "It'll be a civil war."
Nono nodded gravely. "That is what we wish to avoid, above all else. We have a plan… but we need time to put it in place. And that is where you would come in."
Frowning, Tsuna stood up and paced away, though he paused still within reach.
That would be where he came in - steal the rings, lead the Varia on a merry chase for as long as possible to buy time, and then probably pass the rings back to a representative of the Ninth.
That was if he didn't get killed in the meantime. The term "Varia quality" existed for a reason.
Not to mention, he had no desire to get involved in Vongola internal politics, or the mafia in general.
What if he didn't? What if he turned down this job?
"My older son, Enrico, was killed in a feud," Nono spoke up, as if sensing Tsuna's hesitation. His voice didn't shake, but the deep sadness in it was all too clear. "My second boy, Massimo, was drowned. My youngest, Frederico… we only found his bones."
In other words, he had no heir.
Tsuna's heart twinged in sympathy for the old man. It was clear that he had loved his sons, and losing them was a harsh blow. And now, with his family gone, his Family was also in danger of tearing itself apart.
It wasn't just Timoteo's Family. It was also...
Again, as if reading Tsuna's mind, Nono said, "The Vongola Family is the largest and most powerful in the mafia world, and we have many allies. Our history is bloody, but we have also been a source of stability within the mafia. If Vongola collapses in on itself… The underworld society will be awash with blood."
Those were not idle boasts, but rather absolute facts.
Tsuna swallowed heavily.
"Why… why can't you accept the Varia leader as a candidate?" he asked, trying to buy himself time to think.
"Suffice to say, I have my reasons," Nono said. Those reasons appeared to be ones he had no intention of sharing with an outsider, or perhaps with anyone.
"Then what are you planning to do? This is just a way of stalling," Tsuna said. He could feel Nono's quiet satisfaction at his slow, inevitable surrender and acceptance of the job. "You have a plan, right? You're not going to just take him out and deal with succession later, are you?"
To his surprise, Timoteo almost seemed to flinch at the suggestion.
"Of course not," Nono said, quietly and firmly. "Rest assured, we just need time to arrange everything, with the Varia distracted. Preparations are already being made."
Tsuna sighed, finally acknowledging that, truthfully, he had long since caved to the old man's request.
Picking up his top hat, he twirled it absently before setting it over his hair once more. "The Phantom Thief wouldn't be involved in something like this. Having this kind of thing on my record would bring attention I don't want or need," he said. Nono watched him, his gaze piercing. "But… I'll do it. As a private matter, with no link to the Phantom Thief."
"I wonder… how many private jobs like this have you done?" Nono mused lightly. "I'd love to know what your full record looks like." He seemed to grow even more pleased with his choice to recruit Tsuna.
"Just so we're clear," Tsuna said, ignoring the poorly-concealed satisfaction practically radiating from Nono, "I'm only doing this because I'm part of the underworld too, even if I'm not as deep in as the mafia. I don't want to see it engulfed in war."
Nono smiled. "That is the best reason I could ask for," he said. "And as for your price…"
"Let's just say you'll owe me one," Tsuna said. 'After all, I might not even be around to collect,' he thought pessimistically.
Q: "Phantom Thief," really?
A: This is a really lame name. In Japanese, it's "kaitou," more or less a generic term for a character archetype. It's like calling yourself "The Cat Burglar." Very lame. It's because I (and Tsuna) have no ability for naming things, and I didn't want to think of a more specific moniker. Also, how this came about will be explains in chapter 3~
Q: That's not how the Rings/the Inheritance Ceremony works!
A: I'm playing fast and loose with the details. Same for how Flames work. Also, don't assume that all the characters are telling the full, unvarnished truth. Tsuna is the outsider here and being used for a particular purpose. Obviously, he isn't being told everything. Nono is actively leaving things out or distorting facts to portray a picture that would convince Tsuna to help him.
Q: How old is Tsuna?
A: Somewhere in the 17-23 age range. I'm not entirely sure.
I'm still pretty iffy on this story, not sure whether to continue, so please tell me what you think!